The Care and Feeding of Sex Demons paperback and free book deal!

To celebrate The Care and Feeding of Sex Demons book release, if you send me a copy of your receipt for a copy of The Care and Feeding of Sex Demons in either ebook or paper copy to angela.fiddler@icloud.com, I’ll send you a free electronic copy of Cy Gets a Sex Demon, the prequel to Care and Feeding. If you want a signed copy of The Care and Feeding, just email me. The book is $9.99 but I’ll include the digital copy of the prequel and shipping for $15.00. From the back of the book:

Keeping your sex demon happy and sated is always the safest option, even if you have your own relationship issues. When saving the world on a regular basis, a happy home is important. Cy’s job as an apocalypse stopped isn’t an easy one at the best of times, but with the help of his weird family, he survives. Sure, he sneaks out every one in awhile to watch August, his sex demon, feed, but he loves and is committed to Patrick, his Fae Prince lover. All adult relationships are based on compromise. It’s just most don’t require keeping a sex demon happy and non-murder-y while trying to quit your job to save the world on your own time. 

From Joyfully reviewed: “Literally written crack cocaine.  An off the chart crazy plotline, zany characters, and non- stop action that never ends.  This is one wild ride.”

I love all my main characters, but Cypher is the warmest part of my coronary cockles.

The Care and Feeding of Sex Demons, Feeding August (here be sex scene)

* * * *

August answered my knock wearing a U of C sweater and track pants. He looked me up and down. “What’s all this?” He shifted so most of his body was tucked around the edge of the door.

“Were you going out?”

“In this outfit?” August said. His words were slightly slurred, and his eyes burned a bit brighter with all the ethanol in his blood and no longer in the few ounces of whiskey in the square bottle he carried. “I’d never get laid again.”

“Sober, you might have a chance in a confused frat boy’s bedroom.”

August shuddered. “No neophytes. They’re messy. Physically and emotionally. Give me meat I can sink my teeth into.”

“You’re starting a bit early with the alcohol.”

“Your boyfriend’s always going on about all the empty calories in alcohol. I thought I would give it a chance to fill me up.”

“Is it working?”

August shook his head, dismissing the topic rather than continuing it. “You don’t think I could feel that fight? Did he kick you out? Oh, hell. You don’t think you can stay here, do you? I eat on that couch.”

“I’m not here to sleep on your couch.” I’d thought I would be smoother than this. After five years of cohabiting, I’d forgotten that I had lousy rapport with other guys when we shifted the conversation from anything other than business. Months went by when if I didn’t fuck my clients, I didn’t fuck.

August studied my face. “You asked him.” No italics. He kicked his baseboard. “With the way you two have been avoiding each other, I would have had better luck if I’d asked him myself, wouldn’t I? Take me to your pancake place. I’ll try human sustenance before I let myself starve another… He didn’t say no, did he?”

I shook my head.

The about-face came midwallow. His eyes burned so brightly the red turned white in the center of his pupil. “You’re here for me.”

I felt that he wanted to grab me by my wrist and drag me inside.

“Love what you’ve done to the place,” I said by rote. What had been eight hundred square feet of brightly lit walk-out basement apartment had archways leading into sunken rooms and halls. A noncode fireplace burned between the living room and dining room that, combined, was larger than both floors of the town house.

I’d never been down here. August lived in the common rooms upstairs when he wasn’t out hunting. He didn’t sleep. Once, we had staked out a residence together for seventy-two hours, at which point I was taking photos of the empty front stoop because that was where the shadow people told me I should take photos, but he’d taken the camera from me and shot the incriminating photo I needed. I was too tired to drive, but he was unaffected. When we returned, I slept for eighteen hours while he rewatched season seven of America’s Next Top Model.

“None of it’s real,” August said. The room resorted to the floating-hardwood-floor one-bedroom bachelor pad I knew from the floor plans. He sniffed my hair. “You’re not going to get all weird on me, are you? You’re just a hot pocket.”

“Yeah? Well, you’re just a client. We’re going to find out why you can’t eat.”

“Nobody in town can,” August said. “You’re going to get some really annoyed wealthy people now that their favorite toys have been stolen.”

“Stolen?” I repeated.

August’s face went perfectly blank. “I meant starving.”

“Are you going to tell me what you were you doing last night?” I asked.

“Do I have to, Boss?” August asked, telling me he would if I ordered him to do it, but he wouldn’t if I didn’t go to that extreme.

I shook my head, not wanting to think about forcing him to do anything. He relaxed.

There were so many bigger problems than my relationship. “Does Gwen have to know?” She wasn’t going to be happy, either with the sex demons starving or what August was doing the night before. The incubi and Gwen had a common client list when it came to those who could afford to get things done. The extremely wealthy people in town had all sorts of jaded palates, and a sex demon was supposed to be the ultimate sexual fantasy.

“Lie down on the bed,” August said, breaking my thoughts. “Get comfortable. You’re going to be there for a while.”

