The Shadow Weave by Annette Marie

  The chill in her blood turned to ice. She had left him alone. She’d promised to watch his back, then she’d left him alone in a succubus club. The lust-energy high had impaired his judgment. She’d seen it herself. Why had she left him alone?

  Controlling her urgency, she headed for the curtained doorway. The bouncers watched the clubbers, their gazes shifting from person to person but never turning her way. Her powerful cloaking spell was still working. Keeping to the shadows, she crept closer, and when both men focused on a catfight near the bar, she ducked between them and through the curtain. On the other side, the corridor opened into a posh sitting area—a private place for VIP guests?

  Muffled laughter reached her ears. The last of the faint aphrodesia clung to a closed door with a fine web of gold light crisscrossing the handle—a lock spell. Hurrying to the door, she pressed her ear to the wood and heard female voices on the other side.

  Carefully, she broke the spell and turned the handle. The latch clicked quietly and she cracked the door open to peek inside.

  The small room was open in the center while plush built-in sofas lined the walls on three sides. Soft blue light glowed from behind the bench seats, giving the whole space an eerie twilight cast. Small tables for drinks were pushed into a corner as though the room wasn’t in use right now.

  In the middle, three women stood—the most beautiful women Clio had ever seen. Waves of silken blond hair, tanned skin, huge golden eyes lined with thick lashes, sculpted cheekbones and full lips. Flawless, exotic beauty. They were impossibly stunning—walking fantasies instead of flesh-and-blood women.

  And standing in their center was Lyre.

  The illusion spell that had changed his hair color was gone, his pale locks tinted by the blue lights. A succubus stood in front of him, two fingers under his chin as she gazed unblinkingly into his eyes. He stared back at her with pitch-black irises, his expression eerily blank.

  The other two succubi circled him like he was a prized stallion.

  “He really is quite fine,” one commented as she squeezed his bicep. He didn’t react, his stare still locked on the succubus in front of him. “Ten out of ten, even for an incubus.”

  Lyre’s voice was otherworldly in its musical tones, but the succubus’s was too beautiful for words. An entire symphony would have been hard-pressed to produce a more pleasing sound.

  “We should dock him a point for stupidity,” the shortest of the three said. “Do you think he knows this place is run by succubi?”

  “Either way, I’m pleased.” She stroked his arm again and smirked when he shuddered. “Rosa, has he submitted yet?”

  The succubus holding eye contact with him smiled. “He’s fighting my control. He does not want to obey.” She ran her tongue over her upper lip. “I do enjoy a fighter.”

  Clio swallowed down her stomach. Lyre had said the succubi in the club would attack him, but she hadn’t expected this.

  She should have, though. She’d seen how swiftly and viciously a female’s aphrodesia could overwhelm an incubus—because she had done exactly that to Madrigal and, by extension, Lyre when she’d mimicked their auras. Just as Madrigal had lost his will to Clio, Lyre had lost his to these succubi. Three of them. He hadn’t stood a chance.

  With two fingers still under his chin, Rosa slid her other hand down his chest. Another shudder ran through his body, almost as though the light touch was hurting him.

  “What shall we do with him first?” she purred. “Zinnia, what do you think?”

  The short succubi flipped her waist-length hair over her shoulders. Much like the clubbers on the dance floor, she wore a tight miniskirt and a shimmering top with a plunging neckline. Clio pressed her face against the crack in the door and tried desperately to think of a plan—a way she could take on three daemons without Lyre getting caught in the crossfire.

  “Why don’t we see exactly what we have before we decide?” Zinnia suggested. “Have him release his glamour.”

  “Ooh,” the third succubi exclaimed. “Excellent idea. Let’s see him.”

  Rosa laughed and tightened her grip on Lyre’s chin. “Release your glamour, darling.”

  He bared his teeth at her.

  Zinnia chimed a laugh. Despite the hair-raising beauty of the sound, a clear note of cruel amusement rang in it. “Still fighting, oh my.”

  Rosa’s fingers dug into Lyre’s jaw and when she spoke again, even Clio heard the power in her voice.

  “Release your glamour.”

  The tension tightening his muscles relaxed and his black eyes dulled with sudden passivity. Shimmers of light washed over him like heat waves, and when they faded, the glamour that disguised him as human was gone.

