Vivify had been Joel’s baby. Combining Gaelle’s talents with plant life, Evan’s business sense and immortal contacts, and Joel’s love of adventure; the three had launched an entire line of herbal supplements used to increase preternatural pleasure. It touched on everything from drops to relieve depression, to oils that promoted blood flow to erogenous zones, to creams, that when used right, would make even an incubus impressed.
Joel had built their first greenhouse with his own hands, and talked about the day they’d need dozens of warehouses to keep up with the demand once they went national after breaking out at the ParaPleasure Expo. In the first six months, their online business and little boutique shop had boomed to his delight, and it seemed his plans would come to pass. Only Joel wouldn’t live long enough to see it.
They’d all known he was on borrowed time. The heart defect he’d been born with was a product of his mixed human and daemon heritage. It was inoperable, and as an infant, medical science had given him a life expectancy of five years. Alternative medicine and a little preternatural science had added nearly thirty years to that in the end. But finally, at thirty-three, his too human heart could no longer fuel a more than human body and he was gone. It had been a long year without him and she and Evan had finally learned to laugh and smile again, but it would never be the same without Joel. Every smile would be tinged with a touch of sadness.
It was supposed to be the three of them. It had always been the three of them. It should have always been so. They were confidants, and co-conspirators, and best friends, and they could have been even more if Joel had just lived a little longer.
Gaelle slowed and looked at the drooping ficus tree tucked into a corner nook beside the elevator. The one there at the start of the day had been proud and vivacious, but over the course of the day had been traded out for this more humble offering. It wasn’t a bad tree. The braided trunk was healthy and the branches sturdy, but it seemed nearly as down and depressed as Gaelle herself. She walked over and ran a hand across the once vibrant green leaves.
“Hey little guy, looks like neither one of us is quite in the right mindset for all of this. We should try to perk up for Joel’s sake. I know he’s watching.”
She’d felt Joel’s spirit for the last few weeks, his vibration getting stronger each time. It was like that the first year after a death if a soul stayed to linger. There’d be no way to know if he was sentient and remembered her until he could manifest. Not everyone stayed in tact when they remained. He might be no more than a strong memory and until she knew, Gaelle wasn’t getting her hopes up. But she would let the feel of him bring a smile as it always did. She passed that smile on to the ficus and watched as its branches lifted and new leaves emerged and unfurled. By the time it was as lush and lively as she could make it, Gaelle herself felt more alive and ready to take on the rest of the expo.
The elevator chimed and Evan stepped out as Gaelle turned to look at him.
“There you are.” He smiled, looking past her. “I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist making new friends with all of this foliage tucked everywhere.”
“The little guy just needed a pick-me-up.” She laughed.
He could see the flush of giddiness in her aura from the use of her power. It was also evident in the way her hand lovingly caressed the leaves. She didn’t touch him that way. He pushed aside the small pang of envy and extended his sensory Psi until he could feel the caress on his own skin. The sensation pulled him toward her, growing stronger as he got closer, but he stopped cold just shy of arm’s reach.
He could feel his best friends fingers move along his neck in tandem with the psychic caress from Gaelle. The strong scent of vanilla and sawdust assaulted him. That was Joel completely; if he wasn’t building he was baking, enjoying anything that let him work with his hands. What he was working at the moment was Evan.
“Evan?” The psychic touch became a heavy, warm, physical one as Gaelle placed her hands on his face. “Are you all right?” Her fingers slid down the sides of his neck, overlapping the touch from Joel.
“I’m fine.” He grinned, dizzied and swaying with the pleasure of it. “Joel’s here. Stronger than he’s been before.”
He slid his arms around her and pulled her flush to his front as he felt Joel’s ghostly form mold against his back. Giving in rather than fighting it, he let the press of Joel’s will lead him right where he’d wanted to be for so long—locked in a kiss with Gaelle.
He could feel her surprise, yet she yielded rather than withdrew; soft, full lips parting beneath his own. The black Versace jacket and dove gray silk shirt he wore may as well have been misted to nothingness along with Gaelle’s scarlet silk halter dress and matching jacket, because each place they touched sent a thrill of skin-to-skin contact almost beyond nudity. It was as if they shared the first few layers of cells between them, the nerve endings reaching out and nuzzling against each other in a pleasure cascade reminiscent of Evan’s Vampire heritage.
Each moan vibrated through them from head to toe, and for the first time since late adolescence Evan wanted to drink someone in the way he drank in the kiss. Dormant fangs ached but then no sooner than he acknowledged the desire than the pleasure of her lifeforce flowing into him took them both.
The world consisted of shuddering moans, frictioning bodies, and intertwining minds for a space of minutes that lasted days. A rush of release hit them both and then all at once the connections were gone. They were separate beings again and Joel’s presence evaporated. Unsupported by the burst of ghostly Psi energy they fell against the wall with a heavy thud and Gaelle laughed out loud.
“Well, that was…unexpected. What happened?” She panted.
Evan shook his head and then laid it back against the wall, catching his breath before he spoke.
“Joel happened. I wasn’t expecting him to be so…”
He could only shake his head again, there were no words. That had been Joel. Not a memory or a shadow of him, but Joel the way he’d been when alive. He’d lost the man he was in love with and now Joel was back just as he was reconciling his feelings for the woman in his arms. And then it had all exploded in one big Psi Sensate Orgy. How did you articulate something like that?
