Ion Toso models and poses as a live mannequin. Weary of one-night stands, loneliness threatens to consume him until, while posing in an upscale department store window one evening, he sees the perfect woman jump from a cab wearing a fake green flower on her lapel. His dormant body comes to life for the world to see. Once he finds her, convincing her to accept everything he is, even the part no one dares look at twice, will not be easy. Ion is an Essentiant—an immortal creature who steals and devours souls of human vermin.
Sandy Brittingham hasn’t been out on a date for months yet pretending to enjoy another aimless blind date is intolerable. Unable to bear the thought of murmuring polite lies at the end of the night forces her to act recklessly. Before she’s seated, she snatches off the fake green flower she wore so the man would know her and tosses it into the trash. Sandy walks out the restaurant and unwittingly into the arms of a thief, but she’s not sure the model who rescues her isn’t worse.
“Haven’t you grown tired of the bullshit yet?”
Ion was the best male model in the business, and it garnered him a private dressing room. Ignoring Dresdan Mati, his friend and a real son of a bitch who held more power in his baby finger than Ion possessed in his whole body, he made eye contact with his makeup artist through the mirror. “Thanks, I’m good.”
She’d barely shut the door before Dres continued, “I...we can’t keep doing this.”
He peered at the only other Essentiant alive. “I know.”
“I only have a couple more assignments this year, then--”
“How many times have we had this conversation, Ion? Next you’ll want me to try working magic through the fucking TV screen.” He stood, ready to leave. “And why do you bother to have them do hair and makeup? Your audiences see a slightly aged, soon to be pathetic model who’s graying at the temples with the start of crow’s feet around his eyes.”
“Jackass.” Swiveling in the chair, he gazed at Dres. “I do it to feel normal.”
“We’re not normal. We’re very different from the throngs who grovel at your feet.”
“I have to go.” He stood, moved to the door, and then turned. He needed Dres to help mesmerize the large crowd gathered for a famous designer’s fall collection. “Philly next month?”
“Go.” Dres waved him from the room.
Ion Toso took the steps two at a time, turned the corner on the stage, and hit the catwalk with a confident stride. Women and men seated in the general section yelled, whistled, and clapped. Those prominent in the industry sat close to the stage, and they all applauded, and there were more than a few catcalls and wolf whistles from that area. Dres’s eyes peppered the audience with powerful white light, but no one knew or noticed he helped Ion work magic from the back of the room. Because Ion and Dres were holding the minds of the crowd captive, they saw whatever the Essentiants wanted them to see. Dres didn’t require people to see his stormy gray eyes anymore, and sometimes his power frightened even Ion, who loved the man like a brother.
Ion’s night was done after two more changes and two more trips down the catwalk. Now came the part that had begun to feel like work. He had to greet and mix with the crowd attending the show.
Women surrounded him, clamored for autographs, and some even touched him in places polite company would frown on. Sweet perfumes filled the air, feminine hips bumped his, yet none of it affected him anymore, not even the hand brushing his cock.
It belonged to Trina, one of the models from the show he’d occasionally screwed around with when he needed to release some pressure. Smiling, he twisted sideways. She winked and shoved something into his hand. Jesus, her panties!
“They’re clean,” she whispered in his ear. “I’ll wear them home in the morning.” She placed a light kiss on his cheek. “Perhaps they’ll excite you enough to get a rise out of your cock.” She patted the front of his slacks again, and his dick didn’t even jerk behind the zipper.
“I’ll catch up with you.” No, he wouldn’t, because the only reason he’d search her out showed no signs of life.
Watching her strut away didn’t ignite his imagination or his blood. Nothing stirred Ion anymore, which was why his mannequin performances had become legendary. No matter what, not a single part of his body moved. Women had bared their breasts, even pressed them to the glass he posed behind.
When the horde parted, he knew Dresdan had arrived, the only other man in the room who could take notice away from Ion. He’d even been offered numerous contracts to model and had consistently turned them down with disdain. “Has the adulation fed your soul?”
“Go to hell,” Ion replied, knowing none of his fans would remember hearing him utter the words.
Ion had one steadfast rule for his shows, and it was written into every contract. No cameras, and cell phones had to be turned off and not in sight. A flash went off to his left, and Dres moved so fast Ion stood stock-still in amazement. Shit! He returned and held out a phone. “One day the masses will believe the pictures that manage to hit the news.” Some asshole always smuggled in a camera.
“You’re slipping.” Dres seldom ever let down his guard.
“I’m tired, Ion.”
“Let’s get out of here.” They exited the building using a side door. “This is what I have to look forward to for all the years to come?” He had consumed souls for nearly four hundred years; Dresdan, many, many more. Would taking more sustenance give him supernatural speed? More than likely it came with age. “When did you start moving so fucking fast?”
“When I started globe-trotting behind your ass.” His friend shrugged. “We are what we are. We feast on evil, malicious souls, and we are not only immortal because of it, we can exercise control over human minds.” Turning the corner, Dres motioned to the valet, who pivoted mechanically and headed to the garage to retrieve his car. “I’ve stopped asking why and have learned to control things around me, and it keeps me happy.”
“I can be happy. It’s the loneliness in between making myself happy I abhor.” He glared at Dres, then looked down at the front of his jeans. “The little guy hasn’t come to attention in a long time without a lot of prodding.” Glaring back at his friend, he added, “I’ve never told you this, but the last few years, I’ve fucked just to relieve the pressure. There’s no feeling or emotion anymore. How the hell do you do it?”
