I was on fire.
At least it felt that way as I turned from the wall of glass that left all of New Orleans on display. The city of the dead. We were at Hell’s motherfucking gates, and what happens?
I started the transition.
How long did Rysten say I had before it fully set in? Forty-eight hours? And then what?
I shivered and it sure as hell wasn’t because I was cold. I was half-succubus and half…the beast. Pre-transition, I burned down Blue Ruby Ink. I branded Laran and Moira. I shredded the nightmare imp’s soul. And I’ve nearly fucked all of the Horsemen but one.
So…what would I do during the transition? Would it even be me—or would it be the beast?
I sighed roughly, running a sweaty hand through my hair.
This was all assuming I didn’t spontaneously combust into flames by then.
“Everything alright, love?” Rysten asked, pulling me back to reality. I blinked away the haziness to see him standing in the doorway.
“You said I have forty-eight hours. What happens then?” I asked, my throat already dry and scratchy. I took another step toward him and stopped abruptly when I felt a shift in the air. It was almost undetectable. His eyes dilated and he shut them, inhaling deeply.
And when he opened his eyes, it wasn’t the Rysten I knew and cared for.
I blinked as a mist formed around him. Individual flecks of white formed on his skin. Gathering and condensing as they slowly built, it fell around him like snow…or ash. Oddly beautiful. Terrifyingly strange.
“Are you seeing this…” my words trailed off as he took another shuddering breath. He let out a groan.
“So sweet,” he murmured.
I frowned, narrowing my eyes. The mist shifted and swirled around him, twisting and pulsing in sync with something. His heart.
“What happens then?” Those three little words came out far more seductive than I thought possible. I took a step closer and Rysten’s eyes darkened from green to nearly black, but not with rage. With…
“Either your succubus nature or the beast will take over. Possibly both.” His tongue darted out, licking his bottom lip. The heat inside me climbed ever higher. Pretty soon I was going to be at risk of passing out. Maybe that was for the best, considering the look Rysten was giving me.
“And then?” I asked hoarsely, my voice no more than a whisper. He smiled, but there was nothing boyish or cute about it. A feral look had entered his eye, that of a predator with only one purpose.
“You will need to feed.” He took three steps towards me before my brain realized what he was doing. The haze was already starting to descend again. The pulsing heat inside, guiding me towards it. Towards him.
“What are you doing?” I whispered through chapped lips. My legs shook the closer he came, and I wasn’t sure if it was exertion or need. Even in his scary as fuck state, I was incapable of feeling truly afraid. He wouldn’t hurt me.
Rysten crossed the distance between us with measured steps. By the time he was standing before me, his eyes were completely black. Not a trace of any color in sight.
I bit my lip, simultaneously fighting the urge to lean into him and to faint. Rysten made my choice easy, reaching out and wrapping a strong arm completely around my waist. He gripped my hip, claw-tipped fingers biting into the skin just beneath my thick sweater. I let out a low moan and breathed deeply.
His scent hit me like a freight train and I wrapped both my hands in the material of his shirt. Rysten took that as all the invitation he needed. He reached up with his other hand and buried it in my hair, using his hold to guide my head back. My body turned to Jell-O at his touch as the burning inside me grew out of control, seeking some sort of release.
He brought his lips to mine and every thought vanished.
I simply couldn’t think, couldn’t feel anything beyond his lips as they melded to mine. He kissed me with such passion that I was blindsided by lust. Consumed by it.
Enough so that I didn’t think twice when he dropped one arm from my waist to my ass and hoisted me up. I wrapped my legs around him without needing to be told. The hard bulge in his pants rubbed against me, causing a frenzy to set in.
I placed my hands on his shoulders, relishing in the hard, corded muscle I found there. My fingers teased his collar, dipping inside his shirt before my impatience got the better of me. My fingers wrapped around the thick fabric and pulled. Buttons popped as I ripped his shirt down the middle. My hands flattened over the smooth skin of his chest. He growled in approval, making my stomach flutter. Inside, the flames fanned hotter.
My back touched cool glass, clearing my head just enough to know this wasn’t normal. I may be a bit horny more often than I liked to admit, but I didn’t usually jump someone’s bones in two seconds flat. I pulled back from our kiss to breathe and ask him what the hell was going on. Rysten used that brief half a second to grind into me, trailing a delicious row of kisses and bites down my neck.
My head lolled back, resting against the glass while arching my back to give him better access to everything, because in that moment nothing else mattered. Only the burning within and between us that kept me in a hazy reality where the only thing that made sense was his skin on mine.
The sudden interruption was loud enough to register but not enough to permeate the blazing heat that gripped me. One moment I was pressed against the glass, and the next I was on my hands and knees.
A savage snarl escaped my lips as I looked up at the two Horsemen that restrained Rysten, his pitch black demon eyes locked on mine.
“You’re a fucking idiot,” War snapped at him. He moved to put Rysten in a headlock and Death let him. I let out a warning growl of my own as outrage took hold of me and acted. It didn’t even occur to me that the beast was goading me into it until after I shoved Julian out of the way and bitch-slapped Laran.
I stopped dead in my tracks as the haze cleared again and dread formed in my stomach. Laran stood stock-still, gaping at me as he dropped Rysten like a lead weight. Whatever trance-like lust seemed to have fallen over him snapped the moment he hit the ground. His eyes cleared, turning back to a vivid dark green as the ivory mist around him evaporated.
I shook my head, trying to make sense of the craziness.
“Ruby, love, I am so sorry—” His apology broke off when Laran kicked him in the head.
“Hey!” I snapped at Laran, the spiraling rage that started this all leapt to the forefront again. “What the hell, Laran?” My fists clenched on their own accord, but I kept myself from taking a swing.
“Ruby,” Julian said in a deceptively soft tone, “do you realize your hands are on fire?”
I dared a glance at my hands to see that blue fire did indeed consume them. The tendrils skated up my arms, as high as my elbows, but didn’t burn.
I swallowed hard again and grit my teeth, willing the fire to go out.
Of course, it wasn’t that simple.
At first, nothing happened. It didn’t shrink, but it also didn’t grow. In some ways, I called that a win. After all, almost every time I’ve used the flames, someone has either died or a building burned down. So in some ways, nothing happening was an improvement.
Until my clothes caught.
“For fuck’s sake,” I groaned, turning to the beast inside me. She extinguished the flames without making me ask, but I didn’t miss the vicious smile that followed. The beast knew what was going on here. That very soon I would have little to no control.
In a matter of days there would be no one to truly stand between the beast and the world.
No one except the Horsemen, that is.
I guess it’s a good thing this was what they were created for, because looking after me is turning out to be a full-time job.