Bind the Soul by Annette Marie


  “You—oh.” Sunshine’s eyes were wide as saucers. “That’s it?”

  “Hm, not quite.” She put on her infatuated face again. “He’s, like, totally amazing too! So strong and smart. He just knows everything, you know? He really takes care of me. He always tells me what to do when I’m confused or something.” She sighed dreamily.

  Miysis made a sharp gesture and walked away from Quinn. Her father scanned the room—Piper ducked behind the pillar again—his fury obvious to everyone watching, before striding away in the opposite direction. Conversations resumed all around the ballroom with the buzz of excited gossipers.

  Grabbing another piece of dessert to explain her sudden lunging motion, she smiled vacantly at the two women.

  “He is very handsome,” Sunshine gushed. “And a daemon. I’ve never—with a daemon.” She blushed. “What’s he like when . . . you know?”

  “Does it matter?” Annabelle said, her smile simultaneously getting sweeter and meaner. “We don’t need to sleep our way to the top, do we, Sunshine?”

  Piper pretended to smile. She couldn’t say she hadn’t seen that one coming. Damn Miysis for making her look like a gold digger. She turned to Sunshine, deciding a little petty revenge was in order.

  “Daemons like it a little . . . different,” she said in a conspiratorial whisper. “You have to figure out what gets them going.”

  Sunshine’s face lit up with curiosity. Even Annabelle leaned in closer.

  “Like Miysis,” she whispered. “He loves it when I dress up.”

  “Dress up?” Sunshine asked. “In what?”

  “Oh, lots of things. But his favorite is the bunny.”

  “Bunny?”

  “Yeah.” She giggled mindlessly. “He loooooves the bunny costume. With big white ears and a puffy little tail. He always gets me to nibble on a carrot while he watches.”

  The two women stared, their mouths hanging open.

  “Anything . . . else?” Annabelle asked, looking as though she could barely stop herself from shouting the new piece of gossip to the whole room.

  “He likes lots of other costumes too,” Piper chirped. She flicked her gaze toward Annabelle’s ridiculously low-cut neckline and frowned. “But he’s not into the ‘cheap hooker’ look. Like you said, good thing you’re not sleeping your way up. ‘Down’ is more your direction.”

  Outrage twisted Annabelle’s face but Piper had already given Sunshine a friendly wave and sauntered away. Yep, she was making lots of friends at the gala. The whole guest list thought she was an idiot, a hussy, or both. Sighing, she wandered back into the ballroom, looking around for Miysis. She spotted him standing with a group of fellow Ras with a quietly satisfied expression. The rest of the group was outright jeering in her father’s direction.

  Fury burned through her. What the hell was she doing? Why had she let Miysis talk her into this ridiculous charade? No wonder Quinn wanted to send her away. She’d allowed the Ra family to publicly humiliate him. She’d let Miysis influence her into doing something she knew was wrong, confirming every one of Quinn’s worries. Tears burned her eyes and she wished desperately that Lyre were here. He would’ve talked some sense into her. Yeah, Miysis’s power play would help keep peace—but there had to be other ways he could accomplish the same goal. He’d merely jumped on the easiest route by using her.

  Everyone had used her for their own devices. Even her father. He’d used her to protect the Sahar. Lyre manipulated her whenever he thought he might get a little action. Ash had used her to hide his theft of the Stone. Miysis had manipulated her into helping solidify his family’s power. And Micah had used her to bolster his reputation.

  Goddamn them all. Maybe her father was right. Maybe she couldn’t handle being a Consul. Maybe she was better off at a human boarding school, away from all of them.

  She tipped her head back and blinked furiously, trying to prevent any tears from ruining her makeup. She was going to slap Miysis right in his manipulative face. She’d show every person in this room she wasn’t a puppet or a tool. Then she would find her father and stand at his side for the rest of the night so no one could doubt where her loyalty lay.

  She glared at the anonymous attendees milling about on the balcony as she gathered her resolve. It took her a moment to realize one of the guests was staring back at her. She squinted past the light of the massive chandelier. Black tux, pale hair. Recognition bloomed in her gut.

  Micah.

