The Shadow Weave by Annette Marie


  Lyre moved along the edge of the crowd, slipping from one group of women to the next with practiced grace. She wondered why he kept moving. Why not stay in one spot and siphon energy from the women who came to him? Gold mist swirled around him: his aphrodesia, visible only to her. He wasn’t using much, probably because he didn’t need it. Everyone was riled up like the entire club was already infected with seduction magic.

  Her eyes narrowed, and she again scanned the room. Was there a faint golden tinge to the air?

  “Hey, baby.” Hot breath that reeked of alcohol washed over her ear. “You look lonely.”

  A guy leaned over her, his buddies behind him. This, she did not need. Silently, she pointed to a random spot behind the men. Obediently, they all looked toward the other end of the room, and while they were turned, she cast a cloaking spell on herself—the same powerful one Lyre had demonstrated for her last night.

  She walked away as the guys turned back, their bewilderment increasing when they discovered her gone. Cloaking spells weren’t true invisibility spells, but in a dark building full of drunk, unobservant humans … close enough.

  On the dance floor, a willowy girl with long raven hair was undulating against Lyre as though she were boneless. His hands were on her waist, his hips moving in time with hers. Clio bit her lip, her cheeks heating. She wanted to look away, but the way he moved was mesmerizing and somehow thrilling.

  A forbidden thought crept into her head: the wish that she was pressed against him, that his hands were on her hips and his body was moving against her like that. Not that she knew how to dance, or grind, or whatever that girl was doing.

  The frenzied beat of the song changed, and the crowd swelled outward. Caught in the expanding horde of dancers, Lyre disappeared from her view.

  She hurried to the spot where he’d vanished. Catching a glimpse of his shimmering gold aura, she pushed onto the packed dance floor. How many people were they going to jam in here? The club had grown more crowded since their arrival.

  As she squeezed between writhing dancers, her cloaking spell lost its effectiveness and men tried to catch her eye. People bumped her, elbows and gyrating hips and swinging arms everywhere, and the frenzied movements pushed her around like violent ocean waves. Where was Lyre? She was shorter than almost everyone and all she could see were unfamiliar heads and shoulders.

  His aura was nowhere in sight. Neither was the edge of the dance floor. All she could see was the crush of people, and the gap around her closed like a vise. Three dancers wedged her between them before shifting away. Someone’s sleeve caught on her mask and pulled it off her head, tearing out a few strands of hair with it.

  She would never find Lyre in this insanity. She needed to get out.

  She spun in a circle. Where was the edge of the dance floor? Where was the exit? She whirled around again, gasping in the hot air that smelled of human sweat.

  Someone bumped her and she almost fell. Terror rocketed through her at a sudden vision of being trampled under the packed dancers. She lunged toward a gap between two women, desperate to escape.

  Hands caught her around the waist and pulled her back into a hot male body. The scent of spicy cherry filled her nose.

  “Gotcha,” Lyre crooned in her ear as he lifted her off her feet, bringing her eyes level with his. She could see over the dancers’ heads and fresh air washed over her.

  The crowd closed in even tighter. At least a dozen women pressed into him, shouting garbled words over the music to reclaim his attention. Clio wrapped her arms around his neck, afraid she might get knocked from his grasp.

  “Dance with me!” a girl shrieked, red splotches all over her pale cheeks. She pushed into him, inadvertently mashing her breasts against Clio.

  Lyre staggered forward, and when grasping hands fumbled against Clio’s legs, she realized people were grabbing him from behind. The women—and a few men too—pushed closer, crushing Lyre and Clio.

  Now she understood why he’d kept moving when he was working through the crowd. The mood of these women was rapidly shifting from excitement to desperate aggression—like a mob turning violent. Keeping his encounters short had allowed Lyre to stay in control of his interactions … and that control was gone.

  No sooner did she realize they were in big trouble than someone grabbed her hair and tore her out of Lyre’s arms.

