CHAPTER ONE – CASSIE
When Cassie was little, she used to wish for nightmares. Not because she liked being scared, but because she wanted something tangible to blame for how out of place she felt in the world. Who wouldn’t feel out of place in her world? Most thirteen-year-old girls, witch or not, don’t get to watch their parents leave one year and come back in body bags the next.
Most girls below of the age of eighteen don’t have a family lawyer move into a room down the hall, paid and bound by witch law to oversee their education and manage their family fortune. She was just lucky that way.
Born Cassandra Jasmine Drake, her life was all about luck. Her parents had tons of it until they didn’t. They were the best archeologists and researchers to ever work in the field of Witch Studies.
Cassie grew up surrounded by the fruits of their labors. Golden statues from ancient Egypt lined the halls of their house. Moving mosaics from Greece lined the walkways of their back garden. There were even decaying instruments recovered from a dig somewhere near the Vatican in the music room.
When her parents died, Silas, her guardian, ensured that Cassie had a tutor for every subject known to man. She was taught languages, spell craft, geology, geography, ancient and current. He ensured she understood politics, marketing, stocks, bonds, and most importantly history. She studied the ancient empires, the old kingdoms, old laws. Anything and everything, all without ever attending a public school, or Covenant house. The only thing she did do publicly was rebel.
At twenty-eight, she was free. Silas had moved into the gate house apartment at the front of the property, and she spent most of her nights out at the local London bars, or on artifact hunts of her own design. Where her parents were scholars, she was a thief. A world class thief.
“Are you even listening to me?” Agnes Cho asked, breaking into her train of thought.
Cassie blinked a few times, raking a hand back through her dark chocolate waves. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“I asked you how you found it,” the old woman said, pushing her cherry red glasses back up the bridge of her nose with an overly long pinky nail.
“Now, if I told you that you’d cut me out of your next dig. Hell, you wouldn’t need me anymore.” Cassie’s lips twitched. Agnes was one of the best fences in London, infamous really, and she specialized in the supernatural. She knew exactly where Cassie would’ve located the statue. She was an expert.
Agnes snorted and set the small statue down between them. Similar to the ancient god Anubis, it had the head of a dog, and the body of a man, but its fangs were too long, and it had wings sprouting from its back. A demonic chimera. Worshiped by a sect of radical witches that had all but disappeared during the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. The Coven of the Wyrd.
It’d taken Cassie an age to track it down. It had passed through about a dozen hands in the last six months, and now it was burning a hole through her pocket. She was home. She wanted to sell it.
Agnes steepled her fingers under her nose. “Well, it’s solid gold, and enchanted to bring the owner luck. I can offer you three.”
“Three?” Cassie raised her left eyebrow. “And here I thought we were friends.”
“Friends we may be, but the demand for these objects isn’t what you think it is,” she said, with an unenthusiastic shrug.
“Three hundred thousand is nothing to sneeze at, but you know as well as I do that that is ten pounds of solid, twenty-four karat gold,” Cassie said sitting up straighter. “It’s worth nearly three hundred thousand without the enchantment but factor that it in and it’s worth double. A rich collector would probably pay at least a million for it, and that’s being conservative.”
“Fine. How about, I give you three now, and take the object on spec. Show it off to some buyers and if I can get a better offer for it, I’ll cut you in for your percentage.”
Cassie shook her head. “No. There are pictures in the package I gave you. I wrote up the specs on the object, even did the history for you. Show it to your buyers, get me a real offer, and I’ll bring it back.”
“I thought we were friends,” Agnes chuckled.
“Friends we may be,” Cassie teased. “But I’m not dumb enough to trust a half-fae to keep me in the loop. Whose to say you wouldn’t lie about the size of my cut.”
“The fae don’t lie,” she said, narrowing her eyes at me.
“But humans do, and your half human.” Cassie shrugged.
“Alright. Fine. Give me a week and I’ll see what price I can get you.” Agnes extended her hand, her long fingers stretching toward Cassie’s face, forcing her to suppress a shudder.
Whatever fae had taken part in the woman’s creation had to have been part spider. No humanoid would ever have limbs that long in spindly. It just wasn’t natural.
