She stood in the doorway, a cup of coffee in her hand. Khait had shifted Bridget back to Rome before returning. Then he’d more or less fallen face down on the bed and gone unconscious. Asleep, he looked peaceful and innocent. And delicious. It was tempting to pounce, but considering what he’d said last night she was worried it wasn’t safe.
Abigail exhaled, and went into the living room. She turned on her laptop and started working on her thesis notes. It was a few hours before she sensed someone else in the room, and looked up to see Khait in the doorway, watching her. He gave her an abashed sort of smile when he realized she was looking at him. “You chew your lip when you type. It is adorable.”
“Thanks.” She hesitated a moment, then set the laptop down. “We need to talk about last night.”
“Bridget summoned —”
“Okay.” She held up her hand. “We’ll talk about the you growing wings and killing people thing later, but just so we are clear…” Abigail shrugged. “Couple asshole serial killer rapist types end up fish food, I’m absolutely okay with that. Doesn’t even register on the scale of bad to me.”
“Then…” He walked into the room, and sat down on the floor in front of her. “What is it you wish to speak of?”
“Uh…” She shifted her weight a little. “I kind of beat the hell out of you a little.”
“Oh, yes…” He licked his lips. “You enjoyed that.”
“Yes. I did. But uh…” Abigail sighed. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have taken it that far. It wasn’t —”
“I mean, I slapped —”
“And then I grabbed a belt and —”
“Abigail.” He raised his voice a little. When she stared at him, he started laughing. “Abigail, I am an incubus.”
“Yes. You’re into sex, I get that.” She shook her head. “But —”
“Abigail, my sweet darling…” He laughed again. “I do not think you quite do. It is not the pleasure of the body, but the pleasure of the mind. Your mind, in this specific case.”
“Uh…” Abigail leaned back. “You mean…” She tilted her head. “You mean if I’m enjoying myself so are you?”
“Precisely.” He went to his knees in front of her. “And the more you enjoy yourself…” His finger trailed up her thigh. “The more satisfying I find the experience.”
“Oh…” She stared at him. “Oh my god.” He kissed the side of her leg. “Oh my god, and you instinctively know what to do to…” She exhaled. “You are so damn dangerous.”
“Yes.” He grinned, then it changed slightly. He kissed her leg again, this time gently, before withdrawing a little. “You are my hostess, Abigail. It is not my intention to harm you in any way.”
“I…” She nodded, then smiled at him. “I know.”
“And right now, you should be working on your thesis.” He stood. “I will make you more coffee.”
“Ham and egg with cheddar on a toasted croissant.” He called back over his shoulder as he entered the kitchen. “And a bag of jelly beans, heavy on the strawberry flavor, none of the black licorice.”
“Oh yeah.” She grinned as she grabbed her laptop again. “He’s dangerous.”
“Where…” Khait stood.
Abigail took his hand and folded her fingers around it. “I am taking you on an actual date.” She pulled him toward her and then held her finger up in front of his face. “And I do not put out on the first date.”
He made as if to bite her finger and she pulled it back, laughing. “I understand.” He shrugged as she started dragging him out of the building. “Where are we going?”
Bridget smiled to herself. Sabrina had turned out to be an excellent cook, and a marvel in so many other ways. They both knew the relationship was just a fling. Bridget didn’t want to stay in Rome, and Sabrina didn’t want to leave it. So they were just having what fun they could. But it was nice, as Abigail had put it, to get back in the saddle again.
And frankly the knowledge that she could call on a demon for backup was rather emboldening. She certainly never would have worked up the nerve to leave the apartment again if he hadn’t come to her rescue. He’d killed three people, and she couldn’t help but be just a tiny bit ashamed that she was glad.
She was sitting, lost in thought, when a shadow fell on her open notebook. She looked up to see an older man, well into his fifties. “Excuse me…”
“Can I help you?” She smiled.
“Perhaps. Are you Bridget Monaghan?” He gave her a friendly smile.
“I am…” Despite the fact that he looked friendly, she couldn’t quite shake the nervous feeling growing inside her. “And you are?”
“My name is Joseph Lothar. I’m with a group known as the Cabal.” He rolled his eyes when she raised her eyebrow. “It was named a few hundred years ago. Not unlike Knights Templar or the Freemasons.”
“I see.” She closed her notebook. “And what can I do for you?”
“We would like to talk to you about a recent trip you took to Egypt.” His eyes flicked to the ring. “And an acquisition you may have made there.”
“You’re not cheating, are you?” Abigail raised an eyebrow when he picked up the third dart.
“Is cheating allowed?” He tilted his head at her.
“I mean, it’s not exactly encouraged, but uh…” She shrugged and glanced at the carnival barker. “I guess you can cheat as much as they do.”
“Ah.” He nodded. Then, still looking at her, he tossed the dart. It arched up, then went down to pop a column of four balloons. “I see.” He smiled.
Abigail laughed. Then she nudged him with her elbow. “I want the kitty.”
He leaned forward to nibble a little at her ear. “So do I.”
“I meant the toy.”
“Oh.” He stuck out his lower lip. “How disappointing.” He turned to the guy running the booth. “One stuffed pussy, please.”
She snickered, then dragged him away from the scandalized woman there with her young son as soon as the barker gave him the toy. “You did that on purpose.”
“Yes.” He chuckled. “And you enjoyed it.”
“Yeah.” She linked her arm through his. “Ice cream?”
“As if I would ever turn that down.”
