“Oh, yeah, babe. This feels great. Keep it up. I’m gonna come. I’m gonna come.”
Beltaine really wished the man would shut up. Obviously going to the bar in the middle of the afternoon to find a man wasn’t a good idea. It would seem only the useless ones sat around drinking at four in the afternoon. She’d have to choose better next time, since she didn’t like to talk while she was screwing. Closing her eyes, she hoped she could block out his voice. She didn’t know his name and didn’t want to learn it, either.
“Wow, I could do this all night.”
Her eyes popped open, and she found herself hoping he would be a one-minute man. Night hadn’t even fallen, and there was no way she was going to let him stay any longer than it took for him to come once. She stared into the shadows over his shoulder, hoping he would finish. Maybe then he’d shut the hell up. She stiffened when her gaze met the glowing red eyes of a small demon in the corner of the room.
“Shit,” she swore softly. It was a sign of terrible things to come when she saw demons in her bedroom. “Just once I’d like to see an angel and know something good was going to happen,” she mumbled to herself as she pushed the guy off her. “Get dressed and get out.”
“What the hell? I wasn’t done,” he whined.
Her cold amber gaze impaled him. “I was. I don’t have time for this.” After tossing his clothes at him, she gestured to the front door. “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
“Bitch,” he snarled, as he stalked toward her.
There was no fear in her eyes, even though he stood a foot taller and outweighed her by a hundred pounds. When he got close enough to touch her, she growled, revealing her fangs. “I’ve been called worse by scarier men than you.”
“Fuck!” He scrambled out of the apartment.
She turned back to look at the demon before the man had left. She listened to the door shutting, but she kept her eyes on the demon. “What the hell are you doing here?”
It blinked in surprise, obviously shocked that she chose to talk to it. Moving toward her, it seemed intent on touching her. She traced a cross in the air and spoke a single word. The demon hissed at her, but it was bound in the corner until she could perform the ritual to get rid of it. She wrinkled her nose to show her displeasure at the sulfuric smell.
Heading into the bathroom, she turned the shower on and ignored the mirrors over the sink. The hot water steamed the glass, easing her tension. Beltaine knew seeing her reflection shouldn’t bother her. When others looked at her, they saw a petite woman with curves and a chest that could bring grown men to tears. They saw long blonde curls and a slender face with high cheekbones. They would pause for a moment at the sight of her amber eyes with the slitted irises, but most managed to convince themselves she wore contacts. She never took the time to destroy their complacent beliefs.
When she looked in the mirror, she saw a child with fear and pain in her eyes. She saw the scars marring skin but in truth, there were no marks because her skin healed as quickly as it was sliced. She could still hear the singing of the belt and the anger of the voice. The stinging feel of the leather and cut of the metal had caused tears to well up in her eyes. Beltaine never forgot, so she avoided mirrors altogether.
Scrubbing the stench of sex and sweat off, she thought about the demon in her room. Where had the balance gone wrong so that such a creature could cross over? She’d have to find the weakness and fix it. She shut off the shower, then started toweling dry.
Her apartment door burst open, and she heard Roger calling her.
“Beltaine, are you here?”
She came out of the bathroom, wrapped in a towel, as he reached her room.
“What the heck?” Roger blurted as he stood in the doorway.
She didn’t know if he was remarking on the demon or on the fact that she had dropped the towel and stood naked in front of her closet. Grabbing a pair of black leather pants and a bright red top, she turned to catch him staring at her.
“Roger,” she warned.
“I’m a priest, Beltaine, not a saint. If you insist on parading around in front of me, I’m going to look.” He didn’t avert his eyes as she pulled on the pants.
Dragging her top over her shoulders, she shook her head at him. “I think we have more important things to do than you ogling me.” She nodded at the creature cringing in the corner.
“It doesn’t look dangerous.” He moved closer to it.
Before she could warn him, the demon leaped from the corner and slashed out at him. She pulled Roger away before the creature’s claws could score his flesh. She spoke a word of power, and the creature howled.
“Damn, do you have a death wish? It isn’t afraid of you.”
He fingered the white collar he wore. “Why not? I’m a priest—shouldn’t demons be afraid of me?”
“Like you said yourself, you’re not a saint. You haven’t fought demons long enough to realise that, in truth, they fear no man of God because you’re all sinners in your souls.”
“Yet it fears you. Why is that?”
She pulled him out of the room. Snatching her keys off the table next to the door, she led him out. “It fears me because I don’t pretend to be anything other than what I am—a half-breed abomination of man and demon. I treat both creatures with equal disdain. It’s only when one of the demons crosses over that I deal with them.”
“Are you really an abomination? I didn’t think God would allow such a creature to live.”
“I’ve no idea why He chose to keep me alive. It might have been better if He hadn’t. Of course, He lets you live,” she pointed out as they made their way downstairs and exited the building.
“Ouch! Why are you in such a bad mood?” He followed her closely as she shoved her way down the sidewalk.
“It might have to do with the fact that my afternoon sex session got interrupted by that little demon. Don’t take it personally, Roger. I don’t like most men, and if any of them happen to be priests, I tend to like them even less.”
“Tell me again what you have against priests?” He struggled to keep up with her.
Beltaine had never mentioned to Roger that her father had been a priest before he’d got her mother pregnant. She didn’t plan on sharing that particular secret with anyone. She managed to spare him a humorous glance. “Besides the fact you tend to be self-righteous pricks who condemn those things that differ from your preconceived notions of right and wrong?”
He grimaced at her. “Yes, besides that.”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. I find most men are arrogant and sanctimonious jerks who think with their dicks instead of their brains. I have yet to meet one who sees me and doesn’t think of sex first.”
“We’re only human, love.” Roger laughed. “It’s the way God made us.”
“I don’t think that part has anything to do with God.” She gestured for the priest to follow her.
“Wait, Beltaine.” He reached out to stop her from continuing. “The bishop sent me to get you.”
“I know. That’s why we’re heading to see him.”
“This isn’t the right direction.”
“Yes, it is. The bishop knows I won’t meet him in a church. We’ll meet at the potter’s field just outside of town.”
“You won’t go to a church, but you’ll meet him in a cemetery. What’s wrong with that?”
“A cemetery is full of dead people. I don’t fear the dead. A church might only be a building, but it’s a place where the living worship, and it’s the living I don’t trust. Everyone has their little quirks.” Continuing to make her way toward the cemetery, she made sure Roger kept up with her.
“Why was there a demon in your apartment?”
“I always keep one chained up like a pet. Don’t you think it makes a great guard dog?”
“Are you ever serious? A demon manifesting on this plane isn’t good.”
“Boy, Roger, you’re a master of understatement. I’ve learned it doesn’t pay to take yourself too seriously. Pride goeth before the fall and all that rot.” Skidding to a stop, she stood outside the gate to the potter’s field where the city buried the homeless and unknown people who had the audacity to die on the city streets. She sent a surge of power through the graves and tombstones. No one seemed to be waiting except the bishop. “Let’s get in there and talk to him, Roger. I have things to do before I can find the weak spot where the creature passed through to Earth.”
They crept into the graveyard. She kept her senses open because she didn’t trust the bishop any further than she could throw him. The highest-ranking priest in the diocese stood next to the plain wooden cross of a freshly turned grave. She shuddered as she saw the black dirt. The musty smell of it took her back to the day she’d buried her father, and that wasn’t a day she ever wanted to remember.