Carmella Ramirez ran a hand over her crimson silk-covered curves and smiled enticingly at the man following her down the alley in the dirty heat of Rio de Janeiro. Her innocent soul slept, blissfully unaware of the murder her body was about to commit. Sure the sinner would follow her, she walked faster down the alley with a little wiggle in her step.
“Hold on, baby.” The portly American tourist wiped the sweat streaming down his face out of his eyes with a red handkerchief. “You gotta give me a chance to catch up to that fine Brazilian ass of yours.”
The succubus using Carmella's body paused and spun on her six-inch black stiletto heel without even the slightest wiggle of the icepick-thin point. A woman would have been immediately suspicious of anyone who could skip without a wince down a dark alley in her shoes. She could easily read the tourist’s mind, and he thought her ability to walk down the cobblestone alley in heels high enough to give a hooker a nose bleed was merely a reflection of the sensuality that seemed to hang about the stunning brunette like a cloud of expensive perfume.
Dropping her voice to a soft purr, she gave him a smile that sent a tasty wave of lust her way. “It's just a little farther.” She stalked over to him and ran her slim, bronze fingers through his hair. Pressing her hips against his, she gave a thrusting gyration that made him gasp. With a soft breath, she murmured, “I can't wait to show you this club. It is going to blow your mind.”
He panted against her then popped a mint-scented antacid into his mouth. “I'm not so sure about this. I don't even speak Mexican.”
The succubus tried to keep from rolling her eyes. He had to come of his own free will, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t stack the odds in her favor. “Don't worry. I'll take good care of you.” She searched the man's mind for his hidden desires and found the right words to say in order to get him to follow her. “I've never told anyone this…” She traced the man's lips with the fingertips of the stolen mortal body. “But I've always wanted to dress up like a pirate and be punished for my wicked deeds. If you come to the club with me, we could play with their toys. Floggers, canes, maybe a strap to make my ass red before you fuck me.”
The pulse in his temple throbbed in a rapid beat, and the succubus hoped he didn't keel over right here. His soul was exactly what they needed tonight. Young and newly married, this pitiful man repeatedly defiled his sacred covenant to his wife with whores during his business trips.
“Have you…” The man licked his lips and groped her ass like a pillow in need of fluffing. “Have you been a naughty girl?”
He went to kiss her, tongue first, and she spun away from him with a giggle. “Let's hurry. I don't want all the equipment to be gone by the time we get there.”
Heels clicking against the concrete, she moved deeper into the alley and stopped below a small white neon sign hanging over a black-painted door. Two enormous garbage bins piled with boxes blocked the view to the street. His hands found her ass again as she knocked an elaborate rhythm on the door. The magical warding on the entrance repulsed her, but the lust and passion it protected made her want to tear the steel down with her bare hands. She could shred the metal as easily as soft cheese if it wasn’t for the wards embedded into the building. Fucking magicians were always spoiling her fun.
The heavy, black metal door swung open, and lust poured out in visible waves that the succubus bathed in with a shudder. To her lust was a cool, delicious drink of power that she craved. She ignored the muffled scream of the man next to her as two brawny men wearing leather masks grabbed him and forced him into the bar. One of them immediately broke the man’s right ring finger while the other cut his earlobe off, making the man squeal like a pig.
The warmth of pain and pleasure made her sigh, and she held her hands out to the doorway, absorbing the lust coming from the busy interior. She wanted to wallow in the orgy covering the floor of the bar. She wanted to throw this body to the pleasure of anyone who would have it, to drink in the lust, to suck every human inside dry of their passion. It would be enough to sustain her for months and give her enough power to escape her summoner.
Anger at being denied what she needed by mere humans pushed aside what little reason the succubus had been born with. She was a creature of pure hunger and need, and being denied the feast before her drove her mad with rage.
She began to chant in a foul language damned by the Gods of Creation, the words falling from her lips like drops of poison rain. The bouncer yelled in panic over his shoulder, sweat springing out on his brow and rolling down his sunken cheeks. A tall man with dark hair and scars covering his hands pushed a blonde with the body of a porn star off his lap. Against the back wall, the fat American continued to beg and scream as he was shackled and hoisted to dangle from the ceiling. Anticipation shuddered through the succubus as a priest of the demonic God, Guaricana, selected a black leather whip with razor blades at the tip.
