"Would you look at that?"

"Look at what?" Lucian asked, leaning over close to Dan at the table underneath the umbrella on the golf and tennis club's café terrace. He thought that if he could get cheek to cheek with the hunk, it would be a start on making him.

"That Zack Wilson over there. He's strutting around like he owns the place."

"Perhaps that's because he does own a big chunk of it. Or haven't you heard?"

"No," Dan said, his voice full of the morose. "I hadn't heard. Where did he get the money to buy into the club? How can he be zipping ahead financially when the rest of us are barely hanging on by our fingernails in this recession?"

Envy, Lucian thought. Why didn't he guess that would be the key to Dan? It looked increasingly like he was going to get lucky. Envy. Envy and bitterness and the feeling of failure. Not to mention, of course, the need for money to support living above one's means-which led to all the rest. Those were also strong tools in his business.

"So, you know of the straits he was in a year ago, do you?"

"Sure," Dan answered, swinging around from the baleful look he'd been giving Zack, who was flirting with two forty-something, but still quite presentable, women at a table over by the steps down to the eighteenth hole. They twittered back at him like he was some sort of celebrity or something. Like he was the most delicious thing on the menu. Dan snorted derisively before he continued. "Yes, a year ago he was trying to get me to take his old Chrysler off his hands so he could make the month's rent. Now he drives a Porsche and lives in a house twice the size of the one he couldn't afford then."

"And yet a year ago, he was sitting with me on this terrace in exactly the same circumstances as you are today." Lucian nudged his chair around a bit closer to Dan's-on the terrace wall side, where no one from the restaurant would see what his hands would be doing under the table top in case this conversation got that far.

"The same circumstance? You mean that he was asking your company for a loan?"


"And you gave him one despite the financial condition he was in?"

"Yes. We invest in people and their potential, Dan. Zack had great potential. And I could see that in him. I think you could have it in you too, Dan." Potential indeed, Lucian was thinking. Dan was one nice piece of ass.

"And from there Zack was able to accomplish this miraculous turnaround?"

"Well, it was more complex than that, Dan. Zack needed more help than just money." Lucian lowered his voice to a whisper so that Dan had to lean in toward him.

"What do you mean? Do you mean your company helped him in more ways than just a financial loan?"

"Yes, of course. We are a well-connected firm, Dan. We have ways of helping our clients expand their money exponentially. We like to get a very good return on our investment, and we take a very personal interest in our loan clients. Zack had what it takes, of course, but we were-I was-pleased to help him along." Lucian was barely whispering now, and he made sure his face was at an angle from Dan. Dan had to scoot his chair around toward Lucian, just as Lucian had planned.

"And this is how Zack recovered so fully and expanded his investment capital-by working closely with your firm?"

"As I said, he did come with assets. Zack is a very attractive and compelling man. And it has largely been because he was working closely-very closely-with me, Dan."

"How is this possible? How can your firm help someone make such a turnaround so quickly in an economy like the one we're suffering? Is this some sort of voodoo magic?"

"Don't joke about such things," Lucian said. His tone was sharp, and he gave Dan a glowering look, trying to appear foreboding. His swarthy complexion and jet black hair, including a pointed goatee, and his piercingly cold blue eyes helped him in this regard. "Do you reject the possibility of the occult, Dan-that there are forces at work that are beyond the understanding and control of mere man?"

"I . . . I . . .I don't know. All of that is . . ." Dan felt himself beginning to sweat. He backed right down. The last thing he wanted to do today was alienate Lucian Abaddon. He'd been all over the state before contacting Lucian. And nothing. There had been no help for him. He was keeping up appearances. But he was almost as close to reneging on the house payment the month after next as Zack had been when he'd come crawling to him to buy his Chrysler. There were rumors about Lucian and his company-although Dan's best research hadn't dug out anything on the company beyond Lucian himself. There was talk of how Lucian was a miracle man, but there were also whispers of the demands he made. Of something unusual.

Dan knew Lucian was gay-and that he had some very strange ideas. He had tried everything else he could think of before calling Lucian. But no one else in the state had given him the time of day on helping him dig himself out of his financial hole. If there was a question of what Dan would do from today's meeting-just how much of his soul he would sell to land a loan-it had all been wrestled with and fundamentally answered before he had gotten to this point.

"Hokum, Dan? Are you really so sure. Look at Zack, Dan. You knew how he was a year ago, and you can see how he is today. Do you think that transition was natural, Dan? I told you that my firm was well connected. Perhaps you don't know just how well connected. Look at Zack, Dan. You are a good analyst. You have been doing some checking, haven't you? I know you have. You'd be surprised what I know about you. What have you learned about how my help has worked out for others?"

"You do have a good success record, Lucian. That was quite evident. I just don't . . ."

"And your research has given you a good idea of what signing with me entails, doesn't it? Be honest about that, Dan."

Dan didn't answer. He couldn't maintain eye contact with Lucian. He just lowered his face, looking down at the table top, realizing only now that the fingers of one of Lucian's hands were laying lightly on top of one of his hands.

"Look at Zack, Dan. What comes to mind when you look at Zack over there and compare what his situation was a year ago and how things are working for him now? What would be your first thought."

"My first thought?" Dan asked. "That he'd sold his soul, I guess." The words almost caught in Dan's throat. He immediately wanted to pull those words back, but something about the situation and Zack's success had just forced this out of him-what he'd been thinking even before he showed up to this meeting, the suggestiveness and all, what Lucian was saying to him, Lucian's look-the whole satanic edge to him. Dan laughed, trying to cover his nervousness, but revealing it in the shakiness-almost hysteria-of the laugh rather than hiding it.

