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Up In Smoke, Page 2

Katie MacAlister

  I crossed my arms over my chest. “Take a look at my face, Magoth. What do you see?”

  “I see a woman who is trying desperately to make herself beautiful for me, and yet, I already find you attractive. Did you want me to bed you wearing the facial mask? It’s rather kinky, although not nearly so kinky as having you slathered in pig’s grease and bound to that delightful little device I showed you in my playroom—”

  I held back a shudder. “Your playroom could double as a torture museum, not that I’m going to enter it again.”

  “But, my sweetest of all sweet Mays, I assure you that a little tingle of electricity in clamps placed on well-oiled nipples can be stimulating in ways—”

  “Will you stop?” I interrupted in a loud voice, not wanting to get him wound up again. “I am not going to sleep with you. Not now, not ever, and certainly not when there are pig’s grease and nipple clamps around.”

  Sally sucked in another startled breath, no doubt in response to the manner in which I had addressed Magoth. “May, honeychild, you must take a little smidgen of advice from one who is wiser and very, very slightly older—an attitude of respect, tinged with a tiny little morsel of humility, can go a long way when dealing with those in authority.”

  Magoth laughed and rose from the bed, waving a hand that had his clothing melting right off his body. “Perhaps you just need to be reminded of what it is you are so callously and ignorantly spurning, my queen?”

  “I’m not your queen,” I said evenly, holding back my temper.

  “Oh, my!” Sally’s eyes just about bugged out as she took in Magoth in all his glory. “You’re . . . er . . . aroused.”

  He leered at her as I said, “He’s always aroused.”

  “My sweet one speaks the truth,” he said, glancing down with pride at his penis. “I have incredible sexual prowess and can give pleasure for hours on end.”

  “Hours?” Sally asked, sounding a little breathless. Her eyes went a bit misty as she gave him a very thorough visual once-over.

  “His idea of pleasure isn’t the same as yours and mine,” I said softly, leaning in toward her.

  “How do you know what I find pleasurable?” she shot back, and for a moment, there was a glimpse of something in her eyes that might explain why a woman who appeared perfectly normal would suddenly decide she wanted to become a demon lord.

  “I don’t,” I admitted. “But Magoth’s form of pleasure usually holds a sting. Sometimes it’s fatal.”

  “I haven’t killed a woman with sex in days,” he said with another leer, cocking a hip so his penis, tattooed with a curse put there by an unhappy lover, waved at me.

  I shot him a horrified glance. He laughed again. “May, my adorable one, you’re like putty in my hands. A silky-skinned, blue-eyed vixen sort of putty, but putty nonetheless. I take it my suggestion of a threesome is out?”

  “Way out,” I agreed.

  “Ah.” He glanced down at his penis in mock regret. “Perhaps the lady prefers a different color scheme? Maybe this would be more to your favor?”

  His form shimmered for a moment, blurring slightly before settling into that of a tall man with skin the color of my favorite latte, his hair growing into shoulder-length dreadlocks, a close-cropped goatee and mustache framing lips that were firm, yet so very sensitive. My heart leaped in my chest, thudding madly as I beheld the vision of the man for whom I had sacrificed so much. I fisted my hands, fighting to control the urge to strike Magoth for his cruelty, knowing that he was fishing for just such a reaction from me. It took a moment, but at last I mastered my emotions and leveled him a gaze that by rights should have struck him down.

  “You’re not even a fraction of the man Gabriel is,” I told him.

  “Ah, but he’s not a man at all,” Magoth answered, looking down at himself. He shuddered delicately and returned to his normal appearance, thankfully complete with clothing. “I tell myself that one day I will understand your preference for the silver wyvern over me, but I begin to wonder if it is not just some perverse obstinacy on your part.”

  I took a deep breath, ignoring the need to lash out. My voice was as bland as I could make it as I asked, “Was there something you wanted, a threesome aside?”

  “How about a threesome astride?” he asked hopefully.

  I tightened my lips.

