Chapter Thirteen; Part One
“OK, now I know you’re not still with your boy. Call me!”
I laughed as I erased Ned’s messages, each increasingly agitated. I had no idea why he took such an interest in my love life when his was infinitely more complicated and fascinating, but I knew I better call him before he busted a gut. It was ten in the morning Sunday morning, and I had just gotten home. Ted had skipped church this morning, but he wanted me to go with him at some later date. I promised I would, and to my surprise, I was looking forward to it. It would be a change from the Taiwanese church, that was for sure. Speaking of, Ned should be there right now, but he didn’t go every week; I had a hunch he’d be home this morning just waiting for me to call. I called him, tapping my foot as I waited for him to answer.
“Girl, what took you so long? Did you just get home?” Ned was at full decibel, which meant I had to hold my cell phone away from my ear. “Oh, no, you didn’t!” I could practically see him waggling his neck, even across the wires.
“Yes, I did just get home,” I admitted, a smile playing on my lips. “You wouldn’t believe the drama.”
I wandered into the living room, sinking onto my couch as I did. I was wearing a t-shirt and sweats borrowed from Ted. Of course, the latter kept falling off me until Ted had fixed it with a quick basting. I was impressed Ted had a sewing kit until he reminded me that he was a bachelor. I liked wearing his clothes, however, and I wasn’t sure I was going to give them back. I spilled the beans about Ted’s ex, and Ned was appropriately appalled. He knew Lucinda, of course, and he couldn’t believe she would cause a scene like that. When I mentioned that she’d been drunk, Ned hadn’t been surprised. Seemed it ran in her family. What a shame.
“Now it’s time to dish the dirt,” Ned announced once we were through analyzing Lucinda’s behavior. “How was he in the sack?”
“I don’t kiss and tell,” I said indignantly. “Especially not when it’s someone you know.” I couldn’t resist adding, “I was completely satisfied, though, I’ll tell you that much. We used a three-pack of condoms, if that tells you anything.”
“You go, girl,” Ned cheered. He knew how difficult it was for me to find someone who complemented my libido. That was the most crushing thing about Gary’s betrayal—he had been making excuses not to have sex with me the last six or so months we’d been together, leaving me frustrated more often than not. While I was wondering what was wrong with him during that time, he was getting it on with one co-ed or another. “I want details!” He knew I rarely talked about my sexcapades unless they were one-night stands, so he wasn’t offended when I declined. “I’m happy for you,” Ned said, his voice subdued for once. “You deserve someone who treats you right.”
“As do you,” I replied. Ned had known his fair share of heartache, so I was glad there was someone who put a smile on his face. “How’s Alonzo?” I had to listen to exactly how Alonzo was for the next ten minutes because unlike me, Ned did kiss and tell. By the time he was done, I knew far more about Alonzo than I’d ever wanted to know.
“Oh, I have a great idea!” Ned said after his recitation. “I’m inviting you and Ted to my place for dinner very soon. I’ll invite Alonzo as well, and it’ll be like a double-date! What do you think?”
“That’ll be fun,” I said enthusiastically. “Alonzo doesn’t hate women, does he?” More than once, Ned had introduced me to one of his paramours only to discover that I was most emphatically not welcomed.
“Nope. Some of his best friends are women. He told me so himself.” With that settled, I got off the phone. I wanted to clean the apartment—something I did once in a blue moon. Alas, it was not to be.
“Hello, Margaret Marilyn,” Lucifer said, his wings gleaming.
“Morningstar,” I sighed, flopping back onto the couch. “Don’t be offended when I tell you that I’m not glad to see you.” Despite my words, however, I couldn’t help noticing anew how good-looking he was. I also couldn’t help getting wet between the legs. Whether it was because I’d just had sex or because Lucifer was just that good, I couldn’t say. What I could tell you, however, was that he knew I was getting aroused.
