The fireworks at the stroke of midnight shattered the former tranquility of the park. Applause and music erupted where there was once serene fog and quiet “ice dancing.” I only learned after that the performer was an ice elemental. The lamps that led us to our current destination lit up with a greater vibrancy than before, shining white light across our half of the meadow. People gathered into groups, put on music, and played around on the new snowflake design in the center of the field. Above, the leftover smoke from the firework show gathered still more smog as people fired off their own from the streets around the park.
Along with some others, Stella and I remained in our tree. Even among the din of the New York New Year, I felt like I could just fall asleep under our blanket. The bark was rough, sure, and there was the danger of falling, but we snuggled so close I felt none of that mattered very much.
Stella pushed the back of her head into my shoulder and opened her mouth wide in a yawn.
I patted her firm belly under the blanket. “You out of steam already?”
With some maneuvering she pulled a folded wing out from under the covers and rubbed her eyes. “I’m alright. Just need to get up and moving again.” So much for falling asleep in a tree.
As she fumbled with the blanket and got up from my lap, a violent vibration churned my pocket. My hand darted to my pants and I remembered that I owned a phone. With the default ring tone echoing through the field, I swiped a finger across the screen and answered it.
“Hi, uh, hello?”
The other end of the call had some mad bass pumping in the background. “Hi, this is Jeff, right?” A woman’s voice.
“This is he?”
“Hi! This is Janet! You know, from the bus?”
Oh, right. I made a succubus friend, didn’t I? “Yeah, yeah! I remember. What’s up?”
Stella saw what I was doing and leaned down to listen in. I supposed there was no harm in that.
“First of all, happy New Year!”
“Yeah! You, too.”
“Thanks. Mine could be going better, though. You know how you said you’d be my wingman?”
Stella glanced at me and raised an eyebrow. The regret burned in my gut.
“Yeah, I remember. But I’m spending time with my girlfriend right now, so—”
“No, no! That’s perfect! She should definitely come along. I’m at a party at the park, and I have a cunning plan.”
I shared a glance with Stella, and she said into the phone, “Will there be food?”
Janet told us where the party was located, which was a ten minute walk away, according to Stella. She led the way. We took one of the many miles-long walkways that snaked through the park. With some of the fog gone, we were able to see more of the people around us. In the background of quiet chatter were echoing pops of fireworks and distant wubs of music, which got louder the further we traveled.
Every now and then, among the fog and bushes outside of the concrete path, I caught glimpses of what could very well have been couples mid-coitus. More often than that, couples involving monstrous women pranced off into the forest of trees hand in hand. A moan here, a grunt there, and every now and then a cry of joy. These couples were markedly outnumbered by the people walking down the path, but you’d think a cop or two would have known about that kind of thing going on in the park. I mean, public indecency was still a thing, right? Or maybe there was just too many such women who congregated at the park for the holidays to keep up? Thinking of it that way, there was no way the police would have been able to arrest them all.
Regardless, the two of us walked in silence. I had a feeling that if we said anything we’d end up somewhere in the woods with the rest of them. To be fair, if not for the bet we made, I would have been all over that idea.
Eventually we arrived at a large fountain next to what looked like a lake, where the party was still taking place. Several stalls were set up in a ring around the fountain. From the smell of things, there were tacos. Lots of tacos. Though plenty of people were scattered about, many of them dancing to the music blasting from our left, one familiar succubus stood on the lip of the fountain with a glowing phone in her hand. For the occasion, she ditched her office attire and sported a front-tied button-up shirt that showed off her ample bosom, and a pair of jeans that hugged her figure. How she was staying warm was anyone’s guess. Through the power of boners, perhaps?
I waved to Janet and called her name above the ruckus of the crowd. She spotted us, hopped down from the fountain, and approached us. She seemed to be doing her best not to bump into anyone.
Once she reached us, she said, “Hey! Glad you guys could make it!” With that, she slung an arm around my neck and shook me up in greeting. A brief wave of arousal flowed through me before she let go. Fortunately, the feeling passed, but boy did it feel hot all of a sudden.
Stella gave me a look.
Right. “Uh, Janet, this is my girlfriend. Stella.”
Janet blinked, as if only just then noticing the girl on my arm. “Great to finally meet you! I’m Janet. Jeff and I met the other day.” At least she was courteous.
“Eheh, uh, hi!” Stella said. The nervous smile on her lips was enough to tell me she really didn’t want to be in Janet’s presence.
“Hey, there’s barbeque at the stand over there,” Janet whispered.
Stella’s face grew grim and serious. “Take me there.”
And just like that, the best of friendships was forged. Together the three of us waited in line at the barbeque stall. Not once did Stella let go of my arm, though. On one hand, sure, she didn’t bring her crutch. On the other hand, I looked like I was escorting two monstrous women. Some would probably have been jealous, while others might have feared for my life.
“So here’s the guy I’ve got in mind,” Janet said, getting my attention with a tug on my scarf. “There’s a makeshift bar over by the lake. You see it?” She pointed a thumb over her shoulder toward the water. Sure enough, a long bar and some stools were set up with some lights strung between some posts above it. They actually had a nice selection, by the looks of things.
“Alright, what about it?” I said.
“There’s a guy who’s been over there waiting for someone for, like, half an hour now. Probably got stood up or something— he checked his phone a hundred times before you guys got here.” Boy did I know that feeling.
“So, what? You need me to tell him to go talk to you or something?”
She chuckled and put on a sly smirk. “Nah, nothing like that. We’ll get to all that later.”
“After we eat, then?” Stella asked. I could see her beginning to drool at the scent of the pulled pork sandwiches they were putting together for a few people down the line.
