- The Darkest Passion
“No?” she said, and though she’d meant it as a statement, it emerged as a question.
In front of her once again, he tsked. “Don’t be so hasty. You haven’t even heard what I have to offer.”
It wouldn’t be good for her, that much she could guess. “I—I ssshould go.”
“Not yet.” He spun on his heel and glided to his throne, where he eased down, relaxed, utterly sure of himself. Smoke reached him, surrounded him, and flames soon followed, dancing around as if happy just to be near him.
Legion tried to shift from one foot to the other—only to realize her feet had been glued in place. There would be no leaving. Not until he was done with her. Still. She didn’t panic. She’d been beaten before and had survived. She’d been called terrible names and laughed at; she’d been thrown into seemingly never-ending pits and kicked into ice fields, unable to transport herself somewhere else.
“I can help you get something you want,” Lucifer said. “Something you’ll do anything to possess.”
Ha! There was nothing he could offer that would—
“I can help you win Aeron’s heart.”
For a moment, she forgot to breathe. Only when her lungs and throat began burning, scalding, did she force her mouth to open and suck air inside. He could…what?
“As you like to spy on the happenings here for the Lords of the Underworld—” there at the end, bitterness had filled his tone “—I like to spy on the happenings of the surface. I know you’re enamored of Aeron, keeper of my darling Wrath.”
Hearing his derision, she raised her chin. “He lovesss me, too. He told me ssso.”
Lucifer arched a brow. “Are you sure about that? He was so angry that you’d hurt his precious little angel.”
The word precious used to describe that pig of an angel caused red spots to wink over her vision. She was Aeron’s precious. Her. No one else.
Lucifer waved his hand regally, and the air in front of Legion thickened, wavered, dust motes sparkling. Colors burst to life. Then Aeron was there, bending down and gently lifting the angel’s wrist to his mouth. He sucked at the poison Legion had injected in her, and her lithe body stilled.
Seeing his mouth on that disgusting interloper caused the red to brighten and rage to flood her. Rage and hate and determination.
“How will you help me?” she found herself asking. The scene disappeared and she was once more looking at Lucifer. Perhaps bargaining with him wouldn’t be so bad. Perhaps she would be the one to come out ahead. She was smart. Resourceful. Right?
“Let’s face it,” he said, gaze raking over her scaled body. “You’re as ugly as a creature can be.”
Her jaw dropped as wave after wave of hurt hit her, and she tried to backpedal, wanting to hide. She wasn’t ugly. Was she? She was different from Aeron, yes. She was different from the angel, as well. But that didn’t mean she was ugly.
“I can practically hear the thoughts in your head. Allow me to address them. Yes, you are indeed ugly. Actually, saying you’re ugly is being kind. I can hardly stand to look at you. In fact, to settle my stomach I’m going to have to stare just over your shoulder while we finish this conversation.”
She was ugly, then. Hideous. A monster. The devil himself couldn’t even bear to look at her. Tears filled her eyes. “How will you help me, then?” she asked again.
He gazed down at his yellowed, curling nails, as if he hadn’t a care. “I, powerful being that I am, can make you pretty.”
“How?” she insisted.
“To start, I’d give you silky, flowing hair. Any color you desired and far better than the angel’s. I’d give you smooth, creamy skin. Again, any color you desired. I’d give you bedroom eyes no man can resist. A tall, slender body with big breasts. Men go crazy for those, you know. And while a forked tongue has its uses in bed, I’d probably get rid of that. Your lisp is annoying.”
He could make her pretty? Pretty enough to win Aeron? Hope bloomed in her chest; the mere thought of finally being with the man of her dreams—living as husband and wife—had her shedding one reservation after another. “What do you desire in return?”
“Oh. That,” he said, shrugging as if it were of no importance. “All I’d want is to possess your new body.”
She frowned. “I don’t underssstand. How could I win Aeron if I’m not…me? How could I win Aeron if you are me?”
He pinched the bridge of his nose. “I see you’re stupid, too, which means we’ll have to fix that, as well. I didn’t mean I’d possess your new body right away, my single-minded friend. I would be allowed to do so only if you failed to win him.”
Her frown intensified. Being beautiful didn’t mean she’d automatically win?
The silence earned her a shake of his head. “Clearly breaking my meaning down as if I were talking to a child didn’t work. What else can I do?”
