Unholy pleasures, p.1

Unholy Pleasures, page 1

 part  #4 of  Half-breed Series Series

 

Unholy Pleasures
 


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Unholy Pleasures


  Table of Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Epilogue

  Unholy Pleasures

  Debra Dunbar

  Copyright © 2017 by Debra Dunbar

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

  Created with Vellum

  Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Epilogue

  Also by Debra Dunbar

  Acknowledgments

  About the Author

  Chapter 1

  Kai twisted the boarding pass in her hands, nearly tearing it into two pieces. “So…I met someone.”

  Why was she so nervous? I was a half succubus. I needed the energy generated by sexual arousal and climax in order to live, and that meant I’d learned to get my mind around the fact that relationships weren’t only meaningful if they were monogamous. I loved Irix, but we both needed random sexual encounters to survive. I’d also found there was an odd middle ground where I cared deeply for someone and that caring also involved making love. Kai was one of those friends-and-more. She’d become both my friend and my lover when Irix and I were vacationing in Maui, and we’d continued to keep in touch for the rest of my senior year. When she’d heard I was doing a summer internship on the west coast, she took a week off from her surfing instructor job and flew out to meet me.

  We’d had a wonderful week together. And her having “met someone” didn’t change that, nor did it change our relationship. At least at my end...

  “So…tell me about him or her.” I reached out and captured her hand in mine, stilling the twisting motion.

  “Him. Lee. He’s the marketing director at the resort down the street from mine.”

  And that was it? Was it up to me to pry the details out of her? “When did you meet him? And when did you start dating?”

  She shook her head, her eyes looking everywhere but at mine. “We met a month ago when I was subbing there for one of their instructors on maternity leave. We started dating right away.”

  Oh. Was this trip to see me our last hurrah before she gave me the Dear John speech? I didn’t want to, but I could move back to friends-without-benefits territory. Maybe she couldn’t?

  Maybe Lee couldn’t deal with the idea that she could love more than one person.

  Kai took a deep breath and continued. “It’s not…does this make me a slut? Coming here to see you when I’ve been dating Lee? I should have told you before I came out. I should have not come out at all.” Her eyes finally met mine. I entwined my fingers with hers, her dark, golden-tan against my creamy pale skin.

  “No, it doesn’t make you a slut. Your dating Lee doesn’t make one bit of difference to me. I wanted you to come out to see me and I’m glad you did. I don’t regret one moment of our time together—this week or even since we’ve met.”

  She shook her head. “You’re my friend, Amber. And I love that our friendship extends into the bedroom. Sex with you is amazing. It’s so easy with you. It’s just part of our friendship.”

  I got the feeling there was an unspoken “but” at the end of her speech. “Does Lee want you to be exclusive? Are you worried that what we had this week was somehow cheating on him? Talk to me, Kai. I don’t know what’s going on unless you tell me.”

  She sighed. “I told him about you. At first he thought it was totally hot that I had a female friend that I had sex with. Then I think he started to get jealous because we’re still involved with each other, even if it’s long-distance. But when I explained about you and Irix and that the both of you are a committed couple but aren’t exclusive, he was intrigued.”

  Where was she going with this? “Are we still friends, Kai? Friends with or without sex?”

  It hurt to think that I might never see Kai again, that what I was would end our friendship. I hated being different. I hated being not human. Up until a year ago I’d thought I was just Amber Lowry, a college girl with a greater than usual sex drive and commitment issues, a human with the uncanny ability to speed-grow and heal plants. But instead I was a half-elf/half-succubus freak that would be killed by the elves as a blemish on their precious genetic purity, collected as an exotic toy by the demons, and reviled as a slut and ho by any humans who found out that I spent most of my free time trolling bars and grocery stores for hit-it-and-quit-it sexual partners.

  And who knew grocery stores could be such an amazing place to pick up men? And women?

  “We’re still friends, but…” Kai shook her head.

  I cringed, waiting for the rest of her statement.

  “I don’t know, Amber. It’s hard to be around you and not touch you, not want you. And Lee doesn’t want me to have sex with anyone else unless he’s a participant.”

  “But this week…was this okay?” I hated the thought that the lovemaking we’d enjoyed might have jeopardized Kai and Lee’s relationship.

  “Yes! I told him I was coming out to see you and that after what we’d had I couldn’t just throw this at you, not when we’d been planning this get-together since before Lee and I met.” Her fingers gripped mine tight, crushing the boarding pass between our hands. “He said this time only. And then it either had to stop, or you and I could only have sex if he was involved.”

  I wasn’t sure how I felt about being her one “hall pass” with Lee, but at least she wasn’t ending our friendship.

  “Do you want that? Between me, you, and Lee? Because, you know, that isn’t a problem for me.”

