Diary of a Succubus


By James Patterson

With Derek Nikitas

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A beautiful and deadly New York woman can kill a man with a kiss.

“You’re everything I ever wanted,” he says. He leans in and kisses me. At last. I slip my hands away, letting my fingertips brush across his cheek. He takes his final bow over the railing and drops 15 floors toward the Fifth Avenue pavement. Pity.

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I saw pale kings, and princes too,

Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;

Who cried “La Belle Dame sans Merci

Hath thee in thrall.”

—John Keats, La Belle Dame sans Merci

Chapter 1

Though sometimes I regret it, I’m everything a man has ever wanted. Point a gun at somebody, he recoils. Slip me in a skintight dress, he leans in.

That’s not vanity. It’s just biology, plus a pinch of magic. My body’s more gymnast than supermodel, and you’d guess my age to be closer to thirty than twenty. I’m built to fire the pleasure centers of the male brain.

Not long ago, I met Mark Norman Harper, whom you’ll probably remember from Forbes magazine’s richest lists, not to mention his stint as an investor on Shark Tank. He was the one who crushed every hopeful’s dreams. And he’s done so much worse than that.

Although he romanced me for less than a month, I’m convinced he would’ve divorced his wife and donated his fortune to Greenpeace if he thought it would make me happy, which is saying a lot, considering that his company destroyed ten thousand acres of rainforest last year.

And although he’d give me everything, I couldn’t trust him with my real name…

I never even kissed him, not until the end, that night we enjoyed a performance of Les Liaisons Dangereuses at New York City Ballet. That final night.

I’ve always had a weakness for dancers’ tightly sculpted legs in tights, I admit. As we watched, I leaned over and whispered a creative suggestion for later in the evening. Mark’s only reaction was to arch an eyebrow. The man was much too refined to show his eagerness right there in the theater.

But after the curtain call? He flagged the first taxi he could find, and we rushed through snow-covered Central Park, straight to Harper Towers on Fifth Avenue. Of course he had a private car and driver, but remember, Mark was married, and we were incognito.

We clung to each other in the dark of the cab like teenagers on prom night, even though Mark was a silver fox in his fifties and I…well, he had the impression I was half his age.

Harper Towers was an art deco classic of severely etched granite. It had been the keystone of the Harper Empire since the thirties, back when Great-Grandfather Harper launched the first family trust fund.

We waltzed past the front entrance, and the uniformed doorman greeted Mark with a flustered “Happy New Year, sir.” He failed to notice me altogether. I have that effect. I can be the center of attention, or I can be a passing whisper.

In the rumbling slow elevator, my anticipation lifted like the bubbles in an uncorked bottle of champagne. It was all I could do not to ravish Mark while we climbed to his floor.

His penthouse was the type with furniture so abstract it seemed to forbid sitting. Panoramic windows showed midtown swirling with snowflakes like a giant snow globe.

A view like that can substitute for foreplay when your date owns half the skyline in sight. My nerves tingled wildly. “What a stellar night,” I said, even if I couldn’t see the stars.

“Especially from where I’m standing.” He flashed the grin of a man whose desires were always quickly met.

On the wall behind him were three mounted flintlock rifles from the Ottoman Empire. They were the most garishly decorated guns I’d ever seen. Men like Mark Harper collected relics for their whiff of immortality. They collected younger women for the same reason. Well, I planned to do something about that before the evening ended.

“I could use a drink,” I said.

“What do you have a taste for tonight?”

“You want me to say, ‘only you.’”

“As long as we understand each other,” he said, contemplating the blue glow of the wine cooler. “How about a Russian River Valley Noir? It’s been waiting three years.”

“I’ve waited longer,” I said. To be honest, the frustration leading up to this night had made me woozy with hunger. I was almost too pent up to think straight.

The massive saltwater tank inset on the wall bathed my black Dior dress in currents of tropical light. The fish flitted about in an enchanting dance. Mark saw me watching them.

“That peppermint angelfish is my latest,” he said. “Imported from the Cook Islands. What a stunning catch she was. Twenty thousand dollars.”

