The Succubus Within
(Formatted for web reading.)
Esmeralda poured hot water into porcelain cups and handed them to council members. Agatha followed behind with a small tray full of various teas, Earl Grey, chamomile, lavender, and rose hip. Order members conversed with each other. The words, death, east coast and Norms permeated the air.
Demetri listened, standing at the front of the room, and waited for the conversation to lull. He shook a glass bell that hung on a golden chain at his waistcoat. “Brothers, and Sisters I would like to welcome you to our home, and to our first council meeting since the passing of our dear Brother, Brosnan. It has been a trying time as of late, but together we can restore order to this city and beyond. I want to thank you all for coming.” He paused, mentally taking note of the face of each person in the attendance.
He continued, “Dinner is promptly at seven in the dining room. We’ll have formal introductions then. Thanks again for coming.” He stepped aside. Tension throbbed in his upper back, so he took a deep breath and rolled his shoulders.
Esmeralda saddled up next to him and put an arm around his waist. “You're doing great.”
“Thanks.” He pulled at his suit jacket. “I hate this thing. I prefer my hoodie and jeans.”
She laughed and tucked a loose curl behind his ear. “You look sexy.”
He cocked his eyebrow. “Really?” Demetri started to unbutton his collar.
Esmeralda swatted at his hand. “Quit picking at your clothes. Relax.”
He chuckled. “Yes. M’am.”
A bald man with a dragon-claw cane motioned for him. He nodded in his direction. “Looks like duty calls. I’ll return shortly.” Demetri crossed the crowded room.
He stuck out his hand. “I am Jarden Cosgrove, head of the order for the lower eastern states.”
Demetri shook his hand. “Nice to meet you.”
Cosgrove sighed. “Wish it were under better circumstances. It was very disheartening to learn that so many of our brothers and sisters were killed by nightwalkers last month.”
“Yes, it was terrible.” Images of Demetri’s obsidian blade sucking demons into it ran through his mind. “I wish there’d been more we could have done.”
The old man trembled. “And the loss of Brosnan. Unspeakable. He was our head for so long. A good man.”
“Yes. He was a good man.” Demetri patted his arm. “Very good.”
The old man looked away.
Another person motioned for Demetri. “If you’ll excuse me. “
Cosgrove nodded, and Demetri greeted a woman wearing a scarf on her head and a large stack of gemstone bangles. He kissed her cheek.
Council members continued to mingle throughout the room. Some reclined on couches, others sipped their tea and chatted in gossip chairs. Demetri made a point to shake each person’s hand and listen to any concerns they might have had. He absently touched his pocket, as he made his way through the room.
Esmeralda leaned back in a lounge chair; feet propped at the ankles. She carefully sipped her mug of lavender and rosehip tea and watched.
Demetri sat down beside her. She retrieved a cup from the leather-topped table beside her and handed it to him. “Drink this. I had Agatha make you some chamomile.”
“Thanks. I need something.” He tasted it with his tongue. Then chugged it, before handing the cup back to Esmeralda.
She grinned, “So, how many council members are here? I can’t tell with so many attendants circling about.”
“I’ve met seven so far.”
She wrinkled her nose. “There’s only seven? I thought the Council is made up of nine members; including you?”
“It is. Andros isn’t here, yet.”
“Yeah.” Demetri leaned close to her.” People are talking. He’s always late. Likes to make an entrance. I heard one woman call him a “playboy.”
“I guess we’ll see.”
She finished her tea and placed the cup beside her. “I guess so. I hope the rest of the night is as tame as this has been.”
He nodded. “You and me both, but you can never tell when you get this many sorcerers under one roof.”
The dinner bell sounded.
Demetri stood and addressed their guests. “Dinner is served in the dining hall. If you’ll just follow me.” He paused, “Oh, and leave your teacups. The staff will take care of them.” Demetri patted his pocket again, feeling around until Brosnan’s cross rested beneath his fingers. He whispered under his breath, “I hope I’m doing okay, Brosnan.” The cross warmed. “I’ll take that as a yes.”
In the dining hall, they gathered around a large rectangular table. Demetri sat at the head, and Esmeralda sat to his left. The wait staff carried silver trays of suckling pig, roasted duck, sautéed winter vegetables, and crusty loaves of bread into the room. They set the plates in the center of the table.
Demetri raised his right hand and waved it over the food. Knives and forks spun into the air, then carved the meat. Council members flicked their hands and snapped their fingers. Food traveled through the air and fell into their plates. Everyone dug in.
Esmeralda lifted her fork to her lips, and delicately chewed a small piece of pork. “This is fantastic, Demetri. Really. You have to try it.”
“I will. I promise. Right now, my stomach is unsettled.” He stared down the table. Two chairs remained unfilled.
Esmeralda leaned closer to an elderly councilwoman, Francesca, who sat on her other side. “What do you think?”
The woman answered with a mouth full of food. “Best stuff I’ve had in ages, Sweetie.” She popped a crust of bread into her mouth and looked away.
The front door chimed, and Demetri pushed back from the table.
Agatha rushed from the kitchen toward the door.
“Oh, no Agatha. Eat. I’ll get the door.”
“As you wish, Sir.” She turned and went back to the kitchen.
Demetri rushed to the front of the house. He stopped abruptly at the front door and peered through the wrought-iron covered peephole.
On the other side, stood a woman wearing a tight black dress, that barely covered the top of her thighs. Her long ebony hair hung loosely past her shoulders, and her bust threatened to spill out of the deep-v in the front.
Demetri opened the door and swallowed hard. His eyes followed the line of her legs. She wore red six-inch high heeled shoes. He scanned her body, then studied her face. Her large violet eyes sparkled beneath heavy lashes, and her red lips seemed to whisper come and get me. He licked his lips, then reddened. Heat prickled the back of his neck. No matter how hard he tried to look away, he couldn’t force himself to turn from her.
A thin and attractive man, wearing dark sunglasses came up behind the woman.
For a moment, Demetri just stared.
The man cleared his throat and cocked an eyebrow. “I believe you were expecting us?”
Demetri shook his head, trying to alleviate the cotton-headed feeling that had settled between his ears. “Andros?”