Hey all! I know you are impatiently waiting for updates on SUCCUBI ARE FOREVER. I’m happy to tell you that I’ve turned in all immediate contracted stuff and I am now full speed ahead on FOREVER. It’s going to be pretty epic (at least I hope so!) and I’m excited to work on it again after waiting so long!
As you may not already know, this will be the last book in the Succubus Diaries. My publisher decided not to continue on with the books, so I’m self-publishing it. What this means is that I can bring it to market faster, and in the case of the ebook, cheaper. Once I’ve finished writing it and revising it, I’m sending it off to my trusty editor to help me knock into shape, and then it’s just a matter of formatting the book. So instead of waiting a year after I turn it in, you’ll only have to wait a month or so. The target is still spring, but I don’t know when in spring it’ll be done. If the book runs long, it’ll be a bit longer before I bring it out, of course. I’m not going to rush it, and it’s going to be fully edited, so it’ll be worth the wait.
In the meantime, here’s a tease of the first chapter!
If there was one thing I struggled with, it was being deliberately sexy. Unfortunately for a succubus, if there was one rule of the Afterlife, it was that I could get a lot more by using my boobs than my brain. Sad but true.
With this in mind, I grasped the front of my low-cut black dress and hauled it up a little higher. The bodice of the darn thing was super tight, and angled so that my breasts jutted forward and jiggled like they were trying to make a run for their freedom. If I wasn’t careful, I was going to put someone’s eye out.
“Quit fidgeting.” My best friend Remy slapped my hand as I tugged on the straining spaghetti straps. “You look fine.”
“I look ridiculously busty. Like, tavern wench busty.”
“You’re supposed to, remember?”
Well, sure. Remy was used to all her girly bits hanging out. It still unnerved me – I was far more comfortable in a sweatshirt and jeans. And besides, she was missing the point of this conversation. “Yeah, but I also thought we were supposed to blend. How can I blend if I look more like a pair of torpedoes primed for the launch sequence? That’s not blending.”
She rolled her eyes at me and gave a little bounce in her own tight red dress like a boxer heading in to a fight. It was a move, I realized, that was designed to make the dress slide down and reveal even more of her ample cleavage. “Like anyone’s going to care if you blend or not. They’ll be too busy staring at your tits and ass to think about anything else. Come on. Do you want to get this crappy old book of yours or not?”
With that, Remy put her hands on her hips and sashayed into the crowd. I caught a brief glimpse of her head as she introduced herself to a silver-haired man in a tuxedo, flipped her hair, and gave him a charming smile.
And that was that.
I adjusted my boobs again, smiled at a few people who were nearby, and headed to the back of the room, pretending to head for the bathroom. With Remy gone from my side to be the center of attention, I could move on to my goal. I heard a bright peal of her laughter as I moved to the outskirts of the crowd, watched heads turn in her direction. All part of the plan. I gave my uncomfortable dress one last tug and slipped into the crowd, blending with the dark formalwear of the partygoers and smiling as I stepped past. The ballroom was crowded, but I wasn’t interested in the party itself. It was just an obstacle between me and my goal.
At the far end of the massive ballroom, there was a short hallway cordoned off with a velvet rope, leading to a pair of gilt double doors. The hall was lit with flickering candles in ornate sconces on the wall.
Why hello, goal.
I moved toward that velvet rope with single-minded purpose, murmuring excuses to the people I slid past. I smiled and nodded and even cast a flirty look at one man, since I needed to shove past him and he wasn’t moving. I brushed my boobs up against him and slid past with a smile. I kept this up until I had crossed the ballroom and now stood at the rope.
This end of the main hall was quieter than the other end, though in about fifteen minutes, it was going to be the spotlight of the party. I needed to move fast. With a quick glance around to ensure that no one was looking in my direction, I unhooked the rope and stepped on the other side. If anyone asked, I was just looking for the ladies’ room. Or something.
“Can I help you find something, miss?” A waiter paused near me, frowning as I re-buckled the rope back to the pillar.
Oh. Oops. Where was Remy with that distraction? “I’m just running to the ladies’ room,” I said to him with a bright smile.
He raised an eyebrow, and then his gaze dipped to my too-jiggly cleavage. “That’s not the restroom.”
I put a stupid look on my face. “It’s not?”
“That’s the unveiling room. It’s off limits for party guests. No one should be back there until Mr. Melledin gives the word.”
“So it is,” I agreed, thinking fast. He was staring at me expectantly and I had frozen like a deer in headlights. “Thank you.”
His gaze dipped to my breasts again.
An idea occurred to me, and I stepped forward, reaching for a glass of champagne. I smiled at him and gave him a very blunt, appraising look. “Is it a private room?”
The waiter stared at me. My boobs. My face. I resisted the urge to snap my fingers in his face.
“Private?” he echoed.
