By Holley R. Munnerlyn
I had evolved. As the lone succubus in a city replete with virile mortals, mastery of my craft was the only option. The searching, the acting, and ultimately the taking had become effortless. My need was consuming, but more mine than theirs, for their pleasure was my least concern. Undoubtedly I would find them wanting, and willing they came, until met with their fate when they cowered in fear.
Strolling the cold uneven streets it occurs to me that this city may have seen more of one succubus than it should, yet the backdrop of hanging moss, cobblestone streets and graveyards abundant keep me here, albeit on borrowed time. The necessities of life are simple for some, more complicated for most. The general population would consider my needs extreme but that’s okay, I have expensive taste. And here, the offerings are divine.
My favorite spot of late is The Open Table, where the food is as delectable as its patrons. Amidst large half-moon shaped tables, the chef cooks, “in the round”, as if a contestant on Iron Chef America. Being a regular has its perks, one of which is sharing the chef’s table. On any given night ten or twelve people are invited for an intimate dining experience at his personal cooking station. Mine is an open invitation. His wife doesn’t enjoy my company, but it’s not her I’m trying to amuse.
There are some new faces in the crowd, but tonight my focus is on the food. Usually a packed house, the chef never fails to impress and tonight’s first course is a Roasted Fig and Walnut Salad, a perfect blend of flavors to start the evening’s meal.
As the second course of Low-country Oyster Stew is being served, two flawlessly dressed men make their way to the chef’s table and sit down as though invited and not at all late. Their obvious rapport with the chef has me intrigued as my observation mode turns on and my hunger mode turns off.
But something is amiss with the new diners. The feeling I get from them is unfamiliar yet known. My strongest ability is to know people’s innermost desires and bring them to fruition, however dark and twisted. Until tonight, it’s been a plague and a blessing every day of my life. Being unable to breech the minds of the two men next to me ought to terrify me, but instead relief and the slightest glimmer of hope take shape.
I relinquish my stew and decide to introduce myself.
“Hi there, I’m Claire, haven’t met you before.”
With a nod in my direction, he wipes the corners of his mouth.
“Hello, I’m Demitri and this is Luka” He extends a hand to shake mine and as our skin touches, heat surges through my arm and momentarily shocks me with its intensity. My eyes narrow a little, but remaining calm, we continue the introductions.
Luka is too far away for a handshake, but we smile at each other.
“Demetri, Luka how nice of you to join us. How do you know the chef?” motioning with my chin.
“Oh, our families were in business together many years ago,” he spoke with a slight accent, undetectable to most, but I am not most. His manner was refined, well bred, and masculine. Guessing, I would say somewhere in his forties, but could be older depending on how good his skin care regimen had been in his earlier years.
“Luka and I are here for a reunion.” He continued. I continued studying him.
“So what type of reunion? Family, friends?” my curiosity was brewing.
“You could say that.” And with that, our third course began appearing on the table, Mushroom and Artichoke Stuffed Trout, one of my favorites. Making an exception to my rule of only observing, the food was too tantalizing to ignore, so I dove in.
We continued eating and questioning Chef Jules about his cooking methods and specialty ingredients. As he obliged our inquest, Luka’s attention never diverted from me or my conversation.
“So Luka, how do you like the trout? “ I say, trying to shift the focus from me to the dinner plates.
“It’s better than my mother’s,” who knew if that was a compliment?
“Does she leave the head on too?” I wonder aloud.
He laughs, “No, my sisters would never allow it.”
Hmm, sisters. I find that men with sisters have a deeper understanding of women and will try harder to please them, bonus for Luka. He must be in his late twenties, a few wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, none on his forehead, hairline intact and some really full lips. Not that lips belie our age, but I notice them.
“So, are you two brothers?”
“No, not hardly,” Luka responds as Demetri engages in a serious conversation with the chef.
Turning back to my dinner, a growing sense of dread wraps around my shoulders like a cloak. The two men appear benign, but ignoring what years of experience had taught me would be foolish. Right now my head is saying, “Keep eating,” but my gut is saying “get the hell outta here.”
I discretely finish the main course, and cease my conversation with the two men. Excusing myself to go to the ladies room, I grab my purse and head out the back door instead. Although the bus boy noticed, nobody else did. As the cool night air fills my lungs, I breathe deep and feel nimble on my feet heading home, where it’s safe.
It must be about two in the morning when something wakes me, but looking toward the clock there is nothing but darkness. Naturally, I am not afraid of the dark, yet a subconscious fear rolls underneath my skin from the inside out. I shiver. Careful not to move I look around my bedroom. The richly appointed boudoir so painstakingly put together has turned into nothing but dark shadows and menacing corners. The dark velvet drapes a perfect hiding place and the lavish bathroom a trap for sure. Surveilling the room two thoughts battle: my home is impenetrable yet someone is inside.
I sit up in the bed and see him, sitting in the overstuffed leather club chair in the corner of my room. Knowing the power I have over men makes me less afraid but those gnawing thoughts of how he entered have me more concerned.
“You want to know how I got in,” He says in a calm, controlled voice that I recognize from earlier in the evening.
“Please,” is all I can get out while pulling the sheets up to cover my transparent nightgown.
“It’s not hard to figure out once you understand why we’re here.” I can tell he is smiling, but his face remains in the shadows.
“We?” I ask.
Luka walks out of the shadow and into the moonlight that spills through the terrace doors. He gives me the look of a serial killer who’s found his next victim.
Out from its hiding place, comes my prowess, this time not for need, but for survival.
“It won’t work Claire,” Demetri says from the chair. “We’ve been waiting for you for a long time.”
“Why? And what won’t work?” my mind was becoming cloudy and it was hard to focus. Shapes were bending and moving that shouldn’t.
“I know the twisted mind games you play Claire, but tonight you’re in for the mind fuck of the century.” His smile turns to a snarl as he steps up beside Luka and I feel a profound need to lie back against the pillows.
My thoughts are scrambled. This could be a dream. I can’t move my limbs and my chest feels likes an invisible hand is pressing me down.
“Claire.” Demetri says.
“Mmmmm?” I can barely form a sentence now as my control slips out of reach. Fear takes hold and anchors me like a stone. I know what is happening. Invisible ropes pull my hands and feet out wide and bind them there as the covers are pulled away. Luka moves to stand at the end of my bed with Demetri at his side.
A tear escapes and runs down my cheek.
“You reap what you sow Claire.” Demetri says softly. I have no response.
“You Claire, the master of your craft, have been bested tonight. How does it feel?”
I try to speak but no words will form. No sound escapes.
“Tonight Claire, tonight is Luka’s first hunt.”
Then I remember mine, and begin to cower in fear.
A native South Carolinian, Holley Munnerlyn spends her days reveling in other peoples’ lives and her nights relaxing with a good book or twisting a tale of her own. Her love of paranormal, sci-fi, erotica and romantic fiction have been the inspiration for putting words to paper. She can be reached at email@example.com.