Left in a Demon's Care -- Part 2 --

Chapter One: Attracting a Demon's Attention


Lina closed up her house and set out with Xelloss on an adventure of his choosing, the nature of which he kept heavily cloaked in mystery. Thanks to an earlier, timely visit by the same demon, Lina's nasty cold was cured. On this day, her spirits soared in the fresh, dewy morning air. By noon, however, a persistent lethargy sapped at her enthusiasm, so that by mid afternoon her energy waned to nothing.

Xelloss was telling a story, his staff tapping the ground in an asynchronous rhythm, when he noticed Lina dragging her feet. "And so the dragons had no idea what had happened until I... Lina? You just ate lunch, and it's no time to take a nap, which is what you appear to be doing."

She dumped her bag by the side of the road and plunked herself in a shady spot under a tree with a sigh. "I can't go any farther."

"But we have miles to go to get to the next town for the night."

"This is where I stop. I'm going to sleep."

Xelloss frowned and stood in the road, silently cursing the shortcomings of the human race. "I thought you said you were over that cold."

"I was...am...over that cold, Xelloss. This has nothing to do with it. It's something else altogether."

He adjusted his stance. She wanted something out of him, a bribe to get the lead out. Well, he thought, as long at it was a small something he could be amenable to most anything. "Tell me what I can do. We should get where we are going promptly."

"No can do. You can't snap your fingers and solve this problem this time." Lina leaned back, tucking her arms behind her neck and closing her eyes.

"I can do more than snap my fingers," he insisted.

"I'm glad to hear that," she said. "Because if you want to make time, we'll need a horse and buggy."

He stood motionless, staring at her prone figure, thinking how ridiculous a request it was and wondering to what purpose was it made. "Is this a test?"

"A test? What are you talking about? I don't do tests!"

If it wasn't a test of wills, he'd eat his gloves. This was a safe bet, since his gloves were a part of him and he didn't really eat. "Lina, if I have to I'll just get someone else to assist," he said, turning as if to leave.

"No! Xelloss, don't go! Please."

His expression was serious as he turned back to face her. Lina was sitting up and appeared anxious.And she had said the magic "p" word. He said nothing, waiting for her to explain.

"I'm pregnant. I can tell, so don't ask if I'm sure. I'm sure."

His eyes widened in surprise. He had not expected that at all. He knew how humans reproduced: it took a woman and a man. When he had discovered Lina, she was alone and ill. Where was the man? He wondered. Not that it mattered. Xelloss had no interest in anyone but Lina and what she could do for him. He shook his head. At least he shouldn't have any other interest but that, however, for some reason he couldn't help but wonder who the man had been. The tall swordsman? Probably. He and Lina had traveled together for a long time. Must have been him. Xelloss hated the man with a sudden, violent flash of absolute and intense loathing.

"In case you're wondering," Lina said, then stopped, waiting for his eyes to rise to meet hers.

"Yes?" He shielded his violence-laced eyes from her keenly observant ones, not wanting her to read his thoughts.

"I'm only three months along, so nothing shows and," she paused again and this time he looked up at her. "It wasn't Gourry."

For a few priceless moments, Xelloss' forgot to disguise his facial expression, revealing his confusion. He had never considered Lina to be a woman of loose morals, not that he cared if she was, at least that was what he wished to believe. What were human morals to a demon? Still, he also hadn't thought she was the kind for casual relationships. So, if it wasn't the Gourry man, he wondered, who was the father of her child? His smile snapped back into place as he restored his composure.

"If you say so. It's of no consequence to me," he said. He attempted to sound both jaunty and nonchalant at the same time.

Lina laughed as he dissembled, feigning disinterest. "Yeah, sure. Well, no matter. We're going to need a transport, if time is important to you, or just leave me here. I'm not joking. I can't go another step."

"Oh, Lina," he said, his voice dropping in volume as he knelt at her side. "I'm not a man who leaves a woman at the side of the road."

"Yes, you are, so you can drop the sincerity and concerned crap. You left me in the lurch lots of times in the past."

"That was different. You had your friends with you. And I was quite busy. This isn't the same situation at all."

"No? You actually do need me for this adventure of yours, eh?" she asked, elbowing him gently. "You must need me really bad, huh?"

