When Alison Tyler asks, you just don’t say no. Or, rather, I don’t say no. How could I? So, per her request for happy erotica, here is a snippet of my story, “Devil’s Food,” which is scheduled to appear in Dream Lover, a collection edited by Kristina Wright. I don’t write happy very often — I’m one of those editors she mentions who likes her sex with a hint of darkness — but once in a while, I go to the light side (where, it appears, they also have cookies. And devil’s food cakes).
Kiss kiss bang bang (smile), s.
The man had come in, so quietly she would never have known he was there if not for Margipe, the talking toad who sat by the bakery door and announced her incoming customers. The toad was supposed to say “Hello!” or “Welcome!” but his responses depended on his mood. The locals loved him — thought he was a riot — but strangers and travelers weren’t as thrilled. Lire hadn’t hired Margipe, but she couldn’t seem to get rid of him either. All she could do was beg him to be polite. Sometimes it worked.
This time, he’d croaked, “Ooh, big man! Big man! Big big big man!” and then burped in excitement, the sound so loud that Lire had banged her head on the glass pastry case.
“I’m so sorry about that,” she said, as she came up from her bent-over position, rubbing the side of head.
“Well, I am a big man.” The man’s voice, layered with a hint of tease, wasn’t quite bass, not that deep. Baritone, is that what they called it? Rich and resonating without sounding like it was forced.
Lire had owned Devil’s Food for six years, and while she’d seen a lot of angels and devils — both the human and not-quite-human kind — and even gotten pretty used to their odd comings and goings, this was her first glimpse of something like the guy standing in front of her. He wasn’t human, that much was clear, although she couldn’t have said how she knew it. Something about the way his body moved through the air, even when he was standing still. It wasn’t a shiver so much as a hum, a visible vibration that shook his edges like a song.
Still, a customer was a customer. If living in Hellsedge had taught her anything, it was that you didn’t discriminate. People—and even non-people—were still, well, people. And this people? He was stunning, that was one thing. Shoulder-length dark hair that fell in soft waves along the collar of his shirt, equally dark eyes, so dark you couldn’t tell where his pupils ended. Dressed in a simple navy t-shirt and worn jeans, he somehow looked like the outfit had been made for him, fitting just right over his wide shoulders and chest, down to the slimness of his hips.
Lire shook her head, shutting up the odd, sing-songy way her brain was responding to her newest customer. “Well, welcome to Devil’s Food!” And… she sounded like a total idiot. A total idiot high on sugar. No wonder she was single.
“Thank you,” he said. Most people walked in and looked straight away at the bakery case, eyeing the cookies and cakes, the fruit breads and glazed rolls. They bent down, tapping the glass as though the goodies might swim their way. But his gaze stayed on her face and his hands stayed tucked into his jean pockets. He regarded her silently for a long moment, and Lire couldn’t tell if the hum coming from him was something she heard or felt. Or maybe it was both.
“You’re not like the rest, are you?” she blurted, all too aware of the silence and of his stare. And then of the way the words had come out of her mouth, broken the air. Something was making her face hot, and while she wanted to blame the ovens, she knew they were too far away to be affecting her this way.
“The rest?” he asked.
“Angels. Devils. Demons.” Lire shrugged as she talked. There was a time in her life when she would have laughed at the very concept of otherworld creatures. Now she knew better — some of her best customers were otherworlds, some of her best friends too — and the words rolled off her tongue without a second-thought.
“I’m, no, not any of those things.”
“Dragonkin?” Lire asked. She’d never seen one, but had heard of them. This man didn’t have the right eyes — she’d heard they were golden with squarish pupils, the dragonkins’ one true giveaway when they were in human form. But that could have been a rumor. Or maybe he was wearing contacts.
The man raised one dark eyebrow. His aura, or energy or whatever you wanted to call it, shimmered slightly and Lire got the idea he was trying very hard not to laugh. “Have you ever seen Dragonkin, SugarSpinner?”
Lire ignored the way her ears and cheeks got hotter at his tone and at the teasing endearment thrown at the end of his question.
“No,” she said. She was beginning to wish she’d gone to lunch right about this time or headed into the big town for supplies. It was a slow day, and Kelly could have watched the shop for her and…
The man continued, settling one hand on the counter between them, his nearness shutting off Lire’s train of thought. “That is obvious, because if you had ever seen one, you would know for certain that I am not one of the…”
He said a word at the end, the tongue strange and singing, a word that she didn’t know or even recognize but the sound of it made her ears ring for a second.
Lire was curious as to what he was, but knew it wouldn’t be polite to ask any further; he hadn’t answered her question, which meant that he didn’t want to. She could have asked three times–it wasn’t just genies that were bound by the Truth of Threes–but that was considered something beyond impolite. Nearly criminal, if used for nothing more than your own curiosity. “Well, then, Mr. Not Dragonkin nor Demon. What can I get for you?”
“Something sweet,” he said.
She had to laugh. “It’s a bakery. Everything’s sweet.”
“Sweetest thing you have.”