There is a time and a place for a skimpy white nightgown. A misty island in the middle of winter is not one of them, but I’d certainly done stupider things to get a guy’s attention.
“Hey,” I yelled for the third time. I leaned one hip against the doorway, hoping to offer a better view of my figure. “You’re going to freeze to death out there.”
The man I addressed was sitting back in a lawn chair, posture easy and relaxed, with his long legs propped up and a laptop balanced in front of him. In the distance, early morning fog hung across the still water, nearly obscuring the dark shapes of other islands. After several more moments, Seth Mortensen—who dubiously carried the title of my boyfriend—slowly looked up from the screen and focused on me. Soft sunlight glinted on his brown hair, giving it a slight coppery glow.
“I don’t know,” he said thoughtfully, eyes lingering on my chest. “You look like you’re the one who’s freezing.”
I petulantly crossed my arms, careful to leave my br**sts and their attention-seeking ni**les visible. “Are you coming inside or not?”
“I have a coat. I’m fine.”
“You promised me breakfast.”
“I just need another half-hour to finish this chapter.”
“That’s what you said a half-hour ago.”
“I mean it this time.” He looked back down. I was losing him. Damn it. This nightgown was one of my best. “Half-hour.”
“Fine,” I snapped. “Take all the time you want. I don’t care. I’m going to go take a shower. A really long, slow, and sensuous shower.”
“With lots of hot water and soap to make sure I get every inch of me clean. I’ll probably have to do a lot of rubbing.”
With a huff, I spun around and went back inside the bedroom, slamming the door loudly behind me. The cottage we were renting on Orcas Island only had this one bedroom, and it was small, with a messy, quilt-covered bed taking up most of the space. The front of the house had a kitchen smaller than my closet at home, and the bathroom here was tinier still. But this place had been ours for the weekend, and it was cozy and quiet and romantic. The kind of place you and your beloved could go to escape the world. To grow emotionally closer. To have mad, passionate, backbreaking sex.
If, of course, you could actually have sex with said beloved person without dire, soulaltering consequences.
With a sigh, I turned on the shower and waited for the water to heat up. I tossed my nightgown onto the bed and paced around naked, pondering not for the first time how an awardwinning succubus could be so ineffectual—especially around a guy that was allegedly in love with me. Of course, the fact that said guy and I couldn’t touch in any meaningful way kind of made things difficult. Being a succubus meant I was immortal and could shape-shift into any form I chose. The cost of that was that I had to steal energy and life from other people—through sex. So, yeah, that sort of put a damper on our romantic escapade here since I refused to consummate our love and shorten his life.
Halfway through my shower, the curtain jerked open. I yelped and saw Seth standing outside. He still had that same casual posture, but there was a glint of something very warm and very male in his brown eyes as he surveyed me.
“After writing white nightgown ten times, I decided it was time to quit.”
“Well. You’re too late. I took it off.”
“I can see that.” He didn’t sound disappointed.
With deliberate slowness, I let my slick hands run down my body, wiping away the last of the soap. His eyes followed. Then, with feigned haughtiness, I snapped the curtain closed in front of him.
“Go away. I need another half-hour.”
He opened the curtain right up again and reached into the tiny stall to shut the water off, oblivious to his own clothes getting wet. “You’re done.”
I pointed to the towel hanging on the bar. “Look, you’ve displeased me this morning. Immensely. But, if you apologize profusely and beg my forgiveness, I might let you dry me off. Might.”
A wicked, playful look shone in his eyes, and I loved it. Seth was normally pretty shy and introverted. Seeing his dark and passionate side surface was always a treat. He grabbed the towel and stepped back, waving it tauntingly, like a matador.
“You aren’t the one making demands here, Thetis.” Thetis was his nickname for me, in honor of a shape-shifting nymph from Greek mythology. “If you beg, then I might let you have the towel.”
“What kind of a threat is that? I can just shape-shift—”
“Is this a bad time, Georgie?”
My mouth clamped shut as I stared beyond Seth. There, standing on the other side of the small bathroom, was my boss. Jerome was a demon— arch demon, in fact—who controlled all hellish activities in the greater Seattle area. He also looked like…well, John Cusack. Seriously—if you gave him a boom box to hold over his head, he would have been a dead ringer for the star of Say Anything. Out of instinct, I wrapped my arms ineffectually around my nakedness. It was very Garden of Eden.
“Please,” Jerome said, rolling his eyes. “You have no idea how uninterested I am in your body.”
Seth meanwhile had noticed my deer-in-the-headlights expression. He looked at me, glanced back to where I stared, and then turned back to me. “What’s wrong?”
Jerome was invisible to mortal eyes. Only I could see—or hear—him.
“So what are you doing here then if you aren’t spying?” I demanded. Seth opened his mouth to say something else, and I waved him off with my hand. He stayed quiet, suddenly realizing something immortal was afoot.
Jerome pulled a large manila envelope out of his black suit jacket. “I’m here to give you your plane ticket.”
“You’re going to Los Angeles for me.”
“Am I?” I attempted a little cockiness, but mostly I sounded confused. Because I was.
“Yes,” he replied. “I was summoned for a tribunal. You’re going to go in my place.”
“What kind of tribunal?”
He waved his hands in a dismissive gesture. “Fuck if I know. Some duel. A demon got destroyed or some such idiocy, and they’re having a hearing to figure out who did it.”
I fell silent, processing the implications of what he was saying. “So…what? You got jury duty and you’re pushing it off on me?”
“I’m reminding you that you work for me. And I’m telling you that you’re going to Los Angeles.”
More moments of silence. “They summoned you,” I argued. “They aren’t going to use me instead.”
“They will. Hugh filed the paperwork this morning.” The demon tapped the envelope, indicating the appropriate forms were inside.
“Why? Why me?” I asked.
“Because I have better things to do. And you always seem to be so interested in other people’s business.” He paused, face suddenly thoughtful. “And you might actually have something useful to offer.”
That last sentence piqued my curiosity, but I didn’t pursue it. “When am I supposed to go?”
Jerome’s dark eyes narrowed. “I’m sorry, Georgie. It almost sounded like you were defying me.”
“I was. I can’t go. Not tonight.” I threw my hands up, indicating the cottage as a whole.
“We have this for the entire weekend. It wasn’t cheap.”
He closed his eyes, and I had the distinct impression he was counting to ten. Jerome holding his temper was a rare thing. This might be a more serious affair than I realized. Meanwhile, Seth was simply watching and listening, no doubt trying to parse what was going on based on only hearing one side of the conversation.
Jerome’s eyes opened. “Your weekend in a shit cottage on a shit island is none of my concern.”
“I see,” I said angrily. “So, it’s okay for you to inconvenience me so long as it’s convenient to you.”
“No. I’ve done a lot for you lately. You owe me.”
“I owe you nothing, Georgie. You’re an unruly employee, and you’re lucky I tolerate you.”