Her cheeks heated, and it had nothing to do with the fire around them. She wasn’t stupid or a child, damn him! “You’re trying to confussse me on purpossse.”
“Actually, I’m not. I don’t want you crying foul later. So listen closely. I will give you nine days to seduce Aeron. I would say all you have to do is gain his declaration of love, but you already have that. What you don’t have is his sexual attraction, and that’s what you really want. So get him in your bed, of his own free will, and you win our bargain. You may keep your new body and live happily ever after. Without my interference.”
Everything sounded fair and wonderful and perfect. Everything but the timing. “Why only nine days?”
“Does the reason matter? It won’t change anything about the bargain.”
Resistance. Of course the reason mattered. “Tell me,” she insisted.
“Fine. Nine is my favorite number.”
A lie, definitely. She could push, but… Was learning the truth more important than gaining a chance at that which she desired most?
“And if I fail?” she asked. He’d told her what he wanted, yes, but she needed every detail.
“Well.” His fingertips traced circles on the arms of his throne. “If you fail to seduce him into your bed, for fucking, not sleeping, within the allotted time, you must allow me to possess your new body, as I said. For however long I wish.”
There it was. The final detail. He would be able to control her for “however long” he wished. In other words, forever.
But why would he want— The answer slammed into her and she gasped. Lucifer viewed her as his ticket to escaping hell. Because Legion wasn’t bound to hell, but to Aeron, she was allowed to leave this place. Lucifer was not. He was trapped here.
If she gave him permission to overtake her, he would then be free to leave. What he wanted, they would do. She would be aware, yes, but her wants would cease to matter.
If it were as simple as taking control of her body and using it to escape, Lucifer wouldn’t waste time bargaining with her. But demons couldn’t possess bodies, human or otherwise, without permission. Even the demons in Pandora’s box had needed the gods’ blessing to possess the Lords.
“It all comes down to whether or not you think you can succeed,” Lucifer said. “Do you? I certainly do, which makes me feel silly for even offering this bargain. Perhaps I shouldn’t have.” In one fluid movement, he pushed to his feet. “I mean, there are other, weaker demons I can—”
“Hold on,” she rushed out. “Jussst hold on.”
Slowly he eased back down.
She couldn’t let this chance slip away. The angel, who was incapable of speaking a lie, had told her that Aeron saw her as a child. That Aeron considered himself a father figure to her. That would never change—unless she did something drastic.
“Termsss must be ssspelled out.”
“Haven’t they already?”
“Not from my end.”
He clutched a hand over his chest. “You don’t trust me?”
She shook her head. A bargain was binding, even for creatures such as them. Once they both agreed, she would be trapped, the bargain a living entity inside her. There could be no changing her mind. If she failed, she would concede what she’d promised, unable to stop herself.
“I’m wounded. But very well,” he said. “State exactly what you expect from me.”
If she didn’t, she would receive no more than that, but most assuredly less. “I have to be prettier than the angel, with pale hair, golden skin, brown eyes and big breasts.” All the opposite of the little bitch. “I want the entire nine days, with no time warpsss.” As she spoke, her excitement grew. She was really going to do this. She was really going to try and win Aeron’s heart. “And I want to be awake when I’m with him.”
“Damn,” Lucifer said, an amused twinkle in those fiery eyes. “You caught me on that one. I planned to put you into a coma until your time was up.”
And she had stopped him from doing so. She was feeling very proud of herself at the moment. See? She wasn’t stupid, after all. “You can’t kill him, either. If he diesss before time runsss out, the bargain diesss, too.”
“Agreed. Now, are those your only demands?” he asked, ever the indulgent lord.
“I don’t want to ssspeak with a lisssp, asss you sssaid. I want to firssst appear before Aeron, not halfway acrossss the world, jussst asss I am, and then I want to change bodiesss in front of him.” That way, he wouldn’t think she was Bait or a Hunter and try to get rid of her before she could seduce him.
“Very doable. Is that all?”
She gulped, considered, then nodded.
Once more, he stood. He splayed his arms, fire leaping from his fingertips. “Then it’s agreed. You shall have everything you named. But if you fail to lure Aeron, Lord of the Underworld and keeper of the demon of Wrath, to your bed and inside your body within those nine days, you will return to this throne room, where you will willingly consent to my possession of your body.”