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Lucifer had gotten there too late for the priest but not this time. He didn’t believe for a second that Balberith had the identity of the killer right, but he’d find out exactly who or what it was right now. What Balberith had seen was almost certainly a demon. If so, that demon would shortly discover the real meaning of hellfire and damnation.

The demon did have one advantage. It could enter a church, especially inside a possessed human.

Lucifer stood just outside the church door, where he still had a full view of the interior. Even with its back to him, he could see that the demon was in its own shape. Not a Possessing Demon. Good. This would be even easier.

He caused time to suspend within the church, the old nun arrested in motion with her head still pulled back, the demon’s long black talons stark against the white of her veil.

“Stop!” he commanded. “Don’t touch the human, and come out of the church immediately!” He knew that the demon would have no choice but to obey him. The question was how it had gotten to Earth without his knowledge in the first place. He’d have his answer in another instant.

The demon turned toward him, glowing red eyes fixed on his face.

“Lucifer,” it purred. The voice was a quiet, fierce hiss, but the old clarity and beauty remained.

It isn’t her! he thought. It couldn’t be. The eyes glaring with insanity, the long legs and hands ending in the talons of a raptor, the naked, black wings. She had retained her beautiful body but it had taken on a hard, fake sensuality, a mockery of passion, designed merely to induce human lust. All this where he had only known sublime beauty, softness, wings of silvery purity.

After centuries, eons without any word or any hint of her continued existence, why now and why like this?

He could hardly find his voice as his throat clogged with disgust and with the pain of a time lost. “Where have you been, Niamah? How has this happened?”

“What? Oh, my little makeover?” She shook out her hair, once his joy for its dark sheen and supple motion, now snakelike and almost alive of itself. “Suits my personality, don’t you think?”

“No. I don’t.”

“Well, you haven’t seen me in a long time. A very long time. In which, I’m crushed to say, you never even looked for me.”

“That isn’t true. I saw you fall. I searched the whole of Hell for you.”

“Well, I wasn’t there. I’m surprised you didn’t know that. What made you think I belonged among the Fallen, when you know the truth?”

She was drawing ever closer with each sinuous, snakelike movement still hypnotic in its grace, the beauty of her motion unchanged. “Why, Lucifer! What’s wrong? Don’t you want to hold me again, to feel my breasts against your naked chest one more time? To kiss my soft lips and feel the warmth of my tongue?” She was almost in his face now as he stood just outside the church door. She opened her mouth and extended a forked tongue, flicking out the foul air of her breath, and he instinctively jerked back.

“Now, this is a disappointment,” she said. “I thought you would rush into my arms in joyous, carnal reunion. No? Or is it that I can enter this sanctuary and you can’t? Jealous, beautiful one?”

“Niamah, your place is with me.”

“In Hell? Lucifer, I’ve been in a hell far worse than yours. Go back to your dark kingdom, and nurse your wounded virtue. Beat your breast and moan over your unfair transformation into the embodiment of sin, and if my existence bothers you so much, think of how you allowed it to happen.”

She started back towards the nun, but turned again to Lucifer. “Where have I been?” she said reflectively. “Could you stand to hear it, I wonder? It’s probably not as famous a story as yours, but it does have its perverse charm.”

  © Copyright 2009 by Cheri Scotch