  He knew it as soon as she recognized him. His head tilted down in a mocking nod before he stepped back from the railing and turned away.

  “Oh no you don’t,” she hissed.

  Forgetting all about Miysis, she whirled toward the nearest stairway and took a lunging step forward before checking her pace. Running would draw attention. She didn’t want attention. Breathing deeply, she walked calmly but purposefully toward the staircase. Avoiding all eye contact, she moved swiftly to the second level. The view of the ballroom below was spectacular but she spared it only a glance.

  Where was he?

  She headed toward the spot where she’d last seen him. No sign of the incubus. Across the width of the balcony was a dim hallway for servers, which probably led to a kitchen. She crossed to the opening and peered down the hall. What were the chances of him deliberately luring her away from the crowd? She considered it. Very high. Too bad for him that’s exactly what she wanted too.

  After checking that no one was looking her way, she slipped into the hallway. It was even darker a few feet in. Why were all the lights off? On second thought, probably not a servers’ passageway. Nerves prickling, she crept into the increasing darkness. Micah was down there somewhere, waiting for her. She knew it.

  With the lights of the ballroom a distant glow, she came to a stop. Maybe she was wrong. Maybe he wasn’t here at all . . .

  She inhaled deeply as tingles ran over her arms and legs. Rubbing at the gooseflesh on her arms, she took another step. Might as well check to be sure. The hall had to end somewhere.

  She stopped again. Licked her lips. She felt hot. Cold. She drew in another breath. A slow flush washed through her. Her belly tightened with a swoop of heat. She exhaled shakily as her fingers twitched with abrupt, undeniable need. Oh God, why was she suddenly so turned on she could barely stand still?

  Oh shit.

  She whirled around.

  Micah leaned against the wall a few steps away, hands in his pockets. He smiled slowly. His gaze slid down her body and back to her face.

  Heat rushed through her. She gasped and stumbled backward. Her body ached, craved, demanded immediate satiation. She pressed her back against the wall, panting, trying to pull herself together. Micah’s smile widened. Hot, burning need swept through her, so powerful her knees almost buckled.

  Oh God. Her whole body ached, muscles weak and shaking. Her head spun. She couldn’t think. She couldn’t fight. Eyes wide, she turned and lurched toward the light at the end of the hall. She had to get away from him.

  He closed the distance before she could take more than a step. His hand clamped with bruising force around her arm. He slammed her against the wall. Pain lanced her spine but was instantly overtaken by the burning desire.

  “Where do you think you’re going, darling?” he asked in his familiar husky voice that still purred amorous words in her dreams.

  “Let me go,” she gasped.

  He pressed her into the wall, brutally pinning her in place. His eyes were midnight black as he relentlessly pumped his aphrodisia magic through her.

  “Oh, Piper,” he breathed. “You haven’t been with anyone since me, have you? I can tell.”

  She tried to wrench her arms free and his grip tightened, crushing her upper arms. Her muscles trembled as the aphrodisia washed through her. She fought to keep her focus as the blazing need swamped her thoughts.

  “I owe you some suffering, Piper,” he hissed, layering the sound with a seductive throb. “Do you have any idea what Samael did to me when I gave h
im the stone I stole from you? How was I supposed to tell it was a fake?” He smiled, cold and cat-like. “A fake just like you. You’ve always been a slut, Piper. You can’t look at a daemon without flirting.”

  He released her arms and grabbed her throat with one hand, cutting off half her air. She clutched his wrist but her trembling muscles were useless. With his other hand, he grabbed the skirt of her dress. Cold air hit her bare legs as he pulled up the material.

  He nuzzled her cheek with his nose in a mockery of affection. “Now I’m going to take everything you refuse to give.”

  She squeezed her eyes shut against the soft touch on her cheek—warm and wonderful—that sent the raging desire spiraling out of control. Gasping for air, she reached past the hem of her dress. Her shaking fingers fumbled for her other thigh. Cold metal met her searching touch. She curled her hand around the hard handle until pain bit into her fingers. Her eyes flew open.

  She yanked the gun out of its holster and jammed the barrel into Micah’s groin.