The tall man shouted something, grabbing his black cane from the top of the glass and metal bar, and sprinted to stand next to the bouncer as the warding shuddered beneath the succubus's curse.
“I command you to stop,” he growled out and held the succubus's gaze. An angry hiss like a hive of bees swarmed from her slender throat. The bouncer quivered in fear, but the tall man looked bored, despite the slight tremble to his hands. He was her summoner, and as such, his word bound her as long as she accepted the body he offered. A sneer lifted his lip. “The sun will be up soon. You must return the body to her bed.”
She fought against the power of his command. “Please, just let me inside for a moment.” The distress in her voice was real. To be denied that much lust was painful for a succubus, akin to denying a heroin addict a mixing bowl full of the drug.
The man narrowed his eyes. “Do you think I believe for a second that you won't fuck everything that touches you?”
The succubus walked backward, fighting his order every step of the way. “I need!” She tried to explain and held her hands out in a pleading gesture as she begged him to understand the unrelenting hunger.
“And I need you in that body.” He began to shut the door in her face then paused and studied her. “Listen to me well, succubus. I forbid you from taking any sexual release with this body. I forbid you from doing anything that would endanger the virginity of your stolen form. You will return your host to her apartment, and then you will depart the earth immediately until I summon you again. Do you understand my orders?”
He sneered at her and she wanted to rip his lips off and make him eat them. “Yes, what?”
“Yes, Master,” she whispered and turned without another word.
Once out of sight, she fisted her hands and allowed the command to carry her back to the limo waiting to take this body back to its ghetto apartment. Her summoner would eventually slip up, and when he did, she would beg her true master, Guaricana, to let her be the one to devour his soul.
Sean Kalmus scrolled through his email, stopping when he saw a message from his patron God. Maponus. The Celtic God of Music preferred modern technology for contacting his worshipers, and Sean appreciated that. Nothing like a magical bird singing a message to you to put a kink in your day while you waited in line at the grocery store. He took a gulp of his dark coffee and gave himself a mental shake.
Coordinating and packing for the trip to Rio had kept him up all night, leaving him mentally and physically drained. Certainly not in the best frame of mind for dealing with his god. With a sigh, he looked out the window of his home in Ireland, wondering if he could sneak a nap in before answering the email. Faint traces of dawn sent runners of pink over the dark ocean beyond the bay windows of his study, reminding him that a new day had already begun and his chance for rest had passed.
If he didn't read the email right away Maponus had been known to send singing chinchilla telegrams while Sean was trying to have an intimate moment with a willing lass. His patron god had a weird sense of humor, one of the reasons why they got along so well.
Running his hand through his dark Irish-red hair hard enough to pull out a few strands, he clicked the email and began to read.
I have work for you while you're in Brazil. There is a young woman in need of rescue, though she does not know it. You will be in a unique position to help her. She's the first flower of spring, hidden by the snow. Be careful. A High Priest of Guaricana has been using her as his stalking-horse.
After reading the letter twice, Sean did a search on the Internet for Guaricana. A Brazilian devil who is worshiped by whipping young men until the blood flows.
He spun his chair around to face an empty room and threw his hands in the air. “Awesome. Just fucking fantastic. Not only do I have to DJ for the Carnival parade this year, I also get to lock horns with a devil fond of S&M.”
With a sigh, he picked up the phone and called Kell, his best friend and crew chief.
“Hello, Sean,” Kell said in a raspy voice. “There had better be a good reason you're calling me only…fifteen minutes after I've finally gotten to bed.”
“I'm sorry, but I got a little love note from Maponus.”
A light clicking on and sheets rustling came over the phone line. “What does Maponus want?” Kell asked, sounding a lot more awake now.
