"I'm Jewish," I said. "We don't do the apocalypse."
Samantha's body swayed to the side and something very un-Samantha peered back at me.
"Armageddon is nondenominational. What falls on one falls on all. Besides, you're not completely Jewish. You don't go to Temple and you eat Gyros."
"Damn." She smacked herself in the head with the heel of her hand. "I never could keep those cloven-hoofed animals straight."
"And you with such nice ones, too." I glanced at Chavez. "Does she always channel the Prince of Darkness?"
"Smart girl," said the sonorous voice. "Too bad she has to die."
"Enough," Chavez snapped. "I want to know what you've sent and how I kill it."
"He's Satan, the inventor of lies," I said. "We can't trust him."
"When he inhabits Samantha, he has to tell the truth."
"Fucking Ouija board rules," Satan in a Samantha suit muttered.
I'd never done the Ouija board, being easily freaked out, but I'd heard stories. The spiritswho chose to answer were compelled to tell the truth. However, the truth could be told in many different and confusing ways.
"Whatdid you send?" Chavez ground out from between clenched teeth.
"There's no name." Samantha's head tilted. "This demon is very hard to kill. Hard to detect, too. No one cares these days about gratuitous sex. Promiscuous behavior on a first date has become the norm."
She peered at me, and I ordered myself to stare right back. I refused to feel guilty about what I'd done while I'd been under the influence of a demon.
"A few things need to be tweaked," Samantha continued. "I combined an incubus with a Rakshasas, which requires a dead body. But they don't last very long, and all those dead bodies are going to pile up.
Now, if I could have the demon take the form of a human – "
"Possession drives a human being insane," Chavez said.
"You should know."
I looked toward Chavez just as he flinched. Then his mouth tightened, as did his fists. I touched his arm.
Slugging Samantha would do us no good.
"But you're right," the deep, slithery voice flowed from Samantha's pretty mouth. The longer I saw it, the creepier it became. "Too many stark, raving crazy people would tip off the white hats, as well. What I need is for the demon to be able to look human, but not actuallybehuman. That would work."
"Focus." Chavez clapped his hands in front of Samantha's face. "How do I kill the one you already sent?"
Samantha smirked. "You're going to love this."
"Somehow I doubt it."
"The demon feeds on sex with virgins."
"Been there, know that."
"In the good old days they sacrificed virgins to appease the beast. Man, I miss those days."
Chavez made a whirling motion with his index finger – Get on with it – but I already knew what was coming.
"All right, all right. To save her from a fate worse than death, all you have to do is sacrifice her."
A rumbling began. At first I thought there was a train coming, maybe a tornado, a tour bus. But the sound was coming from Chavez's chest. Pure fury.
"Get out," he shouted. "Leave this place."
"Too late." Samantha's eyes rolled back. "I'm already here."
He caught her as she tumbled, but only a few seconds later she struggled upright. "I'm okay."
Her voice was her own again. So were her eyes. I was so glad she couldn't see me. I was shaking and no doubt as pale as the pavement. I didn't want to scare her. Then again, she'd been the one speaking with the devil's voice.
"What did I do?" she asked.
We were both silent and she sighed. "The devil?"
"Yeah," Chavez said.
"I hate it when that happens." She stuck her tongue out and made a face. "I can taste the brimstone for days."
"I'm sorry I had to ask," Chavez murmured. "But I had to."
"What did I say?"
"Heard any whispers about the end of the world?"
"There are always whispers. Especially since this." She jabbed her thumb in the direction of the empty space. "The spirits have been restless. There's a lot of evil going on, and it seems to be getting worse with every passing day."
Chavez and I exchanged glances. That would follow if there were new and old demons being released at an unknown rate.
"He said the apocalypse is coming," Chavez murmured.
"He's probably right."
Samantha refused to let Chavez and me take her home. "I have too much to do here. We need to be prepared."
"You really think the end is near?" he asked. "They've been predicting that for centuries."
"Sooner or later, they've gotta be right."
When she wasn't speaking with Satan's voice, Samantha made a lot of sense.
"Could I talk to you privately, Chavez?" Samantha tilted her head in my direction – though slightly to the left.
"Sure," I said. "I'll just be" – I glanced around the depressing cement walkway – "over here."
I hadn't gone very far when Samantha began to whisper furiously. Chavez's deep tones answered with equal fervor. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but not for lack of trying.
I jumped. Heart thrumming so loudly I could hardly hear, the beat slowed at the sight of the tall, slim, beautiful blond woman near the fence. I must have been too preoccupied with Samantha and Chavez to notice her.
"Hi," I returned. "I didn't mean to disturb you."
"You weren't. It's lonely out here."
"I'll say." This place had given me the willies, even before Satan showed up.
"He'll kill you."
I jumped again. "Wh-what?"
