Since ancient times, the semi-angelic beings known as the Nephilim have protected the children of men. These chaste, eternal warriors stand between humanity and the Succubae, daughters of Lilith, who drain men of their will through seduction.
Until the day one Naphil, Lucien, first encounters the succubus Sarahi. That day a creature of darkness, sick of the shadows, dares lift her face towards heaven and discovers something she never dreamed she would find… love.
But their love is overshadowed as the long-foretold war between angels and demons threatens to break over the land. For prophecy states that from the mingling of these races will come a warrior who holds the key to victory… or utter destruction.
Rome 78 AD
Sarahi made her slow, sinuous way down the cobbled streets of Rome, between the heavily-columned white marble buildings, heading for the temple of Venus. She was hungry. It had been far too long since she had eaten… months. But she’d been unable to rid herself of the image of Alexander dying in her arms, drained of his life force, unable to withstand her insatiable hunger. Poor man. He’d been so beautiful, so strong. A warrior in the bedroom and on the field of battle.
It was so unfair that she could never keep a man. Could only use him, suck him dry. Her nourishment was her lover’s downfall. The only alternative would be this, and she hated this more. Prostitution. Trading one man for another until she was sated. It disgusted her. But if she went much longer without feeding, she risked losing control, and that was worst of all. She could drain a man to his destruction in a single feeding.
Bah, being a demoness was not at all what people thought. She had little power. Oh, she could shrink down to a tiny size, and incite people to lust, but what good were those attributes? What use? She lived like an animal. Mating and feeding. And for her, they were one.
As she approached the temple, she could feel the sexual energy rising, could taste it. Inside, behind the perfectly rectangular palisade of fluted columns, under the shallow peak of the roof, powerful men were exchanging their hard-earned coins for a night with one of the beautiful women employed in honoring the goddess of love. They had no idea how many of those women were succubae. It was an easy meal. No need to hunt. The prey came right to your hand.
“Hmm.” A handsome young man eyed her. “Very pretty.”
Sarahi pinned him with a gimlet stare and pulled the cerulean shawl closer over her scarlet hair. It was the best she could do. She could not disguise her milk pale skin or her glowing green eyes. At least she could hide the hair.
But why was she hiding? She could go with that young man right now and feed. He was agreeable. She could feel it, could feel the lust radiating off him. But she didn’t want that. Lilith take it, she didn’t want him. She didn’t want anyone. She wanted to be left alone.
Her belly cramped with hunger and she took another look at the back of the young man as he hurried away from her. If she called him, he would come. She opened her mouth, letting the slightly bisected tip of her tongue protrude, and inhaled… tasted…
What was that aroma in the air, that celestial fragrance? Like a man, but the best kind of man. Freshly washed, but wearing no perfumes to disguise his natural scent. Strong. Sweet. Delicious. What was the source? It teased her. She turned.
A man was walking down the street.
There was nothing unusual about it, really. There were hundreds, perhaps thousands of men each day walking this path to and from the senate, the temple, and the bath houses. There was nothing remarkable about this man who seemed to be heading in the same direction as she was.
Well, actually there was something unusual about him. He was incredibly tall. Also dark. His tightly-shorn curls gleamed blacker than the dusk. His back was to her, but through his white robe; she could see his fine, muscular figure. Her mouth watered at the sight of him. Oh, she could just see how delicious his energy would taste. She could taste the faintest morsel of it now.
Sarahi wiped her hand over the corner of her mouth and hurried after him. If he was heading to the temple now, this was her lucky day. She wouldn’t mind making a meal of this one.
Sure enough, he strode directly there, but instead of entering, he lingered outside the door. He turned to face the street and Sarahi’s breath caught. Had there ever been such a beautiful face? Firm jaw, eyes like polished ebony, strong broad nose, full sensual mouth. He was made to be loved. She wanted him more than ever.
As men approached the entrance, he touched them on the arm. Those full lips twisted into words she couldn’t make out. No one turned his way, but everyone he touched paused. Some turned away and hurried down the street. Others steeled themselves and entered.
They can’t see him. He touches them, talks to them, but they have no idea he’s there.
Interesting she could see him. She approached. He turned those burning, midnight eyes on her.
“Come no closer, succubus.” His voice was strong and deep, and she shivered at the sound of it. Her face curving into a sensuous smile, she walked towards him, deliberately crowding into his space, letting him smell her perfumed, womanly sweetness. His nostrils flared.
