So much for any dreams I might have had aboutChavez and me. Not that I'd been having any. I wasn't that stupid. But Ihad felt safe with him. Until he'd admitted he'd toss me over a cliff to rid the world of one more demon.
Well, he hadn't actually said that but I could read between the lines pretty well. Occupational hazard.
"Mind if I use the computer again?" Chavez asked when we returned to my apartment.
The place smelled wet. I opened a window, lit a candle, turned up the heat.
"Go ahead." I yanked the newspaper out of my mail drop.
"I want to find out who that second guy was."
"I don't think you need to."
I turned the paper in his direction. The face of the man Chavez had lit onfire last night was all over the front page.
He appeared to be missing. Or at least his body was.
"Malcolm Tanner," I read. "Stockbroker. Hasn't this demon ever heard of street guys? Their deaths and disappearances would be less noticeable."
"Would you date one?"
"I didn't date Malcolm."
"True. You didn't even know him. Which might be the point."
"You lost me."
"If he picked people you knew, sooner or later the police would be knocking on your door. But random guys? Hard to connect."
"Why bother setting up a date in the first place? Malcolm just popped in here, uninvited."
"Some demons need to be invited in first."
"Like a vampire?"
"Now you're catching on."
"But Malcolm – "
" – was the same demon as Eric, just a different body."
"So since I invited Eric – "
"Malcolm could enter."
"How do you know this stuff?" I asked. "Is there awww.demonology.com ?"
"No. What I've learned is mostly by trial and error." He lifted one shoulder. "A little half-assed, but all I've got."
"You've tried salt, fire, silver. What's next?"
"Holy water, the Hail Mary, the Lord's Prayer, sacramental wine, the host."
"I'm seeing a pattern."
"Christian symbols." He sighed. "The problem is, there are a lot of demons that aren't Christian in origin and some that predate Christianity."
Since I'd studied plenty of ancient civilizations, I was aware of this. Still, the idea that something could predate time as we marked it had always creeped me out. Probably an American phobia. In countries that had been around for a few gazillion millennia, people didn't get wiggy over a little pre-Christian demon or ten. Did they?
"How can you kill something so ancient?" I wondered aloud.
"It ain't easy."
My gaze was drawn to his earring. "If Christian symbols don't work, then what's with that?"
"I didn't say they don't work. They do. More than most." He fingered the cross in his earlobe. "Every little bit helps."
"What can I do?"
"Any good at research?"
Research was what had brought me to my major. I loved looking things up, finding answers to questions only I cared about.
His gaze traveled from the tip of my overly curly hair, past my black-rimmed glasses, to the ample breasts and hips ensconced in an oversized sweatshirt and equally oversized jeans.
"I've always had a thing for librarians," he murmured. "They're so…helpful."
Considering his face, that hair, the body, I just bet they were.
"I'm not a librarian," I said stiffly.
"We could pretend."
I stared at him for several seconds. Was he trying to make a joke? It was hard to tell when he never cracked a smile.
Chavez turned away, and the strange, charged moment was gone. "I'm going for supplies before it gets dark."
"Holy water, host – "
"Where do you get stuff like that? At the discount holy water and host shop?"
"They give it out because you ask?"
"BecauseI ask, yes."
My skepticism must have shown on my face because he continued. "Priests believe in evil, Kit. If they didn't they wouldn't have a job. They've seen amazing things – great good and great bad."
"And you? Do you ever see any good?"
His eyes met mine. "Not until just lately."
"What'd I do?"
"You chased me out of the alley. You wouldn't stop questioning me. You weren't afraid to stand up to the insane man you believed had shot your date."
"Youdidshoot my date."
"ButI didn't kill him."
"There is that." I tilted my head, curious. "What else?"
"You let me into your home."
"At gunpoint," I muttered.
"Not all the time. You went breaking and entering with me. No one's ever done that before."
He shook his head. I got all warm and fuzzy.
"So your interpretation of good is…"
Pretty damn broad. Basically I hadn't screamed, called the police, or kicked him out of my house. Give me the Nobel Prize.
"You're courageous, unselfish, a risk taker," Chavez said.
That didn't sound like me at all. It sounded more like theme I wanted to be.
"And then there's that kiss."
I looked up and he smiled.
"Good?" I asked.
"More like great."
Hours passed. The sun moved across the sky and began to descend. I began to get nervous.
Where was Chavez?
If I were a demon, I'd put my death on hold and go straight for the demon hunter. The thought made me unable to sit still, so I paced from the bedroom to the living room and back again.
"I'm sure Chavez has had demons come after him before," I told myself.
Hell, that was probably what he wanted.
