Daniel Taylor Between Two Worlds (8 page)

A demon’s life isn’t as bad as I thought.
Daniel lay back against his soft pillow, relaxed and comfortable. He was lying on a wide bed fitted with black sheets; it was all his, just like the ornate chamber around it. As the future Overlord, he enjoyed special privileges, but he was most pleased with the progress he was making in mastering his demonic abilities. How long had he been in the underworld? He had lost all sense of time. Sometimes he thought it might be days, other times weeks.

In the meantime, he had not only learned how to create energy spheres with his hands, but also how to make portals, although he still found it difficult to make them lead to the right place.

His reflexes had become incredibly fast — he could flit past other people like a shadow. He felt powerful, invincible, and finally like a real part of a community.

Sirina lay next to him, caressing his chest through his shirt and feeding him grapes. As Daniel — no, Silvan, that was his name now! — had found out, when he became a real demon, he would no longer require human food. Eating would become merely a pleasure, not a necessity. But that meant that he would have to learn to extract energy from negative feelings or even feed on souls. He wasn’t quite ready for that yet.

“Is there any other wish I can fulfill, my lord?” Sirina purred, licking the juice of the grapes from his lips. Silvan submitted to her attentions; he had to get used to it, if he’d be living with this fury for the rest of his days. His stomach tightened.

He felt like a king, but he wasn’t totally comfortable with the idea of leading the masses of hellspawn one day.
That would basically mean waging a war on Mom and Vanessa.
He was still in his “probationary period.” He had to prove himself worthy to be the future Overlord; to this end, the Council would assign him a task. Daniel had no idea what this might entail, but he wasn’t quite ready yet. He had to hone his skills first.

Daniel thought of Antheus. The powerful demon begrudged Silvan his claim to the throne. Antheus was next in line and was already preparing himself for his future reign when the high lords tracked Daniel down, with Marla’s help.

He saw Marla only rarely; the high lords scarcely gave him time to catch his breath. Daniel would have liked to talk to her. Marla had become uncharacteristically quiet in recent days. Daniel recalled her reaction when she saw Vanessa in Mike’s arms. Did Marla have feelings for him? Was his demonic sister actually capable of romantic emotions? For Blondie?

Nessa … He thought of her often, and every time he did, he could feel a dull ache in his chest. That was the downside to being only half demon: He couldn’t turn off his human emotions. Sirina, the calculating minx, tried everything to distract him; naturally, she snooped through his mind when he was too tired to maintain his mental barriers. She knew what he was obsessing about. Unfortunately, there was no way around it; he had to let her into his mind so that she could show him how to use his powers. But Daniel couldn’t simply forget Vanessa. He wasn’t happy with the way they had parted.
I miss her.

Sirina, who was lying halfway astride him, suddenly ran her hand under his shirt. He was still wearing his normal clothes, although that would soon change. High-level demons had to wear strange garments that looked almost like dresses. Grey robes, as if they were monks. Perhaps he could get at least one black one, like the one Xandros had.

“Lover,” Sirina whispered.

His eyes shut tight, Daniel tried to imagine that it was Nessa’s hands that were sliding across his stomach, but the demon’s long fingernails made this difficult.

“Hmmm, you like that, Silvan, isn’t that right?”

Unfortunately, her caresses didn’t leave him cold.
Damn it, I’m only a man!
he thought desperately as she reached into his trousers. Vanessa had touched him there, but admittedly much more awkwardly than Sirina. The demon knew exactly what to do. Nevertheless, he liked it better with Nessa.
Because I love her, not Sirina.

Sirina sat back on top of him and pulled his shirt over his head. Daniel let it happen. For real demons, sex was just one of many pleasures that could sweeten the day when they weren’t out corrupting innocent souls. He had to resign himself to that. There were no romantic feelings at play here; sex was only for gratification. Sirina only wanted to win his favor, to attain power at his side, as his wife, and she’d do anything to insure that future.

But damn it, that just wasn’t right!

A knock at the door saved him from seeing anything more than Sirina’s voluptuous bosom, which she had just released from her corset.

“Curses!” She pushed her breasts down and straightened her dress. Daniel quickly pulled his shirt back on. If someone was looking for him in his private chamber, it could only be one of the high lords. This time, Daniel was more than happy for the interruption. He’d have to come up with a way to keep Sirina away from him in the future. When he was Overlord, he’d decide for himself whether he wanted her for a wife …

“Come in!” Daniel called out when they were both fully clothed.

Marla was sitting cross-legged on the edge of the large fountain in Governor Plaza, staring at the bank in which Mike worked. She had decided to get a little fresh air; she had felt like she was suffocating down in the underworld. At the moment, no one had time for her or anything for her to do. So she had created a portal without visualizing any specific location, and where had she ended up? Near Mike, of course. And if she were already there, she could risk stealing a look at the man who had befuddled her senses, couldn’t she? She told herself that she’d feel better when she discovered that he wasn’t as great as he was in her fantasies.

