CONTROLLING A DEMON
“What did Mr. Reddy want?" I asked as Hunter returned to my dressing room. He'd accompanied me to the theater again the next morning, a note in hand from Mr. Reddy to come and see him.
"Is it private here, little one?" Hunter whispered, double-checking my curtain was shut behind him.
My eyes widened and I nodded, ushering him to where I was sitting on the chaise. It struck me as he marched forward, with no hesitation, how much more assured this version of Hunter was than the one I'd met weeks ago. Was that because we knew each other better now, or because I'd made Hunter more comfortable with himself in the process? Either way, it left me grasping him eagerly as he joined me on the cushions.
"Mr. Reddy has collected a list of suspects," Hunter said, his voice lowered. "Within the company as well as the audience."
"No," I said, shaking my head. "It can't be—they can't be in the company. I...know everyone, and..."
But how well did I know them, how well had I allowed myself to know them?
Hunter's hands reached up to cup my face, and it struck me how large he was, how easily I could tuck myself into Hunter's embrace, feel small and safe with him.
"Not many," Hunter said gently. "But yes, a few. And there aren't enough people we trust to track them."
Oh. "You have work to do," I guessed.
"Tomorrow I will," Hunter said with a grimace. "And as much as I'd like to insist you make use of my home in the evenings, I thought perhaps you might like the opportunity to remain here while I'm away."
His thumb brushed my cheek as I blushed, thinking of our conversation the night before and Hunter's easy blessing in regards to the other men in my life.
"You know who is safe. Ronan and Nireas were with you that night. Stay in their company, little one," Hunter said, a slight growl rumbling through his voice. I nodded, and he leaned forward, kissing the center of my brow and a line down my nose. "I'll be at the performances. Perhaps this matter will resolve quickly. In the meantime, speak to your lovers."
"My lovers?" I repeated, eyes widening at the plural.
Hunter's head tipped. "The imp. The gegenees."
My teeth carved into my bottom lip as I stared back at Hunter. We'd never said anything about Nireas. But he was right. I did need to speak to him. I'd been running from the conversation for days already.
"Perhaps the demon too?" Hunter mused, lips twitching.
"You're teasing me now," I said sharply.
"Oh, and the detective."
I gasped. "Hunter!"
He grinned and huffed as I dove closer, wrapping my arms around his shoulders and slanting my lips over his before he could list any others. Not that there were any others. Was I that transparent?
What good was running from my feelings if they were plain as day for anyone else to see?
"But tonight, you're mine?" I asked, pulling away, breath slightly short.
"Every night, little one," Hunter purred. "But yes, tonight we'll be together at my home."
* * *
And yet,it wasn't Nireas or Ronan or even Jude I went in search of after Hunter's departure. Perhaps Hunter had spooked me and I was afraid of the conversations I might have with the others.
Running away, my father's voice hissed in my head as I knocked.
Constantine opened the door to his dressing room, his flat, silver gaze landing directly on my throat.
"Healed," I said, and he nodded, stepping aside to grant me access. "I'm sorry I haven't come to find you sooner."
"You've been busy," Constantine said. There was a slight lilt in the words, as if he were joking.
"And stumped. Have you thought about our act at all?"
"I suppose me binding you is now off the table," Constantine said, watching me as I crossed the room to sit at the end of his bed.
"On stage it is," I said, smiling as Constantine's head tipped curiously.
"You don't mean that."
I blinked at him. "Of course I do. It doesn't suit this week's theme, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't enjoy myself."
"From one of the others, perhaps, but not—"
I rose and crossed to Constantine, reaching for the layers of strange clothing he still wore, frowning up at his blank expression.
"What's wrong? I've meant what I said to you every time, Constantine," I said, searching his face for any hints.
"I'm here to be feared. To cause pain."
"I like pain," I said, shrugging. "I like your pain. I like the way it cuts through all my fears and worries and stresses. It eliminates everything cluttering my mind and—"
I gasped as Constantine's arms snapped around me, hauling me up off my toes and drawing me up to his mouth, my own lips ready for the furious kiss. Constantine in his full form was neither pain nor pleasure, but his touch was charged and heavy, his tongue on mine sending a current of buzzing energy rushing through me right down to my core. I moaned and clutched him in return, aware of the sway of my feet as he carried me to the bed. His lips pulled away briefly as he laid me down, and the glare of his gaze was almost hateful.
"You're pretending. Acting."
I blinked up at him and reached for his face. He flinched and then froze as my fingertips framed his cheeks. "You think I'm capable of acting when you touch me?"
He stared back, brow folding between his eyes.
"I can't be the first person to enjoy your touch," I said, my expression matching his in confusion.
"There are those who savor the oblivion of either side of me, even together, but not..." Constantine's frown deepened and his gaze flicked away.
Not him, I realized. The pain, the pleasure, but not the man who offered them.
"I was frightened of you when I met you," I said, pulling his eyes back to mine. "Terrified and excited, ashamed of how much I enjoyed what you could do to me. You're very careful with me."
"I'm dangerous," he said.