“Oh, of course! It’s on me. Tell me what you want.”
Stella and I got pulled pork sandwiches. Though they were on the small side, they piled on the meat for us. Janet just asked for one of the bread buns they were using. Understandable; she probably didn’t want to have barbeque breath when she went after her quarry.
We found an open table near the bar and sat down. A whole picnic sort of area was set up all around with old circular folding tables and plastic chairs. There were only two chairs at the table, so Stella offered to sit on my lap. I did not argue with the idea. Janet couldn’t seem to hold back a proud smile as she watched Stella sit side-saddle on my legs. The pleasant weight of her cute butt on my thighs was indeed welcome, even as she proceeded to devour her sandwich as loudly as possible.
“So when do you want to start?” I asked.
Janet’s cheeks were stuffed with bread. “After we eat.” She swallowed. “Take your time, I’m in no rush. You’re already doing great, kids.” Fine by me. On a side note, the sandwich was actually really tasty.
Out of curiosity, I glanced over at the bar. Near the side closer to us, a young man around my age sat facing the fountain. Two empty drinks sat on the bar behind him, water collecting along the sides and dampening the bar. He didn’t look particularly handsome, but had a strong jaw and a military haircut. Perhaps Janet went for army types?
“So how often do you guys have sex, anyway?”
A lump of chewed foot nearly caught in my throat while Stella froze and looked at the succubus.
“Do any roleplaying?”
I nearly coughed up my sandwich.
“Why do you wanna know?” Stella said.
Janet shrugged her shoulders. “Just curious. You two seem like good kids. I was wondering if you might have any trouble in bed. Since, you know, wings and talons and stuff.” Way to be sensitive about the subject, Janet.
Stella just gave her a look. It wasn’t one of those looks she gave me that told me to quit being dumb. If I didn’t know better, my girlfriend was about to lay her out.
She placed her sandwich on the table. “We do it maybe two or three times a week, right Jeff?”
Well, I guess we’re doing this. “Uh, around there, yeah.”
Janet smiled at our willingness to talk. “That’s pretty good. Not too infrequent, but not so often you can’t keep things interesting.”
Stella nodded. “And I’m on the pill, so we don’t have to keep ordering condoms.”
“Right, right, you’re in Alaska. That’s a good move. Speaking of which, though, isn’t it cold?”
I spoke up this time. “We share a bed, and our radiator’s really good.”
Janet didn’t seem convinced. “Yeah, but doesn’t the cold keep you from getting in the mood?”
“I guess? We both get home around sunset, so we usually go to sleep after dinner and a shower.”
“Mm!” Stella interjected with a mouth full of food. “That reminds me. We need a bigger bath, man.”
She gave me a look, as if I missed the most obvious point in the world. “So we can bathe together, duh!”
Janet smirked. “Ah, so you’ve discovered the magical world of bath sex, have you? Good job.” She seemed genuinely invested in us. I understood succubi were all into sex, but was sex therapy really such a normal thing with them? She raised an eyebrow. “Any toys?” There it was.
To my bewilderment, Stella outright laughed. “No, we don’t have any toys.”
“Why not? Wouldn’t that keep things even more interesting?”
“Actually, uh…” Stella glanced between me and Janet before leaning over and whispering something in her ear. I couldn’t see her lips, nor could I hear her over the rumble of the crowd and music.
Janet’s eyes widened before she put on a mischievous smile. “Oh, Jeff, you’re a lucky guy.” She started fanning herself with her free hand. Was a succubus really getting the vapors from what was probably a single sentence?
“What?” I said. “Something about me?”
Without a word, Stella leaned in and snuggled up on my shoulder. “’t’s not important.” The ear into which she whispered tensed up at the feeling of her breath.
“No, really, what is it?” I looked over to the succubus. “Janet? What’d she say?”
“Usually I’d tell you, but it’s not my place to say. Phew.”
Well, that was fair. Regardless, I grudgingly put an arm around Stella’s waist. She reacted with a kiss to my ear.
After Janet finished cooling herself off or whatever, she finished off her bread bun. “So how’s the sandwich? Gonna finish it?”
“It’s alright,” Stella said into my neck. “Not as good as Nilam’s food, though.”
“He’s a chef at an Indian restaurant. He gives me free leftovers and junk.”
“Oh, you like Indian food? I love spicy stuff, so I go all the time!”
Stella lit up and turned to face her once more. “Yeah! Yeah! They use the bestest spices there! Even the leftovers are just awesome!”
“Do you like Italian?”
“Eh, too much pasta. I can’t use forks and stuff that well.”
The two of them talked about food as if they were talking about current events. Stella made it sound like her food tasting good was of Earth-shattering importance, while Janet described food in the most sensual ways possible. Not gonna lie, I popped a boner at her descriptions of some ramen noodles she got near Times Square. Stella didn’t seem to mind.
“You guys want something to drink? Still my treat, so don’t even worry about it.”
I glanced at Stella. “Beer?”
She faced me. “Beer.”
We both looked at Janet and nodded. “Beer.”
Janet’s eyes beamed at us as a burst of laughter bubbled up from inside. “You guys are so damn cute!” She ran around to the other side of our chair and gave us a big hug from behind. Once more, that gentle wave of arousal coursed through me from head to toe. “But yeah, beer it is. Be back in a bit!”
Stella adjusted herself so she could whisper in my ear. “Jeff, I don’t feel right.”
“I don’t know. It’s like she’s challenging me or something. I don’t feel right with her around.”
“She’s asking us to help her get in bed with some guy we don’t even know. How’s that challenging you?”
Adjusting herself so she could look me square in the eyes, she said, “I am. Very. Territorial right now, ‘kay? With a succubus running around, I don’t care how friendly she is. I’m gonna show her what’s what.”