“Would you believe I’ve actually been to the Cook Islands? An ex-beau of mine was the extreme sports type. We did some pearl-diving, cliff-diving, other types of diving…”

“Your stories never cease to amaze me. You’re like a cat with nine full lives.”

While Mark uncorked the wine, I made an excuse to visit the bathroom. On the way, I slipped into his darkened bedroom instead, just for a peek. My breath steadied as my eyes adjusted. I could sense even then that after years of hunting for the man responsible for so much suffering, so much misery, I was finally on the scent. Yes, there’d been plenty of other marks, but none as promising as this disgusting bastard.

I opened a nightstand drawer to find a copy of the Kama Sutra. I smiled. If he caught me exploring in here, I could claim I was studying up.

Then I saw it, what I was snooping for. I gasped like a Victorian in an over-tightened corset. Just lying out in the open, clipped to a draftsman’s table by the window, was a kraft booklet envelope with a broken wax seal.

Stamped into the seal was the image of a ceremonial chalice. The sight of that icon again, after so long, gave me a shuddering chill. That symbol was synonymous with an evil most people couldn’t even imagine. How many corners of the world had I ransacked in my search?

And here it finally was, the evidence I needed.

Proof that Mark was one of them.

Chapter 2

I could barely hold back my urge to tear open the letter. But from here forward, I had to be as careful and precise as a surgeon. Mark and I had some urgent needs to take care of first. And I had to remember something vitally important—this man was a killer.

We were in his living room sipping our rich red wine while Kamasi Washington’s saxophone jazz washed over us.

He said, “I have to tell you something I’ve never told another woman, not even my wife.”

“That you’re a virgin?”

“Funny, but no. That I’m falling in love with you.”

This from a man who owned luxury hotels in Berlin, slums in Sydney, and everything in-between. His château and his wife were in France. A handful of Southeast Asian government officials were in his pocket. Ventures across the globe, but tonight he was mine.

“Let’s go out on the balcony,” I suggested.

“You’re kidding. It’s got to be negative ten out there.”

“Just for a minute. I want our first kiss to be memorable.”

Mark laughed at me but he still did what I asked, opening the frozen glass door after a few vigorous tugs. The wind made us gasp and laugh as we stepped into it. The crusted ice crunched under my high-heeled pumps.

Every sensation brought another aching surge of desire. I almost needed that arctic blast to keep me from overheating. Any moment now, the flood. It had been so long…

“Jesus, careful you don’t slip,” he said, hunched over from the biting cold.

I tucked against him and let the steam of our breath mingle. “You’ve conquered me,” I said. I’d been waiting to deliver that ridiculous line. Unlike discerning ladies, men swoon over the stupidest come-ons.

Mark was no different. He smiled lasciviously. Despite his shivering lips, he leaned in for a kiss.

I took his head in my hands and zeroed all my soul into this moment, this man. All I needed was the soft pink touch of our lips, the eager searching of our tongues, and my radiant need gushed forth in release.

My kiss told him everything, admitted every lie. We were like an ice sculpture bathed in sudden heat, and all his being rushed inside me. I welcomed everything he offered, and then, just like that, the kiss was over.

My dance was complete, my lust exhausted.

He blinked at me vacantly. I slipped my hands away, letting my fingertips brush along his cheekbone one last time.

Mark Norman Harper was free. He was weightless.

He took his final bow over the railing and then, without a sound but his fluttering jacket lapels, dropped fifteen floors toward the Fifth Avenue pavement.

From the beginning I had his heart, and now I had his soul.

Chapter 3

Like Scheherazade, the Arabian queen, I have a thousand and one tales to tell in the night. But this is the story I have to tell you, the mother story, the one that starts with Mark Norman Harper and what I read in his wax-sealed letter.

Before the police arrived, I fled Harper Towers and jumped the southbound 4 train toward Brooklyn. Fresh from that kiss, I was so abuzz that I gripped the pole with both hands to keep myself grounded.

In a better world, I’d have a chance to lay back and bask in the feeling. Instead I was hurtling through the underground, agonizing over the time I lost at every subway stop.

