It was the first time I’d been grateful for a taxi. Usually I abhorred the intimate, not-too-clean-environment with a stranger. The only thing a cab was good for was hunting prey—which was how I normally paid my fare.
But feeding wasn’t the intention when I hailed down the yellow cab. I was too tipsy to walk home, and Nico wasn’t in the right frame of mind for driving or anything else, including sex. Fulfilling lust wasn’t my goal either when I invited Nico back to my place. The gorgeous male was like family, and what my brother required was a lot of coffee and someone to listen to him. Besides, I could use the company too.
“Here.” I passed him a steaming mug. “Drink this. Light cream and heavy on the sugar—just the way you like it.”
“Thanks.” He reached for the cup and took a healthy sip.
Sitting on the chair across from him, I said, “Tell me what’s going on with you and Becca.” I met London, Nico, and Becca back in boarding school, but I’d always been closer to Nico than his mate. Not that I didn’t like Becca. I just didn’t understand phoenixes. That whole rebirth thing made members of the species a bit odd. They lived like there were no consequences to what they did. Perhaps when you knew you’d be resurrected, it was acceptable to make amends for the shit you did the first time around.
“Honestly, Sybil, I don’t know.” Nico glanced at me over the rim of the mug. “It’s been really weird with us lately. It all started about six months ago. At first, it was this occasional distance thing. I thought maybe Becca was sick, or there was something bugging her. Then she started disappearing for long stretches. When I asked her where she’d been, she’d evade the question. But that’s not the worst part.”
“How so?” Tilting my head to the side, I thought about what Nico said. It sounded like Becca was cheating on him. Deep down I hoped I was wrong.
Nico hung his head. “We’ve stopped being intimate.”
I hated to see my friend heartbroken. When I first met the couple, it was embarrassing to watch them pawing at each other. That was saying a lot from a succubus. But the way they went at it with each other… Nico was a hybrid and didn’t require regular feeding like most Lilin, so he never sought other females. He was loyal like a puppy dog when it came to Becca. I thought that was the case with her too.
“Your decision or hers?”
Nico gave me a I-can’t-believe-you-asked-that stare before continuing. “She said she needed space, so I gave it to her. I moved out of our house and even stopped asking her to hunt with me.”
None of that sounded good. Any female would be proud to have Nico as her mate. Hell, if he were mine, I would never make him suffer. “Maybe that’s the problem.”
“What?” Nico’s brow furrowed. “The hunting?”
“Yes. Maybe Becca’s tired of all the assignments.” It was a guess on my part, but I could see how it was possible. The Nakamura Demons frequently employed Nico to track down elusive targets. Between jobs for us and the other supernaturals who hired him, he stayed extremely busy. The constant activity away from home would strain any marriage.
He shrugged. “I hadn’t thought of that. We used to only hunt every three or four months. Last year, we began hunting weekly.”
Made sense. I had seen an uptick in activity with the Toraiado.
Nico’s head bobbed up and down before his gaze came back to mine. “But how do you explain Becca not wanting to go out in public with me?”
I couldn’t. Becca must have lost her mind to turn down Nico. “Maybe she’s coming up on a rebirth?”
Phoenixes lived for a thousand years and then endured a fiery death only to resurrect from the ashes three days later. As they reached the end of their lifespan, some phoenixes preferred solitude. At least that was what I’d gathered from the lessons I received in school.
Nico frowned deeply. “No. Becca has at least another five hundred years in this lifetime.” He set the mug on the coffee table. “I don’t know what her issue is, Sybil, but I’m so fucking tired of dealing with it. I haven’t seen her in over a month. And before you ask, I don’t know where she is or who she’s with.”
My gaze raked over the handsome hunter. Had I missed something? Like I said, he was faithful, and Becca didn’t strike me as a cheater. Not with the way she fought to be with Nico. But as my mother always said, there was a first time for everything.
“Are you sure you didn’t do anything…” I asked cautiously.
Nico’s head whipped back. “No! I’ve always been devoted to Becca. Even when asked…” His face darkened as he let the thought trail off.
I leaned forward. “When asked what?”
“Nothing.” Nico’s gaze flicked up to the ceiling, and then he sucked in a breath and exhaled loudly. “All of this is damned ridiculous. I’ve done everything…everything for her. When Becca was trapped in Hell, who saved her?”
“You did.” Two years ago, a mark Nico was after kidnapped Becca. Dragged her to Hell and imprisoned her.
“When enemies of the Nakamuras came for her, who protected her?”
“You did.” A rival family thought the best way to get to my father was to capture a hunter.
“And when everyone said we couldn’t be together, who stuck by her side?”
“You did.” Always. Even when tortured by my father’s enemies, Nico never denied Becca.
“Damn right.” Nico’s voice broke, and he buried his face in his hands. “Now she’s forsaken me, and I don’t know what to do.”
I rose from my seat and went over to him. Sitting on the sofa, I rested my head on his shoulder. “Nico… My sweet Nico, this will pass.”
He cupped my cheek and stroked his thumb over my skin. “And what if it doesn’t? Becca is the only female I’ve ever loved. I want no one else.”
Sadly, I knew how he felt. Sex with Hiro and Dez was about having fun, but neither male was my mate. Only one incubus fulfilled that role, and he wasn’t interested. “I know how you feel.” I squeezed his thigh. “Stay the night, Nico.”
He faced me and kissed my temple. “Thanks, but no thanks. I should head back to the hotel.”
“No.” I patted his chest. “You’re not staying with strangers. Either take the sofa or sleep in London’s bed.”
Nico chuckled. “I’ll take the sofa. London might not appreciate me taking over her room.”
“Let me grab some sheets for you.” I pushed to my feet, but Nico grasped my wrist.
He blurted out, “Call Torin.”
“He needs to talk to you.”
Shaking my head, I tried to pull away. “Then he should call me. He has the number.”
Nico looked up at me. “You know how he is.”
Understatement. “Torin is an incubus too afraid to go after what he wants. Sadly, he doesn’t know what or who he wants.”
“Not true, Sybil.” Nico dropped his hand. “Torin cares about you.”
“He only thinks of me as a friend.”
“Not true, darling.”
Hope spread through my body. It would be nice if Torin finally saw me as someone more, but then I remembered prom night—one amazing date with the boy I’d fallen in love with. The next day Torin called to say he was involved with someone else. We never went out again. When my parents said it was for the best, I knew they were behind Torin’s change in attitude but couldn’t prove it.
“Nico, it’s time to face the truth about your friend. Torin Murphy isn’t interested in me, not the way I’d want.”
“Sybil, you need to give Torin a chance.” Nico gave me a pleading look. “Don’t end up like me.”
Mentioning the one who got away rattled me, but my situation didn’t compare to Nico’s. Anyone else in this position would take advantage of him, but Nico wasn’t a cheater, and I wasn’t a home wrecker. Seeing him in pain, however, did something to me—made me want to help him.
“As far as Torin goes, I’m not promising anything. But I’ll call Ryu and see if my family can track down Becca.” This next part was wishful thinking, but Nico didn’t need my negativity. “When we locate her, I’ll talk to her or London can. We’ll fix this.”
Nico wrapped his arms around me and pulled me into an embrace. “Thanks, darling. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
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