I put a hand on her shoulder. “You need to calm down. I’m not going to let her seduce me or something.”
“Oh, no, it’s not even about that. It’s just some kinda, I dunno, instinct whenever I see her.”
All I could imagine as a falcon protecting a recent kill from a much larger predator. I was the kill. Couldn’t help but laugh and give Stella a peck on the lips.
“Never thought I’d say this, but you need to lighten up and have a drink.”
She just sighed and crossed one leg over the other. Her dress would have flipped up if I didn’t pat it down.
“But you can’t have more than one,” I added. “I want you to actually remember the night.”
“Come on, I’ll survive.”
“No, no, I looked it up. Exactly zero harpies can drink more than two shots of the hard stuff without getting smashed. Have to be careful.” Actually, alcohol is basically poisonous to regular birds. Harpies can stand it by virtue of having partially human bodies.
“Whatever, man. It’s free beer, shut up.” She smirked and tickled my nose with a feather.
Janet returned with a six pack of bottles in one hand, in one of those cardboard holders with a handle in the center. As she sat down it occurred to me that she didn’t appear to have a wallet on her, and I couldn’t see where she might have stashed the contract. Just how much did she stuff between her tits? Or was that just a super power all succubi had?
I popped off my cap with my fingers, Janet used the edge of the table, and Stella used a claw.
“Cheers, you two,” Janet said with her bottle held to the air. “And thanks for coming.”
Stella held hers up between her wings. “Thanks for the free food!” I had nothing to add as we clinked our bottles together. My first big gulp was actually quite refreshing after walking around and climbing that tree.
“So,” Janet said after drinking her beer down to the shoulder, “Here’s my cunning plan.”
“Uh oh, here we go,” I said. “Lay it on us.” Stella looked at her down the length of her bottle.
“I need you two to start making out.”
I threw my head back in a laugh. “What?”
“Yeah, what?” Stella cut in. “I mean, I’m all for that, but what?”
“If he really was stood up by a date,” Janet said, “he’ll probably hate the hell out of couples right now. Or at least feel left out. I can work with that. Just start sucking face in view of the bar and I’ll do the rest.”
“Eh, I don’t know,” I said. “I like to keep stuff like that private.”
Stella made sad puppy eyes at me. “Aw, but Jeff, how’ll people know we’re a couple if we don’t make out in front of them?”
My hand slid down and tickled her backside. “Maybe because you’re sitting on my lap?” Stella let out a laugh and bumped me with her shoulder. “Or maybe because I’m tickling you and you don’t mind?”
“Pff, jeez. What, you’ll tickle me in public, but won’t make out?” She leaned in. “Come on, this’s perfect. I wanna do it.”
Leaning in, I planted a kiss on her lips. “There, happy?”
“Pff, lame,” Stella muttered.
Janet chugged the rest of her bottle. “Maybe you’ll feel more open about it if you have more to drink? As they say, alcohol breaks down all barriers.” With that, she pulled another bottle from the cardboard container and slid it over to our side of the table.
“Who says that?”
The succubus paused. “Uh, ‘they’ do.”
Though still skeptical, I relented and downed the rest of my beer. Not sure if I enjoyed a cold drink in the middle of winter, but at least it didn’t sting like harder alcohols. Stella wiggled back and forth to the beat of the music, rubbing against my pants sensually. Despite her claims to be fine with alcohol, she was tipsy after half a bottle of beer.
“You’re really set on us showing a public display of affection, aren’t you?” I asked Janet.
She gave me a quizzical look. “As far as a plan to get laid goes, it hasn’t failed me yet. To be honest, though, I thought giving you a few hugs would help get you in the mood to kiss your girlfriend. You’re a tougher nut to crack than I expected.”
I returned her look with a furrowed brow. “So, what, you were doing some weird sex magic earlier? I thought I felt something weird.”
She chuckled nervously. “It was just a sprinkle. It’s like getting drunk. Works even better with alcohol on top of it, though.”
As we continued to sip our beer, the taste of the beer steadily grew softer than usual. It wasn’t a light beer, and the alcohol content seemed right, but the taste was strangely smooth. My head teetered back and forth slightly. Was I already tipsy from a bottle of beer? Or was it that succubus magic? Both?
“You okay?” Stella asked.
Her voice gently flowed into my ears like syrup. The smoothest, most beautiful sound I’d ever heard. Heat rose up from my stomach and filled my cheeks as I turned to look at her. She, too, was already red in the face, eyes half closed. More than I had for most of our vacation, I felt the need to kiss the harpy sitting on my lap. To hell with making others feel uncomfortable; it wasn’t like people weren’t screwing each other all over the park anyway, right?
The moment our lips touched we drew in sharp breaths. A surge of heat filtered through me from my head down to my toes. The warmth of her tongue exploded into my mouth as she wiggled around on my lap, eventually straddling my groin. For a moment I thought our chair would fall over, but I grabbed the edge of the table to keep us upright. Luckily, that jolted me out of my stupor.
I pulled away from her and let out a hot sigh that billowed in front of me in thick steam. “Okay, yeah. There it goes, I’m feeling it.” I turned away to keep some semblance of control, but that went to hell when Stella nibbled my ear with a giggle. The lobe tingled with such explosive heat that nearly knocked me out.
Janet stood from her seat. “Don’t worry, guys, it’s all part of my super-clever plan.”
It was hard to talk to someone with my girlfriend’s tongue getting in the way. “D-don’t make me regret this, Janet.”
