316

Preface

Eight muscular hairy arms twitched as saliva pooled from open maws with jagged yellow teeth. Two troll guards lie unconscious outside the East corner of Abaddon's castle. Only one lumbered away through the shadowed halls past his fallen comrades until there was nothing but darkness. He made his way towards the lower east corner where Abaddon kept his most heinous prisoners. The abyss as it was so familiarly called is a void of nothingness that slowly eats away at its victims until they too become part of the vast emptiness.

An iron door set with bulging railroad ties moaned and creaked with the wails of those imprisoned inside. Glancing over the bulk of his shoulder, the troll guard searched down the hall at a slight scratching noise emanating from the darkness. Probably a rat, he reassured himself before approaching the heavy door. A small window, no larger than a cat could pass through, was outlined at the top of the door. The troll knocked then slid the small door aside.

"The moon is brightest at night…" came a cracked and dry reply seeping through the inkiness..

"...but is soon swallowed by the sun." The troll's answer was gruff and gargled.

A skull draped with white washed skin emerged from the murk. Two hollow eyes lit by dim yellow orbs searched the darkness before landing on the troll's conteriance.

"Good to see you Hector, although I do prefer your original appearance."

"Yes, My Lady." Hector nodded his shaggy head.

"Hector, can I assume your presence means you have considered my offer?"

"Yes, My Lady: You will cure my daughter in exchange for your freedom."

Dry thin skin pulled back into a gathering of wrinkles. "Good, now shall we?"

Hector flexed his massive hands as his grey eyes fell on the heavy ties. The bars were a set of three that needed to be moved simultaneously to disable the alarm. Hairy knuckles clenched at the ends of each tie and heaved. All four ties moved easily with his borrowed strength. He set them aside and then thrust his four fist into the locks turning them clockwise in one motion. The foot thick steel door creaked open with a begrudged moan. Hector checked down the hall-the subtle noise from before still scratching at his brain. Emptiness and silence answered him.

"Now to get you out of there." Hector shook his scruffy face; the rough edges smoothed and the course black hair brushing his broad shoulders straightened into midnight silk that fell to the middle of his back. The pea green skin turned a light ash while his shoulders narrowed followed by his hips and arms. Why did it have to be trolls? He made a face as if smelling something foul, smoothed back his hair and tied it in a low ponytail before diving into the swirl of black smoke that appeared only to have a density when touched. His body, made of shadow, slipped through the murk; the inky blackness slid along his skin like oil. Seeking Lady Mink's aura, he engulfed her in his own, and the two exited the abyss as simply and elegantly as if stepping out of a limo.

"Now take me to my son, and I will give you what you desire."

Hector glanced down at the frail queen once strong and proud; her once ebony hair had turned white nearly as white as her skin, her strong frame that used to wield a battle axe was small and frail like the abandoned shell of a cicada. He knelt down and motioned for her to climb on his back. Her weight was hardly noticeable, nothing more than a sparrow. Ascending the stone spiral stairs took no more effort than going down until he reached the top: he found himself winded and lightheaded. He shook it off and glanced over his shoulder, "Are you alright, My Lady."

"Better." Her voice was raspy, but stronger now.

The grand room lie spread out ahead. They would have to pass the king's bedchamber as they crossed. Hector lowered her to the ground as he surveyed the layout of the room. Open and polished sphalerite stretched out before them. Burning candles on either wall left little shadow at which to hide. A the long red carpet leading to a tunnel-shaped door large enough to allow a dragon to walk through without ducking caused Hector's heart to race. He turned to Lady Mink, "Just how big is your husband?"

"Don't let that trouble you. We merely need to slip past him." She said with one hand still on his shoulder the other pointing to a lone goblin hunched and nodding against the king's chamber door. "Gree, " she said with a sneer, "sleeps heavier than a bear in winter." Leaving her hand resting on Hector's back a bit longer, she muttered, "Useless goblin."

With a hard shove that nearly pushed Hector to the floor, she pushed herself up straight. "Well, what are you waiting for."

The wuzziness returned as the candle's light flickered and blurred turning the onyx floor into Van Gogh's Starry Night. At this rate he would not be able to carry her in his shadow form. He shook the stars from his eyes and turned to Lady Mink, "My lady are you any good at horseback riding?"

"Horseback riding?"

"Well, a wolf actually, but you'll find the ride about the same."

A bemused smirk lit her eyes which now looked much brighter. "I will adjust."

Transforming into a large demon wolf nearly the size of a horse just with shorter legs, Hector tossed his shaggy head in a motion for Lady Mink to climb on. Long gnarled fingers dug into his fur, pulling at his hunches sending pain through his skin as it bore her weight. He suppressed a snarl. "Are you secure, My Lady?"

She made a noise of agreement as he could not see her nod.

"Hold on." He rushed through the open chamber as silent as a shadow; however, a demon fly had watched him free Lady Mink from the abyss and was now darting towards Abaddon's chamber. It buzzed inside the goblin's helmet. The hunched creature swatted at its bald head knocking the helmet to the floor.

Gree scrambled to retrieve his armour, but as he rose his pale yellow eyes locked with silver from across the room. The goblin shrieked, "A wolf, a werewolf has freed the queen!"

Hector bit out a curse, "Damn it." Giving the goblin one last glare, Hector's muscles tightened for the spring, "Hang on tight, My Lady."

He charged for the gates as sirens wailed and the clank of armour rattled off the stone walls as dozens of soldiers roused from their chambers and clambered down the halls.

Muscle flexed and twitched; his breath came in quick sessions. Careful of his rider, Hector rammed a shoulder into the massive doors and scrambled through. A little further, My Lady. We just need to cross the bridge.

Abaddon flung opened his chamber door in time to see the black fur of Hector's tail slip through the gap. "Raise the drawbridge." He barked as he snatched his sword from its resting place. Shoving the scabbard into his belt, he drew the blade and ran for the door while still shouting commands, "Send out the hunters at once."

"Don't let her escape!"

Abaddon burst through the castle doors as the drawbridge drew closed. The wolf and Lady Mink were nowhere in sight. "Damn it."

Quicker than a drop of water disappears in a pond, Hector vanished into the Abandoned Forest where Mammon was waiting. Running at full speed must have taken more from him than he realized: his feet felt stuck to the ground every time he set down a paw. His back muscles spasmed at Lady Mink's weight that up until a few moments ago was nothing more than mere feathers. His gate slowed up a hill; his paws digging for traction in the fallen leaves. "I'm afraid you will have to walk the rest of the way, My Lady." Hector gasped.

"Quite alright, we are here anyway." Lady Mink slipped off Hector's back a good deal taller than when he had picked her up. She licked her fingers, "Thank you for the meal,... now…" She pursed her lips together and whistled. Great wings blocked the moonlight as a black dragon descended from above. Once the dragon had landed, Mammon slipped off its back and reached out to help his mother up. The pale light shining on his brown scaly face gave him the appearance of oily mud. Lady Mink ran a bone white hand along his cheek frowning at the scars that had left his face permanently disfigured.

"Welcome back, Mother." He took her hand into his then placed a pair of jade bracelets over her wrists; she nodded then turned towards Hector.

"This is where we part ways."

Hector transformed back into his humanoid form with a labored breath.

"Wait, what about my daughter?"

Lady Mink paused and turned towards Hector, "Oh, that's right. It was part of the deal."

A wicked grin pulled at her hollow cheeks, "Are you certain you want it?"

"Of course, if it will save my daughter."

"Good, that's all I needed to hear." Gliding across the dead leaves and mud without leaving an impression in the earth, she grabbed Hector by the hair and pressed her dry thin lips to his. Hector jumped back the moment he felt something slip past his teeth, but it was too late. The object crawled down his throat like a small octopus trying to get inside a bottle. He grasped at his neck trying to block its descent, but it writhed and turned until it forced its way into his belly.

Doubled over, Hector tried to throw it up, but couldn't.

His breath, short and quick, left his head spinning as he stared up at the demoness,"What did you do to me?"

Lady Mink laughed with a wicked grin. "I just gave you what you asked for."

Hector's face twisted in pain as he strained to keep Lady Mink in focus, "How is this…. what I asked for?"

"You wanted something to save your daughter. Give her that candy, and it will absorb her demon half. She will be a complete being of light once it dissolves." She explained while Mammon slipped a heavy burgundy robe over her brittle shoulders. Eyeing his suffering with no more pity than watching a swarm of ants devour a cricket, she turned away to walk towards the black dragon.

With his arm around her, Mammon led Minerva over to the beast and helped her up before sliding in behind her. Glancing down at his hunched form, Minerva called out to Hector as the dragon's wings pulsed for launch.

"The only way to get rid of that cursed thing is if someone willing takes it from you."

Horror stained his face as pain twisted his gut, "I did not willing take this."

His body convulsed determined to vomit the piece up, a natural defense desperately trying to protect him, but nothing came just the cramp and twist of his abdomen.

Lady Mink's smirk widened. "Oh, but you did." Malice danced in her eyes, "And I would hurry if I were you-for one that is a pure demon, it is a slow and painful death, but for one that is a shadow… you'll be lucky if you last the night."

The dragon's wings thrust downwards causing a gust of wind to toss dead leaves and dirt into Hector's face. Lady Mink's laughter echoed around the forest and the dragon rose above the trees. "Oh by the way," she called down from her perch, "you might want to run—there is a tracking device in that candy," she placed her hand over her forehead and gazed in the direction of Abaddon's castle, " and I think I see the hunters coming."

Another malevolent laughter jostled the air around him as she and Mammon rode the dragon out of sight.

Hector coiled in pain unable to stop her. If I can't run, I must hide for now. "Dissolve into shadows." He command to his body; it darkened as his outer appearance began to blur like fog; a tremendous pain twisted his abdomen as black tendrils grasped for the vapers of his shadow, as if his own body was trying to absorb itself. Every nerve fired in a panic to regain control before the candy could swallow him entirely. A flash of light from his left hand extinguished the thrashing black vapers until they settled back to his solid skin. Clutching at his chest, Hector felt the bands that had tightened around his lungs begin to snap free. What the hell was that? He glanced down at his left hand and a bittersweet smile tugged at his lips. Thank you Aila.

The sweet memory was soon tainted by a rotten pungent smell. Hector turned his attention away from his hand (had it not been for his werewolf half, the stench would have gone unnoticed) Hunters, tsk persistent little bastards. With the last of his strength he shot up towards the canopy of the forest.

"Ish man Ya!" Cursed a tall gangly gray creature as it stood in the spot Hector had just vacated.

Unable to hide within the shadows, Hector smeared mud all over his body in an attempt to blend in with the trunk of the tree. Long bony legs shook as the hunters scoured the grounds excellent tracking skills scrutinizing every leaf and twig for signs of their prey; however, if their tracking abilities were somehow surpassed, a ping inside their enormous gray heads led them straight to their quarry.

The hunters were ambile trackers; fortunately for Hector, their thin arms and large heads made it difficult for them to climb trees; unfortunately, they had a remedy for that. A long spiked chain shot into the branches; its point splitting into eight barbed metal wires just as it reached the apex. One of the wires shot past just missing Hector's shoulder, but gouged a deep gash into his leg. Staying put was no longer an option.

Chapter 1

Clutching a white envelope, Lucy fidgeted before the silver-framed glass door etched with the name Charmed and Sugared. She took a deep breath, swept a loose dark blue ribbon of hair from her forehead and pulled the door open. Several regulars that often came to stare at her father anxiously turned in her direction. Disappointment distorted their features as they set eyes on Lucy, and soon settled back to chatting with one another. Lucy rolled her eyes at their pathetic desperation before heading towards the back of the store.

"Mom?"

"I'm in the kitchen sweetheart."

The bakery had moved in the last ten years; it now sat in the center of downtown's historic district four hundred miles away from its original location. After much fighting between her parents, the bakery was painted a rich burgundy with pink cherry blossoms scattered along the walls. To be honest, Lucy kind of liked the old bakery better: it was more cheerful, but she had to admit the new one had a sophisticated look, which seemed to draw in a wealthier crowd. The kitchen was all steel and top-end appliances lining every wall; her mother's office had been moved to the second floor. Her father said it was bad for business to have a messy office where customers could see it. For a while, Lucy thought the move would finally rip her parents apart; but when it was finished, they were just as affectionate as always.

Lucy found Emily with her hands covered in flour, head wrapped in a silk kerchief, as she meticulously shaped flaky pie crust into little swans.

"Thank goodness you are here. Things have gotten a little crazy. Do you know where your father went?"

"No."

"I swear that man…," she grumbled in a low breath before tossing the thought away and setting her eyes on Lucy, "...anyway, could you bring me the raspberry filling over there?"

Before Lucy could turn to retrieve the filling, a bell rang out front and Emily sighed, "Could you help them, please. I'll be done in a few minutes."

"Sure."

Lucy returned a moment later, "It was just one of the regulars asking about Dad."

"Hm"Emily made a small noise as if pretending to listen.

"Doesn't it bother you?" Lucy asked as she handed Emily the raspberry filling.

"Doesn't what bother me?"

"You know all these women showing up here to see Dad." Doubt they would still flock to him if they knew what he really is.

Placing the last swan pastry on a cookie sheet, Emily pushed out a quick breath with a troubled smile.

"Sometimes, but I trust him. He can't help his natural charisma." Her eyes drifted around the kitchen to bowls filled with frosting tips and pastry bags lined with leftover Bavarian cream.

"Would you help me until closing? It doesn't look like he will be coming back anytime soon."

Lucy stuffed the piece of paper into her back pocket. "Is Dad going to be busy for much longer?"

"Why, did you need to do something tonight? I could call your aunt if you need to take care of something."

"No, it's fine. Besides Aunt Anna is seventy-five. What would you have her do?"

A sad sort of smile drifted over Emily's face.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to...I mean it must be weird to…" Lucy closed her mouth then opened it again, "Nevermind. I'll help." It was a topic Lcy tried not to cross too often; after all, her mother had out-lived her little brother and now her niece wasn't far behind.

Tying on an apron, Lucy forced a smile and turned around to face Emily, "What do I need to do?"

Shadowy figures loomed over a high bench, their red eyes glaring down at Lucius.

"Why have you not taught your daughter our ways? She will need to join you in the hunts in order to stay in the human world. She is past her fiftieth year is she not?"

A large figure amongst the shadows moved away from the bench to descend the stairs.

"Yes, it has been ages since we have seen that child…you know I miss my little granddaughter." Abaddon flipped the dark hood down and frowned at Lucius. "The last I saw her she didn't even have her wings, and I had to go up to the human world to see her."

Lucius rolled his eyes does this old fart have to act like such a baby. "Forgive me father, but I felt that bringing a half human down to the demon world would be like delivering pizza. Did you want your granddaughter to be eaten?"

Abaddon sighed, "True. It is a shame," He straightened up, his face stern, "however, she is an adult now with wings of her own; you need to educate her about her demon heritage."

"Ahem," One of the shadows cleared his throat. "Excuse me Sire, but…"

"Yes, yes of course." He waved his hand at the other council member, cutting him off without even looking, and then he narrowed his eyes at Lucius. "Now,to the matter at hand," Abaddon took a deep breath, his face staid, "the Queen has escaped."

A glisten of fear darted through Lucius's eyes, not for himself, but his rather vulnerable human family. "How?"

Abaddon lowered his eyes searching for any words that might bring reassurance, but only the facts bubbled to the surface. "The guards witnessed her traveling with a werewolf. We believe him to be one of the enforcers that was lost during the Orc incident."

Lucius's brow furrowed, "So you are saying an insider freed her?"

"I believe so. I've sent hunters after them."

At the word 'hunter' Lucius sneered.

"Yes, I know how you feel about them. but they are advent trackers; however, they lost track of her in the Abandon Forest. I believe it is because they are taking refuge in the human world." Abaddon's posture straightened, "As this is part of your job, you are assigned to find her and that werewolf that helped her escape."

Lucius stood stock still as Abaddon's words seeped in. His family was endanger, again.

"Understood." He turned to leave when Abaddon grabbed his shoulder. Damn, just a second sooner. He didn't want to give him the chance, but he knew it was coming.

A grin pulled at Abaddon's lips, "Now, I don't recommend bringing Lucy along to hunt for Lady Mink, but the werewolf shouldn't be a problem." He said with a hard smack to his left shoulder, "I think it would be good practice for her."

Lucius turned his blue eyes towards his father, "Are you that desperate to get her down here?"

Brushing Abaddon's hand away, Lucius stepped aside, "'The more contact she has with demons the more of a demon she will become.' Is that your strategy?" Flickers of gold swirled in Lucius's eyes, "Emily will ultimately be the one hurt, and I don't want to see that."

Abaddon slung his arm around his son's shoulders and pulled him in close, "I understand how you feel, but it is all I can do to keep the council from eraser her existence. They still see her as a threat. I know we managed to appease them when she was a child; but as she matures, her emotions will become more unstable. Unless she can consume her own humanity, things will only get more hectic. Humans are such fragile creatures physically and emotionally."

"Bullshit." Lucius pushed Abaddon's arm away, "Did they make that condition?" He said tossing his head in the direction of the council.

A seriousness beyond argument settled on Abaddon's features, "No, son, I did. She is your responsibility."

Smacking Lucius on the back one final time, Abaddon smiled, "Don't disappoint me now." As Abaddon escorted Lucius from the hall, he pulled him in close. "You still have it don't you?"

Lucius leaned away, "it?" He said a little too loud. Abaddon tossed a look at the council members then ushered Lucius from the room. With the door closed tight behind them, Abaddon continued to push Lucius down the hall, "Remember when I imprisoned Lady Mink, I gave you 'that'?"

Lucius narrowed his eyes, "Oh you mean that jewel that will most likely send my step- mother barging into my home? Yes, thank you for that."

A guard walked passed and Abaddon pulled Lucius into an empty room.

"You are the only one I can trust with it. If she gets that back, she will be restored to full power."

He placed his hand on Lucius's shoulder, "That demon candy doesn't dissolve demon energy; it transfers it to that jewel. Every candidate gets a separate jewel."

The look on Lucius's face clearly stated, Why?

"Don't give me that look, I am not that cruel. If a demon reforms, I will give them back their power."

"Hmm," The look of doubt never left Lucius's face, "And if this 'candidate' doesn't have jewel?"

Abaddon's face pinched at the brow, "I would never be that irresponsible."

"You haven't answered my question."

"The demon would die if not removed. With no external source to hold their power, it would tear their body up from the inside."

A smile spread across Abaddon's face, "Well, enough of that. Off you go. I know you can take care of this."

The last of the customers had filed out of the bakery taking with them the smells of warm pastries and coffee. Lucy untied her apron and tossed it into a laundry bin in the kitchen then called up to Emily on the second floor.

"Mom, do you need help with anything else…Mom?"

Lucy ascended the stairs with heavy steps as she slid her hand over the dark mahogany rail, tracing the leaves and flowers with the tips of her fingers. The crinkle of the envelope in her back pocket a reminder of the task ahead. She found her mother buried in paperwork looming over her laptop typing in figures and groaning at their outcome.

Stepping past her to sit in the other office chair, Lucy curled her knees to her chest and waited for her mother to look up. As if on cue, Emily tore her gaze from the screen pinching the bridge of her nose and glanced over at Lucy. "Agh, I hate end-of-the-month reports, but your father insist I do them." Emily paused as she assessed her daughter's face. "Sorry, what's up?"

Lucy shook her head, "Nothing, its that's okay, I was just wondering if I could help."

Emily smiled with a slight shake of her head and said, "You've done enough for today, you can go home. Thank you for today."

Her eyes fell on Lucy's fidgeting fingers as they played with the fringe of her torn jeans. "Seriously, Lulu what's the matter?"

"Nothing, I just wish Dad were around more often." She stopped fiddling with the loose strings tossing her hands up, "I mean lately, he's been visiting the demon world like every day." Her mouth drew down as her brow knitted together, "Doesn't he even care about his family anymore."

Emily released a heavy sigh as she pushed a loose curl back into place.

"I know it's frustrating, but he does have his reasons."

There it was again-another excuse for him. Wasn't she tired of dealing with everything on her own? What could possibly be more important than his family? Lucy chewed her lip as the bitterness swirled around inside her head churning the acid in her stomach, but her tension eased as her eyes fell on her mother's sagging shoulders. This wasn't helping. Her mother needed her right now and bitching about her father wasn't the way to do it. And then her thoughts drifted to the parchment in her back pocket. She'd relinquish the fight for now. What good is any of this? It isn't her fault. Stupid Dad.

Forcing a smile that looked no more real than a doll's, she said, "Hey, Mom, why don't we call it a night? I'll make some Lobster Tetrazzini just like Dad makes. What do you say?"

Emily turned off the computer and smiled at Lucy, "Sounds wonderful."

Rows of long white bricks lined rivers of gray concrete below as Lucius slipped over buildings towards his apartment. Landing on the roof, he snarled as a demonic stench permeated the area. His gold eyes slid to the corners of the roof pinpointing the origin of the odor; a goblin, foul creatures certainly a poor choice for stealth, even a whale could find it by smell in a matter of seconds. The creature never had a chance. It was dangling by a clawed hand over the edge of the roof before it even sensed the danger. It wreathed in Lucius's grasp clawing and digging at his arm. "Traitor," it hissed.

"Who sent you?" Lucius tightened his fingers around the creature's throat. The goblin said nothing.

"You can answer now or after I rip off your limbs."

The goblin opened its black mouth; a slug like thing flicked from it like a frog's tongue. Lucius dodge it, but before it made impact; it fell limp to the ground as the goblin bit down with his chipped yellow teeth. Lucius watched it with disdain as it wreathed helplessly on the rooftop and then turned his gold eyes back toward the goblin.

"Do you think that trick will work on me? I know full well you can regrow your tongue and your voice comes from your throat." He said throwing the goblin to the ground and then pressed his heel into the goblin's back. "Answer or I crush your spine."

"If I tell you, he will kill me." It hissed.

A smirk more wicked than the devil's spread across Lucius's face. "Then I will show you mercy and promise to kill you quickly." The look in his eyes sent fear through the goblin's chest.

"Mammon, Mammon sent me. The queen plans to eat your daughter's heart. I, I was just sent to find her."

Lucius's smirk spread, "Good job, you found her." He pressed his foot down with a force that cracked the goblin's spine in two. The goblin's body popped like a watermelon under the pressure. Pieces of it sprayed across the roof and all over Lucius's pants.

"Ugh, now I need a shower." Lucius picked the remains of the goblin up and set them ablaze with a green flame and then tossed the ashes to the wind. That was the sixth one that day. He had been chasing low-level fugitive demons since morning. Much to his unease, they all seemed to be hanging around the bakery.

I'll have to find Minerva and that damn son of hers before they find Lucy. "Tsk." He searched the rooftop of the nearby buildings. Finding nothing, he turned toward the atrium.

His apartment, now shared with his wife and daughter, greeted him with silent darkness. The family had moved every couple of years to belay suspicion of the couple that never aged. Up the stairs to the loft and to the left, Emily's scent drifted from his bedroom. Lucius turned the corner to find her curled up in one of his shirts, hair a mess. He stepped past the bed and into the large marbled bathroom for a shower. The scent of Emily's lavender soap hung in the air. Inhaling deeply, he instantly felt calmer and excited at the same time. He smirked as his eyes traveled down his rigid torso. I'll need to do something about this too, I suppose. After his shower, he wrapped a towel around his waist and slid under the covers next to Emily; a slight hint of alcohol touched her breath. "You're a mess tonight," he whispered into her ear. She rolled over and smiled at him. "It's your fault."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to leave you alone."

"I wasn't alone, Lucy came to help me, but we need to stop relying on her. She's a grown woman now and needs to walk her own path."

Lucius crawled on top of her supporting his weight with his elbows resting on either side of her head. "True." He leaned in kissing her, "Why don't you hire some part time help?"

"Can I?"

"It is your shop."

"Hmm, maybe I will." She reached up pushing a stray hair from his face before running her fingers along his onyx horns. "You never get enough do you?"

"It's because you are so sweet." His dark lips captured hers and their breath became one.

Down the hall, Lucy blocked her ears with her headphones. Every night, Really?... But it must be nice... Her face flushed and she turned the volume up on her iPod.

Chapter 2

At breakfast, Lucy pushed a strawberry around her plate still thinking about the crumbled envelope resting on her desk. Her eyes traveled over the rich chocolate granite countertop to Emily buzzing about the kitchen as she pulled down containers of strong earthy-smelling coffee and coffee mugs. A porcelain wrist poked out from under a dark sleeve as she reached up toward the top shelves. The sight of it sent a wave of sadness through Lucy that eventually settled in the curve of her ribcage. Fragile bones encased in a membrane no thicker than the skin of a tomato was all that was keeping her mother safe. A reminder that despite the added years she gained by being bonded to a demon, her mother was still human. She always knew this, but lately, her mother appeared more run down. Was it fair to leave her? The beep of the coffee maker jolted her from her musing, and she looked up to find Emily off again digging in the fridge for eggs and steak; her father always ate one for breakfast. Lucy thought it was a bit barbaric. A great yawn pulled her from her thoughts. Speak of the Devil.

Bare-chested and yawning, Lucius walked in stopping Emily's frenzy as he wrapped his well toned arms around her. "Good Morning," he whispered into her ear. A ripple of goosebumps rushed up her back, "Don't do that so early in the morning." She said turning on him and slapping him in the shoulder.

He chuckled. "Then don't be so tempting." He said recapturing her and nuzzling her neck.

"Hello, witness here." Lucy chimed in, annoyance in her voice. It still bothered her that both of her parents looked to be in their late twenties or early thirties and still acted like goofy teenagers. "Geez, as if I didn't get enough of a an earful last night."

"Sorry, good morning Lulu." Lucius said with a teenage-like smirk before pouring himself a cup of coffee. He set the cup down on the table and seated himself across from her. "So do you know which college you want to attend?"

"Well, about that…" her eyes drifted to her mother's back then to her father's face, "I guess something near home."

"Hmm, if that is what you want, but I thought you wanted to study music in New York."

"I thought I could get my basic stuff out of the way here…"Her gaze moved towards Emily again (still tolling about the kitchen to make Lucius's breakfast). Lucy looked for some sort of reaction: stiffened shoulders, a sudden release of tension-nothing. Lucius caught the direction of Lucy's gaze and cleared his throat. "Well, that is a good plan, but you know it might be better to start your degree where you intend to finish it."

Lucy's thoughts returned to the envelope. She had already been accepted into Eastman School of Music. She only needed to reply; however, it was three states away. What about the bakery and her mother? Lucy's face started to burn as the blame for her internal struggle sat directly across from her.

"Well, sure I could if someone here was around enough to help Mom out." She clamped her hand over her mouth a few seconds too late. A loud bang followed by a bitten-off curse word came from Emily's direction.

"Are you alright?" Lucius was up and at Emily's side in less than a second.

Despite the awkward nights and her deep annoyance with her father, Lucy felt a tinge of jealousy at how her parents were still so close after all the years together. If only I… she let her thoughts drift as she rubbed a spot between her shoulders. Yeah, like that will ever happen. Lucy's thoughts were brought back to the kitchen when Emily sharply protested Lucius's attempt to heal her burn. "It's fine, go away." She said shooing him away and turned her attention to Lucy with her finger in her mouth. "Hon, yweph don ha…" rolling her eyes, she plucked her finger from her mouth, "...you don't have to stay here just for me. I was thinking of hiring a part timer anyway. If there is someplace you want to go, then you should go."

Delight crossed Lucy's face before she could stop it. Pushing down the welling excitement, she played it off, "I'll think about it, but I think I should at least help you until you find someone."

"Fair enough." Emily said abscently letting Lucius take her hand in order to heal it.

Lucius released a heavy breath once he was finished healing Emily's burn. His shoulders slumped and a look of concern darting behind his eyes. "There is something else we need to discuss before Lucy runs off to college."

Both women swallowed hard and held their breath. It wasn't often Lucius was serious, but when he was, it was always something grave.

Cups of coffee cold, Lucy and Emily listened to what Lucius had to say about Lady Mink's escape and the elusive fugitive that helped to free her.

"Going to a college out of state might be a good thing-or maybe not: Lady Mink has it in her mind to take revenge on us or more specifically-me." Lucius said his arms folded across his chest. His blue eyes traveled over Emily then Lucy before turning his back to them and continued with a sigh, "The council wants to find the werewolf that helped her escape. They figure he knows where she might have gone. Supposedly, there was a tracking device on her, but the hunters have lost the signal." He spun back around an expression of worry disfiguring his face, "Until we find her, I think it would be best to keep you close to me." He looked between Emily and Lucy. "Both of you."

His attention shifted down the length of the table to his cell phone, blinking insistently, "But, I can't abandon my other work."

Lucy glanced at his phone and knew what he meant by "other work." The demon realm had him rounding up rogue demons as part of his initial punishment for exposing demons to uninvolved humans years ago before she was even born. She looked back over to her parents; her father's hand gently resting on her mother's shoulder as she lovingly stroked it with her fingers. A pain of guilt for just existing tugged at her chest. Thanks to her just being alive, her parents had to endure punishment; paranoia, from both sides; and fear of not just what another would do to her, but eventually what she might do to another. It was time for her to step up.

Resolve settling in, Lucy took a deep breath and addressed her parents.

"I want to help. Teach me how to hunt." Her hands trembled with every word. She dug her nails deep into her palms in an attempt to stop them, but they continued to quake. She knew full well the type of creatures her father hunted at night. Many of them would give their right eye to eat her heart. A demon without limitations. Abaddon had created a failsafe centuries ago to protect not only humans, but demons as well, for if a demon were allowed to be ruled by his emotions, its powers would be endless. To prevent such a potential disaster, Abaddon created the demon candy and demon slugs. Lucy knew of them and the stories suggested that neither were desired. It was why Lucius had given up his demonic powers at her conception, but fate is a funny thing. At the age of five Lucy showed signs of demonic birth. Thanks to her grandmother, Lucius was able to get his powers back. It was necessary to protect her. And thanks to that twist of fate, she was under constant surveillance: both good and bad. She was tired of having someone protecting her.

"I mean it. I can't rely on you forever. I need to be able to take care of myself."

Lucius and Emily gave each other a concerned look.

Reading the situation, Lucy chimed up, "You won't be everywhere I am..." she paused a minute, an encroaching doom festering in her chest, "...will you?"

Lucius's face softened and so did Emily's although maybe not as confident as her husband's. Emily knew it was inevitable; the dangers were out there, and they couldn't protect her forever. She nodded, "It's okay. I trust you." She gave an" I'm counting on you" glance towards Lucius. It didn't go unnoticed.

Chapter 3

Branches whipped past as the two followed fresh large deep paw prints in the mud.

"Lucy, this way. Cut him off. Don't let him get too far past the river." Lucius pointed beyond the cliff. "He can't fly, but he is incredibly resilient. A fall from here would be nothing." Lucius slowed his glide to land amongst the mossy damp ground in search of more paw prints. Lucy landed in a sequoia directly above him just East of the river.

"Great but, I don't even know what the guy looks like." She balanced on a branch her wings folded behind her.

Lucius's gold eyes glared up at her consistent whining. "Furry face, long tail, bad breath… smells like wet dog-if you don't recognize a werewolf when you see one, you shouldn't have asked to come with me."

"Okay I get it. But, how do we know we haven't been following an actual wolf's prints."

It took everything Lucius had not to sigh in frustration.

"Come down here." He said hiding his annoyance.

Lucy shoved her weight from the branch and glided to the ground. Upon closer inspection Lucy could see that the prints had five toes instead of just four. Lucius glared over at her, "Werewolves have thumbs."

"Oh. I did not know that."

"Well, now you do and now you can help me look." He said pointing across the river.

"Okay, I get it." She said in a huff and spread her wings to glide over to the other side of the ravine landing in a spruce. Lucius followed her with his eyes and sighed. Perhaps she is still too young for this.

His gaze fell from Lucy to the water below flowing quietly down the mountain, no sign of the fugitive. Maybe he swam up river. Lucius leapt down from his vantage point and flew into the mountains.

Swinging a pale leg from the branch, Lucy watched her father spread his wings and vanish into the woods upstream. Wishing she had brought her cell phone, she only half watched the river.

"I wouldn't have come if I knew it was going to be this boring."

The rough bark of the tree dug into her bare legs causing her to press her hand down to readjust only to have something crawl along the back of her hand. "Ugh, stupid ants. Don't I have to deal with enough of you at the bakery."

Just as she began to feel her stake out was more annoying than productive, the sound of a splash and a plop traveled from the river's edge and with it came a shiver that crawled up her spine. She had felt this more than once before in her life, and when she did, it usually meant her life was in danger. Shooting a sideways glance in the direction of the water, Lucy saw something large, white and smooth lay motionless on the bank. Cautiously, she dropped down for a closer look. Tucking her wings back, she tiptoed toward the inanimate object. It groaned and shifted. Stifling a yip, Lucy dodged behind a tree only to peek around a second later. It was a man, half-naked and apparently injured. Against better judgment, she stepped into the clearing and called out to him.

"Are you alright?"

He rolled over with a moan one arm slung across his face. "Do I look alright to you?"

Lucy backed away and concentrated to hide her demonic features. Before getting too close, she smoothed her hair double-checking that the horns were gone, "Well, if you don't need anything…" She said turning to leave.

Pushing himself up on one elbow, he took a deep breath and released it slowly, "I guess you weren't all that worried about me after all."

His words stopped her footsteps and she spun around. "Hey, you didn't exactly ask for help."

He smiled with a soft grunt, "You're right, I apologize. Thank you for your concern. Would you mind giving me a hand?"

"Better a fool than cruel." she muttered to herself. I sure hope you are right this time, Mom.

Besides he didn't look like a werewolf—no fur, no tail, just long dark hair stuck to a bare chiseled chest. Heat rose in her cheeks as she unconsciously stared at his exposed light gray nipples. She turned her eyes away. He must be cold. I'm sure that water was freezing. She fought the welling eagerness that came with her demon nature. This man was in need of help. Get it together Luc. Through pure will power, she suppressed the instinct to transform and drain him.

"How did you get here?" She asked while offering him a hand. He declined it and crawled onto the bank coughing up the remainder of the river still in his lungs. "I was taking pictures when a bear chased me. I fell from up there." He pointed behind her to a low point on the cliff. "Luckily, it wasn't too far of a fall."

Lucy's eyes moved from the direction of the cliff down to his ripped pants; a deep gash caked in mud and oozing blood ran down the length of his calf. "Maybe I should have a look at that before it gets infected." She said motioning to his injured leg.

"So you are concerned for me."

She blushed and turned away, "Well, I think anyone would say that."

His gentle smile stayed. "Maybe."

He shifted to set his leg out for better treatment. Without hesitation, Lucy pulled the oversized hoodie from around her waist and soaked it in the river bringing it back to wring the water over his wound.

"I can at least help you clean it."

"Hmm, I certainly won't turn down help from a pretty girl." He said ripping the remaining half of his pant leg to reveal the full length of the wound. Lucy's eyes widened. It didn't just look like he had been chased by the bear, but actually attacked by it.

"I'm surprised you managed to get away. That gash is huge." She went back to the river to rinse out and refresh the cloth.

"So what is a girl like you doing out here." He asked as she walked away.

"Umm...school project…" She lied and dipped her sweater once again in the cool water. When she turned around, his body and chest lay still.

"Hey, don't lose consciousness on me. I can't carry you." She dropped the hoodie and ran to him to press her ear to his chest. Nothing, no heartbeat, no breath. A tightness squeezed at her throat and the desire to run tugged at her body. I can't just leave him...I have to do something.

"Hey, mister...come on."

Nervously, she placed her hands on his shoulders and shook him. "Don't do this to me. Come on wake up."

Licking her lips that now felt dry and clammy, she stared at his nearly blue lips. Ok, Luc you can do this.

"How did it go again: tip the head, open the mouth…" Swallowing the lump closing her throat, she leaned over his face. Lifting his chin and pulling his jaw open with her thumb, she lowered her lips to his. They were supple and cold against her mouth. I can't believe I'm doing this. She pinched his nose and breathed. Instead of feeling her air enter him, a sweet scent drifted from between his teeth. Attempting to draw back, she was stopped by his hand clamped firmly behind her head. His tongue move inside her mouth; and he pulled her in tight. Trapped in a suffocating kiss, she felt something cold and sweet slip passed her tongue. An overload of saliva triggered her swallowing reflex and she felt it crawl down her throat. Pushing him away her eyes wide as she stared into his lilac nearly silver irises. "What did you…?"

But before she could finish, a darkness wrapped her vision, his voice a melodic hum in her head. "Thanks for saving me."

"Thanks for saving me."

Big chocolate eyes stared up at her with a wide grin. Lucy, only a head taller, smiled down at him and ruffled his sandy hair. She drew her hand away when the boy's eyes widened and drifted behind her.

"Are you an angel?"

Lucy tossed a glance behind her and shrieked. She had forgotten about her wings.

"Um, you could say that…" She said nervously while mentally pleading for her wings to disappear.

The boy continued to grin, "Will you take me to heaven when I die?"

Lucy's heart froze, her chest tightening. Was this something a small boy should say? Uneasy about the lie and his question, Lucy forced a smile back to her face and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Let's just hope that's not for a long time, okay?"

His face fell, "The doctor told me, I only have a few months."

A strong breeze rustled the ash tree overhead calling her attention skywards. His eyes followed hers. "I wanted to ask god if he would give me a little more time until my sister is born."

"So that's why you were up so high?"

He nodded.

Lucy knelt down level with him and asked, "How old are you?"

"Seven." He said proudly through a missing front tooth. Only six years younger than herself relative to humans anyway. She frowned, and his smile melted as his eyes traveled to Lucy's wings. "Can you take me to see him?"

"Who?"

"God..."

The look on Lucy's face must have given him pause because he shook his head and said, "I don't mean when I die, I mean, so I can ask him about my sister."

It wasn't like she didn't believe in God or any god; after all, she was part demon, why wouldn't there be a god of some sort; but she'd never met this supposed all-knowing being, so she couldn't confirm nor deny; and telling this boy the truth hurt more than a lie.

"I'll tell you what, I can take you up higher than the trees; and you can ask him. I can't promise he'll answer, but you have to promise me that you won't climb up places like that anymore." She said pointing to the top of the tree from which he fell.

"Promise."

"Lucy! Lucy!"

With her skin pale as moonlight and cold as death, Lucius search her body with his demonic eyes. "Her soul is still here, thank the devil." He held her up cradling her behind the head to listen for breath. She was breathing, barely. Overwhelming sweetness escaping her lips pushing Lucius back, "This scent…"

"Dad…?"Long dark lashes unveiled deep emeralds.

"Lucy!...Tell me what happened?"

"I couldn't take him…" she muttered before her eyes fluttered closed again.

Take him? Him who? "Lucy!" he shook her, but her body only lolled and swayed to his attention. Pressing his forehead to hers he whispered, "Hang in there kiddo."

Light in his arms, Lucy fell against him. Spreading his wings, he darted into the night sky towards Banshee, a club his mother owned and operated.

Peak hours, the club was full of vampires, dark faeries, underlings, and various other demons. To avoid the crowd, Lucius landed on the roof, set Lucy down, and dropped through the skylight into Michelle's office. "Woman, are you here?"

Something scampered from the office chair, its nails scratching along the wooden floor as it came closer.

Lucius looked down at the dog-like creature, "Grendel, where is your master?" The creature leapt up into Lucius's arms attempting to lick his face. "Please don't do that." Lucius held the creature at arm's length. "Where is my mother?"

Grendel jumped down, scurried over to a side door, and began pawing it. Without knocking, Lucius forced the locked door open. Michelle lay across the bed her silver skin-tight dress pulled down to her waist, her long platinum hair spread in a fan covering her face, and an empty vodka bottle dangled from her hand.

"Geez."

With a sneer, Lucius kicked her off the edge. "Wake up, Wench, I have an emergency."

Michelle flopped to the floor to emerge a second later with flames in her eyes. "It had better be an emergency."

"It's Lucy."

The sudden panic in his voice as her granddaughter's name left his lips sobered her in an instant.

"What happened?"

"Hold the window for me." Lucius flew through the skylight with Michelle holding it open. Limp but breathing, Lucy sunk into his arms as he picked her up and brought her inside. Resting her on the sofa, Lucius backed away to give Michelle room.

"So you want to tell me what happened." She said leaning in for a better look.

"She was like this when I returned from scouting up river."

Michelle shot up jerking her head towards her son. "You took her hunting?"

Before Lucius could answer, she had slapped him in the back of the head. "What were you thinking? Does Emily know about this? She's only a halfling. You can't bring her to hunt full-fledged demons."

Lucius looked away allowing the slap to go unreciprocated. "It was Lucy's decision. And this one was only a werewolf, technically a halfling."

Michelle cocked an eyebrow at him, but motherly instincts she had long suppressed surfaced and focused her concerns on Lucy. "Did you notice anything strange about her when you found her?"

"She looked like she does now…"He thought a moment, "…I do recall an unusually strong sweet smell."

Grabbing the front of his shirt with both hands, Michelle pressed him for further details.

"Where?"

"Her breath."

Michelle's silver eyes widened, and she shoved him back, "Why didn't you say so early? Time is crucial."

She leaned in sniffing the subtle breath drifting from the girl's lips.

"Idiot." She snapped, standing to face Lucius, "Why weren't you with her?"

Before he could attempt to defend himself, she had turned her full attention back to Lucy. Michelle narrowed her eyes as she concentrated on Lucy's abdomen, "There." She held out both hands and chanted, a wisp of smoke rose from her palms, swirled and thickened until a transparent white snake rested in her palm. Its body, earthiral, coiled and uncoiled becoming solid in parts only to become visural a second later. Small shadows along its body gave it the appearance of scales and eerie red eyes distinguished its head.

"A phantom snake?"

Michelle turned stony eyes on her son, "Someone gave her demon candy."

"Demon candy? But I thought..."

Annoyance laced her face, "One of your father's inventions; It eats demon aura, and unless you want your daughter completely human, you need to find out who gave it to her and return it." She turned her attention to the creature in her hands, "The snake will act as a sacrifice for now."

Michelle looked over Lucy's face twisted in pain. Placing one hand on her forehead, she closed her eyes and chanted, "Open the path to this poor soul, enter here and and close the door." She placed the snake over Lucy's stomach. Fangs dripped down from its mouth and solidified then it shot down from Michelle's hand and buried its fangs deep into Lucy's abdomen. Lucy flitched but did not wake. Once attached, the body of the snake turned to vapor before vanishing, leaving only two small dots near her belly button.

Michelle's expression softened as the color returned to Lucy's skin and her breath grew stronger. "For now the phantom snake's aura will get absorbed instead of Lucy's: sort of a reversed poisoning." Her eyes shot in Lucius's direction, "But, it won't last forever." Her gaze softened, "A few months. Maybe."

"Can't we just keep using the snakes until we find the owner or a way to remove it?" Lucius asked trying to ease the tension.

A smile that always made him uncomfortable, slipped over Michelle's lips. "Do you have any idea how expensive those things are?"

She manifested a piece of paper and pushed it into Lucius's chest. "The next one is on you."

Lucius froze the moment he read the numbers. A million rubles!

"Of course, you could work at the club with me." She said slipping behind him and wrapping herself around him while her hand explored the space between the buttons of his shirt.

Lucius pushed her away. "Back to normal I see. I don't need to host your nest of harlots. Emily is important to me, you know that."

"I'm just teasing." She said gliding away.

Lucius's expression hardened as pain twisted his daughter's features.

"Then I will take it. If we cannot return it, I will take it."

A serious scowl formed on Michelle's face, "Fool, it may turn her human, but for a demon it is slow death. Like being eaten alive."

A soft groan pulled their attention away from each other and towards the sofa. Lucy's eyes slipped opened and dropped over to her father and grandmother.

"Mimi, Dad? What happened?" She groaned, "My head is killing me."

Grendel leapt to Lucy's chest, licking and panting; a worried look in its three eyes. "Alright enough, Grendel, I missed you too."

A sigh of relief drew her attention to Lucius's pained blue eyes. "Dad, what's wrong?"

"Nothing we'll talk later. You fainted, so I brought you here."

Lucy swung her legs around the couch hauling Grendel up under the arms and holding him close. "Why here, why didn't you just take me home?"

Michelle knelt down in front of Lucy scanning her face. "Angel, do you remember what happened before you fainted?"

A blank stare was her response. "No, I was sitting in a tree watching the riverbank…" her expression changed slightly as if she remembered something, "…there was something on the edge of the water…what…was it? I can't remember." She looked up at Lucius with an apologetic smile, "Sorry, Dad, I can't recall anything. Did you ever manage to find that werewolf?"

"No, let's just get you home for now. Can you fly?"

Lucy handed Grendel to Michelle. "Yeah, I think so."

Michelle watched as the two flew through the skylight. "I guess I'll just have to make a little visit to the underworld, come on, Grendy, let's go on a fieldtrip."

Chapter 4

Long spindly legs sung into cool dark mud as a tall gangly figure separated from the group and wondered near the river's edge. Hector crouched low on the branches above and waited for his chance. The moment the Ikuni bent to dip its canteen in the water, Hector pounced using his immense wolf form to pin the Ikuni to the ground being careful of its claws, for what the Ikuni lacked in size they made up for in cunning and deadly poison. Pressing a heavy paw at its throat. Hector growled, "Nothing personal, I just need what's inside your head."

His mouth opened wide revealing rows of sharp yellow teeth. The Ikuni showed no emotion as Hector chomped down and swallowed its skull. Rich black fur rained from Hector's body as his skin morphed into rough charcoal; one large red eye manifesting at the center of a massive forehead. He stretched his bony arms and shoulders flexing his long three fingers as he adjusted to the new form. Now where is that girl?

Ikuni have excellent hearing; he picked up the buzz of a city just south of him. Hmm, seems to be the closest possibility. He followed the ping inside his heavy round head to the edge of the forest. City lights lit up the night sky.

It is not going to be easy to find her with this many people. He allowed his own humanoid form to emerge; the ping muted but was still audible. Good at least I can still hear it like this. I certainly can't go walking around town looking like that guy.

After spending several centuries amongst humans, Hector had a decent idea on how to act human; now all he needed to do was lure one of them out alone.

Beyond the edge of the woods and down a steep slope, Hector could see a large metal building with pulsating walls that thumped in time to music playing inside. It was almost too much for his sensitive ears. He picked a spot furthest from the destructive speakers inside and hid within the shadow of the building where he waited for the door to open.

The music and a blur of chatter billowed from the doors as they opened belching out two women laughing and clinging to each other as they stumble out into the parking lot. Hector watched the women separate as one of them went to find her car leaving the other leaning against the wall by the door.

Draped in Lucy's hoodie and in his closest form to human, he approached the woman with glazed expression.

"Are you alone?" His voice was smooth and hypnotic. She grinned at him with droopy eyes. "Why, are you looking for company, handsome?"

"Maybe."

He led her away from the light of the building towards the shadows. She was so easy to manipulate: the alcohol in her system doing the work for him. Pressing her against the wall, he leaned in capturing her lips. He bit gently with a sharp fang just enough for a bead of blood to pool at her lip. It was all he needed. The woman collapsed against him and he left her where he had found her.

"Now, I just need to acquire some clothes."

Lucy grabbed an apron from the hook and tied it around her waist. As she walked towards the front of the bakery, she found her mother sitting across from a woman in her thirties with mousy brown hair cut short behind her ears. They had been chatting ambilily apparently for sometime as there were two plates devoid of what use to be slices of lemon spice cake and two empty coffee mugs.

Emily turned to Lucy as she approached, "Good morning sweetheart, I'd like you to meet Julie. She is going to work part time here."

"Nice to meet you." Lucy said pressing down a sudden uneasy feeling welling in her gut.

Emily smiled and gestured towards Lucy, "This is my daughter, Lucy. She will show you the ropes."

Turning to greet Lucy, Julie gave her an easy smile. "Take care of me okay."

Lucy smiled back, but noted that something darker swirled in the woman's eyes.

"Sure. Follow me; I'll get you an apron." Lucy shot a look towards her mother, but she seemed too excited about having the help to notice.

Handing an apron to Julie, Lucy turned to lead her into the kitchen. When she checked to see if Julie was following her, she was still standing in the hall holding the apron.

"You'll need to wear it if you are going to work here."

"Oh."

Julie fiddled with the strings tying the long waist string around her neck. Lucy stifled a giggle. "Haven't you worn an apron before?"

Julie shook her head.

"Here let me help you. Are you sure you are going to be okay here?"

Lucy tied the strings behind Julie's waist; there was a lot of the tie left. Were the strings always this long?

She finished tying on the apron and patted her on the back.

"There you go."

Julie looked down at the black apron trimmed in gold as if Lucy had just given her a lavish prom dress.

Befuddled by her reaction, Lucy released a slow,"Ooo Kay," and then motioned for her to follow her down the hall.

"Well, you can shadow me for today. I'll show you what you will need to do."

"Thank you, Lucy."

"It's just an apron and you don't get to keep it. It stays with the shop."

A moment of disappointment crossed Julie's face until another thought rose to the front of her mind. "Say, how is your father?"

"What?" The unsettling feeling in her gut returned. "Why do you ask?" She asked a tinge of suspicion in her voice; after all, this could just be another one of her father's admirers.

"Oh, I'm sorry I just assumed that your father must be busy with some other work that's why he cr…..I mean that's why your mother hired another person."

"Yeah, I guess." She gave Julie a suspicious look before gesturing toward the kitchen. "Anyway, here is the kitchen, for now, why don't you just try washing dishes. I'll show you some other task when you finish with this."

Excusing herself, Lucy went to look for her mother. She found Emily talking to a customer about a cupcake order. I guess I'll wait. The nagging feeling in her stomach pulled her back towards the kitchen. When she arrived, Julie had both sides of the sink filled to the brim with soapy water. Lucy rushed over turning the water off.

"No you can't put in that much water…. and why do both sides have soap?"

Julie's easy grin never left her face, "I'm not supposed to do it this way?"

"If you put too much water in, it will overflow when you add the dishes, and how are you supposed to rinse them if both sides have soap?" Lucy released an exasperated sigh. "We are just going to have to drain one of them."

After setting the new help straight, Lucy went back to search for Emily to discuss her choice of employee. She found her hunched over a dozen cupcakes squeezing light purple icing out of a pastry bag.

"Mom, we need to talk."

"Sure, sweetheart, but first could you hand me those sugar decos over there. The yellow daisies…thanks."

"What did you need to talk about?" She looked up from her work with a satisfied grin. A ballerina twirled on the top of each cupcake. "Wow, Mom, you've gotten really good at this."

Puffing out her chest, Emily thumbed her nose leaving a spot of purple icing at the end.

"He, he, well after your father fixed my eyesight, I earnestly started practicing. You're bound to get good at something if you practice it for fifty years." She reached across the table for the decos and placed a small yellow daisy at the waist of each ballerina.

"Isn't it boring to have done this for so long?" Lucy asked as Emily continued to smile down at her handwork.

"No, why?" She straightened up pushing her fist into her lower back. "Ugh, it still hurts to bend over for so long." As she stood, she evaluated the look of disbelief on her daughter's face.

"Seriously, besides we did travel for a while when you were young."

Lucy lowered her eyes, "That wasn't exactly by choice."

Sliding around the table, Emily threw her arm around Lucy. "Now, I know you didn't come in here to ask about my career choice, so what's bothering you?"

Lucy looked away a moment and with a deep sigh focused back on her mother.

"Um, I know you hired a new person, so I could go off to college; but are you sure about this woman? She didn't even know how to tie an apron properly."

Emily smiled and pulled Lucy in tight then planted a kiss on her temple before letting her go to return to her work on the cupcakes.

"I'm sure she was just nervous. Besides isn't your semester starting next week, I was lucky to find someone so quickly."

"Yeah, but I don't think I can leave you just yet; at least not until that woman seems to get a better handle on things."

Just as Emily was about to retort, a hole opened in the space between them and Grendel landed in the center of the tray of cupcakes. "Grendel!"

The small creature looked from Emily to Lucy then down to the pile of crumbs and icing; he looked up into Emily's stern gaze and his face fell. She had a soft spot for the three-eyed demon and couldn't stay angry for long.

"It's fine, I'll just remake them."

Rubbing his furry head, Emily noticed something in Grendel's mouth. "Whatcha got there boy?"

Grendel turned towards Lucy and dropped a wet now covered in purple icing envelope in her hands.

"What is it?" Emily asked.

"I don't know." Lucy wiped the icing from the piece of paper on her apron and attempted to open it.

"It' a letter from Mimi."

"Michelle? I wonder what she wants."

Lucy ran a long nail under the top of the envelope, "Who's to say. And why doesn't she just call my cell?"

"Old habits die hard, I guess." Emily offered then motioned to the letter, "Well, are you going to open it."

Flipping the letter open, Lucy scanned its contents a moment.

"She wants me to drop by the club after work."

"Hmm, I wonder what she wants." Emily's gaze dropped to the mound of smashed cake and icing, "I'll have to make another batch of these." She said more to herself then the two in present company.

Grendel coward and whimpered which pulled Emily's attention away from her task to the very remorseful demon. Pushing the anxiety of the remake from her face, she smiled and reached to pick him up. She held him nose height and nuzzled him, "How can I stay mad at you."

Lucy scanned the purple mess from the table to the icing covered demon in her mother's arms. "I can help."

"That's all right, I was actually ahead of schedule for once."a little lie won't hurt. "I'll remake them in the morning. Why don't you just go now. I'm almost finished here anyway. You can take Grendel home and visit with your grandmother."

Plucking Grendel from Emily's arms, Lucy toted him off to the bathroom. "Okay, but let me get this icing off of him first." Before she could walk two steps from the table, Grendel's long tongue shot out to snatch an intact cupcake from the tray.

"You sneak." Emily admonished with a puff in her cheeks.

Lucy landed on the roof of Banshee then slipped down into Michelle's office. Michelle was chatting with a blonde man in his thirties with a nose too cute for a man, and a soft boyish face. For some reason he looked vaguely familiar.

"...It has already started. Did you see the headlines?"

The young man held up his hand, "I am aware. What do you think I've been doing this past week…" The sound of the skylight hinge brought their faces skyward.

"Lulu!"

He held his arms open to her, beckoning her into them. "Come on, jump I'll catch you." Lucy inched away from the skylight and sent a pleading look at her grandmother. Unable to resist teasing him, Michelle smacked him on the back of the head with the newspaper, "Down boy."

Michelle smile sweetly up to her granddaughter, "It's alright, hon, come on down."

Confused, Lucy held Grendel tight against her and dropped down to the floor.

Seeing Lucy's discomfort written all over her face, Michelle stepped up and wrapped her arm around her shoulders, "Don't be frightened, Love, this is your grandfather. Don't you recognize him?"

Lucy shook her head, but Grendel jumped from her arms and over to the man who had just accosted her.

As Grendel leapt across the room into the man's arms, a flash of when she was small jumped to the forefront of her mind... "Jiji?"

With a slightly more timid look, Abaddon glanced up under his long eyelashes at her. "So does this mean you'll give your dear old grandfather a hug?"

Unease and discomfort wreathed inside her bones, her body said don't touch me, while her mind said, it's just a hug and he is your grandfather. "Um I don't really…."

Michelle stepped between them and glared at Abaddon, "Would you knock it off, you're making her uncomfortable."

Dejected, Abaddon recoiled to the sofa to play with Grendel's paws, but Michelle wouldn't let him have that luxury for long.

Snatching Grendel from his arms and handing him back to Lucy, Michelle admonished him, "Oh for pits sake, get over yourself. Can we get to why we brought her here?" Abaddon glanced longingly at Grendel's belly sagging like a great water balloon from under Lucy's arms before clearing his throat, and with a pout, he stood and walked over to the fireplace. "Yes, of course."

His face turned serious almost frighteningly so; the glow of the embers heightening his cheekbones and the furrow of his brow, "Now, I know you are aware of Lady Mink's escape, and I understand you wish to go off to college." He gave a curt glance towards Michelle (she nodded) and he continued.

"This has caused some distress for your parents."

Lucy's face fell and she held Grendel a bit tighter. Abaddon held up a hand and allowed his face to soften in an attempt to stop her young mind from careening into doomsville. "Now I'm not suggesting you don't go, so your grandmother and I have a proposal for you."

Michelle leaned over her desk and pulled a vile from a drawer and then held it out to Lucy. "Come here and hold out your hands."

"Why?"she asked unable to hide the suspicion in her voice; after all, this was the same woman who used to play close your eyes and open your mouth when she was little. She could still taste the burnt meat and applesauce. Michelle's rather sad attempt at cooking.

"Don't worry, it won't hurt you."

Lucy placed Grendel down and held out her hands to catch whatever Michelle intended to pour from the vile. A thick rope of black tar like liquid oozed from the end, but the moment it touched Lucy's palm it solidified into a stone.

"Good you are compatible." Michelle said pouring a little into her own hand.

"What is it?"

"They are portal stones." She plucked the stone from Lucy's hand. "You can keep one at the bakery or your house here and take the other with you. When you want to go home, all you need to do is step on the one you are carrying; and it will open a portal where the other stone is. Nifty, huh." She etched something into both stones and dropped them into Lucy's hand. "They're a set, see"

"Just make sure wherever you leave the stone is a secure place. You can't take it with you when you jump through the portal."

Abaddon spoke up, "I suggest a closet someplace private. You don't want to end up returning in the middle of traffic or have someone find it."

Lucy stared down at the stone as a prisoner might a key to his cell. "This means I can go to Eastman." Her smile spread wide and she threw her arms around Michelle.

"Thank you, thank you."

Michelle gently pried Lucy off. "Don't thank me. This was your grandfather's idea."

Abaddon stood unable to hide the anticipation on his face. "Can I get one too?"

Retreating, Lucy gave him an uneasy smile, "You know it would be easier if you didn't look like you were my age."

A pout lip preceded his protest, "But Michelle doesn't have to look like an old lady."

"You are such a child." Michelle said then turned to Lucy, "Would you please. I'll have to listen to him whine for the rest of the day if you don't."

Timid steps took her closer, and she placed her arms around him. His body stiffened before he threw his arms around her.

"Thank you." He whispered into her ear sending shivers down her spine. She immediately pushed him away.

He smiled awkwardly, "Sorry about that, force of habit."

Lucy tried to hide the grossed out expression on her face, but it proved difficult.

In an attempt to break the tension, Michelle cleared her throat, "Ahem, anyway, Lu hon, would you like to try the stones out? I had Grendel leave one when he dropped by earlier." She held out a stone with a heart etched into it.

"A heart?"

"Home is where the heart is. Isn't that how the saying go?" Michelle said with a wink.

Abaddon forgotten, a smile plastered in place, Lucy jumped to Michelle's side, "Let's give a try."

A few regular customers hung around the café waiting to catch a peek of Lucius, who usually stopped by the bakery just before closing. Amongst them was a woman in her late twenties; she had been nursing a cup of Earl Grey tea for several hours and had only picked at a piece of lemon spice cake. The bell rang over the door and Lucius walked in carrying a bouquet of fifty roses. All the other women followed his stride keeping fixed gazes on his strong arms and firm thighs outlined by his fitted jeans. The woman with the cold tea and picked-over cake continued to stare out the window. One customer approached him while playing with her hair. "Are any of those for me?"

Wow that was bold. Lucius smiled, "I'm afraid not. Each one of these roses represents my love, and they all belong to the beautiful woman who owns this shop."

"Are you flirting with my customers again?" Emily accused as she rounded the corner while wiping her hands on the hem of her apron.

"Of course not, all of my thoughts belong to you." He said lowing the roses to one side and hooking his arm around her waist before pressing his lips to hers. He felt a jolt of jealousy from the women in the shop and he smirked against Emily's lips. She pushed at his chest with a scornful yet playful expression, "You did that on purpose."

Feigning innocence, he smiled, "Just an added bonus." He handed her the flowers taking her hand and kissing it.

Pulling her hand away, she wagged a finger at him."Shame on you."

Her teasing seemed to have the opposite effect she wanted as the women only grew in agitation; so much so that Lucius's eyes swirled with the emerald green of envy. A growing need to hide back in the kitchen began to overwhelm Emily, so when Lucy's voice traveled from the decorating room, she was grateful for it.

"Mom, are you around?"

"What is she doing back so soon?" she muttered turning slightly to look back down the hall.

"I'll be right there, hon." She called back then turned to smile at Lucius. "Put these in some water would you?" She said dumping the large bouquet into his arms. Before she left him standing there, she winked at him with a tinge of warning in her eyes, behave yourself. He heard it clear as day inside his mind. Of course my lady. She stuck her tongue out at him before disappearing down the hall.

In the decorating room, Lucy and Michelle stood grinning.

Emily stopped in the doorway as her gaze fell on Michelle and Lucy, "Mother, what are you doing here?"

Ignoring her comment, Michelle rushed to Emily smothering her in her chest. "I missed you. Why don't you ever come to the club?"

