Midnight Becomes You

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Michelle O’Neill & Lindsey Bayer

WHISKEY CREEK PRESS www.whiskeycreekpress.com

Published by WHISKEY CREEK PRESS Whiskey Creek Press PO Box 51052 Casper, WY 82605-1052 www.whiskeycreekpress.com

Copyright © 2007 by Michelle O’Neill Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 (five) years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. ISBN 978-1-60313-066-0

Credits Cover Artist: Stella Price Editor: Sue Vetter Printed in the United States of America

Other Books by Author Available at Whiskey Creek Press: www.whiskeycreekpress.com

Dedication To Everyone

Chapter 1 A booming clap of thunder shook the car. Lyric Sage jumped in her seat and, realizing what the sound was, relaxed. She glanced at the sky and scowled. It wasn’t raining yet, but soon, very soon. She looked back at the road and a burst of panic flooded her. The rear of a teal sedan quickly approached her front end. She stomped on the brake and a loud, drawn out squeal exploded from her tires. She barely missed the sedan. In fact, she could have slid a piece of paper between the two bumpers. She exhaled, feeling a strong sense of relief that she’d managed to avoid a wreck. “Great, how come I didn’t see that coming?” she muttered. Rain poured from the sky. It fell in a heavy curtain as if someone had dumped a bucket of water on her windshield. Lyric squinted through the glass trying to see the road ahead. She was sure the driver of the sedan was giving her a reproachful stare through his rearview mirror. I should have taken surface streets. She leaned forward and wiped the steamy glass with the back of her hand. Thick sheets of rain coated the windshield making visibility close to impossible. She swore under her breath and turned up the speed on her wipers. They sped up, beating a frantic rhythm across the glass. The hazy outline of taillights moved away, then glowed brighter. She applied the brake again until her car came to complete stop. 1

Midnight Becomes You Looking at her watch, she wondered how long it was going to take to get home. The sedan in front of her was moving again and she accelerated to keep up. As she fought traffic, her thoughts wandered to the National Security Agency entrance exam she had taken yesterday. What a great job that would be. Intelligence Specialist Sage, she liked the sound of that. Unfortunately, very few people scored high enough to get in. Besides, she’d had such bad luck finding a job since college graduation, she was beginning to think she would be working for the Ready Hand temp firm for the rest of her life. She sighed. One could always hope a good job would come through. The taillights ahead shone red again and Lyric strained to see what was holding the driver up. The sedan’s distress lights flashed. Great, now I’m going to be stuck here behind a disabled car. She twisted around in her seat to see if she could change lanes, but traffic was backed up for miles. A moment later, the sedan pulled out of the lane and drove to the shoulder of the road. As Lyric passed, she could see he’d gotten a flat. That sucks. Maybe I can improve my job hunting karma if I give him a hand. It’s not like we’re going anywhere fast. She pulled over in front of him. Popping the trunk, she draped a jacket over her head and rushed to the back of the car. She grabbed the new electric jack from her trunk and carried it to the sedan’s window. The driver rolled the window down and Lyric felt a wintry chill creep over her skin. The driver had a worn handsomeness to him, with heavy wrinkles around his eyes. He had blonde hair and intense brown eyes made more striking by the dark circles that surrounded them. She guessed him to be somewhere in his midfifties. A strong, muscled jaw hardened his look.


Midnight Becomes You Lyric’s mouth went ash dry. “Hi,” she said, trying to shield herself from the downpour. She held up the jack. “I thought this might help.” He smiled, showing tobacco-stained teeth. It sent a shiver through her. “Why don’t you come in out of the rain?” he said, gesturing to the empty passenger seat next to him. He had a slight accent that sounded Russian. A vision blinked through her mind of a small, dingy apartment in a snowy Russian city. “No thanks, I think I’ll just wait in my car. Will you return this when you’re done?” “Sure,” he said. He reached out and took the jack, innocently touching her fingers as he did so. A charge burned through her hand and halfway up her arm. A sense of violence filled her, nameless and deadly. It left a film on her flesh like motor oil. She stifled a gasp and pulled her hand away. Without another word to him, she turned and rushed back to her car. Settling back in, she tossed her soaking jacket on the passenger seat. A frosty sense of dread moved through her like a winter mist. She ran her hands up and down her arms trying to drive the cold away. Her skin was covered with gooseflesh. What a creepy guy. Leave it to me to stop and help the only weirdo out on the road tonight. Maybe I should just leave. I can always get another jack. She stared into the rearview mirror. The rain had let up and Lyric watched him through the slow drizzle as he fixed his flat. She shivered and turned the heater up. Come on, come on, hurry up. After what felt like an hour, he finished replacing the tire and walked toward her car with the jack. Lyric plastered a smile on her face and rolled down her window. “Thanks,” she said, reaching for the jack. She was careful not to touch him. He handed it to her, but before she could roll the window up, he grabbed her hand where it covered the jack. His hands were cold and wet. Her mind immediately filled with strange, disjointed images of a dark room with soiled walls. A woman 3

Midnight Becomes You was bound in the center, naked to the waist. She was bloody and bruised like she’d been beaten. This man caused everything in the vision and his touch felt like a murdering criminal. Panicked, Lyric pulled away from his grip. She dropped the jack, and stomped on the gas. The jack clanked loudly on the asphalt as she pulled away. The car lurched forward, kicking up some wet turf on the side of the road. Forcing her way back into traffic, Lyric struggled to control her breathing. An ice-cold charge moved down her body, making her shiver uncontrollably. She looked in her rearview mirror but saw no sign of the sedan. I’d better turn on the next street just to be sure he doesn’t follow me. Biting her lip, she turned the wheel and took the next side street. She kept an eye out for the sedan, but it looked as though she’d lost him. She didn’t understand why the gift had come over her when she’d touched him. She hadn’t had visions like that in years, and now she’d had two major ones in less than an hour. The gift. How long had it been since she’d thought about it, acknowledged it? Months, years, maybe? She couldn’t remember. She tried to forget about it, but it was always there, lingering in the back of her mind like a mugger. She hated how out of control it made her feel when it took over. It’s nothing. You’re just tired and jumpy. Maybe I’m getting sick or even imagined the whole thing. Now let’s get home and get some rest, everything will look different in the morning.


Midnight Becomes You

Chapter 2 Nick Markov watched the woman speed away and stared out at the traffic. Beautiful woman, with such striking coloring. She had auburn hair and pale green eyes. Lovely. She was the kind of woman he’d keep in bed with him as long as possible in the morning, if only to smell the perfume of her hair. He wished he’d gotten her name. It was raining hard again, soaking his t-shirt. He started back to his car, crouching down to pick up the fallen jack. What power he’d sensed in her. But was it real, or had he imagined it? No, it was real. He’d never been wrong about that distant look in the eyes. It always meant something. He opened his door and slid onto the vinyl seat, resting the jack in his lap. He placed both hands on it. Vivid images of her danced in his mind. Scenes unfolded of her drinking with friends. Yesterday? Yes. Afterward, scenes of her making love to a man she barely knew. He smiled and shook his head. The scenes cleared. He tossed the jack behind his seat. Maybe he’d get the chance to return it to her. He pushed the thought aside. He had more pressing matters than love to worry about right now. He took the next turn off the congested highway and turned on the radio. It played a sad, old country song by Willie Nelson. He turned it up. He wondered if the woman knew she had the gift, and how to use it. He doubted it, not many people did. She’d felt so strong she might have more than one gift inside her. Why not? After all, he certainly did. 5

Midnight Becomes You

Chapter 3 The accident scene was a mangled mess. The red Pontiac was wedged under a Peterbilt dump truck, its body little more than a twisted bunch of metal. Paramedics tended to a woman on the sidewalk, her face covered in blood. Lucifer Tanner pulled up as close to the accident as he could. A young deputy with a buzz cut rushed over to him. “We have a crane on the way,” the cop said breathlessly. “But your agency said you were nearby and you could help.” Lucifer looked around. It was about three in the morning and no one was at the scene but some cops and a woman being tended to by paramedics. He assumed her to be the driver of the Pontiac. “Who’s left in the car?” The cops face grew somber. “An infant and a two-year old.” “What about the driver of the truck?” “Parole violator on the run. We have him in custody. He’s fine, of course.” Lucifer nodded grimly and approached the truck. He estimated the weight and focused his mind. Closing his eyes, he stilled his thoughts. A few seconds later, the Peterbilt shook like a great beast coming up from the center of the earth. It lifted slowly, causing the Pontiac to give off a metallic groan of relief as the weight was pulled off. The Peterbilt floated off to the side of the road and set down in a vacant parking spot. Paramedics rushed forward to the crushed vehicle. 6

Midnight Becomes You “Wait!” Lucifer commanded. The hysterical screaming of an infant sliced through the night. The mother struggled against the cops trying to get to the ruined car. Lucifer felt the car, its jagged edges and torn shards. He had to peel it away from the children without doing them any more harm. He felt his heart slow as he concentrated, keeping his emotions in check. He couldn’t rush this; it was much too dangerous. Piece by piece he explored the Pontiac and bent the twisted metal back and away from the children. Each adjustment made the car shriek and groan. When he was confident they were free, he focused on opening the car door. It popped open, falling off to land on the street with an enormous bang. The paramedics looked at him expectantly. He nodded and they rushed forward. Lucifer leaned against his Cadillac exhausted. He glanced at the cop who was staring at him like he was the second coming. “Don’t talk about this at the station,” Lucifer said. “Okay?” The cop grinned and shook his head. They both glanced over as the kids were pulled from the Pontiac. “No one would believe me.” They stood in silence for a moment, watching the two-year old awaken and cry after receiving oxygen. The baby seemed to be fine except for a few cuts on her face. Lucifer looked at the cop. “You have a cigarette?” The cop glanced around and patted his jacket pockets. He pulled a pack of Marlboro reds out and handed one to Lucifer. Lucifer took it and lit it, taking a deep drag and holding it in his lungs for a second before exhaling. He really needed to stop cheating and quit these things once and for all.


Midnight Becomes You The woman approached them, followed by one of the paramedics. She was holding the still crying infant. “Who are you?” she asked. Lucifer glanced at the cop next to him. “I’m a cop,” he lied. “I’m very grateful even through I don’t understand how you did it.” He hated this; he should have left right after he’d finished. He should have forgotten about the cigarette. “You’re welcome,” he said with a shrug. Before she could ask him any more questions, he tossed the cigarette down and crushed it out. Nodding to the cop, he got into his car. The woman walked back to the ambulance. Lucifer started the car just as the cop knocked on the glass. He rolled the window down. “What?” “I know you guys don’t like coming out for things like this, but I just wanted to say thanks. This could have turned out really bad.” Lucifer looked at the twisted husk of the Pontiac. He couldn’t believe the kids had survived the crash. “I just happed to be nearby.” The crane pulled up and the cop walked toward it to tell the driver all the action was over. Lucifer grinned. He watched the ambulance drive off with the mom and kids. He put the car in gear and drove toward his house, looking forward to a drink and a good night’s sleep.


Midnight Becomes You

Chapter 4 The office was already at work when Lyric came rushing through the front door. She slowed to a walk as she made her way through the office to her cubicle by the copy room. Hoping she hadn’t been spotted coming in late, she turned on her computer and stuffed her purse and sweater in a bottom drawer. Her computer booted up slowly, painstakingly checking all its components to make sure nothing was deleted since last night. Lyric sighed and settled into her chair. She bounced a few times wishing the machine would hurry up. She heard a knock on her cubicle wall. Looking up, she spotted Angel, who she affectionately referred to as ‘the Pill’. Angel was the senior secretary and her current supervisor here at Smythdyne Corporation. Lyric forced herself to smile. “Hi.” Angel didn’t return the smile. Her face remained stern and unforgiving. She resettled her bifocals on her nose and pursed her lips. “Lyric, did the Ready Hand Agency tell you what time we start work here?” she asked. Lyric’s gut tightened. “They said around eight or nine.” Angel nodded like that had confirmed her worse fears. “We start work at eight-thirty sharp. Do you think you can show up on time tomorrow?” “Yes, Angel. I had a little car trouble this morning. Sorry.” “Excuses don’t substitute for punctuality, Lyric.” 9

Midnight Becomes You Lyric didn’t say a word. She plastered a fake smile on her face and waited for the lecture to end. Her phone rang, but she ignored it. Angel pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. “Will you get that please?” she asked, then she disappeared again. Lyric picked up the phone. “Customer service, Lyric speaking.” After a tense twenty-minute conversation with an irate distributor, she got up to get herself some coffee. The break room was empty except for the lingering smell of a microwave breakfast. She poured herself a cup and wondered if she was ever going to find a real job. Temping was great for now and helped to pay the bills, but she had no benefits and no future. Penny, the bone-thin girl from the cubicle across from hers, rushed in. Her straw blonde hair was sticking up in places, like she’d come in to work straight from bed. She was so skinny her clothes never seemed to fit right. Everything looked too big. “Lyric,” she said breathlessly. “Did you forget to forward your phone? It’s been ringing and ringing. Angel is going to have a cow.” “Yeah, I think I did,” Lyric said, strolling out of the break room. She came into her cubicle to see Angel on her phone answering customer’s questions. Just great. She’s going to hit the roof. I can’t wait for this hour-long lecture. Lyric sat in her chair and put her mug down. She swiveled it back and forth while she waited for Angel to hang up. Angel finished her conversation and regarded Lyric like she was an escaped convict. “How many times have I told you to forward your phone to the next person if you’re going to leave your desk?” Lyric shrugged. “I don’t know. A couple of times.” “Then why do you keep forgetting to do it?” 10

Midnight Becomes You “I just forgot. I’m sorry.” She was getting tired of apologizing; this was the second time this morning. It was worse that she didn’t really mean it. Angel set her mouth in a grim line. “Perhaps you’re not a good fit for Smythdyne Corporation, Miss Sage. I think you should return to the agency and ask for another assignment.” Lyric felt like she’d been freed from slavery. She pushed down a smile and grabbed her things from the drawer. She held out her hand and tried to look disappointed. “Thanks for the opportunity.” Angel shook her hand stiffly. Lyric bounded out of the office and headed for the mall to spend the last fifty dollars on her MasterCard.


Midnight Becomes You

Chapter 5 The hearty scent of cooking meat and pepper filled the kitchen. Lucifer waved at the smoke hissing from the frying pan and tossed a wary glance at the smoke detector nearby. He leaned against the stove and poked his fork into the rare center, flipping his steak one last time. He removed the pan and placed it on the granite countertop next to the sink. As he fished in a drawer for a knife, his cell phone rang. “Tanner,” he said, as he pulled the steak onto a white plate. Blood and grease pooled under the meat. He carried it over to the dining room table and took a seat. The table was small and round, perfect for a one-person meal. He had a lot of those. “It’s Hank,” came the familiar voice over the phone. “I’ve got one for you.” Lucifer frowned. What is so important that it couldn’t wait until tomorrow? Doesn’t he ever check the schedule? Ever since he’d accepted the position of Chief of Special Operations Midnight Underground, he hadn’t had a moment’s peace from Deputy Director Hank Samstag. “Is this like the last one you had for me?” He glanced at the plastic ketchup bottle on the counter and it floated over and rested in front of his plate. He squirted some onto his meat and smoothed it out with a knife. “No,” Hank said. “This one’s different.”


Midnight Becomes You Lucifer cut a generous piece of steak and chewed. “How different?” He pulled his long black hair back into a ponytail. “What score did he get?” “She got a perfect two hundred.” Lucifer stopped chewing his steak. He swallowed. He couldn’t have heard that right. He pushed the plate back a little. No one had ever scored that high. He must have heard Hank wrong. “What was that?” “I said she scored a perfect two hundred.” “Who is she?” “A new applicant for Intelligence Specialist,” Hank said. Lucifer heard him shuffling papers. “Recent grad, twenty-five, currently working for a temp firm. She also applied for an analyst position as her second choice.” There was a long pause on the phone as Hank waited for Lucifer’s comment. “What’s the matter? Can’t believe she got a perfect two hundred?” Lucifer gave a curt laugh. No, I can’t. They had to have made a mistake. “Well,” he said, “you’d better check your equipment again because that can’t be right.” “Come to the office in the morning and manually check it yourself,” Hank said, sounding annoyed. He hated being questioned. “Send me the score card by e-mail,” Lucifer said, leaning back in his chair and rubbing his temples. “I’ll be able to tell from that.” Hank hung up on him. Lucifer went to the minibar and poured himself a scotch. Sipping it, he sat down at his computer and waited for the file to arrive. They must have made a scoring error. He’d never even heard of anyone scoring that high. The file arrived in his inbox a moment later and he opened it.


Midnight Becomes You After examining it for several minutes, he sat back and exhaled a long breath through his nose. Hank was right; everything seemed to be correct. He needed to meet this girl. He picked up his cell phone from the table and speed-dialed Hank’s number. Hank answered on the first ring. “Well?” he said a note of triumph in his voice. “I need to meet this girl,” Lucifer said, still studying the score sheet for errors. Hank chuckled. “I knew you’d say that. I’ve got some FBI agents paying her a visit in the morning. I’ll get her in to see you as soon as possible.” Lucifer grunted his agreement. He turned the computer monitor off. “You’re welcome,” Hank prompted. Lucifer hung up on him.


Midnight Becomes You

Chapter 6 She was late for the interview. Lyric scrambled around her apartment looking for her keys. I need to stop tossing them in different places when I come home. She raced over to the tattered blue sofa and pulled all the cushions off. Not a sign of them. The doorbell rang. Perfect. Without replacing the cushions, she went to the door and looked through the peephole. Two men in dark gray suits stood outside. One was tall and thin with a thick mustache, and the other was short and balding. They looked like cops and she racked her thoughts trying to remember if there was anything she should be worried about. “Who is it?” she shouted through the door. “FBI, ma’am,” the shorter of the two said. “We’re here to discuss your application for the NSA.” Lyric chewed her lip. A personal visit from the FBI could mean something really good, or really bad. She opened the door and gestured for them to enter. The two men came in. “This is Agent Meyers,” the shorter one said, pointing to his companion, “and I’m Agent Lister.” Lyric shook hands with them, hoping they wouldn’t notice her sweaty palms. They glanced at the sofa. She smiled at them sheepishly. “Sorry,” she said, tossing the cushions back onto the sofa. “I was just getting ready for a job 15

Midnight Becomes You interview and I thought maybe my keys were…” She stopped talking. They didn’t seem interested in how the sofa played a role in her exit plan. “We’ll get right to the point then,” Agent Lister said. Although short, he was stocky like a boxer. He looked like he could beat up a man twice his size. His bald spot shone as he looked around her apartment taking everything in. Just like a cop. Lyric noted the wedding band on his finger and wondered what his wife must look like. Probably tall and blonde, she mused. “You scored very high on the precognition section of the NSA test, Miss Sage,” he said. “We’re here to offer you a training position with the Midnight Underground.” Lyric’s stomach dropped, thinking they had come here by mistake. “Excuse me? I didn’t take a precognition test. I applied for intelligence specialist and an analyst position.” “Actually the precognition portion is submerged in all of the tests given by the agency. We are continuously screening for appropriate candidates for our NSA Midnight Underground division,” Agent Meyers said. His moustache obscured his upper lip when he spoke. “So if I scored high on a precognition test, then am I to understand that the Midnight Underground is some kind of psychic police?” Lyric asked, as she sat on one of the arms of her sofa. The cool stares of both agents told her they were not amused by her psychic cop reference. She slowly slid down off the arm, onto the sofa. “Look, I’m not being a smart ass. I just don’t really understand what it is you’re offering. Can you tell me—I mean—what exactly do they do?” “We can’t discuss that with you right now, Miss Sage. But trust me, if you accept, you’ll learn all about it,” Agent Meyers said. “Do you accept the position?” 16

Midnight Becomes You Lyric pulled at her lip. “Do I still have a shot at either of the normal positions I applied for?” “No,” both men answered simultaneously. She slowly looked around at her tiny, sparsely furnished apartment. Her kitchen said it all, one place setting, two Mickey Mouse plastic glasses and three mismatched plates. Her dinnerware was only complimented by her cookware, a pan with half of the handle melted away and a lidless pot. Living paycheck to paycheck was starting to wear her down. What the heck? Maybe I can get transferred once they figure out that I’m not psychic. Surely, I can make a few friends in high places by then. She stood up, “Sure,” she said. “I accept.”


Midnight Becomes You

Chapter 7 The Midnight Underground office was located in a fifteenstory, black, glass building situated in the middle of a deserted business park. Agent Lister pulled up to the entrance and stopped. Lyric sat behind him and he twisted around in his seat to address her. “Do you have your identification with you?” “Wouldn’t it have been a better idea to ask me that before we left my apartment?” she joked nervously. The stagnant silence returned. Neither agent showed any trace of a sense of humor. She stared at them for a moment. Why am I so nervous? This is what I wanted, right? I mean, I really need a job. She looked down and began rummaging through her purse. Triumphantly she pulled out her wallet. She fumbled with the snap and it clicked open. To her relief, her ID was where she had hoped it was. That was a first. “Yes,” she chirped. “It’s right here.” “Good. Just show it to the security desk officer. They’ll send someone down for you.” Lyric climbed out of the car and Agent Lister pulled away. Guess I’m on my own. She headed up the steps to the black building. As she walked inside, a blast of cool air hit her. Everything in here looked modern, sleek and shiny. It reminded her of a software company she’d once interviewed for. She didn’t make a good impression with them, either. She walked up to the security desk and a mannish female security guard growled for 18

Midnight Becomes You her ID. She handed it over and waited while phone calls were made. The security guard handed it back to her. “Just have a seat over there, Miss,” the guard said, indicating a vinyl chair off to Lyric’s right. She walked over to the chair. The click of her heels echoed loudly with every step. She sat down, pulling and straightening her gray, cotton skirt. She felt like she was being watched. The matching blazer felt like it was two sizes too small and she tugged at the sleeves. The elevator dinged, pulling her out of her clothing obsession. She looked up and watched an older, blonde gentleman step out. He looked healthy and slim, someone who probably played tennis on the weekends. “Miss Sage?” he said, walking over and holding out his right hand. Lyric flashed a smile she didn’t feel. “Yes,” she said pleasantly. “That’s me.” She grasped his hand firmly and felt his energy trickle into her. It was warm and friendly, putting her at ease. He escorted her over to the elevator. “My name is Hank Samstag,” he said with a grin. “I’m the Deputy Director of Special Operations for the Midnight Underground. But you can just call me Hank. We’re pretty informal around here.” The elevator was open and waiting for them. Hank hung back and gestured for her to go first. She stepped inside and he followed her. The interior was all glass, with no floor buttons. Lyric felt her upper lip start to sweat. “Fifteenth floor, please,” Hank said. The elevator ascended and the lobby fell from view. Hank was staring at her as if she was a performing circus freak. Is he psychic? Can he sense they’ve made a mistake? Lyric glanced at him. She was starting to think about going home. He smiled. “Did the agents say anything to you about what we do here?” he asked. 19

Midnight Becomes You “No,” she said. “They said I’d learn all about it during my training.” Hank nodded. “That’s right.” Before Lyric could ask him any questions, the elevator opened to an elaborate entryway. In front was a curved mahogany desk. Two armed guards stood on either side, their arms folded across their chests and their attention focused on the security monitors in front of them. Behind them was a panel of white-frosted glass that resembled a wall of ice. The silhouettes of people walking back and forth showed behind it. Hank moved toward the side of the desk and passed through a metal detector checkpoint. He stopped and waited for her. Lyric passed through the checkpoint and the alarm sounded. One of the security guards moved forward with a handheld scanner and directed her to hold her arms up. She did and he ran the scanner down her body. It sounded by her left pants pocket. Lyric reached in and pulled out her keys. Figures I had them on me. She looked back at Hank who nodded to the guard. She joined Hank and they entered a large room with a maze of dark gray cubicles. He walked around the first one and introduced her to his daughter and unit secretary, Belle Samstag. She stood up and shook Lyric’s hand warmly. She was an attractive petite girl, with large dark eyes surrounded by too much black eyeliner. She smelled like hairspray. Next was the break room where a young Asian man sat sipping a cup of tea and leafing through a Sports Illustrated. He was short, but powerfully built, his muscular arms stretching the fabric of his brown polo shirt. He was also very handsome. He watched them suspiciously. “Lyric,” Hank said. “This is Byron Chang.” He stood up and shook her hand, then turned his attention to Hank. “This the new girl?” 20

Midnight Becomes You Hank beamed at her and placed his hand between her shoulder blades. “Yes, sure is. She’s the one with the high score.” Byron returned to his seat. “She met Lucifer yet?” Hank’s face changed. “No, I was saving him for last.” Byron chuckled. It was a dark, unfriendly sound. “I give her a week.”