  He yelped in pain and looked down. When he saw what she was holding, he jerked away from her. She followed, keeping the gun pressed against him.

  “Cross your arms over your chest and don’t even think about magic,” she hissed. She gave the gun an encouraging twitch. He reluctantly folded his arms as instructed, making it impossible for him to direct a spell at her on the fly.

  “Now,” she snarled, “turn off the aphrodisia.”

  He sneered. “You wouldn’t—”

  She shoved the gun into him so hard that he gasped. “Try me,” she taunted. “I dare you.”

  Baring his teeth, he exhaled slowly. At the same time, his eyes lightened from black to murky gold. He was still halfway shaded, but with a gun pressed to his most prized body part, it was the best she could expect.

  Her body still ached and burned but the relentless need immediately faded. She grabbed his shoulder, heaved him around, and slammed him into the wall. She dug the barrel into his groin and smiled as his eyes bulged.

  “Now, Micah,” she said icily, “we’re going to have a little chat. I’ll ask questions and you’ll answer truthfully—or I’ll splatter your balls all over the wall. Understood?”

  His gaze flicked over her face, reading her emotions. His pupils dilated with fear.

  “Yes,” he croaked.

  CHAPTER 7

  PIPER tightened her grip on the gun to control her shaking hand. It took all her self-control to not pull the trigger—even though Micah deserved it.

  It seemed her lesson on how naive she was wasn’t over yet. She’d been overconfident—again. She’d gotten used to the idea of incubi as pushovers. They didn’t even rank compared to daemons like Miysis, Raum, and Ash. But they were dangerous in their own right. She’d forgotten that. She’d thought she had a pretty good idea what aphrodisia could do—but she hadn’t had a clue. Micah had turned her into a hormonal animal, as helpless to the instinctual needs of her body as a cat in heat. If she hadn’t had the gun, she wouldn’t have been able to stop him. She probably wouldn’t have tried.

  The need to shoot the bastard was almost as strong as the lingering craving for his touch.

  She poked the barrel into his groin. He bared his teeth at her.

  “Let’s begin,” she said coldly. “When was the last time you saw Ash?”

  His upper lip curled. “This is about him? You—”

  “Answer the question!” She narrowed her eyes, focusing as hard as she could on his reply.

  “I haven’t seen him since the night I stole that damn fake stone from you.”

  She knew he was lying even before the pendant burned hot against her skin.

  “You’re lying. When did you see him?”

  “I told you—”

  “Don’t test me, Micah.” She jabbed him with the gun. “Tell me the truth and this will be over a hell of a lot faster.”

  “Eight days ago.”

  Hope jumped in her chest. “Where?”

  “Asphodel. Everyone knows he’s there. Why are you asking me?”

  She took a deep breath, feeling sick that her fears about Ash’s whereabouts were right—but relieved to know either way. “Was he okay when you saw him?”

  He shrugged. “I only saw him in passing.”

  She twisted the gun into him hard, forcing him back against the wall. “I want a real answer, Micah. Now.”

  He sucked in a pained breath. “He didn’t look healthy. I don’t know what’s wrong with him.”

  He was telling the truth. She pushed her shoulders back. “How has Samael been controlling Ash?”

  Micah blinked. “How the hell should I know?”

  The pendant didn’t react. Disappointment flared through her and she almost moved on to her next question, but then she remembered how she’d slipped past Miysis’s truth-sensing abilities. She narrowed her eyes.

  “Yes or no answer. Do you know how Samael controls Ash?”

  “No.”

  Heat radiated from the pendant.

  “Lie,” she hissed. “Tell me. Now!”

  “I can’t—damn it, I can’t! Stop jabbing me with that bloody gun. Samael will kill me, you understand? I only found out by accident.”

  She inhaled slowly. Then she lifted the gun and shoved it under his chin, forcing his head back. “You will tell me, Micah, or God help me, I will shoot you. Samael might kill you later but I’ll kill you right now if you don’t answer me.”

  Micah snarled softly. “Fine. I’ll tell you—for all the good it’ll do you. Ash will never outright defy Samael, but only because the oh-so-powerful draconian is a sentimental patsy.”

