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Authors: Wendy Higgins

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BOOK: Sweet Evil
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. He’d called me by a nickname. That shouldn’t have warmed me so, but it did.

I focused on his question. My senses hadn’t been something I’d ever considered enjoyable, certainly not worthy of ranking for favoritism. It was hard to get past what a painful burden they’d been in the beginning.

“The smells can be really nice,” I said. “Until you get a whiff of skunk or something. Um... the sight is useful, getting to read signs from so far away and stuff.”

He gave me a skeptical look. “You never use them, do you?”

“Not very often,” I confessed. “I like to pretend I’m normal.”


I shrugged, intimidated by his confidence.

“You didn’t mention your sense of touch,” he said.

“Ugh, no. But let me guess—that’s

He climbed off his bed with graceful movements and came to sit next to me. I scrambled to sit up, but he put a hand on my arm.

“No, stay lying down. I want to show you something.”

I eyed him with suspicion and he laughed.

“Calm down, luv.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Nothing that will compromise your virtue and have Patti hunting me down. Now close your eyes.”

I huffed a little, but I
curious. Maybe he could show me something useful. I set my hesitation aside, lying back and closing my eyes, but stayed ready to move if necessary.

“Now, I want you to relax and concentrate on your sense of touch. I’ll be a good boy. I promise.”

Just an exercise to build trust, right? Oh, what the heck?

I took a deep, calming breath and pushed out my physical sense from within me. Scalp. Neck. Shoulders. Tummy. Back. Hips. Thighs. Calves. Ankles. Toes. All tingling.

I felt the tiny grooves of thread crisscrossing in the fabric of my cotton shirt and jean shorts. The motel comforter was scratchy with thousands of polyester prickles. Stray hairs from my ponytail tickled my temples and neck. And then, oh! I sucked in a breath, but managed to keep my eyes closed as one warm fingertip pressed into the palm of my hand. I concentrated on it.

“I can sense your fingerprint!” I whispered.

He didn’t answer. He lifted his finger from my palm, and a second later my foot was in his hands, throbbing with sensitivity. His fingers moved each little toe between them with the perfect amount of pressure so it wouldn’t tickle, moving on to the pad of my foot, arch, and heel, all neglected muscles that sang at the divine attention. He moved up and my ankles reveled under his sculpted hands.

Sudden panic overtook me as I realized he was about to move up to my calves. I hadn’t shaved!

“Wait,” I said, sitting halfway up. “Not my legs. They’re...” I was too embarrassed to finish.

“They’re lovely.” His face was straight, but his eyes were smiling.

“No, please.” I pulled my knees protectively up to my chest and mumbled, “I didn’t have time to shave this morning.” Now he laughed. It was a marvelous sound, so rich.

“All right, fine, no legs. But you’re missing out. I’m not through with you. Roll onto your stomach and relax again.” I obeyed, letting my arms lie limp at my sides and closing my eyes. Somehow it seemed a little safer to be on my tummy.

“Mmm.” He moaned, having not even touched me yet.

“What?” I asked, muffled by the poofy pillow.

“Oh, nothing. It’s just that you’ve got quite a nice little—”

I flipped to my side, glaring hard. He put up his hands.

“Sorry! A guy can’t help but notice. Truly—best behavior—starting now.”

I mentally crossed out that last thought about being safer on my stomach as I rolled onto it, taking longer to unwind this time. When he spoke, his deep voice was a smooth rumble.

“I need you to trust me and stay relaxed. I’m just going to raise your shirt a bit so that I can get to your back.” I shivered at the tug of my shirt upward and the cool air brushing my bare skin. But it was nothing compared to the shiver I experienced as all ten hot fingertips found the small of my back, working in slow circles across my skin. He lifted them so they barely touched me. Every hair follicle on my body stood upright. All thoughts of protesting disappeared. And just when I didn’t think I could take the teasing of his feathery touch for a second longer, his palms pressed down on my back muscles, strong thumbs circling outward from my spine to my waist. I stifled a moan of pleasure.

