His eyes, wicked as the devil’s soul, shimmer like jewels as he watches me with a fixed stare. “What sort of person are you, Judith? Do you embrace your nightmares? Or do you run from them?”
In the midst of the whirling snow, the carousel picks up speed. I was right – the tune is changing, growing wilder, more discordant. If I thought the music was unsettling before, it’s downright terrifying now.
“What are you doing?” I look around in alarm. The Tilt-A-Whirl is zipping past twice as fast as before. The icy wind whips my hair, stinging my cheeks. Beside me on the platform, Loc gazes at me impassively as if nothing at all is wrong.
Slowly, dreading what I’m about to see, I turn my head to look down at the stallion between my legs.
One of its round crimson eyes rolls back and settles on me with a demonic glare.
“Loc…” I am frozen in terror, afraid to look away. Afraid to move. Afraid that one of these fiendish beasts will sink its teeth into me, or worse. The shrill calliope music clashes in my ears, and the carousel continues its runaway orbit.
“Yes, Jude?” His voice is maddeningly calm.
“Make it stop. Please make it stop.”
“I don’t think so. Not just yet.”
“Dammit, Loc, I’m not fucking kidding…”
Reaching around me, he grabs the pole and swings one leg over the horse, pressing his body flush against mine. The stallion shakes its painted mane and I close my eyes to shut out the sight of those devil eyes.
“I don’t like this,” I announce through clenched teeth. “I seriously don’t like this.”
“Sh-h,” Loc breathes in my ear. The feel of his warm, hard body so close to mine does crazy things to my hormones. “It’s only a nightmare if you believe it is. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t understand. Open your eyes. See the world the way I see it. Get to know that part of me a little better. Take it in, baby. Take it all in.”
Unable to resist his soft coaxing, I do as he requests, shooting a fearful glance at the animated steed on my left. It makes a vicious braying noise and lashes out at the air with its front hooves.
“They’re beautiful, aren’t they?” he murmurs.
“I don’t know. They’re…” I’m at a loss for words here. Beautiful? I’m not sure that’s how I would choose to describe the demon horses. I suppose they are, in an aesthetic sense, but like the dissonant music they seem so…evil.
He slides one hand around my waist, the other moving up so he can trail his fingers down my neck. The stallion flies in its neverending circle, yo-yoing up and down with us on its back, a blur of snowflakes shrouding the landscape in white as the jarring melody thrums in my veins.
“I can feel your pulse racing,” he whispers. “It feels good, doesn’t it? The adrenaline. The excitement.”
I turn my head a bit so he can hear me over the spectral music. “You feel good.”
He brushes his lips lightly against my cheek, his breath warming me as he chuckles softly. “Mm, sweetheart. You have no idea just how good I can feel.”
Maybe not, but I’d very much like to find out.
Impulsively, I let go of the brass pole and stretch out a hand to tentatively stroke the stallion’s painted black muzzle. It doesn’t seem to object, though the vacant eyes roll back once again to give me another indecipherable look.
Behind me, Loc purrs his approval. “There. Now was that so hard?”
Steadying myself with both hands on his thighs, I relax against his chest. My fears begin to recede. All I can think about right now is the hard body cradled against mine, and how intoxicating it feels to be this close to him.
“Sure you don’t want a tour of the funhouse?” he teases.
“Not on your life.” I don’t even want to think about the hellish horrors he might dredge up in there. Haunted carousels are bad enough. The last thing I want is to see the reflection of a demonic clown in one of those funhouse mirrors.
His hands roam beneath my hoodie to cup my breasts, and I arch my back with a whimper as he slides his fingers inside my bra. All he does is brush them across my nipples, but the light touch has them instantly stiffening into hard peaks. “Loc…”
His voice is a husky whisper. “What is it, precious?”
“Let’s get out of here. Please.”
“You know what’s going to happen when I get you home, don’t you?” He squeezes my breasts, and I squirm against him. I want his hands all over me. His touch does things to me that are pure magic. Black magic, surely, but at this point I’m beyond caring.
“Yes. You’re going to…” I trail off, suddenly uncertain. By now I should know better than to second-guess his intentions. What if I’m wrong?
“I’m going to fuck you,” he clarifies firmly. “Very hard and very deep. And just when you think you can’t take any more, I’m going to fuck you again. And again. And again. Are you starting to see a pattern emerging here, love?”
Unable to speak, I merely bite my lip. Oh, God…
“All I’m asking from you is one word,” he continues. “Because I’m giving you something I’ve never given anyone before. A choice. I’m offering you an out. I’m willing to release you from your debt if that’s what you want. I’ll still hold up my end of the bargain, no strings attached. All you have to do is tell me no, and I’ll send you back to Kansas and you will never hear from me again. But if you say yes, then know that I will not be holding back. Your body will be mine, to use for my own pleasure, and I won’t let you deny me anything.”
Stunned, I turn my head to gaze at him in astonishment. Is he serious? After everything that happened, after everything my brother did to him, he’s willing to just forget it and let me off scot free? With no repercussions whatsoever? He’s a demon. Demons make deals. They don’t let people back out of them. They don’t possess the compassion for something like that.
But maybe…half-human demons do.
Brushing his lips across mine in a feather-soft kiss, he asks, “So what’s it going to be, Jude?”
My heart hammers against my chest. The sad part is, I don’t even have to think about it. I know what I should do. I know the logical thing to do. The smart thing.
Unfortunately, what I should do and what I want to do are two very different things.
One day, I know I will look back on my naïveté and realize how foolish I was for following him so blindly.
Today is not the day.
“Yes,” I whisper.
The lights on the carousel flicker and go dark.
The platform slows its relentless turn.
Suspended from their poles, the horses cease their thrashing and gaze lifelessly into the night, inanimate playthings once more.
And the music, having reached its crescendo, ends in a rolling clap of thunder that resonates through the air before tapering off into silence.