Heart of the Incubus
Demons of Infernum - Book Four - Rosalie Lario
Biochemist Cresso Taylor lives the sort of lifestyle most men would envy—he has wealth, natural incubus charm, and more women than he can handle. But it’s not enough anymore. Not after meeting Genevieve Russell, the sexy scientist who works with him at Elcorp Laboratory. And she wants absolutely nothing to do with him.
After her fiancé broke her heart, Genevieve has had enough of womanizers. She’s determined to steer clear of sexy-as-sin Dr. Taylor, despite the fact that his incubus allure makes her want to rip his clothes off. But when a secret admirer’s affection turns to the macabre with threatening notes and grisly gifts, Cresso appoints himself her protector. As she and Cresso hunt her stalker, she discovers there’s a lot more to the sensual incubus than she ever imagined.
Praise for Heart of the Incubus:
“This thrilling new series mixes danger with demons and romance with rocket-paced action! I can’t wait for the next one.” ~ Alyssa Day, New York Times bestselling author
© 2012 Rosalie Lario
Cresso would be the first to admit, he had it bad. Somehow he’d gone and done the unthinkable. The idiotic.
He had fallen in love.
Outside the three-paned window in his living room, the first stirrings of bright green blossomed on the trees. Birds chirped sweetly in anticipation of the coming spring season. Normally it would’ve been a beautiful view. But for him, it might as well have been the dead of winter. At least that would’ve matched the funk he hadn’t been able to shake since the holidays.
After a lifetime of living the way he desired, of having his pick of women, one had finally gotten under his skin. The worst part was that she wanted nothing to do with him. In fact, she seemed to hate his guts.
And what the hell was he doing anyway, moping around his living room and staring at trees? Just a prime example of how royally fucked up he’d been lately.
You’re acting like a prepubescent girl with her first crush. Get over it.
He pushed away from the window and grabbed the briefcase resting on one of his overstuffed cream chairs, then made his way to the door and down the lift of his Mayfair apartment building.
“Morning, Dr. Taylor, sir.” The porter straightened as Cresso passed him in the opulent lobby, on his way to the underground garage that housed his car. Even though the porter’s words and actions were respectful, there was rancor in his eyes and his tone held a note of bitterness. The proper British porter detested him. He had from the moment Cresso had moved into this building several months ago. What would he think if he learned Cresso wasn’t one of those crass Americans, as he assumed, but a species from a whole other dimension?
Cresso stifled a smirk. The porter was obvious in his disapproval of the succubi Cresso consorted with. Personally, Cresso thought the man was jealous. He clearly needed to get laid more often.
Hmm…maybe I should mention it to Samantha or Vanessa. Now that succubi and incubi could safely mate with other species without killing them, he had a feeling one or both of them would be more than willing to test his theory.
Once inside his gray BMW 3 Series, he braced himself for the half-hour drive to Elcorp Laboratory, the research facility funded by the Elden Council. Since the council, which governed travel between the dimensions, kept the lab in operation, the majority of the work was focused on better integrating Otherworlders into human society. In the three years that Cresso had worked there, his mission had been to discover a cure for the toxic compound sex demons secreted during sex. While he hadn’t quite done that, last month he had invented a vaccine that, when injected regularly, neutralized the effect of the toxin. In doing so he’d helped out an old friend, a half demon named Ronin, and the succubus he’d fallen in love with.
Almost there. So, so close.
Once he found a cure, his promise to his mother would be fulfilled. And then maybe his stepfather’s death wouldn’t have been in vain.
After pulling up to the state-of-the-art facility located on the outskirts of London, Cresso parked his car and exited. He slid his identification card through the entry slot located at the entrance and stepped into the institutional building. His footsteps echoed on the polished concrete as he headed toward the gray-marbled guard desk.
“Morning, Will,” he said to the guard, a large, stocky man who appeared fully human but was actually a lion-shifter. Very few humans worked here at Elcorp, but even those Otherworlders who lacked human features glamoured themselves to escape notice from the outside world.
“Morning, Dr. Taylor.” Will took his identification card and slid it through the machine in front of him, motioning for Cresso to place his thumb on the fingerprinting pad. It beeped and Will handed the card back to him. “Have a good one.”
“Thanks.” He stepped past the desk and started toward the lift when Will called out to him.
“Wait, I almost forgot.”
Cresso paused and turned to face him.
“I found this outside when I did my rounds a few minutes ago. Since you’re going to the same floor, would you mind giving this to Dr. Russell?”
