By Robert Preece

Cover for One Handsome Devil

Copyright 2002 by Robert Preece, All Rights Reserved. (Cover copyright 2004 by Karen Leabo)

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Chapter 1

The two women giggled nervously as they held the spell book Sara Slocum had found in her mother's old things. "Are you sure we want to do this."

"Have we gotten a boyfriend any other way," Sara's best friend Katra O'Hara reminded her. "Besides, what can it hurt?"

Sara didn't want to think about that. She read the words of the spell out loud, her eyes suddenly heavy.

"Keep chanting, I feel something."

She sputtered back to full consciousness at Katra's voice. "Let the powers of the east lend us strength," she said, trying to sound like the preacher at her grandmother's church.

"I think you already did that part," Katra whispered.

"This isn't working." Sara slowly closed the spell book. "I told you casting spells for boyfriends is stupid."

Katra giggled, but she sounded nervous. "Just your boyfriend so far. We'll do mine next. But I really felt something."

"Maybe you shouldn't have eaten all that chili."

"Oh, yeah. Well--"

Sara felt rather than heard a whoosh sweep through her Dallas apartment like a Texas Norther, dropping the temperature twenty degrees. Whatever it was cut Katra short, something of a trick all by itself.

The row of scented candles on the table in front of them flickered then winked out slowly, one by one. The room sank into a darkness more complete than should have been possible, even on a late-spring Dallas afternoon.

"It's just your air conditioning," Katra whispered. She didn't sound convinced.

"It isn't on."

Sara heard the sound of Katra flicking her lighter but didn't see the flint's spark.

"What the heck is going on. I just bought this lighter." Katra paused. "Hey, do you think this is magic? I told you I felt something."

Sara had felt something too, from the moment she'd touched her mother's book. She, not Katra, had suggested this seance even though she'd never believed in hocus-pocus. Of course Katra had been the one who'd suggested starting with the spell for summoning their true loves, and then insisting that they do Sara first.

"You think my mother hid that book for a reason?" Sara asked, her voice a whisper.

"We're thirty and single. We have to take chances," Katra snapped. "Besides, sitting around in the dark isn't any worse than sitting around with candles and no boyfriends. Our biological clocks aren't going to wait."

Sara hoped Katra was right. Sitting around in a candle-lit room asking the Guardians of the Earth to supply her true-love was asking for trouble, even though she didn't really believe in the Guardians of the Earth. An icy feeling trickled through her veins even though Dallas had been warm all spring.

"If you blew those candles out," Katra continued, "I don't think it was very funny."

"It wasn't me." Sara inhaled and caught a faint odor of sulphur. Funny, they'd used a lighter, not matches.

Katra's grip seemed way too strong for her tiny friend. The poor thing must be even more afraid than she was letting on. Sara gave a tug but Katra's grip seemed rock-solid.

"You're squeezing too tight."

"I'm not touching you."

Something gripped down even harder. She didn't remember Katra's hands having those calluses. "Don't kid me," she urged, but without much hope.

"You'd better be joking." Katra didn't sound like she was kidding.

Panic welled in Sara's chest. "Oh my G--"

"Don't say it." The voice was male and strong and it sent a tingle of sexual need, mixed with sheer fear, down Sara's spine.

"Don't say w--"

Katra interrupted with a scream. "There's a man here," she gasped after she'd made enough noise to awaken people in Oklahoma City a hundred miles to the north.

"Free me from this blasted pentagram; I'll take care of any men," the male voice urged.

Sara didn't know what it meant, but the voice held a compulsion so powerful she wanted to do whatever it demanded.

"Tell me you learned how to do voices." Katra begged to be reassured.

"It isn't me." Sara put all her strength into yanking her hand free this time. The grip tightened around her fingers in a grip that stopped just short of pain. The evidently male grasp felt warm, almost sizzling, to her touch. How could she have mistaken this for Katra's touch?

"Let's get out of here." Katra's voice shook. There were a few more cigarette lighter noises, then a clunk as Katra evidently heaved the recalcitrant tool into the corner.

"Don't go without me," Sara begged. Admittedly she had been casting a spell for a man, but that didn't mean she was just going to glom onto any male that snuck into her darkened bedroom. She relaxed, pretending she had given up, then grabbed the candlestick and swung it, full force, at whatever was holding onto her.

The heavy crystal candlestick clunked, then shattered. If she'd hit the man who was holding her, Sara was certain he would have let go. Unfortunately, she'd misjudged her distance and smashed her own hand.

"Oh my God that hurts."

Evidently something caught the man by surprise. He didn't let go, but his hand jerked against hers.

"The wards," Katra breathed.

"Wha--" except Sara saw them too. Where they'd drawn the five sided star with sea salt, almost imperceptible blue lines glowed.

The faint light shouldn't have been enough to see by but Sara's eyes had adjusted to the dark. A male hand clasped hers where her hand crossed over the plane of the wards.

Using every bit of the strength her panic lent her, she yanked her hand away.

Even with all her force, her hand barely moved. Yet it was enough. When it reached the sea-salt boundary they'd drawn, a shower of sparks surrounded the male hand. It jerked, then dropped hers.

Sara collapsed to the ground panting as if she'd just run five miles. The eerie blue of the wards glowed more brightly now as if they'd sucked power from whoever they held trapped.

Sara gasped for breath, then struggled to her feet, reached for the light switch and turned on the overhead light.

If she'd thought the harsh glare of an electric light would explain everything, she was sadly mistaken.

Katra's earlier scream had something theatric about it. This one was real and from the heart.

The thing crouched in the midst of the pentagram was male all right. It wasn't a man, though. He looked instead like one of the demons from the stained glass windows in the old-country church her grandmother attended. Small horn nubs protruded from a too-handsome face right at the hairline. He was shirtless and a pair of bat-wings extended from his muscular shoulders. What appeared to be a pair of leather pants did nothing to hide his male swell.

Ironically, Katra's scream gave Sara a moment's pause. A real demon, if such a thing existed at all, wouldn't look like a medieval fantasy. The thought was too absurd for words. And if he wasn't a real demon, he was a real something else. Like somebody's idea of a practical joke. Maybe one of their girlfriends had decided to play a game on them when Katra and Sara had shared their plans.

She took a deep breath. "Halloween isn't for another two weeks, so what's the big idea?"

"He's a demon," Katra breathed. "He's probably going to blast us both."

"There are no such things as demons," Sara declared with more confidence than she felt. If this was a costume, it was the most realistic one she'd ever seen. And if the rent-a-stunt services had a lot of guys with builds like this working for them, maybe she should look into a new line of work.

"Whoever told you there were no demons," the male voice declared, "lied."

Something in the male voice reverberated down her spine and set off hormonal signals Sara had ignored since high school. It had to be the tension, she reassured herself. Nobody could respond sexually to a freak in a cheap costume.

The demon flexed his bat wings, bringing his broad chest to fuller definition. Cancel that thought about cheap.

"You can drop your game now," Sara told him, trying to keep the quaver out of her voice. "If there are demons, they are symbolic, representative of the inclinations within us all." She held up a hand to forestall his objection. "But let's suppose that's wrong and there really are grubby little imps running around. You aren't one of them. After all, a metaphysical being couldn't have grabbed me physically."

"You know a lot about this, do you?" His voice sounded amused, practically condescending.

"Trust me, your costume is something out of fairy tales meant to frighten European peasants." Someone like her grandmother. If Nana had seen this costume, she would really have been weirded out. "Anyway, you did your job. We were scared for a second. Go home and tell whoever hired you that you deserve a bonus."

"No, I really don't think I'll go back home just now." His face contorted and his deep blue eyes flickered. It took Sara a moment to realize it was a smile. "Trust me, Hell is no place to rush back to. I could get used to being around here."

"Hand me the phone, Katra." She turned back to the supposed demon. "You may think this is a big joke, but the police will think it's breaking and entering. If you don't want me to call the police, you'd better tell me who you are and who hired you to play this nasty joke on us."

