Chapter 7 (first draft)

Standard

This is my first draft of Hunters Chapter Seven for comparison, and for an example of the extent of changes during the editing process.

I worked on a lot of blocking issues from the first Chapter Seven draft, and also added a few more details that I was not explicit enough on before. The incident with Eugene is also shifted to be more logically consistent with what would have really happened. You can check out the current version of Chapter Seven here.

Back to Hunters

Back to WilliamReidLit.com

 

Chapter Seven

Garrison

 

“You drew aggro from a couple of heavyweights, bro,” Eugene said over my earbuds. “And this Jesper dude is no slouch in the pain-in-the-butt department, either.”

“Tell me,” I said. Streetlights shimmered off the sheets of water that rippled down the steep hills of the city. Mist hung suspended in the cool night, fresh and salty with the scent of the Sound. Distant horns and sirens rebounded from the buildings, their sounds hollow and flattened by the drenched air.

“Let’s start with Mr. Hoodjink. Born in Finland in 1990. His family moved to St. Petersburg when he was six. He was an amateur MMA fighter until he joined the Russian mafia. I watched a couple vids of his fights. Guy seems to get off on getting hurt.”

“Forward me the links.”

“On the way. He’s been with the mob full time for the past five years, so I can’t say what other training he has.”

“He’s at the King’s Inn, room 220?”

“Room 212. Not even under an alias. You okay?” Eugene paused long enough to take a deep draw from a straw. “Your voice sounds, I don’t know, slurry.”

“I’m fine. What about the Filitovs?” As he talked, I watched the pixelated videos of Jesper’s fights on my phone. Beneath his tight black shorts, his skin looked dusted in flour and cut with networks of pale blue veins. He seemed heedless of opponents battering him, appearing to enjoy the pain, even inviting it. Then he would twist them to the ground with his long limbs and either fracture bone or choke them out. None of them left the ring under their own power.

“Ursula and Vasily Filitov are legends. Most people think they’re code names or titles or something. A pair of Filitov siblings have been in charge of St. Petersburg for a century. We’re talking both the spy and mob circles. They’ve been involved since the Cheka days, back during the Bolshevik Revolution and Lenin. It would make the Filitovs one of the first connections between government espionage and Russian organized crime. Fascinating stuff.”

“Don’t get sidetracked. Did you go any further back? We know it’s been the same brother and sister the whole time.”

“Hold on, they’re not brother and sister. They’re like eight decades apart. Like, she’s his great aunt or something.”

“But they look like twins.”

“That’s the funny thing about genetics. Dominant genes get passed down through generations. Even with long breaks between offspring, grandchildren can share up to fifty percent of-”

“Eugene.”

“Right. I’ve got more info on the guy. Vasily was born in 1871. During St. Petersburg’s capitalist boom he was in the thick of the subsequent crime wave. But there’s a decade between his last record there and when I found him again. Get this, he was a captain in the Imperial Russian Army during the Russo-Japanese war.”

“How did he get to be a captain with no records?”

“Probably destroyed. He only shows up because he deserted. He disappears again until he shows up with Ursula in the Cheka after the Revolution. He was her liason to the city’s crime bosses.”

I did a quick mental calculation. “He looked like he was in his thirties. He must have been Cursed around when he deserted. What about Ursula?”

“She did a better job staying out of the spotlight. I found a birth record that might be her from 1788, and a few investments through the 1800s. She doesn’t really stick her head up until the Revolution. Her connections to the State since then are well documented.”

“She’s over two hundred years old.” I shuddered and unscrewed the top of my flask. “So why do they care about me?”

“No idea. Their interests seldom leave Russia. Hopefully Jesper knows something.”

“I can only hope.” I took a pull from the flask and slipped it back in my pocket. “212?”

“Yes. Watch yourself.”

“Call you back.” I slipped my earbuds out as I reached the parking lot of the King’s Inn.

Whether by luck or design, Jesper’s hotel was only a few blocks from mine. The King’s Inn was a three-story dive wrapped in a U around a mostly deserted parking lot. The lot’s mouth was the only way in or out. The room windows, most dark, looked down on the lot from a railed walkway that ran the length of the entire hotel. No great exit options. The exterior lights threw rainbow halos into the mist.

I slid the Lamat from my arm holster. The whole hotel would hear if I fired it, but it was menacing enough to intimidate and heavy enough to break bones. I kept out of the pools of illumination from the parking lot’s lights and made my way to the nearest stairwell.

A scarred and dented legacy of violence marked the door of room 212. The drawn curtains hung motionless over a cracked window framed at the corners by spiderwebs and gray stains. A Do Not Disturb sign on the doorknob rocked quietly in the breeze. I gripped the Lamat with both hands as I pressed my ear to the metal. Passing cars, the whisper of wind thickened with rain, but no sound from within. I took a step back and smashed my boot into the door.

The door shrieked open. The doorframe exploded, the lock and deadbolt tearing through wood, to reveal a room swallowed in darkness. Pale shadows of furnishings rose along the corridor of light that spilled from outside. I kept my gun raised and reached around the inside of the door to flick on the light.

“Jesper, it’s time for us to-” I said, then stopped. Blood pooled on the crumpled sheets of the bed. It took a moment to make out Jesper’s pale body sprawled atop the stained piles of bedding.

I swept my gaze over the room, the Lamat following the path of my eyes. The room was still and empty of anyone else. I looked back to the body.

Jesper was tied to the headboard by towels, but his face appeared peaceful despite the skin flayed from his glistening chest. Blood splattered his teeth and lips under gray-blue eyes that stared at the ceiling. No restraints held him in place. The cool air kept the scent of the carnage at bay, but Jesper had died too recently for the smell to thicken. Not even flies had begun to congregate. Even if he had been killed the moment he reached his room, he couldn’t have been dead more than twelve hours.

I took a cautious step into the room. A shape darted from the bathroom. No time to catch any thought. Something made a popping sound in his hand. Two tugs of barbs snagging my pants, and the first click of a taser discharge. Lightning crawled through my veins and dragged agony with it. Every muscle in my body clenched. Vision sparkled, flared. Body rebelling. Gun dropping. Floor. The taser’s metronome beep counted the seconds of agony. Five seconds of mind-numbing agony. On the second beep, my only thought through the pain was that I had three more to go.

A boot kicked my gun into the shadows under the bed. Whoever had tased me stepped over my body – I tried to see what kind of shoes, but my muscles refused to obey any commands – and the deadbolt and lock crunched shut in the shattered frame behind me. Springs squeaked on the bed as he sat down on its corner. I clamped my teeth together and through force of will drug my head around. The short, bristling carpet scraped against my cheek.

The man staring down at me wore combat boots, camouflage shorts, a stained T-Shirt and torn blue Seahawks windbreaker. A matching sweatband circled his bald head. His braided white goatee, the only indication of age, glared against his black skin. The taser rested on his lap while he dug at his nails with the tip of a foot-long army knife. Islamic symbols were tattooed across the knuckles of each hand.

“Who are you?” I grunted, my words muffled against the carpet. My muscles twitched every time I shifted my body.

The man said nothing and swept his dark eyes over me as if inspecting a slab of meat.

“Why did you torture Jesper, Antoine?” I asked.

Antoine grinned. He nodded to Jesper’s corpse. “He said you read minds. Maybe he weren’t full of shit. The demon tale he spun true, too?”

“Vasily didn’t ask you to torture him.” My fall had pushed one of the taser barbs deep into my calf, and it throbbed. “You did it anyway.”

“Yeah, that was me time.” Antoine snorted. “This Vasily guy don’t care what I did. This – Jesper, was it? – cared lots, but in the wrong way. That was sick, man. I stopped after awhile and he just jawed till he bled out.”

“What did Vasily want, then?”

He stuck his newly-manicured thumb back over his shoulder at Jesper’s body. “Beyond whitey there dead and you caught? Fuck if I know.”

I sighed. “Vasily had you kill Jesper so I couldn’t learn more from him. And you don’t know anything.”

“Oh, I know plenty. Like I know Vasily don’t care what condition you’re in, neither, long as you’re still breathing when he gets here. Which might be awhile. Hope you didn’t knock the sign off the knob.”

An emotional fist clenched my stomach. “You mean, you assume.”

“Fine, I assume he don’t care.”

“Are you willing to take that risk?”

“I assume,” he overemphasized the word, “he’ll do the same thing I’m gonna do when he gets hold of you anyway. I’ll just be saving him the trouble. I got my own mind reading powers, and they work damn good.” He tucked his middle finger under his thumb and flicked it against the blade of the knife. The metal sent a cold ring through the air.

The moment his finger struck the blade, I grabbed at the taser wires and rolled. My awkward fingers tangled in the wires, but my momentum was enough to drag the taser from Antoine’s lap. The electrodes popped free as the weapon clattered to the floor. I rolled twice more in an arc, stopping with my feet facing him.

Antoine leapt from the bed. An incoherent snarl erupted from his lips. He leveled the knife and dove at me.

My feet caught him in the chest. I rocked backward and kicked. His momentum carried him over my head in a graceless tumble. He smashed into the dresser, tipping the TV on top of him. His knife buried itself in the floor beside my head.

I tried to stand and toppled in the tangle of wire that wrapped me. I looked up just as Antoine dragged himself to his feet from the wreckage of the dresser.

“Vasily gonna get you back alive,” he said, “but not in one piece.”

He made it two steps. I stomped my boot heel down on his instep. He yelped and stumbled to one knee. I hauled myself up by the edge of the bed, the wires still snarled around my legs.

Antoine grabbed the knife hilt and started to yank it free of the floor. I drove the heel of my hand into his forearm. His arm went limp and he let go of the knife. In the same move I smashed the heel of my hand into his nose. His eyes flooded with tears. Blood gushed in a fan down his face. He fell backward, cradling his shattered nose with his good hand.

“Broke my arm,” he groaned. The limb dangled motionless against his chest. His good hand was cupped under his nose with a puddle of blood forming in his palm.

“Sprained,” I corrected. “Stay down.” I pulled free of the coiled mess of wire and tossed it aside, then tore the barbed electrodes off my pants. The knife remained upright in the floor. I studied it before tugging it free. “Nice knife. You ex-military, Antoine? Let me guess, Desert Storm. A sergeant, really? Too bad about the dishonorable discharge. Life would have been very different if you’d finished your twenty.”