Okay, maybe he had a point about the sense of touch being worthy of favoritism.

With an expert movement, his stealthy hands went up the back of my shirt, past the uncomfortable bra clasp that dug into my skin, fingers tracing my shoulder blades. The tense muscles spasmed weakly, then turned to Jell-O under his touch. His hands were now on my shoulders, my shirt stretching. One of his hands came out to move my ponytail of hair to the side. And then there was the very best feeling so far: his lips on the back of my neck.

He was kissing me. On my neck. I should stop him, I thought, but the softness of his mouth was so... Oh. I could feel the beauty of each crease on his lips as they rested against the pores of my skin. The only sounds in the room were our beating hearts and breath. Why did he have to smell so good? Would it be so wrong to kiss him? Just one small kiss? I couldn’t think straight.

I tried to gain control of my breathing as his hot mouth opened and moved under my ear. I tilted my head to give him better access.
Each taste bud on his tongue gave its own gentle massage. Lips were now on my jaw, and I could smell him, the earth and brine and sweetness of his skin. In that moment, I fooled myself into believing I was in control—that a quick kiss would be no big deal. I turned to him, bringing my arms up over his shoulders, moving my fingers over the hair at the nape of his neck, and pulling his face up the last few inches to my waiting lips.

Kissing was far more blissful and intimate than I’d dared to let myself imagine. His cheeks and chin were rough, but our lips were soft together, careful and slow. I felt his hunger as his lips moved a bit harder, which I found that I wanted. His hand went to my waist, outlining my hip. I could have kissed him all night. It was the most wonderful feeling in the entire world. The tip of my tongue rippled against the smooth ridges on his in a playful, tantalizing sensation. I was so content with this kiss. But it was not enough for him.

His hand trailed up under my shirt, against my belly and rib cage, landing on the small curve of my bra. With one slight squeeze of his hand, the spell was broken and I was pulling my mouth from his. I reeled in my sense of touch with a tight snap.

My hands went from his hair to his chest, pushing him away and sitting all the way up. When Kaidan looked at me, lust raged in his eyes like a tumultuous island storm. He leaned in to kiss me again, but I held my arms out against his chest. His red starburst was throbbing and spinning right in front of me, as large as I’d ever seen it.

“You promised to be on your best behavior,” I reminded him, breathless.

, Anna,” he growled. His voice had gone very deep.

“Well, but you started it by kissing my neck.”

“True. I hadn’t planned that.” His sultry voice, paired with those blazing eyes, told me I needed to get away from him. I hurried to the end of the bed, where I jumped off and began to pace back and forth, yanking out my loose hairband and pulling my hair back into a tight ponytail. I tried hard not to think about the taste of his lips. I’d had my first kiss, and I’d never be the same.

“Why did you stop?” he asked.

“Because you were moving on to other things.”

He scratched his chin and cheek. “Hmm, moved too quickly. Rookie mistake.”

I crossed my arms again, watching him speculate internally like a coach outlining a play that had gone wrong. Incredible. Then he sized me up in his sights again.

“But I can see you still want me.”

I gave him my meanest stare, but it was hard to look at him. Gosh, he was hot! And a total player. The kiss meant nothing to him.

“Oh,” he said with mock sadness, “there it goes. Mad instead? Well, sort of. You can’t seem to muster a really good anger—”

“Stop it!”

“Sorry, was I saying that out loud?”

“I can read people, too, you know. Well, not
, but at least I have the decency to try not to notice, to give them some sort of emotional privacy!”

“Yes, how very decent of you.” He hadn’t moved from his languid position on my bed.

I leaned forward, grabbing a pillow and throwing it at him.

“Pillow fight?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Get off my bed. Please. I’m ready to go to sleep.”

He stood up and made a grand arm gesture toward the bed. I crawled onto it, climbing under the scratchy covers and turning my back to him. I realized then that I was still wearing my clothes, but I was not about to get up. I could feel his eyes on my back.