"But you must know my name." He reared back, his wings extended until they brushed against the ward lines. Blue sparks flew at the touch of costume wing against wards that could not really exist. A scent of ozone joined that of sulphur. His voice sounded doubtful. "How could you have conjured me without mt name?"

Sara shrugged. "All right, play it that way. Katra, dial 9-1-1."

"Uh, maybe he's got a gun. Why don't you call the police?"

Sara looked the supposed demon up and down. If he had a gun, it was well hidden. Those pants could have been painted on from the way they hugged his narrow hips and muscular thighs.

"All right, I will." She stood and took a step toward the phone, careful not to cross the sea-salt line on the carpet.

The supposed demon held up a hand. "You can call me Beljackoninan--uh, just call me Jack." As if he really had some ancient Babylonian title.

He showed Sara his teeth in that expression he must mean as a smile. At least they weren't sharpened to points. That would have been taking the costume too far. Still, those teeth looked strong and the grin could have been meant as a threat.

"Listen to me, little girl. I can--" He jabbed a finger in her direction. His finger met the line of the ward and a sheet of blue light swept up from the floor blinding Sara for a moment.

Sara hung up the phone and rubbed her eyes, trying not to breath too deeply of the ozone-rich air. Jack glared at her and blew on his smoking finger. She was sure a finger couldn't actually catch fire but it had looked that way.

"That's a pretty good ward," he admitted.

"Thanks, I think." She wasn't a weirdo. Semi-naked men with fake wings on their backs and fake horns on their heads were not a turn-on for her. So why didn't she just call the police and have him carted off to the looney bin or Science Fiction Faire where he belonged? She'd do exactly that, except she was curious about those wards. Maybe somebody could have snuck into the apartment while she and Katra were concentrating on the spell. But what kind of equipment would it take to make the salt lines glow like that?

Still, he had to be a man in a costume. Any other explanation was silly.

Jack stretched again, this time careful to avoid the painful touch of the wards. It had been centuries since he'd last walked in the physical plane. Although he could never fully escape the pains of Hell, it felt good to be breathing again, to stretch his wings without bumping into a thousand other demons.

He couldn't believe his luck. The woman had actually summoned him without being able to remember his true name. Without that, she could never compel him to her will. Once he was free from these pesky wards, he would stride the earth like a king once more. Of course he'd have to get free fairly quickly. He didn't want to open a pathway for all the other demons in Hell. This was going to be his own personal pleasure.

He looked at the women more closely. Peering into their souls, he could read so much about them, their hopes, fears, their pride. An innocence and inherent goodness overlaid the shallow layer of toughness in the one called Sara.

That wouldn't help her. The two human women had been playing with magic, he saw, to attract men. Their mistake. The two women were certainly attractive enough to catch any man they truly set their heart on, but they hadn't and now he would use that fact to his advantage.

"If you choose to believe that I opened the door without you noticing, snuck into the room, blew out the candles, set up some magic spell to make your wards glow, and then imprisoned myself here, I won't argue with you," he said. "Just use that silver knife to cut an opening through your wards and I'll be out of your lives forever."

"He has a point," the woman named Katra said. "How could he have done that?"

"You're a trained scientist," he reminded Sara. "So observe rather than leaping to conclusions." He decided to appeal to Sara's emotions. "If I was a criminal, it might make sense to hold me here until the police came. But of course you couldn't. You have no weapon in this apartment and I could walk out. Since I am who I say I am, you have me trapped. Yet it isn't right to hold a sentient being against its will. Your own morals must tell you to let me go."

"You think you know everything about me?" Sara sounded unsure of herself. Time to attack.

"You are easy enough to read, Sara."

"How did you know my name?"

Jack enjoyed watching Sara's body adjust to the shock. Her face flushed, then paled, but she stood up to him her fists so tight her knuckles whitened. He'd always appreciated a fighter, even a fighter of lost causes. With her long blonde hair, slender jeans-clad legs, and hazel eyes, the part of Jack that was male stirred in an instant reaction.

He suppressed that thought. Once he was free, he'd take his fill of humans.

"I know everything about you, Sara. I can see your dreams."


"I'm serious. Look at me and tell me how I could be wearing a costume. Think about it and tell me how I could have come in without you noticing. Watch the wards and tell me if your puny science has anything that could explain what is going on here."

He gritted his teeth, then flung himself against the wards in an all-out attempt to break through or at least prove to himself that it was impossible.

The wards flung him back to the floor with as much ease as if he'd been the tiny imp Sara had accused him of being.


Sara's smoke detector went off in a frightened squawk. Had the thing been trying to show her he really was trapped, or had it been seeking to escape and failed? Either way, she found it harder and harder to believe he really was a man in a costume. Too bad, because she hadn't met many men as attractive as Jack.

It took her a minute to climb up on a chair and unhook the battery that powered her detector. When she climbed down, she decided to take Jack at his word and really check him out--staying safely on her side of the wards. If she couldn't find any seams that held his wings on, she would have to believe there was something going on here other than just a bad trick.

She let her eyes have their fill with Jack's body and masculine face then settled down to serious business. There had to be seams where the fake horns met his head and more seams where his wings where attached.

It was hard, though. Her gaze kept sliding off the wings to ogle Jack's broad back.

"Want to help me, Katra?" she asked. Somebody had spent a fortune hiring this hunk and they might as well both take advantage of it. Who knows, maybe he had a friend and they could both get dates out of this.

"I'm looking, believe me," Katra muttered.

Jack shrugged his shoulders when she passed in front of him. "There are no hidden strings."

"That doesn't make you a demon. Maybe you're an alien." Anything would be better than one of the demons from her Nana's stories.

"You don't get more alien than a demon." Jack reached for Sara, then pulled back his hand when the ward started to glow a deeper blue. "Why don't you just cut away some of that sea salt and make a break in your wards?"

Katra tried to bring her heart rate under control without much luck. How Sara could just walk around Jack, checking him out like he was a piece of meat, was beyond her.

"Does your mother's book say anything about banishing demons?" she asked. She'd seen enough movies to know that just setting a demon free was unlikely to be a brilliant move. While Sara was her smartest friend, she wasn't always the most practical.

"Hum?" Sara dragged her gaze away from the hunk. "Oh, sure. It's in there. Except--uh, oh."

Katra didn't like the sound of that. "What?"

Sara's normally tanned face paled. "The spell won't work for twenty-four hours after you summon them."

"You didn't warn me about that."

"Because I was summoning a true love, not a demon."

"True love? Is that what brought me here?" The demon gave a short laugh. "I didn't know it was possible to mangle that spell so badly."

"Sara started to fall asleep in the middle of it."

The demon rubbed his forehead and horns as if he had a terrible headache. "I'm going to forget this ever happened." He paused, then gave Katra a grin that frightened her out of ten years of life. "If you don't want to use the knife, just blow on the lines. I'll be gone before you can say boo."

Sara might not be able to hurt a fly, but Katra had always been the tough one. "If we let him out, he'll probably just go and bother someone else. Twenty-four hours isn't that long," she told Sara. "He seems contained."

"For now," Jack observed. "You don't think these wards will hold me forever, do you?" His hand brushed against the invisible line again, once again setting off a shower of sparks. "Don't you see that they're weakening already? You want me gone. I can be quite a damper on romantic evenings, believe me."

"If that was a problem, we wouldn't all be here," Sara quipped.

Katra's brain raced. She wasn't dumb enough to miss the fact that Jack had asked a series of questions rather than simply told them he could break out. This could be an opportunity. "He seems to want out bad. I'll bet he'll give us three wishes if we let him go. Remember the way it happened in Aladdin?"

"Whatever Jack is, he isn't a genie," Sara observed. "Besides, are you sure you want to base your life on a Disney movie?"

"It isn't just Disney," Katra protested. "All of the fairy tales are the same. And it doesn't have to be a genie, either. Brownies or leprechauns or your grandmother Maura's Baba Yaga, they all give you wishes if you can catch them." She paused, feeling the smile on her lips. "This one is good and caught."