A fanged smile. “I just gave you a push. This is all you, buddy. Have fun!” I would have wondered why she didn’t just use such magic on the guy she was after, but I was too focused on Stella. A fog smothered everything around me, from the music to the smell of the food to the chatter of passersby.
Stella made their way across my cheek with kisses until they found my lips. Our succubus friend faded away, completely shunted from my mind as Stella and I traded saliva with the fervor of animals in heat.
Still, at the back of my mind, the final tugs of restraint remained in my thoughts.
“So.” I said.
“Does this mean the bet’s on hold for tonight, too?”
It started with a snicker, but her breaths soon grew into a laugh. “Damn it, I almost got you!”
“I was gonna make you do all the chores when we got home, too!” Her hips twisted and grinded into my lap. “But, you’re still gonna lose tonight, baby.”
And thus, I found myself at a crossroads. I had the option to lose the bet and fuck my girlfriend senseless while high on succubus dust. Or, I could decide not to lose the bet and have the chance to force the chores on her for once.
I took a deep breath. “Okay, smartass, here’s what’s gonna happen.”
She bumped her forehead against mine and looked me in the eyes. “Yeah?”
“We’re going back to the hotel.”
“And you’re going to lose this bet.”
“Uh oh.” Her lips pressed against mine and once more we became caught up in each other. “What’m I going to do now?” She panted through her teeth, our excitement tangible in the air between us.
I nibbled her lower lip. “You’ll be begging for it when I’m done with you.”
With a start, we got up from the chair, knocking it over, and started in the direction of the nearest street. Who knew whether Janet managed to accomplish her task or not; we certainly didn’t know. We didn’t care, either. Holding it in while taking the taxi and riding the elevator to our floor, time became a blur of expectation. I momentarily regretted getting a room on such a high floor. The buzz from the mix of alcohol and magic made me fidgety all the way up. Stella somehow looked much cooler than myself, even adjusting her shawl with an unamused look in her eyes.
Then followed the longest hallway I’d ever walked. Several doors were left ajar with many little get-togethers and parties going on. Thumps of music and laughs of strangers fill the floor as I fumbled for the card key in my wallet in front of our door. My cheeks grew red at the feeling of Stella’s shoulder against my back with a giggle, as if telling me to get going.
As soon as the door cracked open Stella shoved me inside. She quickly followed and closed the door, leaving us in darkness save for light coming in through cracks in the door. My feet stumbled underneath me, but I managed to catch myself against the wall. The moment I turned around, she crashed into me with what felt like a running jump. With her wing claws grasping at my shoulders she clamped her lips onto mine.
Once more I felt the sex magic kick in. With one arm around her waist and the other grasping a handful of hair on the back of her head.
“Don’t forget the bet,” I muttered.
She snickered. “Mhm.”
“Any rules you wanna add?”
“Mmm~ whoever puts your dick in me first loses.” So she lost if she jumped me, and I lost if I jumped her. Sounded fair.
“Got it. When I win, I’ll put you to work on the icicles on the cabin when we get home.”
Her only response was to bite my lip.
I guided us toward where I remembered the bed to be, her legs loosely hugging my pelvis. Soon enough my knee bumped against the mattress and sent us tumbling onto it. We needed no light to know where our buckles and buttons were. I released her and clumsily slid my arms out of my coat. It ended up somewhere further into the room. She then yanked my sweater up over my head, which was much more difficult to negotiate. When that was off she was already fumbling with my belt buckle.
“Don’t get too hasty now.” I pulled my legs up and planted a knee between her legs, rubbing it up against her nethers.
“Ah! Oh~mmm.” Stella cycled her hips back and forth against me. “Come on, you’re a guy. No way you’ll win this.”
I bent over her and held her head in my arms for some more kisses. “Oh. So you’re gonna be like that, huh?” Her hair brushed against my arms with every move of her head as she pushed her tongue into my mouth. “As a harpy, you were born for this kind of thing, you know.”
Her lips curved up into a smile that I felt with my own. “That’s why you’re going down, buddy.”
Did she just call me buddy? It was officially on.
With one hand I untied the neck of her dress. Guided only by instinct I yanked the halter top of her dress down and groped her chest. Her skin was warm and pocked with goosebumps as I nibbled and squeezed her as I pleased. Delighted giggles sounded from her as I pulled my leg from her and indulged myself in her petite breasts.
“I know you don’t usually wear a bra, but weren’t you cold outside?”
Well, she was certainly enjoying herself. “Just gonna sit there stewing in lust all night?” I put a nipple in my mouth and sucked between my lips, my tongue teasing it at the same time.
“I-I’m taking my tIME! Hoo.”
The swell of adrenaline at her voice prompted my fingers to travel lower. “No breaks for you tonight, baby.” I pressed the knuckle of my index finger against the yoga pants she wore underneath her dress. The soft flesh beneath the form-fitting material yielded to my finger and warmed my skin.
My eyes were getting used to the lack of light enough that I could see her smirk. With little time to react, she pressed a knee against my stomach sat up, pushing me back with her strength.
“Get that shirt off, champ.”
I almost said “yes ma’am,” as I yanked the thin fabric over my head. As soon as the article was lost somewhere near the bathroom door, she dove at my groin. Before I knew it she had my belt and pants button undone. My manhood was pressing against my zipper for a while already, so it didn’t take much effort for her to yank it out of my boxers.
I felt myself twitch in anticipation as she slowed down. More methodical and carefully than when she was shoving me around, I felt her warm moist breath on the head of my dick. I was still on my knees as she crawled forward and kissed the shaft.
Never before had someone done that to me. It was such a new sensation that I growling grunted in surprise.