  “That dragon has ruined you,” he said with a sigh, shaking his head. “You used to be such fun. As it happens, I did have a bit of news about which I wish to inform you—”

  I never heard the rest of the sentence. A faint tingling sensation swept over me for the space between seconds; then suddenly I was yanked out of the room, out of Magoth’s house, clear out of Abaddon, and plopped down in the center of a familiar room.

  My vision, which had blurred for a few seconds, resolved itself. A black woman with a white stripe in her shoulder-length hair leaned forward and peered at me through red glasses. “Are you all right?” she asked, concern evident in her warm brown eyes.

  “I . . . yes. I think.” As I was about to ask who the woman was—and more importantly, how she’d gotten me out of Abaddon—a flicker of movement at the edge of my peripheral vision had me spinning around, my heart suddenly singing at the sight of the man who stood there.

  “Gabriel!” I shouted, and flung myself into his arms as he ran forward to catch me.

  Chapter Two

  “I knew you’d find a way to get me out of Abaddon,” I said in between pressing kisses to Gabriel’s face. He was warm and solid, and the wonderful woodsy scent that seemed to cling to him wrapped itself around me, sinking into my pores like rain on a parched desert. “I knew you would understand what I couldn’t say in front of Magoth. I didn’t think it would take you quite this long to get me out, but given that I didn’t manage to extricate myself from Magoth’s grip, I can’t complain. Not when we’re together again.”

  Gabriel’s bright silver eyes seemed to see through me to the depths of my soul, lighting up all the little dark corners, shining into me with a white-hot heat that immediately set my body alight. “Little bird, I am . . . why is your face green?”

  “Oh.” I touched my cheek, picking off a piece of dried clay. “It’s a facial mask.”

  “I see. I’m—”

  Before he could finish the sentence, I was summarily yanked from his arms and spun through a sickening miasma of blackness that blossomed into red pain when I was dropped on a cold marble floor.

  “Ow. What the—” I looked up from the floor, rubbing the part of my forehead where it had struck the marble. A little circle of green clay dust marked the spot. My heart shriveled into a minuscule ball of misery when I beheld the sight of a frowning Magoth, with Sally peering out from behind him.

  “Who summoned you, May?”

  “I don’t know,” I said, but Magoth was no fool. His gaze turned even blacker as I got to my feet and dusted off my pants. “You can stop looking daggers at me—or whatever hideous torture device you’d like to use—I don’t know who summoned me.” That was strictly the truth; I had no idea who the woman was who Gabriel had hired to summon me, but whoever she was, I wanted to sing her praises.

  Magoth was not amused by my attempts at prevarication. “It was your dragon!”

  “Gabriel was there, yes. But he didn’t summon me. Dragons can’t summon either minions or servants of dark lords, and since I’m considered one of the latter grou—”

  Before the word left my lips, I was jerked back through the fabric of time and being, and deposited back in a familiar room.


  “Hello again. Um . . . am I here to stay this time?” I asked as Gabriel pulled me into his arms. “I sure hope I am, because that look in your eyes really makes me want to . . .”

  A gentle cough alerted me to the fact that we had an audience.

  “It’s a pleasure to see you again, May, facial mask and all,” a woman said, and I turned in Gabriel’s arms to smile at Aisling. She stood leaning against her husb
and, a dark-haired, green-eyed wyvern named Drake.

  “Oh, man, did you have to interrupt her? I wanted to hear what it was she was gonna do to Gabriel. I bet it involved tongues. And possibly peanut butter and a cake spatula. At least I hope the spatula was involved.” The large shaggy black Newfoundland that sat next to Aisling might look like a normal dog, but I knew better.

  “No peanut butter or spatulas of any variety, Jim. And it’s nice to see you all again, too, Aisling, although I imagine you’re about ready to have that baby.”

  She sighed and rubbed her large belly. “Another six weeks, the midwife says. I sure hope that’s all, because I’m getting a bit tired of being treated like I’m made of glass. Do you know that Drake wouldn’t even let me summon you by myself? He insisted my mentor, Nora, do the actual work. Oh, you haven’t met Nora, have you? Nora Charles, this is May Northcott, who you might have guessed is Gabriel’s mate.”

  “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” the woman with the red glasses said with a warm smile, offering me her hand.