“If I finished my twenty no drunk guy woulda put me down.” His voice was wet and slurred from the broken nose. “I smelled ya before I heard ya.”

I grimaced but didn’t answer, pulling out my phone and punching in Eugene’s number. “Hey, Eugene, change of plans.”

“I hope Antoine is still alive.”

I froze. The voice was not Eugene. Deeper, less emotion. Thick Russian accent.

“Vasily Filitov.” My heart pummeled my ribs. Millions of questions flooded my mind, but one screamed the loudest. “Where is Eugene?”

Antoine started to laugh, a ragged, slurping sound. “You’ve gotta be shitting me.”

“Antoine is alive, then,” Vasily said. “Let him go.”

“Not until I know Eugene is-”

“The only thing you know is Eugene will certainly be dead if you don’t let Antoine go.”

I clenched my fist and pounded it into the bed. I tried to will Eugene to make a sound, give any indication he was still alive, but nothing. Antoine kept laughing and had pulled himself to a sitting position. Blood stained his white beard a brilliant crimson.

God damn it. There was no sense belaboring the only choice open to me. I nodded to the door.

“Get out of here,” I said to Antoine.

His laughter dribbled away as he pulled two Kleenex from the box lying next to him. He twisted the ends and slid them into his nostrils, then stood and held his hand out expectantly to me.

I glared at him, but flipped the knife hilt outward and thrust it toward him.

He plucked it from my grasp and spun it once in his hand. “Well, I should get, then.” He winked at me, then whipped the pommel at my temple.

His thoughts telegraphed his plan before he moved. I slid to the side and felt the breeze from the hilt’s handle as it passed.

I tapped my temple. His scowl could have melted concrete.

“See you around,” he said, and opened the askew door. In moments he had disappeared into the night.

I watched the darkness for a second to confirm he was gone, then clutched the phone to the side of my face. “Now where is-”

I heard a thump as Eugene’s phone hit the floor.

“Eugene?” A beat, and nothing. “Eugene!”

Something dragged across carpet, then the sound of someone picking up the phone. “Good lord, that guy is fast.” His voice sounded weak and unsteady, but it was Eugene.

I let out a long sigh. “Thank God you’re okay. Where’s Vasily?”

“Gone. Like I said, he’s fast. I’m not too quick but he’s, like, ridiculous Flash speed. He just appeared next to me while I was surfing and bam, I’m on the floor. He didn’t even ask me anything, just sat there till you called.”

“You’re sure he’s gone? You’re safe? Because I need you to look up an ex-Army sergeant named Antoine Golden.”

“Yeah, sure. Who’s Antoine… holy wow there’s a lot of blood all over the….” His voice faded.

Silence on the other end of the line.

The stubble prickled on my scalp. “What’s the matter? What happened?”

“Um. All the fingers on my left hand are gone. To the knuckle. He must have cut them off. I didn’t know he did that. When did he do that.”

I pressed my eyes closed. “Listen to me. Hang up and call 911.”

“I’m going all Jackson Pollock on the walls. Hey, aren’t you supposed to put fingers in milk or something? To save them for reattachment.” His voice was slurred, like he was half asleep. “I don’t want prosthetics, how hard would it be to type with a fake hand? Damn, when did he do this? I don’t remember, his sword must be really sharp-”

“You’re going in to shock. You have to hang up and dial 911, now. Text me when you’re at the hospital, but… don’t contact me after that until I tell you, okay?”

“But how will you find out stuff? You can’t find out stuff. I can find out stuff. I need to find my fingers and get them in milk. That’s what you’re supposed to do.”

“Eugene. 911. Don’t contact me. Repeat it.”

“911. Don’t contact you.”

“Do it.” I ground my teeth together. “I’m sorry. Goodbye, Eugene.”

I hung up before he could say anything else.

God damn it. There was no way I could risk Eugene, or any of my other contacts, with Vasily on the loose. I had to assume he was targeting my support network of rescued thralls. Until I could make sure none of their lives were at risk, I couldn’t drag any of them into this.

Sirens sounded over the hiss of mist outside, getting nearer. Antoine had probably stopped at the front desk to report Jesper’s body. Not only was I in a room with a corpse, but I had about half a dozen chemicals in my body and no believable explanation of the situation. No time to dawdle.

I dropped on all fours to retrieve the Lamat, scooped up the taser and wire and slipped out the door. Once I was out of the danger I could think about my next move, but that would have to wait. Right now I had a crime scene to leave and cops to escape.

Chapter 8 (b) (first draft)

Standard

This is my first draft of Hunters Chapter Eight (b) for comparison, and for an example of the extent of changes during the editing process.

Not as many changes here. As Hinge’s first reveal, I kept to an ethereal, otherworldly feel to his descriptions and clarified his (still unique) speech style in future drafts. I also clarified blocking, plus changed the ending to better clarify what was happening and to be less cheesy. You can check out the current version of Chapter Eight (b) here.

Back to Hunters

Back to WilliamReidLit.com

 

Chapter 8 (b)

Tricia

 

Air raid sirens howled in the darkness. The glow of fires traced the shattered skeletons of the city on the horizon. Shapes of planes blotted out the stars splattered across the clear sky.

Over the bombs and sirens, I could barely hear the cries of the crippled old man I fucked in the alley.

I thrust down on him and felt his hip snap. His lips frothed blood from a broken rib that had punctured a lung. The pain didn’t even touch his mindless eyes. Rough and palsied hands, caked with the same dirt and ash and shit that coated everything, scraped over my skin.

His scream was wet and grating and he collapsed. Clarence Berkshire’s paltry soul ebbed, scoured of hope by Verdun and poverty and misery. Left was a husk of dried meat and leathery flesh as decrepit as the soul it had held.

“Fuck!” I hurled the body into the rubble-choked street. Its flailing limbs twisted the scarves of smoke and fog that drifted along its path. It landed on the cracked cobblestones and I stared at it, willing a German bomb to immolate the worthless sack of shit. Dust settled. Klaxons blared. Nothing happened. I screamed with frustration and pulled my dress back down over my legs.

“The likes of him to time lose all their savor.”

The melodic voice, thickened with a Spanish accent, melted over me. I spun around.

Hinge stepped from the shadows of the alley. His deep chocolate eyes smoldered beneath a carpet of curled shoulder-length hair. A thin moustache and arrow of a goatee framed generous lips. Despite the filth and destruction around him, his voluminous white shirt, velvet vest and pants were immaculate.

A mix of lust and fury smothered my frustration. I rushed at him. “Where have you been?” My fist smashed into his jaw. He didn’t react. No mark on skin the rich color of milky tea. His mouth remained in a pitying smile. I screamed and hit him again, desperate for a reaction. “You left me for weeks.”

His slender fingers clutched my neck before I knew he moved. I gagged as he lifted me from the ground.

“You hold such passion in your rage, my love.” He drew me close and nipped at my lower lip before pulling away again. The heady scent of his body filled my nostrils, stabbed into my brain, moments before he threw me into the wall of the alley.

I barely felt the impact. I launched myself from the cracked facade and slammed in to him. In moments our bodies were tangled on the ground, nails clawing flesh, mouths biting and sucking and devouring. His laughter drowned out the raging blitz around us.

“You hunt the souls of those already dead,” he said when he pulled his mouth free of my breast. “Why hunt the dregs of life when feasts await?”

“This is my feast.” I struggled his pulsing cock from his pants and tried to take him into me.

He gripped me by the chin and hauled me up to face him. “Mi amor, this is no what I mean.”

I struggled against his implacable grip. “Let me go.”

He held me close, tantalizing just beyond physical contact. The hellish flames in my body seared with need. He kept laughing, and I struggled harder. To beat him or fuck him I would decide when I reached him.

“Ravenous desire makes you a beast.” Excitement and reproach filled his words in equal measure. He shoved me away and flowed to his feet with preternatural grace. His fingers flew over his clothes, fastening buttons, brushing away dust. In moments all trace of our passions had been erased.

“You and I are meant to feast on pleasure,” he continued. “Yet you slave yourself to sustenance,”

“We don’t have a choice.” I wrestled my dress back into place. “There’s nothing but old men left. The young fight on the mainland. The women cower in shelters! I can’t survive like this.”

“You hunt the prey that life already drains.” He held his hand out to me. “Come with me to truly sate your hunger.”

I glared at him, but couldn’t sustain my anger. I slid to his side and draped his arm over my shoulder. My head barely reached his chest. “Show me, my love.”

He smiled and kissed the top of my head. “Tonight you do no starve. Tonight you dine.”

 “And for dessert?” I bit loose the buttons on his shirt, ran a tongue over his smooth, hard chest.

Hinge grasped my hair and tore my head up to face him. “For that you need the strength entire you take.”

I grinned and tugged at his hand. “Then what are we waiting for?”

Tranquila, mi querida, queda cerca.”

The sirens bounced from the buildings and piles of rubble we passed. Fog rippled like a pool beneath our steps. Shapes, some holding torches against the darkness, darted in alleyways and between buildings, but Hinge held me each time I started to move toward them. Finally he drew to a stop next to a long, relatively intact building with rows of boarded windows that ran the length of both stories. Black ivy twined over its cracked facade. An empty shadow where a sign once hung stamped the brick above the wooden doors.

I started to speak, but Hinge pressed a finger to my lips. “Do no ask. I will no spoil the secret.” He flowed up the steps and pressed his fingers against the door. With a push they sighed open.

The musty entry beyond sagged with age. Years of traffic had scoured permanent ruts into the floor. Bulbs flickered through wire cages and thick films of dust. Torn notices and pictures kept tenuous hold on the walls. Dust trickled from the ceiling with each thunderous explosion.

On the floor lay sprawled several bodies of women wearing hoods and black robes.

I stepped over the first of the corpses and grimaced. “You brought me to a monastery?” Each sister lay in a glistening slick of blood. Their souls had not been consumed. They had simply been killed.

“No, my love, this is no nunnery.” Hinge swept past me. His steps avoided the bodies and blood without any apparent effort.  He beckoned for me to join him.

I weaved around the slain sisters as I followed. The doors along the hall were shut but for one that led to a chapel. A carved crucifix with a bleeding Jesus towered out of the shadows over the rows of pews that faced it. Hinge sped past on the far side of the hall, not even sparing it a glance. He stopped at the set of double doors at the end of the hall and waited for me to reach his side. He gave a deep bow as if unveiling a masterpiece and swept the doors open.

