Her eyes flickered open, squinting for an instant as they adjusted to the light. She’d forgotten that wreaths of hellish flame didn’t dim when she’d fallen asleep; even now they were still blazing with all their might. She blinked through her fading sleep, pushing the warm blankest aside so she could move. She pushed herself up onto her hands, swinging her legs over the side of the bed. She stretched her arms up, rolling her neck to crack her spine back into place.

Being explored by three ravenous demons had worked her body into a serious kink.

An instant later, Claire winced sharply and folded her hands onto her stomach. That small handful of cherries she’d had last night didn’t tide her over for long. Her insides roared painfully, demanding nourishment. Her eyes flicked to the enormous table at the far end of the room, her mouth watering at the sight of the piles of food that were still left.

Before she moved to eat, a shadow caught her eye. Seated at one end of the table, Darrow was hunched over the table, his face buried in plates of roasted pork and charred fish. Every so often he would raise his head from the platters, using one hand to lift a massive jewel-crusted goblet to his lips. Dark liquid spilled down his chin, pooling on the stone floor.

Can’t say much for manners.

Swallowing silently, Claire inhaled deeply and stepped quietly onto the cold floor. Cautiously, she took silent steps towards the table, her hunger and her fear of Darrow waging war with each other. She might be starving, but the last thing she needed was Darrow turning her into dinner.

She stopped a foot from the table, watching him eat. His lack of manners, while understandable for a demon, still made her grimace in disgust. She wrapped her arms around herself, rubbing her hands over her bare skin. She was still naked, though a new burst of hunger from her belly made her forget her humiliation.

She cleared her throat, trembling from nervousness. “Darrow?”

He paused, lifting his head and turning it to stare at her. Black eyes regarded her cautiously, as if waiting for her to lash out or run away screaming.

She swallowed again. “Can I…may I join you?”

He stayed motionless for a moment, and Claire wondered if he was imagining throwing her onto the table and forcing himself upon her. The though made her shiver again.

Instead, he scooted his chair to one side, offering her enough space to move into a seat of her own. She settled into the hard wood, squirming to find a comfortable place. Finally giving up on making the seat more manageable, Claire folded her hands into her lap and stared at the table. Her eyes flicked up to see Darrow still staring at her, his onyx eyes boring into her own.

“May I eat?” Her voice was quiet, filled with fear.

He cocked his head to one side. “Why are you asking me?”

She dropped her head again. “I’m afraid you’ll bite my hand off.”

The statement seemed to knock him off balance slightly. For barely an instant, she saw a flicker of pain and embarrassment flash through his eyes. He reached out a muscled arm and gripping the edge of a gilded plate loaded high with blackened stripes of beef and piles of rice. He shoved it towards her, stopping when the platter was an inch away from touching her chest. He pulled his arm back and settled into his chair, though his eyes never wavered from her.

She offered a faint smile. “Thank you.” She reached out, instinctively pausing when she saw that the table was devoid of silverware.

Darrow barked out a laugh. “You mistake us for being refined, my dear. No forks or knives here. You use your hands.”

She stared at the plate of food, unsure about how to proceed. She’d been raised to act like a lady, and that meant no eating without proper equipment. On the other hand, her hunger was now borderline starvation. She sighed and reached out her hand, picking up a slice of steak with her fingers. Sweet, heavenly juice dripped from the piece of meat, making her stomach twist in anticipation. She shrugged mentally and brought the slice to her mouth. Manners could wait, her body couldn’t.

Flavors of smoke and spice burst into her mouth, making her moan at the taste. Her famished body nearly shook with delight. She chewed slowly, wanting to savor the luscious aromas for as long as she could. Claire swallowed, taking in a harsh gasp from holding her breath in for so long. Faster than her eyes could follow, her hand shot out and snatched another piece and brought it to her mouth. She hesitated an instant before it touched her lips, taking a deep breath and biting it carefully. She may be in hell, but Claire still wanted to show she was a respectable lady no matter where she was.

Darrow laughed. “You show far too much decorum here.”

She looked at him, a small strip of beef hanging out of her lips.

His lips kicked up in a sly smile. “We are demons, miss Harding. What makes you think any of us were ever raised with manners or proper etiquette?”