  I reached out to take it but fell into a black pit instead, crashing with a complete lack of grace onto the black marble floor of Magoth’s main hall.

  “What is going on? Who keeps summoning you from me? I will not have this, May! I absolutely will not have this! You are my consort! Who dares to pull you from my side?” Magoth stormed.

  I sighed and got to my feet again, brushing off the remaining dried bits of clay that had mostly been knocked from my face. “I was summoned by Nora Charles.”

  Magoth’s frown turned somewhat puzzled. “I do not know this name. Who is this person?”

  “She’s a Guardian, I suspect,” I answered, picking my words carefully. My standard operating policy was that the less information Magoth had, the happier I was, and although the fact that I had been bound to him at my creation meant I had to answer his questions truthfully, it didn’t mean I had to blab everything to him.

  “Oh, dear; all that talking has destroyed the mask,” Sally said, her hands fluttering around vaguely. “Now it won’t do the least bit of good.”

  “I’m sure my pores will survive, assuming the rest of me does as well.” I disappeared down the hall to the bathroom attached to my room, quickly scrubbing off the remains of the mask. Magoth and Sally both followed.

  “I sense that you’re unhappy with me, May. This distresses me. I so hoped we’d be good friends,” Sally said, fretting with the pale pink lace that clung to the wrists of her darker pink cashmere sweater. “I know that as a demon lord, I won’t be expected to notice, let alone converse with, a minion of a fellow demon lord, but I’ve found that a little honey can make every situation easier, and I’d like us to be friends.”

  There wasn’t much I could say that wasn’t outright rude, so I said nothing, returning to my bedroom.

  “This Guardian—your dragon must have hired her to steal you from me,” Magoth said, his face clearing. “I suspected he would do something like this, but it is easily stopped. I will simply tell him that if he tries it again, I will torture you.”

  I ignored the word “torture” (not to mention the light of enjoyment that suddenly dawned in Magoth’s black eyes) and confined myself to the important point. “Oh? And how do you expect to tell Gabriel that? It’s not possible for you to leave Abaddon—you don’t have the power or ability to do so—and Gabriel is certainly not foolish enough to come here and place himself in your power.”

  Magoth’s jaw worked for a moment. Sally, who had plopped herself down in a chair and was browsing through my journal, looked up. “You know, one of the things that they taught us at the Carrie Fay Academy of Allurement and Attraction was to never say something was impossible. Surely there must be some way you can leave Abaddon, Magoth?”

  “Hmm.” Magoth stopped looking like he was about to rain down death and destruction (not in the least bit unlikely) as he thought that over.

  I wondered what the penalty was for throttling a demon-lord candidate.

  “I could have sworn—if you’ll forgive me for chiming in here when you haven’t asked my advice, and Bael only knows that you have far, far more experience in this field than I have—but I could have sworn that I read something in the Doctrine of Unending Conscious about methods of leaving Abaddon.”

  Magoth stared at her as if she had suddenly sprouted a halo and a pair of wings.

  “Aren’t you familiar with the Doctrine?” she asked, shooting a confused look my way before returning to him. “It’s a set of laws governing Abad—”

  “I know what the Doctrine is.” He interrupted her with an abrupt gesture. “I wrote the chapter on suitable methods of punishment for unruly minions, a fact my sweet May seems to have forgotten.”

  “I’m here, aren’t I?” I said with blithe disregard. “I haven’t forgotten.”

  “I can’t imagine anyone thinking that time spent with you is a punishment,” Sally told him with a smile that really did seem to have more teeth than was humanly possible. “You’re by far the nicest of all the demon lords I’ve met.”

  Magoth all but shimmied over to her, both hands on her boobs as he undulated against her. “And you have much insight and a true understanding of what it is to be such a sublime being as myself, but alas, until my sweet May consents to being my consort, I cannot bed you as is your due.”

  “Where on earth did that come from?” I asked, astounded by that little tidbit.

  He shrugged and reluctantly stopped fondling Sally’s boobs. I noted acidly to myself that she didn’t protest the groping at all. “I am wooing you to be my consort. Until you agree to that, I must concentrate my full energies on you. But if you consented, then we might have a deliciously wicked threesome in which one of you—”

  “I’ve already told you that is not happening,” I interrupted before he went into graphic detail. Magoth loved to go into graphic detail. It didn’t matter whether it was punishment or sex; he would happily spend hours describing both.