I obeyed. He had beautiful plain white sheets. He didn’t tell me to take my clothes off, so I didn’t.

August moved to the side of the bed. “When the sleep paralysis kicks in, just remember it’s a dream. When your body’s control returns to you, come find me.”

“Wait, if no one can feed, why is it that you can on me?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” August said. He shifted down to smell my hair again. He obviously was feeding from something. His pupils were as wide as dimes, and the inferno burning in them had just been stoked. He rocked back over my body, nonsexually despite his hard-on pressed against me. His touch got hotter and hotter to the point where I thought it would blister my skin, but it never hurt.

Then I was alone in the room. The dark window showed a thin crust of moon left in the sky, but it had been in the middle of the afternoon. Patrick, I started to say, as in Patrick was going to be annoyed I was late again, but my voice box couldn’t move. My whole body was frozen. I became convinced that if I was just able to say Patrick’s name, the paralyzing fear would be over, but all I could make was the initial spitting sound.

Human shapes separated themselves from dark corners of the room and moved toward me. Telling myself it was just a dream wasn’t helping enough. My forehead felt strapped down, but that was just how badly my neck muscles had locked. A black, round shape appeared directly over my field of view, and I was in my old hallway, in my old house before the guy who used to own August’s contract burned the bricks to ash.

The dream was extremely realistic. Every gouge and notch in the doorways was still there. Being back in the old place made me think of Patrick and his perfectly reasonable explanation as to why he avoided his spare room in his house unless it was laundry day. There wasn’t a good reason why I hadn’t used the second bedroom of my house. The house was so old using master to describe the room I didn’t use put on airs considering the sum total difference was about ten square feet.

The smaller room had my inversion bar I used to do curl-ups to the point of exhaustion. Patrick and I still ran, but I hadn’t been upside down in three years.

August leaned his forearms against the top bar. “You kinky devil, you. I never saw you as the type to purchase sex furniture. What’s the best position to lash a body down in?”

“Patrick was the first person besides me to ever step foot in this room. Do you want to imagine him on the bar?”

August pulled his arms back. “Not really.”

“Then don’t.”

“You’re awfully protective of his memory. Wouldn’t you have liked to tie him up?” August’s voice started to lull me into another layer of sleep. “Gag him, perhaps?”

“Leave him out of this,” I snapped, afraid of getting dragged back into the horrible waking dream with the shifting shadows.

August didn’t move from the bar, but I blinked, and suddenly I was on the Murphy bed I had installed so I could work out and sleep in the same web of wards and charms that kept my nest safe. If August had gone the other way and tied me to the bar, I would have woken up entirely. The incubus had a lot to learn about me if he thought that would have been comforting.

“You worry about too much,” August said. “I fantasize about gagging everyone. You humans talk all the time.” He adjusted himself over my lower body. There was a moment of disconnect where I only felt his real pressure on my chest, not the rest of me. He leaned in, smelling my hair again, but he couldn’t hide his frown.

He bent in for a kiss, but even as our lips touched, I didn’t feel the physical sensation. “No,” August said as though his tone alone would control the situation. “This is supposed to work with you. I could smell it in your hair. What the hell is wrong with you?”

I could have dreamed us anywhere, and I brought us to the place I’d brought Patrick back to our first time. It had been in the middle of the afternoon sex too. “Have you ever tried just having sex?”

“We could be doing anything you want right now.”

“Do you…do you think this is what sex feels like?”

“Of course not. I can make it feel better than you’ve ever remembered it.”

“Each time I have sex, it’s better than I remember.”

August withdrew to the edge of the bed. “I don’t have skin sex. You can go fuck yourself.”

You don’t have skin sex,” I repeated because I had to.

“It’s a personal choice.” August sniffed.

“Do you want to eat or not?”

“With the other sex demons it doesn’t matter how they had it. The energy didn’t transfer. It stays in the human, swirling about. I can smell it in your hair. I can taste it. I just can’t feel it.”

“What have you got to lose?” I asked.

“Dignity, respect. An ass that isn’t sore.”

“Do you think I’d take your dignity and respect?” I left the other one alone. I wished I could remember the name of the last guy I fucked in the ass. Apparently it had been a significant event because I was never, ever, ever going to fuck anyone ever again. And with Patrick, I’d been okay with giving that up.

August’s eyes were dark and cold. His fire was out. “I’m hungry. Imagine us somewhere else. Try harder next time to feel it.”

“Feel what?” I asked.

He brought us to the steam room on the fifth floor of Gwen’s building. My heart crashed in my chest. The steam was the exact temperature it had been five years ago. The room was the second place I’d taken Patrick on the second day of our…date was the wrong word. We really hadn’t left each other’s side, and then my house burned down, so I moved in. At the time it had just kind of worked. I still had the check the insurance wrote me to rebuild my house, but I sold the land about the same time I stopped turning upside down on a regular basis. The building on the property was now a massive three-story monster duplex. The asking price wasn’t much more than I had gotten for the land itself. The housing-market crash had hit six months before completion, and the development company took its tools out and sealed up the project.