“That’s not what your body is saying,” Lucifer said, sitting next to me. “You may smell of that man’s sweat, but you’re body is longing for my touch.” My thigh burned where his pressed against mine, even though I was fully clothed.
“Morningstar, I am asking you to leave.” I didn’t think he’d listen, but I knew I had to stay firm. I recalled that he couldn’t touch me—or at least have sex with me—without my permission. This was important for me to remember when things became heated, as I knew they would.
“No,” Lucifer said, nuzzling my neck. I gasped as the white hot flames licked their way down my spine at the contact, immediately followed by the bracing chill. He snaked out a hand and slid it under my—Ted’s—t-shirt, grasping my breast tightly. The pain was exquisite, like being pricked with the thinnest needle over and over again. Similar to being tattooed, in fact. Despite my resolve, I moaned and arched my neck so Lucifer had easier access. “I told you you wanted me,” Lucifer growled, tightening his grip. I braced my hand against his chest, but I couldn’t draw the strength to push him away. Instead, I pulled him closer to me, even as my mind was protesting. Lucifer slowly lowered me onto the couch, his lips never leaving my neck.
“God, no,” I moaned, feeling my back touch the cushions. “You have to stop, Morningstar.” I must not have put enough command in my voice because Lucifer paid no attention. He parted my thighs with his own, and I could feel his hard cock dig into my inner thigh.
“You want me,” Lucifer murmured, sliding his hand under my sweats. “You’re not wearing panties, naughty girl.” I blushed a bright crimson as his fingers brushed my pussy. I couldn’t help opening my legs wider before snapping them shut again. Unfortunately for me, his fingers were in the same place which meant that I had trapped his hand between my legs. He moved it higher again.
“Stop, Morningstar,” I said, infusing my voice with as much steel as I could muster. I must have sounded convincing enough because Lucifer stopped what he was doing, though he didn’t completely withdraw.
“You want me,” Lucifer said, flicking my nipple with his finger. I gasped as it shriveled into a hard point. With one smooth motion, Lucifer had lifted my shirt and was sucking on my nipple. I felt as if I were drowning in molten lava, and there wasn’t anything I could do. Lucifer lifted his head, licking his lips as he did. There was something feral about him, though I couldn’t pinpoint it exactly. “Tell me once more that you want me to stop.” He lowered his head again, and I had to admit that I ached for him. However, I knew better than to go down that road. Taking a deep breath, I belted it out.
“Stop now, Lucifer!” Calling him out by his real name snapped his head back, and he glared at me in rage. His eyes slowly turned red, and he raked his nails down my abdomen, leaving a streak of blood as he did. It hurt like a motherfucker, and I howled in pain.
“Don’t you ever call me Lucifer again, do you understand?” He towered over me, daring me to contradict him. I nodded my head numbly, not wanting to set him off again. My stomach burned as if he’d put a cattle iron to it and branded me. “Do not forget who you are, Margaret Marilyn, or I will make things exceedingly painful for you.” He traced the tracks on my stomach with his lips, erasing the blood lines as he went. It felt so damn good, I just had to moan. I knew it was wrong; I knew I was condemning myself; I knew I was fucking things up with Ted; I didn’t give a fuck. “I will ask you one last time. Are you sure you want me to leave?” It was on the tip of my tongue to say no. I wanted him more than I’d wanted anything in my life. Ever. Somewhere deep inside, however, that little voice was telling me I had to stay strong.
“Yes, Morningstar, I’m sure I want you to leave,” I blurted out just as Lucifer’s lips had closed over my nipple again. “Now.” Lucifer got off me, looking down at my nearly nude body as he did.
“You’re weakening, Margaret Marilyn. Next time, you’ll be mine.” With a flap of his wings, Lucifer was off. I grappled with my phone, misdialing several times.
“What’s new? You fuck him again?” Ned cooed, his voice light. I hesitated as this was the first time since being kicked out his parents’ home that he’d sounded this happy. I had to talk to someone, however, and it couldn’t be Wind as she’d been bitten by the bug as well.
