In the office, she wrote everything on yellow paper: legals pads, while-you-were-outs, carbon copies, and sticky notes. Her eyes, so accustomed to the faded yellow of her workdays, had difficulty ... [+]
"If I stab you in all three, will you die?" Joseph asks, looking away as the demon's grin gains more teeth.
"That's not very Christian of you," the demon says.
Joseph sighs, focusing on his bible and the half-completed devotions scrawled in the margins. "I'm Catholic."
"Sure," the demon agrees amicably. "And yes, I'd die. But you'd have to be naked and covered in holy water while you did it."
There's a pause. Joseph winces.
"What?" the demon teases. "You're so suspicious, Joey. I didn't do anything!"
"You were going to, don't pretend like—"
"Oh Father," the demon purrs, batting his eyelashes. "I've been such a sinner. Take off your pants and we can get right to the stabbing."
Joseph sighs. "I'm not a priest yet. You can't call me Father."
The demon raises an eyebrow. "How about ‘Daddy'?"
Joseph twitches. "Don't be so . . . uncouth."
"Oh, you find me charming," the demon argues, adjusting the collar of his shirt to reveal the faint curve of his clavicle. Joseph's eyes dart down to the exposed skin, and the demon grins. "You're drawn to me. I'm irresistible, I'm magnetic, and I know just how to coax you out of your vestments."
"Has this ever worked?" Joseph asks.
"What, have I ever seduced a priest?"
"I'm not a prie—"
"It's worked," the demon interrupts, shrugging. "Not since I was sent up here to tempt you, of course. That's a seduction still in progress."
"So little faith," the demon says. "You'd miss me if I wasn't here."
"I doubt that very much."
"What is?" Joseph asks warily.
"Awfully traditional language, don't you think?" the demon continues, claw scuffing across the edges of the pages. "Commandments, crucifixions, pillars of salt—it's all just a bit much."
"You're a bit much."
"I could be a bit more, if you'd like," the demon whispers, mouth all fangs. "C'mon, Joe, I can be anything you want, you just have to ask."
Joseph gives the demon a long look. "Why me?"
"That's what I want—answers," Joseph says. "The seminary is full of students. So, why me?"
The demon tilts his head to one side. "Why do you think?"
Joseph sighs. "You're a test. Of my commitment. Of my . . . faith."
"Or," the demon says, moving nearer. "Maybe you were just the first one I saw. Maybe I liked your clothes, or your smile, or the way you chew on your lip when you're nervous. Maybe I thought you could use a little bit of sin in your life."
Joseph inhales but doesn't move away. "I'm supposed to do something great?"
"Uh huh," the demon whispers. His breath is warm against Joseph's lips, but then his mouth slides away to catch against the shell of Joseph's ear instead. "Something really great."
"What?" Joseph asks, pressing his face into the demon's shoulder. The demon smells like peat smoke and coffee, deep and earthy and not like any damnation Joseph has ever considered. "What am I supposed to do?"
The demon hums in the back of his throat, mouth moving against the skin of Joseph's neck. "Me."
And then, Joseph laughs.
The demon sighs, pulling back just enough to give him a careful, considered look.
Joseph shakes his head. "I can't believe you turned that into a come-on."
"What?" the demon asks, letting Joseph push him away. "I'm definitely the greatest thing you're ever going to come across."
"Don't," Joseph warns, still smiling.
"And you can come across me any time, Joey," the demon continues, unperturbed. "Twice on Sundays. Maybe even—"
"Enough!" Joseph says. "You're incorrigible."
"You enjoy it."
"I do," Joseph admits. "Doesn't mean I'll . . . uh—"
The demon laughs. "Succumb to temptation?"
"Exactly," Joseph agrees. "I won't be partaking in any temptations—"
"So you say," the demons says idly.
"—but that doesn't mean," Joseph continues, "that I don't appreciate the effort. Or that I don't enjoy your company."
"I know you do," the demon says. "I wouldn't be here if you didn't."
"No," the demon says, reaching out to touch Joseph's cheek. "What're you so afraid of, Joe?"
Joseph sighs, pulling away. "I take my vows tomorrow."
"Ah, yes," the demon murmurs. "And then you'll be a proper priest."
"And you'll leave the seminary."
"Yes." Joseph swallows. "What happens to you?"
The demon grins. "Oh, I'm coming, too. It's way more fun to tempt a full priest than a trainee one."