Midnight Becomes You

Chapter 8 Lucifer’s office was huge and furnished entirely in black leather. Lyric stepped inside and was immediately impressed by the room’s energy. It swept over her like a summer heat wave, making her skin flush. It did not quite give her the warm, calm feeling that she had gotten from Hank. Instead, it was more like an arching energy; sharp, biting, electrical. Without thinking, she moved closer to Hank. Lucifer sat behind a black lacquer desk watching them with pale gray eyes. He was a large, powerful man with long black hair and a neatly trimmed goatee. He was stunningly handsome in a diabolical kind of way. There was also something oddly sexual about him, like he’d already slept with her and was looking forward to doing it again. She met his gaze and was drawn in by it—consumed by it. Feeling heat rising in her face, she glanced away. She’d felt sinful just looking at him. “Lyric,” Hank said, breaking the spell. “This is our Chief of Special Operations, Lucifer Tanner. He’ll be your instructor.” A light sweat broke out on her temples. “Hi,” she managed, not sure if she should walk forward and shake his hand. She decided to stay right where she was. Lucifer stood up and walked around to the front of his desk. He wore an expensive-looking, dark gray suit that accentuated his massive shoulders. He leaned against the desk and locked his gaze on Hank. “Can you leave us alone for a few minutes, please?” 22

Midnight Becomes You Hank squeezed her upper arm reassuringly. She resisted the urge to grab him and stop him from leaving. “I’ll leave you in your instructor’s capable hands,” he said with a wink and a grin. Then he was gone and she was alone. Lucifer studied her and stroked his goatee thoughtfully. He looked like he was considering stripping her naked. Lyric shifted uncomfortably. She didn’t know what to do with her hands and her mouth was parched. She folded her arms across her chest and felt a little less vulnerable. “Do you understand why you’re here?” he said in a deep, seductive tone. Lyric felt like she’d been sprung with a surprise quiz. Anxiety rolled around in her gut. He knows I don’t have any powers. They all know, they’re just being polite by interviewing me. “Yes,” she said, trying to sound confident. “Of course I do.” His eyes sparked with amusement. “Explain why then.” Lyric frowned. “What? Why I’m here?” “That’s right.” She shifted her weight to her other foot. “I scored well on some kind of test that I wasn’t even aware I had taken.” “That test,” he said, “is the Kroner PSI test. It measures clairvoyant ability, and it’s never wrong. The fact that people don’t realize they’re taking it helps validate the results.” “Well, I think it might be wrong this time. I don’t think I have any more clairvoyant ability than anyone else.” He pushed off from the desk and stalked toward her. He towered over her and Lyric forced herself to look him in the eye. God, he’s tall. What is this guy, six-one, six-two? He smiled with perfect teeth, lazy and sexual. “That’s what we’re going to find out.” Holding his hands out to her, palms up, he said, “Take my hands.”


Midnight Becomes You A rush of fear raced through her. She licked her lips and unfolded her arms. Taking a deep breath, she reached out and placed her hands in his. The vision was intense and immediate. She was naked in a bed she didn’t recognize, covered in sweat. A man was kissing her belly, dragging wild kisses across the landscape of her flesh. She loved it, she loved him. She forced herself to control her breathing. Not too fast, try to relax. This isn’t real. The man kissing her had a face. She looked down into it. It was Lucifer. The vision was high emotion and she could smell and feel everything. She could feel his touch on her skin as he eased himself up over her body and nestled his hips between her legs. Stumbling backward, she pulled her hands out of his. She glared at him. “What the hell is the matter with you? What are you, some kind of pervert?” she said, steadying herself on the edge of his desk. He raised an eyebrow and retreated behind his desk to his office chair. “What did you see?” Images of them making love flooded back to her, making her body tense with lust. “You know what I saw. I am not interested in participating in your sick games. I just want to leave now!” She turned toward the door. Lucifer moved up behind her and grabbed her shoulder. She spun back toward him and he released her. He held his arms up in a gesture of surrender and took a step back. “Honest, Lyric, I don’t know what you saw. I don’t have that ability,” he said. “Oh, really? Then what kind of ability do you have?” She tried to quell the knife-edge in her voice. He grinned at her. Suddenly, a chair to her left slid along the floor and settled in front of his desk. “Relax,” he said softly. A surge of intense heat moved through her body bringing 24

Midnight Becomes You gooseflesh up on her skin. Her heart rate sped up as she rose from the floor and moved through the air. The movement was slow and she fought down her rising panic. He told you to relax. If you fight it, he might drop you. When she reached the chair, he lowered her into it. Lyric could hear herself panting from the rush. Her heart felt like it was going to explode. They were quiet for a long time. Finally, he said, “That’s what my ability is.”


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Chapter 9 Lucifer set Lyric up in the conference room and directed her to read the policy and procedure manual. He needed to talk to Hank. Alone. She stood by the wooden chair and looked down at the eight-inch thick policy binder. He has got to be kidding. She stared back at Lucifer. “You’re kidding, right? Has anybody ever really read this?” “No, I’m not kidding. It is required reading for any employee.” He spoke in a commanding voice as though he were talking to a disobedient teenager. “I’ll bet you’ve never read it,” she challenged. “You know, I have spent less than an hour with you, and your difficulty in finding employment prior to this isn’t much of a mystery anymore.” He pointed to the chair. “Now stop talking, sit down and read.” Lyric glared at him and dropped into the chair. He stood in the doorway waiting for her to open the binder. When she didn’t open it fast enough, he walked over to the table and thumped his knuckles on the cover. She slid the binder out from under his fist and opened it with a grand sweeping gesture. Satisfied, he stalked off down the hallway to Hank’s office. This was not going well. **** In contrast to Lucifer’s office, Hank’s was decorated in light colored woods with bookshelves lining the walls. Most contained tennis trophies and framed family photos. A large bay window 26

Midnight Becomes You overlooked a beautified pond and fountain behind the building. To Lucifer it always felt like the principal’s office at school—a mixture of hominess and nerdiness. As usual, the office door was open. He walked in and sat down. Lucifer interlocked his fingers and placed them on his lap. He said nothing. Hank watched him, trying to read his expression. Lucifer suppressed a smile. He knew how these little mind games infuriated the man. “Well?” Hank said finally, combing his thinning hair back with his fingers. Lucifer shrugged and met Hank’s gaze. “She’s uncooperative and combative.” “What do you mean?” “I tested her and asked her to tell me her vision. She refused,” Lucifer said, shifting in his seat. Hank tossed up his hands in exasperation. “Maybe she saw something she didn’t want to discuss with you.” “Maybe she didn’t see anything at all,” Lucifer countered. Hank scowled. “You’re the expert. You tell me what to think.” Lucifer pulled the chin hairs of his goatee. The truth was, he didn’t know what he thought about her. If he stripped his reluctance down to its basic elements, he knew the problem was attraction. It was going to be very hard to work with a woman he was that hungry for. Even now as she entered his mind, he felt a strong carnal stirring. It was also a problem that she openly disliked him. “Somebody else should train her. Perhaps Byron…” “There is nobody else, Lucifer. Byron is nowhere close to your level. He’s a pyrokinetic, for God’s sake. Besides, you’re the chief. You need to do it.”


Midnight Becomes You Lucifer remembered the heated charge from her touch. His palms began to sweat. An annoying lust stirred him. He was vaguely aware of Hank staring at him. “We need her. You have to make this work,” Hank said. “Psychics like her don’t just fall out of the sky.” Lucifer got up and walked over to the window. He watched a motorcycle pull out of the parking lot. A nameless dread crept down his spine. He shuddered, remembering the accident. God, he’d hit the pavement hard. He swallowed and turned around to face Hank. “What if the test is wrong and she has no clairvoyant ability?” “The test is never wrong.” “What if this time it was?” “Then we cut her loose.” Lucifer nodded. He knew Hank would say that. “Well there’s just one problem with that.” Hank’s nostrils flared in anger. “What?” “She’s seen my power.” Hank’s face turned crimson. The veins in his neck bulged. Lucifer wondered if the man was going to have another heart attack. When he spoke, he words were calmer than his tone. “You showed her your power?” “Yes, I did. It was necessary.” Hank nodded and got up. He paced the floor by his desk, staring at the carpet. Lucifer caught the faint scent of old cigarette smoke. Suddenly, Hank stopped and fixed him with a furious look. “Don’t screw with me, Lucifer. If you really thought she didn’t have any ability you wouldn’t have been so careless. So why don’t you tell me what’s really going on?” Lucifer studied the walls of Hank’s office. He wondered when Hank had started smoking again. “You’re right; I don’t 28

Midnight Becomes You care about whether or not she has any ability. Based on her test scores and my first impression, I am pretty confidant she’s strong. Even if she fails to recognize it right now. What worries me is that she’s extremely undisciplined. I think she may lack the skills necessary to fit in.” Hank returned to the large brown chair behind his desk. He nestled in it and leaned forward, resting his elbows on the desk calendar. He looked up at Lucifer and smiled. “Then I suggest you work really hard on making her one of us,” he said. “Because if she doesn’t work out, you’ll be the one delivering her bullet.”


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Chapter 10 As was typical for almost every appointment in her life, Lyric was late. On the ride up to the Midnight offices, she finished buttoning her white cotton shirt and tucked it into her jeans. Nobody had said anything about a dress code, so she was going to wear what she wanted. The elevator doors opened. Lucifer was waiting by the front desk. He was dressed in a handsome, black, pinstripe suit. He could have passed for a Depression-era gangster. His arms were folded across his chest. His presence was all power, so striking, it seemed to make the security guards uneasy. Lyric opened her mouth to explain, but he held up a hand to stop her. He ushered her toward the checkpoint. “We’ll talk in my office,” he said. As they made their way through security, Lyric struggled to think of a convincing lie. I’m really not interested in getting a lecture from Count Dracula this morning. What lie can I tell him to make him back off? She looked up at his face. He looked really pissed. Once inside his office with the door closed, Lucifer sat behind his desk and Lyric went on the defensive. “Look,” she said, trying to sound friendly. “I’m really sorry I’m late. My landlady dropped by to talk and I couldn’t get her out.” Lucifer watched her in silence. His power moved across the desk and touched her skin like black satin. The sensation made her catch her breath. The room grew a little smaller and darker. She shivered. 30

Midnight Becomes You “Lyric, this isn’t some fast food restaurant or some cheap clothing store,” he said. “You are here for a serious purpose. There is no late here, do I make myself clear?” Lyric sat in the chair opposite him and slumped. “But I—” “You what?” She held her fury in. Who the hell does he think he is? Just play along with this until they transfer you out. “Nothing,” she said. “So we’re all clear now? No more landlady, no flat tires, no traffic, no late. Yes?” “Yes.” “Good, then let’s get to work,” he said, opening his laptop. “Tell me about your abilities.” “What do you want to know?” she said, shifting in her chair. She was having a hard time getting past his scolding. “When did you first notice you were different?” “I was born different. It seems to run in the family. My grandfather is a Cajun witchdoctor.” “Go on,” he said, as his fingers clicked away at the keys. “When I was little, my mother would take me to see him. He would teach me how to see things with my mind. We’d play hide ’n seek, without ever going anywhere. He’d send his mind somewhere and I’d have to find him with mine. I loved it; it was fun.” She paused for a moment and ran her fingers along the armrest. “I saw a lot of visions in those days, but never anything bad.” He stopped typing and looked up at her. “Do you keep in touch with your grandfather?” “No.” “Why not? What happened?” Lyric took a deep breath and let it out slowly. This was getting uncomfortable. “My mom thought he was a bad influence. When I was five, she hid some Halloween candy I’d collected so I wouldn’t eat it all at once. I went into her mind 31

Midnight Becomes You and found where she’d hidden it. I didn’t realize it at the time, but she could feel me in there. You can imagine how upset she was. I thought she was never going to stop yelling at me. That was when she decided I should never see my grandfather again. I don’t even know if he’s still alive.” “Did you ever use your powers again?” She shrugged. “Not intentionally. Sometimes it would manifest itself and I would get visions out of the blue. But I think it’s pretty much faded away. I think my abilities are mostly gone and the test was just a fluke.” He snapped the laptop closed and stood up. “That’s what we’re here to find out. We’ll start testing you tomorrow. I’m taking the day off, but I’ll send Byron an e-mail asking him to take you on any assignments he gets. It’ll be good practice for you.”


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Chapter 11 The garage was the one place in the house that Lucifer rarely went. For him, it was a haunted place, that housed bad memories, or a least, one major bad memory. He’d taken the day off to try and face that memory, but so far, he hadn’t made it past his living room couch. He stared at the attractive brunette newswoman and wondered if she was as perky in real life as she was delivering murders and robberies. He guessed she probably wasn’t. Finally, after the morning news finished and the court shows began, he forced himself to get up and shower. He got dressed slowly, like a condemned man going to the gallows. He wore jeans and a black t-shirt; the perfect clothes for riding. He sat on the bed and stared at his leather motorcycle jacket. It still bore some scrapes from the accident. He got up and slipped it on. It still fit. He’d taken one day off every month for the past five years to engage in this futile exercise. He was determined that one day he’d get back on that bike, if only to drive it around the neighborhood. He opened the door from the house to the garage and switched on the light. Boxes, old furniture and his weight equipment all came into view from the darkness. He scanned the garage and his eyes fell on the motorcycle. The damage to the bike had been minor, and it had fixed up well. In fact, it looked 33

Midnight Becomes You almost new again, which was more than he could say for himself. He was still a wreck. He hit the electronic door opener and watched as sunlight filled the space. The keys felt heavy in his pocket. Reaching inside his jeans, he pulled them out and toyed with them for a moment. Just wheel it out and start it. Taking a deep breath, he walked over, kicked up the stand and rolled the bike down to the street. He put on his sunglasses and glanced up and down his neighborhood. Nothing, everyone was at work. Great. He straddled the bike and started it. The engine came to life and that familiar cold fear gripped him. Memories of the truck flooded his mind, the terror of realizing he’d not have enough time to stop, the feeling of flying through the air. Before he took the helmet off the back, he’d already begun to sweat. He rested the helmet on the gas tank in front of him. He revved the engine and waited. It dropped to a low idol. Reaching into his jacket pocket, he found an old pack of cigarettes. Don’t. You’ve been two months without a cigarette; don’t fuck it up now. It was useless. He pulled a cigarette out and lit it, pulling in a deep drag. A nagging guilt tugged at him. He remembered the hospital and the maddening pain after he’d woken from his coma. He puffed on his cigarette again and finally tossed it to the ground. Then he turned the engine off. Getting off the bike, he rolled it back up the driveway and parked it back in the garage. Well, there’s always next month.


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Chapter 12 Lyric was playing solitaire on her computer when Byron Chang popped his head around the corner of her cubicle. It was just after lunch, and he was the first person to come by her desk all day. “I know Lucifer’s out today. Care to help me with a case?” he asked. He glanced at her monitor and she minimized the game window. “Sure,” she said. “What is it?” Byron handed her the file as they walked out to the parking lot. “Two brothers, identical twins, one suspected in the murder of four young women. The only problem is we don’t know which brother is responsible. Neither of them is talking.” Lyric glanced at the file. A glossy picture of a woman lying in the bushes with her eyes gorged out. She closed the file and handed it back to Byron. She caught him grinning out of the corner of her eye. “What do you need me for?” Byron smiled, but there was a nasty edge to it. “You’re a psychic right? I need you to ID the killer. It’s a lot faster than waiting for forensics to come back with all the evidence results. That can take weeks.” “What if I’m wrong? I’m kind of new at this,” she said, as they came out into the parking lot.


Midnight Becomes You He tossed some keys at her and slapped the hood of a blue Lincoln Mark V. “Don’t be wrong.” Then he added after a pause, “You drive.” He climbed into the passenger’s seat. **** It took Lyric twenty minutes to decide she didn’t like Byron. That was how long it took to get to the jail on Sampson Street. She couldn’t have told anyone exactly why she didn’t like him, but there were subtle clues he didn’t like her much, either. They parked and went into the jail. Byron directed her to sit down while he went to talk to the window clerk. A few minutes later, a burly Hispanic detective with a crew cut and a gold stud in his left ear buzzed them in. He led them into an observation room where a line-up of similar looking men stood on the other side of the one-way glass. Byron pulled up a beige folding chair and sat down. “Okay, Lyric. Which one is it?” At first, she thought he was kidding. She turned around and stared at him. “What?” The Hispanic cop leaned against the wall. She thought she heard him sigh. “Which one of these guys is our killer?” Byron repeated. Lyric looked out at the men. She couldn’t sense anything, and she was way too nervous. “I don’t know.” Byron shook his head. “Come on. You can do better than that. Anyone who can score a perfect two hundred on the PSI test can surely do something simple like this.” Lyric frowned. This was a trap. She should have never come here. “I can’t sense anything like this,” she said. “I need to touch them.” Byron looked over at the cop who shook his head grimly. “Sorry, the cops say no way. Oh well, we’ll just have to wait for the evidence after all.” He got up from the chair and let the cop escort them out. 36

Midnight Becomes You Once they were back out into the parking lot, Byron took the keys from her. “I knew you were too good to be true,” he said, as he slipped into the driver’s seat. “You’re just another good-looking piece of ass Lucifer wants to hump. That’s why they let you into Midnight.” Lyric waited until they pulled back up to Midnight’s familiar black building. She grabbed his hand for a moment, then quickly let go. She got out of the door and slammed it. He got out and gave her a nasty look. “Oh, Byron?” she said, her voice saccharin sweet. He leaned against the car and smirked at her. “What?” “You know that penis drip you’ve been worrying about? Well you might want to get that checked out. It probably is the clap.”


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Chapter 13 It was stuffy, and her and Lucifer been in here almost an hour. Lyric squinted up at the current black slide. Her job was to accurately guess what image was on the blocked slide. The edges of the slide cast the only light in the otherwise darkened room. She’d think they would have a more modern test for this. She squirmed in her chair hoping he’d notice her discomfort and take pity on her. A clear vision of a multicolored hot air balloon flashed into her mind. Lyric looked down at her answer card and carefully considered the options. There were five: a cat, a bible, a hot air balloon, an orchid and an oriental rug. She chose letter (A) the cat, and sloppily colored in the corresponding black circle. Another black card flashed on the screen. She rubbed her eyes and leaned back. She looked over at Lucifer leaning against the wall holding the projector’s remote. Funny that he uses that when he could easily use his mind. The soft projector light cast mysterious shadows over his attractive face, making him look both sinister and sexy. Lyric sighed. “Can we take a break, please?” He glanced at the light switch and the room flooded with light. She blinked a few times to adjust to the glare. He put down the remote and looked at his watch. “Of course we can,” he said, with a hint of mockery in his tone. 38

Midnight Becomes You “After all, we’ve only taken three in the past hour.” Then he added, “Bring me your answer key.” “What, right now?” “Right now, without the debate.” Lyric hesitated. Lucifer seemed irritable and this answer key was not going to lighten his mood. Her palms were damp and moist. She felt like she’d been in here for days. He knows I’m throwing this. Maybe I should have gotten a few answers right so he wouldn’t be suspicious. Lucifer stalked up to her with cool, deadly grace. His energy ticked the back of her neck. Without a word, he held his hand out for the key. She tried to think of something to stall, but came up empty. She handed it over and stood up to stretch. “Are we done?” He scanned her face making her feel naked and exposed. “No,” he said. “But I’d like to see how you’re doing.” She moved around him and made her way to the back of the room to get a drink of water. She sipped slowly from the fountain, trying to push down her growing feeling of unease. When she looked back at him, he was sitting at a table scoring her answer key. Lyric absently examined some of the files piled on the back desk, silently cursing herself for not getting at least a few answers right. She tried to read the file labels but couldn’t. She didn’t understand the writing and wondered why they were all in code. Lucifer seemed uninterested in her brazen nosiness. Finally, he finished. He rose from his table and returned her answer sheet to her desk. She stayed at the back of the room feigning interest in another stack of files. She didn’t need to see the corrected key to know what it said. “Well?” she said innocently. “How did I do?” Lucifer sat up on one of the tables and stared at her. His hands braced the desk edge on either side. “You didn’t get a single answer right.” 39

Midnight Becomes You Lyric tried to look surprised. She took a few steps toward him. “I guess your first test was wrong then, huh?” He grinned, but there was no humor in it. His rage was a dangerous undercurrent just under that perfectly pressed suit. “Are you aware that blind guessing will give you the correct answers twenty percent of the time?” She cleared her throat. Somewhere in the outside offices, a phone rang on and on unanswered. “No. I guess that doesn’t work for everyone.” Lucifer jumped down and advanced on her. She cringed and instinctively held a file in front of her as though it offered some protection. He looked like he was either going to scream at her or kill her. A memory of them making love in her vision came out of nowhere. She quickly shook it away. “Why did you agree to take this job?” he asked. “Because I want it,” she said, from behind the file. “No you don’t, because you’re doing everything you can to lose it.” Lyric dropped the file back onto the pile and stared up at him. “I’m not trying to lose it. I just don’t think that I am as clairvoyant as you believe I am.” He moved closer. His power reached out to her with invisible fingers, touching her face and skin in a mysterious way she both loved and hated. She wanted to move back but she didn’t want him to think she was retreating. “Bullshit,” he snarled. His anger was a black snake coiling around her leg. “What did you see yesterday when you took my hands?” The invisible snake started squeezing. She glared at him, feeling trapped. “You know damn well what I saw.” “I don’t know. I want you to tell me or your training is over.” 40

Midnight Becomes You Lyric took a few measured breaths, trying to control her temper. Her temples were pounding. “Well, if you really don’t know, I’d rather not discuss it with you,” she said. “It’s personal.” “So you admit you had a vision?” “Yes. Okay? I had a vision, but it’s none of your business. It had nothing to do with anything work related. So therefore, I am not obligated to share it with you.” She felt like she was being cross-examined at a murder trial. His power became like a blanket of smoke filling the room. It grew stronger and more intense as they argued. It seemed to envelop her in a black cloud and she found herself loving the way it felt. She really didn’t want to make eye contact with him. If she did, he might guess she liked the power touching her, he might know. She decided to continue avoiding him by picking up another file to examine. He placed a hand on her shoulder. “If we’re going to work together, you’re going to have to trust me. I want you to understand that everything that has to do with your power is work related.” Before she could reply, a stunning vision overpowered her. Her mind blinked for a moment, as if a great tidal wave had engulfed it. Lyric gasped from its vivid energy. Everything around her—the conference room, Lucifer, the offices outside—melted away and a new reality took their place. She was standing outside a dance club she’d never visited before. The streets were damp from a fresh rain and ghostly clouds moved lazily across the moon. All she knew for sure, was it was very late. A dark-haired man in his twenties leaned in an alley behind the club. He wore a leather jacket and white jeans. He sounded like he was getting sick. Lyric grimaced at the smell of fresh vomit. The dark-haired man was in danger. 41

Midnight Becomes You She scanned the area and spotted another man in a beat-up old sedan watching the younger man get sick. She recognized him as the man she’d loaned the jack to, and her blood chilled in her veins. She tried to speak, to yell a warning to the dark-haired man, but the words refused to come. The man in the sedan got out and began moving forward. He wore all black and spilled savage power every place he walked. The force of it made her head ache. Lyric summoned all her strength and screamed a warning, trying desperately to be heard. Nothing happened. As she fought again and again to speak, a sudden rush of fiery heat filled her. She became aware of the vision bleeding away and her body buckling to the floor of the conference room.