  “What does that mean?” she demanded.

  “Oh, it’s a big secret,” he jeered, trying to cover his anxiety. “Samael doesn’t want anyone to know. You see, everyone thinks she’s dead.”

  Piper went cold. “Who’s dead?”

  Micah’s smile was cruel as death. “Ash’s sister.”

  “Impossible,” she whispered faintly.

  “Very possible,” Micah taunted. “Only a handful of people know she’s alive. If Ash is a good boy, Samael leaves her be. If Ash screws up, Samael doesn’t punish Ash. He punishes the innocent little sister instead.”

  Piper swallowed hard. No wonder Ash had betrayed her to steal the Sahar.

  “There you have it,” Micah finished flatly. “I found out by accident—overhead a conversation. If Samael finds out I know, he’ll kill me. Would that make you happy?”

  She sneered and stepped back. She didn’t lower the gun. “I can’t say I would cry if he did,” she mocked. “Now get out of my sight before I decide I want to do the deed myself.”

  He made a disgusted sound and dropped his hands from his chest. With one last leer, he turned to leave—

  He whipped back so suddenly she could only flinch. His hand closed around her arm, fingers digging in. He jerked her hand up and mockingly kissed the back of it like a lord greeting a lady.

  “As classy as ever, Piper.”

  His grip was painfully tight. She belatedly brought up the gun but he let go before she could do anything more. Smiling his cold, cruel cat smile, he straightened his jacket and raised one eyebrow.

  “One last thing, Piper,” he said conversationally. “You should look up ‘Blood Kiss.’ You’ll want to know what it is before you go chasing after Ash.”

  “What are you talking about?” she snapped.

  “Ta-ta,” he mocked. With a flippant wave of his hand, he strode deeper into the dark hall. She watched him go, her heart pounding. He vanished into the darkness. Gone. Thank God.

  Shaking, she sank down to sit in a pool of white silk. Just to make sure she didn’t walk away feeling victorious, he’d given one last show of superior daemon strength and speed. She turned her arm over and saw a spot of blood on the inside of her wrist where the ring on his index finger had jabbed her. She would have a bruise in the shape of his hand by morning. Her gaze lifted to the gun and she almost cried w
ith relief that she’d brought it. She was such a fool. Cornering an incubus in a deserted hallway? She was lucky nothing worse had happened.

  Breathing deeply, she pressed a hand against her chest. Her body ached. So did her heart.

  Looking back, she realized neither Vejovis nor Ash had said his sister was dead; Piper had assumed from the context. So much of what Vejovis had said made sense now. When Ash had tried to escape with his sister, he’d been injured too badly to go on. Vejovis had had two options: save Ash’s sister by taking her to safety, or heal Ash, thereby condemning him and his sister back to the very hell Ash had risked everything to escape. No wonder Ash hated Vejovis for his choice.

  She now knew what it would take to set Ash free: saving his sister. But how? She couldn’t count on Ash to help. He might even work against them. He had to obey Samael. He couldn’t fight back, or his sister would pay.

  Pulling herself together, she holstered her gun and pushed herself to her feet. She straightened her dress and wiped her fingers across her damp cheeks. They came away black. Her makeup was no doubt smeared all over her face. She scrubbed at her cheeks, knowing it was pointless. She’d have to go back out there eventually. Everyone would see her ruined makeup and imagine all sorts of stories as to what had happened.

  Another tear trickled down. She was so stupid. Why hadn’t she brought Miysis with her to confront Micah? Why had she thought she could do it on her own? She didn’t have magic. She couldn’t compete with daemons. Wrapping her arms around herself, she swallowed back the tears. She felt dirty, pathetic and weak. Useless.

  A shoe scuffed the floor somewhere behind her. She spun around.

  Quinn stood ten steps away, watching her. She stared at her father, eyes wide. She couldn’t make out his expression in the dim light but she could imagine it. Humiliation smothered her. She spun back around and covered her face with her hands. Shoulders hunched, she silently sniffed back tears. Why? Why had he found her now?

  “Piperel.”

  “Go away,” she choked.

 
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