Darkness is cheap, and demons like it…
Noel is actually looking forward to Christmas this year because it will mark the first anniversary since he met Natala. Plus, he has a big surprise for her and knows just how he wants to celebrate afterward. But when Nick drops in and asks them to help find his missing wife, they agree to go back to HQ in the North Pole with him.
While Natala attempts to use her knowledge of demons to track Nick’s wife down, Noel is forced to wait helpless inside HQ. And what lays waiting at the end of the line only puts Natala in the clutches of another demon.
This time, Natala is the only one who can take down the dark threat, while Noel wonders if she’ll make it back in time for Christmas.
Noel curved the front of his body closer to Natala’s, spooning himself around her. He tightened his arms, determined to never let her go. Now that they’d found each other under such odd circumstances, he wanted to wake up beside her every morning for the rest of their very long lives.
Before Natala had entered his life, the prospect of a new day had filled him with sadness. Every morning a struggle he didn’t want to face, especially when December rolled around. Nowadays, however, everything felt different, the complete opposite. If it were up to him, he would spend every minute of every hour lying naked beside her.
“Good morning.” Natala stretched her arms above her head and shifted her position, slowly rolling onto her back, before settling onto her side.
He smiled, staring into her lovely eyes, so dark they seemed to hold an endless amount of mystery. Of course, she’d shared a lot of that mystery with him, and he would never tire of listening to her talk about her home and her people. He knew she’d seen a lot of things he couldn’t even begin to imagine, still, just seeing the gleam in her eyes made his ears perk up a little more. He enjoyed sharing details of her life in the Wilds, the true home of all imps.
Natala didn’t admit she missed her real home, but he knew she wanted to see her cousins again someday—to ensure their lives were back to normal and they were comfortable with their newfound freedom.
“Noel, what’s wrong?” she asked, touching his lips with her fingertips.
“Nothing’s wrong,” he whispered. Noel had a lot to be thankful for this year. The bleakness the festive season usually brought with it was forgotten, now replaced with joy. He caught her gaze, about to say more, when she replaced her fingers with her lips, lightly pressing them against his.
She pulled back. “That’s good to hear, because I’ve got plans for you this morning.”
He smiled, because he had plenty of plans of his own. Later on today, after surprising her with a romantic, candlelit dinner and settling beside her in front of the tree, he had a special gift for her. One he hoped would sparkle perfectly on her finger. He couldn’t wait to see her face, couldn’t wait to spend an eternity together.
Sometimes, he almost forgot they could. After Nick had granted him immortality last Christmas, it was a real possibility.
Why in hell was he thinking about that old kook right now?
“Oh yeah, care to share these plans?” He yawned and willed all thoughts to leave his mind. He wanted to do only one thing right now.
“I see you’re wide awake already.” Natala’s small fingers caressed his erection with feathery motions. “Or at least, he’s awake.” Noel closed his eyes to enjoy the sensations she aroused with her touch. “Oh, he’s been awake for a while…”
“Ah, sorry to interrupt...” A cough followed the words that had come out of nowhere. “What the hell?” Noel groaned, throwing his side of the sheet over his nude body. Now that Natala’s hand had fallen away, his erection pained him. Almost as if it knew release was no longer within grasp.
Natala shrieked, pulling the sheet up to her neck.
“So sorry to interrupt, but I didn’t see anything. I promise.” Nick had closed both of his eyes, but now opened one of them.
“What on earth are you doing here, Nick?” Noel didn’t understand the sudden intrusion, until a horrendous thought struck him, making his pulse quicken. I hope he’s not here because it’s time, I’m not ready yet. “I thought you said I had years ahead of me before it was time to—”
Nick held up his palm. “Calm down.” Worry lines etched his face. Clothed in his bottle green pants, white tie, and red shirt, he looked like a damn clown, but Noel wasn’t about to voice his opinion. He knew just how tough Santa Claus could be, thanks to what he’d experienced firsthand last Christmas.
“Then what’s so important you had to barge in here like this?” Noel threw a protective arm over Natala’s shoulders and settled her against his side, tucking the sheet tightly around her.
“I’m really sorry to do this to you, but I have no other choice. You two are the only ones who can help me.” His eyes had a faraway look. They glistened, and were as bright as a cloudless sky. When he moved forward, sunlight caught his dark hair, causing the few strands of gray in his sideburns to glow. He lowered himself onto the edge of the bed and rubbed his palms against his thighs. “I really need your help.”
Noel couldn’t help but soften at the obvious misery on Nick’s face. He literally softened, everywhere. Nothing like Santa dropping in on you to ruin a damn good erection.
He took a deep breath and exhaled all of his anger and frustration. “What happened?” he finally managed to say. What could be so important that Nick couldn’t wait? What could make him look so miserable?
“Is it another demon?” Natala spoke for the first time.
Nick took a deep breath and let out an exasperated sigh, avoiding their gazes. “It’s not a demon exactly, but there is trouble.” He sighed a second time. “At least, I don’t think it’s a demon…you just never know what’s hiding in the shadows this time of year.”
“Are you going to keep us guessing until we get it right?” Damn, his problem sounded serious. Noel hadn’t counted on seeing Nick again so soon, or on being swindled into helping him fight off another bad guy. He still had nightmares about the demon Decarabia. So much had gone wrong with that situation. He’d almost lost Natala after the demon devoured her shoulder. Thinking about it now, he tightened his protective hold around her. I won’t let anyone hurt her like that again.
“No, of course not, it’s just…” Nick paused, “…a little embarrassing, that’s all.”
“Are you sure we can help you, then?” Noel asked, doubtful they could do anything about this mysterious situation. He’d only crossed paths with the magical man once before, but it had impacted both him and Natala deeply. They were together now only because Nick saved her by healing her life-threatening injuries.
The timing might be wrong and Nick might be taking his time to spill the beans, but Noel knew he wouldn’t hesitate to help if he could. Judging by the look in Natala’s eyes, he knew she felt the same way.
They owed him their lives.
Nick shrugged. “I hope you can do… something.”
“Please tell us what happened,” Natala whispered.
“Okay.” Nick nodded, yet looked defeated and pale. “I suppose I’ve laid on the suspense thick enough.” He met Noel’s eyes and then shifted to meet Natala’s. “My wife left me.”