Reluctantly, Cassie clasped her hand. She gave it a quick squeeze and stood up, snatching the statue from the table. She shoved it into her bag, the weight shrinking as she closed the flap. “I’ll see you in a week.”
The old woman nodded, and as Cassie turned away, she chuckled. “See you then.”
Outside, Cassie stepped out onto New Bond Street with a loud curse. Fresh rain poured like a demon from the sky, and she’d forgotten an umbrella. She let it soak into her for a few seconds, embracing the punishing cold, and then flipped her hood up, darting down the road, dodging her way between the pedestrians and tourists smart enough to remember they were in London. A city famous for its rain and it’s smog.
She turned the corner four blocks later and a black town car sitting parked in a private driveway across the road, flashed its lights.
Cassie rolled her eyes, checked for traffic and skipped across the puddles until she reached its rear passenger door. The cab inside was warm. Too warm for her liking, but it didn’t matter. She threw back her hood and glared at the white haired man sitting in the seat beside her. “What the bloody hell are you doing here? I thought you were in France this week.”
“And you were supposed to be in Greece, wasn’t it?” He sighed. “Imagine my surprise when I called Amon about readying the apartment, and he told me you’d returned earlier than anticipated.”
“When did you get back?” She asked, fighting the urge to growl at him. Amon their shared valet was always spilling her secrets to Silas. She’d have to talk to him about that one of these days.
“I’ve been home for…” he checked his watch. “About an hour. Amon said you’d left the house with your bag, so I thought rather than head straight home, I’d offer you a ride.”
“You couldn’t have parked outside the building? I’m soaked,” she said, tugging on her wet shirt for emphasis.
His smile grew and he flipped a page. “So, what were we selling this time? One of the lost crown jewels?”
“You joke, but you’re not funny,” Cassie said, glancing at the driver in front of her. “If the wrong person heard you say such a thing, I’d be drawn and quartered by the Inquisitors, guilty or not.”
Silas looked up at that, squinting at her from behind his black rimmed glasses. “Oh, come now, Hamish would never share our secrets. He’s been my loyal driver for years.”
“True.” Cassie glared back. “But just as your hair gets whiter every time I see you, things change, people change.”
“Open the bag, Cassie. Show me what it is,” he said, closing his folder with an audible thwack.
Her hand tightened on the strap. “How did you know I’d still have it on me?”
“Agnes never takes a deal on the first meeting. She always tries to under bid her clients, and you’re not dumb enough to fall for it.” He shrugged.
Everything inside her begged her not to show him. Half the objects she sold could get the both of them into serious trouble, but she slid the bag over the armrest between them and un-looped it from her shoulders. Silas set aside his things and pulled it into his lap.
“It’s a statue. Gold. It’s nothing too scandalous,” she said, only half lying.
“I’ll be the judge of that.” He dug his hands inside, and his eyes flew to the rearview mirror. “Hamish, please drive us back to the house.”
“Yes, sir.” The driver tipped his hat and instantly the world outside turned to a blur as he pointed them down the road, and on their way to the outskirts of the city.
“Is this from your trip to Cairo?” Silas asked, pulling the statue just far enough out the bag for her to see the tips of its wings.
“Yep.” She sighed, letting her head fall back against the car seat. The pressure of her braid pushing into the back of her skull stung, but she was too tired to move.
Greece had only been a cover story for an illegal dig in Cairo. They both knew it. It was part of the code that ruled their lives. In truth, she’d found the chimera a week into the dig, and then it’d been lifted while she wasn’t looking. Usually she was better than that, so most of her time over the last six months had been spent tracking the idiot who thought he could make a quick buck off her success. He’d sold it to a collector in Demark, and then that man had lost in a game of poker. The whole ordeal had proven exhausting. Cassie found herself drifting into a quiet slumber against the cars soft leather.
Silas cleared his throat. “Cassie.”
“Wha—” Shifting upright, with ungraceful jerk, she looked around trying to get her bearings and sighed. They were home, sitting just inside the gate. “Oh.”
“Be careful with that statue,” he said. “I’ll see you tomorrow night for dinner, alright? Hamish will drive you over to the door, so you don’t have to walk in the rain.”