"Well, yes," he admitted reluctantly. He wasn't going to tell her how enticing he found her. He couldn't even say what her allure was. Power? Possibly. He avoided imagining what else it might be. He was a demon, after all, and demons did not form attachments with humans. His was just struck by her talent, impulsiveness and tactical cleverness. Charm and beauty had no bearing on his decision making. "Well, I suppose I should be off then and find us a horse."

"Carriage would be nice."

"I'm sure it would be, but the road's not good enough."

"Oh, okay."

"There is a problem, though. Not a large one, but you'll need to accompany me."

"Oh? What's that?"

"I don't believe a horse will accept me." Xelloss smiled and shrugged his shoulders as if to dismiss the situation's importance. "It might, if you were to handle it."

"Horses don't like demons?"

"That's right," he said, rising to his feet and offering her a hand up. "You are remarkably intuitive." He knew she liked to be praised. He should have lavished her with it from the start, or would that have been too heavy-handed? Of course it would have.

Despite her unwillingness to move earlier, Lina now moved remarkably fast knowing that the end to her foot travel was in sight. Xelloss adjusted his gait to match hers, holding her attention by parceling out carefully thought out bits of information about their eventual destination.

"The shrine is old and long vacant. It was skillfully hidden, which is why it wasn't discovered until now. Initially, I had thought to set off months ago and then the weather wouldn't have been a problem, but since that can't be helped, we will have to make modifications as we go along."

"Yeah, like visiting hot springs and cozy inns." Lina allowed a little hopefulness to enter into her tone.

"I was thinking more along the lines of dressing you in suitable clothing for the cold, but now in addition I suppose you'll need larger sizes to accommodate your growth."

"How far away is this place?" Lina asked. "You make it sound like it will take more than a month to get there."

"Oh, yes. At the rate we're going, it will take several months." Xelloss did a few mental calculations based on Lina covering five feet or so a second, over six hours a day- or could she go longer- for how many days without a break? "We won't get there until winter, I'm afraid."

"You're not kidding it's far away! Well, lucky for us we got the best weather for traveling now. We'll make better time than you think."

"That's good news," he said with a smile, and then disappeared, as they came in sight of the stables.


Lina had haggled over the price of the horse until she acquired one for a few cheap charms. She was proud of her achievement, grinning from atop her gray mare as they trundled along and breaking out in song from time to time. Xelloss preferred to listen, but joined in on a chorus once in awhile. The horse tolerated him at a distance. When Xelloss first approached, the mare snorted and backed off, but didn't bolt.

"Maybe in time she will grow to like you," Lina said.

"Possibly," he said, shaking his head slightly.

"Oh, I don't doubt it will, especially if you feed the poor thing. Animals like the hand that feeds them."

"Well, carnivores do..." Xelloss trailed off, grinning.

The road was dry, the air warm by day, slightly cooler by night, but rain-free enabling them to cover many more miles than Xelloss had estimated. They passed farms and villages, each with its own seasonal festival which seemed timed perfectly to run one into the other. They rode into one town beneath bright red and green painted banners flapping in the wind, advertising a "Strawberry Fun Time For One and All!"

"We are making such good time," he said, "There's no reason why you can't stop and enjoy yourself today."

Lina agreed. "Damned straight, I deserve to have a good time!"

Lina won a berry eating contest after downing 123 strawberries in less than two minutes. She would have swallowed more, had they allowed it.

"You'll break out in a rash," an elder warned her.

"Eh!" Lina pooh-poohed them all, but an hour later, tiny red prickles spread across her chest and down her arms. When she started to get itchy, she applied her healing spell, but her casting was too weak to stave off all the irritation. Apparently, her fluctuating hormones were affecting her magical ability. She was too proud to admit her failing, but her constant scratching grated on Xelloss' nerves.

"For Shabranigdo's sake, Lina!" Xelloss said at last, sharply enough the he made the horse jump. "There's an apothecary shop. Stay here and I'll see what kind of ointment they recommend."

He did not wait to hear her objections. He was irritated by another downturn in events. Without her magic capabilities, what use would she be to him? Maybe this was only a temporary setback, something she'd work through. Puzzling, but not insurmountable. Her body would make the appropriate adjustments and return to normal. Just a matter of time, and they had months of that to waste. He mulled over his predicament in somber silence.

Lina was also quiet on their way out of town. He had been grateful when she fought her indignity and accepted the anti-itch cream, applying it liberally and with alacrity. Relief was instant for both of them, even Xelloss, since he found he didn't enjoy her irritation like he did the negative feelings from other humans.