Embarrassed, she dropped her head and looked away, a bright blush working its way onto her face. What was she thinking? Of course they were never raised that way. They didn’t care whether or not she cut her food into pieces or took delicate sips. All they cared about was eating and conquering her. She groaned. She must have made a complete fool out of herself.

From the corner of her eye, she saw Darrow watching her sulk. To her surprise, he made a face of uneasy embarrassment and looked away from her.

So he does have other emotions besides angry and suspicious. Well, that’s good to know.

Her heart jumped a bit. Maybe he wasn’t always as vicious and angry as he portrayed himself to be. Maybe, just maybe, she had a chance of being able to work with him. Swallowing the last bit of meat, Claire cleared her throat and straightened herself, turning to look directly at him.

She inhaled deeply, centering herself and preparing fro an assault. “Thaltos told me-”

Darrow’s head snapped up, his black eyes piercing hers. “He told you what?”

Uh oh. Bad move.

She slid into her chair an inch, blushing furiously. Not a good way to start the conversation.

He leaned forward, his arm supporting his weight on the table. “He. Told. You. What?”

She whimpered and scooted back as far as he could. His eyes narrowed at her, clearly incensed that she would start off their bond this way. She swallowed loudly, her heart pounding in her chest.

“He told me…the girl you collected ran off with your friend. And that’s why you’re always so angry.”

His eyes softened as he sat back in his chair, exhaling a deep sigh. He folded his hands across his chest and stared off into the shadows. “Elaina. I’ve gotten to the point of not discussing that harpy anymore.”

Claire breathed a sigh of relief and scooted back into the seat of her chair. He wasn’t going to eat her or kill her…yet.

His eyes flicked back to her, an unusual softness in their black depths. “But I suppose, being an oh-so-curious human, you want to know the story. Hmm?”

Nervously, she nodded her head. She wanted to lie and allow him the privacy he deserved, but her curiosity got the best of her. Besides, he’d offered.

Darrow settled into his chair, tilting his head back and closing his eyes. “It’s quite a story, my girl, so I’ll break it down for you. About five hundred years ago I had struck a deal with a poor couple from the squalor alleys of Paris. I promised them wealth beyond their dreams; they promised their young daughter when she came of age. With my help, they climbed the ranks of the French elite and lived in the most luxurious houses you could imagine. Castles, chariots, absurdly elaborate gardens. You name it, they purchased it. To them and their children, it was everything they could have ever wanted.”

Claire inched forward and leaned her elbows on the table, nibbling at a fresh slice of beef as she listened.

“Years passed and the time came for me to collect my payment. As often happens with newfound wealth, Elaina’s parents had become very distant from her, so wrapped up in their new lives that they practically shoved her out the door to me. Her parents bargained with me when she was very young, no older than five, she she’d grown up on the false wealth they’d been given. As to be expected, she grew up to be nothing more than a whiney, spoiled brat with a cheerleader body and a microscopic fuse.”

Claire snorted. “Sounds like my friend Lindsey. That girl will only eat if it’s served to her on a platinum spoon.”

Darrow’s mouth twitched. “Sadly, it’s a reality for many privileged children. Elaina was no exception. I tried for months to break her in, and she did well, but her only issue was trading sex for gifts. I wanted a blowjob? She needed a new dress first. However, the longer I worked to train her, the less time she’d spend with me. Along with the extortion, Elaina was secretly running off with Tarrin, a very close friend of mine who I’d known for centuries.” His eyes narrowed at the memory, showcasing his still-raging anger.

She swallowed another slice of meat. “Why is that such a problem? You, Thaltos and Silthos, share me.”

He held up a finger. “Ah, but all three of us made the deal for you. made the trade for Elaina. And it’s a big deal because that violates the bartering contract. Once a deal is complete, the human prize must stay with their keeper. No exceptions. And no other demon may claim a human other than their own unless they’ve traded for it. Both Elaina and Tarrin broke the rules.”

She nodded, scooping up a handful of rice. “Thaltos told me she was kicked out.”

