Authors: Jenna Black
Brian knew, of course, that I spent a lot of time with Adam. We were, after all, both members of Lugh’s council. But he
know about my overnight stays. Not that I’d stayed overnight anytime recently, and I’d been a prisoner both times, but I didn’t want Brian to know anything about that. I had made a pretty sickening sacrifice, allowing Adam to “play” with me in return for his help in rescuing Brian when he’d been kidnapped by Dougal’s supporters. Adam’s idea of “playing” was to whip me until my back was reduced to bloody shreds—damage that Lugh was able to heal over the course of a few hours. And that Brian would never know about, because knowing would damage him.
Since my face had already told Barbie she’d hit a nerve, I decided not to try to hide it. “The time I spend with Adam is none of your business,” I snarled. “I can’t blame you for doing your job.” Actually, yes, I could, and I’m sure she heard that in my voice. “But my personal life has nothing to do with my professional life, so keep your nose out of it.”
It would have been nice if Barbie had looked chastened and repentant, then apologized profusely and driven away, never to be seen again. But I wasn’t exactly shocked that it didn’t go that way.
Barbie flashed me a sardonic smile, very much at odds with her innocently pretty face. “I know you’re not as naive as that. Anything and everything can be used as evidence against you in the suit. It may not
affect the final outcome, but it can certainly make your life difficult for months, maybe even years.”
I reminded myself that Barbie was just doing her job and probably didn’t deserve to have her bright white teeth knocked out of her jaw. “I don’t understand. I don’t have any money, and Maguire wouldn’t need it even if I had it. Between his lawyers and you, he’s spending way more than he can ever hope to get back. What’s the point?”
I thought I saw a hint of sympathy in Barbie’s expression, though it might have been wishful thinking on my part. “I think the point has already been amply demonstrated.” She opened her car door. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.” Her face actually looked a bit grim. “I’m very good at my job.”
Her words sent a very definite chill down my spine, and I couldn’t think of a good retort as she climbed into her car and drove away. Instinct told me she wouldn’t go far, and I’d better scrutinize my every move for the duration of the suit.
Have I mentioned that my life sucks?
I’m not big on medically enhanced sleep, but that night I couldn’t resist the lure of a sleeping pill. But even with the drug, my mind was reluctant to drift away into unconsciousness, and I lay in my bed tossing and turning, despite my heavy eyelids, for well over an hour.
Eventually, I succumbed, but I doubt I’d gotten more than a few minutes of blissful oblivion in before I “awoke” in Lugh’s living room.
He didn’t really have a living room, of course. But he had complete control of my dreams, and he could set those dreams in any environment he pleased. This living room was the environment he chose most frequently,
but in the past he’d also conjured an intimidating throne room and a sexy bedroom, depending on what effect he wanted to have on me.
Apparently, he wanted to be comforting tonight, because in addition to the usual decor of his living room, there was a crackling wood fire. I was sitting— reclining, actually—on the world’s softest leather couch, my bare feet propped on a matching ottoman, facing the fire. Without raising my head from the back of the couch, I turned to face Lugh, who was sitting just close enough to invade my personal space. I’d given up on trying to get him to respect my boundaries, so I didn’t bother scooching away.
Just like the living room, Lugh’s body was an illusion—a construct created specifically to appeal to me. But let me tell you, he sure knows how to appeal. Tall and golden-skinned, with long black hair, warm amber eyes, and a body to die for—hopefully, not literally—he pushed every one of my buttons. Hard. If it weren’t for the fact that I was in love with Brian, I don’t know that I could have kept myself from jumping Lugh’s bones.
To make matters worse, Lugh didn’t think Brian should be any impediment to my enjoyment of his… charms. As far as he was concerned, since I could only be with him when I was asleep, and I could only be with Brian when I was awake, there was no competition between them—and therefore, no reason for me to choose one over the other. But we were never going to see eye-to-eye on that issue. And while tonight Lugh looked as yummy as ever, he didn’t seem to be putting the moves on me. Yet.