Still, she was unforgiving. "I just did it for you, you know," she repeated.

"That's okay," he said tersely, not wanting to listen to her defense or engage her in an argument. He had spent far more alone time with Lina than ever before and she was wearing on him. He wished that she was more mature, or at least quieter. Still, her energy kept things stirred up, which was close to chaos-creating, and, therefore, a good enough excuse for him to remain in her company.

"I could take the itches. They weren't so bad really, but I was bothering you, and I wouldn't want to bother you."

"No?" His raised eyebrows spoke volumes: you are bothering me now.

Lina snapped shut her mouth and goaded her horse forwards at a gait just a step or two faster than Xelloss' comfortable one. He watched her trot ahead, but kept his own pace steady, knowing that he could keep track of her with ease, whether he could see her or not. When she was out of sight, he phased off the physical plane, reappearing over her head, matching her speed, but floating effortlessly. Before a fellow traveler could see him, he blinked out of sight, only to reappear striding in place. In this way they covered the few miles to the next town, and the next feast.

There was a Jolly Cherry Fair, a Merry Berries Jubilee, an Apricot Festival and Banjo Jam. Lina ate, and since her energy and mood improved, Xelloss couldn't refuse her. Still, from Xelloss' point of view, the plethora of bounty plagued, their way, impeding their progress, but delighting Lina. They covered the miles, but never as quickly as Xelloss had anticipated, so he became more impatient, while Lina stubbornly gorged and lagged.

Each week the cornucopia of fruits and vegetables grew. Peaches, plums, beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes glutted the markets in succession. Lina demanded that they visit each celebration in order, carrying them through to fall, when a new flourish of harvest festivals started up. There was corn, and Lina ate her fill of corn cakes, deep-fried, corn-coated sausages, and freshly boiled and buttered corn-on-the cob.

The competing town's mushroom festival was the most unusual. On display was a vast array of specimens collected from all over the region. The fungus were arranged on tables with labels– not for sampling. Xelloss stood watching her, tapping his foot in time with his mental clock, counting the seconds wasting away—precious minutes adding up and subtracting away at his allotted timetable. After awhile, even Lina could only pretend a passing interest in studying the musty, moldy mushrooms, so when the smoky scent of mushrooms sizzling on a hot skillet wafted by, Lina was more than ready to move on and investigate the food offerings. But to push Lina would only make her dig in her heels further. Xelloss knew that, so he waited, looking all the world as if he was enjoying to the utmost this carefree time in his life.

They made achingly slow progress, but Lina never completely stopped or suggested that they stay in any one spot for more than a day. Xelloss pictured himself as the demonic icon of forbearance.

One afternoon, Lina stopped to pick up windfall plums from a wild tree. The aroma of warm, sweet fruit, winy in the hot sun, drove her crazy. She stuffed as many in her mouth as she could, her hands and face sticky and stained.

Xelloss knew she'd be uncomfortable and complaining in no time. He was struck by how childish she could be. "I'll look for a stream somewhere," he told her before disappearing.

He returned moments later. "We are in luck. There's a stream where you see that tree line." The stream was also in the direction Xelloss wanted them to go.

"Good. I could use a drink and a wash." Lina chose to walk and lead the horse.

The lacy white Queen Anne's lace flowers bobbed their heads in the breeze as the human, demon, and horse passed. That was the only wind. Heat rose off the rocks at the water's edge, and Lina was happy to locate a shady spot to clean up and rest. The horse seemed grateful for a cool drink and chance to munch at its leisure. Xelloss kept the mare in view and watched Lina, while pretending to be asleep on a rock of his own. Lina at peace was nice, too, he thought, and then thought again how odd it was that he felt that way. How many others of his kind were comfortable in the company of a wholly content human being?

Lina's stirring in the leafy litter behind him grabbed his attention.

"What are you looking for?" he asked.

"Hazel nuts. Just look at all of them. Dropped by these trees, escapees from the orchard."

"Are you going to eat them?" Xelloss thought she ate just about everything else, so why not?

"No. We're going to carry them to the next village and sell them or trade them for something we need. Here, open up that satchel of yours and fill'er up!"

"Okay," he said. It was often easier to go along with Lina's whims rather than argue; besides, she was probably right. He had to admire her ingenuity and her toughness. When Xelloss was feeling generous, he ranked Lina right up there with the greatest sorcerers of all time. For such a young woman, she had done well for herself, which made him wonder more why it was that she was pregnant and alone, and in need of company enough to agree to travel with a demon?