  Clio couldn’t breathe.

  A god descended from the heavens couldn’t have been as perfect. A fallen angel couldn’t have been as magnificent. His body remained essentially the same, but everything about him that was already mouthwateringly gorgeous had been magnified to a whole new level.

  His hair, silken and tousled, had paled closer to white. A thin braid, longer than the rest of his hair, hung down one side of his face to just below his jaw, the end adorned with a sparkling ruby. His skin, tanned honey, was radiant, almost luminescent, as though the golden light of his aura was leaking from within him. His ears came to sharp points, and the left one was pierced with two tiny gold hoops and a diamond stud.

  Mysterious garb she’d glimpsed once before had replaced his torn shirt and black pants. The midnight blue garments were fitted to his body, the seams accented with silver thread and black edging. The exotic cut was simple but flattering, and the sleeveless shirt exposed the finely tooled leather armguard on his left forearm and the short sheaths holding knives strapped to his other arm. A strung bow and bristling quiver hung off his shoulders, and more gear was belted over his body. He looked ready to walk onto a battlefield.

  The succubi were silent, as stunned as Clio. Had his brilliant allure stolen their breath too? Were their hearts locked in their chests, too stunned to beat, as though only his touch could awaken them? Or had his battle-ready appearance silenced them?

  “Wow,” Zinnia murmured. She plucked at his shirt. “This is high quality.”

  Rosa didn’t move, still holding eye contact. “Jessamine, what’s his family mark?”

  The third succubus peered at Lyre’s right cheekbone. Beneath his eye, a delicate design was tattooed in black ink.

  “I don’t recognize it,” Jessamine said.

  Zinnia joined her to squint at the marking, then slipped her fingers under the neckline of his shirt. She pulled out two chains laden with sparkling gems—and the small silver key that armed the clock spell.

  “No way!” Jessamine gasped. “Are those all lodestones?”

  “Whoa.” Zinnia lifted them over his head. “These are worth a fortune. This guy is loaded.”

  Rosa smirked as she rubbed her thumb along Lyre’s jaw. “I’m impressed. I wonder how else he might be well endowed.”

  Clio’s hands clenched as the two succubi pulled off his bow and quiver, unstrapped his larger weapons, then checked him for more valuables. They carelessly ran their hands over his body, uncovering several more lodestones from his pockets, and he did nothing, held firmly under Rosa’s power. Giggling, Zinnia unbuckled his belt and wiggled her hand into his pants. Clio looked away, unable to watch.

  Helpless fury burned through her. She wanted to burst in there and blast the succubi to pieces, but she had to wait for her best opportunity to act. If she used an attack to hit all three daemons at once, she would hurt Lyre too. If she only attacked one succubus, the other two might harm Lyre while he was helpless.

  After stripping Lyre of his valuables and piling them on a sofa, Jessamine and Zinnia returned to Rosa’s side.

  “Well then,” Zinnia purred. “We need to wear down his resistance before we can have any real fun with him. Do you think I can make him scream like the last one?”

  “No, it was the one before
that who screamed,” Rosa corrected. “The last one cried, remember?”

  “Oh yes. And he kept begging.” Zinnia pulled Lyre’s arms behind his back and light flashed as she bound his wrists together with a spell. “I want to hear this one beg.”

  Jessamine sighed. “Can we not torment him? It isn’t necessary to control him.”

  Zinnia shot the succubi an incredulous look. “Are you serious?”

  “I don’t like …” She shifted uncomfortably. “I don’t like using aphrodesia to break them. It’s so … undignified.”

  “And you think he would treat you with dignity if he had caught you in his aphrodesia instead?” Rosa snapped. “You’re so naïve, Jessamine.”

  “Fine, do what you want.” Scowling, Jessamine retreated to a sofa and sat, her arms folded.

  “You’re just going to watch instead?” Zinnia taunted. “Then I’ll give you a show.”

  She turned to Lyre, grabbed him by the hair, and pulled his mouth down to hers.

  Clio flinched, unable to do anything as the succubus kissed him, her face plastered against his. With his arms bound, he could do nothing but stand there, not that Clio could expect him to resist when he was so deeply caught in—

  Zinnia shrieked and reeled backward, her hand flying to her mouth.