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Chapter 14 The streets were soaked from the passing night showers and the smell of wet asphalt hung in the air. Nick watched the man through the side mirror of his car, waiting. The man was young, with a leather jacket and white jeans. He leaned down toward the gutter and vomited again. When he pulled back up to a standing position, the front of his black leather jacket was damp. He wiped his mouth on his arm. He then staggered backward toward the brick building. He was skinny in an athletic sort of way, and looked like he’d dropped a few too many pills this evening. He captured the slovenly grace of a habitual drunkard and the aloof desperation of a drug addict. He leaned against the rave club, oblivious to anything or anyone around him. He was perfect for the first one. Despite his poor choices, this evening the young man appeared to be both in good health and of sound mind. Nick got out of the car and made his way across the street. He kept a sharp eye out for anyone around who might be watching him. Despite the loud music permeating through the club’s walls, the street was deserted. Good, he didn’t want any witnesses to this most important experiment. When Nick got within hearing range, he said, “Hey, you okay, buddy?” The man looked at him, his mouth hung open. “No, man,” he said. “I don’t think so.” 43

Midnight Becomes You Nick allowed himself a small grin. “Don’t worry, friend. I can help you.” The man only nodded and closed his eyes. His head lolled back and forth slightly and his body swayed in tune with the music. Nick released his power. It swirled around him like a whip and reached out to the young man. Nick was excited; this was the first time he’d be able to test his power transfer theory. If it worked, it would change his future forever. When the power touched him, the man jolted like he’d been struck. He looked up from his stupor and met Nick’s gaze. Nick walked up and stopped a few feet from the man. His power moved over the man, penetrating him, testing and measuring his life force. Then, he began the draw. At first, the man didn’t seem to notice anything. Then he broke eye contact, dodging clumsily to the left to get away. Nick was ready for him. He blocked the sick man with his arm and pushed his hand against the middle of the young man’s chest, pressing him against the wall. Nick leaned in closer, focusing his concentration to solidify the connection. The man gasped like cold water had been thrown in his face. He raised his hands up in a feeble attempt to ward Nick off. He tried to pull Nick’s hand from his chest but he was either too weak from the drugs or from the transfer itself. Nick knew he would have to consider this in future experiments. The veins in the young man’s neck bulged as the energy drained away faster and faster with each passing minute. “Please…” he said in a voice almost too soft to hear. “Please leave me alone.” Nick drew the energy off as quickly as he could. With each successful draw, he felt the man’s mind sinking further into a sea of unconsciousness. A blackness filled Nick’s mind and he found it beautiful. 44

Midnight Becomes You Nick pulled his hand away. Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the energy stopped flowing. The man fell to his knees. Nick looked down and was surprised to see the man lying on the ground by his feet. He’d been so involved in the energy transfer he didn’t even remember seeing the man fall. Nick took a few steps back to orient himself, then turned toward his sedan. He sat there for a moment, glowing with triumph. He was different now, changed. Smiling, he started up the car and slipped off into the night.


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Chapter 15 Lucifer pulled up at his house with Lyric still unconscious in the passenger’s seat. He could have woken her, but was careful not to. She was still in the grips of the vision and he was hopeful she’d have a clear memory of it when she awoke. He walked around to the passenger side and scanned the street for activity. It was early evening and most people were back from work, but it was late enough that most were probably settling down for dinner. His neighbors thought he was strange enough without having to witness him carrying an unconscious woman into his home. Quietly, he opened the door and slid his arms under her. This would be much easier if he didn’t have to touch her, but he was always wary of prying eyes. Pulling her into his arms, he lifted her out of the car. Her body was soft and long, and he admired the graceful curve of her neck as he carried her up the front walkway. Reaching out with his mind, he used his power to open the front door. It unlocked with a click to allow him in. Once safely inside, he lowered his arms and carried her to his bed with the power. She floated chest level in front of him like a magician’s assistant. He watched her carefully to make sure she wasn’t showing signs of waking up, but she seemed very comfortable in her sleep. Waking up in the air like this would be more of a shock than waking up too soon from the vision. 46

Midnight Becomes You As he floated her over the bed, he felt an awakening deep in his soul. His mind moved over her body, exploring every curve and hollow. He stroked his power up and down her, luxuriating in the lushness of her flesh. She was a lovely woman. Her breasts were round and plump, and he moved his power over the sensuous weight of them. He pulled a deep breath through his nose and continued his explorations, moving his power over the roundness of her hips and the plane of her belly. Closing his eyes, he imagined what it would be like to plant hungry kisses along that warm, velvety flesh. When he opened his eyes again, she stirred slightly. Her lips moved in a soft memory of speech. Lowering her to the bed, he leaned down over her full, sexy mouth. His breath caught in his chest when he imagined those beautiful lips wrapped around his hard, throbbing cock. Touching his lips to hers, he gave her a feather-light kiss and feral heat filled his groin. It took all his will not to give her the scorching kiss he wanted. Her brow creased slightly and a soft exhale escaped her lips, but she didn’t wake. Her presence here in his bed was sweet torture. His lust was hotter now, savaging him with thoughts of them together, sweaty and tangled in the sheets. He placed his hand on the top button of her jeans and unsnapped it, sliding the zipper down. He caressed his mind over the denim, moving it in between her flesh and the fabric. He used his power alone to ease them off her. The jeans slid down, revealing long, slender legs. Lyric moaned softly and turned away from him. His hunger was running higher than he could ever remember, and he fought hard to control it. Holding himself in check, he slipped out of his suit, and pulled on a pair of loose-fitting sweatpants. Taking care not to awaken her, he climbed into bed next to her, reveling in the rich 47

Midnight Becomes You scent of her skin and hair. Pure desire smoldered in him, distracting him from sleep. He lay there a long time listening to the cadence of her breathing. It had been close to five years since he’d heard that welcome sound. Five years already, since Jill had called off the wedding and left him. Even after all this time, he found it impossible to blame her. The accident had changed everything. Afterward, he was barely able to deal with himself and his newfound talent, let alone a spooked fiancée. How could he have expected her to understand what had happed to him? Lyric was so different from Jill in every possible way. Where Jill had been quiet and introverted, Lyric openly spoke her mind. Perhaps she spoke it a little too openly. Reaching out with his mind, he moved the power over her sleeping form like a caress. He found her very arousing this way, lost to him in a blanket of sleep. Lazily, he ran the power over her thighs and buttocks, stopping just short of touching the hot center of her sex. Pulling from within, he withdrew the power and closed his eyes, letting his imagination explore the sweet, moist flower of her heat. His thoughts tumbled over the taste of it and his cock filled with nagging, unfulfilled lust. His desire for her became wild and unruly, denying every means he knew to control it. Sliding his sweatpants down from his hips, he seized his throbbing erection and stroked its aching length. Pleasure consumed him. Images of Lyric straddling his body played across his thoughts, forcing his hand to stroke faster. Her scent was stronger now, and his head filled with the perfume of her flawless pale skin and rich auburn hair. He was consumed by her, and with each image he manufactured in his head, his longing became more unbearable. 48

Midnight Becomes You His climax was coming, rushing him in its relentless quest for fulfillment. Reaching over to a box dispenser of tissues, he placed one over the tip of his cock and caught his seed as he gave himself over to the ecstasy. Discarding the tissue in the trash, he pulled up his sweatpants and glanced over at her. She remained as she had been, quiet and restful in sleep. He smiled. When his breathing slowed, he moved closer to her. Her face looked pale and lovely in the soft bedroom light. A kindling of fire began in him and he ached to touch her. Not yet, he warned himself. Not yet. Your time will come to enjoy her, but give her time to adjust. Your time is not here yet.


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Chapter 16 Lyric woke up at six in the morning and blinked several times, trying to focus in on the unfamiliar surroundings. Fear sat her up and she pulled the blankets off herself. Seeing her bare legs, she immediately pulled the blankets back to their original position. She had no idea where she was. Obviously this was someone’s bedroom, she knew that much. The décor was unmistakably masculine, with a mahogany dresser and a dark brown throw rug. The walls were painted ivory and accentuated the rich brownish gold of the drapes. She rubbed her head and leaned forward, resting it on her knees, trying to fight off some mild dizziness. Taking a quick inventory of her clothing, she realized she was dressed only in her t-shirt and underwear. What happened to me last night? I don’t remember going out. Where the hell am I? She heard movement next to her and glanced over. Lucifer was stretching beside her, shirtless. He was a breathtaking sight of masculine beauty. His long black hair was loose around his shoulders, and shone with clean, good health. His lips were full and inviting, framed by his dark, well-groomed goatee. Staring into his gray eyes, she saw his desire just under the surface, like a shark circling a boat. It took all of her will to look away, but when she did, the memory lingered. A tiny flutter tickled her belly and warmed her sex. Lyric scrambled away from him so fast, she fell off the bed and landed with a thump on the floor. 50

Midnight Becomes You “You okay?” he said, his voice heavy from sleep. She got up off the ground and swallowed her embarrassment. “I’m fine,” she said, annoyed. “What the hell am I doing in your bed?” He laughed, and it sounded perverse. “You were having a very powerful vision and collapsed. I brought you here for your protection.” “Was taking my pants off for my protection, as well?” “I wanted to make you more comfortable,” he said, licking his lips. He reached over and sipped some water from a glass on his bedside. Replacing it, he glanced at the digital clock. “Why don’t you come back to bed until we have to get up?” “Come back to bed? What do you think this is, a slumber party? Forgive me if waking up half-naked in your bed has me a little miffed!” Is he really serious? Come back to bed? She had no intention of getting back in bed with him. Spotting her jeans tossed over a nearby chair, she went over and slid them back on. He propped himself up on the headboard and studied her, as if her decision to dress had disappointed him. He lazily ran a hand over the hair on his chest. He seemed bored by her tantrum. “What do you remember of the vision?” Images of the rave club and that horrible blonde man flooded back into her head. She was sure it was the same man with the flat she’d encountered on her way home a few days ago. She shivered and ran her fingers through her hair. She didn’t dare tell him the truth. If she did, she’d never get out of this organization. “Nothing,” she said, hating herself for lying. “I can’t remember anything.” He stared at her and she felt her mouth go dry. Why does lying to him have this effect on me? She turned her back on him and headed for the door. 51

Midnight Becomes You “Don’t walk away from me when I’m talking to you.” Lyric froze but didn’t turn around. If I go on the attack, maybe he’ll forget about the stupid vision. She turned around and folded her arms. “Don’t act like I have no reason to be upset. While I’ve been lying in your bed zonked out, God only knows what you’ve been doing to me with your creepy little powers.” Lucifer glanced at the ceiling exasperated. “I haven’t done anything to you except a little physical admiration. So relax.” “Then why do you want me to get back in your bed?” Lyric demanded. He ran his hand across his forehead. “Because I’m tired and we don’t have to be at work until nine.” “I think it’s because you’re trying to seduce me.” He got up off the bed and stalked toward her. His power filled the room, raising the temperature a few degrees. A light perspiration formed between her shoulder blades. He walked up to her and stopped, staring deep into her eyes. Lyric held her ground. “If I wanted to seduce you,” he said, taking her face in his hands, “I would have done this.” He pressed his lips against her mouth. The kiss was light at first, a gentle wish of a kiss that teased and tempted her with its caress. Carried by its spell, she closed her eyes and submitted to it. His tongue moved against her lips, sending hungry tremors through her quivering body. His power crept around the room like a hungry dragon, moving back over to brush against her skin. It moved over her from her legs up to her throat, until it completely enveloped her. She loved the way it aroused and heightened her senses. Soon the vision of the rave club resurfaced, only this time, Lucifer was in the vision with her. Terrified, she pushed against his chest and broke the kiss. She shook her head, trying to clear it. His power was still all over her, touching, stroking, and making her like it. 52

Midnight Becomes You “Stop it! Get away from me!” she shouted. She wrapped her arms around herself and took a few unsteady steps back. He backed up and sat on the bed breathing hard. His erection showed through his sweatpants. “So…you do remember what you saw,” he said quietly. “Tell me about it.” She shook her head. “No, I just want to go now. We have a lot of work to do, as you like to say.” “It’s six thirty in the morning.” “I don’t care! I want out of here and away from you.” He stood up, his brow shadowing his eyes. “Do you think denying your power is going to make it mysteriously go away? Well, I’ve got news for you, Lyric. You’re stuck with it. And if you don’t learn how to control it, it’s going to control you.” Hot fury filled her chest. She clinched her fists. “Maybe you like being the government’s little circus freak, but I don’t. I never asked for this damn position and I don’t want it. So if you don’t mind, I’d like to get back and ask for a transfer before these stupid visions send me to the psycho ward.” “You need to tell me what you saw, Lyric. People’s lives could be at stake.” “No one’s been killed.” His power pulled back inside him like a retreating army. “How do you know that?” “I just know. Okay?” Lucifer fell silent. She avoided looking at him and waited by the bedroom door. “I’m going to get dressed,” he said, finally. “Unless you want to watch, you’d better get out.” His voice had taken on a coldness she hadn’t heard from him before. “Fine by me,” she said, storming out of the room.


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Chapter 17 Lyric stomped down the hallway until it spilled out into the living room. Like his office at work, everything was decorated in dark wood, chrome and black leather. Immediately to her left was a bar decked out in gray granite and smoky mirrors. She slid onto one of the three barstools and surveyed the backdrop. Glass shelves filled with crystal glasses and liquor bottles. On the bottom shelf partially obscured by a brandy bottle was a picture frame. Unable to stave her curiosity, Lyric leaned across the bar and plucked the small frame from its hiding place. The frame held a photograph of Lucifer sitting on a big black motorcycle with a petite blonde behind him. Her lipstick was very dark red. She looked like the kind of tramp he’d date. Before she could put the frame down, another vision took her. She was moving, fast. There was no sound, but she felt the humid air as it blew against her face and through her hair. Faster and faster she went, until it made her stomach queasy. Then there was a dark blur in front of her. She was flying through the air. Then there was nothing but pain and darkness. Suddenly, it was over. The frame fell from her hand, clattering on the bar. Luckily it didn’t break. She replaced it, shaking the vision off. Then she jumped off the barstool. Lyric continued exploring his house. She could learn everything about someone if she just watched for all the clues. For example, Lucifer’s house was the cleanest house she’d ever 54

Midnight Becomes You been in. That meant he was very controlling, never a thing out of place, everything under complete restraint. She’d bet his telekinetic ability drove him crazy before he got control of it. She grinned, knowing just how he must’ve felt. Being this different took a lot of getting used to. Creeping through the living room, she opened a side door and clicked on the switch nearby. The garage flooded with light. She blinked twice adjusting to it. Boy, he didn’t even have any burnt out florescent lights in here. Talk about anal. She walked in carefully, as if the place was going to explode at any moment. Amid the usual storage junk, was a black BMW motorcycle. It looked perfect, barely used. She moved forward and touched the handlebars. The bike sparkled. This must be the bike. Interesting he’d never sold it. She sensed someone in the doorway and looked up. Lucifer was there, buttoning his shirt, watching her. He had a pained expression on his face. “It’s beautiful,” she said. “Yes, it is.” She ran her hand down the seat. “Do you ever ride it anymore?” His eyes darkened. “No.” “Because of what happened?” He came down the two short steps and walked toward her. “Yes.” “Do you remember the accident?” He stopped next to the bike and stared at it. “Some of it.” “If this is such a horrible memory for you, why do you keep this thing?” “Because I’m going to ride it again.” Lyric smiled and jumped on the back. “Why not now?”


Midnight Becomes You The corners of his mouth curved down. “No,” he said. “I’m not ready yet.” Then he turned and walked back to the door. “Come out of here.” Lyric got off the bike and followed him into the house. Maybe he’s not as healed as he looks. “Are you ready to go?” he said, turning off the garage light. “Yeah, sure,” she said. “I’m ready.”


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Chapter 18 Before the KGB had collapsed, he’d had it all. He’d been an envied mole stationed in the United States, sending back vital government information on everything he could find. Now he was nothing. A common man, forced to hide his identity and work every day like everybody else. At least he got to stay in the U.S. That was the only bright spot in all of this. Of course, if the CIA or FBI ever got wind of him being here, he’d be picked up immediately, but his continued freedom was a testament to how good he really was. Unfortunately, his social invisibility also made him very lonely. He circled the block again and spotted her. She was a hooker for sure, with a tight short skirt and high platform shoes. She wore what Nick took to be a brown wig that framed her tired face in loose curls. He pulled up alongside her and leaned over the passenger seat. “Need a ride, honey?” She crept over, tripping over a crack in the sidewalk. She looked back and glared at it. Leaning in the car window, she leered at him. “Need a date tonight, handsome?” “Sure do,” he said, with a smile. “Get in.” She climbed into the passenger seat, struggling with her tight skirt. Settled, she looked at him again and said, “What you want?”


Midnight Becomes You He pulled away from the curb, checking his rearview mirror to make sure no cops were watching him. “A blow job, but not here.” “A blow job is thirty,” she said, fishing around in her purse for some gum. “In advance.” “That’s fine.” She relaxed a little. “So, what’s your name?” He took a side street that lead to a deserted industrial area. “Nick,” he said. “What’s yours?” “Annie.” She popped her gum. “You work around here?” “You could say that.” Annie stretched the gum out of her mouth with her tongue. “Not too far,” she complained. “I don’t like to get too far from my area.” Nick glanced at her and smiled. You won’t be getting back to your area tonight, I’m afraid. He pulled past a chain link fence and parked his car in an empty metal warehouse. Annie glanced around nervously. “The money,” she said, holding her hand out. Nick reached into his billfold and pulled out two twenties and a ten. He held them out to her and she reached for them greedily. He took both her hands in his and pulled her against him. Annie’s eyes grew wide as the energy transfer began. Then she did something Nick didn’t expect. She broke the contact and pulled out a large knife. Swinging her arm in a wide arch, she came within inches of slicing him across the left cheek. He grabbed the door handle and scrambled out of the vehicle. In his terror, he had dropped his billfold on the floor of the car. Annie lunged for it. In that instant, Nick’s mind exploded in fury. Annie let go of the billfold, letting it fall on the seat and screamed, swatting at 58

Midnight Becomes You the air to fend off an invisible enemy. She clawed at the car door and popped it open, falling out and holding her head. She got to her feet and stumbled around, her eyes rolling, white. “Get out of my head!” she screamed. “Get out of my head!” Nick rushed up behind her and placed his hands on her shoulders. He began the draw, but she exploded into violence, swinging the knife blindly all around her. In a bizarre act of frantic desperation, she plunged the knife into her stomach screaming like a madwoman. Nick stepped back and stared in shocked silence. He’d never seen a reaction like this, but then, no one had ever escaped his touch before. Annie didn’t seem to care what she was doing to herself, as long as she could escape him. She drove the knife deeper and deeper into her body, until she doubled over and coughed up blood. Stunned and terrified, Nick jumped into his sedan and raced off. He wanted to be far away when the cops found the body.