"Does she always go on like that?" Jack asked.

Sara nodded. "It's part of her dumb act. She thinks it attracts men."

"Hey, it works." Katra put her hands on her hips. Not that she'd had a lot of luck with men lately. She tried to forget anything she'd ever heard about deals made with the devil. This wasn't the devil, just some demon--probably a misunderstood one.

Sara turned to face the devil-thing. "Is she right? Are you here to grant our wishes?"

Jack's laugh hardly qualified. "You summoned me. Is that what you want? Wishes? All right, free me and I'll give you three requests."

Katra didn't know much about demons but she knew plenty about men. They were big on promises until they got what they wanted. Then the deal got changed.

"I can make wishes any time. Are you going to make them come true, or just let me wish away?"

Jack's smile looked completely artificial. He had been planning to trick them, just as she'd suspected. "It would depend on the request, of course."

"Are you sure you aren't a human man?" she asked. "That's just the kind of offer they'd make. We make our wishes, you decide you don't like them, then you blow us up or possess us or something." She turned to Sara. "Either your demon is pretty stupid, or he thinks we are."

"He thinks we are," Sara agreed. She was flipping through her mother's book now. "There's got to be some way to banish him back where he came from in less than twenty-four hours. I don't think I could stand this."

The demon glared at Katra, then tried another artificial smile. "I'm not all-powerful so don't even think about asking for world peace or a cure for cancer. How about, if I can't grant a wish, I'll let you take another."

That sounded better. Of course he might not be able to grant any at all. Sort of like the last guy Katra had dated. Actually, the last seven guys she'd dated. Still, if he couldn't do squat, Katra would just help Sara send him back. Only there was one other trick. "What happens after our three wishes each?"

"I said three, not three each."

"Oh, yeah," Katra groaned. "Like I've just been dying for one and a half wishes."

When she and Sara had visited Central America together, Katra had always done the bargaining. Nobody could believe anyone who acted as dumb as Katra did could be smart. Well, she might not be a scientist like Sara but she wasn't anybody's dummy either. "Three each, big guy. Or else we light the candles and send you back to wherever you came from."

"You think I'm afraid to be sent back to Hell?"

He was asking questions again, instead of answering, Katra noticed. So he was afraid. This was too easy.

"Now that I think about it, I saw this movie where the guy got nine wishes. Shall we say five for me and four for Sara?"

Jack shook his head. "Three wishes each. Make them good. There aren't any makeup exams here. And I'll let you go afterwards so you won't have to waste a wish on self-protection. It's a fair offer." He almost choked on the word fair.

"Deal," Katra said. She started to reach out her hand but stopped short of that glowing line. She didn't trust him that far.

"You said you won't hurt us after the wishes. So what does happen?" Sara demanded.

"Your friend said we had a deal."

Sara shrugged. She must have noticed how nervous Jack was about going back to Hell too. "Sue me."

The demon scowled and raised his hands to the walls that held him in but stopped short of giving them another light show. "I grant your requests, then I leave. You'll never see me again. Unlike you two, I have worthwhile things to do with my existence."

"What happens to us?"

"You keep what you wished for."

"How can we know you aren't lying?" Katra demanded.

"Why would I lie?"

He was asking questions again.

"Demons are supposed to be the fathers of lies, remember?"

His wings flared. "I don't lie."

For some reason, Katra believed him. Maybe because of the way he'd weasel-worded before.

"I know what I want, then," Katra decided. "I want a cute guy with enough money to take me out to nice places, a car that runs for more than ten miles without breaking down, and, uh, I want to win the lottery. Tonight."

"Katra, don't--"

"Done," the demon declared before Sara could finish her thought.

"Oh, I'm sure."

The phone rang. Sara had a really bad feeling about this.

"Or maybe a vacation place in Hawaii," Katra continued. "Remember the time we went to Maui and I met that lifeguard?"

"When you almost drowned yourself five times before he noticed you, you mean?" Sara asked, ignoring the phone.

"I do what works. I got a date out of that lifeguard, which is more than you did. I get a lot of dates out of my dumb act too." She put on a simpering face. "Oh, I just don't know what I'm going to do. I could never change a tire all by my little self."

The phone rang again.

"You'd better get that," Katra suggested. "Maybe it's the Spanish Inquisition or something."

"I'm not expecting--"

Despite the tension, both women broke into giggles. "Nobody ever expects the Spanish Inquisition." They slapped hands. Monte Python strikes again.

Jack glared at them. Well, maybe with his bat-wings and horns, he was expecting the Spanish Inquisition.

With all the patience in the world, the phone kept ringing.

"All right, I give up." Sara reached for it but she didn't take her eyes off the demon. She knew he'd bolt given half a chance. "Hello."

She listened for a moment. It was obviously Katra's mother, but she was screaming so loud, Sara couldn't make out any words. Finally she pulled the handset away from her ear.

"It's for you."

"For me or the demon?" Katra asked.

"Very funny. It's your mother."

"Oh, great. She's probably wondering why I'm not hanging out at the bowling alley picking up men. She wants a grandchild so bad it hurts--me."

Still, she took the phone. "Hello."

Katra listened, obviously able to get a little more from her mother's screaming than Sara had.

After a minute or so, the screaming died down and Katra hung up the phone. She glared at Jack. "What did you do?"

"Three wishes." He paused, then looked at Sara. "Next."

Since Katra's mother screamed like that over winning a free burger in the McDonalds' scratch-off game, Sara hadn't taken the call too seriously. But Katra looked like she was going to faint. "What's the story with your mother?"

"That's what I need to find out," Katra answered. "Are you going to be all right if I go home? Either my mother has flipped out or my wishes just came true."

"I'll be fine," Sara told her. "If he could hurt me, he would have hurt both of us by now."

"I don't mind waiting. You can make your wishes and then let your demon go."

"Did your mother say there's a man waiting for you?" Could it be a coincidence that a man had showed up just after Katra had made her wishes?

Katra nodded. "That's what she said."

"Then you'd better get over there." Sara stared at the demon trying to suppress the truly randy thoughts that his naked torso created in her mind. "Are you planning on zapping me or something if Katra leaves?" Sara asked the demon.

He gave the two women a scowl. "I promised I would just leave you with your wishes. I am not planning on hurting you."

She might be crazy, but she trusted him. "Tell you what," she told Katra. "Call me in an hour and if I don't answer have my grandmother send out her minister. A few shots of holy water should keep this fellow under control."

"Maura's church doesn't use holy water."

"Well have him pick some up. Do I have to do everything around here?"

Both women giggled again. Men might come and go, but a friend was a special thing.

"You'd better get before your new boyfriend gets bored waiting for you," Sara observed.

Katra looked worried. She got.

Chapter 2

Sara walked to her kitchen, grabbed an old bottle of wine out of the refrigerator, and poured herself a tumbler full. She swigged down half the glass. The liquid felt harsh going down, reminding her of why she didn't drink. She took another large slug and felt a little more in control of herself.

"I'm waiting," the demon reminded her.

A horrible sense of guilt swept over her. Her grandmother had raised her with Southern manners. "Would you like a glass?"

He shrugged. "I'm waiting for you to free me."

She poured him a glass, set it next to the ward, then lifted it up with a fireplace tongs and handed it to Jack. "Cheers."

He didn't look happy but he took a sip. His face twisted in distaste. "Demons are hard to poison."

"I only use it for cooking. I don't really know what's good." She took another sip, using the time it bought her to think about the insane ideas that were going through her head, about whether she dared set him free, and whether she would have the strength to send him to Hell. Even if he was a demon, he probably had friends, maybe little baby demons waiting for his return from a day at the office. Or did demons have babies? Or wives? The idea of a girl-demon waiting for Jack to come home made her distinctly uncomfortable.

"Don't waste your pity on me," Jack told her. He made a small gesture with one hand. "Try it now."

She took another sip from her glass. The flavor had completely changed. Her heart sank like the Titanic. Until now, some part of her had still wanted to believe Jack wasn't what he appeared to be. Turning her kitchen wine into a taste sensation convinced her in a way nothing flashy would have. He was the genuine article.