  “He bit me!” She slapped him hard in the face and he stumbled away from her—opening a gap between him and the two succubi.

  Clio flung the door open and charged into the room. Her swift blast knocked them over, and her second spell shoved Lyre clear of the fight. Pivoting back to the succubi, she began a binding spell.

  A flash of movement in Jessamine’s corner. A golden surge slammed Clio off her feet. She hit the floor and rolled, holding on to her in-progress cast. Lurching onto her knees, she flung the spell at Rosa and Zinnia, catching them both in the binding.

  Jessamine raised her hands to cast another spell. Clio cast a reflective barrier—the one she’d learned from Lyre’s brother Viol—and the attack bounced off. Jessamine yelped as the power rebounded and crackled over her. Clio curled her fingers, another binding spell almost ready to throw.

  A magical blow hit her in the back. She landed on her face, her arms bound to her sides.

  A shoe—one with a stiletto heel—came down on her back and threatened to punch through her ribcage. The person standing over her tsked softly.

  “Incubus,” the newcomer purred, her voice like harmonized bells and brimming with power. “Do not move.”

  Panting shallowly, Clio glimpsed the blond hair of the woman pinning her down. A fourth succubus.

  “Jessamine, free Rosa and Zinnia.”

  “Yes, ma’am,” Jessamine mumbled, hurrying to her friends.

  Clio gritted her teeth. She’d been so close. Thirty seconds more and she would have been ready to fight the unexpected arrival.

  Jessamine broke the binding spell, and Zinnia and Rosa launched to their feet. Rosa hurried to the corner where Clio had shoved Lyre. The foot disappeared from Clio’s back, then she was hauled up and thrown onto the sofa. Her back hit the leather and she sat awkwardly with her arms still bound.

  The fourth succubus put her hands on her hips. Unlike the others, she wasn’t wearing skimpy club clothes. Her pencil skirt, fitted red blouse, and matching four-inch pumps were reminiscent of a businesswoman. She had pulled her hair into a high ponytail, and dark makeup gave her a sultry look. Her lips were the same cherry red, vivid and inviting.

  She scanned Clio from head to toe, then glanced at Lyre, who knelt with his wrists still bound. Rosa was in front of him again, resuming eye contact so he couldn’t throw off the mind-controlling aphrodesia.

  “Who,” the new succubus said, “might you be, my dear?”

  “She came in with the incubus,” Zinnia answered.

  “Oh? A companion of his?”

  Clio surreptitiously wiggled her arms, testing the binding. “Yes. And those three kidnapped and assaulted him.”

  “He invaded our club,” Zinnia snapped.

  “Did we miss a ‘no incubi’ sign on the door?” Clio retorted. “He hasn’t done anything to harm you or this club. We were about to leave.”

  “Hasn’t harmed us?” Zinnia pulled her lips back to reveal her bloodstained teeth. “He bit me.”

  “You forced yourself on him.”

  “He wanted me to—”

  “If he wanted you, he wouldn’t have bitten you.”

  “Impertinent chit,” Zinnia snapped. “Lilith, what should we do with her?”

  The businesswoman tapped a glossy red fingernail against her full lower lip, then shrugged. “Have the bouncers throw her out.”

  Clio jerked upright. “I’m not leaving without my friend!”

  “Your friend?” Lilith’s eyebrows rose. “An incubus is no woman’s friend. Have you slept with him yet?”

  Her cheeks heated. “N-no. We’re—we’re not—”

  “She’s a virgin,” Jessamine gasped in what might have been shock or delight. “You are, aren’t you?”

  “I—I’m not—”

  “Oh, honey,” Lilith sighed. She glanced at Lyre then back to Clio. “You have no idea the game he’s playing, do you?”

  Clio stiffened at Lilith’s condescending pity.

  The succubus lowered herself onto the sofa beside Clio. “Let me explain something to you, girl. You have a superficial ability to resist an incubus’s power and that makes you feel safe around him, doesn’t it?” She leaned closer to Clio, her caramel eyes intense. “But the truth is an incubus is more dangerous to a virgin than any other woman.”

  Clio set her jaw, determined to disregard everything the succubus said.