The bar of light from the hallway sliced the darkness ahead. The feet of metal beds and scarred trunks studded the edge of the light. Sheets and bedclothes rustled, stirring the air. Dozens of eyes blinked to life like stars in the darkness.

“I have returned, queridos hijos mios.” Hinge flicked on the lights.

The dormitory lit up. Children, both boys and girls, dirty and unkempt, cheeks hollowed from hunger, were sitting up in their beds. They stared at us with eyes at first vacant and blurred with sleep. Then the gazes darkened with other emotions. They began to rise from their beds, moving slowly toward us.

Hinge strode forward on his long legs into the midst of the orphans. “This is the feast I promised, mi amor.”

Their hands grasped at his shirt, ran over his body as he passed his palms over their heads as if blessing them. “The young possess a purity unparalleled. Even orphaned, life has yet to sour them.” He took a young boy’s head and guided it down. The youth eagerly pulled my master’s pants open. “They will no longer cry into their gruel. Tonight we save them from their misery.”

“An orphanage,” I mumbled. The vitality screamed from them. Young. Powerful. Pure. The air vibrated with the power of their souls. I took several steps forward, then stopped.

Hinge cocked his head to the side as more small hands pulled his clothes away, small mouths ran over his flesh. “Does not their innocence enflame your hunger?”

“They’re too young,” I stammered. My hunger seethed. I took another step toward the orphans, then backed away. A disquiet that I didn’t understand stirred at my core.

“Only some of these have not yet flowered.” He shrugged, then closed his eyes and threw his head back as the orphans fawned over him. “That is a barrier for me no longer.”

One girl neared him. Black hair flowed down to her shoulder blades. Even from behind I could see womanhood had not yet touched the slender body under her white gown.

Hinge took one look at her and for an instant agony swallowed his expression. He turned and batted her away. “I give you her to whet your appetite.”

The girl turned toward me and glided forward. A wooden crucifix hung from a leather string between the shadows of her nipples. Lust consumed her blue eyes. The delicate lines of her features were elegant, smooth. Beautiful. I wanted her.

As our eyes met, she moaned. Her lips parted. A small red flower of blood bloomed on the crotch of her gown.

I inhaled and fought the temptation to wrap her in an embrace. The unfamiliar disquiet built.

“She looks like… my sister?” I said. Emotions bobbed from the murk of confusion swallowing my mind. “My daughter? I don’t-”

“You have no sister, nor a daughter with your youth. I find you on the streets alone.” Hinge tugged aside the bedclothes of the boy in front of him, exposing pale flesh crossed with switch marks and bruises. The other orphans began to disrobe of their own accord. “What gives you pause? I feel your building need.”

I leaned down on one knee and took her by the shoulders. Her heat, her smell, her beauty beckoned me. She leaned forward, and our lips met. Before I could stop myself I pulled her thin body close. I felt the heat of her body, her beauty, her eagerness, her soul. Her virgin mouth was delicious, her memories childlike and innocent and pure and holy Christ my hunger screamed.

Something was wrong. I clenched my jaw and pushed her away. I needed her, I lusted for her, yet my mind seethed with half-recalled dreams and faded memories. What was stopping me?

What had stopped Hinge? The sight of her had pained him.

My eyes fixed on the cross at the girl’s neck. He had kept his distance from the chapel, too.

“Get to the chapel,” I hissed, and slipped the cross from around her neck.

“But I need you,” she whispered. “Take me, please.” She moved again to kiss me. The beckoning fragrance of her blood and pheromones and excitement pounded at my will.

I snarled and shoved past her, thrusting her toward the doors. “Get to the chapel!” I roared to her, to all the children in the dormitory, and charged. They scattered as I crashed into Hinge.

My momentum carried him to the back of the room. Beds and trunks careened in our wake. We crashed into the rear wall just as another bomb blast split the air. The orphanage shook.

“What the fuck’s happening to me?”  I smashed him to the floor, rained down blows with my fists. My skin was black, my nails talons of fire. “What did you do to me?”

His voice still rang with mirth. “I do no know from where it comes, this rage.” He started laughing. His clothes were in a tangle around his waist and ankles, and he made no effort to right them. “I give you willing-”

I clenched my fists together and crashed them into his face. Unbridled. Bones crunched under my knuckles.

Hinge roared. His own demonic form took hold. A blazing palm slammed into my chest. I flew off him and tumbled over the mess of the room. Bed frames bent under my impact.

“What don’t I remember?” We were both back to our feet at the same instant. Our eyes seared into each other.

“I do nothing to your memory,” he said. His voice was no longer musical. It was fury.

“Why does this feel wrong?”

“Your sin is much too great for this to bother. They are no different from your victims past. And death, it is a blessing for these children.”

More explosions ripped the air, marching closer, sending dust and splinters raining down on us. I ignored them. “Do I have a sister? A family?”

“I find you on the street alone with nothing. I take you as my own and give you all.” He spread his arms and started to advance on me. “Yet in your doubting moment now you fight me. Let stop this foolishness and come to me.”

His engorged cock throbbed with fiery veins. I felt the erotic pull of the pleasures he had given me, nearly fell to my knees. So much death and depravity through the years. This was little worse than my other sins. Yet I had never taken a life so young – so innocent – as these. And the thought of doing so revolted me to the core, from some memory or past I felt but didn’t remember.

The windows exploded inward. Jets of smoke and fire spilled around us. The ceiling started to collapse. The foundation buckled under us. I turned invisible and charged over the heaving ground.

“What did you take from me?” I drove my claws at his chest.

He caught my wrist as if I were still visible and slid to the side. With the same motion he flipped me over and whipped me into the broken floor. My back wrenched. His hand kept a grip around my hand. He lifted me from the ground and hurled me through the curtain of fire and debris falling around us.

I sailed until I slammed into the remains of a wall. The wall collapsed on me from the impact. The world tilted. Flames blistered my skin. My invisibility dissolved. I struggled free of the debris just as Hinge’s fingers clamped around my neck again and hauled me off my feet.

“I do no suffer doubt from my own daughter.” His fingers squeezed. “I never think my child would dare defy me.”

I felt him crushing my neck, and I gagged. With the last of my strength I lifted my hand and opened my palm.

He released me with an anguished cry. I landed hard on the rubble, holding the crucifix in my trembling fingers like a shield.

Voices behind me gasped. I looked back to see the orphans huddled together, black with soot. The remainder of the wall between the dormitory and the chapel had collapsed when I hit it. The pews smoldered, broken, and the chapel cross lay at an angle but intact behind them.

Hinge started to laugh. He held his hand out toward me and the crucifix, fingers splayed, and began to stagger back.

“So my Tricia also finds my weakness,” he said between spasms of laughter. His obsidian and fire demonic form faded. “This will no save you from my wrath forever.”

“You won’t ever see me again.” I stood on shaking legs, still holding the crucifix, and resumed my human glamour.

“With your sin I can no fathom how you hold a cross and feel no agony.” He kept chuckling, quieter now. “I swear you will regret this night, mi hija.”

“Never again,” I repeated.

“We shall see if that is true, my love.” He dropped his hand and bowed to me. “This night I gift you life, but know that it is mine to take whenever I but choose.”

The smoke and flames swirled, and he was gone.

I watched the empty space where Hinge had been until the stirring of the orphans roused me. I turned to them, trembling.

“I won’t hurt you,” I said. My voice was hoarse. “Stay close to the chapel. Help will come soon.”

I looked over the imploring faces and saw the girl who had approached me. Her hands clutched her gown to cover the stain on it. Shame colored her cheeks. I untangled the leather cord from my fingers and held her cross out to her.

She pressed her palm flat against my hand. Her blue eyes again met mine, but this time her gaze was clear.

“I think you’ll need it more than me,” she said.

 

I shook myself, my hand clutching the wooden cross that still hung around my neck.

No doubt remained. Hinge was in Seattle. And I would have to face him again.

“I’ll need to know if this keeps happening,” I said softly. “I’ll leave you a way to contact me if….”

My voice trailed off as I looked up at Grayson. He was slowly walking around the room, staring at a spot just over my shoulder. As he moved, his own reflection writhed over the steel behind him. He was the only person standing in the room.

Fuck.

“Grayson. Look at me.”

Grayson gasped and tensed. His eyes snapped into focus on my face.

I took the clipboard from the nearest cart and scribbled a number across the page. “Call this phone if more anonymous kids start showing up.”

He swallowed. Sweat curled down from his temples.

“I am not going to hurt you. But these deaths will keep happening. The police can’t stop it. I’m the only person that can.” I gestured with the clipboard at the bodies. “Can you call this number if more bodies show up?”

Grayson swallowed again and nodded. He made a squeaking sound, but formed no coherent words.

I nodded and dropped the clipboard onto the floor. My boots squealed as I started toward the doors.

“What are you?” He asked. His voice quaked.

I stopped and bowed my head.

“I’m not sure I ever knew,” I said, and pushed through the doors.

 

Chapter 8 (a) (first draft)

Standard

 

This is my first draft of Hunters Chapter Eight (a) for comparison, and for an example of the extent of changes during the editing process. You can check out the current version of Chapter Eight (a) here.

Back to Hunters

Back to WilliamReidLit.com

 

Chapter Eight

Tricia

 

The street artist slashed his charcoal stub across the sheet with the precision of a swordsman. Fat drops of water, rustled by the damp breeze from the trees overhead, popped against the umbrella that sheltered him. He sat back for a moment and adjusted the lamp above his easel to examine his work.

“Are you done?” I asked. The street lights around us were flickering to life in the encroaching dusk.

He picked up the smoldering joint resting in a cracked Bob Ross mug that served as an ashtray. “You can’t rush it,” he said, holding his lighter to the tip and taking a deep drag. His voice squeaked as he held in the smoke. “Especially not with a slice like you.”

I tugged a crumpled twenty from my jacket pocket and thrust it toward him. He rolled his eyes. “Or maybe you can.” His words washed a cloud of foul smoke over me. He stabbed a last few marks with his free hand, then whipped the sheet from his easel. He handed it to me and took the bill in the same motion. “Suit yourself. Price is the same.”

I glanced at the drawing. As I had requested, the rendition was more realistic than his displayed art selection of cartoon motifs and exaggerated features. The bruises across my face were nowhere to be seen. I had slept for hours after getting home, and the rest had made more difference than I expected. I smoothed my tangled hair before folding the drawing into squares and slipping it in my back pocket. The artist winced but said nothing, filling the air around him with a nimbus of pot smoke.