Patrick and I had been keeping an eye on it, but then things got rocky.

August exhaled, bored at me stirring through my memories.

“You with me?” August asked, leaning against the tiled wall as steam banked around him.

“You can’t take me back here and not expect some reaction.”

He pushed to his feet. “I told you that we could go anywhere. We could be in the south of France right now with billowing, gauzy drapes overlooking the Adriatic Sea.”

“That’s nowhere near the south of France.”

“What care have I for geography? It’s a much prettier body of water.”

“You have bodies of water ranked by their prettiness?”

“Is that your talent? Making everything you say sound stupid? My skin’s wet. I might as well be in liquid right now.” He looked like a drowned rat. “Just take me back to the town house.”

I felt him climb off me. We were back in the one-bedroom basement suite and in bed together.

“If you came from where I did, you’d appreciate a good view a lot better than you do,” August said, staring out at the next row of insignificantly different townhomes. He balled up his fist and pressed them into his stomach. His stomach roared again. By the time the sound finished echoing in the earth-dampened room, he looked faint.

“Then come smell my hair or however it is you eat.”

August narrowed his eyes. “I don’t suppose you get tied up?” he asked, letting his voice trail off at the end rather than rise with inflection.

“As long as you discuss it with me first.”

“Would this count as discussing?” He was still in hypothetical mode, so technically, no, but I’d let it pass. He’d gotten naked somehow between the dream and now, and his body didn’t have an ounce of fat anywhere. And not in the way you’d compliment a bodybuilder. There weren’t any nicely rounded bits to him. He was concave surfaces and muscle and bone.

“This once.”

August glanced around the bed. It didn’t have a headboard. Or a footboard or any kind of eyelet system. “Could you just blow me? I could tie your hands behind your back.”

“I actually have a policy about not having my hands tied during oral sex, and even if I didn’t, I promised Patrick that would be the one thing I wouldn’t do.”

August was cooling down. I didn’t know what it meant for him if his body lost all its warmth, but I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be a good thing.

“Me sucking you off would do nothing for me,” August said. “Nothing at all. And you are not fucking me.”

I had not come prepared for actual fucking. Incubi fucked in their dream space. I put my feet onto the floor.

August spooked, slamming his body against the wall. “Go on. I didn’t need you anyway.”

His body was so cold and his muscles so tight it wasn’t hard imagining him as a corpse as I pulled him by his elbow to me. With his entire body rigid, that was all it took to bring him from the wall to my chest. If he’d been feeling better, I never would have been able to hold him this close. For a sex demon, August loathed being touched or held or even favored in any way.

“I’m going to take care of some things, and then you can fuck me. Smell my hair, or whatever it is you do, and I’ll be right back.”

“You’re just going to let me fuck you,” August said, lashing out verbally when his hands wouldn’t uncurl from his chest. Creating the dream had taken the last bit of heat from him. It would have been funny if he was cartoon blue, but his gray features weren’t amusing.

“Why not? You need it; it isn’t where I store my dignity; what’s there to lose?”

“But you’re human!” August said. He lifted his face up beside my neck and sniffed again. His naked chest against my suit shifted from cold to cool. He had well-manicured nails kept deliberately stylish so the sharpness of his edges wouldn’t be readily obvious, but I’d seen him slash throats open with them. He kept them honed on one hand, but I either never remembered which one it was, or he switched them on a regular basis.

“I’m just predominantly human. You need to eat.”

August held still for a minute, the time ticking by slowly. His fingers raked through my hair like a comb made out of the contents of my knife drawer. I wasn’t holding my breath so much as just breathing with the top 10 percent of my lungs. He smelled me again, his nose to the lump of bone where my jawbone attached to my skull. His rigid body in my arms became a self-supporting bag full of snakes.

At least his cheeks had color again. “When we have sex, will you be afraid of me?” he asked, his voice like silk on my skin.

“I would rather not,” I said. I hadn’t bound his will in any way. I didn’t know if ancient law respected subleases.

As delighted as his smile was, there was nothing childlike in it. “That isn’t a no.”

It wasn’t the time or place to tell August of Patrick’s fears that August was going to turn. “I don’t call you for backup because you’re mildly alarming.”

His nail tapped against my jugular. As long as there wasn’t any side-to-side motion, it was no more dangerous than pressing any kind of knife straight down against a throat. “You could stop now,” I told him. We’d both made our point.

“Did he say anything about no kissing?” August let go of my throat. I noticed he stopped using italics for Patrick’s pronouns.

“No. Just the one restriction.”

August bit down on my lips and raked his teeth over my chin. I had a lot of nerve endings in my lips—I assume most people do—and feeling his teeth sinking into the delicate skin should have felt like a wasp sting. All I felt were the endorphins. There were reasons people risked their fortunes and lives to summon sex demons. The risk hadn’t made sense before.

