Authors: Jenna Black
To the outside world, I came off as bold, confident, even cocky. But I carry around a hell of a lot of baggage, and it’s stuffed to bursting with insecurity and self-doubt. That baggage kept me from fully committing to—or opening up to—Brian. I couldn’t help being terrified of what Brian would think of me
knew me, couldn’t help fearing that he would eventually wise up and discover that he was too good for me.
“That was a low blow, Lugh,” I muttered to the empty room. Yeah, maybe Lugh knew what was in all that baggage I carried around, and yeah, in some ways that made him “safer” than any human being could ever be. But it was
I needed. And to prove this to myself—or maybe to Lugh—I picked up the phone and dialed Brian’s number, even though it was the middle of the night. I begged him to come over and fuck me senseless, and, being a guy, this was an offer he couldn’t refuse.
My only excuse for not thinking this decision through was… Well, that I wasn’t thinking at all.
Brian was deliciously tousled when he came over, and I jumped him practically the moment he walked in the door. He was happy to oblige me, and soon his jeans and my pajama bottoms had been tossed aside and I was pinned to the wall.
Our physical chemistry has always been one of the best facets of our relationship. The bliss of his body pressed against mine, of his cock deep inside me, of his tongue thrusting into my mouth, banished all thoughts of Lugh. I was reduced to a collection of nerve endings, losing myself in the physical pleasure, and in the feeling of
that always pervaded me when Brian and I were locked together.
Ever the gentleman, Brian waited until I came before he let his own pleasure explode. When it was over, we were both breathing hard, our bodies slick with sweat. My legs were wrapped around his hips, my arms around his neck, and I allowed my head to sag to his shoulder.
He recovered faster than I did, and, with me still wrapped around him like a clinging monkey, he carried me to my bedroom. I was on the verge of starting to think again, but Brian saved me from that horror by pulling my pajama top up over my head and then removing his own T-shirt. His naked bod put all thoughts other than “I want” out of my head.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t make love forever. And even more unfortunately, Brian didn’t succumb to his usual habit of falling asleep afterward. Instead, he asked the question that I would have anticipated if only I’d stopped for a moment to consider the consequences of calling him in the middle of the night for sex.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, tucking me firmly into his arms, his front to my back, his lips brushing my sweaty shoulder.
I had never mentioned to Brian that Lugh was putting the moves on me in my dreams. In many ways, Brian is the quintessential modern, sensitive guy— always understanding, and far more willing than I am to talk about how he felt. But no matter how sensitive he was, he was still a guy, and he would
like the idea that another man was trying to trespass in his “territory.”
Having never been possessed himself, I’m sure he had no true understanding of just how real Lugh was to me, or how real my dreams of him were. It therefore wouldn’t have occurred to him that the demon who possessed me could be a rival. But I felt sure that’s how he’d see it if I told him what was wrong, and I felt equally sure he would take it badly. Especially if he thought I was tempted by Lugh.
“I just … needed that,” I said, knowing he’d never in a thousand years settle for something so lame.
I felt his body stiffen against my back, and not in a good way. Probably the number one cause of our fights was my unwillingness to fully open up to him.
I know your thoughts, your feelings, your fantasies, your secrets
. The memory of Lugh’s words taunted me, and I wished putting my hands over my ears would shut them out.
Brian was silent for a long time. I might have hoped he’d fallen asleep, except I could still feel the tension in his body. I prayed he’d drop the subject, but it did me no good.
“You called me at two
,” he said tightly. “Scaring the shit out of me, I might add, since phone calls at that hour are rarely good news. When you asked me to come over, I dragged myself out of bed and hurried here as fast as humanly possible. And now you’re going to give me the ‘there’s nothing wrong’ story?”
Once upon a time, Brian had been one of the most even-tempered men I’d ever known. He was still pretty even-tempered compared to most people, but I could piss him off in five seconds flat. It was not a skill I was proud of.
Usually in situations like this, I get mad right back. Pretty much every time Brian has scolded me for keeping my emotional distance, I’ve thrown some version of a tantrum and ordered him to back off. The temptation to do the same thing now was almost overwhelming, but I managed to squelch it.