“No, no,” she said, massaging the crook in her neck. “I’ll walk. The rain will help clear my head and wake me up. I’ve still got some work to do before I go to bed.”
“It’s not a problem, Madame. I can dri—”
She waved her hand dismissively. “It’s fine really. I like the rain.”
“Alright.” Hamish readjusted his gloves. “Have a good evening, both of you.”
“You as well,” Cassie said, and with a quick nod to Silas who still hadn’t moved, she got out of the car, leaving her hood down to the let the water pour over her scalp again.
She really did love the rain. It washed away everything. She almost believed it could even wash away her sins. Turning her face up to the sky, she ambled blindly a few steps across the gravel driveway, and smiled. As if. Her sins were many, and they’d rooted themselves into her very soul.
At the door to the house, she pressed her hand against the wood, and waited a second for the protection wards built into the foundation to recognize her and then pushed. The lock slid open, and the door swung back into the foyer silent as a cloud on the wind.
Turning to her right, letting it close behind her on its own, Cassie kicked her shoes off on the matt, and padded across the cold marble floor toward the large round table sitting in the center of the room. On top of it sat a large vase full of vibrant red and pink lilies. Amon had clearly been keeping the place clean in her absence. There wasn’t a speck of dust to be seen.
In front of the vase sat a small stack of the day’s mail. Cassie picked it up without thumbing through it and finished her progress across to a set of stairs on the right side of the room.
The foyer divided the house right down the middle. Beneath the stairs, you could walk straight out to set of glass doors that would open into the rear gardens. Large arches connected the halls on the bottom floor to your right and left, and then there were the stairs.
The right stairs led to Cassie’s half of the house. The East wing, where there were five out of the ten bedrooms sat ready and waiting, three separate libraries stood ready for perusal, and an indoor pool primed for swimming.
Cassie spent as little time as she could on the left. Her parent’s rooms were on the left. Everything she needed was on her side of the house. Why would she ever have to go back to the left?
Walking down the long hall that cut through the East wing, Cassie felt a phantom pressure ease from her shoulders. She was home. Safe and sound. Now all she had to do was sit type up a report for her records, fire off a couple emails and then she could finally get a decent night’s sleep. Maybe squeeze a hot shower in there somewhere too.
Pausing at the door just before her bedroom at the end of the hall, she stepped inside her office and froze. The room smelled like cardamum, oleander, and sweat, and the window behind her desk chair was open. Biting her lower lip out of habit, Cassie slowly lifted her right hand, and a bright flame burst around her fingers. She willed fresh energy into her mind’s eye scanning for intruders, and then let the spells drop as one.
Who’d ever been in her office was gone. That much was clear from even the briefest of glances. She couldn’t sense anything missing, but whoever it was, had definitely left something behind.
Approaching her desk, Cassie spotted it almost immediately. She was meant to find it. The parcel had been placed in the exact center of her desk blotter. Switching on the desk lap, she frowned down at the brown paper packet, and squinted at the overlapping postage stamps in the corner. The name on the front had been shredded by what looked like a pen knife, and the end of the bag had been ripped and retaped, at least twice.
The only thing legible was a message written in her mother’s handwriting.
My darling Cassie,
I am so sorry for all the secrets we’ve kept. Perhaps you can finish what we started.
CHAPTER TWO – BENEDICT
The hotel bar smelled like lilies and freshly scrubbed leather. A scent, Benedict had surrounded himself with for years. It brought him comfort, and pleasant memories. Things he found severely lacking in his life.
Tonight though, he barely recognized the aroma. Twirling the bourbon around in his glass, he was exhausted. Every muscle in his body, throbbed in time with the ache radiating through his skull.
Managing The Grand wasn’t all that hard. When push came to shove, all it took was a talent for applying leverage in the right places at the right time. A talent he’d spent the better part of fifty years developing.
Fifty years was nothing for him. He was The Immortal after all. The man that never died. He wasn’t a vampire, he wasn’t a mage or witch, he was just a man who’d lived near seven hundred years, with the face of a thirty-five-year-old, and on a rainy night like this one he felt every one of those years weighing down on him.