“How did you know what I am?” she asked, drawing her voice out long and slow.
His Adam’s apple bobbed. “Of course I know what you are, slut. Do you know what I am?
“Oh, for Lilith’s sake,” she hissed, suddenly furious. “Naphil. I should have guessed.” Her delicious meal was a half-angel sworn to celibacy. Now Sarahi felt like swearing.
“You should have known, little one,” he chided.
“I’ve never seen a Naphil before.” Goddesses, but he was beautiful.
“Then you are poorly trained. You’ll not be going in there tonight.”
“What difference does it make? Those men are going in to bed a woman. They will walk out unharmed. Why deny me admittance?”
“It is my duty.” He paused, and gestured with a twist of his head toward the columns flanking the entrance. “Do you want to be there?”
Sarahi took a risk. “No.” She looked directly into his eyes. “But you might as soon reason with the lion not to eat the antelope. He hungers, and he cannot stop himself.” She sighed.
He narrowed his eyes. “What do you mean?”
She regarded him, confused. “You say you are trained to know us. Surely you must know why we do what we do.”
“Yes. To gain power. To threaten Heaven.”
She laughed, and the sound was bitter to her own ears. “No, Sir Naphil, you are misinformed. We seduce men, not to gain control of them, but to feed. The energy produced by the act is our only source of nourishment.”
He looked aghast at the very thought. “You feed on men?”
“It is in my nature to do so, and yet…”
“Yet I would prefer to eat bread and drink wine like everyone else. This is a cursed existence.”
“What if you fed on only one; a husband or lover?”
Sarahi’s breath caught. She could feel her lip trembling. “No man would survive it long. A few months at most. My last…” she trailed off and turned away.
A warm hand closed on her shoulder. Her gown was held shut by a clip, and around it, his fingers touched her bare skin. “I am sorry. I did not realize.”
She turned back to face him, her eyes swimming. “Don’t judge what you don’t understand, Naphil. Your kind doesn’t know everything about mine.”
“Lucien.” No longer aggressive, his tender tone flowed over her like honey, warm and sweet. She was too caught up in his voice to comprehend his meaning.
“My name is Lucien.”
She smiled. “How apt. Well, Lucien, I haven’t fed in ages. If I don’t eat soon, I’m likely to lose control, and then you’ll have to slay me. Do you wish to slay me, light bearer?”
He looked at her in silence for an endless moment, and then said, “No, Succubus. I do not wish to slay you.”
“I am called Sarahi.”
“I will remember. I do apologize for… everything.”
“Accepted. Now please go elsewhere. Save innocent victims. I don’t want to waste my strength trying to do the impossible.”
“Which would be what?”
“Feed on you.”
He scoffed. “You couldn’t.”
“Only if I could seduce you. But if I could…” She twirled a strand of hair around her fingertip.
“Then?” His challenging tone was contradicted by the visible movement of his Adam’s apple. It bobbed in the ebony column of his throat.
“Then I think you’d make the tastiest meal I’ve ever eaten.”
She walked up to him, pressing her body against his, sliding her arms around his neck, pulling his mouth down and kissing him. To her amazement, he didn’t resist. She pulled him closer, sliding her tongue along the seam of his lips, dipping inside.
He was even more delicious than she had imagined, especially when the desire began to rise within him. As her hunger eased, she became aware of a new emptiness, one she hadn’t felt in what seemed like ages. She wanted him, but as more than just nourishment.
She ran her fingertips down his arms and guided his hands to her slender waist before reaching up to embrace him again.
In a matter of moments, her aching belly filled to capacity. She no longer needed to feed. She was satisfied, and all from just a kiss.
She released his mouth. “Go, Lucien. Leave this place. You’ve made vows. I’ll not be the one to make you break them. Go.”
He looked at her in stunned disbelief. And then he disappeared as though he’d never been there at all.
Sarahi drew in a shaky breath and licked her lips, tasting the honey-sweet residue of his desire. How could she feed on another after that? It would be like eating ashes.
A pleasing thought occurred to the succubus. Perhaps it was not necessary to complete a sex act in order to feed. Perhaps she could feed on unconsummated lust, or even on that of others. Be nearby, mop up a little of the excess energy, and spare herself the humiliation.
How ironic to bless the day she met her enemy face to face.