I rolled over in Brian’s arms so that I was facing him. His jaw was set, his eyes narrowed, and I knew there was anger as well as pain in that expression. I reached up to brush back a lock of hair that had stuck to the sweat on his brow. I was going to put our relationship at risk whether I chose to speak or to
keep quiet. My gut instinct told me to keep quiet, but, as I’ve mentioned, I often flap my gums when I shouldn’t.
“Lugh’s trying to seduce me,” I blurted. Lugh also had a temper, so he sent a sharp pain arrowing through my head. I hissed and winced. Luckily, he let up after that one, quick spike. He could have made me feel much, much worse.
I risked a glance up at Brian’s face and saw that he was frowning. I could almost see the gears turning in his head as he processed what I’d said. I’d told him I communicated with Lugh in my dreams, but I’d never actually gone into detail about it. Brian probably assumed that I just heard Lugh’s voice in my head, or something benign like that. Which would explain how puzzled he looked now.
“When I dream of Lugh, it’s a full sensory experience,” I said. “While it’s going on, he feels as real to me as you do right now.” I closed my eyes and rolled over onto my back. “If it were some other guy making a pass at me, I could avoid him—or beat the shit out of him, if necessary—but I can’t avoid Lugh. He’s … relentless.”
I didn’t open my eyes when I felt Brian sit up. I didn’t want to see the expression on his face.
“And so what set you running for the phone tonight?” he asked. He was trying to do neutral lawyer voice, but I heard the suspicion underneath.
I forced my eyes open. His neutral lawyer face wasn’t much more convincing than his voice. I reached up to stroke his chest, and felt the tightness in his muscles.
“I didn’t sleep with him or anything,” I assured him. I wanted to avert my eyes, but that would make it look like I was lying.
“That’s not an answer.”
It was an answer to the question in his eyes, but, of course, he wanted to know more. I swallowed hard. And despite my best efforts, I couldn’t hold Brian’s gaze any longer. Once again, I closed my eyes. This time, I laid my forearm over them for good measure.
“He just scared me tonight is all,” I whispered, afraid my voice would shake. “Do you have any idea how manipulative a guy can be when he has access to every one of your hidden thoughts and feelings?”
The silence in the room was deafening. I waited for a beat or two, then lowered my arm and opened my eyes. Pain stabbed through my heart at the stricken look on Brian’s face.
If anyone teaches a Relationships 101 class, I really need to go to it. Maybe even a remedial version, because I was obviously a moron. The number one source of conflict in my relationship with Brian is my unwillingness to share my thoughts and feelings. So what made me think it was a good idea to rub Brian’s face in the fact that Lugh knew
Never mind that I had no way of keeping that information from Lugh, and that I wouldn’t share any of it with him if I had the choice.
Lugh had accused me in the past of subconsciously sabotaging my relationship with Brian. Maybe he had a point.
I had no idea if the voice in my head was actually Lugh’s, or just a product of my own self-loathing. But it was time for some damage control.
I sat up and sidled closer to Brian on the bed, slipping my arm around his waist and laying my head on his shoulder. For all that he was clearly upset, he didn’t push me away. He even put his arms around me.
“I called you because you’re the antidote to all Lugh’s machinations,” I murmured. “I know you actually love me, and that you’re not trying to manipulate me. And I trust you.”
I trust Lugh most of the time, too, but I also know what he’s capable of. And I know that his duties as a king will always come first, and that he would violate my trust in a heartbeat if he thought he had to.
Brian sighed heavily. The tension faded from his body, but in a defeated way, not a relaxed way.
trusted me, you would have told me what was going on long before now.”
He pulled away from me then, slipping out of bed and groping for his shirt. His pants and shoes were still in the foyer somewhere.
“That’s not true!” I protested.
Brian shook his head. “You didn’t tell me because you assumed I’d think you were having some kind of affair with him. You’re always on guard, waiting for me to hurt you if you take a false step. That’s not trust, Morgan.”
My chest ached as I watched him and tried to think of what to say. But since everything I’d said so far had only dug the hole deeper, I decided I’d better shut up.
