After fleeing a brutal mental hospital in Barcelona, Felipe Camarena is trying to forge a new life as a psychology student in San Diego. Trouble is, he has a knack of knowing things he shouldn't about people, and the all-too-real demons from his past are coming back to haunt him.
Professor Lukas von Rainer is a Warden--someone who hunts incubi and tames their sexually ravenous and dangerous offspring. As a fellow Sensitive, Lukas is the only one who can help when Felipe is severely injured by an incubus. He takes Felipe to his ranch in hopes that his Lipizzan horses will help him recover, but Felipe refuses to face his past and attempts to seduce Lukas instead. Lukas fends him off, surprised to find himself falling for the young man he's vowed to aid. For years, he's believed a physically satisfying and truly loving relationship is impossible because of his abilities, but is it?
He may not get the chance to find out. Even as he and the horses work their magic to heal Felipe, the incubus tracking them means to kill him and anyone who gets in its way.
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Loose Id, LLC
March 12, 2012
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Excerpt from Capriole by Evey Brett
Felipe woke to warmth. A bright shaft of sunlight streamed through the window and onto his bed.
Not his bed. These sheets were white, the mattress softer than the one he was accustomed to. He tried to sit up to have a look around, but his arms refused to hold him.
"I wouldn't try to move just yet," Lukas said. He sat nearby in a wooden chair, going for the James Dean look: white T-shirt, black leather jacket, and blue jeans. "You've been very ill. I almost lost you twice."
The statement puzzled Felipe. Perhaps it was the stabbing pain in his temples making Lukas hard to understand. "Did I try to run away?"
"No. I mean you nearly died."
Oh. The thought should have frightened him more than it did, but all Felipe felt was a calm emptiness inside, as if all his emotions had vanished. "I have to get back to school. I have a test on Friday."
"Not anymore, you don't. You've been delirious for several days and asleep for one more. It's Sunday afternoon."
Again Felipe tried to sit up, and again he failed. "Then I have to explain to my teacher--"
"I've spoken with your professors. Dr. Ferguson will let you take the test later. She was quite concerned about you."
"Because of the pictures." His face burned anew.
"Those and other reasons." Lukas leaned back in his chair. "I want you to know you're safe. You're in La Jolla and not far from the campus. This is a sanctuary of sorts, one where those in need can find safety and support. You're not being held against your will. You may leave at any time, though I hope you remain at least long enough to regain your strength. Besides, returning to campus would not be advisable right now."
Felipe wondered why; then he recalled the dark, sickening sensation he'd tried desperately to escape.
"What's the last thing you remember?"
He put a hand to his forehead, wishing his headache would go away. "I went to my room to drop off my books, and..."
The pounding in his temples increased. "I put down my books. Then I heard a noise from Jake's room. I went over and..." He shuddered. "Yo no estoy loco."
"Say that again. In English."
"I'm not crazy." He lowered his hand and gazed at Lukas. "Jake was with a...woman. I was startled. That's all."
"Startled enough to grab a knife and run downstairs yelling about a monster?"
"There was only her," he said adamantly. "No monster. I wouldn't say such a thing." Yet he was suddenly chilled as if something terrible was imminent.
"You said you weren't crazy. What happened to make you think you were?"
It wasn't the creature in the dorm he felt or saw, but another time, another place with bare cement walls and a white-coated man with his hand poised atop a silver switch. "Los demonios no sonreales," he said. Click.
He startled, wondering why Lukas studied him so intently.
"Where were you just now?"
"Here. With you." The inane questions irritated him.
"I mean, what were you thinking of?"
Another chill raised goose bumps along his flesh. "I was thinking I'm sorry for the trouble I've caused. I had no right to bother you."
Lukas smiled wryly as if he knew Felipe's answer had been evasive. "You had every right. Padre Rafael and I were friends."
Felipe's sadness at the priest's death returned with a rush. "He was my friend too."
"I'm glad." Lukas was quiet a moment. He twined his fingers together. "Do you know how he might have died?"
"His heart." He figured he owed Lukas at least that much of an explanation.
Lukas kept his expression passive. "He was ill?"
Felipe shrugged. "He didn't say so, but I knew. If we walked too far, he was out of breath. He took pills." He caught a snippet of grief from Lukas, and in that moment he no longer felt so alone. He tried once more to sit up and this time succeeded, but the movement alerted him to a rather urgent need. "I need to..."