“Ned, I need you to come over,” I whispered, unable to sustain a louder voice. “Please.” Give my boy his due. He didn’t question why; he just told me he’d be here as soon as he could.
Once I got off the phone, I flew into the bathroom to take a shower. I had to get Lucifer’s scent off me because it was driving me mad. I turned the water as hot as I could stand before jumping in. I scrubbed at my skin until I was raw. I felt as if I’d been violated, though I’d been a willing participant to the action. I couldn’t shake the feeling, however, that Lucifer had taken advantage of me somehow. I also had the nagging suspicion that things were about to spin out of control. Where the hell was God when you needed Him? How come He didn’t stop Lucifer from seducing me? I stopped for a minute to listen in case God decided to show up and defend himself. He didn’t, however, and I went back to washing.
After I was done, I put on a pair of my own sweats and a t-shirt, making a mental note to wash Ted’s before I returned them to him. I felt guilty for fooling around with Lucifer while wearing Ted’s clothes, but I pushed that thought away. I couldn’t afford to get bogged down in guilt when I needed a clear head in order to think of a way to thwart Lucifer, and, yes, possibly God. I had the feeling that He wasn’t telling me everything, and I had a bigger feeling that I wouldn’t like whatever it was He was holding back from me. I paced back and forth in the living room, too keyed up to sit down. I knew I should be pulling some food together or something to feed Ned, but I couldn’t be bothered.
“Come in,” I said to Ned when he appeared at my door without buzzing me first. This time, I was too worried about Lucifer to care about the lax security.
“What’s up?” Ned asked, his voice concerned. “You sounded strange on the phone.”
“Come in,” I repeated, stepping back to let Ned in. He gave me a hard look, but he complied. He took off his shoes and carefully lined them up before following me into the living room. We sat on the couch at the same time, something which would normally crack me up but I barely even noticed this time around.
“Girl, you better tell me what the hell is going on or I’m going to scream.” Ned placed his hand on my knee and shook it slightly. I snapped out of my reverie and nodded. Taking a deep breath, I began.
I started at the beginning, reiterating some things he already knew. I knew I was regurgitating a lot of information, but I needed to see how things had developed thus far. My head was a mass of confusion over Lucifer who, by all rights, shouldn’t be the least bit attractive because he was the fucking devil, but that made him all the more attractive. I didn’t look at Ned as I regaled him with my tale because I didn’t want to see the censure in his eyes. Oh, he’d known that Lucifer was devastatingly attractive, but I hadn’t told him how much I desired the Morningstar.
On the other hand, there was Ted. A mortal man with whom I wanted to see where things led. I hadn’t felt this attracted to anyone in some time, not even Gary. Any woman would be thrilled to have the interest of an intelligent, good-looking chef like Ted so why the fuck was I playing with such fire? I knew it wasn’t completely my fault as I was sure Lucifer was invoking some pretty powerful dark magic, but I could do better to fend him off, couldn’t I? I didn’t want to be one of those whiny women who think nothing was their fault, but the tug I felt towards Lucifer seemed beyond my control.
Near the end of my recitation, tears blurred my eyes. I hadn’t wanted any of this and now, I was dealing with a situation bigger than me. Bigger than the universe, in fact. How could my human mind comprehend what the hell was going on? Why the fuck did this have to happen to me? Any time I seemed to get a grip on what was going on, the circumstances changed. What the fuck was I supposed to do? I knew I couldn’t give in to Lucifer, but he was getting harder to resist. If I tried to close the portal again, he’d kill Wind. There was no way for me to close the portal without Lucifer knowing, was there? How was I supposed to find the answer? I seriously doubted I could find this kind of information on Google.
“I’m sorry, Margaret,” Ned said once I’d winded down. He had his arm around me, patting my back as I talked. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Don’t say anything,” I replied with a sigh. “I just needed to get it out of my system.” I was content to snuggle in his arms and take whatever solace I could find there. After several minuets of silence, Ned spoke.