"That wasn't a wish," she protested.

"Merely a repayment of hospitality." He raised an eyebrow. "I didn't want you to sicken before you free me."

"I liked you better before you got nice." What was she doing? She couldn't be flirting with a demon she had caged up in her living room.

"Don't count on it."

Well, that squelched that. She plopped down on her couch and stared at the demon. He had to be getting uncomfortable. She and Katra hadn't been thinking of anything so large when they'd drawn the wards.

"I don't know what to do with you," she admitted.

"Make your wishes and I'm gone. It's easy."

"Why am I suspicious that Katra's wishes won't turn out the way she thinks?" Sara had read this plot before. Wishes always came with strings. Until she knew which of them was the puppet and which the master, she wasn't going to touch the bait.

The supposed demon stared at her. His eyes glittered like the darkest, bluest sapphires--in fact, she could actually see the star in them. His body almost trembled with anticipation. He ran a tongue over his lips--a tongue without a fork, Sara was glad to see. She didn't know what she would have done if he had a snake tongue to match his bat wings.

The sensuous quiver that passed through her body could have been fear, or it could have been a purely sexual response to the intense maleness he exuded. Probably a little of both, Sara admitted to herself.

"I can't be responsible for your suspicions." He paused for a moment, staring at her. "Sara. It's your turn. Three wishes. Then set me free."

She decided to ask her question again. "Will Katra be happy with her wishes?"

Jack looked sad. "Demons cannot create happiness. That comes from within and, uh," he glared at the ceiling, "elsewhere."

She'd already noticed he had a way of avoiding questions he didn't want to answer. "All right, did she wish wisely?"

"She wished for what anyone would want. Enough wealth for comfort, love and family, and freedom."

The more he evaded her questions, the more he convinced Sara he was hiding something--something important. "And will she get those?"

"Does anyone--"

"Answer me yes or no."

He considered her for a moment before answering. "No."

Sara collapsed to the floor. "I was afraid of that."

"Could you release my bonds? It would be more comfortable to discuss your wishes if I was freed from this cage."

Each time Jack moved, he brushed against the blue lines that contained him. Each time, his body convulsed in pain.

She'd never been able to stand seeing a bug in pain, let alone a handsome male. Still, her brain warred against her heart. She'd read enough of her mother's book to know that setting loose a demon in the middle of Dallas would be like launching a nuclear strike.

"I'm very sorry," she told him. "I'm afraid to let you go."

He stared at her, letting his sapphire-blue eyes explore her form until they seemed to peer deep beneath her surface. "You have claustrophobia, don't you?"

He really could see within her. She'd never admitted her weakness to anyone, but that was part of the reason she'd chosen to become a petroleum geologist--so she could spend her life outside. Of course her promise to her parents had also played a major role. Had they suffered from a similar problem?


"My feelings are similar. I can't stretch, can't extend my wings, can't really move. I must get out."


"If you don't let me out, I can make your life quite unpleasant."

All of the sympathy she'd started to feel vanished at his threat.

She put her hands on her hips and stepped toward him. "Listen, if you think you can--"

Almost imperceptibly, his body tensed as she stepped closer. If she hadn't been quite so attuned to his muscular chest, his sexual frown, she might not have noticed. At the edge of the glowing blue line, she stopped short.

"You tried to trick me, into stepping across the barrier."

He sighed. "Of course."

Jack sensed time getting away from him. It was an unusual feeling. With all the time in the universe to contemplate their fate, demons learn patience. Being trapped in a cage so close to freedom was worse than any type of claustrophobia Sara might understand. Something would discover him, held helpless, before too very long. When it did, he would be in trouble. In that case, the best he could hope for was an angel to send him straight back to Hell. The worst was that he might be discovered by another freed demon.

"How come you can change my wine and grant Katra's wishes, but you can't hurt me?" Sara demanded.

"Your wards keep me from leaving. They don't hold in my powers. If I wanted to hurt you, I could." If he wanted to spend a painful part of his existence trapped in a magician's wards while every demon and angel under creation tortured him. He had to get out of here.

"Why won't Katra get what she was hoping for?"

At least Sara was still interested in her wishes. He kept looking for the strings he needed to pull. "I'm compelled to find loopholes."

She seemed puzzled. "Can you give me an example?"

"Do you wish me to?"

She laughed. "You must think I'm pretty stupid. I'm not going to waste a wish on that."

He shrugged again. "Then this one is free. Let's suppose you wished for peace on earth. Since peace sounds exactly like p-i-e-c-e, I could grant your wish by having sex with you lying in the dirt. Piece on earth. Your wish is gone. It's simple, really."

Sara backed away from the wards as if they would burn her rather than him. He couldn't believe he found this human female sexually attractive but, quite obviously, he did. He was probably echoing Sara's obvious desire. It was the kind of weakness that could get him destroyed.

Pull yourself together, girl, Sara urged herself. There was no way he could know she'd temporarily lost control of her fantasies.

"Of course that is what you were thinking of wishing for, isn't it?" For just an instant, Jack's eyes seemed to hold all the wisdom of the universe, and a sadness that would crush any woman's heart.

"I suppose you read my mind?"

"It isn't hard. I could teach you to do it, for a wish."

Sara had imagined loving a man who could actually know her desires without her having to ask. Now she knew she wasn't ready for it in real life. Not all of her thoughts needed to be shared with the entire world. Certainly she didn't want to be bombarded by the thoughts of those around her. That was probably the loophole here. "What else can you see?"

"I see that you're looking for a man." He shook his head. "Finding the right man won't be easy."

"Why? What's wrong with me?" Sara might never be asked to pose for the cover of Glamour, but she didn't think she was that hard on the eyes.

"You won't settle for a guy just because he's cute and willing. Also, you don't put on the little-girl-lost act like your friend Katra. You intimidate the men you meet."

"I'll have you know that I'm very easy to get along with," Sara flared. She'd always worried that she could come off a little too much the intellectual. That didn't mean Jack had to rub her nose in it. "I have a lot of friends and I have interesting hobbies, and I'm a geologist so I make good money and meet a lot of people through work."

"Oh, yes. Let's not forget about that little thing you have with your temper."

"That's ridiculous." Sara stepped toward the exasperating male, her fists in balls. At the glowing wards, she stopped abruptly. "I don't have a temper."

Jack laughed. "I'm not saying it isn't pretty, but then again, what attracts me may not attract the human male. What I am saying is that any man who you'd be happy with would be someone special. Someone who can keep you under control."

Had Jack said he was attracted to her? It would be evil to tease her like this if he wasn't interested. Of course, he was a demon. Jack was supposed to be evil.

The rest of what he'd said finally penetrated. Keep her under control? "That's the most sexist, egotistical, chauvinist, ugly thing anyone has ever said to me." She was angry enough to spit. Unfortunately, all spitting would do was prove Jack right.

"If you say so," Jack grinned. "I'm not saying I can't do it, you know. Just that it'll be hard to find a man for you. One that wants to stick around for a while anyway. But go ahead, make your wishes. I need to get along with my business."

"Don't rush me."

Sara was attracted to him, that was obvious to Jack. Unfortunately, her attraction just made her more suspicious. He'd have to find some way around this block.

"So tell me, what should I wish for?"

"How should I know what you want?" He hoped she wouldn't notice he hadn't answered her question.

"You're a demon, and you already said you can read my mind. So tell me. And don't try to twist your answer around, either."

"Maybe you should wish for what your friend wished for. Happiness in love, comfort in her surroundings, and enough wealth to enjoy life and contribute to the betterment of others."

"And maybe I shouldn't, huh? You can do better than that."

"I won't tell you what to wish for."

Sara took one step closer to the wards.

Jack inhaled. Her scent revealed much about Sara. Her confusion, fear, and sexual interest in him all showed as strongly as words on a page. Sara's reaction to him heightened his own sexual awareness of her. He hadn't experienced desire for hundreds of years, but he'd never forgotten.