"Why would she want to go to that cesspool you call a club?" Lucius scoffed as he snuck in behind Emily.

Michelle shot Lucius a look. "No one asked you."

Prying herself free of Michelle's embrace, Emily apologized for having not visited sooner.

"Work has been a little crazy lately. I'll try to stop by on a weekend."

"I'll look forward to it, Dear," she turned her eyes on Lucy and grabbed her by the shoulders ushering her forward, "Now, the good news. Show them, Love."

Lucy held out her hand to present the black stone to her parents.

"It's a portal stone. Mimi and Jiji gave them to me. It means I can travel between here and my school. Isn't that great?"

"Jiji?" Lucius brow shot up before realizing whom she spoke of, "Ah, Father. Well, I guess that solves one problem." What is that old fart up to now? Lucius looked relieved, but worry still darkened his features. There was still the matter of Lady Mink's location and not being able to protect his daughter while she's at school. Lucius stepped up and placed his hand on Lucy's shoulders, "I think it is wonderful that you found a solution to one of your problems, but remember that Lady Mink is still out there. I doubt she will try anything while you are at school, but that means you must come straight home after. No side trips."

Her dark lower lips slipped out and her brow knitted together.

"She doesn't know where I'm going to school. You are being paranoid. What sort of college life do you want me to have? I want to enjoy it. I can come straight home whenever I need to with this right," she said holding up the stone. "So stop worrying."

Lucius gave a curt glance towards Michelle, "Thanks, Mother. She sounds like you now."

"Oh please, you were never the cautious type. What's got you so worked up?" She said flicking a lock of silver hair over her shoulder.

"I wouldn't be so worked up if she were a full demon, but she's half human; and Lady Mink is not someone to take lightly." Lucius argued.

"We'll address that problem when it comes up right, Love." Michelle said hooking her arm around Lucy's waist. "I say we celebrate Lucy's acceptance into Eastman."

"Not so loud, you never know who could be listening." Lucius cautioned.

"Seriously, you have become such a stick in the mud." Michelle pouted.

"Wait you've been accepted into Eastman?" Emily asked, rushing to steal Lucy away from Michelle. "Why didn't you tell me?"

Lucy's eyes traced Emily's flour coated apron to her frizzy hair and settled on her red-rimmed eyes. "I didn't want to leave you alone."

"I'm not alone anymore; I have Julie."

"Yeah about that: has she improved at all?"

Just as the question left her mouth, a cacophonous sound resonated from the kitchen. Swept away by responsibility, Emily left Lucy's side but paused just inside the doorframe, "Tell me all about it when I get back." and she vanished around the corner. They rest could hear her voice carried down the hall. "Julie, are you alright?"

The small group soon arrived behind Emily to witness an overturned step stool, mixing spoons, and an assortment of steel bowls and pans scattered about the kitchen floor.

"What happened?"

"I was trying to clean the top shelf. I guess I lost my footing, oopsy." Julie said with that empty smile.

Lucy pushed passed the group and began picking up the fallen cookware. "Don't over stretch yourself. If you need to, you should get down from the stool and move it." She didn't even try to hide the frustration in her voice.

"Lucy, give the girl a break." Emily said before turning to shoo the onlookers away. "Get out of here all of you." She turned to Lucy, "You too. I've got this, so go celebrate, I'll join up with you in a bit."

Reluctantly, Lucy stood up to follow the rest out of the cafe. "If you are sure…." Lucy stood in the doorway staring at her mother's back as she helped Julie pick up the fallen pots and pans. Sensing her daughter still standing in the doorway, Emily lifted an arm and waved her hand sending her off, "Go on, I'll join you shortly."

Lucius swept in and wrapped his arm around Lucy's shoulder. "She said she promises to meet us later. Don't worry I'll come back for her." He said with wink and whisked Lucy from the bakery.

After everyone had run to investigate the noise from the kitchen, a shadow darted from the decorating room and into the lobby. The woman staring out the window rested her hand in the seat for the creature to crawl up.

"So what did you hear?"

Chapter 5

It had been ages since they went anywhere as a family, and this was only to set Lucy up in an apartment near the university. Unable to control her excitement, Lucy had not slept that night; and to her surprise, her parents were both quiet. It made the anxiety swirling in her grow into a wild torrent. This issue with Lady Mink must really be bothering them. Lucius had been silent the entire drive and they had left their apartment at three a.m. that morning; the sun was now setting as he pulled his black Maserati into the parking garage of what was to be Lucy's apartment building. They had decided it was best to keep the portal stone somewhere secure rather than risk Lucy jumping into the arms of the enemy. Five floors up, Lucy looked down onto the street below. A flood of people traveled the sidewalk. She could see the orange rays of the sun reflected off the windows of the shops across the street. Demon sight allowed her to peek inside some of them. One was a consignment shop with various pieces of old-looking furniture and a glass display case with an assortment of gaudy jewelry; next to it was a flower shop, and on the other side was an arcade. Several young men that looked like they could also be attending the university were huddled around a shooting game. Leaning slightly, Lucy tried to catch a glimpse of the screen, but the moment she caught a flash of light, a blonde-haired woman in her late twenties approached them. She stood there a minute chatting before she walked away followed by one of the college students. They appeared to be sneaking into one of the restrooms. Lucy quickly closed the curtain and backed away from the window. None of my business. Her face flushed as her imagination followed the two into the restroom. Fingers tangled in hair, lips intertwined, buttons flying and hands exploring. Lucy bit her lip commanding her mind to stop when Lucius stepped up behind her tapping her on the shoulder. A surge of energy jolted through him. A hint of pride swirled, but was quickly squashed by fatherly instinct, perhaps he'd been in that role too long. He glanced over at Emily and shook his head. No, he loved his family even if it meant suppressing a great deal of his demonic nature. Shaking the thoughts from his mind, he cleared his throat to get Lucy's attention. "Ahem, your mother wants to know where you want your dresser." Lucy turned nearly gold eyes on him. Wild and lost hunger stared at him before vanishing a moment later. "What?"

Lucius patted her on the shoulder with a smile, "Where do you want your dresser?" "Oh, I'll help sorry. I just got a bit absorbed there for a minute." Trying to hide the blush darkening her cheeks, Lucy darted away from her father's prying eyes. As the evening drew on, Lucius milled about the apartment turning various objects over and setting them back down. Emily hummed as she put things away in the cupboards. As Lucy watched her father peer around doors and check the strength of the window locks, she had a sudden concern she'd never actually get to be alone. It was getting late, and they were still there.

"Dad, you can't create portals like Mimi can you?"

"If I could, I wouldn't be so concerned. Even if I flew here, it would take at least three hours."

"Oh, good." She said a little louder than she meant to.

"What?"

"Oh nothing, I'm sure I'll be fine, and if I need to leave quickly, I have the stones; so no worries."

Lucius set the lamp he was currently holding down and walked over to Lucy, a serious look in his eyes.

"Lu, it's not that I don't trust you. I hope you understand that, but you need to understand the danger you are in. Not just because of Lady Mink. There are other demons out there that would love to get their hands on a half-breed like you; not to mention, human males." His face morphed into something threatening and dangerous. "You will have to fight them off as they will all be drawn to your demon aura."

Emily giggled from inside the kitchen, "Just admit it, Hon, you are worried about your daughter being taken away by some BOY."

"Em, not you too. Why do neither of you get this?" Red to his ears, Lucius turned away to find something else to play with in the apartment.

The auditorium was buzzing with new students as Lucy snuck in ten minutes late. A group of male students near the front were joking and jeering one of their group members. Lucy's green eyes narrow down on them. "So did you…", "Come on you can tell us, dude." "Oh man, did you actually do some chick in an arcade bathroom?", "Ballsy man, ballsy." Lucy's sensitive ears heard it all. The images from her imagination threatened to return when a voice boomed from the stage. "So glad you decided to join us; please have a seat." The current school president stood behind the podium giving her a disappointed look as he pushed his wire-framed glasses up his broad nose.

He had kept his voice calm and professional, but it was embarrassing as hell all the same. Red-cheeked, Lucy pulled her hood over her head and sank low into the nearest chair at the back of the auditorium. The group that was joking so loudly early dropped their voices to low snickers. A set of blue-gray eyes lingered on her hunched form for a while longer.

"Hey, Hector, you okay man?"

Pressing his palm to his forehead, he waved off his friends concern. "I'm fine." And he turned back towards the stage.

"Now a word from our department head professors." The president announced giving the stage over to a voluptuous red-haired woman in a gray pinstripe dress-suit.

"First let me introduce you to your music department head, Ms. Johnson." He said motioning in her direction. The woman stood and adjusted her jacket. As she stepped to the podium, whistles resounded through the auditorium.

"Please calm yourselves, I will love all my students equally."She said in a husky voice and as the words left her mouth, the excitement amongst the male students rose and with it an aura of dark envy emanated from all the females. A surge of energy hit Lucy so hard, she had to press her hand to her nose to stop the rush of blood, and she hurried out of the auditorium.

Ms. Johnson watched with steely eyes as the girl stood up. She was silent a moment as the room began to hush.

"Everyone, I look forward to an interesting year."Her dark eyes set on Lucy's back as she fled. She licked her lips with a smirk, very interesting.

The sun blazed over the courtyard leaving little place to hide. Lucy ran to the closest bathroom praying no one was around. As she passed the mirrors, her eyes widened in horror. Her horns protruded from under her hood, but thankfully, her wings remained concealed. She ducked into a stall and took a couple of deep breaths.

"Okay, Luc calm down. I've been through this before. I just need to relax."

Her breath slowed, and she could feel her horns receding. Blood cool and heart rate even, she thought it was safe to leave until she heard two voices growing louder.

"Geez, did you see the tits on that woman. Don't tell me we have to take classes with her."

"Well, I wouldn't mind switching to literature with Mr. Edwards—total hottie. Wish I could have caught a better look at his backside though."

"I know what you mean, but you hate literature."

"I know, but god I could learn to like it if I could get to stare at him all day."

"Well, I for one am not giving up my love of music because of some big boobed bimbo."

"Ugh, I don't think I could take the boys constantly panting over her. Won't that drive you crazy?"

Jealousy and hate overflowed from the girls' pores. Pain throbbed at Lucy's temples as her horns re-materialized; she could even feel her wings begging to emerge. Not now, not here, please.

Just before she thought she couldn't take anymore, a young man's voice echoed through the women's restroom from outside.

"Hey, Mr. Edwards can I ask you a question?"

The girls near the sink went silent, looked at each other, and ran from the bathroom.

"Mr. Edwards wait up!" They cried.

After the surge of constant envy and lust had penetrated her body, Lucy's wings pushed against her shirt begging to be freed. It became difficult to breath.You can't, not here; please go back. With no command of her wings she was forced to remove her shirt or face strangulation. Seriously, I don't get people who get off on that. Sh held her throat as she choked out a few good breaths. The bathroom stall was a bit too small for her massive wings and she worried someone would see them from the top. Well, so long as no one else comes in here, I should be okay. I can get them to go back. She covered her chest with her arms using her shirt as a shield and took a few deep breaths, desperately trying to metabolize the surplus of energy.

"Are you okay?" the male voice that drifted in early was now very loud inside the bathroom.

Thoughts jumped in her mind unable to settle on any as she tried to think of a plan. Not only were her wings and horns exposed, but so was her chest, and there was a man in the women's bathroom. Maybe if she remained silent, he would leave without discovering her.

She could see his white Converse wade across the floor. He walked to the last stall and turned around. As he headed back towards the exit, Lucy let out the breath she had been holding only to catch it back when his face appeared below the stall door.

"Ahh, what are you doing!" She screamed.

Through magic, she had managed to hide her wings and horns, but not her chest. One arm crossed over her breast, she threw her sweatshirt at him."Get out!"

He laughed, "Sorry, sorry, I thought maybe you were hurt or something. Don't worry you can take your time. I put a closed for cleaning sign in front of the door. So long as you are okay, I'll be on my way now."

Relief lasted but a moment before a thought most unpleasant hit her, Just what did he think I was doing in here? I know I was feeling frustrated, but I didn't do THAT…oh shit. What if he tells his friends about this?

Dressing the moment her wings recited, she darted out of the bathroom in search of her intruder. She only saw his face for a second, but she remembered his shoes and the scent of citron.

The majority of the students were on their way to check out their dorms, so the courtyard was empty except a handful of students. Where did he go? Lucy stopped a few students who looked like the ones he had been sitting with. "Excuse me…" She hesitated a moment uncertain as to what to say. They looked at her with puzzlement, then curiosity, then hunger, Damn this cursed body. "Nevermind." As quickly as she could she backed away to create enough distance for the afrodesiac effect to wear off and then fled. As she wandered around campus a bit longer, she found herself at the edge of campus near downtown. Citron and beagormant, cinnamon and sugar, lemon and vanilla all rushed to her senses. A cafe? Of course it wouldn't be him. Like it was going to be that easy. A bit depressed and overall having humiliated herself twice in one morning, Lucy felt it best to go home. She looked back at campus before crossing the street to her apartment building. God, I hope he doesn't spread weird rumors around campus about me. I can see it now: New Girl Masturbates in Women's Bathroom of Local Campus. Her ears burned at the thought.

She froze at the edge of the sidewalk. "What if this gets me kicked out!" She said her last thought aloud, a little too loud. People sitting outside a café held fork at mid-bite to stare at her. She wanted nothing more than to vanish within one of her grandmother's portals.

The tips of her purple Stilettos sunk into the mud pulling an annoyed click from Michelle's lips as she lifted a heel for inspection. "Ugh, I really like these shoes."

While Michelle griped about the dirt and filth, Grendel frolicked amongst the swaying limbs of honeysuckle and rolled in the damp leaves.

"Grendel, stop that and come here. I need you to track something for me."

As if suddenly stricken deaf, Grendel continued to play.

Rolling her eyes, Michelle shrugged and then strolled over to a pair of naked thin gray legs just visible from beneath the debris.

"A hunter?"

"It certainly was rather careless of whoever left him lying around." She pushed the leaves and decay aside all the way past his torso. Fat black slugs crawled along the body as if searching for something. Her eyes travelled beyond the shoulders where the slugs gathered in masses. She stood back and cocked her head to one side, "No head, huh."

"Maybe whoever it was, was more careful than I first thought…Grendel honey, would you stop playing around. I need your nose."

Reluctant to stop his play, Grendel gave, what could only be called, a huff and then waddled over to the corpse and buried his nose along the ground and across the hunter's body, snatching a plump slug between his teeth as he searched. He backed away and began whining as he drew too near the neck. Michelle walked over and glanced about the area. "What did they do with this guy's head?"

Something glistened near the severed neck, and Michelle picked it up. A simple metal band with the etching of an unusual flower emanated a massive aura. Grendel whimpered then darted away. The slugs fled as the reflection of the light touched their flesh.

"Interesting."

"Does this belong to our culprit?" She asked turning it over and sliding a glance over toward Grendel cowering behind a nearby tree.

With a nod of his shaggy head, Grendel confirmed it. "Hmm" Michelle then walked over and reached down to pick Grendel up. He wiggled and protested, biting her hand. She dropped him. "What has gotten into you?" Grendel lowered his head and backed away. The ring's light dimed the further away Grendel stepped.

"I see, this thing bothers you does it?"

With the flick of her wrist, Michelle called a small portal that she sent the ring through.

Grendel immediately relaxed.

"It's okay now, come here."

Turning in a couple of circles, Grendel leapt up into Michelle's arms. He whimpered then began licking the wound on Michelle's hand.

"I know you're sorry. Now let's get to work." She held him over the decapitated body.

"Okay, boy you know what to do. We can't leave this here for humans to find."

Grendel opened his mouth allowing his long black tongue covered in green sticky ooze to sag from his jaws. The substance dripped onto the body dissolving it with every glob. Its gray flesh bubbled and blistered until nothing remained. Michelle turned Grendel around and rubbed his forehead with hers, "Who's a good boy?"

"Okay, let's go home. You best get some sleep. You are going to be a busy little tracker tomorrow."

She opened a portal for home with a bitter taste in her mouth, This is going to get ugly.

Lucy woke to the blinding light of the sun. She threw a light milky arm over her eyes. "I don't want to go. What if he told everyone what he thought I was doing in there, or worse, what if he saw my wings?" Groaning she pulled the cover over her head only emerging when something with the weight of a cat jumped onto her abdomen.

"What the?"

Yanking the covers back, Lucy stared face to face with Grendel.

"What are you doing here boy?"

The creature dropped a small velvet pouch in her awaiting hands.

"What did you bring me this time?"

Inside the pouch was a little purple box and a business card from Banshee. On the back of the card Michelle had written a note.

Lu lu,

Keep this ring with you at all times. It should keep lesser demons at bay. And it should help with your demon urges as well.

Ciao my sweet demon,

-Mimi

Lucy pulled the ring from the box and Grendel coward. "What's the matter boy?"

The ring illuminated from the etching and Lucy ran her fingers over the curve and along the edge of a flower she didn't recognize, "Wow."

"It's so pretty. I wonder what kind of flower this is."

She slid the ring onto her finger and held it up to the light; it rattled around her thin fingers. "It's a shame that it's a little too big for me."

Rays shining through the window bounced off the slip of silver intensifying the light; it hit Grendel in the face. With a yip, he rolled to the end of the bed and dropped out of sight.

"Grendel?"

Swinging her legs to the edge of the bed, she walked around in search of the small demonic creature. At the end of her bed where he had fallen was an open portal and what looked like her grandmother's severed head.

"Ahhh."

"Good morning Lu Lu." the severed head said cheerfully.

Lucy stumbled backwards, landing on her butt and clutching her chest.

"Don't do that to me!"

"Sorry lamb, but did you get the ring? Grendy was against taking it to you. I was afraid he'd leave it somewhere."

Lucy held up her hand showing the ring to Michelle, "Yep, he did."

Lucy glanced back down at the portal and remembered Grendel's swift retreat.

"What is wrong with Grendel, does this hurt him?"

Michelle wiggled her way through the small portal and sat on the edge of Lucy's bed.

"Something like that. I'm not 100% sure what the ring is, but it is very effective against lower level demons. I thought it would put your father's mind at ease."

Lucy looked at the ring then down to the portal where Gendel had fled.

"If you were going to come anyway, why did you make poor Grendy deliver this?"

"That was his punishment for biting me the other day."

"He bit you?"

"Well yes, but he had his reasons. Still, I can't let something like that go without some sort of punishment."

"Oh. Poor Grendy." Lucy said looking down at her hand; she fiddled with the small metal band.

"Hey, Mimi, do you know what kind of flower this is?"

Michelle leaned over throwing her arm around Lucy's shoulders and ran her hand down to the end of Lucy's arm, taking her hand in hers. "Hmm, I wondered that too."

"So?" Lucy questioned anticipating an answer.

"Got no idea."

"Mimi!" By this point Lucy wondered just how legitimate the ring really was.

Watching Michelle vanish and reappear made Lucy wonder, "Mimi, are there other demons like you who can create portals wherever they want?"

"Well, there are but not too many, and besides I can only create portals where I've been before or have at least left a trace of my demonic aura."

Walking over to the window, Lucy looked out onto the street and then scanned the room. "Just how safe am I here?"

Michelle's gaze fell on Lucy's back, "Shall we test it?" She ran a hand through her long hair, rolled her shoulders, and allowed her humanoid form to slip. A long tail covered in silver scales dropped to the floor in place of her legs and leathery gray wings spread behind her. She coiled and hissed then darted towards Lucy. Before Lucy could even register what had happened, a portal opened sending Michelle away.

"Mimi?" a moment passed and her heart rate jumped. "Mimi? This isn't funny." She ran into the kitchen and searched the rest of the apartment. Grendel and Michelle were both gone. Dropping her arms to her side, she felt the ring slip and heard it dance along the floor. A white hand appeared through a holeup through the wood and snatched it; Michelle emerged a second later, back in her humanoid form. Patting down her skirt and fixing her hair, she walked up to Lucy as if nothing had happened.

"You might want to put this on a chain or something if it is going to just slip off your finger." She said handing the ring back to Lucy.

"What just happened? You just disappeared."

"Oh that, your father insisted I set a trap. If demons were to show any sign of hostility towards you, they will fall though one of my portals. So long as you are home, you are safe. Oh yes, also on campus."

"Does it only work on demons?"

Michelle tapped her chin with a long gold nail, "You know, I'm not sure. I think it would work on anything that threatened you."

"I guess I shouldn't worry too much then. Wait where do they go?"

Michelle gave Lucy a wicked grin and spun towards the kitchen, "My little secret." As the words left her mouth, something darted from the window towards the street. Lucy followed it with her eyes into an alley only checking for a moment to see if Michelle had noticed too, but she was already in the kitchen with the upper half of her body lodged in her fridge.

"Oo, your mother left you with some key lime pie, you don't mind do you?" She asked as she was already searching the drawers for a fork.

"No, go ahead." Her attention on her grandmother was quickly pulled back towards the window. The creature was gone. She stared at the alley for a full minute before convincing herself she was only seeing things. When did I get to be so paranoid? She thought shaking her head.

Michelle exited the kitchen licking the last bit of pie filling stuck to the prongs of the fork. She paused when she saw the look on her granddaughter's face.

"What?"

"Did you leave me any?"

A guilty expression slipped in and vanished. "Who needs pie, when we have the entire town to choose from?" She said tossing the fork behind her into the sink.

Lucy sighed. "You didn't leave me any did you?"

Michelle answered by throwing her arm around Lucy's shoulder. "Let's go out today, my treat. I'll even take you shopping."

Trading pie for a new outfit sounded like a fair deal. She figured she'd forgive her this time.

Chapter 6

Lucius slipped through Ms. Johnson's office door while most of the professors were out to lunch. Pink lacy fabric with red poppies adorned the windows, chairs, a small side table, and the top of a white filing cabinet in the corner. Pictures of a young man with blonde hair sat on her desk in various frames. Diplomas hung on the walls between more pictures of the young man. Other than a few papers sticking out of the in-box, her office was neat, although, disturbing. He sneered at the pink lace and mentally thanked Emily for reducing the use of lace in the shop to small dollies they placed under cups.

He turned his attention to her computer and gave the hall one more sweep. Clear. Quick work of his fingers along the keyboard and he was in. More pictures of the blonde young man flashed on her desktop. This woman has a serious problem. Something about the young man appeared familiar, but he couldn't put his finger on it. The pictures looked to have been taken years ago, judging by the background and clothing. Perhaps that is why he couldn't place it. He dismissed it with a shrug and hit a few more keys granting him access to all of her files. Nothing seemed out of place, but the gut feeling he had when he met her, would not go away. A thump of heels down the hall froze his fingers. Closing all the windows and shutting down the computer, he vanished. Most humans can't see demons unless they want them to; but incase his hunch was correct, he was going to use a bit of magic to keep himself concealed. He transformed in a small winged demon, flew to the ceiling, held still, and waited for her to focus on her work, so he could slip out unnoticed.

Ms. Johnson turned the key to her office door and paused just before opening it. Her lip curled slightly before stepping in and closing the door behind her.

Shit. Lucius was trapped. He would have to wait for her to leave her office again. For what felt like eternity, she stood behind her chair staring at her desk. Did he leave something behind? He watched her closely, not daring to breath. She wrapped her hand around the mouse and brought it to her face, whispering into it.

She's loonier than I thought.

Ms. Johnson looked around her office once more then sat down placing the mouse on her desk but did not use it to access her computer. Everything she did was in code.

DOS? A black screen flashed then streams of numbers shot across the surface. The computer made a sickening crackle sound. Startled, Lucius bumped a picture at the top of the filing cabinet with his foot knocking it over. Klutz he cursed himself. Ms. Johnson immediately shut her computer off and spun around in her chair. "Who's there?"

Something black darted from behind the picture and scurried toward the woman.

"A MOUSE," she screamed using her chair as a shield.

It was a wonderful distraction. Lucius rushed for the door and in human form opened it from what look like the other side.

"Ms. Johnson, are you alright? I heard you scream!"

She took a deep breath pressing her manicured hand to her chest and in a husky voice said, "Oh, thank God. There is a mouse in here."

"Is that all." Lucius took off his shoe and scooped the rodent up.

He turned in time to witness the scowl on her face spring into a full flirtatious smile.

"Thank you, Mr. Edwards, you are my hero."

"No trouble. I'll dispose of this little guy outside."

Her voice turned dark, rasper as she spoke."You have become quite soft, Mr. Edwards."

Hair stood on end as he turned back towards the door. His body rigid. "I'm sorry. I didn't catch that."

She smiled brightly, but only darkness reached her eyes. "Oh nothing, I just said you are very soft hearted to let that rodent go."She replied in her normal voice.

"Hmm. Good day, Ms. Johnson." An unsettling feeling encroached upon his moment of triumph. What bothered him more was that the mouse in his shoe was not his doing.

Was someone else watching?

Lucy stood inside the changing room red to her ears. What stood before her in the mirror was a young demoness in a skintight black leather dress with pieces missing from the middle.

"Come on let's see." Michelle cooed from the other side.

"NO WAY, you have got to be kidding me. Give me back my old clothes." Lucy protested. "I can't believe you took them, what are you five?"

Michelle slithered her way under the changing room door poking her head in to see.

"I don't see what the problem is; you have the figure for it."

"That is not the issue here. What is wrong with the ones I chose?"

"Those are so boring." Pulling herself up to enter the changing room fully, Michelle stood behind Lucy looking at herself in the mirror and played with her hair as if Lucy wasn't even standing in front of her.

Her attention left her face in the mirror to her granddaughter's.

Cheeks burning crimson and lip twitching, Lucy wanted to evaporate.

"Are you seriously embarrassed? You're half Succubus; you should show off your sexy self."

Lucy buried her face in her hands, her teeth piercing her bottom lip.

"Oh ho, I see." Michelle ran her hand down Lucy's back calling her wings forth, and then pried the girl's hands from her eyes.

"Look, take a good look. You are sexy, you are supposed to be sexy, allow yourself to be sexy."

Michelle wrapped her arms around Lucy's waist and buried her face in her back.

"You have an interest don't you?"

"WHAT!"

Lucy spun around redder than before, "What are you talking about?"

Michelle backed away and took a seat on the little bench provided. "I'm saying you have the scent of a man lingering on you."

"Want to tell me about it?"

Averting her eyes, Lucy mumbled something to the floor.

"What dear, I'm getting old remember. You'll have to speak up."

A surge of warmth swelled in her ears as she remembered the incident.

"Fine, but not here, okay."

Lucy set the shopping bags down exhausted from sheer embarrassment.

Michelle sat across from her, slouching in the chair with her arm stretched along the back of the one next to her. Her eyes followed the movement of the ceiling fans overhead. "I still think you should have bought that little leather number."

"Please, Mimi, I wouldn't be caught dead in a room void of all light in that thing." Her rant was interrupted by a young man in an apron who set water glasses and straws on the table with two menus. "Good afternoon, ladies, I'll take your order whenever you are ready."

Lucy said thank you and looked away in an attempt to dismiss him before her grandmother could embarrass her further. The young man nodded and walked away.

Michelle watched her granddaughter's body language then allowed her eyes to follow the waiter before focusing back on Lucy.

"So, tell me about this male you are interested in. Have you made it to second base?"

A fresh supply of blood rushed to her cheeks, "No, you don't understand. I don't know why I 'smell' like a man. The only encounter I've had was a college student who helped me escape from the restroom."

"Ehh?"

"That didn't come out right." Lucy cleared her throat, tapped the paper off of the straw placing it in her glass, and tried again.

"I ran into some trouble at school when the department heads were introduced to the student body. The guys went nuts over the music teacher, and the girls were all swooning over the Lit professor."

Michelle inwardly smiled, that's my son for you. Sorry love, but he can't help himself.

Lucy took a long draw from her straw, sighed and continued. "I couldn't control my demon powers, so I hid in the bathroom; but then a couple of girls came in, and between their jealousy and the guys' surge of hormones, things got a little out of hand."

Michelle leaned her head back with a smile, "Ah nothing beats the rush of young males in heat."

The waiter stepped into the conversation just as the words 'males in heat' left Michelle's lips. He blushed and in a shaky voice asked the women for their order.

Sizing up the young man and licking her lips, Michelle sat up, thrust her chest out, and adjusted her top to show a bit more cleavage. "Are you on the menu?"

"Mimi!" Lucy scowled.

A quick clearing of his throat, the waiter tried to regain composure, "No ma'am, but we do have a lovely strawberry parfait, or if that isn't to your liking we have a rich and velvety tiramisu."

Michelle pressed her finger to her pouting lips and gave a little click of disappointment. "Too bad, well if I can't have you then, I will take the turtle cheesecake and a cup of black coffee."

Lucy rolled her eyes. Please tell me I don't have to act like that to get a meal.

Still mildly flustered, the waiter turned his attention on Lucy, "And for you, miss, what can I get you?"

Too embarrassed to look the young man in the eye, Lucy scanned the menu and picked out the first thing that look interesting.

"Can I get one of your strawberry parfaits please?" She said without looking up at him.

"Certainly."

Just as the waiter turned back toward the kitchen all too relieved to get away from the strange woman with silver hair, a group of girls entered the café sending a fresh breeze from outside across the room.

Citron?

A waitress in a pink apron was bringing a cup of tea to a neighboring table as the familiar scent registered in Lucy's mind. Of course I'd smell citron. I'm in a café. The waitress turned from her customer's table and glared at Michelle before returning to the counter.

Envious glares and resentful feelings sent a surge through Lucy; her gaze fell on her grandmother's appearance: low cut gold sequin dress barely fitting her Dolly Parton size rack, a dozen or so gold bangles shimming on her wrist, and blood red lipstick calling all males to attention; and then her eyes traveled to the glares of the other customers. Shifting uncomfortably in her seat, Lucy reproached Michelle. "Mimi, can't you look, I don't know, more like everyone else."

"What's the fun in that? I don't see why I have to…."

Michelle's words trailed off in Lucy's ears as the bell rang over the door and a young man with dark hair entered. Her eyes followed him to the back of the restaurant as he made small talk with one of the waiters and then disappeared behind the kitchen door.

As if the volume had been restored, Michelle's words came back into focus. "… I mean I am a demon after all and I should be proud…" Michelle followed Lucy's gaze,

"Are you even listen...ing?" A smirk pulled at her lips.

"Did you just find that interest we were talking about earlier?"

Lucy's gaze was locked on the kitchen door, waiting for him to return. She nodded involuntarily.

"Ho ho,"

Michelle's I-caught-you laughter brought Lucy back to the café dining area.

"What! No, I wouldn't say that, I mean I just think he looks familiar."

"Hmm, sure Dear."

Before Lucy could protest, their waiter returned with their order.

"Can I get you anything else?" He asked his voice betraying his wish for her to say "no."

Lucy shook her head, but Michelle chimed up without a moment's hesitation.

"Yes, you could get my granddaughter the name of that handsome young man that just went into the kitchen a moment ago?"

Hector emerged from the kitchen with a fresh black apron tied around his waist the moment their waiter looked over his shoulder.

"You mean Hector?" he said gesturing in his direction.

Lucy locked eyes with him and a rush of adrenaline flooded her chest, "I have to go."

She pushed past the waiter and ran from the café. A wide grin pulled across Michelle's face. The waiter turned from Lucy's retreating back to Michelle, "Is she going to be okay?"

Patting the young man on the shoulder, she continued to smile, "No worries. Sorry about this hon, but could you box this stuff up for me please?"

"Of course."

Lucy had less than a minute to find cover. Her demon energy was in a frenzy. She ached between her thighs and now nothing about her demon nature was hidden. Darting into an alley full of empty boxes and wooden pallets, she collapsed against a brick wall. "Calm down, Lucy, come on. Deep breaths." She chanted her mantra over and over with each breath. It was something she picked up from her mother who used to cradle her in her arms when she was little and say those words to her over and over until she settled down. Just as her heart rate began to return to normal something made the hair on her neck stand up.

A gruff voice that seemed to be coming from within the walls, spoke with a mocking tone, "Are you sure you should be alone in a strange town?"

"Lady Mink will be pleased. I'm sure you are worth quite the reward."

Lucy's body shivered to the mention of Lady Mink's name, and her eyes searched through the dark to find the owner of the voice. Standing, she inched her way towards the exit, but unable to hide her wings and horns she couldn't escape to the street in broad daylight. She called a green flame to her palm; it sputtered and flickered with her fear.

"Show yourself." She demanded.

"Oh do not worry my pretty little succubus. I want my face to be the last thing you see."

A large red demon with one broken horn emerged from the shadows. "There is no escape."

The sky above was still bright, but perhaps she could make it to the rooftops unnoticed. Her eyes shot skyward; she pumped her wings the best she could in the small space, but the alley was too narrow. She smacked one wing against the bricks and floundered like a drowning bird. The orc snatched her around the ankle just as her fingers brushed the metal railing of the landing.

"Where do you think you're going?"

"Let go!" Lucy threw a flame at the orc.

With a yelp, the orc released her. Cupping its face in pain he cursed at her, "What have you done to my beautiful face?"

"Personally, I think it's an improvement."Came a warm familiar voice that floated up sending Lucy's skin into ripples.

The orc now in a human disguise turned on Hector.

"I think you should leave the lady alone now." Hector said casually.

A deep maniacal laugh vibrated the walls as the orc sneered at Hector. "And what is a puny human going to do about it?" The orc didn't even wait for an answer. He had thrown a fist straight for Hector's face.

Quicker than even Lucy could follow, Hector had blocked and locked the orc's fist in a bone crushing grip. The orc's knuckles cracked and popped like ice in warm tea.

"Do I need to repeat myself?"

The demon shook its oversized human head and backed away.

Lucy watched in astonishment from the shadows. Hector?

"The one and only…." Oops, I shouldn't be reading minds in this disguise. He cleared his throat and called up to Lucy.

"You can come out now."

As long as he stood only feet below her, she could not retract her wings or horns.

"NO! Go away!"

"What! I just rescued you."

"Yes, and thank you, but go away…please."

"What are you afraid of?"

Lucy bit down on the welling urge to suck him dry; she swallowed hard and then called back down to him, "Nothing. I just don't want to hurt you."

A stifled laugh reached her ears. Was he laughing at her? If so, he was gravely underestimating her.

"Hurt me? I just took down that huge thug." He strained his eyes to try to make out her silhouette within the shadows.

Cursing herself for leaving her stone behind, she tried desperately to will her grandmother to her rescue. Mimi...Mimi please tell me you hear me... Nothing. Ugh, of all the times she's shown up uninvited, why not now of all times. Lucy tap her forehead with her fist. Get it together Luc. I know, I'll just make him forget. Father taught me how; although, I've never actually tried it. I guess now is as good as time as any.

Unfortunately, for Lucy, memory wiping doesn't work on other demons; however, Hector smiled at her plan as her thoughts streamed to him. He'd play along.

Lucy ran the spell over in her mind before she leapt from the awning. In her haste, she had forgotten about the width of the alley. Brick walls blocked and scraped her wings causing them to collapse; she landed in an ungraceful heap on top of Hector. He released a "Humph" as her butt made contact with his stomach.

"Sorry...I mean," the spell she needed only came to her in pieces as she stared into his dark eyes, and as the heat of his stomach warmed her thighs the spell was forgotten all together. His lips called to her; the slight panic in his eyes only sent her consciousness further away. A soft thump against her palms resting on his chest beat in a hypnotic rhythm, and his features became a blur as she leaned in. Citron and Sandalwood flooded her senses as she brought her face closer. Chestnut hair swayed under her breath and tickled her nose; her lips hovered above his, her eyes wild and lost.

"Lucy." His voice was a sweet whisper in her ear, but grew in urgency, "Lucy, Lucy, wake up."

Gold eyes snapped into focus and aligned with deep black pools. Crimson darkened her cheeks, she pushed herself away, and yelled at him, "Jerk."

Hector chuckled softly. "So this is how you pay me back for rescuing you."

Face burning with embarrassment, she looked away, her voice trembling, "You can't tell anyone, okay."

"How can I, I can't even move."

"Ah…" her voice struck in her throat, but she quickly removed herself from his lap and darted for cover, less he get more of an eye full.

Hector stood and brushed himself off. From behind a stack of boxes Lucy pleaded, "You promise not to tell?"

"I promise, only if you promise me a date." He said with a smirk. Lucy floundered, "Are you joking, why would I promise something like that?" A date? Doesn't he have any idea what a date with a succubus could mean. Hector's eyebrow shot up as he didn't, but would love to find out.

"Well, do we have a deal?" He asked trying to peer around the boxes without stepping any closer. Lucy bit into her bottom lip as a hundred thoughts raced about her mind. It could be my chance to erase his memory...or it could mean erasing his existence by accident. I really haven't gotten the hand of that yet… At this thought Hector winced, but Lucy wasn't paying attention. "Ahem," Hector cleared his throat, "Going once, going twice…"

"Okay, okay, just don't get your hopes up." She peered around the cardboard with gold tinted eyes, "One date, and you promise to keep my secret?"

Hector's face lit up. "I promise." He said holding up his right hand. "Not a word, so Friday 7:00?" He said with a final wave of his hand as he spun around to leave.

The cooling heat returned to burn her cheeks, "Wait, you can't just pick a day and time...Hector!" He paused at the sound of his name leaving her lips. "I just did, see you Friday." Then with one final step he vanished from the alley. Despite her earlier protest a smile ached her cheeks as she rolled the word Date over and over in her mind. Her bliss didn't last long as the vision of herself straddled atop of him sent a wave up heat from her center. Teeth dug deep into her lip and hormones fogged her mind. Hector's desire had came through in waves while she was straddled on top of him. Pervert. Wait…wasn't I….

"No, no, no…I attacked him, and he found me in the bathroom half naked…oh god, he must think I'm the biggest pervert in the world. And he wants a date, he must..."

"A date, ohh, sounds promising." Michelle said waltzing down the dark alley towards Lucy and then offered her a hand. A wide grin spread across her face as she made contact.

"I can remove some of that for you if you like." She said with a greedy glint in her silver eyes.

Lucy wanted to swat her hand away, but settled with a glare. "Where were you?"

With a slight shrug of her shoulder, Michelle said, "I was waiting for that darling little waiter to wrap up our treats. I wouldn't want them to go to waste."

"Here's yours." She said holding out a Styrofoam cup.

Lucy gave Michelle an exhausted look, "Do you really think I need that right now?"

Turning with her arms crossed, Michelle pouted. "Fine, I'll eat it."

"No, I didn't mean that…I'm sorry. I mean thank you and yes, please take some of this off my hands." She said holding out her arms displaying her full demon self.

Setting the sweets down, Michelle nearly jumped with joy. Lucy began to regret the offer the moment her grandmother licked her lips.

Michelle rubbed her hands together, "Let me see what he taste like."

Running her hands down Lucy's wings sent a shiver down Michelle's spin.

"Ohh, he's a good one. You might want to think about keeping this one, but something seems a little off…leaves a weird aftertaste…like artificial sweetener." Michelle made a face like a cat trying to dislodge a piece of grass from its mouth.

Lucy stifled a giggle. Brushing off Lucy's laughter, Michelle hooked Lucy under her arm. "I say we've had enough fun for today. Your father will be furious with me when he finds out what happened."

"You don't have to tell him do you?" The idea of her father discovering what she had done bothered her more than the act itself.

A mischievous twinkle flashed in Michelle's silver eyes. "Why would I tell that stick in the mud anything."

Lucy smiled, "Thank you."

"No need to thank me, but…" she pulled a set of stones out of her pocket and handed it to Lucy "...you might want to keep this with you. Each one has its own partner, so it would be best to keep one in your apartment and its partner in your pocket, just remember you can't take it with you when you use it, so best use it only in an emergency. The other pair can stay in your apartment while its partner stays with your mother."

Squeezing Michelle's arm a little tighter, Lucy leaned in, "Have I told you I love you?"

Michelle made a face, "Don't go getting sappy on me now…"She patted Lucy on the head, I love you too, she and opened a portal to Lucy's apartment. "You can make it up to me by giving me all the juicy details about today and your date."

"Mimi!"

Black orbs stared back at him through the restroom mirror. He was losing his grip. As he tried to shake the smell of her skin-a minty hint of lavender and sweet musky vanilla-from his mind, something darted from shadow to shadow.

"Mobious, what took you?"

A long weasel-like creature slithered from the shadows; its body oozed like tar pulled from the depths of the earth.

"Trouble Master," it squeaked.

"Hmm, what sort of trouble? Did you find what I asked for?"

"No Master, Hunter body gone and so was Master's ring. Lots of footprints."

"Footprints? Show me."

Mobious stepped into the light; his oily figure solidified into slick fur like that of an otter. He shook his body free of the shadows and climbed up to Hector's shoulder. Placing his cool wet forehead to Hector's, he shared his memories.

"Are those heel prints? Who in their right mind would go out into the woods in heels?"

With a slight nudge and a squeak, Morbious pulled Hector's attention away from his thoughts. "Ah, sorry, boy, here you've earned it." Hector reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of nuts and dried fruit he had pocketed from the cafe. Morbious ate them with zeal. Reaching up with his free hand, Hector scratched the creature behind the ear and under the chin. After swallowing the last mouthful, Morbious jumped down and disappeared within the shadows.

Hector stared at his human guise; dark tendrils were starting to creep around his jaw and temples. This human has lasted longer than I expected, but without Aila's ring. I may have to abandon him sooner rather than later; after all, possession is a bit hard on a human. He looked into the human's eyes. "A shame really… you like her too don't you?"

His gaze forced back on the black markings encroaching his face.

I'm sorry Aila, I'll find it I promise. And I'll save Lila.

His eyes traveled from the dark markings to his forehead where he could still feel the heat of her breath. Her scent still lingered in his senses. A sweet pain began to rise in his chest at the thought of touching her again, he turned his head away. I'm sorry Lucy.

An insistent ringing drudged Lucy from her slumber. Her body felt heavy, nearly unmovable. A snow white arm crossed her vision in search of the noise. Michelle lay draped across the bed and half of Lucy.

"Mimi…MIMI! Get up!" Lucy shouted to no avail.

"Fine."

With a strong shove and a quick shimmy of her lower half, Lucy freed herself from under Michelle. Eying the woman's long silver hair spread like feathers on the dark sheets, Lucy shook her head. Who's the college student here? A flash from her phone and another phrase from Evanescence: Bring Me to Life called her attention back to her cell. She picked it up and her eyes widened. "Shit, I'll be late for class."

Ms. Johnson was a stickler for punctuality; a rumor had spread around campus that she had actual locked out half her class that arrived late due to an accident. Lucy didn't really care if she made it on time for Music Lit or not: she already knew more than most of the class, but Ms. Johnson gave a 100 point test that was fifty percent of the total grade each Monday morning. No student locked out, regardless of reason, could make it up. Lucy had already missed one thanks to getting lost on campus. She tossed her phone on the bed and ran to her closet—empty—except a small white box in the corner. Lucy picked it up. A little note in familiar handwriting rested on the top:

You are far too sexy for those boring clothes, so I've given you a new wardrobe.

Love and Kisses,

Mimi

Crushing the card in her hand, Lucy jerked her head in the direction of her bed. It too was now empty.

Weasel.

Without much choice, Lucy opened the box. She pulled out the leather mini dress she had tried on the day before. "Seriously, Mimi. She doesn't actually expect me to wear this to school."

Nearly tempted to go in her PJs, Lucy sighed as she held up the dress. What is wrong with my family?

After reluctantly putting on the one-piece, Lucy stood before her mirror and sighed. "Maybe I should just skip school today?"

"This is way too embarrassing to wear, and I'm fairly certain it's against some sort of dress code." Just as the thought settled her resolve to put her PJs back on and crawl back in bed, another hit her and that was the one about how low grades would disqualify her for her scholarship. She gave her image another look; her sides were bare and legs exposed to mid-thigh. Maybe in some fantasy she could wear this, but certainly not to school. The thought of so many eyes staring at her made her stomach hurt. It was usually hot, too hot to wear a coat, assuming her grandmother didn't hide those too. Taking a deep breath she smacked either side of her face with both hands. "Okay, I can't afford to miss any more class, just get over it."

She turned away from the mirror and stepped outside her door. Time was ticking and she needed to hurry. I could fly if I take the rooftops until I get to campus, but then there is a wide open area with no cover…I don't think I could run fast enough without drawing attention…plus just how well could I possibly run in this. Digging her hands through her hair she struggled to decide. "Screw it. What's the point of being a demon if I don't take advantage of it once in awhile?"

Instead of taking the elevator down to the first floor, Lucy ran up the stairs to the roof.

Cars drove blow: a few college students shifted lanes then cut back in front of another just to gain a measly car-length ahead. At least I don't have to drive there, she thought, but it would have been so much easier if she had gotten a dorm like she wanted; however, her father was against it. "What if someone sees you, or finds your stone? You are better off in an apartment, seen as how, you won't just stay home." She remembered the last bit with a pout on his face as he tried to use his natural charm against her—it didn't work.

She closed her eyes allowing her demon energy to flow and called forth her wings. With the large pieces of fabric missing from her dress, her wings materialized without pinching her clothes or ripping them. For a very brief moment, she forgave Michelle, but only briefly.

Sorry father, I don't have another option right now. Spreading her wings, she dropped from the roof and across several rooftops until she reached the last building before Gibb Street, the main drag in front of the school. From here she would have to run. However, running in heels, yes, another "gift" from her grandmother, made it impossible.

Nine O'clock, she had made it to the Miller Center, but still needed to make it to the other side of the building. If there were ever a time she wished to have her grandmother's talent for portals, it would be now. Nine O One, her hand reached for the doorknob, but stopped: it was too late.

"Well, Miss Edwards, welcome." Ms. Johnson said as she held open the door.

"Edwards?" Lucy stood bewildered. Why did she think her last name was Edwards?

Ms. Johnson noted the girl's perplexed look and attire, "Aren't you a bit overdressed or perhaps underdressed for Music Literature?" She spoke so loudly that every head turned in her direction. Girls whispered to one another: every word clear as day to her.

"What is she wearing?" "Seriously, desperate much." "She must be fishing." "Ha, ha maybe she just got off of work." Another girl said a little too loudly. Their jealousy and disgust was palatable.

Blood rushed up through her ears. It wasn't like she wanted to wear this. Frozen at the entrance, Lucy was startled when Ms. Johnson snatched her arm and dragged her inside.

"Well, I can't say I approve of your outfit, Miss Edwards, but I can't have you standing there all morning. Go to your seat."

Her arm burned where Ms. Johnson had touched it. It was only a temporary distraction from the waves she received from both the girls and boys in the room. Jealousy seethed from the girls and lust from the boys. Lucy wanted to crawl in a hole.

What was Mimi thinking?

Ms. Johnson only added fuel to the fire by calling her Miss Edwards.

Setting her bag down and wishing to disappear, Lucy sat and dropped her head to the table.

"Psst…hey…"

Rolling her face in the direction of the interloper, Lucy gazed at her with uninterested eye.

"I didn't know you were Mr. Edwards's daughter."

Green eyes met with hopeful caramel brown and she sighed. "I'm not."

"But…why would Ms. Johnson mistake you for his daughter?"

"I don't know. My last name is Valdire." With that said Lucy rolled her face back towards the table and just willed the class to end as soon as possible. Another nudge and she had to restrain her temper. "What?" She said without lifting her head.

"Pretty gutsy wearing something like that to class." The annoyance spoke again.

"Yeah, yeah, again not really my choice."

"Do you work at a club or something?"

Heat rose to the point of melting. Just what did this girl think of her?

"No!" she hissed from under folded arms.

"Miss Edwards did you have something you wanted to share with the class?" Ms. Johnson said making sure to emphasis "Edwards."

Shooting a look towards the girl beside her she then shook her head to the teacher's inquiry. A torrent of snickering bounced around the room. How she managed to contain the demon energy was beyond her.

"Hmm." A low snort seemed to come from Ms. Johnson as Lucy's reaction appeared to disappoint her.

Out of the limelight for the time being, Lucy lowered her head back to her desk until something poked her arm. "What now?" she muttered.

"Pass it down."

"Huh?"

The girl with the doe light brown eyes was holding out a stack of papers.

Lucy mumbled a sorry and took one before passing it down. The questions were standard, but she found something odd about her paper. The letters began to rearrange themselves. Blinking a few times, Lucy rubbed her eyes and scouted the room to see if any other students had a strange reaction to their paper. Nope.

She glanced back down as the words settled. Demon, Demon, Demon, Demon, Demon…repeated over and over down her paper. In a panic she crumbled it and tossed it in the trash.

"Is something wrong Miss Edwards?" Johnson asked a brow raised and an expecting glint to her eyes.

What could she possibly say as an excuse?

"I wrote the wrong name. Can I have another one?" The lameness of her answer even made her want to shove herself in a locker and flush her homework down the toilet.

Ms. Johnson smirked, walked over and laid another test before her.

She was definitely not a normal teacher.

The second test didn't give her any weird messages, and she was grateful when she turned it in that it didn't catch fire or something.

Test over, Lucy believed the worst was behind her until…

"Miss Edwards, why don't you tell us how to read these symbols." Johnson said tapping the whiteboard with the back of her marker. She had drawn a music staff with a few eighth notes and various lines beneath the staff. She then pointed to the end of the staff with two solid lines and what looked like a colon. Lucy ignored her.

"Miss Edwards!"

The girl from earlier poked her, "She looking at you."

"Ugh" Lucy couldn't stop the eye roll. What was with this woman? She continued to ignore her. "Miss Edwards, unless you want this behavior to be reported to the councilor, I suggested you answer when spoken to."

With a heavy sigh, Lucy spoke, "It means to repeat the phrase. And my name isn't Edwards."

Ms. Johnson's red lips curled into a smile that froze within her eyes.

"Thank you, see that wasn't so hard was it?" Her acknowledgment of the last name went unheeded.

With a click of her tongue, she tapped her marker in the palm of her hand.

"Why don't you show us how a crescendo would look? Miss Edwards." She held the marker out, and when Lucy refused to move from her seat, a rush of whispers filled the room. "Didn't she just say that wasn't her name?", "Why does she keep calling her that?", "Do you think they know each other?"

Johnson ignored all the whispering and walked over placing the marker in Lucy's hand.

"Up you go."

All eyes burned her like the fine point of light from a magnifying glass. Butterflies fluttered in a frenzy within her stomach and her palms began to sweat. Thump, thump, thump blood rushed through her ears louder and louder, but not enough to drown out the inner voices of her classmates. "I wonder if she has underwear under that dress," "Tsk, it's not fair. I wish I had those long legs," That one actually made her inwardly smile, but it didn't last long. "Slut."

The maker shook as Lucy brought it down to the whiteboard. Her exposed back felt hot as the greedy eyes of the boys licked her flesh. Please, stay, don't come out. Her temples began to throb forcing her to concentrate all her will into writing the alligator's mouth under the staff where Ms. Johnson indicated.

Not now, She begged her wings.

What was worse than the eyes of all the males in the class was the heaviness in which Ms. Johnson's gaze. Setting the maker down in the tray, Lucy slowly turned around trying to avoid eye contact with everyone especially Ms. Johnson. But she was still standing next to her seat, she'd have to walk past her.

"Excuse me," she mumbled as she tried to get to her seat.

Johnson refused to move. "I'm sorry, what did you say."

"I'd like to sit down please."Lucy said still avoiding eye contact. This seemed to peeve the overly busty woman off as she prodded a finger under Lucy's chin forcing her to look up at her. "Would you mind saying that again?"

Averting her eyes to a boy sleeping at his desk, she muttered again, "Would you excuse me please, I'd like to sit down." Her words must have come with a hint of sarcasm as Ms. Johnson dug her nail a little deeper into Lucy's chin before removing it and sashaying around her to take her place back at the front of the class.

When Lucy sat back down the girl with the doe eyes leaned over, "Geez, I've never seen her so pissed before, best watch yourself."

"I'll keep that in mind." Lucy lowered her face into her hands wishing now more than ever one of her grandmother's portals would open up and swallow her.

"I'm Grace by the way."

"Lucy." She said through her hands muffling her voice.

"Good to meet ya Lucy."

"Miss Appleton, we are having class now, thank you." Ms. Johnson's voice chimed in.

"Sorry Ms. Johnson."Grace said with a smile as she gave a quick glance to the front of the room.

For the rest of class, Ms. Johnson at least appeared to be focused back on class material; and Lucy thought she might be able to survive until the 9:55.

However, once class was over, Ms. Johnson called out to her again. "Miss Edwards."

Lucy stopped, She doesn't give up does she?

Ignoring her, Lucy continued to pack her stuff and headed towards the door.

"Miss Edwards, I would like to have a word with you."

Again Lucy ignored her until her hand reached for the door handle. In the time it took for Lucy to register the lever and her brain to send a signal to her hand on how to turn it, Ms. Johnson had stepped between her and freedom.

"I don't like being ignored." Her steely green eyes bore down on her. Like a mouse under the claws of a cat, Lucy heart jumped.

"I also don't like being lied to suc..."

The door clicked and a young man poked his head in. "Ms. Johnson…?" The young man flinched back slightly, "…sorry I didn't know you were with someone."

Ms. Johnson's features softened, "It's fine Mr. Rivers. What did you need?"

The young man wiggled his way between the two. While facing Ms. Johnson he gestured behind his back for Lucy to leave.

"Oh, I had a question about the report due next week." He said sweetly.

Lucy locked eyes with Hector for just a moment; he gave her a quick wink while Ms. Johnson was looking at his assignment, and she escaped.

That was the third time he'd come to her rescue. She couldn't help feeling like he was watching her. She didn't even really know him, and he kept popping up at just the right moment. He'd even asked her or for lack of better words told her they were going on a date. Perhaps it was time to pin him down for some answers.

Between Musical Theory and practice, Lucy found her opportunity. She caught Hector heading into the restroom. A curt peek with her demon eyes told her he was alone. She darted in after him and locked the door. A second in the stench of a male college bathroom made her regret her decision. Ugh, it's disgusting. She pinched her nose and forced her feet to move forward. I can't leave, this might be the only chance I get, just ignore it. Strengthening her resolve, Lucy stepped up behind him in full demon form (which only made the stench intensify). Choking back the need to vomit, she placed a claw under his chin. "So what is your deal? Why do you keep showing up at just the right moment? What do you want from me and don't tell me, 'a date'."

Slowly with his free hand, Hector gestured towards his zipper, "If you don't mind…"

Lucy's cheeks darkened as she realized he was still in the middle of…ahem his business. If only she were more like her grandmother, she could use this situation, but truthfully she'd be mortified if she were. She backed away swiftly.

Waiting for him to zip up before assaulting him again, she spun him around to face her.

"So, talk."

Unfazed, Hector stepped past her to the sink. "So do you come here often?" He said to her through the mirror.

"What?"

What bothered her more than his nonchalant way of being threatened by a girl in the men's bathroom was his blahzay attitude towards a demon threatening him.

"Wait a minute…" Lucy dropped her demon guise, "why aren't you freaking out?"

Hector shrugged, "I guess I'm just an open kind of guy."

He looked at her appearance a moment longer. "It's not like I haven't seen it before, but I must say that outfit is certainly fetching. Do you normally wear stuff like that?"

Something inside him took control, leaving his eyes focused on her long legs down to the curve of her calf ending in a pointed heel. He broke his gaze and pulled a paper towel down from the dispenser, "Anyway, you shouldn't go around campus dressed like that, or is it some demon thing? Humans don't usually dress that like, you know?"

Turning around to face her, he took a few steps closer, "Unless they are after something." Darkness danced in his eyes. Lucy took a step back; the intensity at which he stared at her was more than she could handle. Butterflies swirled inside her stomach. His gaze broke through her resolve, and she nearly gave up when he lowered his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. He released a heavy sigh. "I'm leaving."

Tossing the paper into the bin, he headed towards the door, "Now if you are done with the interrogation, I need to get back to class."

"No, I'm not done. You haven't answered any of my questions." She protested trying not to sound like a whining child.

Hector smiled, "You're welcome."

"I didn't say 'thank you'" just as the two words left her mouth she clasped her hands over it. Damn it.

Hand on the door, Hector paused and pointed to something behind her, "You might want to do something about that."

Lucy glanced behind her to see her tail swishing in agitation.

"Aah, stop it!" She said snatching it in her hands.

With a soft chuckle, he shook his head. What am I going to do with you? Clicking his tongue, he peeled off his button-up shirt, tossing it to her. "Here, cover up will draw too much attention like that."

Lucy caught his shirt, but immediately glared at him for a retort; that is until she caught the sight of what he was hiding under the button-up shirt.

Gold eyes stared wide at the muscles outlined by his white t-shirt. The tension she felt that morning in Ms. Johnson's class came to an exploding head and she snapped. She threw his shirt to the ground and rushed across the room pinning him to the door. Her breath came in pants as she stared into his face. Wings free, tail twitching, and horns gently grazing his face, Lucy's need to devour him spoke loud and clear. The warmth of her body against him fogged his mind. So this is a succubus's power? His thoughts were flooded with her—her scent, her warmth, her breath, her soft moans. These thoughts swirled in his mind until she brought her mouth down on his. Her taste overloaded the rest, the suppleness of her lips, the heat of her breath on his cheek. All of her controlled all of him. And damn if she weren't wearing such a seductive dress, he just might have been able to stop himself. As she pressed against him, his hands traveled the curve of her waist, the fullness of her buttocks and the firmness of her thighs. Hooking her leg, he slipped his fingers beneath the tight hem of her dress, stroking her thigh with his thumb.

She broke the seal of their kiss as she gasped for air. Half insane himself, he barely noticed the wild look in her eyes; but it was enough to bring him to his senses. She was losing to her demon nature, and judging from what he'd witnessed, this would not make her very happy. He hated to break the spell, but he knew it wasn't her will to throw herself at him. As tempting as it was to continue in the bliss, Hector muscled his way to be the mind of reason. Reaching up, he touched the ring at her chest. It flashed temporarily blinding her and she backed away. If he didn't leave now, he would be too tempted by her again, so he slipped through the door, leaving her standing alone in the men's room. Rubbing her eyes as she stood there, her mind slowly began to seep back into reality, she stood in horror. What did I just... As her thoughts became clearer, and she noticed the shift to her dress nearly pushed up to her panties, dread settled in. Despite a flood of guilt, she couldn't help relish in his taste still lingering in her mouth and the heat left by his hands; her wings tingled. Oh god I'm a pervert. I know he must think I'm so weird now. Voices down the hall interrupted her thoughts as a few college students were making their way in her direction. Shit! Please keep walking.

"Hold up guys, I need to take a leak."

A young man's voice rang clear in her demon ears. Throwing Hector's shirt over her shoulders, she looked around for a place to hide. Men's rooms generally only have one stall and a window, this one was no exception. She was pretty sure that even Grendel wouldn't fit through the window. Stall it was. Thank the devil it was a handicap stall. She darted in, locked the door and hopped on top of the toilet, carefully, it wasn't easy in a miniskirt and heels. Footsteps stopped in front of the stall. The door rattled.

"Damn it, gotta leave a deuce." He groused rattling the door again. "Hey, is there anyone in there? I gotta go man."

Lucy bit her lip and held her ears. Go away, go away, go away.

She saw him squat down to look under the door. She wanted the wall behind her to swallow her. As she leaned away from the door, something fell. The portal stone? How did it…? She looked at it a moment and recalled what her grandmother had said about using it only in an emergency. Didn't this count as an emergency? She could see his long shaggy hair fall below the door. Definitely an emergency. In that second, Lucy jumped down from the porcelain and stepped on the stone.

Chapter 7

Waves of young female hormones drifted to the front of the class as Mr. Edwards leaned against the desk; his sleeves rolled up exposing his well toned forearms as it propped up a copy of Homer's Iliad. A smirk went unnoticed by the class as he read.

"But, oh! Relieve a wretched parent's pain, And give Chryseis to these arms again…"

As the resonance of his voice traveled the room, the girls in the class all sighed and the boys rolled their eyes.

One of them exaggerated his annoyance by tossing a small black stone in the air and catching it.

"He's not that hot." Derek snorted.

"Yeah, tell me about it. He's all my girlfriend talks about now," said another.

Lucius continued to read, but left his perch and glided towards the two boys interrupting his lecture. His movements were quick and smooth, without breaking his cadence in the story, Lucius snatched the stone in mid toss.

The stone left Derek's hand but didn't return. When he looked up, Mr. Edwards was glaring down at him.

"I'll keep this," cold calculating eyes scrutinized the boy's face before he spoke again, "and if you did something with that mop of yours, you might have better luck with the ladies." Lucius turned around placing the stone in his pocket.

Bubbles of laughter rose up and popped around the room. Eyes of every color stared and judged as heat swelled in Derek's face; the pressure of their jeers mounting.

"You SUCK!" He yelled before storming out of the room.