“You have to find a way to seal the portal. Ask Wind. She probably knows more about that stuff and what she doesn’t know, one of her Wiccan friends will.” I knew he was talking sense, but I was reluctant to involve Wind in anything that had to do with Lucifer. Then again, she had gone on a date last night as well. What better excuse to call than that? I grabbed my cordless and dialed. She answered on the third ring, but she sounded groggy.
“Wind, it’s me, Margaret. How was your date last night?”
“Great. It lasted until this morning.” Wind laughed, but her voice was laced with sleep.
“You slept with him on your first date?” I shrieked, surprised out of my gourd. Wind wasn’t that kind of woman—at least not the Wind I knew. Had Lucifer infected her somehow that night we tried to seal the portal? Her next sentence reassured me.
“No, we talked until dawn, then watched the sun rise—that’s all. We are very simpatico. He’s into banishing demons and such. A bit on the darker side, but I like it.”
“Great. I have a favor to ask.” I stopped as I realized what she’d said. “Demons? As in the devil? Would he know a way to seal the portal without Lucifer knowing?”
“If anybody would, it’d be him,” Wind said proudly. God, it’d only been one date, and she already sounded like his girlfriend. I hoped for her sake that this one lasted longer than her previous relationships. “Want me to ask him?”
“Yes, please,” I said, fervently glad that I hadn’t had to make a false segue into the reason I was calling. “Call me right back?”
“Will do,” Wind sang out, sounding disgustingly awake. She could go from being in deep sleep to high-alert faster than anybody I knew.
“This has to end now,” Ned said as I hung up the phone. I mutely nodded my head, too drained to say anything else. “You deserve a guy like Ted. Fuck Lucifer for trying to ruin that.”
“Keep your voice down,” I hissed, glancing around me. I knew it was ridiculous to worry about how loud Ned was as the otherworldlies could probably hear anything from anybody at any volume, but I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t want anything bad to happen to Ned, and he was definitely skirting the edge as far as Lucifer was concerned. One thing I’d learned about the Lightbringer—a misnomer, if I ever heard one—from our several encounters was how exceedingly vain he was. He didn’t allow a single negative word to be spoken against him, so it was best to keep one’s bad opinion of Lucifer under one’s hat. Ned didn’t share the sentiment, apparently.
“Who gives a fuck if he hears me?” Ned exclaimed. “I don’t give a shit. He’s being an asshole to you, and it’s not fair. Same with God. I mean, don’t they have anything better to do than to fuck with our lives here on Earth?” Oh dear. He was mad at God which meant that he would say things he probably shouldn’t. Then again, he wasn’t saying anything I hadn’t said or at least thought, so whatever. I was about to say something when my cell rang. It was Wind.
“We’re coming over,” she said without preamble. Her tone said it would do no good to argue, so I didn’t.
“She’s coming over,” I said to Ned, needlessly, of course, as he’d been eavesdropping with all his might. “She and the new guy of hers. Brian, I think his name is. Something that starts with a B.” I snuggled against Ned, needing his warmth. We didn’t say much waiting for Wind and Bob to come. I was too worn out to talk, and Ned sensed that I needed the respite. I only stirred to let in Wind and her Bernie.
“Margaret, Ned, this is Brett. Brett Jackson. He’s a sculptor.” Wind beamed at the tall, skinny man standing next to her. He looked like Brad Pitt but not as pretty. His hair was also cut in a crew cut rather than the long floppy locks Brad sported. I was glad the resemblance was fleeting because I didn’t find Brad Pitt attractive in the least. This guy, however, had interesting tats on his arms as well as a jagged scar across his neck. I had a hunch he had a few wild stories to tell.
“Nice to meet you, Margaret, Ned.” Brett shook hands with each of us in turn before reaching down to take off his shoes. My impression of his shot up exponentially as he was only the third white person to walk into my apartment who didn’t need to be asked to remove his shoes. Wind was one of them, and an ex-boyfriend was the other. “Now, what exactly is your problem? Wind gave me some background, but I need you to fill in the picture.”