He pulled his teeth from my skin, and I wanted to grab him and make him bite me harder. “Careful, Cypher. I’m not promising you anything.” The words sounded like the rattle of a copperhead’s coils.

I wanted him to call me Sidney. I wanted him to come meet my parents and spend Saturday afternoon in the cattle pen that was the IKEA showroom, pushing a cart and walking at the pace of a nonagenarian. They were people in their nineties and not people who didn’t want to declare their age, if you can believe it. I had dabbled with highly addictive substances in the past, both magical and nonmagical, and even the substances that needed positive-air-pressured rooms and hazmat suits didn’t feel this dangerous. August could deliver pure nonchemical bliss on command.

But he wasn’t mine, and someone who had actually roped me into more than a couple of IKEA trips had claimed me already. “Maybe it’s better if we don’t kiss,” I said. “On the mouth at least.”

August’s lips curled up. “The point of entry doesn’t make a difference. I could dial it down.”

“Why didn’t you?”

He was inspecting his fingertips. The silence stretched between us. Watching him switch from examining his manicure from the buff side to the underside and back was hypnotic. “I have enough of you in me to get me through the next couple days. You don’t have to let me fuck you to keep me from starving to death. I wanted to make sure you understood not just the physical risks.” He looked up. His eyes were burning red again. “You could lose your soul.”

“I almost lost my friend.”

“Would you be serious for one moment?”

“My soul is in a vial in a file folder under the C’s. I lost it twenty years ago. I get it. You’re addicting. But so are chocolate-covered pretzels, and I manage to stop despite myself.”

August’s snarl melted off his face. “When we’re done here, do you want to get it back?”

“My soul?” I asked, wanting clarification even though I knew that the pretzels didn’t make enough grammatical sense to be honestly confused by them.

He shrugged. “Why not?”

“Have you met Gwen?”

He shrugged again. “Do you want to or not?”

“Not only do I not want to, I don’t want to get caught having entertained that thought. Now excuse me; the idea is turning my intestines to water, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect.”

He wrinkled his nose. “You humans are so indelicate.”

“Forgive me, oh perfect one.”

“If you insist.”

He stepped away from the wall. His view returned, this time the porch off the French doors of the beach house mere steps from the surf. In the distance, an ocean freighter moved silently through the shipping lane, and a sailboat skimmed along the edge between sky and water. Any sign of humanity were either miles away or decrepit. The fire in his eyes dimmed, but I didn’t know if the view he took in filled the void inside him.

* * * *

I went up the stairs, past the garage door, and into the kitchen. The front door to the apartment had a Janus-head emblem that would lead to the Fae lands, but the garage door was unmarked.

Patrick had his back to the door and was reading a magazine. A mug of tea with the tea bag still in sat untouched by his elbow. He whipped around like I’d caught him doing something more than just nibbling on a cookie. His eyes were wide, his flush brighter than his hair, and his excuses banged into each other. “I wasn’t…listening,” he said, standing up.

“The basement is soundproofed. You insisted on it, remember?” I took the mug from his hand, pulled the tea bag out, and composted it before giving the cup back to him. He didn’t like strong tea, but getting up and doing something about it before it was too late didn’t always happen. I held the hot bit so he could take his time grabbing the handle.

“I do. Did he…turn you down?”

“No. I just need to…prep.” I was fairly certain I didn’t like marshmallows. I kept optimistically checking to make sure I disliked them intensely every couple of years, just to be sure my dislike was still there, and it was. Patrick had no doubt in his dislike of anal sex. I didn’t press it.

“Oh,” Patrick said. He put his hand on my arm. “I’m sorry. I thought at least you could—”

“It’s fine,” I said, cutting him off. I didn’t need to hear what he thought. “I literally really have to go. Can we talk about this never?”

“I’ll put it in my calendar,” he said, taking his hand away. There was a john downstairs too, but I went all the way to the hall bathroom upstairs.

When I came back, Patrick wasn’t in the kitchen. Wherever he’d gone, he’d taken his tea. The Janus head on the door glowed blue dimly. He might have stepped under the hill to escape another round of awkward conversation. I couldn’t just step through the door to find him. To me, it just led to the front yard. The whiteboard was by the telephone and meant for nonconfidential messages only. I grabbed the pen and wrote a message asking if I could take him out for dinner after.

Whether there was a heart anywhere in or around the message is no more your business than what happened in the bathroom. I love my tea-drinking boyfriend, all right?

* * * *

The Gothic iron-framed bed waiting for me on my return had actual shackles. They were lined in sheepskin, but the keyhole looked big enough to insert my thumb into. August hadn’t gone for candles, and I would have told him to put them out. Patrick and I did candles. I wasn’t interested in sharing my mood lighting.

He had switched the window to a single frame with hundred-year-old warped glass. It made the fire-ravaged forest over the valley and up the sides of the hills bleaker. The walls, the floor, the ceiling were all the same shade of gray. It turned the room into a graphic-novel sketch. If I pulled the camera back an inch, I was sure I’d see white space around the gray wall.