I turned my attention to the glass and concrete office building across the street. A large gold police shield flashed on the building’s doors. I searched the street to make sure no one was watching and snapped invisible.

At this hour the lobby was empty except for two security guards, one watching the nightly news and the other reading a tattered novel. The one at the television looked up as the doors opened on their own, followed by a breath of cool wind. He grunted and returned his attention to the program. I walked around the metal detector, scanned the display of offices and floors of the building, and found the King County Medical Examiner. Neither guard reacted when the elevator chimed and opened. I was used to people, even guards, giving little heed to doors and elevators misbehaving.

Getting in the building was never going to be the problem, anyway.

I dropped my invisibility as the elevator doors opened. The click of my boots on the laminate roused the man behind the desk. He closed his laptop and pushed his bifocals down, clinging to me with his gaze.

“Can I help you, miss?” He straightened his green smock to hide the paunch it did little to conceal. A fringe of gray hair ringed his glistening pate. His nametag said Grayson. He had yet to look me in the eye. “Are you lost?”

“No.” I stopped at the edge of his desk. “I’m looking for someone.”

His eyes refused to lift from the curves of my body. He smiled broadly, displaying teeth stained by coffee. The indent of a wedding ring stood out on his finger. His nails were chewed to the quick. Sweat gathered on his upper lip, stirring to life the sickening spice of his cologne.

“I’d say you found someone,” he said.

Desire already held him in its grip, and I had done nothing proactive. I could brush my fingers against his cheek, stare into his eyes, and his will would crumple. It would be that simple to get what I wanted.

Instead I pushed a hundred dollar bill across the desk toward him. It was the last cash I had, but it was worth the expense. My next victim had better be loaded. “I’m afraid a friend of mine might be here.”

Grayson stared at the bill, then looked back up. Our eyes finally met. “We would have notified the family if-”

“I’m actually looking for many people,” I clarified, pushing the hundred closer to him. “I just need to see the bodies. Or see that they aren’t here.”

A look of apprehension displaced the desire in his gaze. The change unsettled me. “Who are you looking for?”

“Have any unidentified teenagers died recently?”

Grayson’s face settled into a grim cast that unsettled me even more, as if whatever worried him had been confirmed. “Are you a reporter?”

I shook my head.

“You look too young, anyway.” He stuffed the bill in his pocket and stood up. He motioned for me to follow him through the double doors behind the desk.

I pushed through the doors in his wake. Florescent lights arced from the gleaming floor and cabinets of the room. I paused for a moment, staring at the multitude of warped reflections in the stainless steel surfaces. Nothing for it but to depend on inattentiveness. I took a step into the room, then froze. The doors swung back on me and I stumbled forward.

Six corpses in the middle of examinations rested on wheeled autopsy tables. Grayson did a silent circuit around the room as I stared, pulling out at least as many more body drawers. Similar corpses occupied each one. All of them cold, gray, undamaged but for the autopsy incisions.

Bodies just embraced by the transformation of puberty. None over thirteen at most. Bodies not just dead, but empty. Bodies ripped of their souls.

Fuck. The edges of my world started to crumble. The smell of antiseptics and Grayson’s cloying aftershave faded. The air grew colder, deader.

And carried the flutter of a scent I hadn’t smelled in decades. Memory swelled. I could smell him on all of them.

Grayson pulled out the last drawer and gestured at the room with an air of futility. “The media would go crazy if this got out. I don’t know how it’s stayed quiet so long.” He gnawed at the nail of his middle finger. “All of them John and Jane Does. If you know any of them, we could use some help identifying them.”

“When did this start?” I could barely form words.

Grayson shrugged. “A few weeks ago. They’re from all over. These are just in King County.”

My body trembled. “It’s happening in other areas.”

“They have at least this many in Tacoma. A couple more in Snohomish. If it weren’t so spread out and happening so fast, we’d be thinking serial killer.” He walked among the gurneys, his eyes darting from the bodies to me. “None with an apparent cause of death, no identification, no one asking about them….”

He might have kept talking, but I lost his voice in an encroaching silence. I stepped closer to the nearest body. She was the only one not yet scarred by an examination. Her blonde hair spilled down her shoulders and over the edge of the table. Acne concealed under makeup, breasts mere bumps under the autopsy sheet, face peaceful in a death so thorough it left nothing of her behind. I could smell her even in death, faint but newly blossomed. Mixed with the dark, intoxicating scent I dreaded.

A delicate golden cross lay askew at the hollow of her throat. It flashed in the colorless light above. I couldn’t tear my gaze from it even as the crush of bombs shattered the air around me.

 

 

Chapter Six (first draft)

Standard

 

This is my first draft of Hunters Chapter Six for comparison, and for an example of the extent of changes during the editing process.

Tricia has much less reflection on Sebastian’s news in this version, and has a much more selfish motivation. I changed both in future drafts to reflect the fear Hinge’s presence inspires, and her genuine caring for Sister Rosie. You can check out the current version of Chapter Six here.

Back to Hunters

Back to WilliamReidLit.com

 

Chapter Six

The Cursed

 

I strode invisible through the homeless camp beneath the downtown I-5 overpass. Vagrants huddled in a motley collection of tents and sleeping bags, sheltered beneath the shadow of the freeway. A few gathered around bitter fires of whatever they could find to burn. The torn cyclone fencing around the camp rattled against the breeze, dripped from the sheets of mist falling from the cold sky.

The reek of smoldering trash, sodden clothing and unwashed bodies assaulted me. The wind, rather than driving the odors away, churned them into a repulsive soup. But I followed the faint scent of coffee and perfume through the camp until the woman I sought came into view.

Police Chaplain Rosangela Marinha do Carmen crouched on the trash-strewn and mossy gravel in front of one of the homeless men. To most, the steady vibration of traffic would drown out the words she spoke to him.

I could have stood yards away and still heard them, but Rosie’s warm presence always drew me close. I stood just a few paces back as I listened.

“Are you positive I cannot offer you a ride to the shelter?” Her Brazilian accent melted her words together in a graceful waterfall of sound. The gentle voice was striking coming from such an imposing woman. Her hair, black streaked with gray, was pulled back in a bun, and her snug uniform held no decorations other than her name, badge and a cross stitched into the collar.

The man shook his head but said nothing. The wind gusted, drug the morning mist under the shelter of the overpass and took the man’s breath with it in an erratic stream. He pulled his torn blue sleeping bag closer at his neck with skeletal fingers. The slate gray light from the overcast sky muted his already lifeless colors. His callused hands were caked in grime, his cheeks beaten to a rosy shine by the elements. His yellow and bloodshot eyes swiveled aimlessly in their sockets to avoid her gaze.

She smiled sadly and pulled a black thermos from the bag hanging at her hip. “Well, at least let me offer you a cup of coffee. It will not be as warm as the shelter, but it will ward off some of the chill.”

A river of steam poured from the thermos as she filled a paper cup for him. The richness of its smell rolled over me on the wind. More than for her ministrations, more than for her caring, the homeless knew Pastor Rosie for her coffee.

Life touched the man’s eyes as he cradled the cup close to his face, inhaling the scent before taking a sip. Rosie twisted the thermos closed and set her dark hand on the man’s greasy tangle of hair. Her massive grasp could have picked him up by the skull.

“I’m no believer,” the man said. His voice sounded like rocks tumbling over metal.

Rosie laughed. “That is fine. You do not have to be.” She pulled him close and whispered words in his ear even I couldn’t catch. He shuddered, fell against her shoulder, and she held him for several moments before patting his back and standing.

“I will be back tomorrow if you decide the shelter is a better place to sleep,” she said. The man didn’t reply and clutched his coffee in his trembling grip. Rosie turned away, her boots crunching over the gravel and brittle weeds.

My heart leapt at seeing her unharmed. Though Hinge was in Seattle, he had done nothing to hurt her. Again the suspicion tickled my thoughts that Sebastian was fucking with me.

Even though I couldn’t think of a reason why he would bother, I had to confirm his story. If my old master was indeed here, it was inevitable he would harm my lone mortal friend.

“I need into the morgue,” I said.

“Mae de Deus.” Rosie spun with an alacrity I would have thought impossible for her. “Tricia. I did not see you. What are you doing here?”

“You’re always at the homeless camps. It wasn’t-”

“Your face!” Her expression darkened. “What happened to you?”

I looked away. Once she pointed them out, every ache I had been ignoring started to groan. The marks of the Andrasi fight must still look terrible. “I’m fine.”

“How did you get hurt?” Her thick hands touched my bruises with surprising tenderness. “We should get you to a hospital.”

Her touch was warm, welcoming, but I jerked away from her examination. “I said I’m fine. It was just a bar fight.”

“You got into a bar fight.” She said it without reproach. I heard the reproach anyway. She had never asked how old I was, though I didn’t look old enough to drink. Then again, she had been my friend for almost a decade.

I shoved away the concerns that followed that thought. I wouldn’t deal with my eternal youth until she brought it up. And I had no idea what I would tell her when she did.

“You should see the other guys,” I said.

“Guys. Plural.” Her eyes widened. “Did they rape you?”

“No.”

Her eyes stayed fixed on me. I looked her straight in the eye. “They didn’t rape me. I’m fine.”

She didn’t break her stare for several moments. Then she shrugged and started walking toward her car. She pulled the thermos back out of her bag. “You could probably use some coffee. You do not look like you have slept since the… bar fight.”

I shook my head and matched her pace, took the offered cup. “Do you ever run out? It’s like loaves and fishes.”

“Except with coffee and biscotti for Seattle?” Rosie’s big, embracing laugh warmed me to the core. “I have an urn in my squad car. Coffee is the only way to get most of the homeless to talk to me anymore.” She nodded to indicate the homeless camp.

“Why?”

“I used to be able to overcome the uniform. They are suspicious of police. But lately it seems I am gaining the reputation as an angel of death. Some of those I talk to have been disappearing. The worst of them.” She crossed herself with a movement so natural it seemed like second nature. “With the lives they led, it is no surprise that ill became of them. But even the worst sinners deserve the chance for redemption.”

I covered my reaction by taking a swallow of coffee. Hot and smooth, no bitterness. I couldn’t help but smile. I had no idea how she brewed it, but it was incredible coffee.

She must have seen my expression as I drank. She smiled. “My husband used to say I needed to drink water as well as coffee to survive. I never saw the point.”

