Thirst drove her out of bed. Paige tiptoed in the kitchen and not wanting to disturb anyone, rummaged until she found a glass and filled it at the kitchen sink tap.
The day had turned cloudy but a glance at the clock told her it was late afternoon. A few more hours. She wished she could rescue Lillian now, but they had no way of knowing where she could be. The address Anna had left behind was in a warehouse district, not likely where she was before the appointed time. Cliche.
Please let Lillian be okay.
She let her mind wander, returning to the incubus she left sleeping in bed. It was easy to give reassurance when he needed them, but now that she was alone, doubts crowded her mind.
It was hard for Davin to hold back just now. She saw it in his brief pauses, the way his muscles would bunch and tense, the way his jaw would clench. There was a price to being together. He would have to always hold back lest she became some psychotic obsessive addict like Anna was. Could he do it long term? How many times could the incubus feed on her physically before the dependencies begin?
And was it fair to him?
Paige downed the water in one go and set the glass on the counter. There was also the matter of the difference in lifespan. What would happen when she’s old and grey and he’s still as beautiful as he was today?
Her heart ached, and she rubbed her eyes.
This wasn’t the time for emotions. She needed to stay strong, get Lillian back, and end this ridiculousness.
Soft steps approached, and a voice followed after. “Just leave the glass in the sink. Do you want some food?” Dante opened the fridge, already pulling out some deli meat and cheese.
Paige was ravenous and nodded. Silence settled between them as they each prepared their sandwiches. There were a million questions she wanted to ask, but she had no idea where to start. Her mind began to sort and prioritize until she found the easiest one.
“How’s Ainsley doing?”
“Resting. The shock wore her down, but she’s stubborn. Like you.”
A ghost of a smile graced her lips although guilt tinged it. She should be taking care of her best friend.
“She wanted to learn more about the incubi and whether Dav was going to hurt you.”
“What did you say?”
Dante exhaled. “My brother made mistakes when he was young. We all did. He’s lost, but he’s not out to hurt anyone. Maybe together you will both find your way.”
Paige wanted to protest. But that wasn’t true, was it? With Davin, she had no idea if she was coming or going.
“I’m heading out to get Ainsley a wheelchair. She’s in the third room down the hall upstairs. Check in on her in about another fifteen minutes.”
“Thank you.” Paige nodded and watched the incubus leave. Was this some sense of duty or was there something else going on? She wished she could ask, but Dante did not seem the type to divulge.
She finished her sandwich, made another one for her best friend, then eased her way upstairs. With slow, careful movements, she opened the door just a crack. Ainsley was a limp figure on the bed, still asleep. Paige was about to close the door when her voice called out.
“Stop hovering and come in here.”
Paige slipped inside and made her way to sit on the edge of the bed. When Ainsley tried to pull herself up, she moved to help, propping her pillow up and arranging the other pillows and blankets until she was comfortable.
“Stop fussing, silly.”
“I’m sorry,” Paige blurted out as she handed Ainsley the sandwich, her head bowed in apology.
“Paige, it wasn’t your fault. You can’t blame yourself for your boyfriend’s psycho-ex’s behaviour.”
Ainsley shook her head, cutting Paige off. Instead, she reached out and Paige moved to clasp her hand.
“You’re going, aren’t you?”
“I am. I will get Lillian back, come hell or high water.” Paige was expecting protests but Ainsley only nodded, her face serious.
“Look. Something’s been bugging me about this whole thing.”
“What do you mean?”
“How many times have you been with Davin?”
Paige blushed and ducked her head. “Um...three?”
“Okay. And over two years in dreams. Correct me if I’m wrong but you don’t seem addicted to him.”
“I’m pretty sure I’m not,” Paige admitted, unsure where Ainsley was going with this.
“So why Anna and not you? Are some women more susceptible?”
“Well feeding in dreams,.lessens the effect.”
“Yeah, but you still kept him fed. So, there should still be some side effects. And it’s been going on for a long time.”
Shit. Ainsley was right.
“And then there’s what Ava said.”
Paige leaned forward. “What did she whisper to you?”
Ainsley made a face. “Something about us being still asleep. Both of us. But that you’re waking up soon. That it’ll be my turn after and everything is as it should be.”
Awakening. That’s how Mr. Emo-Oracle put it too.
She looked up to see her inner frustration mirrored in her best friend’s features. A week ago, all Ains had to worry about was unreasonable clients and all she had to stress about was a damn YouTube interview and now look at them. Laughter bubbled up inside of her at the absurdity of the situation.
“Hey, maybe we’re coming into our superpowers and this is our origin story.” Paige couldn’t help but giggle. Gallows humour.
“I’m serious!” Ainsley slapped her leg but grinned herself.
“Ow!” It just made Paige laughed harder. Soon, Ainsley joined in until they were both giggling with tears rolling down their cheeks.
“Is everything okay?” The door open and Davin poked his head in.
As Paige sucked in a breath in an honest attempt at calming the hysterics, she turned towards Davin. His somberness sobered her up. “Is it time?”
Davin shook his head. “Almost but we should do a little planning.”