“But I thought we might get naked, just like Adam and Eve, so natural....”

I gasped. I’d forgotten all about that part of my conversation with Scott! Utter humiliation. I curled into a tighter ball.

“Oh, come on. You haven’t even thanked me yet.”

“For what?” I asked, still not looking.

“For saving you from snogging that plonker. You didn’t really fancy him, did you?”

My cheeks burned, and I was glad to be turned away from him. I kept my mouth shut.

“So that’s it, then?” he asked. I ignored him. “I always wondered what it would feel like.”

That made me curious enough to turn to him.

would feel like?” I asked.

“Rejection.” He seemed in the midst of a revelation.

“What are you saying? That no girl has ever told you no?”

“Not one.”

Well, that explained a lot.

“And what about you?” I asked. “Haven’t you ever stopped or said no to a girl?”

He laughed as if I’d said something ridiculous. “Why would I do that?”

“Lots of reasons,” I said. “Never mind, just go to sleep. We have a long day tomorrow.” I turned away from him again, punching the thick pillow and laying my head down.

“I suppose I did refuse one, but she doesn’t count,” he said.

“Why not?”

“Because she was Neph.”

Discomfort gnawed at me.

“This must be the part where I take a cold shower?” he asked.

“Good idea.”

When he was in the bathroom with the water running, I jumped down and changed into my pajamas. Then I leaped back into bed and chanted to myself,
Don’t think about the kiss. Don’t think about the kiss
. Impossible.

I lay very still with my eyes closed when he came back in the room. A clean-scented steam passed over me. I listened as he rummaged around the room for a few minutes, then I heard the door to our room open. I sat up in bed and saw Kaidan in the doorway.

“Where are you going?” I asked, just as he was shutting the door.

He looked up. “I have to work.”

Why did I feel so stunned, and a little offended, too?

“Have to? Or want to?” I challenged.

“Why should that matter, Anna?” he asked dryly. “I’m going now.” He made a move to shut the door.

“Where will you go?” I called out.

“I’ll go visit the girl at the front desk, just as she suggested. So unless you’ve changed your mind... ?” His eyes held a promise of seduction, and I shook my head.

I had not changed my mind. There would be nothing more going on in this room. But I wanted him to stay. I looked down at the itchy comforter.

“Didn’t think so,” I heard him mutter. Then he switched off the light and closed the door hard.

I lay there trying not to imagine what the girl at the front desk looked like, and how his lips would soon be on hers. I growled in frustration at my own stupidity, and flipped to my other side.

I wished I could fall asleep and put this episode behind me, but no matter what I tried I couldn’t get comfortable. I considered turning on the television, but I didn’t want Kaidan to know my traitorous heart was waiting up for him.

An agonizing two hours later, he came back and I lay very still, pretending to sleep. He went straight into the restroom to wash up. A few minutes later he climbed into his bed and got quiet.

“Anna?” His voice was low. Of course he knew I was awake. I didn’t answer, but he was undeterred. “Did you at least enjoy your first kiss?”

I wanted to tell him to shut up, but the burst of anger tapered away.

“Just go to sleep, Kaidan.”

I chewed the inside of my lip, confused. Why couldn’t I stay mad at him? Thinking about what he’d just been doing filled me with a range of dreadful emotions, but anger was not one of them. I had no right to be angry. It’d been stupid to assume he wouldn’t work while we were on this trip together.

I was relieved to have him back in the room. He sighed, and after a while it was clear he wasn’t going to say anything else. The tension dissolved.

That night I tossed and turned, replaying my first kiss at least a thousand heavenly times.



either of us had thought to set the alarm, but the bright sunlight coming through the thin curtains worked fine. I stretched and kicked the tangled bedsheets away, turning to see whether Kaidan was awake. His eyes were blinking open, too. He yawned, causing me to yawn as well. I could have used another few hours of sleep, but this would have to do for now.

