Bastien stood in the kitchen, invisible, arms crossed defiantly over his chest. I winked at him and then turned back to Dana.
"Mitch is out for a while, if you wanted to see him."
"Oh. That's fine. I can, um, stay for a little while...I guess."
She seemed unnerved by my control of the situation. I poured us both iced tea, and we sat down at the table. I led us into conversation about our days, telling her about an awesome charity event I'd been to at a downtown bookstore. Dana recovered some of her composure and returned to her smooth and controlled self. Her bigoted nature aside, the woman could manage a decent conversation, and we clicked. Too bad she didn't channel her intelligence into more useful areas, I thought.
As we talked about assorted things, the solution to the whole Dana situation struck me - it was so obvious. I don't know if it was the ambrosia or not, but I couldn't believe how blind we'd all been. How had none of us figured out the problem with her? What kind of seduction experts were we? Bastien was right. Dana was a lost cause.
"Dana," I interrupted in a most un-Tabitha way, "I'm really glad you came over tonight because there's something I've needed to ask you."
She choked on her tea. "Yes?"
I propped my elbows on the table, resting my chin in my hands so I could have solid eye contact. "You said a little while ago that you and Bill had lost the romance and that you didn't care. But you know what? I don't believe that. I think you miss it. I think you crave it. But not with him."
Dana's face went pale, eyes wide. Bastien, standing nearby, wore a similar look. I didn't care. We had nothing to lose at this point.
"Am I right?" I leaned closer. "There is something missing, isn't there? And you were lying about not knowing what's sexy. You know. You know what turns you on, and you want it. You want it so bad, you can taste it."
I swear, you could have heard a pin drop in the room. Dana worked forcibly to control her breathing, staring and staring at me as though I might vanish if she blinked.
"Yes," she finally croaked. "You've been right about a lot of things. Like how we can't choose who we want. And yes...I think we both know what I'm talking about, Tabitha." Some of her old confidence began to return. "At first, I wasn't sure. You were so hard to read. But then, after I saw how awkward things were with you and your boyfriend - how you never wanted to talk about him and said you weren't attracted to him - I knew for sure. That little lingerie show you put on for me cinched it. You were amazing. I couldn't stop thinking about it. I'd already seen you naked in the hot tub, and that had been agonizing enough. I had to see you naked again. And then, as I talked to you more, I realized you were intelligent too. Just like tonight." She took a deep, quaking breath and reached out her hand to cover mine, fingers slowly dancing along my skin. "You're right. I do want something. So bad I can taste it. I know it's wrong, and I know it's immoral, but I can't help myself. I can't help who I want. Can't help wanting you."
No wonder Bastien hadn't been able to close the deal. Dana had wanted me. Probably from the moment I stepped out of the pool in that skimpy bathing suit. Staring at her, I thought about all the horrible things her group did. I also thought about Bastien being tortured by some demon. In some cases, being immortal wasn't always a blessing. Now, I could save him from that fate and send a little payback to the CPFV.
I smiled back at Dana, letting my body language speak for me as the tension mounted. I admit, I was a little surprised that all of my previous encounters had been read as advances on her, but well, whatever. The invisible incubus had run out of the room somewhere around "I had to see you naked again." He returned now, wielding the video camera. Seeing my calculated silence, he waved the camera at me frantically, glee all over his face.
I held the power now to change everything. The power to achieve what Bastien had been fighting for. To save him and humiliate the CPFV. If I could just pull this off. The ambrosia had proved today that my strongest talents lay in improvisation and planning, the ability to multitask and solve problems. That was great. It made me feel better about myself than I had in a while. It was probably what had led me to realize the truth about Dana too. But what about my earlier musings about the ambrosia? In regard to sex? Was my sexual prowess still a key part of me? Had the ambrosia enhanced that too? Could I rock some man - or woman - in bed? Looking at Dana and her now-obvious lust, I knew the answer. I gave a sultry laugh and jauntily brushed my hair out of my face.
I could and would rock her world. I was a team player, after all. For both teams.
Squeezing her hand, I moved toward her.
"I feel exactly the same way."
The waiter brought me another gimlet just as I finished my last one. Good man, I thought. He deserved an ample tip.
Four days after the Emerald Lit Fest, I sat in the Cellar with Jerome, Carter, Hugh, Peter, Cody, and Bastien. The usual suspects. It was the first time I'd seen any of them in days. I'd been keeping a low profile, essentially only leaving my home to go to work and back.
I hadn't seen or heard from Seth in that time either.
None of us spoke. We just sat there in the dark, nursing drinks. Other people in the pub moved around and laughed, but we were a corner of silence. I could have sliced and diced the awkward tension among us. Finally, unable to take it anymore, I sighed.
"All right," I snapped. "You can stop pretending. I know you've all seen the video."
It was like letting the air out of a balloon. An opening of the floodgates.
Hugh spoke first, admiration shining in his eyes. "Jesus Christ, that was the absolute best thing I've ever seen."
"I've seen it, like, ten times," added Peter. "And it doesn't get old."
Cody's delighted look spoke for itself.
I took down half of my drink in one gulp. "Sometimes I look around, and I can't believe this is my life. "
Bastien had done an Oscar-worthy job of capturing my romantic escapade with Dana on film. She had never noticed the disembodied camera floating around; only the incubus had actually been invisible. Of course, Dana had been too preoccupied to really notice much. I'd made sure of that, and while I felt a certain amount of glee over my powers of pleasure and distraction, my post-ambrosia self still didn't like having that prowess put on display any more than I'd liked Seth's story being linked to me. At least no one knew who Tabitha Hunter was.
" Fleur ,I swear you did things I didn't even know about," teased Bastien.
"Oh, be quiet," I told him, knowing he lied. "This whole thing is embarrassing enough. I can't believe you had it all over the Internet in a matter of hours."
He shrugged. "Good news is hard to keep to yourself."
Jerome's eyes gleamed with subdued satisfaction. "No need to be embarrassed. What you did is laurel-worthy, Georgie. You'll be Succubus of the Year now."
"Great," I said. "Maybe that comes with coupons that haven't expired."
"Joke all you want," continued the demon, "but you've caused havoc in a powerful religious group. That is definitely worth celebrating."
So much so that Bastien was probably off the hook. True, he hadn't been in the spotlight, but I'd made sure that Jerome played up his role in the official written report. I think the demon knew I'd gone a little overboard in crediting Bastien for his assistance in this caper, but he hadn't dwelt on the technicalities. Regardless of what the paperwork said, the diabolical community knew it was Jerome's succubus in the extremely popular video. My boss's reputation had gone through the roof.
As for the CPFV...well, yes, it was most definitely in chaos. Dana had resigned as soon as the scandal went public. Suddenly missing their strong leader, the group had collapsed into confusion, flailing about with no clear direction. Poor Bill. In addition to the embarrassment of a philandering wife, he now had to do damage control and still maintain his strong stance on family values for the sake of his political career. Reelections were next year; no one knew how he'd fare.
I had mixed feelings about the whole matter. Sure, I hated the CPFV's horrible actions and was glad to see them go down. But Dana, despite her many flaws, had cared about Tabitha. It might not have been love, but the emotions were genuine. She'd opened herself up to me, and I'd made a mockery of it. Even if she managed to wade out of this mess, she'd probably never accept her sexual inclinations again. She'd bury them, continuing a campaign of homosexual intolerance. That bothered me, for the sake of both her personal and her political lives.