This could be a very bad idea. Jack didn't trust himself around human women. They didn't play by the same rules demons did.

"What happens when I let you go?"

When Sara had first summoned him, he'd felt a sense of relief so profound it had almost let him forget the tortures he constantly endured. With every passing moment, the wards pressed more tightly against him.

"I promised I wouldn't hurt you."

"But you will hurt others."

"I let people hurt themselves. It's simple, really."

"I'll just bet." She looked sad. "I can't let you go."

Panic welled over him at the certainty he saw in her stance. "I can't hurt anyone who doesn't deserve it."

She laughed. "You mean you can't hurt the one percent of us who has never done anything wrong? That's not good enough. I'm not much of a church-goer anymore, but I was raised right. Setting a demon free on Dallas isn't the type of thing I was brought up to do."

His wing brushed against the ward and the ethereal shock jolted him again.

"I'll send you back as soon as I can."

Panic shot through him. "No!" He forced himself to take a deep breath, almost as if he had been human and needed to breath. "Imagine the smallest cupboard in your kitchen, one you can hardly get into. Then imagine it pressing in on you until you couldn't breath, couldn't move, couldn't do anything but feel the weight of the earth pressing against you and the heat of the fire burning on your skin. That's what you brought me from. Compared to that, this prison is a vast paradise."

He watched carefully for her reaction. Most humans would see only the power this gave them. If Sara took that path, he might have to serve as her slave for a time, but sooner or later, he would have his freedom and her soul.

Sara's face crumpled. She was thinking about her own claustrophobia, he knew. He'd hit too close to home. "It seems that I'm stuck."

"Not if you can make the right wishes. If you make them ironclad, you can protect yourself and everyone around you." That was the theory. In practice, it had never happened.

"You think you're pretty smart, don't you?" she demanded.

For the first time he could remember, Jack laughed for real. His surprise was so complete, he pulled himself out of it almost instantly. "You're joking, right? I'm a demon, remember. That means I was involved in the single stupidest decision in the history of the universe. Add to that what happened today. I, a supposed Prince of Demons, was captured by two sex-deprived humans with enough talent between them to, maybe, make a coin flip heads fifty-one times out of a hundred, and I'm being held captive by a hill of salt. Oh, yes. That makes me brilliant."

"Are you really a prince?"

"A lot of us are. Being a prince of demons is sort of like being head of a cell block. You'd a lot rather be somewhere else."

Sara touched her tongue to her lips, then folded her arms under her breasts. From another woman, both gestures would have been provocative, challenging. From Sara, they were exciting in the way that only innocence can excite.

"What would you wish for?"

He smiled bitterly. "I'm a demon. I can have anything I want."


"Except what really matters, of course."

"That sounds depressing."

"Try it for a few thousand years and then we'll talk depression."

"Have you ever thought about becoming something else?"

"That isn't possible."

"What if I wish it?"

"Wishes don't work that way."

"Do you know what Katra and I were doing in our seance before you showed up?"

"I wasn't paying attention. I was going about my business when I got sucked in like Dorothy and the Oz thing."

"What we were doing in our seance was calling for my perfect mate."

"Yeah? Well, make a wish and I'll yank up the best that's available right now."

"I think it's too late for that."

His stomach sank. He didn't like the thoughts floating on the surface of her brain.

"What are you talking about?"

"I think you're my perfect mate."

Chapter Three

Katra tried to keep her heartbeat under control as she shifted her aging Chevy Corsica into gear. Her car hadn't felt so solid for years. Just additional confirmation that things were finally going right in her life. She forced herself to grin. Who would have guessed a seance could lead to this.

The aging double-wide she shared with her mother and sister needed jacking up and a paint job. Well, they wouldn't have to worry about that. Now that she'd won the lottery, Katra figured they could move into something a little more comfortable.

Today being her day for miracles, she even found a parking place only one door down in the trailer park--next to a shining Jaguar. Now that was definitely new. Nobody in the trailer park drove anything like that.

Katra slammed her car door and headed for home.

"Mom, it's me."

"Hello, darling daughter." Her mother met her at the door simpering. When Minnie talked like that, Katra knew she was in big trouble. In general, the only thing that kept her mother from being permanently glued to the television set was sleep.

"Hi mom, what's up?"

"You have someone to see you." Minnie's sing-song voice was another giveaway. Minnie wheeled her massive body out of the way, letting Katra see who was waiting.

Katra forced herself to look. What kind of man was Jack likely to choose? For that matter, who dated women on a demon's orders? This just might have been a bad idea after all.

The man was gorgeous. Dressed in an unstructured linen suit over a black t-shirt, he could have stepped off the cover of GQ. His slightly long blond hair hung over his collar giving him the air of a Saxon pirate.

"Well, hello," the vision purred.

She stuck her hand out and stepped forward. "I'm Katra O'Hara."

The man looked at her hand for a moment then broke into a white-teethed grin. "I'm devastated that you don't remember me, Katra."

He hardly looked devastated. In fact, he looked good enough to eat. Not that Katra believed in doing that. At least not on a first date. She wracked her brain but came up empty. "I'm afraid I don't."

"Derrick Benton. We were in Chemistry together."

"Derrick saw the announcement about you being teacher of the month in the Morning News," her mother gushed. "He said he was too shy to ask you out in high school."

More good news. He wasn't just some sneaky vulture who'd heard about her lottery winnings. With Minnie for a mother, word would definitely have gotten around.

"He doesn't look shy any more," Katra's sister Mona observed. Katra couldn't remember the last time Mona had worn anything but a nightshirt around the house. Now she was wearing a cocktail dress--Katra's only nice cocktail dress--and pearls. The extra fifty pounds Mona carried around made it certain that the dress would be Mona's from now on.

Mona was right, though. Derrick didn't look shy. Katra didn't have any memory of Derrick being shy in High School either. He'd bounced between cheerleaders starting when he was a freshman.

"I've been living in Seattle but recently moved back to Dallas," Derrick explained. "When I saw your name, I thought I would look you up." He paused a moment. "You look great."

Yeah, sure. Katra had a sneaking suspicion she smelled like fire and brimstone after her run-in with Jack. She hadn't bothered with makeup since she had planned on spending the day helping Katra clean her storage shed, and her jeans had big rips in the knees and in the seat. Perfect.

"What were you doing in Seattle?" she asked. If she could just trust her mother and sister for ten minutes, she would run into her room and change. The way Mona looked at Derrick, though, Katra wasn't sure he would survive even five.

"I worked for a software company." Derrick smiled. "Microsoft bought them and I ended up without a job and with a pile of money. So I came home. I figured I'd look around and maybe start something myself."

"Software. I don't remember you being one of the computer jocks at school."

Derrick laughed easily. "Not programming. That's too much like work. In sales, all you have to do is talk the game. Trust me, I can manage that part."

Katra didn't doubt it. She also didn't doubt that he must be having second thoughts about his visit about now, what with the trailer park and her mother in a moomoo. A hundred and eighty pounds of Mona vamping like there was no tomorrow could put off even a dedicated boyfriend, let alone someone she barely remembered from high school. Of course, Katra smelling like fire and brimstone only made things worse. "Why don't you wait out here for a couple of minutes while I change. Give me ten minutes and I'll buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

He cast a quick look at Mona. "Uh, maybe I could wait in your bedroom. You know, talk to you while you changed."

If she hadn't seen that glance, Katra would have been concerned she had a pervert on her hands. Since she had, she felt only sympathy. Mona could try the patience of a saint. And Derrick definitely didn't look saintly. Thank goodness.

"All right, I'll change in the bathroom and you can talk to me through the door." She opened her bedroom door, then wished she'd thought before opening her mouth. Stockings and bras hung drying from every doorknob and yesterday's jeans were still plopped at the foot of the bed where she'd dropped them before collapsing last night.

She took a deep breath. Well, no point in hiding the real Katra from Derrick. Sooner or later he'd discover who she really was. "The place is a mess but if you can stand it, you're welcome."