His friend grunted as he rounded his car, and before climbing in, Dresdan peered at him over the roof. “Your crowds get larger, each time draining even more of my energy. I desire more essence, and you should too.” He slipped into the seat and lowered the window. “Find something else, Ion, because this will end.” He started to put the window up and stopped. “Maybe the little guy needs more than the bony asses you supply him with.”
“Shit, man, I’m serious.”
“So am I. Hey, here’s an idea: draw a stick figure on a piece of paper and jam your cock through it.” The engine revved. “I’ll see you soon.”
“Nasty bastard,” he snarled as the car left the curb.
Finding a miscreant to feed his soul would have to fill the void because his dick remained flaccid, unexcited by the throng of beautiful women trying to break through the human barrier erected by the venue’s guards. Dres had left, and Ion’s control was slipping. Pinpoints of light splattered the backs of the guards and touched a few faces in the crowd as he tightened his grip on the minds of the mob.
Damn you, Dresdan, for being right.
* * * *
The group in front of the store grew larger. Ion had taken the assignment in Philly hoping it would break the monotony or at least add excitement to his boring day-to-day existence. He already knew it wasn’t going to work. Dres had been right; it was time to move on, do something more meaningful, and get away from the business of being pretty.
The snug underwear he wore for the show was damn uncomfortable. Did any man really wear tighty-whities? Hell, did they wear the brief in any color at all? Ion Toso’s eyes didn’t blink; his hands embraced chair arms as he leaned forward in a stiff pose. Shallow breaths prevented his bare chest from rising and falling, but a curl of hair stirred by air from the overhead vent feathered across his forehead. He would have used more glue to hold the wayward strand in place had he known about the air duct. Posing as a live mannequin, sitting, standing, stooping, doing those things for hours on end without flinching, bunching, or stretching a muscle created pains in places even he didn’t know existed, and Ion knew every part of his body intimately.
He hadn’t counted on the godforsaken strand of hair dancing on his forehead.
Ion avoided television and magazine layouts completely. Both afforded no way to mesmerize his audience. Oddly enough, this made him more sought after. Tonight, Dres, who also acted as his manager in public, waited in the dressing room. The faux job made it easier to lend supernatural abilities when the need arose.
Observing the people peering in the upscale store’s window, he ignored the wayward curl and thought about his new profession. Doctor was the obvious choice. It enabled him to do the deed without searching alleys for dying derelicts, murderers, or any kind of maniac posing a threat to society. Yet, as he told Dresdan in Los Angeles, it wasn’t his cup of tea.
The crowd of mostly women thinned. Some entered the store hoping to catch Ion up close and personal, others made their way into the fancy restaurant next door, and a few departed for what he guessed would be a quiet night at home. What might a lifetime with someone who truly loved him be like? He’d spent his entire existence in and out of one-night stands and short-lived relationships, which always left him seeking more.
Lately, Ion sought no one to slake his lust.
A yellow cab bumped the curb coming to a stop. The woman who exited leaned in the front window and gave the cabby a bill. Tires squealed as the driver lurched back into traffic.
Recklessness, warm weather, and a short, black skirt stretched across a plump ass caused something to happen for the first time in years while posing--Ion’s cock sprang to life. Impossible to conceal it, considering he wore only the name-brand brief. The world held ringside seats for the rise of Ion Toso’s dick. He thanked God for what little support the constricting underwear added to his pitiful situation.
Cameras flashed and fingers pointed when Ion closed his legs in an attempt to hide his predicament. He had not moved on assignment since the early days. As a live mannequin, unlike a model on the catwalk, he worked with smaller crowds so he didn’t need stringent mind control. Tonight, he lost power over the throng and was sure, with modern technology, pictures and videos already flooded social media like a storm. Unfuckingbelievable! Another round of queries regarding his real age would simultaneously bombard the airwaves.
Attention drawn by the hubbub, the woman turned and looked. Red lips curved into a smile, which distracted Ion from awful thoughts for a bit. Blonde hair curled just above her collar, and a low-cut white camisole held generous mounds peeking from the top. The fake green flower pinned to her jacket lapel marred an otherwise perfect picture. Pivoting on at least five-inch heels, she sashayed away. What a sweet ass! Ion didn’t have to look to know a drop of precum left a wet spot front and center of the snug white underwear.
In one tiny moment, internationally famous model and poser Ion Toso tumbled from his public throne.
A quick glance at the clock placed out of sight beneath the window ledge let Ion know he had ten minutes remaining. He wasn’t going to make it. Damn, growing complacent and lax, he had not taken sustenance, which would have given him more power to control the small crowd and avoid the awkward situation.
Standing, he twisted and bumped the plastic female mannequin in white lacy underwear behind him, sending it flying with a crash through the curtain. Jumping from the rise, he ignored murmurs and smirks from workers unpacking merchandise, and walked quickly down the hall. Not wishing to run into someone in the elevator, he took the stairs down to where the dressing room provided for his privacy was located.
When he entered the room, his best friend peered at his watch, set his coffee down, and stared at him. “You okay? It’s only ten till nine.” Giving Ion the once-over, Dresdan Mati burst out laughing. “I’ll be damned, you’re sporting wood.” He continued to peruse Ion’s body. “Christ, did you come in your panties?”
“Shut the hell up. They’re briefs.”