Kaidan leaned back against the headboard with his eyes closed. Each lean muscle was noticeable under his tanned skin. I got a decent tan in the summer, but nothing like him. It made me wonder about his heritage, which could have been anything from Italian to South American. He probably didn’t even know himself.

While his eyes were closed I stared unabashedly. His shoulders were rounded and his forearms tight. His entire torso was a sight to see—a toned chest angling downward to his abs with a slight ripple, but he wasn’t cut in a way that might make a girl feel self-conscious of her own imperfections. His waist went down in a vee at his hips, where it met the hotel blanket.

I tore my eyes away when he stirred. From the corner of my eye I saw him throw the blankets easily aside and scoot to the edge of the bed by the window. He stood up, facing away from me, and raised his arms for a glorious stretch. When I looked again my eyes landed on his bare behind.

Dear God!

I screamed and buried my face in my pillow.

“What?!” I heard him ask. “Did you see a roach?”

“Why are you naked?!” I did not dare lift my red face.

“Huh. Is that all?” he asked. “I always sleep in the buff. I don’t know how you can stand all that clothing.”

believable,” I said. I pulled myself up and stomped to the bathroom.

We’d been on the road for over one hundred miles and had yet to speak. Kaidan rummaged forever through the local radio pickings. When we heard, “I’m bringing sexy back...” he gave a small chuckle and shake of his head before turning the station again and settling on an angsty female rocker.

I stared out the window at the edges of I-40 lined in green brush. We passed ranches and farms, some modern, some leaning and abandoned. We must have seen every breed of cattle known to man along the way.

“Hungry?” Kaidan asked. I shrugged, then nodded.

He pulled into the almost empty lot of a pancake restaurant. Inside, we seated ourselves in a booth with cracked cushions. A tired-looking waitress, not much older than us, approached. A heat of contentment rose from her womb to greet me.

“What can I get you to drink?” she asked, unfriendly.

“Coffee,” said Kaidan.

She looked to me.

“Hot chocolate, please.”

She walked away to get our beverages.

“She’s pregnant,” I whispered.

He looked at her and shook his head.

“Doesn’t look like it,” he said.

That didn’t mean anything, though. Sometimes people didn’t show until the middle of their pregnancies. A girl at school hid it from everyone until her sixth month.

“I can sense the baby, can’t you?”


Maybe it was my imagination, but he seemed a little put out that I could do something he couldn’t. We both watched her from behind as she filled the mugs. She herself was not content, shrouded in gray.

She brought our drinks and took our orders. I tried to smile at her, but she avoided my eyes.

Kaidan drank his coffee black. I skimmed the whipped cream off my cocoa with a spoon and ate it all before speaking. I was already dreading what I had to say.

“Kaidan... do you think you could try to be a gentleman, at least while we’re traveling together, and maybe wear shorts to bed?”

“Ahh... I see.” He sat back. “The sight of my arse gave you quite a fright, did it?”

“I’m being serious,” I told him.

He took a drink of coffee. “For the record, I’m not a gentleman, but I’ll make an exception this once. No more sleeping nude while traveling together. Satisfied? Now you can stop with the evil eye. Look—here comes our food.”

My stomach growled at the sight of my pancakes with a big scoop of butter melting on top. But it was Kaidan’s meal that made my eyes bulge. Pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, ham, grits, and toast! It took three plates to accommodate it all. He grinned at me and dug into it.

I was famished. We ate every bite, and then leaned back in the squeaky booth, feeling dopey on food overload.

Kaidan sat up abruptly and a look of gloom passed over his face. He motioned at me to duck lower in the booth, so I slid downward. The fearful look in his eyes reminded me of when his father had come home.

“Here comes trouble,” he whispered. I started to turn my head but he hissed, “
Don’t look!

“Where?” I asked. I was looking just at him now. He tilted his head in the direction of our waitress behind the nearby counter.

“Cover your badge,” he whispered. I looked around and snatched up the dessert menu, holding it in front of me.