“You know.” I winked at him, then glanced back at the room I was dying to enter. “Private.” When he hesitated, I added, “I’ll meet you in the room at the end of the hall in three minutes?”
And to make sure he caught my suggestion, I licked my lips and trailed a finger down my exposed cleavage. If that didn’t convince him, I was going to have to start drawing him pictures.
He swallowed, hard. “The unveiling is in fifteen minutes.”
I bit my lower lip, and gave him a hungry look. “We won’t take long.”
He gave me the dazed, dopey smile of a man that had just been wrapped around my finger. His hands clenched the edge of the tray eagerly. “Three minutes.”
I wiggled my fingers at him and moved toward the shadows. “See you soon,” I purred. Creep.
The waiter stumbled backward, grinning at me, and then disappeared into the crowd – presumably to dump his drink tray. I continued to smile in his direction until he disappeared from sight, and then bolted down the hallway.
Now to find a good hiding spot to ensure that he wouldn’t be able to find me for the rendezvous I had just promised and had zero intention of following through with.
“Nightingale to Robin Red Breast,” buzzed a voice in my ear. “Nightingale to Robin Red Breast, do you read me.”
I rolled my eyes as I moved further down the hall and touched my finger to the ear-bud in my ear, the headset hidden by my long, thick red hair. So far, despite the crush of the party, no one had noticed me. That was good. “Hello Remy,” I replied. “I can hear you.”
“Nightingale to Robin Red Breast,” she repeated cheerfully, ignoring the fact that I was not using our code names. “The Vulture is heading in your direction. I repeat, Vulture is heading your way.”
Who the heck was the Vulture? No one was supposed to be heading in my direction. I tested the double door and found it unlocked, and slipped inside. “Who is heading my way? Remy? We don’t have to use code names. We’re the only ones on this frequency–“
“I have a bogey on my radar,” she said, interrupting. Her voice dropped to a stage whisper. “Gotta go.” The headset clicked off.
“Isn’t a bogey golf?” I asked, but she was no longer listening.
I sighed, then glanced around the room I’d just entered. A massive sitting area, furnished with what looked like Louis XIV chairs and crystal dishes that probably cost more than I had made at the University last year as an archaeologist. Paintings in gilt frames lined the tall walls, and there was a fresco of fat, naked cherubs on the ceiling. It was all very old money and all very rich.
Well then, they wouldn’t mind if I stole a little something, right? I told myself that, anyhow, and moved into the room, eyeing the heavy red velvet drapes next to each incredibly tall window. It was night, so they were pulled shut. I moved forward and examined it. Wires ran along the windowsill, a light flashing. Alarm system. I peeked out the window pane, wincing at the sight of the security guards walking the grounds outside. Sheesh. It was like our wealthy billionaire host didn’t trust his guests or something.
The handle on the door clicked.
I froze as the door opened, then flattened myself along the wall behind the window curtain. That damn waiter. Ugh. Hopefully he’d assume the room was empty and that I’d bailed on our rendezvous, then quickly leave again. And if not, I’d have to take more drastic action.
The door shut and revealed the person that had just entered. His back was turned to me. I stared at a broad pair of shoulders covered with a long, floor-dusting leather jacket. It might not have been that unusual except for the fact that it was summer, and his beat-up jacket was squarely out of place at the party.
But my heart gave a happy little flip at the sight of it anyhow, and my internal tuning fork thrummed with pleasure. It always stirred when an immortal was around, but the sight of this particular immortal never failed to make me quiver.
The man in the jacket didn’t turn around. As I watched his broad shoulders flex, he reached into a pocket and pulled out a cigarette, placed it between his lips, lit it. My body gave a tingled as he glanced over his shoulder, and I saw the beautiful mouth – that kept the cigarette perched firmly in place – edge into a smile.
“You playing hide and seek, princess?”
I stepped out of the curtains and moved forward, drawn toward him. When I reached his side, I ran a hand along the back of Zane’s long leather jacket, feeling the twitch of his wings underneath the coat. “I thought you were waiting in the car in case we had to make a quick getaway?”
Because, you know, a guy in a long trench coat in summer never stood out at all…
“Thought I might come in and make sure everything was ok. You know I don’t trust Remy to have your back.” He shrugged, and the faint scent of tobacco touched my nostrils as I stepped into the smoke of his cigarette.
A momentary twinge of annoyance swept over me. I’d spent the last three months blissfully happy with Zane at my side…that is, blissfully happy unless he and Remy were in the same room. Then it was more like I was stuck between two bickering siblings. I thought we’d gotten past that, though, ever since Zane had helped me free Remy from her master. “Remy has my back just fine–”
“Really? Because I saw her in the main room,” he gestured back at the direction he’d just came, “with a leg wrapped around some guy and her tongue down his throat.”
She worked fast. “She’s providing a distraction for me.”