The first day of fall found them in pear country, where they loaded up with dried fruit and preserves.

"The dried mushrooms and onions can make a soup," Lina told Xelloss, who had broken down and purchased a frozen pear cream bar to taste. "And these dried fruits are full of calories and nutrients. Nuts would be good, but I don't see any deals here."

"Okay, then, until the horse complains you can buy what you think you can use," Xelloss said, sorry that he couldn't salt away a few hundred of the pear cream bars for his own enjoyment. "Just remember that we need to be making our best time now while the weather holds."

"It's always rush, rush, rush with you. Does the weather matter?" Lina asked. "Or is there something you're not telling me, like, the place you're leading me to will disappear if we don't get there in time."

Xelloss picked up a flyer, avoiding her eyes. "Look at this. There's an apple festival just up the way and they advertise that their nut harvest is in."

"What are we waiting for?" Lina asked. Xelloss' distraction worked, this time. Lina mounted her horse with a "giddy up" and led the way to the next town.


"You shouldn't have mentioned the weather," Lina told him while munching on an apple. "Now it's jinxed."

"You don't believe that nonsense," he said glumly.

The drizzle had begun the minute they left the apple fair the day before. Then there was an unfortunate incident about which neither were speaking. Then the horse miss-stepped on the muddy road and bruised its foot on a sharp rock. Lina had picked out the offending hunk of shale and the wound wasn't bleeding, but she couldn't heal it, so now the horse was limping and Lina was walking.

"Maybe, maybe not, but we aren't going any further today. There's an inn. I'm getting a room for me and you can find a horse doctor."

Xelloss wanted to object, but she was right. Up to this time they had camped under the stars. Lina would sleep while Xelloss sat guard. She was unable to defend herself as she had prior to her pregnancy, and the horse attracted wolves and mountain lions.

Then last night, the one time he had left Lina alone-- and it was at his master's bidding not by choice—there was a most regrettable event. He returned to the sound of Lina's screaming.

"Bastards! Take that!"

She kicked one ruffian in the guts as another held her arms. A third lunged at her, pinning her legs to the ground.

"I likes me a fighter," he growled. He reached up and ripped her tunic from neck to hem. "Get them boots off her."

His ugly, dirty hands touched her exposed skin, but that was as far as he got. Xelloss slashed the air with his hand, sending the attacker careening head on into a tree and bursting into flames, the fat of his belly lighting up like a torch. Ignoring the man's howls echoing in his head, Xelloss drove his staff through the next thug who was still, stupidly, gripping Lina's arms. When the demon released his spell, a dark miasma spread from the staff, melting the man from the inside out.

Before the disgusting muck dripped onto Lina, Xelloss scooped her up in his arms and carried her away. One of her attackers was unaccounted for still, and Xelloss wanted revenge, but Lina's safety came first.

Rain plastered her hair to her face; she swiped at it to look around. "There's one more!" Lina cried out, her voice shaking.

Xelloss twisted around, snarling in his mounting rage. "Where?"

Then he spotted him in the shadows. Xelloss blinked, casting a spell that eviscerated the last man. The demon watched the man standing in a pool of his own intestines, his screams slicing through the cotton-wool softness of the rain-drenched night. Without another word, Xelloss whisked Lina atop the horse and settled her on the animal's back. The horse stomped on the demon's foot and backed away, eyes wild and ready to bolt.

"You," Xelloss said to the terrified horse, his voice taut with strain. "You will obey me! If she falls, I'll leave you to the wolves—hungry, demon ones."

The horse froze in place, except for the shaking of its legs, and behaved for him, allowing Xelloss to lead it by the reins away from the camp and onto the road.

"I'm c-cold."

"Where's your cloak?"

"I don't know, they took it."

"Here," Xelloss said, unclasping the closure and removing his own cloak. He wrapped it around Lina's shoulders and she hugged it tightly over her chest.

They traveled in soggy, silence until the gray light signaled the dawn. Then the horse took the rock.

"Okay," Xelloss said. He agreed; she deserved a bed in an inn tonight. "We'll stop at the first suitable place."

Lina took up the key. "I'm going up to my room. You can look after Salez."

Xelloss blinked. "Who?"

"The horse. Spell it backwards," Lina said with a wink, patted his cloak, still hiding her torn and muddied clothes, and marched off.