Cresso stiffened at the mention of her name. Dr. Genevieve Russell.
The brilliant human scientist who had a touch of magic in her blood. Her ability to sense the chemical composition of both natural and artificial products made her the perfect chemical analyst and a top recruit for Elcorp Laboratory. Last month she’d helped him replicate an essential ingredient for his vaccination, something he’d discovered in the blood of one of his close friends’ wives, the descendant of a man who’d been immune to the toxins sex demons secreted. Most recently Genevieve had been working on creating an oral supplement that mimicked the nutrient composition found in skin, so that flesh-eating species such as maliki demons didn’t have to resort to killing in order to feed.
Genevieve was also the very person Cresso didn’t want to see right now. Every time she was near, his heart raced and his incubus allure oozed from his pores without any control on his part. That would surely earn him at least one sour look from her.
No bones about it, unrequited love was a bitch.
When Will lowered the package in his hand, confusion creeping into his eyes, Cresso forced a smile to his face. He couldn’t very well refuse to deliver it. Not only would that have been rude, but it would’ve raised too many questions. The last thing he wanted was his coworkers learning how he truly felt about the alluring Dr. Russell. Even worse, to have her catch on. “No problem.”
He took the package and headed toward the lift. Tom, the building’s maintenance man, stood nearby, wiping down the wall of mirrors next to the lift. When he saw Cresso, he hit the up button for him. “Morning, Dr. Taylor.”
“Morning, Tom. Thanks.” Cresso entered and pressed the button for the fourth floor, which housed the demon research section. The door slid open to reveal a long hallway lined with metal doors on each side.
Cresso’s office was all the way at the end of the hall to his right, across from the small snack room that serviced this floor. He turned left instead and walked along the polished concrete until he reached Genevieve’s laboratory. He peeked through the window, part of him hoping she wasn’t inside. But then, luck had deserted him months ago…at least when it came to her.
Her body was turned partially away from him, only her profile visible. As always, she was stunning. Her shoulder-length, curly blond hair was tugged back into a messy ponytail, and her wire-rimmed glasses rode low on her upturned nose. Though she was tall, her frame boasted generous curves. For some reason she insisted on hiding them under boring, confining suits and her tightly buttoned lab coat.
Genevieve was the epitome of the sexy scientist, all the more striking because she seemed to have no freaking clue just how attractive she was.
She stared into her microscope and her nose wrinkled in concentration. In response, something fluttered inside his chest.
Stupid. He was so idiotic, mooning after her when she had no interest in him whatsoever. But much as he tried to fight it, his dumb heart seemed fully intent on gifting itself to her. If she knew it, she would no doubt crush him like a bug.
As if she sensed his presence, Genevieve’s body stiffened and she straightened. When she turned toward him, her gorgeous green eyes darkened behind her glasses and her lips puckered as if she’d just tasted something bitter.
Nope, nothing had changed there. Still couldn’t stand him.
When she turned back to her microscope—clearly, his dismissal—he mentally braced himself to enter her laboratory.
Time to put the mask back in place. To pretend he was the same carefree incubus she’d met when she first started working here one year ago.
Anything else would be suicidal.
The day had started out normally enough for Genevieve. She’d risen early, exercised on her elliptical machine, eaten breakfast, and then left the relative comfort of her North Kensington house. After her walk to the station, she’d caught the tube in to work, where, as usual, she’d been the first to arrive.
Because everyone else has a life, Gen.
Whatever. She had her science. So far it had been the only thing in her life that hadn’t let her down.
The supplement she currently worked on had to have the exact nutrient composition as flesh or it wouldn’t work for maliki purposes—and her gift wasn’t that precise. Unfortunately she’d figured that part out during her early trial stages.
Genevieve had spent the last two hours mixing chemicals and then studying her latest batch, which was lacking…something, when she felt eyes on her and looked up.
Cresso Taylor. Gifted scientist. Breathtakingly gorgeous incubus. Unrepentant playboy.
When her heart thumped against her rib cage, she inwardly cursed herself and turned back to the microscope. Even if she hadn’t known the man was an incubus, she would’ve suspected something was different about him. Oh, it wasn’t just his appearance. The man was admittedly a god, with his twinkling chocolate-brown eyes and his head full of silky dark-brown hair. He kept it a little longer than was customary, in choppy waves down to about his mouth, where it highlighted just how thick and luscious his lips were. And even though he wore a plain white shirt and charcoal-gray slacks, they couldn’t disguise the figure beneath—trim, taut, and muscular, without veering into bodybuilder territory. An impossibly perfect specimen of manhood.