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Chapter 19 Lucifer had her reading the damn policy manual all day. Then, just past quitting time, he’d come into the conference room. “Come on,” he said. “We have some work to do.” Lyric jumped in his car and they drove in silence for ten minutes. “Where are we going?” she said, glancing out the window to watch the scenery whiz past. It was so late, even the derelicts had gone to sleep. He stared at the road ahead, unblinking. He was grim and serious, like a sleepwalker with a bad dream. “To a crime scene.” “What kind of crime scene?” she asked. Lyric knew he wouldn’t tell her, but she felt obligated to ask, to absorb the silence. A muscle moved in his cheek. He was silent for a long time and she was starting to think he wouldn’t answer her at all. She waited him out. “That’s what you’re going to tell me,” he finally said. She didn’t start the ‘I can’t’ argument. Best leave that alone for now. They took a sharp left and drove into a chain-linked compound. Up ahead, a large, rusted warehouse loomed under a black sky. Lyric ran her hands down her forearms as the hair rose on end. A few police cruisers were parked at the entrance, their lights flashing ominously. They parked by the police and made their way inside to join them. 60

Midnight Becomes You The first thing Lyric saw was blood, lots and lots of it. It covered the floor in random spots, as if someone had walked around with a bucket and ladle, dumping it out at will. Then the smell of it hit her, something like old meat. Her stomach turned and threatened to purge. Lyric turned around to steady herself. She could feel Lucifer watching her like a tiger ready to pounce. “Are you all right?” he asked. He didn’t really care about her well-being as much as he didn’t want to be embarrassed by her in front of the cops. “I’m fine,” Lyric said. Her voice sounded shaky. She turned around and took in the crime scene. Four powerful floodlights illuminated every detail of the grisly scene. The victim, a woman who looked to be somewhere in her forties, lay on her side, curled up around the multiple wounds in her ruined belly. She was about eight feet from the knife. Shit. I’m going to have to touch her. A creeping chill moved down her back. She advanced to where the body lay, taking care not to step in any of the blood. She turned to Lucifer. “What do you want me to do?” He stroked his goatee. “I want you to try.” She thought about starting an argument, but one look at his face dissuaded her. She turned and looked at one of the policemen. “Can I touch the body?” He glanced at Lucifer, and then nodded. His mouth twisted into a miserable frown. He obviously didn’t like anyone touching things at his crime scene. Lyric knelt by the woman, trying to avoid the pool of blood under the body. She took a deep breath and swallowed. Reaching out, she took the woman’s hand. It was cold and it took all of Lyric’s will not to let go and jump back. Images came to her quickly. Pictures of the woman holding her head, tortured by something inside her mind she couldn’t 61

Midnight Becomes You expel. Lyric tried to get an impression of what or who it was, but it was distorted by the woman’s panic. The woman had pulled the knife out to hold off her attacker, but when he moved inside her head, she had attacked herself in a desperate attempt to fend him off. Over and over again, the woman drove the knife into her body, staggering around the warehouse as she grew weaker from the loss of blood. Lyric willed herself out of the images and fell back into some gore behind her. She groaned and scrambled away. She got up and wiped her bloodstained hands off on her shirt. Lucifer moved up and handed her a rag. “What did you see?” She took it and hastily wiped her hands off. She glared at him. “She wasn’t murdered,” she said breathlessly. “She did this to herself.” Lucifer looked back at the cops waiting by the lights. They looked spooked. “Why?” “Someone attacked her,” she said, distracted by the blood all over her clothes. “Someone brought her here, but not for rape—I don’t know what he wanted—but whatever it was, it freaked her out. She had the knife in her purse and used it to try and kill him.” She was saying way too much, but couldn’t stop herself. “I don’t get it,” one of the cops said. He walked toward her slowly. “I’m not sure yet,” Lyric said. “I need some time to think about it.” Lucifer placed a hand on her back and escorted her outside. She leaned against the building, hating him more than ever. He’d been making her feel like a useful, but disobedient pet and it was beyond annoying. “What a fun date you are,” she quipped. 62

Midnight Becomes You He let out a low, cruel laugh. “Let’s get you home so you can get out of those clothes. Then we can work on figuring out what kind of attack this woman experienced.” “What you really mean is, so I can work on figuring this out.” He stalked toward the car and opened the passenger door for her. An evil smile curled the corners of his lips. “You’re learning, my dear Lyric. You’re definitely learning.”


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Chapter 20 The second Hank came onto the floor that morning, Lyric trailed him to his office. “I need to be transferred out,” she said, lowering herself into the chair across from his desk. He looked grim, but not surprised. He set his briefcase on the desk and squinted at her. His mouth dropped into a scowl. “Why?” “Because there’s been a mistake,” she said. She tried to remain calm. “I don’t have psychic powers.” With a loud snap, he opened his briefcase and pulled out his laptop. He placed it gently on the desk and unraveled the power cord. “What does Lucifer say about you wanting to transfer?” She glanced around the room, feeling restless. Hank had several framed corporate posters with abstract slogans. They were designed to inspire hard work, but they never meant anything to her. Lyric fixed her attention on the one titled ‘Integrity’ and chewed her lower lip. “Lucifer hasn’t said anything.” Hank shook his head and plugged in his laptop. The small power light came on. “That doesn’t sound like him. He always has something to say about everything. Let’s get him in here.” She almost jumped out of her seat. “Look, I don’t think—” Hank ignored her and pushed the intercom button on his multiline phone. “Lucifer?” he said, loud enough to be picked up by the microphone. 64

Midnight Becomes You There was a long pause. She could hear Lucifer’s anger through the phone, even though he hadn’t spoken yet. She ran her fingers along the chair’s armrest, wondering if she should run out. Lucifer is going to kill me for this. Finally, his deep voice came over the speaker. “Yes?” “Can you come into my office for a moment, please?” The phone fell silent and, a minute later, he appeared in the doorway. He stalked inside and the door closed behind him. She didn’t feel his power though, like she usually did. He must be keeping it inside. She marveled how he could do that. She wished she had that kind of control over her visions. She glanced at him and his face was dark. He wore a handsome black suit, black shirt and black tie. The outfit made him look like the Devil on a soul-collecting errand. His fury was a current just under the surface, barely hidden from view. She felt a strange sense of loss, like she might never see him again. Her stomach dropped and she felt a pang of guilt. She placed her hands in her lap trying to appear calm. Well, to hell with it. He wasn’t going to bully her into staying, no way. She sensed him looking at her, then his gaze settled on Hank. “Lyric,” he said coolly as he took the seat next to her. She gave him a sliver of a smile. “Lucifer.” Hank looked from one to the other and grinned. He pulled his chair out and sat down. “Lyric says she wants to be transferred out because she has no powers,” he said to Lucifer. “I’m aware of her feelings,” he replied. “What do you think of her abilities?” Lucifer leaned back in his chair and stroked his goatee slowly. “I think she may show promise, but I haven’t had enough time to assess her yet.” Lyric shot up out of her chair. “That’s not true! He knows I don’t have any powers. He just doesn’t want to admit it.” Lucifer looked at her. “What about the suicide?” 65

Midnight Becomes You “I guessed all that. I didn’t tell you anything a good detective couldn’t have figured out.” “I don’t believe that.” Hank stared at her. “Why wouldn’t he tell me if he thought you had no potential?” Lyric threw her hands in the air. “Because he likes to play games with people. Because he’s hoping to sleep with me first. I don’t know, take your pick.” Hank interlaced his fingers and sighed. “Lucifer, does she have the gift or doesn’t she?” Lucifer looked at her. “I think she does, but I need another week to be sure. She seems to be afraid to use it.” Lyric threw her arms in the air again and backed away from them. “Another week! What’s that going to prove?” Then, turning to Lucifer, she said, “Why don’t you just tell him the truth?” He stood up and advanced on her. “What is the truth, Lyric? I’d really like to know. Why don’t we all come clean together?” He stopped just in front of her. He was so sexy, her palms were sweating. “Okay,” she said. “You first,” he taunted seductively. “Why don’t you share the truth about yourself first?” Her heart was pounding. The visions of them together played images through her mind. She imagined what it would be like for him to take her, right now, while Hank watched. Her belly fluttered. “No,” she said. “You first.” His eyes seemed to darken. “Okay. Go ahead and ask me anything.” “You know I don’t have any power. Why do you really want to keep this facade going?” He glanced at her lips and licked his own. “Because I want to have sex with you. Isn’t that what you expected me to say?” 66

Midnight Becomes You “Is it the truth?” He smiled, revealing perfect white teeth. “It’s part of the truth.” She heard Hank shift in his chair. A rush of heat filled her cheeks. I’m so glad we could put this show on for his entertainment. “Now it’s your turn,” Lucifer said. “What was your first vision? What exactly did you see?” Her breathing was coming fast. She felt like she’d run a marathon. If she lied, Lucifer would know it. She didn’t know how she knew that, she just did. She wrapped her arms around herself and looked at Hank. He seemed to be waiting for her answer, too. She swallowed, but had little spit. “I saw us together.” Lucifer moved an inch closer. “What do you mean by together?” “I saw us in bed together, okay? I saw us having sex.” “How vivid was the image?” Lucifer asked. Lyric was surprised by his question. He didn’t seem to be surprised by what she’d said. She shrugged. “It was very vivid. Why?” “And the suicide? How vivid was that?” “A little weaker, but still clear. I didn’t get all of it, though.” Hank chuckled. “Sounds like the two of you have some things to discuss,” he said, waiving them out. “Lyric, you’re in Midnight until further notice. Any other complaints?” She was drained. All she could do was shake her head. Lucifer placed a hand on her lower back and escorted her to the door. “Come on, Lyric. Let’s go.”


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Chapter 21 Lucifer sat in the coffee shop sipping his dark roast and watching the rush hour traffic crawl by. He loved this place, even though it was usually too warm and barely clean. The carpet was intentionally multicolored with a busy design to help hide the typical restaurant stains, but even it had reached its limit. The place also attracted some pretty strange characters, so he felt at home. The seat in the plastic booth creaked as he leaned back and tried to shift his thoughts away from Lyric and the meeting, but it was impossible. She was such a puzzle to him. He never imagined that he would be attracted to someone like her, but she aroused him in ways he never thought possible. He remembered her revelation about them making love. He hoped that vision came true. His lust for her was making him crazy. He was usually pretty good at handling women, but she lacked the subtleties that he was use to. She also spoke whatever words happened to be passing through her head at any time. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. He dialed her number and she picked up on the third ring. “Hello?” He put his feet up on the opposite seat. “Are you at the office?” “Yes.” 68

Midnight Becomes You He chuckled. “Are you still mad at me?” She was silent for a moment. “Furious,” she said finally. Looking out the window, he watched an elderly couple walk by laughing. It was funny how strange couples usually looked happy on the surface. No one ever knew what went on behind closed doors. “Do you really want out?” “Are you offering to transfer me, or fire me?” she asked. Her tone was lighter. He finished his coffee and pushed the cup away. “Yes.” “Which one?” “Which one do you want?” he said. “I know this isn’t what you asked for, so I’m going to give you a choice. If you’re adamant about leaving, I can probably find you an analyst position.” “Why do you want me to stay?” “To help you learn to control and use your power, and because we need you.” A waitress came by and raised the coffeepot she was carrying. He shook his head and she passed by without missing a step. “Is that the only reason?” she whispered. She sounded as if she’d surrendered something she hadn’t intended to. He sat forward and leaned into the phone. His breath got heavier. Her question caught him off-guard and he paused. He stared out the large glass window and noticed the traffic outside was beginning to lighten. “What other reason do you need? Isn’t it enough to learn to use your power instead of hide from it? Don’t you want a job where you’re actually needed and can make a difference?” “Spare me your God, mother and country sermon. You want me to stay because you think I’m a hot piece of ass and you want to work on me. What do you think of that?” Perfect. Just what I didn’t want, a confrontation. Why I expected anything else is a mystery to me. “Look, Lyric, I’m really not 69

Midnight Becomes You interested in your bullshit. Do you want a transfer or not?” His temper was growing, as he thought of all the paperwork involved. He’d also have to give Hank an exhaustive explanation. “Can I think about it for a few days?” Now he was full-blown pissed. “No. This is not a negotiation. Are you staying or not? I need to know immediately.” “All right, I’ll stay,” she said, casually. “Don’t give me some half-assed commitment, Lyric. I don’t need my time wasted. I need your cooperation—that means total honesty from now on, even if it makes you uncomfortable. If you can’t give that to me, then get out. There’ll be fewer options if you want out later.” “I understand.” Humoring him now. “I’m not sure you do. You may not be allowed to leave later,” he said slowly and deliberately. “What are you going to do, have me killed?” She was innocent, amused. He let a cold, uncomfortable silence fill the phone line. He wasn’t sure whether or not she got it. He waited for her to speak again. When she did, her voice was calm and serious. “I’ll stay. You’ll have my total cooperation and complete honesty.” There it is. She got it. “Are you sure you want this?” “I’m sure.” He felt his tension ebb and he grinned. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then.” “Wait. Can I ask you a personal question?” “Okay.” It was easy to indulge her now that they understood each other. He kind of liked it. “Is Lucifer your real name or is it some kind of code name?” she asked. “It’s my real name.” 70

Midnight Becomes You “Why?” “My mother had issues with organized religion. She decided to use me as a living testament to her beliefs.” “Why not change it?” “Why should I? It’s my name. I like it. I don’t give a shit if it makes people uncomfortable,” he replied. She paused, then said, “Thanks for answering my questions honestly. Both of them.” “Sure. Anything else?” “No. I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said. She hung up the phone. He snapped his cell phone shut. Finally, maybe now we can make some progress with these outstanding cases.


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Chapter 22 Lyric hated the labs—sterile white rooms filled with machines of every imaginable type. Worse yet, most of them had to be placed on her head, which she hated. Lucifer sat on a round, rolling stool, checking the results of her last battery of tests. Every time he encountered a result he didn’t like, he shot her a dirty look. She decided to strike up a conversation to try and loosen him up. “That picture on your minibar of you and a lady riding a bike, was that your fiancée?” she asked. He scribbled some notes, then glanced at her. “Yes.” She got up and paced the room. “She was pretty.” He was silent for a long time. Then he said, “Thanks.” She listened to him as he flipped through the pages of a computer printout. “What was her name?” “Jill,” he said. He stopped looking at the printout and studied her. “Lyric, why don’t you have a boyfriend?” She shrugged. “Picky I guess.” “Is that the real reason? It has nothing to do with your ability to see the future?” Lyric rolled her eyes. “Of course not.” “Are you able to see your own future?” Now it was her turn to fall silent. She sat up on a desk and played with a pen. “Are we done yet?” she said, finally. “This room gives me the creeps.” 72

Midnight Becomes You He stood up and rolled his chair into a corner. When he turned around again, he was grinning. “So you know which guys are going to call you in the morning, isn’t that right? If there’s no future with him, you dump him or don’t date him at all.” “You really are a creep, you know that, Lucifer Tanner?” “Why? Do you think you’re the only one who struggles with their powers? Everyone here has been through similar stuff.” Suddenly, she felt drained. “Are we done?” “Sure, Lyric,” he said, opening the door for her. “We’re done for now.”


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Chapter 23 Nick drove around for two hours that morning before he found the right gas station. The Thrift Mart and Gas was perfect for his next experiment. It had a twenty-four hour market and was easily accessible to the highway. Better still, the morning was still dark and it was completely deserted. He could accomplish the deed and be out of here before anyone knew what had happened. He pulled up in between a set of yellow parking lines, a few spaces to the left of the glass doors. He killed the engine. Peering through the glass, he spotted only one clerk inside, standing at the cash register. She looked to be in her late teens with long brown hair, heavy black lipstick and a nose ring. She was standing at the counter flipping through a magazine, not paying much attention to her new customer outside. Everything was exactly as he had hoped. What would his colleagues at the KGB do if they could see him now? Probably be envious of his newfound abilities. He sighed, remembering the good old days when he was a prestigious undercover spy, and Moscow had hung on his every dispatch. That had been a long time ago when he was a much younger man. It had also been before the collapse. Now, he was on his own. Oh sure, he’d always been psychic. It was an invaluable asset to his profession, but he’d never been able to draw power 74

Midnight Becomes You from others like this. Now he was becoming something special. An energy vampire. Yes, that was it. Nick stepped out of the car feeling the dark energy hum inside him. Walking into the shop, he wandered the aisles for a moment to make sure that there was no one else around. Certain there wasn’t, he walked back up to the counter and waited for the girl to acknowledge him. “Yeah?” she said, not looking up. “I need the key to the restroom,” he replied. He held his power in check as it tried to reach out to her. Not yet, he cautioned himself. We can’t risk being caught. The girl reached under the counter and placed a long wooden stick on top of the glass over the scratch-off lottery tickets. A small brown key attached to the bottom clacked as it was dragged across the counter. The stick had the word ‘Bathroom’ sloppily written on it in black marker. He took the key and made his way to the unisex toilet located by the back room. Fortunately for his plan, the bathroom required a key. He chuckled that he knew that. Given the neighborhood he chose, he would have been surprised if it hadn’t. He stepped inside and frowned at the strong stench of urine coming from the toilet. He waited a moment, and then poked his head out to call to the girl. “Excuse me,” he said loudly, “but I think there’s something wrong with the toilet. There’s water spilling out all over the place.” The girl grumbled and marched around the counter toward the bathroom. He waited, keeping the door closed just enough that she couldn’t see his lie until she was in grabbing distance. When she reached the door, he opened it wide and swiftly grabbed her upper arm, pulling her inside. With his back, he pushed the door closed until the automatic lock clicked. 75

Midnight Becomes You She looked at the toilet and, realizing his deception, fought his grip on her arm. “Let me go, you bastard!” Nick released his power, letting it spill out of him like dirty water. It flowed into her. He watched her eyes widen and a strong shiver shake her body, but once she was under his influence, she was powerless to escape. Soon, her fresh, youthful energy flowed into him like a mountain river. It soothed and quenched him, letting his mind relax and enjoy the sensation. To increase his pleasure he pulled her into an embrace, reveling in the scent of her skin and hair. Warm pleasure surged through every part of his being. As the flow of energy slowed, he felt her begin to relax. Her body, a moment ago strong and full of life, was melting in his arms, slacking with the energy he took from it. As the weakness overtook her, she collapsed and he let her sink to the grimy floor. A moment later, she lay at his feet, a bluish tinge forming on her lips and around her fingernail beds. He dropped the bathroom key on her chest and opened the door. Watching, he flipped off the light switch and darkness covered his crime. He turned to leave, but he sensed something. A presence was there. Someone was watching his activity with stern disapproval. The market was still deserted, as was the parking lot. This was a different presence, not a physical one. Reaching out with his thoughts, he found her and recognized her as the woman he met a few days ago on that rainy road. It was the tire jack woman. How interesting that she had such a strong bridge to him. Could that innocent jack be their connection? He smiled. It just might be. Did she seek him out or just happen upon him in her thoughts? He chided himself. He was not usually that vain, but the thought of her trying to find him was intriguing. In reality, 76

Midnight Becomes You she was probably just as unnerved by this sharing as he was. What an incredible amount of raw power he felt from her. He’d have to find and meet her. Perhaps they could explore their shared powers together. With a woman like that helping, nothing could stop him.


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Chapter 24 The white tile was cool and soothing against Lyric’s cheek as she lay on the stall floor of the executive washroom. She silently prayed Lucifer wasn’t looking for her. She really didn’t want to deal with him right now, his power would only play off hers and make her feel worse. She tried to concentrate on breathing, but the nausea kept distracting her, threatening to empty the contents of her stomach with every wave that washed over her. She thought about trying to stand, but quickly dismissed the notion. She was much too sick for that. Gripping the edge of the toilet, Lyric attempted to pull herself into a kneeling position when her surroundings began to change. The glare of the pale tiles dissipated and the grungy form of a convenience store parking lot began to take shape. The smell of trash and urine clung in the air. She heard her feet crunching on the broken asphalt as they carried her forward. Before she truly grasped what was happening, she was standing at a vacant gas pump next to that all too familiar teal sedan. A gentle glow of sunlight touched the highest treetops. Dawn. Having no reference for direction, she looked around trying to get her bearings. Her mind blinked and she was now inside the store watching the cashier meander toward the public restroom. Looking toward the restroom, she heard the familiar voice of the sedan’s owner luring the cashier to him. He was complaining that there was water all over the floor. She knew that was a lie. 78

Midnight Becomes You She wanted to shout, to warn the clerk not to go, but no sound came from her mouth. A slimy film covered her exposed skin as she followed the doomed girl. Everything was gray and blurry, as if they were living all this underwater. As the girl reached the doorway, she was suddenly pulled into the bathroom and the door closed behind her. Lyric willed herself inside. The man with the sedan had pulled the girl into a tight embrace. Lyric thought at first his plan was to rape her, then she noticed something else. A soft blue glow seemed to be passing between the girl and the man. No, that wasn’t right. Not between them, but from the girl to the man. The blue glow was definitely moving toward the man in the subtlest of waves. The man’s concentration was intense as he pulled life from the helpless girl and drew it into himself. She could feel the girl weakening. The girl became quiet, resigned. She seemed to accept her fate. It was a sharp contrast to the man, who rapidly became stronger and more vibrant with every passing moment. Lyric had never seen anything like this. She hadn’t even known it was possible. But she knew what she was witnessing. Lyric reached out to stop him, but her hand passed right through him. This must be the recent past. I have to find this place. I have to help this girl. I have to see if she’s still alive. Forcing her mind to focus, Lyric pulled herself from the vision. A sickening wave passed over her and she lost the contents of her stomach into the porcelain bowl. This is new. I’ve never gotten sick from my visions before. Why now? Of course, they had never offered as much clarity as this. Fucking Lucifer, this is all his fault. It took several minutes for the sickness and the shock to pass. While she waited for the strength to get up, she tried to remember where she’d seen that gas station before. She had a map in her car; she might be able to get a feel for the location 79

Midnight Becomes You from that. It was close, which was the only thing she was sure about. I know I’ve passed it in my travels. Finally feeling better, she eased up off the floor, testing the strength of her legs. She should go and get Lucifer, but she was afraid it would take too long. Besides, who knew how bad the girl was hurt? She couldn’t waste any time. No, she’d go alone and hopefully, she wouldn’t be too late.