“I gathered you wished to speak to me?” he asked with an elegant arch of his brows.
my ass. He lived in my body, and in my mind. He knew all my thoughts and feelings, even the
ones I kept under lock and key. Even the ones I didn’t want to acknowledge. If I allowed myself to think about it, I could bring on a panic attack, so I stopped thinking and answered him instead.
“Care to give me your version of the Raphael and Delilah story? I’m not sure Saul’s version is reliable.”
“My version won’t be completely unbiased, either,” he warned with a self-deprecating smile. But behind that smile, there was something else in his expression, something … angry? Bitter? I wasn’t sure. All I knew was that it wasn’t a happy emotion.
“I’m not expecting it to be,” I assured him. Though I must admit, I was expecting it to be less biased than Saul’s. Lugh had the enviable ability to regard people and events with a certain degree of distance. It wasn’t a lack of emotion, it was…
“An ability to temporarily set those emotions aside.”
I scowled at Lugh. Not that I didn’t know he could “hear” my internal conversations, but sometimes it would be nice if he would just pretend he couldn’t.
He smiled apologetically. “Saul’s description of the actual events was basically accurate. His assessment of my brother’s motivation was not.”
“So Raphael didn’t do it just to piss you off?”
A muscle ticked in Lugh’s jaw. “Oh, I’m sure he considered that one of the fringe benefits. And it wasn’t until very recently that I realized how much more there was to it than that. At the time, I took it at face value. I believed he was striking out at me through the woman I loved, and that was when I formally severed our relationship.”
The woman he loved?
Somehow, that idea took me by surprise, though of course it was silly in the extreme. Demons may be very different from humans,
but I’d seen plenty of evidence that they were capable of love. And, while I didn’t know exactly how old Lugh was, I knew he was ancient. The chances of him living that long a life without having loved a woman …
Of course, I wasn’t about to question him about his love life, though the subtle twitching of his lips reminded me he knew what I was thinking.
“What do you mean you formally severed your relationship?”
The hint of a smile disappeared as if it had never existed. “I mean from that day until I ascended to the throne, I refused to see or speak to him. And the only reason I spoke to him when I ascended was to try to get him to give me his True Name.”
As king of the demons, Lugh was entitled to know the True Name of all his subjects who had earned one. If he knew a demon’s True Name, he could summon that demon to him from anywhere in the Demon Realm. That humans could use True Names to summon demons to the Mortal Plain was merely a… side effect. Lugh could have forced his brothers to reveal their True Names, but, in a moment of naiveté, he’d chosen not to, hoping his act of trust would repair their fraternal relationship. Instead, it had given Dougal the power he needed to launch his palace coup.
“So what is it you’ve figured out now that you didn’t know then?” I prompted when Lugh fell silent.
He shook his head, and I got the feeling he was shaking off memories. “You were right to think that Raphael always has some way to justify his actions, at least to himself. I don’t think he would have killed Delilah like that for the sole purpose of angering me. But since, at the time, we were practically at war with
one another, it never occurred to me that he might have done it for my sake.”
My eyebrows shot up, and I sat up straight, turning my body to fully face Lugh on the couch. “How the hell could that possibly have been for
sake?” I asked, my outrage clear in my voice.
Lugh’s head dipped, his eyes now focused on his knee. He must have been really uncomfortable; it wasn’t like him to avoid eye contact.
“Demons don’t marry like humans do,” he said. “We do form lasting relationships—it’s just that there’s no formal acknowledgment of them. So, while we don’t actually marry, it would be accurate in human terms to think of Delilah as my wife.”
“Okay,” I said, giving him a keep talking gesture, which he probably didn’t see, since he still wasn’t looking at me.
His voice dropped until it was so low I had to lean forward to hear him. “What usually happens eventually when a man and a woman marry?”
It shows the frame of mind I was in that I didn’t even consider some kind of smart-ass quip. “They have children,” I answered, and Lugh nodded. I continued the thought. “But if you had a child with Delilah, you would have contributed a hell of a lot more energy than Raphael did.”
He nodded again. “It would have been the only honorable thing to do. Besides, I wouldn’t have wanted to risk hurting her.”
And now the lightbulb finally turned on over my head. “And how long would you have been … depleted?” I remembered Adam saying something about centuries, but it was hard to believe.