Lucius's only shrugged. His fingers caressed the smooth black stone in his pocket; Michelle's magic tingled at his fingertips. Undeniable this is hers, but why did he have it. A quick glance at the clock and all the curious eyes waiting for him to continue sudden gave him the urge to follow Derek's idea. He set the book down on his desk and addressed the class. "I believe our young Mr. Henry has the right idea; class dismissed. Please read over chapter four and five. I will see you all Wednesday."

Lucius hung back a moment as his students filed out; he needed a moment to think. Was she in danger? Did she give this to that boy? NO, certainly not. Of all things did she drop it. Was she really that careless...no that wasn't right either. Doubt crept in; he would need a word with his daughter, assuming she was still safe.

Another class missed, Lucy banged her forehead against the cool glass of her apartment window. "Stupid, stupid…how am I supposed to get that stone back now?"

Staring down into the street, her eyes caught a flicker of white in the window. She was still wearing Hector's shirt. Unable to stop herself she pulled up the collar and brought it to her nose.

He smells nice…mmm.

A dark shadow darting below her window pulled her away from her thoughts.

"What is that? A cat?" She pressed her face against the glass for a better look. It was too large for a rat and too fast for a dog, but a cat didn't seem right either. Just as she was about to open the window for a closer look, a familiar voice reprimanded her from the living room.

"What are you doing home?"

Lucy spun around to come face to face with her father. "Dad!?"

"How did you… I mean…I didn't hear the door."

"Ah yes, the door…" Lucius walked over to the door, opened it and leaned down to pick something up.

He turned around and took four quick steps in her direction before holding up a small black stone.

Lucy's eyes widened. She wanted to ask how he found it, but then she would have to admit she lost it or used it…, or did she? What if it was a simple mistake…it just fell out of her pocket. What pockets? Which lead her to wonder how she had it in the first place.

Get real Luc, he is a demon after all. I'm sure he'd

"You are sure I'd what?"

Crap, "No fair reading my mind."

Lucius glanced over Lucy's attire; his lip curled and he locked her gaze, "So are you going to tell me how a student in my class, a male student, had your portal stone?" Too livid to realize his mistake, he waited for her answer.

Unable to hold his gaze, Lucy looked away, "I was cornered…hey, wait a minute…" Her confidence returned as her mind processed what he had said, and she met his challenge, "…what do you mean 'your class'?"

She stood at full height and glared at him."Are you teaching at my school?"

Lucius looked away.

Lucy threw her hands in the air, "I don't believe this. Are you telling me you can't even trust me to go to college by myself?"

His brows knitted together, "Well, clearly I can't; after all, you show up at school dressed like that, give your portal stone to some human male, so…so he can have access to your room whenever he wants…and… and"

Lucy had never seen her father stumble or become flustered before in her life; it was sort of amusing. Almost worth the ass chewing… almost. But being accused of being like him or Mimi infuriated her. She tried so hard to hide her demon side: just to be 'normal'.

"You're wrong you know."

"I'm not like you. And this outfit is YOUR mother's doing." The longer she tried to defend herself, the more her thoughts returned to Hector and what she had done to him in the bathroom. Cheeks a dark pink, she shut her mouth and looked away.

Pinching the bridge of his nose, taking a deep breath, and running a hand through his dark hair, Lucius sighed. "No, no you're not, you are your mother—stubborn."

Determined to preserve her innocence, Lucy forced her eyes to face him. "Dad! I'm telling you, I didn't give it to him…he must have picked it up after I…" Her mouth hung open a moment and her eyes darted away.

"After you what?"

Her confidence drained quicker than water through a sieve. "I didn't have a choice…" Looking down with flushed cheeks, she mumbled, "I had demon parts showing."

She would be damned to tell him it was in the men's bathroom.

His shoulders fell and his posture softened. Holding out his arms, he beckoned her to him. Reluctant at first but grateful for the comfort, Lucy fell into them.

Pulling her close, he lowered his face into her hair, "You got lucky this time. What if another demon found it…what if Lady Mink had found it?"

"I'm sorry." Smoke and cloves overwhelmed her senses as she buried her face in his shirt. His scent always calmed her. It wasn't fair. When she was little and would throw a tantrum, that scent would instantly settle her down and she would lose.

As the memories of lost battles flashed in her mind, she shoved him away, "I am sorry about the stone, but you can't keep treating me like a little girl. I'll be more careful from now on."

"Stubborn." He repeated with a soft smile to his lips as he folded his arms around her again. "You and your mother truly are my weakness."

Wiggling free, Lucy pushed him to arm's length. "So, let me guess. Mr. Edwards I presume."

Lucius smiled.

It figures no other human male could attract that much attention from females. Even the teachers…

"Even the teachers…" she thought out loud, and then gave Lucius a serious look.

"Dad, I think there is something fishy about Ms. Johnson."

"Why do you say that?"

A scowl formed on her face, "Because this morning she kept calling me 'Miss Edwards."

"She said, 'Aren't you Mr. Edwards's daughter?'"

"I didn't think anything of it at first. I figured she was just trying to get a rise out of the class, but maybe she…and I think she did something to my paper."

Lucius growled.

"You think…"before Lucy could finish her thought Lucius darted towards the window and thrusted his hand through the glass as if it were merely water and snatched something from the ledge.

A long black creature struggled in his grasp.

"What are you? Who sent you?"

"Master wishes to keep watch, Master wishes to have treasure back." It hissed before blurring away into a formless substance that dripped to the floor in thick black globs. Like mercury the drops merged into a single mass and darted across the floor.

"Don't let it escape." He ordered.

Lucy dove for it, but it slipped past her fingers. "Damn." she cursed.

"Tch." Placing the tips of his index finger and thumb in his mouth, Lucius whistled in a frequency too low for normal people to hear. A portal opened in front of the darting shadow, and sharp fangs shot out trapping the interloper.

"Good boy."

Grendel wiggled his way out of the portal still holding the creature in his jaws. His fangs pierced its body causing it to solidify into a slick black otter-like creature with the face of a cat.

"Release, release thee." It squealed.

Grendel released it only to pin it beneath his own body. Thanks to the numerous treats Michelle lavished on him, it was a rather rotund body. Kneeling level with the creature, Lucius spoke, his words a hypnotic spell, "What is your name creature."

"Morbious" it said in a groggy voice.

"Who sent you?"

"Master."

"Who is your master?"

"Master."It replied again.

Lucius rolled his eyes, a habit he seemed to have picked up from his students. "This is getting me nowhere."

Plucking the creature from beneath Grendel, he placed his index finger on its forehead.

"Show me." He ordered.

Mud and footprints, tile and Converse, brown carpet and red pumps, more tile and two pairs of shoes.

"What is this?"

He shook the creature, "Why are you showing me feet. You obstinate beast."

Before he could threaten the creature further, Michelle appeared through one of her portals. She gave her son an inquisitive look, "What on earth are you holding?"

"A spy."

"Lady Mink?"

"Probably."

Michelle stepped over swiping it from Lucius and held it behind the neck like a mother cat. "It's kind of cute."

Lucius rolled his eyes then palmed his fac, I really need to stop doing that.

"Unless you can help me with this creature, you are free to leave."

Dumping Morbious in Lucy's arms then swinging around towards Lucius, Michelle groused, "How rude, I've come to deliver an urgent message."

"Well." Lucius said with impatience.

"Well what?" Michelle retorted.

"Devils woman, the message."

"Oh yes, Emily said, "Lucius, you need to get home immediately. Your golem is going berserk."

"Curse it all, woman, why didn't you say that sooner?"

"Golem?" Lucy looked from Michelle to Lucius.

Turning to Lucy briefly, he rested his hand on her shoulder. "I'll explain later."

Before he left, he called forth a bit of magic to the end of his finger and waved it around Morbious, trapping him in solid form.

"Don't let that out of your sight," He said pointed to the creature now curled in her arms, "and stay here. I'll be back."

Lucius then followed Michelle back through a portal. Leaving Lucy to babysit their captive.

A soft snorting sound coming from her body called her attention to the creature in her arms. "So, what am I supposed to do with you?" She held him up rousing him, and two deep abysses opened. His eyes were so dark Lucy could feel the air around her get sucked into them, even the light was not immune. Grendel growled and nipped her ankle. Shaken, Lucy looked down to Grendel who was whimpering and then to Morbious who grinned like the Cheshire cat.

"What were you trying to do?"

"What Master asked."

"And what did he ask you to do?"

"Find treasure."

"And for some reason you think I have it."

Morbious's smile widened to nearly swallow his face, "You have both of Master's treasures, but he only wants that one for now." He said pointing to the ring dangling between her breasts.

"This is your Master's ring?"

"Yes, yes, give it back. Master needs it. Thief, thief." Morbious writhed in her grasp in attempt to paw at the ring. His black claws grazed the surface and the ring flashed; Morbious and Grendel vanished.

When her eyes readjusted, Lucy stood in the middle of a forest full of light. Birds chirped above and squirrels rustled in the leaves below.

"Where…am I?"

Something much larger than a squirrel disturbed the leaves beside her. A hoof stomped the ground calling her attention to thick white muscles twitching at the beast's shoulder. It tossed its mane and stepped past Lucy as if she were just part of the scenery.

"No way, are you serious that can't be…"

"…a unicorn?"

It lowered its head to a small puddle on the ground for a drink when it shot up its ears twisting this way and that; its nostrils flaring.

"What's got her all worked up?"

The unicorn then lowered her head pointing her horn towards a set of shrubs. Posed and ready, her eyes darting left and right. As if that were the signal, four goblins jumped from every side including from behind the tree which Lucy was standing. No one noticed her. Clearly this was some sort of illusion or perhaps a memory. The four goblins closed in on the Unicorn, weapons drawn. The beast snorted then kicked at one approaching its rear sending it flying into the brush.

A voice drew Lucy's attention away from the tussle in the clearing to the space the goblin flew. "Now, now we promise to find you a good home. No need to get so rough."

Whoever it was, his voice was so familiar, but she didn't recognize the face. A demon around her age with ashen skin and long black hair tied in a low tail had drop down from a oak tree.

"Come on guys, you can't let a little horse beat you." He tossed his arm out; his shadow at his command shot towards the Unicorn and merged with its shadow freezing the beast in place. The demon closed the gab unraveling a silver rope. "Easy, girl, I don't want to hurt you…I just need…" before he was close enough to toss the rope around the unicorn's neck a bright flash of light sent him flying towards Lucy. All the goblins disintegrated in the blast leaving the Unicorn, the demon, Lucy and one other figure draped in a white robe standing in the clearing.

"So you are not as weak as those underlings." The figure said as she approached the demon. Pulling down her hood, she revealed long blonde that illuminated the forest around her. Her features were soft but her eyes were steel blue.

"I will not tolerate your kind in my forest." She glided over and glared at his supine form leaning against Lucy's tree.

"Do you know the punishment for harming a Unicorn in my forest?"

The demon remained quiet.

"Death." She hissed as she drew a sword and thrust it into his chest; Lucy yelped and covered her face as a flash of light followed the strike.

When she opened her eyes, she was back in her apartment. "What was that?"

"A vision, a memory…was it Morbious, or…"

As the memory receded, the ring began to burn her chest and steal the air from her lungs. The chain hung loosely around her neck, but the spell tightened like a noose. Pawing and groping at her neck, she grabbed the chain, pulled with all her might breaking it and the spell. She tossed it to the ground as she took a few deep breaths, grateful for the flow of air returning to her lungs.

The moment the ring hit the floor, Morbious chased after it snatching it in his jaws. Prize acquired, he ran for the door at full speed; but thanks to Lucius's spell, he couldn't melt back into the shadows. He hit the door head first and fell over; the ring rolled stopping at the base of the counter. Lucy looked from the ring to Morbious; he appeared to be unconscious. Leaving the ring where it rested, Lucy walked over to pick him up and placed him in a box that she had cut air holes in and then taped it shut. Looking it over she had to wonder, Did I really need to cut holes in it. Does he even need air?

Grendel hopped on the box and sat down.

"Are you going to stand guard?"

With a curt nod, Grendel walked in a tight circle pawing the cardboard then settled there intent to stay all night.

Chapter 8

When Lucius arrived at the bakery, Emily was standing in the hallway posed like Ty Cobb at bat: her bare leg thrust out from under her light pink skirt hiked up to mid-thigh while she smacked knives and cups back with a large skillet.

"Julie, what has gotten into you?" She screamed into the torrent of flying kitchen debris.

Despite her best efforts, Emily couldn't get closer. She had thought of leaving the store, but was afraid Julie might do more damage. Dodging a cake pan, Lucius flew to Emily's side. Inside the kitchen, Julie was standing in the middle of a pile of pots, baking pans, and glass measuring cups that she was using as her artillery supply.

"No order, no order... chaos to all." Julie shrieked as she threw a handful of cookie cutters at Lucius. Knocking them away and dodging Emily's swing. He slipped his arm around her waist and pulled her out of harm's way. "Are you all right?"

"Yes, but please do something about her."

"Your wish is my command." He smiled his charm still at its peak.

"Would you quit flirting and stop her." She wanted to sound annoyed, but Lucius could tell her heart wasn't in it. Kissing her on the nose, Lucius darted back towards the kitchen. He managed to block a saucepan aimed at his head and slip behind Julie. In one swift movement, Lucius pinned her arms behind her. He uttered a spell and her body went limp.

Danger contained, Emily slumped to the floor her muscles finally released from an hour of poised tension. Lucius stepped over the piles of debris and dropped down beside Emily folding her in his arms. The smell of smoke and cloves didn't just work on Lucy, Emily immediately relaxed relishing in the warmth of his chest.

"What happened? Why did she suddenly go berserk like that?" she panted.

Michelle, who had maneuvered her way past the pile to stand behind Julie, leaned over the golem and cocked her head. "Lucius, come look at this."

Sketched behind Julie's neck just under the hairline was an ancient Celtic symbol for chaos.

"Why would you put that there?" Michelle asked her long blue nail piercing her bottom lip.

Stopping himself from rolling his eyes a third time that night, Lucius sighed.

"I didn't."

"Hmm, well it's a good thing you were here to stop her. She could have wrecked the entire shop."

Lucius looked at his mother. A golem can only be stopped by its creator, which means he would have to come back…

"Damn it... it was a set up."

A loud thump stirred Lucy from her uneasy sleep. In the living room, she found the box she had left Morbious in turned over. Grendel was snoring beside the box his feet kicking the air. "Some guard you are."

Scanning the room with her demon eyes, she noticed something moving near the kitchen. Morbious had the ring in his mouth and was heading for the air vents.

"Oh no you don't."

Diving toward the vent, Lucy caught Morbious by a foot. He wiggled and kicked with his free one, but Lucy won in the end.

"Where do you think you're going?"

"To Master."

Sitting up and pulling the black creature into her lap, Lucy wrapped her arms around him. He struggled to free himself until she reached down patting his head. "I get it. I shouldn't have this ring."

Morbious ceased his struggle to look up at her. She ran her fingers over one of his ears and began playing with it allisting a purr.

"My grandmother found it."

Morbious leaned into the massage his foot twitching eager to dig a claw in to get an even deeper scratch.

She spun him around to look into his blinking black orbs.

"Your master can have it back, but I want answers first."

Morbious cocked his head.

"You said I have two of his treasures."

Plucking the ring from his mouth she rolled in between her fingers.

"Why doesn't this thing bother you?"

Morbious grinned, "Ring was made for Master, Morbious made from Master."

Lucy nodded, "Makes sense I guess."

"Okay, second question, the ring was a coincidence, but what is this other treasure? I've never even met your master."

With one of his Cheshire cat like smiles, Morbious grin widened. "Do you want to see Master?"

Giving the creature a suspicious look she asked, "Your master isn't Lady Mink by any chance?"

At the mention of the demoness's name, Morbious hissed. "Evil woman, trick Master, never, never obey."

So an enemy of an enemy then.

"Hmm, So why should I trust you?" Lucy looked into its black eyes. His smile faded.

"No reason to, but you are curious, yes?"

She had to admit: she was.

Shooting a quick glance at Grendel, his belly slowly rising and falling; she knew if she was going to leave, it would have to be now before her father returned.

"Alright."

With a second thought about changing out of her PJ's, she remembered all she had in her closet was that scrap of cloth her grandmother thought was clothing… and Hector's white shirt. If I wait too long, the little weasel will probably leave without me. Shit what does it matter.

"How do I know you won't run away?"

"You keep ring, you return. I lead."

"Hmm." Lucy gave one last look at Grendel.

Morbious danced by the window, "Come, come, we leave."

Lucy opened the window allowing him to slip out; his body glided down the side of the brick building as he headed towards the ground. Lucy followed by jumping from the ledge and gliding into the night. The darkness concealed her wings, but her light blue pajamas shined like a full moon. The fact that no one screamed about a jumper surprised her. She landed on the narrow street between her building and the Hilton. Morbious skirted around a large blue dumpster connected to a renovation shaft and darted towards an unusually shaped white building under construction. He squeezed under the fence and left a cloud of dust as he wiggled to free his fat bottom caught by the wire. Giving him a little shove, Lucy pushed him through, checked her surroundings then leapt over. Based on the landmarks, she could tell they were heading towards Eastman.

"Why are you headed towards my school?"

"To Master." It answered her as it scurried down a set of steps and through the entrance of a parking garage.

"Master?"

Her feet slowed as she began to think that perhaps this creature's master was none other than Ms. Johnson.

"Wait a minute."

Morbious slowed and turned; he was nearly invisible in the underground parking garage.

Luckily, her demon eyes kept him in focus. "Just who is your master?"

Too fast for even Lucy, Morbious rushed towards her climbing her body and wrapping himself around her shoulders. Like a snake, he slithered around her neck, "You know Master, you've met Master many times." His breath was the icy cold of a damp foggy morning.

"I know him?"

"Yes." He slipped back down her body darting back into the shadows and then called to her, "Master is waiting, hurry."

Exiting the garage, they came out onto Clinton Ave. Despite it being so late, Lucy dodged three taxis, a smart car, and several pedestrians that gave her a weird look. She wasn't sure if there was some demon part showing or if it was just her pajamas. Morbious giggled from the shadow of a building as two college students goffed at her attire.

"Don't you know it's past curfew." She said in a huff. Once the coast was clear, Morbious darted for another construction site. "We be safe here, come." He hissed than vanished through a plastic tarp hanging off the second floor of the building. Wishing she had at least put on her shoes, Lucy followed brushing the tarp aside. The air was gray with dust causing Lucy to cough nearly losing sight of Morbious.

*Cough, cough* "Where did you go?"

"Here," the weasel like creature said from atop a pile of broken pieces of wood and drywall.

"Look, look," it said pointing out the window.

Lucy crossed the dust covered concrete but stopped with a yelp when she stepped on a screw. "Damn it."

She dropped down to her butt pulling the offensive piece of metal from her flesh.

"Damn it," she cursed again. Morbious blinked at her then came to her side.

"Are you not a demon? A little thing like that should not stop you."

Lucy set her eyes on Morbious and wondered just how much she should tell him.

Figuring that less was probably the better answer: she still didn't know who his master was, she sucked up the pain and stood up.

"Well, let's go." She said trying to stand without limping.

Morbious eyed her suspiciously then darted back towards the window, "Hurry, light come soon."

Lucy climbed out the window to find a latter along the outside of the building. Morbious scurried up then looked puzzled down at Lucy. "Why you not follow?"

Lucy stood at the bottom calling to her wings, but they did not materialize. What the...normally they show up at the worst possible moment. Morbious stared down from the top of the building.

"Tch, fine." With her wings disobeying her, Lucy grabbed a middle rung and began to climb. At the top of the three story brick building, Morbious darted to a Genesee brewery sign. He shimmied to the top.

"There." He said pointing towards a tall red solid brick tower that stretched out on either side in long four story rows.

"Why is your master in the Student Living Center?"

Morbious didn't answer; he just continued to lead her around the building to where the dumpsters were corralled in high wooden fences.

She felt slight relief as they headed in the direction of the dorms. At least it's not her. But the thought of another demon on campus made her worry.

"Wait, Morbious just tell me who your master is."

He turned with a grin then shot up the side of the building. Lucy followed up the landing until they reached the roof of one of the four story legs.

"Here?"

Morbious nodded then looked her over again. "Where your wings?"

"They…" she started to say they wouldn't come out, but thought the better of it. "I don't want anyone to see them."

"Hmm, wait here." He said before climbing through a dryer vent.

A moment later a window a floor above her opened and Morbious poked his head out.

Her wings wouldn't materialize, but she could still jump considerable higher than most humans save maybe Michael Jordan. Lucy jumped to the window dangling like a fish from the ledge. It took all her strength to haul herself up into the window.

The room was dark and an overwhelming familiar scent assaulted her senses.

"Hector?"

Clamping her hands over her mouth she shot a look toward Morbious.

"What are we doing here?" she whispered.

"I've brought you to Master." He squeaked.

"Master?"

I guess that explains a few things. However, after everything else I've done, I can't just show up in his room.

She was ready to jump back out the window when a flood of light filled the room as the door opened. Making a beeline for the closet, Lucy snatched Morbious and hid. The slats of the door allowing her to peek through.

Standing shirtless in nothing but boxers and a towel draped over his shoulders, Hector stepped in, paused then turned towards a little kitchenette area. A small fridge in the corner hummed, but all Lucy could hear was the pounding of her heart as she pressed Morbious to her chest clutching her hand over its mouth. He writhed beneath her grasp. Hold still you little rat, this is all your fault. She watched Hector move towards the fridge then pause.

Don't come this way. She pleading in her mind.

Unseen by Lucy, Hector smirked. Pulling some left over pizza and a bottle of water from the fridge, he closed the door, walked over to a sofa, laid down on his side propped by an elbow and clicked on a small flat screen T.V.

Between her demon needs lured by his scent and her human needs lured by the pizza, Lucy's stomach growled loud enough for Beethoven to hear.

"There is plenty if you want some." Hector called from the sofa without so much as turning around. Is he really that full of himself?

Her cheeks felt hot as she realized it was her own mind not his wandering in that direction. Damn it he meant the pizza.

"I wouldn't mind sharing both." He smirked feeling very confident in himself at the moment, but his face sobered quickly, and he sat up patting the cushion next to him. "Let's talk."

Infuriated and confused, she sighed, why am I getting caught up in his pace again? Lucy shoved opened the closet and stormed over.

Standing between him and the television, she jabbed a finger at him.

He raised a brow at her posture, "Nice jammies."

Her pose crumbled slightly at his comment, but she was determined not to be thrown, she pushed on.

"Just so you know I'm not here because I'm attracted to you or anything. I've come to return some things of yours."

"Really? Then I must have imagined this afternoon." He said with a slight smirk.

A deep blush filled her cheeks, and she thrust Morbious out in front of her.

"He led me here."

"I see."

She dropped Morbious, and he ran over to Hector placing the ring in his hand.

"Thank you."

Gentleness crossed his features as he picked up the ring slipping it on his finger. Lucy's brow twitched. Figures, he's married. Geez, people get married so young. Her face twisted in horror as her actions from that afternoon surfaced. Covering her face with her hands, she lamented herself. Oh god, I threw myself on a married man, I'm worse than my grandmother… Her thoughts spiraled into darkness and dread, her expression betraying her thoughts.

Hector stifled a laugh.

"What!" She snapped.

With a deep sigh, Hector patted the cushion again. "Seriously, we need to talk."

A sick heavy feeling gurgled in her stomach, and she refused to move until she repented for her actions.

"I'm sorry about this afternoon; you must have been so disgusted. I don't know what came over me. Please, I'll even apologize to your wife or fiancé. I'll tell her it was all my fault…." Her mind reeled and her stomach twisted harder with every word, leaving her feeling sicker and more foolish.

Eyes searched the ground and hands fidgeted at her side, she couldn't take his certainly disappointed glare any longer. "I'll just let myself out now." Mortified, Lucy dashed towards the window.

"Lucy! Stop!" Nearly as quick as she, Hector grabbed her arm.

"I'm not married, nor do I have a fiancé."

He pulled her to his chest and looked into her green eyes. "And I was most certainly not disgusted by what you did this afternoon."

Lucy broke away from his intense gaze, "Then why did you run away?"

Cupping her face in both of his hands, Hector ran his fingers through her hair.

"I didn't know if it was you who wanted me, or your demon instincts."

He pushed a strand of hair behind her ear.

"I didn't want you to do anything you would regret…besides."

Stepping away, he lowered his eyes. "There is something I need to tell you."

"Or perhaps I should…" before he could finish, his door flung open into the hall. A fellow classmate of Hector's stood in the doorway wearing a pair of ripped jeans and a Doctor Who T-shirt with a Sapporo beer in one hand. Isn't it a bit early to be drinking?

"Hector, dude, if you got a chick here you need to hide her, quick. Ms. Johnson is here doing an late night inspection."

As soon as the words left the boy's mouth he locked eyes on Lucy, and a grin spread across his pimpled face.

"Way to go, man, but seriously you need to hide her."

"Thanks."

"Ms. Johnson?" Lucy's face paled. Why her of all…

"She's our dorm supervisor," he answered her unspoken question and pushed her behind him. Leave through the window, I'll keep her distracted.

What? How did you?

"I'll explain later."

Lucy inched towards the window only to find a group of tall, gray gangling figures waiting for her below. I can't. There is something down there.

Then fly.

I can't.

Why not?

I don't know.

"Tch," Gently pushing her aside, Hector peeked out the window. Hunters, just great.

"Hunters?" She mouthed as her brow knitted together in bewilderment.

Turning back toward Lucy, he grabbed her by the wrist pulling her towards the door, "Listen, you are better off getting caught by Ms. Johnson than those things."

"Wait, I can't get caught. I'm on a scholarship to be here."

Hector whipped around, "Don't your parents have enough money without that? Seriously it's better this way."

Yanking her hand free, Lucy berated him, "NO! I worked my ass off to get here. I didn't want to be one of those students whose parents' money bought their way in."

Ms. Johnson's voice trailed in patronizing tone up the stairs.

"Do I hear a female voice? In the male dorms?"

Annoyed and cornered, Hector snatched Lucy by the wrist and flung her into the arms of his classmate. "Take her down stairs."

"You asshole. I can't believe you!" Lucy shouted as Hector's classmate held her by the arms but didn't move uncertain as to comply or release her.

"Dude are you serious?"

"Just take her." Hector commanded then turned back to his room slamming the door and locking it.

Leaning against the door, Hector took a deep breath and left his human host behind covered up in the closet. The last thing he needed was someone finding an unconscious human. "It's probably best we part ways from here." I'll just need to come back and erase his memory before he comes to should give me a day or two. He closed the closet door with a gnawing feeling in his chest. He didn't like doing it. Possession could potentially kill a human; Aila's ring was actually protecting the kid. He had it back, but possessing a human came with another price: reduction in powers. He would need to be at full if he had to face the hunters. Alright now that that's taken care of I'll need to lure them away. Hector faded into shadow, slipped out of the building and out into the street adjacent to the hoard of gray figures. Once his feet hit the asphalt, he transformed into an enormous wolf, the very same that ran away from Abaddon's castle with Lady Mink on its back. Releasing a surge of his aura, Hector dashed into the street lights and towards a park a few blocks away. The hunters followed hook line and sinker.

Pictures of past school presidents and dorm supervisors lined the walls with forced smiles and heavy brows as Lucy was escorted down to the demanding Ms. Johnson.

"I'm sorry about this." Hector's classmate whispered. "I'm on a scholarship too, but my parents can barely afford to put my sister through community college."

Lucy relented, "I understand, I won't let you get in trouble."

"But I'm taking Hector down with me." She mumbled

"What?"

"Don't worry about it." Lucy gave him a sympathetic smile and walked the rest of the stairs by herself.

"Well, well, I guess I shouldn't be surprised to find you here, Miss Edwards." Ms. Johnson said with a victorious sneer.

"Yep, you caught me. I just had to visit my boyfriend."

To this Ms. Johnson's brow shot up, "Boyfriend?"

"Who might that be?"

"Oh, you know him quite well, Hector is his name. Hector Rivers. You should probably go and get him too. I'm sure you'd like to have a long talk with both of us."

Ms. Johnson's brows knitted together in deep creases. "Don't get smart with me young lady."

Ignoring the smirk on Lucy's face, Ms. Johnson called up the stairs. "Mr. Rivers if you are up there, I need you to come down."

Silence.

"You." She said pointing to the boy that escorted Lucy.

"Me?"

"Yes, go fetch Hector." Her large breast bounced with each wave of her hand as she shooed him up the stairs.

The boy's face flushed a deep red, "Yes 'em"

A moment later, he came down with a look of pure confusion.

"He's gone."

Rotten little, Lucy chewed her lip. It wasn't fair. It wasn't like she came over to do anything wrong. In fact she came over to give him back something he wanted, and he threw her under the bus. Bastard.

"Hmm." Ms. Johnson's lip curled up in a slight snarl, and then she turned on Lucy snatching her under the arm. "You will come with me."

"Wait a minute. Why am I the only one in trouble here?"

Spinning on Lucy, Ms. Johnson jabbed a finger into her chest, "Because YOU are out of place."

Chapter 9

Exhausted, Hector looked for a good place to blend in. Without the candy in his system, he could easily melt into the shadows; but first he had to be certain he had led the hunters away from Lucy. The ping in his head was nearly silent; he was certain he drew them far enough. However, the longer he waited, the more concerned he became. None of them had followed him. Shit, they're after Lucy.

Lights off and the only sound inside Lucy's apartment was Grendel's soft snores. No sign of Lucy's demon aura. Lucius growled. "Damn it. I'm too late."

Ms. Johnson continued to pull Lucy by the arm, and they were too far from campus to trip any of her grandmother's traps.

The lack of the trap activation was the least of her worries as Ms. Johnson walked in the opposite direction of the school and into the parking lot across the street towards a dark blue Sonata.

"Wait a minute, where are you taking me?" Lucy now felt the need to struggle. This was more than a teacher disciplining a student.

"Let go of me!" Lucy shoved at Ms. Johnson's cold fingers wrapped tightly around her wrist. In response, her icy grip only closed tighter, eliciting a little creak from Lucy's carpal bones.

"What is wrong with you?"

Ms. Johnson whipped around pressing her index and middle finger at Lucy's forehead; her dark red lips moved in a strange pattern, but Lucy couldn't make out the words. Darkness and numbness followed, and she crumbled to the ground.

When light was allowed to enter her eyes again, Lucy found herself in what looked like a basement lined with cages. "Let me out," "I'm innocent", "I was just hungry I didn't mean anything by it…"The protest rung inside her head calling her attention to sullen eyes begging her from behind bars.

"What is this?"

Demons of all types shivered in the darkness, most of them were lesser demons unable to shapeshift making them easy targets.

Lucy tried to stand, but found her arms were too heavy. Checking over her shoulder, she found them shackled to the concrete by heavy irons. Shit, I knew there was something off about that witch. Music teacher my ass. Lucy looked around and managed to make eye contact with a few of the small demons trapped in the cages. One looked very familiar.

"Grendel?"

The creature did not respond. "No, I suppose not. I left that little fuzz ball snoozing back in my apartment." As she pictured him blissfully sleeping his little feet kicking in the air, she snorted with laughter. "Stupid. Some guard he turned out to be."

She bounced and shook hoping something might fall out of her pocket again, but unfortunately she was empty handed. Of course when I'm actually in danger, I don't have it. Inching a bit closer to the cage with the demon that resembled Grendel, Lucy leaned over, "Hey, if you are anything like Grendy, why don't you just melt those bars?"

The creature tipped its head and dropped one ear. "Don't you know?" she asked.

Upon closer inspection, she realized, although the creature was indeed similar to Grendel, it appeared young, very young.

"Hmm, maybe you don't get that corrosive saliva until you're older." She leaned back against the wall closest to where her hands were chained. "I guess all I can do is wait."

"Can't think in a panic."

Sending out something like sonar pings, Hector walked the streets near campus. "She's got to be around her somewhere."

Lucy! Lucy can you hear me?

As his attention was focused on listening for any signal whether verbal or the ping from the candy, Hector didn't notice the shadow that zipped overhead. It wasn't until something slammed into his back sending him face first into the concrete that he realized he had been followed.

A sharp set of claws dug into his shoulder whipping him around to face his assailant.

"What have you done with my daughter?" Lucius bore down on him, lips pulled back into a snarl, eyes red and frightening.

"Your daughter?"

Hector stared at Lucius a moment. Surely, he had the wrong demon… and then a familiar scent hit him; and Hector knew instantly whom he was referring to. You've got to be kidding me. She's Abbadon's granddaughter. His werewolf's keen sense of smell picked up the faintest similarity in the individual's scents. It was a trait that made him so good at his job; however, he threw it away the moment he agreed to help Lady Mink. So that girl in the woods was Lucius's daughter. He almost laughed out loud. Of all the people he chose to upset, why did he incur the wrath of both Abaddon and Lucius? Not to mention there was that crazy mother of his; however, this wasn't the time to berate himself. He straightened up, gave Lucius a little victorious smile and faded into shadows, melting in Lucius's grip.

"Sorry, but I don't know who you are referring to. Best luck elsewhere."

Lucius slammed his fist into the ground, "I don't know who you are, but you carry my daughter's scent."

Hector froze. It hadn't been his intention to give the demon candy to another demon. A human could carry it without trouble. Once he discovered she was a demon, he tried to get it back.

"I didn't mean to hurt her." Hector remained hidden in the shadows; his voice echoing off the alley walls in haunting whispers. "I didn't know she was demon until later. My senses were dampened by the candy." He felt a heavy wetness in his stomach even though he believed his reason was a legitimate one.

"My daughter needs that candy. I couldn't have you or the hunters capture me until I could safely deliver it to her."

His voice dropped, "Your daughter was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

The dots began to connect and Lucius bolted up slamming his fist into the wall, "You bastard. You gave her the candy."

"Shit…" Palming his face then throwing it back Lucius released a malicious laugh.

"Ha ha ha"

Hector watched Lucius's face twist from Joker hysterics to Batman serious in two seconds.

"This is perfect; two birds with one bullet."

Turning his focus on the shadows, Lucius thrust his hand into it clamping Hector around the neck, "If you are working with Lady Mink, I'm afraid I can't show you mercy."

"You are a few centuries behind, pup, if you think you can hide from me."

Hector's eyes widened as he was forced out of the shadows and into solid form. Thoughts rampaged through his mind. I need to get the candy back from Lucy. I could use his help, although I doubt he'd be willing. I've clearly pissed him off.

As he thought about his own daughter and the pain he felt, Hector relented.

"Let me go and I can help you, but you have to postpone your demon hunt until after I can deliver the candy to my daughter."

Lucius glared and ground his teeth, "Fine."He released his death grip and dropped Hector.

Rubbing his throat, Hector sat on the ground letting a little chuckle leave his lips.

"Okay, I deserved that."

He stood coughing his body trying to straighten out the kink in his throat.

"First let me just say I don't know where Lucy is. However, I can track the candy in her system." He thought a moment as he remembered the hunters. "And I can't say if Lady Mink is involved, but whoever is has some hunters helping them."

"Hunters?"

"Yeah, they were gathered under my window. I presume they were after the candy, the bastards have this ability to track it. They could have been after Lady Mink, so I doubt …" before he could finish, Lucius snatched him by the shirt and held him up, "What was my daughter doing in your room?"

Despite his best effort, Hector couldn't help but feel a little smug. She came to him after all. "She came to return something to me, nothing more."

Growling Lucius thrust him away. "Damn it, you are fortunate you can track her, or I'd rip your intestines out right here."

Hector rubbed his gut nervously thankful it was still intact. "I'll keep that in mind."

The light outside began to fade. Lucy looked up at the small window and guessed she'd been stuck there nearly an entire day. "Shit. This is so annoying."

"Hey, crazy lady of the house, I need to pee!" She shouted more to make herself feel better than actually expecting an answer. To her surprise, the basement door opened.

Stairs moaned under each of her footfalls. "So you're awake."

Ms. Johnson appeared in a nun's habit complete with white hood.

"What the hell?"

"Watch your mouth." Johnson said snatching Lucy under the chin.

"This is my normal attire, I can't stand wearing all that make up and low cut blouses. But it was a sure way I could lure out your father…" she muttered capturing the corner of her bottom lip in her teeth, "or so I thought."

"Ms. Johnson, I don't know why you think I am Mr. Edwards daughter, but isn't this a little extreme. It's kidnapping."

"Sister Victoria."

"Excuse me?"

"Call me Sister Victoria."

Lucy raised a brow at this. She's a nutcase.

"Okay, Sister Victoria. If you let me go, I promise to keep my mouth shut about the whole kidnapping thing."

Victoria spun around backhanding Lucy across the cheek. "I don't make deals with demons."

Eyes wide, Lucy stared at Victoria. How does she know? After witnessing the number of demons in cages, she surmised that Victoria at least knew what a demon looked like.

"What makes you think I'm a demon?"

A knowing smile spread across Victoria's face. She reached into one of the top cages and pulled out a small winged gremlin. It wiggled and clawed at her.

"Shh, it will all be over soon." She cooed as if talking to a child pained by a splinter. Squeezing just a little harder, she muttered a word Lucy couldn't understand. The demon suddenly stopped struggling; its skin fading to a light gray before crumbling like unfinished pottery.

"Would you like me to test you?" She said reaching the same hand, now covered in gray dust, out to Lucy's chest.

Involuntarily, Lucy yelped.

"Hmm."

Withdrawing her hand and smacking the dust off, Victoria stepped closer to Lucy. She flinched away.

"Don't worry child. You said you needed to use the restroom didn't you? We can't have a lady wet herself now can we?" She unlocked the cuffs and hauled Lucy to her feet.

Lucy stared at her every move; her heart pumping adrenaline at a furious pace.

Definitely, a nut job.

With her arms pinned behind her back, Lucy was led up the stairs towards a small room off the kitchen. Victoria leaned in a little too close to her ear, "Unless you want to share that gremlin's fate, I wouldn't try anything funny if I were you."

Yellow linoleum, peeling at a few corners, lined the floor of the tiny bathroom. To Lucy's horror, Victoria followed in behind her refusing to release her hands.

"Um, unless you plan to assist me, could you let go." Lucy said nodded towards her captured wrist.

Something unholy danced through Victoria's eyes. "You would like that wouldn't you, but I'm afraid I can't give you the opportunity to escape."

Clearly she was using some sort of spell as Victoria held both of Lucy's wrists in just one hand, yet Lucy could not break free.

With her free hand, Victoria yanked the white veil from her head and tossed it to the ground and then grabbed a fist full of Lucy's cotton pajama bottoms and pulled. While squatted, her face level with Lucy's backside, she ran her tongue along her thigh up to her underwear hooking it in her teeth and slid them down.

"I know you are getting turned on, why don't you show me your succubus self. I'm certain you can't hold it in much longer." She reached back up running a finger between Lucy's thighs.

"Stop it!"

When her slight kneading allisted an involuntary coaxed moan, but no wings or tail, Victoria clicked her tongue against her teeth then released Lucy's hands.

"Don't try anything funny." She bent down picking up her veil then closed the door behind her.

Hector stood at the corner of a house adjacent to Victoria's waiting for dark. Lucius perched on the roof. "Oi, wolf,"

"Yes."

"Are you certain she is here? I don't sense her anywhere."

"She has to be here: my head is pinging like crazy."

Lucius suppressed a snort, "I don't know why I agreed to let you help."

Hector sighed. He couldn't blame him. As of late, he was a wanted criminal, he endangered his daughter, and worse yet could be a rival for her affection. It was no wonder Lucius hated him.

Lights finally went off inside the house, and Lucius flew over to her roof. He motioned for Hector to follow his part. Fading into the shadows, Hector moved to the side of the house near the basement window where the ping was the loudest. Peering through the window nearly blocked by cages, Hector searched the darkness for Lucy. He found her shackled to the ground covered by a blanket. It would have been easy to fade into the shadows and slip in, but then what. As far as he knew, she didn't have that ability. Scanning over the cages, Hector had a thought. Certain that Lucius wouldn't just barge in demanding his daughter back, Hector took a deep breath then looked at the rooftops for Lucius. The two would need to be careful as it appeared that this woman wasn't new to the demon breed. Peeling his eyes from Lucy's still form, Hector shot towards the roof to meet with Lucius.

"I've found her, but…"

His anger still seething beneath the surface, Lucius bit out, "But what."

Surprisingly calm, Hector answered."This woman clearly understands the weakness of demons. She has cages full of them where she is keeping Lucy."

The idea of Lucy caged sent a renewed wave of fury through Lucius's bones.

"I'll kill her."

"Hold on there, tiger, we should be able to free her unnoticed; but I'll need your help."

Lucius gave him a look that clearly stated Duh, moron that's why I'm here. Hector ignored this and continued, "Do you remember how she freaked out over that mouse in her office?"

Lucius eyed him suspiciously, "So that was you?"

Hector grinned.

"I wonder how she'll react to an infestation."

Rats were miraculous creatures capable of invading through the smallest of spaces. And shadow rats even more so. Hector and Lucius dropped down in the backyard away from the security lights.

"Now, I can't control them for too long, especially not this many, so you will have to be quick about it."

Hector pressed his palms into the ground; the earth bubbled in black ooze until thousands of rat like creatures emerged from the shadows. When he nodded, Lucius darted towards the back door and Hector sent the rats storming into the house.

A scream ripped from the house and Victoria shot out the front door in her nightgown, abandoning her prisoners and her home. Lucius disappeared through the door and down the basement stairs. Half of the rats poured down into the basement the others shot in all directions filling the first floor. Hundreds of the tiny creatures wiggled and squirmed creating a massive living shadow. Amongst the chaos, Lucy sat quietly.

"Lucy!"

When he approached her, dull green eyes stared vacantly at him from heavy lids.

"What the hell did she do to you?"

Unanswered, panic began to mount; Lucius latched ahold of the shackles and pulled with all his might—nothing.

As if understanding the situation, the rats gathered around the chains and began chewing. After a few seconds, the rats would vanish replaced by another hoard of them until the chain started to give way. With the chains weakened, Lucius was able to snap them from the wall. Metal scraped along the concrete wall as the chains fell to the ground. The heavy clank pulled Lucy from her trance and light returned to her eyes.

"Dad?"

"Yes,… can you stand?" He said slipping an arm under hers.

"I think so."

Finally noticing the rats, Lucy jumped into his arms. "Where did all these rats come from?"

"We'll talk about that later. Let's get out of here."

Before they could ascend the stairs, they heard Victoria chanting, her voice muffled as it drifted down through the floor. The rats vanished!

"We may need to find another way out." Lucius muttered.

Lucy looked around the stacks of cages into the hollow eyes of many demons and then across the dusty cinder block walls. The only way out was the small basement window. She let out an audible sigh.

"Unless you can shrink, I think we're stuck."

"Well, Lucky for you, my dear, I can. But unfortunately for you, you can't."

He glanced at the window as something moved outside. Hector, after noticing the rats' disappearance, rushed to the basement window to see if Lucy and her father had made it out.

Lucius shot toward the window flinging it open. Because Hector was in his true demon form, Lucy didn't recognize him.

"Stop her," Lucius hissed motioning towards the upstairs.

The basement door creaked. In a panic, Lucius flung open all the cages releasing every trapped demon. Some flew towards the window; others went up the stairs. Only one hung around still lying in its cage—the one that looked like Grendel.

The door swung open as Victoria took a step in only to be pushed back by the hoard of demons trampling over her in their escape. Just as Victoria got back to her feet, the doorbell rang. They could hear her curse. With no intention of letting some normal human see her house full of lesser demons, she ignored it. But thanks to the lesser demons, Lucy and Lucius had a little more time as she was busy rounded them back up. However, escaping the way he came wasn't really an option.

Hector had returned after ringing the front doorbell.

"Sorry, I thought that would work."

Lucius just grunted.

"I don't like using this form and it doesn't help free Lucy, but if I can get myself out, I can distract her. Can you free her like you did Lady Mink?"

At the mention of the demoness's name, Lucy recoiled.

"Why are you helping one of Lady Mink's minions?"

"Hold on. I'm not one of her minions." Hector protested.

Lucius turned to Lucy, "This isn't the time for that." Then glared back to Hector, "Can you or can't you?"

Hector nodded, but that ability was also something he didn't like showing other demons.

"Good, then we are in a truce for now."

Lucius's skin darkened, his body shrank, and little wings and a tail sprung from his small dark body.

"Don't try anything funny." He hissed in a voice much too high pitched for the great demon lord's son. Lucy stood a touch amused.

"Not the time," he hissed at her and then crawled through the window.

Hector slipped in. Something about him was familiar, but Lucy couldn't place it. Before her brain could register where she might have seen him before, Hector turned into a shadow. Spreading his arms around her and pulling her to him, he said, "You might feel a little cold , but bear with it."

"Wait." She protested.

Returning to solid form, he glanced down at her and spoke in a low even tone careful not to raise his voice in defense, "I'm not with Lady Mink."

"No, not that." She corrected.

"Can we take him with us?" She said pointing to the only demon left in its cage.

Hector nodded with a smile. Careful not to startle the creature, Lucy reached in with both hands allowing her fingers to bury themselves in its fur. Despite how thick its fur, her fingers brushed over exposed ribs. A frown pulled at her lips as thoughts of the appropriate punishment ran through her mind.

"We have to go." Hector said leaning in close to her ear.

The moment he wrapped his arms around her, his scent overwhelmed her along with a feeling of cold damp air. Hector?

This time he was careful not to answer her mind's question. He merely enveloped her in his shadow. Air was ripped from her lungs as an icy cold wrapped around her skin, darkness closed around her vision, and then everything came back into focus. Cages still surrounded her. "What happened?"

She turned to find Hector clutching his chest and gasping for breath. Lucy ran to his side, "What's wrong?"

"I can't. We are going to have to leave through the back."

"Why?"

He didn't have time to answer a loud bang like a shout from a gun rung out.

"That's our cue." Hector scooped her up in his arms and darted up the stairs.

The noise from inside began to die down.

"She must have rounded up most of the escapees." Hector said still holding her in his arms. Lucy felt the pressure of his hands against her side as another bang rang out.

"Dad!"

The air sizzled with magic and a familiar demonic aura.

"Hector put me down. He needs our help."

Relaxing his grip a moment, his movement faulted and then held her tighter as a voice entered his head.

Get her out of here, NOW! I'll meet you back in the alley.

The quickest way out of there was to fly or travel through shadow.

"Are you listening to me? Put me down." Lucy protested slamming her fist into his chest.

Hector shook the fog from his head and looked down at her. "I'm sorry Lucy, but we need to leave. Can you fly?"

Unsteady on her feet, she swayed and crumbled against his chest, "No." Tears swelled in her eyes, "Please help him."

"I can't. I have to get you to safety first. He'll be fine."

Using him as support, Lucy pushed herself up right, "You haven't seen what she can do. I have to…" The last of her strength fading, she fell into his arms.

I guess I'm just going to have to make a run for it. Holding her tight, Hector dashed across the backyard and towards town.

Hair flying in red ribbons and champagne nightgown in tathers, Victoria emerged from the house to find another small demon peeing on her mailbox.

"Oh, you just relieved yourself on the wrong mailbox vermin." Victoria threw a talisman at the creature and began chanting. Lucius shot a green fireball from his mouth sending the talisman up in flames. You're going to have to try harder than that. His furry little face smirked at her. Brow knitted together, Victoria spun around to head back into her open front door and pulled something down from a hook. She turned to face the little shit and snapped a leather whip. "You won't be smiling for long." With an expert flick of her wrist she sent the tail of the whip at Lucius. He managed to dodge it, barely as the tail came down it unfurled into long tendril covered in spikes like that of a honey locust. The new tails moved of their own accord twisting and reaching for anything in its path.

Now that's something. I'm sure Michelle would love one of those. He dodged the next crack of her whip careful of the now nine separate tails moving and clinging to anything like an octopus searching for an opening. He was proving more frustrating than Victoria had patience. "Why you…" but she didn't have to wait much longer. Something appeared to distract the little vermin.

We are out, but Lucy can't fly.

What! I'll kill this bitch.

Lucius turned to snarl at the woman, but had to dodge another onslaught from her whip.

Get her out of here, Now! He ordered Hector.

It was a small window, but it was all Victoria needed. Once he dodged the tails, he landed straight inside a magic circle. Eight paper talismans stood on their own volition in a tight circle around him.

Lucius snorted at her attempted until the ancient papers closed in. Her chants were like jackhammers in his skull and his arms and legs filled with what felt like molten iron making his body so heavy he couldn't move.

Damn it, I underestimated her.

If he broke his spell and returned to normal, he could free himself from her, but that would also put Lucy in further danger. After all, Victoria only assumed Lucy was a demon. Didn't she? There was also a chance he wouldn't be able to escape even in his true form, and that would be like getting a delivery from a French Restaurant when she really ordered Chinese take out. He couldn't risk revealing his true identity. Reluctantly, he allowed his capture and would wait for the opportunity to escape when she wasn't around.

Several blocks away, Hector slowed his pace and set Lucy down. "We can wait here for your father."

Lucy pushed herself away from him, "If you are not one of Lady Mink's minions then who are you?"

In his humanoid form, Hector gave her an innocent smile. "I think you already know the answer to that."

Lucy gave him an incredulous look just before the light clicked on-"The river!"

"Yes, but I think you know me better than that."

She stared into his gray eyes and gasped, "So you are, Hector?"

He nodded.

"Then you really are a demon...I thought there was something fishy…"

Her face turned sour, "Wait a minute...then you've been following me?"

As more pieces of the puzzle fell into place, Lucy's mind raced through all possible scenarios. "So you, wait...I thought you were a werewolf."

"I am...well half, like you, well not quite like you; but I am only a halfling. Half shadow demon half werewolf."

The final piece clicked into place within her memory and her face darkened.

"You kissed me!" She said squeezing the poor creature in her arms a bit tighter.

Knitting his brows and holding up a hand he stopped her tirade, "Hold up a second. If I recall correctly, you kissed me."

Flustered, she struggled with her words, "That was CPR; that's different."

His posture relaxed as he folded his arms with a cocky smile pulling at his lips, "So what you did in the men's room was just CPR."

Face red and lips pinched tight, she swung one fist at him while clinging to the small demon with the other, "Jerk!" With the insult came the full strength of her assault. Which turned out to be nothing more than the slap of a dandelion. Her body withered and folded into Hector's arms. The Grendel doppelganger jumped up to Hector's shoulder from fear of being squished. Beads of sweat formed on her brow and the creature snuffled at her then licked the drops away with a whimper.

As her lips paled into a light blue, they began to tremble. "Whaatt iiss ww..rrong wwith mee?"

Hector held her up. "It's the demon candy. You need to give it back to me."

"Demon candy?"

"They never told you?" Hector's mouth pulled down into an annoyed frown.

"Toold mee..wwhaat?"

Taking a deep breath, Hector brushed her hair from her face. "When you gave me," a slight smile pulled at his lips involuntarily, 'CPR', I slipped you the demon candy. I only wanted you to hold on to it until I could lose the hunters. The candy eats demon energy. I must apologize, for my senses were dull, I believed you were human. If you had been, the candy would have done nothing more than sit and wait for me to retrieve it. I found out too late that you too are half."

He smiled softly down at her, "Will you let me have it back?"

She didn't give him an answer. Her eyes drifted closed and her breath became shallow.

"I hope you can forgive me for this one, but you are running out of time."

Leaning in he pressed his lips to hers. Every cell of his body called to the candy, but nothing came.

"Lucy!"

Chapter 10

"Lucy, wake up."

Her body lolled against him; her breath shallow. Unable to wait any longer for Lucius, Hector needed to get Lucy home. Travel by shadow would be fastest, but was it safe? When he tried it earlier the demon candy lashed out at his aura too.

I know that witch is connected to her place somehow. She must know something. He looked down at Lucy's pale face. "Hang in there. I'll get you home." I have to try. His body slowly faded to shadow, but he nearly dropped her as she remained solid. What? He tried again concentrating on her aura, and slowly her body responded with traces of smoke along her skin until it raged greedily sucking at his aura. Quickly he solidified. "I guess we are walking."

The early morning light and shadows of back alleys allowed him to get her home unseen until he approached the apartment building. A glance left then right assured him the street was clear, or so he thought. A woman in an expensive tracksuit, hauling behind her a very exhausted beagle turned the corner and headed straight for Lucy's building. Hector just stood there. If he ran it would look suspicious, so he pretended to struggle to retrieve his keys. The woman eyed him and the rejuvenated beagle howled. Hector flinched. His instinct was to answer. This canine clearly wanted an answer for his presences or perhaps for the one hiding in his coat.

"Shush, Charlie…" The woman looked from her dog to Hector; suddenly realizing the package his arms was in fact a human. Hector gave his best innocent smile, "Took her to the country for her birthday, she had a little too much. I thought it was best I bring her home." Not certain she bought his lie, Hector cleared his throat. "Ahem, do you live here?" Charlie continued to bark and back away. The woman nodded then moved her eyes from Hector to glance back at her dog cowering behind her.

"I'm not very good with dogs." Hector explained thinking the dog's sudden retreat might ruin his chances of convincing this woman to let him in. She turned back to him with a smile, "He's like that."

Hector pretended that Lucy's weight was taking its toll on his strength and adjusted her. "Hmm, well, nonetheless, do you think you could let me in? I truly do not wish to drop her." He said motioning again as if it was too difficult to retrieve his key.

"Of course," She said stepping past him and slipping in her key. She pulled Charlie aside and held the door open for him. "By the way which apartment are you in?"

Hector allowed panic to swell then swallowed the lump. "I don't live here. She does. Number 313."

She eyed the girl with a sneer-that was the penthouse. However she allowed the thought to slip away as another formed, "So then you two don't live together?" Hector's faced burned. "No, she is just a ...childhood friend."

"Really?" She said closing the front door. "Well, then maybe after you drop her home, you could stop by for a cup of coffee?" As flattered as he was, his only concern was Lucy and this woman was wasting precious seconds. He took an invisible deep breath and gave her his best seductive smile (he was no Lucius, but his looks certainly did get him attention) and said, "Sounds wonderful. Let me just get her home." It was easier than arguing. He didn't actually have to meet with her especially since he wasn't about to stick around and wait for Lucius to return. He took the stairs two at a time and set her down on the floor near the door, so he could slip through the door and unlock it. Her apartment was dark except the iridescent clock numbers on the DVD player flashing 11:35. In his humanoid form, he stepped down with a creek on the wooden floor. A low growl emanated from the shadows followed by long nails scurrying across the wood towards him. Sharp yellow teeth flashed as they rushed at his leg. Dodging as best he could not wanting to hurt Lucy's pet, he quickly unlatched the door his back to it his hands working the locks blindly. Grendel spun around for another attack as Hector fumbled with the doorknob. The door opened inwards, so he had to actually move toward the growling beast to get it open. The timing was perfect, just not intended. Grendel charged, Hector yanked the door and smacked the small creature in the nose sending it sliding across the wooden floor. Rolling over and shaking his head, Grendel fixed his three purple eyes on the intruder. By this time Hector had scooped Lucy up to carry her inside, Grendel was back on his feet. As he was kneeling to lift her up, he stared eye to eye with the creature. Before Grendel to launch another attack, Hector protested, "Listen, would you stop a minute. She needs help." He said his eyes dropping to Lucy.

Grendel froze and blinked his eyes at Lucy. A snarl to his lips, he glared at Hector.

"It wasn't me." Although as the words left his mouth a guilty lump sank into this stomach. "Maybe it was sort of me, but that doesn't matter right now."

A growl reverberated in Grendel's chest, and he leapt up to attack Hector's face when his doppelganger jumped in front of him with a scream. Grendel dropped back to stare at this new visitor. The little guy barked and growled while Grendel sat back on his hunches and listened. Hector sighed, assuming that the creature had settled down and carried Lucy over to the couch. "The demon candy has absorbed too much of her energy." He explained, feeling he needed to give the creature something to go on.

Walking up to Hector as he placed Lucy's limp body on the sofa, Grendel whimpered. His dark eyes softened into black pools as he witnessed Lucy's body sink into the cushions. Unable to control his concern, Grendel leapt to the center of her abdomen pressing his forehead into her stomach.

Hector slid back on his knees with a sigh, "I don't think you can retrieve it that way."

Worry darkened Hector's face as he looked Lucy over and then locked eyes with Grendel. "Can you call your master?"

Perking up at the request, Grendel jumped off the sofa and scampered off to return with a small black stone. He stomped on it and fell through a hole. A few minutes later, Michelle emerged holding Grendel in her arms.

"Well, well, so this is what you really look like." She smiled, but her face became serious the moment she laid eyes on Lucy unconscious on the sofa.

"What happened?"

Hector looked away as the guilt welled in his chest. "I believe the demon candy has started to consume too much of her energy."

Michelle's brow furrowed, "That can't be right. The demon snake should last longer than…" her face paled. "She must have used more of her demon energy than I expected."

The lump just grew heavier: he was also most likely the cause of that as he recalled her transformation in the men's room.

Michelle turned on him with a wicked delight to her silver eyes. "Well, this isn't really a problem. You gave it to her, so you can take it back."

With much chagrin, Hector shook his head, "I tried. For some reason she won't relinquish it."

Pressing a knuckle into her lower lip, Michelle contemplated out loud, "So the reason she was able to receive the candy in the first place had to do with some deep desire that she herself my not even be aware of."

Stepping past Hector, she peered down at her granddaughter, "and whatever that desire is is keeping the candy firmly in place."

"Like what?"

Her lips pulled into a thin line, "I guess I'll just have to ask her."

She leaned down pressing her forehead to Lucy's.

"Alright cupcake, show me what's going on."

Dapples of sunlight filtered through the flickering maple leaves above while Lucy slept peacefully against its trunk. A young man in faded jeans and a t-shirt made to look like a tuxedo walked up kissing her tenderly on the forehead. "Lucy, you'll be late for class."

Soft brown eyes opened and she smiled. "Oh thanks, Hector."

Gathering her things, she stood up as Hector reached out a hand to help her. They walked back hand in hand towards the archway of a large building. Michelle followed them to class where Lucy sat cheerfully taking notes and answering questions. She stood at the front of the class in a long flowing white dress as she gave her presentation. Brushing aside a soft dark curl falling across her forehead, she smiled sweetly at her peers. Once class was over, she joined a couple of girls on their way to the cafeteria. She laughed and joked easily with them as they went through the lunch line.

The longer Michelle followed Lucy the more concerned she became. She was happy that her granddaughter appeared so comfortable and social around so many humans, but something was off. She was too comfortable around humans almost like... she was one.

Michelle dove a little deeper. Lucy audibly groaned, as her light and happy world spiraled into darkness. Michelle's eyes adjusted to the dark then slammed closed as a flash of flames engulfed the once peaceful green campus. Beyond the two large solid wood doors, a heavy smell of blood and semen filled Michelle's nostrils. Normally, this would bring a smile to her lips, but something unsettling stirred within her chest. Only slivers of light pooled along the linoleum floor as Michelle walked deeper into the halls. Stepping over a busted violin and a twisted trumpet, her concerns mounted. She could tell she was getting closer to the source as the amount of the destruction increased. Outside a dimly lit classroom were the bodies of college girls half naked with their eyes rolled to the back of their heads saliva foaming around their mouths. Once inside, the hint of blood and semen was now nauseatingly strong. At the center of dozens of male college students lying about with lustful eyes was Lucy. In an outfit practically painted on, she hovered over Hector a wicked grin pulling at her lips. Leaning down, she slipped her tongue into his mouth as it hung open, his eyes glazed. His skin paled; then little dark lines crept along his face like rivets in a riverbed until he crumbled in her arms.

"NO!"

Michelle was expelled from Lucy's mind by an ear splitting scream. Still unconscious, Lucy's body convulsed her chest arced and arms flailed as tears of blood ran from her eyes. Hector starred in horror. He never would have given her that candy if he knew this was the result.

"Hold her still!" Michelle commanded breaking his trance.

Hector did as he was told catching a right hook to his cheek. Michelle pulled up Lucy's shirt exposing her stomach then summoned another phantom snake placing it just below her navel, but this time it refused to entire. "Shit!"

"What's wrong." Hector asked while clinging to Lucy's body in order to keep it still.

"Phantom snakes are convenient, but they're also stubborn." She threw herself over Lucy's legs to keep her from flailing off the sofa. Sending the snake away, Michelle placed her hand over Lucy's stomach. Her hand glew with a yellowish light that traveled like melting ice cream through Lucy's stomach. Lucy grew still.

Straightening herself back up and blowing her platinum bangs from her face, she said in a rather exhausted tone, "Considering how much those snakes cost, they sure as hell don't last very long."

Hector finally felt it was safe to release Lucy and turned to Michelle, "What did you do to her?"

Without answering Hector's question, she turned toward him with a mischievous grin, "Now, what to do about you?" The look in her eyes made Hector nervous. She either wanted to eat him or use him as bait.

Taking a step in his direction, Michelle snatched a handful of his shirt.