Derrick didn't seem disgusted. He looked around, his gray eyes taking in everything in the room as if he was a cop or something rather than a software sales guy.

"Sit on the bed," she offered. At least she'd made it that morning. When he complied, she made a quick tour of the room, scooped up most of her laundry, and headed for the bathroom.

What she saw in the mirror had probably frightened Sara's Demon let alone an innocent salesman. She turned on the faucet and plunged her face into the water. "So who have you kept in touch with since school?" she sputtered once she'd caught her breath. It was a desperate attempt to find something to talk about.

"Hardly anybody," he answered. He named the football team's quarterback, three of the cheerleaders, and the class president. "How about you?"

"Just Lena Bovade who teaches at my school and Sara Slocum. Remember her?"

"Blonde, skinny, brain-and-a-half, liked bad boys but didn't put out?"

It wasn't the kindest description but it was definitely Sara. "Yeah. She's a petroleum geologist now and we're still best friends."

Katra hunted through the stack of bras until she found the miracle one, then pulled a thin low-cut sweater from her closet and finished the outfit off with a pair of tight-fit black slacks. Dressed like that, she wasn't afraid of anything or anybody.

"Wow," Derrick breathed as she emerged from the bathroom. "You're definitely all grown up now."

Katra fought back a momentary and completely irrational disappointment. She'd chosen to dress sexy and he appreciated it. What had she expected?

"I'm not looking for a lover forever, just for a while," Sara told Jack, explaining her irrational offer to herself as much as to him. "It's not like you don't find me attractive." If she'd read that wrong, she'd take herself out back and put herself out of her misery.

The demon reeled back as if struck by Sara's words. Despite his unpleasant earlier experiences, he brushed against the wards. Again, his touch set off a storm of blue sparks.

"I'm a demon," Jack protested. "You were looking for a boyfriend. Well, just ask. I'll get you one like I got Katra. That's probably why your magic brought me."

"I asked for a boyfriend. I didn't ask for someone to grant me a wish."

Jack sighed. "Are you always this illogical or did you damage something when you cast that spell?"

He was still trying to make her mad, Sara could see that. Still, he had a point. What did it say about her if the spirits of the earth thought her perfect date was a demon straight out of Hell?

"Ten minutes ago you were saying that I should look at things more rationally. Well, ration this. I was looking for my perfect mate, casting magic, calling my perfect mate. Then you showed up. We made a pentacle and it's so strong you can't escape it. If the magic didn't work, what are you doing here? If it did work, you're it."

"I can't be your perfect mate."

Sara had to agree with that. What the magic had to be telling her was that there was no perfect mate for her. That she would have to make do with a purely physical relationship. Still, despite a few minor irregularities, like bat-wings and horns, Jack definitely looked like he could hold up his own end on the physical side. She'd been good for too long. If she wasn't going to be happy-ever-after, at least she could work on happy-right-now.

"You'll do."

Jack sank to the floor. He moved with a boneless grace that made Sara's insides quiver.

"Couldn't you just take your three wishes and let me go?" he demanded.

She sucked in a quivering breath. Maybe she had misread him. She wasn't the world's leading expert on males, by a long shot. And demon males might be different from human males. It wasn't as if she'd force him to go to bed with her. She'd rather go without than be anyone's pity-lover. Still, Jack's look held more than a little desire. And she couldn't remember having felt this randy even when she'd been in high school and Mike Soesby had taken her to the prom.

"Just tell me what's wrong with my reasoning," she demanded, "if you can. I didn't ask for my soul mate to be a demon you know."

Jack turned his deep blue eyes up at her. "Women always think they are going to save the bad boy. Well, it never works. Besides, a demon is worse than any bad boy who ever lived. We can't be saved."

She winced. He was hitting below the belt with that since her history was littered with bad boys and broken hopes. She decided to give it one more try. "Don't be patronizing and answer the question."

Jack sighed and crushed his fingers into fists so tight his knuckles turned white. "You're a human and I'm a demon."

"Mixed species, huh?" It sounded gross, and maybe Jack thought about her like she would about her cat. "If you honestly don't desire me, you're off the hook?"

Sara held her breath. She wanted to cover her ears closed rather than listen to Jack's reply but had to hear.

"Of course I desire you. I'm a demon."

"You keep saying that like it's the worst thing in the world."

"Not only the world. The worst thing in creation."

"Spare me. You have power and you can't tell a lie. Most girls would kill for a man like that."

"Girls who hang around with demons learn to kill, if they live long enough."

She shuddered, but she could see through his strategy. "Well, I'm not planning on hanging around with you that long. I'm just looking for a good time and I think you're it. I guess I'll just have to settle for one handsome devil tonight."

Jack shook his head as if he couldn't believe her foolishness. "I could get you a guy a lot better looking than me. One missing the horns and the bat-wings." He gave a slow, easy spread of his wings and hovered inches from the ground. "These little accessories make trips to the beach a little outre."

"I don't like the beach."

Jack's eyes narrowed. "All right, this is my final offer. In addition to good looking, he'll have a decent job and won't mess around any more than the average guy."

She sighed.

"I'm not done," Jack protested. "Also, I'll find some intelligent. I'll even make sure he has a sense of humor."

Sara folded her arms across her chest and stared at him. His eyes followed her movement, lingered on her breasts for just a second.

A thrill shivered through her at the brush of his awareness, his unstated acknowledgment of her as a woman. "You don't listen too good, do you? You're stuck with me. Besides, there isn't a guy in the world with a decent sense of humor. They all think the Three Stooges are funny."

He looked confused. "The Three Stooges are funny."


Jack's lips curled up. "All right you got me. But I'm not a guy."

He might not be a human, but Sara's internal radar told her he definitely was all guy. "Jack, get it through your horned skull. I don't want your three wishes. I don't trust you to deliver them. What I trust is the magic that brought you here."

Jack set his jaw and glared at her.

He looked so darned cute she was almost tempted to jump across the glowing blue wards and pat him on the head. That definitely wouldn't be a good idea.

Cute wasn't a word she would normally have associated with a six-foot plus demon with a build that a human would spend years in the gym trying to cultivate. If she stretched it, his little horns might be classified as cute. If he combed his hair right, they probably wouldn't be visible at all. Folded down or not, his bat wings weren't cute. What they were was interesting. Were they fully functional, she wondered? Could he pick her up in those strong arms and fly across Dallas like Superman with Lois Lane in the old movies? That would be sexy, not cute.

What made Jack really attractive, she realized, went beyond the physical. Demon or not, he was the only male she'd ever known who would really listen when she talked, who acted like she mattered not because she was a potential sex partner, but because she had something special to say. He might sulk a little, but Jack didn't seem to think it was his god-given right to have her fall at his feet. Tempting though that might be.

Jack stared at the hardwood floor for a moment, a faint gleam in his eye. His hand blurred as he raised it over his head, then plunged it into the floor.

The oak planks shattered at his touch, but his hand splashed back, burning with more of the blue sparks. "Damn."

"It isn't that easy to escape your fate," Sara told him. "I'm resolved to bear up to mine. Maybe you should do the same."

"Don't get philosophical on me. Just let me go."

"I've heard that demons make great lovers. Why don't you show me."

Jack shook his head. Could his sapphire-blue eyes actually hold regret? "Demons do not make good lovers."

"How come?" With a body like his and the male equipment barely hidden under his leather pants, Jack would turn female heads in a convent.

"We make lousy lovers because we hurt our partners. Not just emotionally. Physically."

A little physical pain went a long way for Sara. "Are you just saying that?"

"I told you I couldn't lie."

"But why?"

"We lose control." He cast his eyes around the room, searching for something. Finally he spotted a quartz crystal she had picked up during a visit to Arkansas. "Is that rock important to you?"

"Not particularly."

"May I have it?"

She picked it up and started to hand it to him, then stopped. "You want me to reach inside the wards, don't you?"

"Let's just say I have mixed feelings."

She tossed him the crystal. It passed through the glowing ward without slowing.

