The Truth About the Muse
Until an hour ago, Paige’s world was rational. Maybe it had gotten scarier but still perfectly explainable. And now the coincidental look-a-like was telling her that he was the same guy as her muse. Oh god, the things they had done in her dreams.
Paige felt her face reddened and sank deeper into her seat.
But that was only one part. Hit with a one-two-three of sucker punches, she wasn’t sure which was the worst. In the thick silence that settled in the car, her brain took stock of the situation and made a list.
One: Demon existed. They are real.
Two: One just attacked her and according to Davin, was specifically after her.
Three: Davin is a demon too.
Four: Davin claims to be Shade. Given his use of her nickname, one she had told no one, she had no choice but to believe him. Okay, fact revision. Davin is Shade.
Five: That meant Davin, as Shade, had led her on, letting her sink into self-delusion. For what purpose? Just to have dream sex? What other lies had he told her?
It wasn’t until Davin pulled the car into an underground garage of one of the most luxurious apartment buildings in town that she registered the exact car she was in.
Six: Davin was damn rich.
Of all the new facts Paige had to process, that last one seemed the least relevant. She filed that away for now and returned to the first five items on the list. Anger was the first emotion she was able to name. Embarrassed for being played. A healthy shot of fear was lurking somewhere in the background. Paige clung to the seething rage roiling inside her, finding strength in it.
Jolted out of her inner monologue, Paige looked up to see Davin opening the car door for her and offering a handout. She stared at it then up at him, schooling her features into a mask of distaste.
With a sigh, Davin took a step back and withdrew his hand, smoothing his hair back instead with it. It was a gesture so reminiscent of Shade that for a second, Paige’s heart softened. But the memory of how she had begged for his touch resurfaced, so she gritted her teeth and got out of the car herself.
It wasn’t until she stood in the parking lot, arms wrapped around herself that Paige realized how stupid this was. She was following a complete stranger - no, worse, someone that lied to her - to his own home. Her mind had been so focused on wanting answers that she had allowed herself to be lulled into a false sense of security with his familiar face. Stupid.
“Hold on. What’s the address here?”
“566 Smithe Street. My unit is 4044.” There was no hesitation.
Paige dug her phone out of her pocket and typed a short text to Ainsley.
I’m okay. I can’t explain right now, but I am at Davin Murphy’s place at 4044 506 Smithe Street. He’s the dark-haired guy we met at the club the other day. I will call check in again in 30 mins.
She brandished her phone up at him. “Ains now knows exactly where I am. If I don’t call her in thirty minutes, she will call the cops.” It wasn’t much, but it was the best she could do in these circumstances.
Davin only nodded though his face fell further. He looked so much like a kicked puppy a part of her wanted to forgive him. No. Absolutely not. She steeled her will.
“This way.” He reached out as if to take her hand, but paused and jammed it in his pocket before turning and walking away. Good, he got the message and was respecting her space.
4044 turned out to be the penthouse of the building. There was no way some independent bookshop owner was able to afford this kind of opulence between the ridiculous car and this ridiculous apartment. Not unless he had more than one lifetime to amass wealth. It added more credibility to his impossible story.
“Please. Sit.” Letting them in, he gestured towards the long sectional before moving to the open concept kitchen, bustling about. The kitchen itself was almost as large as her entire suite.
“No, thanks.” The couch was too far away from the door.
There was a weariness as he returned, a mug of steaming hot tea in hand which he held up to her. “Please spa..Paige.”
She stared at the tea before other things clicked in her mind and her head snapped back. “Did you drug me the other night?”
“What? Hell, no! I mean, not like what you think.”
Warning bells sounded in her head even as a sick feeling settled in the pit of his stomach. Not what she thought? What the hell did that mean?
Paige had to remind herself that the horrified expression on his face was possibly an act, even if it was an Oscar-winning one. If he was indeed a demon, she shouldn’t judge by human standards.
“You don’t trust me.” It was more of a statement than a question.
“Not for a minute. Can you blame me?”
“No.” Davin winced. “The other night was an accident. My kind releases a kind of pheromone that can put others in a suggestible state. It’s something that naturally happens, but we’ve learned to control it. Seeing you in person was a shock and my control slipped. I’m sorry.”
Sorry her ass.
“I have an idea. Wait here. Please.” There was that look of desperation once more.
Something else nagged at her. He hadn’t taken advantage of her back there. He had pushed for her to go home and didn’t even visit her in her dreams after. Even now, he could have made her groggy and docile. Instead, she was fairly sure she had clarity of mind and if he had used his powers, she would not be feeling her fury so keenly. That was the only reason she nodded in agreement.
He set the mug on the kitchen counter and retreated deeper into the apartment. Left to her own devices, she studied the apartment in more detail.
The kitchen stood to the right of the entryway and opened up to a large living room. Windows lined the other side, a view of the city spread beneath. To the right was a large fireplace and beyond that, the room opened up to a long hall where Davin disappeared off to. Clean, modern lines. Not what she expected of a demon’s home. But it wasn’t exactly something she had to ever give thought to either.
Her gaze returned to the mug at the table. The tea called to her, its subtle aroma calling to her. Was this her poison apple?
Davin returned, holding a long velvet box with both hands. With slow care, he set it down on the counter and opened the box. From there, he produced a long dagger, almost spartan in its design and sheathed in an equally simple scabbard. He handed it to her with a solemn face.
“This is a pure iron sword, made back in the 1920s before everything got radiated and tainted. It’s something all of us are vulnerable to. Now you have something that can hurt me, as insurance.”