Around Benedict the bar was full of people, but as per usual he was the only human. If you could call a seven-hundred-year-old man a human. There were days even he wasn’t quite sure he fit the definition.
To his left a pair of dark haired Fallen sat with their heads close together and their wings veiled. Noticing his gaze, they lifted their glasses in unison, tipping them his direction with uneasy smiles. He gave them a weak salute. Drinking in the bar always drew the uneasy attention of his guests.
In fact, it took everything he had not to turn his gaze to the right where Ivy sat in a neon pink dress two sizes too tight, and three inches too short. The prostitute had already flashed him the clean-shaven swathe of flesh between her legs more than once. Offering him a night with a warm body by his side. Anything to thank him for letting her and her sister work without complaint.
Benedict had been tempted by her many times, but he’d never once given in. As The Immortal, he had to maintain appearances. He had to live and breathe discretion. Still, glancing up at her, Ivy’s confidence in the caramel curves of her body was intoxicating. His eyes dipped to the edge of her skirt as she noticed his attention opening her legs again, and he felt him stir at the sight of her. Felt his control sl—
“Benny, my boy!” A familiar dark form appeared, sliding into the corner of his booth as they slapped a crystal tumbler indelicately down against the table.
Benedict groaned and reluctantly shifted his gaze to Tommy’s face. “You’re late.”
“What?” His adoptive brother shook the sleeve of his black blazer away from his wrist, to reveal a piece of glittering silver around his wrist. He pulled it around to catch the light and his shoulders sagged, as golden curl flopped down over his forehead. “Oh. I thought I was on time. I’m sorry.”
Tommy Chevalier had never been on time a day in his life. Not without considerable effort on Benedict’s part, but the immortal didn’t feel like starting that conversation again. Instead, he chose to be personable, polite. “How’s Gregory?”
“He’s wonderful,” Tommy said, his face lighting with a staggering aura of happiness. “He’s almost ready to show you his play. It’s adorable, he’s been working so hard.”
Benedict found himself smiling. “I told him that I was fine with whatever he came up with. I agreed to finance his play no matter when it’s finished. If he needs more time, it’s his.”
“I appreciate that.” Tommy nodded. “And so does Gregory.”
“Did you bring what I asked for?”
Tommy pressed his lips together and slid his gaze to the Fallen still chatting over their drinks nearby. “Yeah, did you want me to give it to you here, or should we head upstairs to your rooms?”
“Let’s go upstairs. I’ve got better things to drink up there, anyway.” Benedict shrugged sliding out of the booth.
On his feet again he adjusted his lapels, smoothed his black tie and caught sight of himself standing up in the mirror behind the bar. His eyes burned. His reflection looked tired. In it he could make out small details no one would ever notice but him. Small things that broke the perfection of his image. The stubble along his chin had grown darker in patches, and his hair was combed back a little off center. His tan was a little faded, and a faint shadow lurked beneath his eyes.
Tommy appeared at his side. “Hey, are you—”
“I’m fine.” Benedict cleared his throat and turned toward the boarder of the bar, leading Tommy across the large white marble floor of the lobby, past the golden check in desk, and over to the lift que without saying a word.
Stepping forward as the door closed them inside one of the mirrored cars, Benedict placed his hand against the smooth black panel above the buttons and exhaled. The spelled keypad warmed under his touch and as the car soared up towards the top of the massive tower that was their home, it shuddered.
The shining red number above his fingers hit thirty, and the car jerked to a halt. A soft ding echoed through the room, and then everything moved sideways for about five seconds, before shooting once more toward the fiftieth floor.
At fifty, the car slide to an easy stop, and the doors opened into a rounded foyer with black marble floors, and dark red walls. Benedict strode out into the main room of his penthouse, grabbing a repurposed wine bottle and two silver cups from his drink cart. He kicked off his shoes and padded up to the door half hidden behind the spiral staircase that led to the second floor.
“Your office? Really?” Tommy groaned.
Benedict shrugged, and inside the room, he felt the tired ache in his bones grow a little weaker as he relaxed. “It’s got the best view.”
“If you say so,” Tommy said, dropping into a chair opposite the desk.