She giggled between wet kisses. “You’re easy to please tonight.” Maybe, but she seemed to fumble at what she should do with me. Her awkward kisses and licks spurred on my confidence that I still had the edge in this competition. At the same time, I wasn’t confident in my size. I was average, at best. Then again, the girl in bed with me was a harpy with a vagina tight enough to forge diamonds, so it probably evened out.
My lips smacked with a kiss to the head, sending a shiver up my back. Then, she gave me an ominous chuckle. I knew I was in for it bad, if only a moment before she slowly started taking my length into her mouth.
“Ah-hhh!” Every one of my breaths had to be taken in through my teeth to keep in any errant shouts. Her hot, soft tongue teased the underside of my penis as her lips sealed around the head. She was still clumsy, if delicate, but the sensation was enough to make me clutch at her hair. My head jerked to the side at every twist at every sucking noise and mumble under her breath. Things were escalating quicker than I ever thought they would.
“S-Stella, I’m almost—”
The cool air of the hotel room washed over my member as confusion filled my head. She pulled back, sitting up in front of me and wiping her lips. I was left twitching and wet with leaking precum, while she covered her mouth with a wing to hide her laughter.
Pushing a heavy breath out of my chest, I forcibly suppressed the urge to turn her over and pound her from behind. She totally deserved it, too.
“You!” I breathed, which only made her snicker more. “You are evil!”
That was the last straw for her. She let herself fall sideways onto the bed, hugging her wings around her stomach and kicking her legs in laughter.
“Oh, oh wow! Sorry, sorry, that was—pfffahaha!”
I could do nothing but let myself slump back onto one hand and catch my breath. Still twitching, my dick continued to stand stock straight in expectation. Unfortunately for both of us, there was a devil woman in the room.
Seeing her laying there, I smiled. “You’re gonna pay for that.” I looped an arm around her back and under a wing and pulled her backward across my lap.
“Whoa, what’re you— Uhn!”
The moment my two fingers went inside her, no more words came out of that evil mouth. With the arm supporting her, I reached around and grabbed at one of her breasts. Tugging on the skin with my fingers, I made sure to tease her nip. The fingers exploring her hot insides were already drenched.
“That was plain mean, Stella,” I said into her ear as I kissed and licked it, covering it in hot breaths.
Her lips sealed shut in an attempt to keep in a moan, but her chest heaved with ever-quickening breaths. Pulling her wings close to her chest, she trembled in my grasp, as if trying not to move.
“Yeah, you’re keeping it in now, too. Doesn’t feel great, huh?” I inserted my fingers further inside her muscular inner walls, twisting and turning and stirring her up. Her lower lips were swollen, soft, and ready, making me want to travel down just to kiss them. “You want it real~ bad, don’t you?”
Stella head-butted my shoulder. “You were supposed to— ah— fuck me after I stopped before!”
I smirked and placed my mouth over her ear. “Oh yeah?”
“Oooh-wha… I mean, come on~! Do you have to take this s-so seriously? It’s just a game!” My fingers dug deeper into her, heedless of her words.
A kiss to her neck and a shiver down her back. “But with all this succubus magic and booze in me, you know what I just thought?”
“Mmm~ what?” Still clearly upset, but at least she welcomed my teasing.
I leaned in, making sure my breath went straight into her ear, and said, “If neither of us cave tonight, I’m just wondering how good it’ll feel next time when one of us finally does.”
There was a pause as heat rose within her cheeks and spread to her ears. Her voice quivered under the weight of her own attempted words as she brought a wing to her forehead, as if dizzy.
She glanced up at me when she regained herself, and shot me a grin. “Heheh. Tell me more, lover.”
Our laughter and moans went long into the New Year, yet neither of us crumbled under the pressure. The expectation of an even better time on the horizon, we enjoyed each other’s bodies until early morning.
* * *
The note Stella left on our bedside table read:
“Going to Central Park to help clean up. Be back later.
P.S. Come find me at the park if you get bored! <3
It was written in pen by someone other than her. A passerby, maybe? She couldn’t have written it so clearly with her claws or talons, regardless. Embarrassing.
We quickly passed out the previous night when we got back to the hotel around three in the morning, so her being out and about before ten gave me pause. Was it her fitness or just general inborn vitality that let her do that kind of thing?
As I set myself down on the couch in front of the TV, my pocket vibrated. Though others took it for granted, the feeling of a phone ringing in my pants was still a new sensation to me. With some fumbling I tore the device out of my pocket and somehow swiped my finger across the screen to answer it.
“Uh, hi? Hello?”
“Hi! Did I get the number right, Jeff?” Stella called from the other end. Not exactly the best way to check if you got the right number, but at least she got it correct.
“Hey! What’s up?” Wait. “I thought you didn’t have a phone?”
“Oh! Someone’s letting me borrow theirs.” People at the park were mighty kind. “Anyway, I didn’t want to wait, so I wanted to ask you now. How long do we have the hotel room?”
I counted the days we stayed on my hand. “This is the third day, I think? I only booked us ‘til the third. So, the day after tomorrow.”
“Hmm… What’ll we do after that? ”
Aw crap. “I was actually thinking of calling Nell and asking if we could hang out at her place for a while.”
“Jeez, that’s cutting it close, Jeff. We can’t just drop in on her!”
I propped my feet up on the armrest of the couch. “Yeah, I know. Sorry.” Unfortunately, I was still new to being the one with the phone. “I’ll call her in a bit.”
She chuckled. “Alright, yeah, call Nell right away. Like, ‘right now’ right now.”
“And, uh,” a pause, “I love you.”
A big dumb smile came to my lips. “Love you, too. Want me to wait for you in the room?”
“Alright. Just remember to give that nice person their phone back.”