"Clearly, you are the root cause of my granddaughter's torment, so what will you do about it?"

Usually cool under pressure, Hector felt butterflies erupt in his gut. Michelle had that effect onhumans and demons alike. His eyes darted from her silver orbs to rest on Lucy's supine form, and he relented. "What can I do?"

Michelle released his shirt, "Good, I'm glad we are on the same page. How about you tell me why you helped Lady Mink escape, and what were you doing with the demon candy in the first place?"

Hector backed away and slumped into a nearby chair. Taking a deep breath, he relayed the tale of his daughter, Lady Mink's promise, and Lucy's discovery of his beaten and battered form by the river. Michelle remained quiet while he revealed all. When he was finished, her brow knit together, "YOU HAVE A CHILD...with a Ljosalfar?" she erupted.

"Shh, yes."

Wicked anger filled Michelle's features, "You bastard. Does Lucy know this?"

"No."

"So you used her, played with her heart and all while you have some wretched Ljosalfar wife and child!" She groused while her mind went in another direction, I hate to admit it, but I am sort of impressed. Not many demons can win over a Ljosalfar. She waved the mild envy away as she didn't want that expression on her face. She needed to remain peeved.

Hector jumped to his wife's defence before the holy peeved succubus could kill him.

"Don't call her that!" Seeing that this wasn't the argument he was trying to win, he backed down, "You don't understand. Aila is … dead and my daughter is dying."

He looked away remorse draining the life from his face, "Call it the stupidity of two young fools. It never occurred to me to have a child with her, nor the consequences of it."

His dark eyes drifted over to Lucy now sleeping peacefully, "I wanted something that would save my daughter. Lady Mink told me she could save Lila if I freed her." He gestured towards Lucy, "And the candy was the result."

"She told me it would eat away Lila's demon side leaving her a pure being of light. As of right now, her two sides are in a constant battle leaving her sick and weak. I don't know how much longer she has."

Michelle's features softened. His confession didn't absolve him for what he had done, but if it came down to Lucy's life, she really couldn't say what means she would lower herself to.

"Alright, so we just need to figure out how to get that damn thing out of her." Hands on her hips she stared down at Lucy. "I never realized you were struggling, dumplin." One brow raised as she looked over at Hector, "We're just going to need to get her to fall so hard for you that she won't want to be human."

Despite his situation, Hector blushed.

Michelle smiled. "Speaking of studs…" she said looking around, "Where's Lucius?"

Like a bucket of ice water to the face, Hector shot up, "He's probably at our meeting point. He doesn't know about Lucy."

A frown pulled at Michelle's lips, "I doubt he'd wait long. He'd most certainly come here after he found the two of you missing."

She reached into a portal to pull out her cellphone. Technology almost as good as magic, she thought with a smirk. Pressing a few buttons, she held the phone to her ear. It went straight to voicemail.

"I don't like this."

"Just where were the three of you?"

"Victoria Johnson's house aka music department head." Hector said flatly.

"Why were you…" tapping her lower lip she said more to herself then Hector, "Victoria ...why is that name so familiar?" With a shrug she dismissed the thought as something rubbed against her leg. Looking down, she smiled, "Well, hello there. You're a new face aren't you?"

"Apparently, he was caged along with a bunch of other lesser demons." Hector said.

"Caged?" She said in disbelief.

Picking him up, she nuzzled his forehead, "Why would anyone cage such a cute little guy…" she paused, wrinkled her nose, and pulled him away, "...you poor thing. We simply must do something about this odor of yours." With that she whisked him away towards the kitchen.

While Michelle was occupied with the lesser demon, another slipped through the window. It was Morbious. Sliding across the floor, he climbed up to whisper in Hector's ear.

"What!"

His voice was so sharp, Michellestopped mid shampoo of the poor creature and carried him dripping wet back into the living room.

"What was that about?"

"She capture Lucius."

Michelle merely laughed, "That's ridiculous. How could anyone capture Lucius?" and she spun around to return to the sink.

Hector followed with Morbious still resting on his shoulders. "I don't think you understand. In order to escape that woman's house, he transformed into a smaller demon."

Michelle's shoulders tensed before they shook with hysterical laughter. "Oh, would I love to be a fly on that wall."

A grin pulled at her lips as she slowly turned around to face Hector, "Wanna see?"

Morbious and Hector looked at each other with perplexed expressions.

"If Lucius is there, I can find him."

Chapter 11

With most of the cages filled, Victoria threw her newest captive in an empty one once occupied by the gremlin she had turned to dust. Her eyes fell on another empty cage and a slight tug pulled down at her lips. "I suppose my little angel was whisked away with that she-devil, " she said locking Lucius's cage door.

"But, I think I got a better prize." A wicked smile curved her ruby red lips, "Don't you agree Lucius?"

Lucius tried to act confused and frightened like any small demon would, but when his name left her lips, he couldn't stop the feeling that some of that terror was real.

"You're not fooling anyone...ha ha ha." She ran her thumb over her bottom lip. "You have no idea how long I've waited to catch you. Well you and your mother." She flicked a lock of red hair over her shoulder, "But that's just a matter of time now isn't it. I'm certain she'll come looking for you once my little messager reaches her."

Lucius's small gold eyes widened, Don't tell me...

"Oh yes, my lovely little, Morbious." She said as her eyes twinkled with triumph.

Who the hell are you? His small furry face pulled into a snarl.

She held her hand to her ear and leaned down, "I'm sorry could you speak up. I couldn't…" leaning in closer her face morphed from Victoria's ivory white skin into twisted dry flesh that stretched over bone in thin pieces, "hear you." Lady Mink laughed as she slipped the face of the voluptuous nun back into place. "What's the matter? Confused?"

She ran her hands down Victoria's curves, "This one was weak, so easy to possess."

She clasped her hands in front of her, feigning despair and confusion as she mocked, "Oh God, I have sinned, I've fallen for a married man. I should be punished." Straightening back up, Minerva smiled, "It was thanks to you, Lucius, this woman lost her composure. She was one of so many women smittened by your incubus charm." She glanced down at her now round bosom and smiled, "All I had to do was promise her you, and she willingly gave herself to me."

Waving an arm in the direction of the cages, she said, "and as an added bonus: she's quite the demon hunter."

"Now, I just need to wait for your mother to find you."

Why would that woman come here?

"Oh, she'll come. Afterall, I have her percious son."

Clearly you don't understand our relationship. At the very most she'd find this amusing.

Minerva just grinned and turned away to head up the stairs. "Ciao, I can't wait to see the look on your mother's face." At the top of the stairs, Minerva rested her hand over the light switch and called down to Lucius, "By the way, I wouldn't try anything funny if I were you. Thanks to this woman's power...well lets just say you don't want to share the fate of the creature that was in the cage before you."

"Good night." She said with a laugh and flicked the light off.

Michelle rubbed the new demon down with a towel as he sat comfortably in her lap. "Well, little one what should we call you?"

Hector walked over sporting Morbious on his shoulders and carrying a pouting Grendel. Michelle looked up and cocked her head to one side. "What's the matter Grendy?" She looked down at the creature curled up like a cat and then back up at Grendel, "Don't worry he won't take your place."

The little one rolled over allowing Michelle to rub its belly. "Ah, who's a cutie...yes you are."

Hector raised a brow to this and Grendel wiggled to free himself in order to jostle affection from his master. Hector released him, "I don't mean to interrupt, but what about Lucius."

"Oh you're such a killjoy, I don't know what my granddaughter sees in you. Fine, I'll go check on him." She motioned for Grendel to come closer. He eagerly nuzzled to her side.

"You two do look a lot a like. I bet she wouldn't notice."

Grendel tipped his head to one side confusion swirling in his dark eyes.

"What do you say Grendy want to go on a rescue mission?"

A little concerned for the creature and Lucius, Hector spoke up, "Is that wise?"

Michelle puffed out her chest, "Of course it is; my little Grendy can do it." She scooped him up under his arms turning him to face her. "Grendy's good at rescues aren't you my little slopper muffin," she cooed as she rubbed her forehead to his.

Hector was doubtful and a bit disturbed: she wasn't what other demons had said about her or maybe she just hadn't shown him yet. Now the other woman, Victoria, was clearly dangerous and knew what she was doing; he doubted she'd be fooled by a look-a-like demon who just happened to show back up. "I think you are underestimating this woman."

Tapping a bright pink nail to her lower lip she relented, "Fine, we'll both go." She saw the look in Hector's eyes before he could utter another word. "I don't mean you." She said. "You need to stay with Lucy. I mean I'll take Grendel. He is a wonderful partner." To this Grendel gave the new-comer a smug look. The little one didn't notice or didn't care; he merely snuggled deeper into Michelle's lap. To which Grendel growled. Michelle brought her hand down on Grendel's head, "No need to be jealous. You are the only partner I need. Now as for this one…" Michelle stood up scooping the small creature in her arms and toted it back to Lucy, "...he can stay here with you two, but first…"

"Grendel honey come here a second." The three-eyed demon waddled over with an enormous grin. "You know what to do, Love."

Once Michelle set down the small demon, Grendel latched ahold of the back of its neck. The creature squealed before growing still. Hector watched in awe as a thick blue liquid dripped from Grendel's jaws and covered the smaller demon. A hard saphire shell formed around it like a jeweled cocoon.

"What did he do it?" Hector asked astonished.

"Oh this," Michelle said tapping the large blue stone, "He just forced metamorphosis on it. The poor thing was malnourished." She said with a feign little pout.

"It's clearly older than it appears, maybe even older than you Grendy," she said picking him up in her arms and tickling his belly.

Regarding her granddaughter one last time, Michelle looked back at Hector. "Take care of her now. I'm counting on you."

Using Grendel's paw Michelle waved goodbye as she called a portal around her.

"Be right back." she said with a wink then dropped through the portal and disappeared.

After Michelle vanished, Hector turned his attention back to Lucy. If I could just. Standing over her supine form, he concentrated to transform his right hand up to his elbow into shadow. "You might not like this Lucy, but it is for both our sake."

Staring down at her, her chest rising and lowering slowly, he became fixed at the hem of her shirt. "I don't mean anything by this, I just need to..." Hand trembling, he lifted her shirt exposing her smooth narrow stomach. Two small dots near her belly button showed him where the phantom snake had entered previously. Feeling like a novice surgeon about to cut into a patient for first time, Hector plunged his right hand into her abdomen. He immediately felt the pull of the candy greedily sucking away at his energy. A second later his entire arm had formed into shadow and continued to creep past his shoulder. "Just a little more." He wanted to scream in pain, but if he held on a little longer maybe he could force it out, or at least buy her some more time.

Lucy's eyes fluttered open in time to find Hector's arm lodged into her stomach with vapors of smoke entering her through her belly button. She shot up and shoved at his chest knocking him to the floor. Before he could react, Lucy jumped on top of him her fist glowing as she reared it back for the strike. "What were you trying to do to me?" She snarled, horns materializing at her temples.

"Please. Lucy calm down. I was only trying to help."

"I'm sure you were, minion of Lady Mink."

With a quick hard shove, Hector tossed her off and pinned her to the floor.

"Listen, I'm not Lady Mink's minion." His gray eyes slide away, " I did help her, but I have my reasons."

Lucy stared hard at him. His dark cloak poured down like oil from his exposed chest in pools around her. Long jet black hair slipped off one broad shoulder brushing her collar bone. Averting his gaze she saw that his other shoulder appeared to be more slender. Her eyes narrowed as she realized he was now missing his right arm. Hector followed her gaze. With a sheepish smile he said, "Well, I wasn't able to remove it, but perhaps that will be enough demon aura to keep it from eating anymore of yours for a while."

Lucy's eyes met with his slate gray ones, "What are you talking about?"

Hector slid off her releasing his hold on her wrists. "I can't believe they didn't tell you." He said more to himself than to Lucy.

"What?"

"The demon candy…" The tightness in his chest restricted the flow of his words as he looked away. "...that I gave you."

Lucy's brows knitted together and she narrowed her eyes at him, "What demon candy?"

"I told you before, but you lost consciousness. At the river when you gave me CPR, I slipped you the candy. I couldn't carry it myself. With the hunters and your father after me, I never would have made it back to Lila."

The utterance of another woman's name leaving his lips jabbed something hard and cold into her chest that spread into her stomach. Fist clenched in her lap, she found something interesting near her knee.

"So, you were trying to give it to someone else? Why?"

Hector sighed, "Because without it she could die."

"Than this woman is really important to you isn't she?" Where am I going with this. This isn't what I need to be asking him. Focus, Lucy, focus. "I mean... so she's the reason you helped Lady Mink?" She said trying to sound like the name of the other woman didn't stab needles into her heart.

"Yes." He said in low remorseful tone. "So, will you please return it to me?"

The idea that she was just convenient to him, a rest stop on his journey elsewhere, stirred a fire in her chest. A flash of gold sparked in her green eyes. "Why would I keep it?"

Hector turned towards her resting his hand on top of her fist, "Why indeed? You see the demon candy has to be accepted by the host before administering. The only demon capable of forcing demon candy on another is your grandfather. It's his right as demon lord." He raised a brow at her holding her gaze with the intensity of a wolf, "The only reason a demon willing takes it is his belief that it will make him human."

Lucy yanked her hand away from him trying to avert the panic welling inside her from the judgment of his eyes. "What are you suggesting? That I took it from you?"

Hector stood up with a sigh. "I don't know. I just know Lila will die without it." His shoulders slumped, and he turned for her kitchen. "Do you have tea?"

Thrown off guard, she nodded. Pausing long enough to glance over his shoulder he asked, "Would you like some? I certainly could use a cup." Again she nodded her face twisted into confusion. She watched him pick the kettle up from the stove and fill it with water. The task was awkward and clumsy with the use of only one arm.

Her eyes softened as she watched him struggle through burdened task.

"Will you be okay?"

Shaking his head with a light tug to his lips and a soft chuckle, he set the kettle back on the stove, "So you do care."

"I think anyone would…" she stopped herself and he finished it,"...say that."He said with a slight lift to his left eyebrow. Her eyes were glazed and dreamy, and he found himself gliding over to kneel before her.

"Shall we also repeat what followed at the river." He slipped his hand through her hair cupping her cheek. She remembered his lips soft yet cold a slight saltiness from the brackish water. Once more, maybe...then the name that woman's name resounded in his voice in her head. She frowned and pushed him away. Almost, she had almost let him draw her in.

"No thank you," she said turning away. "I know you just want this candy back."

He wanted to laugh; she had him there. It was true he did want it back, but she would never believe he also just wanted to kiss her.

The kettle whistled summoning him back into the kitchen. He called to her while searching her cabinets, "Where do you keep your tea?"

"ah here it is."

"Tea?" Lucy stood and stormed in, "Seriously, tea? Now?"

"Yes, now. You did say you wanted one." Her face flushed, she had hadn't she. Now she was too worked up over this other woman, being used, and his lies that no amount of tea would calm her down. "I can't believe you think you can fix this with some sweet words and a cup of tea."

He didn't argue; he merely smiled, "Have a seat. I think it's time I tell you everything."

She took cups from him as he handed them to her, "Do you mean it?"

"Well, I'll tell you what you need to know anyway." He reached for the teapot next and paused as a lopsided frowning penguin with one flipper for the spout the other for the handle stared out at him. "What is this?" He pulled out the unhappy bird and held it up for Lucy to see.

"Not that one." Lucy snatched the awkward-looking teapot from his hands and cradled it lovingly in her arms. "Don't laugh." She said her voice lowering and her cheeks darkening, "I made this with my father when I was seven." She said, lovingly tracing the birds face with her finger. Hector's expression softened, "Do you have another one?"

"Above the microwave." She said placing the forlorn penguin gingerly on the counter.

A small plain porcelain teapot rested in a cabinet, alone. It was strange the rest of the cabinets were crammed with dishes why was this one teapot by itself. He glanced over at the penguin and remembered her reaction. You'd think she'd keep him up here instead. He shrugged and pulled the teapot down, poured some water in it, swished it around, and dumped it, and then spooned a few leaves into it before adding more water. Lucy set cups down on the small breakfast table. Mobrious curled in one of the chairs looked more like a pool of tar than an animal. She looked down at him, unwilling to disturb such peaceful slumber, she walked over to look out the window. "So how long have you been watching me?"

"Direct aren't you." He smiled while carrying the teapot to the table. "Please sit."

A gentle brush woke the sleeping familiar and sent him into the tiny living room. Hector pulled the chair out for Lucy, but she refused it for the opposite chair.

"Okay, I get it. You're angry."

"Damn right, I'm angry. I let myself get all worked up over…" she yanked the chair from under the table with a loud screech, "...only to find out…" her cheeks darkened as she realized where her thoughts were going. "Nevermind."

"No, please go on." He said unfazed by her tantrum and accusations; in fact, he was slightly amused.

"God you are so full of yourself."

Hector raised a brow at this, but instead of commenting further, he picked up the teapot and poured her a cup. She watched as he meticulously poured the tea careful not to let the lid slip which proved challenging with only one hand. Lucy didn't understand why she suddenly felt responsible for that.

Sucking in her lower lip in mild embarrassment, she ran her teeth over the flesh, "Thank you...I guess."

The corner of Hector's mouth pulled back slightly and he shook his head. "I know you have questions, but please allow me to explain myself first."

"I'm sure you are wondering why I helped Lady Mink." He poured himself a cup of tea before holding it to his lips. "The answer is simple." He took a sip allowing the hot liquid to calm his insides. Looking straight at her he said, "Love."

Heat rose in her cheeks and spread to her ears followed by a feeling of disgust, anger and foolishness-was he in love with Lady Mink, but why did he have to look at her when he said that. She already knew he was in love with someone else or two someones, there was that woman, Lila. Now Lady Mink too...wait that can't be right.

He guaged her reaction with some interest, logged it away for later and then continued. "You can guess that Lady Mink never told me how she would help me, but that if I helped her she had something that would save Lila." His thoughts traveled back to Lucy's nearly blue lips and slack body. Ashamed he broke eye contact, "I was desperate. Please forgive me."

Lucy looked away. Could she forgive him for using her, for tricking her, for falling in love with him. No it's all fake. I can't believe I let myself think he actually….

Her thoughts slammed into his mind. Eyes wide and a gaping hole stealing his breath, he stared at her. "Lucy, I think you misunderstand."

Slamming her hands on the table and pushing herself up, she shouted, "No, I understand. I was convenient, you are in love with someone else; and once I help you…." her voice lowered and she averted her eyes, "you'll forget all about me." Tears fell without her command. I'm so stupid.

"Lucy it's not what you think." He stood to stop her retreat. Fingers nearly out of reach, Hector grasped her hand before she could run away. "I told you didn't I: I'm not married. And Lila is…" He took a deep breath to prepare for her reaction, "...Lila is my daughter."

The color drained from Lucy's face. A sister complex would have been easier to take, but a daughter.

She spun on him, "So you were married?"

"Yes."

"I knew it." She didn't even know where her argument was going, but she pressed on anyway, "So you lied to me again."

"No I didn't. I told you I wasn't currently married."

Lucy sputtered but didn't relent, "And and...you have a kid. You didn't say anything about that."

Hector released her hand and sighed, "You didn't ask. Look if you would stop jumping to conclusions so fast and let me finish…"

"I don't think…." she began to protest, but before all the words could leave her mouth, he captured them pressing his lips to hers. Her mind told her to push him away, but her body relished in the softness of his lips and the heady smell of his skin.

He released her letting her catch her breath. His smokey silver eyes caught hers in their enchanted fog and she stared mouth agape.

"Now would you please listen." Incapable of hiding the smug grin from his lips.

"I...you…" She pushed him away as a thought settled in.

Hector deft at reading minds allowed his self-satisfied smile to melt as her words assaulted his mind.

"Before you say it... I wasn't trying to take the candy from you just now. But I do want you to listen." His silver eyes grew in intensity as spoke.

"Will you?" He asked with the expression of remorseful puppy.

This is so unfair. Lucy nodded.

"As I stated earlier,Lila is my daughter. I met her mother over five centuries ago in the forest of ethereal beast. We fell in love, we had a child, but she died giving birth to her. Now our daughter suffers from being a mixed breed. My demonic side fights with her mother's celestial blood." He released his hold with his hands and his eyes as he followed the tip of his finger down her chest to her stomach. "The demon candy was supposed to go to her in order to eat my demonic energy, so she could be a full Ljosalfar and return to her people."

"Right now her aunt has her in a small cottage outside of her hometown. The people there fear her, and she's always weak." His fist clenched tight. "I asked Abaddon for help, but he refused. He told me it was too dangerous for me to carry it to her, but he also rejected the idea of bringing her to him or going to her." His eyes darkened as his brow knitted together, "Your grandfather, ever the politician, said some crap about upsetting the balance."

Lucy watched his face turn from gentle concern to seething anger.

"So you went to Lady Mink instead." Lucy's voice seemed to bring him back from whichever road to hell he was on.

"What?" He blinked at her; the world of darkness returned to light. From the tinge of fear in her eyes, Hector could tell he had frightened her. Looking away he glanced out the window. It's close. He turned his attention back to Lucy and slipped the ring from his finger. "Take this."

He placed it in her hand, "You will need this more than I. It is useless to me tonight." His gaze fell back out the window. Lucy followed his, "What is tonight."

He answered her absently, "A blood moon."

Cold metal pressed into his back while the smell of urine dizzied his mind and turned his stomach. The discomfort of it all distracted his thoughts making it that much more difficult for Lucius to plan an escape. I can't believe she possessed a nun. Lucius sat back against the bars his chin resting on his fist. I'll worry about that later, first thing: how to get out of here. He placed his clawed hand out; a green flame danced at his palm. Clasping a bar he tried melting it. Flames raged up the side of the cage obscuring the bars, but when they died down, the bars were unscathed. Although he did manage to cook a pixie in the cage adjacent to his. Damn it. I guess, I didn't actually think that would work.

"Ha, ha….phew...wow." Lucius narrowed his small gold eyes at a dark corner as a voluptuous blonde emerged from the shadows. Michelle pretended to wipe a tear away with the back of her index finger. "I must say this is the best. I haven't seen this form in quite some time."

Lucius growled. Get on with it, woman, and get me out of here.

"Alright don't get your fur all matted."Michelle said setting Grendel down, "Okay love,work your magic."

Grendel waddled over to the stack of cages and jumped on top of Lucius's cage; the moment his paws touch it, a silent alarm triggered another trap. Michelle screamed as a pillar of light shot from the floor around her. Hair flying up with a surge of energy crackling around inside of the pillar, Michelle screamed in pain pure unadulterated pain for the first time in over a century. Her muscles clench to the point of being useless and her throat tightened. Eyes rolling to the back of her head, Michelle's body twisted and convulsed until it crumpled to the ground.

Lucius never thought he'd see the day he felt sorry for his mother. "Grendel, go help her." The three-eyed demon whimpered but jumped down.

*clap, clap, clap*

Grendel froze on his way to his mistress then darted behind some of the cages as Minerva waltz down the steps.

"Bravo, valiant attempt I must say Michelle, but I do so like the look of pain on your face much more."

As though strapped to the floor, Michelle could barely tip her head to see the woman's feet as she walked closer.

"I made that one especially for you. Aren't you honored."

Michelle attempted to spit at her feet, but only managed to drool.

"Ha, ha, ha… I wonder what your great Abaddon would think of you now?" She knelt down grabbing a handful of Michelle's hair and ripped it from her scalp. Michelle could only whimper as tears streamed down her face. A sneer pulled at Victoria's lips, and she placed a foot down on Michelle's ear, digging her heel into it.

"Enough!" Lucius barked in a garbled language somewhere between beast and human.

Victoria lifted her foot and spun around to face Lucius. "And what pray tell are you going to do about it?... Pee on me?"

If you insist. To which he leaned back on his hunches and pissed on her face.

"Why you nasty little…" taking a deep breath, she pulled a handkerchief from her robe pocket and wiped her face. "I will give you that little victory, but what will you do from inside that cage while I twist your daughter's heart into the blackest tar and release her maddened and unrestrained self on the city of New York. What do you think your father will do then? It was only thanks to her restraint that she was allowed to walk freely in the human world." A wicked and victorious grin pulled back in a red smear.

A moan called her attention back to Michelle, "Oh, I wouldn't bother if I were you. Once you start to regain your strength the trap will trigger and the process will start all over again."

She licked her lips as she stared greedily down at Michelle, "Ah that does feel good. I must thank you Michelle. Once that trap has drained you of enough energy, I can shed this horrible cow's shell and return to my place as queen." Minerva spun on her heels and strode up the stairs, laughing. She paused a moment to glance over her shoulder; she eyed Michelle's prone form, "I look forward to working with you, ha ha ha."

Once the basement door clicked, Lucius moved closer to the door of his cage.

"Are you alright?"

"Is that concern I hear?" Michelle said weakly coughing blood in her attempt to chuckle.

Bite me woman

Too much hair. It hurt to even grin, but she couldn't help it.

"Hmph" Lucius turned his back to her. He would never admit it, but it was good to hear she still had her sense of humor.

The sound of his master's voice drew Grendel from the shadows, and he scrambled to Michelle's side to nuzzle her arm. "I'm sorry Grendy, I can't move right now." With a whimper, Grendel pushed his nose under her hand and laid there. "Thank you, Grendel." She was able to move a few digits through his thick fur.

"I have a job for you, do you think you can do it?" The little creature nodded, but was reluctant to leave his mistress's side. "I'll be alright, just go."

A moment later, Grendel vanished through a portal.

"Good boy."

Where did you send him?

Just to retrieve something for me. Michelle slid her eyes in his direction and a little chuckle reverarated her chest despite the pain, "I can't believe you peed on her."

If it weren't for the dark fur, Michelle would have seen the deep blush on Lucius's cheeks.

She asked for it.

His comment made her chuckle a little harder, "Ouch.. don't make me laugh damn it. It hurts."

Despite himself, Lucius smiled.

So what is the plan? How do we get out of here.

For now, I just want to sleep. You should too, I'll wake you when I think of something.

Chapter 12

Lucy waited for Hector to return. He had gone back to wipe the memory of the human, he had used up until then, and to find Lucy some decent clothes. She still only had a pair of pajamas and that horrid piece of scrap her grandmother called a dress.

Uneasy, Lucy scrambled about the apartment picking up cold tea cups, dirty napkins and a pair of underwear she hadn't realized was lying in plan view in her living room. "Mimi!" I suppose he would never believe these aren't mine. Honestly I'm surprised she even wears them. As she muddled about, she stood in front of the rather forlorn penguin. "Dad." Her mind wandered back to a time when she was small and started to show more demon than expected. She had gotten in a fight at school. Her father and mother were called in, but only Lucius made it: Emily was too busy at the bakery. He listened quietly as the counselor told of her many exploits and incidents where her emotions got the better of her. When the meeting was over, Lucius stepped out of the counselor's office and looked down into Lucy's lap where several pieces of broken pottery lay. Without a word he scooped them up and threw them in the trash, and then took her hand. His deep blue eyes waited for her to explain what happened. Through choked tears she cried about his present and how a boy in class ruined it.

That afternoon they went to a pottery shop and made that penguin. It was the only time she could remember having a normal father daughter time with him. The memory was bittersweet.

"Stupid…" She wiped her eyes as she felt them flood with salty tears.

A knock at the door pulled her away from the teapot and over to the front door.

"Who is it?"

"It's me."

Normally she could sense the aura of the person on the other side, but with the candy still in place, she could not. "Me, who?"

"It's Hector."

She turned her back to the door, "Come in." To prove his identity, he slipped through the door as a shadow. They had agreed to this before he left. Solidifying, he turned around to open the door and retrieve the items he found.

"I didn't want to walk around amongst humans how I look now, not quite human enough, so I brought you things from my dorm room...well Jared's dorm room really."

Something about that didn't settle right. It was one thing to borrow Hector's things, but truly these things were some poor human name Jared's whom she's never really met. "Will he be alright?"

Hector raised a brow at her, "Yes, he just might have a few gaps in his memory, and one hell of a headache for a while." He regarded her face which betrayed nothing, and he shrugged. "Well, I'm sorry it took so long, I had to track his friends down and alter their memories too."

He handed her a bag. She took it and excused herself. It was a good thing Jared was trim, but it was all a bit loose.

Having left Hector in the living room, Lucy stared at the things he brought. A long sleeved white shirt, she blushed at this one: it was the one he tossed at her in the bathroom; a pair of boxers, what am I supposed to do with these; a pair of gray slacks; and polished black shoes, that were far too big. Lucy sighed. The pants proved to be too much to roll, tuck and pin to be practical and the shoes were useless to her also, which left her with the boxers and shirt. Of course ultimate male fantasy. "I guess I don't have much choice, just please tell me these boxers are clean." Remembering something rather specific to men's boxers, Lucy fished in her nightstand for a needle and thread. "I'll just have to use them as shorts." Besides I can change when I get home.

A few minutes later, she emerged in a pair of cotton plaid boxers and a white button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up and the bottom half tied in knot. Hector nodded his approval, "Not bad."

"Well, I guess it's better than that dress." She said with a look of disgust.

"I don't know, I kind of like that dress."

She sneered playfully at him, "You would."

Lucy stepped past him and into the kitchen. He followed her with his eyes knowing he was the one who wore those items, but that was in that human's body. A tinge of jealousy moved through him. Lucy felt a chill run up her spine and goose bumps spread out down her arms. She gave him a sideways glance, "Was that you?"

"I didn't say anything." He said with a look of innocence.

Whether she meant it or not, Lucy smiled. "Okay, let's stop by my house first. There is something there I need to get."

She came back to Hector's side carrying a small black stone. "Just to be clear, you will help me rescue my father and grandmother, and I will give you back the candy?"

He smiled down at her, "You know you didn't have to make a deal with me, I would have helped you anyway."

"Yeah, yeah, at least this way, I don't owe you anything."

She said tossing a quick glance at his missing arm.

"Whatever you say."

Hector called Morbious over and the three of them dropped through a portal.

Mid afternoon found them in Lucy's old room of her parents' apartment. Everything was still there the way she had left it. "Don't touch anything." She ordered.

Hector looked offended. "Of course not."

Peering out of her door, Lucy made it down the hall. "Okay, she's not here. So at least I don't have to explain what you are doing in my bedroom."

It's as if she's sneaking her boyfriend out the house before her parents wake up. He grinned at the thought then blushed, then fantasized about it a little longer than he'd like to admit. Lucy was already making her way down the hall before he even turned the corner. Something hard wobbled under his foot. When he lifted it he found a small black stone. So that's how she does it. He picked it up and pocketed it with every intention, of course, of returning it.

The third door on the left down the dark solid wood floor, past the walls covered in Van Gogh's Cafe Terrace at Night , Munch's Weeping Nude, and Robinson's Valley of the Giverny was the library.

"I think Dad keeps some of his demon things here."

Double solid mahogany doors lead into the library. Lucy pushed them open and Hector stood in awe. How does this even fit in here? Lucy broke his trance with an elbow to the gut, "Come on help me look."

"You told me not to touch anything."

"Okay now you are being a smart ass."

A glass dome covered the library allowing natural light to shine down on the honey colored wooden floor. Hector looked up with a frown. The sun was already starting its decent.

"We don't have much time." his voice was distant as if muttering a realization only for himself to know.

"What did you say?" Lucy said only half expecting an answer as she moved books aside in search of some secret switch leading to some hidden room. The idea was ludicrous. They were on the third floor of a refurbished apartment building. Secret switches, hidden doors…really Lucy. As she bent down to pull open a drawer under one of the shelves, she bumped the desk knocking a collection of beaten and worn books from the corner. The top three books toppled to the floor; the lopsided way they were stacked pulled the cover of the one on the bottom open as they slid from its surface. Inside was a red stone that shimmered under the fractured rays of the sun. Upon closer inspection, Lucy noticed it appeared flat on the bottom. "Come look at this." She called over to Hector who had giving up looking for a "secret passage" and was instead flipping through a book titled Tantric Positions. When she caught the title, Hector grinned and pointed to a section of the book. "I wouldn't mind trying this myself." As he turned the book and his head in an attempt to understand which direction the drawing depicted the position of legs, Lucy blushed and snatched the book away. She had to resist the urge to throw it or burn it. She wasn't supposed to be nosing around in here. It needed to look like he left it; although given the circumstances, her father might have forgiven her; however despite the temptation, she replaced it gently back into the empty slot on the shelf. Hector gave her a sheepish grin with a shrug of his shoulders. "So what was it you wanted to show me?"

As the low rays of sun filtered through the little basement window, the creatures in the other cages whimpered and shifted to the remaining dark corners of their cages. Lucius wasn't particularly bothered by the sun's light. That was saved for the lesser demons. However as time passed and Michelle slowly recovered, the trap would trigger again, calling that circle of light around her curled form draining more of her energy. She didn't scream only ground her teeth with labored breath, "Fucking bitch...damn that hurts."

The basement door opened. Coming to gloat some more I see. Michelle watched Victoria's feet shuffle into the room. Various things hung from her arms. She shifted from one side to another until blankets covered every cage. She stopped in front of Lucius's cage.

"I'm sorry. I do not agree with Minerva, but I can't let a demon run free either."

Lucius looked at her suspiciously.

Panting and sore, Michelle tried to speak, "So, you are not completely possessed."

"No, Minerva must rest every three days. I suppose possessing a nun such as myself would be taxing."

"Ha, ha, ha...ouch." Michelle laughed at the absurdity. A host feeding a parasite while also killing the parasite. The irony was too much.

"I'm guessing this means you won't let us go?"

"I'm afraid I cannot do that."

"Hmm, well seen as how you won't let us go, perhaps you'll tell me what you plan to do with us."

Victoria turned from Michelle to Lucius and placed a piece of liver in his cage. "I'm sure you must be hungry."

Lucius backed away.

"I promise you it isn't poisoned."

So you won't tell me that either. Alright then how about this. Michelle inched forward enough to look up. "If you won't tell me what you plan to do with us, how about explaining how such a powerful nun such as yourself can't exercise herself to remove a weakened demon?"

Victoria stepped away from Lucius's cage and knelt down before Michelle, "She promised me Lucius." Her smile was that of a sociopath. It even sent a shiver through Michelle.

"What do you plan to do with him?"

She placed a finger to her lips, "Shh, it's a secret." Reaching a pale hand up, Victoria ran it through Michelle's hair. "Ah, she ruined your beautiful hair." Pulling a brush from her apron pocket, she brushed Michelle's hair and then tied it in a low ponytail hiding the bare spot left by Minerva. "I've always admired you, you know. I love your confidence, your spunk, your sensuality." She looked down at her own body with a sigh. "I know I have the assets, but I've always been too shy. The path of God seemed to be the most natural course for me." She finished by pinning back a stray hair with a butterfly clip. "There you are...very pretty."

Mother, I have an idea. We might be able to use her in this state.

Perhaps, but be careful, she one crazy bitch.

Of course.

In his garbled demon voice, Lucius barked at Victoria. "Victoria."

She turned in surprise. "You can speak like that?" Clearly not everything that Minerva did or witnessed was shared with Victoria. He could only hope it went the other way too. Concentrating he spoke to her mind.

Will you let me out of here. You want me as a man do you not. I can't give you what you want in this form. Wouldn't you like these hands to be human and soft? These lips to be supple? I can give you what you want if you just open this door.

Victoria's eyes glazed over as she listened to his hypnotic voice inside her head.

"I do."

She stepped forward her hand hovering near the lock the other drifting down to her pocket.

"Will you promise to love me?" She said dreamily.

I will love you as I am.

She paused. "What do you mean 'as you are'?"

I mean as demon, I cannot change for you.

Victoria removed her hand from her pocket, but did not produce a key. "But you changed for Emily."

I am still a demon. She accepted that. Will you not accept me as such.

"I...want…" Her words were cut short by a thud as a steel pipe came crashing down on her skull. Victoria slumped to the ground. "God she's weird." Michelle flipped the long ponytail over her shoulder.

"Good work Lucius, you kept her distracted long enough for Grendel to bring me these." She held up a small jar of demon parasites.

"Parasites?"

"Yep." She held Grendel to the lock allowing his corrosive drool to work its magic. The lock melted allowing Lucius to hop down. He landed on Victoria's prone form then began crawling about her body apparently in search of something.

"What are you doing?" She hissed urging him to transform and get a move on before the witch woke up. "A key." He barked back. "For what? Surely you don't wish to waste our time freeing these low level demons." Lucius's furry head snapped in her direction. Are you blind woman. Do you not see this collar she's placed on me? I can't get it off and while I can't get it off, I can't resume human shape. A force of air pushed past her lips, then a great snort shot up her nose. "Ha Ha Ha….oh that's too good...mmm" she wiped a tear away. "Sorry." She said only half meaning it as Lucius snarled at her. "Geez, relax will you." She helped him flip Victoria over. Clad only in a bathrobe, the woman carried no keys. "Looks like Minerva didn't trust her...rightfully so." She said as she remember the woman's weakness for Lucius. Lucius's shoulders fell. It was still difficult to hold back the desire to laugh as he looked more like the family cat sitting contently on his Master's lap than the Demon Lord's son. "What!" He snapped as Michelle's face contorted in her efforts to control her laughter. "Nothing."

Gold eyes rolled and Lucius sighed as he looked around the room. Do you think we can get her into one of these cages?

Michelle's gaze followed his, "I doubt it, but there are some chains over there, let's tie her up and get out of here."

The two of them dragged her to the wall where Victoria had kept Lucy. Most of the chain had been chewed by the demon rats, but there was enough to do the trick. Once they had her securely tied, Lucius melted the chain together. Alright, now do you think you can get this thing off me? Michelle tapped her index finger to her chin and tilted her head. "I don't know. I kind of like you this way."

Mother!

"Alright, alright party pooper." The moment she reached down and touched it, the collar zapped her, paralyzing her hand. "Oh, Honey, I don't think I can get this off you." Her expression was first concern than morphed into amusement. This isn't funny woman…. Lucius paced about the floor then stopped. We could use her hand couldn't we?

"To do what exactly? I highly doubt her fingers will curl around your collar on their own."

"Just face it, you are just stuck that way for the time being. I'm sure I have something in my office that will work." She bent down scooping him and Grendel up under each arm. This is so humiliating. A wickedness danced in Michelle's eyes. I wonder what Emily would think.

Don't you dare.

Chapter 13

Lucy pulled various weapons from behind a hidden bookcase that slid to the side with the press of the jewel inside the hollow book. An entire arsenal stacked to the ceiling on three walls was tucked away in a secret room. Lucy shook her head at the arcane and modern weapons. She knew her father hunted renegade demons, but she wondered what her peace-loving tree-hugging mother would think. Maybe that's why she wasn't allowed in there. Hector's silver eyes traced over the assortment of weapons and stopped when they came to a gun hung against a velvet backdrop with a cherry wood box beneath it. Glancing over at Lucy as she puzzled over a handled weapon with a curved blade, his eyes went back to the lid of the box. His fingers traced the intricate metal carving of a wolf's head; they lingered there a moment before pulling open the lid. His face fell, undetected by Lucy. Silver. He pulled the gun from its hook and set it inside the box with the bullets. After closing the lid, Hector looked back over to Lucy weilding a six-foot halbert. He gave her a cocked smile. "A little too conspicuous don't you think." He took the weapon from her placing it back on its hook.

"Here take this instead. It might prove to be more useful." He said handing the cherry wood box to Lucy. She nodded, but the aversion of his eyes as he handed it to her unsettled her stomach. "Hector is there something you need to tell me?"

He only smiled, "Don't worry about it... Let's go."

Lucy went to close the secret door but not before yanking a small curved-bladed dagger from its resting place. "Close combat," she said with a smug grin that Hector couldn't help rolling his eyes to, "Let's hope it doesn't come to that." He took the dagger from her. "You'll be safer with the gun...You do know how to shoot one of those don't you?"

Her amber eyes dropped down to the box. "That's for me to know and you to find out." No, he really hoped he wouldn't need to find out, but that wasn't what initially concerned him. "Lucy, your eyes." Her emerald green eyes had turned a muted hazel.

Lucy reached long slender fingers up to her cheek, "What about them."

Should he tell her? If she knew would she choose to keep the candy until her transformation from demon to human was complete? Would that be such a bad thing? It was what she wanted, wasn't it?

"Nothing...I thought I saw something." He turned to leave the library with a heavy sick sludge in the pit of his stomach. His broad shoulders blocked most of the hallway from her view as Lucy stared after him; the depth of sadness palatable. Her eyes drifted down to the box in her hands. When she looked back up, he had already vanished down the hall. The sound of returning footsteps padding down the hall brought a inadvertent smile to her face, "Good, for a minute I thought…." Her words choked in her throat as one large red eye peered around the door frame. Instinctively she backed away and not given to notions of a damsel in distress, she didn't scream merely set the box down. Certain she didn't have time to load the gun, she reached instead for the open book. The creature's red orb followed her gaze; its black maw opening to orange jagged teeth. "Seek and I Find." Were the words translated into her own head. Its actual speech was garbled and foreign. "What do you want?" Lucy said in a voice she hoped didn't sound as shaken and uncertain as she felt. Its long limbs like that of a spider toed the ground as if distrustful of its eye. Its arms, equally spindly, groped the furniture for confirmation of the room's layout. Despite the slow calculated almost unsteady way it moved, a genuine fear coursed through Lucy's blood. Every human or demonic instinct she had within her screamed to run. She broke eye contact for a fraction to focus on the jeweled button. That was all it took. The gangly creature who moments ago look less steady than a newborn giraffe had crossed the library in the second it took her to reach out for…. "No help will come." She hadn't been calling for help, but now she felt she should. The creature's massive head resonated, the ping of a submarine, and Lucy suddenly felt sick. A wide gray hand spread out to the width of her face drawing closer when it hesitated. In that fraction of hesitation, Lucy clutch the gun box to her and shoved knocking the creature to the floor pushing her way past. It hissed as it flailed about the ground like a wingless praying mantis trying to right itself. Lucy didn't get far before something icy and strong wrapped around her ankle, and the hard-wooden floor smacked her in the face.

Her breath burned inside her chest as it struggled to get free, panic raged through her body. She wasn't transforming. The pound of each heart beat was deafening in her ears. She didn't even her the rush of footsteps coming down the hall until they stood before her. "Let go of my daughter!" Emily shouted swinging a mop down on the creature's head nailing it square in its hideous red eye. Its scream busted blood vessels along their ear canal. Emily clutched one ear, flung the cleaning emblement down, and quickly snatch Lucy by the wrist hauling her up and pulling her down the hall. Lucy halted her mother's escape long enough to shut the door. "That won't stop it." Emily state unhelpfully.

"I know."

"We need to get out of here. Where is your grandmother's stone?"

"My room." Lucy rounded her doorway and scanned for the black pebble.

"Where did it go?" On hands and knees, she scoured the floorboards. Emily flipped up sheets and checked under furniture.

"I don't understand it should…." Lucy's thoughts trailed as another hit her. "Hector." At the mention of the boy's name, Emily spun around with wide curious, trying not to accuse, brown eyes. "A boy?"

"Mom it's not what you think...he…" A loud bang cut her off as the sound of wood splitting aching against something metal reverberated down the hall. "Probably not a good idea to leave the bad guy in the room with the weapons." Emily stated as calmly as saying "Look at that, I forgot my umbrella."

"Mom!"

"Sorry, must have spent too much time with your grandmother." For a moment Lucy forgot the urgency of the situation and stared at her mother in disbelief. Somehow she just couldn't picture her conservative mother hanging out with her forever-teenaged grandmother. Seriously, they had nothing in common. Emily assessed the look of doubt in her daughter's eyes. "I know it's hard to believe I'm sure, but when you were born your grandmother was, surprisingly, a typical dooting granny." To this Lucy snorted half amused half sceptical.

Emily retorted, "She was… ask her yourself."

Inside her office, Michelle sneezed. You should probably dust more often. "Shut it fur ball, my gremlins dust all the time. Someone just walked on my grave." Lucius just gave her a look, the best his furry face could, that stated, "Oh please." So whom did you piss off this time aside from the obvious?

"Ha Ha I'm being serious. Someone is talking about me." She said gliding around her desk in search of something to remove Lucius's collar. He sat with Grendel and as Grendel lifted a back foot to relieve an itch, he too was unable to resist the urge to scratch at the confining thing. "Grr" Just get this off me already.

"Patience, I might have something." Expecting some Medieval tour device, Lucius was surprised when she revealed a pair of wire cutters. "Now hold still. I'm still a bit woozy from the parasites."

Careful not to touch the collar with her hand, she wedged the metal blade beneath the leather and Lucius's fur, and then clamped down on the handle. The collar fell away easily. Something about that didn't sit well with Lucius, but he transformed the moment it was gone. Naked on Michelle's sofa, he suddenly felt filthy. "I need a shower."

"Take your time Hon…" her words slipped away and she fell to the floor.

Emily halted her search and rushed to close the door, but it resisted. "Shit," She turned to Lucy still pulling items from her drawers in a small prayer that maybe Mimi had left her a spare. "Muffin that won't help." She pushed all her might against the door as long gray arms thrashed through the opening, "Hurry, go out the window. I'll distract it."

"NO! Mom you can't…"

She rushed up pushing her weight against the door with her mother "...you can't fight a demon on your own." The gray arm groped for anything it could ensnare in its gnarled fingers. "Who says...your father? Well, I may not look it, but I took down a troll once." she said smartly looking a little smug. Although surprised by her mother's statement, Lucy could not abandon her now. "That's impressive Mom, but now really isn't the time to brag." She shoved at the door as it bucked under their combined weight. Emily turned her face away from the opening to chastise not a daughter in disbelief, but one in serious danger. "I mean it, leave. It doesn't want me; it's after you."

The creature's fruitless wielding finally landed, and it wasted no time in capturing whatever was unfortunate enough to land in its grasp. Emily screamed as the creature pulled her head towards the opening of the door.

"GO!" she screamed.

"I can't…"

Emily's hand released the door, and she shoved Lucy toward the window. "Fly," she whispered as three long clawed fingers wrapped around Emily's neck.

Standing between the window and her mother the secret weighed on her, "You don't understand… I can't." There wasn't time to explain it now. She had to get that demon off her. Lucy thought of the gun, but feared hitting her mother. Hector had taken the knife, so what was there? Desperate, she took a pen from her desk and jabbed it into the creatures arm. It released Emily with at screech, but she did not release her hold. "Thank...you…" her voice was harsh and burned in her throat. "...but if I let go, he will come in...now leave."

The window called to her, but they were three stories up. She could not command her wings. Even if she wanted to escape, she couldn't. Her eyes darted from the window to the creaking door when something caught her eye. A shadow darted in and raced towards her. Instinctively, she shielded her face only to have a cool hand wrap her wrist and gently lower her arms. Charcoal gray eyes that darted with silver in the light commanded her attention. "Hector?"

"I'll take care of our friend here, there are more coming, so you need to get your mother out of here."

"How? We are three stories up."

"Down the fire escape." He said with a toss of his head in the direction of the window.

"What fire escape?"

Hector smiled, "Morphious will show the way." At his name the weasel like creature oozed through the window then solidified. "Come, follow, demon girl you know, follow." Hector gave her a reassuring smile, "Use this once you get the ground," he said handing her the small stone. "You're not going to want to come back here for a while." The door creaked and thumped as Emily did her best to hold back the creature. Turning from Lucy, Hector made for the door moving Emily aside and thrust his hand through the door as shadow and then solidified it on the other side latching the hunter's throat in a powerful vice. He locked eyes with Emily, "Take her and go."

Emily nodded and took Lucy by the arm lead by Morphious, they headed for the window. A series of ramps leading to the ground zig and zagged down the building. "This is new." Emily said. Morpious darted out and down the ramp without waiting.

"Wait, Mom, look." Lucy pointed to the weasel as he made his way down the ramp which upon first inspection appeared solid, but its surface wiggled and vibrated.

"What are those."

They heard a wet crunch from behind them followed by a bang, and they turned slowly. The door was in shatters and Hector had vanished. A bloody pool and gray limbs lay scattered in the hall. Perhaps the worst was over, but where did Hector go and what was that sound? It started as a scratching noise like that of a mouse but grew to the claws of dozens of deadly beast. Glass broke somewhere in the apartment like a window shattering, then another. "GET OUT NOW!" Hector's voice reverberated through the halls. Lucy peered back down the alley behind their building. As the familiar sound of nails scraping across the wood floor assaulted Lucy's ears, she took her mother's arm and jumped out the window.

They landed on a three-foot square of what Lucy could only describe as a black cloud. The creatures wiggled and jostled into large clumps in order to support the two sensation of which could only be described as standing barefoot on the beach while the ocean whisked away the sand. It was the panic of falling yet knowing the ground was still there. Just how much could she trust this substance? Lucy and Emily took unsteady steps down the ramp into the encroaching darkness. When their feet touch solid ground, they both released a suspended breath, looked at each other and laughed. "Okay let's get out of here." Emily said glancing down the alley. Lucy held firm a moment, "But he's up there alone."

The tightness in her chest returned, "Mom, we can't just leave him to fend off...god knows how many of them."

To this Morphious hissed, "Master is strong. You are weak, get in his way."

as offended as Emily was, she knew he was right. "I hate to admit it myself, Pumpkin, but he's right." She shot an eye up at the third story window then back down towards Lucy, "I'm sure he can handle himself. Let's go find your father."

Here Lucy held her hand at her mother's chest, "Father...Dad has been captured. That is why Hector and I came back to the apartment in the first place."

Emily's face pulled down into a scowl, "Don't tell me you were planning on rescuing him alone...not like…" she turned her head away, "...like you are now."

"Mom I…" her words were cut short by a blanket of black as Morphious wrapped around her neck, "We leave now, or I leave you behind."

Lucy shot one last look at the apartment before nodding and allowing the small creature to escort them out of the alley. The sky was a deep purple streaked with orange and gold. "I hate winter. The days are too short." Emily groused as Morphious's small form began to disappear into the woods ahead of them. "Wait Morphious, we should be far enough now. We can stop running." Lucy bent over supporting herself on her knees as she gulped precious air. Emily, a few paces behind, wasn't much better off.

"I have my stone remember." Lucy fished in her pocket as she called after the shadow demon, "We can just go to my…" A figure tall and looming emerged from the shadow of the woods. "Lucy what's the matter. Why did you stop?" As Emily caught up to Lucy her blood froze in her veins. Brown scaly wings blocked the forest and a scared face pulled back into a wicked sneer. "Long time no see Emily."

"Oh my god, Jack...Mammon." She threw herself in front of Lucy, "Lucy run. Don't look back and run."

Chapter 14

The pebble in her hand, nearly forgotten, dropped to the ground reminding her she still had one choice left. She wrapped her arms around Emily and stomped down hard. She steadied herself for the familiar drop and weightlessness like the drop of a roller coaster, but nothing happened. "What the hell, why now?" She stomped again. Mammon only laughed as he strolled in long strides towards them. "What's the matter halfling? Can't get your little teleport stone to work?" In two strides, Mammon had crossed the threshold, backhanded Lucy, and wrapped his hand around Emily's throat.

"It won't be long now. All we need to do now is catch the wolf."

Lucy struggled to her feet nursing her cheek as she watched Mammon take to the sky dangling her mother by the neck. A dark wooden box smashed to the ground as Emily tried to wiggle free. "Don't struggle now or I just might drop you."

His grip was too tight; her vision slipped in and out as her brain screamed for oxygen.

"Let her go you bastard!" Lucy screamed into the air. She had picked up the pistol and was pointing it at Mammon, but she feared hitting Emily, so she let it drop in her grasp. Again she had failed to save her. "Mammon!" The last of the sun was snuffed out by the tops of the trees and Lucy was left standing in the street her heart as heavy as the gun in her hand and feeling just a useless.

When she stepped back, something skittered across the pavement. She turned to look. The teleport stone spun near her foot. In frustration and rage, she kicked it, "Useless piece of…" It skipped across the road towards a drainage grate; there was a heavy plunk as the stone hit the metal then slipped through and into the drain. "Damn it." Lucy stomped her foot and cursed again, "Damn it." Tears pooled at her eyes. Useless, fucking useless. She wanted to scream, break something, anything to make the pain stop. A few paces in a tight circle, she took a couple of deep breaths. "I need to think…"

"Hector...I need to find Hector." She pulled her phone from her poc...Damn it. I don't even have my cell phone. It didn't take her long to realize it wouldn't have matter: she didn't have his number if he even had a cell phone. She turned her sights on the forest where Morphious had run. Cupping her hand around her mouth she shouted into the woods. "MORPHIOUS!" The creature did not respond. "MORPHIOUS!" she shouted again. Again nothing. The air began to cool and something rustled in the brush.

"Morphious? Thank God I …" Nothing emerged, but something answered. A howl pierced the air sending her hair standing on end. Another howl answered the first, then another until she heard their voices all around her. Fear crawled up her spine. Flightless; no teleport stone; no Mimi, Father, or Hector to the rescue, and to top it off barefoot. She cursed her luck waiting for the rain to fall next. Black top stretched out in two directions: one in front and one behind; the rest was forest. They had run to the outskirt of town only; Hwy 501 was her lead back, but which way was it? Darkness swallowed the ends of the road leaving her stranded. A faint light was her hope of town. Faint chirping not like a bird, but a dog's, chattered around her; their voices growing louder. There was a final bark louder than the rest; the signal to charge. Lucy didn't stop to think and bolted in the direction of the faint hope of light.

Lucius gave Michelle one last look as she lie on the sofa breath shallow but alive. She had allowed the parasites to stay attached too long leaving her flesh pale, eyes sunken and dark. Tsk, foolish woman. Without Michelle, he would have to fly. He could not waste any time worrying about being seen. He had to get to Lucy. From the top of Banshee, Lucius cursed the bright light of the moon. It was full and the sky was clear. He would have no cover. Running, he could run, but even he could not get to Lucy in New York that quickly. A faint sound road the wind. Lucius tipped his head to it: a howl? At first he dismissed it as a coyote, but that howl sent a chill down his spine. He understood this howl. It came from no simple-minded beast. Although he did not understand it in words, it carried an anxious and wild feeling. The cry resounded again and this time the message reverberated through his body. "Where are you….Lucy?"

His eyes darted back toward the moon while an unwelcome dred filled his gut. Screw being seen. He leapt from the building and flew in the direction of the call.

Their nails clicked along the pavement, deep pants and hungry growls closed in behind her, but she didn't dare turn from the road. Woods surrounded her on either side. If nothing else she hoped human society would scare them off. She had already run two miles to escape the hunters, her demon powers appeared to be sealed, and her otherwise sedentary lifestyle wouldn't allow her to push much further. Her shins burned and her feet began to cramp. She had run full speed for the first mile; she was certain her lungs would give out before she made half of the next.

This is so unfair. The wolves could easily run those two miles at their top speed. They should have caught her already. They're just trying to wear me out. And it was working; her legs buckled; her bare knees scraped along the pavement as her hand fell down before her, and sharp pebbles jabbed into her palms. Breaths, dozens of hot panting breath slowly encircled her a half mile from town. Frustration and fear tightened her chest. If I had my wings… the thought lingered there. She never wanted her wings, never wanted to be a demon until just then. A sharp pain twisted her stomach; she curled around it clutching at her shirt.

"I can take that from you." A woman's voice, unfamiliar, raw and raspy pulled her attention up. The wolves parted to allow a tall woman into the circle; she had jet black hair that flowed down her back in a smooth silken braid. Kneeling down beside her, she stroked Lucy's hair, "Poor child. You want to be a demon again don't you?"

"What?" How...?

"Are a demon." The woman finished her thoughts. "Oh, I know all about you child." She reached down helping Lucy to her feet. As she did she gazed down at Lucy's scraped knees and shook her head sympathetically. "With your demon powers you could make that go away in an instant; you wouldn't have had to sit idly by while your mother was taken away either." At this Lucy pulled away from the woman. The removal of the woman's support only reminded her of the weakness in her legs. She collapsed to the ground. "You...you're Lady Mink." The woman's name was like acid on her tongue.

"So glad you've heard of me." Mineva tossed her hair over her shoulder with the air of a teenage cheerleader captain. Despite the pain in her body and its defile of her commands, Lucy forced herself up determined to reach Lady Mink, prove she wasn't afraid, take back her life and shove the damned demon candy down the bitch's throat. Minerva merely stepped aside as Lucy stumbled past her. She gazed down at her as a queen would a beggar then snapped her fingers. The awaiting wolves lurched forward capturing her arms their teeth baring into her wrist. Minerva smirked at Lucy's poor attempt, "Don't worry dear my son will take good care of your mother, and give my regards to you grandmother; she must be in an awful state by now."

Rage, unfiltered rage filled Lucy's body throwing the wolves off in a wave of demonic energy. She launched her attack again only to be collide with a wolf larger than the rest. His sharp teeth grazed her throat; fear quickly quelled her rage. Calm yourself. A warm familiar voice spoke inside her. It wasn't words; it was a feeling speaking to her body. She could feel her demon energy recede deep inside, and the wolf's teeth pulled away from her flesh. Its weight was still heavy on her chest.

Minerva raised a suspicious brow at this, "Very good Hector, we can't have her lose all her demon energy while she still holds the candy." She turned away, "Bring her."

Hector! The massive black wolf turned its head away and barked an order to the others. They moved in slowly around her and a signal silent and only known to them sent them baring down at her at once each taking a wrist, hauling her up and pulling her forward in the direction Minerva had walked.

Lucy tried to free her hands to no avail. "I get it. I'll follow you can let go of me." The wolves paid her no mind. The only thing that caused her more pain then the wolves' teeth piercing her flesh was the silent, distant back of the large black wolf walking away.

The scent of wolves was thick in an area about a half a mile out of town. The call must have come from there. A heaviness buzzed inside Lucius's chest as he didn't sense Lucy anywhere, but another demon aura vile and powerful. "Minerva...how?" He landed on the road and his heart tightened- a faint scent of lavender mingled with the other smells.

Emily! "Damn you, Minerva."

He sent a rush of power into his wings and darted up as far into the air as he could. His demon vision allowed him to see in the dark as easily as day, but there were no trails, no sound only faint smells as if they had all vanished into the shadow…

Chapter 15

The forest slowly came into focus as the wolves slowed their pace. "Alright, set her down here." Lucy heard Lady Mink command.

"What do you want from me?" Lucy asked as she struggled in the wolves' grasp. Minerva turned to face her striding across damp earth without so much as a footprint. "Isn't obvious my child, I wish to give you what you desire."

Lucy's eyes widened "What do you mean?"

Shaking her head, Minerva walked out of Lucy's line of sight and waved, beckoning towards the trees. Mammon stepped into the clearing, Emily limp in his arms.

"MOM!"

Pressure built inside her chest and jaw as she clenched her teeth in anger, "What did you do to her?"

"I released her from her bond."

Mammon dropped her near lifeless body to the ground. As her body fell, her hair turned grey then white; her thin arms even more frail made a sound like a tree branch snapping in the cold as her body hit the ground.

"Is this the fate you desire? To grow old and fragile destined to die and leave those you love to suffer in pain?"

Tears, hot and prolific flowed down her cheeks. "Mom…" her lips trembled as Emily lie there unmoving. "Why..would you do that to her? What could she have done to you?"

Minerva's stoic face pinched in anger, and she rushed up wrapping her clawed hand around Lucy's jaw; her breath that of stagnant water sent a wave of nausea through Lucy's body. At the revulsion in Lucy's face, Minerva squeezed allowing her nails to draw blood. Veins bulge at her temples, and her lips pulled back into a sneer. "What has she done?" Her voice ripped from her in malevolent laugh. Sending another noxious wave of foul breath.

"She and your father had me imprisoned, disfigured my beloved son, and destroyed a two century old plan." Her granite eyes flashed pure black then returned to normal just as quickly, and then she released Lucy.

"Perhaps, I've been too hasty." She ran a long red nail from Lucy's throat down to her navel. "I'll need this back." Lifting her hand from Lucy's stomach and tossing it in the air, she flicked her wrist with her finger jabbed in the air.

"Hector." She commanded, "Take the candy from this child." Hector more wolf than humanoid looked sheepish. "What's wrong with you. You are to do as I say," her face grew dark, "or I can't promise what will happen to your daughter."

At this, Hector lowered his head and walked awkwardly forward.

Lucy's hazel eyes widened as the giant wolf approached. He said nothing only drew closer.

"Hector, it's me remember. You can't mean to listen to her." Her voice trembled as more tears threatened to fall. Hector again said nothing.A giant wolf paw gripped her shoulder as if steadying himself, and then he released her shoulder to cup her chin. His silver eyes seemed drawn to the beads of blood at her cheek. He leaned in licking the blood clean. She could hear it again that warm voice; it was merely a vibration in her body. I'm sorry. His massive paw dropped to her belly and his eyes glazed over.

True panic raced through her. "Hector please wake up. I thought you cared. I thought…."

