The demon roared in triumph.
With the salt scattered, the dark mass boiling within the ritual circle cascaded over the space where the ring had been broken. It spread out in a black wave, filling the room and splicing into the shadows. Onyx and diamond flashes spun violently, like a destructive tornado, ripping the paint off the walls and shaking the furniture until it slid across the floorboards. Shadows grew talons and hooves, raking at the hardwood, leaving gouges. The ice grew thicker until it covered the windows and shattered the overhead lights.
Simultaneously, Jim collapsed. As if he’d been leaning against a barrier that had suddenly been removed, he fell, his back meeting the floor with a low thud that was nearly lost in the growing chaos. Meggie watched the man’s face contort with terror as he stared up at Peter, getting his first good look at the scene.
Trapped in the storm, Peter hung by the blade of ice still tenaciously clinging to the ceiling. The supernatural weapon had thinned where it buried itself in his shoulder, melting under sparks of blue light—Peter’s spirit, fighting feebly. As Meggie watched, horror-struck, a thin, black substance like ink dripped and sizzled against his skin. His legs were useless, slipping across the floor as the icicle mercilessly twisted in his body.
“My God!” Without hesitation, Jim pushed himself to his feet and leapt for his friend. He reached out, only to shout with pain, quickly snatching his hand back.
Meggie finally threw off the shackles of paralyzed fear and rushed toward them. “Grab him.”
“Stop.” Jim raised his palm—angry red welts already rising, blistering as if he’d been burned by the ice. “Stay back.”
The icicle retracted with brutal suddenness. It wrenched from Peter’s body with a sickening noise, spraying blood with its sharp movement. In an appallingly graceful motion, the dangerous point curled up toward the ceiling, where a skeletal face appeared in the ice above, flicking out a blackened tongue, licking the icicle clean. A moan reverberated against the ceiling.
Peter lost his breath. Oxygen came rushing back to him, only to be lost again in a scream that threatened Meggie’s hearing. She took a step forward and saw the wound in his shoulder puckering into a black welt, the edges of torn skin knitting back together. Peter writhed as shadows rose up from where they’d gathered on the floor to cover his body, sinking into his skin with a thick, sucking sound.
Seconds passed like hours as time slowed and nearly stopped. A dark shape coalesced from the gloom gaining solidity, becoming a nightmarish beast complete with clawed hands that wrapped around its chosen victim’s throat. Peter’s screams cut off with chilling abruptness.
Meggie gave her own scream and bolted forward, only to be caught from behind by Kyle.
“No!” He pushed her back, barring her way so he and Jim could lunge for the shadow creature—but thick vapor mounded in a writhing barricade, blocking them from their goal. Booming laughter filled the house. The sharp click of claws scratched against the floorboards and the heavy clunk of hooves beat rhythmically against the walls.
“Watch out,” Meggie screeched. The dark, twirling energy curved around, shadows bubbling over themselves, shooting toward the men with malicious intent. The force gained speed and mass the closer it got to its target. Jim flung himself to the side, throwing his body to the floor. Kyle wasn’t as fast.
Congealed darkness slammed into his chest. He was carried back, stumbling over his own feet until he tripped against the sofa. His arms wheeled and his body swayed as he fought to maintain his balance. An impossible task—joints bending unwillingly, Kyle fell stiffly onto the cushions.
He was held down by a supernatural darkness. His eyes met Meggie’s for a single heartbeat before his head was wrenched back, his face tilted toward the ceiling as if something had yanked the short strands of his hair. His body arched, the line of his neck elongating until tendons knotted beneath his chin. The skin pulled taut against his jaw before muscles rippled in a stomach-twisting undulation, rising and falling over the contours of bone.
“Leave him alone!” she demanded.
Meggie could see Kyle fighting, struggling in vain, but the darkness refused to let go. Like the inky substance that had dripped onto Peter, black pigment gathered under Kyle’s chin and progressed north, rising up onto his face in thick streaks. The lines branched over his cheeks and veered toward Kyle’s eyes and ears. His lips opened on a silent scream. Bubbling shadow spilled forth and Kyle’s eyes leaked tears of tar as his muscles tensed, relaxed, and tensed again.
Relief came to Meggie as the poison poured from Kyle, but the emotion was short-lived. Glutted on Kyle’s essence, the dark force reeled in glinting anarchy, searching for a new victim. It descended on Peter, still held fast by the phantom hand around his throat as Jim scratched and clawed for his friend’s freedom.
Meggie gasped. “Jim.”
He was knocked to the side in the descent of shadows. One moment he was standing, tearing at the dark noose around Peter’s neck, the next he was flying through the air to crash against the wall. He landed in a heap but immediately pushed to his knees, gasping for breath and strength. “Stay back, Meggie.”