I was alone in the room. It was going to make getting fucked harder but not impossible. We’d failed at trying to fulfill one of my fantasies. I was going to play along with August’s. “Hello?”

Like I knew he would, he appeared at my elbow. “Lose the suit and lie down.”

I pulled the tie loose. He hadn’t put anything on, but even the snack he had taken from my hair had given his body a few more smooth lines. I wanted to ask him what would have happened if he had starved, but now wasn’t the time. My shirt and jacket disappeared after I handed them to him. He kept the red tie, which he kept over his shoulder. Gag or blindfold, I was going to find out which.

I hadn’t liked sex with other people until Patrick, so Patrick had defaulted as my ideal. August wasn’t as long as Patrick, but he had a lot more girth. Most men’s cocks were much darker than the rest of them, but August’s looked cut from the same piece of granite. Flawless but pale.

“You’ll go slow, right?” I asked because, again, August’s fantasy. He wanted to make me feel uncertain.

“Yes,” he said, outside the role he was playing. I appreciated that. I went to toe off my shoe before dropping my pants, but August’s cold hand came down over my shoulder. “Untie them.”

He probably didn’t mean standing up or bending over. I crouched down. Gwen had owned my soul for years before I joined her elite group. I felt more powerful fucking the clients than I did doing the actual drudgery. This didn’t feel like work. August raked his fingers back through my hair, but he’d clipped his nails in the time I’d been gone.

My shoes had been off for a while before August finally stepped away.

He’d been feeding the whole time. When we’d started, his skin was as gray as the walls. Now he had a flush across his chest, and his erection and testicles had darkened once his pale blood turned red again with food. Veins showed down his arms, over his shoulders, and of course the length of his penis.

“Cy?” he asked, breaking character again.

“Yes?” I asked, looking up all the way to his face.

“Thank you for this.”

“You haven’t done anything yet.”

He knelt down beside me, his hand in my hair like tubing between us. No matter how much he drank in, I didn’t feel any pull. Night creatures had drained me before. I knew how much energy they could take just by sealing their lips on my skin. August was tapping into something I seemed to have an infinite supply of. We kissed again without the wasp sting. Both his hands were in my hair now. I felt the energy transfer, just not its loss. “I’ve already taken everything I need for a while, but I have a friend who is starving more than I was. I gave him everything I had on me last night, but if I could take him more, I will pay you back.”

“How could you feed him if no one else is able to eat?” I asked.

August shrugged. “How am I feeding right now? I just am. I know I owe you for this already, but for more than I need…I will find a way to make it up to you.”

“You cheated for me,” I said. Long story short, Gwen came into the high-stakes poker game I was playing to retrieve my client’s grandson from a demon brothel, and she lost Patrick in the first hand. I’d cheated, winning him back, but I played the only card I had. If I’d lost the grandson, that would have been it for me. August got us all out of the brothel alive.

August snorted. “You let me work for you. Not, like, work. I couldn’t cash in saving you again if I wanted to. We don’t take more than we need. We never have.”

“You need to help your friends.”

August raked his lip through his teeth. He nodded, not looking at me.

“So take what you need. I hardly feel you taking anything. If it becomes unpleasant, I’ll tell you.”

“You’re not feeling anything?” August asked. He leaned in again, smelling my hair above my temple. His fingers ruffled the hair, and he plastered his naked body against mine to get closer to the scent. I took hold of his body, not to push him away but to touch, and his skin felt as alive as mine did.

He started licking my temple, his tongue as raspy as a cat’s. So, blowjobs were completely out unless he wanted to use a dental dam. When he finally exhaled, I was on my back on the floor. He’d pinned my unresisting wrists down over my head and straddled my rib cage. “You didn’t feel any of that?”

“I felt a little bit,” I said. My dick was stiff enough that it was poking his leg. “But nothing draining.”

August tilted his head back and used his index finger to rub the bottom of his nose. “Damn, you smell good,” he said and pinched his nostrils shut. He fussed with his face like a coke fiend. If one of us was going to get addicted, I didn’t think it would be me. He stood. “I had this whole thing in my head. I was going to be all severe, and you were going to be afraid of me, and then I was going to chain you down and ride you like a bull.”

“Bull riders only need to last eight seconds.”

“It wasn’t a perfect metaphor. I haven’t eaten this much since my first master. Would you just keep your hands down? I can sense the future. Not much of it, but most of the time I know ninety seconds ahead of time when I need to get moving, so I’m going to know if you are thinking about touching me.” He looked at me again carefully. “Hell, you can even touch me with your open hand, but don’t grab me. Do not try to force me harder or faster. I’ll be a lot more permissive later on if we need to do this again, but for right now, just let me do my thing.”

“That’s my motto.”