  “If he unleashes the full scope of his aphrodesia on you, you’ll overdose on his power,” Lilith told her grimly. “He’ll warp your mind, tear apart your senses, and ruin you for sex forever afterward.”

  Madrigal’s insidiously beautiful voice whispered in her memory. I’m going to destroy you with pleasure.

  Clio shook her head. “He—he would never do that to me.”

  “Even if he has the best intentions—which I sincerely doubt—he could still accidentally damage you. Incubi naturally release their aphrodesia when aroused, and they don’t normally have to worry about controlling it since an experienced partner isn’t at risk.”

  “He wants to toy with you,” Jessamine added unexpectedly. “They enjoy the chase. Most women give in to them immediately, so incubi will target inexperienced girls instead.”

  “He hasn’t bedded you yet because he’s still having fun,” Zinnia added. “Look, girl. Take it from us, would you? We know what incubi are like.”

  Clio pressed her lips together.

  Lilith rose to her feet. “There’s no reasoning with a virgin in love, is there?”

  Clio scowled. She wasn’t in love with Lyre. She hadn’t even known him that long.

  “Well,” Lilith murmured, “I suppose in this case we will—”

  A high-pitched moan rose over Lilith’s words.

  In the corner, Rosa had her mouth glued to Lyre’s. He held her jaw with one hand as he kissed her—but hadn’t his wrists been bound? The sound coming from the succubus rose even higher, no longer sounding like pleasure.

  He drew back, pulling on her lower lip—held between his teeth. Blood ran down her chin. She yanked away from him with a pained cry, splattering the floor with red droplets.

  “Rosa!” Zinnia cried.

  All three succubi lunged at him and electric power sizzled the air. Clio didn’t need her asper to know they had unleashed their aphrodesia on him, and the uncomfortable warmth she’d felt since entering the room flashed hot in her veins. Breathless, she couldn’t react as Jessamine grabbed Rosa and pulled her away. Zinnia took her place, her blazing eyes locking on Lyre’s black irises as she crooned a constant stream of commands. “Hold still. Stop using magic. Don’t speak.”

  “Rosa, what happened?” Jessamine asked, holding her companion tightly.
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  “I—I was listening to you talking.” Rosa sniffled as she held her mouth, trying to staunch the blood. “I didn’t notice he’d started to hum. His voice is …” She shuddered from head to toe. “We shouldn’t have made him drop glamour.”

  “No, you shouldn’t have,” Lilith reprimanded, her tone sharp. “You shouldn’t play with toys you can’t control. Concentrated aphrodesia makes some daemons violent instead of passive. You know this.”

  “But that’s not usually an issue with incubi,” Jessamine protested in a small voice as she glanced nervously at Lyre. He knelt with Zinnia in front of him, once again submissive, his magnetic daemon form luminous and irresistible. “He’s … different.”

  “You should have been prepared to stay in control regardless.” Lilith strode to Lyre and grabbed his chin, pulling his face up. “And he isn’t any different from—”

  She broke off, her gaze fixed on the dark tattoo on his cheekbone. For a long moment, she stared at the marking. Then she snatched her hand back as though his skin had burned her.

  “Lilith?” Rosa asked worriedly.

  The succubus inhaled, her breath trembling and shoulders shifting, then she pivoted. “Everyone out.”


  “You three should never have touched this incubus.” Lilith’s eyes darkened with fear. “Out. Now.”

  “But we can’t just leave him here like this. He’ll—”

  “Some time alone will settle him down. Just hope he decides to leave without indulging in revenge.” Lilith snapped her fingers. “Move.”

  Wide-eyed, Jessamine and Rosa hurried to the door.

  Lilith waved at Clio. “Hurry up, girl.”

  She folded her arms. “I’m not leaving without him.”

  “Once he’s free of Zinnia’s control, he’ll go for the first female he sees. I’m going to lock him in until he calms down. You can wait outside the door.”

  Clio shook her head, not trusting the succubus.

  “Are you not listening?” Zinnia said without looking away from Lyre. “She’s saying your incubus friend will attack you the moment we’re gone.”

  “I can handle him,” she replied stiffly. Whether Lyre would attack her remained to be seen, but if he came after her, she knew what to do. In Chrysalis, when she’d used aphrodesia on him and Madrigal, all it had taken was a few minutes under a sleep spell to return him to his senses.

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