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Chapter 25 When Lyric arrived at the gas station, it was already swarming with cops. She pulled her car over and parked on the street directly across from the scene. Everything was blocked off with yellow crime scene tape. As she watched, the clerk was wheeled out, unconscious, to a waiting ambulance. Lyric was amazed the girl wasn’t dead. She double-checked her senses and came away sure. No, not dead, but not in good shape, either. Just as she was getting ready to drive off, she spotted a burly black cop crossing the street and approaching her vehicle. She scowled and rolled down her window to wait for him. He walked up and leaned into her window. She could see a distorted reflection of herself in his mirrored sunglasses. He smelled mildly of aftershave. It was a clean, soapy scent and somehow comforting. He glanced around her vehicle in that suspicious cop way. “You with the press?” he asked. “No,” she said. “I’m with—” Before she could finish, a sleek black Cadillac Eldorado pulled up behind her. The cop straightened up and studied the new vehicle, keeping a hand on his weapon. Lyric spotted Lucifer behind the driver’s seat. She groaned inwardly. He’s going to kill me for not telling him about this. Lucifer stepped out and met the cop by the rear of her car. She watched them in her rearview mirror. They talked for a few moments, then Lucifer flashed the cop his ID. That seemed to 81

Midnight Becomes You diffuse the policeman’s suspicion, and he walked off. Lyric watched Lucifer approach the passenger side door and her stomach dropped. He tried the door and the handle snapped back with the twang of a locked car door. When she didn’t move to unlock it, he planted two slow deliberate knocks on the passenger window. She thumped her head on the steering wheel and pushed the button, unlocking all of the doors. He opened the door and slipped into the passenger’s seat. He settled into the seat without looking at her. A few crows flew overhead heading east. “What are you doing here?” he said, without taking his eyes off the crime scene in front of them. Lyric frowned and thought about lying. What was the use? He’d see right through her, as usual. “I saw it,” she said simply. “I was hoping I could get here in time to help her. I guess I was wrong.” He ran his hands down his pant legs as if his palms itched. “That’s because you have no control yet.” He was silent again for a few minutes. She half expected him to explode into a yelling fit. “You know what the proper procedures are. Why didn’t you come and get me before you came out here by yourself?” She really had no answer for him. “I don’t know. I thought it would take too long.” His features darkened like an approaching storm. He placed his hand on the door handle. “You’re fired.” Lyric’s heart became a block of ice in her chest. She couldn’t believe he’d fire her over this. Trying to stop him from leaving, she reached out and grabbed his arm. His power surged through her like an electric shock. Her mouth fell open and a soft moan escaped her lips from the sudden euphoria. The identity of the criminal came on her in a quick vision. The woman in the warehouse stabbing herself in the chest and belly to escape…to escape a man inside her head…a man with psychic power and a sedan…the man with her jack, the Russian. 82

Midnight Becomes You Lucifer reached over and plucked her hand off him. He sucked in a deep breath and doubled over in the seat. He looked like he’d been struck in the chest. Lyric took a moment to clear her head. She felt exhilarated. A gentle lust warmed her sex. A random fantasy of them coupling in the back of the car raced across her mind. The car was steamy and hot, and the hunger was so… She shook her head and forced herself to focus. “Are you all right?” she asked, trying to steady her breathing. He nodded and slowly leaned back in his seat. She felt a little giddy, but held it back. “What was that?” “Never mind,” he snapped. “Why did you touch me? What did you want?” Lyric twisted in her seat so she could see him better. “I don’t want to be fired.” She paused and watched him. When he said nothing, she continued, “Listen, I know I’ve been hard to work with, but all this stuff has been difficult for me to accept. Besides I can’t believe you’d spend all this effort trying to get me to stay, and then can me at my first screw up.” He sat motionless, staring out at the cops as they began departing the gas station. A slow fire began inside her belly. It was the most raw, carnal desire she’d ever felt, and it wanted to touch and kiss him more than anything else in the world. “Please don’t fire me,” she whispered. “I promise I’ll tell you everything from now on.” He turned and looked directly at her for the first time since he’d come into the car. The look in his eyes was raw sexual heat, and it awoke something primal and savage inside her. His gray eyes seemed to draw her in and swallow her whole and she loved it. He could have asked her for anything and she would have done it for him. Anything. He leaned forward and kissed her. The kiss was teased, taunting and light. It left her feeling needy and desperate for 83

Midnight Becomes You more. His tongue touched her lips and she sighed, then he broke it off. He grinned. “I think you’re teasing me.” A knock sounded on the glass, startling them. Lucifer rolled his window down and the black cop handed him a piece of paper. “Here’s the hospital the victim’s been taken to. I don’t think she’ll be much help to you, the doc says she’s in a very deep coma,” the cop said. Lucifer nodded and took the paper, placing it in his breast pocket. The cop walked off and he rolled up the window again. He licked his lips and looked at her. “We need to get back to the lab and work on your vision of this attacker.” She nodded, trying to ignore the sexual hunger inside her. “Aren’t we going to the hospital, too?” Lucifer reached for the door handle. “Why, are we going to watch her sleep?” “I thought maybe we could go and see if she’s going to be okay. But obviously, you don’t give a shit.” “You know what? You’re right. I don’t give a shit, because it’s already happened. However, I do give a shit about keeping this from happening again. Why don’t you concern yourself with finding her attacker, instead of wasting time hanging around the hospital? Then maybe we can stop this dangerous psychic criminal.” Lucifer opened the car door and climbed out. Lyric leaned across the center console and looked up at him. Maybe she wasn’t fired after all. “By the way, how did you know I was here?” “I didn’t,” he said. “A cop tipped me off to the crime. And, surprise, I found you here when I pulled up.” “Oh, I thought you had some psychic out looking for me.” He gave her a cool look. He didn’t think she was funny. “I expect to see you back at the lab when I get there. No more crap, Lyric.” 84

Midnight Becomes You She grinned. “I guess this means I’m not fired.” He squinted toward his Cadillac. “That all depends on how hard you work tonight.” “I can work pretty hard if properly motivated,” she said, grinning. Lucifer stared in at her. His gaze was all sin and fire. An illicit grin curved his lips. “You better be careful. I might take you up on that.”


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Chapter 26 The room was small and dark. An oval table sat in the center surrounded by five chairs. A lacy, electric blue tablecloth covered it. Tiny decorative beads shimmered under the light of a silver candelabrum that rested at the center of the table. The room smelled faintly of antique furniture, dust and old wood. As they moved across the wood floor, each board creaked as if to protest their presence. Lucifer could feel Lyric close to him, her tension bubbling just under the surface like a natural spring. He wanted her to touch him, to feel her body against his, but resisted the urge to stop and let her bump into him. The medium, Dana Red Horse, gestured at the seats. “You may sit anywhere you wish,” she said. Lyric approached the table, her long lashes concealing her eyes. He knew she was unhappy, though. He could read the stiff set of her shoulders and the slight crease in the side of her mouth. She touched one of the side chairs as if to pull it out. He moved the chair out for her telekinetically. Lyric jumped back as if the chair was a venomous snake. A moment later, she shot him a look. “I don’t need you help, thanks,” she said. He grinned and winked. “I was just trying to be a gentleman.” The medium looked curiously from one to the other. “What interesting power you have, Mister Tanner. How did you acquire it, from birth?” 86

Midnight Becomes You “No,” Lucifer said, pulling the chair out next to Lyric manually. “I got it after a motorcycle accident.” Dana Red Horse sat down and glanced over her shoulder. Ned, a tall sinister-looking assistant, came lumbering up behind her. “Mistress?” “Ned, could you please pull the curtains. Our guests are eager to get started.” Ned pulled all the curtains closed and resumed his spot by the door. Dana pulled a worn notepad closer to her, and placed a black pen on a blank, lined page. She looked over at Lucifer and smiled. Instead of lightening her appearance, it made her look more sinister. “Being a member of Midnight, Mister Tanner, I assume you know the rules. But for the new attendees, I’m compelled to go over them anyway.” Lucifer glanced at Lyric who was busy chewing on a fingernail. She gave him a guilty look and took her finger out of her mouth. “I understand,” he said. “We are here today to summon the spirit of Mark Lee Coulter. Mister Coulter was electrocuted at Sing Sing Prison last week for the murder of at least twenty people. The police have requested this séance to determine if the two young bodies discovered at Mister Coulter’s last residence are in fact his own children. Mister Tanner, I assume you will be asking the questions?” Lucifer could feel Lyric’s gaze on him. “Yes,” he said. “That’s correct.” Dana Red Horse worked her mouth soundlessly for a moment. “Very good. Then I will ask that no one break the circle for any reason once the summoning has begun. Are we all agreed?” Lucifer and Lyric nodded. 87

Midnight Becomes You The medium closed her eyes and held her hand out for Lucifer’s. He placed it in hers and took Lyric’s hand. It was warm and a surge of her power drifted into him. He tried to concentrate and ignore it. The medium immediately showed signs of contact. The candles flickered without a breeze in the room. Lucifer was pleased. He’d heard from others in Midnight that she was a talented psychic. He hoped she could solve this case for them. A faint scent of burning flesh filled the room. It stuck in the back of his throat like tar. He glanced at Lyric to see if she was okay. Her brow was furrowed, but she seemed to be breathing well. He certainly didn’t want the spirit of Coulter going into an inexperienced psychic like Lyric. She’d have few defenses against his mental attacks. The temperature in the room dropped to a chilly thirty degrees and Lucifer shuddered. The medium’s breath was coming in great slow puffs of white steam. Her tongue lolled out like a snake, and her eyes rolled up white in her head. Suddenly, she spoke. Her voice was grainy and harsh. “Who are you, spirit?” “I am Coulter,” a voice growled from the medium’s throat. “You may use my body if you would like to speak with us,” the medium said. Her head fell forward onto the table. It made a disturbing thump when it hit. Lucifer felt Lyric try to break her hold on his hand and get up. He gave her a harsh look and shook his head. She glared at him, but settled again. She leaned in close to him. “I think I know who attacked the suicide woman,” she whispered. “We’ll discuss it in a minute. Don’t break the circle,” he said. Then he turned his attention back to the psychic. 88

Midnight Becomes You Lucifer decided to test the spirit to ensure it was truly Coulter. “How many victims did you kill?” The medium rolled her head from side to side. “Twentyone.” Lucifer frowned. “You can’t be Coulter. That’s too many.” The medium let out a harsh, evil laugh. “Not if you count the kids.” Lucifer nodded. “I’ve heard enough.” Suddenly, the medium fell out of her chair. Ned rushed over to help her up. Lucifer poured her a glass of water from a nearby pitcher. The medium sipped it. Her gaze drifted over to Lyric. Lucifer heard the sound of a pen scratching on paper. Lyric was in a trace. She stared straight ahead, writing on the tablet. She wrote one thing over and over again. She wrote the name Nick.


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Chapter 27 Lucifer pulled up at his father’s house late that evening. He knew his father was up. Robert “Bob” Tanner rarely went to bed before midnight. The truth was he’d been avoiding his old man for no other reason than smoking. His dad smoked and Lucifer was trying to quit. He glanced at the glove compartment and it opened. A pack of Marlboro Lights flew into his hand. It was a peace offering for the shaming he’d get. He came up to the front door and tried it with his power. It opened freely. Damn it, how many times had he told his father to lock the front door? “Dad?” he called out as he came in. The TV droned on to itself in the living room. Bob was seated in a plush red recliner, a standing ashtray to his right. He wore a clean white t-shirt and loose-fitting blue pants. His thinning brown hair was combed over to hide his bald spot. He glanced at his son. “I called you twice,” he said. Lucifer loosened his tie. “The front door was open,” he countered. “You’d think a man’s son would return his phone calls.” “I know. I’m sorry I didn’t call you back. I’ve been pretty busy at work.” He tossed the old man the cigarettes. Bob caught them in midair. He inspected the brand, packed them, then pulled off the wrapper. He took one out and lit it, 90

Midnight Becomes You taking a deep drag. “Busy at work doing what? Spying on the Russians or chasing ass?” Lucifer took a seat on the sofa, watching his dad smoke. He avoided the conversation by changing it. “What’ve you been up to?” “This and that,” Bob said. “Been building a shed out back. Damn neighbors have been bitching about the noise. You know they called the cops on me?” He picked up the remote and put the TV on mute. “Nice looking shed, though. I’ll show it to you when I’m done.” Lucifer nodded. The tobacco smell was driving him crazy. “Can I have a smoke, Dad?” Bob squinted at him. His gray eyes seemed to glow in the dark. “I thought you quit.” “I cut back,” Lucifer lied. Bob seemed to consider this. “Cut back some more.” Lucifer grunted and decided to let it go. He stared at the TV, annoyed. “Meet anyone?” Bob asked. He crushed the cigarette out in the ashtray. He’d only smoked half. Lucifer leaned back and interlaced his fingers behind his head. “Sort of.” “What does that mean?” “She’s a woman from work. Sometimes I like her a lot and other times I want to kill her with my bare hands.” Bob chuckled. “Your mother was like that. What a woman she was.” “When did you know she was the one for you?” “I never knew till the day she died. That’s just a bunch of romantic nonsense, boy. The only thing that really matters is how she makes you feel.” Lucifer leaned forward and rubbed the bridge of his nose. Long days, long nights. Tomorrow would be another grueling 91

Midnight Becomes You day. “I’m not sure how she makes me feel. Usually it’s all over the place at the same time.” Bob stared at the TV and took it off mute. The news theme filled the silence. “If she leaves you that confused, you’re probably in love with her, son.”


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Chapter 28 Lyric sat in a white lounge chair in the meditation room, fighting for control of her gift. Lucifer watched her breasts push against her peach sweater with every heaving breath she took. Her aura was everywhere, stroking his skin and titillating his painfully erect cock. A light film of sweat glowed on her brow. Her closed eyelids fluttered occasionally, as if in sleep. She wasn’t asleep though—no, far from it. She was riding the visions, trying to make sense of them, trying to gather information from them. Unfortunately, the gift, so long denied, was wild and resisted all her efforts at control. He paced the room like a caged lion, guiding her as best he could with occasional verbal instruction. He struggled hard not to get too close to her. His lust was growing by the hour, tempting him to touch her with his hands, his mouth, his power. His hunger was more demanding than anything he’d ever experienced. He’d thought the accident had changed him in a subtle way, made him more docile, but this new development was proving to be the opposite. She sighed and shifted in the seat, her legs parted slightly as her body relaxed. Her eyebrows knitted, then smoothed again. He peeled his suit jacket off and hung it on the back of a metal folding chair. He needed to go home before things got out of hand. “Lyric,” he said, loud enough for her to hear him. “Yes?” she whispered. 93

Midnight Becomes You He couldn’t take his eyes off her lips. “We need to call it a night. It’s late and we’re both tired. We can try again tomorrow.” He hated leaving without answers, but she was spent. She opened her green eyes and fixed them on him. They reminded him of emeralds and cut right through his soul like invisible glass. “I’m so close,” she said. “I think I’m getting the hang of it. Please, just a little longer.” His throat was dry and his cock was throbbing. Everything was starting to annoy him. He wanted to tell her ‘no’ and mean it, but he found himself unable to speak. “Touch me,” she said. “What?” he asked. The room felt like it was getting hotter. He loosened his tie and rolled up his sleeves. She shifted in the chair, moving one leg up to cross the other. “Well,” she said, “it seemed to enhance the vision when we made contact. Why don’t we try it that way?” The relentless desire that had been badgering him flared up. He stood and moved toward her, completely possessed by his lust. “Where do you want me to touch you?” Lyric threw her hands up in surrender. When she spoke, her voice held a slight nervous tremble. “I don’t know, anywhere you feel comfortable.” He moved behind her, trying to keep his breath steady. He placed his hands on her shoulders. The effect was like a car accident—sudden and immediate. His power flowed out of him and into her. Waves of intense pleasure pulsed through his body as his power mingled with hers. He heard a hearty moan escape her, and felt her drop her defenses, allowing him into her mind. Reaching out with trembling hands, she grabbed a nearby pen and began writing on a pad without opening her eyes. He was only vaguely aware of her writing, the pen scratching across 94

Midnight Becomes You the paper in a frenzy of activity. When he glanced down, they were scribbles mostly, nothing he could clearly make out. Touching her made his hands take on a life of their own. They roamed down the front of her sweater, running brazenly over the generous mounds of her breasts. He gently kneaded and squeezed them, fully expecting her to slap his hands off in protest. Instead, she dropped the pen, placed her hands over his, and encouraged him to rub harder. His fingers found her erect nipples through her sweater. He twisted and rolled them, as they grew harder. His hunger savaged him, filling his cock with tight, pounding heat. All he could think of was pushing his lust deep inside her and riding her until she screamed out in orgasm. Backing up, he let his power loose and it flowed into the room like thick fog. It caused everything it touched to tremble like a small earthquake. His power moved around her withering body. It lifted her off the chair and laid her on the floor. He knelt down over her and kissed the warm, flushed skin of her neck. Nuzzling up to her ear he said, “Do you want this? Do you want me to fuck you?” She pushed her body up against his chest, panting. “Yes,” she said in a heated whisper. “Oh, yes…yes.” He pushed her sweater up with luscious strokes and savored her. She pulled the sweater off and unhooked her bra, letting her beautiful breasts free. He pulled one into his mouth, sucking and licking it. Lyric smiled and cradled his head. He moved on to the other, gently kneading and nibbling on the nipple. Delirious with hunger, she reached up and clawed at his shirt, desperate to strip it off him. He leaned back and helped her, unbuttoning his shirt faster than she could. When he’d finished stripping, she ran her hands up his chest, dragging feral kisses along his chest and belly. He unbuttoned and pulled her jeans down, tortured by the 95

Midnight Becomes You sweet, intoxicating scent of her sex. She whimpered, like a small animal caught in a trap. He pushed her legs apart and placed his hand between them. He petted her and her sex opened up to him—wet, plum and ready. She twisted and groaned. Leaning down, he took her clit into his mouth and tickled it with his lips and tongue. She gasped, spreading her legs as far apart as she could and pushing her hips up to him. He nestled his torso between her legs, teasing her pussy with his tongue, loving the hungry jumps her body made as her desire increased. “More,” she whimpered. “More please.” Opening her vaginal lips, he buried his mouth into her soft flesh. Nibbling and licking, he devoured her, relishing the smell of her arousal on his fingers and lips. He couldn’t get enough of her and he pushed his tongue deeper inside her. She moaned loudly and he smiled, despite his fear they’d be discovered. He dragged his lips and tongue up her body, savoring every inch of her when she suddenly pushed him away. He was about to ask her what was wrong when she squirmed down and seized his penis. A stunning wave of ecstasy rushed through him. She drew him into her mouth, licking the shaft and stroking the tip with her tongue. Now it was his turn to moan loudly. She laughed and sucked harder, running her tongue on the underside of his cock. The pleasure was so intense, he had to stop her before he came. He wanted to save his lust for her hot, little channel. Supporting his weight on his hands, he laid down on top of her, the hair on his chest tickling her nipples. He loved the feel of her skin against his. His tongue stroked her throat, leaving a wet trail along her flesh. She moaned, an agonizing sound, and squirmed beneath him until he thought he might orgasm just from the sound of her. 96

Midnight Becomes You He moved his fingers into her sex and couldn’t believe how hot and wet she was. He’d never felt desire like this before. He wanted her so badly it physically hurt. She looked into his eyes, and it seemed like she barely saw him. “Do me,” she said through her teeth. Her body trembled at the gentle probe of his penis. Burying his face in her neck, he seized his cock and pushed it deep inside her. Ecstasy flowed up his rod and into his balls. His power prowled the room, breaking small objects whenever it encountered them. Lyric was wild, her hips pumping up hungrily to ride his pounding cock. She moaned, then screamed, reaching around to his ass and pushing him deeper inside her. She orgasmed quickly, her pussy trembling along his penis in a frenzy of lust and joy. When she finished, her head dropped to the floor, her breath coming in harsh gasps. He took his turn at orgasm slower than hers. Pumping his cock into her with a slow, steady rhythm, he relished the scent and the feel of her. He opened himself up and allowed her power to come inside him, to explore him. He knew there’d be a million questions he’d have to answer after they were done. Then the heady rush came. It came hard and fast in the wake of her second noisy orgasm, a flood of pleasure so pure and intense he almost passed out from its power. It took him in waves of pleasure he never could have imagined before. For those few, intense moments, he was its slave and he crumpled before it, beaten and helpless for the first time since he’d taken on the power. And that simple act of surrender felt unbelievably good.


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Chapter 29 Lyric bit into her sub and watched the wind toss the waves carelessly onto the beach. The sky overhead was dark and threatening, giving the afternoon the appearance of night. The Cadillac filled with the smell of her Italian sub, and she wondered if Lucifer was annoyed by it. She took the last bite and crumpled the wrapper, stuffing it back into the bag. Glancing up, she studied Lucifer seated in the driver’s seat next to her. A blistering surge of desire filled her, taking her breath away. She resisted the urge to slide across the seat into his lap and have him again. He was looking uptight and lost in thought, and she wasn’t in the mood for rejection. The sex they’d had the other night was the most exciting and emotionally charged encounter she’d ever had. Later, he’d explained it was the power in them joining, merging and mingling together that made the sex so intense. Whatever the reason, it had changed her, stunned her, and left her wanting much, much more. She took a deep breath and let it out through pursed lips. “So what kind of training assignment do you have for me today?” He looked at her, his eyes the same gray-blue as the ocean before them. He stroked his goatee thoughtfully, then pointed to a pier off to their left. It was a local hangout and housed an assortment of rides, games and fortunetellers. Lyric stared at the pier trying to understand what he meant. “I don’t get it,” she said. 98

Midnight Becomes You He popped the door open. “You will.” He stepped out of the car. She pushed her door open, and had just swung her legs out when he barked, “Trash!” “What?” He pointed at the empty sub bag. “Don’t leave your garbage in my car.” Lyric stared at him, then rolled her eyes. She jumped out with the bag clutched in her fist and fell into step beside him. The wind kicked up, sending a chill up her back. She pulled her jacket tighter around her. “How did you get your power?” He was quiet for a few minutes, then said, “It was the motorcycle accident. I had a head injury and was in a coma for two weeks. When I woke up, I was…different.” Lyric digested this information. She knew he’d been in a motorcycle accident, but not that it had been the source of his power. She’d just assumed he’d been born with it like she had. “How long ago was the accident?” He climbed some weathered wooden stairs leading up to the pier. “About five years ago.” She glanced up at the darkening sky and threw her bag in the trash can nearby. The air was moist and smelled like rain. If there was ever a day perfect for the end of the world, this would be it. “How did you end up working for the Midnight Underground?” He reached the top of the pier and stopped, waiting for her to catch up. There were more people around than she thought there’d be on a weekday. “Someone at the hospital contacted them when they saw me using my gift.” She smiled and shook her head. “I’ll bet that demonstration shook people up.” 99

Midnight Becomes You He leaned against the railing and grinned. “It sure did. Shook me up, too.” Lyric studied the hard line of his jaw. She liked the way he made her feel when he was like this, warm and friendly. She wanted to taste his lips, feel his hands on her. She leaned forward to kiss him but he stopped her with an index finger to her lips. “Don’t,” he said. “Once we start, we won’t be able to stop and I need you to train right now.” She frowned. Surely, they must have time for a quickie? Instead of complaining, she followed him as he walked off toward some of the shops. He stopped in front of a bright blue shop with stars painted on the side. The handpainted sign said, ‘Madam Clover’s Futures’. He has got to be kidding. A loud happy beep emitted from the door sensor as they passed through it. The perky noise was a sharp contrast to the inside of the shop, which was gloomy and reeked of dragon’s blood incense. As they entered, Lyric noticed two people sitting on a yellow crushed velvet sofa. To the right was a solid red door with a painted ‘occupied’ sign hung slightly askew. One of the customers waiting was a woman with large, frightened eyes and an expensive designer purse. Next to her sat a thin, middle-aged man who kept licking his lips nervously. Neither of the two seemed to know each other. The rest of the shop was a mixture of occult paraphernalia: tarot cards; special charms, and rows upon rows of witchcraft and astrology books. Lyric grinned and shook her head. What a collection of crap. A moment later, a woman emerged from the red door. She was tall, probably around six feet and had bleached blonde hair with dark brown roots. She wore a colorful tie-dyed t-shirt and blue jeans. She smiled when she saw Lucifer and extended her hand to shake his. 100

Midnight Becomes You “Beth,” he said warmly. “You get better looking every time I see you.” Beth threw her head back in a bawdy laugh. “You’re a liar, but I love you.” Lucifer turned to Lyric. “I’d like you to meet a new trainee, Lyric,” he said. The woman peered at Lyric. “You must have some impressive talent for him to bring you here.” Lyric shook the woman’s hand, not sure exactly what to say. She settled for a vague shrug. “I need you to go away for an hour, Beth,” Lucifer said, pulling a roll of bills from his hip pocket. He leafed off a few twenties and handed them to the woman. She nodded, as if she’d been expecting the payment and wordlessly walked out the door. Lyric felt an uneasy fear creeping up her neck. “What’s going on?” “You’re going to play the fortune teller for an hour. And your first clients,” he said, gesturing to the two people seated by the door, “are waiting.”