He touched my chest, right over my heart. “If you try to force me, I’ll hurt you, no matter how good you’ve been to me. I’m sorry about the possibility. You’ve been such a good master. All the other demons in town think you messed up the incantation or something and I’ve been keeping your meat-puppet body alive this whole time in a trunk somewhere. I don’t want to fuck this up.”

“But you will if I make you,” I said. I’d been in the exact same situation, forced to act against my best interest a dozen times. August was talking himself into going through with it. I would let him negotiate for as long as he needed to feel safe.

“I’ll have to trust you eventually,” August said, mostly to himself. “Do you swear to tell Patrick that anything that happens isn’t my fault? I warned you? You knew what the consequences would be?”

“I haven’t done anything yet.” I sat up, taking the red tie from his shoulder. “May I use this?”

“Why?” August asked, wary all over again.

“I don’t know if I wouldn’t grab you. There are a few seconds while I’m coming that I don’t have complete control over my body, and if I was touching you at the time, I couldn’t tell you if I wasn’t going to curl my fingers around you while I was doing it.”

August smiled, his eyes sparking up for the first time in the Gothic bedroom. “I have complete control over you in the throes of your orgasm. But I’d like to see silk at your wrists. Especially silk you could get out of, but wear for me. May I…may I bind you, Master?”

“Just don’t mutter anything mystical under your breath.”

“I wouldn’t.”

“You would. Just maybe not now.”

“Just maybe not now,” August repeated. He held out his hand for the tie. I should have been more reluctant to give it over.

Binding wasn’t a word we threw around lightly. It had gravitational pull without any mass, it was that heavy a word. He pressed his lips together. His eyes remained guileless while he wove the red silk around my wrists. He didn’t even tie a knot. The silk would have slid right off if I pulled, but I pressed the two sides together between my wrists so it wouldn’t slip as I stood.

August pushed to his feet from his kneeling position, rising like a cobra out of the woven bowl. “Do you need help, Master?” he asked, head bowed.

“To the bed, ten feet away?” I asked.

“Yes, Master.”

“No, I think I got it.”

He still hovered, ready to grab my elbow should the floor rear up and trip me, but I made it to the center of the bed.

The bed had been stripped to just the white sheet. No blankets. Two pillows. One looked hard, and August pulled it down to where he wanted my hips. The other was soft and fluffy. Settling over the rice-filled pillow, it took me a heartbeat or so to get comfortable. I don’t ever remember being embarrassed by how my body lay.

August was over me before I really had time to even feel how open I was. I jerked at how hot he felt, pressing into me. “Wait,” I said. “Let me meet you.”

He stroked my back. His thighs touched mine. “Yes, Master.”

I would have told him not to call me that, but it set the tone. Pushing up to him was better for me than having him penetrate me. I wasn’t sure how the heat off his skin wasn’t burning me. Bathwater burned when Patrick got excited and misjudged the flow of the tub. As an elemental almost as powerful as Gwen, he took it as an insult when he spilled a drop.

Pushing back was easier than pushing in, and if there was any pain, August wicked it away. It could have lasted eight seconds; it could have been minutes or hours. It didn’t matter. As long as he was moving in me, my skull rattled. I’d never been fucked like that before.

When I put my head down, he couldn’t smell my hair. That made him growl in a way that kept my head up, but eventually not even that worked. I started to feel a slight tug from my scalp from whatever it was that August was pulling from me.

I’d never had an orgasm ripped from me. I’d had a few when I hadn’t particularly wanted to partake. I’d never had it yanked out of me as though by a string. The plateau lasted so long I didn’t think my brain had the extra dopamine, even if it wrung itself out, to enjoy the physical culmination.

August shivered. He jerked away, sliding to the top of the bed as I crawled to the bottom of it.

We looked at each other in mutual-assessment mode, trying to decide if each were a danger to the other while our bodies were less capable. August’s eyes widened as he recognized why I was studying him. Not all humans got to choose when and where they were going to be fucked either.

He looked away, his lips pursed in an I-didn’t-see-nothing look.

“Very old habits die hard,” I said.

“I was summoned in Roman times,” August said. “If you called me Augustus, I’d punch your nose.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“I’d want to,” August said. He stood up, fully back in charge of his body. Mine was taking a bit longer to calm all the nerve endings down. I needed more potassium in my life. “I have to go feed my friend. May I be dismissed for the rest of the day?”

He spoke as though I daren’t refuse, but it was a genuine question. Color bled into the room like bad CGI, dismissing the Gothic-castle look back to the two-plus-one double garage townhome it was. The room shrank to an eighth of the size. It had felt open and airy, and now it was a Calgary basement.

“Could you keep your phone where you can check your messages?”

“Yes, Master,” August said.

“Could you go back to calling me Boss?”

“Not yet. Do you want your suit back or a robe?”

The thought of wool on my thighs made my skin crawl. “A robe would be nice.”

A red silk robe floated down from nowhere. I grabbed it. “You have the energy to make this just appear now?”

“It was Patrick’s birthday present.”