Leaning back into his dark leather chair, Sean looked out the window to watch the dawn breaking over the Celtic Sea. It was a beautiful sight, the meeting of land and water, but he barely saw it. Instead, his sleep-deprived mind was trying to figure out Maponus’ message. He pushed himself out of the comfortable chair and walked over to the wide bay window, gazing into the dawn tinting the dark sky with purple and gray light.
Sean's gaze followed the roll of the ocean beyond his cottage. “Well, besides bringing over a crew of fifteen musicians and dancers, coordinating with twenty-four samba clubs, doing a charity DJ event, trying to make the locals understand our heavily accented English—”
“Don't forget romancing a few of those delicious Brazilian lasses.” He chuckled then made a harsh grunt. In the background, Sean could hear Mary, Kell's wife, giving him an earful of what would happen to him if he so much as bumped into one of those women.
“Tell Mary I'll keep you out of trouble.” Sean laughed. “So, in addition to all that, I also have to find a woman who is 'the first flower of spring' and save her from some Brazilian destruction god who likes to whip young men until the blood flows.”
“First flower of spring. Sounds like Maponus' usual vague description. Doesn't seem too bad, except for the demon with a whip part.” Kell sighed tiredly. “Well, my friend, I suggest you get some sleep. Regardless of what our god has in store for you, we still have a twelve-hour flight from Dublin to Rio this afternoon.”
“I know, I know. Thank you, Kell. Give Mary a kiss for me.”
Sean tossed the phone onto his computer chair then strode over to the floor-to-ceiling bookcase that dominated the north wall. It was filled with all kinds of books, from dog-eared paperbacks to enormous leather-bound volumes. Reaching up, he pulled down a four-foot black metal case from the top shelf with a soft grunt. After setting it down on a small table next to his reading chair, he briefly ran his fingertips over the scrollwork on the case, memories of wielding this sword countless times spilling through his head in a riot of blood and screams. Whistling a complicated tune, he removed the protection spell from around the case and flipped it open.
Inside, a long and beautifully crafted sword shone on its bed of dark green velvet. A simple silver ring pommel adorned the blade, and the guard was a sinuous curve of gleaming metal. The sword itself was long and razor-sharp, with runes and music notes etched into its length. It was a work of art by one of the greatest bladesmith that Ireland had ever produced, handed down through six generations of Maponus’ Chosen and, by some twist of fate, ending up in his care.
Sean stood there for a long time, memories of haphazardly swinging this sword as a green youth playing out in his mind. How eager he had been when the Celtic God of Music had picked him as his Chosen Hand on Earth. Maponus had gifted Sean with the ability to enhance his music into magic. Sean could bring joy to any heart with a simple melody or heal a wounded body and spirit with a song.
What he wasn't prepared for were the responsibilities that came with such power. At first, all he’d wanted to do was become a famous musician, have an endless supply of willing women, and travel the world using his god's gift. Instead, he’d found himself drawn into dangerous battles with the Forces of Destruction and protecting the innocent. Oh, the fame and women had come, and the world travel, but his greatest satisfaction came from his secret work as a chosen warrior of the Gods of Creation.
Stripping off his shirt, he ran his hands over the large and intricate tattoo covering his muscled back, a series of Celtic knots that looked, at first, like a random design. Magic tingled against his palms as he rubbed a knot tightening up his left shoulder as the tense muscle slowly eased beneath his fingertips. Unlike regular tattoos, the intricate design on his back was slightly raised so it felt more like a carving etched into his skin than simply ink beneath the surface. At first the pattern appeared to be nothing more than a massive, intricate series of Celtic knots and magical symbols. It was only after following the path of the knots, and looking at the bigger picture, was it apparent the design was a music note. The markings had appeared after he completed the full transition from mortal to Chosen, a warning to his enemies that he was under the protection of a powerful god.
Sean took the sword out of its bed of green velvet and held it before him, turning the blade in the dim morning light. Well cared for, the fine edge could cut through metal and bone like warm butter. Every time he put the sword back into its case and on the shelf, he hoped that maybe that would be the last time he would need to wield it, that just maybe he’d earned the right to a moment of peace in his life, a time when he wouldn’t be responsible for saving the world. He was so tired of being alone.