Suicide Doll update 1-9-09

Estimated reading time: 3 – 4 minutes

Their forgotten innocence resurfaced in his mind like the scent of perfume, faint yet powerful. Narcissus brought the toy to his chest and embraced it the way he wished he could Lisette. How had it come to this? When did he lose sight of her? When did he stopped seeing Lisette’s joy and saw only her smiles?

He remembered the purity of that afternoon. They had come to the attic with mischief. Laughter and joy had given way to familiar games. Eventually, Narcissus had posed the suggestion of a new amusement.

“A game.” The whisper cracked with misery. It was always a game to him. Frivolity dictated worth to Narcissus to the point of cheapening delight’s original intent.

‘Perhaps if I had never suggested it we could be like we were then. It wouldn’t have been terrible. We could still be children, ones who would never see the eve of misbegotten adulthood.’

Flashed ankles had given way to exposed legs, loosened dress to discarded vest and shirt, until they both had stood naked. Their nudity, familiar after years of bathing and sleeping together, had become a foreign thing. Vulgar intensity replaced casual curiosity with alarming speed. Hunger transferred its attention from food to flesh. Narcissus had pushed Lisette to the ground with one hand. Her protests fell beneath his graceless charm and her body opened to his. Hours later they had left hand-in-hand to continue their play in their chamber below.

“And we left you here alone.” Tears dropped onto the abandoned toy. His shoulders, curved with vulnerability, shook as the muffled sobs spewed beyond his control. “I’m so, so sorry. I never thought of you again after having her. I was a despicable creature. Please, please forgive me.”

Narcissus shuffled forward, doll clutched in both arms. Tears blinded but his feet knew their destination. He buried his face against the pitiful shelter afforded by cloth. The putrid air sunk into his lungs, poisoning them against natural function.

‘It’s not her. It’s not her. It’s NOT her.’

A curious sound slithered into consciousness. Narcissus paused in his bitter pilgrimage. His hearing strained to isolate and contain it in a neat category of recognition. Insidious and constant, it reminded him a something small and furred. A tiny smile appeared. The noise belonged to a rodent. Where there was a rodent there was bound to be a cat.

Perhaps the horrid stench was due to a mountain of rats belonging to a very gluttonous cat?

Narcissus continued his pitiful shuffle with swallowed cries. He’d find the source of the rodent infestation, order a thorough trapping as well as a fresh fish for the efficient feline, and then continue his search for Lisette. He’d find her, give her back this precious doll, and then hold her in his lap for days. Afterwards, Narcissus would petition Nephilim to acknowledge Lisette not as his consort but his wife.

“And then everything will be back to normal. We’ll be happy again. Just us. No one else.”

Green drew his attention. Narcissus wanted to laugh in relief. Lisette had already found the cat. She probably couldn’t hear him because her attention was so focused it. Perhaps Lisette had heard the commotion in the attic and being the brave, headstrong girl she was she had to investigate. She hadn’t come to him because of pique. No matter. That fight was over. Narcissus only hoped she hadn’t cried for long at seeing the poor dead rats.

Narcissus lifted his head with her precious name on his lips. What he saw stripped him of speech and reason.

Devil’s Descent II update 9-3-09

Estimated reading time: 3 – 4 minutes

“Poetic garbage. Only Purebloods talk that kind of…” The profanity quivered in a slew of incoherent syllables before retreating back into her mouth.

“Yes? You were saying?” Julian retracted his fingers just the smallest bit.

Lily muttered inelegantly even as she trembled from the effort of fighting the burning sensation of his claws in her hand. “Nothing.”

“Nothing? Really? Are you sure? Are you sure there wasn’t a nasty word trying to come out here?” He punctuated the end word with a tap to her chin.

“Once I get feeling back into my legs, I’m so going to make you pay for this.” The threat, while lacking volume, held no short supply of heat.

“Poor sweetie, she’s had such a hard night. Spirit steps out and then she gets to see what grown-ups do before she falls down and ruins her hands and dress. Then that mean old vampire impales her fingers instead of what she really wanted.”

Julian dropped her hand. It thumped against the chaise.

“Don’t talk to me like I’m a baby. It’s gross.”

“Only because you lack imagination.”

Lily heaved a weary sigh. She closed her eyes and immediately regretted it. Fatigue mixed with nausea made her feel like shit. “What’s wrong with me? Don’t play word games with me either.”

“For someone who needs me you’re being awfully rude.”

“And digging your dirty claws into me isn’t? Disgusting asshole, I don’t need you. Don’t answer me. What do I care?”