The dark energy slammed against Peter, only to retreat in a blue explosion—a defense Meggie knew was born from pure survival instinct. Peter’s eyes flew wide, the whites too visible, the pupils too dilated. Kyle jumped from the couch before he was recovered, selfless impulse driving him to protect his friend.
“Be careful,” Meggie urged.
With a violent burst of blue and black, the shadow creature vaporized, dark molecules spewing around the room, dispersing before they were absorbed into the gloom that paced the perimeters. Released from his bondage, Peter sagged and Kyle caught his limp form, gritting his teeth as pain tightened his features.
“On the couch.” Jim lurched toward them, unsteady on his feet, his face immobile with strain and determination. Together, he and Kyle lifted Peter’s lax body, shuffling toward their goal. Kyle took guard duty, positioning himself in front of his fallen friend as Jim turned back for Meggie. “Come over here.”
She could see what they could not in the riot of flashing shadow. The demon was ready to claim its victims. Enraged and cornered, the entity fought for survival as fiercely as Peter had. It was willing to lash out at all of them for its vengeance, willing to pay the ultimate consequence—the loss of its energy source.
It would kill them all without a second’s hesitation, without a moment of regret.
Meggie backed away from the men. “Leave them alone and take me, instead!”
Tasting the murderous intent on the air, she ignored Jim and desperately called her energy. She knew she looked feral as red light blazed and flickered along her arms, with her hair lifted in the wind still raging around them. Though her gut twisted and adrenaline set fire to her muscles, she planted her feet. Her soul quaked in fear, but courage rose, exploding in her heart and expanding to fill her body with much-needed warmth.
“Come to me! Take me!” The words she screamed were consumed by the shadows, seemingly lost in the abyss of the demon’s rage.
But it heard her.
The entity paused before pirouetting to face her. The room became a heaving mass of black vapor with Meggie trapped in the center of the cauldron, alone in a void of the demon’s making. Gemstone sparklers soared and detonated in the air, drawing closer to her body, forming a solid barrier of flickering energy, a curtain of light and shadow. Thick and impenetrable, the barrier cut her off from the men and their protests.
The cold demolished Meggie’s mental shields and stormed through her soul. She felt the insistent slide of shadow into her mind, then into her body until confusion shrouded her senses, leaving her uncertain of her own emotions, and unsure of how much of her own essence was still separate from the demon’s influence.
The rushing wind and her pounding heart were the only noises she was aware of. Her hair danced and tangled around her head, pulling from her scalp with tingling force, and ice coated her skin. Her eyelashes clumped together so that Meggie could hardly see Jim pushing through the dark barrier. She barely saw his mouth working, his head shaking, his eyes widening. His words and the meaning behind them were lost as the cyclone of shadows surged into her, tore into her flesh and bit into her bones.
With a blaze of color, the world went infrared and silent. Darkness filled her vision and made her dizzy. Meggie couldn’t even hear her own panicked heart hammering in her ears anymore as all sight and sound was obliterated. Her knees buckled and she sank to the floor.
The demon had left only her talent and sense of touch at her disposal. Both were manipulated, brutalized with pure sensation as the entity fondled her physical and mental cores. Unadulterated lust transferred from the entity to her, snatching her from the clutches of her fear. Even as her body softened, consumed by desire, Meggie’s brain screamed a final warning. Then she relaxed as depravities she’d kept secret even from herself were enhanced by the demon’s lust and unleashed to riot within her. Rational thought was ripped from her completely. Unable to fight, she accepted the darkness inside her.
Shadows raged around her body. Licking her, stroking, squeezing. Ice flowed over her but she embraced the cold as it melted against her heat. She was consumed by its need and writhed as its lust soaked into her bones and tainted her soul.
Meggie’s arms were captured, held fast to the floor on either side of her head. Her legs were spread and anchored. Pressure built on her chest, a weight she couldn’t identify. She was caught, vulnerable to the sensual attack.
Perverse pleasure impaled her with shameless need.
She felt a sharp tug and the material of her shirt split. The ragged pieces were pushed to either side of her body. Her bra was rent, baring her hard nipples to the storm of ice. Something flicked over them and her back bowed with brutal desire, arching the mounds toward the rough touch, toward the cold. Darkness closed around the hard peaks, sucking without mercy.
Shadow claws raked over her belly, teasing her when she felt the irrational need for a harder touch, for the sharpness of them digging into her flesh. The terrible perversion rising within her demanded pain. Instead, she felt the material of her shorts fall away as the shadows ripped at them. Her panties were torn from her body, exposing her molten core to the cold darkness.