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Chapter 30 Lyric couldn’t believe what he was asking. Could he be serious? What if I have to tell them something horrible? “Are you nuts? I don’t know how to tell fortunes. I don’t know what to say to these people.” Lyric had spent her entire life trying not to acknowledge her gift. She’d been lucky enough to have been popular in school. She’d played on the girl’s baseball team, had sleepovers and lots of friends, until the gift had ruined all that. One day, while sitting with some friends, she accidentally touched her friend, Heather, on the wrist at lunch while reaching for a napkin, and saw in her friend the specter of death. The images of sickness bombarded her for several minutes after she broke contact. Within a month, Heather lay in a hospital room, her long copper-red hair all but fallen out, leaving her scalp pale and bare. Machines beeped and displayed vital signs all around the girl. Her parents off in a corner of the room, talking in tense, frightened voices. Lyric knew, just knew, that the disease was already at work in her friend’s thin body. Lyric pulled herself from the horror of that memory. She looked up into Lucifer’s gray eyes. They reminded her of the color of a shark’s skin. “No,” she said, shaking her head. “I can’t do this.” He took her by the arm and led her outside where the customers couldn’t hear them. “You can and you will.” 102

Midnight Becomes You The panic rose in her chest, her throat felt tight. She lowered her voice to a harsh whisper. “Please don’t make me do this. I don’t want to have to tell these people something terrible. I want to help people, not hurt them.” “You don’t create their future, Lyric,” he said. “You just foresee it. They are here because they want the truth about what their future holds and you’re going to give it to them.” Lyric studied the man and woman through the window. She rubbed the back of her neck. She wanted to scream and run away. She knew he was right; she didn’t create their future, only saw it. She had to face her power and learn how to use it, or else look for another job. Lucifer folded his arms and frowned. “You need to test yourself and go beyond your safe zone. Now, get in there and stop whining.” She glared at him and went back inside. She walked over to the red door. It stood open, revealing a small blue room inside. The only furnishing was one round table and two chairs. She turned and looked at the man waiting. “Next,” she announced, nervously. The man stood up and walked into the room. His shoulders were hunched forward as if a great weight were strapped to his back. She pulled the door closed and took a seat across from him at the wooden table. It bore the scars of years of abuse. Not unlike some of the people who came in here. Thankfully, the smell of the incense was now hiding the scent of old perfume and candle wax. As he sat, Lyric felt the sensation of nervous sweat clinging to the man. She looked into his eyes. They were cold and desperate like a death row inmate’s. God, I don’t want to touch him. I don’t want all his pain inside me. Swallowing, she reached out and took his hands in hers. She opened her mind to him. 103

Midnight Becomes You The room seemed to swim with heat. “What do you want to know?” she asked. Even before the words left her mouth, the visions were coming. They flowed into her like an electric current, hurting and shocking her all at once. She resisted the urge to let go of the man’s hands. She saw the man with a woman much younger than himself. She was dark-haired, with a vulnerable, haunted expression that made her appear even younger. Flashes of their daily lives came and went and Lyric let them come freely. Then there was a scene of the woman with another man. He was handsome in a classic sort of way, around the woman’s age and Lyric knew, without seeing, that he worked as a firefighter. Here we go. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I see a young woman with dark hair and a sad expression. Is that your wife?” “Yes,” the man said. She stiffened. “What is your question?” The man shifted in his seat. His palms grew damp. “Is there someone else?” “There is,” Lyric said. She opened her eyes and watched his mouth draw into a grim line. Something dark and deadly formed in the man’s heart. Lyric felt his rage and quickly released his hands. For a moment longer, she was assaulted with images of the woman lying across a bed wrapped up in a bloody sheet. She couldn’t see her face, but knew who it was. She pushed back from the table and stood up. She didn’t want to give him time to respond. “This session is over, I’ve answered your question,” she said. As Lyric passed through the red door, the woman stood, perhaps thinking her turn had come. You’re out of luck, lady. I’m not doing any more parlor tricks today. 104

Midnight Becomes You “Is it my turn?” she asked, a worried frown twisting her mouth. Lyric felt the cancer inside the woman and a shock of sorrow pushed the edges of her mind. I can’t take this. Screw Lucifer and his crappy training. Lyric shook her head and rushed past toward the door. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to get the psychic lady. Um…just have a seat.”


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Chapter 31 Lyric burst through the shop door into a light misting rain to find Lucifer leaning against the shop, people watching. He was smoking. She rushed past him and headed for the parking lot where his Cadillac was parked. He tossed the cigarette and caught up to her, grabbing her arm. She pulled away with an angry twist. Fear and pain churned inside her, making her eyes sting. Don’t cry in front of him; he’ll only mock you for it. Her stomach knotted and for a moment, she thought she might be sick. She took a moment to collect herself. “What?” she snapped. “You couldn’t be done already?” She glanced off toward the ocean. A few seagulls, their wings extended, floated on the wind squabbling with each other over scraps. “He’s going to kill her,” she said. “What are you talking about?” “The man I just read, he’s going to kill his wife because she’s screwing around.” “Relax, it’ll be taken care of,” Lucifer said in hushed tone. “Just like that, like it’s no big deal.” “Do you think you’re the first trainee who’s come here and seen something frightening?” he said. “We are equipped for these things and it will be dealt with. Now get back in there and finish.” “I can’t do the woman,” she said. “She’s too sick. I’m not the one who should tell her she’s going to die.” 106

Midnight Becomes You “You should go back and try.” A hot rage filled her. “You go back and try! Don’t you have any feelings at all? Don’t you give a shit what this does to me?” “Of course I do. I just don’t let it interfere with my job, and neither should you. She came to you for the truth, Lyric, and you need to give it to her. I’m sure you won’t be telling her anything she didn’t already suspect. People don’t go to fortune tellers for out of the blue information. They go to confirm what they already know. The man knew his wife was cheating on him. This just happens to be a cheaper route than hiring a PI to follow her.” The rain began to lift and a few rays of sunshine peeked out from the clouds. “Well, I’m not like you. I can’t just put aside my feelings and tell someone something that’s going to devastate them.” “If you can’t perform a simple reading like this, how are you ever going to learn to cope with our dangerous psychic vampire?” he said, his eyes growing darker and more menacing. “You’ve got some psychic powers; you find him,” she said, turning to walk away from him. His power came over her in a sudden rush. It enveloped her, penetrating every cell in her body. Lyric gasped as it consumed her with its fiery touch. With invisible hands, it turned her back around to face him. Pulling her into his arms, he kissed her. His tongue slipped past the threshold of her lips and found hers, caressing it. Lyric swooned in his arms, completely swept up in the intoxicating force of his power. It squeezed her, absorbed her, and filled her with a desperate sexual longing. Her anger dropped away, leaving only savage desire in its wake. His sexuality was black magic, swirling a spell of need into every aching part of her. Take me, take me, please. 107

Midnight Becomes You He broke the kiss and took her hand. He led her down the stairs they’d climbed from the parking lot and under the pier. She followed him obediently, her heart pounding in her chest so hard it hurt. She wanted him so badly, nothing else mattered. Small waves crashed against the weathered pillars, sending sea foam spraying into the air. Everything smelled like saltwater. He pushed her against a pillar, his body pressed hard against hers, his hands roaming under her shirt, finding her breasts. His touch sent shockwaves of pleasure through her, and a tiny moan escaped her lips. She squirmed with excitement. His hands moved over her skin slowly, easily touching and savoring her. Lyric kissed him with feverish intensity, devouring his mouth and drawing in his power. The energy that came from him was physical; it moved around her and penetrated her in the most fantastic ways. Somewhere inside her, she knew she should stop this, but her body refused every attempt to gain control. She was a virtual slave to her swirling emotions. He was like a cool drink of water after a long journey through the desert, and she couldn’t stop herself from drinking him in. His hot mouth and hands were delighting her, touching, biting, pinching, exploring. His goatee tickled the flesh of her throat, intensifying his kisses and sending her lust to a fever pitch. Without any clear thought in her head, she tired to unbutton her jeans. She didn’t care who might be watching them. She couldn’t have cared less. He placed his hands over hers and stopped her. “No, baby,” he said, his voice thick with desire. “Not here.” He took her face in his hands and kissed her hard. She groaned into his kiss to show her disappointment, and he broke the kiss to smile. He pushed his erection into her, pinning her against the wood pillar. Her hands turned to claws, digging into the 108

Midnight Becomes You muscular meat of his shoulders. His mouth teased hers in a slow, steady rhythm, gently biting her lips, filling her with unspeakable pleasure. She turned her head from his kiss to gulp a few mouthfuls of air. His scent filled her senses, making her body quiver with tension. His power over her was a symphony of delight. She closed her mind, allowing herself to become lost in it, controlled by it. His voice rumbled in her ear as he softly swore about nothing in particular. Dirty talk. I love it. She couldn’t believe how good his power felt all over her. Then he broke the embrace and took a step back. He straightened his suit and tie, casting a nervous glance around to make sure no one had seen them. It looked like no one had. She pulled down her shirt and straightened her clothes. Her heart was pounding. Suddenly, she was embarrassed at her passion and avoided looking at him. A strange and haunting loneliness circled around her like a wolf. “Come on,” he said, when he’d finally finished straightening himself out. “We’ve got some work to do back at the office.” He walked off toward the car, leaving her feeling alone and chilly, with only the pounding sound of the sea to keep her company.


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Chapter 32 Nick sat in the sedan sipping his coffee and cruising along the curb until he felt her apartment. The exterior was white, clean and simple with glass exterior doors. He braked and grinned to himself, he’d finally found her. Here was the girl who’d been intruding into his head. His first victim had left him powerful, but the gas station attendant had given him far more power than he could have imagined. Draining the attendant’s life force had strengthened him, clarifying his visions like never before. He currently had the ability to sense this girl’s apartment out of blocks upon blocks of other similar apartments. That, of course, and the use of her electric jack, an unexpected personal item that helped him lock into her mind. As he got out of the car, he wondered if she remembered him from that chance meeting on a rainy highway about a month ago, or if she only remembered him from the gas station. He walked up the steps feeling energized and happy. It’d be great to have a psychic girlfriend. Finally, someone who could really understand him. He reached her door, sensed her inside, and gave a firm knock. A long moment passed, and then another. Damn it. He knew she was in there. He knocked again, louder this time. Muffled footsteps approached the door. “Who is it?” she asked. 110

Midnight Becomes You “My name is Nick,” he said pleasantly. “I came to return something of yours.” Lyric cracked the door but kept the chain on. Her red hair was playfully tousled and her green eyes looked puffy from sleep. His gaze meandered down from the light pink camisole that hugged her torso to the navy gym shorts that strangely complemented it. Her eyes were glassy with fear and he found that odd. Why would she be afraid of him? He was a nice guy. He’d never killed anyone. He hadn’t even killed the gas station attendant. Had she happened upon some of his other activities? In an effort to reassure her, he held up the jack. “See?” he said. “I thought you might want this back. You never know when you might need it.” She gave him a crooked smile but didn’t take the chain off the door. “How did you find me?” He chuckled. “I have my ways.” She studied him, then the jack. “Wow…that’s really nice of you,” she said awkwardly. The jack was somewhat cumbersome so he placed it on the floor by her door. She didn’t seem to want to take the chain off. He shrugged. “I had another reason,” he confessed. “I wanted to ask you out tonight.” Lyric swallowed and her cheeks colored. “Um…” she said. She draped her hair behind her ears. “That’s very nice of you, Nick. But I already have a boyfriend.” Nick reached out with his power and tried to read her. Is she lying? He couldn’t quite tell; she was very good at hiding things from him. He was impressed. Still, he didn’t feel the presence of a man here, but that didn’t mean anything. He decided to let it go for now. “Oh well, just thought I’d ask.” “Thanks for bringing back my jack.” 111

Midnight Becomes You He nodded, buried his hands in his pockets and walked off down the hall. I need to find out more about this boyfriend. But no matter if he’s real or not, I’m sure she won’t be seeing him long.


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Chapter 33 Lyric sat in the break room listening to the fridge click on and off. She sipped her soda and frowned at how warm it had become. I’ve got to stop brooding over that weird little guy. She didn’t even know how long she’d been sitting there analyzing Nick’s visit. Glancing down at her watch, she started. She’d been here close to two hours. Wasn’t she supposed to meet Lucifer twenty minutes ago? Man, was he going to be pissed. She pushed back from the table and spilled soda on herself. Cursing, she tossed the rest of it in the sink. She grabbed a paper towel, wet it and began to blot at her jeans. This is just perfect. I’m probably fired again. Brushing her hair back from her eyes, she turned around to see Lucifer filling the doorway. She was surprised he’d waited so long to show up. His face was cool and expressionless, but she could sense his sinister anger roasting just under the surface. He leaned in the doorway and watched her. “Do you plan on working today?” A pang of guilt squeezed her belly. “I’m sorry,” she said, balling up the paper towel. “I’ve been here in the break room. I just lost track of time.” She thought about telling him about Nick, but then decided not to. He’d only overreact. He arched a neatly groomed eyebrow. Her apology seemed to pique his interest. He moved into the room like a stalking lion. “What’s wrong?” 113

Midnight Becomes You Lyric shook her head, a lump forming in her throat. She really didn’t want to discuss Nick. Just thinking about him gave her the creeps. She fidgeted for a few moments under his hard stare, and finally said, “Nick came to my apartment last night.” “Who’s Nick?” Lucifer said, his eyes narrowing. “You know—the guy from my visions. The one who hurt the girl at the gas station.” “Terrific. How did he find out where you live?” “He must have picked it up from something. Maybe an object I owned.” “Like what?” “A tire jack I loaned him.” Lucifer was still. He ran his hand down his tie, smoothing it. He shook his head slowly. “I don’t understand. Have you met this guy before? Perhaps a piece of information you once again haven’t shared with me?” Her cheeks grew hot. “It was before I even started with Midnight. I was driving home and I saw him on the side of the road with a flat tire. It was raining, and I felt sorry for him, so I stopped and loaned him my jack. When he touched my hand while taking it, he scared me so bad, I just left without getting the jack back from him.” “What did he say to you last night?” She ran her hands up and down her arms. It was getting cold in here. “He wanted to go out on a date, but of course I said no. I think he might try and come back again tonight.” “Lyric, is there anything else you have neglected to tell me? Anything else that might be important to our investigation?” His tone was more concerned than angry. “I’m sorry I didn’t mention it before. I didn’t refuse to tell you to be an ass. I’m just used to blocking bad visions from my mind. It just didn’t occur to me to tell you.” She leaned against the table and stared at the ground. 114

Midnight Becomes You Lucifer walked over and took her face in his hands. His touch was gentle and warm. It stirred her. “Well, if he does come back tonight,” he said, kissing her gently on the lips. “We’ll make sure we’re ready for him.”


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Chapter 34 They reached Lyric’s apartment in the early afternoon. Nothing seemed out of place on this picture perfect day; the sun was shining, a soft northern wind was blowing, but there was still something wrong. Lucifer stood behind her as Lyric unlocked the front door. When it clicked open, he gently pushed her aside. Moving into the apartment, he let the empty silence flow over him. He could feel Lyric’s tense presence close behind him and suppressed a grin. He loved the feel of her energy near him, touching him. It aroused him in so many ways. Stopping in the middle of the living room, he suddenly felt it. Someone was here. He heard Lyric’s breathing speed up, and knew she felt it, too. Scanning the room, he took a few measured steps forward. Reaching deep inside himself, he let his power flow out into the room. It spilled out like a river, touching and moving over everything it encountered. Within seconds, he sensed the negative charge inside the bedroom, waiting. Turning around, he met Lyric’s frightened gaze. “I want you to go outside and wait for me,” he said. Without uttering a word, she pursed her lips and slid her gaze past him. Her face grew deathly pale. She opened her mouth to warn him but no sound came out. 116

Midnight Becomes You Lucifer didn’t need to turn around to know Nick was closing the distance behind him. He could feel the man’s hostile energy like hot rain. He felt Nick as clearly as if the man had touched him physically. It sent a cold shudder down his neck. In that eternal moment, Lucifer let the power loose to seize his would-be attacker. When he turned to face Nick, the man was frozen in place. Nick pulled his lips back and gave him a wicked smile. Lyric sighed with relief. “How very impressive your telekinesis is…Mister…” Nick asked, his mouth unaffected by the power. “Tanner,” Lucifer said. “My name is Lucifer Tanner. How did you get in here?” Nick’s eyes flashed over to Lyric. Lucifer was dismayed that his hold on the man seemed to be slipping by the second. He was not going to be able to hold him for long. “I broke in, of course,” Nick said. “I wouldn’t have bothered if I’d known she had company.” Lyric took a threatening step forward and glared at Nick. “You have some fucking nerve breaking in here! I told you I wasn’t interested in you.” Lucifer pulled out his cell phone. They were going to need some help holding this guy and bringing him in for questioning. Nick was much more powerful than Lucifer had realized. As strong as his grip on the criminal was, he could feel Nick slipping slowly from his telekinetic grasp. He flipped the phone open and was prepared to dial when it flew out of his hand. He glanced at Nick and felt the man’s power crackle in the air. In the next instant, Lucifer’s hold slipped off Nick like a broken noose. Damn. Nick took in a deep breath and shuddered as if he’d just emerged from a frozen lake. He barked out a short laugh. “Amazing, isn’t it?” he taunted. “Only a few weeks ago, I never 117

Midnight Becomes You would have been able to free myself from your power. Now, charged from the energy I’ve taken from others, it was almost too easy.” “You’re a murdering bastard,” Lyric snarled, looking as though she was going to pounce on him at any minute. Nick smiled. “So you have been watching my activities. But you are wrong,” he said. “I have never actually killed anyone…yet. I am still testing the boundaries of my ability.” He moved around them, circling, to make it to the door. Lucifer gave him a wide path and pulled Lyric along with him. He wanted to keep a safe distance from the man. There would be a better place for a confrontation. “You left your victims in deep comas,” Lucifer said. “They have irreparable brain damage. They may as well be dead.” Nick’s smile broadened. “Some sacrifices had to be made. Besides, I haven’t really harmed anyone that was an integral part of society.” Lyric, seething with fury, struggled against Lucifer’s grip. He didn’t let her go and she shot him an angry look. “Let go of me!” Lucifer ignored her. The last thing he needed was her jumping this guy and getting herself hurt. Nick reached the front door and flung it open. “I have no doubt I’ll be seeing you two again.” “You can bet on it, dirtbag!” Lyric shouted, pulling on Lucifer. Nick only laughed at her. He gave Lucifer a private wink. Then he disappeared out the door to freedom.


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Chapter 35 Lucifer’s house was definitely more interesting the second time around. Everything in it reflected his personality: cool; confident; with just a splash of wickedness. She didn’t tell him, but she loved it. Everything here was dark wood, chrome, and leather. The sofa and chairs were upholstered in sleek, black leather and the hardwood floors were a dark, toasted oak. Any visitor who came would have no doubt this was a man’s house. In a corner of the living room, she spotted a stylish glass and mirrored bar. She strolled up admiring its clean, gleaming elegance. Why not make us a drink? I could sure use bourbon and I’m sure he could, too. Walking behind the bar, she poured them each a double shot with ice. She made her way back over to the sofa, sipped her drink, and waited for him to finish his phone call to the office. A moment later, he emerged from his office finishing his phone conversation with Hank. He snapped his cell phone closed and stalked over to where she sat. She toyed with the thought of asking him about Nick, but one look at his moody expression made her think twice. She’d better bring it up another time. “Drink?” she said, grinning. He gave her a smoldering look that was all sex. She glanced away for a moment and her mouth went dry. Why did he have such a powerful effect on her? He gestured to the glass on the table and it floated into his hand. 119

Midnight Becomes You He sipped it and smiled. “Bourbon on the rocks. How did you know?” For a few moments, she didn’t know what to say. How did she know? Then she broke into a smile, catching his joke. Of course she knew, she was psychic. It was so hard to get used to. She shrugged. “It’s a gift.” He eased himself onto the sofa next to her, his eyes sparkling with amusement. Leaning forward, he touched his lips to hers in a delicate kiss. It left her breathless. His power was flowing out of him, warm and seductive, stroking her skin and filling her with desire. She closed her eyes and drank in the decadent feel of him. He sipped his drink, then set it down on the table. She was aware of her t-shirt lifting from her body. She grinned and raised her arms to let it side over her head. His lips touched the mound of her right breast. She unfastened her bra and tossed it, pulling his head down to her nipple. He licked and nibbled at the swollen nub and she gasped. Tight heat filled her womb and sex. It tortured her with longing. She leaned into his ear and whispered dirty promises. He chuckled, licking her breasts with delicate strokes. She moaned softly and ran her fingers through his thick, black hair. She pulled his head in tighter, tickling the back of his neck with her nails. “I really like that,” she whispered, as he caressed her breasts. He responded by gently mauling her areolas, passionately sucking and licking on the hard, pink nipples. With eager fingers, she unbuttoned her jeans and struggled to strip them, and her underwear off. He helped her, his hands stroking every inch of flesh she exposed. His mouth moved up to her ear, murmuring obscene promises. His forceful tone proved 120

Midnight Becomes You to be a potent aphrodisiac, sending ripples of lust through her body. His fingers found the wet center of her aching sex, and he touched her with maddening light strokes. She twisted under his fingers, panting. “Harder,” she said in a breathy whisper. “I need it harder, that’s too light.” He laughed at her and it rumbled in her ear. He moved down and latched his mouth on her swollen clit, making her jump. Lips and tongue danced over her sex, infusing every nerve, ending with raw, white heat. His power was penetrating her, pushing into her body, intensifying her pleasure with every place it roamed. She cried out, and didn’t recognize the sound of her own voice. She reached down and grabbed him; stripping his clothes off with such frenzied aggression, she almost tore them. “Make love to me,” she whispered, “Please.” He kissed her, his tongue caressing hers in a feral, carnal kiss that was all sex and dark sin. Naked now, he nestled his body between her trembling thighs, his cock tickling the opening of her hungry pussy. Lucifer pushed inside her, stretching and filling her with complete bliss. She ran her hands down his muscular back, exploring every rock-hard curve. Each thrust brought new depths of pleasure and Lyric found it impossible to be still. She ground her body up to him, reveling in how alive she felt. Her mouth sucked and licked his neck, tasting the salt of his skin. She panted, drawing in his manly scent. He moaned—a rich, animal sound that electrified her and sent a flutter through her womb. Visions rushed her, his motorcycle accident and the horrible pain in his head when he woke from the coma; the terror and shock of realizing that he 121

Midnight Becomes You could move objects with his mind; the sorrow of his fiancée leaving him, unable to adjust to his new power. Soon the pleasure overwhelmed her and the visions faded away. Lyric locked her legs around his waist as his hips pumped harder and faster into her. Sweat trickled down her quivering belly as her whole being was engulfed with hot, sexy delight. The climax was startling in its intensity, and she cried out as her body shuddered with its force. “Lyric,” he groaned, as his own pleasure peaked. He froze as his lust was spent inside her, then he rolled off and let himself fall to the floor next to the sofa. Lyric laughed and shook her head. She liked this side of him, this lighter side that so few people ever saw. She closed her eyes, only intending to rest for a moment, but was soon engulfed by a dark and dreamless sleep.