“Come in then.” Ainsley motioned Davin to come closer.
Surprised, Davin entered the room, leaving the door ajar. Rather than joining them, he eased into an armchair in the corner as if to give them some space.
“Okay, what do we know?” Aisling clapped her hands together, sounding much more like herself.
“Well, she wants me dead. I think that’s pretty obvious. And she’ll do anything to make that happen.” Paige could not help but look at Ainsley’s legs.
“Anything? Does that include hurting or killing Davin?”
Both Davin and she stared at Ainsley. It wasn’t something either of them had considered.
“You mean would she be psycho enough to do the whole ’if I can’t have you, no one can deal?” It was another story cliche. What did the old writing adage go? Writing mirrors life, right? Still…
“I’m not sure. She’s never attacked me before.” Davin chewed over each word.
“Well, have you ever been with someone long-term since Anna?” Ainsley was pushing both of them now.
Davin paled. “No.”
“But how would she know? It’s not like we’ve been together in reality.” Paige frowned as the puzzle pieces refused to fit together.
“Right, your dreams. I don’t know the rules of all this hocus pocus but is there any way she could have spied on you there Davin?”
The thought chilled her. Paige was not big on the idea of anyone watching her have sex. Especially the kind of sex she and Davin had sometimes...most of the time… It was an uncomfortable topic and perhaps best left for another time. AKA - she did not want the answer to that question.
“Regardless, we need to figure out how to approach this meeting.” Yups, time to switch the topic.
“Well she’s likely expecting both of us and since she’s a little less murderous with me, I should go in first.” There was a challenge in the way Davin held himself as if daring Paige to disagree.
“So Davin goes in, distracts Anna one way or another while Paige finds Lillian?”
“Roughly. The rest we’ll have to play it by ear.”
Paige’s stomach was sinking. It wasn’t much of a plan and there were too many unknowns. And they had no guarantees that Anna would even bring Lillian.
“What if we go in together and propose a trade? Me for Lillian? That way at least we’re guaranteed that we can get Lillian back.”
“No!” Davin stared at her, cutting her off with one word. There was finality to his voice that she resented.l but she took a deep breath before her temper erupted again.
“Hear me out. I’m not suicidal.” Paige stood up and began pacing. It was a habit she picked up a long time ago and something she did every time she tried to work out a kink in one of her story plots. “I have the necklace which should keep me safe if she wants to hurl hexes at me. And since she’s made a deal, I’m guessing iron works, and she’s not immune, right?”
There was reluctance in the way Davin nodded, stony-faced.
“So if she tries to hurt me, I can defend myself.” Paige paused in her pacing and clenched her fists. “Especially if you use that power of yours to restrain her.”
“Pow...oh.” Davin’s expression faltered and he coughed as realization dawned on him.
“Powers? Restrain? Paige how would you...” Ainsley’s cheeks began to turn red. “Wait, what kind of kinky stuff have you been up to? Wait, why am I asking?”
Davin cleared his throat. “Anyway. I am still against this plan.” It was almost cute to see an incubus shy about sex, if she wasn’t so embarrassed herself.
“It’s better than anything I’ve heard so far.” Paige sniffed, but it was the way worry creased Ainsley’s forehead that made Paige pause.
“Are you sure about this Paige?”
She only clenched her fists tighter. “She hurt you. Who knows what she’s done to Lillian? I’ll do whatever it takes to bring her home.” Now she turned back to Davin who held himself still. Paige needed him to agree. “Please Davin. I promise I won’t do anything reckless.”
He paused, eyes dark with something she could not name. “Okay. We do this your way.” Davin pushed his hair back to reveal glazed golden eyes. “But I’ll want something in return.”
“What?” This was the incubus talking in that sultry, silkened tone.
“When we come back from this, you’ll know.”
She hated mysteries and unknowns but her life seemed to be full of them lately. Something though wanted her to say yes, something that had nothing to do with wanting to rescue Lillian. Paige nodded.
“Very well then. For now, let’s see what other weapons and wards we can get you.”
“Okay, but where?”
Davin rose swiftly from the chair in feline grace. “There’s a reason Dante has such a big house. Come along.”
Paige’s gaze travelled to Ainsley’s legs once more. Part of her hoped that Anna would try something just to give her an excuse for revenge for what she did to her friend. The thought appalled another part of her. It wasn’t Anna’s fault she became what she was. She wondered if there was ever a way for Davin to right that wrong.
“Go on kids, have fun with your sharp pointy things.”
Paige walked over and pulled Ainsley into a tight hug. “I’ll be back. Dante’s coming home soon with a wheelchair for you.”
“Ah, my dark knight.” Ainsley rolled her eyes with a laugh but hugged Paige back. “And I have no doubt you’ll come back. Who else will decorate my new wheelchair with me?”
When Paige leaned back, Ainsley gave her hand a light pat. “Now go.”
As they were heading out, Ainsley called out one more time. “And Davin. Bring her back in one piece or I’ll string you up by your balls.”
Paige cringed at the thought but Davin only smirked. “Yes, Ma’am. I plan on it.”