But it wasn’t those things that gave him away as being something other than human. No, it was the vibe he emitted when he walked into a room. Something about the way he moved— the sinuous, catlike grace of it made her long to tear her clothes off and beg him to take her. She might have already submitted to that desire if she hadn’t had prior experience with men of his kind.
Not another incubus, but another playboy.
She’d almost married one of those and had been lucky to learn the truth before that happened. Only days before the wedding…when she’d walked in on him with two other women. Thankfully Elcorp had approached her shortly afterward regarding a job in London. When they’d informed her they had followed her career for years and told her about different species and the possibility of interdimensional travel, she’d suffered a major shock. Who wouldn’t? But once she’d gotten over that, she jumped at the chance to work for them, even if it meant moving overseas. Not only had it provided an escape from the pain of Jeffrey’s betrayal, but at last she’d been able to openly use the gift she inherited at birth. Little had she known that the job would also come with a sexy incubus as a coworker.
Still, as delicious as Cresso appeared, he and his type did not do it for her. Not anymore.
So why does it seem like I’m trying to talk myself into believing that?
When he opened the door and walked inside her lab, she stifled her groan. He often tried to engage her in casual conversation, but she couldn’t do it. The man was too unnerving. So she hid behind her decidedly unsexy glasses and a snarky tone. Better he think her a coldhearted bitch than she reveal her weakness. Human or not, men like him lived to exploit others’ weaknesses.
“I’m busy,” she said without meeting his eyes.
“This won’t take long.”
He stepped toward her, every thump of his shoes along the concrete floor feeding the tension in the room. By the time he stopped directly beside her, Genevieve’s body had wound so tightly she could barely breathe. His warm, cinnamon-and-spice scent washed over her, chasing away the cold sterility of the lab. Why did the man have to smell so damn good?
Don’t look at him. Do not. Pretend he’s the sun.
“How’s the latest batch coming along?” he asked.
She relaxed marginally. If they were going to discuss work, she could lose herself in the topic enough to deal with his presence. After all, no matter what else he was, the man was an intelligent, well-respected scientist.
“Not quite there.” She jotted some figures on the pad next to her microscope before fanning the air over her beaker to catch a better scent of the substance inside. The odor was slightly off, just a bit too sweet. “So close, but not there yet.”
“I know the feeling.”
Considering how long he’d searched for an actual cure to the sex-demon toxin, she supposed he did.
He let out a sudden yawn and stretched. The movement caused his muscles to ripple under his shirt, and an answering wave of desire crashed over Genevieve. The incubus was just so damn sexy. She wished she didn’t notice it so much.
To cover her conflicting emotions, she infused a layer of frost into her voice. “Let me guess, too much fun and not enough sleep last night?”
A frown tugged at the corners of his lips, but it was gone in an instant, replaced by a carefree grin. “You know me. Work hard, play hard.”
She remembered his philosophy. In fact, she’d never forget the first time she glimpsed him at work. It was right after her interview. He’d stepped out of the elevator at the same time she exited the first-floor meeting room. Her pulse had raced at the sight of him, but he hadn’t been alone. Three gorgeous women clung to his body, and to her mortification his fly was unbuttoned. Thankfully he and the women turned toward the door without ever seeing her, but it had been clear what they were about to do. Or perhaps had already done.
Dr. Andrews, the head scientist conducting the interview, had stopped beside her and let out an uneasy laugh. “That’s Dr. Taylor. Don’t judge him too harshly. He’s an incubus, so I’m afraid he needs continual, um…attention.”
In that moment, she knew. He was another version of her ex-fiancé: a man who could never satisfy himself with just one woman. A man who cared about nothing but himself, and damn whoever got in the way.
Cresso motioned toward the microscope, breaking her out of her unwanted flashback. “Mind if I take a peek?”
Genevieve waved him forward while simultaneously backing up several steps. He set the items he carried—a briefcase and a brown package—on her stainless steel countertop and bent over her microscope. That simple motion caused waves of heat to plummet through her, hardening her nipples and tensing her thighs.
She would’ve passed it off as mindless attraction if she hadn’t been educated about his kind when Elcorp Laboratory had first hired her. It wasn’t chemistry that drew her to him, but his natural incubus allure. A trap to lure females of any species into his arms. Gritting her teeth, she tried her best to ignore it. He must turn it up on purpose, just to get a rise out of her. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of knowing it worked.