Julian held out his hand. A bar of soap flew into it. “Don’t whine or it stays longer.”

Lily slapped at his arm with the miniscule strength she still possessed. It couldn’t change what she had set in motion. Julian gripped her jaw and forced it down. He shoved the soap into her mouth and kept it there with his hand.

“Stop whining.”

Lily slammed her head back against the wall. Julian followed. The soap burned her throat and sinuses mercilessly. Lily’s cheeks flamed raw with rage and helplessness.

How dare he? Even my mama never did this to me! How could I ever have even considered Julian worth my time? Oh, God, this tastes so bad! I’m gonna throw up. I know I am.

“Don’t you vomit, Lily. I warned you what would happen if you had the bad manners to curse in my presence again. Take your punishment like a good girl and it will be over soon. Yes?”

Lily glared. She shook her head even as she maneuvered her feet against his chest. Pushing and kicking for all she was worth, Lily tried to force Julian away. She failed.

“Stop it, Lily.” He spoke to her calmly, gently, without a shred of irritation or anger. He spoke to her like a favored child.

Lily’s frustration mounted as did her panic. Tears streamed down her splotchy face. Her hands leached onto his wrists, nails shredding the skin without care for perfection.

“Lily, you’re being very naughty and I don’t like it one bit.”

Shrieks implied her lack of care. Her feet increased their drumming. Soon Lily’s shoes clattered across the tiled floor. Their raucous shot of sound fell beneath her grunts and moans.

“We can do this until you pass out, Lily. I’ve got all the time in the world, darling.”

Devil’s Descent II update 8-25-09

Estimated reading time: 4 – 6 minutes

She rose up before falling back down in a jumble of useless limbs. Unnatural fatigue twisted her joints into loveless knots. Face leaning against the cool tiled wall, she whispered, “This can’t be happening.”

“It is.”

“I know that.”

“Then why complain about it?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because this hurts like h-heck.” Lily’s attention swung away from his amused expression.

“So you are trainable.”

She pressed her cheek hard against the wall. “You’re not even worth the breath it takes.”

“Yes, that’s why you just wasted some.”

“Be quiet.”

“No, darling. That’s my line.” Julian squeezed her wrist when Lily tried to snatch it away. “Hold still.” Not waiting for a response, he held her hand palm up and began to clean it. His touch, infinitely delicate, took care with the shredded skin. Her sluggish healing proved his instincts were, as always, correct.

Lily was due to expire in a matter of months.

Malice prompted Julian to raise her hand and kiss it. “Oh, my darling little hand. Look at with your unbalanced, previous owner has done to you.” His crystalline gaze flashed gold. “She should be punished, don’t you think?”

“Why do you even bother to pretend you care anything about me or my hand? Just stop.”

“I don’t care about you. Only what happens to you.”

“Same thing.”

“Not even close.”

Lily curled forward, hand still trapped within his. Tremors shook her small frame, reminding Julian of a leaf being buffeted by merciless wind. He liked the comparison, seeing himself, of course, as the wind. The desire to shred her into tiny pieces ate at his self-control. The more he tended her the more he wanted to hurt her.

It was paradoxically delicious.

“Do you still hurt?”

“No.”

Julian studied her for a moment, mouth quirked in a cordial smile, when suddenly he pressed a clawed thumb into her palm. Lily screamed before clamping her mouth shut. The decidedly green coloring in her face prompted him to whisper, “Liar.”

Lily swung her freed arm against his face, catching him in the ear. She hoped to hell it hurt as much as she did.

“You do realize I let you do that.”

“Yeah?” she gasped, trying to hold in her pitiful cries even as he sunk his claw deeper into her skin. Nothing would please Julian more than to know how much she suffered. Although, he probably could scent it but pride dominated Lily before logic. “Why did you?”

“Because I’m a nice vampire, Lily, when I want to be.” He removed his thumb. “There, there. No need for theatrics. The adrenaline should be kicking in now.”

Lily’s shudders dwindled as he predicted. The vomit-inducing agony settled into a manageable twitch. She became aware of his hand patting her back. The feel of his cool flesh against her clammy skin made Lily’s fingers curl weakly. Her thoughts ran in tandem with his touch.