I hadn’t been careful enough. All my safeguards…

The letter in my jacket pocket was written a week earlier by a man in California. It was made to look medieval, handwritten in Latin, no less, sealed with a wax stamp and sent by private courier. I hadn’t seen one like it in over a decade. And I’d been searching across five continents.

The letter named two targets who lived in New York, both of them much too familiar to me. Women, of course. Their names and addresses were inscribed in elegant calligraphy, like a wedding invitation. Terra. Shanti. Girls I loved as sisters, marked for death.

I sprang back aboveground at Grand Army Plaza, just a few blocks from where the first target lived. I had to get to Terra’s apartment before something terrible happened to her. She was everything to me. All my sisters were.

Surging with worry, I probably could’ve burst down the steel door at the street entrance to her building. Instead, I thumbed the doorbells on every apartment except Terra’s until somebody buzzed me in.

On stealthy stocking feet I hurried up three floors and pressed my ear against her apartment door. Voices inside gave me hope, until I realized they came from the television. Gingerly I tested the door latch and found it unlocked.

All the simmering fire from Mark’s kiss suddenly went cold. I was too fitfully anxious to enter the studio apartment with any defensive strategy. I ignored my own safety and rushed inside, breathless with panic, my heart bashing against my ribs.

I expected the place to look like it had been ransacked by that crazed orangutan from the Poe story, but it looked tidy as ever. In the dim light from the murmuring television, the bed was made with military precision. Typical Terra.

I whipped through the room in a silent frenzy, searching, disturbing nothing. My head was in chaos, but nobody living above or below this apartment would catch a hint of my movements.

Nothing was out of place. Even the dishes in the drying rack were carefully aligned. The perfect order was almost enough to calm my heart, but I knew better. Killers like these were nearly invisible.

After a moment, I smelled it. An odor coming from the closed-off bathroom that would’ve been too faint and fresh for most people to sense. With a shuddering hand I folded back the accordion door and fell to my knees in that tiny space between the sink and the tub.

I’d known Terra since she was an infant. I chaperoned her first trip overseas to Spain, trained her on how to shoot a crossbow. I’d made so many promises, offered so many warnings. It wasn’t her fault she was born into this secret war.

But now a streetlight beam cut through the dark to fall across Terra’s arm hanging limp and pale from the bathtub lip. The glitter nail polish she always wore.

A foot-long gash ran up her arm and the floor was damp with blood only a few hours old. She’d died while I was at the ballet, taking my dear sweet time seducing Mark Harper. If I’d only moved more quickly.

I couldn’t have known an assassin had been sent to New York. Mark knew, but he’d held his cards much too close for me to read. The killer was most likely the very person who hand-delivered Mark his wax-sealed letter of introduction.

And it all happened under my watch.

Terra had been more alive and vibrant than most people I’d ever known. She embraced life. She fought for it at every turn. But now she was dead, and someone made it look like a suicide, just as I had done with Harper. The irony stung deep.

I wanted to throw open a window and howl into the street. I wanted to shatter every neatly stacked dish in her kitchen. But I had to keep it all pent up. I had to walk away unseen, a shadow trembling with vicious grief. As much as it broke my heart, I had to leave her here to be found by someone else.

There could be no trace of my visit, and there could be no more wasted time. Another name was on that list, and every second I spent paralyzed beside Terra’s body could mean another young woman’s death.


On Sale
Apr 4, 2017
Page Count
160 pages

James Patterson

About the Author

James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author, best known for his many enduring fictional characters and series, including Alex Cross, the Women’s Murder Club, Michael Bennett, Maximum Ride, Middle School, I Funny, and Jacky Ha-Ha. Patterson’s writing career is characterized by a single mission: to prove to everyone, from children to adults, that there is no such thing as a person who “doesn’t like to read,” only people who haven’t found the right book. He’s given over a million books to schoolkids and over forty million dollars to support education, and endowed over five thousand college scholarships for teachers. He writes full-time and lives in Florida with his family.

Learn more at jamespatterson.com

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