Jack caught the stone, stared at it, then squeezed his hand together.

Powdered crystal sifted through his fingers, the dust sprinkling onto the floor.

"That was not difficult," he explained. "Imagine what would happen to your body if I lost control, even for a moment. Do you dare trust me to stay in control of myself?"

"Hum?" Sara stared at the small mound of sand on the floor of Jack's star-shaped cage. Even if she wasn't looking for forever, could a demon who couldn't be sexual without ripping her to shreds really be her perfect mate? But was Jack right about his control? Could he be exaggerating the danger?

"I'm not exaggerating," he told her.

She started, then glared at him. She'd have to get used to the mind-reading thing.

"I have a low tolerance for emotion," he continued. "I get drunk on it."

Sara wanted to run but the smallest sag in Jack's shoulders stopped her. He looked like he hated this part of himself as much as she did. She wracked her brain, hoping for a storm. "Maybe you need to build up your resistance. How long has it been between lovers?"

"Hundreds of years," Jack admitted. "I didn't like the cleanup afterwards. Even if you're right though, how many women would you want to sacrifice until I have built up enough resistance to control my urges? Do you have any friends you want to volunteer?"

The wards glowed a brighter, paler blue as he leaned toward her. His eyes pierced into her soul, daring her to answer the question he must be thinking was as difficult as the riddle of the sphinx.

"Hum?" The seeds of a terribly enticing idea started percolating through Sara's brain. "Perhaps you need assistance in keeping your control."

"I'm not--" Jack broke off when he caught her eyes. "No. That's impossible."

"It really isn't that different from where you are now."

"Tying me down to your bed and having your way with my body is a very bad idea."

The wards pinned Jack's arms and legs to the four corners of the bed, their strength holding the bed together, preventing him from using his strength to simply rip the iron headboard into scrap metal.

"Are you comfortable?" Sara's voice was soft and throaty.

"Demons are never comfortable."

She reached into a bowl and removed a large chunk of ice. "I thought you might want to cool down."

The fires that burned him came from inside rather than without, but he didn't protest when she brought the fist-sized ice crystal to his chest.

"I'm a little afraid of what we're doing," Sara confessed.

He read her, learning that none of her three previous lovers had ever allowed her to control the pace of their lovemaking. For better or, most likely, worse, that would change tonight.

"Be afraid," he urged. "It isn't too late to stop." Desire racked his body and cursed him for a fool in arguing against what she wanted, what he wanted.

"Don't spoil it."

She slid the ice across his chest, down the ridges of his abdomen. Sara was breathing a little faster now and her own heat flushed her face. "It melts so fast."

"My body temperature is higher than yours." Jack intended to speak calmly but the sensations of Sara's warm soft fingers mixed with those from the cold hard ice to create an experience he'd never felt before, never considered even possible. He ended his sentence in a gasp as she brought the ice to the line created by his pants and ran it across his lower abdomen.

"You like it," Sara breathed. "Why not admit it?" She felt empowered, he knew. Well, she should. Her wards held him as if he was the weakest imp.

"Maybe," he admitted.

"Do you bite?"

"Maybe," he repeated.

"Let's find out." She brought her lips down, brushing against his own, then passing to blow lightly into his ear.

A tremor wrenched his body as his instincts warred with his control. He could still command his body, but barely. Sara's actions, her pure appeal, endangered both of them. No one, human or demon, had ever aroused him so completely.

"Stay calm." She breathed the words into his ear. The combination of sound and touch sharpened his need.

His erection swelled, aching to be free from the confining pants. He signaled his body to loose some of his pent-up heat to burn them off, leave him naked. No response except a brightening of the blue wards that held him to the bed. She'd warded against his magic as well.

Sara looked at him disappointed. "You are straining against the wards. Do I have to tighten them?"

"Don't toy with me," he warned. "I won't always be tied to your bed."

Sara laughed. "Maybe you're right. I'd better take advantage of the situation while I can."

She ran her tongue down his neck. "Umm, you taste good."

She smelled good. Only it was more than just a scent. She might be playing at wickedness now, but Sara was anything but evil. Jack inhaled her goodness, at war with himself between the pain it caused and its brief reminder of long-denied heaven.

Sara cut off Jack's melancholy thoughts by kissing him.

This kiss started with a brush of lips against lips, but she didn't move on as she had before. Instead, she deepened the touch, pressing harder against his lips, nibbling at them with her teeth.

Without thought, he opened his mouth. Did he intend to speak, to protest, to bite? He wasn't even sure himself. Then it didn't matter. Sara seized her moment of advantage and plunged her tongue into his own mouth.

His own tongue met hers, thrusting against it, then yielding again. She tasted of strawberries and nature and earth.

A splash touched his face. He opened his eyes without knowing they had been shut and watched another tear fall from her eye and strike his cheek. "You kiss beautifully," she told him.

"Did I hurt you?"

"I'm hurting myself."

He couldn't argue with that. He was the tool in her self-destruction. Now, though, he'd passed his limits. He didn't want her to stop. Instead, he wanted, needed, this sexual union. He craved her even more painfully because he knew she could never give him more than a brief respite from the agony. Human women didn't give themselves to demons. They had to be tricked. But not Sara. Sara had shed tears for him. It was clearly impossible. "I'm sorry," he said.

"Oh don't be sappy." She kissed him again, hard but without opening her mouth to let his tongue retrace its exploration.

She pulled away, her amber eyes stared into his own, then traced the form of his body spread-eagled on her bed.

"I'm wondering why you are still wearing your pants."

Sara's hands trembled as she slid her sewing scissors up the hem of his pants and snipped.

Jack jerked, moving so quickly she almost lost her grip on the leather fabric. Had she hurt him? A terrible though occurred to her. "These aren't part of you, are they?"

Jack laughed. She loved it when he laughed. It made him more human, somehow, and yet more perfect as well.

"They're just clothes, like you're wearing."

The hint was a little broad but she ignored it. Sara felt more comfortable with the idea of a naked demon in her bed than she did with her own nudity. Her previous lovers had mocked her slender figure. Would Jack be disappointed?

The swelling beneath his leather pants gave her hope that Jack would find her exciting despite her limited assets.

She eased the scissors up and snipped again.

His legs trembled against her touch as she moved the scissors up again.

"Do you need more ice?"

"No." He almost croaked the answer.

"I think you do. But I need to finish this first." She did need to. If she stopped, she knew she couldn't continue. She'd never been the aggressor, never demanded that a man satisfy her needs. Instead, men had their way, then rolled over and went to sleep. Jack wouldn't roll anywhere until she was ready.

Sara gave the scissors one more cut, then slid the sharp blades up the leg in a continuous ripping tear.

His right leg lay completely bared. It wasn't hairy, which surprised her a little, but it was fully muscled, glowing with heat. A pulse beat in an artery across the top of his thigh.

She bent and kissed the pulse where it throbbed. Did demons have blood? From the heat, Jack could have liquid fire flowing through his body.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw his excitement stretching a tent of the remnants of his pants.

"You like that, don't you?" she asked.

"I am not immune to pleasure."

She reached into the ice bucket and selected another frozen block. "Let me know if this hurts."

"You can't hurt me." Did his voice sound regretful? Surely that didn't make sense.

"Good." She pressed the ice to the artery, then traced its path up his thigh toward Jack's still-covered hips.

"Oh, Sara." Had he named her before? She didn't think so. She liked the way her name sounded on his lips.

She knew their's was a physical thing. Jack was right about their lack of a future together, but she was a woman. She wanted to at least pretend there was something more here.

Her hand rested on his upper thigh only inches from where his arousal beckoned. The entire cube had melted. As she watched, the water evaporated from Jack's hot skin.

With one hand, Sara reached for another cube. With the other, for his erection.

"Oh, yes." The words seemed to drag themselves from Jack's unwilling mouth.

"Oh my." If she'd harbored any remaining doubts about him being a man in a costume, they were gone now. If the rest of his body was warm, his erection burned. If the rest of his body was large and well formed, his penis was huge and, perfect.

