Sleeping with my therapist was a bad idea.
I knew it too, but I couldn't really help it. There were only so many times I could hear "Why don't you explain that" and "Tell me how you feel." So, I finally snapped and decided to show the guy how I felt. I've gotta say, for a decent guy who had never cheated on his wife, he wasn't that hard to take advantage of. And by "not hard," I mean "ridiculously easy." His pseudo morals gave me a strong succubus energy fix, and when you consider that what we did was probably the most productive thing that ever took place on his couch, it was almost like I did a good deed.
Still, I knew my boss was going to be pissed, seeing as he was the one who'd ordered me to seek counseling in the first place.
"Do not tell Jerome," I warned my friends, tapping my cigarette against the ashtray. "I don't want to deal with that kind of fallout."
My friends and I were sitting at a booth in Cold July, an industrial club down in Seattle's Belltown district. The place was dark and loud, with crisscrossing pipes on the walls and ceiling forming the bulk of the décor. Because it was a private club, it didn't have to adhere to the city's public smoking ban, which was a perk for me. In the last few months, I'd found nicotine was one of the essential things helping me cope. Other things on the essential list: vodka, Nine Inch Nails, a steady supply of moral men, and an all-purpose bitchy attitude.
"Look, Georgina," said my friend Hugh. He was an imp, a type of hellish legal assistant who bought souls for our masters and did assorted middle-management tasks. He had dark-cropped hair and was big without being fat. "I'm no expert in mental health, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that probably wasn't a helpful step on the road to healing."
I shrugged and let my eyes scan the crowded room for potential victims. There were some pretty good pickings here. "Well, he wasn't that good. At therapy, I mean. Besides, I don't think I need it anymore."
Silence met me, inasmuch as silence could meet me in a place so noisy. I turned back to my friends. Hugh was making no pretense of hiding his you're f**king crazy look. Our vampire friends, Peter and Cody, at least had the decency to avert their eyes. I narrowed mine and put out the cigarette.
"I don't suppose," said Peter at last, "that this is anybody you'd maybe, uh, like to date long term?"
"Yeah," agreed Cody, eyes wide and hopeful. "I bet a therapist would be a great listener. And you wouldn't even have to pay for it."
"My insurance pays for it," I snapped. "And I don't really appreciate your passive-aggressive attitude about my boyfriend."
"It's not that passive," said Hugh. "You could do better, sweetie."
"The guy's corrupt and going to Hell. How is this a problem for you? And you didn't like my last boyfriend either. Maybe you should stop worrying about my love life and go back to figuring out how to get your latest secretary into bed."
In what had to be a weird twist of the universe, none of my friends liked my current boyfriend, a dark magician named Dante. Dante's morals were pretty nonexistent, and he owned stock in bitterness and cynicism. That would make you think he'd fit in perfectly with this group of damned souls, but for whatever reason, he didn't.
"You aren't meant to be with someone bad," said Cody. We were all immortal now but were considered "lesser immortals." That meant we had once been human before selling our souls into Hell's service. Cody was young compared to the rest of us in our little circle. Hugh claimed almost a century. Peter and I had millennia. As such, there was almost a naïveté about Cody, a charming idealism that rivaled the kind I used to have.
It had been shattered when my previous boyfriend, a human named Seth, had left me for a friend of mine. Seth was a good soul, quiet and infinitely kind. He'd made me believe in better things, like that maybe there was hope for a succubus like me. I'd thought I was in love-no, I had been in love. Even I could admit that. But as a succubus, I brought a dangerous element to any relationship. When I had sex with a guy (or a girl-it worked either way), I stole their life energy, which was the power that fueled every human soul. It kept me alive and sustained my immortal existence. The purer the guy, the more energy I took. The more energy I took, the more I shortened his life. With Dante, I had almost no effect. He had little energy to give, so our sex life was relatively "safe," and I therefore sought my fixes from meaningless guys on the side.
With Seth...well, that had been a different story. Sleeping with him would have had very detrimental effects-so I'd refused to do it. For a while, we'd lived on love alone, our relationship being about a lot more than a physical act. Over time, however, that had taken its toll, as had a number of simple relationship complications. Things had finally blown up when Seth had slept with my friend Maddie. I think he'd done it to encourage me to break up, hoping to spare me future pain. Whatever the initial intent, he and Maddie had actually gone on to establish a fairly serious relationship in the following months.
I hadn't taken that very well.
"There's no pleasing you guys," I growled, beckoning the waiter for another drink. He ignored me, irritating me further. "You don't like good ones. You don't like bad ones. What the f**k does it take?"
A new voice suddenly cut into our circle. "Please tell me we're discussing your romantic hijinks, Georgie. There's nothing I enjoy more."
There he was, standing beside our table: my boss Jerome, archdemon of Seattle and its greater metropolitan area. I glared. I didn't appreciate the mocking tone-or him calling me Georgie. He sat down beside Hugh, and the waiter I'd been trying to summon dashed over immediately. We ordered a new round of drinks.
Jerome was clearly in a good mood today, which always made our lives easier. He had on a black designer suit, and his hair was styled exactly the same as John Cusack's had been in a recent TV interview I watched. That probably bears mentioning: Jerome's human body of choice was a clone of John Cusack. Succubi can change shape because that's part of what helps us with seduction. Demons can change shape simply because-like angels-they're insanely powerful beings who have been around since the beginning of time. They're "greater immortals." Because of a weird fan obsession that he adamantly denied, Jerome chose to interact in the mortal world looking like the actor. The strange thing was that when we were out like this, humans never seemed to notice the resemblance.
"You haven't been out with us in a while," I pointed out, hoping to change the subject. "I thought you've been busy with demon stuff." Rumor had it that Jerome was sparring with another demon, though none of us knew the details.
He took one of my cigarettes out of the pack without asking. A moment later, the end of the cigarette lit on its own. Show-off.
"Things have actually taken a pleasant turn," he said. He inhaled deeply and then let the smoke swirl around him. "One less thing to deal with. I'd hoped the incessant babbling about your romantic woes was also going away, but I suppose that's too much to hope for. Are you still with that charlatan?"
I threw up my hands. "Why does everyone hate Dante? You guys should be embracing him as a brother."
Jerome considered, dark eyes thoughtful. "He annoys me. You can do better."
"Jesus Christ," I said.
"Maybe she'd see that if she'd stop doing stupid shit like sleeping with her therapist," noted Hugh, in what was apparently supposed to be a helpful tone.
I turned on him, eyes wide. "Did you listen to anything I just said?"
"Plenty," he said.
Meanwhile, Jerome's lazy, pleased expression disappeared. He fixed his gaze on me, eyes burning like flame yet inexplicably making me feel cold all over. He smashed the cigarette out and shot up from his seat. Grabbing my arm, he jerked me up from my own spot and started dragging me from the table.
"Come with me," he hissed.
I stumbled with him out to the hall that led to the restrooms. Once out of the sight of others, he pushed me against a wall and leaned toward me, face filled with fury. It was a sign of his agitation that he was behaving like a human. He could have simply transported both of us to some isolated place.
"You f**ked your therapist?" he exclaimed.
I gulped. "I wasn't making much progress."
"Why is this a problem? He was a good soul. I thought that was what you wanted me to do!"