“I’ll say she’s a distraction. I’m not sure if Ethan saw that he’d approve.” He frowned at me, and more specifically at my low-cut dress. “You know that you can do other things than just manipulate people with your bodies.”
I leaned up and kissed him. “Who are you and what have you done with my Zane?” I teased, grinning.
He gave me a chagrined look and tossed his cigarette down on the Aubusson carpet, then ground it under his boot. “I’m the guy that just had to bite the oversexed waiter in the hallway who was looking for you.”
Aw, that was sweet. “You’re so sexy when you’re jealous.”
“I’m not jealous,” he said in a sulky tone that indicated that he was, in fact, very jealous. “I just worry about you.”
“I’m a succubus,” I said, poking him in the chest. “We don’t have super strength, super speed, can’t fly, and can’t charm people or influence them like the fallen. So shoving our boobs under everyone’s noses to distract them? That’s what we do.” It wasn’t like this was a revelation to him – the first time we’d met, I’d been doing something very similar, and he hadn’t disapproved of my tactics then.
“I’m Ethan’s friend. You know if he could see Remy right now, he wouldn’t be pleased.”
Zane did have a point. It was odd to think that Zane and Ethan had been at each other’s throats a few months ago and somewhere along the line, had turned into friendship. Now they were buddies like Remy and I were BFF, and they looked out for each other. And apparently the friendship extended to watching out for the other guy’s girlfriend. This was the reason behind Zane’s grumpiness, then.
Ethan was normally the fourth member of our little troupe, but he was visiting his monastery at the moment. As an enforcer, his job was to handle tasks given to him by the Serim. No one seemed to think that an enforcer could have – or possibly want – a life of his own, and so Ethan’s superiors were mystified by his relationship with Remy. He was there at the monastery now, requesting permission to remain out in ‘the wild’ a bit longer. I didn’t know what Remy would do if his permission was turned down.
But I knew what straight-laced Ethan would think of Remy’s flirty diversions. He would not be happy.
Good thing he wasn’t here.
I glanced at my watch, frowning. Much as I loved seeing Zane here, we only had a few minutes before the unveiling on the book would draw the crowd into the empty antechamber that we currently stood in, and I needed to get to the book before that happened. I grabbed Zane’s arm and turned him toward the door. “I’m going to steal the page. You go find Remy and pry her off of her latest conquest.”
He gave me a mock salute. “Your wish is my command.”
“Tease,” I said to him, and turned away.
Zane grabbed my hand, spinning me around and pulling me back toward him again. My body pressed up against his, and I could feel the heat of him even through the layers of clothing. The Itch spiraled through my body, pulsing with need. “Kiss before you go?” he said, leaning in to me with a smile. “And then I promise I’ll behave.”
“Maybe just a small one.” I slid my hand to the back of his neck and twined my fingers in the short black hair at his nape. Who was I to resist a vampire? Especially such a sexy one.
His eyes flickered red down at my own, and his mouth slanted over mine. I felt his fangs brush against my lower lip before he slid his tongue against my own, giving my mouth a slow, tantalizing lick that made me weak in the knees. Over and over he licked into my mouth, each thrust of his tongue a suggestion that I was more than receptive to. I clung to him as the kiss grew more intense, heat coursing through my body.
Even if we were together a thousand years, I’d never get used to the way Zane kissed me. It was as if he wanted to devour me whole, and every touch was barely leashed, every stroke of his tongue speaking of need and desire and lust.
Just as quickly as he’d begun to kiss me, Zane released me with a grin. His eyes had flared bright red, and he stared down at my dazed face with a hungry gaze. “Hurry up and get your page,” he said in a low growl. “Because you have exactly five minutes before I rip that dress from your body.”
Hot damn. I quivered at that, and melted in his arms. “Five minutes,” I echoed, dreamily. “Got it.”
Zane pressed a kiss to my forehead, made sure I could stand on my own two feet again, and then left the room, shutting the door behind him with a soft click.
In a haze, the Itch pounding through my body, I stared after him until he was out of sight. Then, my senses snapped back into place, and I straightened my dress. Right. The page. Get the page, and then we could be done with this little adventure and go back to our hotel for a few hours of frisky bed-play. I was always game for that.
I touched my finger to the headset. “Remy, Zane’s coming to get you. I’m going to grab the page and then join you two out front. Understand?”
No answer. Well, it might have been difficult to reply if her tongue was stuck down someone else’s throat like Zane had said. I clicked the headset off, fluffed my hair to hide it again, and set off on my mission.
I’d first heard about the Melledin Manuscript in a magazine. I’d been reading in bed while waiting for Zane to awaken from his nightly hibernation. For months, I’d been buried in research on the haloes, looking for clues in historical data, searching for mentions of miracles and unexplained phenomena that might lead me back. I researched every single name that Zane could give me, looking for immortals that had affected the course of history in oblique fashion.