“Oh! Right! Sorry! Sorry that took so—” With that, the call cut off with what sounded like a shuffle of feathers and trash bags.
I slid my phone back into my pocket and heaved myself off the couch. Damn, I needed to work out more. After getting my notebook from my suitcase and plopping onto a chair, I flipped it open and sifted through the pages. I knew I wrote down Nell’s number somewhere last time she visited us. It took some major page-turning, but I found it wedged in the bottom right corner among a doodle of a big bad werewolf blowing down a house of blue sticks. Probably leftover from waiting in the hangar on standby last year.
With the number found, I punched it into my phone and pressed the Call button. There was a certain anxiety at using my phone to call a friend for the first time. Was I doing it right?
The ring tone sounded on the other end a few times.
“-ome ON- Oh, there it goes.” The shout from my phone made me pull the device away in surprise. “Hey, yeah, Hello~!”
At least it was the right number. “Hey Nell! This is Jeff.”
There was a pause on the other end. “Jeff. Jeff Jeff Jeff… Oh! That Jeff! Hey, how’ve you been, guy?”
Did she really remember me? “I’ve been good. Went down to see my family for Christmas, and they got me a phone.”
“Oh man, nice! I was wondering whose number this was. I’ll put you on my contacts later.” That’s a thing? “Haven’t seen you in a while. Still in Parakeet or whatever?”
I chuckled. “It’s ‘Unalakleet,’ but yeah. Visiting New York with Stella for New Year’s.”
“Awesome! Partying and everything?”
“Not really partying, but it’s been fun.”
“How is the falcon lady, anyway?” A series of rustles sounded from Nell’s end. Was she in bed? Or letting off discharge or something?
“She’s been good. But hey, I called because I have a favor to ask.”
A cough. “Bleh-heh. Alright, what’s up?”
Time for the hard part. “So, Stella and I were thinking of going back up north for the rest of our vacation. Anchorage would probably be best, given the weather, so we were wondering if, uh, we could crash at your place for a while.” That was definitely too blunt and straightforward.
“Hmmyeah, okay.” Or maybe just straightforward enough. “It’s definitely been for-ever since I’ve seen you guys, and my place feels so lame when I’m all alone. So yeah, stay as long’s you want!”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “You’re the best, Nell. Seriously, thanks.”
“Ha! And don’t worry. I’ll be working nights, so you two can fuck as much as you want.”
“I’ll, uh, take that into consideration.”
A background voice, sounded like a man, echoed from the background. Nell covered the receiver of the phone with something scratchy as she spoke with him. An argument? Sounded heated. After a while the gag was removed from the phone and she spoke again.
“Hey, gotta go. This guy here’s getting a bit impa-tient! Hhahaha!” Huh. “Talk to you later, guy. Say hi to Stella for me-eeee heehee~!” Her voice cut off with a shriek of laughter.
I was glad I could always count on Nell for a favor or two, but sometimes she worried me.
As long as I had my phone out, I decided to text my friendly neighborhood succubus.
[How was your New Year? We enjoyed the sprinkle of magic you gave us.] Edited, checked for spelling, and sent. I wondered to myself whether she had time to use us to provoke jealousy in the guy.
It didn’t take her more than a minute to text me back. [YOU LEFT ME THERE!!!]
Well, there was my answer. [Sorry. I guess you “pushed” us a little too hard. Did you get the guy, though?]
[Yeah! He was sooooo nice! Didnt complain about signing! hows your gf? Did u have a gud fuk?] Clearly she did not follow the same texting process I did. Maybe I was too old-fashioned?
I leaned back on the couch. [She’s good. We had a lot of fun.]
[Details, plz!!!! xD] Jeez, how old was she, again?
Time to tease a succubus. [How about no.]
[LAME!!! I wanna kno! ;_;]
Magical. [We didn’t have sex. We have a bet. Whoever puts me in her first loses.] It was actually quite refreshing to be so open to someone about my sex life. Not a hint of anxiety weighed over me as I typed out my responses.
[Wow that sux!! I couldnt do that]
[I’ll tell you about it when one of us loses. Just so you know, it’ll be her.]
[OK! He stuk it in me just now. g2g. Happy new year! <3]
What a lovely woman. Truly.
An hour of TV time later and Stella finally came back from helping with the park cleanup. As expected of someone of her fervor, she was covered head to toe in sticky sugar from candy, grime from trash bags, and smudges of dirt. Though I was already clean, we decided to bathe together again. Wouldn’t want that huge bath to go to waste. It was tempting, but neither of us lost the bet that day, either.
* * *
As the New Year grew in age by the day, our time at the hotel ended. We checked out in the chilly morning of January 3rd. Snow had built up again, leaving the curbs and sidewalk edges with mounds of snow, pushed aside by street sweepers and snow shovels. The noises and crowds didn’t dissipate at all despite the holiday being over. There were still people calling taxis to travel across the entire city in three hours, still the buses were stuffed to the brim with the more patient citizens, and still the errant firework went off in the street every night after the initial celebration.
Our checkout of the hotel was bumpy at best. A long line of people hoping to leave formed in the lobby by the time we got downstairs. We had hours until we were scheduled to leave the city, but every minute we spent waiting was one less minute spent at the orphanage saying goodbye.
Minutes later and we made it to the front desk. The woman at the counter was patient with us as we returned out card keys and grabbed a taxi. I probably would have gone insane in her position. A thick fog moved in overnight. It made it difficult for me to tell where we were. Luckily, both Stella and the driver knew how to traverse the city in their sleep. Even as we traversed through the streets that led to the children’s home, it felt like a maze to me. That train of thought eventually led me to picturing a Minotaur rampaging through the streets of New York.