“Why don’t we go to the living room,” I said, switching into hosting mode. “Would either of you like something to drink? Tea, perhaps? I have herbal.”
“I’m fine,” Brett said, looking at Wind. She shook her head silently, so we all trooped into the living room. Wind and Brett sat on the couch while Ned and I pulled up two hard-backed chairs. Once we were all seated, I spilled everything to Brett. Well, not completely everything as some things were best left between me and Ned, but everything pertinent.
“We have to find a way to keep him out without sealing the portal,” I finished, leaning back in my chair. To my surprise, I was sweating which I only did when I was nervous. I didn’t think there was anything Brett could do for me, but it didn’t hurt to ask. “I made a promise with Morningstar that I wouldn’t seal the portal.”
“What’s the consequence if you try?” Brett asked, his arm draped across the couch right behind Wind. She was leaning against it and damned if they didn’t look like a couple.
“He’ll kill Wind,” I said bluntly. Brett blanched at my words, sitting up straight in a hurry.
“What the fuck kind of deal is that?” Brett asked angrily, thrusting his face into mine. For a practitioner of yoga, he certainly wasn’t very tranquil. Then again, his focus was the dark arts, so it was probably useful for him to stay edgy. “Why couldn’t it be your life on the line?”
“He’s the one who made the deal,” I said patiently as Wind preened under Brett’s concern. I glared at her. She was just lucky I hadn’t mentioned her little crush on the Morningstar. “I wasn’t in much position to bargain, was I?”
“Wind didn’t tell me that part of the deal,” Brett said, getting to his feet. “I’m sorry. There’s nothing I could do that wouldn’t attract his attention, and I’m not willing to risk Wind’s life.”
“Please,” I said desperately, looking at him with wide eyes. I wasn’t above begging if it would get me what I needed. “He’s dangerous to me. Isn’t there anything you could do? Anything at all? I just promised him I wouldn’t try to seal the portal. There has to be something else to keep him out. Some kind of protective shield or something like that.”
“There might be something….” Brett trailed off, his forehead furrowed. “I’ll have to read up on it and get back to you. In the meantime, don’t you dare try to seal that portal, understand?” I didn’t respond as I took the question to be rhetorical. It better be because I wasn’t about to let someone I didn’t know order me around, even if he was the potential love of Wind’s life. I’d never say it to her, but I found Brett to be a bit insufferable. Obviously, she didn’t think so as she was smiling at him as she got to her feet as well.
“I’ll call you tomorrow, Margaret,” Wind said, squeezing my arm before transferring her hand to Brett’s. “See you, Ned.” She waved at both of us as she and Brett migrated for the door. I followed so I could lock the door behind them.
“I’m serious, Margaret,” Brett said as he slipped on his boots. “Don’t you dare put Wind’s life in danger by trying to seal that portal.” That did it. I’d been on the edge since this whole pregnancy started. The last thing I needed was yet another alpha male thinking he was the boss of me.
“I appreciate the help, Brett, but please do not talk to me as if I were a three-year old child, a recalcitrant child at that. You don’t know me nearly well enough to take that tone with me. Goodbye.” I nodded coldly at him, opening the door wide.
“He’s just trying to help,” Wind said, touching my arm. She hugged me quickly before slipping on her own boots. I locked the door behind them and returned to Ned who looked as if he was never getting off my couch.
“Can you believe the nerve?” I asked, plopping down besides Ned. “I don’t think I like the guy,” I said, sticking out my lower lip.
“Can’t you see he’s just fronting?” Ned asked, draping his arm around me. “He knows that you and I are Wind’s best friends, and he feels threatened by that. Pay no attention to his barking—it’s infinitely worse than his bite.” How like Ned to give someone the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes, I wished I were more like him. Not often, though, as I liked my bitchy self.