A thousand shadows danced over her, igniting blatant need over every inch of her body. A scrape against her cheek, the sharp edge of teeth against her navel. The shadows pulled together and breached her pussy in a thick, smooth intrusion. Greedily, Meggie’s body stretched around the penetration, relieving the need for pain that prodded at her nerves. Her legs were opened wider, straining the trembling tendons of her inner thighs, and a weighted form wedged between to rock against her. A phantom lover in a world of distorted silence.
The darkness pushed deeper, forging past Meggie’s clenching opening with violent determination. Rapture beckoned. She arched into the touch, needing it more than she’d ever needed anything before. Her juices flowed around the thickness slowly impaling her. She felt something in her spirit give, and take back.
The floodgates of inhibition shattered and dark corruption rushed to fill the void. It stained her, anchored itself to her soul, spreading its poison, thick and sweet, into the corners of her fundamental self. She surrendered to it, and it became wholly necessary to her very existence. It felt right, a homecoming she hadn’t thought to embrace before.
Then hard, hot hands broke through the frozen barrier around her to clamp down on Meggie’s arms and jerk her back. She felt her body move across a cold wood floor. Rough grains of salt rolled against her skin, abrading her and spurring her desire to even greater heights. The hands were unyielding, pulling her from the penetrating phantom cock even as she fought to get back to it.
“Stop fighting me!” A blinding flash of golden light had the darkness roaring, snarling and snapping, rearing back in a wild tornado of frustration. It flew up to crash into the ceiling—through the ceiling.
Meggie’s vision wavered, color and light returning in a surging swell. Lightning streaked across her vision and thunder rumbled in her ears. The ice covering the ceiling cracked and crashed to the floor, where it quickly melted into wide puddles enlarged by the water coasting down the walls.
The room warmed but Meggie still burned with cold. Fear made a belated return and she flinched at the deviant desires still clawing at the core of her essence, mixing with the lust and creating a brand new emotion that refused to be denied. She stared up at Jim, his lips tinted blue, frost clinging to his cheeks. He jerked her to her feet and caught her when her knees buckled. Holding her close, his heat burned through the ice coating her skin. The force of his fear and relief reached out to her, tangling with the sensations rioting within her.
Jim’s emotions fed into hers until she knew his thoughts and spirit as she knew her own. Bound as he was, he wasn’t immune to the pull of the demon, the power of it or its sexuality. The thick length of his cock pushed against her belly as she molded her body to his. He felt the desire, the utter consumption, but he tried to beat it back.
There was no hope for Meggie. Lust raged inside her, demanding satiation. She knew its cause—the piece of her that had been given, accepted and returned. Tainted with longing, with the need to revel in uninhibited sex and the power that flowed from it. She tried to make a grab for sanity, tried to reach for her shields, but they lay in a broken pile at the very bottom of her soul, and her dark hunger was too great to fight.
“Help me,” she whispered roughly.
“How?” He couldn’t save himself—Meggie fed him her iniquity and he wallowed in it before returning it to her, refined and sharpened. Heat raged between them. The ice on Jim’s skin disappeared, the blue tinge burned away by the bright flush of lust.
“Fuck me.” She poured her desire into his in a fiery flow, shimmering threads of red and gold connecting them.
His eyes darkened as he lost his fight. Jim’s fingers tightened on her elbows, muscles bunched in his arms. Head lowering, his mouth captured hers and Meggie opened for him immediately, moaning for the thrusting heat of his tongue as it licked and rolled against hers. He tasted like life and death and all things between. Felt like it too. He filled her mouth as his scent filled her head and his energy packed into the ragged, tarnished holes within her spirit.
Jim pulled her closer, turning with her in his arms. Her back met the cold, wet wall but she wrapped her legs around him and arched as his hands clenched on the globes of her ass. Meggie fit her bare core against the thick ridge of his cock through the fabric of his pants and rocked, gasping as the rough denim stroked her clit.
Jim’s hands gripped her ass cheek and her breast—two pulsing pleasure points at opposite ends of her body. He kneaded and fondled, his calloused fingertips perfect against her skin. Meggie worked her hand between them until she could wrench at his fly, freeing Jim’s rigid length with a wanton moan. Hot, hard, and velvety, his cock jerked and trembled in her grasp.
His dick overfilled her palm but she stroked him as best she could. Down toward the wide base, his hips jerked as her fingernails scratched over the scar and his moan of pleasure filled her mouth. She stroked back up toward the head of his cock and rubbed at the dampness she found, loving his response and remembering his taste. Wrapping her hand around him, squeezing just a little, Meggie angled him toward her heat, eager for the feel of his thick dick pressing into her pussy.