It would have served me right if Brian had left my apartment without another word, leaving me to stew in my fear that he was leaving me for good. But Brian’s just too damn nice.
“I need some time to think,” he said after he pulled his T-shirt back on. “We’ll talk again tomorrow.”
He headed for the bedroom door, and I said the only thing I could think of that seemed safe.
“I love you.”
Brian looked at me for a long, excruciating moment, and I swear my heart stopped beating. “I love you, too,” he finally said. But I wasn’t going to forget that hesitation, and I agonized about it for the rest of the night.
day, I felt lousy—naturally. This was a really sucky time to be suspended by the U.S. Exorcism Board. It meant I couldn’t burn any hours doing work. Not that I’d done all that many exorcisms since Lugh had joined me. I’d had to turn down some pretty attractive contracts, but when half the world is trying to kill you, the day job has to take a backseat.
My apartment was so clean Martha Stewart would have bowed at my feet in admiration, so I couldn’t kill time by cleaning. Not if I didn’t want to qualify as OCD, that is. But twiddling my thumbs while sitting alone with my thoughts didn’t seem like such a hot idea, either.
I looked at the list of recommended attorneys Brian had given me. I got as far as picking up the phone to dial one before I balked. I didn’t think last night’s fiasco would make Brian dump me, but the last thing I wanted to do now was ask him for money to help pay the attorney. I decided to try to wriggle my way out from under the lawsuit instead. It couldn’t hurt to pay a visit to Maguire and see if I
could convince him his son’s death wasn’t my fault. Yeah, it was a long shot, but I figured it was worth trying.
People as wealthy as Maguire tend not to be listed in the phone book, so it took me half the morning— and all of my admittedly limited patience—to get a number for him. When I finally got it, I put it aside as I made myself a gourmet lunch of store-brand cornflakes. Maybe I was overdoing the economizing, but I had never felt this financially vulnerable before, and it was damned uncomfortable.
While I munched my corn flakes, I pondered what I could possibly say to Maguire to convince him of my innocence. If he was as grief-crazed as I thought, it was probably a hopeless cause. Especially since I’m not known for my silver-tongued eloquence. But maybe he was just confused. Maybe he just needed to hear how terribly sorry I was.
I hand-washed my bowl and spoon, taking my time about it. Stalling, if you must know. But then I dug my courage out of hiding and picked up the phone. At this point, I had nothing to lose by calling.
The phone rang three times before it was picked up and a woman’s voice said, “Hello?”
My own voice tried to flee in panic, but I sternly ordered myself to stay calm.
“Hello,” I said. “May I speak to Mr. Maguire, please?”
“Who may I say is calling?”
It would have made things easier if Maguire himself had answered the phone. Then I might be able to slip in a few words in self-defense before he figured out who I was and hung up on me. If this woman— wife? maid? daughter?—told him I was on the phone, he might well refuse the call.
“Morgan Kingsley,” I said reluctantly.
There was a long silence on the other end of the line. “The exorcist?” she finally asked, and I couldn’t tell from her tone of voice what she thought of me.
I sighed. “Yeah. I just wanted a chance to tell Mr. Maguire how sorry I am about what happened.”
She snorted. “I’ll bet. You might as well save your breath. Daddy’s just…Well, he’s not in his right mind these days.”
She sounded surprisingly apologetic. “I gather I’m speaking to Laura?” When I’d first had an inkling that the Maguire exorcism would end in trouble for me, I’d Googled his name and found out that in addition to Jordan Junior, Maguire also had a daughter named Laura. She was a couple of years older than Jordan Junior, and was an artist of some sort.
“Yes, this is Laura. And I’m sure this doesn’t help you any, but I don’t think what happened to my brother is your fault.”
Surprisingly, this admission made my throat tighten. I
it was Jordan’s demon’s fault, not mine. But I guess the relentlessness of Maguire’s grief was wearing on me.
“Thank you,” I said.
“I think, in his heart of hearts, Daddy knows that, too,” she continued, her voice now low and furtive. “It’s Jack Hillerman who’s so all-fired eager to sue.”