  She slammed down on the floor. Lyre dove after her, shouldering two dancers away before they stepped on her. He scooped her up and launched forward. A woman grabbed his shirt to drag him backward. With a loud tearing sound, the seam of his shirt ripped and he pulled out of her grip.

  Not bothering with subtlety, he rammed through the crowd with his daemon strength. As they burst into the less crowded bar area, Clio cast the same cloaking spell on him before any women could chase him down.

  He headed for an abandoned corner, and in the relative safety of the shadows, he set her on her feet. Wobbling a few steps, she leaned against a pillar to catch her breath as adrenaline faded from her system.

  “Holy shit,” he said on an explosive exhale. “That was intense. Are you okay?”

  “I’m fine.” She squinted at him, taking in his rumpled hair and ripped shirt. “Are you?”

  He grinned, his eyes overly bright. “I’m good.”

  “Your pupils are the size of dinner plates.”

  “Oh? Huh, well, I might …” He raised his hands in an innocent shrug. “I might be just a liiiiiittle drunk.”

  “Drunk?” She blinked. When had he had a chance to drink anything? “Wait, you mean … drunk off the energy in here?”

  “Mhmm.” He leaned closer, still grinning, but it was more goofy than sexy. “Not the first time it’s happened, but this—this is something else. I like this club.”

  “And the women here like you—a bit too much,” she replied, shaking her head. How long would his high from the lustful energy last? She wasn’t used to seeing him so … relaxed. “Did you charge your lodestones?”

  He blinked. “Did I … what?”

  Her amusement vanished. “Charge your lodestones. You know, the whole purpose of this trip.”

  He stared at her.

  “I don’t believe it.” Her hands balled into fists. “Do not tell me you got so distracted by those women rubbing all over you that you forgot to—”

  His befuddled expression cracked into a grin and he threw his head back in a boisterous laugh. Her face blanked. Okay, the drunken silliness was no longer overriding his hotness factor.

  In fact, it was adding to his appeal—not the inebriation, but the way it softened him. Even when he teased her, there was always a subtle edge to him—a certain caution as though he were considering the repercussions of every word he spoke. But that edge was gone.

  “Of course I charged them.” He chuckled. “All taken care of. We can leave any time now.”

  She sucked in a deep breath and let it out through clenched teeth. “Then why did you—”

  “Because,” he drawled, stepping closer. His fingers brushed a lock of hair off her forehead. “You’re sexier than usual when you’re pissed off.”

  She froze, her back pressed against the pillar. “I’m … not …”

  “Oh, you are.” His voice shifted to a purr and he braced his hand on the pillar beside her head. “Like when you got all jealous over that female daemon in the Consulate and shaded for a second. Mmm.”

  Blood rushed to her cheeks. “I—I wasn’t jealous.”

  “No? Are you jealous now?”

  “No.”

  “It didn’t bother you,” he crooned, his heat all around her, his amber eyes darkening to bronze, “that they were touching me? That I was dancing with them?”

  “Absolutely not.”

  “Hmm. That’s too bad.”

  She swallowed hard, unable to look away from him. “W-why is that?”

  Braced against the pillar with one hand, he lightly ran his thumb along her jaw. “Because you were the one I wanted to dance
with.”

  Her lungs deflated and refused to expand again.

  “You,” he purred, his dark gaze drifting over her face, “are the one I want touching me.”

  He caught her wrist and pressed her palm against his hot skin, exposed by the torn seam of his shirt.

  “Are you sure”—he guided her hand over the muscular planes of his stomach—“you aren’t a little jealous?”

  Her pulse raced frantically in her ears and it was hard to breathe. Slow heat rolled through her center, and without intending to, she focused on his mouth.

  Those lips curved into a seductive smile. Her heart thudded as he leaned down, but he didn’t close the distance. His mouth hovered just above hers, barely any space between them.

  “So, Clio? Which is it?”

  “Which is … what?”

  “I just told you I want you.” His lips brushed across hers like the touch of butterfly wings before he drew back again. “Don’t you have anything to say?”