And when that failed, I just buried myself in research. I loved research, after all. I’d been reading an article that compared a newly-found mysterious manuscript to the Voynich Manuscript. They thought the author of it was John Dee – a famous Elizabethan mystic – except for the fact that it seemed to be hundreds of years older than anyone had thought. Scientists viewed the manuscript as a mystery.
Then, Zane had woken up and distracted me, and I’d forgotten all about the manuscript…
Until I found him reading the same magazine a few days later, a funny expression on his face. It turned out that not only could he read the ancient angelic script that the Melledin Manuscript was lettered with, but it provided the first real clues we’d had toward finding the two missing haloes. The Melledin Manuscript had recently been on a tour in the US, visiting several prominent museums along the way. Now it was back home in Switzerland, and that was why we suddenly found ourselves in Europe.
One page of the manuscript in particular held the key to the information we sought. Unfortunately, the page in the magazine spread had been an extreme close-up and I needed to see the entire thing. Thus we were resorting to…less ethical methods of getting our hands on the page.
So here I was, crashing a charity function all so I could get inside and rip apart a thousand-year-old manuscript that was lauded as one of the most fascinating finds of the last century.
Sure, we could just take a picture of the page instead of ripping it out of the book…but that also meant that the information would be out there for other immortals to discover. I needed that halo to win a boon from the Archangel Gabriel. Something told me that he’d be just as happy giving that boon to someone else. And given that both the Serim and vampires did not play well together…
Well, it was just best if I confiscated the information, even if it hurt my soul to deface a priceless book.
The book wasn’t in the room, though. There was another set of double-doors at the far end of the room, and I headed toward those. I tested the brass handle of the door – not locked, and no alarm. Well, that made things easier. I entered the room and shut the door behind me.
“This room is off limits.” A man in a security guard uniform stood by the lit case where the massive book rested.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” I gave him a bright smile and closed the door behind me.
He frowned in my direction, gesturing that I should leave the room. And when I didn’t move, he continued to approach me. “I said, you need to leave–”
I reached out and brushed his cheek with my hand, shutting down his mind and sending him to sleep. Okay, so succubi weren’t completely helpless as I’d intimated toward Zane. But the powers we had weren’t exactly subtle ones, either. With my fingers pressed against the guard’s forehead, I rummaged through the dream I’d forced on him, looking for pass-codes or security keys. Nothing, luckily for me. With a pat to his cheek, I stood and approached the dais.
The book lay spread before me on a pedestal, a lit glass case protecting the valuable object inside from onlookers. It was beautiful, I thought as I stared down through the glass. The pages were thick and yellowed with age, the ink crisp and vivid with color. Scrollwork decorated the edges of the paper with a story that archaeologists hadn’t been able to figure out, but Zane had told me involved the fall of the angels. Not just any angels, but specific ones.
The ones I was looking for.
Biting my lip, I grasped the glass case and pulled it off of the book. My entire body was tense, ready for an alarm to go off, but nothing happened. With relief, I placed the case on the ground at my feet and leaned over the book. I’d normally wear latex gloves to handle a book like this, since the oils on my fingertips were sure to destroy it…but I was just about to rip out a page and stuff it into my bra. Did it even matter if I left fingerprints on the damn thing?
I laid tentative fingers on the thick vellum of the manuscript. It felt sacrilegious and amazing all at once. I was touching something a thousand years old, and it gave me a thrill to do so. With gentle fingers, I turned the page, wincing as the lambskin sheets of parchment felt thin and weak under my fingertips. After a few cautious flips, I found the page I was looking for – nine rings of different colors seemed to be interconnected by golden chains on the page, and surrounded by small, cribbed text in the strange, looping handwriting. This was the page I needed. This one, Zane insisted, would lead us toward a missing halo, maybe both if we were lucky.
Wincing to myself, I gave the page a firm tug, and felt a little bit of my soul shred as I pulled it out of the book.
A priceless, fragile work of art, one of a kind and of holy origin…a book that had lasted a thousand years, and here I was defacing it like some teenager tearing out pages in the library. It felt dirty and wrong, and I couldn’t help but frown to myself as I rolled up the page and then slid the tube of paper down the front of my tight dress, until it nestled deep between my breasts and out of sight.
If skipping out on a dig in Mexico didn’t make me a bad archaeologist, I was pretty sure that defacing a priceless text would do it.
I felt rather than heard the step of soft feet behind me, and tensed.
“Don’t worry honey. We’ve got you now,” an unfamiliar, breathy female voice whispered in my ear. A hand touched my bare arm. Before I could turn, a disconcerting, vague feeling washed over me. My mind fuzzed, then went black, and the last thing I thought before falling into unconsciousness was that I’d been found.
By another succubus.