Minerva snorted then chuckled, "You honestly believe he has any affection for you. Delusional simple girl. You could never compare to his late wife." She let out another wicked laugh dripping with malice, "He merely used you. He just needed to await the full moon, so his body was more solid than shadow; so he could carry the candy to his ailing daughter. YOU mean nothing."

Her tears turned into hot anger. Minerva didn't miss the subtle change in the girl's expression and features.

"Now, Hector, you must take it now."

His silver eyes darted away from her as he steadied his hand. Lucy, too, closed her eyes in fear, in hatred, in confusion; too many human emotions to control. Her body overflowed with demonic energy throwing the wolves holding her meters away. Hector too was blown back. Her face turned grey, long spiral horns peturded from either side of her temples, and her wings unfurled. Lucius arrived just in time to see her eyes flash in his direction; they were gold and wild. She bared her teeth and took off into the sky. Hector barely glanced in Lucius's direction before great bat-like wings sprouted from his back and he took off after her. Lucius's first instinct was to chase after both of them, but his attention was brought back down by the hideous sound of Minerva's laughter. "Ha ha ha, well her rampage won't last as long as I would have liked, but it should be enough." She wiped away a fake tear.

Lucius stared at her bereft of what to say but, "How?"

Minerva turned toward Lucius, "How?" She gave him a slight perplexed expression then her face opened into realization, "Oh, you mean how did I escape."

She answered by vanishing into shadow. "I shed that cow's body the moment my strength was restored. I'm afraid the only one you and your mother locked up was that pathetic human." Her voice echoed around him nebulous yet omniscient. To demonstrate the true terror of her new abilities, she solidified before him then dropped through a portal only to emerge behind him. Before he could react, she had him around the neck dangling him like a dead rabbit. Her grip cut the air from his lungs and his head began to pound.

"As much as I'd love to stay and play with you, I'll let your brother have that pleasure." She dropped him, and when he landed, he caught sight of Emily's motionless body at Mammon's feet. Heat swelled from the deepest part of his core, and he transformed into his full demon power; he flew head long into Mammon knocking him to the ground. "What have you done to her!" He snarled his hands wrapped tightly around Mammon's throat. Mammon could only offer a strangled chuckle that grew in strength as Lucius's grip began to weaken. "What's the matter little brother? Lost your nerve or maybe…" he shoved him off with ease and pointed to his own neck. "...or maybe you just lost your strength." With that, he kicked Lucius limp body over to land on top of Emily's. He leered at them a moment before turning his back on them and following after Lady Mink.

The lights: that is where the pain would stop; that is where the fuzzy feeling in her head would clear; that is where she would find the release she craved. Lucy flew in the direction of town. Each building a blur of grey or dingy red just obstacles not homes or livelihood just as the noisy upright creatures were something to silence not neighbors or customers, a friendly wave or a "good morning." But there was something else more annoying more troublesome and therefore more deserving of punishment.

A dog pulling at the end of a line barked and barked; its voice piercing the inside of Lucy's skull. She dropped down before it and roared back. It whimpered and backed away, but its silence was only followed by a scream. Wild gold eyes shot from the dog to a woman frantically reeling in her pet and groping the ground for her canine companion without taking her eyes of the frightening creature that had landed before her.

"Silence!" Lucy hissed as her hand flew towards the woman's throat. Sharp black claws came within inches of the woman's neck when the dog began to bark again. Lucy pulled her hand away to cover her ears in pain. The disturbance soon called others to the street. Too many voices, too many eyes, too many smells assaulting her senses; it was enough to drive her mad. "Stop IT!" she roared before calling wind into her wings and fleeing the overwhelming street.

Hector heard her scream. She was faster :accustomed to her wings; he had only gained the ability thanks to her blood. Wolves were not meant to fly. He struggled to keep pace, and she had captured several miles ahead of him. However, thanks to her current state, she was not so careful: all he needed to do was follow the screams that succeeded her until a crack in the sky brought his eyes upward. A storm was rolling in from the west. He could lose her scent even the sounds once obstructed by the rumbles of nature. It would not be much longer before the demon candy would absorb all of her energy, and she would likely plummet to the ground near death or worse. Lucy her name echoed inside his mind as he howled into the torrid winds. Sheets of rain began to fall making his wings heavy and plating down his fur. He needed to land; he needed to find her.

Chapter 16

Blue eyes slid open into slits. His vision saw nothing but dirt and drops of icy water; however, something softer than the ground moved beneath him. It was subtle like the breath of a dove. Stiff arms heavier than lead slid around to bury weakened hands into the cold earth and push him up enough to free whatever he was laying on.

A human, old and frail, barely breathing shifted slightly. A familiar scent rose from the disturbed ground as he moved. "Emily!"

Something warm filled his eyes as he scooped her fragile body from the unforgiving earth. "Emily?" Her name shot sharp pain through his chest as he stroked her hair.

Dim and milky brown eyes opened slowly, and her brows pinched together. She reached a trembling bony hand up to his cheek and wiped a tear away with her thumb. "Demons don't cry, remember." Her voice was barely a whisper, but Lucius heard it clearly. "Foolish, human, why would I cry over you." He said teasingly unable to control the tremor in his voice. Emily smiled, "Hmm, I thought you didn't lie."

A drop of warm liquid dropped on her face as Lucius shook his head a soft smile to his lips. "I can't lose you." He continued to brush her mud caked hair away from her face.

"I know you were against this idea before..."

He pulled a small green jar from his pocket. "..but please allow me to be selfish."

Emily closed her eyes with a slight nod.

"I'm afraid this isn't going to taste very good, but bare with it. I'll owe you for the rest of my immortal life if you'll endure it."

Cracking an eye open to register the look on his face one last time, Emily retorted, "Just get it over with. We'll talk about your punishment later." Her comment made him smile: she still had some fight left which was good because the metamorphosis process would not be pleasant.

Lucius pulled the parasite that had drained a good deal of his mother's energy from the jar and placed it in his mouth. He fought back the urge to spit it out as the creature wiggled nearly causing him to gag. He bit down filling his mouth with the essences then discreetly spit out the parasite before leaning down to cover Emily's mouth with his. Her first reaction was to reject it: her lips instinctively clamped shut. Emily, I know its vile, but please... he parted her lips with his tongue; she yielded, and a bitter liquid filled her mouth. Her throat threatened to close, but she forced the substance down. It burned like acid or thorns ripping at her esophagus. She bucked and threw Lucius from her. Clawing at her neck, her body heaved and twisted. Lucius scrambled across the ground and lunged for her wrapping his arms around her as she screamed. Her blooded felt like molten lava, her skin felt like thousands of fire ants feasting on her flesh, and the very air in her lungs was fire itself. She pawed at her throat as viens rose to the surface and her skin turned a pale gray. A primal scream revealed two sets of fangs. Turquoise eyes shot open and peered down at the beast clinging to her body. "Who are you?" Emily pushed Lucius away and her head darted left then right. "Where am I?" Thoughts, hers and not hers swirled in a disorienting fog until one surfaced. "You...You brought me here to this land of human stench. YOU did this to me."

A new pain shot through Lucius's chest one of realization- he had killed his wife.

Cold and wet like a bat pulled from the river, Lucy sunk to the ground. Every muscle in her body screamed in protest. There had to be shelter. Eyelids heavy and muscles fatigued, she dragged one foot after another through icy mud. After the wash of adrenaline had started to wear off, she began to feel the sting of the cold on her bare legs and numbness in her toes. Her wings were heavy and her thoughts made as much sense as a Jackson Pollock painting. Despite the unfocused blur in her mind, she knew instinctively she didn't want to be here. The shadows were too dark, the woods too silent. Every sound sent her hair standing on end. An overwhelming demonic aura permeated the air.

*Ahooooo*

Another howl, she'd heard it before; it was familiar, although she didn't know why. The feeling of anger and hurt followed each thought as she tried to pin down the sorrowful ballad. Was that anger she felt? No the howls produced a pain inside her? For now, she just needed to get away.

Hector had to land. The awkwardness of such heavy wings and fur made it nearly impossible to fly. But on the ground is where his senses were keenest. He picked up her scent a mile off: he wasn't far now, but there was another; it was familiar, and a powerful aura accompanied it. Lucy!

Hector ran with everything. Even with only three legs he was still faster in full wolf form. The icy rain stung his eyes, but he did not tear his gaze away from Lucy's location. Let me make it on time.

Slowly as more adrenaline was metabolized, Lucy's thoughts began to clear. She began to remember, and a lump threatened to cut off what little air she could gasp.

"Mom," a tear slipped down her cheek and her knees buckled. She whimpered into the palms of her hands, "I can't believe I left her there."

"Well, at least you returned to your senses before you did any real harm."

Lucy looked up from her hands to find a stately demon over seven feet tall, thick ram like horns, and massive gray wings folded neatly behind him looming over her.

She scampered backward. Her flesh chilled and her heart began to pound. This aura…but wait...it no longer feels angry. It feels more like disappointment…

"Do you not recognize me?" His voice was smooth and easy yet commanding and stern. Lucy blinked at him. A hint of recognition threatened in her eyes but then vanished. "Why would I?" She answered backing further away as she kept her eyes fixed on him. The demon let out a sigh and the aura turned to sadness. He took a step closer, and her eyes moved up to the demon's horns. She'd seen those horns before… that demon who took her mother. Her face pinched in anger, "YOU… you hurt Mom!" She launched herself at him as her sanity drown in anger, sadness, and despair. He caught her easily holding her five-two frame in his massive hands. She struggled and bit at him.

"Child!" He bared his fangs at her; his voice was sharp yet somehow gentle. Something in it shot through her; something nostalgic. "Lucy you must…." before he could explain the necessary action for her to return to normal, he was knocked to the ground. Lucy rolled away; her fear and hurt escalating. She stood a moment while the two demons fought flipping from suppressor to defeated before fleeing both of them. Abaddon flung the wolf to the ground and spread his wings to chase after, but Hector had buried his teeth deep into Abaddon's ankle. Leave her alone.

"Let go, Hector!"

No! I won't let you hurt her.

With a heavy sigh Abaddon lowered to the ground and picked the wolf up by the scruff of the neck like a mother would a pup. "You misunderstand. I don't want to harm my granddaughter anymore than you do, but that demon candy is eating at her demon energy even faster with each flare of emotion."

Hector growled baring his teeth. What do you think I was trying to do? You are the one who frightened her. Besides if you had just given my daughter the candy in the first place... His silver eyes darted away...but you just wanted to keep your precious balance.

Abaddon dropped Hector on his butt and turned away. "I do not need your lectures. I must keep an order, and I will destroy any who threatens it…" his expression turned to stone as he glared down at Hector, "...anyone."

Just as he was about to continue his pursuit of Lucy, an unholy scream shot out of the darkness followed by an unfamiliar she-demon with a faintly familiar scent. She appeared unsteady dipping wildly in the air, speeding up as she plummeted toward the ground-clumsy and erratic. She barreled into the needles of an Eastern Hemlock just above him. Her screams became whimpers as the needles poked her skin and sap stuck to her hands and face.

"EMILY!"

Abaddon turned his attention from the swaying branches to another demon calling out to the first. He also struggled to fly: he appeared injured.

"Lucius?"

Trying to assess what was happening, Abaddon looked from his son to the trees. Emily?

The pieces didn't fit, did this demon hurt Emily? Or...he fixed his gold eyes on Lucius.

"Son, please tell me you are after a stray demon and that…" he said pointing into the evergreen, "...is not Emily."

Lucius held his injured arm and looked away.

"You foolish idiot." Abaddon Chided.

"I wasn't going to let her die!" Lucius bit back. His gold eyes filled with defianance. His bravado didn't last, however, as a hard right came crashing down upon his jaw. Abaddon stood over him fumming, "Do you have any idea what you have done. Her fate now is worse than death."

Abaddon pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed trying to regain the little composure he had lost. Why was his family so difficult.

"What exactly did you do?"

Lucius narrowed his eyes at his father, but said nothing.

Exasperated, Abaddon released a heavy breath, "Fine, at least help me get her down."

Suspiciously, Lucius quipped back while struggling to stand, "Why are you helping me? What do you plan to do with her?"

"What the law states I do with wild demons." He turned from his son for the tree, but was thrown to the ground when Lucius barreled into him with all his remaining strength.

"I will not let you hurt her."

As the two upper echelon demons struggled for control, Hector slipped into the shadows. I must find Lucy before Abaddon does.

Chapter 17

Lucy's scent was faint, but unmistakably hers. Hector followed it to an old ranger cabin with a dim green light flickering in the windows. He let out a bark and a howl to ask the local wolves for help. He couldn't allow her to escape. His daughter needed that candy and Lucy needed it out. As he approached, he noticed the door was loose on its hinges, barely hanging by the top bracket. He watched it swing loosely, Best not make her angry. He took measured steps around the door. The moment his nails clicked on the wood, the dim green light vanished. Wincing, he took a step back. Lucy, I don't wish to harm you. By this point, Lucy was out of adrenaline and fear was all that was keeping her awake and conscious. "Go away!" she shouted.

I'm here to help, came the soft reverbrance in her mind.

"Why should I trust anything you say. You handed me over to Lady Mink."

Hector regained his step and pushed a little more into the one-room cabin. I didn't mean for…

"Save it, wolf...I know why you are here." She stood up from the corner of the room and stepped into the moonlight. Her skin was pale as death, her cheeks hollow, and her ribs protruded from her sides. A pain shot through his chest; he wasn't expecting that. It was as if the candy was not only eating her energy, but her flesh as well.

Please, give me the candy. If not for my daughter's sake than for yours.

Her brow knitted together as she stared at him. "I knew you were Lady Mink's pawn and yet..." tears threaten to fall again. That doesn't matter right now; if nothing else you must stay calm. Hector tried to reason with her.

Tears and snot flowed freely as the pain of that night returned and her voice raised with anger, "Doesn't matter? She took my mother away from me!" She stared at him in rage as green flames danced at her fingertips forming into a menacing ball that swirled with agitation. "And you helped her!" She hurled the burning ball at him. He dodged, barely; he could smell his fur singe. He rolled instinctively to stop any further damage.

Lucy, listen… He dodged another fireball sent his way... your mother isn't dead.

"No, she's just old and soon to be dead." More tears welled in her eyes.

"I will kill that shrew myself!" The green flames spread from her hand and crawled along her body glowing with intensity as rage grew, and with each surge, the demon candy greedily took more of her life energy.

It couldn't be helped, he had to stop her. He rushed for her intent on what, he wasn't sure, but she couldn't be allowed to burn her demonic energy any longer; she wouldn't even be human if this continued. Hurling himself at her, his body collided with hers, and like throwing a blanket over a fire snuffing out the oxygen it desperately needed, Hector smothered her pain. She collapsed in his arms barely hanging to conscious.

She felt so small against his body, fragile, weak, precious and fleeting. Please, Lucy... He glanced out the window to the cursed moon. His jaw was too long, his teeth too sharp, and his mind too far gone to be of any help. How, how was he supposed to get the candy from her like this? He pulled her body closer ...I can't lose you too.

Absorbed in his distress, he didn't detect the foul smell of death creeping behind him. A warning howl giving too late gave way to a snarl and a loud bang followed by an unbearable pain in his shoulder.

"Get off me you nasty mutt!" Came a shrill voice Hector knew all too well.

Nearly falling on top of Lucy, Hector braced his body against the pain and turned slowly. Lady Mink stood in the doorway clutching her wrist. A small revolver smoking at the end lie on the floor at her feet; next to it lie the body of an injured wolf. She pulled her eyes away from the barely breathing wolf to Hector turning a very pale shade of silver.

"So it is true," she said eyeing the gun. "Silver bullets really do kill werewolves."

Hector tried to keep his focus on her as a wetness filled his fur and his vision began to cloud.

"Give my regards to your daughter… she'll be joining you soon." Minerva snided before kicking the injured wolf and waltzing out of the cabin only to vanish through a portal a second later.

Abaddon flipped over throwing Lucius to the ground, "Do you think I enjoy this? First my granddaughter and now my daughter-in-law." His nostrils flared with his heaving chest; then he took a deep breath and ran his massive hand through unruly silver hair. "Listen, if we can get her down, and she is capable of reason, I won't have to classify her as wild. Now give me a hand." He pulled Lucius to his feet.

The two demons stood facing each other; each refusing to let go of the other for fear he would run for Emily on his own and for his own purpose. They laughed nervously. Another whimper of pain came from Emily's direction causing Abaddon to turn his eyes slightly toward the tree. Lucius wasted no time, he tossed a left hook as hard as his weakened body would afford him hoping it would buy him enough time to get to Emily and escape. However, that collar Victoria placed on him, did far more damage than he thought. He mind as well have hit Abaddon with a handkerchief. Abaddon turned slowly around and shook his head. "Really, son, you are truly in no shape to piss me off." With one hard blow to the abdomen, Abaddon sent Lucius flying across the forest and into a cider tree. Abaddon watched as his son's figure slumped against the bark. "Be a good boy and stay there." He turned and in one leap landed lightly on the branch next to Emily. She coward nearer to the trunk.

"It's alright, Emily…"

Her eyes widened.

"That's right. Your name is Emily, and you have a daughter who needs you right now, and a husband down there who is worried sick."

He waited to see how much of what he said sunk in. She merely stared at him like a frightened cat. Abaddon sighed. "I didn't want to have to do this…" He walked along the branch disturbing the needles as much as a bird might. When he was in arms' reach, she lashed out at him. He caught her wrist and dragged her body to him. "You are not going to like this and your husband even less so." He bit his lip, drew a small bead of blood, cupped her chin and brought her lips to his. Being king of demons had its advantages which included possessing blood that acted like a mind-control serum; it came in handy from time to time. He broke their kiss and she stared up at him with dreamy eyes. Now listen to me… he waited a moment to see if she comprehended. She nodded. Good, now I need you to be a good girl and sit next to that demon down there and look after him. Can you do that? She nodded again her eyes still hazy. Abaddon smiled and lifted her up into his arms before descending the branches to where Lucius lie semi-conscious by the cider tree. He set her down where she promptly knelt beside Lucius and stroked his hair. I truly hope she snaps out of it. He gave the couple one last look and shivered. That's just disturbing. He unfurled his wings and shot for the sky.

Chapter 18

A cold foggy lightness swam inside Hector's head and the pain in his shoulder throbbed. Lady Mink was wrong about the silver bullet killing him; in fact, it had done him a painful but small favor. For the moment, he had a human face; of course, it wouldn't last for much longer. When the moon reached its zenith, he would be at his most dangerous. He stared down at Lucy. Her pale lavender lips parted softly.

Lifting his arm still holding her behind the neck, he placed his forehead to hers. I know this isn't the place, but you must get some of your energy back before I take that candy from you. He lowered his lips to her cheek trailing a series of gentle kisses down to her mouth. Her lips were cold beneath his hot breath. Not calling the candy just yet, he pressed his lips to hers. He felt her chest lift in breath while a small spark of demonic energy flickered beneath the surface. Pulling away, he gazed hopefully at her serene face. Lucy, please open your eyes. Desperately, he wanted to trace the contours of her face with his fingers, but his only hand supported her neck. That a girl. He whispered in her mind Come back to me. The light dimmed.

He fought the darkness behind his eyes threatening to take her from him.

"Please, don't do this to me." He whined in frustration.

"You are practically in a comma." Throwing his head back, he roiled to the ceiling.

"Just so you know, this is not how I wanted to do this." He stated with a slight growl…." Well, you asked for it.

Taking a deep inhalation of her scent, he allowed it to penetrate the fog of his mind. Heat rose within him bursting into tiny tingles that flutter at his chest, he leaned back down licking the edges of her mouth asking for entry and then sucked her lower lip, while pictures of her naked body beneath him warmed his loins further driving a more aggressive kiss. Her imagined sighs and groans continued to encourage him and a warm suppleness began to slip to her lips. Her body stiffened and her eyes shot open. Gold stared into silver and she shoved him away.

"I knew you were desperate, but to attack me while I was unconscious…" she panted, "is beyond forgivable."

Despite her protest, Lucy was glowing; her cheeks blushing in soft pink; and her body, regardless of her words, wanted him to continue.

Hector smiled, "Good to see you back to normal." He said before collapsing to the floor.

A persistent ringing yanked Michelle from her otherwise wet dream. "Ugh, that's the last time…"

*RING, RING, RING…"

"Alright already!" Michelle rolled off the sofa and stumbled over to counter to the offensive modern conveniences before ripping the cell from its cord. "What!" she quipped.

Her eyes widened as she recognized the voice on the other side of the line.

"How on earth did you get out?"

"Michelle...I...I mean to say, Lady Mink is no longer part of me. She…"

A cold chill shivered down her spin. "So, where is she?"

Victoria went on to tell her how Minerva had absorbed Michelle's powers and hence the ability to teleport, and that she had also stolen Hector's shadow abilities. Her voice rose in pitch and speed, "I don't know how we are going to stop her."

"Where are you now?" Michelle asked.

"At home."

"Good. Be dressed and ready to leave in five minutes."

The rain continued to beat down on Abaddon as he followed Lucy's aura into the forest. Unlike his weaker counterparts, the rain did not slow him; it only served to annoy. A shift in demonic aura told him he was getting close. It was familiar- a whaf of pheromones that she inherited from her grandmother drench his skin. It was definitely Lucy. His thoughts darted around in his mind uncertain if this was a good thing or not. An unwelcome sound pulled his thoughts away from his musing. A gunshot rang in the forest sending flocks of birds into the air. Lucy!

Lucy scrambled across the floor peeling Hector's bleeding body from the floorboards. "What were you thinking?" She said pressing her hand into his wound.

He smiled despite the pain, "We have to stop meeting like this."

"Shut up. We need to get you…" her thoughts trailed. Where. A hospital, a vet, some underworld clinic? Hector wrapped his hand around her wrist.

"Lucy, it's alright, the bullet went straight through. But I need you to get out of here before midnight."

"I can't just leave you here bleeding."

He chuckled softly, "Too embarrassed to face me." To this she hit him then apologized.

"No." She turned away her cheeks a soft pink. "You're an idiot. Won't the demon candy eat your demon aura before you get a chance to heal?"

He shook his head. "Not after midnight." A solemn howl seeped through the windows.

"There you see, not long now." He panted each word as his chest began to tighten.

"You don't have much time; you need to get out of here."

A tear slipped free, "Where am I supposed to go?" she whimpered. "They are gone, and I am now being hunted by not only some sadist she-demon, but also by my own grandfather."

Hector rolled out of her embrace facing away from her. "He's the least of your trouble, now go." His voice was now more of a growl. Clutching his side, he doubled over in pain. "Leave!" He growled again.

"NO! I won't let you die here."

To this he didn't answer with words but with a howl that ripped through her as he began to grow; his fur rapidly thickening as his limbs stretched beyond their limits. Lucy was shoved aside as his long slick back expanded until the walls of the cabin creaked and moaned causing the ceiling to burst. He threw his head back in a deafening howl as he stood a towering thirty feet above her.

"Hector?"

He turned his black snout towards her. Cold unfeeling red eyes fixed on her as he sniffed the air.

"Hector..." She whispered again, her voice wavering, as she stood slowly and backed toward the door "...it's me, Lucy."

Hector lowered his muzzle in her direction his black lips pulled back into a snarl.

Lucy swallowed hard, "I can't believe I'm saying this again, but can't you recognize me?"

Hector took a step closer. The wound in his chest never faltered his step; it was, in fact, no longer there. Just as he had predicted, midnight struck and the wound was gone. In its place was a beast that had no memories, feelings, or thoughts just urges to hunt and tear and feed- Hector no longer stood before Lucy, but the demon wolf of gluttony, Fenrir.

Another spike of demonic energy urged Abaddon to move faster. He knew this one too. It had been centuries, but this was clearly the same dangerous aura of a creature who nearly destroyed the demon world six centuries ago. Hang in there Lucy.

Lucy backed away kicking something with her heel; whatever it was only inched away instead of skittering across the floor. It was heavy. A flicker of moonlight glistened off of it catching her eye. It was the gun. For a second she debated picking it up, but she froze like a deer in his icy gaze. He hadn't moved any closer, but she could feel his hot humid breath billow over her entire body. Ugh dog breath she thought before stopping herself. I hope he doesn't take offense to that. He didn't seem to as his jowls relaxed, and he lowered his head taking a deep inhalation of her hair. The action sent a chill down her spine. Her arm, without a command from her brain, began to slowly rise to meet his muzzle, but stopped the moment a familiar and austere voice commanded her to.

"It won't do you any good."

Her gold eyes slid towards the voice.

"Jiji?"

"Get away from him Lu…." before Abaddon could issue his warning, Hector had swung his head away from Lucy, knocking Abaddon to the ground. Massive teeth glistened in the bright moonlight as the monstrous creature peeled back black lips aimed for the demon king. Lucy rushed to Abaddon's side, but was stopped when Hector turned his lethal jaws on her. Something flew from Abaddon's direction and shattered to pieces as it hit Hector's temple. He spun on Abaddon with his jaws open. Abaddon managed to catch ahold of Hector's snout before the deadly bite. Holding the beast back, Abaddon shouted in Lucy's direction.

"You need to get out of here. I'll deal with Hector. The humans cannot be allowed to see this." He forced Hector back throwing him against the opposite wall and erected a barrier sealing Hector and himself inside. "You must stop Minerva. She's heading for the underworld. She intends to take the throne and unleash the demons onto the human world."

"Then shouldn't you be the one going after her?" She was shouting; she hadn't realized why until a burst of rain flooded what was left of the cabin.

He smiled a pointed grin one that reminded her very much of her father's. It was one that said, "I got this and I'm counting on you."

She glared at him, "I'd rather deal with the thrity-foot wolf."

He chuckled, "I'm afraid your parents won't allow you to have a dog."

Another long black furry object swung in Abaddon's direction; this time it was a paw. He dodged it. Clearly Hector had forgotten about Lucy and Abaddon was his only prey now. "Too late, pumpkin, he's my playmate now. Go find your father."

"Father?"

"Well, I certainly didn't expect you to go alone." He said dodging another swing of Hector's massive paws.

"But he…" she really didn't want to think about it. She could only remember his face vaguely as hurt and anger filled her vision and then nothing until Hector came and woke her up.

"He and your mother are about five miles East of here."

"My mother." Her voice lifted in surprise.

"Yes, well…" Abaddon knocked away the immense muzzle and pushed Hector to the ground.

"She's alive?" Lucy said unable to suppress the hint of hope in her voice.

"She's alive...but you might have a difficult time recognizing her." He answered struggling to keep the hound subdued.

Her face fell, and before Abaddon had a chance to explain, Hector wiggled free and pinned him under a massive foot while simultaneously trying to rip Abaddon's head off with his sharpened boulder like teeth.

"Jiji!"

"Go already!" He ordered holding Hector's jaw shut.

Chapter 19

Lucy didn't actually expect to find Lucius and Emily where Abaddon had said he'd left them, so when she came upon two demons ensnared together beneath the sighing branches of a cider tree, she frowned. Ha ha Grandpa very funny… She was ready to turn back to give Abaddon a hand with Hector, perhaps if they could get him to calm down, he could help deal with Lady Mink; but then a soft breeze blew back her hair and carried on it was the very familiar scent of her father. Father! She narrowed her eyes while trying not to stare: it was uncomfortable in too many ways. However, the male demon certainly looked like her father, but the female too was a demon or could it be… When Lucius pulled his head back from between the woman's legs, Lucy saw a dark skinned voluptuous she-demon heaving and clawing at him.

Heat somewhere between anger and embarrassment rose along the outside of Lucy's ears. I can't believe he's gone off with some she demon hor... right after Mom…. In sheer anger she picked up the nearest rock and hurled it at his head.

"YOU BASTARD!"

Lucius turned just in time to greet the rock with his forehead knocking him to the ground. The succubus beneath him inched into a seated position and then hissed at Lucy before standing. Her turquoise eyes glared at her, sizing up her wings, legs and face.

"What's a little whelp like you doing here. He's my food. Go find your own before I...I…Lu..." Tears welled uncalled and unexpected in the demoness's eyes; she screamed a pained mournful scream before darting into the sky far away from the new arrival that for some reason brought her immense sorrow. The two watched her stagger into the air a moment before gaining momentum and tearing out of sight. Lucius turned on his daughter. "What did you do that for. I finally got her to calm down."

Lucy balled her fist so tightly she could feel blood bead at her palm. "What did I do? What about you, you, horny bastard. Mom might be old and frail now, but could you at least wait…" her voice faltered as the words she needed felt just too heavy to say.

She bit her lip and said it, "...at least wait for the funeral."

Lucius blinked at her, "funeral?"

As the pieces fell into place, Lucius's face went from annoyed to puzzled to "ah ha" and finally settled on an amused smirk.

"I don't think your mother wants you making arrangements just yet." He winked at her then turned in the direction the demoness flew. "Now I have to catch her all over again." He gave Lucy a quick glance, tried to read the message on her face and gave up.

Placing a hand on her shoulder, he said, "Just wait right here. I'll be back in a jiff."

Was it she or was HE almost giddy?

Lucy smacked his hand away still scowling. "I can't believe you."

Lucius shrugged, "Nor can I." with that he took off after the she-demon.

Lucy sat a few yards away from the tree she had found her father and that other demon. It still pissed her off no matter how she looked at it. She tried rationalizing it in demon terms, but that didn't help. It had been thirty minutes, and she wasn't going to wait much longer. She was about to leave and just go home when another thought hit her. Hector needed that demon candy for his daughter and could only carry it in his full demonwolf form...then how was he supposed to get it to her if he was currently fighting her grandfather. She threw the stick down she had been twirling between her fingers and stood up facing the direction of the cabin. How did I get myself involved with this? I hope Papa hasn't killed him yet. Unfurling her wings, she flexed them and smiled. They felt good. A tingle ran down her spin and along her skin. She wasn't sure if it was from wanting to see Hector again or the residual energy from her father and that demoness. Suddenly she felt slimy all over and she shivered. I really hope it's the first one.

The cabin came into view sooner than she was ready. What exactly was she planning on doing? It was clear he wasn't going to just roll over for her. Heat rose in her cheeks at the thought of having such power over him. She shook the thought away and swallowed the fear as she took a step towards the cabin. It's my turn to save him.

Leaning against one of the two remaining walls, Lucy peered through the window. Hector lay on the ground in nearly humanoid form breathing heavily; her grandfather was standing over him leering and gasping with something clutched in his right hand. To Lucy it looked like a dagger. Without a clear thought or plan she darted into the air and dove back down aimed at her grandfather. She knocked him to the ground and wrestled the object from his hand. It sliced into her palm. Gritting her teeth, she fought through the pain and pulled.

When Abaddon reoriented himself, he stared at her dark skin and gold eyes, her clenched teeth, and the object in his hand clattered to the floor.

"Lucy? What are you trying to do?"

"Returning the favor." She bent down helping Hector to his feet. "Come on, your daughter is waiting for you."

He muttered something that could almost pass as words. "Nnn sshhh...ccaa..iii"

"It's okay. I'll take you." She backed away still supporting Hector and keeping her eyes glued to her grandfather. "Stay out of this Jiji...balance or no, Hector shouldn't have to lose his daughter over some stupid ideology."

"Wait you don't understand…" before Abaddon could issue his warning, Lucy took off into the sky carrying Hector far from her grandfather's ideals of balance.

The rain had stopped, but the air had been left cold in its wake; and it was slowly sapping the strength from Lucy's body.

Chapter 20

Michelle and Victoria stepped out of thin air to find Abaddon plopped on the floor of a wrecked cabin shaking his head. Looking around for any other sign of life, Michelle frowned, "I was hoping to find my little dumpling here, but instead I find you." She said gesturing towards Abaddon's slumped form. Without giving him time to respond, she stepped past him as she looked around at the missing walls with a slight raise to her eyebrow. "What's the matter, Dear, can't decide on a color."

Abaddon looked up at her with mild annoyance, "What are you doing here? And with her of all people." He said nodding in Victoria's direction.

"Well an enemy of an enemy..." She said stepping over to help Abaddon up. "You're a mess…" she sniffed the air and recoiled, "and you smell like dog slobber."

"What in the name of Hades were you doing here?"

Abaddon shrugged, "Obedience training." He said as he surveyed the damage.

"Hmm," Michelle placed her finger to her lips, "must have been a very big dog."

Abaddon nodded and summed it up in one word, "Fenrir."

"What! I thought you made sure he was taken care of eons ago." She said with an unexpected rise to her voice.

"Yes, that is what I thought too." He rolled his shoulders with an audible pop. "But it seems our friend Hector is older than we realized. He must have found our gluttonous little puppy on death's door and, being a shadow demon, Hector offered to merge with him."

"Why would he do that?" Michelle said biting into the tip of her thumbnail, as creases crawled along her forehead.

"I have no idea." Abaddon said with a shrug.

He gave a quick glance at Victoria, "So again, why is she with you?"

Michelle turned in the direction Abaddon was pointing. Her expression turned from mild concern to light surprise as if she had forgotten about the human in-tow all together.

"Oh, she says she knows what Minerva is after and how we can stop her; seen-as-how, the greedy little bitch up and stole several of our powers."

Abaddon's face fell and he shook his head, "Just great. First Emily now this. I thought she was a handful before."

Michelle's ears perked at the mention of her daughter-in-law, "What about Emily?"

This was not something he wanted to get into right now, but it was probably better that she knew, "Well…"

Michelle nodded while Abaddon explained what Lucius had done and the state Emily was in. A mischievous grin spread across Michelle's face. Abaddon could feel the hair on the back of his neck stand up. When she had that look, it always cost him a whole lot of trouble. "Now wait just a second Michelle..."

Tired of standing idly by, Victoria stepped up. "Ahem." She waited for them to look at her. "I think I have the solution to both of your problems."

Abaddon regarded her with cold eyes, "And please tell me how a nun who has overstepped her duties and fraternized with the enemy going to be of much help?"

Victoria's face pinched into an annoyed expression then relaxed with an earned sense of confidence, "Like this…" she held her hand out placing her palm gently on Abaddon's torso. A warm sensation began to spread from where she had placed her hand; it was not all unpleasant, like a hot bath releasing all tension and pinned up energy. In fact, that is exactly what she had done. Abaddon stumbled backwards feeling lightheaded, but relaxed and then plopped right back down on the wooden floor. Michelle clapped her hands with a little cheer, "Doesn't it feel wonderful?"

Abaddon stared down at this hands that looked more human than demon. "What did she do to me?"

"She sealed your powers away...poof…" she said flitting her fingers through the air for emphasis.

"WHAT!"

"Calm down, Dear, it is only temporary. The stronger the demon the quicker the recovery."

"See? Already you are back to normal." Michelle said with an up and down gesture of her hand.

It was true after his initial rage, which was new to him, he calmed down immediately and again noticed his hands-they were back to normal.

Michelle knelt down beside him. "We'll have to work quick. Vikie here doesn't think Minerva knows about this, but she says it is how she kept her in check for so long; well, that is until she took my powers." Her expression hardened then she shrugged, "It's a good thing I have some to spare."

"Yes, it is." Abaddon pushed himself back up and regarded the women. "Hmm, I guess I'll just have to take both of you with me," he paused and looked back at Victoria, "but we can't bring a human into the demon world. We'll have to lure Minerva out here."

Michelle smiled, "Leave that to me. If what you say about Emily is true. We have our bait already."

The cold and the evening's events had finally taken the last of Lucy's strength, she had to set Hector down. Home, she just wanted to go home and it wasn't far. Besides Hector wasn't in any condition to be left outside while the temperature continued to drop. She landed on the roof and slipped through the atrium. Her arms trembled and her head felt heavy. She laid Hector down on the nearest piece of furniture and finally took in the spectacle before her: spread out on the sofa, his entire manhood exposed to her feasting eyes. She blushed and turned away. It wasn't as if she hadn't noticed, but in her anger, she simply didn't think about it, but now that she was calm and they were alone, his nakedness sent a fire over her skin; the cold suddenly didn't bother her anymore. She leaned in level with his face. The fresh rain still lingered on his skin. Her blood rushed through her veins as she drank in his exposed physique. Splashes of gold spread through her eyes tainting the green. She licked her lips as she lowered herself down. Take him now a voice urged he's yours for the taking. She lowered her lips to his. They were cold unresponsive. She jumped back her eyes returning to emeralds. Easy girl, if you take anything from him now, he's likely to die. She wasn't sure if that was true, but the thought of it helped to curb her succubus appetite. She felt her wings recede along with her horns and claws. Taking a deep breath and closing her eyes, she pulled a blanket out of the ottoman and covered Hector and then headed for the stairs. The hall was littered with torn pieces of canvas, splitters of wood and debris. She regarded the wreckage with a sigh, I'll have to do something about that later but for now... Her mother usually had something sweet baked and ready for anyone who visited. She could use the sugar and Please say Mom made tiramisu.

As she descended the stairs and turn the corner into the kitchen, she was relieved to find it intact. She filled the kettle and set it on the flames. Teapot? She pulled it down from the cabinet and set it on the counter in search of her favorite tea.

The kettle whistled and Lucy walked over to silence it. Lifting the lid from the teapot sent a puff of jasmine into the air, and she smiled. She waited a moment before pouring the water over the leaves and then inhaled. This is what she needed: the smell of grass from the Japanese green and the sweetness of jasmine to calm her. Lost in her bliss, she didn't hear the creak of the stairs until it was too late.

"How long was I out?"

Lucy turned with a yip nearly dropping the kettle. Although not in a free fall the metal bottom banged against the counter splashing scalding water on to Lucy's hand.

"Are you alright?" Hector swept forward taking her injured hand. The burn was not severe and would heal quickly, but that wasn't the point. Hector brought his lips down to her knuckles and kissed each one. She stared at his face afraid to let her eyes roam; his touch was more than enough to call her succubus side from forced repression. She pulled her hand away, "Please, Hector don't do this to me. If I take any energy from you now…," she looked away willing the heat to subside, "...I could kill you."

Wrapping his arms around her and pulling her to him, he leaned down and whispered in her ear, "I'd like to see you try."

Hard muscles pressed against her as the heat of his body called the flame in hers. Her skin burned as her blood gave into her succubus desires. Gold eyes flashed beneath her lashes and a greedy smile spread across her face, "You asked for it."

Tiramisu hit the floor as Hector lifted her with one hand and pulled at her top with the other...the other..as he searched beneath her blouse, images of his hunched form rising to the rafters, black fur and teeth long enough to pierce her straight through flooded her mind.

"Wait."

His lips ached as they left her flesh, "You are going to be the death of me if you keep teasing me like this."

"Me? Tease you?" She said curtly glancing down his bare torso then quickly looking away. "I think you are the one testing me."

"Hmph," He laughed under his breath, "...okay, so what is bothering you?"

Her eyes slid over to his right arm, "It grew back when you...you changed."

"Ah, this." He said lifting it and turning his hand over. "See whenever there is a blood moon, I not only turn into a werewolf, but a god."

At this Lucy snorted with laughter, "What?"

The mood ruined, Hector sighed, "Many years ago, I merged with a god or demon, however you want to look at it, but his father was a god. He was near death. I took pity on him knowing I could save his life and quell his hunger…" he averted his eyes a moment and with a sheepish grin, said, "... most of the time."

Lucy nodded as if she was following, "...and your arm?"

"Full regenerative powers during that time. I mean most demons can easily do that over time, but in that form, it is instant."

"So how long does it normally last?"

His eyes grew dark and he looked away, "It depends. Tonight was the shortest thanks to you and you grandfather."

"Me?"

Running both hands up through her hair and then settling them on either side of her face, he leaned in and kissed her forehead. "I could still remember what you were wearing in that fantasy you and I shared earlier. I knew you weren't food." An impish smile pulled at his lips, and he licked the end of her nose before turning to walk back up the stairs, "It is a bit chilly in here, isn't it?" He said strutting towards the stairs.

Lucy watched his well-toned bare ass waltz back up the steps. Jerk. He was definitely the tease. A pleased smile slid onto her face without even realizing it; in fact, it wasn't until her "moment" was interrupted by a familiar smartass remark that she was aware of its existence.

"Dear, I know your mother's tiramisu is amazing, but not to that extreme." Michelle said while motioning to Lucy's open shirt, spread legs, and dreaming expression.

"What!"

Michelle licked her lips as she pointed to the forgotten dessert on the floor, "Yes, some very tasty pheromones indeed… "

Lucy turned red all over, it was bad enough her grandmother found her like this, stupid Hector, but even worse then that was she also had in-tow a very familiar redhead.

Chapter 21

A beast had ripped through a young man's campsite sending him far into the woods. Adrenaline surged through his body as he commanded his injured leg to obey. He couldn't be certain if the beast had followed him or if there were others hiding in the woods. Every sound made him pause and check the bushes. When a holly bush rustled, he reached shaking hands into his pocket. Pulling out the knife, he held it out for whatever was ready to leap out at him. A squirrel scurried from the bushes and into a nearby pine. The young man lowered his guard a wash of relief followed by a nervous chuckle. "Stupid squirrel." He folded the knife and placed it back in his pocket unaware of the danger hovering above him. Something much larger than a squirrel shifted the branches overhead. When he glanced up, a large shadow glided down from the trees and knocked him to the ground. Smooth dark legs slipped down on either side of him; sharp nails dug into his shoulder flipping him over. His eyes widened to a girl with dark skin, heavy black wings, and two small horns protruding from her forehead. Her clothes were torn and hung in tatters from her tiny frame barely covering what was necessary. She smiled at him with a snake like hunger.

"Hello," his voice shook as he tried to act as if their encounter were merely an accident.

She said nothing only lowered her hands to his belt loops and slipped her fingers through them lifting his hips to hers.

Heat spread quickly from his loins to quicken his heart. She purred at his response and lowered down to his mouth.

"That's far enough." His quaking voice turned baritone and husky as he wrapped his clawed hands around her arms. She yelped in pain as the young man's face took on a devilish countenance. Abaddon held firm and stood up dangling her like a stubborn child. "Now listen here, we can't have you running off trying to steal human souls. You'd break your daughter's heart." He set her down still holding firm with one hand and placed two fingers of the other on her forehead. A faint green light formed at the tips and her eyes slipped closed.

"I had this, father." Lucius said panting slightly as he landed near Abaddon. He had only been a half mile away when Emily stopped to stalk the "innocent" victim. Abaddon regarded the same hunger in his son's eyes that had glistened in Emily's as Lucius took her from him.

Abaddon grinned then frowned, "You are enjoying her like this aren't you?"

Lucius's face sobered instantly, "What?"

It was in that moment when he realized just how he was looking at Emily. She had brought out his old self. Her aura fed his just as his fed hers. It made it difficult for him to concentrate. All he wanted was to devour her and have her do the same. Lucius shook the welling urges away and gave a stern controlled look to Abaddon, "I told you I got this."

Abaddon shook his head in mild disappointment.

"Yes, pleasing her works for a time, but it is going to take a bit longer for her to get used to this new form. Until then she will seek what her instincts tell her, which won't always be you." He allowed his words to sink in then took a deep breath steadying himself for his son's reaction about Minerva and Emily's role in her capture.

"Lucius, I know you are not going to like this and there is a great risk to Emily, but we are going to need to use her as bait."

"You're right, I don't like it, and I'm not letting you use her. I just got her back."

Abaddon shook his head again. His son had spent too much time amongst the humans and his judgement was clouded by emotions. "I understand you are upset about this, but what better way to lure Minerva out." Abaddon placed his massive hand on Lucius's shoulder. "If Minerva had the chance to turn Emily into one of her minions, certainly, she would not waste it; and that is when we can capture her and end this for good."

Lucius looked down into his arms as the she-demon snuggled into his warmth. Lifting his gold eyes up into his father's, he said, "Can you guarantee we can get her back safely?"

Abaddon sighed, "Son, you know life doesn't come with guarantees, but I promise to do everything in my power to get her back before it is too late."

"Or I could take her right now." A third-party interrupted Lucius before he could respond. A shadow materialized behind him followed by a sharp pain to his side.

Mammon had driving his claws into Lucius's ribs with a triumphant sneer. Pain shot out in every direction as he felt hot liquid pour down his side. Before Abaddon could come to his rescue, Mammon had scooped Emily up and was in the air. Rushing to Lucius's aide, Abaddon placed his hand on Lucius's abdomen to heal it, but Lucius's sharp command stopped him short, "Forget about me; go after her. I'll be alright just get her back."

Abaddon nodded and vanished into smoke.

"What do you mean use my mother as bait? Why would Lady Mink want her? She's already turned her into an old woman." Lucy couldn't control the crack in her voice as she fought back the tears; the vision of her mother's frail and aged frame crumbled on the ground flashed behind her eyes in vivid detail.

"Ah honey, your mother isn't an old woman." Michelle cooed.

"But I saw her."

Michelle scooted a little closer to Lucy and patted her knee, "Now, listen dumpling, your father did something very selfish, and it might take some getting used to, but I think you are going to love the results."

The lift in her grandmother's voice always sent warning signals off in her head. Michelle's idea of a good thing wasn't always the same for Lucy; in fact, it never was. Lucy narrowed her eyes at Michelle.

Michelle jumped from the sofa as if Lucy's expression could actually do her physical harm. "Oh, don't give me that face. It's good news really." She leaned down taking Lucy's hands in hers, "Okay get ready for this…" she paused just to drag out the unnecessary suspense, her lips curled up in mirth, "he turned her into a succubus. Isn't that wonderful?"

Lucy yanked her hands out of her grandmother's grasp, "No it isn't." She said sharply. Michelle tipped her head in confusion, "Why ever not?"

The lump that had early demanded her tears was now thrashing about her chest.

"I've had enough trouble adjusting, and I was born of both human and demon, but my mother was born a human. She has no idea how to handle being a demon."

Tossing a manicured hand before her chest, Michelle blew air through her lips in little concern for her granddaughter's feelings. "Oh posh, there's nothing to it. You find a human, trick a human, feed from said human, what's to know."

Lucy's face stood agape. What was wrong with this woman? It had always been her impression that Michelle had liked her mother just the way she was. The fact that Michelle was okay with this meant she was unlikely to get any help from the succubus...unless. A smirk slowly formed on Lucy's face.

"So, you are okay with the competition?"

At this, Michelle stood up straight and blinked at Lucy. "What on earth are you talking about?"

Lucy pulled away from Michelle and strolled over towards the fire place, "Well, Mom and Dad moved near your new club location, right?"

Michelle nodded.

"So, instead of one succubus hunting in YOUR area there will be two." She said holding up two fingers and wiggling them.

A look of slight surprise stuck on Michelle's face for just a moment then melted, "Pfft, why should I worry about that, she has your father."

That could very well be true; she'd seen the two of them together and that was with her mother being a normal sexually active human woman, but as a succubus. Lucy shivered at the thought. Would ANY work get done at the bakery? She sucked in her lip as thoughts dashed back and forth in her mind. There had to be a way. There was no way she was letting Michelle get out of helping. If threats didn't work, maybe worry would.

"That may be true, but she does still have all the emotions of a human; from what you told me wouldn't that make her more volatile and therefore one of Grandfather's targets."

Michelle's face morphed from triumphant to slightly worried. Lucy stepped away from the fireplace and wrapped her hands around Michelle's arm, "Mimi, you can't let Jiji hurt her. You have to help her be…" she paused to choose the word carefully, "...normal."

Michelle peered down with silver eyes and her features softened. "Fine, you really are no fun you know that."

"Thank you." She said with a lift to her voice and threw her arms around her.

"Okay, okay no need to get mushy." Michelle said wiggling uncomfortably in the girl's embrace.

"What did I miss?"

Michelle and Lucy both turned to find a half-naked Hector waltzing down the stairs in a pair of her father's silk pajama bottoms.

"Where did you get those." Lucy said pointing to his trousers.

"Laundry room." He said with a shrug.

Lucy gave him a disapproving grimace.

"What? They are clean."

"That isn't what I meant; you can't just help yourself to other people's clothes."

Hector smirked, "Should I take them off?"

Michelle licked her lips, "Yes, please."

"Mimi!"

"What? He offered."

Strolling past Michelle with a heavy swing to her arms, Lucy hooked one of Hector's and pulled him upstairs. "Come on, I'll find you something more appropriate."

Michelle frowned as she called after them, "Like a said before, 'No Fun'."

Hector and Lucy returned after a few minutes to find Michelle polishing off the last of the tiramisu. "That was quick. You wouldn't have had time to enjoy it doing it that quickly." She said licking the back of her fork.

Lucy blushed, "We didn't, I just found him some of Dad's old clothes. I don't think he'd mind."

Michelle ran her eyes over Hector's muscular chest pushing at the seams of Lucius's dress shirt. "He always was too skinny." She muttered to herself, shrugged, and swooped the last bite of tiramisu from the plate.

"Well, no time to waste, I suppose." She picked the plate up and dropped it in the sink before spinning on Hector. Closing the gap in less than a second, she placed a finger at the center of his chest, "You…" she said leaving the tip of her finger there a moment to relish in his heat before allowing it to trace the buttons down to his navel, "...need to take this to your little girl before Abaddon's seal wears off."

Surprised, but relieved, Hector took her hand in both of his, "I knew I liked you for a reason."

"Oh, really why's that?" Michelle said in husky tone.

Looking deep into her eyes with the tenderness of a lover, he whispered, "Because deep down you really are just a softy."

Michelle frowned whipping her hand away before spinning on her heels with her arms folded, "I don't know what you are talking about."

Hector chuckled then turned to Lucy, "I'll be back as soon as I can." She too turned in a huff, "Don't expect me to wait up."

Despite the cold shoulder, Hector leaned in and kissed Lucy on the cheek then turned to leave.

"What am I chopped liver. I don't get one." Michelle said turning on Hector and stopping him at the door. Before he could react, she had leaned in and planted one right on his lips while slipping something in his shirt pocket. "You might need this." She whispered before turning him around and patting him on the rear. "Off you go."

A metallic thunk vibrated the air around Emily bringing her out of her slumber. Her eyes shot open and began darting about the surroundings. The smell of rust and salt caused her to wrinkle her nose. Something dripped onto her forehead and when she went to touch it, she found her arms pinched by something cold and hard. Panic rose within her chest as she fought to free her hands. She screamed in frustration for the more she struggled the harder the restrains bit down into her wrist. Thrashing only sent more deafening metallic clanks and thunks vibrating around her. Her sensitive ears rung in pain with every vibration. After a time, she grew still from exhaustion and pain. As her heart began to settle down a foul odor curled her lip and she growled at the unwelcome scent.

"Good morning sleeping beauty." Mammon stepped into a beam of light, "and I must say a beauty you have become." He licked his thick lips and smiled past perfect teeth.

Emily recoiled as Mammon stepped closer taking her jaw in his scaly hand. "I bet Lucius would be infuriated if I were to steal you from him now."

Lucius? That sounded familiar. For some reason the syllables of that word calmed her and she said it out loud. "Lucius?"

Mammon frowned. What fun was it if she didn't remember? He let go of her chin and placed his hand on her forehead. A light washed over her foggy mind and images replaced carnal needs. Emily's eyes shot open. The wild turquoise gave way to soft periwinkle. When she focused on the face before her, she jerked her head away smacking it on the metal wall behind her. Another annoying metallic ringing assaulted her ears. "Damn it." She cursed then turned her attention back towards Mammon.

Her face fell into a scowl, "Mammon! What do you want with me? How did I get here?"

Mammon leaned back shaking his head, "Oh, Emily, isn't it obvious." He darted towards her slipping his arm around her back. "I've come to steal you from my little brother."

Emily almost laughed, "Steal me from him?"

"You are the furthest thing from my heart, Mammon."

At the continual use of his demon name, Mammon's face fell into mock disappointment, "No 'Jack'? You used to be so fond of screaming that name at night." Mammon's lip curled into a smirk. He took her chin forcing her to face him. His breath drifting over her, hot and spoiled.

"You used to beg me over and over."

"Jack, Jack, more Jack, faster, harder." He said mockingly using his demon ability to change his voice to sound like hers.

Emily scowled and with one quick jerk, she freed her chin from his grasp and bit down taking off his pinky. Mammon screamed as he reared back striking her face and trailing blood along her cheek. Then the madness in his eyes seemed solidified into sardonic mirth as he leaned back down running his thick brown tongue along her cheek and connecting it with her mouth. She bit down hard. But Mammon was not to be discouraged. He clamped her cheeks forcing her to let go. When he pulled back, he smiled triumphantly.

"Yes, I always did love how feisty you can be. It will make it all the more delicious when I break you."

Emily spat his blood back at him. He allowed it to splatter his cheek and lips. He licked it away. "So sweet."

"Ah, dear Emily, if you only knew. You will be the source of your daughter's and your husband's madness." He released a malicious laugh and vanished into shadow.

Left alone in the dark made Emily even more nervous. So, she did what she always did when she was nervous: she talked.

"What do you want with me Mammon?"

He didn't answer.

"You know he'll find me. You've nothing to gain from this." Emily could only hear shuffling noises followed by a muffled snicker. Squinting, she tried to make out Mammon's outline in the blackness, but despite her newly acquired demon sight, Mammon remained hidden.

How is he doing that? Why can't I see him? The voice in her head jeered at her.

Mammon reappeared before her inches from her face; his scared and twisted lips pulled back into a yellow smile.

Emily recoiled. Mammon remained unflinching, "You can thank you daughter's little boyfriend."

"Boyfriend?"

For a moment, Emily forgot her situation with Mammon and reverted to her mother's instincts.

"My daughter doesn't have a boy…." Her words were cut short as she remembered the young man who helped them escape from the hunters. Her face fell into a scowl. "Leave my daughter out of this."

"This is between me and you and Lucius. Lucy has nothing to do with you."

His twisted grin pulled back further turning his already disfigured face into a grotesque mask.

"Oh, but what better way to make you suffer like you made Mother suffer. You of all people should understand her pain."

With on quick move he pinned her shoulder against the piercing metal wall. She could hear her bones creak in protest.

"You will watch your daughter go mad and you will help capture her and feed her heart to my mother."

Something began to burn at her shoulder, and she screamed in pain as it intensified into a greedy inferno eating at her muscle and bone. She could only hear her own screams and flashes of white pain behind her eyes when suddenly it stopped. Another loud metallic thunk was followed by two cool hands resting on her shoulders. When she opened her eyes, she was staring into worried gold irises.

"Mom, are you okay?"

Chapter 22

Michelle sat opposite Lucius who refused to look at her despite her very rare apologies.

"It wasn't like we planned this to happen. Mammon got ahead of us. We would have been waiting for Minerva and sprung to stop her." Michelle explained.

Lucius only snorted and stood up to leave the kitchen. Abaddon looked between the two and sighed. "Well, it doesn't matter much now, does it?" This statement didn't lighten the mood any; in fact, it was only the tense energy coming from the dining room that over shadowed that in the kitchen.

Lucy sat across from a little girl with bright blue eyes and hair the color and lightness of fresh corn silk. The girl blinked at her with curiosity and judgement that only came from years of acquired wisdom. When she spoke, her voice was soft and sweet, but inaudible to human ears.

"So, I understand you helped my father."

The word 'father' sent a weary shiver into the pit of her stomach. This wasn't some college crush wet behind the ears and new to the outside world; no, Hector was ancient and a father. And not just a father, but a father to a girl, obviously, centuries beyond her own. Just how did she speak to such a creature?

"Yes, I hope you are feeling better." She said surprised at just how timid her voice sounded to her ears.

A bright smile spread across the girl's face. "Yes, thank you, and I wish to apologize for what my father has put you through in order to help me." She bowed low and Hector and Lucy both felt a rush of heat steaming at their ears.

Lucy waved her arms helplessly. "No, no please, don't apologize. I was really no help. I just…" Suddenly she felt a warm hand, a welcomed pressure on her shoulder.

"I must say, you are a sight."

Michelle was propped against Lucy with one hand, her other hand thoughtfully rubbing her chin, and then she stood straight up with a clap of her hands, "That settles it; we are going shopping."

With a bewildered tilt to her head and a raised brow, Lucy asked, "Shopping? Now?"

Michelle gave her one of her mischievous smiles, "Tell me you can resist dressing up this cute little doll."

Lila took a step back from Michelle's greedy eyes. Lucy almost laughed; she could remember similar feelings of apprehension and fear as a young girl whenever Michelle came to visit. She often wondered if her grandmother really did view her as a girl or a toy. Luckily, Abaddon stepped in to rescue the poor thing.

"Michelle, don't frighten the child." He said with a restraining hand on her shoulder. The light in his eyes when he looked at that child didn't go unnoticed. Michelle turned with a pout, "I wasn't trying to scare her. All girls love clothes." She glanced over at Lucy with a wink, "Isn't that right pumpkin?"

Another shiver ran down Lucy's spin as she recalled the last piece of "clothing" Michelle forced upon her. "Maybe not as much as you." She managed to say with an awkward smile.

Puffing out her cheeks, Michelle spun on her heels, "Fine, see if I take you shopping again."

Abaddon just shook his head but was grateful for the uncomfortable silence to have finally been broken.

"Now that everyone is acquainted and everyone has heard the details, I'd like to go over the plan…" he shot a look towards Michelle, "…once someone stops pouting."

Michelle put down her spoon, heavy with dark chocolate coffee mousse, with a slight frown.

"Fine." And she walked over to sit next to Hector who blocked her from Lila. Once everyone was seated, Abaddon cleared his throat. With his green T-shirt that gave his eyes a jeweled gleam and faded blue jeans, he didn't look near as commanding as he did in the woods, but Lucy liked him better this way. He felt her eyes on him and cleared his throat again, "As I was saying…"

"Wait, Father."

Those with their backs to the stairs swiveled around to see Lucius bounding down the steps.

"If you are going to continue to involve my family in your schemes, I wish to be present."

Something in the way he said "family" made Lucy smile.

Abaddon's brow knitted slightly before relaxing, "Of course."

Lucius plopped down next to Lucy.

"How's Mom?" she asked leaning over towards him.

Lucius just smiled reassuringly and patted her thigh. "I'll let you see her later."

Then he looked up at Abaddon and nodded for him to continue.

"Thank you, now, our original plan was to use Emily as bait, but that may no longer be an option; however, thanks to Victoria," he said tossing his hand back to the woman sitting apart from the group, "has given us some vital information. It is true that she has stolen a bit of power from each of you, but the advantage to that is we know those power's limits, and we, presumably, have some information that she is not yet aware."

His green eyes caught the attention of every glance in the room, "According to what we could glean from Emily's memories, Minerva is planning to throw both…if not all three," he smiled at Lila, "worlds into chaos."

"We cannot all follow her into the demon realm," he nodded to Victoria and Lila, "however, we may still be able to lure her out here." He held his hand up towards Victoria and stepped aside.

The full-figured woman stood in the center of the group and pulled at her sleeves as her gaze darted from face to floor to face and over to a wall. She had caused everyone here a great deal of trouble, so their stares felt like hot irons against her skin. She gently cleared her throat, took a deep breath and then bowed low, "I want to apologize for everything that I have done to all of you. I hope what I can offer will make up for what I have done."

The harshness of their stares did not ease, but Victoria pressed on with a little encouragement from Abaddon. "You knew to expect this, but give them what you know. It may change their attitudes."

Victoria took another deep breath, "Okay here goes, as you know I was possessed by Lady Mink for several months…" she heard a snort followed by the snide comment, "some nun." Abaddon shot a reproachful glare in Lucius's direction who tried to look innocent, but got the message sure enough and said nothing further. Victoria blushed but quickly regained her composure, "Yes, as I was saying: during that time, I learned a great deal about her. Despite all the power she took from you she still has one weakness. In fact, it is because she took a power from one of you specifically," her eyes drifted over to Hector, "that she now has this weakness. I can't say if she is aware of it or not."

Hector's brows shot up, and he pointed to his chest, "Me?"

Victoria nodded and produced a small pistol. "She dropped this in the woods. She should have destroyed it." She turned and handed the gun to Abaddon.

This time Lucius was unable to hide his disbelief, "Are you telling me we can take down the mighty Lady Mink with a bullet."

Heat rose in Victoria's cheeks and she nodded meekly.

"You can't…"

Abaddon cut his son off and addressed Hector, "Is it true she stole powers from you as well?"

Hector looked thoughtful a moment, Did she? If so, when could she have…his face grew dark as a memory gave him the answer. When he was helping her escape, he suddenly became very weak. It would also explain how she was able to command the wolves.

"Well?" pressed Abaddon.

"It is possible."

"Good than this should work. If not to stop her, at least it will immobilize her for a time."

Lucy looked confused, "Why would it?"

Before Hector could answer, Abaddon explained, "Hector was able to merge with Fenrir because he is half shadow half werewolf. The bullet didn't kill him because of his mixed nature. So, it stands to reason it won't kill Minerva either, but at the right time, it will certainly cripple her."

Lucy nodded but her brow knitted together as images of Lady Mink emerged and the dreadful power she possessed.

"Why are we waiting? We should go after her now while she doesn't suspect it."

