Chapter 20

Striking Sol with that tiny piece of wood was like dropping a nuclear warhead into the room. The blast threw me off the couch, and I hit the floor with a jarring, painful thud. Small objects flew into the walls. Art tumbled to the ground. The windows in the room blew out in a sparkling shower of shards. And it was raining inside. Blood and glitter fell down around me in red, gleaming streaks.

Mine wasn't the only true nature to be revealed. In the instant before Sol had exploded, I had felt him. Really felt him. Yes, he was part of a different system than mine, but he was no minor immortal player looking to stir up a little trouble. He was a god. A bona fide, honest to goodness god. Now, I should point out that gods come and go in the world based on belief. Godly power is directly proportional to the faith of their believers. So, those whose names no one remembers often walk around literally as bums, no different from humans save for their immortality. Sol, however, had had a fair amount of power. Not like Krishna power or God with a capitalGpower, but a lot. Certainly more than me.

Holy shit. I had just destroyed a god.

I straightened up from my fetal curl and looked around. Everything was still except for a light wind blowing in though the now-open windows. My skin and clothing were spattered with sticky scarlet blood, like I'd been at the wrong end of a paintbrush at the Mortensens’. My heart rate refused to slow.

A moment later, I heard the pounding of footsteps on the stairs. Alec burst into the room, drawn by the noise and the shaking. He looked around, his lower jaw practically dropping to the floor as he came to a screeching stop.

My intoxication had not passed with Sol's destruction. That fucking ambrosia was still in my system, and it was actually getting worse. Still, my anger at Alec was such that I again overcame my befuddled senses and reflexes, and with a speed that came as a surprise even to me, I sprang at him and knocked him to the ground. A moment's shape-shifting, and my short and slim frame suddenly held considerably more muscle and strength than its appearance suggested. I straddled Alec with my legs and arms, and panic blazed on his face when he realized he couldn't budge an inch from my grip. I hit him hard across the face. My coordination might have been off, but it didn't take much to apply brute force.

"Who the hell was he? Sol?"


"I don't know!"


I hit him again.


"Honest, I don't. I don't know," blathered Alec. "He was just this guy…he found me and made me a deal."


"What was the deal? Why'd you bring me to him?"

He swallowed, blinking back tears. "Sex. He wanted sex. Lots of lovers all the time. Didn't matter if they were guys or girls, just as long as they were good-looking. I wasn't supposed to touch them. I just hooked them up with the potion until they wanted to meet Sol. Then he, you know…"

"Fucked them and dumped them," I finished angrily. I thought about Casey and the Abercrombie model guy in the coffee shop. I recalled Alec's desire to get me on the ambrosia but his reluctance to touch me, no matter how much he wanted to. I was meant for Sol. "So that wasn't ambros—er, potion in my cup tonight. That really was some date-rape drug."

"I don't know," Alec whimpered. "Come on, let me go."

I tightened my grip and shook him. It took a moment since my fingers had a little trouble keeping hold. I had to work to maintain the fierceness of my face and voice. " What'd he give you? Did he pay you or something?"

"No. He just…he just gave me more of the potion. All I wanted, so long as I kept the people coming."


"And you gave it to the band," I realized.


"Yeah. It was the only way…the only way we could get big. It's all I've ever wanted. To land a record deal and get famous. This was the only way."


"No," I said. "It was just the fastest way."


"Look, what'd you do to Sol? What are you going to do to me?"

"What am I going to do?" I yelled, my anger rising through the drug. I shook him, knocking his head against the floor. "I should kill you too! Do you know what you've done to all these people? To the band? Doug's in the hospital right now because of you."

His eyes went wide. "I didn't know that. Honest. I didn't want to hurt him…I-I just couldn't get the stuff on time. Not until I delivered you."
He spoke of me and the other victims like we were commodities. I wanted to pick him up and throw him out the window. I could do it too. Humans were indeed fragile things, and while my succubus shape-shifting didn't have the power to maintain this über-strong shape all night, I could hold it long enough to do some major damage.

