Celine opened her eyes to the layers of soft shadows that were deep night in the city. She tugged the long, white tank top she wore as a nightie more comfortably around herself. It had been a very good dream-feeding tonight. She had eased an angry, powerful hunger and taken much pleasure and energy from it. A succubus couldn’t ask for more. Except there was still a tingle of arousal in her body—a deep, physical ache for a real body to press against, for solid arms to hold her. Unfortunately, that option was no longer available to her.
A sound out in the building corridor caught her attention and she cocked her head to listen. In the relative quiet of the night her hearing seemed unnaturally sharp. Was that a voice, muttering? Footsteps, definitely. Probably just someone from a neighboring apartment, coming home late and drunk. Except the footsteps stopped outside her door. The knob rattled.
Celine got out of bed and tiptoed down the hall toward her door. Halfway there, she froze. Her other senses had finally woken up and she could practically smell the rotting abscess of dark emotions outside her door.
The knob rattled again and this time something clicked inside the lock. The old brass set had looked heavy and reassuring when she checked out the apartment a couple of months ago but now she wasn’t so sure. Weren’t these ancient designs easy to pick? That thought broke her terrified paralysis and she darted down the short hall back into her bedroom.
Grabbing her jeans off the floor, she thrust bare legs into the coverings. Not even bothering with the zipper, she pulled on Keds and grabbed her coat. Snatching her purse off the vanity table, she moved to the window. Forcing the heavy window up the tight wooden frame took all her strength. She squeezed through as soon as the opening was large enough for her compact frame and stepped out onto a small metal platform. The rusty fire escape was an eyesore and had made her question whether she really wanted this Gastown location but now she was insanely glad it was there. She heard her outer door bang open and quickly slammed the window shut. Practically sliding down the shaky ladder, Celine tumbled onto the pavement. She was already fumbling for her cell phone as she ran out of the alley and onto the street.
She dialed 9-1-1 and blurted out, “Someone’s breaking into my apartment.”
The polite exchange of information that followed seemed to take an eternity. They told her the police would be there soon. Celine leaned against the wall of the restaurant and finally took the time to do up the zipper of her jeans. The fact that it was chilly outside also registered and she shrugged into the blue fleece jacket. Then, staring at the glowing red closed sign of the store under her apartment, she forced her breathing to level out. She thought she could hear someone cursing four stories up in her bedroom. Probably she was just imagining it.
She was on her seventeenth deep breath when a car with flashing lights and sirens on came flying down the street and pulled up in front of her. A large, bald man with broad shoulders and a bit of a paunch stepped out of the passenger side.
“You the lady that reported the break-in?” he asked in a calm, soothing voice.
“Yes, apartment 411.”
He nodded grimly and walked toward her building. Another man slipped out of the driver’s side door and joined the first officer. There was visible power in the second man’s shorter frame and a confident grace to his walk. It occurred to her to wonder which of them was the more capable in a fight—the big bald dude or the smaller man who moved like a stalking cat.
She was still gazing after the two policemen when the fire escape rattled. Celine crossed over to the other side of the street, peering through the blackness of the narrow alley to stare up toward her apartment. A heavy body slammed her into the brick wall as it raced past. Pain flared up her right hip and across her ribs. She leaned heavily against the wall, moaning softly. The hit had been deliberate, an expert hip check designed to cause physical damage.
Celine was still struggling to get the pain under control when a hand landed on her shoulder. She jumped as a jolt ran through her and the hand immediately withdrew. Turning, she stared into brilliant blue eyes.
“Sorry, miss. Are you all right?”
His lashes were impossibly long and thick but they were the only feminine quality to his face. The sharp angles of his cheekbones, wide mouth and square jaw made her think of Russian gangsters. It was a face that demanded a strong reaction and hers was an instant surge of lust.
She managed to keep her smile small and polite. “I’m fine, officer. But I think I just met the perp on his way out. He was in a hell of a hurry. Thanks for running him off.”
He grinned and she sagged against the wall for reasons that had nothing to do with her throbbing hip. That smile was pure magic, it turned his darkly handsome features into something enchanting.
His expression shifted again, becoming serious. “I’m afraid we broke the door going in. Your robber actually locked it behind himself, would you believe that? And he tore the place up a bit, particularly your bedroom. Any idea what he might have been looking for?”
She shook her head. “I don’t have any valuable stuff, no drugs, no top secret information.”
“What? You’re not an undercover operative stealing government secrets?” He met her labored attempt at humor with a swift tease.
“I run a bookstore, for Christ’s sake. Can’t get much more pedestrian than that.” Celine tried to match his light tone but couldn’t quite manage it. She knew the man who had broken into her apartment wasn’t after her things. He was after her. He wanted vengeance and satisfaction. She leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes to hide the fear in them.
“Miss? Did he hurt you?” The policeman’s hand went to her shoulder again.
This time she didn’t jump, although the touch sent a surge of sexual energy all the way down to her toes. Some men hit her that way, hard and fast. It was part of her not-quite-human nature. Fortunately, his touch also overpowered the fear and sent healing waves of heat into her bruised ribs and sore hip. She opened her eyes and stared directly into his beautiful eyes.
“A shove into the wall as he ran past. I’ll be okay,” she replied and allowed warm gratitude to fill her smile.
They seemed to freeze in that tableaux—her back pressed against the wall, his riveting face less than an arm’s length away. The young officer leaned toward her. Then he stopped and shook his head, as if banishing an inappropriate distraction. He straightened and removed his hand from her shoulder. She immediately missed the contact and the warmth that had been flowing from him. Disappointed that he had the self-control to pull away from her, she told herself that it was for the best. A kiss would have been a dangerous indulgence.
“We should go back up to your apartment,” he suggested. There was a heaviness to his words that suggested he wasn’t just thinking about her welfare.
Celine nodded and moved to lead the way. It would be so easy to break his self-control and seduce him. Every drop of her demon blood yearned to do just that. As a succubus she fed off human sexual energy. She could sustain herself through dreams but living flesh was so much more potent and rewarding—at least for her.
For her lovers it was the start of a very short road to their destruction. She had sworn to never again give in to those cravings, to never pull another innocent man into an obsession that would destroy his life. This gorgeous young cop was making it very hard to keep that oath.