Abaddon shook his head, "There is a moment when she will be weakest, and it is not now. She has stolen from all of you. The time when she is most influenced by Hector's power will be the optimal time to strike."

"Why, wouldn't his power make her more dangerous?" Even Lucy was irritated by the slight whine in her own voice.

"If we wait too long, yes, but there is a moment when a silver bullet will be most effective, at that time we can use Victoria's power to immobilize her."

Lucy slid cold eyes in Victoria's direction. Just how much of her was Lady Mink when she had her tied up in the basement? Darkness began to swirl behind her eyes when a sudden clap brought her back.

Abaddon clapped his hands together drawing all attention to him. He waited for all eyes before he spoke, "Good then it is settled, we have our plan. I will do what I can to keep things in order for the next month. Until the appointed time, I say we all get back to our normal lives."

Lucy looked over at Hector with his arm wrapped firmly around Lila and she frowned. Just how could she go back to normal? Her eyes roamed the faces of her family; they too looked glum.

"Why all the serious faces?"

Lucy turned to find her mother strolling down the stairs in a crimson robe; her normally milky legs now a glowing bronze thrusted proudly from under the billowing red silk. Everyone's mouth hung open except for Michelle who held a smug expression. This was, after all, her handy work.

"Mom?"

Emily smiled, "Yeah, I think so. I hadn't really had a chance to see what I look like now."

Lucy stood to embrace her grateful that at least her mother's mind appeared to be back to normal even if the rest was different, but Lucius beat her to it as he felt the men's eyes fall upon her silky skin. He stood possessively between her and ogling stares, and then her scooped her up into his arms before briefly addressing everyone in the room, "You can all leave now." And whisked her back up the stairs.

Heat welled in Lucy's cheeks and she avoided eye contact with Hector at all cost. Michelle snickered, "Shall we leave the love birds alone?" She floated over to Victoria hooking her arm into hers and then over to Abaddon before either knew what she was up to, she had called one of her portals and pulled them both in leaving Hector, Lucy, and Lila awkwardly alone on the sofas.

Hector glanced down at Lila and smiled then cleared his throat in an attempt to get Lucy's attention. She found something fascinating on the rug under her feet.

With a heavy sigh, Hector spoke, "Well, I believe it is best we leave. No need to accost innocent ears." He said gesturing towards the ceiling.

Lila blushed. She might have looked like a little girl, but she was fully aware of what the two demons were doing upstairs. Her crystal blue eyes rested on Lucy's nervous shoulders.

"Would you like to come with us?"

At her clear sweet voice, Lucy looked up. "What…where?"

Lila smiled, "Have you ever ridden a unicorn?"

No, but I was nearly stepped on by one once…sort of. She didn't speak any of this, however, and just shook her head.

"Want to?"

Despite her unease of being a third wheel, she couldn't stop the smile spreading across her face.

"Good then it is settled." Lila looked from Lucy to Hector, "Father, take us to Evenglade."

Hector narrowed his eye at his daughter, "Are you sure?"

Lila nodded, "We shall be enlightened by this experience."

The way she spoke those words made Lucy even more uncomfortable, but as bits of the ceil sprinkled down around them, she jolted up and ushered the two of them out the door.

Chapter 23

The path was dark and twisted; Lucy kept losing her footing as they trekked up the narrow path towards a dilapidated temple.

"Where are we going?" She ventured to ask after following the little girl for over twenty minutes. Hector who brought up the rear said nothing only kept Lucy from straying from the path. After a moment or two of silence, Lila spun around and stood in front of a curtain of honeysuckle vines. The flowers had long since fallen off during the beginning of winter, but the vines were still heavy with dark green leaves and towered well over nine feet. Lila reached a small hand back towards the vines, "Now we shall see what you are truly made of."

Lucy took a step back; her instincts told her to turn around while she had the chance.

Hector stopped her retreat, "I'll be right here." He whispered into her ear as he ushered her forward.

"Not much comfort." She mumbled as she felt the warmth of his hands on her back, yet a nervous chill ran down her spin.

He halted in his encouragement dropping his hands by his side, "Don't you trust me?"

An uneasy quivering wiggled up through her chest. Did she? If not, then why was she here?

Slowly, she turned to face him and gazed into his grey eyes, "I must or I wouldn't have come." She stepped away from him and darted voluntarily through the thick vines. A brilliant flash of light assaulted her eyes as she stepped through the veil. Shielding them she called out, "Lila!" The girl didn't answer. A hazy light clouded her vision as she took a few tentative steps forward. Slowly the forest came into focus. I remember this place. Hector froze behind her, Really? He asked with disregard for her personal thoughts. Lucy turned around to face him, "Your ring brought me here or showed it to me at least." Instinctively she looked for the tree she had hidden behind, but where she believed it to be was only a rotting stump. Just how long ago was that?

Six hundred years came Hector's reply. "Just how much of my past did you see?" He asked stepping in closer. Lucy took one step back for every one of his advancing ones. "Not much. You were shot by a …."

"…a light elf." He answered for her. His light grey eyes turned to charcoal as he neared her. Lucy continued to back away until she bumped into something solid and warm and (she turned her head to look)…huge!

"A unicorn?"

A breeze of hot air rustled her hair. Dark nostrils flared within inches of her face.

Hector's dark eyes lightened and he chuckled, "This is Sigil."

The magnificent "horse" stepped past Lucy and trotted over to Hector. By its sudden quickness of pace and little leap in the air, he reminded Lucy of a puppy greeting its master. Sigil stammered to a halt just a breath from Hector before lowering its massive head and nuzzling Hector in the chest.

Lucy smiled but then realized, "Wait, so he's not a unicorn?

Hector laughed, "This beast…no, if he were, I'd have been impaled several times over, already. He's a Kelpie."

He patted the horse's slick black muscular neck, "Sigil, now stop…that's enough… stop it." Hector's affections brought out more demands from the great beast as he was now pulling on Hector's hair and butting him with his head. Play father, play.

Lucy could hear its raspy childlike voice inside her head. The title 'father' didn't go unnoticed.

"I don't wish to play right now: we have a guest." Hector chided.

Lucy laughed despite herself. She'd have to ask him about that 'father' business later, for now she couldn't stop the bubble of laughter as she watched the two interact and then at the result of Hector's horse-worried hair sticking out in all directions.

Her laughter brought a relieved smile to Hector's face, "What's so funny?"

She pointed to his head to which he reached up and felt the clumps of hair wet with saliva that jutted out like a porcupine. "Thanks a lot Sigil."

The Kelpie wined with a horse-like laughter and then butted Hector so hard in the chest he fell over.

"Sigil!" Hector's voice was sharp, this time, but the Kelpie continued to taunt and tease.

Who's the pretty girl, father? Is she for me?

Hector and Lucy blushed at the 'pretty girl' comment.

"No, as you can see, she isn't human."

The fact that she wasn't completely human saved her from what she wasn't sure, but it suddenly she felt an unease creeping along her insides.

Sigil turned from Hector and charged at Lucy nearly knocking her over too. Once again, she felt his hot breath on her face and neck. His black lips pulled back into a grin that made Lucy most uncomfortable. You are only half right, Father. So, you can keep half and I get the other half. At this point, Lucy would have been grateful not to have been privy to their conversation, but it flowed in like water. Lucy staggered backward.

"Hector, what does he mean by getting half?"

Hector dodge her question and addressed Sigil instead.

"Alright that is enough, Sigil, where is your sister?" At the mention of Lila, the Kelpie flinched and then began stomping his foot, It's always about Lila. I was here first. Why won't you play with me?

I will when I have time, now I'll ask you again, where is she?

Sigil stomped his foot again and snorted before turning and running at a full charge for the pool at the edge of the tree line. Lucy watched amazed as the once magnificent "horse" melt into the water. While Lucy marveled at what she had just seen, Hector closed in and wrapped his arm around her, "He's only a child. Please be patient with him."

Lucy gave him a look that was anything but patient, "You aren't going to answer me about that, 'half thing' are you."

Hector gaped like a fish for a bit but was spared the pressure to answer by a light giggle that floated around them.

"Lila!" Hector called out, "was that you? Did you send Sigil out here?"

Amorphous giggles solidified by the base of a tree. Hector turned to find Lila leaning against a great oak then vanish in a flash of light to reappear behind Lucy. He pulled Lucy away from Lila's outstretched hands.

"What are you up to, Lila?"

The girl faded into the light and then materialized before them with a shrug. "Nothing, and I did not send brother to greet you. He smelled the blood of a young maiden and came on his own."

"That does not explain why he is in your realm."

Again, she shrugged, "I do not control the waters that flow through and between our worlds."

Hector gave her a look only a disapproving father could give. Her cool and disinterested face melted into that of a pouty little girl, "Fine, I might have told him you were coming and bringing something he might find interesting with you."

"Why would you do that?"

Lila turned her back on him her arms across her chest; she looked more like a regular little girl now instead of some celestial being she appeared to be when Lucy first met her.

"You always bring home some girl... Don't you miss Mom at all."

Lucy blushed and an unwelcomed twisting pain contorted her stomach. Just how many women had he been with and what about what Sigil said?

Hector's pupils darkened, "You know that isn't the same thing, and it has been centuries. Am I not allowed to find happiness?"

At the word 'happiness', Lila spun back around and threw herself at Hector beating her fist into his abdomen, "What about my happiness. You left me with Auntie for decades and the only time you ever came home was when you had another bundle to drop off for Auntie and me to take care of." Her cunning sapphire eyes glance over at Lucy to measure the effects of her words. Lucy notably fidgeted.

Now Hector was flush to the ears. He turned to Lucy, "This isn't what it sounds like."

The ever-increasing scowl on Lucy's face sent a shiver down his spine, and he instantly let go of her shoulder giving her the freedom to step away, which she did, considerably. With a heavy sigh, he knelt down and wrapped his arms around Lila's tiny frame. "I am sorry. I didn't intend to be gone for so long. Every journey was meant to find a way to fix you. I couldn't stand to sit here and watch you suffer." He looked away his eyes even darker, "…things happened."

"You are a coward, father. You sho..."

Just as the words left her mouth a splash was heard followed by a muffled cry. Hector turned to find Sigil with a mouthful of Lucy's shirt pulled up over part of her face as he dragged her towards the pond.

"Sigil!" Hector shouted as he released Lila and rushed to pull Lucy away, but he stopped short when something white darted past his vision and knocked Sigil back into the water.

No fair, Mama, I was only teasing. Lucy could hear the Kelpie whine inside her head. The mare ignored his plea of innocence and turned towards Lucy. She took slow calculated steps. Lucy stood absolutely still as the Unicorn approached keeping her eyes down cast. She did, however, resist the urge to bow as it felt like it was something she should do, but then might be considered mockery. She heard a soft chuckle inside her head which called her eyes up to meet a pair of dark gentle irises that sent a warmth through her melting the tension away.

You need not be so guarded with me child; I only wish to look at you. Lucy stood awkwardly with her arms down by her side as if she were being inspected for military use. At ease. A bubble of laughter pushed at Lucy's chest as she began to see the ridiculousness of it all.

As Lucy stood before the majestic animal, Hector bent down to whisper in Lila's ear. "Did you bring her here?"

Lila shrugged, "Maybe. I did offer Lucy a ride."

At this Hector scowled, "You know not just anyone can ride a unicorn."

Lila smiled up at him, "Precisely."

The hushed conversation was interrupted by a stern voice inside their heads.

What are you two up to? You know I can hear you, don't you?

Hector and Lila stood up straight. "Our apologizes, your highness." Both bowed low.

"Highness?" Lucy yipped. I knew I should have bowed.

Princess Ayriness turned her attention back to Lucy. Do not let that trouble you child. The magnificent beast lowered her head centering her horn at Lucy's chest. Now this might hurt a bit, but bear with it. Without any further explanation, Ayriness thrusted her horn into the left center of Lucy's chest. She felt it slip between her rib cage. Pain shot down her arm and up through her neck. The moment Ayriness pulled her horn from her flesh, Lucy fell to her knees. A constant throbbing called her hands to the spot where Ayriness's horn and just been. The pain had been enough to stop her breath, but just as quickly a peace slipped in its place. Hector rushed to Lucy's side throwing his arms around her. Her shoulders were shaking and his sensitive nose picked up the faint smell of salt: she was weeping. She looked up to Ayriness with tears streaming down her face, "Thank you." She whispered. Hector helped her to her feet. "What did she show you?" He asked.

The princess nudged him, that is between us. Now what to do about my obstinate little charge? Her massive head swung in Sigil's direction. He was still lying on the ground looking small and shameful. When Ayriness moved towards him, he flinched. Lucy held up her hand effectively halting the princess's ascent, "I'll talk to him."

Both Ayriness and Hector looked perplexingly at her as she broke free from Hector's hold and waltz over to Sigil. Clearing a space next to the sulking 'horse', Lucy sat down. She said nothing for quite some time. I'm not sorry you know. Were the words that entered her head. She smiled and nodded. "I didn't think you would be, nor was I looking for an apology."

Sigil looked at her suspiciously as she only sat looking out over the water next to him saying nothing. You won't make me feel guilty with your silence either. He interjected.

"I wasn't trying to." She said and continued to gaze at the clear blue lake. Finally, Sigil scooted away, You're weird. Lucy just smiled. "I'm use to that." Then she looked up at him with a genuine smile. "Want to be weird together?"

The Kelpie's face twisted into confusion, and he backed further away until he escaped into the waters of the lake. When the water settled back down, Lucy stood up and brushed off her pants.

"I don't think he'll bother me for a while."

Hector shook his head with a light chuckle, "Can't say I've ever seen anyone creep him out before. That's usually his arena."

Lucy shrugged, "He just wants attention." She gave him a stern look implicating that this was all his fault. He looked away sheepishly before clearing his throat and turning back to look at her.

"Hmm, never thought about it like that before."

Hector placed his hand on her shoulder, "You are a natural born mother."

Where he had laid his hand burned, and the heat shot straight up through her cheeks.

Flustered, Lucy stammered for a reply; fortunately, Ayriness swept in and scooped his hand off her shoulder as she stepped between them, Well, as I understand that my niece has offered you ride, would you like to try?

With her mouth agape, Lucy stared up at the magnificent white horse, whose coat glistened like silk in the sunlight. How could she refuse, but how could she accept?

"I…it would be an honor, but I don't wish to disgrace her majesty with my presence."

Her dark eyes traced Lucy's features, and then she dipped her head in Hector's direction. Hector would you be a dear? He nodded, vanished into shadow, and reappeared behind Lucy wrapping his large hands around either side of her waist before picking her up and placing her onto the unicorn's back.

"No, Hector what are you doing? I couldn't possibly…"

Once atop Ayrniess's broad back, Lucy felt her entire body relax, and she slipped forward as cottony white silk clouded her eyes before blackness took her.

Chapter 24

Minerva slid down into the soft leather office chair allowing her long red nails to pierce the taught skin of the armrest. "I could get use to this, so much nicer than that uncomfortable thorn, but I don't prefer its location. She motioned for Mammon, "Be a dear and take this chair to my home; Michelle won't be needing it." She smiled as Mammon whistled for his mount. The beast crashed through the skylight gripping the chair in its dagger-length talons and hauled Lady Mink with it into the air. Its great black wings causing torrents of wind, throwing papers, lamps, and the occasional small cleaning gremlin swirling about Michelle's office. The dragon hovered above Banshee permitting Minerva one last victorious glare at what was about to be rubble. With one long finger, she beckoned Mammon over; he flew to her side. "One more thing," a wicked smile pulled back blood red lips, "we really should leave a thank you note for such a luxurious item, don't you think?"

"Of course, Mother, you raised me proper after all." His smile twisted his face into hideous contours, and he dove for the roof. Upon landing, Mammon waltz about kicking over barrels of gasoline he had placed there earlier. Careful to avoid stepping in any of it, Mammon pushed off the roof and into the air. "We will leave them with the warmest gratitude," he said with a sneer as he patted the dragon's neck, "won't we Galmeer?"

The dragon opened its black maw and released a stream of fire onto Banshee's roof. Deep blue flames licked at the gasoline eating at everything until the roof collapsed providing more fuel for the fire. Droves of demons and humans rushed from the building. Mammon laughed at their screams, "Tell your mistress we'll be waiting for her." He said dangling a small raccoon-sized creature. Grendel struggled in his hold, but Mammon held firm.

"Go easy on the creature," Minerva cooed. Mammon gave her an incredulous sideways glance until his met with the malevolence in her eyes, "for now, we can't have anything happen to the little dear before Michelle can witness his demise."

Michelle sneezed while stirring yet another teaspoon of sugar into her tea. Emily looked at her and blinked, "Do demons get colds? I've never seen Lucius with one."

"No, Lemon, someone is talking about me again." Michelle smiled at what was essentially her handywork. Long elegant fingers ran back towards delicate wrists attached to ash grey arms that darted back to a rack Michelle would proudly claim as her own. Resting atop a long luscious neck was a perfect jawline surround by silky dark ringlets out of which inquisitive smokey-blue irises blinked in marvel at the world through the eyes of a demon.

Michelle took a sip of her tea, made a face, and reached for the sugar again. "So, how are you adjusting?"

Emily leaned back from the counter and looked herself over, "It is an adjustment. Sadly, I can't go to the bakery like this."

A frown slipped onto Michelle's face when she thought about all the lovely desserts she'd miss out on, but then perked up, "True, but so long as you can still bake, someone else can handle the customers for a while until you get a handle on your powers."

A soft smile slipped in place and Emily sighed before plopping down on a nearby bar stool. "I will miss that. I hate to think how I will have to hide in my own shop."

Setting down her teacup, Michelle slipped around the counter and dropped her arm around Emily. "It won't be forever...besides with your extra free time I could teach you..." Her words were cut short as her arm was lifted from around Emily's shoulder by a clawed hand. Michelle looked up into golden orbs and a mischievous grin pulled at her lips.

"What's the matter, dear, afraid she will outperform you." Her eyes roamed his bare chest then up to his tousled hair. "Clearly, you are out of practice and she is fresh out of the box. Did she wear you out?"

Emily's cheeks darkened into powdered rose.

"Ahem," Lucius cleared his throat and positioned himself protectively between his wife and Michelle, "That really isn't the question, what the question here is just how long will she remain in demon form?" Tipping his head away he muttered, "I can't keep up."

"Ha, ha, ha," Michelle laughed a hearty laughter, "So, I was right...ha, ha..."

"Alright you had your fun, now, would you answer my question?" Lucius growled his brow knotted together in annoyance.

Pulling her cup from the counter and sliding into the booth across the kitchen, she shrugged, "Who knows. Right now, her demon form is the most stable. It might be too dangerous for her to revert to human form for a while. It is probably why Abaddon..." her hand flew up to her mouth and she looked cheekily away.

"It's why, Father did what?"

Michelle shook her head, and when Lucius made a move toward her, she vanished into a portal.

"Slippery woman." Lucius's shoulders fell, and he released the hundredth sigh that morning. Turning around to face his wife, he smiled, but something in the pit of stomach tightened.

A brilliant light teased Lucy's lashes until she couldn't keep them closed any longer. A greenish light pained her eyes as she opened them and she shivered. The air was cool and damp. Dew still clung to blades of mint green grass that was as soft as teddy bear fur. Pushing herself up onto her elbows, Lucy glanced around to find dozens of curious blue orbs blinking from all directions.

Slowly she inched her way into a seated position as she let her eyes slide from left to right. There were so many of...of...what were these things. They were small, no larger than squirrels, but each were a varying shade of purple with a set of sapphire eyes scrutinizing her every move. They had no arms just long ears and two tiny feet buried under tufts of long purple fur.

"Um, hello?"

The creatures vanished at the sound of her voice as if the ground had swallowed them.

"I'm sorry, I won't hurt you. I came here with Princess Aryniess. Do you know where she is?"

One by one small purplish blurs began to faze into focus all around her. Lucy smiled but tried not to move too much. In a voice just above a whisper, she asked, "Can you help me find her? I must have gotten lost...somehow." Her mind began to wander back to what had happened. She could remember Hector picking her up and the feel of Aryniess's taut muscles beneath her thighs and then...nothing.

"Lucy!...LUCY" Hector's voice sounded so near yet lost in the distant fog.

Lucy jumped to her feet causing all the creatures to vanish save one that inched cautiously closer.

She acknowledged that she had again startled them, "I'm sorry, but someone is looking for me." But quickly dismissed them in favor of finding Hector or more precisely helping him find her. "Hector! I'm over here." She called before lowering her arm in obvious futility. Stupid, if he could see you, he wouldn't be looking for you. Something brushed the back of her calf interrupting her self-diminutives, and she jumped with a yip. One of the small purple creatures tumbled away from her. "Oh, I'm sorry. Are you hurt?"

The creature righted itself, shook its head, and tottled back over before reaching out with, what she believed was, its ear to stroke the back of her leg. It peered up at her with pleading blue eyes.

"What? Do you want to come up?"

The creature nodded, and when Lucy didn't appear to object, it wrapped its long bunny like ears around her leg and began hauling its small body up until it reached her shoulders. "What are you doing? If you want me to stay here, I'm sorry. I can't." It shook its head and again stroked her face with its long velvety ears. The silky softness of its fur was almost too much, and Lucy began to feel languid and sleepy again. "NO, I can't stay." She shook the drowsiness away and reached up pulling the creature from her shoulder before setting it down on a tree stump. "I'm sorry." She said and turned away to shout into the air.

"HECTOR!"

The little creature vanished and reappeared on her shoulder again, but not before she bellowed Hector's name one more time causing the creature to curl into a ball by pulling its ears down over its body and rolled off Lucy with a thud. She turned at the sound and knelt down near it. "Are you that determined to come with me?" She poked at the small furry ball with her index finger. It uncurled and nodded.

"Alright, but I can't promise you anything."

The creature purred and wrapped its long ears, which appeared to grow and shrink at will, around Lucy's neck.

A warm smile slipped onto her lips as she glanced down at it, "Well, if you are coming with me, I should probably give you a name."

The creature leaned back with hopeful eyes awaiting what magic she might bestow upon him.

"Hmm...," The creature's silky fur shook with excitement. "purple...purple.." she muttered before smacking her fist down into her palm, "How about, Grape?"

The creature's brow narrowed over its eyes, and it stuck out a light pink tongue.

"No good, huh?" She frowned and without thinking reached up to stroke the creature's fur. "So soft."

The creature purred and leaned in to her hand.

"PomPom." She said almost unconsciously.

The creature released her neck and did a little leap before wrapping its long ears around her again.

"Okay, I guess that means you like it."

"PomPom it is." She said as she reached up to scratch PomPom's belly. A soft warning growl emanated from the creature's small body. Lucy immediately pulled her hand away, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't assume." Her apology didn't seem to appease the creature because its growl turned into little chirps like that of a bird or a chipmunk.

"I said I was sorry. And if you are so angry about it why are you still clinging to me?"

PomPom released her neck, jumped down, and ran off into the fog. "What's his problem?" She watched him vanish within seconds. "He's really fast for something with such short legs." Lucy's shoulders fell as she stood alone in the middle of some enchanted forest. Hector! In the commotion, she had forgotten, "Hector! Hec..tor?"

But it wasn't Hector who answered her. Father isn't coming. We are playing a game. Lucy inched away from where she thought the voice was coming from, but as it was inside her head, she really couldn't tell.

She continued to back up until she bumped into the solid bark of a tree. "Sigil?"

The voice snickered inside her head.

"This isn't funny. Come out!" she shouted.

What fun would that be? You are supposed to find me before I catch you. A surge of fog swirled around her until she couldn't even see the other trees just a few feet away.

Panic raced in her chest telling her to run, but to where. It was probably a trap, anyway. He could materialize anywhere, and without Hector or Ayriness to stop him, she feared what he might do to her "human half".

"Sigil, I'm not playing with you. Come out here where I can see you."

A taunting laughter echoed inside her head, Why would I do that? I have you where I want you. Father can't save you now. Don't worry, I'll be sure to save that lovely succubus side all f... GET OFF YOU NASTY...

Suddenly, Sigil's voice cut off and the fog began to clear. From the distance, a small purple creature appeared to be floating on what look like a disturbance in the fog and began moving closer. PomPom stopped, and it was then that Lucy saw the blurred figure of Sigil beneath him.

"PomPom?"

The little creature nodded and then bit down hard on something within the vapors. Sigil solidified instantly. Rotten little moffit. Lucy could still hear him cursing as PomPom dismounted in a leap and scurried over.

You have the devil's luck, half-human. Sigil faded with only an outline of his head remaining, Don't, think you can count on that luck forever. And then he truly vanished. The fog disappeared and Hector's voice resounded loud and clear, "Lucy!"

She turned towards a figure running through the trees. Hector barreled at her throwing his arms around her, "Are you all right?" "Did he hurt you?" He ran his hand through her hair and along her arms. Goosebumps were left in their wake.

"No, seriously. I'm fine. I'm sure he was just teasing."

Hector held both her arms tightly and stared into her eyes, "Good, it's still there."

Lucy blinked and leaned back a bit, "What is still there?"

Their noses were practically touching; Hector blushed and stepped away, "Nothing. Don't worry about it."

He held a hand out to her, "Shall we find Ayriness and Lila?"

Emily was just gathering the tea cups from the counter when Michelle popped back into the booth across from her. "Mama, what are you doing back?"

Michelle turned a face riddled with creases in Emily's direction. Hatred filled her eyes.

"Mother, what's wrong with you?" Lucius stood protectively in front of Emily. But his stance relaxed as Michelle turned her face away and took a few deep breaths and in a slow calculated voice she spoke. "I…am… going… to kill…that bitch."

Emily looked at Lucius and the two cautiously stepped closer. "What happened?" They said practically in stereo. Michelle almost laughed at this, but was too busy trying to keep her blood from boiling over.

"That bitch set Banshee on fire; and worst yet, she took Grendel." Michelle ran her long nails through her hair and rolled her shoulders. "She has to die."

"Wait, how do you know she did it?" Emily asked not even sure she could doubt it.

Michelle produced a note that was impervious to flame as she demonstrated by trying to set it on fire in her anger. "She left this."

Looks like you no longer have a home to return to either. And before you go frantically looking for that annoying little pet of yours, I took him. Tick tock, Michelle. He's fate is up to you.

M.M.

Michelle called flames to her hand, but the note mockingly remained intact. "Grr." She tore it into pieces only to have it float across the table and reassemble itself.

"So annoying." Her mouth pulled down at the corners, "I can't even feed it to Grendy."

Noticing that the demoness had calmed down, Emily slipped in beside her and took her hand. "Don't worry, we'll get him back." Without even realizing it, Emily had coated each word with a calming spell. Michelle snatched her hand away. "Nice try, fledgling, but that won't work on me." She patted Emily's hair between her horns.

"I know, love, because I'm going to find that she-devil and tear off her wings."

"You can't, she's just waiting for you to…"

Lucius stepped up to Emily taking her arm and guided her out of the booth, "Let me handle this."

Michelle looked at him with annoyance, "Are you going to try and stop me, too?"

"No. Why should I?"

Michelle's eyes widened then slowly closed, "Spoken like a true demon." She patted him on the arm, but the moment her hand made contact with his skin her body went numb. "Lucius…what did you…" before she could finish her last words she fell into his arms.

"What did you do to her?" Emily asked as she rushed to the succubus's aide.

"I put her to sleep."

"But how, I thought must spells didn't work on her."

"They don't," he said as he held up a syringe, "but modern medicine still does, but not for long."

Emily stared down at Michelle as she lay unconscious, "How long?"

"An hour at most, I did give her enough to knock out an elephant."

When Hector and Lucy found Lila and Ayriness, the little sprite was sitting in the lab of a beautiful woman while her hair was braided into long flaxen ropes. An impish smile spread across her face. "Did you enjoy playing with Brother."

Hector's face pinched into a scowl, "Lila, why did you do that?"

"Do what, Father? I've been here with Auntie the entire time." She craned her head around, sweetness dripping from her voice, "Isn't that right, Auntie."

Ayriness shook her head at Lila a touch of sadness in her eyes before she looked up at Hector and Lucy.

"I apologize for her attitude, but as she said she was with me; however, I can't vouch for her innocence. I'm certain she said something to Sigil."

Lila pushed away and tossed a nasty look in Ayriness's direction. "Auntie!"

"Why do you always take his side?"

As Ayriness reached to touch Lila's hair, the girl flinched away. "No, don't coddle me!"

She stood up and glared at Ayriness before turning on Hector, "You never pay any attention to me…" Hector's fatherly expression returned and Lila turned in a huff. "…fine, I did say something to Sigil; but it was just because I wanted some time alone with you; but what do you do—You run off looking for her." She snapped whipping her finger at Lucy.

Guilt and heat rushed to Lucy's cheeks, "I should probably go." Just as the words left her mouth she realized: she didn't know how to get home. Hector sensed this and wrapped his hand around her shoulder. "Don't worry, I'll take you home," then he turned his sights on Lila, "and when I get back, we need to talk." His gray eyes told her everything, "You are in serious trouble little girl."

Everything in the room was dark except a faint blue glow coming from near the sofa. Walking a bit unsteadily, Michelle headed towards the light. "It might be a bit early…nnnhh." She cradled her head in the palm of her hand remembering the heaviness of it. "Just who does he think I am. Some teenage girl, ha. I eat roofies for breakfast…" her footing staggered, and she caught herself on the sofa right above a dim glowing blue stone. "Hey, there little one, I know it might be a bit early, but I need your help." She placed her hand on the stone; it pulsed against her skin. "Good girl, now, awake,"

The light faded and the stone began to crack. Michelle pulled her hand away as the creature emerged. A long nose poked out and three large purple eyes blinked up at her inquisitively.

"Good morning, Hydra."

The creature's long black tongue darted out and slipped over its muzzle and eyes clearing away a sticky red fluid. Michelle smiled at her, "I hate to do this too you after you just woke up, but I need a favor."

"Mimi?"

Michelle spun around with a perplexed look on her face holding what looked like Grendel. "How did you two get here?"

Lucy's cheeks darkened slightly, and she motioned towards Hector, "Shadow hopping."

Hector raised an eyebrow at her and mouthed "Shadow hopping?" Lucy shrugged.

I couldn't think of anything else, I'm bad at naming things, okay.

While the two exchanged glances, the Grendel look-a-like wiggled in Michelle's arms.

"Oh, sorry." She said trying to calm it down.

Lucy's attention was pulled away from Hector to Michelle who was fussing over the creature in her arms, turning it this way and that to gets its kicking feet pointed towards the ground.

"When did Grendel get to be so big, and is that a horn?" Lucy asked with a touch of surprise in her voice.

Setting the creature down, Michelle laid her hand atop its head and in a mock syrupy southern accent she said, "Honey, you ain't seen nothing yet." Once she lifted her hands away from the mass of gray fur, the creature began to double in size. Until it was taller than her sofa. Hector and Lucy gapped as the creature stretched, grew, lengthened, and then shed most of its fur. Standing before them was an animal the size of a full-grown male deer, complete with hooves and antlers, but parts of its body were covered in thick silver scales.

Resting a hand atop the creature's back, Michelle announced, "This is Hydra. I need to borrow her for a bit."

"A Kirin?" Lucy's face lit up as a smile spread uncontrollably across her face. "I remember seeing one in China when I was little…wait…"

"So that is what Grendel is? Then is Grendel just a baby or…"

Michelle held up her hand cutting her off, "Sorry, Muffin, I don't really have time to explain." She said while tossing her leg over Hydra's back. "Speaking of my cute little hairball, I need to rescue my cutie, so if you'll excuse us..." She leaned down and whispered something in Hydra's ear. The Kirin nodded then stared with its three eyes at Lucy.

I won't be long, Master. The creature's voice was a gentle whisper inside her head.

"Master?"

Michelle released a little laugh, "She remembers you rescued her, now she is in debt to you."

"But I don't want her to…"

Trotting past, Michelle rested her hand on Lucy's shoulder, "It is her will…" she straightened up and her tone chirped with it, "now then, off we go."

Hydra drew a circle in the air with her horns and a hole opened.

"Ciao."

The Kirin stepped through carrying Michelle on her back. "Shalln't be long." And she and Hydra vanished.

"What did she mean rescue 'the hairball'?" Lucy asked turning to Hector for answers. "Did something happen to Grendel?"

Hector looked helpless; he didn't have answers and the worry on her face only begged that he give her one.

"I've been with you this entire time. Maybe your parents know something."

Giving her a goofy grin, he asked, "Want to go shadow hopping again?"

The look on her face told him everything, NO THANK YOU!

Lucy spun on a heel and waltz over to a dresser with lots of narrow drawers. She pulled out a small stone from the top one. "I have a spare. The other one should be…"

Hector chuckled, "The other one is in a drain somewhere a few blocks from your parents house, remember." He continued to laugh which only served to annoy her further.
"Wait, that can't be right. That one was to…"

Mirth spread across his face as he watched her dart between one idea, reject it, and then the next. When he couldn't take it anymore, he pulled a cellphone from his pocket. "Why don't we just call them?"

"Jerk." She grumbled throwing the stone at him.

"What, I was just waiting for you to come to that conclusion yourself."

Brows furrowed, she walked over snatching the phone from him. Grumbling she mashed the screen, "'why don't you call them?'"

No answer. She couldn't stop the eye roll as the possibility that her parents were once again too preoccupied with each other to answer the damn phone. Shaking the thought away, she tried her mother's cell.

"Mom?"

"…Sor…y….Ba….dol…I…n't….talk…we…a…..goi…af...grandmo…"

"What? Mom, what's going on. I can't hear you."

"….demon…rel…" *click*

"Mom!"

The color drained from her face as the pieces started falling into place. Mimi is going to the Demon Realm to rescue Grendel; which means, Mom and Dad are going... Her arm went limp nearly dropping Hector's phone.

He caught it and her hand before her fingers loosened.

She continued to look disoriented at the floor even as the warmth of Hector's hand encompassed hers.

"Lucy, look at me." He encouraged as he slipped his hand under her chin and guided her face up to look at him. "What happened?" His voice was low and soothing. A tear beaded at her lid and her expression fixed into one of frustration and anger. "We are going after them." She freed herself from him brushing his hand aside before storming for the exit.

He whipped around to stop her. "Wait, where are you going?"

"The Demon Realm." She answered curtly.

Hector seized her wrist before she could take another step, "You know it's a trap. Minerva is just waiting for one of us to mess up."

Shoulders heaving and jaw fixed, Lucy spat out, "Then what about Mom and Dad; what about Mimi. We all have to go. She's planning to divide us. Let go of me, Hector."

In one quick powerful move, he had her around the waist pressed tightly against his body.

"No, Minerva will tear you apart. I can't risk you getting hurt."

"I won't lose Mom again; she… she doesn't belong in the demon realm. I have to stop her."

Hector ran his hand down her hair and leaned in to kiss the top of her head. "I understand, but she isn't a human anymore, and you still are."

Lucy wiggled free, smacking his hand away, "Only half." She turned stern gold eyes at him. "If you won't help me that's fine, but don't try to stop me."

Hector ground his molars as he watched her move away, "Tsk, if that is how you are going to be, you leave me no choice." He rushed forward while her back was turned engulfing her in shadow.

Chapter 25

Hot sulfuric air burned her lunges the moment Hector released her from his shadow. When she looked over at him, an unfamiliar figure stood beside her. Lucy shrieked away, "Who are you? Where is Hec…"

The dark figure smiled with jagged yellow teeth, "It isn't the prettiest form I've ever taken…" he scratched his unruly mop of black hair, "…but it will get us into the castle."

Lucy narrowed her eyes at the oversized troll, "Hector?"

The troll nodded its massive head, "I'm a shadow demon remember." The voice that spilled forth from thick cracked lips was garbled and hoarse. He waited for her to nod.

"So, I can change into anything that I have taken blood from."

To this Lucy's face twisted into disgust, "You drank troll blood?"

Hector looked away. It wasn't something he was proud of either for the act itself or the reason he had done it.

"Anyway, we need to do something about you. Your scent will draw demons from miles away." He pulled something from a pouch at his side. It looked like a giant black marble. Giving it a good shake, he placed it on the ground.

"Morbious, I need your help."

The giant marble teetered then bounced before shooting into the air level with Lucy's face and then slammed into the dirt. It splattered into an oozing puddle that called itself back to its center. It began to wiggle like a writhing snake until two dark eyes blinked past a long snout adorned in whiskers.

"Yes, Master?" Morbious hissed.

"Morbious, I need you to mask her scent," he said nodding in Lucy's direction. Morbious blinked his pupil-less eyes at her. "She certainly smells tasty, Master."

Lucy stepped to lean closer to Hector, but after catching a whiff of his Troll de odor, she thought the better of it. "I don't trust him." She whispered trying to get close enough for Hector to hear her without getting a mouth full of his stench. Pinching her nose, she said, "Do you really need to take on every characteristic of what you transform into?"

A frown pulled at Hector's mouth, "I am sorry if I am offending you, but, yes, it is necessary to fool the guards."

Lucy gave one last weary glance at Morbious before nodding her consent. The ferret like creature smiled then began to melt before her eyes into an immense puddle that spread until is touched her feet and then began crawling up her body. A chill like a submerging in a freezing lake crept up sending goosebumps rolling along her skin.

"What is he doing?" Her lips quivered as she spoke.

An urge to wrap his arms around her overwhelmed him, but Hector was quickly reminded of his appearance as two sets of arms started to reach for her then fell by his side. "I'm sorry, Lucy, it will be uncomfortable for a few minutes, but he is only masking your scent with his."

The tinge of fear behind her eyes began to subside as the inky blackness slowly made its way up her neck. She closed her eyes and held her breath (it seemed like the right thing to do). When Morbious had engulfed her completely, Hector nodded his silent command and Lucy and Morbious vanished.

Lucius and Emily landed just outside of Lucius's old home in the demon realm.

"I need to get a few things first." He said running the back of his hand down Emily's cheek before turning from her and bolting up the hill towards his house. Emily had been to the demon realm before years ago, but never as a demon. There were many things she hadn't been able to see with human eyes that were now plain as day. Trails of fluorescent urine tracked down the hillside and into town, thousands of tiny red eyes blinked from surrounding bushes. And a growing rumble sent her adrenaline rising. Although her outer appearance was demon, her heart and fears were still human. The rumble was like that of an empty belly loudly proclaimed its owner's intent as an orc over ten feet tall knocked down a nearby tree.

"Hate these ugly green things, why they grow here." With another swing of its massive arms it brought another tree crashing to the ground.

"Hey, don't go around tearing up someone else's lawn!" Emily chided before she could stop herself. The orc turned around with deep set black eyes with a ring of gold at their center. "What's this…" The orc's forehead wrinkled in curiosity. As the tension brought out her natural pheromones, the orc licked its thick black lips, "a succubus." A grin spread wide across its face, "A rather powerful one too."

Emily began to back away as she tossed glances up at the house. Lucius. The orc lumbered closer. Emily unfurled her wings, but not in time to escape. A rough massive hand wrapped itself around her ankle snatching her from the air and smashing her head down on a rock.

"He, he, so powerful, yet you don't know how to use your power." It licked its lips again, "Don't worry, I won't let your power go to waste."

As he drew her closer ready to devour her, he stopped, taking a deep whiff of her scent and smiled.

"You, smell like that little brat in the alley. What was her name…Lil…Lo…"

"Lucy!" His thoughts went from merely satiation into something dark and despicable, "Lady Mink would pay handsomely for you. And when she's done, I might still get to eat you."
He lowered her to the ground just long enough to adjust his grip in order to sling her over his shoulder. With a slight shrug he centered her abdomen over his broad shoulder. She moaned, he froze and listened. Nothing. "Hmm, that's what I thought."

Just as he began to walk away from Lucius's house, he could hear her mumbling.

"Stupid…"

A bright light flashed just a Lucius stepped out his front door followed by a scream and then wet bits falling from the sky. Lucius shielded his face as the remains of something settled on the ground. When he lowered his arm, Emily was standing beside a pair of thick red legs and nothing more. She turned rich gold eyes on him that glared eerily past a face painted in crimson. Lucius stood abash as he watched her lick the blood from her hands.

His chest tightened at the sight of her. "Oh Emily, what have a done to you?"

He watched the intensity of her glare soften into sorrow. She looked away; her wings in full spread. Lucius rushed to her before she could escape. When he took ahold of her arm she hissed and jumped away. "Stay away from me!" She cried as tears began streaming down her face. "I don't know what I might do to you. I can't control it."

Too quick for her to respond, Lucius had her wrapped around the waist pulled close to his chest, "Do your worst…," he whispered in to her hair, "I will always come back to you."

Emily's body went limp against him and her sobs were soft and earnest, "I'm scared, Lucius."

"I know. I never should have brought you here." He pulled her in tighter, "We'll let Mother handle this, I doubt Lady Mink will do anything to Grendel until Michelle is around to watch."

Just as Lucius began to lead Emily back towards his house a small black creature darted from tree to tree and finally settled before them.

Lucius's lip curled, "What do you want creature?"

"Morbious." It hissed back.

"Whatever, why are you here?"

"Terrible news, terrible…young one has been captured."

Lucius brushed the information aside, "We are aware that Grendel has been taken."

Morbious shook his head, "No, sire, your daughter."

Lucy woke to the sound of giggles and the weight of something heavy pressed against her body. She tried to turn her head only to find she had a face on either side of hers. Startled she moved to get up, but the weight whatever it was wasn't the only thing keeping her down. Something bit into her wrist when she struggled to sit up. Another giggle followed each tug she gave the rope tied to a bedpost. "Who's there?"

The faces beside her had vanished, but their laughter continued to mock her.

"Stop laughing and show yourself!"

"Are you certain?" came a voice or voices in eerie stereo.

"You look pretty shaken already," the voices sang again.

"Well, how am I supposed to kick your ass if I can't see you?"

The giggles resounded again. "Did you hear that, sister? She aims to hurt us and after we treated her so well."

Lucy bucked and drew in her legs when she felt something cold slither across them.

"Don't touch me!"

"She certainly isn't as fun when she's awake, is she, sister?"

"No, her body is so fun to play with when she's not fighting it." The giggles rose and the blankets were tossed back revealing two female demons joined at the hip, but what was beneath wasn't legs, but a tail, long scaly tail that split at the end like a forked tongue which turned out to be the "ropes" holding her to the bedpost. The sisters dove down on either side of Lucy and began pulling at the ties to her gown.

"Stop…what…are you."

The twins leaned back and smiled at one another their blue lips split into wide grins as mirth danced in their purple eyes. One stroked the long turquoise hair of the other, playing and teasing her with it, "We just want to play with you."

Together they dove down again licking at her exposed flesh.

Her succubus side eagerly wanted to join, but her head screamed.

"GET OFF!"

Just as the twins were pulling down her loosened top, the door creaked.

"You've had your fun, now scram both of you."

The snake twins darted away flicking their forked tongues at the intruder as they fled.

Lucy might have been relieved if the voice wasn't so alarmingly familiar.

"Mammon."

"I'm so pleased you remember me."

He moved over sitting down beside her; her hands were no longer tied, but she couldn't move. A pseudo smile tugged at the corner of his mouth while his eyes traveled down the length of her body stopping at her long white legs.

"Ah, you have your mother's legs." He reached out running his hand up her thigh which seemed to be the catalyst to wake her from her stupor.

"Don't touch me!" Lucy smacked his hand away and made a break for the edge of the bed. Before she could even touch the floor, Mammon had her pinned.

"I was hoping my little serpents would have awakened your succubus side…" he licked his lips as he devoured her with greedy eyes, "…and we could have had fun all night."

"In your dreams." Lucy spat at him. He merely smiled and wiped the spittle away.

"Feisty, just like your mother, but you…oh you can do something for me she couldn't."

"You are half demon which means you truly could have my offspring."

"What!"

His smile widened as he lowered his mouth to her collarbone, "I'm half, too"

Lucy felt beyond sick. She could feel the vomit rising in her throat. If I throw up on him would he back off. The idea of it almost made her laugh until she felt his hand slip between her thighs. Her heart pounded while her stomach tightened.

"What are you doing!?" Came a chilling voice from somewhere behind him.

The voice uttering those words stilled his roaming hands. Mammon turned around to find Lady Mink barging through the heavy- set double doors.

Never thought I'd be glad to see her.

Minerva stepped up beside them and yanked Mammon up by the ear, "I forbid you to breed with that thing."

Mammon looked sour and Minerva's face softened (if that were possible) just a little, "Fine, but wait for our guest first. We wouldn't want them missing the show now would we." A smirk pulled at her lips, and she slid her eyes over to Lucy before pulling Mammon away from the bed giving Lucy a scowl before whipping her face back at Mammon, "Lock her up! I don't want to see her face again until our other guests have arrived."

Mammon nodded but his eyes lingered on Lucy's bare legs a little longer before calling the guards. "You would have been better off letting me have you." His face turned down much like a pouting child, but he did as he was told. With the snap of his fingers a set of dark elves entered the room each with a whip and dagger at his belt.

"Come with us, halfling."

Her wings- why didn't she just call them and fly out of this miserable castle? She tried, but they refused to listen the best she could muster was a set no larger than a bat's. The elves snickered but quickly composed themselves at a look from Mammon. They gathered her from the bed with no more gentleness than throwing around a sack of flour.

"Don't worry princess, you'll see your family soon."

That actually made her worry more.

Chapter 26

Outside Lady Mink's castle Lucius and Emily hid within crags of a broken temple.

"Are you sure this is her castle?" Emily whispered.

A smirk formed over Lucius's face, You don't have to whisper. I can read your thoughts, remember?

I forgot. I'm not used to this demon way of doing things.

Lucius leaned away and looked at her, "I could read your thoughts before you were a demon, you just couldn't read mine."

An expression of realization crossed Emily's features, "So then, I can tell when you are lying to me."

Lucius's face turned into a scowl, "I told you many years ago, I don't lie and I won't lie to you. Why would you think that?"

Her mouth turned down and her brows pinched together, "I don't know. I've been with you so long. I have no reason to..."

A scream, blood chilling and ominous, interrupted her words. And something instinctive took over her body. Emily jumped from the edge and flew towards Minerva's castle.

"Emily, Wait!" Lucius called out, but she had learned to fly and to perfection. She was far out of earshot by the time her name left his lips.

When Lucius found her, she was covered in green and red blood. A wildness had taken hold, but when she turned to witness him land on the roof, her face returned to sanity.

Mother bear, huh.

What!

"Nothing, let's go find her." He ran beside her and watched her face twist in confusion,

"How did you?"

"Please, she is my daughter too."

A smile pulled at her lips, and she looked into his face. With a nod the two slaughtered half of Lady Mink's guards on their way toward Lucy's scent.

Hector lumbered towards the stench of animals; their screams ripped at his heart, but his face remained stupid and unemotional. Trolls, why is it always trolls. Another guard lugged by; its wide brow pushed far below the bridge of its nose. "'Bout time you showed up; me arm was gettn' tired."

Hector nodded with a grunt and turned his head back towards the small room at the end of the hall where the smell of death and deafening screams sent a shiver up his spine. Let him still be alive.

Dim flickers of light only cast brief shadows on sullen faces and blank eyes. "Grendel?" He whispered. "Grendel where are you?"

A low siren wail pulled his attention to a devilish machine with spiked ring restraints sticking out of a flat bed with tiny razors running along its surface- all placed horizontally. The creature or creatures on it wailed and wept. "Master is angry. Master did not want to share." Two green-haired sisters turned their heads in Hector's direction as he approached. "You are not a guard," "No not a guard." "Why are you here?" "Here.."

"I'm searching for someone." His grey eyes began to sweep the room.

A hiss and a whine escape one of the sister's lips, "The pretty one." "Yes, he must be looking for the pretty one."

A moment of Hector's attention drifted back to the Lamia, but his focus was still to find Grendel.

When they felt they were about to lose their chance to escape the eldest sister spoke, "We know where she is. We'll help you find her."

Briefly, Hector turned his attention to them, "What do you mean 'she'?" "I'm looking for a small creature about this big…" Hector positioned his four arms in the shape of a large house cat. The sisters blinked at him, "You are not looking for a half demon?"

"Half demon? A girl, dark hair, green eyes, milk white skin…"

The twins licked their lips, "Yessss, that one."

"Lucy's been captured, but when…"

"Free us. We bring you to her." They hissed as they locked eyes with Hector.

Hesitation danced behind his eyes, then haziness and his hands began loosening their restraints on their own.

"Snap out of it, Master," Morphious slithered up his shoulder, "they lie Master…" It was too late; Hector had already loosened one of the restraints. Her tail came loose and she struck the small shadow creature.

"Morphious!" Hector turned back to the twins still strapped to the table of razor blades, his fist raised. "You bitch!"

"Wait…he lies…" "…he took her."

Hector lowered his fist and slid his gaze over to Morphious spitting up blood on the stone floor. "Do not believe their lies, Master."

A sharp pain in his shoulder called him away from Morphious. One of the twins had sung her teeth in. He swung his arm, but his body felt too heavy to control and he fell to the ground.

"You can handle this one?"

"Yes, Mistress."

"But you failed me before."
"No, Mistress, I brought the girl. Master, betrayed you."

The voices were familiar yet distant like a fading memory. Hector tried to open his eyes, but he could only see faint silhouettes.

"You best not fail me this time. Bring her here. She will be just the thing to break her mother and the two of them can spiral into insanity together."

"Yes, Mistress."

"Morphious?" When Hector came to, the Lamia sisters had captured Morphious and were dangling him over open jaws.

Hector stumbled to his feet, "Wait, let him speak."

"Why did you do this? You have been with me for years."

A wide toothy grin pulled back into a halfmoon across the creature's face.

"Power."

The once small shadow creature grew until the twins could no longer hold him. A full humanoid demon with inky black skin and silver eyes stood before them. He looked himself over, "Well, I guess this is what I get for being a shadow for so long." He turned his silver eyes on Hector, "Thanks to you, I have regained my strength after father trapped me in this miserable form, and fortunate for you, you are not my target." He ran his hands through his black hair and used a little magic to furnish himself with clothes. He gave one last look at Hector, "I suppose I owe you."

Turning back towards the table still confining one of the twins, he snapped the last of their chains. "She won't lead you astray," He ran the back of his index finger along the youngest sister's jaw, "Will you Sai?"

"Master Damien?" The twins looked remorseful yet blushing, "we did not know you had returned."

Damien smiled at them and then tossed his head in the direction of a dark corner, "By the way, the furball is over there."

When Hector turned to look, Damien had vanished.

Leaving the twins behind, Hector rushed to the corner where a small cage hung from the ceiling.

"Grendel!"

He ripped the cage from the ceiling and Grendel hissed and snapped his teeth, daring him to come any closer.

"Relax, Grendel it's me, it's Hector."

Grendel growled.

"Okay, we never really did get along, but you need to help me free Lucy."

At the mention of the she-demon's name, Grendel's lips relaxed and his fur settled.

"Good boy."

Hector tore off the door, and the moment Grendel touched the floor, he created a portal and vanished.

"Hey, you rotten hairball…"

A cold hand wrapped around his wrist pulling him away from the source of his frustration.

"We must go. We will take you. Follow us." Mai had taken ahold of one of his wrists and was directing him towards the exit.

Metal shrieked along the stones as the cell door opened. One of the dark elves pulled Lucy inside, and without releasing her arm, jumped into the pit. They fell thirty feet to the bottom of a dank hole where he chained her to the floor then just vanished to reappear at the top. "Try not to get too comfortable down there, halfling."

The two guards left jeering one another.

If there was ever a time Lucy wanted to cry, it was now. Everything was starting to fall apart…" Arg, and it's all stupid Hector's fault."

Moans and screams pulled her from her grumbling and sent chills through her insides. Something cold and wet slipped in from a small hole near her feet and wrapped around her ankle. "Get off." She kicked at it with her other foot. She heard a yip and it withdrew, releasing her ankle and leaving a stinging bruise in its wake.

The tightness in her chest begged for tears, but she wouldn't give that she-devil the pleasure; she tucked her head into her knees and waited for the urge to subside.

"I just want to go home."

A soft scratching noise pulled her out of her lamenting. "Who's there?" The scratching became louder. "Stay away from me." Her voice echoed inside the pit. "Whatever you are…I'm armed." A bluff, but it was worth a shot. The scratching stopped.

I can't believe that worked. Lucy allowed her shoulders to relax and leaned back against the wall. A second later something crawled up through the floor.

A long, wet nose and three purple eyes blinked at her.

"GRENDEL!"

Lucy dove for the creature and scooped him up in her arms, "I'm so glad you're safe, now how about getting us out of here."

Grendel's face drooped, and he shook his head before wiggling free from her hold. Once on the ground, he allowed some drool to hit the floor; it spread quickly. The pool fixed itself into a circle and Grendel dropped through it only to emerge a few seconds later from the wall behind Lucy. She jumped away in surprise.

"So, are you saying you can't leave the castle?"

Grendel nodded and Lucy's heart ached. She scooped him up again and wrapped him tightly in her arms. "At least we're not lonely anymore." Grendel nuzzled her chest a moment then wiggled free. On the ground, he waddled over to her ankle and attempted to dissolve the chains by biting and licking them, but to no effect. His saddened purple eyes caught the discoloration of her ankle and began licking it.

"pfft…stop…Grendel what are you…pfft that tickles."

"So, that's your tickle spot is it? I'll have to remember that."

Lucy looked up toward the gruff voice; a troll was peering down the hole.

Lucy cringed eww. "Like I'm going to let you touch me, troll."

It was difficult to tell, but somehow it seemed that the troll appeared hurt.

"Lucy, it's me."

She narrowed her eyes and allowed her demonic sight to focus on his misshapen face.

"Hector?"

"Yes, how did you get down there?"

"How did I…" Her brow pinched together and heat rose in her cheeks, "…You told Morphious to send me here."

"What! Why would I do that?"

"You told Mophious to 'cover me with his scent' and I ended up as Lady Mink's prisoner." She glared at him the best she could from the bottom of the pit even if she couldn't quite see his reaction.

"That wasn't my intention. I was trying to keep you safe. I never would have sent..."

"Sure," Lucy interrupted, "... what about what happened to my mother, and with all those wolves…and now I'm here; you've just been lying to me this whole time."

"Lucy, I already explained it to you, didn't I? I did what I had to in order to save my daughter. I apologized for that. I never meant to hurt you."

Arms folded and face sour, Lucy turned away, "I don't believe you."

"You are taking too long." A face appeared beside Hector, then another, "We must hurry. Have your lover's quarrel later." It hissed. The two faces were uncomfortably familiar.

"Hector look out!" Lucy shouted.

Before Hector could explain, Mai and Sai slipped past him. They dropped into the pit slamming Lucy against the wall as their coils inched in loops up the sides. There was already barely enough room for Lucy to stretch her arms from side to side and now there was a twenty-foot two-headed and -bodied lamia in with her. "Get away from me."

"Ungrateful." "Ungrateful." The sister's hissed sounding annoyed yet hurt.

Lucy inched away from their greedy hands, "What are you doing here?" she tried to sound confident, but the memory and embarrassment shook her words. Flustered she called up to Hector, "Will you help already or was I right about you?" The twins looked remorseful and their voices were low, "We wish to save you. We did not mean any harm. We only wanted to play."

A shiver crawled up Lucy's spine and her cheeks darkened, "Not like that okay." The twins looked at each other and a hopeful smile spread across their faces.

"Is another way, okay?" Mai asked. Sai leaned down and cupped Lucy's face. "Well." Her dark eyes pleaded for a "yes".

Lucy jerked her face from Sai's grip, "Get me out of here and we'll talk."

The sister's nodded to each other and the end of their tail curled around each of Lucy's ankles to the braces holding her to the floor. Nimble and deft the sisters unlocked each shackle, and then they held her close between them as they crawled back out of the hole.

Grendel had already taken a portal to the top to await her arrival.

Once she was free of the sisters' hold, she called whatever power she had left and planted a right hook to Hector's broad cheek. "Explain yourself." She bit out.

Despite the troll's thick skin, his cheek burned, "You added flame to that punch didn't you."

"Maybe." She muttered feeling angry and foolish. "Well…" she said her eyes fixed on him.

The sisters looked at each other than from Lucy to Hector, "Hurry." "Hurry." "Tell her."

Hector averted his gaze, "I don't want to sound like I'm making excuses, but Morphous isn't who I thought he was." He hesitated, "I didn't know or I wouldn't have..."

"grr, not now," the sisters groaned with impatience. "We must leave; tell her on the way." Mai hissed, looping her hand around Lucy's wrist and pulling her from the dungeon.

The four ran past the two dark elves unconscious on the ground by the exit.

"They won't be out long," Hector said as they passed.

"So, who is Morphous if not who you thought he was." Lucy asked as she trotted up beside Hector.

"Why don't you ask the twins, "he said tossing his head in their direction. "They seem to know him quite well."

Lucy slowed her pace until Mai and Sai caught up, "Hurry, child. We must leave."

"Wait." Lucy snatched Mai's wrist as she attempted to slither past. "Who is Morphous?"

The twins' eyes softened and they each rested a hand on Lucy's shoulder, "He is powerful and remorseless; you do not wish to see his true self."

"Come we must leave."

"What if he comes after us."

Hector turned to witness the fear crawling into Lucy's eyes. "You don't need to worry about him for now. Let's get out of here."

Lucy bit down on her lip, "How can you say that? When I was surrounded by his aura, it felt like ice was forming in my veins, and my heart felt like it was about to explode." She turned her green eyes on Hector. "You don't control him. Why did he bring me here?"

Hector placed one of his large greenish hands on top of her head, "I don't know, but for now, we are safe, but we need to get out of here before Minerva discovers us."

Lucy brushed his hand off, "Fine, but this isn't over. You'll tell me everything once we get home."

A shiver ran up Hector's spine at the coldness in her greenish-gold eyes. A talent she picked up from her grandmother.

"Of course."

He took her by the wrist and pulled her down the corridor. Lucy stumbled as she tried to keep up with Hector's long muscular legs.

"Too slow, too slow." Mai and Sai's voice echoed off the walls around them. The shift of coils raced towards them, "You talk too much, they have found us."

Mai and Sai rushed forward scooping Lucy up in their arms and darted down the hall followed by Hector's lumbering form. Damn Lamia.

"That's the one." Shouted a dark elf that look eerily like one of the guards Hector had left unconscious. A twin, damn telepathy. As he ran down the hall, He threw suits of armor, chairs, chains, anything he could find to block their path.

"In here, quickly." Sai hissed as she wrapped the end of her tail around his wrist and pulled him through a secret passage.

His oversize physique barely fit inside the narrow path.

"Too large." "Too smelly." The girls complained.

It didn't matter about his disguise anymore, anyway; the guards had discovered his deception.

"Fine." Hector rolled his shoulders and shook his head; the troll melted away and his usual-self stood before them.

"Not bad," "We like much more." The sisters cooed.

A fleck of emerald glistened in Lucy's eyes, and she tucked her arm through his. "Sorry, I lost my footing. Do you mind?"

An inward smile tugged at his ego for just a moment until Lucy was snatched from his arms. "You can stay with us; we will not let you fall." The sisters said as they lead Lucy up the narrow, twisted stairs. Mai turned her head around and flicked a fork tongue at Hector.

We will take care of her; you can stay here and keep watch.

"Like hell." Hector shoved a few loose stones into the door hinge to keep it from opening then bound up the stairs after the girls. "There is no way I'm leaving her alone with you two."

When Hector emerged from the outside arc of the spiral, the girls were gone.

"Shit."

A scream echoed down the empty corridor and Lucius froze, "Mother?" Emily stopped shaking a small winged-gremlin by the neck and settle for squeezing a little tighter, "Where is she?" She barked. The gremlin's large yellow eyes merely rolled in their sockets. "Useless." She tossed it aside and joined Lucius, "That wasn't Lucy."

"No, but I fear I didn't drug my mother enough."

Emily's brow knitted and her lip twisted. Lucy was more important or at least more vulnerable. "We need to get to Lucy first. Your mother can take care of herself."

A blank expression washed over Lucius's face, "That's what I'm afraid of."

"Come on, Lucy's scent is getting stronger…" she wrinkled her nose, "and something else very foul."

A grimace contoured Lucius's mouth as he bit out the word that tasted as nasty as it sounded, "Troll."

"We need to hurry."

There was no place to go but up, so up he went. The stairs twisted without end and still there was no sight of Lucy or the lamia twins. "Where the hell…" Hector stopped, shook his head and laughed, Lucy, Lucy can you hear me?

Yes, I can… Why can I?

Because I tasted some of your blood, remember.

Oh.

Can you tell me where you are?

Mai and Sai have left me somewhere along the stairwell. I saw them open a door before they pushed me inside. "Stay here. He will not find you." Is all they said and then locked me in.

Could you make a noise? Maybe I could locate you.

I can't see anything. I can't even feel the walls, but I hear a dripping sound. Wait I think….

lucy? Lucy?...."LUCY!"

His jaw tightened and his head began to pound, "He wouldn't…."