“Yes, and handed over to the Catholics as a witch.” He smiled and winked at her. “She wasn’t really, you know. But we don’t treat traitors and rule-breakers too kindly here. Tarrin was disowned by everyone and exiled into your world as punishment. He’s a demon, mind you. Human don’t take well to demons in their realm. There’s not much of a chance that he survived very long, but if he has, he can never return her. If he does, he’ll be condemned as enemy and executed.”

Claire swallowed her mouthful of rice and stared at him. “Why so harsh?”

“We don’t want a repeat of the same thing. If he comes back, there’s a general fear that he’ll do the same thing again with another demon’s girl. He’s always had a curious affinity for luring them away, so most owners are afraid of losing their prizes to him.”

She swallowed the last grains of rice and nodded. “That makes sense, I guess.”

He nodded. “Coming from this side of the argument, it makes a lot of sense. I lost a very close friend that day. But I got rid of an absolutely worthless girl.” He managed to crack a tiny smile.

She sat back in her chair, debating her mixed feelings. On one hand, she still felt Darrow was an angry, vindictive demon who took out his wrath on those around him. On the other hand, his back-story gave an understandable explanation for his behavior. Not that his actions were pardonable, but she could now understand why he acted the way he did.

Makes sense tome. I know people who’d explode because of less shitty stuff happening to them.

She looked back at him, sympathy starting to blossom in her heart. She’d never been fond of demons, but she’d always had a soft spot for those who had been wronged. “I don’t suppose there’s anything I could do to make you feel better.”

He snorted a laugh. “Beyond a good blowjob, not really.”

She pulled back, a look of angered disgust on her face. “You’re a pig.”

He laughed again. “I’m being honest. I haven’t had a decent suck in centuries. And from the look on Silthos’ face, you give a damn good one.” He settled into his seat, smiling wickedly at her. “Besides, I find it calming. You’ve masturbated, haven’t you?”

Claire blushed and looked away, though she nodded slightly.

He shrugged. “As far as I’m concerned, they’re the same thing when it comes to stress. Whether you get yourself off or someone else does it for you, it’s a wonderful stress relief.”

Still avoiding his gaze, she had to agree with him.

No argument there.

“There’s no real difference in how it works, just how it feels. If you do it, you can control exactly how fast or firm your touch is. You have complete control, and who knows your own body better than you?”

She nodded, reaching out to grab a fresh pear.

“On the other hand, there’s nothing quite like the feel of a beautiful woman’s mouth around my cock.” He grinned at her. “It’s a weakness.”

She smiled back, trying to look as unfazed as she could. She wasn’t uncomfortable with talking about sex. Hell, she’d gone to high school. It was Darrow himself still made her uneasy, but only because she hadn’t had much time getting to know him. The two of them were still strangers, no matter how turned on he got.

Darrow leered at her hungrily, his night-colored eyes tracing the curves of her breasts. His stare made her uneasy all over again, forcing her to squirm in her chair. Sighing, she pushed herself away from the table and stood, taking quick steps toward the bed to put some distance between them.

“Where are you going? We were having a great conversation.” She heard his chair grind against the floor as he stood to follow her.

She quickened her steps. “Your staring makes me uncomfortable. I don’t appreciate being gawked at.”

The pace of his footsteps matched her own as he followed. “I was only admiring you. I haven’t seen a woman as beautiful as you in nearly three centuries. That fact that I own a bit of you simply makes it hard to believe.”

She scoffed. “That doesn’t mean I appreciate it. Though I’m going to guess you don’t really care what think, do you?”

“That’s not entirely true. You may be our conquest, buy you are still a virgin. Until you decide you’re ready to be initiated into our world, you hold the cards, my dear.”

She stopped, turning around to face him. She stared into his eyes with a mixture of annoyance and curiosity, her mind formulating the question as she breathed. It was a question she desperately wanted answered. It was a question that could solidify or take away the only control she’d ever had.

“So…as long as I’m a virgin, if you want sex you have to do what I say?”

Darrow smirked. “Within reason, yes. You can’t bribe us or demand a payment to pleasure you. But you have the right idea. As long as you maintain your chastity, we must ask permission before we seek out pleasure.”

