Olivia’s head spun, her vision clouding. She snatched blindly at the railing to steady herself. Behind her trailed a wide flight of steps down to a diamond-shaped plaza with a waterfall fountain in the center. Ahead of her loomed a lofty tower made of silver glass and blue steel. She tipped her head back, tracing the jutting rise of the building from its blocky base to the lights glittering like jewels around the crown. Though it was impossible, she imagined she could hear laughter and music drifting down from above.
Her muscles quivered. She hadn’t eaten—really eaten—in twenty-nine days, and her body was definitely not liking the starvation diet. She stumbled away from the stairs and sagged onto a polished granite bench, huddling into her jacket. The evening was plenty warm, but her body didn’t seem to realize it.
It’s just the withdrawals, she told herself. Once I get past them, I’ll be fine. I’ll be fine.
Like telling herself would make it true. She closed her eyes and caught her head in her hands, bracing her elbows on her knees. It has to work. It just has to.
A car honked. The screech of rubber and crunching metal tore Olivia from her torpor. She lifted her head dully. Laughter pinged against her brain and footsteps pattered lightly on the stairs. The bright smell of expensive perfume swirled around her, blotting out the city smells and the stench of Olivia’s own fear and wasting.
“Wait a second, everyone. I think that’s my research assistant. Olivia? Is that you? Are you okay?”
Her entire body clenched. Noah. Shit. No no no. She didn’t want him seeing her like this. Not weak and pathetic and looking like a fifty year old ex-hooker with a coke problem.
Not that she had a choice.
She straightened as he squatted down before her. The two women and man he was with gathered curiously behind him. Olivia flicked a glance at them, her cheeks flushing. She squirmed and knotted her hands together, the knuckles turning white.
She hardly noticed the man, except that he had a broad chest, blond hair and looked a little like a Viking. His companion, a redhead, had long legs and smokey eyes. Her boobs jutted like they were made out of plastic. Probably they were.
The other woman was Noah’s date. Her ash white hair was sleek and short, her eyes big and blue, her mouth full and as luscious as a fresh-picked cherry. She had a Barbie body with big boobs, a tiny waist and flared hips. The body of a succubus. She smiled sympathetically at Olivia over Noah’s shoulder. Pretty and nice too. Bitch.
Olivia clenched her teeth. She could look that good. Better. She could make Noah and his gorgeous friend fall at her feet and grovel just to lick her toes. She could—
She didn’t want him that way. She wanted him the normal way.
Her gaze dropped to him, her belly throbbing hard with desperate hunger.
He was tall and slender with dark hair that was just a little too long over his ears and forehead. His eyes were laser blue and his face was just the right mix of angles and curves. Beneath his coat and shirt, he was hard with muscle.
“Hey,” he said, brushing a wisp of hair out of her face. “Is everything all right? You look…”
She waited while he searched for the word. She knew how she looked. Haggard. Faded. Wizened like a raisin.
“You look like you aren’t feeling so good,” he said finally. “This is my fault. I know I’ve been working you hard. But we nailed the case and you can have some time off anytime you want.”
She smiled. Trust him to find the diplomatic way out. “I got lunch at the taco cart,” she said and then shrugged. “Maybe something didn’t agree with me.”
What didn’t agree with her was food—human food. Or rather, it did nothing to sustain her. She needed a whole different kind of diet. But once the spell took hold, she’d no longer be a succubus. She’d be an ordinary woman, and once she was, Noah would be hers. All she had to do was avoid sex a little longer.
Her glance roved over his face, pausing too long on his lips. The tip of her tongue flicked out to wet her own.
He flushed and looked over his shoulder at his waiting companions like he was looking for an excuse to get away. Olivia bit her tongue sharply, tasting blood. Stupid. Looking like she did now, it was no wonder he wanted to get away.
She pushed her hair behind her ears. All she had to do was let loose a little magic and Noah wouldn’t see anyone but her. A night of sex would cure the bags under her eyes and plump her sagging skin. She’d have a vibrant glow that no man could resist. Hell, with magic, she could have leprosy, and he’d still beg to get in her bed. With magic, he’d be hers as long as she wanted him. He’d think about her constantly awake and asleep.
An ache ran through her and need twisted in her chest. With magic, he’d be her slave. Who the hell wanted that?
“Noah, we’re going to be late,” his buddy Thor said in his chocolate-and-whiskey voice.
A flash of fury burned through her. Olivia glared at him, letting her pent up magic burst out in a dart of pure frustrated rage. He recoiled, his face turning gray.