Benedict spared a wistful glance at the window, wishing that he could go walk in the rain, and sat down in his chair, leaning forward to pour them each a glass of the iridescent liquid he snatched on the way in. Fae Ambrosia. The liquor of the gods, or so Tommy liked to say.
“Salute,” Benedict said lifting his glass.
His brother tapped their cups together with a generous smile. “Salute.”
They drank in unison, and as the cold liquid slid down Benedict’s throat, he felt the delicious burn spread through his chest. Gods he was so tired, it would be so easy for him to just lay his head back and fall asleep, but he needed what Tommy had. He’d called his brother home for a reason.
“Alright.” Benedict cleared his throat. “You said you have what I need?”
“Oh, yeah.” Tommy jumped and fished a plastic bag out of his inside pocket. He tossed it on the desk between them.
Benedict flinched and grimaced at the grey pills inside the bag. “Really, she didn’t have anything more discreet?”
“In her words, you get what you get.” Tommy shrugged.
“Fine.” Benedict sighed. “Thank you.”
“Of course.” His brother smiled. “But care to explain why you couldn’t get them yourself?”
Benedict frowned and poured himself a second drink. He didn’t want to answer his brother’s question, but as the bottle tipped down against his cup it rattled in time with the trembling in his fingers. His weakness on full display.
Tommy’s eyes went wide. “Are you okay?”
“I’ll be fine. I’m just tired,” Benedict said sliding the bottle in Tommy’s direction.
His brother ignored it and watched as he threw his second glass back like a shot. Better to get it over with instead of letting Tommy watch him shake.
Besides the shaking was only the first step. The longer he tried to pretend he was normal the worse things would be. After the shaking came the nose bleeds, and then the seizures, but he wouldn’t let it get that far. Not in front of his brother anyway.
“Do you need my help with the medication?” Tommy asked, shifting in his seat.
Benedict’s first instinct was to tell him no, but as he thought about the process for preparing the medication, his stomach churned. “I think so.”
“I can help him with it,” announced a soft feminine voice from the door hidden between the shelves to his left.
Benedict felt the power drain from his face. “Siobhan? I didn’t realize you were here.”
“I figured as much. I wanted to surprise you,” she said stepping into the light. She had her red hair swept around to drape over one shoulder, and a white silk robe wrapped around her thin form.
Benedict instantly felt himself stirring. “I’m sorry. I would’ve come up sooner had I known you were here waiting for me.”
“That would’ve ruined the surprise,” she chuckled.
“Siobhan,” Tommy smiled at her.
“Hey, Tom,” she said, returning his smile, but her eyes never left Benedict as he turned in his chair to face her.
Benedict sighed. She’d known about Benedict’s troubles for long than Tommy had, they’d been sleeping together for years. But the thought of her being the one to help him—It was disgusting. It made him feel weak. He couldn’t ask her to do—
Tommy cleared his throat and got to his feet. “I think I’ll turn in for the night. You two just give me a call if you need assistance.”
“Well, be fine,” Siobhan said walking into the room.
Tommy dropped a kiss on her cheek, and in matter of seconds Benedict was alone, staring at his mistress. His every thought was dark, and stirring, but he suddenly couldn’t find the strength to even lift another glass of Ambrosia to his lips.
“Siobhan…” his voice sounded rough and broken in his ears. His nostrils burning.
“It’s been too long between doses, hasn’t it,” she asked, crossing the room to his desk. Her robe flew open around her legs, and his stomach clenched. She worn the most delicate lace for him.
“I’ve been trying to go longer between doses,” he said, swallowing around the lump in his throat. Ifrit’s blood was a dangerous addiction. It kept him strong, kept him young, but the withdrawal would also bring him as close to death as an immortal man could get. “I was trying to ween myself as much as I could.”
Siobhan’s face pinched, and she purchased on the corner of the desk. “Why do you torture yourself?”
“Why do you torture me?” Benedict asked, sitting forward. His right hand found her calf, and he slid it up under her robe, to massage her knee.
“Honestly, Benedict. I’m worried about you.” She sighed, picking up the pill bag.
“I know.” He nodded. “I’m sorry. I never want to worry you.”