She stepped backwards, letting her knees lose so she could collapse onto the bed. Thankfully, she’d judged the distance right and ended up sitting on the soft blankets. She breathed a sigh of relief. His answer had confirmed that, even though she’d been raised to view sexuality as ugly and sinful, she was still in control of her own body. It also meant that she was in control of Darrow and the others, as well. Their pleasure, for now, was in her hands.

Claire watched as he continued to follow her path, slowly making his way toward the bed. As she watched, she noticed his cock, still heavy and engorged as always, swing back and forth in perfect rhythm with his steps. The image of that thick pole of flesh made her stomach suddenly clench out of hunger and need. Her sex twitched, sending an unheard-of signal to her mind that it wanted attention.

A thought flashed into her mind, one so risqué and outlandish to her it nearly knocked her backwards. She could ask for anything.

Feeling more daring than she’d ever felt in her life, Claire looked up at Darrow with a look of nervous determination. “Tell me, do you enjoy devouring women?”

He offered her a guilty smile before bending down to kneel at the foot of the bed. He rested one arm on the blankets, staring at her with humorous eyes. “Call it another weakness.”

Well, isn’t that a coincidence? That’s just what I need at the moment.

She smirked. “Really? How often do you crumble to that weakness of yours?”

He barked out a laugh. “Not as often as I’d like to. You’re the first girl we’ve been able to collect on in over three hundred years, and I can guarantee there’s probably not many women walking about just waiting for a demon to come up and ravage them.”

She nodded, considering her possible routes. For some unexplainable reason her body was burning, begging to be torn apart and conquered. Not its usual demand, but a demand nonetheless.

Darrow sighed and leaned his head back, staring up at the ceiling. “I’d love to do it everyday if I could. There’s nothing quite like the taste of a woman’s pussy. Absolute magic.”

This is far more than just a coincidence.

Clearing her throat, she looked at him with unsure eyes. “You could eat me again if you want.” Her stomach did a cartwheel while her ravenous body cheered.

His eyes snapped to her. “You’re fooling me.”

Claire shook her head, rubbing her thighs together to ease the burning.

He turned his head to look at her, a mixture of hope and disbelief in his eyes. “You’re being honest?”

She nodded. “I’m…in need of a little relief at the moment.” She bit her lip, trying to suppress her body’s ever-growing need.

Darrow laughed and twisted so he faced her completely. “My sweet girl! If that’s the malady you’re suffering from I would gladly help to relieve you of your discomfort.”

She offered a pained smile. “You wouldn’t mind?”

“Claire, my dear!” He pressed his hand to his chest and grinned. “I’d be honored.”

She sighed in relief. “Thank god.”

Darrow leaned in close, his breath tickling her thighs. “Say the word and I’ll leave you breathless.”

She backed away an inch, his enthusiasm startling her a bit. Her body still burned for release, she just hadn’t expected him to be so eager.

His smile faltered a bit. “Claire?”

She shook her head. “I’m fine. You’re excitement took me by surprise a little.”

His smile returned. “Ah, my apologies.” He leaned closer. “It’s just the memory of your sweet, delicious pussy that’s driving me wild.”

She blushed. “I honestly wouldn’t know.”

He inched closer, rising up so his hands could rest on the bed as he leaned over her. “You really should try it. Your body is like heroine.”

“Try what? Taste my own body?” She raised her eyebrows. “I’m not that flexible.”

His smile turned vicious. “I can fix that.”

Without another word, he pitched forward and gripped her ankles, hauling them into the air so she tumbled backwards. He crawled forward on his knees, leaning down and tossing her ankles over his shoulders. Not waiting for any direction, Darrow plunged his head between her thighs and immediately began to feats upon her flesh, his tongue probing her delicate insides just as he had done before.

Claire threw her head back with a ragged cry. She clenched her teeth, closing her eyes to savor the feel of his expert tongue. Against her will, she moaned his name, reaching down to grip his head. To her surprise, her fingers twisted into long, thick strands of night-black hair, something she’d never noticed until now. She shrugged off her surprise; instead she curled her fingers tighter, holding onto him for dear life.

Thankfully, Darrow never waivered from his task. His tongue rubbed and stroked every hot spot she had, making her twitch and jerk with every touch. His long talon-like fingers gripped her thighs, holding her steady for his incessant teasing.