  She couldn’t help it. As he drew away, she leaned forward, chasing his retreating lips. “Like what?”

  “You can’t think of anything?” He leaned in again, almost kissing her, before pulling back.

  She lurched after him, stretching onto her tiptoes, but his mouth was still out of reach. “I—I don’t know what …”

  His warm hands closed around her hips, then slid up to her exposed midriff, caressing her bare skin. She shuddered at his touch, still stretching toward his tauntingly close mouth.

  “Lyre,” she gasped.

  “Yes?” He raised his eyebrows as though he had no idea what she could possibly want.

  “You—” Her brain refused to produce a single coherent word for her to speak.

  “So you’d rather pretend you don’t want me?” His hands slid around her waist then down over her backside. He pulled her hips hard into his and his mouth dropped closer again, lips brushing against hers as he spoke. “Because I don’t want to pretend anymore.”

  She gasped, one hand still pressed to his bare stomach and the other clutching his arm. He rocked his hips back and forth, matching the booming tempo as he held her against him, guiding her movements. She panted as the erotic rhythm teased her with sensations and longings she was desperate to explore.

  His dark, scorching eyes held hers as he moved their bodies together, and it was sweet torture—hot and exciting and teasing. He slid his lips across hers in a feathery touch before pulling back again. Unable to take it anymore, she grabbed him by the hair to yank his head down.

  He suddenly stopped moving.

  His brow furrowed. He stepped back, pulling away from her hands, and looked her over with a frown pulling at his lips.

  “Is that my cloaking weave?”

  Her whole body flashed from hot to cold.

  His confusion grew as he studied the spell she’d cast on herself then checked the one she’d cast on him. “This is my spell. How did you learn it so quickly?”

  Frantic denials spun through her head. “I watched you last night with my asper, and I remembered how …”

  “This spell is too advanced for your weaving skill.”

  “I—I know a lot of advanced—”

  His expression hardened. “I gave you a lesson in weaving. I know what level you’re at. How did you learn and cast my weave after only seeing it once?”

  After their impromptu lesson back in Asphodel, he’d gotten a rough idea about her weaving knowledge. But for her, knowledge and skill didn’t correlate. She could duplicate any spell she saw, no matter how advanced.

  How stupid was she? His cloaking spell was so much better than hers and she’d used it without considering the possibility that he might recognize it.

  “Clio,” he growled. “I want an answer.”

  “I … I don’t …”

  “How did you cast my spell?”

  She stepped back but he followed, his pupils constricting with focus.

  “Clio.”

  Her back hit the pillar. He towered over her, and all she could do was stare at him, her mouth open but her voice absent. What did she say? How could she explain without revealing she was a mimic—and therefore a Nereid?

  He glared down at her, waiting for an answer.

  “Clio,” he growled again—and this time there was a hint of power in his voice.

  She grabbed the front of his shirt, her fist braced against his chest, preventing him from shifting any closer. Her other hand lifted, fingers curled.

  “I blasted you once,” she said, her voice low and marred by a faint quiver. “Don’t make me do it again.”

  His face went blank, then he stepped back. His shirt pulled from her grip, and she straightened, her pulse skittering from the adrenaline rush.

  Before he could say anything, she marched away from him, walking the length of the bar before glancing back. He hadn’t moved, a mere shadow in the dark corner. Breathing harshly through her nose, she went into the women’s restroom and braced herself against the sink.

  Had Lyre been about to force an answer out of her with aphrodesia?

  She wasn’t sure. Power had touched his voice, easy to recognize after her recent incubus experiences, but sometimes he unintentionally leaked seduction magic.

  She wanted to trust him, but maybe that was naïve. Maybe she was a fool. Mimicking his advanced weaves right in front of him certainly suggested she was an idiot. If she planned to keep her abilities a secret, she needed to be more careful.

  Her blue eyes, vivid against her skin, stared back at her in the mirror. If she wasn’t willing to trust him with her most dangerous secrets, how could she trust his equally dangerous power?

