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 Gruesome Horror Novelette of a Nightmare Goddess 

Fresh Fiancés for the Devil's Daughter

By Russell Gray
Author of "House Where Evil Lived," etc.


The unholy lust, the unspeakable orgies, the hideous tortures, would have sufficed
to damn my soul—but the vampire luring my worshipped evil, enshrined it, until
virtue was to be despised, and vileness was all I lived for!


CHAPTER ONE
THE GOLDEN TEMPTRESS

IT was the usual sort of literary party at which half the guests were uninvited. By midnight you didn't know whether the man drinking with you was a famous English author come to America to make war speeches or a crasher who wanted to rub shoulders with the famous. It didn't matter because by that time everybody was pretty drunk and nobody paid any attention to those who drifted in and out of the apartment—until that woman suddenly appeared.

She was the kind who drew your eyes and held them and made you forget that there were other attractive women in the room. She wore a mink cape which dropped open in front so that you couldn't miss her high-bared breasts which pushed against the low bodice of a slinky gown. The gown was golden and so was her skin, and the way the material molded her body it wasn't easy to tell precisely what was skin and what gown.

She undulated over to the table where the drinks were served, and at once men closed in around her, pouring for her.

Helen, my wife, and I, Roland Cuyler, the Author, and his wife Clara were standing near a window in an attempt to get a breath of air. We had ceased our conversation when the woman had entered. All of us looked at her.

"Who's she?" Helen asked.

Roland Cuyler licked his lips and swallowed hard and said: "Never saw her before."

He was a bad liar. He'd become jittery as soon as he had been aware of her presence; looking at her a few minutes ago, some of the liquid had spilled from his cocktail glass. I wondered why he didn't tell the truth, then dismissed it from my mind. As his literary agent, it was my business to sell his novels, not to delve into his personal life.

Our little group at the window broke up. Helen moved away to talk to Portia Teele, whose love novels sold by the hundreds of thousands, and I found myself alone. But only for a moment. I turned and there was the woman in gold. A cocktail glass was raised to her lips, and above its rim I saw gray eyes, flecked with gold, calmly appraising me.

"You're Lester Marlin, the literary agent, aren't you?" she said. "I'm Tala Mag."

Curious name. And curious woman. She could have been called very beautiful if you liked them that way—exotic, with eyes slightly slanted and extremely long and narrow brows and high cheekbones, and a body so vibrant that each motion was a sensuous invitation. Not my type, however. I preferred the pure fresh young beauty of Helen.

Tala Mag dropped the glass from her lips and suddenly I realized that she was so close to me that her pointed breasts almost touched my chest. Over her left shoulder I saw Portia Teele and Helen staring at us. Helen smiled. She knew that a literary agent of my reputation, who, by accepting to handle a writer's manuscript, practically assured its sale, was always being annoyed by women authors who tried to use their bodies as substitutes for lack of literary talent. This Tala Mag was probably one of those.

Tala Mag glanced over my shoulder and coldly studied Helen. Then she turned back to me and intimately tucked a hand through my arm and leaned against me so that I felt the soft yielding of a breast.

"Your wife appears jealous," she whispered.

Somebody must have told her who Helen was, and it was because my wife watched that she was trying to make me. What the hell was her game?

"Of course she's not," I told her. "Why should she be? She knows that no other woman could mean anything to me."

Her gold-flecked eyes looked up at me challengingly. "She is rather attractive."

I let her have it right where I knew it would hurt. "By far the most attractive woman in this room," I said.

I had expected her not to like the indirect insult, but I hadn't thought that such utter rage would flood her face. With a thin cry of fury she dropped my arm and stepped away from me. I smiled as I watched the indignant sway of her hips as she moved across the room. Helen was smiling also. We understood each other, my wife and I. That was why we were so incomparably happy together.

A COUPLE of minutes later Helen and I left the party. As we walked down the two flights of stairs to the street, Helen observed with that rippling laugh of hers: "Poor darling, having so many women after you. How do you bear up under it?"

"Easily, sweet. I think of you and then they appear like hags before my eyes. This Tala Mag— that's her name—was so obviously wanton that she was funny."

And both of us laughed quietly, intimately, as if only we could understand the grand joke we shared.