Nevertheless, I was close to frantic. The first man who thought I kissed great – or at least the first who'd told me so – just my luck he'd walk out of my life and never come back.
I'd just completed my fifty-fifth pass into the bedroom when a soft footfall from the living room caused me to freeze.
I bit my lip, then glanced at the window. The sun was still up, though not for long. Nevertheless, daylight was daylight, and we still had it.
"Chavez?" I hurried into the front room and stopped dead at the sight of a strange young man with a huge pot of daffodils.
"How did you get in?"
"The doorman. He thought you were gone. Should I set this here?" He indicated the floor.
"Sure. Fine. Whatever."
I wanted him gone. I cast a quick look over my shoulder, down the hall, heard the slight thud of the pot hitting the carpet and turned around.
The kid was right next to me.
"Freakishly fast," I murmured.
In a not quite human way.
"You're so pretty," he whispered.
His eyes were hypnotic blue, his hair golden curls. Way too young for me, but I didn't care. He was pretty, and he thought I was, too. What more could a girl ask for?
I took one step back and his arm snaked around my waist. His full, soft lips brushed mine.
"Souls are overrated," I whispered.
"You got that right."
His mouth moved down my neck; his hands moved up my ribs. My knees wobbled. The desire pulsed in my blood with the beat of a thousand ancient drums. I couldn't think straight.
"A virgin." He lowered his hands to the small of my back and ground us together. "The best time there is."
His words penetrated the haze. "How do you know I'm – ?"
He pressed his nose to my neck and inhaled. "You smell all fresh and new. Never touched. You've been waiting for me."
I hadn't been waiting for him. I'dbeen waiting for true love. I knew that.
Of course I knew I wasn't a slut and look how that was working out.
"Virginstaste the best."
He licked my cheek and I didn't mind. Since I was a little Howard Hughes about germs, another reason I was probably still a virgin, that should have disturbed me. I fought against the lustful lethargy and focused on what he was saying instead of what he was doing.
"Sex is food for me, baby."
Baby again. Wish I could find the will to care, or to kick him where it counted.
"Only virgins can keep me alive. So, you want it against the wall, on the bed, the table, the counter, the floor? I'm easy."
He fumbled with the zipper of my jeans.
"I'll consume you," he whispered, "and no one will ever know."
At the sound of Chavez's voice, the lust I'd been unable to fight, fled. I managed to shove the flower boy away.
Chavez tossed a vial of burgundy liquid into the young man's face. I flinched, half expecting him to shriek as his skin dissolved. I should have known better.
"Sacramental wine?" Laughing, he shook himself like a dog coming out of a lake. "You have got to be kidding me."
"Ave Maria,"Chavez intoned."Gratia plena."
"Latin." The boy shook his head. "That language is as dead as I am."
"Our Father, who art in heaven."
"Way after my time, dude. Nothing will help you. I'm gonna have her. You can watch if you want."
Chavez socked the kid in the mouth. Blood spurted. "Don't touch her; don't look at her; don't come near her again."
"She's mine." His steadily fattening lip muffled his voice. "There aren't a lot like her left in this city."
Chavez glanced my way, and the demon took the opportunity to escape.Poof.
"Why didn't he disappear as soon as he saw you? Did he want a fat lip?"
"Teleporting is a tricky business. Sometimes they have to recharge before they can do it again."
That made sense, in this weird, new, demony world I was living in.
"Why bother with flowers?" I indicated the pot with a flick of my finger.
"You let him in?"
"No. He was just here when I came out of the bedroom. I knew something was weird, but he said the doorman let him in."
"Probably didn't want you to scream and alert me before he could get into your head."
"Where have you been?" My fear made me shout. "How long does it take to get Christian paraphernalia these days?"
"Not that long. I've been waiting for him to show himself."
"You used me as bait?"
Chavez cast me a quick, wary glance. "I wouldn't have let him hurt you, Kit. I was right outside."
He didn't deny he was using me. I'd known that, yet it still hurt.
"He was just here – like Malcolm. You couldn't have seen him – "
Chavez strode to my bookcases and removed a tiny camera from between two books. No wonder he'd been so damn interested in them.
"He came out before dark," he said, "which makes him a lot more powerful than I thought."
Silence fell between us, but my mind was full of questions, thoughts, disappointments. When Chavez spoke again, I was glad for the distraction.
"He said there weren't very many like you in the city. What did he mean?"
I didn't want to tell him, but I had to.
"I'm a virgin."
His eyes widened. "You didn't think that was something you should tell me?"
"That's not something I've ever told anyone."
"Madre de dios,he'll never stop chasing you."
"Because these days,chica,there aren't that many virgins to be had."