Only once Cresso had straightened did she realize she was staring at his ass. She managed to tear her eyes away—barely—before he turned to face her, but she couldn’t do anything to disguise the flush in her cheeks.
One of his thick brows lifted the tiniest fraction. “You okay?”
He knew. Oh God, he knew full well what had gotten her so distracted. Or was she just being paranoid? When her cheeks went from warm to nuclear, she motioned toward the microscope. “Fine. What do you think? I can’t quite determine what’s missing.”
Genevieve tried not to notice how hot he looked scratching his jaw while in thought, but it was a futile endeavor.
“Perhaps a bit more nercarcerone?” he said, referring to the cell-reproducing chemical they’d developed together in his quest to find a cure for the sex-demon toxin.
“Huh. Maybe.” Mind racing with possibilities, she started to turn away, but he caught her arm at the last moment.
Electric sparks traveled up her arm, even through the fabric of her suit and lab coat. Her body longed to break out into a shiver, but she fought it back. With considerable effort.
Lest he think she welcomed his touch, Genevieve narrowed her eyes on him and deliberately hardened her tone. “What?”
Cresso let go of her. He rubbed the back of his neck, the weary gesture catching her by complete surprise. It seemed so unlike his usual carefree nature that she didn’t know what to think.
“That package.” He motioned toward the counter. “It’s for you.”
“It is? From whom?”
“Don’t know. Will says he found it by the door when he was doing his rounds.”
Cresso picked up the box and handed it to her. When she saw her name scribbled on the plain brown wrapping, a ribbon of dread curled through her chest, winding its way down to the pit of her stomach. She knew that handwriting. Every time she saw it, she got hit with a major case of acid reflux.
“Thanks.” Her voice sounded far away even to her own ears. She took the package from him and stared down at it, willing herself the strength to open it.
Cresso must have read her discomfort because he shifted in place, sliding a hand into the pocket of his slacks. “I suppose I’ll leave you to it, then.”
For the first time ever, she barely noticed him leaving. She set the box on the cold steel countertop and traced the wobbly letters on the smooth paper. Whoever had written them had dug in the pen so hard that it had left grooves in the wrapping. And how familiar those cursive scribbles had grown over the past several weeks. Letter upon letter, a total of six in her collection now. But never more than a single piece of paper. Never anything of this size before. And that made her really, really afraid.
Come on, Gen. It’s just a package. It can’t kill you. Right?
Once Cresso’s footsteps receded into the hallway, Genevieve took a fortifying breath. Hands shaking, she tore off the wrapping to reveal an indistinct shoebox underneath. Okay…okay. Maybe it was a new pair of shoes.
Yeah, right. And maybe the yummy Dr. Taylor has all of a sudden decided to lose the harem of women who come sniffing around here, volunteering to be his lab rats.
Not freaking likely.
Oh hell, might as well get it over with. Willing her calm, clinical side to take over, she grabbed the box and lifted the lid. The cloying scent of formaldehyde drifted to her nose before she caught a glimpse of what was inside. When she saw what it was, she nearly jumped out of her skin. She dropped the shoebox and it thumped onto the polished concrete. The contents flew up, then plopped back into the box, landing in an eerily similar position to how they’d originally been placed.
Genevieve didn’t even realize she’d screamed until Cresso came racing back into the room. He moved so fast he was nothing but a blur, materializing right in front of her. His hands closed around her arms, fingers digging in painfully.
She opened her mouth to tell him, but nothing came out.
His mouth tightened and he examined her thoroughly, as if checking for cuts or chemical burns. “Dr. Russell, what is it?”
“I…” Was it crazy that even now she noticed the heat of his hands on her? When he lifted a finger to gently press her glasses back onto her nose, her mind went blank.
“Tell me what happened.”
Oh, right. The package.
Not trusting herself to do anything more than blabber, Genevieve pointed to the shoebox on the ground by their feet. He saw what was inside it and released her with a muttered curse. Squatting, he pulled a pen out of the front pocket of his dress shirt and used it to push around the thing in the box.
When his eyes met hers, unmistakable anger had darkened them into two glittering black pearls. “It’s a skinned rat.”
“Who gave this to you?”
Genevieve shook her head, gagging at the sight of the poor mutilated animal. She covered her mouth with her hand. “I don’t know.”
Cresso dropped his pen into the box and stood, waves of tension radiating off his body. His hands clenched into fists. “Okay, Genevieve, you need to tell me what the hell is going on here.”