"Sigil!"

Pressure starting at her abdomen and slowly working its way up her trunk to the point it hurt to breath, nearly caused her to black out. Ice gripped her feet and hands and slowly crept up her limbs. Her heart pounded in panic…I know this feeling.

"Morphious?"

"Who is Morphious?..." came a slithery wet voice. "I told you, you couldn't count on your luck forever. Father can't help you now."

"Father?...Sigil?"

"Yes, I will finally get to eat your human soul. And you smell of fear, just the spice I love."

She felt a hot tongue glide along her face. Nothing about her body agreed to move.

"Sigil, what have you done to me? And where is Grendel?"

"Me thinks you should worry more about yourself, little halfling."

Lucy continued to wiggle in an effort to free an arm, a leg…anything. It was getting increasingly harder to breath. Her mind reeled, keep him talking. I'll think of something.

"How did you find me?"

"I followed Father. I can go wherever he goes. We are one in the same, he and I."

Lucy ceased struggling. "So, you can find Hector for me?"

"What! Why would I help you?"

"Because, I know of a human soul far better than mine."

Sigil paused and loosened his grip allowing Lucy to take a deep breath of air.

"You are only trying to trick me."

"No of course not, but… I am curious as to how you will eat only my human soul and not my demon one."

"Ha ha ha, Kelpies cannot eat demons, besides they taste nasty. I filter your sweet human soul out like skimming cream from milk."

"Hmm, so if you took the soul from a human turned into a demon, would the demon die?"

"What sort of question is that? A demon is a demon no matter how they came to be."

Lucy felt her heart sink. If she couldn't return her mother to human, then at least completing her transformation would keep her from losing control.

"Does it hurt?" She wasn't even sure why she asked. It wasn't like she had any intention of giving him her soul, but curiosity is what it is.

"I can only speculate based on the look on their faces when I do." She couldn't see, but she could almost feel him grin. "If anything, I'd say they died in ecstasy."

"Okay, but would I still be me if you did eat my human soul?"

"What do you mean if. I am finished talking to you. I will eat you now."

The pressure returned. Lucy's head began to pound. "Wait, just answer me and I'll let you eat my human soul if you promise me a favor."

"Why should I. I already have you. I don't owe you anything."

"True, but don't you want your father to love you."

"Love? Love means nothing to a demon."

It was a gamble, but she went for it, "Then why are you so jealous?" …..

The frigid air around her slipped away and warmth replaced it; she could begin to feel her limbs again and was able to make out the outline of the walls.

"Fine, what is this favor?"

Chapter 27

"No, I told you, I refuse to let you breed with that thing." Minerva twisted away from her son's pathetic pleading face and was therefore grateful when a goblin rushed in to her keep.

"Your highness, they've come for her. Two of the guards are down. She is gone."

"WHAT!"

"Are you telling me you can't keep one little halfling in a thirty-foot pit!"

Mammon's face danced with eagerness, "Allow me to recapture her, Mother."

Lady Mink tossed nearly black eyes at her son. Her face twisted and jumped from annoyance to desperation and finally on capitulation, "Fine, but as soon as you have her bring her to me. No detours."

"Of course, Mother."

Minerva's expression softened as she took his chin in her hand, "How can Mama stay mad at you?" She rubbed her thumb along his jawline then stopped allowing her grip to tighten, "but if you fail me again…"

A trace of fear crossed his features but was quickly replaced by determination, "I won't."

"Good, use HIM if you must, but do not let her escape."

Minerva chuckled; her laughter grew louder until it echoed through the great hall, "Puppets, they are all my puppets."

Her face sobered and her dark eyes fell on the bewildered face of the goblin standing alone in the hall.

"Now, I just need to deal with Her." She hooked her finger at the goblin, "You will do nicely, come here."

The creature obeyed, "Yes, M'lady"

Minerva gazed down at the green stubby thing with a curled lip as if she'd just stepped in dog shit. "No, not 'M'lady'…say 'woof, woof''

The goblin cocked his head to one side, "Woof, woof?"

Minerva smiled, "That's right." She tossed her hand in the air and brought it crashing down on the goblin. The force of it knocked him to the ground. Bone snapped, muscles tore and blood vessels squished as his body morphed into something small and furry.

"Ha, ha let's see how well she can tell you two apart."

In full demon form, Michelle forced her way through Minerva's castle smacking lesser demons aside with the swipe of her tail. "Grendy!"

"Grendel where are you baby?" She flung open door after door tearing them from their hinges. An unfortunate orc stepped into her path as she headed back down through the corridor. Her silver eyes narrowed in on him, poor bastard didn't know what hit him.

She had him clamped in her massive jaws; her sharp fangs sinking deep into his flesh.

Answer me ugly, where is my beloved Grendel?

The orc's voice only came out in a gurgle, and Michelle clamp down a little harder.

You don't need your voice to speak…answer me! Or do you want me to subject you to slow digestion?

The orc tapped her neck with his free hand, Okay, I take you.

The slits of her eyes narrowed, I'm afraid I don't believe you, so for a little insurance…

She allowed just enough of her venom to pour from her fangs. Not enough to kill, but plenty to control.

Michelle dropped the orc who fell in a heap only to stand a second later as if nothing had befallen him and began to walk slowly down the hall to a set of spiral stairs.

This way, M'lady.

His body merely shadow, Hector slipped from room to room. "Lucy!" The top of the stairs was insight, and he was running out of doors. Dripping water? Was she in the basement again or was it from the roof leaking? Hector growled in frustration. Damn it, Sigil, why her? Rushing up he thought there had to be another hallway at the top. As he arrived, he allowed his form to solidify, and he crashed into a broad muscular red chest. "Shit."

It only took a second for Hector to regain his footing and position himself for a fight, but the orc merely blinked down at him and moved past. It wasn't until he saw a voluptuous woman trailing behind him that he understood why. "Michelle?"

The demoness stopped and ordered the orc to wait.

"Hector? Why are you…" her face opened in surprise and concern, "Is Lucy with you?"

Hector nodded reluctantly.

"Why, I ordered you both to stay in the human world."

"Lucy figured it was a trap."

Lips pinched tight and resisting the urge to roll her eyes, Michelle bit out, "And for her to come here, isn't?" Michelle snatched Hector about the collar and looked deep into his eyes, "Do you love her?"

Hector stood like a gasping fish: it wasn't the sort of question he was expecting at that moment. He gave her what he thought was a confident stare and said, "Yes."

Michelle released him, "If she is here and Minerva gets ahold of her, you'd better hope you are telling me the truth because your feelings will be tested."

"Come on let's go rescue Grendel; it will be faster to move about the castle with him."

She moved to follow the orc still waiting by the stairs. Hector stopped her with a gentle hand to her arm.

"We rescued Grendel some time ago, but when Lucy disappeared…"

Scales rippled along Michelle's cheeks, and her eyes slit-ed as she wrapped her hand around his throat.

"You let them capture her!"

"No, you misunderstand…" He tried to dissolve into shadow, but something leaking from her claws was preventing him. His mind darted back to Mai and Sai whisking Lucy up the stairs. He couldn't tell her that.

"We got separated after we rescued Grendel."

She turned her silver eyes to the orc, "Oi, ugly…" she waited for the beast to turn around. "Where is my granddaughter?"

The orc just gave her a blank stare.

"Tsk, useless thing." In one fluid motion she had released Hector and took the head off the orc. Its massive body dropped to the ground; greenish blood poured down the stairs. Michelle eyed the river of blood with indifference. "We should get going, that is certain to bring a hoard of gremlins our way."

Hector looked down into the darkness with a slight frown, "Lucy and I got separated down that stairwell."

Michelle placed her hand on Hector's shoulder, "She's tough and if we find Grendel, we will be able to find her faster."

"Why can't you just teleport to her. I thought all you had to do was trace your DNA. And where is Hydra?"

A line formed between her brow, "I left her outside the castle for when we get out of here; and so far as teleporting…normally yes, but that witch has some sort of spell over the castle…I can't use my magic."

"Grendel is different, his saliva opens worm holes…they are not always predictable, but we would be able to cover more ground."

It was a feeling Lucy was certain she'd never get used to, nor would she ever want to. Sigil had whisked her from the bath in the upper chamber to the fountain in the courtyard. She arrived surprisingly dry. "Okay, now go back and let Hector know I'm outside."

Sigil gave her a dubious glare, "How will I know you will keep your promise?"

Lucy rested her hand on his thick neck, "By going to your father and telling him that you rescued me, you are sure to earn some major points."

"Points? What are these 'points' I only wish for Father to…"

It was difficult to tell under the oil slick fur, but Lucy could have sworn that he was blushing. A smirk curled to her lip.

"Don't get full of yourself, halfling, it will be more than Father's adorations to keep me from eating you."

"Yes, yes, I know. Now off you go."

Maybe she was a bit too confident. Sigil turned to dive back into the fountain, but before he did, he whipped his head around and bit down into Lucy's shoulder. She screamed and knocked him away.

"Now, I have marked you. You will never escape me."

In her struggle, Lucy fell to the ground. She watched delight dance in Sigil's crimson eyes. "Be seeing you." He said in a tone that called gooseflesh to spring up along Lucy's skin.

Gripping her chest, Lucy took a deep breath, Calm down, I know Hector will deal with him… Her hand dropped into her lap, "Won't he?" The memory of Morphious's betrayal and Hector's frivolous acceptance of it didn't give her much hope.

"What if he…"

"Lucy?!"

A familiar voice pulled her from her brooding.

"Mother?"

The relief she felt was overwhelming, but was quickly stripped away upon seeing her mother up close. She was barely concealed in tatters of clothing and painted in greenish sticky liquid. "Mom…what happened to you?" She flinched away as Emily moved closer to embrace her.

"Lucy!" her father's voice bit out waking her from her shock.
"Father?" Lucy tore her gaze away from Emily and turned to face Lucius standing by the entry to the courtyard in nearly the same state as her mother. "How could you? How could you let her…?" The image of her gentle soft-hearted mother tugged at her chest. "This isn't her; she isn't supposed to be this way! You did this to her for your own selfish…"

*Slap*

Surprise brought Lucy's face back toward her mother, "Why, this isn't you. Dad has always been selfish. He…"

"Lucy, that's enough," Emily ran her hand down the side of Lucy's face, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry for what you have gone through, I'm sorry for how things turned out, but I'm not sorry for what your father did. I knew that the day would come when I would have to leave you. A bond between a human and a demon can only extend the life of a human so long, but you and Lucius would continue without me after that. I was terrified. So, if anyone is being selfish, it's me. I didn't think about how this would affect you; I only wanted to stay with both of you."

She straightened up and ran her hands down Lucy's arms, "So if you are going to be angry with someone, be angry with me." She released Lucy's sides and took a step back, closing her eyes and awaited her punishment.

This, this was her mother after all. She was certainly different, but her heart was still Emily's. Lucy rushed forward wrapping her arms around her. "No, I shouldn't have… I know things will not remain the same forever. I…"

*clap, clap, clap*

"So touching, it is a shame I'm going to have to break this little reunion up."

Emily's eyes snapped open and Lucy spun around to witness Mammon strolling into the courtyard clapping his hands. Something didn't sit right, why didn't Lucius…Emily turned her head slowly, Lucius was gone.

"Are you looking for Brother, ha,ha, I'm afraid he's a bit tied up." He said pointing behind them. A giant black spider emerged from the outside wall carrying Lucius in its massive fangs.

"Now to deal with you two."

Teeth bared and claws itching, Emily stood protectively in front of Lucy. "Keep away from her."

Mammon shook his head as he sauntered in a wide circle around them. "You misunderstand; Mother may want that little brat, but whom I am after is…" He vanished then reappeared beside Emily, "…you." He shoved Lucy to the ground and sent a shockwave through Emily's body causing her to go limp. He scooped her up and took her into the air before Lucy could stop him.

"You two play nice with Leopold."

Lucy watched Mammon disappear away from the castle with Emily tucked under his massive arms. She tried to call her wings, but they still would not obey, "damn it."

"Lucy!"

She turned to find her father struggling to break free from the Spider's threads. "Go after your mother. I can handle this."

"I wasn't really worried that you couldn't, but how; I can't fly."

Lucius frowned, "Fine then help me deal with this insect and I'll go."

"Technically that isn't an insect."

"Why are you fussing over such details now. It's hairy and has too many legs what difference does it make what the hell I call it. Just give me a hand." He grumbled still tearing at the sticky threads while intravenously smacking away the spider's fangs.

"Fine."

Once Leopold set a long hairy leg down into the courtyard, Lucy rushed over with the intent to burn it, but when she tried, her flames did not answer her call. What why… She dodged its spindly legs and went for an ax left stuck in the ground that she could only assume fell from the ramparts after her father and mother attacked the guards. It was heavy, surprisingly heavy. Why is it so heavy? Usually, her demon strength put her well past the abilities of an average male body builder, but now. Her green eyes stared up at her father getting his ass kicked by a mere spider demon. Her gaze fell to the too-heavy ax in her hands then to her bare back where her wings ignored her call. Something was stealing their power. "Dad! We have to get out of this castle."

Lucius looked down at his daughter as if she had just discovered the sky was blue (in the human world). "What do you think I'm trying to do." He said rather annoyed.

"No, I mean…never mind." Lucy dragged the ax and swung it like a hammer in the Olympics as hard as she could at the spider's leg. The ax struck a joint and the creature's leg buckled causing it to stagger giving Lucius enough time to wiggle free from its hold. When Lucius hit the ground, Lucy ran over to him and tore the threads away. "It's this castle. Remember how Minerva stole some of our powers…well, she's using this castle as a giant power vacuum."

"Power vacuum?" Lucius added with a raise of a brow.

Lucy's face twisted in annoyance, "Whatever, but if we are going to take out Minerva, it can't be here. We'll never manage it. We fell right into her trap."

"Tsk. Stupid Mother and her soft spots. Minerva knew she would come for Grendel, and we all went right along for the ride."

While Lucius grumbled, Lucy noticed Leopold trying to right himself. "Dad, I'm glad you are coming to terms with some things, but shouldn't we do something about him first?"

Lucius followed her gesture to the forty-foot spider, looming over them, now slightly pissed for having part of its leg chopped off.

"You caught me off guard last time, so don't get cocky." Despite the effects of the castle, Lucius charged the spider tearing limb after limb off with a swipe of his razor-sharp claws. The gigantic arachnid rocked on its back; its eight eyes searching for the meal that got away. "Up here cockroach."

"Dad it isn't a cockroach, either." Lucy yelled up.

Really was she still going on about this? He knew that.

"Not now Lu."

He drew his hand back aiming his claws between the creature's eyes, but hesitated. Its dark eyes tugged on something deep inside. He sort-of reminded him of Grendel.

Great, she isn't the only one… He relaxed his claws and instead of plunging them deep into the spider's cranium, he placed his palm between the spider's eyes.

Now listen, spider… Leopold, I am going to spare you and return your legs. In exchange, you will take my daughter out of here…and do not eat her. Understood.

"Un…der…stood."

"Good, now hold still this might sting a little."

Lucius began to glow until he was too bright for Lucy to look at any longer. The light seeped down into the spider regenerating its legs.

When Lucy opened her eyes, the spider stood again and was holding her father.

"Put him down!" She ran for the ax.

"No, Lucy stop!"

She nearly tripped in her attempt to stop, "What?"

Leopold set Lucius down, and Lucius stepped over to Lucy. "He is your ride out of here."

"Wait, no we still need to rescue Mom and Mimi and Grendel and…"

"Hector?" He finished for her.

"Well, maybe…I doubt he needs my help."

Lucius patted her on the head, "Hydra is outside the castle; take her back to your apartment. We will handle the rest."

Lucy looked up at him with large green eyes, "Hydra? How did you…"

"We ran into her when we got here. She filled us in." He allowed his hand to fall from Lucy's head and slid it over to Leopold, giving him a gentle pat on the leg. "Okay, big fella, take her to Hydra."

Leopold reached down scooping Lucy up and placing her on his back before crawling out of the court yard.

Lucius watched him go She better be alive and in one piece when I get home, Spider.

Hector and Michelle descended the stairs past the drip of orc blood.

Father this way. Hector stopped, "Michelle, wait."

Michelle paused to turn around, "What is it. You said you lost Lucy down these stairs."

"Yes, but Sigil found her. He's calling me."

"Sigil?"

Hector averted her steely silver eyes. "My son." He said in the lowest tone possible.

Michelle's cheeks darkened, "Are you telling me you not only have a daughter but a son as well." Her voice raised a bit more than she meant.

"Shh, are you trying to tell the rest of the castle where we are?"

Taking two steps at a time, Michelle stood level with Hector, "If you hurt my granddaughter…" Michelle raised her hand to strike but stopped to the sound of voices.

"She is not here." "Not here."

"We left her here. Why is she not here?"

"Shh," Hector took ahold of her wrist lowering her arm, "I know those voices." He stepped past her and motioned for her to follow.

"What is this stuff. It smells." "Yes, terribly." The sister's groused as they slithered back out of the secret door wiping a dark substance from their arms. Hector and Michelle came up to the secret passage just as the twins were slithering out of it.

"So that is where you put her."

Sai and Mai turned to face Hector as he descended the stairs towards them.

"We were only trying to keep her safe. You draw too much attention." They said pointing to the blood oozing down each step. To which he tossed a glance over at Michelle.

She tried to look innocent or at least unconcerned, "Who cares if we raise a little ruckus, why don't you tell me who you two are."

Sai and Mai looked at each other. Mai sniffed the air and smiled, "This one smells like our pretty one."

"We should help this one." Sai said as they moved closer to touch Michelle's skin.

An arrogant smirk pulled at Michelle's lips as she reached out and cupped Sai's face, "There is nothing I like better than a little romp with a lamia," her eyes traveled their nearly naked torsos, "but I have more pressing matters at the moment."

She let her hand trace the side of Sai's jaw and down to her collarbone, "Such lovely skin. You will take us to Lucy won't you."

Sai shuttered, "Of course, if we knew, but…"

"She is gone." Mai filled in, longing for some of Michelle's attention too.

Michelle frowned, "Well, if you can't help me find my granddaughter, what good are you."

A long pout pulled to their faces. When Michelle began to turn away Sai caught her, "But we know where the small furry one went that was with her."

Michelle's face lit up, "Grendy?"

The twins looked at each other inquisitively.

"Small, gray, furry, three lovely purple eyes…"

The sisters smiled at each other, "Yes, that one. It was with our lovely, but it must have run away. We saw it in the lady's chamber."

Hector watched the exchange between the lamia twins and Michelle, and he noticed the disbelief in Michelle's eyes. He couldn't help her with this as Sigil continued to pull for his attention.

Father, come here if you wish to find the girl.

Hector gave one last look down the stairs where the twins were pointing. "It is alright. They have a fondness for Lucy. I believe you can trust them." As each word left his mouth his eyes darted into the darkened room with the subtle drip. "Where does this lead?" He asked the twins tossing his head in the direction of the room the two had just emerged.

The sisters looked at each other before answering, "The lady's private bath. It pulls water in directly from the sulfur springs."

That was all he needed to hear. Sigil had most likely snuck into the castle from the waterways, ...but why?

"I see." He rubbed his chin as he pondered and then looked up to find Michelle still drilling the twins for details.

"Michelle, I need to check on something. I'll meet you outside the castle. You are in good hands." He gave her a thumbs up and darted into the room.

She watched him disappear into the darkness. Private bath, huh. Cheeky boy. A shudder ran up her spine although I don't know why anyone would want to see that thing naked. And here I thought he had decent taste… Poor little Lu Lu.

Her gaze lingered in the darkness a little longer before turning back towards the twins.

"Well, my cuties, lead the way."

"Leopold!" "Leopold, Stop!"

The spider was surprisingly obedient. He slowed to a stop and appeared to be listening.

"I know what Father told you to do, but I can't just leave everyone in there while the castle slowly drains them of all their power."

She placed her hand down on the creature's head, "I need your help."

"If I can get back to my apartment, I can help get everyone out of there…" her thoughts trailed, "...of course I don't know if the portal stones work interdimensionally." She shook the thickening cloud away, "It doesn't matter, I can at least get them out of the castle."

A hissing gurgle of a voice entered her head, I cannot disobey my master. I must take you out of danger. Lucy smiled, "and you have. Just leave me with Hydra. She'll do the rest. So once you find her, please go help my father." Leopold nodded. Hold on, he hissed. From the top of the castle wall, Leopold shot a thread to a nearby tower pulling them away from the castle. They landed behind the remnants of a broken wall. Barren land of brown and grey stretched out on either side of her. Where is she?

"Hydra?"

"Hydra!"

Shh, if they hear you, they will eat you. Leopold snatched her from the ground taking her with him into an enormous gnarled tree just as long jagged rocks shot from the ground. "What are you doing put me down!" She pushed and kicked inside his mandibles. "Leopold, let go."

I am sorry, I cannot. I am following Master's orders…look.

Lucy stopped struggling and looked down to where she had been standing. Hundreds of sharp rocks were protruding the ground in a large circle.

"What are those?"

Teeth

"Teeth? Of what?"

An Eunicid

"A what?"

A giant Hell worm. It waits to ambush its prey and grinds them up in its spiral of sharp teeth. Your Hydra was probably eaten.

"Don't say that. I never got a chance to get to know her." Lucy searched the grounds for any sign of Hydra. "Maybe she got away."

It is possible, but what will you do now? I can take you to the portal that leads to the human world, but you will have to make it home on your own.

"Leopold?"

Hmm

"Was Lady Mink stealing from you too?"

I do not understand. Lady Mink has cared for me since I was but a spiderling.

"Yes, but you didn't speak this much before; it was mostly hissing and one to two syllable words."

Strange, I did not realize this until now.

"Do you think you could take on a human form."

Yuck, why would I want to do that?

"Because I could use your help in the human world, and a giant spider walking around New York might freak a few people out."

Why should I go with you?

"Father's orders." She said smartly. "You were to keep me safe, were you not? There is no telling if Lady Mink has sent someone to the human world to wait for me."

Leopold grew quiet.

"Well?"

Her answer came as a line of silk shot from his abdomen knocking her down and sticking her to his back.

"What are you doing?"

Keeping you safe. He hissed in her mind. I'll agree to come with you, but it is not safe here. There is a place I can take you.

Something about his words called the adrenaline in her body to rush into her chest. He's going to eat me.

"Hmph."

"Did you just laugh at me?"

Spiders are not like you humans. We do not hide our intentions. I told you I am taking you someplace safe. My belly isn't exactly safe. I merely didn't want you to fall off. We are going to need to avoid the ground for a while. It is going to get a little rough from here out. His voice went silent and Lucy felt the wind slip over her skin as Leopold shot a thread into another massive tree that took them flying through the air.

Chapter 28

In the darkness the dripping grew louder until it was almost deafening.

"Enough games, Sigil!" Hector shouted over the noise. There was a loud splash and everything went silent. But I am not playing games, Father. I have rescued the girl. She is outside the castle. I can take you to her.

Hector narrowed his eyes into the blackness. Even for a demon, it was difficult to see almost as if something or someone was sucking away the light. "Why would you help her?" Suspicion rang in his voice.

She asked me to.

"That isn't like you, Sigil. Is she really safe out there or did you just dump her body?"

A frigid air rushed up his back and Sigil's massive oil-slick jaw rested near his face.

I knew she lied. There was no way you would, even after I helped her. He stepped past Hector, and over to the bath. I should have eaten her soul while I had the chance.

"Wait, you haven't eaten her soul? Then she is alright."

I left her in the courtyard. I do not know if she is safe. I will take you to her.

"Sigil." Hector waited for the Kelpie to turn around. "I'm sorry."

The horse blinked at him in disbelief.

"I picked you up and dropped you off. That is the best thing I knew to do for you at the time. I knew living in the light realm would be difficult for you, but I also knew Ayriness would protect you."

Sigil stepped away from the pool and over to Hector, Why, why father. She is a unicorn not a Kelpie. Why did you take me away from my family! One quick thrust of his head into Hector's chest sent him flailing backwards.

Hector wiped the edge of his mouth with the back of his hand from the splash of water. "It easier to accept a lie isn't?"

What...lie...you mean the one where you saved me from a beast devouring my nest or the one about you returning me to my family one day. Which lie, Father? Sigil wrapped Hector in mist and slowly began to constrict.

The castle was still draining any demon within its walls at Lady Mink's command, so when Hector tried to fade into shadow again, nothing happened.

Jaw tight he swung as hard as he could at Sigil's muzzle. Sigil staggered backwards shaking off the blow. The beast smiled. You are weak, Father. I do not like the taste of men or demons, but I will happily take your power. His mist thickened and pressed the air from Hector's lungs.

Which lie, Father? Tell me or I will devour you now.

Hector captured in a small breath, but was careful not to take too big of a breath, for like a snake, once he were to release it, Sigil would only tighten his grip.

He would have to take the chance, "The one about me being the beast."

Sigil's grip suddenly loosened, his mind reeling from the mental blow.

What!

Hector rested his hands on his knees while he caught his breath, "It was the night of a blood moon…" He looked away from Sigil's dark eyes, "I couldn't stop his ravenous hunger... Fenrir devoured your family. I woke in the morning to find your egg broken with you lying near death from it." Taking another deep breath, Hector lowered his head, "Forgive me...I am Fenrir; I took your family from you."

Lies! Why would you? How could you?

Hector's heart began to ache, "It was during the blood moon… I'm sorry."

Sigil wobbled backward toward the pool, Lies, Lies….

"Please, Sigil. I am not asking for you to forgive me, but make sure Lucy gets out of here alive."

A step away from melting into the bath, Sigil glared at Hector, I owe you nothing. And he vanished into the water.

Michelle raced down the spiral after the twins. "This way," "Follow, follow" the girl's hissed. Some steps ago, Michelle had tossed her high heels and was padding swiftly down towards a light until she bumped into Sai's shoulder. "Why are we stopping?" She whispered.

The sister's faces softened into longing sadness as they peeked through the door. Michelle leaned over to see. Lady Mink was laying in the lap of a male centaur while he stroked her hair and fed her cherries after sucking the pit out himself.

"Never tried that before." Michelle mused.

"Shh, there." the girl's pointed to a small cage hanging past the centaur's head.

"We can't help you any more. Mistress will be upset with us. We only do this for our pretty one." The lamia sister's slipped away leaving Michelle to ponder her next move alone. In her current state, she wasn't sure she could handle Minerva, but if she could somehow free Grendel, she could at least get them both out of the castle. "Okay, here goes nothing." She closed her eyes and concentrated her power to transform into a small white snake. All she had to do was get close enough to Grendel. It was likely he hadn't already tried to escape due to the material of the cage. He once had trouble while trying to free Lucius. As she was dealing with the same witch, this came as no surprise. I'll just have to pick the lock and once we are on the ground…

With demon sight, she searched the hall for a crack just big enough to squeeze into and slip around Minerva. Ah, that will do nicely. She slithered down the hall and up the brick then through a small crack. Darkness gave to a sliver of light and Michelle found herself mere feet from Grendel's cage. It was a little too convenient. Certainly, she couldn't…? Michelle didn't have time to think about that now. Grendel was only a few hooks of her coils away. I'll worry about it after I reach him. Michelle inched closer; a perfect jut of brick allowed her to rest, and then it wiggled and slipped. It tumbled to the ground with a light thump. Silver eyes searched and waited for a reaction, but none came. Was this another one of Minerva's traps. Just as her resolve wavered, Grendel pleaded at her with deep purple eyes. I'll just have to risk it. To her surprise, Michelle made it to the cage and through the bars without Minerva so much as lifting her head out of the centaur's lap. Grendel licked and nuzzled her body while she worked the lock,

Not now, boy, you can snuggle all you want when we get home. Stop...that...it tickles. Through suppressed giggles, Michelle managed to release the lock. Come on, Grendy, let's go home. Grendel gently held Michelle in his mouth and leapt down to the floor. Once there, he lowered his head to release her.

"That is far enough." Minerva was now waltzing over from the lap of the centaur.

"You honestly thought I didn't know you were there. It isn't any fun unless I get to crush your hope not just your body."

Grendel dropped Michelle to floor On my signal, boy, you know what to do. She shot as quickly as her coils would take her away from Lady Mink, but it was too late. Minerva's foot came down in a crushing force pinning Michelle to the ground. Her free leg sent Grendel flying across the floor.

Grendel!

Minerva's deep set eyes fixed on Michelle wreathing beneath her foot. "This is more like it, but I would much rather…" she pressed her foot down harder, "...see your face twisted in pain." She reached down scooping Michelle from the floor and squeezed forcing a little magic into her and pulling Michelle from her transformation.

Michelle stood a bit unsteady before Minerva, "That's better." Minerva said with a triumphant smile.

"Wrong choice," Michelle spit venom into Minerva's eyes causing her to loosen her grip. Michelle swung her leg around knocking Lady Mink to the ground.

"Don't get so cocky, you stupid bitch." She wiped the bit of venom from the corner of the mouth and went for Grendel lying very still meters away. "It will be okay, Grendy, we'll be going home soon."

She had to admit Minerva had done some extensive damage-her abdomen was killing her. She was fairly sure she had some broken ribs. "I'm coming, baby."

The clap of hooves and a wicked laughter pulled her gaze away from the small furry creature. The centaur galloped past her and snatched Grendel from the ground and then trotted back towards Minerva.

"Thank you Theo." Lady Mink brushed her hand down his cheek, and then turned to face Michelle.

"Now if you don't want me to hurt this thing any more you will do as I say."

Michelle turned around and walked back towards Minerva a cocky smile on her face, "I like the make over, I must admit it is an improvement. It will be a shame for me to mess it up again?"

A twisted grin pulled at Minerva's lovely face making it just as ugly as her inside. She reached up and stroked her cheek, "I can thank you and your family for this lovely face, but despite what I've taken from you, you haven't changed." Her jaw tightened then relaxed, "But I can fix that." She held Grendel up by his stubby tail. " I think it is your face getting 'messed up' today. It has always pissed me off. Let me fix it for you and I'll let him go...or" she punctured the creature's lower abdomen with her claw, "... I could rip him open while you watch."

"..."

"What's the matter? tiger got your tongue?" Minerva dug her nail a little deeper, Grendel screamed.

"Enough...please don't hurt him."

Michelle closed her eyes and steadied herself. "I won't move, do your worst."

Minerva dropped Grendel in the centaur's arms "If she so much as moves, rip him apart."

"Yes, M'lady."

She turned back on Michelle, her lip curled in triumph.

"Finally."

Claws itching to tear into Michelle's soft cheeks, Minerva savored every step as she waltzed up to her victim. However, the way Michelle stood chest thrust forward and head held high pissed Minerva off that much more. She lowered her hand.

"Wait, I have another condition."

Michelle opened her eyes, "What?"

"Beg, plead for me not to hurt you."

An arrogant smirk lit Michelle's face, "Like hell."

"If you want to mess up my face so badly, you'll have to accept my terms on it."

Minerva's dark brows pinched together then she let out a laugh, "Oh, I see, you think what harm is there because you can just heal yourself after." The victorious grin spread further along her cheeks, "Too bad for you…" She reached in a pouch at her side and pulled out a small black vile, "Can you guess what this is?" She dangled the bottle like a serving bell.

Michelle's eyes widened as she recognized the bottle, "Where did you get that?"

"The same place I got him." She said tossing her head in the direction of the beast in the centaur's arms.

Pouring a little of the black liquid on her finger tip, it sizzled and moved, "Just a little on the end of my nail, and a little in the abyss. How well do you think a wound will heal if it is directly connected to that hellish place, hmm?"

She drew a circle in the air dropping a small bead of the goo into it. Mirth and madness spread across her face, "That's right, I can do this now, too." Her lip drooped a little, "Oh but it only works in places you've been before, isn't that right?"

She closed the portal with the tightening of her fist, "Good thing I've spent so much time there." She turned away from it and waltz over to Michelle.

"Let's try a little experiment."

She rubbed the liquid around her index finger with her thumb, "Hold still now…"

Even Michelle didn't know what to expect from Minerva's twisted thoughts. This might actually be something she couldn't wave away. A bead of sweat rolled down the side of Michelle's temple. Minerva sneered, "That's more like it."

It was too sweet to rush, she had the upper hand and the smell of the slightest fear made Minvera giddy. "I am going to enjoy this."

Just as her nail came within a breath of Michelle's skin something shot from beneath her and knocked her hand away. She screamed as pain radiated from her knuckled down to her wrist. Blood sprayed from the end of her hand painting Michelle's face in a dark crimson. Whatever it was darted away with Minerva's finger in its mouth. It took a split second for Michelle to realize who it was. "Grendy!"

Minerva was seething and shot an accusing look at the centaur who looked bewildered and was still holding the small creature. Michelle ran after him, but Minerva was faster. She threw the Grendel look alike in the interloper's direction, "Get it back." She ordered. The two creatures tousled and growled. Fur flew in the air as teeth tore at flesh; each getting a good bit on the other. Michelle's eyes darted between them, Which one… Minerva observed the parlous indecision on the succubus's face. It didn't matter to her which one died. "Enough, she shot a flame at both of them." Both were hit, but one was worse off than the other. Michelle ran for the one still moving Oh please be Grendel. She turned him over there was no hole piercing his belly. "Good boy" she cooed while rubbing down his fur. But something didn't settle right-where was Minerva's finger? "Oh, Gendy, you didn't...please say you didn't." The creature smiled at her until its eyes grew dark and his face began to sink; his body collapsing within itself until there was nothing left.

"Ha, Ha, Ha...not what I planned but worth the loss of a finger to see that look on your face." Minerva held her hand up with the missing finger and called it back into existence. "There all better…"

Rage filled Michelle's chest until it swelled to the size of a giant serpent, "Give him back!" she hissed looming over Minerva, "All I need to do is swallow you whole." She shot for Minerva, but with a wave of her hand Minerva called a portal and dodged Michelle's attack. "If you can catch me that is." Her voice echo from the empty corners.

"Ahhhhh!" Michelle screamed in rage and shot forward to gobble up the centaur. "Every creature you hold dear, I will eat everyone…" She thrashed through the hall and followed Minerva's mocking calls, "Careful, you'll get fat."

Michelle busted through the wall where she heard Minera's voice. "Give him back, you bitch." Another wall crumbled to her assault.

"Temper, temper…." it was delightful, never had she seen the cool-head Michelle lose it. It was almost better than getting to disfigure her face.

"Come on catch me if you can, snake."

Chapter 29

Lucius hit the ground and ran as fast as his weakened body would let him. His body ached with heaviness and was cumbersome. It gave up just outside the castle near some ruins. "Damn it, I have to rest." He had spent too long and fought too hard while inside the castle; he didn't have much magic left and his one source of energy had been taken from him. "Damn you Mammon."

"I'm coming Emily, just hang in there...I just need to…" His body slid down the rough surface of a pilla, and without his permission, his eyes shut off the world around him.

Steam rose around him as his body sunk deep into silk sheets and hot fingers glided up his bare thighs, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, then something heavy rested on his abdomen. He opened his eyes to hungry golden orbs, "Do you like my harem?"

"Emily?" Lucius eagerly cupped her face and brought it down to his mouth his tongue welcomed inside, You're safe...how did you? He whispered with relief in her mind.

She leaned away and placed a finger delicately on his lips, "Shhh, that doesn't matter. Let us heal you."

"Us?"

The hands traveled higher; his heart beat faster and he could feel some of his power returning. He groped for Emily, "You are all I need, so please…"

Emily smiled sweetly and leaned in licking his nose to forehead. "Lucius, it's time to wake up."

"What?"

This time when he opened his eyes, he stared into three blinking purple orbs, "Hydra?"

"Where is Emily?"

The Kirin Lowered her head to rest on his shoulder, She is not here, we need to leave.

Lucius's vision cleared to the slick walls that dripped with acid and the foul smell of rotten meat. It is using illusion to keep its food placid until it can digest it. It was then he realized he hadn't started to digest because of a barrier surrounding them. His eyes traveled the shimmering dome while acid dripped onto it and slid down in sizzling pools beside them. My barrier won't last much longer. Hold on to me, I will take you to her. Hydra stood on shaking legs supporting half of Lucius's weight.

"You are in no condition to worry about saving me. Get out of here. Somehow Emily gave me more than this beast took. I will find my own way out."

Hydra shook her head, "I'm afraid my master would not be pleased if I were to leave you here."

Lucius relented, "Fine but at least let me walk out on my own."

Hydra nodded, Fair enough, when I open a portal you will have to move swiftly.

"Lead the way."

With the stamp of a hoof, Hydra pushed forward and thrust her horn into the side of the Eunicid. The beast reeled leaping from under the ground tossing Lucius and Hydra tumbling towards the bottom of the eunicid. "Like hell…" Lucius shot a ball of flame down the intestinal wall. "I hope that gives you indigestion."

The eunicid flopped down hard upon the ground. Here is our chance. With the end of her horn, Hydra continued her work on the portal, NOW! Hydra vanished through the portal and Lucius leapt in behind her.

The two emerged from the belly of the eunicid far outside the castle walls. Lucius turned to see the giant carnivorous worm begin to move.

"No you don't."

In one powerful sweep of his arm, he cut the worm in half.

No, don't it will…

Before she could finish delivering her warning the two halves began to wiggle and bulge as they each grew into new bodies.

"Shit."

Over here quickly

Lucius ran for Hydra who opened another portal, but was knocked aside by one of the heavy bodies. He rolled over just in time to watch the portal vanish.

Two eunicid dove on either side of him, "A pincer move, huh?" Lucius raised one brow-who would have thought that something as mindless as a worm would have a plan. The ground buckled beneath him as the two giant creatures burrowed around him like sharks in the water.

"I don't have time for this uglies, let's get this over with." He placed his palms on the earth and closed his eyes sending a shock wave through the ground. The eunicid shot from beneath the surface and both dove for Lucius. He jumped knocking one spinning row of teeth down on the other. The momentum drove the one to nearly the end of the of its companion. Lucius rushed behind and quickly shoved the rest into the other and moved to jump out of the way before he too followed it back into its gullet, but something held tight to his foot. He looked down to a row of square teeth covered by a scaly muzzle, Hold still, I found your mistress. Hydra enveloped Lucius in a portal and took them both away.

The air around her sent goosebumps dancing down Emily's arms and bare back, but the cool air also it made her sleepy. "Where…"

"My secret base, do you like it?" Mammon said kneeling before her his chin rested in his hand and looking at her lovingly from behind Jack's face.

"Mammon." She inched away and was surprised to find she wasn't bound. Her arms and legs were free, but she felt so sluggish.

"What did you do to me?"

"Nothing, I just brought you to a place that has this tranquilizing effect on reptiles."

Emily's eyes widened, "What do you mean reptile?"

"Didn't Lucius tell you…?" He licked his lips and reached a hand out to cup her cheek.

"... the succubus is half snake. Don't you remember Michelle's full demon form?"

His face fell, "I've tried to recreate something like her, but I've failed. Those twins…" He shook his head, "...loyal, but not her, but you...you could be."

Tenderly, he rubbed his thumb under her eye and smiled, "Look at that, so beautiful."

A mirror appeared before her revealing slitted green eyes, "See, you could be just as beautiful, just as powerful as Michelle if you let me bring that out of you."

Her head felt foggy and her chest fluttered at his touch, "Stop...not you."

The dark spot on her shoulder spread, and he lowered his lips to it.

"Don't fight it, Emily. Come back to me. Let me have you."

Chapter 30

Far beyond the reaches of the castle walls, Leopold set Lucy down inside an abandoned house. It looked to have been pulled from England back in the late 18th century, yet parts were blended into the rocks and gnarls of the landscape. Inside, cobwebs covered the walls from corner to corner; dust rested in thick layers along the mantel and banisters.

"Where are we?" Her voice echoed in the hollow space.

Leopold stepped away his words fading as he spoke, "My home."

Now that she stood alone, she began to notice more things that sent alarm bells ringing in her chest- several cocoons of something the size of large cats lay still in piles at the top of the stairs, weather worn material hung from what she could only surmise were bones.

"Leopold?... Why have you brought me here?"

"I told you to keep you safe."

The voice was similar to Leopold's but less raspy, more controlled somehow.

"I thought you were going to take me back to my world." She said her voice betraying her fear as her eyes darted left then right.

"I will keep my word to you, but…"

There was a long pause of silence followed by the creak of floorboards; a chill ran up her spine as icy fingers touched her bare shoulder. She yelped and spun around a ball of green flame at the ready. She jumped back, "Who are you?"

A tall figure with jet black hair and dark colored eyes loomed over her. His features were chiseled with stubble of hair along his chin. If it weren't for the fact that she was alone in a strange house in the demon realm with many demons after her, she could even say he was handsome, but she would not let that distract her.

Large eyes of deep burgundy looked a little lost and disappointed. "Have I failed?"

"What?"

"You asked if I could look human."

Lucy lowered her arm and extinguished her flame, "Leopold?"

"Yes," he averted his rich garnet eyes.

Shaking the disbelief from her astonished mind, Lucy found the words, "No you certainly didn't fail, you could be a model where I'm from, but um…" She pried her eyes away her cheeks a dark pink, "...could you at least get dressed."

Leopold tipped his head to one side, "dressed?"

"Yes, like this…" she held out her shirt still averting her gaze. "You're a spider can't you make some clothing?"

He gave her an inquisitive look. "Like what you are wearing?"

"No men's clothing."

"Men's?"

If she just had her phone, she could show him. Wait, you can still read my mind, right?

Yes

Can you also see images if I think of one?

Perhaps

"Okay then let's try this."

She closed her eyes and tried to think of some men's fashions, but her succubus mind was already reacting to his naked hard body, so what emerged was Hector waltzing down her parents staircase in nothing but his birthday suit.

"Hmm, I see then, I believe I am already appropriately…'dressed'." He replied without hesitation.

"No, that isn't what I meant to show you." Stupid brain.

"Then is there some other…" he fumbled around for the word he believed she used, "...clothing?"

"Yes," she tried to calm her mind and think of just men's clothing not the models that went in them or stupid Hector and his chiseled chest and strong arms, No stop it. God I hate being a succubus… "Okay, let me try something else." She motioned to her pants, "Can you make something like these?"

Leopold studied her pants maybe for a bit too long as she felt heat rush up her from below her navel to her neck.

"Okay enough; can you or not."

He nodded and stepped away, which helped her to calm the overwhelming urge her demon nature forced upon her.

He returned, thankfully wearing the pants.

"That will have to do; now if you can take me to the closest portal to the human world…"

His answer was an outstretched hand. She took it and he guided her over the rubble.

He treaded awkwardly over the uneven ground; several times Lucy had to stabilize him.

"I'm sorry, this is too strange for you isn't it?" A welling guilt bubbled in her chest. Of course this was difficult for him. She asked him to go from eight legs to two and mostly relying on feel to blinding light and images.

He tightened his grip on her hand. "I will adjust."

She smiled Did he notice that I…?

"If you are wondering if I sensed your sudden discomfort, the answer is yes. I am a spider after all."

"Oh, thank you...I guess." She wasn't certain if his interpretation was correct or not, but she would leave it for now.

The two arrived at a lake as black as tar. Something in the air sent the hair on the back of her neck standing on end. "Leopold, where are we? Is the portal near here?"

He nodded and pointed to the lake. "It is at the bottom of the lake." He pulled her forward, but she resisted, "Wait, I may be a demon, but I'm only half. I could drown."

Leopold looked down at her, "Why would I let you drown?"

She blinked up at him; he did swear to protect her, "Can spiders really swim?"

"Some can." He said pulling her closer to the edge.

"Okay, but can you?"

Leopold nodded and continued to cox her forward.

The swirls of black called back the feeling of ice crushing her lungs. She pulled against him, "I can't."

"You can't what?" He asked flatly. "Swim?"

"No, I can swim, but let's just say I have bad memories."

Without warning, Leopold let go of her hand and cupped either side of her face pulling her up to him and placed his forehead to hers. Images of blackness, feelings of panic, and shivers of cold rushed through him. He released her as her cheeks began to burn, "I understand." He said.

She felt a wave of relief until he scooped her up into his arms and headed for the water.

"You will just have to trust me."

"What, no, put me down!"

"You want to go home, do you not?" He waited for her to respond. She nodded.

"Then we have to go through here. M'lady has blocked all other exits."

Lucy pushed at his chest, "Could you not call her 'M'lady' it makes it very difficult to trust you."

Leopold blinked at her, "But she is. She raised me. It does not make me any less loyal to you."

"How so?"

Leopold set her down, "Do you not love your father?"

"Of course I do."

"And do you not also love that shadow demon?"

Lucy blushed, "What...how?"

Leopold pointed to his temple and smiled, which sent a shiver down her spine.

"Please don't do that again."

He cocked his head at her. She couldn't say it, but a smile like his usually meant you were about to be eaten.

"Nevermind. Let's just get this over with."

She inched towards the edge trying to suppress the overwhelming fear clawing at her throat.

"Here goes nothing." She was about to step in when Leopold snatched her wrist pulling her away from the trembling surf.

"Leopold, I thought…"

He placed a finger to his lips and pointed into the center of the lake. Two red eyes surfaced followed by an inky black horse head.

Foolish Father… Never understand…

"Sig…" Before the word could come out of her mouth, Leopold had wrapped his hand around it and pulled her behind a large boulder.

That is a Kelpie. I am sure he would love to eat a soul such as yours.

Yes, I know. He's already tried.

Leopold released her, You know this Kelpie?

Yes, he's...well he's...Hector's son.

Than this could work to our advantage. He can take you safely to the bottom.

Lucy backed away and shook her head. Did you not hear the part about him already trying to eat my soul.

But he is an ally.

Sort of, but I trust him less than I do you.

For a moment, Leopold looked hurt, but it was a mere flicker.

Than you trust me to take you?

Lucy looked away and mumbled hesitantly, "Yes."

That was all he needed to hear, "Good." Tossing off his human disguise, he snatched her up and began weaving a cocoon around her. "What are you doing?"

You said you trusted me. That Kelpie does not want me and my cocoon will hide your presence from him. I will take you to your world."

Inside Leopold's cocoon was nothing like the breath stealing icy water that Sigil had surrounded her in. She was warm and cozy, almost drowsy. There was plenty of air; in fact, he had made certain to trap enough in with her to allow her to breathe normally until they could exit the lake on the other side. Comfortable?

Surprisingly, yes.

Good, rest. I will wake you when we get to your world.

Despite every instinct within her body telling her to stay alert, she couldn't resist the pull of sleep. The adrenaline in her body had been in overdrive for too long and her body had finally reached its limit. I trust you Leopold. And her mind drifted off into empty space.

Hector rushed into the courtyard with anticipation, but when he came into empty space, his heart sank. Did Sigil leave her here, and she left on her own, or would he find her one day at the bottom of a lake. His mind raced; could he find Sigil and make him talk, did she manage to get out of the castle, was she alright? Every question gave another pump of gas to his heart. He closed his eyes and thought only of Lucy, Lucy, can you hear me…

.

Nothing. Either she was too far away or dead. He hoped it was the first reason not the second. She has to be out of the castle. Despite the swelling sickness of the possibility that the second reason could be true, he refused to accept it. She's safe. I know she is. If he was going to have any hope of finding her, he would need Michelle's help. He turned around and ran back into the castle.

Emily's body shivered and her new reptilian instincts sought warmth. It didn't matter from whom or what. She inched her body across the floor towards Mammon.

"That's it." He held his arms open to her beckoning her closer. "I'll have you warm and I'll feed that succubus side of you as well." His face ached from the grin pulling at his cheeks. He could finally reclaim her and destroy his brother at the same time. However, he had to be careful, this was not part of his mother's plan, and if she discovered what he had done… he shuddered to think of it. But right now it didn't matter; whether it was instinct or want, she was willingly coming to him. Her eyes glazed as the black spot spread down her arm. "I'm cold. Will you warm me?"

"Yes, and we'll destroy Lucius and his heir. We will start over with you and me."

Her dark lip curved upward as she advanced until she was on top of him. She coiled around him wrapping her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck. He closed his eye as she brought her mouth down to his.

Oh, Emily, I have longed for this…

His eyes shot open to a sharp pain in his abdomen. "What have you…"

Emily leaned back a twisted grin spread across her face, "Loving you like you did me." She pulled her hand out of his stomach and licked at the blood, "He taste better, but you'll have to do." She leaned in teeth spread open wide when she was suddenly knocked aside. "Emily! You mustn't."

Pushing herself away from Mammon, she glared at the being who just interrupted her meal. "..."

Eyes wide as her brain processed Lucius's image; she turned away, "Don't look at me!"

Dismounting Hydra, Lucius ran to her, "Emily, look at me."

"NO! I'm hideous now."

Gently he pulled her around to look at him, "Never. I would never find you hideous."

"HA HA HA HA…*cough* *cough* how stupid do you think she is brother? Emily, don't listen to him. I see it in his eyes, he's repulsed. I alone will love you."

Lucius shot a look towards the Kirin, "Hydra, get him out of here." She nodded and turned towards Mammon who tried to pull himself away, but it only took a second for the Kirin shoved him through a portal.

Glancing back at Lucius, Hydra lowered her head, I will leave you, now. And she too vanished through a portal.

Once alone, Lucius turned his full attention on Emily and ran the back of his hand down her cheek, "I have and will always love you, I don't care what manner of creature you turn into. It is my fault; punish me as you see fit." He ripped open his shirt and exposed his neck to her, "Claim me. I will be yours again forever."

Her eyes cleared and tears welled and spilt over her lids, "I don't like what I have become. I feel like I can't control myself; are you sure you want to be with me?"

"Yes," he ran his hand through her hair cupping her behind the neck and urging her down to his. She no longer fought it and bit down hard.

It wasn't difficult to find where Michelle had gone. All Hector had to do was follow the trail of destruction. It appeared to lead further into the castle, and the deeper he went the stronger the effect of the spell was. Each step felt heavier than the last. She won't last much longer if she keeps going. The air was thin; his head felt light and his chest tight. If the castle was affecting him this much, Michelle must be on her last thread.

A cacophonous sound pulled Hector from his thoughts and sent him running down the corridor, but by the time he arrived, the room was empty except for a strange black stone against a far wall. Something about it drew him in. It almost looked alive as if it were breathing. He placed his hand on it, it took a deep breath and let it out. Three purple eyes cracked open at his touch.

"Grendel?"

The creature gave him a faint grunt and lowered its head. "If you are here, then where has Michelle gone?"

Hector scooped the small creature into his arms, "Come on, we need to get your mistress out of here before the castle consumes all of her magic. Her rage is only making Minerva stronger."

Hector took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped down Grendel's face. "Do you think you could get us out of here when we reach her."

Grendel managed a weak nod before his eyes closed again. "Hang in there, buddy, I'll take you to her."

Hector found Michelle thrashing about the thorn room with a limp Demon Queen in her mouth and a sword protruding from her gut. He was careful entering the room, but in solid form, a simple step was enough to tip her off. Red eyes shot toward him; she tossed Minerva aside and charged for Hector. But the castle had already done its damage and when her eyes fell on Grendel blinking at her, she paused dazed and her rage subsided. She fell in a heap in human form at Hector's feet. He set Grendel down near her and scouted the end of the room where he saw Lady Mink's body fly and then allowed his eyes to travel the corners-she was gone. Hector rested his hand on top of Grendel's head, "Do you think you could get us to the courtyard. I'll take care of the rest."

Grendel's jaw went slack and drool slowly leaked out around them.

"Good, it will have to do." Hector picked up Michelle, Grendel, and an onyx orb that fell from Michelle's body when she transformed then hopped through the portal.

Chapter 31

It was fortunate that Leopold emerged from a lake in the middle of the woods far from the city lights. Lucy was sure a thirty-foot spider carrying a cocoon the size of a human would freak out a lot of people, but that also meant she would have to make the journey home on foot. Leopold tore open the cocoon and Lucy took a deep breath as the cool air hit her. Her demon eyes adjusted quickly to the dark and she could see the city just beyond the trees. It was at least ten miles east. "Well, we better hurry." She said as she pulled thread so silk from her hair.

Let me take you as I am. It will be faster. Once we reach the human city, I will transform again.

Lucy agreed. She had traveled with him though the demon realm. The ride was a little precarious, but definitely faster than walking on two legs. Leopold knelt down then shot a thread to her; she used it to haul herself onto his back. When he stood, Lucy lowered her belly down to his hairy back to keep from falling. "Why are you helping me?"

I owe your father a life debt. Until I can return the favor, I will not do anything to displease him. "Yes, but why help me. I wasn't the one who spared you."

Leopold was silent as they moved swiftly through the woods, and then he paused, I find you interesting. He finally answered.

"Interesting? What sort of explanation is that?"

You fascinate me. I have never met a half breed before.

"So what am I to you, some zoo animal?"

Zoo?

"Nevermind, I'll just take what you said as a compliment for now."

Hmph

Did he just laugh at me again? A small pout pulled down at her lips. She was going to retaliate when Leopold came to a sudden stop. "Is this your city?"

Rochester stretched out below them as they stood perched atop a hill just outside the reaches of the city lights. Leopold set her down and bowed, Excuse me. He turned away and vanished into the darkness. He emerged two minutes later in his silk woven slacks, but what drew Lucy's eyes was the soft curls of dark hair running up his torso to his nipples. She turned as heat rose in her cheeks, knock it off, brain. He's a spider remember. She took a deep breath and without looking at him motioned for them to get going, "Come on, it isn't far."

Being back in the human world away from Minerva's castle and amongst the depravity of New York's city, Lucy felt her power return. The two jumped from rooftop to rooftop until they reached her apartment building. Down the stairs to the top floor penthouse, Lucy slapped her forehead, "I can't believe I left my keys at Mom and Dad's place." She hung her head to think-she could go through a window, but they were most likely locked; she'd have to break one. Not something she really wanted to do.

As her mind reeled over one idea after another, the floor began to vibrate. It was subtle at first then steadily grew. She looked over at Leopold who had his eyes closed and was muttering something incomprehensible. To her horror, a flood of spiders rushed passed her and under her door. The knob rattled and shook until she heard a *click*. The spiders scurried away save one who climbed up Leopold to his shoulder. He opened his eyes and nodded a few times. Lucy turned away to enter her apartment, but instead of entering stood in the open doorway with her jaw slacked.

"What happened?"

Her couch was sticking halfway out of the floor, her two end tables were missing, and it looked as if something tried to eat the T.V..

Leopold waltzed in after her, "And you thought my place was a mess."

Lucy turned sharply on him out of slight embarrassment and shock, he was poking fun at her. "It wasn't like this when I left." She protested.

Judging by the chaos, Lucy's only explanation was something must have triggered her grandmother's traps. But without her here? She looked at the couch and sighed, was there really a way to fix this.

She stared at it a while then shrugged, "Well, I guess there isn't much to do about it now, help me look for the portal stones."

"Portal stones?" He asked with a slight tilt to his head.

"Yes, they are just small smooth black stones. I'll need two of them that have the same marking on them."

Leopold nodded and wandered off towards the kitchen. Lucy headed towards the bedroom that once she arrived found herself in ankle deep water.

"What on earth…"

The sound of water sloshed and flowed from the bathroom. The thick rug squished between her toes as she made her way towards it. The light was off, but the water was still flowing. Fully charged she called a flame to her hand then extinguished it What good would flame do against that much water. She looked about her room for something she could use as a weapon. There wasn't much to choose from, but the hideously uncomfortable steeletto shoes her grandmother gave her would work in a pinch. She picked it up holding it point out and made her way into the bathroom. She flicked on the light and raised her arm for the strike. There was a bitten-off curse word and when her eyes adjusted to the light she found a man in black clothing soaking in her tub.

"Who are you and what are you doing here?" She raised the heel back for a strike, ready for any sudden movements.

He glared at her with menacing red eyes, "What do you find appealing about this form, anyway. Not graceful, not graceful at all." He groused.

Lucy lowered her arm and cocked her head with one brow raised… "Sigil?"

"Yes," he said rather annoyed.

Sigil stood from the water his clothing sticking to tone muscles that created rivets for the water to flow through. Lucy traced of all his contours before tearing her gaze away and turning off the water.

Still gabbing like an amazed fish she stammered, "How did you...why did you… What are you doing here?" She finally managed to say.

"Trying to protect you, but then you go running off with that spider."

She couldn't believe it, but he actually appeared hurt. Her gaze softened as she took in his drown-rat appearance.

"Here," she handed him a towel, "Don't drip all over my floor. I'll have to pay to clean all this up now. She glance about her bedroom floor with a sigh. I wonder if Mom and Dad have a wet vac. It wasn't that she didn't know some magic, but it usually ended in someone getting hurt or blowing something up. "I'll go get a mop."

Sigil stood at the center of the tub a towel draped over his shoulders looking lost and miserable. Why did he bother to come here. It was obvious she was fine. Running an unfamiliar hand through his long mane, he sat down on the edge of the tub his funny-shaped face in his hands.

In the kitchen, Leopold pulled open drawer after drawer. It must be here. I feel it here.

Lucy walked in for the mop while Leopold pushed aside spoons, wooden chopsticks, paper clips, and various other things thrown into the drawers.

"Any luck?" She ask startling him from his search.

"No." He answered curtly. What was with him all of a sudden. He was almost snippy.

"Leopold are you okay?"

She reached out to touch him and he dodge it.

"What is wrong with you?"

"Nothing." He pushed passed her to search the closets. Lucy's gaze lingered on his back a long moment before heading back to the bedroom. She found Sigil submerged in the tub his knees poking out of the water. Her first reaction was to yank him out of there until she remembered just what he was. She set the mop down and tapped him on the knee. When he rose from the water, she handed him the mop and extra towels, "Clean this up; it's your fault anyway, and when you are done come help me look for the portal stones."

Sigil sntached the mop from her and threw it aside, "You cannot order me around, halfling."

Lucy's cheeks burned. Insolent little "I can; I could be your mother one day." Her heart raced and her face felt even hotter, just what was she suggesting? Did she honestly believe she and Hector…

Whether she meant it or not, it was enough to shock the water horse into compliance.

He picked up the mop and handed it back to her. "I do not need such human things. I will 'clean this up'" His red eyes glimmered with gold, and the water leapt at his command. He pulled the plug and all of the water from around the tub to the bedroom floor swirled down the drain.

Not a drop was left. The floor was bone dry. "How did you do that?"

A smug look crossed Sigil's face, "Did you forget what I am. I command the water."

She was about to praise him when she heard a crash followed by a heavy thump from the other room. Lucy ran towards it. "Leopold?"

She found Leopold curled in a ball on the living room floor.

"Leopold?" She shook his shoulder and received a low moan. Turning him over, she could see a large black spot spreading from his chest to his limbs.

"What is happening? Leopold."

"He's dying."

Lucy turned to find Sigil dry as tinder standing in her hallway.

"What do you mean, why?"

"It is likely, Lady Mink raised him in the castle. The castle fed him, artificially growing him into a full demon. He won't last outside the castle for much longer."

Lucy cradled Leopold's head, "It's okay, you don't have to be human anymore. Go back to being a spider. I promise to get you home."

She turned to Sigil, "Please, take me back to the demon realm. I have to take him home."

"Why? Isn't he your enemy?"

"Yes and no" she said sheepishly.

"You humans are so complicated. Either he is someone you can use or he is someone you kill."

Lucy knitted her brow at Sigil, "Have you ever heard of the word 'friend'?"

"Geez, he helped me get here. I can't abandon him now."

Sigil looked away, "Do what you want, but I have no obligation to help you."

Lucy stood and stomped over to him spinning him around by the arm.

"Then why are you here? Did you or didn't you not say you came here to protect me."

Averting his eyes he smacked her hand away, "You still owe me your soul. I am only protecting what is mine."

Lucy lowered her head and walked back over to Leopold who was sweating and had curled up in pain. She placed her hands on him and closed her eyes. With a shift of her power, she forced him back into his original state, just smaller about the size of a tarantula. She scooped him up as tenderly as she could and faced Sigil.

"Then once we take care of Minerva, you can have my human soul. I won't fight you."

Sigil narrowed his eyes at her, "Why would you do that for him?"

"Do you love him?"

A sad smile slipped to her lips, and she shook her head, "Not in the way you think, but I guess I respect him enough to call him 'friend'."

She stepped up within inches of Sigil, "I would do the same for you."

Jerking his face away from her, he grumbled, "Fine, but you had better keep your word."

Hector arrived in the courtyard holding Michelle and Grendel. The only way out was a stone gate shut tight with a broken pulley. If he could transform back into shadow he could escape, but that wouldn't help Michelle. He looked down on her pale face, her skin was hot against his chest. I need to get her out of here. He took her over to the gate and looked out; something was running directly for him.

Hydra was galloping as fast as her legs would take her from something chasing her underground. It was uprooting trees and knocking over boulders in its pursuit. Her purple eyes locked on Hector; she charged forward and when she was about to run straight into the castle wall she leapt up to run along the side of it. The monster pursuing her emerged from the ground knocking a hole in the castle wall. Hector took that as his chance. He picked up Michelle and Grendel then followed Hydra through a portal just in time to dodge the eunicid's next assault.