“He must not have been from here.”

“He was born here.” She frowned. “Even if he moved right after the divorce, he would still be more a Seattleite than me.”

Passing traffic and the hiss of rain filled the silence. I knew hints of her life before we met, shadows of her history, but she was seldom more open than me about her past.

“Do you want to talk about it?” I said. It felt unfamiliar, awkward to ask. I tried to keep the distaste out of my words and failed completely.

She waved a hand. “What’s there to talk about? I don’t blame him. I doubt Joao has fond memories of me, either, or Eduardo any.”

I heard sadness edging words that were dismissive on the surface. More silence followed. The mist draped us as we passed out of the freeway’s shadow into the open.

“I need into the morgue,” I repeated, as much to break the quiet as to press my immediate need.

“Oh, meu filha, why do you need to go there? I haven’t set foot in the place since my days in homicide. Before we met. What reason would I have to take you?”

“You’re police. Can’t you just go when you want to?”

Rosie laughed again. “Why would anyone want to go to the morgue? You have to sign in, they want to know what your business is-”

“But you could take me if you wanted.”

She shook her head. “I don’t have a reason to be there. Or to bring a civilian.”

“You must still know people from your time at homicide.”

“Well, of course, but….” She kept shaking her head. “I’m not going to take you into the morgue.”

“Why not?”

She stopped walking and turned to me. “Why do you need to go there anyway?”

“One of my friends is missing,” I lied. “I want to make sure she’s not there.”

Rosie looked at me sidelong. I didn’t lie to her often, but she gave me that same look every time I did. She started walking again, with a pace fast enough that I had to jog to catch up. “She would be ID’ed if she died.”

“I doubt it.” I started to dig the lie deeper, then thought better of it. “This is just something I have to do.”

“Does this have anything to do with the fight last night?”

“No.” At least I didn’t have to lie about that.

We had reached her car. She stopped and turned to me with her arms crossed. I felt like a child under her gaze, cowering before a woman as immovable as a statue. “You have come by my apartment for years just to chat. We talk morality and spirituality for hours. You seem genuine in your desire to become a better person. I thought we trusted each other and were truthful with each other. But you show up today in ripped clothes, bruised from a fight, looking like you were up all night, and all you say is that you want to get in to the morgue.” She set her mouth in a determined line. “Tell me the truth about what happened to you last night – and why you really want to go – and I’ll find a way to get you in.”

I could only hold her stare for a few moments before looking away. Even if she didn’t see through any lie I gave her, I couldn’t do it anyway. I had the ability to break her face into a jigsaw puzzle before she could move, or seduce her to my will, but doing any of that to her was as impossible as lying.

“I did not think so.” She tried to hold her glare, then her features softened. “You do not look as bad now that you are in the light.”

“I told you, I’m fine.”

She sighed. “You are always welcome to come by my apartment. I’ll make some coffee and we’ll talk. But no morgue.”

I looked down at the ground, sorting my thoughts, then nodded. “Right.” I turned to walk away.

“Oh, no, we are not ending like this,” Rosie said, and reached out to me. I let myself melt into her embrace.

“You know I am always here for you, yes?”

I nodded. In her warm grasp, the weight of my worry, even the aches of my injuries, seemed to evaporate. If even for just that embrace.

She gave one last squeeze, then released me and opened the car door. “Can I give you a ride anywhere?”

The morgue, I thought. “No,” I said.

“Then go on and stay out of trouble,” she said. “I will see you soon?”

I nodded. She smiled again and slipped into her squad car. In moments I was alone in the lot with the Seattle mist surrounding me.

The click of my boots on the pavement fell dead in the rain around me. I needed to get back to my lair to change, drag a comb through my hair, at least look as presentable as possible. I never wanted to use my powers outside the hunt. I had wanted Rosie to help me avoid confrontation while getting into the morgue. And fuck, I wasn’t even sure the place would reveal anything. But I had to get in there to follow the only lead I could think of. If I confirmed Hinge was here, and I didn’t find a way to track him, I feared the next late night discussion at Rosie’s apartment would never happen.

 

 

Chapter Five (first draft)

Standard

This is my first draft of Hunters Chapter Five for comparison, and for an example of the extent of changes during the editing process.

I left this draft unfinished. I gave more background into what happened to Garrison, but decided most only needed to be implied rather than shown. I also changed Chapter Five to incorporate more B-story conflict. You can check out the current version of Chapter Five here.

Back to Hunters

Back to WilliamReidLit.com

 

Chapter Five

The Telepath

 

Stupid. Fighting four demons at once, one a succubus, was sheer idiocy. I was lucky to get out of Rothchild manor alive. Even luckier to make it out with my will intact.

I hadn’t learned a damn thing in two years. I knew the risk, yet I sought out the temptation. Toyed with it. Wanted it.

My leg ached in the cramped coach-class seat. I knew the agony of shattered bone was in my mind, the acrid smell of avgas and burning meat stinging the dry desert air. But the itch started with memory. Then calculating how long before we land in Seattle. How long since I last dosed. The panic, drugged to a low murmur with anxiety meds, threatened to rip back.

The thoughts of the stewardess morphed to concern as I asked for another vodka. She didn’t know I would be jumping out of my skin without the previous five. But I couldn’t waste a week on a trans-country train trip.

Mere days after a succubus had played havoc with my emotions, with my addiction, I flew across the country into the jaws of the succubus. This was either the end of my quest, or the beginning of a new hell. I didn’t know which one I wanted more.

I stared at my laptop screen, telling myself I needed to review my notes on Tricia Priest. Aissa was just the latest in a string of memories inching me toward that elusive hell bitch. But again I opened the diary entry from two years ago. Homecoming. The night my life changed. The wound that would never heal, like the veins I tore open in a futile hunt for relief.

I reopened the wound to remember.

 

Two years ago.

It was the first time I’d felt clean in months. A full shower in my own bathroom. The water scorched enough to turn my skin red. No cast encased my leg, the pale flesh once again whole save the pink valley that carved down my thigh. I dug at nonexistent grains of sand under my fingernails out of habit. I rinsed my mouth in the spray and spat a stream of unsoiled water down the drain. I tried to enjoy a luxury I hadn’t known in years and forget.

A swirling cloud wrearthed me as I stepped out of the shower, fogging a mirror cabinet empty of toiletries. The moonlight in the bedroom spilled pale and silver over a barren closet. My suitcases sprawled open on a bed stiff with pristine guest sheets. The stale air, the pile of unopened mail, spoke of how long my wife Helen had left this life behind. 

We hadn’t spoken in months. When she wasn’t there to greet the boat, only denial kept me from accepting reality. The thick manila envelope on the kitchen table, stamped with a lawyer’s name and contact information, shattered even that.

At least she’d been thoughtful enough to leave our pictures.

I toweled off but didn’t bother with clothes in the warm night. My bare feet creaked across the wooden floor as I walked to the dining room and its bar. A patina of dust covered bottles untouched since her departure. I grabbed a bottle of scotch and poured two fingers into a tumbler, swallowed two vicodin to chase the ones already dissolving in my stomach. The military threw pills at me despite all the warning signs. Thank God it was easier to medicate than cure.

The front door lock clicked.

My fingers ripped the chef’s knife from the block. Two windows, sliding glass door to the deck, bedroom hallway, arched entry to the living area. Against the wall next to the arch, all other entrances in sight. Steps, quick, light. Movement. I grabbed the thin wrist as it came through the arch, hurled the body over my hip. Crash to the foor, knife at the throat, and my wife screamed under me.

I jerked back and dropped the knife. Sweat broke over my trembling skin.

Terror lit the deep mocha pools of Helen’s eyes. Her hand went up to her throat, came back with droplets black in the moonlight.

“Garrison,” she managed in a weak voice.

“Christ.” My voice shook. “What are you doing here?”

“This is our house.” She tucked her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them.

 I cupped my face in my hands and tried to slow my breathing. The hammering pulse, the adrenaline frying my veins, refused to abate.

“I could have killed you,” I said.

“It’s you. You’re back, you’re really-”

“Of course I’m back!” Anger plowed through my frazzled nerves. “How could you not know?”

“I didn’t pay attention… I mean….” Her voice failed. She began sobbing on the floor in front of me.

I could see her beauty even through the confusion and fury and tears. Long auburn hair. Flawless light brown skin. She wore a tight crimson top and skirt in the balmy summer evening. Her face was beautiful despite the terror twisting her expression.

“What are you doing here?” I repeated. The words hissed through clamped teeth.

She scrubbed at her eyes with the heels of her hands. “Why do you bother to ask?”

“Because I keep my word.”

Her laugh sounded wet and distant, eyes darting to the untouched envelope on the table. “I was sure you would break that promise the second you saw me.”

“I keep my word.” My voice was iron.

It wasn’t just a promise to her. I kept out of the thoughts of everyone outside my work. It had broken too many relationships.

I wouldn’t violate it even for a relationship that had already disintegrated.

“I needed to see you.” I barely heard her voice. “I fucked up.”

“How exactly did you fuck up?” I said with surprising calm, all the more menacing for it.

“Don’t make me tell it to you. You could just—”

“I want to hear it.”

She shook her head. “I don’t even know where to start.”

“Try.”

Her body tensed.

“Shit. I wasn’t doing well after your first tour. Another two years without anyone….” She shrugged, and her voice struggled to claw through her tears. “I had an affair. No one you know. Then a fling. No one I knew.  And it just got easier. Christ, just like before we met.”

My mind spun. She had been a borderline alcoholic and sex addict through college and med school, and had still managed top honors on account of her brilliance.

“We weren’t talking, then you got hurt, and….” She nodded with her chin at the envelope and buried her face again.

“You hoped I’d die,” I said.

She glared at me. “You fucker. Promises shit.”

“I don’t need to see your thoughts for that. It would have made everything easier if I hadn’t survive.”

Her head bobbed, and she tucked her chin behind her knees. “But then you were coming home. You’re going to laugh, I looked through our wedding album. I remembered how happy we were.”

It sounded like a line, but the expression etched on her face howled a different story.

“I came to get that.” She pointed to the envelope. “Before you saw. I couldn’t put my stuff back in time, but least I could hide how far I’d gone.”

I stood in silence, watching her curled up on the floor.  Emotions seethed. I felt my dormant attraction and caring for her wrestling with my anger. But I said nothing. Silence begged to be filled, and I knew she would fill it.