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Chapter 36 Lyric woke in the morning twisted in the black satin sheets of Lucifer’s bed. She had no memory of walking here and could only conclude he’d moved her from the couch sometime during the night. His scent was everywhere, and she rubbed herself in it, enjoying the arousal it evoked in her. It was a warm, masculine scent with only the slightest hint of cologne. She rolled over to his side of the bed but he wasn’t there. A tense uneasiness tightened her chest. Is he getting bored with me? Maybe he thinks I’m too easy. Angry at herself, she shook the thoughts off. He wasn’t shy; if he didn’t want her around, she was sure he’d tell her. She heard the sound of water running and turned her attention to the adjoining bathroom. He was standing before the mirror, delicately shaving the area around his goatee. He was naked to the waist, wearing only some loose fitting black pajama pants. He was unbearably handsome. He looked like a dark mystery, the kind of man her mother always warned her about. Watching him, she ached for him to make love to her again. Better play it cool. The depth of her desire frightened her. Every time she looked at him, it burned like a bonfire in her soul. She hated feeling this vulnerable. Worse yet, was the jealously she felt toward any woman he had ever loved. This is ridiculous. I don’t usually have these stupid, insecure thoughts. It must be all of this psychic nonsense messing with my emotions. 123

Midnight Becomes You She propped herself up on the pillows and combed her fingers through her tangled hair. Even her body smelled like him. “Lucifer?” He glanced at her, running his hand along his jaw to check for any spots he’d missed. “Yes?” “Tell me about your fiancée.” He wiped the residual shaving cream off his face and leaned in the bathroom doorway. His eyes were unreadable. “What do you want to know?” “Well, um…did she really leave you because of your power?” He stalked into the room, his shoulders tense. “That’s what she told me.” “Did you love her?” “I thought so at the time, but now I’m not so sure.” “Have you loved anyone since?” He shifted uncomfortably. “Listen,” he said. “We have to go soon. Why don’t you get cleaned up and I’ll meet you downstairs.” He pulled a dark suit from his closet. He dressed in silence and walked out the door. Lyric wasn’t sure why his attitude bothered her, but it did. She wanted to tell him to fuck off and find Nick himself. Instead, she got up and went into the bathroom, closing the door behind her. She turned on the water and ran her hand under it, the lump in her throat swelling and threatening to choke her. Why was she sleeping with this asshole? How stupid could she be to think she meant anything to him except a good time? The truth was she was getting too attached to him and she needed to cool things off for a while, until she could get her head straight. Once the water was hot enough, she slipped into the shower and let the heat scorch the pain from her thoughts. But the more she tried to forget him, the more it hurt. A moment 124

Midnight Becomes You later, her emotions broke the surface. Great sobs escaped her and it was all she could do to keep the volume of her crying to a minimum. She definitely didn’t want him to hear her. He’d surely think she’d gone crazy. Why in the hell was she crying? She had been in plenty of relationships, some good, and most bad. Her emotions were out of control on this one. This is no good. She had to stop having sex with him. The psychic powers were acting as a catalyst and it was making her much too vulnerable. Worse yet, she wasn’t able to read a future with him. That had never happened to her before. Good or bad, she’d always been able to foresee how a relationship would end. In fact, that was how she decided whether or not to continue with it. But everything was different with Lucifer. She suspected he was deliberately blocking her. Maybe his mental wall was a good thing. Here she was, striving for normalcy, and she rejected the first normal thing that happened. One thing was certain; she needed to get some control over herself. She needed to know this was real, and not just psychically charged sex masking itself as love.


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Chapter 37 “It’s a photo transfer machine,” Hank said, giving Lyric one of his movie star smiles. He was looking tanner than usual after his four days off. She guessed being away from Lucifer agreed with him. Lyric stared at the large, gray reclining chair looming before her. It seemed innocent enough until she took in all the wires and monitors positioned nearby. With them, it took on a more ominous appearance, like a New Age torture device. Her top lip started to sweat. The room had that sterile antiseptic smell of a doctor’s office. Folding her arms, she turned and looked at Lucifer leaning against the far wall. He was dressed in a handsome pinstripe suit with a cobalt blue tie. The tie made his gray eyes look bluer than they really were. His black hair was pulled back into a neat ponytail than ran down between his shoulder blades. His face was hard and handsome, as always, betraying nothing of what he was feeling. She glanced down at her Anthrax t-shirt and faded jeans. He always dressed up for work and she never did. She just didn’t see the need, but then she wasn’t the boss either. Was that just one more fundamental difference between them? She tried to read his feelings but his body told her everything. Like her, he had his arms folded. Anyone who was good at reading body language would have a field day with the 126

Midnight Becomes You two of them. Just meeting his eyes brought her new emotional pain. She glanced back at the machine and then stared at Hank. “Is it safe?” Hank chuckled and put his arm around her. “As safe as your mother’s arms.” “My mother’s dead.” “Come on, Lyric,” Hank said. “You know I wouldn’t put you into anything that wasn’t safe.” Lyric wasn’t too sure about that. Hank was all about results. That was one of the few things he and Lucifer had in common. She climbed into the chair and tried to relax. Hank took the mechanical headband and placed it gently on her head. She felt ridiculous, but didn’t complain. “What exactly does this thing do?” she asked. Hank, satisfied that all the sensors were in their proper place, moved over to a terminal and typed in some commands. The computer screen retrieved a stream of data and scrolled it down the display too quickly for Lyric to read. “It captures images from your thoughts and stores them as data,” Lucifer said, his voice a low rumble. He had a brooding, angry tone. She ignored it. Hank seemed to sense something between them and glanced from one to the other. Then he gave an almost imperceptible shrug and continued working. “That’s right,” Hank said. “In this case, we hope to get a clear image of Nick and run it through our database. If we get a match, we’ll know everything about this guy, where he came from, rap sheet, and his last known address.” Lyric stood up again. “I don’t think I want to do this. There are images in my head that I am not sure I want other people to see.” 127

Midnight Becomes You Lyric tossed her head at Lucifer. “Why not use him? He’s more powerful than I am.” Hank glanced over at Lucifer and grinned. He swept a few locks back into place on his balding head. “You’re both powerful in different ways. Besides, it works much better on clairvoyants.” Lyric scowled and chewed her lip. “Don’t worry, Lyric; we can’t just pluck random images from your mind. We can only see what you consciously show us. Now please sit down so we can continue.” She slid back into the chair and a block of ice sat in her belly. “Okay, let’s do this.” “Good,” Hank said. “Now, I want you to try and keep a clear image of this guy’s face in your mind until this is over. You think you can do that?” She shifted in the chair, trying to get more comfortable. Her gaze accidentally fell on Lucifer and she quickly looked away. It was too late, images of their last coupling played like a movie through her mind. She abruptly sat forward. “Stop the machine now.” Hank looked up alarmed. “I haven’t actually started yet. What’s wrong?” Lyric pointed at Lucifer. “I need him to leave. He’s distracting me.” Lucifer let out a tired sigh and walked out the door without a word. Lyric leaned back in the chair and closed her eyes. “I’m ready.” As the machine started to hum, Lyric pulled an image of Nick’s face from her memory and focused on it. She remembered the haunting dark circles around his eyes and the shallow planes of his gaunt face. A chill rolled down her back. Keep your focus, just a little longer. 128

Midnight Becomes You The computer beeped loudly, startling her from her thought. She opened her eyes and blinked. “That was fast. Did it work?” Hank came over and took the sensor off her head. “Yup, sure did,” he said. “In about an hour or so, we should know a lot more about this guy who’s been following you around. Great work, Lyric.” Hank sent the data to his office computer and rushed out of the room, leaving the door open. Lyric was surprised when Lucifer came back in. She’d half expected him to go back to his office and wait for her. He walked over and helped her out of the chair. He smelled so good she had to force herself not to kiss him. She rubbed the back of her neck and took a deep breath. She needed to tell him now, while they were alone. She didn’t want there to be any misunderstandings later. “I know you said I could stay with you until we catch Nick, and I appreciate that but…” She let the sentence hang for a moment, trying to read how he was taking it. “But what?” “I think I’d be more comfortable staying here at the office. I hope you don’t mind.” Lucifer’s face darkened and his brow dropped, shadowing his eyes. He took a step back. “No,” he said, with an icy edge to his voice. “Of course I don’t mind. Whatever you feel comfortable with.” Lyric could feel the air crackling with the current of his power. The hair on her arms stood up. “Good,” she said, grabbing her purse to leave. “May I ask why?” Her heart pounded in her ears and heat rose to her cheeks. “I just think things are moving too fast and I want to slow them down a bit.” 129

Midnight Becomes You He grunted and she didn’t think it meant anything at all. They both stood there for what felt like an eternity. There was so much to say, and neither of them knew how to say it. Finally, he said, “Okay,” and walked past her to leave. Lyric took a step toward him, feeling the need to explain further, but then stopped. Even if she’d hurt him, this was for the best. “Are you angry?” He stopped in the doorway, his massive shoulders filling it, blocking the light from the offices beyond. “No,” he said. “I’m not angry. Let’s just drop it. Come on, we have to catch this guy before he hurts someone else.” “I’d like to work on a few things by myself today, if you don’t mind,” she said, wincing in anticipation of his wrath. Her request had come out much harsher than she’d intended. “That’s fine,” he said, without turning around to face her. “God knows you could use the practice.” He slipped out of the doorway and disappeared into the labyrinth of monochrome cubicles beyond.


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Chapter 38 Nick’s last known address was a dilapidated apartment building situated in the worst neighborhood in town. A few junkies sat on the sidewalk out front, trembling in the early morning heat. Lyric’s skin crawled, watching them doze and scratch. She stared out the window of Lucifer’s Cadillac taking in the randomly painted doors, each one a different color. One door to her left had the words ‘MANAGER’ stenciled on it in white. She picked at her nail and frowned. “Why doesn’t this place surprise me?” Lucifer was tense in the seat next to her as he stabbed at the radio dials trying to find a news station. Giving up, he turned it off and twisted in his seat to face her. He draped his arm across the back of her chair. The gesture was so casually sexual, it annoyed her. She hated how he could arouse her without even trying. Forget about him, you need to focus. This is business only, remember? His gaze swept her face. “What do you feel?” At first, she misunderstood his question, thinking he was referring to them. “What do you mean?” He squinted toward the building and stroked his goatee, gently pulling at the chin hairs. “Do you feel Nick here, Lyric?” he asked, in a parental tone. She stiffened, but didn’t take the bait. She closed her eyes for a moment and let her mind reach out to the building. There 131

Midnight Becomes You were so many vague, sorrowful images that it was difficult to sift through them all. The faint scent of Lucifer’s skin kindled her desire and the car suddenly was much too small. She shook her head and held her hands up as if to ward his questions off. “I can’t,” she stammered. “I need to get out of the car.” Without waiting for his response, she flung the door open, and stepped out. She stood next to it, her head clearing slowly. Examining the complex from the street, Lyric wondered if it had ever looked better than it looked right now. The façade was painted a dull, dark green that had long ago begun to peel in several places. Even the air around it smelled like old garbage. She pushed everything out of her mind and tried again. Unit by unit, she let her thoughts wander over the inhabitants, searching for Nick’s presence. Lucifer exited the car and stood next to her. “Better?” Lyric cursed herself for not coming here alone. An adrenaline rush filled her gut with heat. She bit her tongue so as not to yell at him. Didn’t he see she was trying to concentrate? “It’s slightly better. Just give me a minute.” He leaned against the car and fidgeted. He was clearly unhappy they were standing out in plain view. He reached into his suit and pulled out his sunglasses. Slipping them on, he said, “I don’t understand what the problem is.” Was he deliberately trying to pick a fight with her? She wouldn’t put it past him. Lyric balled her hands into fists. “If you think you can do this, please don’t let me stop you.” “We don’t have time to fight. Try again,” he said. I think,” she said, surprising herself with her self-control, “You’re my problem. You’re clouding my delicate senses with your bullshit. Could you just wait in the car until I’m done?” He pushed off from the car and smoothed his hands down his suit jacket. “Why bother? In another few minutes he’ll probably spot you and come out for a chat.” 132

Midnight Becomes You She glared at him. What a total jerk he is. I can’t believe I’m confused about my feelings for him. He slipped back in the car and slammed the door. With Lucifer gone, she tried again to pick up Nick’s energy, but it was no use. She was fairly certain he wasn’t here, but not one hundred percent, and that worried her. She thought of having Lucifer double check with the management, but she didn’t want to hear his sarcasm. Finally, she slipped back in the car and put her seatbelt on. “He’s not here,” she said, staring straight ahead. “Are you sure?” Lucifer asked. Lyric didn’t look at him. “Yes, I’m sure.” He opened the car door and stepped out. With long, heavy strides, he made his way to the manager’s door and knocked. A moment later, an old, skinny black man dressed in denim carpenter pants and a faded green sweatshirt answered. They spoke for a moment, and Lucifer showed him a picture. The man shook his head and Lucifer returned to the car. Nestling back into the driver’s seat, he said, “He moved out about a month ago.” “Why did you bother bringing me here if you’re going to double check my answers? Why not just ask the manager when we got here, instead of wasting a bunch of time?” He took his sunglasses off and gave her an arctic stare. His power was loose inside the car, making it uncomfortably hot. She wished he’d calm down. “I’m beginning to think I overestimated your powers,” he said. “So far, I haven’t seen anything out of you that impresses me much. Nothing a second-rate sideshow act couldn’t do.” “What the hell are you talking about? By asking the manager, you just proved me right!” He put the car in gear and pulled away from the curb. “I need more from you than just being right some of the time, 133

Midnight Becomes You Lyric. I need you to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone. I need you to explore your power fearlessly, and you’re still reluctant to do that.” “I’m so sorry to disappointment you,” she said, staring out the window. God, she hated him. “I don’t need you to be sorry. I need you to want to do this, to like doing this. But all you want to do is whine about how upsetting everything is and how hard you have to work.” Lyric clinched her teeth. She snapped her head around and gave him a fierce stare. “You are really pissing me off, you son of a bitch. I haven’t had six years to learn how to manipulate this so-called gift.” “No. You’ve had your whole fucking life, and instead of embracing it, you ran and hid. You pretended it didn’t exist. You claim to want this job and want to develop your power, but I’m starting to think that the only thing you’re really interested in is fucking me.” Before she could stop, a frustrated screamed exploded from her chest. She pounded her fists on his dashboard. He leaned forward and pushed her into the seat. She slapped at his restraining hand and kicked his glove compartment a few times for emphasis. She stared at him, daring him to reprimand her. He steered the car and ignored her outburst. She looked straight ahead. “Take me back to the office now, before I kill you.”


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Chapter 39 Nick zipped up his jacket against the night’s light chill and knocked on the trailer door again. Although he hadn’t been here in a while, he knew The Rat had to be home. A man of four hundred pounds didn’t usually leave the house unless he absolutely had to. Heavy footsteps approached the door. “Who is it?” said a muffled voice. “Hey, Rat,” Nick said. “It’s me. I need a favor. I brought you some cigs.” The door opened. Nick knew he’d bite. The Rat was a notorious chain smoker. The Rat looked heavier than Nick remembered him. An enormous greasy-skinned man, The Rat didn’t usually feel the need to bathe, being as that he had few visitors apart from his mother. “Haven’t seen you in a while,” he said, with a familiar wheeze. “Where you been keeping yourself?” The Rat stepped back to let Nick inside. The smell of stale cigarettes, fetid body odor and rotten grease assaulted Nick’s senses. “You know,” Nick said, coughing into his hand. “I’ve had some projects here and there. I got a new apartment on the west side. You should come check it out sometime.” The Rat nodded, but Nick knew he was just doing it to be agreeable. Nick followed The Rat into his office, which doubled as a bedroom. He tossed the Camel cigarette carton onto the cluttered bed. The Rat settled back into his chair before the 135

Midnight Becomes You computer screen. The desk was crowded with overflowing ashtrays and old fast food wrappers. The chair creaked as he leaned back and lit a cigarette. “What can I do for you?” The Rat said. Nick pushed aside some porno magazines from the bed and sat down. “I need all the information you can dig up on this girl.” He handed The Rat a picture of Lyric he’d stolen when he’d broken into her apartment. “She’s a new recruit for the Midnight Underground.” The Rat scoffed. “That hopeless bunch of losers? I thought the government shut them down years ago.” “They just moved them under another department.” The Rat nodded and leered at the picture. “Cute little piece of ass. You trying to get a date with her?” Nick ran his fingers through his hair. He really didn’t want to stay here any longer than he had to, but he had to be polite. “Something like that.” The Rat placed the picture in his scanner and began his search. Between sips of soda, he regaled Nick with stories of his hacker exploits. He boasted how the FBI was still trying to track him down for some stunt he’d pulled off last year. Nick listened with as much interest as he could muster. He was glad The Rat didn’t ask too many questions about Lyric. He didn’t want to let slip his real plans for her. He had to admit, he’d been very successful with siphoning off power from the random victims he’d chosen. But the thought of taking power from someone who actually had psychic gifts, now there was a better idea. He wasn’t sure what he’d gain, but he was sure he’d grow more powerful. Lyric was the perfect victim for him. Not only did they share a chance connection, but she was also too green to fight him off. The only obstacle was her boyfriend, but even he’d had trouble holding Nick. A few more victims and I’ll be unstoppable. 136

Midnight Becomes You Finally, The Rat grunted in triumph and printed out a classified report on Lyric. It had everything—her birth date, relatives, phone numbers—it was almost like Christmas. Nick flipped through the information and smiled. “You’re quite the hacker. I’m impressed.” The Rat shrugged and sipped his soda. “That’s what keeps you shady guys coming back. Just keep me in cigs and it’s all good. Happy hunting for your girl there.” Nick whistled on his way out. Happy hunting, indeed.


Midnight Becomes You

Chapter 40 Smooth jazz filled the room as Lucifer poured a drink and collapsed into his favorite leather chair. Home at last. Glancing at his watch, he noted it was eleven o’clock, much later than he’d thought. Tension pulled the muscles in his neck tight and he rolled his head in a circle to loosen them. Putting his drink down, he undid his tie and slipped it off his neck. He unbuttoned his shirt and thoughtfully scratched his chest. He wondered what Lyric was doing right now in her tiny bedroom at the office. Was she already asleep, or was she awake like he was, restlessly thinking of him? It was painful to think she didn’t want to be here with him. How could he have misread her so completely? Even though they’d only been seeing each other a few weeks, the hardship of their breakup was wearing on him. What had gone wrong? He had no idea. It was probably just as she'd said; she needed some time to get things in perspective. He, on the other hand, had never been so sure of anything. Lyric was everything he loved in a woman. He adored her wanton sexuality, her ability to let go and enjoy his body and power in a way no other women had. He also loved her aggressive independence. Unfortunately, at this moment, it was proving to be more of a pain in the ass than anything else. But her stubborn refusal to master her visions was proving to be very frustrating. 138

Midnight Becomes You He sipped his drink and put it down again, letting his free hand roam down his chest and belly. When he closed his eyes, he could smell her skin and taste the nectar of her sex. As his hand wandered, he found the hard nub of his nipple. He twisted and pulled at it, envisioning her hot mouth fastened to it, biting and licking. His lust built in him, awakening a ferocious desire that demanded to be fulfilled. “Lyric,” he groaned, sliding his hand down to the throbbing rod of his penis. Never before had he felt anything like this for a woman. His feelings were so raw and feral—they completely consumed him. He unfastened his pants and slid them and his briefs down to mid-thigh. His penis was stone-hard and throbbed painfully. He seized the shaft and leaned his head back, imagining himself at the threshold of Lyric’s hot, wet sex. Her voice was clear in his mind, a lusty, greedy whine that set his soul on fire. He pictured her at the office, snuggled in her bed thinking of him. His mouth went dry as he imagined her hands buried in her underwear, touching herself, thinking and lusting for him. He stroked himself harder and faster, his heart pounding a heavy rhythm in his chest. “That’s right, baby,” he whispered. “Show me how much you miss me.” As he stroked his lust, he pulled every memory he could find of her to the surface. He burned with wanting her. His penis ached under his grip, not satisfied without the feel of her to caress it. Finally, the orgasm took him in a tempest of heat, burning through his body like a raging inferno. A final shudder signaled his release, leaving him breathless and hungrier for the real thing. He got up from the chair and cleaned himself up in the bathroom. A vague loneliness hung over him, like a curse. He stripped naked and lay on his bed, playing with his cell phone. 139

Midnight Becomes You Propping himself up on some pillows, he dialed her cell. She picked up just before it went to voice mail. “Working late?” she said in a smoky, bedroom voice. He realized she must have used her second sight to know what he was doing. He smiled. “You could say that. I seem to be having trouble sleeping.” “I thought masturbation was supposed to help with that.” “The only thing that helps me sleep is the real thing.” She chuckled in the phone. His penis grew hard. Man, she made him hot. “Poor you,” she said. “Why not try a little phone sex?” He frowned. He’d hoped she’d come over, but phone sex was intriguing. He listened to her breath on the phone and lazily stroked his penis. “Are you going to get off, too?” “Would I miss an opportunity?” she asked, an amused lilt to her voice. He was glad this was so much fun for her. “Have you ever had phone sex before?” she asked. Torturous hunger twisted his groin. He closed his eyes and remembered the dizzying pleasure of entering her hot, little channel. “No,” he whispered. She took a deep, slow breath. “Imagine my mouth kissing down your belly until I reach your cock,” she said softly. “I take you into my mouth, my tongue circling the tip.” Like sorcery, his body responded to her every word as if she was physically touching him. Her voice was sticky sweet, like candy, as she wove a sexual adventure that would make a streetwalker blush. At first, he found it hard to concentrate, but as she became more graphic, he found he was lost in the story, transported to a different world where they coupled like animals. The stories went on for over two hours, each one of them taking turns coaxing the other to orgasm. It was thrilling, but in 140

Midnight Becomes You the end, left him feeling vaguely lonelier. He wished she was here with him, warming his bed. After her final orgasm, there was a long pause on the line. Finally, she said, “I have to go to bed now. I have to get up early for work tomorrow and I don’t dare be late. My boss is a real jerk.” “I don’t understand this,” he said. He didn’t understand what any of this meant. “Why did you break up with me?” He heard her shifting around on the bed to get comfortable. “I didn’t break up with you. All I said was I wanted more time to figure things out.” “What’s there to figure out?” She sighed. “Well, for one thing, is this just about sex or are you interested in something more?” He hadn’t expected that question and frankly, he hadn’t really thought about it. Did he want a future with her? He didn’t want to have this discussion on the phone. It seemed very wrong. “I want to talk in person. Ask me that question again in the morning.” He took a breath to say good night, but she hung up the phone on him.