  Her brows knitted together. “It is a problem for me. I don’t like the idea of sharing you with Lee or sharing him with you. Is that weird? I know you have sex with lots of other people, that you and Irix have a loving bond, and none of that bothers me. But I somehow can’t mix my relationship with Lee and my relationship with you together. It would feel as if I were cheapening both, turning them into a weird swinger orgy thing instead of the expressions of caring and love that they truly are.”

  I understood. There was the sex that I had with random people I picked up at the grocery store, and there was what I had with those I loved. If Kai cared about Lee, then I was positive I would, too. I was completely open to the idea that there might be a plus-one to the love Kai and I ha
d together, but obviously that would only happen if the other two in the equation were like-minded.

  “It’s okay, Kai. You can be exclusive with Lee. If things work out and you wind up married, I’ll be thrilled for you. And if they don’t and you want to pick up where we left off, I’m here. I’ll always be here.”

  “I want to see you again, Amber, but I think next time I visit I should bring Lee with me.” She smiled, a brief twist of her lips before they dropped once more. “That way I won’t be tempted to fall into your arms.”

  My chest felt like it was being squeezed between two rocks. “We can still e-mail and text, and Skype. And when I get settled this fall in New Orleans, maybe you both can come out to visit Irix and me. Maybe come out for Christmas?”

  She nodded, her lips trembling as she forced them into a smile. “Or maybe you both can come out to Maui again. I think it would help if we did a couples thing. I mean, a couples thing platonically.”

  Of course. I could hardly breathe, my lungs felt so constricted. “I love you, Kai. And if that means just platonic, then I’m fine with that. I don’t want to lose your friendship.”

  She stood and threw her arms around me. Then she kissed me. It was bittersweet, this last kiss. It reminded me of everything that was changing between us, and how very fragile our friendship was. We sat, and this time we didn’t hold hands. I wasn’t sure we’d ever hold hands again.

  “So, speaking of marriage, when are you and Irix going to tie the knot?”

  Kai was much more cheerful now that she’d unburdened herself. I, on the other hand, wanted to go curl up in a corner and cry. This time it was me forcing a smile.

  “I don’t think demons are the marrying kind,” I told her. “We have a commitment, and that is unusual enough among demons. I doubt a ring and white dress are in my future.”

  “Oh.” Kai shot me a worried look. “Then kids…”

  “I don’t know.” The thought of having Irix’s child, or children, filled me with a sense of longing, but that was probably less likely than the white dress and ring.

  “It’s alright,” I reassured her. “I’ll just spoil Darci’s kids, or Nyalla’s. Well, if Nyalla ever finds the right guy, that is.”

  She nodded. “You and Irix love each other. You’re adorable together. And I can tell you’re excited about your career and this internship. That’s plenty.”

  It was plenty, but was it enough? I thought about Irix and me at his house in New Orleans, me and Jordan studying the bayou ecosystem and restoring endangered plant life. Yes, it was enough. It would have to be enough. But I still couldn’t help but imagine Irix and me pledging ourselves to each other in a church, all of our friends and family in attendance. And babies, little children…. They would be three-quarters demon. How would that work? Could I even have children with Irix?

  “I need to get through security before they start boarding,” Kai announced, reluctantly getting to her feet. We hugged again, and I waited until she cleared security, waving as she headed down the hall. Was this the way it would always be? Irix and I were constants, but I’d hoped that Kai would continue to be a major part of my love life. Would I always be waving goodbye to those I loved because they found someone who wanted a more traditional love affair, or because they needed to move on to a more socially acceptable relationship? It hurt. As happy as I was for Kai, it still hurt that she couldn’t find room for me as more than a friend.

  But at least I had Irix. We were in love, and there was nothing that could break us apart. Other loves might come and go, but we’d always be forever.

  Chapter 2

  My internship at DiMarche Cellars included a tiny, single-wide trailer just off one of the vineyards. The wooden steps were bleached gray and squawked at each tread. The metal door was so flimsy that I feared it would come off the hinges every time I opened it. The kitchenette had a pink stove and a yellow refrigerator with cigarette burns on the Formica countertop. The wallpaper was peeling over the baby-shit brown, tweed couch, and the bedroom was so small that I had to crawl on the mattress from the foot of the bed each time I went to sleep.

  Sleep was about the only time I was in this trailer. I’d come back from my trip to Hel and flown straight out to California, practically going from the airport right into the vineyard. We were removing suckers and excess leaves, trimming vines, tying up supports and moving wires, checking and recording the water content and pH of the immature grapes. The last part of my internship would be in August when we were harvesting some of the early grapes.