Our driver waited at the curb for us as we went inside. It was still early, so only a few of the kids were awake. Cleo managed to greet us, while the other awake ones milled about in their rooms. Some of the bean bags had been cleaned up and stacked in a shallow wall along the side of the front room. They were organized by color. Just enough of them were left lying around for Cleo to commandeer them for morning reading. The poor girl developed bags under her eyes since we last saw her.
Stella hopped from my side and knelt next to Cleo. “Hey, hun, you look tired.”
The lamia gave her a weak smile. “It’s getting a bit hard to stay awake with the weather. Just waiting for the heater here to get going.” I peered down the hall to see Maria flutter towards us.
“You better keep warm, okay?” Stella leaned down and hooked her wings around the teenager’s neck. Cleo lifted an arm and patted her back with a sleepy smile.
“You guys’re going?” She glanced over to me and gave me a wave.
Before I could wave back, the fairy woman tapped me on the shoulder. “Morning, Sister.”
“Jeffry,” she said, “could you come back to my office? You and Stella forgot something. I put it in there so the kids wouldn’t get at it.”
“Oh. Yeah, sure, I’ll get it. What did we leave?”
She led me down the hall. “Some sorta whatsit.” Well that was descriptive. And before we left the hotel I was sure I double checked whether we had everything or not. Guess I missed something. Past the kitchen, dining room, and storage closet, she magicked the door open and motioned for me to go inside. She was silent the entire time we walked there, but I wanted to know what we forgot more than anything.
Once inside, someone stood up from one of the red chairs with a start. Whoever it was, she was an entire head taller than me. With a massive pair of folded wings, blue scales on her lithe arms and legs, sigils across her cheeks, and black hair cut short, she was more intimidating than any oni. And this woman’s kind was usually even larger. Though she wore a simple gray button-up shirt and dress pants, everything else pointed to one fact: she was definitely a dragon.
“This is him?” the woman said with a silky, authoritative voice. She took steps toward me that seemed far too graceful for someone of her height.
I turned to the fairy. “What’s going on?”
Maria swayed to and fro in the air. “Sorry, Jeffry. She wanted to talk to you.”
With a shake of my head, I ran a hand through my hair. “Oh man, I can guess where this is going.”
The dragon rolled her eyes. “I’m Natalia Stairn. I called Sister few days ago. She told me Stella was leaving this morning.”
I gave the little fairy a look before turning back to the blue dragon. “And you’re here to talk to Stella or something?”
Natalia stepped forward. Towering over me with a look of disdain, she said, “I’m here to talk to you.”
Hold your ground, Jeff. I crossed my arms and straightened my posture to look her in the eye. “About what?”
Maria’s eyes frantically darted between us. “I’ll just, uh, go keep Stella busy.”
The dragon turned and smiled at the fairy. “Thank you for your help, Sister.”
With that, Maria left us to stare each other down, shutting the door behind her as quietly as she could.
I swallowed. “Didn’t want to call the number she left on the note?”
Natalia shook her head. “I didn’t know that number, so I didn’t know who would answer.”
So, was she scared Stella would pick it up? “She’s been wanting to talk to you for a long time.” Her eyes wavered a bit before focusing on me once more. “Why not go with Maria and see her?”
Her hard stare softened. Without a word she turned around and sat back down in the chair. She gestured for me to do the same. I still couldn’t shake the feeling it was some kind of trap, though I couldn’t tell why. So I sat. The red cushion was very cushy.
Bending forward and twiddling her fingers, Natalia looked off to the side. “How is she doing?”
That was it? That was what she wanted to know? “You could have asked Maria that.”
She scoffed. “Stella probably tells Sister everything is fine, no matter what. I want to hear it from you.”
A sigh. “Because you have lived with her for a long time, right? She talked about you in that little note she left.”
Jeez, Stella was supposed to spill her guts about their former friendship in that note, not talk about me. “Fine. She’s… doing really well, I think.” The dragon’s eyes brightened, though she showed no hint of a smile. “She’s been working hard at her job, and even has plans for the future. Not sure how it’ll all turn out, but she seems hopeful.” I, too, found myself leaning forward and resting my elbows on my knees. “It can get hard to support her, though. She does crazy stuff sometimes.”
The dragon in front of me placed a scaled hand on her chin, nodding her head.
I continued. “The only things that’ve been getting her down lately have been her injury,” Natalia’s eyes widened a little, “and you.”
Again she looked away. “Yes. She seemed eager to see me.”
“Then go see her. She’s just a few rooms away.”
“No.” Natalia covered her face with her hands and drew them down, as if to relieve some stress. “I don’t deserve to see her.” Getting tired of your crap, Natalia.
After a pause, I blew some hair out of my eyes. “Really? You’re doing this?”
“What?” Never thought I’d see such a bewildered look on a dragon.
“Both of you are torn up about some nonsense you did half a decade ago. Stella told me it’s been six years already. Six! Just go in there and talk to her!” Standing up, I started toward the door.
Before I could reach for the doorknob she called out to me. “Please stop, Jeff.”
“Why? So you two can just wallow in self-pity until the next time she comes down from Alaska?”
She stood up, pushing her chair back with a screech. “Because clearly you don’t know the whole story.”
“Stella just called it complicated girl stuff and that the fight was her fault.”
“And you are okay with that?”
I shrugged. “If she doesn’t want to tell me everything, fine. But if the solution to her problem’s standing right in front of me, I won’t pass up the chance to help her out.”
“The fight was her fault, but I egged her on. We both fought. But, I did so much worse afterward.”
That was new. “So what was it?”