Midnight Becomes You

Chapter 41 Lyric struggled to get a location on Nick as they drove to the hospital. Oddly, she found it easier to concentrate driving in the silent car. Despite their lack of conversation, she still felt very close to Lucifer. He always had the most curious affect on her. His power was like an electric blanket, covering her with its stuffy heat. She usually hated it when it was this strong, but for some reason today, she found it comforting. He pulled up at a stoplight and traced the line of his lips thoughtfully. A quiet, intimate gesture that turned her on. “I’m having trouble getting an image,” she said. She studied him for his reaction. A muscle moved in his temple as if he were clenching his jaw. “What do you think might solve that problem?” The light changed to green and he pulled forward. Lyric watched as they passed a small Gothic church on their left. A wedding was just wrapping up, the guests were outside by the limo talking and laughing with the bride and groom. Lyric wondered how long they’d be married before they divorced. Then she scolded herself for being too cynical. Lyric could feel a vision just at the edge of her mind. It taunted her, like a dream just barely remembered. If only she could think of something to trigger it. She studied him, then got an idea. “Pull over,” she said. 142

Midnight Becomes You He gave her a questioning look, but pulled into a vacant dirt lot just off the side of the road. Lyric’s heart pounded. She turned in her seat to face him. The air was cool and refreshing from the air conditioning blowing near her face. The radio chattered to itself, the volume too low for anyone to make out what was being said. She gazed into his eyes and took his face into her hands. She pulled him into a soft wistful kiss. The moment their lips touched, the vision came. It came over her like a raging river— rushing currents and unstoppable force. Nick was in a cramped room with another man Lyric had never seen before. The stranger was a heavy man with beady eyes and a pale complexion. The man was sweating. Lyric mentally recoiled from the two of them. She’d never felt such complete evil in one room. The heavy man was hacking into her Midnight Underground employee file. He printed out the information and handed it over to Nick. Lyric broke the kiss and gasped as if she’d just come up from a dive in the water. Lucifer licked his lips. “What’s wrong? What did you see?” Lyric put a hand on the dashboard to steady herself. “I saw him,” she said, inhaling deeply. “Nick?” She nodded, trying not to look panicked. Her mind was racing, trying to think of ways to keep Nick from catching up with her. Lucifer reached out and stroked her hair, trying to reassure her. “What did you see? Is there another victim?” She nodded weakly and said in a harsh whisper, “It’s me. His next victim is going to be me!”


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Chapter 42 Lucifer tried to convince Lyric to go back to the office. They needed time to plan and regroup, he said. But after her terrifying vision, she was more determined than ever to capture Nick. The hospital visit didn’t help much. Lyric was so unnerved by the appearance of the victim, it became impossible to get her to focus. He knew what she was thinking and he didn’t blame her. No one wanted to become a vegetable after Nick got through with them. After they spent a few fruitless hours there, Lucifer gave up. “Let’s go back to the office,” he said, as Lyric sat in the waiting room holding her head in her hands. “We’ll try again tomorrow if you’re feeling up to it.” She got up, her shoulders hunched forward in a heartbreaking display of defeat. Once they got back, they’d done a quick download of her latest vision and waited for an ID to come through of the fat man. Lyric came into his office and flopped on his couch with a heavy sigh. Staring at the ceiling, she popped open a root beer. Lucifer switched on his computer monitor and waited for the ID results. A few minutes later, his computer beeped, letting him know the results were in. That was fast. This guy must have a long arrest record for us to get results that fast. Sure enough, the fat man did. 144

Midnight Becomes You Lucifer glanced at the computer screen and read off the name. “Keith ‘The Rat’ Jonson,” he announced. “That was the man with Nick in my vision?” “That’s him,” Lucifer confirmed. “The FBI is probably already knocking on his door. At least he won’t be giving out any more classified details.” He turned his monitor off. “The FBI sent a note thanking you for your work. Hank will be impressed.” He stroked his goatee and watched her. Lyric sipped her soda. “You don’t seem to be too concerned about Nick having all that personal information on me.” Lucifer turned his monitor off. “I am concerned. But I also know you couldn’t be in a safer place. These offices are manned twenty-four hours a day and no one gets in here that doesn’t belong.” She glanced at him and smiled. “Do you think this place is safer than your house?” He raised his hands in a gesture of surrender. “You said you didn’t want to stay there anymore.” “I was afraid of what might happen if I did.” His multiline phone rang, echoing an office-wide ring. He ignored it. “Okay,” he said cautiously, “I’ll bite. What might happen if you continued to stay there?” Lyric tossed the empty can of soda into the trash can. It landed home with a hollow clank. “I was afraid I would fall in love with you.” “Fall in love with me?” “That’s right,” she said. “In fact, it’s already happening.” He was quiet for a moment. Then he said, “Don’t.” “Don’t what?” “Don’t play games with me,” he said. His voice was low and commanding, with just a hint of pain. “I’m not like you, Lucifer. I don’t get off playing mind games with people.” 145

Midnight Becomes You “That’s not fair. I never played games with you.” She felt the pain course through his power, and guilt consumed her. “I am so confused. I want to believe this is real and not just a side effect of our powers. My feelings for you are consuming me and I hate feeling this vulnerable.” He got up from his chair and moved toward her with the grace of a jungle cat. “I don’t want you to give me a bunch of meaningless words on how you feel about me,” he said in a voice rich with lust. “I want you to show me. And I want you to show me right here and now.”


Midnight Becomes You

Chapter 43 Lucifer knelt by the couch where Lyric was sitting, his movements slow and graceful. His power was free, caressing along her skin like a serpent, dangerous and sexual. He reached up and loosened his tie, letting it hang carelessly around his neck. She wanted to stop him, to say no, but the words never came to her lips. Raw emotion filled her, tearing down all of her carefully constructed defenses. His power moved like hands along her t-shirt, lifting it up and exposing her belly and breasts. She felt the masculine rub of his goatee touch the flesh of her stomach, his tongue licking her belly button. A soft moan escaped her lips. Lucifer placed his warm hands on her stomach lifting her shirt the rest of the way off. His mouth devoured her, leaving a moist trail along her breasts and neck. Her desire for him became instinct. Every part of her body cried out for him: his mouth; his body; his swollen and demanding cock. She reached up and untied his long, black hair and it fell free, blanketing his shoulders and back. Her hands explored him, touching him, unbuttoning and discarding clothing as she went. In moments, they were both naked, their mouths dueling in a frenzied kiss of passion. Guiding her hips, he turned her and pulled her off the couch until she was bent over the seat, her body fully exposed to him. He rose up over her, mounting her, his fingers petting her 147

Midnight Becomes You throbbing sex. Moving his mouth over her ear, he whispered obscenities to her. His words were so shocking and perverse in their graphic nature, she would have been shocked into silence if she’d heard them anywhere else. Then he entered her. His cock slid into her, stretching her and making her gasp with hungry desire. He mastered her, pounding deep, sending blissful lust throughout her body. Lyric gripped the couch, her fingers digging deep into the black leather, her voice muffled by the cushion. Her orgasm was witchcraft, mixing with the black magic of his power, flowing into every nerve fiber like electricity. He slipped out of her, gently biting and kissing her back. He leaned down to her ear, nuzzling her hair back so she could hear him clearly. She felt the swollen tip of his penis teasing the opening of her anus and she stiffened. “Do you love me?” he whispered, his voice thick with passion. Lyric was nervous. Her pussy throbbed deliciously from the exquisite orgasm, but his request was jarring her from her euphoria. What if I don’t like it? Will he stop? Anal sex had always been the one place where she’d drawn the line. It wasn’t that she was prude and found the practice distasteful; it was just that it was, in her mind, a more intimate act. “Yes,” she said, “I love you.” She was willing to give him anything he asked her for. “If I don’t want anal sex will you assume I don’t?” She felt the rumble in his chest of warm laughter. “Don’t be silly. We can just stop at ‘Yes, I love you’, if you’re not interested.” Lyric’s inhibition slipped away. “In that case, okay,” she said, smiling. 148

Midnight Becomes You Lyric felt him begin to enter her and tried to relax. His power folded around her like large, black wings. She leaned her head back and sucked in a deep gulp of air. He pushed harder, penetrating her, possessing her. Lyric knew she was in way over her head with her emotions. She had crossed the line, given her body to this man in a way she had never dared before, and she didn’t care. All she cared about was this fantastic moment. His hands were all over her, caressing, touching, and engulfing her with a passion she had never known before. When his orgasm came, it was a heated rush of desire that swept them both up in its fiery inferno of love and lust.


Midnight Becomes You

Chapter 44 Nick looked up from Lyric’s file and stared out the large picture window of the café. The clang of kitchen noise had died down since breakfast, giving way to the milder sound of dishwashing. As always, no matter what time of the day or night, the cafe smelled like fresh brewed coffee. Reaching deep into the depths of his power, Nick searched for Lyric. He let his mind wander over the rooms of her apartment, but found nothing there. Letting his power roam, he picked up his coffee cup and sipped the dark brown liquid. It was cold, and he grimaced as he put it down, scanning the aisle for the waitress. The images of Lyric came crashing into him with a clarity he had never experienced before. Her body was singing with a carnal, amorous passion. Someone was making love to her, but he couldn’t quite make out who. He pushed his power deeper into her mind, feeling the pleasure she felt and the sorrowful love that twisted her heart. Then, as he explored her emotions, he found the source of her desire. It was Lucifer, the telekinetic. All her emotions laid bare before him, such sweet misery to love a man she wasn’t sure could ever love her back. Then, as suddenly as it had come, it faded away. Ignoring its coldness, Nick sipped his coffee. He was so engrossed in what he’d seen, he didn’t even mind its temperature.


Midnight Becomes You He glanced at his watch and was shocked to learn that the vision had lasted a solid ten minutes. How can that be? I must have been mistaken about the time. Smiling, he let his thoughts return to Lyric. What a fantastic experience it was going to be to drain her. Not only would he get a huge power boost, but he would be able to explore her most intimate moments without her being able to block him. How wonderful that would be, she was so young, so full of passion. Thinking of her under his complete control filled him with a savage glee. Soon, my love. The waitress came over and smiled down at him. “Is there anything else I can get for you?” she said. She was such a lovely girl, with deep brown eyes and just a hint of African ancestry. He pushed away his cold coffee and grinned. It was getting close to lunchtime and the café was beginning to fill up again. He shook his head, took the check from her, and leafed out a twenty-dollar bill. “Keep the change,” he said. She gave him a dazzling smile. “Oh,” he said, just as she was turning away. “There was one thing I wanted to ask you.” “Sure,” she said. “What are your plans for tonight?”


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Chapter 45 Lyric dressed and slipped out of Lucifer’s office as soon as he was asleep. He had her now and they both knew it. Her feelings for him grew deeper and more intense every time he touched her, and she was desperately afraid he was taking advantage of her feelings to use her. She needed to take the job out of the equation and see if his feelings were genuine. She needed to get out of the Midnight Underground. When she was with him, she was so caught up in her feelings, that she had no clarity or control of her thoughts and emotions. Lyric knocked on Hank’s door, hoping he’d have time to see her. “Yes?” she heard him say through the door. She opened it and poked her head in. “Hi,” she said nervously. “Can I talk to you for a minute?” Hank blinked at her in surprise. “Sure, Lyric,” he said, with a welcoming smile. “Come on in.” She walked in and took a seat across from him. Her palms began to sweat and she rubbed them on her pant legs. As she moved, the faint scent of Lucifer drifted up from her skin. The burning shame of betrayal colored her cheeks. Hank studied her for a moment. “Are you okay? You’re looking a little…flushed.” Lyric gave him a weak smile. “I’m fine, but I want off the squad.” 152

Midnight Becomes You Hank’s face went blank. He opened and closed his mouth as if reconsidering what he had to say. Finally, he said, “But why? Lucifer says you’re doing so well.” Lyric shook her head. She hated herself for what she was about to say. “He’s only telling you that because we’re sleeping together.” Hank’s entire body went rigid. He looked as though he was going to fall off his chair. “You’re what?” “We’re fucking each other.” Surely, she couldn’t get any clearer than that. “But you must have some ability? What about the hacker you helped catch?” Hank was doing a great job of keeping himself together. “I just don’t know if I’m cut out for this,” she said. “Most of the time, I can’t see anything clearly.” Hank stared down at his desk. He shuffled some papers around pursing his lips. He looked as though he’d rather be anywhere else. “Lyric, this is not an exact science. Many of our gifted staff struggle…” “I need out, Hank,” she interrupted. “I don’t want to do this anymore.” He took a deep breath. “Normally, it’s Lucifer who decides who stays or who goes.” “I already told you why I can’t go to him,” she said. She was totally exhausted. All she wanted to do was leave here and be done with this whole place. The door opened behind her and she turned around in her seat. Lucifer came in, filling the room with his presence. He took the empty chair next to her. It felt as if an enormous rock had fallen on her chest. Hank watched them, tapping his fingertips together. “I’m sorry, Lyric. I had to call him in.” 153

Midnight Becomes You Great. This will be a fucking disaster. Lucifer glanced at her. The intensity of his power made her skin flush. “What’s going on?” he said. He looked immaculate, not at all like he’d just been fucking her for an hour. “Lyric wants to leave the team,” Hank said. She stayed perfectly still, as if one wrong move might make Lucifer pounce on her. “What’s wrong with you?” Lucifer asked, his gaze slicing into her. Lyric folded her legs and tried to make herself very small. “I want out! I don’t like this job and I want to quit! Is that too much to ask for?” Hank rotated his chair from side to side, making it squeak. “Well, Lyric,” he said coolly. “It is. Unfortunately, you know too much. So for you, there is only one way out.” A coldness settled over Hank’s features. “And that is?” she asked. Lucifer pulled out a Glock from a shoulder holster under his suit, and set it in his lap. He snapped the safety off and rested his index finger on the trigger. A deadly silence filled the room. Lyric eyed the gun. “I see,” she whispered. “I think you do now,” Hank said.


Midnight Becomes You

Chapter 46 Lyric stormed from the room with Lucifer close behind her. He tried to grab her arm, but she violently shook him off and swung her fist at him. “Don’t touch me!” she snarled. “Don’t you dare touch me!” “Lyric, stop,” he ordered. She ignored him, trotting up to the elevator and stabbing at the call button. He moved up alongside her. “Let’s go in my office and talk.” “You were going to shoot me! I have nothing to say to you.” “I’m not going to have this conversation with you in the hallway. Come with me to my office or I’ll drag you there.” “You never want to have a conversation, anywhere. Not on the phone, not in the hallway! Well you need to explain yourself to me before I go anywhere with you.” The elevator doors opened and he grabbed her arm before she could get in. She fought him, raining punches onto his chest. “Let me go!” The elevator closed. He seized her by her upper arm and dragged her to his office. Once inside, he closed the door behind them. Lyric glared at him and folded her arms. “Planning to shoot me here, where there are no witnesses?” He stalked over and sat on his desk. “Fuck you,” he snarled. “Fuck you right back.” “Do you really believe I would shoot you?” he asked. 155

Midnight Becomes You “Yes, I do. Why didn’t you tell me I’d never be able to leave? That was pretty shitty, don’t you think?” He hung his head. “I didn’t really see any point in telling you. I probably should have, and I’m sorry.” Lyric felt some of her rage melting away. “Obviously not everyone who takes the psychic test is killed. Why would I have to be?” “You’ve been in too long. You’ve seen too much. You were doomed the moment I showed you my power,” he said. “That’s not fair. You showed me your powers the very first day.” “I know. I misjudged you. I was sure anyone who wanted to work for us and had gotten a perfect score on the entrance exam would welcome the opportunity to be in Midnight,” he said. “I can’t believe I am stuck here and my only alternative is to be dead.” “Lyric, tell me why are you so adamant about leaving,” he said. “Because I’m in love with you. I think your only interest in me is for my power. I thought that if I left Midnight, I would know the truth about whether or not you loved me back.” She calmed herself and lowered the pitch in her voice. “I do love you. I’d love you even if you had no powers. If you want to leave and go back to your old life, I’ll find a way to make that happen for you. But I’m asking you to stay.” Tears came to the corners of her eyes. She took several deep breaths to calm herself. A strange dizziness moved over her and she sensed someone inside her head. Watching what she saw, exploring her soul. A thundering headache exploded in her brain and she grabbed her head to try and ward it off. Lucifer jumped down from the desk and rushed toward her. “Lyric,” he said, holding her shoulders. “What is it?” 156

Midnight Becomes You She gasped against the pain. “Nick,” she whispered. “Nick is inside my head.”


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Chapter 47 Lucifer took Lyric back to his house with her deep in the throes of a vision. He placed her on his couch, loosening her clothes to make her comfortable. She was paler than he remembered. She looked so vulnerable against the harshness of his leather couch, her lips moving in soundless speech. He hated not knowing how to help her. Stalking into his bedroom, he stripped and put on his black sweatpants. He came out to her and stroked her forehead. She felt a little sweaty and feverish. Don’t worry, baby. I’m going to do everything I can to help you. He dimmed the lights and tossed a few throw pillows on the floor. He wasn’t sure what he could do to help, but staying close seemed like a good plan. Lying down on the floor next to the couch, he gently pulled Lyric’s limp body on top of his and enveloped her in his arms. A stab of sorrow pierced his heart. He worried and comforted himself by burying his face in her hair. Sliding his hands under her shirt, he stroked the flesh of her back. His power flowed out of him immediately. His consciousness pushed into her mind, filling up her soul. He felt her muscles relax as she let him move inside her mind. The first sensation he had was of the world around him melting away and a new reality taking its place. A dirty smell filled his nose—the stench of rotting food and stale urine. He breathed through his mouth to minimize it. Suddenly, he heard a gasp off to his left and spotted her. 158

Midnight Becomes You She was pushed up against a brick building as Nick held her back by the neck. She was staring into Nick’s eyes as they bored into her, blazing with pure evil. Even in this dreamlike state, Lucifer could feel the energy transferring from Lyric to her attacker. She was fighting him, but losing ground with each passing minute. Lucifer couldn’t believe how powerful Nick had become. Taking two massive strides, Lucifer pounced on Nick and slammed his fist into the man’s temple with devastating force. Nick cried out and released Lyric, falling to the ground in a heap. Once the contact was broken, Lyric’s knees buckled and Lucifer caught her just before she collapsed. Lucifer embraced her, brushing the hair from her face. “Are you all right?” he asked. She squeezed his arm to reassure him. Already he could feel her strength building back up again. “Yes,” she said, a little breathless. “I’m much better now.” She glared down at Nick who had begun to try and get to his feet. Curling her lip, she swung her leg and delivered a savage kick to the man’s ribs. He cried out and doubled over holding his gut. She met Lucifer’s gaze, her eyes sparkling. “We have to capture him here, while he’s still vulnerable. Then we can hunt for his physical body without worrying who he’ll attack next.” “What do you need me to do?” She pulled him close. “Just keep touching me and don’t let go,” she said. “It’s the only way I know of to tap your energy. And I’m sure going to need it.” Lucifer nodded. He knew she was right. Every time they’d been in physical contact, her power became more focused, more refined. Nick scrambled away from them and got to his feet. “Hurry up,” Lyric said, pushing Lucifer from her. “He’s gearing up to come after me again.” 159

Midnight Becomes You Lucifer didn’t argue. Using all his will, he pulled himself back to his own mind and the reality of his house. He looked into Lyric’s face, hoping she’d come out of it too, but she remained unconscious, lost in a no-man’s-land somewhere in the labyrinth of her brain. Knowing he didn’t have much time, he wrapped his arms around her and squeezed. He released his power, letting it flow around them and into her. Feeling like a rapist, he focused all his energy into and around her. A second later, he was plunged back into the dream world, only this time, he’d lost the ability to move. A great weakness overcame him, and he was aware of his connection to Lyric. She seemed to be drawing energy from him, siphoning it away with an invisible hose. Nick had recovered and stalked toward Lyric, his eyes aglow with stolen energy. His power was wild and raw, like an untamed tiger. With it, he had the strength and ability to attack Lyric, but he sorely lacked control. Lyric stood before him fearless, both feet planted firmly on the ground. Lucifer wanted to call out a warning to her, to tell her to come over by him, but nothing would come. He was powerless to stop what was happening. Nick lunged at Lyric, his hands held out like claws, snarling, but the moment he touched her, he was thrown back a good ten feet. He lay on his side, trembling and uttering small animal sounds. Lyric raced over and pulled out a pair of handcuffs. She placed one on his wrist and dragged him over to a solid looking water pipe running up the side of the building. Looping the loose end around the pipe, she secured his other wrist and let him sink to a sitting position. Once Nick was secured, Lyric turned and came toward Lucifer. She was stunning, a tempest of power, drawing energy 160

Midnight Becomes You from him in small measured doses. It was incredibly draining and Lucifer grabbed onto the fire escape to steady himself. She walked up to him and touched his face. “I love you, Lyric,” he said, thankful she was all right. She smiled at him and softly kissed him. Lucifer glanced over at Nick. “What do we do with him?” “As long as I have him trapped here, he can’t wake up. All we have to do now is find where he’s hiding out and take him back to Midnight,” she said. The dream world once again faded away, leaving him back on the floor of his home. He lay on his back panting, exhaustion filling his every sense. Lyric, fully conscious was above him, straddling his hips. Her body rested on top of him, quiet and still. They lay there for a long time. Finally, she lifted her body off him and padded to the kitchen. She was back a moment later with a cold bottle of water. Nestling back on top of him she said, “Want some?” His mouth was dry, but he didn’t want to move. “No.” Lucifer felt the velvety edges of sleep pulling him into the darkness. “Did you mean what you said about loving me, or was that the excitement talking?” she asked. He kept his eyes closed and toyed with a lock of her hair. “You know I meant it.” His voice was thick with advancing sleep. “Well,” she said playfully, “If that’s the case, then I guess I love you, too.”


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Chapter 48 Lyric came out of the Midnight building to find Lucifer standing in the outdoor smoking section. She walked over and took a seat on one of the metal benches. She scanned him for a cigarette, but he didn’t have one. “This is a strange place for someone to hang out when they’re trying to quit smoking,” she said. He grinned but didn’t look at her. “I’m nostalgic.” She leaned back on the bench and spread her arms out on either side of the backrest. “Hank says we did a great job. I am officially in Midnight.” “No, Lyric,” he said. “You did a great job.” She watched some cars pulling out of the parking lot. A Harley pulled up to the motorcycle parking and cut the engine. The driver walked inside. “You know what would really make me happy?” “I can’t imagine. Amaze me.” “A motorcycle ride.” He stroked his goatee. “Really?” “Yeah, I love bikes.” “I just so happen to have a really nice BMW.” She nodded. “I heard that about you.” “Should we take the rest of the day off and go for a ride?” Lyric stood up and looped her arm through his. “Mister Tanner, I think that would be a great idea. But what about your little phobia?” 162

Midnight Becomes You “You mean about the bike?” “Yeah?” “I think I’m getting over it. After all, I wouldn’t want to look bad in front of my girlfriend.” Lyric laughed and kissed him.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR Michelle has been writing science fiction erotic romance for a few years now, and can’t think of a better way to have fun. She has several credits to her name, including the novella The Love Machine published by Whiskey Creek Press Torrid. She is a member of the Winter Park Writer’s Group. You can visit her website at www.michelle-oneill.com.

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