Paige took the weapon in hand and unsheathed it. She’d like to think she looked badass but her butterfingers almost dropped the leather scabbard. “Okay. But iron works on fae, not demons.” She raised a brow at him.
In response, Davin stepped closer and without warning, wrapped a hand around the tip of the sword. The smell of burning flesh permeated the air and Davin hissed at the pain, withdrawing his hand in haste and holding it up for her inspection. The flesh around his palm and fingers swelled with angry red blisters.
“I promise you, iron burns. You can hurt me.”
It took several minutes for Paige to recover enough to remember her anger. Her first instinct was to run up and try to treat his injury, to berate him for hurting himself to prove a point. Dumb male. Instead, she set her chin and held the blade up, pointing straight at his throat. she knew she was being a cold bitch. It was that or give in to the impulse to forgive him. She’ll take the bitch.
Davin took a step back and held up his hands in surrender.
“Fine, let’s go have a seat and talk.” Paige waved the tip of the blade in that general direction.
They settled there, him with his back towards the door on the couch and her perched on the edge of the coffee table, facing him, dagger still at his throat as she actively tried to channel Lara Croft. “Okay, talk.”
She watched in fascination as his chest rose and fell with a deep breath. Did demons need to breathe or was it simply to emulate humans? His eyes studied her closely. “The beast or me first.”
Tough question but easy answer. “You.”
“Some call us demons, some fae. We are shadows of humankind, born of your imagination.”
Paige shook her head. “Cut the poetic bullshit. Give me the facts.”
“I am!” Davin groaned in frustration. “We have many names. As much as our own lore tells us, we existed before humanity but human imagination gave us shape, gave us our history and background. We all became different races of demons, fae, whatever you want to call it. I don’t know, it’s not exactly clear.”
“Okay, fast forward then. What are you?”
“I never fed on you directly! It’s why I use dreams to sustain myself, just taking what I need. I could never put you in that kind of danger.”
“What kind of danger could I be in if you had fed on me directly?” Homework reading topic: incubus.
“You could get sickly, die if I drain too much.” He swallowed hard. “At the very least, prolonged exposure would get you addicted to me.” His expression hardened. “But I’ve made an active choice to not do that. It’s what I am, it’s not who I am. It’s why I only feed in the twilight of dreams.”
Bile rose in the back of her throat and the tip of her dagger dipped low before she brought it back up, elbow braced against her knee for support. “And you do this to other women?”
“Reach them through the twilight of dreams? Yeah.” Abject misery resumed once more, making his head hang as low as the blade allowed. It fascinated a part of her with how he oscillated between accepting and defending himself against her accusations.
“Give me one reason not to end you right now.”
He looked up, eyes hardening. “You can. But I’m your best shot at survival.”
The memory of how easily he had flung the demonic dog aside rose in her mind. Well, damn it, there was that.
Later, she would cry this out. Right now, Paige let her anger drive the conversation and stayed in the realm of pragmatism. She wanted to ask him if the last two years meant anything at all, or if she was just an easy meal. They never said the L-word to each other but the depth of affection was there. What about the other women? Did he have a nickname for each of them? How many?
Paige shook her head clear and gripped the hilt harder even as her arm began to tire. “How do I know this is not part of your plan somehow? Hook me into being your victim. ”
“You don’t. And I know nothing I can say or do right now can prove it.” He grew quieter. “It’s a leap of faith for you. But I…” He paused, and she saw the hesitation in the way his hands began to shake then curled into fists to stop the trembling. “If you can find it in yourself to give me one last chance, to trust me just this one last time, I can promise you that the only way whoever is behind this can get to you is over my dead body. I won’t let anyone hurt you.”
The emotion in his voice shook her. Paige felt as if she was standing on the edge of a precipice of something so much bigger than her, staring down into a pit of unknowns. But if she didn’t jump, she would never know what was actually down there. She wanted to know. Finally, she lowered the blade. “Why?”
“Because.” Davin smiled weakly. “Because you’re not like other women. You’re...special.”
The skepticism must have shown on her face.
“I don’t visit someone more than once in their dream.”
“What?” Paige’s eyes widened.
“I don’t give them a name to call me. Most of the time, they can hardly see my face.”
Her traitorous heart leapt at his words. What girl wouldn’t want to believe she was special? Her novels used this trope often enough. “I don’t trust you. You’ve given me no reason to believe you.”
“I know.” Davin rubbed his face. “I didn’t tell you because I’d think you would forgive me. I told you because I didn’t want you to think I didn’t care. Yes, I can see the disgust you have for me right now.” Bitterness thickened his voice. “You don’t have to forgive me. I just need you safe and alive. Please, just let me protect you.”
“So I can be what? Your long-term meal ticket?”
“No damn it, Paige.” He exploded, rising to his full height in one swift movement. “So that I don’t lose you. You! Not as prey, not even as my lover. Just you. As you.”
Paige struggled to remain calm in the face of his outburst. “English, Davin.”
He slumped back in his seat. “I can’t bear the thought of you no longer roaming this earth. I can stay away after all this over but I need to know you’re alive and well.”
She didn’t understand him, couldn’t wrap her head around why he felt the way he did. But he seemed genuine enough, and he didn’t push for more than she wanted to give. “You’re crazy.”
“Yeah, I guess.” As if drained, he half-closed his eyes even as his shoulders rose in a shrug.
Could she take the risk? With that demonic dog still out there, could she afford not to? Paige sighed and set the sword down.
“I guess I am too. Fine. No more lies. And I’m still not forgiving you, but I’ll stay. So you better prove that you’re worth this one last chance. Deal?”
Davin nodded, his shoulders sagging in relief. “Deal.”