She bit her lip in contemplation. “I’d rather not recollect all of it. To make a long story short, it’s the fault of me and my wealthy foster parents that she now has a criminal record from that fight. Unlike her, I got off with a slap on the wrist, on the word of my parents that I was innocent. I was right there, but I rode my parents’ coattails and didn’t say a thing to the contrary.”
I found myself nodding. “Yeah. That sounds pretty bad.”
Natalia placed a hand of frustration over her eyes. “And the fact that it’s taken us both so long just compounds matters further.”
Rolling the information around in my head for a while, I said, “Even so, you were just kids.”
She stared at me as if I didn’t hear a word she just said. “What?”
“Nobody’s smart when they’re that age. Hell, most memories from the first twenty years of my life still make me cringe.”
“Jeff. I don’t think you understand the gravity of—”
“No, listen.” I tromped toward her, every step heavier than the last. “You may be a dragon. You may have been adopted into some fancy-ass rich family. But you’re still allowed to make mistakes when you’re eighteen goddamn years old.”
The dragon took a step back. “Y-you can only say that because you were not involved.”
“This is not how I planned this meeting to go. I only came here to ask how she was doing.” She headed for the door. “I’ll take the back door.”
“So you never planned to even look at her?”
As she rushed past me, I said, “That won’t fix anything. You both’ll just stay stuck like this.”
“I believe I mentioned I don’t deserve to get ‘unstuck?’”
“Her letter really got to you, didn’t it?” She stopped.
A few breaths later, she said, “Yes. I thought I was through with her getting under my skin.”
“I know the feeling. She can do that, can’t she?”
A pause. “Yes.”
I glanced around the office. “There’s a pen and paper on the desk right over there. Maybe you can write something down, too.”
For a time, Natalia stood in the middle of the office. A tremor shook up her arms, which she attempted to quell by gripping them in her hands. Her mumbling filled the otherwise silent room until finally she turned back toward me. Walking past me, she leaned over the desk and swiped a pen from a jar of them in the corner. Scribbles and scratches tickled my ears for what felt like minutes. The dragon wrote, crossed out, added emphasis with thick lines, and grumbled under her breath about what to put down. I sat in one of the chairs.
“Jeff?” she said.
“This may sound a little out of the blue.” Heh, blue dragon. “But since I will be going as soon as I give this to you, I feel there is one thing you must know.” She raised her head from the paper and glared at me with yellow reptilian eyes. “If you hurt her in any way, no jurisdiction in the world will save you from me.”
With that, she walked over to me, folding the piece of paper along the way, and shoved it against my chest with an open palm. That developed into a bruise later. Then she blew some air in my face. So that’s where Stella got that from. Though I blinked, I saw glowing sparks of static emanate from deep in the back of her throat. Natalia’s version was much more intimidating, to say the least.
I coughed and took the paper in my hands. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Don’t give that to her until you’re far away from here. I don’t want her charging back.” Natalia headed for the hallway. Her voice nearly caught in her throat. “W-with any luck, you won’t have to mediate like this again.”
“I might have to. That phone number Stella wrote down was mine. She doesn’t have one.”
For the first time since we met just a few minutes ago, she laughed. “Then, I’m sure we will figure something out.”
Somehow, Natalia eluded sight on her way out. She must have known all the secret ways out of the schoolhouse, because I didn’t hear a peep from the kids. Though Cleo and Maria were the only two awake enough to give us proper farewells, Stella went to each bedroom to give everyone a hug and kiss goodbye. She did it all while Natalia and I were talking. At the same time, Maria retrieved two jars of what looked like homemade jam for us to take home.
I kept the note in the inside pocket of my coat while we made our way to the airport. As always, the halls were thick with other travelers. Our seven o’clock arrival gave us a handy two hours to get through security and catch a quick coffee before we left. Though it was cloudy, not a flake of snow fell on the tarmac that morning.
We strapped in, kissed for good luck, and took off when our turn on the runway arrived. Patches of low fog obscured our view as we ascended in my rattling plane. Among the cityscape below was an ocean of mist that glowed in the morning light that filtered through the clouds. For many reasons, I didn’t want to leave the place where Stella was born. Despite the obvious negatives of the air and homeless people and crowds, I couldn’t help but want to stay.
While I stirred around the idea of traveling back sometime, I noticed Stella’s eyes plastered to her window. She gazed down at the city as we spiraled over the ocean in our climb, after which we would turn westward.
“How’re you doing?” I said into my headset.
Without turning to me, she plopped down onto her seat. “I’m alright.”
It was probably as good a time as any. “I’ve got something for you.” She perked up, finally looking over to me with an expectant smile. Reaching into my inside coat pocket, I pulled out the folded piece of yellow office paper and handed it to her.
She took it in her claws. “What’s this?”
“I don’t know what it says. Open it.” I had to concentrate on flying, but that was getting hard to do.
Though it took some doing, Stella managed to open it. A glance at her expression let me catch her eyes widening and jaw slacking. Her lips quickly pressed together, her eyebrows curling upward in the middle while her eyes wrinkled.
She sniffed. “Where did you get this?”
I banked the plane westward. “She gave it to me before we left.” She looked at me with desperate confusion. “Natalia asked me not to tell you, but she wanted to check on how you’ve been doing. She seemed happy.”
Stella’s eyes shined with tears. Putting a folded wing over her mouth she looked over the note, barely suppressing a bewildered laugh. I couldn’t tell if she was happy or sad.
“What does it say?” I asked.
Shaking her head, she silently held it up between us. On the inside of the twice-folded sheet was a messy scrawl of black lines and crossed-out sentences. Among the chaos, written in giant inky block letters and underlined in thick bars, were two short sentences followed by a phone number.
I WANT TO TALK, TOO!!