“I can’t lose you,” she said. “You saved me. You gave me more than I deserved. I still love you.”

Her waiting eyes fixed on me. I stood still, smothering my conflict of reactions.

“Can we work on this?” Her voice was pleading. “Do you still love me enough to do that?”

I closed my eyes. Exhaled long, trying to release my tension.

“I still love you,” I whispered.

“You do?” The joy was palpable in her voice, and I heard her shift on the floor.

“I never didn’t. It kept me alive after that crash. I still love you.”

I opened my eyes to see her now on her knees, expectant. “I had to know, sweetie.”

“Know? Why was there any doubt?”

“I had to make sure you still loved me. I can’t just look into your head.” Her smoldering eyes slid across my body. “I like you bald. And cut. And the scars! You should go to war more often.”

I had forgotten I was naked. I dropped my hands to my lap, just as my penis stirred with her gaze and my realization.

“Don’t be modest.” She flowed to her feet and started to glide toward me. “Aren’t you at all curious?”

My throat clenched. In seconds her bearing, her demeanor, had transformed. “What’s gotten in to you?” I took an unsteady step away from her.

“Don’t you want to know how lonely I really was?”

Her smell enfolded me, the scent of her skin, her hair, her sex. My back hit the wall as she neared. Confusion at her change replaced my anger, and a raw, unfocused lust began to swallow me.

“You want to know how many men I fucked?”

Anger flashed, sputtered as her hand brushed against my erection. My thoughts tangled and stumbled.

“How many women I fucked? How many I fucked at the same time?”

“You’re lying.” I couldn’t move.

Her eyes swallowed me, pleading and demanding. “The sex and cheating and lust and unfaithfulness. Look into my mind. See how much of a dirty cheating slut your wife has been.”

“I promised—”

“I want you to.” Her hands curled around the back of my head and pulled me closer. “It’s the only way you’ll know how naughty I’ve been.”

I couldn’t think. Her mere presence agonized, ignited, overwhelmed. It had been years, but time was not the barrier that separated us. She was a different person. Changed.

Her mind blossomed at my mental touch.

Bars, beds, men and women growing less and less familiar with each encounter. The old vices taking sway, choking the fear and loneliness and resent at my absence. Complete surrender to her desires. The lustful sins of her past not gone, but dormant. Reawakened.

Then the last stranger. A young girl. Black hair, perfect skin, stunning curves, scent like concentrated desire and need. Burgundy eyes that burned lust. Tricia Priest, the name whispered, moaned, screamed, before….

Burning.

Then more men. All dead. More women. All her slaves. Ravenous, unquenchable hunger.

“What the hell happened to you?” I said. “What are you?”

Her eyes flashed fire against obsidian skin, magma crackling veins and hair blistering with lust.

“I will be your universe,” Helen said. “And I will savor every last drop of love that you harbor in your soul.”

Then she touched me, and the release I craved with every drink and pill faded in the ecstasy of her demonic touch.

“It was so lucky you survived for me,” she purred in my ear. “And so, so much worse for you.”

And she slowly began to kill me.

 

“Are you alright, sir?”

I started at the stewardess’s voice. My hands trembled on my lap.

“I’m fine,” I mumble, wiping my face. The time on my laptop said the flight had an hour left. “Can I get another vodka?”

Her deep brown eyes looked concerned. “I think you’ve had enough. Let me get you a ginger ale.”

I started to snap, clenched back the retort and nodded. She smiled with a mix of emotions that didn’t include humor as she turned away.

God. I stared at the white space on the screen. That entry had been my last act off defiance before I didn’t care anymore. Months of no entries. No thoughts. Nothing but a slow death masked in a veneer of endless, unfiltered ecstasy.

I forced myself to continue to the next entry, written weeks after the fact. The memories I truly needed to relive.

 

Six months later.

I focused on the creeping, frozen clarity spreading like a spiderweb up my arm. A handful of seconds of coherent thought. I tossed the needle aside and repeated to myself what I did this for, what I had to do.

Helen would devour the shadow that remained of my soul.This was my last chance. If I didn’t resist now, I never would. I still didn’t know if I wanted to and focus dissolved.

The ice in my veins disappeared as quickly as it had come. A haze descended over the world. My body sank into a warm, luxurious bath. Thoughts drifted. My limbs grew warm, languid. The sharp pains and aches of new scars, bruises, burns, all disappeared in a blanket of euphoric content. The gnawing desire for the demonic pleasure of my wife faded. Still there, but I no longer craved it like before.

I lay naked in the basement that had become my dungeon. No doors, no locks, I remained with no consideration of escape. Thick pillows, cushions, silk bedsheets, walls of domination equipment and anything Helen’s twisted mind desired. I left only when compelled by Helen, to work out, to stay in shape for her, to serve her.

But for my most lucid moments, I craved nothing but the near-constant ecstasy of her presence. I read in her thoughts what she did to me, milking the emotions I held in my soul for her, more delicious than the men she fucked and killed for sustenance every night. I drank more, popped more pills, because they gave me the slightest respite to her control.

This was my last gambit. I had read her weaknesses from her thoughts, the only things within my power that could destroy her. It had taken all my will to find and purchase the heroin I just injected, because it meant the possible end to the domination she held over me. I knew tonight I would escape, or I would die.

This I could say looking back. But at that moment, nothing mattered. It took all my will to remember what I had to do. So simple to accomplish. So impossible to care.

I heard her before I saw her. I heard everything. Her soft steps. The whisper of her breath. The thunder of my pulse.

“Hello, lover.”

Helen, my angelic demon goddess, glided with unearthly grace down the stairs, dropping her guise as she entered. The hair on her head and above her sex blazed in a halo of sensual flame. Black upon black skin, smooth and glistening, glowed with veins and nipples and eyes fiery with concentrated lust.

She was well out of reach, but I stretched my arm toward her, a struggle to move. I had no urge to leap up like normal, whether I could have or not. My body felt leashed by weight, apathy, delicious bliss.

She ignored my lethargy. striding around the room to inventory the sexual implements available to use on me.

Then she stopped and turned to me. Her gaze pierced me even through the warmth and haze. Hard, pulsing sensations cut through the drugs. I arched my back in ecstasy.

“You look like shit,” she said.

I groaned and collapsed back on the bed. Afterglow mixed in the unfocused sea of intoxication. But my mind phased out and my god, the consuming need that her power brought did not return.

Her lips curled in disappointment. “Garrison, I don’t think you’ll live much longer.”

I saw her thoughts morph as the words, sultry and thick, flowed from her lips.

“I think this will be our last time together.”

She dropped on all fours and crawled over the bed toward me. “You don’t know how much I will miss this, Garrison. You mean so much more to me than the others I consume. But I always knew you couldn’t last forever.”

The heat of her body beckoned as she neared. Her mind bloomed with images of how best to enjoy me as she consumed my soul.

I gasped. She was going to fuck me.

My resolve shattered. She never gave me the height of her power, never shared with me the greatest pleasure she could bring.  But now she would. And Jesus, that was all I had wanted for months.

Helen’s talons stroked my cock as she threw her legs astride me. She drew me across her lips, burning with

 

Chapter Two (first draft)

Standard

This is my first draft of Hunters Chapter Two for comparison, and for an example of the extent of changes during the editing process.

Again, previously the tense was present, and I moved the Andrasi encounter entirely to the second chapter. I also amped up the sexual tension Tricia feels. You can check out the current version of Chapter Two here.

Back to Hunters

Back to WilliamReidLit.com

 

 

Chapter Two

The Cursed

 

I step out of the private room, leaving crumpled rapist husks laying in the darkness behind. Constellations of body fluids flare across my body under the black lights of the dance floor.

It will be awhile before anyone finds them. They would have made sure no one would interrupt their conquest of a drugged teenager. No rush to leave. But a club is a dangerous place for me to be. I just gorged on four corrupt souls. They are mere sustenance, not nourishment. Their memories, their sadistic plans for me, their recollections of past conquests strip their souls of any purity. I feel satisfaction ending their miserable lives, but I still hunger.

Holy Christ, I still need to fuck. Really fuck.

I close my eyes and stand still. The body heat of the dancers flowing past beckons me. Desire, everywhere desire, need. Theirs are mere whispers next to the screaming inside me. Every doubt about coming here explodes. The hunger is too powerful to resist. I have no desire to. My mind goes numb.

I reach out into the human sea, grasp the nearest person by the hair and spin her toward me. She lets out a squeal of surprise, cut off when I drag her lips to mine. At first she stiffens and presses her lips tight. Then they quiver, open, and we devour each other. She tastes like spearmint, cigarettes, cum. Her embrace is sudden and fierce. The world dims. Her body melts into mine, scorches like an inferno. Our hands move over each other, exploring, wanting. Her rich and intoxicating scent engulfs me.

I feel her passion, her power, her eager soul. The lasers strobe over the seething dance floor around us. Lust thunders from the crowd. I tremble as it pulls at me. I want more. I want it all. The dancers are so embroiled by lust that I could drop my human glamour, walk across the dance floor in my full demonic glory and take every last soul in an orgy of desire.

Her mind opens to me the second we touch, and Stacey captivates me. Not like the worthless raping shits I ate. Stacey is kind, she doesn’t steal or lie, she doesn’t cheat on her boyfriend and wants a family with him. My God, she is the purest, kindest, most delicious creature I’ve tasted in decades.

And if I enslave her, I would damn the soul I’m struggling to redeem, if it’s redeemable at all.

Fuck. I shove Stacey away.

She stares at me, gasping. Her short-bobbed blonde hair curls over one eye, but the other stares, the thin rim of her dilated eyes the color of a winter stream. Her cheeks flush fire.

“The fuck,” a guy next to her says, and wheels her away by the elbow. The boyfriend. His haircut is a mirror of hers, but brown with gilded strands like wood grain. His shirt looks painted on his sculpted torso. Groomed stubble carves out his jaw, and his straight teeth glow in the black lights. My head barely reaches his chest.

I turn my attention to him. I couldn’t actually feed from another woman, just enslave her, but her boyfriend was another matter. I can feel desire mixing with his anger. Seeing me kiss Stacey again would shatter his resistance.

I stop myself before I indulge the thought further.

“Thought she was someone else,” I say.

“She’s not. Fuck off.”

His biceps strain as he holds Stacey back from me. Her gaze hasn’t left me the whole time.