Lucy stared at Lake Ontario with the same chill crawling down her spine as before. Now she had to trust Sigil once again. His father had failed to meet his expectations as she had said, so there really was no reason for him to help her now. He didn't have to take her to the castle to eat her soul. She would be at his mercy while traveling between worlds. Sigil walked up beside her, "Nervous?"

Patting the oversize pocket containing the large demon spider, she shook her head.

"Why should I be?"

He waltz around to face her taking her chin in his hand, "Because, I could eat you now. There is no one to stop me. We are no longer in your cursed apartment with all of your grandmother's traps to protect you. We are surrounded by water; the very thing I command."

Lucy removed her hand from her pocket and placed it on Sigil's shoulder, "Because you said you would take me. You only have to give up a few hours of your time and I'll give you what you want. I have far more to lose."

A smirk crossed his lips and he released her chin. "I'll admit, I'd much rather have you give me your soul than to fight you for it. It won't be as sweet, but Father cannot hold it against me if you were willing."

Her eyes traveled passed him to the icy water, "Is there anyway you can take me where I won't freeze to death in the process?"

Sigil looked over his shoulder at the water, "There is. Personally I like it that way, but as a parting gift, I suppose I can do something about it."

Slipping her hands back into her pockets, she cradled Leopold lovingly in one, "You'll be home soon," she whispered, and squeezed the portal stone with the other, then showed her resolve to Sigil, "Let's go."

Lucy took a step towards the water going as far as her knees. Gooseflesh rushed up her body, but she pushed forward ready to dive in when Sigil stopped her. He hooked her by the elbow and shook his head. "You'll never make it that way."

Stepping in front of her, he took her face in his hands and lowered his mouth to hers. Her eyes widened as she felt a warmth spread throughout her body. When he stepped back, her eyes were closed and her face soft.

"Careful if you enjoyed that too much Father might get jealous."

Her eyes shot open and she looked away. "I...wasn't...I was just surprised."

He couldn't hide the smirk, "Well, are you warmer now?"

Cheeks burning, Lucy looked away fist clenched at her sides, "Let's just get this over with."

Sigil leaned in and wrapped his arms around her and the two vanished beneath the waves.

When Lucy and Sigil surfaced in the demon realm, it was dark. Despite the frigid waters, Lucy felt like she'd just stepped out of a warm bath into a steaming sauna.

She was also dry, "That is a handy trick, how do you do that?"

Sigil just raised a brow at her, "The water is my servant; it does what I ask." He waltzed passed her taking her hand as he went by, "Come, your friend won't last much longer. There is a pool that leads to the courtyard. I will take you that far. Rescuing your family is your problem, but don't forget that mark I left on you will tell me where you are wherever you go."

Subconsciously, she reached for the spot on her shoulder, "So that is how you found me."

Sigil nodded, "Yes, now that you understand, let's go."

A mile from the castle was an abandoned village with a single well at its center.

"Here, I will go first then you follow." Sigil threw his leg over the edge and jumped in. Lucy watched him disappear. She leaned over and looked down. Faint sounds of water echoed off the stone walls.

"Jump." She heard him yell from the bottom. "I will catch you."

Just how many trust falls must I give him? She picked Leopold out of her pocket and held him protectively in her hands to her chest before jumping in. Sigil caught her as promised.

"You are rather light for your size."

"What?"

Sigil narrowed his eyes at her, "Just how much of you is human?"

She gave him a perplexed expression, "About 50/50 I think."

"Hmm, anyway, are you still warm?"

Lucy hadn't realized it until he asked, but yes she was. "For some reason, yeah, I am."

Sigil averted his eyes, "Well, good then. Are you ready?"

Holding Leopold against her warm body, she nodded, "Yeah."

When Hector opened his eyes again, he was wrapped in a blanket near a roaring fire inside a rich brown and red colored room. Michelle was laying beside him mumbling and drooling her hair spread out and Grendel tucked under her arms. Hector smiled, but as he looked around, more questions came to mind.

"Where am I?"

"My home."

Hector turned to find Lucius in a black T-shirt tucked into black slacks.

"Lucius?"

Lucius sat down in a chair near the fire, "Hydra brought you here." He pointed to the Kirin curled up in front of the door. "Thank you for saving her." He said gesturing with his coffee cup at Michelle. Hector looked about, "Where is Lucy?"

Lucius studied Hector's face then sighed, "I'm sure she is alright. However, I am worried too." His gaze fell to his cup, "Would you like one."

Cocking his head to one side, Hector asked, "One what?"

"Coffee." Lucius said then stood up to walk into the kitchen. Hector took one more look at Michelle then followed Lucius into the kitchen.

On the black marble counter sat a bone china cup with steaming brown liquid. Hector took it and sat down on the stool under the island. He took a sip and allowed his eyes to fall on Lucius's back. He was at the stove; a plume of sauteed garlic filled the air.

"Are you hungry?"

"Starving. You cook?"

Lucius reached for a handful of chopped green onions, "I used to be terrible at it, but Emily taught me…" He set the spoon down, lowered the flame and turned to Hector.

"Why did you leave her there?"

Hector's eyes widened, "Leave her?..." Lucy? "Wait...if you mean Lucy, I didn't leave her there, Si...something took her before I could reach her."

Hector looked away, but Lucius had him around the collar before he knew what happened, "You were supposed to keep her in the human world. Why did you bring her here?" His lips pulled back into a vicious snarl; his eyes were nearly the color of blood, "Answer me!"

Hector looked away, "I...I don't have a good reason, she asked me to take her. I was afraid she would go on her own. I figured it was better if I was at least with her."

Lucius reared his fist back and slugged him, "You put her in danger!"

Hector stumbled off the stool holding his jaw, "How was I supposed to know Minerva had the castle riged to drain everyone's magic. I was just trying to keep her from separating everyone. I couldn't stop her from following you two." He swung his right fist for Lucius, "I would never hurt her."

Lucius dodge it and pushed him into the kitchen wall. Hector growled and spun back around for another swing when…

"What are you two doing?" The sound of Emily's voice deflated the boys' egos.

Both sets of eyes turned to find Emily draped in a light pink silk nightgown, her hair pulled up into a loose bun of wild curls.

Lucius dropped his fist and his voice softened, "Did we wake you?"

She shook her head, "No, but if you keep it up you might wake her," she said pointing into the living room. "Besides shouldn't we be working together to get Lucy back?"

Something was different about this woman, she was calmer, sharper, sexier than when he first met her. He looked at Lucius with an express of realization; Lucius who subconsciously cupped the right side of his neck and looked away.

You sly…

Emily watched the men's silent interaction and smiled with a soft shake of her head. "Do I get a cup too." She asked stepping up to Lucius effectively breaking the silence between them. He hooked his arm around her waist and kissed her temple, "Of course."

So this is what a real family was like. Hector shook the guilt away and left the kitchen to the couple now lost within each other. He found Hydra still asleep on the floor. Slowly, he knelt down and touched her head, "Thank you."

The beast looked up and nuzzled his palm. My mistress is safe, you need not worry.

Hector pulled his hand away, "I didn't…"

It was difficult to tell, but it looked like the Kirin was smiling. You didn't need to, I can feel your concern. She will be here soon. She is with the water horse.

Sigil and Lucy stood at the bottom of the well, but nothing happened. "Sigil, why are we still standing here?"

The Kelpie glanced over at her in annoyance, "The fountain in the courtyard must have been turned off or dried up. At this rate I'll have to create another tunnel from here."

"How long will that take?"

"It depends on whether or not I find a closely related source. If all the water in the castle is gone, then it is impossible."

Lucy's face fell down to the demon spider curled in her palm. "I'm sorry, Leopold, do you think you can hold on a little longer?"

Sigil slid his eyes in the direction of the spider in disgust. "Tsk, why do you care so much about that spider?"

Lucy looked up at Sigil an expression of mock compassion on her face, "If it makes you feel better, I can worry about you too."

Sigil looked away, "I'm just saying this is delaying my meal. If the water is dry at the castle, it is safe to say Lady Mink isn't there anymore. And if that is the case, either your family escaped or it is too late for them."

"Don't say that!"

"I'm only stating the facts." He looked down at her with a sigh, "Come on, let's get out of here." The water rushed up around them and in its wake Sigil returned to his horse form. Get on my back, I'll take you out of here. We might find another way to save your 'friend'. Sigil leapt out of the well carrying Lucy.

We'll need to travel by waterway. I can't stay on dry land for long…. He was silent for a few yards; Lucy became lost in his breath and the gentle rock of his shoulders when he spoke to her again.

I'm sorry about your apartment.

Lucy nearly fell off; was he actually apologizing to her.

She ran her hand down his neck, "It's okay, I understand..."

"...um thank you, Sigil."

The horse shook; his muscles twitching beneath her, Don't get me wrong. I still intend to eat your soul.

"Yeah, I know." Her eyes felt heavy against the sway of his back. "I'm just going to…"

Sigil felt her body go limp against him, Halfling...halfling… Lucy.

"Nnn" she mumbled only half conscious.

I know who can help your spider friend, but it might be a great strain on you.

Lucy smiled and ran her hand down his flank, "That's fine…mmm that was the first time you called me by my name."

Sigil grunted, Are you listening to me, just how much does this spider mean to you?

"He's a friend," she mumbled before drifting off to sleep.

I know Father has energy to spare, but will this just be another 'child' he leaves with someone else. He glanced back at Lucy. Will you be able to handle that responsibility?

Hector stepped out into the yard of Lucius's house. Trees of luscious green and pink danced in the breeze their fragrance a welcome gift in contrast to the hot sulfuric air of the demon realm. How can he get these to grow here? The wind settled and another sound tickled his ears. Is that water? He followed the sound to the back of the house. A small stream ran behind the house feeding the trees, flowers and shrubs. Water in the demon realm was usually too salty and sulfuric for plants such as these to live. He watched it flow behind a small shed where the sound of a wheel smacked the water then dumped it into another stream that ran towards the front and fed the plants. He's filtering it.

Hector tiptoed around rocks and passed some rose bushes to get a better look at the system when a loud splash caught his attention. Something black was thrashing about in the center of the stream.

"Sigil?"

The water horse surfaced then sank again as he struggled to get to shore. Hector had never seen the Kelpie struggle in water before; he rushed out into the stream to help.

"I'm coming!"

Sigil thrashed and bit as he tried to keep Lucy from sinking back into the water. Foolish girl, let him go. He is not worth it.

"Sigil!"

Red panicked eyes fell on Hector as his father waded waist deep into the water.

Father...stop her!

It was then that Hector noticed Lucy's arm slip below the water.

There is a pocket here, Father, the spider fell into it. She is trying to save it.

The message was hurried and some of his words blurred together, but Hector got the gist of it and dove for Lucy.

The moment his face hit the water, Hector transformed into a large black Kelpie and dove deeper for Lucy. He managed to reach her just as she was clutching something to her chest. Her body went limp and heavy. Hector dragged her to the surface where Sigil was waiting; firm red eyes stared at him with wanton disbelief-it was true Hector had attacked his family all those years ago. How else could he transform into a Kelpie-he had drunk their blood. Consumed them whole. Anger swelled inside him. He watched Hector transform back into his normal self as he carried Lucy to shore. Hector set her down and listened for her breath. "Come on don't leave me now." He took ahold of her shoulders and shook her. "Lucy." Panic raced through his chest the longer she didn't respond, but before he could shake her again he was shoved aside.

"Lucy!"

Emily had shoved Hector aside and was now sitting on top of Lucy with her ear to her chest. She pinched Lucy's nose and tipped her head back breathing into her and then began chest compressions.

Hector watched and remembered Lucy doing something similar for him when this whole thing started. He had gotten her involved and look where it lead her. Had he been selfish? He had done it, after all, to save his daughter, wasn't that valiant? selfless? or foolish? No he would do anything to protect her, but…

Why did this girl have to suffer so much because of it?

Because you are a monster. Came his answer in Sigil's voice inside his head. Grey eyes shot toward Sigil who stood menacingly on the bank staring him down with hate-filled red eyes. You destroy everything you touch.

Their quarrel was interrupted by Lucy coughing. Hector moved toward her, but was cut off by Sigil who reached her first. He stood over Emily looking down at Lucy, breathing, but unconscious. Will she be alright? Emily smiled and reached up to stroke his muzzle, "Yes, she will be fine. She is still part demon. She'll recover quickly."

She could feel the tension in the water horse release. She patted his jaw and stood up, gently taking Leopold from Lucy's grasp, turned to Hector, "Take her inside please." She then addressed Sigil, "I'd like you to stay. I have some questions for you."

Sigil nodded and took his human guise before following her inside.

Lucius was waiting at the door when Hector entered carrying Lucy.

"Take her upstairs, there is a fireplace in the spare room and a hot bath ready. I trust you know what to do." His jaw tightened as he spoke. Just what was he suggesting this demon do with HIS daughter. But it was in her nature; it was the only way to recover her demonic energy. Hector looked perplexed when Emily stepped up behind him clapping him on the back, "She is a succubus, and I believe you understand what she will need. You have helped her before." She winked at him and then redirected Lucius's attention, "Babe, could you make our guest a few drinks, I think they could use them. If we sit and talk to them we might learn a little more about Minerva and how to stop her."

Reluctantly, Lucius turned for the kitchen his eyes sliding in Hector's direction as Hector took HIS only daughter up the stairs.

Only what she needs, you understand you damn mutt.

Hector's footsteps faulterd, but he did not answer. After everything, he wasn't sure he could do anything for her.

Just as Lucius said, a fire blazed and a steaming tub waited for them in the spare room. She felt so cold in his arms. I'm sorry, Lucy, I never meant for any of this. Lucy's eyes cracked open and a weak smile tugged at her lips as she reached up to touch his face. It's not your fault… Minerva… Her hand slipped away.

"Lucy!"

He pulled her close; he could still feel her breathing. Thank goodness. He headed for the bath. It was enormous. He imagined washing Fenrir in it. He shook his head with a little laugh what am I thinking. He isn't a pet dog...he's… Lucy moaned pulling him from his thoughts. A fully upholstered loveseat sat across from the tub; Hector took her over there and set her on his lap. He stared down at her slightly open blouse and swallowed, "I have to get you warm. That is all." He began unfastening the buttons and

gingerly peeled her shirt from her shoulders exposing her milky skin. Her breast were pale and her nipples hard from the cold. He felt their call and lowered his mouth to one of them, then stopped, No, I...she deserves better than me, but she needs warmth. He carried her to the bath and slipped in behind her to keep her from falling in. His clothes were already wet; it didn't matter; he'd deal with them later. Lucy was his focus right now. The color started to return to her flesh which was a relief, but it did nothing to stop his ever accelerating heart rate.

She leaned against him with a soft moan. Her neck begging for his lips. He wasn't sure if it was Lucy's naked body or some hidden pheromones floating amongst the steam, but this time he didn't stop himself. He lowered his mouth to her neck and dotted it with kisses while his hands traveled up to cup her breast. Forgive me Lucy. I am under your spell. You can do with me as you please. later. As penance, I will be your slave if you let me have you now.

Lucy's skin burned where he touched her and the sound of water called images of darkness, tightness, and a massive black horse with grey eyes. She shot awake as panic pushed against her ribs. "Leopold!"

He would be lying if he said the name of another man leaving her lips didn't send a wave of jealousy rushing through his veins. Lucy turned her eyes on Hector as the nightmare lingered, "Was that you?"

Hector looked away, "I'm sorry. I couldn't… you were in my arms and…"

Brows pinched together, Lucy narrowed her eyes at him, "Why are you in your clothes in…" she looked around and realized she was topless and dropped into the water, "What are we doing in here…." she motioned to the water, "... together? Why am I topless and you have your clothes on and…" She looked around, "Where are we?"

Hector took a deep breath, he would just have to wait, "Your father's place in the demon realm."

"What?"

Hector held up his hands, "Please calm down, I will explain." He reached for a towel and handed it to her. "Here." He stood and stepped out of the tub. "I'm going to go cool off. You seem fine now. When you are ready, I'll tell you everything."

Lucy stood with the towel draped protectively in front of her. "Hector."

He stopped without turning around.

"I want the truth this time."

He nodded before walking out of the bathroom and closing the door behind him.

Down the stairs, the rest of the household gathered around the fire. Michelle sat cross-legged still wrapped in a blanket with a restless spider in her lap. "So what happened to this little cutie?" She asked stroking his abdomen.

Sigil stood away from the fire, "I only have a hunch. He collapsed in the human world while away from that castle."

Michelle looked down to Leopold and turned him over gently, "So what do we have here?" Clutched protectively in his eight hairy arms was a deep purple stone. "What could this be?" She reached to remove it.

"Don't touch that!" Lucius rushed to stop her and snatched it in a dish towel.

"So that's why he took her home." Lucius mused out loud.

Several sets of eyes waited for him to explain.

"This…," he said holding up the stone, "...is the jewel that contains Lady Mink's stolen powers." The blank look from around the room caused him to roll his eyes, "...Ahem, apparently, Father, doesn't just let the demon candy eat away a demon's energy completely. He stores it in one of these."

He waited for everyone to nod or at least acknowledge that what he was saying made sense.

"Looks like my soft-hearted father was intending to give this back to her if she repented or some such garbage."

"He left it with me because he couldn't trust anyone in the castle." His gaze drifted from the jewel to the spider, "Apparently, he was sent to get it back, but in so doing triggered its fail-safe. It drains anyone who touches it other than me or Father."

He tipped his head back to look at the ceiling, "I put it where I figured no one would look. I never guessed she would pack it."

Emily stepped up to him, "Packed what?" She asked careful not to touch the jewel.

Lucius placed his hand on her head, "Something we made together a long time ago."

The idea that she took it with her made him smile. "Anyway, it probably isn't a good idea to keep it in the demon realm. I will have to contact Father about this."

He walked over to Michelle and picked up Grendel, "Can I borrow this?"

Grendel wiggled to get down and return to his mistress's side.

"I just got him back." She pouted.

"It won't be long."

Michelle's eyes widened as she remembered something, "That is actually a better idea than you realize."

Lucius cocked an eyebrow at her. To which she gave him an irritated expression, "When I was fighting Minerva back at the castle, she brazenly showed off some of her new powers…" she waited for all eyes anticipating her next words, "she can create portals now too. And if that jewel holds her power, I imagine she can follow it here."

"Well now, that could be to our advantage. From what I understand, you messed her up pretty badly back there, so it might buy us a little time." He turned his attention to the spider in her lap. "And he will be very useful."

Pocketing the jewel and tucking Grendel under his arm, Lucius walked over to Emily and ran a hand down her cheek, "I won't be long. Don't tell Lucy about Leopold."

"What about Leopold! Is he okay?" All heads turned to see Lucy walking down the stairs with Hector trailing behind. She looked normal, no signs of her demon side. Emily looked passed her to Hector who looked away. Hmm.

After Lucy stepped into the living room, Emily snatched Hector by the arm. "I'm just going to borrow him a minute." She smiled at Lucy and nodded to Lucius, his signal to go.

"You heard her, Grendel, let's go." He vanished before Lucy had a chance to drill him on what happened to Leopold. "Wait what about Leopold." Lucy said trying to catch him before he vanished.

"He's fine, Love." Came Michelle's voice from near the fire. "See." Lucy turned to find Michelle curled on the floor in a blanket with Leopold snug on her lap.

"Oh thank goodness."

She knelt down beside Michelle; relief washed over her body. "Is he really okay? We weren't able to take him back to the castle."
Michelle blinked at her, "Oh, Honey why would you want to go back there?"

"Well, Sigil suggested that he had lost his strength because he was too far away from Minerva."

Patting her thigh, Michelle looked over to Sigil still keeping his distance from the fire, but too afraid to leave after what Lucius told him.

Lucius tossed his arm around Sigil after Hector took Lucy upstairs. "Listen I appreciate you bringing her home." He tossed a glance around the room. "Her soul is tempting, isn't it? A human with the added power and seduction of a succubus."

Sigil's hair stood on end. "Run!" fired around his nerves. This was not a demon he wanted to upset.

"Just let me say, we may need you around for some intel, so don't get any ideas of leaving, and if you touch my daughter, I will make sure local burger joint has plenty of horse meat."

Sigil shivered at the memory even if he didn't know what a burger joint was.

"Sigil, aren't you cold?" Lucy's voice was sweet, earnest. He shook his head, "No, I just can't stand fire."

"Oh," She stood up and walked over to him, placing a hand on his shoulder, "Thank you for earlier. I'm sorry I caused you so much trouble. Hector told me what happened."

Sigil glanced into the kitchen where he could see Emily and Hector talking.

Absently he said, not looking at her, "Your welcome."

"Lucy."

She turned to see her grandmother beckoning her back. "He's having a tough time right now. Just leave him. We need to talk." She set Leopold down on the chair and walked with Lucy to the back deck. Before closing the door behind them, Michelle turned to Sigil, "Keep an eye on him will you?"

Chapter 32

Lucius arrived in the human world in the middle of a desert. "Father!"

He howlered into the dry air.

"Stop yelling, I'm up here."

Lucius turned to find a vulture perched on a rock ledge. "What the hell are you supposed to be?"

Indisguise. Now why did you call me out here?

He pulled the jewel from his pocket and held it up. "To discuss a plan with you."

"Minerva is after this thing isn't she?"

The large bird swooped down and snatched the jewel from Lucius's hand. It soared the sky then dropped it back into Lucius's hand.

What would you suggest we do with it?

"Lure her to the human world. We could use that priest woman."

Abaddon landed on a rock eye-level with his son, It is a worthy plan, but I fear Minerva is better prepared than you.

"Whose side are you on? If we leave her alone, she will regain her strength on her own and when she does, whom do you think will be her first target."

The vulture turned its head away. Lucius's jaw tightened, "Would you please remove that ridiculous disguise, I can't read your facial expressions like this."

Abaddon lowered his head, Precisely, the less I reveal to you the better.

"Tsk, whatever." Lucius crossed his arms and turned his face away. The two stood in silence a moment then Lucius dropped his arms his voice losing its bite, "There is something else you should know. I spoke with Mother after our raid on Minerva's castle…"

Beady black eyes stared at Lucius's face, I see. Follow me; I have something to show you.

Michelle walked in with Grendel and Lucy to join Emily and Hector at the large center island in the kitchen.

Michelle smiled as she admired the new renovations. "I see; he must have added this for you Emily."

Emily looked at her a bit perplexed, "What do you mean?
"Well, the last time I was here, granted it was a long time ago, but all he had in this house was a wine fridge a massive bedroom and plenty of toys."

Even Emily blushed at this. Michelle wiggled a brow at her, "Although I bet he still has those around for you too."

"Mother." Emily scolded but behind a repressed smile. Lucy tried not to think about it.

"Anyway…" Lucy said clearing her throat. "What are we going to do now."

Michelle looked back to the living room where Sigil sat with his feet in a tub of water keeping watch over the spider. She shook her head with a little laugh. He looked as if he just needed a blanket and a thermometer to complete his look. She turned back towards the group, "Lucius has taken the jewel back to the human world. I believe he said something about leaving it with that human woman...what was her name again.." she tapped her chin, "...oh right Victoria."

"Why would he do that?" Lucy protested. "Isn't that a little to relaxed?"

"He seems to think the best place to keep a demon object is with a member of the order."

"I don't like it," Emily said with a slight shake of her head.

"Don't like what?" Michelle asked.

"Involving another human in this. I thought we were going to sever ties with her."

Lucy stared at her mother while she spoke of humans as if they were something separate from herself. "Mom?"

Emily glided languid eyes over to her daughter, "Yes, Pumpkin."

"What happened to you? I never got the chance to ask you. I know Dad gave you some of his demon energy, but you...you're not even human anymore are you?" The words stung her throat as she spoke them.

Emily shook her head, "A lot has happened and certain things were necessary. I am still your mother regardless of what form I'm in now."

"I…" tears threatened to fall down Lucy's cheeks.

Reaching across the counter, Emily wiped the tear before it could fall, "Lucy, this isn't something we need to discuss right now. When this is all over you, your father and I can sit and talk about this and what it means, but for now we need to focus on Lady Mink."

It irritated her how quickly her mother dodged that question, but what bothered her more was that she knew she was right.

"Fine, but you have to promise after everything is over…"

"I promise." Emily said, placing her hand on her heart. "Now, Hector, I hope you plan on sticking around for a while, we could use your help." She said turning to him.

His grey eyes shot from Emily to Lucy, and Michelle's words came back to him "...Your feelings will be tested…"

He nodded, "Of course."

"Good."

Chapter 33

Hector and Sigil emerged from a pool just outside Minerva's castle. The walls were visible from their vantage point; it was quite. No guards, no one trying to repair the wall, nothing.

"Do you think they abandoned it?" Hector asked.

"It appears to be so; when I tried to enter with the girl, the portal was closed."

When they got close enough, they could see where the eunicid tore through the courtyard, destroying the fountain. "That explains it."Sigil muttered.

"But what about the rest of the castle," Hector mused out loud.

They followed the path the giant worm left it's wake through the castle. Deep within the walls, Hector noticed something, "The enchantment is gone."

"What?"

"I doubt you felt it because your energy comes from the water outside, but when I was in this castle, I could feel it slowly draining my power." He shrugged and motioned forward, "Well, let's find that crystal for Leopold. It's got to be here somewhere

Sigil stopped, "Father, wait there is something I need to show you."

Hector followed Sigil down to the deepest part of the castle until they came to a deadend. "Sigil, I think we took a wrong turn."

"No, just you, Father." He shoved Hector into the wall. It gave like pudding consuming him, "Now this castle is YOUR host. You parasite. And don't worry about Lucy, I'll take good care of her."

Michelle, Lucy, and Emily sat crammed together on a small loveseat across from Victoria sitting alone on a long sofa.

The tension was too much for Michelle, "Ahem, it has been a while, how have you been Viki?"

Victoria looked away her hands in her lap, "Good, school is going well…" she turned to Lucy, "You should come back. You have missed so much." Her cheeks burned and she lowered her head, "I'm sorry about before. It wasn't me...I mean...it was, but."

Victoria's sudden submissive behavior gave Lucy a bit too much confidence and she stood up glaring at the priestess.

"Sorry? You humiliated me in front of my class and you kidnapped me...plus…" Her cheeks turned dark and she looked away. "...plus other things."

Michelle looked from Lucy to Victoria, "Other things?" she said with a raised eyebrow.

"Let's just drop it okay." Lucy groused, "I'll forgive you." She said not looking at Victoria, and dropped back down on the sofa.

Emily clapped her hands, "Well, what happened in the past can stay there. Now, Victoria, can we count on you to help us?"

Victoria smiled, holding up the dark jewel, "Of course. All I need to do is keep this here, correct?" She set the jewel on the side table.

"Yes, that would be a great help."

With a syrupy smile, Victoria stood up and motioned towards the kitchen, "Shall I get you girls some tea?"

"Oh let me help, I brought some shortbread cookies." Emily chimed in.

Cookies, MOM? Really? What do you think we are doing here. The sweetness between her mother and Victoria was too much for Lucy to take, after all, this was the woman who kidnapped her daughter and was after her husband, didn't she realize that.

"Oo, shortbread. I'll help too." Michelle trotted off towards the kitchen with the other two. Lucy shook her head, "I'm going to take a walk." She said not certain if they even heard her. She stood, shoving her hands into the pockets of her hoodie and tossed a glance in the direction of the now cat-sized spider, "Come on, Leopold, you can keep me company."

He stirred from his spot and hopped down to follow her.

The air was cool, but warm for November. Lucy kicked a loose stone as she walked aimlessly down the sidewalk. Leopold walked beside her I don't get it. She should hate this woman after everything she has done. Leopold remained silent as he kept pace with her. She stopped and looked down at him, "Will you stay like that?"

She knelt down before him and reached to touch his head, "I kind of miss…"

Leopold dodged her hand and ran passed her down the street and around the corner.

"Leopold?" "Wait."

When she rounded the corner, she saw Mammon standing near a mailbox. Leopold ran straight for him. Lucy ducked behind a fence as she watched the man pick the large spider up and then vanish. Oh Leopold, why?

Once Mammon was out of sight, Lucy fell against the fence and slid to the bottom.

Why Leopold. They don't care about you. They're only…. she remembered what Sigil said back at her apartment "You either use them or kill them…" So this was normal for demons: acceptable behavior. Bullshit. What about her mom and dad. It was ridiculous to think he would stay around just to use her for nearly a century. Wouldn't he get bored-no, there had to be other reasons. She looked down the street to where their BMW was parked. He not only hung around, he provided, supported, and yes even loved them. She knew that, but… what they, what she was capable of terrified her.

Dusting off her pants, she turned back towards Victoria's house.

Lucius was sitting next to Emily on the loveseat when Lucy entered. Victoria was examining the jewel. "So this holds her power? It looks so innocent."

She looked from it to the couple on the couch, "Why don't you just destroy it?"

Emily and Lucius looked at each other. He could see it on her face. Why don't we?

It would solve their trouble if not for one little detail-

Lucius followed Abaddon to a cave that just upon entering sent the hair on the back of his next standing on end. The two walked without a word until they reached the back dimly lit by a few candles. Claws out and flame at the ready, Lucius stopped, "What is she doing here?"

"She's trying to collect enough energy to walk out of here on her own."

"Wait a minute, we all saw her in the park when she...when Emily…"

Abaddon smiled, "Scary isn't she? That was just a projection. She's been here since she escaped the Abyss."

Lucius shifted his gaze from Minerva to Abaddon, "How long have you known?"

Abaddon walked up to Lady Mink with a soft express, "A hunter found her a week after she escaped. Mammon was making regular trips from the demon realm to here. It didn't take long."

"The hunter was on my orders to leave her."

Lucius's fist tightened at his side. "So when were you planning on telling us." Lucius bit out, "We could have done something about her months ago."

A look of disbelief crossed his features, "You still love her don't you?"

Abaddon looked away, "Don't be stupid. Demons don't hold such limitations. Do not compare me to you."

Blue eyes traveled over the demoness; she was clean, well dressed, and groomed as if someone were tending to her. She lay as innocent as sleeping beauty.

"Then I can destroy this." Lucius said holding up the stone. Abaddon shook his head, "It would have the opposite effect you'd hope for. Once the stone is destroyed all the energy trapped inside will go back to its source." He said turning to face Minerva.

"Why, Father? She has caused us nothing but distress."

Abaddon lowered his head, "She's not what you think. Minerva wasn't always like this. She used to be so kind."

"Bullshit. Open your eyes, Father, she's been deceiving you."

With a quick hard strike, Abaddon knocked Lucius to the opposite side of the cave.

"I don't want to hear that coming from you. You understand nothing." Abaddon stepped up to Lucius picking him up by the collar and set him right on his feet, and then said something that baffled Lucius even more-"I am counting on you to end this. Because I cannot."

"Lucius? Lucius are you listening?" Emily asked resting her hand on his arm.

Shaking the memory away, he focused his eyes back to the women in the room. "I'm sorry what were you saying."

Emily and Victoria looked hopeful about the plan they had formed; only Michelle looked distressed-she had seen his memories. Oh, Abaddon...

"We were saying that if this stone makes anyone who touches it weak, then maybe after Minerva touches it, Victoria can seal her powers completely." Emily said in a cheerful tone. Lucy smiled, for an instant her mother looked like her old human self. Maybe she's right-she's still Mom. But Lucius dumped a bucket of mud on that light, "I'm afraid she is the exception. If she touches it, all of her power will return."

"Well then we will just have to seal her before she can get it back, but we still need to lure her here." Michelle said nodding to Victoria, and both glanced to the empty spot where Leopold was resting which tightened a knot in Lucy chest-should she tell them?

And why didn't they say something? It is kind of hard not to notice a spider the size of a cat sitting in your living room, but no one mentioned him.

Michelle drove, Lucius in the passenger seat, Lucy and Emily in the back.

When were you going to tell them? Michelle asked him through his mind.

Father has a plan.

Since when do you listen to your father.

Not now, Mother.

The wrinkle in Michelle's forehead deepened as she pulled back onto the highway.

Abaddon traced Minerva's jaw with the back of his knuckle, "It won't be long, my love. I will see you back to the way you used to be soon."

Chapter 34

Nothing, no sound, no light, no smell. Where am I? Hector tried to open his eyes, but he couldn't tell if he already had or if he just couldn't open them at all; however he could feel a slow pulse travel through his entire body. Ah, I must be inside the castle walls. Was this what was stealing our powers. But it's so faint. Was it this weak before? ...no it's because its damaged now. I guess the real question is how do I get out of here?

Being a shadow demon made his task easier and more difficult at the same time. He found he could move freely amongst the walls, but he also couldn't tell where he ended and the castle began.

I'll have to have a talk with Sigil when I get out of here.

He continued to search for anything that would tell him where he was and maybe even a way out.

Lucy returned to her apartment to the sound of running water. "Are you kidding me?"

"Sigil? Hector? are you two back already?"

There was no answer.

"Guys?"

When she turned the corner of her bedroom, it wasn't flooded like last time, but there was a very naked Sigil in her tub. Quickly, she spun around her back to the doorframe,

"Sigil? what are you doing?"

"Bathing? What does it look like?"

"I can tell; but last time you had your clothes on."

She heard the water swish then the sound of him stepping out of the water. She relaxed thinking he should now have a towel wrapped around him, but when she turned back around, he was standing, still very naked, in the center of the bathroom.

Sigil raised a brow at her with an arrogant smirk pulling at his lip. "You are silly. Why would I bathe with my clothes on?"

Lucy's mind reeled, "Okay... well, there are towels in the cabinet. I'll just wait in the living room." She never made it to her bedroom door. Sigil had swept her up and deposited her on her bed, pinning her hands above her. "I don't need a towel remember?" He was right, he was dry and still in his birthday suit.

"What are you doing? Get off me!" Her eyes darted everywhere but directly in front of her. "I already told you, I won't fight you, but only after we take care of everything."

Her lack of fear and virtually no arousal annoyed him. "Hmm." He stood and walked over to the bathroom for a towel. "I guess you are not as out of control as you thought."

"What?" Lucy pushed herself up on her elbows and really looked at him. It was true-he was attractive, well built, and oozing pheromones; yet she remained cool-headed.

"I guess you only really lose it when you are around my father." His voice was filled with sadness. "I never had a chance."

He slipped his arms through a button-up shirt, before letting the towel slip and putting on a pair of gray slacks.

"Where did you get those?" She asked pointing to his pants.

He tossed his head in the direction of the bed, "They were lying over there."

Oh Jared's clothes. I really should return them, but that might be awkward.

"Who is Jared?"

"Oh, he's just the guy your dad...Hey, now you are reading my mind too?"

Sigil smirked, "It is nothing new. We spoke before."

"Yes, but it was consensual."

"Like how you are with my father?"

Heat rose in her cheeks "Get out!."

Sigil shrugged and moved towards the bedroom door, but her words halted his escape. "Speaking of Hector, where is he?"

Sigil averted his eyes, "He is still in the demon realm. The last I saw him, he was at the castle ruins."

"Maybe he is in trouble, I think we should go help him. Do you think you can take me back?"

Sigil frowned and pushed passed her in the doorway, "Find your own way there."

She sat in shock as his back disappeared around the door before she shot after him and down the hall. "Hey, wait a minute."

She found him in the kitchen kneeling beside a broken teapot. Pieces of blue, black and white pottery littered the floor. Sigil looked up when he felt her approach. Her face belayed the emotions swirling inside.

She stormed passed him for the broom and dustpan while fighting back the tears. Sigil stood at a loss for what to do. "I'm sorry, but…"

"Could you give me some wet paper towels for the smaller pieces." She asked, cutting him off.

He turned scanning the counter tops. "Paper towels?"

Lucy sighed and stood to retrieve what she needed, but stopped the moment something sharp jabbed into her foot. "Found one." She grumbled and hopped over to a chair in the breakfast nook. Sigil followed with a wet paper towel.

"Oh now you get me one."

Sigil narrowed his eyes at her and yanked her foot from her hands. "Let me."

"I can do it."

"I am aware, but this is easier." He wiped the blood away with the damp towel and then ran his thumb over her sole. His gentleness surprised her; after constantly threatening to eat her soul, it was difficult to believe he was capable of such tenderness. "Ah, there it is." With needle-like claws he carefully removed the shard of porcelain and applied a band aide.

"Not that I care what you think, but I did not break your thing. I only walked in there because I smelled water. Those pieces were already on the floor when I entered."
Lucy looked at him in mild puzzlement; was he concerned about her opinion of him?

Her thoughts were interrupted by a clearing of his throat, "It is bandaged."

Sigil had placed a bandage on her foot and was waiting for her to move it.

"Oh, sorry...ah where did you get the band aide?"

He pointed to the first aid kit sitting on the counter. Lucy blinked at it, "Oh."

"If you are fine now, I think I should be going." Sigil stood and walked back down the hall towards the bathroom.

Lucy stood, gingerly putting weight on her foot, "Wait, Sigil."

He turned.

"Thank you." She said incapable of suppressing the heat burning her cheeks.

He did not respond only turned the corner of her bedroom and with a loud splash was gone.

Mammon sat Leopold down in the corner of the abandoned house, "Are you sure it was her jewel?"

Yes, I know my Mistress's power.

"Why would they leave it in the hands of a human?" He mused to himself.

I understand she is very powerful.

Mammon nodded not looking at Leopold, "I see; that would explain… I wasn't asking you. If it were up to me..." He moved his hands as if crumpling a piece of paper. "I would have squashed you ages ago. Useless, I'll just have to do it myself."

But Master, the jewel is under a ...

"Enough…" He knocked Leopold against the wall and glared at him with cold eyes, "...You can't even retrieve a simple stone."

Leopold stood shaking the dizziness from his head, But master as I said the stone is under a spell. When I tried to take it, it drained my power.

Mammon narrowed his eyes at the spider, "Don't compare me to you. I am the son of the demon king. Why would I be affected by this spell?"

He turned to go; a shadow looming over him caused him to pause and turn slightly.

I am afraid you misunderstand, master, I cannot let you leave.

Hector followed a flow of power that was different from the pulse of the castle until he reach a wall, well not a brick, wood, or paper wall, but a field of energy so strong he could go no further; however, he could finally see on the other side. A dimly lit cave lay before him with a beautiful woman lying on a stone altar. He tried to find a crack in the barrier a place where it was weakest, but it shocked him the instant he touched it.

Another being entered the room with the woman; his voice tender.

"Just a little longer, my love. The light child should purify your demon energy, and then I can return it to you."

Hector couldn't believe his ears. Abaddon is actually helping Lady Mink. And what did he mean purify her demon energy? How?

His thoughts were interrupted by Abaddon stepping within inches of his face.

"Good evening, Hector. I see you found my little secret."

He waved his hand and pulled Hector from the barrier. "Welcome, Hector, you are just the demon I wished to see."

Chapter 35

Emily pulled silken threads through tiny holes until no more would fit. She held up her handy work and smile, "Well, what do you think?"

Lucius raised an amused brow, "You intend to catch Lady Mink with a net?"

The smartass smirk on his face earned him a raspberry and a wade of silk aimed for his head. "Fuunnnny, this is special- it's made with Leopold's thread. It can drain the life force out of its prey." She ran her hand over the soft silk, "We could use all the help we can get."

"Besides, it wasn't like I believed it could hold her for long, just long enough for Victoria to suppress Minerva's powers and long enough for Abaddon to imprison her again."

Lucius looked away, "Yeah. I'll go make sure he is ready."

"What are you two doing up so early?" Lucy asked as she descended the stairs.

"Plans." They said in unison.

Lucy's lip twitched. It was eerie how insinc they were. She shook her head and said, "Well, the portal stone is set. I finally found them. I stopped looking earlier when Leopold got hurt."

Emily set down the net and scooted around the table to walk over and greet Lucy with a tight hug. "Good morning, doodlebug."

"Mom…"She said with embarrassment.

When Emily released her, Lucy inspected her mother's face which shifted from delight to confusion, "What's the matter, Pumpkin?"

Lucy shook her head, "Nothing really it's just that... I mean Mammon took you and then you…" she shook her head and then held up her hand, "...nevermind. I am glad you're safe."

"Anyway…" Lucy looked around the kitchen, "where is Mimi. I need her to help me fix my apartment."

"Your apartment?" Lucius said his voice betraying a sudden rush of panic.
"Well you see…."

…..

…..

"Ha, ha,"

Both women turned to see Lucius doubled over laughing and neither could believe their eyes. "What is so funny?"

"Your grandmother and her stupid traps…" he wiped a tear away and took a deep breath, straightening himself up, "Sorry, it is likely it ended up that way because the place the portals were connected to burned down."

"Oh that makes sense, wait what?" Lucy gave her father a puzzled look.

"I guess with everything going on you haven't heard, Minerva burnt down Banshee. I can only assume she had the portals connected there. It is probably why your couch never made it out of your apartment." Again he shook his head trying to suppress the swell of laughter. Lucy gave Emily a look to which she shrugged. "I think he's just been under a lot of pressure lately." But her wrinkled forehead didn't go unnoticed.

"What is that awful noise." Came a voice from the other room.

Emily and Lucy turned to see Michelle waltzing into the kitchen. They looked from Michelle to Lucius. Michelle's eyes traveled to the incubus with the twisted face; she pushed passed the baffled ladies to the demon fighting a fit of giggles. In one swift movement, she pulled his shirt down at the collar. Her lips pulled up at the corner and she shook her head, "He's okay." She turned to look at Emily with a knowing smirk then rushed to her tossing her arms around her. "Good job," she pushed away and patted Emily on the shoulder, "He'll be fine. It will just take him a bit to get used to your energy." Then she turned her attention to Lucy. "Now what is this I hear about your apartment?"

Lucy began to explain when she was interrupted by Rhiana's S&M growing steadily louder from somewhere on Michelle. Michelle held up one finger and pulled the small cell phone from her bra and swiped her thumb across it.

"Viki?...yes I believe so...okay...hmm...see you in a bit."

She pressed the red button and then turned her attention back to Lucy, "Sorry, Love, this will have to wait. I need to meet up with Viki.." She turned to Emily and Lucius, "Okay, I'll see you there." With that she opened a portal and vanished.

Emily looked to Lucius who still had a twitch of a smirk on his face. "You are going to be alright, aren't you?"

Desperate to ease her mind and command some form of control, Lucius straightened his face and nodded, "Of course."

Emily's gaze stayed on Lucius a little longer before she turned her attention to Lucy, "Are you ready?"

"Ready as I'll ever be, not much else I can do now." She looked down at the net her mother had given her. The plan was to come at her from all angles using the portal stones for those who couldn't create their own. But they would have to be careful because now Minerva could use portals too.

Lucy looked at her parents with resolve, but with flashes of fear darting through her eyes, "Let's go."

The group waited just outside Victoria's house for Lady Mink to come and claim what was hers. Lucius, Emily and Lucy each held a stone just below their right toe. Michelle was already inside with Victoria. They didn't have to wait long. Lady Mink had been there before, so for her to enter using a portal was anticipated, but what wasn't was what came with her. Four silky arms rushed forward to capture Victoria before Minerva even emerged.

"Sai! Mai! what are you…"

The Lamia twins only glanced at Michelle before hauling Victoria through the portal.

She has Viki, she sent the twins in… I wasn't expecting this...we'll have to regroup.

The color drained from Lucy's face as she received Michelle's message. Her green eyes scouted her parents' faces. Her mother's was oddly calm while odder still was the amused grin her father was still fighting.

"How can you two be so relaxed about this, she's gotten her stone back. Once she has returned to her former self, none of us will be able to stop her."

Sobering up as best he could, Lucius found his way to Lucy and dropped a heavy hand on her shoulder, "It will be alright, come." He tossed a glance over at Emily, and she nodded her understanding. She stepped on the stone to join Michelle in the house. Lucius pulled a different stone from his pocket, hooked Lucy under the arm and stepped on the pebble.

When Lucy opened her eyes, they were surrounded by a warm flicker of torches. "Where are we?"

"At the last stage of Abaddon's plan."

"What? but I thought this was Mimi and Mom and your plan."

Lucius shook his head, "We have all been playing our parts just as he designed it. Come on. I have something to show you."

He lead her down the rough walled corridor to a vast opening in the cave. At its center was a stone altar and three dark figures standing near it. One she knew immediately- Hector.

"What are you doing here?"

Averting his silver eyes, he motioned in the direction of the other two figures, "Reuniting those two."

The two figures stepped into the light. Abaddon was standing beside a beautiful woman with long jet black hair and soft unassuming eyes.

Lucy felt her father's muscles tense beside her.

"I know what you are thinking, son." Abaddon said as he guided the woman to the altar and sat her down, "But you did not know her before the darkness took her."

"I understand what you are doing…" Lucius said biting back the anger.

"Well, I don't!" Lucy stepped away from her father and up to Hector. "Would you like to tell me what is going on because to me it looks like you really were helping Lady Mink."

Hector stared down at her, his jaw tight. "I...it's not… Lucy things happened and most of it I wasn't even aware of. I was used just as much as you were."

He threw his glare over to Abaddon, "by him."

Abaddon raised his hands in the air, "Now, now. I will explain everything, but we are about to have our final participates showing up any second now, and we need to be prepared." He flew at Hector and Lucy pushing them back through the barrier. "Wait there." Then he rushed for Lucius grabbing him by the arm and before Lucius could react, drove a fist into his gut. "You'll have to forgive me for this."

Lucius fell over, limp. Abaddon swept him up into his arms and carried him like a princess over to the altar where he laid him down and ran his hand over his body until Lucius no longer lie there but Lady Mink. He nodded, "Good enough," then he took Minerva's hand, walked over to the barrier and guided her through then followed her closing the wall behind him.

"Jiji, what have you done to him!"

"Shh, she won't be able to see us, but any noise will break this spell."

Lucy glared at him, "So what, do you think I'm going to sit here while you leave my father as bait. Just what are you planning?"

Abaddon gave her a grin a teacher might give a mouthy kindergartener. He reached out touching her lips and suddenly she found her words trapped inside her throat. Again he placed his finger to his lips, "Shh."

Lucy's glare intensified You can't shut all of me up.

Abaddon silently sighed, You are not completely correct there, but if it will ease your mind, what do you want to know. I'll answer what I can.

Why is Hector here?

With a moment of eye contact, Abaddon received his permission, He is here to bring his daughter when the time comes.

Lila? Why? What could she possibly…

Hector placed his hands on Lucy's shoulder. The demon candy. It turns out the candy doesn't destroy demon energy it transfers it. And every demon who's every ingested that candy has had their energy sent to that stone you had in your apartment until recently. And right now, my daughter has it, and with her dark energy that is being transferred to that stone is also a small amount of her light energy. From what Abaddon told me it will purify what has corrupted his Lady for nearly four centuries.

Lucy tossed her gaze back over to Abaddon, You're using a child for this?

Abaddon allowed his eyes to slip down to her briefly before focusing back into the cave. She is vital to the life of the demon realm. I cannot let her become so corrupted that she causes both human and demon realms to collapse.

Lucy's attention moved to the woman standing silently beside Abaddon.

If that is Lady Mink just whom have we been fighting?

Her answer materialized inside the cave.

Abaddon pointed, Her dark energy. It grew so strong it left her body and sought to retrieve the jewel that I originally planned to use to store her dark power, but then she gave it Hector who gave it to you and then finally Lila. It was then that I realized I could use this to my advantage…

Lady Mink's voice rang inside the cave, "Abaddon? I know you're here. You might as well show yourself." She stepped cautiously up to the woman lying on the altar with the purple jewel in her hand. Her eyes greedily searching for the spot that called to it.

Everyone behind the wall dare not think while Lady Mink approached the woman lying on the stone.

She is no fool. I can only hope the others get here before she figures out the deception.

Lucy's eyes went wide as she stared at Abaddon. Was he just "keeping his fingers crossed"? Her fears were answered by a deafening scream.

"What is this!"

Lucius had Minerva around the wrist and Michelle had snatched the jewel from her hand.

"Where, where did you come from. How did you..?" anger and disbelief rose in Minerva's voice as she searched the room, "I knew it. Abaddon this is your doing."

"So what if it is." Abaddon stepped from the barrier followed by the beautiful woman.

"Is this what you are looking for?"He said motioning to Minerva's body.

Lady Mink screamed and rushed for the woman.

"Hector!" Abaddon commanded and handed Minerva over to him who emerged long enough to take her hand and pull her back through the barrier.

"I'm counting on you." Abaddon yelled over his shoulder before facing Lady Mink.

"You won't have her again."

Lady Mink's mauve eyes darted from Abaddon to Lucius to Michelle and back towards the wall her body had disappeared.

"Ha, ha, ha, you honestly think I need that feeble light being left over. I am far more powerful now." She tossed her left hand in the direction of Michelle and her right towards the wall. "Come out, come out where ever you are?" She curled the fingers of her right hand effectively yanking Lucy from hiding. Her left han sent Michelle crashing against the far wall.

Lucy struggled to get free. "Let me go!"

A wicked grin curled at Lady Mink's lips, "Now if you don't want me to dismember this little cutie, you'll return my stone and my body."

Abaddon slid a concerned glance at Lucius. Swirls of dark energy were beginning to consume his aura.

You mustn't give in to your anger, son. It will only feed her power. Lucius's aura continued to darken.

Lucius! Stay calm, you know what you need to do. He blinked at Abaddon and slowly nodded.

The dark energy began to recede. His gaze darted to Michelle who was shaking and holding her head.

Are you alright?

Yeah, let's finish this.

"Now, Emily!"

From above Emily dropped tossing the net over Lady Mink and knocking Lucy aside.

"Leopold, your turn!" She shouted.

A thread of silk shout from the shadows and wrapped Lady Mink tightly in a cocoon.

It is your turn half-breed.

Hector charged from the barrier atop Ayriness. The unicorn's horn dove deep into the silken threads. Leave my sister alone. Hector dove from the back of the unicorn, catching Lucy in his arms and carrying her away.

Lady Mink screamed as light filled the cocoon.

"Cover your eyes." He threw his body over hers as light filled the cave.

Leopold had wrapped himself and Emily in his threads and Lucius tucked Michelle behind a crevice. Only Abaddon witnessed what took place. Blinding light filled the cocoon until it burst flooding the cave with it. When the light receded, Ayriness stood before a pile of silken threads and nothing more. She turned her massive head toward Abaddon who stood there smiling a thin glistening trail running down his face.

Hector, with darkened cheeks, removed himself from Lucy. "Are you alright?"

She held her head as she pushed herself up, "Yeah, I think so."

"Hector what…"

But he wasn't looking at her his eyes were fixed on the barrier. A woman with hair as bright as the sun emerged holding hands with a child just a brillant.

"Alia?"

He stood stumbling over to her, "But I thought...they told me you died in childbirth."

Alia smiled, "I did. In a way."

She walked over to Abaddon who wrapped his arms around her.

"He saved me from the darkness. When I was pregnant with Lila, the dark energy was already starting to corrupt me. I'm ashamed to admit that not even I could purify it."

"After she was born, I fled in fear of what I might do to her, to the realm. It was in the Abandoned Forest where Abaddon found me."

"He stabilized the change into the person known as Minerva, but the longer I stayed in the demon realm the stronger she became until Lady Mink was all that was left."

She pushed away from Abaddon and bowed low, "I'm sorry, Hector. Everyone, I know I cannot take back what I have done; but I hope from now on I can make up from my misdeeds."

Michelle pushed Lucius aside as he tried to hold her back, "I won't do anything, geez"

"I'm sorry, too." She held up the jewel and crushed it. Everyone held their breath expecting the dark energy to return to Minerva, but it just fell away like sand.

"Victoria purified it long before Lady Mink took it."

Abaddon shook his head, "Always the clever one."

Michelle smiled. "Well, clever enough not to stay with you."

The tension in the air was different, but still thick. What now? Did everything go back to how it was before, but how could it.

Unable to hold it in any longer, Lucy stood up her words lost and torrid inside her chest. What did this mean for her? Her green eyes searched Hector's face. What would he do now? Would he go back to her, but wasn't she married to her grandfather now? What about Lila? Would Alia go back to the light realm to be with her? There were so many questions swirling inside her, but she didn't feel it was her place to ask any of them. Just as the feeling became too much to bear, she felt a warm hand on her shoulder. She turned to find Leopold standing beside her. "I am going to borrow her for a little while." He said sweeping her up and darted from the cave.

Chapter 36

Legs dangling from a cliff, Lucy stared out over the vast emptiness. "What am I supposed to do with these feelings, Leopold?"

His mauve eyes continued to watch the sun set below the sienna, umber and cadmium of the canyon. "I think you do not give Hector enough credit."

"What?"Lucy peeled her eyes away from the rainbow of colors to stare hard at Leopold.

"He has his wife and daughter back. Why wouldn't he…" the words tightened around her throat.

Leopold shook his head, "Remember what I said to you before about being loyal to more than one person? I believe love works the same way. I am sure he still loves her, but…"

He turned to her cupping her face in his hand, "I can tell he loves you more."

"And you love him, do you not?"

"Well, I...I think so, but I can't compete with Alia, she's a goddess for crying out loud."

Leopold smiled and leaned in to kiss her forehead, "Do you love me?"

Heat rose in her cheeks, but quickly cooled and her eyes darted away, "I do, but it's not the same."

"Hmph."

His muffled laughter brought her back to look at him, "Are you laughing at me again."

Leopold leaned away from her and turned his eyes back out towards the sunset, "I think you just answered your own question."

As Lucy sat with her jaw slack and her mind swirling, Leopold broke her stupor, "Do you want to go back? Or should I take you home?"

"I think, I'll go home. The atmosphere in there is a little too tense for me right now."

"I understand."

Lucy dismounted from the giant spider's back and reached up to pat his "cheek", "Thank you, although I am not sure how we got here without causing a panic."

Leopold bowed and with a shot of thread vanished from the roof.

With a deep sigh, she gazed out over the city lights and turned to go back down to her apartment.

Her end tables were still missing but at least her couch was whole again and horizontal instead of diagonal. She dropped her keys on the counter and found a badly reassembled penguin teapot waiting for her with a note.

It was not I who broke it, but please cheer up.

- Sigil

She turned the note over in her hand and smiled until another thought hit her, "How does he keep getting in here?"

Leaving the light off, she turned toward her bedroom. With each step she remembered Sigil on top of her and the buzz of pheromones. Her heart jumped and then settled, "He's right, I don't lose control. Then maybe it is just with Hector…" The thought sent a heavy lump into her stomach, "...but he has Alia now…" She turned the corner; sadness swelled inside at the empty covers that now beckoned for her to burrow beneath them, and she wanted nothing more than for them to swallow her. She heeded their call only pausing to kick off her sneakers and set the teleport stone on the side table. The knot inside her pulled tight, curling her up into a ball while tears twitched muscles throughout her body. "Stupid, Hector."

"Well, I did come to apologize, but…"

Lucy's eyes shot open, "Hector! What are you doing here, I thought…"

"You thought I'd go back to Aila?"

Lucy buried her face into her pillow and pulled the covers over her head, "Maybe."

"Why would I do that? We've been separated for centuries."

"Bu yov st luv her."

"What?" Hector's jaw tightened, and he flung the blankets off of Lucy. His silver eyes glided down her milky skin and darted up to her dark wings. Heat began to rise, but he shook it away. He needed to be rational, for now.

"Why do you think I came here?"

Her cheeks a burning pink and gold eyes shut tight she fought to return her cover, "I don't know, to tell me goodbye."

Hector rolled his eyes and sighed, "How are you so pessimistic." He threw the blanket around her and hauled her from the bed. "Come on, there is some place I'd like you to see."

"Wait, Hector what are you… I can't…"

"I'm not giving you a choice. You'll see."

When Hector emerged from his shadow, a cold wind kissed Lucy's cheeks, and she pulled her blanket tighter, subconsciously burrowing deeper into Hector's chest. Despite the frigid air, she was warm in his arms. "Hector, why are we…?" her words hung in the air as she looked up at his face. His eyes only stared out into the distance and his jaw was set without a smile. For a long while all she could hear was his footstep crunching in the snow and his slow breath as it fogged the air in front of him. Her body felt hot against his as her arm grazed his chest and the silence increased the awkwardness while clumps of snow fell in soft thuds beside them.

"I'm glad to see some of the trees have grown back."

Scanning his face, Lucy could see the pain in his eyes as they continued to walk forward.

"I debated showing you this...I don't want you to hate me."

Lucy looked from him to a lake frozen over with ice, moonlight shimmering across its icy surface.

"There used to be more trees here and a village." He looked passed the lake then finally down to the girl in his arms. "Nearly a millennium ago a prosperous village was just on the other side of this lake. They were people who feared and worshiped the Kelpie of this lake. I was called here to negotiate with the queen of the Kelpies to spare the head priest daughter because she was with child, but she had been chosen at her birth…"

He looked away to a fallen tree and walked over to it. He cleared a spot and set her down just then noticing her bare feet. "I'm sorry, I should have brought you something."

He pulled his outer shirt and tore it.

"What are you doing, you'll freeze."

Hector shook his head, "No, I won't need this in a minute anyway." He knelt down and wrapped her feet in the torn pieces.

"Right now, I think I can control him, but if I cannot, I want you to kill me."

Lucy's eyes grew wide and she shot from the log, "What are you talking about how could I…"

Hector cupped her cheek then bent down for the discarded blanket wrapping it around her, "It's okay. If anyone can do it, it's you." He turned away from her, "You see the village was destroyed by a great hungry beast…" he lowered his head, "...me."

"Fenrir destroyed everything, ate all those people and the Kelpie of the lake save one egg-a new hatched and barely breathing-Sigil."

"I have kept my distance from so many, for fear I would one day consume them."

Lucy stood unmoving her blood turning to ice, not because of the cold, she no longer felt it, but his words nearly stopped her heart; just what did he expect her to do. A hot tear melted a trail down her cheek, "But...I love you. How could you ask me?"

He turned to her his eyes flashing from silver to red and back again, "Because you are the one person I know who can control me. I want you to prove it to me. It is not a wolf moon tonight, so his power will be weaker, but I can call him out now; however, I can't promise I will be able to hear you once he comes."

Hector pulled his eyes away from Lucy and down to the ring on his finger. With a deep breath he slipped it off and handed it to her. "This has kept him a bay most of the time." he held up his hand allowing the bright moonlight to dance along the surface of his ring. "Your grandmother returned it to me when I went to bring the candy to Lila. It does make it easier to get to the light realm." His eyes softened as he gazed at it and then slid it from his finger. He took Lucy's hand placing the ring in her palm. "I have done many unforgivable things in my life. Do not hesitate if I go out of control."

He stepped back from her, "You don't have your grandfather with you this time. If you feel you can't handle this, then return the ring to me and walk away. It is safer, leaving me alone."

The ring was warm from Hector's body heat. She curled her fingers around it.

"I'm not going to run away. If I can control this body, I know I can help you control yours."

The last of Hector Lucy saw was a sad sort of smile before he vanished in a great black blur.

Fenrir loomed above her jowls pulled back revealing rows of large sharp teeth. It was true, he wasn't as big as the time he destroyed that ranger cabin, but one bite from his massive maw and she'd be torn in half. The beast lowered its head to Lucy and inhaled. Gooseflesh rippled across her body.

"Hector?" She whispered her throat tight.

Its lip curled and he flinched away, ready to run.

"Please, don't. I won't run away and you won't either."

He paused, but his body shook as she approached, her hands out to him.

Don't come any closer...I don't...know what I'll do.

Lucy continued forward, "You won't hurt me. You didn't before and you were less 'you' then."

Hector stopped trying to back away and allowed Lucy to touch him.

Her heart raced the moment her fingertips touch his fur. She felt his muscles quaking beneath her hands. "Shh, it will be okay." Her hands slipped through his thick fur until her arms wrapped around his lower chest and right leg. "You gave this up trying to save me, remember." She stroked it and buried her face in his chest. "Please don't ask me to leave you alone. I love you."

Snow blew up around them causing Lucy to pull closer to Hector. When it fell away He was wrapping his arms around her. Drops of warm tears fell on her shoulders.

"Thank you." He whispered into her hair and kissed the top of her head. He pulled away to look down at her face. She too had tears running down her cheeks. Hector smiled down at her and kissed her tears following them down to her lips. Lucy felt the tug of her horns and the burn of her skin. She allowed her hands to roam his chest and down to his waste. They froze in place-he was naked! She pulled away to look at him.

"Aren't you cold?"

He shook his head tears still pooling at his lids, "A little, but I don't care."

She quirked an eyebrow at him, "I think other parts of you do." She said with quick look down. He wanted to laugh, but was now shivering too much. "I was just going to let you warm me up but now…"

He pulled her close, "Let's go somewhere warmer."

Lucy snuggled into him and pulled a stone from her pocket, "I know just the place."

The End