  Chapter Seven

  What the hell was wrong with him?

  Lyre rested his forehead against the pillar and pressed his clenched fist against the unyielding concrete. He pressed harder and harder until pain cut through the buzzing in his head and the giddy, hungry euphoria waned.

  He could still feel them—hundreds of swirling presences, the dancers lost in lust and excitement. Their energy was like a drug and it called to him. For an incubus, this place was the worst combination of everything they loved and everything that made them weak. Aroused, uninhibited women everywhere. So much lust energy. It was overwhelming. It was glorious.

  His hunger raged under the surface, ravenous and unsatiated. Temptation flaunted itself everywhere he turned. Stimulation, scents and sounds and willing bodies. He ached from it—ached for it.

  He dug his fist into the concrete.

  He’d almost used aphrodesia on Clio to get what he wanted. Even if he’d wanted an answer and not her body, it didn’t make much difference. If he was willing to compromise her willpower for that, then he was willing to compromise her willpower for anything he might want badly enough.

  But damn, it was so difficult around her. He’d been fighting the urge to let his magic loose since he’d pulled her against him on the dance floor. Since he’d carried her out of the crowd. Since he’d touched her face, touched her body, pulled her to him, moved against her the way he wanted to move inside her.

  In short, since he’d started seducing her.

  Hadn’t he decided he wouldn’t risk sleeping with her? Somehow she kept erasing that decision right out of his head. In a club full of eager women, he wanted her. Only her. The moment he’d touched her on the dance floor, the other women had virtually disappeared, and all his hunger and need had locked onto her.

  Just her. The girl he’d decided he couldn’t have.

  An Overworlder. A nymph. A virgin. Three reasons to keep his distance that should have been more than enough. Three reasons that were doing shit all to stop him from trying anyway.

  He breathed deeply to clear his head. He should find her and apologize for being an ass. She shouldn’t be alone, not when there were so many hunters from Asphodel after them.

  But first, he needed to get a grip on himself. Even alone, he still burned for her. He couldn’t stop thinking abou
t her mouth, her body, her warmth, her scent, her taste. He was going insane with it. A prickling sensation ran up his arms, his skin over-sensitized and almost painful. Instead of receding, the desire lighting him on fire kept building.

  He pulled his fist off the pillar and opened his fingers. Confused, he watched his hand tremble. He couldn’t think. The searing lust had become pure torment, and he panted for air as the tremor in his limbs increased.

  A flutter of fear pierced him before the flames within him consumed it too. Caught in a maelstrom of raging need, he turned around.

  And looked into the yellow eyes of the woman standing behind him.

  Clio splashed water on her face and grimaced at her reflection. Grabbing some paper towel, she patted her face dry. She couldn’t hide in the bathroom forever. She needed to go back out there and face him.

  Passing a group of tipsy girls, she returned to the main club where the flashing lights and hammering beat assaulted her all over again. She would get Lyre and they would make their getaway now that he’d charged his lodestones.

  And, she decided as she headed toward the dark corner where she’d left him, once they were out of here, she would tell him she was a mimic. Considering what they’d gone through together already, he deserved to know. But would he understand the implications of her rare ability? Would he realize only members of the royal nymph bloodline possessed the mimic gift?

  She chewed her lip as she scanned the dark corner. Where was he? This was the same spot, wasn’t it? She was certain of it.

  Cold slipped through her veins. Had he left without her? He wouldn’t do that, would he?

  Blinking rapidly, she focused her asper. A golden cloud of aphrodesia hung in the air, as thick as Madrigal’s had been when he’d tried to control her mind. The wispy trail of magical fog ran along the perimeter wall and disappeared through a curtained doorway—guarded by two beefy bouncers.

  She looked from the mysterious doorway back to the aphrodesia mist. Why would Lyre unleash his seduction magic like that? Unless …

  Unless that wasn’t his aphrodesia.

 
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