The landlord smiled after her and shook his head. "Gets her way mostly, that one."

"Yes," Xelloss admitted.

"Yeah, my wife rules the roost here, too, but I wouldn't have it any other way."

Xelloss was about to correct the man's misunderstanding of this relationship with Lina, when the landlord raised a hand. "No need to explain. Tell you what. I'll have my boy run out and see to yer horse."

"It took a rock in its left rear hoof."

"The stable lad'll take care of it. He'll send for the medic if it's serious."

"I don't think it is," Xelloss said. "Thank you."

While the landlord looked for his "boy", Xelloss found the kitchen and ordered a tray with a bowl of soup, wedge of cheese, and a loaf of bread. "Would you add a pot of tea, too?"

Meanwhile Lina was busy securing a bath. "Hey, you!

The young maid stopped at Lina's door. "Yes, Miss?"

"Where can I take a bath?"

"Why, the room right across from yours here," the girl pointed. "Would you like me to draw you a hot bath? Soap? Towels?"

"Yeah, all that, and fast, okay?"

"Yes, miss," the girl said with a polite curtsy. She scampered to the dumbwaiter with her orders. Tubs of hot water, fresh cakes of rose-scented soap, and stacks of thick, white towels were dispatched from downstairs to the upper bath.

Lina stripped off her wet things, leaving them in a damp pile, and used Xelloss' warm cloak as a robe. The maid knocked at her door and Lina scurried past her and into the steaming bath room, slamming the door shut.

Xelloss carried the food tray to the stairs, balancing it on one hand while holding his staff in the other as if he was in training to lead the band and wait tables at the same time. When he was sure no one was looking, he resorted to magic to transport both him and the tray to Lina's room. His grand entrance was anticlimactic, seeing as Lina was not there to be impressed.

His cloak was missing, too. For the last few hours he had shut off that part of his mind which registered the cloak; it was a part of his illusionary form and Lina had been wrapped in it, touching her bare skin, in private places, which he deliberately ignored, mostly, once or twice. He concentrated on his missing part's whereabouts and discovered it and Lina, who he anticipated to be still wrapped within its confines, but he wasn't going to concentrate to a full enough degree to know for complete certainty that she was there. They, his cloak and Lina, were not far away. He directed the hovering tray to a table and stuck his nose out the door. He caught the attention of a passing errand boy with a gold coin.

"You haven't seen a young woman, about so tall, red hair?"

"The one you came in with? Your wife? Yes, she's in the room across from yours," the boy said in rapid-fire.

"Thanks!" Xelloss said and tossed him the coin.

The boy caught the coin mid air, and then hopped way to his neglected duties, while Xelloss strode to the indicated door. "Who could she be visiting?"

Lina stood in her bath and stretched, extending herself as far as possible to catch hold of the towel hanging just out of reach on the rack against the wall. "Nasty soap, getting in my eyes like that," she grumbled.

Xelloss flung open the door not knowing what to expect. "Guess whaaaa..." Lina, not expecting anyone to get past locking spells she knew to be unbreakable, jerked around, startled, and lost her footing. "Heeyahhh!"

Xelloss collected his wits and caught her instantly, although she was slippery and he nearly lost his grip.


"Ach, Xelloss! What are you doing here?!" she shouted, not as a question. "Lemme goGetcherhandsoff... Get me that towel, now!"

He tried wrapping the towel around her, but she was furious and would have no help from him. "I was just...sorry. Here, it goes this way best. Sorry!"

"I was all relaxed, almost forgetting that a band of stinking thugs tried to rape me and that I've been up all night. I'm starving and all and then you barge in unannounced and uninvited. Don't you knock? And again I gotta fight off some man's hands on my body!" Her voice was high pitched and whiny, near hysteria.

"I said I was sorry. I didn't know it was a bath." He was feeling put out. "I only meant to save you from falling. I have no reason to paw you anyway," he added without thinking. "I'll take this and be on my way." He reached for his cloak, which was hanging on a hook over the door.

"I need that!" Lina yelled. "You expect me to parade through the halls in this tiny towel? DON'T LOOK, you pervert!"

"I wasn't looking. I don't need to. Keep the cloak, but remember that when you swathe your naked little body in my cloak that it is a part of me." He flashed her a grin and disappeared the second after.

"Go away, and don't come back!" she shouted as his apparition faded.