I hate this. I hate this so fucking much. I’m such an idiot. God, I never stood a chance. Everything I’ve done has led me here and there’s nothing I can do about it. Nothing matters. I can’t believe him. I don’t even know who he is. I never did. He’s not nice. Not to me. Never to me. Can’t give him anything to use against me. Can’t be here. Have to leave. Have to figure out a way. Can’t be food. Can’t—

Lingering pain reared up and shredded Lily with dying fanaticism. “Argh!” She whipped her head against the wall, uncaring of the sudden burst attacking her already frail senses. Her ragged breathing obscenely filled in the space between the disgraced girl and her covetous singular audience.

“Stop fighting it.”

“I know…how…to deal with…pain.”

Julian drew forth her other hand. The damp towel made several passes over it. “Stop fighting it,” he repeated with a hard edge to the gentle words.

Lily blew out a hard breath. She knew what was coming and was too damned weak to fight back. Not surprisingly, Lily was mostly right.

Julian dug in two claws deep with her palm. This time her screams lasted more than a few seconds. Lily lashed out with her heeled foot. Once more he accepted her physical abuse, knowing the mess he was making of her mind was worth more than the mosquito-like stab of discomfort.

“Stay with the pain, Lily, or things will get much worse.”

“Too,” she swallowed raggedly, “late.

“This is nothing.” Julian twisted his fingers. “The pain keeps you here. As long as you feel pain then you’re still alive. You should cherish it, Lily. You should welcome it into your soul.”

Devil’s Descent II update 8-22-09

Estimated reading time: 2 – 4 minutes

“I don’t want to go back in there. Really. I’ll be f-fine.” Lily’s spine curled forward. She gritted her teeth against the embarrassing cries clamoring to rush out.

Julian murmured, “Lying. How will we ever overcome this nasty habit of yours? Lily, you’re not long for this world and these attacks will continue to occur until then.”

Her face resembled paste. “What?”

“Hasn’t Jonathon prepared you?”

“No. I don’t know what you’re…ah…talking about it.”

“I see.” Julian stepped through the still-open doors. He tucked her closer to him as they ascended the stairs. Lily, seeing where which direction they were headed, began to fight in earnest.

“I told you already! I don’t want to be here!”

He ignored her.

“Goddamnit! You bastard! Don’t you have any pride? I already fucking told you I don’t want to be here!”

“Pride is a quality you currently lack. Behave yourself or I’ll be forced to wash your mouth out with soup.”

They entered his suite. Lily’s wild stare stuck to the bed, seeing the naked blond still sprawled vulgarly.

“Aren’t you worried I’ll wake up Nicole?” The urge to call her a whore pressed down on Lily. She tried to rise above her pettiness—a near impossible task.

“Not in particular.”

Malice possessed her gaze. “I’ll do it. I’ll wake her up and tell how you brought me here to watch your disgusting show.”

“Go right ahead.”

“Don’t you care?” she screeched, desperate to find some measure of control.

“No. I don’t.”

Lily drew in a deep breath, readying for a yell, when Julian pointed out, “She won’t wake up for you. Have a care for both of our ears.”

“She’ll only listen to her low-life master, is that it?”

“Yes.”

“Lucky her.”

“Your sarcasm is unbecoming. Hush.” He stepped into the large bathroom. The door closed behind them automatically. “Lily, you have really made a mess of things tonight. I doubt either of us expected things to end up like this.” Julian set her down gently. “Don’t even think about leaving before I say you can.”

“You don’t own me.”

“Of course I do.” He opened a cabinet and withdrew a small hand towel.  Julian led her to a chaise. He pushed her down with one hand. “I own your life until it is time for me to take it. I take care of my possessions, Lily. You would do well to remember that.”

“You’re so full of shit.” She closed her eyes for a moment. Her stomach roiled, torn between stabbing pain and wrenching nausea. “Earlier you asked…well…you asked me about this thing. What did you mean?”

“You have to be more specific, Lily. I’ve said quite of bit tonight.”

“Yeah, because you run your mouth like a little bitch.” Her eyes flew open, black irises snapping with outrage. “You pinched me!”

“Be glad that’s all I did.”

Lily rubbed her arm with furious motions. “Prick!”

“Utter one more profanity, darling, and you’ll get to know the flavor of soap very intimately before I gag you.”

Devil’s Descent II update 8-21-09

Estimated reading time: 6 – 10 minutes

“I asked you to survive this for me. You promised you would. Would you add liar to fickleness as well?”

Lily tugged her arm but it remained imprisoned. “I don’t know what world you escape to in your head, Julian, but your sense of reality is completely warped.”