Yes, but why had she changed into the normal human clothes she had picked out with Vanessa? She had even carefully combed her hair. It fell to her shoulders, long and straight.

Above all, Marla was fascinated by her shoes, as she was used to walking around in heavy boots. Now, she was wearing light sneakers instead. She looked down at her feet, amused, and was shocked to see a polished pair of leather loafers appear next to them. She heard Mike’s surprised voice: “Marla?”

Damn it all, had she actually forgotten to make herself invisible? Marla jumped to her feet and faced Mike. She could smell his aftershave as well as his own irresistible scent, and she could feel the warmth radiating from his body.

Her knees wanted to give way. “Uh … Mike, hello!” Why did she croak like a witch whenever she opened her mouth?

Mike looked just as stunned as she felt.

A few infinitely long seconds later, he closed his mouth, which had been gaping in astonishment. “What are you doing here?”

Yeah, good question. How should she answer him? “I thought I’d take in the sights of Little Peak, as long as I’m here visiting a friend.”

“Of course,” Mike replied, beaming. “You were waiting for me, weren’t you?”

Her face abruptly grew warmer, a strange sensation for her. Her body seemed to have developed an entirely new volition.

“I thought I’d say a brief hello. And now I’ve done that, so …”

“Would you like to have dinner with me?” Mike hastily asked. It was clear that he wasn’t going to let her escape that easily. “Two streets over, there’s a diner that makes excellent hamburgers.”

“Hamburgers?” She hadn’t eaten one of those in ages.

“They serve other things, too.” Mike reddened, reading her tone as disparaging toward that typical American food.

Oh, he was so cute! “Burgers are okay.” Damn it, that was practically a yes! Marla bit her tongue. She’d just go there, eat a hamburger, and immediately take off.

“Cool,” said Mike, grinning broadly. That brought out the dimples in his cheeks, which unfortunately made him even more attractive.

I’m lost
, Marla thought as Mike linked arms with her and led her away.

Antheus had come to take him back to the hall for his next training session. The unusually tall demon, otherwise identical to the other high lords, down to the last hair — well, no, he had no hair, like the rest of the High Council — projected a mental iciness to Daniel that made him shiver.

Obron and Metistakles were already waiting for him. They were standing next to the throne of the Overlord Xandros, his “Grandpa,” as Daniel … Silvan reminded himself with a certain amount of uneasiness. Daniel had tried to find a family resemblance, but he hadn’t yet seen Xandros’ face. Had Marla ever seen him with his hood down? She was his grandchild as well.

Xandros, whose bony fingers were gripping the armrests of his throne, was just barely visible under his spacious hood. Daniel imagined that his eyes were glowing a deep crimson. He could almost feel the heat on his skin. He wanted badly to see what he looked like, but as soon as Daniel raised his eyes to take a closer look, a stabbing pain shot through his mind, so he immediately bowed his head.

Daniel would even have been happy if Sirina were here, just so he wouldn’t have to endure being alone with these eerie underworlders. When he became Overlord, would he have to wear those horrible grey robes — and shave his head? Daniel loved his black hair and didn’t want to lose it.

But there were some advantages to being a demon: As soon as one reached a certain physical and magical “maturity” — usually between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one — the body’s biological processes entered a time loop. Demons aged unbelievably slowly and were practically immortal, although this was only the case when they changed their “diet” and fed exclusively on souls and negative energy. But Daniel could continue to eat normal food when he wanted, he had been told. A life without noodle casserole, hot dogs, and cheesecake wasn’t worth living.

Immortal … and all that power.

That was nothing to sneeze at.

Daniel knew one thing for certain: As soon as he was in charge, many things would change.

As she had every afternoon over the past few days, Vanessa sat with James and Danny’s mother at the Taylors’ kitchen table. Anne’s face was buried in a handkerchief. She continued to blame herself for failing, not only as a wife but also as a mother. James had put his arm around her and was trying to calm her down. “Anne, it’s not your fault that he ran away.”

Ran away … that was what Anne believed.

James had asked Vanessa not to tell Anne the truth for now, both to avoid upsetting her unnecessarily and, more importantly, to avoid putting her in danger. “If Daniel’s in the underworld, and I think that’s likely, then we can’t do anything about it,” James had told her in a rare unguarded moment. “I can’t get him out of there.” Vanessa also suspected he was there, as she hadn’t seen Marla since the day of his disappearance. James and Vanessa hoped that he’d come back soon. But as the days went by, this became less probable.

The school vacation was over, and Anne had called in sick for Daniel. She didn’t go to work, either. Vanessa had told Mike that she didn’t want to talk about Daniel just then, that they weren’t going to see each other for a while so that they could work out their feelings. But when she thought of Daniel, she couldn’t help but cry.

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