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Roman dreamed he was back on the Borealis, facing the demon as he had before.

They stared at each other over the body on which she’d been feeding. “Why are you here?” Roman asked, as he had before.

But this time she responded with a slow smile, her braids floating around her, swaying as though in a breeze. Her eyes were a soft, clear blue.

No, they’d been silver. Inhuman eyes. It mattered very much that Roman remember this.

“You dreamed me this way,” she said. “You want me to be beautiful.” She sounded exhausted, resigned. “From the beginning, that’s what you’ve wanted.”

Roman couldn’t make sense of her words, her tone. But as she pushed the body aside, he knew what he had to do. He drew his sword.

He had no sword.

He was alone, unarmed, and the demon’s braids were reaching for him. As before, she wrapped him tight in twisting hair as strong as chains. She caught his wrists, wrapped around his thighs. One long, thin, braid wrapped around his throat.

She pulled at Roman, spreading him out before her. She dragged his arms high, caught his wrists together over his head. She spread his legs. His shoulders hit the wall as she pushed him back. The hair around his neck pulled just tight enough he had to fight for breath.

As before, Roman felt the heat radiating from her. This time, he could smell her as well—smoke and spice, with a strange hint of roses.

Roman was terrified. But also…

A smile played across her face as she leaned forward, ran a delicate hand down his chest. “What’s this?” Her hand kept moving down, across his ribs, curving over his hip, then lower, to brush across the very visible sign of his arousal.

Roman moaned, horrified and wanting all at once. This was a dream, he reminded himself. A dream. Just a dream. He needed to wake up.

The demon nipped at the sensitive flesh just below his ear with her inhuman teeth. The sharp pain of it ran through him, made him shudder. Made him even harder than before.

Her braids tightened, dragging his legs wider, his arms tighter. Roman gasped and struggled and pressed himself into her hand. He couldn’t help himself.

“Why are you here?” she whispered in his ear, an anger in her voice at odds with the seductive stroke of her hand. Then she bit him again, hard, at the throat. Her teeth crushed—

Roman woke up gasping, so tangled in his blankets he had a moment of panic before he could work himself free. He tossed the covers aside, then lay on his bed, staring up through the darkness, until his pulse slowed down to a more normal rate.

A dream. That was all. And that was everything.

Roman had taken the few days Andreas had suggested. But rather than a chance to relax and focus, Roman had found himself wrapped tighter and tighter in guilt and a growing worry that he had reached that moment that eventually came to every Wolf.

He was dreaming of demons. He’d lied to his friends, to command. These were warning signs. They’d been drilled into Roman—into every Wolf who went into darkspace. Once the demons got into your head, you became a danger to yourself and to the clan, and it was time to hang up your pilot’s cuff.

Roman got up and showered—cold water to shock his system and make sure he was really awake. Also because…the dream…his body hadn’t gotten the memo that physical interaction with demons was a horror show waiting to happen.

After, he dressed and snapped on his flight cuff, tapping in the code to wake his ship. “Prep for takeoff.” This had gone on long enough. Time for Roman to remember his duty and deal with whatever consequences were on offer. “Inform the Hub we’re coming in.”

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Barbara J Webb

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