I waited a second, then moved my eyes toward the waitress. She was pouring water into the coffeemaker. Her hand shook as she poured. Then she stopped to steady herself on the counter. Her hazy gray darkened, and her chin quivered. The thing that struck me most was that her white cloud, her guardian angel, was erratic, jumping around in agitation. I’d seen them do that before on occasion, but I didn’t understand why. After a moment it calmed.

The cook behind the window asked the waitress a question about an order and she snapped a response.

“It’s gone,” Kaidan whispered with relief.

“What just happened?” I asked.

“The demon spirit. You couldn’t see him?”

“I didn’t see anything.” I looked around, pressing myself smaller into the booth.

“All Neph have the ability to see them. You must not be willing.”

Our waitress came to us with undisguised impatience.

“Anything else?”

“No, thank you,” I told her. “Everything was good.”

She smacked the check on the table and took away our dishes without another word. Kaidan dug his wallet from his back pocket and laid a twenty on top of the check.

“Do you think she’s mad at us?” I asked. Although I could see emotions, I had no way of knowing their source.

“Why would she be? She’s frustrated because she can’t comprehend why she’s feeling a surge of dark emotion out of nowhere. She’ll most likely try to place the blame on something—usually another person, lack of sleep, hormones, anything—rather than dealing with the emotion. And thus begins the cycle.”

“So you’re saying”—I leaned toward him to whisper across the table—“that our waitress was just visited by a demon?”

He nodded, arranging the salt, pepper, sugars, and condiments in a neat row.

I thought about our bill and did the math in my head. She was getting about a five-dollar tip. Something told me her troubles began with money. I dug a ten-dollar bill from the savings I kept in my pocketbook and placed it on top of Kaidan’s twenty.

“You know you can’t buy happiness,” he said to me. He was so devilishly handsome that I shivered and cleared my throat. I looked back at our waitress, whose guardian angel seemed to be embracing her.

“Are the guardian angels always with them?” I asked, still watching it.

“Yup. They’re with their humans when they visit the loo... even when they’re having sex.”

I closed my eyes and shook my head. “You just had to go there.”

“You asked. And don’t worry. They’re way too pure and obedient to be voyeurs.”

It felt disrespectful, talking about the angels like that. I tried to think of another question.

“So the demons who visit people are in spirit form?”

“That’s right. Good thing this is a long trip. I have a lot to teach you.”

He stood, so I followed, just as our waitress came over. She eyed the two bills on the table.

“I’ll get your change,” she said.

“No, it’s yours,” Kaidan purred. He looked at her too long and her colors went from the pale green of gratitude to a rush of red.

“Yes, thank you again!” I said, louder than I’d meant to. “Have a great day!”

I nudged Kaidan’s ankle with my foot and he moved. We walked out into a beautiful Shawnee, Oklahoma, morning with our feet crunching loose pebbles in the pavement.

“This is going to be a long trip if you give girls the bedroom eyes every time we stop.” I tried to keep my tone light.

“Bedroom eyes?” he asked. We were climbing up into his car now. He sat in the driver’s seat and turned toward me. His hair flopped over his forehead, curling up at the ends against his brows. There was no roundness to his face—it was all squared-off edges. But it was those blue eyes that did it for me.

“As if you don’t know what you’re doing,” I said.

“I’m working.”

Hmph. Well.

“That poor girl has had a bad enough day without you filling her head with ideas, too.” I pulled on my seat belt with more than the necessary force and he started the car.

“I think she’s perfectly capable of coming up with ideas on her own. One might think you’re jealous, talking like that, but I can see you’re not. It’s uncanny. You’re actually concerned for her?”

“Why is that so hard to believe?”

“You don’t even know her,” he pointed out.

possible to feel compassion for strangers.”

“She’s gotten herself pregnant out of wedlock,” he said. “She made her own choice.”

“We don’t know her circumstances.”

He followed the signs back onto I-40 west, and I could sense the argument was over.

“Why did you say I’m unwilling to see the demons?” I asked.