“I obviously disagree.” He let go of her arm only to ply his fingers to the back of her tiny neck. His gaze sparkled with maliciousness joy when Lily didn’t dignify his manhandling with a struggle. Instead, she bared her teeth in feral warning. It reminded Julian of a kitten trying to stare down a wolf. “I should’ve known better to expect a human, a damaged human at that, to have kept her word.”

Scalded pride caused her to gasp in outrage. “I don’t owe you anything. Not anymore.”

“Stop sulking.” Julian shook his head in false contrition. “I gave you a chance to back out and you didn’t. I told you once you began this game you would see it to the end.”

“I have. You win. I lose. Satisfied?”

“Not by the half.” Lily shifted violently in his hold. He tightened his fingers in warning. “You haven’t mentioned her by name yet.”

She froze; eyes wide with terrible vulnerability. “I don’t plan to. Now let go.”

“You like to give me orders, much like you did with Ian. Unlike him, I have a pair. I don’t take orders from anyone—much less someone like you.”

“Someone like me…I imagine. Since someone like me is so repulsive and unworthy of someone like you I think it’s in our best interest to never speak to each other again.”

Julian sighed. “Your childishness seems to know no bounds. I imagine if I let you go right now you’d stomp your way out my door with arms crossed.” Studying her mutinous expression, he added, “And perhaps break a dish or two along the way.”

“The thought had crossed my mind.”

He blinked once, seemingly surprised Lily would admit to it. A burst of laughter peppered the air. “Honesty is refreshing from you. It suits. You really should do it more often.”

“Back at you. When you said, ‘I’m going to fuck you tonight,” you should’ve been more specific. If you had wanted an audience I’m sure I could’ve scrounged a pervert or two to come along.” Lily’s heart bled from fresh wounds. She hated even mentioning what happened. It gave Julian power over her. It showed him how much he hurt her. It made him matter.

And he doesn’t even matter. Not really. I’ll get over it. I’m not even attached to him. It’s just Ian…

Breathing steadily became impossible.

“I take so much pleasure from your misery, Lily. I really do. Thank you for giving it to me.”

She startled. His fingertip scored her face gently. It came back wet. Lily shook with a mixture of impotence and humiliation. Helplessness did not become her. At all.

“I wasn’t crying because of you.”

“Of course you weren’t. Just as you had no real intention of making love with me tonight.”

“That’s what you call it? Didn’t look like it from where I was standing.”

“Oh, my little Lily. That wasn’t making love. That was a lesson just for you. One I’m sure will be repeated many times over until you understand what this is all about.”

Lily looked away. The tenderness in his eyes frightened her. It raped her anger, dissolving it into maddened disorder.

Julian caressed her cheek with his hand. He was pleased by her demeanor. It would’ve be rather upsetting if he had to hurt her physically. That comes later, he thought in lazy anticipation.

“Why?” The word eased out of her with hollow regret. “I don’t want to do this with you anymore. I don’t—” Lily’s voice cracked before settling back into a dull, colorless thrum. “I’ll leave you alone if you leave me alone. That’s what you wanted. That’s what the point of all this was—I get it. Do you want me to apologize too? Fine. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever I did to you to make you hate me this much. I’m sorry to have loved you when you were someone else.”

“I’ve defeated you so quickly then? Disappointing.” He studied her downturned face. “Has the Spirit come back yet?”

“What makes you think she’s coming back?”

“Because she’s not done with you yet either.” When Lily didn’t reply Julian asked, “Do you even care?”

“Enough with the questions. You don’t care. Neither do I. Let’s leave it at that.” Despite the belligerence lacing each tautly spoken word, desperation called out to Julian.

He answered.

“This is how grown-ups play, Lily, especially vampires. Don’t be upset. I’m doing you a favor. Now you’ll know your place. You’ll know where you belong.” He leaned in, mouth hovering over hers, hand keeping her trapped in place. “And now you’ll know beyond doubt that Ian was a lie best to be forgotten. I’m all that’s left. How you deal with it is up to you.”

Julian released Lily. Her neck burned. She drew her shoulders back, tilted her chin up, and found a way to make her mask mobile. She smiled brightly and whispered, “Good night, Lord Douglas. I don’t expect to run into you again so enjoy your stay. Remember if the status changes with the woman above, don’t let it lead back to Vickery Hill.”

She ignored the mockery twisting his lips. Without another word, Lily turned away, uncaring that she exposed her back to him. What did it matter? He already proved how much he could hurt her if he wanted. There was nothing she could do to stop him. Not now. Maybe never.

“Where are you going?”

Lily forced herself to stop. She answered him with breezy politeness, “Home.”