He regretted his moment of glory immediately, but it was too late to go back and retract his comment. She might incinerate the cloak in anger, which would hurt, or something worse. Lina was inventive; she'd come up with some surefire way to get even or to use the information to her advantage.

Lina pounded the cloak a few times, knocking it to the floor where she continued to stomp on it for a while. It wasn't much good to use to mop up the floor, she discovered, so after wrapping her dripping wet hair in a towel, covered herself as completely as the other towel would stretch before draping the cloak over her shoulders. "So this is how demons get their kicks," she muttered, then bit the fabric, just in case he could actually feel it.

Again, he blocked out the information coming from his cloak as he stood outside the inn, watching it rain and deciding what to do next. The storm would delay them and there were more storms to come. Of course, if Lina was as mad at him as she sounded this could be the end of their travels together. That would be bad. He must not let that happen. He would have to make amends. Do something big and wonderful to gain her trust again. Delays, delays, delays! What if they couldn't make it before the heavy snow?

And she was carrying a child. Holding her soapy belly, he had felt the swelling of her thickening waist. She was progressing quickly. He fought down a rising tide of panic. What could he do when she gave birth?

"Oh Shabranigdo, help me now," he moaned. "But you are of no use to me, locked away in scattered pieces; in fact, you need my help. No, I must look elsewhere. Oh, Lina, why do I care? How I hate this effect you have on me!" His head hung as laughter shook his body. "What kind of pathetic mess have I become?"

Lina spied the laden tray of soup, cheese, and bread; the aroma of the brewing tea was lovely and comforting. "Oh!"

Her clothes were unusable, so she ripped a sheet off the bed and used it toga-style as a quick cover-up, before settling down to business.

"Oh, Xelloss, this is good. Thanks..." She remembered having told him to make tracks and how abrupt she'd been with him. "Come on, Xelloss. You know a pregnant woman's got all these hormones making her moody. I didn't mean just go and never come back. Uh, maybe you don't, eh? Yeah, what would a demon know about the human birth process? You probably even forgot I was pregnant; I've been feeling so good and all. Yeah, you probably didn't even notice how fat I've gotten."

An unwanted tear escaped her eye and trickled down her cheek. "You don't even think of me as a woman. Like you so clearly pointed out: you don't even want to touch me- you have no reason to What do you care what happens to me as long as I can be of USE!"

Lina sniffed and dried her eyes on the back of her hand. "But you thought to bring me this and to save me from attack. You didn't say a thing about it, but you looked mad and the way you attacked them—I'd say you were especially cruel. Maybe you do care, in your own miserable, demon way. Gods am I scraping bottom here. I'm so needy I'm looking for friendship in a demon!"

Xelloss closed his eyes, contacted his missing part and found that Lina wasn't wearing the cloak, but she hadn't discarded it completely. She wasn't far away. He hoped she had cooled off. He hoped they could go back to the nice familiarity they had. He hoped- but that was crazy thinking! Why did he want that? Why did he care for this human girl so much? Because he really didn't, he told himself.

"Oh? Then why did you torture those men so she could see them suffer, just as he might do to impress his master?" he said aloud, but still to himself. He shook his head, mocking himself. "There's no fooling me, is there?" When you saw those men attacking Lina, you hated like you hadn't hated in a long time. Hate lust.

And it was his fault. He had left her alone, putting her in that predicament, or, at least, allowing for it to occur. He would have to leave her again, this night, to do what he needed to do, but he would be more vigilant this time. He cast several protection spells honing in on the room where his cloak, and Lina, resided. "I will return as soon as it is possible," he promised her in a whisper.

Lina gobbled the last of the food, making it last as long as she could, then climbed into bed. She had no book to read or clothes to wear out, but she didn't feel like going out anyway. She wished she had company, someone to talk to and sooth her worries, which she avoided thinking about. She shivered and sat up to stir the fire, but her arms and legs gave out, so she sat and stewed. Her magic was too weak for a Fireball spell to ignite the logs at this distance. The cloak lay over the end of the bed, warm, familiar, inviting her to take hold.

"I'm just doing this to keep warm," she grumbled at it.

She drew Xelloss' heavy cloak over the top covers and lay down, snuggling into ball on her side. She could smell him on the cloth, although she never thought he even had a smell. It was comforting, a manly scent, although she would never have acknowledged that anything of his could make her feel good. She needed his company, but this part of him would have to do. "I hate you."

End, Chapter One: Attracting a Demon's Attention