“To you?” I asked.

“Who else?” August asked, confused. “You got me the iPad.”

“Right,” I said. I had no idea what he was talking about.

He took a step, and shadows swarmed him. A heartbeat later he was dressed in black jeans and a black turtleneck. He grabbed his phone from the bedside table. “Thanks so much. Can you let yourself out?”

“It’s my house.”

“It’s your boyfriend’s house, and it’s a townhome.” August stopped at the door. “Thanks again.”

“For the iPad?”

“You don’t think I can recognize Patrick’s handwriting by now?”

“If he told me he was getting it, I would have signed the card.”

“You were busy,” August said. He rapped his knuckle on the doorstop. “Yeah. So, I really have to go.”

I realized he was waiting to be dismissed. “Go.”

He ran up the stairs to the landing two steps at a time, and the garage door slammed. I closed my eyes but didn’t think I had actually nodded off until I heard another knock at the door.

It was the exact same rap. Maybe Patrick and August were spending too much time together. “You were going to take me out for dinner,” Patrick said from the door.

I hadn’t been asleep, but the dozing had been nice. Not searching for a weapon was good too. August kept his bedroom pretty minimal, and pillow fights were rarely fatal. It felt like I had just closed my eyes, but Patrick’s tone said he’d been waiting all day.

The sun was still above the town houses. The sheer amount of exhaustion I had to wade through to open my eyes told me for sure I hadn’t been downstairs for more than a couple of hours. I stared at Patrick, not sure what I should be saying, but he smiled. “Sorry. Couldn’t resist. The garage door opened and closed twenty minutes ago, and I thought you might prefer your own bed if you were going to fall asleep.”

“You’re more evil than Gwen,” I told him. “Do you have a key for the basement?”

“It’s my house. I need to check for water damage.” Patrick’s voice didn’t even sound defensive. Maybe that was actually a thing home owners did. My brick house hadn’t even had a basement. It had a crawl space I’d tried never to think about. “Come on upstairs. I’ll run you a bath, and you can have a nap.”

He was using his singsong voice and putting some of his power into it. I wanted to come upstairs, but I didn’t want to be manipulated into it. As though reading my mind, he stopped leaning his power into the words. “What happened to your eyes?”

“I still have them, right?” I asked, touching my face. I was seeing things, but that meant nothing in a world of magic. I stretched out on August’s ridiculously comfortable bed. “Come lie down with me.”

“You have pinpricked pupils. Upstairs,” Patrick said firmly.

I rolled onto my back. Patrick upside down still looked like Patrick right side up. Not all fae could say the same. Despite the fact that my refractory period felt like my dick might not get hard again this week, just looking at Patrick tightened the muscles of my chest. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Patrick said patiently.

I reached for him. “Then you should come here.”

“Upstairs.”

“There’s a bed here.”

“And it’s not mine. Do you need help?”

“I do not need your help,” I said, rolling over so he was standing on the floor again. When I tried to sit up, I couldn’t. “I think I’m frozen.”

“I think you’re on your stomach.”

I closed my eyes, then Patrick was helping me up the stairs. I’m not sure how he won the argument. I’d felt pretty entrenched where I was. Patrick dumped me on my side of our bed. He crouched down on the edge, trying to look into my eyes, but his pupils were as endless as August’s were. I was going to get lost in either of them if I wasn’t careful.

It was hard to dig my fingers into being awake. “Come here.”

“Now I know you’ve hit your head or he’s done something to you. You better hope you’ve just hit your head.”

“Stay,” I said. The sense of dread was getting worse. It wasn’t any talent of mine. Something else of August’s must have leaked in. As tired as I was, I didn’t want Patrick to leave the house. My wards could protect him here, even if I was asleep.

Patrick pressed his head against his forearm. “You’ve been avoiding me for weeks.”

“Just because I didn’t want you to break things off. I had legitimate reasons.”

Patrick took a long breath. “Not how things work, Cy.”

“Stay. Don’t answer your phone. Stay with me. Something is looking for you, and I think August took too much.”

“I think he did too,” Patrick agreed. “We’re going to have words.”

“It was for someone else.”

“You’re not helping his case.”

“He didn’t do anything I didn’t let him.”

Patrick touched my cheek. “That sounds like you, actually. Go to sleep. I’ll order in.”

“When August gets back. Red charm in the drawer. Break it on the glass of the door.”

“You want me to spot-check a delivery guy from a restaurant I’m expecting a delivery from?”

“When August comes back.”

“And you want to wait for the sex demon. You’re stressed, Cy. Remember how antsy you got over selling the land? You had us holed up in the bedroom for the entire weekend.”

I’d laughed it off and let Patrick think I had overreacted, but I’d been warned by one of my snitches that something was looking for fae blood, and now that Patrick’s father had gone back under the hill to preserve what life he had left, Patrick was the most fae person in the city who wasn’t Gwen.

“You’re going to just have to smash charms against door frames and spend weekends undercover. I go to IKEA for you.”