Then suddenly our laughter died in our throats. We had turned the landing and there, with her back against the wall, stood Tala Mag. It was impossible for her not to have overheard us.

She said nothing but her expression told us plenty. I think that if she had had a weapon in her hand she would have killed us both on the spot. She drew her cape tighter about her. We passed quickly.

In the street Helen shuddered. "Did you see the way she looked at us?"

"Forget it, darling," I said. "There's nothing she can do about it."

By the time we had reached home, we had dismissed her from our minds.

The following morning there was a gold- tinted envelope in my mail, sent special delivery. It contained two notes. One, from Portia Teele, read:

Dear Les:

I've never before asked you to do me a personal favor. Tala Mag told me what occurred last night and feels that it was a misunderstanding on both your parts. She had no opportunity to tell you that she is a writer and would desire your assistance. I have read her manuscripts; she has a great deal of talent. Please see her for my sake.

PORTIA.

The second note was heavily scented. It contained but a single line:

Dear Mr. Marlin:

Please come to my apartment at four this afternoon.

TALA MAG.

I was in something of a spot. I couldn't afford to antagonize Portia Teele who was my best client, and I didn't want to have anything to do with this Tala Mag. And why insist that I come to her apartment? The proper procedure was for her to come to my office.

By the afternoon I had made up my mind to go, solely, I assured myself, because Portia Teele had asked me to. Yet in back of my mind was a vagrant desire to see this exotic Tala Mag again. Anyway, what had I to be afraid of? I'd never had much trouble putting a demanding woman in her place.

I arrived there twenty after four, deliberately, to show her that I wasn't in the least anxious. She lived thirty stories above Park Avenue in a penthouse. Well, one thing was certain: she certainly wasn't an impoverished struggling writer.

The biggest man I had ever seen admitted me. Not the tallest, although he must have been a least six-six, and not fat either, but simply built in a huge, powerful mold. He was, in addition, ugly as sin, with hardly anything in the way of a brow or a chin. I'm of average size and build, but he made me feel like a pigmy as he stepped aside to let me by.

TALA MAG came forward to receive me in the foyer, and she was wearing a spider-web blue negligee and a pair of blue mules and not another thing. A pleasing combination—blue against the rich gold of her skin, and there was plenty of skin showing, and the rest of it, voluptuously curved, shimmered under the negligee.

So! She was taking up where she had left off yesterday. As I followed her into the library, I determined to get out as soon as I could.

She said nothing about last night and made no attempt to come near me. She took a sheaf of typewritten pages from the desk and nodded toward a comfortable leather chair. I sat down and started to read. She retreated to the other end of the room and mixed highballs. She handed one to me and then offered me a cigarette. As she applied a match to my cigarette, she leaned over and her negligee fell away from her throat and there was no covering over her breasts. They were golden and rose-tipped and dangling with the bending of her torso. I dropped my eyes quickly to the manuscript.

A sensation of mingled horror and revulsion crept over me as I read. How can I describe the story she had written? It wasn't quite pornographic and yet it was more than that. There was not a sentence or a paragraph which standing alone, could be called obscene, yet the effect of the whole was incredibly vile. It concerned unholy lust and unspeakable orgies and hideous tortures, but it was chiefly the point of view that shocked my hard- boiled soul. She reveled in evilness, extolled it, until virtue was to be despised and vileness all that made living tolerable.

I went to the desk and tossed the papers down and turned to her. She was looking at me expectantly, with mouth half-open.

"You like it?"

I shrugged. "Put it this way: no publisher would touch it."

"But if you, with your reputation, took it to a publisher?"

"That won't help either," I said. "Sorry." I started to go.

She came to meet me, and somehow her negligee had fallen open and was trailing behind her. No doubt that she was startlingly attractive, but the only effect of her nudity on me was one of anger.

She caught my arm as I tried to pass her. "Mr. Marlin—Lester—you know that you are devilishly handsome."

I said tightly: "You're wasting your time." And I jerked my arm roughly away from her.

She ran around me so that she was in front of me again and threw her arms about my neck. I admit that as I tried to pull her off, pulses pounded in my veins. The memory of Helen blurred with the furious agitation of her torso and thighs against me. But not sufficiently to make me succumb to her. Violently I tore her arms away from about my neck and, with...

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