so.” “Flatterer. So how about it?” She licked her lips again and they glimmered in the light. He tore his eyes away and took several deep breaths. “Not today, ...” He paused. “What is your name, anyway?” “You couldn’t pronounce it. You haven’t got enough tongues.” She giggled at him and he looked despite himself. Her breasts were bouncing as she laughed and he had to take another deep breath. “What do you like to be called?” “’Mistress.’” At that it was his turn to snort. “How about I just call you Lilith? Wasn’t she a great temptress?” “You are such a nice boy. And I’m sure she’d be flattered too.” “Lilith, then. Or maybe Lily. You should have your own name.” The succubus gave him a strange look. “You are a very unusual man.” “Why do you say that?” “No one ever worried about my feelings before.” She was looking at him quite speculatively, as if for the first time she was taking him seriously. It actually made her more tempting. He could feel himself weakening. “Lily, if I send you back, and do the ritual again, will you come? Or some other demon?” Now she had to consider. “That’s a good question. Nobody’s ever bothered with that for a succubus, but you can call a specific demon if you know which one you want. If you don’t, you get whatever He sends you. If you thought about me, you’d probably get me again. Why?” “Because if I look at you much longer I’m going to jump through that circle dick-first.” She grinned. “But I’d like to talk to you again.” “You silver-tongued mortal. Any of us could look like this - not that it doesn’t look best on me - but I think I’d like that too. You are interesting. And if you see me again I’m sure you’ll come around.” She made a kissy-face at him while drawing one finger down her neck and through her cleavage. Simon fought with every ounce of strength to stop himself jumping across the lines. He won, but barely. “Then until next time, Lily. Demigro! ” He spat out the word of dismissal, in fear she’d find a way to convince him to let her stay just a little longer. She disappeared, still smiling. Simon sank to the floor and sprawled in relief, but on his back. He wouldn’t be able to lie down on his front for hours.
Over the next few months, Simon learned the true meaning of the phrase, “demon-haunted world.” Lily’s laughing face was the first thing he saw when he closed his eyes at night. The feeling of her body under his hands filled feverish dreams. He sweated through the sheets every night. I’ve made a terrible mistake , he realized. She’s so tempting. I’ll never be free of her. I have to have her. But I don’t want to go to Hell. There has to be a way. The books were no help: mostly what they talked about was how to put off your reckoning once you were in too deep to get out. He’d never know how old Irena had been, or how many souls she’d traded to the dark powers. Magic could be used to extend life more or less indefinitely, although if you wouldn’t use your soul - or somebody else’s - for the purpose, it was much harder. So he spent a lot of time researching the history of demonology. He couldn’t get into the Vatican library - his family wasn’t that connected - but there were lots of libraries in Europe with lots of very old books. Most of what existed was scholarly research about why the stupid primitives had believed such silly things, but by comparing the content of many other sources to what the books claimed, he managed to construct what he thought was a fairly reliable set of principles. Demons could make bargains, and they kept them - but they were both extremely literal and extremely good at twisting them to produce an unfortunate outcome for the bargainer. And they took payment in souls, period. What they could or would give in return varied widely and seemed to be limited mostly by the imagination of the summoner.