She wiped her fingers across her cheeks and took a deep breath. “Okay then, where is your kit?”
Benedict groaned and sat back in his chair, sliding back to pull the center drawer out for her. She looked down and picked up the thin silver case sitting inside. Neither of them liked this part of their relationship, but it was something they had to live with.
Sliding off the desk, she turned, perching lightly on his knee, and began expertly setting out the spoon, she used to crush the pills, the lighter to melt the powder, and syringe for the injection and the elastic to tie off around his arm.
He let his hand drift over her back and sighed. “Thank you for this.”
“I can feel you shaking. Should be do this in the bedroom, get you lying down?” She pouted, crushing the pills.
“If I take you to bed, it won’t be to rest,” he said, leaning forward to pull her robe down and kiss her shoulder.
Siobhan shuddered, and lit the lighter to melt the powder she’d ground for him. As the flame hit the spoon, Benedict skin was covered in a cold sweat. His mouth felt like he’d swallowed sand. She turned back to him and he felt the blood drip form his nose.
“Just hang on,” Siobhan said. “Just close your eyes and relax. I’m almost done.”
Benedict did as she instructed and after a few moments of precious silence, he felt her undoing the buttons of his jacket, guiding his arms free from its sleeves. He tried to help her, but he was so tired. He felt like a ragdoll. She gently laid his head back against the chair, and then rolled up his sleeve.
“Siobhan,” he groaned, rolling his head in the direction of her breathing.
“It’s okay. I’ve got you now. You’re gonna be alright. Just brace yourself,” she said, pressing a cold kiss to his forehead.
Benedict groaned again, and then promptly hissed as she jabbed the syringe into his arm. The medication hit his bloodstream like wildfire burning through his chest. His heart raced, and his eyes flew open. Every color in the room brightened, the air cooled, and he instantly felt alive again. His every nerve ending set deliciously ablaze.
Charging to his feet, he turned Siobhan around and ripped apart the knot holding her robe closed. He slid his fingers under the silk and pushed it from her shoulders. His mouth found hers in a rough kiss, as he pressed his evidence of his need into her hip, and then he pulled back looking down at the sheer white lingerie she’d hidden from him. A new set he noted, his surprise.
Siobhan laughed, and slid back up onto the ledge of the desk, spreading her legs wide enough for him to settle between her knees. She dropped his tools carefully back into their case and licked her lips, slowly. “That.Is.A.Devilish smile, you’ve got there. I knew you’d like this outfit.”
Benedict growled, biting down softly on her earlobe. “I love this outfit, but I’m going to love pealing it from your skin with my teeth even more.”
“I think I’m going to love that too,” she exhaled.
“I know what you love.” He ran his knuckles down her sternum and then turned his hand, skating his fingers across the planes of her stomach, over the lace between her legs and drove his fingers into the sensitive spot at the apex of her thighs, unleashing a punishing rhythm right from the start. There’d be no slow intimacy tonight. Tonight, he’d fuck her until she begged him to stop, and they both knew it.
Siobhan gasped as he slipped a finger from his other hand inside her and threw her head back. “Benedict!”
“That’s it,” he said, pushing harder, circling around the soft bundle of her nerves. His mouth trailed over her neck, and then over her breasts, teasing her nipples, until they pebbled beneath the fabric of her bra.
“You’re going to kill me,” she moaned, arching her back up, pressing her chest more firmly into his mouth.
Abruptly he removed his hands from between her legs and pulled her bra apart, freeing the flesh underneath. He grabbed her by the nipples, roughly twisting them until she squirmed.
“Benedict, please,” she whimpered.
He dipped his head taking one nipple into his mouth, scrapping his teeth over it, and pinched the other between his fingers. Twisting and pulling until her entire body shuddered its release.
“That’s my girl,” he whispered lavishing the second nipple his tongue, as he drove his fingers back into the center of her once more.
Siobhan’s head snapped upright again, and she grabbed a fist full of his hair pulling him from her chest. She met his gaze with haze in her eyes. “Bedroom.”
“Oh? Demanding, are we?” He chuckled. He’d fully intended to take her on his desk, and then repeat the process in his bed, but if she wanted to change things up—
She glared at him. “Now.”