“Not alone you’re not.” Julian pulled out a set of keys from his pocket while walking towards her.

“What are you doing?” Brittle panic cracked the illusion of comfortable courtesy.

“Taking you home.”

“No!” Lily skittered away from the kitchen and away from him. She walked in a fast clip for the front entrance.

“Don’t be silly, darling. You can’t walk back. You’ll ruin your shoes.”

“I’ll be fine!” she yelled while grabbing the ornate door knob. She needed to get away from him. His kindness, his graciousness was doing what his callousness couldn’t. Lily’s stomach clenched with vicious pain. She winced, feeling the world sway before her.

I can’t get sick. Not now. Not here.

Hurtling through the door, Lily ran around the sidewalk with neatly ordered beds, and began the arduous track up the steep drive. She soon heard the steady tap of dress shoes behind her. It spurred her to abandon all decorum.

Adrenaline aided her mad run. Lily slipped several times, once falling forward and scraping her palms on the asphalt, before righting herself to keep distance from the approaching steps climbing behind.

Her eyes prickled, surely only from the wind, when another cramp seized her stomach. This time the pain was so intense Lily missed her footing completely and tumbled sideways. She cried aloud, horrified to have let her enemy see her so vulnerable. Before Lily could scrabble upright, Julian plucked her from the ground.

“Look at what you’ve done to your pretty dress.” Holding her struggling form easily in one arm, he grabbed a flailing wrist and turned her palm upright. Blood peppered the shredded skin. “Lily, stupid doesn’t even begin to cover this.”

“It’s not your problem. Stop pretending like it is.”

“You are my problem, idiot.” He sighed in irritation. Carrying her back down the drive, Julian tightened his arms in warning. “Stop struggling or I will drop you. It will hurt. And I’ll still get my way.”

Lily’s body shook. She arched her back as panic, shame, and pain vied for domination. “I don’t want to go back with you. Let me go.” She remembered how receptive he had been earlier when she asked nicely. “Please. Please put me down.”

He considered her. A knowing gleam sparkled in his blue, blue eyes. “No.” Julian smelled the terror and agony overlaying her scent like cheap perfume. “Not until we get you cleaned up.”

Devil’s Descent II update 8-20-09

Estimated reading time: 4 – 6 minutes

Nicole groaned in satisfaction as Julian whispered in her ear. Suddenly, her limbs dropped to the bed. Nicole had fallen back to sleep, no doubt due to Julian’s decree. He stood up, erection wet and unsatisfied, and walked towards Lily. Her mask cracked, allowing loathing and perfidy to seep through.

“Did you enjoy it, darling?”

Lily remained mutinously silent. The only indication that betrayed her wrath was the spasm crossing her brow.
Julian cocked his head. He ran a fingertip down her smooth cheek, daring her jerk away from his touch. “Did you enjoy me fucking you?”

“It wasn’t me.” The brittle words slipped out as a low hiss.

“Of course it was.” He crept closer, almost within reach of touching her with his rampant arousal. “I was only looking at you, wasn’t I?”

Lily’s right hand curled into a fist. “I’m going to leave now. Unlock the door.”

“No.”

“Unlock the door.”

“No.”

She inhaled sharply. “Unlock the door, Julian. Unlock it now before you see who I can be.”

“That’s not a threat, little girl. I want to see you. I want to see every little piece of you. Show me. Show me how ugly you can be.”

Lily lashed out with a warbled cry. She threw all her strength into punching his mouth. She then raked her fingers down the side of his face. Retribution didn’t cross the frayed fabric of her mind. Fear was an unknown entity.

Julian allowed her this violence. He encouraged her to strike him again when he moaned in graphic bliss.

Lily’s hand ached terribly. She fought the urge to cradle it against her chest. Instead, Lily gave him one final push and spat, “You disgusting excuse for a man. You made a fool of me tonight but never again. Do you understand? Don’t ever fucking come near me again. I don’t ever want to talk to you after this. You disgust me. Everything about you makes me sick!”

“What’s the matter, Lily? Why does seeing me fuck Nicole bother you? I thought only of you. I imagined it was you beneath me. When she came I pretended it was you. Why’s that so wrong?”

Julian smiled a petty smile full of triumph.

“After all, I’m only doing what you would’ve done…what you’re still trying to do to me.”

Lily bit her lip until it bled. The pointed burst of pain cleared her mind long enough to growl, “Inbred idiot vampire that you are, you can’t expect me to separate Ian from you so easily. The man I knew since I was twelve looks just like you. I didn’t even know you existed until a month ago. You wouldn’t even talk to me until last night.”