God damn it. I spin away and bolt deeper into the crowd. In a moment I can’t see them anymore. I’m trembling with desire, but my sanity slowly claws back. Rapists and sinners, their souls empty of true satisfaction, at least deserve death. But a few more seconds and I would have enthralled that girl whether I wanted to or not, and I would have consumed her boyfriend’s soul for the fuck of it. A succubus isn’t built to cope with abstinence or control. Demonkind call themselves Cursed for good reason.

I can’t let myself give in to my nature, and a feast like this club is too much temptation. I won’t be able to look at Pastor Tom again if I throw away all my work fighting my Curse now. I have to get out of here before I do something I’ll regret. I push my way toward the doors.

I feel its presence behind me an instant before its sword slashes at my head. I wheel to the side. The black sword misses me by less than an inch. The blade carries straight through two guys dancing in front of me without slowing. The music drowns their screams. Blood sprays over me and the dancers around them.

An Andrasi rage demon towers behind me. I’m at eye level with its belly button. No glamour to disguise its nature. Angelic wings fan out behind it. Its muscular arms hold a blood-stained sword as tall as me. Long hair that looks like a tangle of wet eels hangs to its shoulders. Its translucent crimson skin glows from the fiery black skeleton underneath. Its eyes blaze emptiness.

“You die, succubus,” it growls, straight into my mind.

“What….” A girl turns as blood splatters across her face. She stares at the two bodies on the dance floor, shocked in to silence for a handful of seconds. Then she looks up, straight into the eyes of the Cursed that cut them down. She screams.

The club goes apeshit.

Humanity surges past me in terror, scattering in all directionss. I use the chaos to crouch and draw the kukri at the small of my back. I had spent the last century working to become a physical badass – a necessity in the Northwest, alone and surrounded by Andrasi – but I haven’t needed to draw a weapon in decades.

Since the last time a rage Cursed swung a five-foot sword at my head, come to think.

A vacant bubble has formed on the dance floor around us. Hentai sex screams over the screens. Lasers ripple through the translucent body of the Cursed as it stares at me with those empty eye sockets. Blood curls down its black blade.

“You don’t want to destroy me,” I say, as calmly as I can. Despite my mental guards, I feel the Cursed’s aura of rage needling at my self control. It smells like blood and ash and mindless anger. The shouts and crashes from the fleeing patrons confirm that the mortals are as intent on fighting as getting away, all because of this fucker.

Its voice boils into my brain. “You break oaths, you die.” It laughs, a chilling sound that claws my mind with fury, and strides toward me.

I skip sideways, keeping out of sword range. “I’m not the one in someone else’s territory,” I say. “Makes you the oathbreaker.”

“You die, then I kill your friend,” it says.

Friend? Oh for fuck’s sake. Talking to these things is like throwing eggs at a brick wall.

“Fight me,” it says. “I like when you fight.”

“Well, then.” I snap invisible, then lunge.

It’s one of my tricks. Makes up for not showing up in mirrors, cameras or video, which is a bigger pain in the ass than you’d think. The Andrasi know I can do it, but I need every millisecond of surprise it might give me.

The Andrasi swings its sword across my expected path in reflex. I roll out of its path and spring to my feet at its exposed side. My kukri chews crimson jello. No blood from the cut, it just opens like raw steak. Arcs of chartreuse energy flicker from the wound. I hope that means it hurts like hell.

Its elbow smashes the back of my skull. The world sparkles and tilts. I turn the fall into a sideways tumble away from the Cursed, cradling my head. Agony.

“I smell you,” it growls. Its eyes no longer follow my movement, but it charges straight at me.

I slash the kukri across its wrist on its next swing and break for the doors. But thoughts of escaping that way vanish. The front of the club is pandemonium, a pile of people tearing themselves apart, some to get out and some overwhelmed by the rage aura. Not getting out that way.

“Fight me,” it says again. Its blind slash takes a chunk of my jacket.

I wheel around and charge it again. Badass or no, I can’t go toe to toe with a rage Cursed. Need to get out in the open.

It smells my approach and swings again. This time I leap over the blade and spring off its rocklike bicep into a somersault over its head. I grasp where its wings meet its back as I tumble by. It roars. My momentum drags it backward, upside down in front of me with wings and feet thrashing in midair.

I sprint forward, smashing my shoulder into the small of its back.  Its screams shake my body. It feels like carrying an active volcano. I barely hang on long enough to plow it into the wall.

Masonry and rebar explode. The impact knocks the air out of my lungs. A second crash, a second wall. My shoulder wrenches and shatters. Rock cascades over me seconds before the constant Seattle mist. I let go of the Cursed and collapse on all fours. The momentum carries the Andrasi face first into the opposite building, cracking brick. It collapses onto its back, leaving a cracked indent half a foot deep in the wall.

I will myself to stand and leap on the Cursed’s chest before it can recover. It tries to get up, but I hang on by its greasy hair, ignoring the pain of my broken arm. I hack my kukri repeatedly across its neck. It howls in my head. My side explodes with pain, I feel its sword plunge into me and split out the other side, but I keep slashing. Its body glows putrid with each cut.

I hit spine. The jolt travels through my body. Its howls silence and it collapses back to the ground.

“Don’t die yet,” I say, and plant my lips on a mouth big enough to swallow my head.

Flashing, discordant images fill my mind to replace its dying whimpers. Images tear through my thoughts, and I shove myself away with a gasp. I grip its head by the sides, my broken arm howling in protest, and twist.

Its head tears off with a wet, ripping sound. The Cursed begins to smoke as it crumbles. The smell of burning carcass fills the air.

I stumble back on the surrounding rubble, hitting the ground hard. My entire body is agony. I touch where it stabbed me, confirming the sword dissolved along with the Cursed, and focus my energies on sealing it and mending my shattered shoulder. It takes most of the power I got from the rapists to heal the damage.

Holy fuck. I lay in the drifting mist for what must be minutes, still invisible, trying to make sense of what happened. The Andrasi haven’t bothered me in years, because we stay out of each other’s shit. They keep out of Seattle, I let no other Cursed – specifically, no incubi or succubi – in. But this one decided to kill me in the middle of my city, in a nightclub full of mortal witnesses.

And I find out why as I sift through the jumble of its dying thoughts. A pale man in a tailored gray suit worth more than a car, getting out of a limo at the most expensive condo tower in Seattle. Long black dreadlocks, a goatee and eye patch, smoking a black cigarette. Just a momentary image, but the image bites just as deep as the Andrasi’s sword had. Nothing has changed about this Cursed beyond the cut of his suit in the century since I last saw him, or in the centuries before that, knowing him.

My end of the bargain with the Andrasi is easy to keep since no one gives a shit about a place surrounded by roving packs of rage demons. Besides, I don’t like my kind any more than they do. But there is an incubus in Seattle. One purposefully shielding his presence from me, or I would have felt him the second he entered the state. And one I know more intimately than I would ever want.

Sebastian Essex is going to tell me what the fuck he’s doing in Seattle, or I’m going to kill him.

 

 

Chapter One (First Draft)

Standard

 

This is my first draft of Hunters Chapter One for comparison, and for an example of the extent of changes during the editing process.

This chapter was totally revamped. I started with it in present tense (as opposed to Garrison’s chapters, in past tense) since it was happening right now, while Garrison’s were happening in the past. Also, I have it from Tricia’s point of view, which took away the suspense of what she was and planned, plus made her less sympathetic even though her victims were rapists. You can check out the current version of Chapter One here.

Back to Hunters

Back to WilliamReidLit.com

Chapter One

The Cursed

 

The eternal hunger is my Curse, and it’s a bitch.

It’s not like I don’t deserve it. My mortal life brought this shitstorm of an existence on me. A mortal life I try to atone for, whatever good that will do. I believe in God – who else could Curse me? – and that He can forgive. But I also believe that omnipotent Fucker hates my immortal guts.

And though I say the Curse caused my current mess, truth is it would have found me regardless.

 

I feel the pounding beat inside the club. The music is so loud the tempo reverberates through my bones. Each throb reaches inside and caresses my heart. The press of writhing bodies, the scents of alcohol and sweat and sex and passion, feed my desire.

My leather midriff jacket is open. The top underneath is not low cut or flattering, and the miniskirt reaches the top of my knees. But both hug every curve of my body. The outfit was good enough to keep the bouncer’s eyes on my tits rather than my license, with its picture of a 40-year-old blonde with glasses and hair three decades out of style. I used to dress for the club scene, whether I needed to or not. The best I can do with my current wardrobe is forgo a bra and panties.

Humanity swallows me, surging with the rhythm. Lasers etch a carpet of shifting light above us. Colors pulse to the music. I can barely see the stage above the crowd, where the DJ spins in front of a video wall playing hentai clips. I can’t make out the bar at the back wall at all. Shadows obscured by smoke move and watch and lust in the balconies. Silhouettes flow together and break apart in passionate tempo. The candle lights at each table flicker like stars in an artificial night.

I close my eyes and stand still, feeling the body heat of the dancers flowing past. Desire, everywhere desire, need. Theirs are mere whispers next to the screaming inside me. Now that I’m inside, every doubt about coming here explodes. The hunger is too powerful to resist. I have no desire to. My mind goes numb.

I reach out into the human sea, grasp the nearest person by the hair and spin her toward me. She lets out a squeal of surprise, cut off when I grab the back of her head and drag her lips to mine. At first she stiffens, her lips pressed tight. But then they quiver, open, and our tongues dance. She tastes like spearmint, cigarettes, cum. Her embrace is sudden and fierce. The world dims. Her supple body melts into mine, scorches like an inferno. Our hands move over each other, exploring, wanting, her rich and intoxicating scent engulfs me as we devour each other, warm and wet and desperate and fuck I shove her away.

She stares at me, gasping. Her short-bobbled blonde hair curls over one eye, but the other stares, the thin rim of her dilated eyes the color of a winter stream. Her cheeks flush fire.

“The fuck,” a guy next to her says, and wheels her away by the elbow. His haircut is a mirror of hers, but brown with gilded strands like wood grain. His designer shirt looks painted on his sculpted torso. Groomed stubble carves out his jaw, and his straight teeth glow in the black lights. My head barely reaches his chest.

I turn my attention to him. I couldn’t feed from another woman, but her boyfriend was another matter. In the old days I would seduce them both and have my way with them, him as sustenance and her as a playtoy. But I stop myself before I indulge the thought further.

“Thought she was someone else,” I say.