"I'm not sure--"

"You can stop." Jack's expression warred with his words. He didn't want her to stop. That was obvious. Did she dare continue? She wasn't playing with a toy. She was handling something powerful, something that could hurt her.

She brought the hand with the ice to his scrotum, then pressed her lips to the head.

Jack groaned the agony, or excitement.

Jack's hips bucked in desire and need, making her wish she could please all of him with her mouth.

"Save that for when you need it," she urged.

"Trust me, it will be there."

She straddled his hips pressing the dampness of her jeans against his hardness and ran her hands down his chest. Her grandmother had claimed that demons were angels, banished from heaven. Jack looked like a tortured angel.

He groaned, then arched his back, pressing his hips against hers, ignoring the shower of sparks from the wards she'd set to keep him from moving. His eyes darkened, the star in its pupil elongating like that of a cat.

"Take off your clothes."

She wasn't sure if he was ordering or begging. Either way, she didn't intend to let him take command.

"You'll never learn control if you rush," Sara reminded him.

"I'll never learn control around a woman like you. You must be part demon yourself."

"You wouldn't say that if you'd met my parents." From what she could remember, they had been as sexually repressed a pair as possible. From what she'd seen, her birth was something of a miracle. Certainly she'd never been blessed by siblings.

"You're beautiful," he told her.

Sara's hands trembled as she unbuttoned her blouse. Would he laugh? If he did, she was going to take her old boyfriend Ralph's advice and get her breasts operated on.

Jack's eyes darkened further until she could barely distinguish the difference between black pupil and midnight blue iris. "So beautiful," he repeated as she slid the blouse down her arms.

He wet his lips--an instinctive gesture she could tell he hadn't intended.

That, more than his words, persuaded her that he meant it. He found her body attractive, compelling, and special. That knowledge gave her the confidence to unhook her brassiere.

Sweat beaded on Jack's forehead. Even through her jeans, his heat seared her. A rush of power she'd never imagined swept over her. He hadn't rejected her. His eyes fastened on her small breasts as if they were great treasures.

Sara leaned forward until her body touched his. She brushed her lips against his, but continued, sliding her knees to his waist.

Jack caught one of her breasts in his mouth, nipped down its hardened point. If he lost control now, as he'd promised he would, she would be in real trouble.

Sara gritted her teeth in a panicked moment of fear, then forced herself to relax. She wasn't normally a risk taker, but this was different. She had no choice.

Jack's tongue swirled around her nipple bringing it to even greater peaks of arousal.

She moaned, pressing herself against him so he could take all of her breast into his mouth.

His small horns pressed against her face and she looked at them carefully for the first time. They were alive, a part of him rather than an appendage. She grasped one in her hand and pressed her mouth over it.

Jack shuddered.

She had found another erogenous zone. Demons could be such fun.

His mouth opened wider, tugged harder until her entire breast seemed absorbed into it. His tongue moved fast. Faster than she would have thought possible.

The sensation gathered in her breasts, then spilled down her spine to her womb, to where her clitoris pressed through her jeans against his erection.

"Oh." The mini-orgasm subsided and she pulled herself back. "I didn't know that was going to happen. I guess demons aren't the only ones who can lose control."

Jack nodded. "But you didn't rip me into pieces. Some might view that as a key difference."

It took her a moment to realize why he looked disappointed. "You really think we're stopping, don't you?"

"Why would you want to continue."

"Because we can do better."

Sara pulled herself away from his mouth, then stood next to the bed. She yanked at her jeans. Why hadn't she worn something impractical like a miniskirt and a thong bikini? Instead she had jeans and a pair of cotton briefs.

Jack's eyes said he didn't mind--that he approved of her the way she was. It hardly seemed possible, but Sara wasn't going to complain.

She stood, naked, and let him survey her, flaws and all.

"You are beautiful, inside and out." He spoke gravely, as if intending that she remember his words forever.

"As are you." Her voice came out breathy, excited. Well, no big surprise there. She cleared her throat. "Let me just get those pants the rest of the way off and we'll decide what to do next.

"Oh. Am I involved in the decision?"

She laughed. "You just get to sit back and take it."

"There are worse things."

She rip-cut the other leg of his pants leaving his body as naked as her own.

Her thighs burned with need for him, her womb ached to be filled with him. Still, she feared what would happen if she thrust herself on his erection.

Well, she'd said Jack needed to learn control. Both of them could learn it together.

She turned to the CD player near her bed and put on Vivaldi. Music should help.

"You can't kill a demon but you are coming close," Jack protested.

"You don't like Vivaldi?"

"You know what I mean."

She knelt over his head facing his body. He couldn't move, the wards held him in place, but his breath brushed against her as he tried to reach her with his intimate kiss.

Keeping herself just out of his reach, she leaned forward and seized his erection in her hands again.

"Oh, yes," he moaned.

Sara lowered herself just a fraction of an inch. Now his tongue could barely reach the folds of her womanhood, still short of her liquid core.

His tongue caressed, more gently than she would have dreamed possible.

Any of the men she had dated would have rolled her over now. Her body was prepared, lubricated, and ready. Her mind needed more. Would Jack have had the patience she needed if her wards did not hold him? Someday, perhaps soon, the answer to that question would matter more than anything in the world to her. For now, she let herself be swept away in the tender touch of his lips and tongue against hers.

Losing control for just a moment, Sara pressed herself harder against him. He responded, his tongue entering deep into her, finding that mythical G spot only Katra of her friends professed to believe in.

She tried to wriggle free but lacked the strength. Instead she spilled her hair over his erection and waited for the explosion she knew would come from within her.

It came.

Slowly, shaking, she pulled herself away from him, overly sensitized to his touch. "Thank you, Jack," she murmured. No one had ever had the patience to bring her to satisfaction that way. Not that she'd taken long. Jack made her as randy as a cat in heat.

Jack nodded. Waves of heat radiated from his body as if he was an oven. "It was my pleasure."

"Not entirely. But speaking of your pleasure."

Sara looked at his erection, still held in her two hands. There was no way that monster would fit inside of her. Still, if she stopped now, she would be the laughing stock of her girlfriends and, more importantly, would regret it forever.

I won't get pregnant with you, will I?"

"Not unless you wish it."

"Not. Not wishing it." She wanted to be very clear on that. An unplanned pregnancy would be hard enough without having to explain why her baby had bat wings.

She turned around to face him, then straddled his hips again. Doing this while naked was different, hugely different, than it had been with her jeans on.

She brushed herself against his arousal.

He moaned.

Slowly, she lowered herself two inches onto his swollen erection.

She felt like she would split. She felt as if she would never be happy again if she didn't go through with this.

She took a deep breath, afraid to go further, yet afraid to stop. She looked at him, seeking a clue.

Jack's eyes opened as if they'd always been shut, letting her see into him, into his thoughts, his desire, his need. For him, now, at least, his desire for her dominated all other thoughts. He needed her.

Perhaps nothing else could have given her the courage. Jack's need did.

She plunged herself down on him. If this killed her, what a way to go.

She heard herself scream. Not a death scream--instead, a cry of pleasure. Her body miraculously accommodated his, yet he filled her absolutely. His heat made her aware of every inch of her body--including inches she had been certain didn't exist.

She moved herself on him, feeling his texture against her length.

She lowered herself again, then bent and kissed him.

The wards showered both of them with sparks that felt like angel kisses as Jack's body found the rhythm that joined them.

Impossibly, so short a time after her orgasm, the pressure built up inside her again.

Jack moaned, his eyes glazed with desire.

She raked her nails across his hard chest and he bucked harder into her.

Sara clenched down with all of the muscles of her womb, holding him as if she could hold an angel against his will.

He shuddered.

The tingle of his seed inside of her released the last gasp of her restraint. She slammed her hips into his, taking all of him, then gave herself to the orgasm that swept over her like a sandstorm wiping out all vestiges of civilization.

His wings appeared from behind his back and pressed her against his chest, covering both of them, caressing, holding, protecting. Loving?

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