Hell was not the place I imagined. It was worse. During my brief stay, I learned some disturbing truths about my family. Most worryingly my ancestor’s deal with the devil promising him every female descendent as a succubus.
So these were my options: Life on earth as a soul-sucking seductress. Or death and pass the succubus baton to my sweet little daughter. There was no choice. Welcome to hell on earth, Lilith. Mother, teacher, wanton she-demon.
Mr. Benedict sighed. “As I said before, the more you resist your conscience, the easier it will become. Pretty soon, it will be second nature.” But he sounded less than confident.
I could tell without looking at him that his demon was ebbing. And when he put his arm around me, it wasn’t the demon’s allure I felt, but the companionship of the man who had brought me the box of my mother’s possessions.
“Don’t do that,” I told him and moved away.
“Be cruel to me, and then turn around and be nice. I can’t stand it.”
“I’m sorry, Lilith.” He sighed again. “But I only said those things for Miss Spry’s benefit.”
“Really? You certainly acted the part well enough.”
He moved a lock of hair away from my cheek. “You don’t understand. If Helen ever suspected how strongly I’m attracted to you, she’d imprison me on the other side of the world to keep me away.” His lips brushed my ear. “Not that it would do any good.”
It was tempting to let his caresses melt me, but I remained in control. “Well, I won’t play those games. Besides, Miss Spry should mind her own, damn business.”
“We are her business, and her job is to make sure that we do ours. She needs for us keep our human and demon natures in balance. If we let the demons get the better of us, we become monsters, and we’ll terrify off our victims, not tempt them. But if we become too human, we’ll feel compassion for our victims and try to keep them from falling into temptation.”
It seems that I’d been making both of those errors lately.
“Also, we risk falling in love.” My hair, which had been swept into a neat twist, was coming undone. With one, deft move, William unfastened the clip holding it in place, letting it spill over my shoulders.
“You’ve done that before,” I said.
“Many, many times. But never with anyone as beautiful as you.”
I remembered Mr. Clerk’s warning about how William would say anything to get what he wanted. “I’m sure you say that to all the women.”
“You’re right; I say those things because it’s my job to seduce them. But this is real.”
I’d had enough of his sweet talk. Okay, I really hadn’t, but I knew that if I listened to it much longer, I’d risk giving in to him, and then he’d really have something to mock me with the next time we faced Miss Spry together. So I resisted his advance, standing up and brushing the sand from my butt. “I need to get home.”
He got to his feet as well. “Lilith, please, I’m serious. The other women really were only playthings to me. But you’re not. I swear it.”
It was so close to the excuse Ted had used when I’d discovered Andrea the model shaving her legs in my bathtub that I was able to resist him. “Take me home,” I insisted.
For a moment, I worried that he’d refuse. My succubus was apparently still too pissed off with me to reveal where the otherworld door lay, and I was helpless if William decided to leave me stranded on the beach. But, finally, he relented and guided me back to my bedroom.
“I was wrong about you,” he said before he left. “You act like a compassionate human, but really you’re a cold-hearted she-demon.” He reached out to touch my face, but thought better of it and withdrew his hand. “In some ways, you’re more lethal than I am.”
After he left, I glanced at myself in the full-length mirror that hung on the back of my door. My hair was tousled, sand clung to my rumpled dress, mascara clumped my lashes together in unflattering spikes. Lethal? No. Pitiful was the word I would have used.