Jonah and Hunnemus, the demon Jonah shares his body with, are drawn into the court intrigue of High Priest Sabaste. It becomes clear the priest does not intend to keep his promise of freeing them at the month’s end.
Jonah realizes he may no longer wish to be free.
Hunnemus sees the priest for what he is, and becomes desperate to protect his human counterpart—even if it means surrendering to Sabaste’s will.
The twists and sensual turns continue in Yamila Abraham’s dark new series!
- 1 To Be Read list
Jonah saw white behind his eyelids. The void drew him in, converting to wispy clouds that surrounded him. He became aware of his own astral form in the imagined realm, his pale hands, his limber thighs clothed in hemp trousers. After venturing a few steps he saw the demon who shared his body seated on a mound of grass with one knee brought against his chest.
Jonah paused before the Hunnemus, gazing into his phantasmal twin’s blood-red eyes.
“We’re still in the tower?” the demon said.
Hunnemus flashed his sharp canines in a sneer. “Feh. I knew he wouldn’t let us leave.”
Jonah sat beside him. He kept his back to the demon and focused on the void. “It’s temporary. Priest Sabaste wants us to stay a month so he can be sure you’re not dangerous. He said we could leave after that.”READ MORE
“Jonah,” Hunnemus said, in his dark rasping voice, “He does not intend to ever let us go.”
The mortal eyed him.
“He said what he needed to so you would concede. In a month he’ll have another reason we can’t leave. He’s trapped us in that tower.”
Jonah’s voice remained steady, since the words hadn’t been a revelation. “Why would he do this?”
“I don’t know yet.” Hunnemus pushed his clawed fingers through the lustrous black locks of his hair. “He’s perverse and we’re vulnerable. He may see value in my powers, he may want us to share his bed, or he may delight in breaking the will of those beneath his authority.”
“It’s possible, also, that he could just be lonely.”
The demon grimaced and shook his head. “You always look for the best in people, Jonah.”
His lashes lifted toward him. “And you the worst.”
“In that way, I keep us safe. Whatever his reasons, Sabaste is cunning. We won’t be allowed to leave at month’s end, or ever if he so wishes.”
Jonah turned his body to face the demon in full. They would have been identical if not for Hunnemus’ demonic features. The face he gazed at was a bizarre facsimile of his own, bone white with inky black surrounding crimson eyes.
“Do you want to run, Hunnemus?”
“I leave that for you to decide.”
He grew beseeching. “Don’t. This is your body too.”
“But it is your world. I know of no lands beyond the realm of Death, and those counties where we’ve lived. Is there yet a place for us, to run away and start anew?”
Jonah concentrated. “If we ran now the only safe place left for us is in the southern countries. I don’t speak their languages or know their customs.”
“This would make us strange to them even before they knew you share your body with a demon.”
Jonah placed his forehead in his hand. “I don’t want to run.”
“Then we stay,” Hunnemus said without emotion. “And we become the pawns of an unscrupulous priest.”
His face lifted. “Is he truly unscrupulous? He made an orphanage.”
“You do it again, Jonah. Sabaste claims to be devoted to the goddess Oceana, as well as the other three gods, and still fondled me in his bed.”
“Men are weak, Hunnemus. How many of Oceana’s priests are truly celibate?”
“So we deem that trespass permissible?”
“I can’t deem that.” Jonah fixed on him. “You’re the one he took liberties with. Is it forgivable?”
Hunnemus bowed his head. “I swore I would never touch another mortal after Ivy. This priest put his hands on me, reminding me what it felt like to be caressed.” He met Jonah’s eyes. “It would be a lie to say I didn’t relish it.”
Jonah pressed his lips together. “I swore I’d never abide society again after Ivy. This priest has thrust me back into what I forsook as well.”
He reached the short distance to take Jonah’s hand. “Can you abide society once more?”
“I thought I could when I agreed, but I presumed we’d only be here a month.” He closed his eyes. “But if you can endure his roaming hands, then I suppose I must endure the evils of society.”
“Or its virtues. Solitude did not suit you, Jonah. Year by year you descended further into darkness. A man is not meant to have a demon as his sole companion.”
Jonah nodded with his eyes straying to one side. “Then perhaps…he’s given us both what we need.”
Silence filled the moments after his words. Jonah’s face grew stern and then he rose to his feet.
“We’ll stay, for now, but with great caution. I ache to learn what his motives are. He does appear cunning, perhaps even sinister, but there’s that orphanage. It defies my perception of him. What evil man would help children?”
“What indeed.” Hunnemus rose with Jonah’s hand still in his. “I must assume our body now, my friend. Enjoy your rest.”
Jonah smiled. He withdrew his hand. When his link with Hunnemus severed the demon began to fade into the whiteness.
“Enjoy your night,” Jonah said.
2 The Concubinus
Jonah awoke when the sun was level with the east window. A woman was at the foot of the bed scrubbing Sabaste’s laundry with a tub and washboard. He sat up while holding a sheet against his bare chest.
The middle-aged woman looked at him with a start. “His holiness? He’ll be about the grounds, I ‘spect.”
Well that doesn’t help any.
A boy entered from the stairs with two buckets suspended on a poll. He dumped the water of one into Sabaste’s barrel. Jonah wrapped himself and rose. The tower had grown far too crowded.
He dressed in borrowed clothes behind the screen and descended the stairs. Sabaste came around the tower from the aspe. He wore his black Cossack with his gray hooded cloak. His eyes, brilliant even when shadowed, truly did look cunning. Hunnemus and he were resolute on that.
“There were servants in the tower so I came down.”
“You’re allowed to do so, but don’t leave the church grounds.”
Jonah grumbled while nodding.
“I gave Hunnemus a tour of the grounds last night. I should like to do the same for you.”
“Oh. That’s not necessary.”
“I insist.” Sabaste cocked his head to better meet his eyes. “Does something trouble you, Jonah?”
He mulled the question a moment. Other than being your prisoner?
“Hunnemus said you touched him again last night.”
One side of his mouth curled.
Jonah dropped his voice to a whisper. “That demon has a soul as deep and wide as any man. You’re toying with him.”
“Not at all. I think he’ll make a fine concubinus for me.” His eyes darkened. “Perhaps you also.”
Jonah blinked. “What?”
“As a priest of Oceana I’m forbidden to marry, but as a priest of Flamus I’m entitled to a male intimate.”
He shook his head, still aghast. “Are you joking?”
Sabaste gave his shoulder a squeeze. “I never joke, Jonah.” He tipped his nose toward the vestry. “Come, let me show you my orphanage.”
Jonah walked with him still contorted by the threat of his words. “At the month’s end Hunnemus and I will be leaving.”
Sabaste’s eyes glimmered. “I intend to convince you to stay.”
“As your concubinus?” He subdued the outrage in his voice so a nearby servant lighting candles wouldn’t hear him.COLLAPSE