"Come on." Lukas held out his hand.
"I can do it myself." But once he'd swung his legs over the edge and tried to stand, a wave of dizziness forced him back down. Embarrassed, he said, "I changed my mind."
Lukas once again offered his hand. Felipe hesitated, anticipating the uncomfortable knowing that always accompanied touch, but when he placed his hand in Lukas's, nothing happened. The only thing he felt was his host's strength and warmth.
With help he slung one arm over Lukas's broad shoulders and rose. His head swam from dizziness, and they waited until his vision cleared before they moved toward the bathroom. Felipe held on to one sturdy arm for support while Lukas politely turned his head.
On the way back to the bed, the physical closeness triggered other memories, lurid, drug-fueled days in Barcelona when his bed had rarely been empty. His body stiffened at the thought. Lukas must have brought him here for a reason. Then he recalled one of his dreams where Lukas had been talking to him and a caress that filled him with a mixture of longing and terror.
His grip tightened around Lukas's arm. Instinct screamed to push him away, but he feared falling without support. "What did you do to me? You said I was sick--what did you do?"
Lukas sat him on the bed before holding his hands wide in peace. "Energy manipulation. Most people can't sense energy at all. A select few, such as Padre Rafael and myself, can direct it. When you were attacked in the dormitory, you received a bad shock. Your body's energy flow was disrupted. I fixed it." He studied Felipe for a minute. "I thought Padre Rafael might have taught you something about that."
Either it was fatigue or his misunderstanding of some American nuance, but none of Lukas's talk about energy made sense. "Padre Rafael never said anything. He prayed. I felt better. That's all."
"Then may I try something similar to help your headache?" He held out his hands as an offering.
"No." The throbbing in his head was easier to endure than anything Lukas might intend to do. It was bad enough not knowing what Lukas had done while he'd been ill. There had to be something more to this than "energy manipulation." "I want to be alone."
"I'll have something to eat and drink sent up." Lukas stood and gestured at the door with his chin. "If you need anything, I'm down the hall in room two, or just dial zero and ask the operator to find me."
Felipe didn't answer. He lay down with his back to Lukas and pulled the comforter tight around his shoulders.
The door clicked as Lukas opened it. "I'm your friend, Ramon. Please believe that."
He wanted to believe it. He did. He just...couldn't.
* * * *
Lukas found Michael in his office and updated him on Felipe's progress. "I'll have to tell him the truth soon."
"No. Tell him nothing. We have bigger issues to deal with." He gestured to the television, which was playing a news broadcast. A black-and-white photo of Felipe appeared on the screen while the newscaster read out a number to call with more information.
"What are we going to do? I know he's innocent. I finally managed to glean a bit of what happened from his mind when I asked him about it. He was trying to protect the other students."
"Sorry, Lukas, but telepathic evidence won't hold up in court, and he can't possibly say it was an incubus. They'd lock him up."
Lukas winced. From his perusal of the files Rafael had sent, Felipe had already spent a great deal of time in a mental ward.
"Besides. They're looking for an exchange student named Ramon Esquivel, who doesn't exist." Michael dropped the falsified Spanish passport on the desk. "I did some digging. FelipeCamarena is the son of a wealthy technocrat who was declared missing, presumably dead, over three years ago. Felipe's age and description coincidentally match that of a fugitive incarcerated in a ward for the criminally insane because he allegedly murdered his brother and claimed he was aiming for a demon. He was judged to be schizophrenic and subjected to several rounds of shock therapy before he escaped, along with the priest tending to him. Spain will probably ask for extradition." He leaned forward, hands clasped. "Our guest is a wanted, dangerous man."
There was an edge to Michael's voice Lukas didn't like. "Desperate, perhaps, but not dangerous. Besides, our vows are to aid anyone who's come into contact with an incubus regardless of their background."
"And you've done an admirable job. He wouldn't have survived without you."
"He's going to need counseling and the truth."
"If we tell him about incubi, he's only going to get himself into more trouble. I forbid you to say anything. Don't get too attached, either. He won't be staying long."
"You can't let him be extradited to Spain. Not after all he's been through. None of the enclaves will be much better than the hospital he was in. They're all run by the government."