She indicated Chavez. "He's a warrior. He understands that sometimes one must be lost for the good of many."
My eyes narrowed. "Who are you?"
She smiled, and the familiar low, thrumming sexual need began – the need that was brought on by a demon.
"I don't do women," I said.
She was probably right. I opened my mouth to shout for Chavez.
"He's obsessed. Ever since the unfortunate incident."
My mouth snapped shut. Did I really want to know this?
"Possessed by a demon. Poor baby."
I glanced at Chavez, who was still speaking with Samantha. If he looked my way he'd only see me talking to what appeared to be a harmless woman.
I remembered what Chavez had said to Satan. "Possession drives humans insane."
"You're saying he's crazy?"
She shrugged. "Crazy is a relative term."
Not in my book.
"He was possessed. His mother did everything she could think of to drive the demon out."
She licked her lips and gave an "mmm" of pleasure. I gritted my teeth against the response that tugged in my belly.
"She was quite creative."
My eyes narrowed. "What the hell does that mean?"
"Have you seen his tattoo? She gave it to him herself when he was fifteen."
I frowned. "And then?"
"She whipped him, starved him, locked him in the basement. The usual things people do to get rid of the devil."
"Sounds like the things people do whoare the devil."
"Ignorance. Fear. They're my master's domain."
"He had Chavez possessed so his mother would hurt him?"
"That's what he does."
My fingers curled until the nails bit into my palms. The pain eased both the anger and the infuriating sexual arousal. "How did they get the demon out?"
"Those are still done?"
She scowled. "Every damn day."
I found that hard to believe, but what did I know?
"Once Chavez was clean, he became the most feared of all the hunters. He was young, but he was thorough. He'll do anything to defeat one single demon. He hates us."
"News flash – everyone does."
"When you aren't messing with my head I do."
"Messing with heads is in my job description." Her gaze swept over me. "Among other things. Hewill kill you, you know?"
Chavez's face was fierce as he listened to Samantha. He did seem capable of anything. Even murder.
"And you won't?" I asked.
"I didn't say that. But you'll die happy. I promise."
I was tempted to run, except where would I go? No matter where I went, if Chavez didn't find me, the demon would. Wouldn't it be better to die easy at the hands of a friend, than horribly at the hands of evil?
"Chavez," I shouted. "Bring the salt."
I give him credit; he came running. But she was already gone.
"That was a woman," he said.
"Sex is sex."
"A comment only made by someone who's never had any." He went silent for a second. "A woman is a succubus."
"Thanks for the tip."
"Our demon is supposed to be part incubus."
"I think this one is a lot of things."
"True. What did she say?"
I hesitated. If Chavez had wanted me to know about his possession, about the abuse at the hands of his mother, about the exorcism, he'd have told me. I wasn't going to bring it up. I also wasn't going to bring up my imminent death. From the look on his face, he was upset enough already.
"The usual," I lied. "Sex until I die. Never give up. Yada-yada. The powers of evil need a new tune."
He stared at me for a few seconds, and I managed to stare right back. Amazing what a little Armageddon can do for one's lying skills.
"You ready to go?" he said at last.
I glanced at the fence, the concrete, the hole. "Definitely."
Chavez hailed a conveniently trolling cab, then gave the driver my address. Silence fell between us. What did we have to talk about? His method? My funeral? Damnation. Forgiveness. I preferred the quiet.
The doorman, already accustomed to Chavez's presence, nodded as we got on the elevator.Oh-oh. I didn't want Chavez arrested for my murder. He'd be needed in the coming days to keep the demon horde down to a manageable level, if not thwart the coming Apocalypse.
I let us into the apartment, moved into the living room as he locked up behind us. Not that locking up had done much good so far.
"There's a service entrance," I blurted. "Do you know how to short-circuit the security cameras?"
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"You'll need to get out of the building unseen."
He crossed the room, stopping so close I could feel the heat of him calling out to the sudden chill in me.
"You think I'd hurt you?"
"Hurt, no. Kill, yes."
He threw up his hands, then stalked away. "That damn demon!"
"Redundant, I think."
I surprised a laugh out of him.
"I'm not going to kill you, Kit."
"You have to. I understand. Although…"
My voice faded as a thought took hold – an insidious thought, but a very tempting one. I'd changed over the last few days, probably because the whole world had. Or rather the world had always been far different than I realized.
I'd saved myself for marriage, true love, but I wasn't going to find either one in the next five minutes. Did I really want to die a virgin?
"One request," I blurted.
He sighed impatiently. "Kit, I am not going to – "
"Make love to me."
Chavez stared at me for several seconds, then slowly shook his head. My hopes died.
He crossed the room and I tensed, knowing this was the end.
"Make it quick," I said.
Gently he reached out and slid my glasses from my nose, folding them, before setting them aside.
"It will definitely not be quick,querida, " he murmured.
Then he kissed me.