“Those are not equal events.”

“Of course they aren’t. Mine are important.” I shouldn’t have said that. It drove me crazy that someone like Patrick, who knew what else was out there, continually downplayed the risk of our existence. He wanted to pretend he lived a nine-to-five life like all the yuppies surrounding us who stayed because of their two-car garages. He was fooling himself.

“You had better be asleep before I get back, and not remember a bit of this conversation.”

“Use the charm.”

“I’m not replacing them at cost.”

“I’ll cover it with the twenty-percent premium as long as you promise to use it.”

“Fine. I promise.”

* * * *

If he came back or if he didn’t, I didn’t know. The next thing I knew I heard the sound of breaking glass. It was a vibration I attuned to no matter how tired I felt. I held my breath; the charms I used were encased in glass. It could have been a nonevent, a harbinger for Chinese food, but rather than the normal flow of activity that would follow a simple delivery, there was silence.

No scrape of the doorjamb, no murmur of voices discussing cost and tip. I was up and out of the room before I realized I was naked. Ducking back into the room took time, but not a lot. The laundry basket was by the door, and I grabbed the day-before jeans from a laundry basket that Patrick tended to. I’d taken for granted how normal it was to have folded and pressed clothes at the ready. Patrick took care of a lot of things.

I was halfway down the stairs before I heard the first real grunt of effort, now intimately familiar, from August.

“What the hell took you so long?” August demanded, holding a white, balding man in a pair of track pants and white shirt. He felt human but completely empty inside. August tried pulling the knife out of his hand, but he couldn’t peel the fingers back and hold the man against the wall. “Let go of the knife, or I’ll rip off your fingers,” August said, raising his voice as though he were talking to a three-year old. I wasn’t ever going to let him ever speak to actual children.

“Is he single-purposed?” I asked. I’d only read about stripping down people to a single task set to a queue on memos sent out by head office last month. I’d never seen one before in Calgary.

I had to step past Patrick, who stood, looking shell-shocked, on the stairs. “I had a guarantee this wasn’t going to happen.”

“I’d get your money back,” August told him. The human only had eyes for Patrick. August finally got the knife away from him. “Do you want me to see how far they stripped?”

He had to raise his voice. I was heading to the kitchen. I went to the charm drawer that had been a simple junk drawer before I moved in, and took a shimmering gold hand-grenade-sized charm from the back of the Skittle-like rainbow of thimble charms. I grabbed a couple of plain yellow ones for my jacket. The yellow ones removed fingerprints. They were just as useful for crime scenes as for cleaning touch screens.

When I handed the gold charm over, I wiped half of last month’s profits. “Take him out of town, and see what he knows.”

“If I need to push?” August asked. Our fingers didn’t touch on the charm even though it was smaller than a fist and we’d just fucked. Touching would have been awkward.

“If you have to.”

“Cypher, no,” Patrick said. “You can’t just strip people’s entire memory from them.”

“If you have to,” I repeated. “Take everything else first. Find out who sent him.”

“You know who sent him,” August said. “She’s never been happy you took Patrick. He was just supposed to be a common temp. He didn’t even smell fae.”

I heard Patrick stomp up the stairs. It was clear I was supposed to follow him. It really sucked that I knew what I ought to do and what I could do as two separate paths. “Have you got this?” I asked August.

August bowed his head, but the fire was in his eyes again. “I got this. He smells morally obligated. This is going to be interesting.”

“As gentle as you can, though. No chew marks. If you could release him, dazed and confused, to a C-Train station on your way back into town, that would be great. Just be sure you’re not caught on tape.”

“A C-Train station?” August repeated. “You sure? If he’s obligated, he might jump rather than face the consequences.”

“Last train’s at two fifteen; first one’s at five,” I told him. “Work around the schedule, and then call 911. Do I have to do everything around here?”

August’s eyes burned brighter. “Not everything. I’m the one about to push him, you know.”

“I really have to go,” I said, hearing the bedroom door slam. Sometimes I didn’t think August and I spoke in full sentences. Our intent was picked up like vibrations through the air.

“Is domestic bliss really worth it?” August asked.

“It is,” I said.

August passed me the knife. The human had a bald spot on the back of his head that he’d blackened with something that smelled like shoe polish but was probably marketed and branded in a much more expensive way. “The blade’s German. Good tang. Do you want it?” August asked.

Our knife drawer was as well stocked as the charm one. “It’s yours.”

August made it disappear. “And the food he was bringing?”

It had fallen outside the door before August grabbed the mortal and dragged him inside. I could smell the sweet-and-sour sauce.

Patrick was going to be annoyed. “As much as I’d like to think they wouldn’t poison the food as a second whack at the piñata, it’s what I would have done.”

“I would have reminded you if you hadn’t,” August said. “Thanks for the knife, Master.”

“Thank you for protecting Patrick.”

August shrugged. “He could protect himself. He just doesn’t want to.”

* * * *

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