His essence was too wonderful, too life-giving, too soul-repairing to take him fast. Impatient as she was, she still teased him—teased herself—and let his spirit heal her. She stroked her clit with his dick. Up and down, she manipulated the hard crest over her silken flesh in sweeping passes. Electricity rippled up her pussy to lodge behind her navel as she slid Jim’s cock through her cream, coating him, taunting him. Her swollen folds parted around him as she finally tucked the broad head against her drenched opening.
Meggie paused, waiting as desire and energy flooded her system, crashing over her in blinding waves. Her pussy sucked at Jim’s cock, begging for his possession, but she held still. She let his life-force rise up in golden waves to saturate her senses. She let the storm raging within him pummel her, every gust of the tempest sweeping away a little more of the cloying, icy darkness that had held her in its grip.
He bit at her lips, rocking his hips forward but Meggie tightened her fingers around his dick, keeping him from pushing deeper into her body. He pulled his mouth from hers, staring at her with troubled, needy eyes. His face was flushed with passion, his lips red and swollen. His fingers clamped on her nipple, pinching until shards of lightning buried themselves in the base of her spine. Meggie held his gaze and let her fingers drift down his shaft to rub at his scar.
He jerked and this time his length drove into her several inches before he managed to stop. She gasped, writhing against his intrusion, straining to keep from working him deeper. Jim’s energy sizzled against her flesh, his cock stretched her deliciously and his heat burned her from the inside out. Her senses drank him in, basking in his nearness, knowing she was no longer alone in the cold. Her inner walls softened and tightened, rippling as her honey flowed around him and between them, easing his way as he rocked a little deeper.
“I want you to fill me, Jim. I want all of you sinking so far into me that I’ll taste it when you come.”
She twisted her hips until several more inches sank into her. Her pussy clenched, clamped down on him, quivering against his heavy shaft. She worked her hips mindlessly, obeying primal instincts that screamed for his heat and his life-force, sliding down until she was impaled on his entire length and the crisp hair at his groin teased her distended clit.
“Yes, Meggie. God. You’re too tight.”
Her back arched, her pussy burned. “I need your warmth. I need to know you’re here with me. Now, move.”
Jim groaned and lowered his head. His lips closed around her nipple, drawing on it fiercely. Pleasure spiked down the full length of Meggie’s body and curled her toes. Her hands rose to clench in his hair, holding his mouth to her as his hips moved. She struggled to take him faster, but he was determined to keep his devastating, easy pace.
Sensation streaked through Meggie. Physical and emotional, hot and cold, light and dark, pain and pleasure. Jim offered everything freely. She took him in, tightening around him, making him work to pull back from her. He surged forward again, harder with the shredding of his control, and a delicate connection spun between them as his energy seethed. The poison in Meggie’s soul shrank back from the purity of the essence Jim pushed into her spirit with every thrust into her body.
His fingers tightened on her ass, spreading her, pulling at muscles unused to such excitement. A new pleasure. Erotic. Her hips slammed against his at the stretch in her rear. He ground into her pussy and she felt his pleasure as her own—the sensation drove another bolt of lightning straight through her, pushing her over the edge of the abyss.
Meggie screamed and shook against his length, her muscles inflexible as she came all over him. Pleasure was an inferno raging through her blood, erupting in the pit of her stomach. Color and sensation exploded, ripping her breath away. She could do nothing but ride the full fury of the storm even as Jim rode her.
He pushed deep, exploding inside her. His energy slammed into her at full force, sending golden starbursts streaking across her vision. She sent hers to fill him in return as he pushed tight against her body, as deep as he could get inside her. The sheer vitality of Jim bleached the dark spot that had been burned so deeply into her.
He shattered her completely and, somewhere in her broken soul, built her back up.
A fractured moment later, he raised his head from her breast, pushing his lips to the curve where her neck met her shoulder. Her heart eased, her muscles relaxed and sanity returned slowly, the fog lifting as Meggie finally felt her crushed psychic shields rise. Gradually, the world lost the sharp-edged clarity it had held while she was unprotected and the late afternoon sunlight returned to its natural glow.
“Fuck.” Jim’s lips moved against her neck. “Did I hurt you?”
“No, you saved me,” she whispered. “Did I hurt you?”
“Well then,” Kyle’s harsh voice worked faster than ice water on Meggie’s senses, “if everything’s peachy-keen between you both, I suggest you get your sweaty asses over here and help me with Peter. He’s unconscious.”
She looked up to meet Kyle’s eyes, glowing like a neon sign and deeply troubled. She let her legs drop from Jim’s hips and eased away, only slightly embarrassed as her instincts screamed for caution. She watched Kyle carefully, and, for just a moment, she saw a black starburst consume the hazel of his irises.
Then he blinked, and it was gone.