Despite my normal abhorrence of violence, I have to admit that throwing people around a room is actually more satisfying than you'd think. After Dominique had died, I tracked down the corrupt doctor who had botched her abortion. I had changed from Josephine and wore the shape of an apish, seven-foot-tall man with bulging muscles. Storming into the doctor's small, sinister office, I didn't waste any time. I grabbed him as if he weighed nothing and tossed him against the wall, knocking down shelves of curiosities and so-called medical implements. It felt fantastic.

Striding over, I picked him up by the front of his shirt and punched him hard in the side of the head, ten times harder than I'd hit Alec. The doctor staggered and fell but still had enough life to scramble backwards, crab-style, in an effort to get away.

"Who are you?" he cried.


"You killed a girl tonight," I told him, moving menacingly. "A blond dancer."


His eyes bulged. "It happens. I told her. She knew the risks."


I knelt down so that we were at eye level. "You cut her open and took her money. You didn't care what happened to her."


"Look, if you want the money back—"


"I want her back. Can you do that?"

He only stared, shaking with fear. I stared back at him, shaking with my own power. I had the ability to kill him. To throw him again or snap his neck or choke the breath from him. It was terrible and wrong, but seized by my own rage, I couldn't control myself. Honestly, it's fortunate in the long run that most incubi and succubi have mild personalities more bent on pleasure than on pain. With the ability to take on any shape, we can be pretty deadly to mortals if we're pissed off enough. They can't really stand against us. This doctor sure as hell couldn't.

But another immortal could.


"Josephine," murmured Bastien's voice behind me. Then:"Fleur."


When I still didn't respond or loosen my grip, Bastien said, "Letha."


My birth name penetrated the bloodlust pulsing through me.


"Let him go. He isn't worth your time."


"And Dominique isn't worth avenging?" I demanded, my eyes never leaving the wretched human before me.


"Dominique is dead. Her soul is in the next world. Killing this man won't change that." "It'll make me feel better."


"Maybe," conceded Bastien. "But it isn't your place to mete out punishment to mortals. That's reserved for higher powers."


"I am a higher power."


The incubus rested a gentle hand on my shoulder. I flinched. "We play a different role. We don't kill mortals."


"You and I have both killed before,Bas."


"In defense. Protecting a village from raiders isn't the same as cold-blooded murder. You may be damned, but you aren't this far gone."


I released my hold on the doctor and leaned back on my knees. He stayed frozen. "I loved Dominique," I whispered.


"I know. That's the problem with mortals. They're easy to love and quick to perish. Better for all of us to keep our distance."


I didn't touch the doctor, but I didn't move either. Bastien gave me a gentle tug, still quietly reasonable.


"Come on, let's go. Leave him. You don't have the right to end his life."


I let Bastien lead me out. Once in the dark alley flanking the doctor's office, I shape-shifted back to my more natural-feeling Josephine form.


"I want to leave Paris," I told him bleakly. "I want to go somewhere where there is no death."


He put an arm around me, and I leaned into his soothing presence. "No such place exists,Fleur."

In Sol's house, I still bore down on Alec, again empowered with the ability to crush his life if I chose. But Bastien's words echoed within me, and I realized with an ache how much I regretted my current hostility with the incubus. Regardless, he was still correct after all these years. Revenge killings were not my right. It was unfair for an immortal to take advantage of a much weaker mortal. I would be no better than Sol. And looking at Alec underneath me, I realized just how terribly young he was. Not much older than Dominique.

And anyway, my strength and coherence were failing by the second. I leaned in menacingly to Alec.

"G-get out," I mumbled through numbed lips. "I want you to get out. Out of Seattle. Don't ever contact Doug or anyone else from the band again. If I find out you're still in the city tomorrow night…" I struggled for an appropriate threat. My mental processes were grinding to a halt. "You, um, won't like it. Do you understand?"

My bluff worked; he was clearly terrified. I climbed off him and sat crouched because I couldn't stand. He scrambled up, gave me a last terrified look, and tore out of the room.


As soon as the door closed, I passed out.