It was getting dark, and she felt stupid. It was like something out of a bad spy movie. Still, there was nothing concrete she could point to, just an ominous sense of foreboding. Joseph had introduced her to a man named Pascal, who was currently examining the ring with some kind of weird monocle. “And it will not come off?”
“No.” Bridget shook her head.
“Interesting.” He straightened, then went to his computer. He tapped a few keys, and then a screen on the wall lit up. “We have tracked artifacts similar to this one. They were used as containment for extremely dangerous entities. Things that could not be controlled in any other fashion.”
“You understand how crazy this sounds, right?” Bridget folded her arms and raised an eyebrow.
“And the fact that you are not walking out the door means you believe there is truth to what I say.” He gave her a pointed look.
She glared at him. “Okay, let’s assume I know something. What is it you want?”
“These creatures are dangerous. Allowed lose in any fashion and they can wreak havoc.” He touched a button.
Bridget stared at the screen. Werewolves were tearing apart a unit of soldiers. “Nice special effects.”
“Joseph.” Pascal gestured to the man behind her
As she turned to look, Joseph smiled. And then his form abruptly changed, shifting as he grew taller. Hair sprouted over his body as his clothing vanished, and his features became lupine. His smile revealed a mouth of sharp fangs, and her eyes went to hands that ended in razor sharp looking claws. “Oh my god.” She put her hands over her mouth. “Oh my god.”
“That’s enough.” Pascal nodded. The werewolf resumed his human form, and grinned at her again. “Joseph has been part of our organization for nearly seven hundred years now.”
“Seven…” She stared at him. “Did you say seven hundred years?”
“Yes.” Pascal inclined his head toward her. “I did.”
“You…” She turned to Joseph. “You’re seven hundred years old.”
“I am.” He smirked. “And since you’ve got a guy staying with you who is somewhat older, I’m not sure why you are acting surprised.”
“You…” She felt the blood drain from her face. “You know about…”
“Yeah.” He narrowed his eyes. “Khait and I are old friends.”
He took the stairs two at a time, a giggling Abigail riding on his back. “Faster.” She tapped his shoulder. “I’m almost out of beer.” She took the last drink from the cup in her hand. “I’m out.”
“Fear not, fair maiden…” He skidded to a stop right in front of the beach bar. “Thy nectar awaits.”
“You know…” She climbed off him, then poked him in the chest. “You’re like the only guy in the world who could get away with lines that corny.”
“Because I’m cute?” He tilted his head at her and smiled.
“Because you’re cute.” She laughed, then held up the empty cup. “Fair maiden needs more beer!”
“Thy wish is my command.” He took the cup from her and gestured for another from the bar. “Where next, my fair queen?” He took the new glass, and went down on a knee like a knight offering a sword. “What further quest awaits me?”
Abigail laughed as she took the glass. “My noble knight and gentle steed…” She pointed. “I wisheth to be taken to yonder ferris wheel, whereth we may observeth the view from on high while I gropeth you mercilessly.” She started to turn, then caught her drink before she dropped it. “Professor Kravitz.”
He stared at her. “Did you take my class on early Renaissance literature?”
“Uh…” She considered the question, then shook her head. “No, that was Bridget. I took Professor Madison’s because they did the Shakespeare in the park thing.”
“Oh, thank god.” He shook his head. “You had me worried there for a moment.” He smiled, then looked past her. “Who is your friend?”
“Oh. Khait.” She blinked. “Professor, you remember Khait? From Egypt?” When the professor gave her a blank look, she raised an eyebrow. “Naked guy? Took a nap in a tomb?” When the blank look continued, she laughed. “Professor, you have got to lay off the weed.”
“I’ll have you know…” He started to glare, then glanced around and lowered his voice. “My supplier vanished. I’ve been out for a week.”
“That is terrible.” Khait gave the professor a sympathetic look. Then he concentrated again before holding a bag out to the professor. “Here.”
“I…” Professor Kravitz took it and quickly tucked it away. “Thank you, young man I have never seen before and cannot possibly identify to law enforcement.”
“Oh.” He nodded. “You are very welcome.” He bent and scooped Abigail up. “I’ll refill it when you run out again.” Then he started back down the stairs, carrying a giggling Abigail. “To the ferris wheel!”
She sat down, staring at the werewolf across the table. “How do you know Khait?”
“Have you heard of the ten plagues of Egypt?” It was Pascal who answered.
“Yes…” Bridget glanced at him.
“He was at least five of them.” Joseph put his hands on the table, then folded them together. “Possibly six.”
“Khait has been…” Pascal gave Joseph a warning look, then let out a tired sigh. “A very naughty boy. His actions may have led directly to the series of events known as The Inquisition.” He put his own hands on the table. “And long before that his actions in Rome resulted in Caligula ending up the Emperor, causing a chain of events that prevented the return of Rome to a Republic and ultimately led to its downfall.”
“He said…” She swallowed. “That it was because of dwarves putting lead into the drinking water.”
“And did he tell you exactly who suggested that course of action?” Pascal raised an eyebrow.
Bridget shook her head. “No.”
“My dear, I should point out that the start of Khait’s captivity corresponds to the beginning of the Renaissance period.”
That didn’t sound quite right to her. He’d known about Columbus. Bridget nodded. “What do you want?”
“An entity of his level of malice and power needs to be kept under control.” Pascal put his hand atop hers. She noticed that he picked the hand that had the ring. “And that requires a considerable amount of responsibility. Perhaps more than a single young woman, even one as intelligent and accomplished as yourself, is capable of maintaining.”
“I…” She swallowed. “That makes sense.”
“And we are always looking for talented young minds for our organization. You come…” Pascal patted her hand. “Very highly recommended.”