“Believe it,” Lugh said. “If Delilah and I had had a child, I would still be … very weak. It’s virtually impossible
for demons to kill one another in the Demon Realm—unless there’s a huge disparity in power. I’d have handed Dougal the opportunity he needed to destroy me, and he would now be sitting on the demon throne as king, rather than regent.”
I chewed that over for a while. “So you think even back then, Raphael knew that Dougal was going to make a try for the throne?”
Lugh nodded. “He even warned me of it, though of course I didn’t listen. I thought he was just trying to stir up trouble. As much as Dougal and I have disagreed on political issues, I never believed he would try to take the throne.”
As you may have gathered by now, I am not the most sensitive, compassionate woman in the world. But even
could tell that Lugh was hurt and bewildered by it. For all that we’d talked about defensive strategies and plans to right the wrong, we’d never talked about how Lugh felt when his brother betrayed him. I knew how awful it had felt when my best friend had betrayed me and tried to have me killed. How much worse would it be if it had been my brother?
Once again, Lugh didn’t bother to pretend he didn’t know my thoughts. “I am more disillusioned than hurt,” he said. “Dougal and I have never been close, so I don’t take his attack personally.”
“Huh. You know how you always get on my case for lying to myself? Well, I don’t have to be a demon in control of your body to recognize it when I see it.”
Lugh actually winced. “I am a king. My feelings are irrelevant.”
I wasn’t sure I followed his logic, but I didn’t much care. I did the unthinkable and moved a little
closer to him on the couch, laying a sympathetic hand on his arm. “Your feelings aren’t irrelevant to me.”
As soon as I said it, I wished I could suck the words back in. What kind of an idiot says something like that to a man she’s trying to hold at arm’s length? Never mind that with him in my body, I couldn’t actually do it.
I moved away from him with a little groan, and I covered my eyes with my hand as I cursed myself. Maybe I should take lying lessons from Raphael. I was pretty sure that part of being a good liar was knowing when to keep your mouth shut. And, of course, the poker face I didn’t have.
Lugh chuckled. “Lying to me would do you no good.” He drew my hand away from my eyes. I made the mistake of meeting his gaze and found I couldn’t look away.
“You can’t hold me at arm’s length, Morgan. And you can’t lead me on. What you choose to say doesn’t matter.” His voice gentled even further. “You can’t choose what to feel, either. Life would be very much easier if we could direct our feelings, but even demons can’t do that.”
My pulse quickened, and there was a pleasant fluttery feeling in my belly. He hadn’t let go of my hand, and I was suddenly intensely aware of the warmth of his skin against mine. I swallowed hard.
In the World According to Morgan Kingsley, the fact that I was in love with Brian should have deadened my sexual attraction to every other male of the species. Sure, I could find them pleasing to look at. I could even entertain a fantasy or two. But I shouldn’t
them, not the way I wanted Lugh.
“Feelings don’t respond to ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t,’” Lugh reminded me.
“God damn it!” I said, finding the will to yank my hand from his grip. “Stop responding to my thoughts! Can’t you at least give me the
He raised one shoulder in a delicate shrug. “That would be a form of deception.”
I snorted. As far as I could tell, Lugh had never outright lied to me, but he was perfectly capable of deceiving me. “So what?”
“So that deception would serve no purpose except to anger you when you find yourself believing the illusion.”
Against my better judgment, I liked Lugh. But at times like these, I’d have happily strangled him.
“Has it ever occurred to you,” he continued, “that the reason you’re so attracted to me is precisely
your mind is completely open to me? I know your thoughts, your feelings, your fantasies, your secrets. And knowing all that, I still want you.”
I jerked awake. It was the first time in a long while I had woken up from one of Lugh’s dreams without making a conscious effort. I sat up abruptly in bed, my skin clammy as I shivered in the air-conditioned chill of my apartment. I pulled my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around my legs. Lugh’s words echoed in my mind, repeating endlessly. I wanted to shut the words out, to force my mind away from them. Because Lugh, damn him to hell, had struck at what he knew was a weakness in my emotional armor.