  That’s when the real work began—August to October. Harvest was when the winery employed the majority of their field workers. Grapes were still picked by hand in huge plastic tubs, carried to the line of bins towed behind a tractor, then driven to the winery for processing. Those seasonal employees would leave after harvest, while the key field staff continued on to prune and maintain the vines through the winter and spring.

  I went out at dawn, ate in the field with the other employees, and came back at sunset to shower and fall onto the lumpy mattress only to do it all over again the next day. And I loved every minute of it. For the last two days they’d had me analyzing and compiling reports on downy mildew and a troubling cutworm infestation, plus cataloging areas where the irrigation system seemed to be supporting a fungus. They were typical problems that a vineyard of this scale might encounter, but all these issues were intriguing to me.

  And the wine. The first day in I’d gotten the grand tour of the winery and had been amazed. I loved the giant casks, the bottling areas, the tasting room with three tours per day, the gift shop. Most of all I was fascinated with the vintners and how they blended the varietals and decided if there would be any special products that year. Nearly all the wine produced at DiMarche was from grapes harvested in their own vineyards, but some specialized grape varieties were purchased and brought in either in pulp or in extract form for the blends. When I had first arrived, I’d been introduced to each of the DiMarche signature products, tasting several years of a wine to get a sense of the differences that a season’s temperature, rainfall, and soil quality could make in the final product. I hoped they’d soon transfer me to the tasting room where I could watch the sommelier. Maybe someday, with my half-elven palate, I’d be able to taste, categorize, and even judge wine with that level of skill.

  Of course, my obsession over my internship cut into my time with Kai this past week, but she’d enjoyed following me around in the field, and had loved the tasting room both at DiMarche as well as the neighboring four wineries. It had been great having her here to talk to, having her to curl up with at night, spooning in bed. It was going to be a lonely few weeks until Irix arrived. I hadn’t seen him since before I’d left for my trip to Hel, and as much as I missed him, I was feeling guilty. I knew I’d have to confess that I’d gone to Hel all by myself—something he’d forbade me doing. I knew it would cause a huge fight between us, no matter my reasoning for doing so. I hated fighting with Irix. I missed him terribly and wanted nothing more than to have him by my side, but he had been away taking care of a few things in New Orleans, then back in Hel. And as much as I missed him, I was dreading the argument I knew we were going to have.

  It seemed like I wouldn’t have to wait two weeks after all. As I went to climb the steps to the trailer, I felt him. And even if I hadn’t felt him, the BMW M5 parked out front would have clued me in. Stolen, no doubt. Irix never had a problem in taking whatever vehicle suited his fancy, regardless of whose name was actually on the title. It was something I’d learned to live with.

  All fears of our inevitable fight vanished with the excitement of having him here. It had been five weeks since I’d seen him last, and that was five weeks too long in my opinion. I flew up the last few stairs and ran through the door, squealing to see him standing in the kitchen, pulling a bottle of ginger ale out of the ridiculous yellow fridge.

  His smile tugged at my heart. “My elf-girl, my princess. I finished up early and wanted t
o surprise you.”

  I rushed him and fell into his arms, losing myself in his scent, in the warmth of him enveloping me. God, I’d missed Irix. I was so glad we wouldn’t need to spend months apart anymore, that I wouldn’t need to fear the angels might catch and kill him. I’d gone to Hel and helped the humans there in exchange for immunity for Irix, so that never again would he need to flee back across the gates for three to six months.

  “I’m so glad you’re here,” I told him. “This is the best surprise ever.”

  “Did I miss Kai? I hope she enjoyed her visit.” His deep voice rumbled in his chest under my cheek.

  “She flew back to Maui this morning. We’ll hopefully see her Christmas. I asked her to come to visit us in New Orleans for the holidays.” I didn’t tell him about Lee or the change in Kai’s and my relationship. We could discuss that later, once the hurt had soothed a bit. I knew he’d understand my feelings, but Irix saw these things differently. As an incubus who was several thousand years older than me, he had experienced lovers come and go, had watched lovers age and die. This was a painful but routine occurrence for him, but for me it was a reminder of how weird I was, how I’d always be a freak in a human world.

  “I hope she can make it for Christmas.” He bent to kiss the top of my head. “I like her. I like that she loves you.”

  I winced, but I knew that she did still love me, even if that love was going to be different going forward.

  And Irix meant what he said. There was no jealousy with him. Of course as a sex demon, he could hardly be jealous of the hook-ups that fed me energy, but my relationship with Kai had been different. He never been annoyed about the time I spent with her, or fretted over whether I cared about her more than I did about him. I didn’t. I loved them both, but in a different way. And the feelings I had for Irix were indescribable. He was part of my soul. When the world died at the end of time, I’d still love him.

 
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