“I still have a right to be known.”

She slapped away at the hand hovering by her cheek. “Don’t worry—there’s no confusion for me anymore. I know exactly who you are and I have no intention of knowing anything else about you. Now. Open. The. FUCKING. Door.”

The click surprised Lily even as it comforted. Remembering not to give him her back, she reached behind her to push the doors open. Once secure that Julian was content in staying behind with his hated paramour, Lily fled down the hall and stairs.

“You should’ve brought a blanket.”

His voice echoed in the cavernous room. It drowned out the rhythmic clack of Lily’s heels. Against her judgment, she paused in mid-flight and looked up. Julian leaned against the wrought-iron banister with negligent grace.

“If you had only listened to me you would’ve got to experience what I imagined.”

“Lucky for me I don’t listen very well.” Contempt coated each word.

Julian shook his head. “I told you, Lily. I only reward good behavior. You deserved this.”

Tears stung her eyes, making it difficult to see the vampire looking down on her with such smug scorn. “No, I didn’t. I never deserved any of this and I never deserved having to meet you. I’d rather never have met Ian if you were going to be the end result of that. In fact, I wished you had been tortured to death, Julian. That is what you deserved.”

“So Ian wasn’t worth suffering all this? What fickle love you have, darling. Good for me.”

Lily closed her eyes. She just wanted to go home and forget this night ever happened. To believe Julian would’ve ever wanted her was stupid. To think she could still have some piece of this vampire was ridiculous. To want to change what had happened in the last ten minutes was pitiful.

None of this matters. It doesn’t. Just keep remembering that, Lily.

She let out a soft sigh and turned away only to feel an icy hand grip her arm.

Devil’s Descent II update 8-14-09

Estimated reading time: 2 – 4 minutes

Lily’s knees swayed from the effort of standing up. Her skin erupted in goose bumps. The urge to have him sink his fangs into her assaulted without remorse. Conscious of her desires, Lily’s lips glistened, parted as they were in a breathless plea.

Julian pulled away. His distance aroused speech.

“I can take it.”

“So you’re admitting you are playing this game with me.”

“Yes.”

“Willingly?”

Lily shifted her wrists. Their restlessness spoke for just more than just the current position. “Yes.”

Julian’s beauty, always known to Lily despite their impasse, devastated her insides with his virtuous smile. It was like seeing him for the first time.

“I’m so very happy to hear that, Lily. I’m also so very glad I decided not to kill you last night. You really aren’t as dull as I remembered. This truly will be so much fun for us both. Just you wait and see.”

With those cheerfully acidic words, Julian pulled Lily off the wall. He led her into his suite before she managed to growl her discontent over his less-than-generous declarations. The doors locked behind Lily as soon as she passed the threshold. Too late she remembered the power Julian had now that he had fully come back into his own.

He’s warded them. Depending on how strong he’s done it, I won’t be able to leave until he lets me—

Lily’s thoughts splintered. Heeled shoes tangled over one another. “What’s going on?” Her brittle croak magnified the agony burning deep inside her chest.

Julian slipped behind Lily to keep her upright. His arms wrapped around her waist as he bent down to kiss her ear. “Ssh. Don’t cry, darling. At least not until it’s over.”

Disobedient to Lily and defiant to Julian, tears spilled from their ebony cage. Julian slid away from her with a final kiss to the head. She watched him approach the large bed in maddened disbelief and confusion.

Julian climbed on, careful not to disturb the sleeping woman. Lying next to her, eyes never wavering from the black stare raging with betrayal, he placed his palm against the golden head resting against a multitude of pillows.

“Wake up, Nicole.”

Lily sidled backwards.

Julian feathered Nicole’s smooth cheek with his fingertips. “Get back here, Lily, or I’ll make this so much worse for you.”

Her gaze flew down to the woman rousing from her sleep.

“She can’t hear me speaking to you. She can’t see you either. Aren’t I kind?”

Lily’s body bowed, as if her small shoulders couldn’t take the weight of Julian’s cruelty. She couldn’t see anything but the elegant hand touching an equally elegant face. “Hate you.”

“What was that, darling?”

“I h-hate you.”

He paused in his ministrations. “I know.” Tunneling his fingers in Nicole’s shimmering hair, he bent close to her ear. The whisper invoked a smile and stretch. Lily didn’t have to strain to hear, “I’ve missed you.”

“Have you?”

She murmured her affirmatives before reaching out for Julian.