“I could feel him too, but it was through you primarily. You must have been wide open for him to sweep into you that way.”
Heavy lids opened in time for him to see her turn toward the tree as if it held answers. Perhaps it did for when she turned back dark chocolate eyes stared up into his bright gray ones with a suspicion and amusement.
“You were wide open weren’t you? You were doing the extending thing.” She grinned.
He shrugged. What point was there in denying it? He’d just kissed her deep enough to tickle a rib with his tongue, too late to be embarrassed about a little vicarious caress action.
“I was doing the extending thing, yes. The tree looked so happy I thought I’d share. I guess I looked so happy, Joel thought he’d share.”
He looked around as if he expected to see his best friend standing nearby, waiting for them to recover. There was only a thankfully empty cove, meaning they’d gotten away with their little public display without an audience.
“We should head up to the suite before he decides to share again. I don’t want to end up making out on the lobby tiles. There was already one floor show for the day.”
Gaelle stood back just far enough to cross her arms. “It wasn’t that guy’s fault. He didn’t see her and it was an accident. And I’m sure he could have done without you laughing in the corner.”
Evan put his arm around her waist and began to walk them to the elevator. “I’m sure that with her lying beneath him, he didn’t even notice.” He placed his key card in the slot and the lift doors slid apart. “But if it makes you feel better I’ll let him know that karma came my way in the south foyer should I find myself in conversation with him.”
She seemed satisfied with the option and let him lead her out of the little cove into the spacious smoked glass and obsidian lift. He didn’t think for a minute that she was really concerned about the unfortunate fellow from earlier in the day. It was just a way to avoid talking about the fact that Joel was there, truly there with them, and what that might mean. A year of mourning, and weeks of wondering, and now here it was and he didn’t blame her for stalling.
“I told Joel I was in love with him at his funeral” He blurted. One of them had to say something, and that worked just as well as anything.
“So did I”, she replied.
He started to laugh, stepping over to the side of the elevator and placing his back against the cool glass. His head tilted back and his eyes slipped shut.
“So that’s it, huh? He’s finally strong enough to come back and wants to cash in on what we waited too late to say.”
“Probably.” She nodded, knowing he could still sense her movements. “Although, I think he specifically wants to cash in on number 17 on his list.”
Ebon lashes lifted and he ran a pale hand through short raven locks as an entirely different kind of laugh took him.
“Ah, wonderful number 17, getting the three of us in bed together. I remember the list well. That was also number 23 and 41 if I recall correctly.” The laughter died to a soft, sad, smile. “He never pushed it because he was afraid you’d run away.”
“I know.” She sighed. “I told him at the hospital in those last days that I wouldn’t have run. I love you both enough that the idea never frightened me. But he always saw me as too human to trust in that. With so little time left he was too afraid to mess things up between us and then die without it being resolved. I couldn’t blame him for that.”
Evan just stared at her for a second. Then blinked and cleared his throat.
“I heard everything you said, and I’m sure I have something sage and compassionate to say in reply. But can we go back to the part where you love me enough that the idea never frightened you? I’d like to hone in on the love part until I’m clear.”
It was Gaelle’s turn to shrug. “You were there for the kiss and whatever else we’re supposed to call that.”
“I was going with meta-sex.” He interrupted.
“Okay, you were there for the ‘meta-sex’; you felt what I was feeling. You weren’t projecting, that was me.” She paused, her head tilting to the left. “Well, some of it was Joel, but the part that was me, was definitely me.”
He stared, a smile of disbelief taking him. “You’re awfully forthcoming all of a sudden.”
“I can afford to be.” She grinned. “I felt you as well. I’m not putting anything on the line because I already know your feelings, it makes being forthcoming rather easy. Not to mention I’m still feeling no pain after all of that.”
The elevator ride was so smooth that it took them a moment to realize it had come to a stop but the doors hadn’t opened. Before either of them could speak, the scent of vanilla and sawdust assailed Evan and beneath it was something heady and sweet. The scent of blood. As a Dhamphir he was only part vampire and he didn’t possess the bloodlust of his father’s side. But the drug-like joy of the Drink was something that could still capture him and he could taste Gaelle in the suddenly small-seeming space.
“Gaelle,” he rasped. “Please, stay unafraid.”
It was all he had time to say before he had her pressed against the side of the elevator. Overcome by the feel of Joel as well, she managed to turn her back to Evan and grip the handrail just before he got to her. He pressed his pelvis against the high, taut, roundness of her and lifted heavy mahogany curls to place his lips to the galloping pulse in her throat. He sucked at the molasses-hued skin without breaking it, pulling tiny droplets through her pores.
The press of Joel’s form at his back nearly paused him long enough to ask if they could at least make it to the suite rather than give security a private show via the cameras. But buried beneath the building sensations and enticing droplets of blood, he couldn’t care long enough to form a coherent sentence.
Besides, part of him knew it wouldn’t have done any good. Sex in a private elevator was number 34 on Joel’s list of things he wanted to do before he died. It apparently was never too late to accomplish your goals.
To Be Continued…