Michael leaned back. He gazed out the window. "I haven't decided what to do with him yet. Get some rest. You need it."
He couldn't rest, not with Felipe's fate in the balance. Burning with anger at the injustice, he lost himself in Rafael's journal.
Last night when I dared to leave F long enough to sleep, I returned to find him choking on his own vomit. No one had bothered to check on him. Why should they? He is a prostitute, an addict, and a murderer. Only I see him as someone worth saving, and suspect there is more to the tragic circumstances than evidence suggests. One does not become an addict without persuasion--or coercion.
In that condition, he was no danger to me. I ripped the restraints apart and rolled him onto his side to clear his airway. He coughed a bit more, then lay quietly, weakened by his struggle. I cleaned him up and changed the sheets. He watched me, but whether he actually saw me, I did not know. Most likely he was lost in some dreamworld of his own.
I tried to reach him anyway. "My name is Padre Rafael. Do you know where you are?"
"Can you tell me your name?"
Nothing. He continued to stare at the wall.
"Do you know why you're here?"
At this he gave a deep sigh. "I thought it had killed me."
"It?" I asked, but he only shuddered and refused to say any more. His eyes drooped shut as the withdrawal claimed him again. Listening to his ravings as he dreamed, I began to suspect he wasn't hallucinating at all. The way he writhed was more like reliving a memory than the randomness of a dream. Since the movements were so overtly sexual, I assumed he was recalling a particularly unpleasant customer, but as he went on, I began to suspect something worse.
"Get it off," he pleaded. "Let go. Please. I can't stand it..."
"Get what off?" I asked without much hope of an answer.
"It doesn't even feel human..."
There is one creature that fits F's symptoms. Lukas told me about incubi, and while I was incredulous at the time, I no longer am. I believe F has encountered one and it has damaged him deeply. F's continued ravings about it have set the staff on edge. Since I have confirmed he is not possessed, they are muttering about possible diagnoses beyond heroin-induced hallucinations. Schizophrenia tops their list. Were I to try and convince them of the truth, I too would be considered delusional.
Come morning, I replaced the restraints. If I did not, the staff would do it--and far less gently. If it were possible, I would leave them off completely because they add to his terror, but one of his symptoms is a severe itch beneath his skin and he would scratch himself raw as soon as he was left alone.
This is the third and hopefully final day of F's withdrawal, though I expect some symptoms to recur later. Fortunately he has been insensible through most of it. Much of the time, I wished the same for myself. I've had to dam my mind with all the skill I possess to keep from being overcome by the intense pain of F's muscle spasms. Despite this, I'm grateful he's still alive.
I cannot imagine him voluntarily seeking a life as a streetwalker. Once he's healthy, he'll be devilishly handsome, a figure to tempt both women and men, myself included. I realize I am speculating about a young manwho has yet to speak sense, but with my Sensitivity, I know him, and he would not choose the life he's been leading.
He sleeps soundly now, his poor body exhausted and taxed beyond normal limits, but he'll heal. I can already feel the process beginning.
To my great relief, F opened his eyes and drank the glass of water I held to his lips. He didn't ask where he was. I think he knows, and I think he believes he deserves to be in a madhouse. He flinches away from me, and I am careful to match my energies to his to keep from causing him any further discomfort. He didn't speak, not even when I explained his location and situation. Instead he turned his face away, emanating such terrible guilt and terror I had to wall myself off from him.
He is still awake, thinking, grieving. I know the process is natural, but I ache for him.
SO FELIPE HAD met an incubus before the one in the dormitory, and if Rafael's observation was correct, he'd been intimate with one. Or rather, it had been intimate with him.
Lukas shuddered. He was familiar enough with the demons, and while their offspring had their own darkness and danger lurking within, a cambion's darkness was tamable, even arousing and exciting. A thrill. But to be a Sensitive and to have an incubus's attentions forced upon him...Lukas wondered how Felipe was still sane.
Like any Sensitive, Felipe knew the incubus wasn't human but didn't yet have the means to explain what he'd felt and seen. Deep inside he knew the truth, evidenced by his subconscious sketching demons during his psychology class. Lukas wondered what would happen when the full import of that knowledge hit Felipe. Would he persevere--or would he become permanently broken?