“I’d venture to say you’ve not opened yourself to evil. You have to be willing to really see it and accept it for what it is.”

“I don’t want to be open to evil. I don’t even like to watch the news. I know it’s out there, but the details hurt too much—feeling all of those people’s suffering.”

He gave me a quizzical glance. “What do you mean, ‘feeling their suffering’?”

“I’m not always good at blocking their emotions, especially if it’s a big group of people with a lot of dark emotion. I try to push it away, but sometimes it still seeps in, and it hurts.”

“You mean you actually
the emotions they emit? Not just see it?”

“Yeah,” I said, “don’t you?”

“No! I can only see their colors. Feeling them must be an attribute from your mother.”

“Oh.” I didn’t know what to say to that.

“Wait,” he said, the threat of a smile on his face. “Does that mean you feel lustful every time somebody near you feels it?”

“No, pervo. It’s not like that—it’s more like an unsatisfied longing for something. It’s uncomfortable.”

“Hmm. Too bad. Well, no offense,” he said, “but you’ll need to toughen up a bit. It would benefit you to see demons and know what they’re up to.”

He was right. I knew I would have to deal with it, but right now I was focused on getting information.

“What exactly do the demon spirits do?” I asked.

“They whisper not-so-sweet nothings into human ears.” He drove with one hand. The other hand twirled a pen back and forth between his fingers without much attention to it.

“What do you mean?”

“You know the little voice in your head?” he asked. “The one humans like to call their ‘conscience’?” I nodded. “It’s actually the messages people are receiving from their guardian angels. You see, the demon spirits whisper thoughts into a person’s mind, and the demon thoughts battle it out with the human’s own feelings, along with the messages their guardian angels are trying to instill. The old cliché about a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other is not far off. A demon might whisper to a girl that she’s unattractive and unworthy of love. Then he’s gone. His job is done. He moves on to the next victim. The girl’s angel then whispers that she
beautiful and she
worthy, blah, blah, blah. Which do you think she’ll choose to believe?”

It was so unfair. I pushed on with my questions.

“How often do the demons visit people?”

“It depends on the need. Once a month. Once a year. It varies from person to person.”

“Why are they allowed to do this?” I couldn’t help but feel betrayed on behalf of humanity. I was jolted by the bitter edge in Kaidan’s response.

“Maybe because the Creator is not as good and loving as you give Him credit for.”

“You’re angry at Him?” I wasn’t sure why it surprised me.

“He’s never done me any favors. I was damned from the moment of conception, and you probably were, too, with or without your bit of angel.”

“What do you mean by that?”

He ran a hand through his hair and stared hard at the road. “I mean there’s no chance of redemption for the Neph. It’s the first lesson we learn during training. We go to hell, just like our fathers.”

Wait. What? He had to be mistaken.

“I don’t see how that can be possible,” I said. “Maybe your father didn’t want you getting any lofty ideas about not being the prodigy lust boy.”

“We’ll see,” he said. “Ask your own father when you meet him.”

I tried to focus on the landscape and not the confused feelings inside me. I couldn’t even bring myself to get excited at the Texas state line. All I could think about was the possibility of being condemned to hell. It couldn’t be true. I would find out the truth, although I wished it didn’t have to be from the demon who fathered me.

I leaned against the door, zoning out at the flat expanse of land in every direction, and let my eyes close.

A nudge against my arm made me crack my bleary eyes and look around. I sat up and smoothed my hair back as my vision adjusted. We were out in the middle of nowhere. Miles of flat nothingness.

“Sorry to wake you, but I have to stop for petrol.”

We got gas at a small country store, along with sandwiches, apples, drinks, and rocky-road fudge made by the owner’s wife.

Kaidan had been captivated by the store owner’s deep Texas accent. He asked a ridiculous number of questions just to keep the man talking. He then tried to repeat the man’s accent when we got in the car: “‘Where are y’all young’uns headed? We got us some maps over yonder by them there h-apples.’”

BOOK: Sweet Evil
10.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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