  “Which, the threesome or the consort?” Sally asked.

  “Both.” I turned to Magoth. “I accepted the punishment of being bound to your side for going dybbuk, but I am not going to be your consort.”

  “Did I tell you that the position comes with access to my powers?” he asked, strolling toward me. Magoth didn’t have the same smooth, sinuous, coiled-power sort of movements that Gabriel had, but I couldn’t deny that he came darned close. He stopped next to me, so close he was almost touching me, his body leeching all the warmth from the air. I shivered, due to either his proximity or nerves.

  “Er . . . no, you didn’t. What sort of power?” For a moment I toyed with the idea of accepting Magoth’s offer of consort, imagining myself in a position of power whereby I could escape his clutches and return to Gabriel.

  “Well . . .” He smiled and drew a finger down the line of my jaw, his touch sending icy little shivers down my back. “Let us just say that in Abaddon, a consort is viewed as an extension of the demon lord. You would be treated with respect by the other princes.”

  I thought for a moment, taking a step backwards as I did so. “Would I have the ability to banish you to the Akasha?”

  “The Akasha!” Sally gasped. “You would send dear Magoth to limbo? May, dear, I know you are new to this position just as I am new to it all, but to even joke about such a thing—”

  “No one has that power,” Magoth cut her off as if she hadn’t been speaking, his dark eyes lit with pleasure as he tipped my chin up, his thumb brushing frigid strokes across my lips.

  “Aisling does.”

  Magoth jerked his hand away, his eyes narrowing for a moment. “Aisling Grey, the prince?”

  “Former prince,” I answered, having heard the tale of how Aisling had managed to escape her unwanted membership in the prince of Abaddon club. “She was tricked into destroying one of you demon lords, after which Bael made her fill the position.”

  “She was expulsed, excommunicated,” he answered, but his nostrils f
lared a couple of times, and he didn’t make another move to touch me. “Stripped of all her powers.”

  “Just her prince of Abaddon ones. I know this because Aisling is a good friend of Gabriel,” I added. “And me.”

  Magoth watched me closely for a moment, his gaze trying to strip away all my layers of protection to see deep into my thoughts, but if I had done nothing else during the six weeks since I’d gone dybbuk, I had learned how to hide my true thoughts.

  Even so, he relaxed and gave me a genuine smile. “Your friend would find it difficult to send me to the Akasha. Such a feat could not be conducted without a great cost to herself, and I believe the dragon to whom she is bound would not allow such a sacrifice. No, my sweet May, I have no fear of your friends any more than I do of you.”

  “Me?” I gave a soft, bitter little laugh. “I pose no danger to you.”

  “Indeed you do not—if it was otherwise, you would not be standing here with your skin on,” he said simply. I shuddered at the truth evident in his voice. “However, the delicious Sally has brought to mind something that I had forgotten—written in the Doctrine are many rules that govern us, one of which is simple, but very pertinent.”

  “What’s that?” I asked warily.

  “Oh, I know!” Sally said, raising her hand and waving it to get our attention. “I remember now what I was trying to think of a moment ago. It’s in the section of the Doctrine dealing with consorts. It says that just as a consort has access to the world of the demon lord, so the lord has access to the consort’s world. It’s sort of a reciprocal effect.”

  A deep sense of horror gripped me. For nearly the past hundred years Magoth had lacked both the power and the resources to step foot in the mortal world, something for which I was profoundly grateful. If I had even for a moment considered becoming his consort, the fact that doing so would leave the world open to him was enough to kill that thought entirely.

  “Exactly,” Magoth said. Some of the horror I felt must have slipped through the normally tight rein I held on my emotions, because he slid his arm around me and attempted to pull me against him. “Don’t look so distraught, sweet May! We’ll have fun together in the mortal world! Mayhem, destruction, perhaps some good old-fashioned pillaging and rapine—it’ll be just like the old days, back when I could come and go in the mortal world at will.”