"That's not funny," Lucian said, covering his face with his most serious mask. "It's something to consider, of course. But it isn't something to joke about it. I can tell you that Zack doesn't joke about it."

Dan sat there, paralyzed. It was only now that he realized that Lucian's hand had moved to rest on his knee under the table.

"Look at Zack again," Lucian said.

Dan lifted his head, as directed, and stared at Zack, still chatting up the two giggling women.

Good, Lucian thought. He's still with me and following my directions.

"Does it look like Zack is putting the make on those women, Dan?"


"And does it look like he could have either one of them, if he wanted them?"

"Yes." This was said with a bit of a yelp, because Lucian's hand was higher on his thigh now.

"And do you think he will fuck either one or both of them?"

"Yes. Probably."

"Maybe, Dan. But maybe not. Do you think he has enjoyed being with women all that much for the past year-considering all of the options? And let's say, just for the sake of argument, that he has explored other options. Does it look like he has suffered from that?"

Dan didn't answer. All of his senses were on that hot hand on his thigh.

"Do you want a loan, Dan? Do you want my help in expanding your capital?"


"We haven't discussed collateral. Do you want to do that now?"

"No . . . yes . . . Um, I don't know what to say."

"Do I really need to discuss collateral with you, Dan? Do you really not know what collateral Zack put up?"

Dan didn't answer. He just sat there, breathing heavily. There was no need for him to answer verbally. His body was answering for him. Lucian had a hand spread on his basket now, under the table and was taking the measure of Dan through the thin material of his golfing trousers.

"If you want the loan and my help, it's your soul I want as collateral, Dan. I think that should be quite clear between us. If you want this, we will have to move our discussions to my bedroom. How about it, Dan? It's decision time. What do you say?"

"Shall I put these drinks on my tab?" Dan answered weakly.

Dan was shy and wooden from the start when they reached Lucian's house. Dan wasn't the least surprised at the gothic décor of the house or the four-poster bed with its heavy brocade drapes, but they intimidated him. They only added to his foreboding about just how deeply he was getting into something beyond his understanding and control.

What really surprised him, though, was that, once Lucian was stripped down, there seemed nothing special or satanic about him. His arms and chest were covered with curly black hair, but there were no pelted goat legs or hooves or horns. It was almost a letdown. If he was going to sell his soul, he would have appreciated some of the trappings that went with it-some sort of sign that it was all true. Idiotic, he knew, but there it was. These were the thoughts going through his mind as he tip-toed along the tightrope of hysteria.

Lucian didn't give him long to contemplate the selling of his soul, though. He sat on the edge of the bed once they were both naked and pushed Dan to his knees in front of him, between his legs, and fed his cock into Dan's mouth. Dan gagged and showed reluctance, but Lucian directed him well and led him through the process with encouraging words and rewarding sounds of pleasure.

Dan was even more reluctant when, fully prepared himself, Lucian pulled him up and laid him on his back on the bed and, stretching out beside him, moved his hand to Dan's crotch and his lips to the hollow of Dan's neck and then up to his mouth. Dan went rigid and Lucian sweet talked him, with Dan relaxing and increasingly emitting involuntary moans as Lucian's hand did its magic on Dan's cock. Soon Dan was writhing and groaning and his hips were rolling in rhythm with the pumping of Lucian's hand and, giving a little cry, he arched his back and shot his load across his quivering belly.

"You OK?" Lucian murmured.

"Yes," Dan answered somewhat uncertainly.

"That's done now, isn't it?"

"Yes," Dan answered, and then, in surprise, he uttered an explicative and Lucian covered his mouth with the palm of his hand as he rolled over on top of Dan and spread his legs with the other hand.

"What . . . what . . .?" Dan exclaimed when Lucian removed his hand to open the condom packet.

"Do you want the loan or not, Dan?" Lucian asked, his voice suddenly dominating, hard edged.

"Yes," whimpered Dan, "But . . ."

"Zack has a Porsche, Dan. What was it you said you coveted? A Corvette? Think of the Corvette, Dan."

Dan was reduced to light pants, and then he cried out and went rigid and had to be cajoled to relax as Lucian entered him and began to open him up for a prolonged session of slow fucking in multiple positions.

Later, as they lay side by side and Dan fought to return his breathing to a regular rhythm and tried to forget both the pain in his ass and the fact that he had come to enjoy it-and wanted to do it again-Lucian spoke.

"Collateral, Dan. Every Tuesday afternoon for the term of the loan-if that's what I want. problem with that?"

"No, not really. It was better than expected. But . . ."

"But what, Dan?"

"But, oh I don't know. Selling my soul and all. I guess I expected something-fireworks, clashing of symbols, billowing smoke and fire or something."

"You don't really believe in all of that occult shit, do you, Dan?" Lucian said. He leaned over and kissed Dan on a nipple and then raised his head and looked into Dan's face-and laughed.

"Oh, god," Dan muttered.

"Nothing satanic about the arrangement," Lucian said. "But God doesn't have a damn thing to do with it either. It's just a business deal and a weekly fuck rather than having to put up any other collateral."

"And no Corvette, either, I take it," Dan answered. He was beginning to see the humor in the situation-and how incredibly naïve he'd been in his frustrated need. If he hadn't been very pleasantly surprised with how well a man can make love to another, he might have been angry. But Lucian had fucked all of the anger and fear out of him. And, although he certainly wouldn't reveal it to Lucian, Dan was already looking forward to next Tuesday afternoon's tryst.

"You can buy anything you think you can afford, Dan. I'd be careful with the money I give you, though. The stock market can be so iffy-especially in these times."

"And Zack?"

"Rich uncle died is the way I heard it," Lucian answered.




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