“She’s not. Fuck off.”

His biceps strain as he holds her back from me. Her eye hasn’t left me the whole time.

God damn it. I spin on my heels and bolt through the crowd toward the bar. In a moment I can’t see them anymore. Some level of sanity claws back. Losing control like that would undo all my efforts in an instant. It’s the reason I cut myself off from this scene in the first place. A few more seconds and I would have enthralled that girl whether I wanted to or not. I’m trembling with desire, but I can’t give in. I convinced myself I could slake my hunger without returning to my old ways, ignored the doubts I could control myself. I wouldn’t be able to look at Pastor Tom again if I fucked it all up now.

I slip on to a barstool still warm from its previous occupant. Multicolored slashes of spilled drinks, blurred with smudged fingerprints and discarded napkins, glow in the underlighting. I lean to avoid the wall of mirrors behind the bar without conscious thought. The two bartenders, one of each gender and wearing emo outfits that reveal more than they conceal, are both occupied with other customers. I’m in no hurry. I’ll have a drink before they notice me.

“You look a little young to be in here,” a masculine voice says, so close to my ear I can feel his breath on me. The sound is smooth like chocolate melting on the tongue, as only practice can achieve.

I don’t turn to look, but push my stool along the bar rail to open up space beside me. “That’s a lousy line. Hear it all the time. Makes it even worse. Your next will be about my stunning eyes.”

The man slides in to the space. He is at least six feet tall, and wears a red v-cut sweater over a purple tee. A seashell choker glows around his neck. His deep brown eyes, cradled under dark eyebrows and short cropped hair, take in every inch of me. “It’s no line, sweetie. You’ll have to tell me who did your ID.”

“What do you need with a fake license?”

He grins, dimples kissing the smooth skin of his cheeks, and he leans closer to me. He smells like bottled leather and spice. “I’m only twenty,” he says with mock conspiracy. “You going to turn me in?”

“Hardly. I’m seventeen.”

His eyes go wide, and he starts to laugh. No shock, disgust or horror on his face, even though I can tell he believes my every word. Good.

“Sweetie, no seventeen year old has curves like you,” he says, his stare continuing to drink in my body.

“Whatever you say.” I lean back in my stool to give him a better view. “You going to turn me in?”

“I’m going to buy you a drink.” He tugs the bartender’s sleeve as he passes by. “Lemon drop?”

I purse my lips. I loved the chase, drawing out the pursuit as much as possible, making my prey so overcome by lust that the final payoff was a feast. A brush of my hand against his, a purr, a moan of acceptance as I lean forward to display my neck to him in submission. But this isn’t about the chase anymore.

“Only if the lemon drop is yours,” I say.

He flashes his teeth at me again. “Wanna play with the big boys, huh? Two vodkas. Neat.” I notice his eyes flick across the crowd. He’s not alone. Even better.

He says, “My name’s Derek, by the way.”

“Tricia. Never met a Derek before.”

“I’m one of a kind.” The bartender places the drinks in front of Derek. Derek takes my glass by the rim, palm cupping its mouth, and scoots it in front of me. Smooth.

“Cheers.” Our glasses clink together, and he lifts his drink to his lips.

I throw my head back as if laughing and drain my shot in one swallow. The liquid, hot and biting, slides down my throat, a pleasant warmth descending with it.

He laughs. “You keep drinking like that, you’ll be on the floor.”

“You keep drinking like that, I’ll look for someone else to get me drunk.”

“Not if I can help it, sweetie.” He nods to the bartender and taps in front of him. Moments later another vodka fills the empty space. He passes the glass to me with the same motion as before. The fucker’s doubling down. “Let’s go.”

 He slams his vodka, his eyes fixed sidelong on me as he swallows.

“Shit.” I down the drink, letting a little dribble out of the corner of my lips. I remember to cough this time. “God.”

He pats me on my back, and his hand drifts up to massage my neck.

“We’re in the advanced class now. You took those like a pro.”

“I’m not as naïve as you think.”

“Oh, I’m sure. Seventeen year olds don’t sneak into bars alone if they’re naïve.”

“They don’t flirt with twenty year olds if they’re naïve, either.”

“Sure they do. Teens sneaking in to bars like to live dangerously.” He nods with his chin at the wooden cross hanging around my neck, nearly lost in my cleavage. “Or you expect that to be your protection?”

“More than you know.”

He snorts a laugh, and his eyes stay fixed around my cross. “You’re not like any of the teens in bars I’ve met, sweetie.”

I nod my head back at the video wall, showing an anime girl with huge tits fucking a demon with two cocks. “Because most aren’t in bars that show shit like that?”

He turns to the wall and his breath catches.

“You’re too young to watch this stuff.”

“But old enough to be here? This is tame compared to the shit I watch. And you’re tame compared to the guys I normally flirt with.”

 I see a flush of excitement on his dimpled cheeks. “We need more drinks,” he says.

“You need another one to catch up with me.” My words tumble together.

“I’ve already had three. You’re the one playing catch-up, Tricia.”

“Mmm? Don’t remember….”

I slip a little from the stool and let him catch me. He hands me another shot and nods to his friend in the crowd. “Tell you what. I’ve got a private room upstairs. How about you finish your drink and we head up? It’ll make conversation easier.”

Another set of hands wraps me from behind, bigger and rougher than Derek’s. I look over my shoulder to see a block-shaped head, shaved bald. A thick brow ridge shelters black darting eyes.

“Easy, babe,” he says. The smell of rum and chicken wings coat his slow words.

“This is Steve,” Derek says. “He’s a friend.”

“You came with a friend.” I swallow the shot and knock the glass over as I put it back on the bar. “Hi, Steve.”

Steve’s granite brow crumbles into a frown. “All three?”

Derek nods.

“Fuck. We’ll have to carry her with three.”

“I can walk,” I protest, but both of them take me by the elbows and steer me up the spiral staircase. My feet don’t touch the ground.

Their desire seethes as they carry me, and I struggle to control myself. I have to let them dig as deep as they want. The passion of the crowd flows around me. Hands, not just those of Derek and Steve, brush me secretly and intimately as we move through the crush. In moments a door clicks behind me. The music muffles, the press of dancers disappears, the air cools. The private room.

“Holy shit.” A third voice says, nasally and high pitched.

I loll my head to get a look around the room. Plush red couches line the walls. Darkened one-way windows overlook the dance floor. The anime demon on the video wall has grown dick tentacles. Liquor bottles and electric candles stack the circular glass table in the center. At least one of these kids is loaded.

The one that spoke is short and at least a hundred pounds overweight. His rolex and thick gold chain scream he’s the loaded one, his body screams why he lets his buddies do the work in the club. His pale, moist flesh smells like he bathed in Axe. A fourth guy sits on the couch smoking a cigarette, his shoulder-length black hair parted neatly in the center. He wears a tailored black suit with a red silk shirt.

The sharp-dressed one whistles through a fog of smoke. “Bravo. She’s built like a brick shithouse.”

“This brick shithouse is in high school,” Steve growls.

“Holy shit,” the fat guy says again.

“Didn’t know you had so many friends, Derek,” I mumble. “Sweet digs.”

“And he dosed her three fucking times,” Steve continues.

“She’s going to OD,” Sharp says.

“Then shut up and let’s go.” I feel Derek’s lips on my neck, one hand pulling my head back by the hair, the other cupping my breast. “You taste delicious, sweetie.”

My self-control snaps. Dropping the act, I straighten and collapse into Derek’s arms. “So I get to fuck all of you, or the other three just watch?”

Sounds of soft laughter, buckles and movement fill the room. Derek’s already hard, but his excitement swells even further. I grab the sides of his head and plant my lips on his. My legs wrap tight around him. His hands are already up my skirt.

“You’re not wearing panties,” he moans. His eyes are mindless with lust.

“They get in the way.” I fumble at his pants. “Like your fucking jeans.”

Derek groans. He picks me up and I feel him slip in to me, small and unremarkable.

“Holy shit,” Fatty repeats again, breathless. “She wants it.” His buckle clinks rhythmically, the fuck is jacking off.

“Come on,” I hiss. The hunger is everything. I don’t hear or see the three others in the room. I grind in time with the throbbing music, the flickering lights on the dance floor. I used to savor sex as long as possible, enjoying the deliciousness of every moment, making them wait for days sometimes for release. But him I need now. Derek’s life force pulses inside me, surges, and my hunger swallows it whole. I pull more from him with each thrust. More, more, I want it all, the ravenous desire is all that matters and Derek is bucking and screaming in ecstasy with the most mind-devouring pleasure he will ever know. His orgasm slaps inside me. I devour the explosion of power that travels with it and moan with the pleasure. God, too long, it’s been too long. Derek drops me and falls away.

I collapse onto my back on the table, shivering. Bottles crash out of my way. Derek’s life courses through every inch of me, power I haven’t felt in years, and I want more. I want every last one of these fuckers.

“Shit, I get her next,” Fatty says, and climbs on top of me.

I latch onto him like I did Derek. “You didn’t have to wait.”

“Derek?” Steve says. “Holy shit, look at him.”

Sharp dashes over to his side. “Oh my God. I can’t find a pulse.”

“Holy fuck, look at that bitch.”

Fatty raises his head to stare at me, but he’s too consumed by passion to care that my skin is now obsidian cracked with fire. I can never hold my human glamour after feeding.

Steve shoves Fatty off me and hauls me up by the shoulders. Fatty crashes to the floor with a cry of dismay.

“What the fuck did you do to him?” Steve screams.

I smile and grab his arm with both hands. The crunching and ripping is louder than his scream. His arm explodes in a mass of shattered bone and blood, bent straight toward the floor.

“I ate a rapist.” I grip his neck with my talons. They sink at least an inch into his flesh. Steve gurgles, and I rip his throat free. His blood hisses against my skin.

Fatty gropes at my calf. “God, don’t stop,” he mumbles. Steve’s blood, still spraying from the mess of his neck, splatters across Fatty’s face.

“Get out of the way,” Sharp says, and levels a pistol at me.

His dress pants are around his ankles, his cock still erect and pulsing. I laugh at the sight.

“I will have you all.” I stride toward him.

Sharp’s voice trembles. “Stay away from me.” With monumental effort he steadies the pistol on my chest.

I slide the kukri from the jacket scabbard at the small of my back and lop his hand off.

Sharp screams and collapses into the couch. Blood fountains from the stump of his hand. I leap on top of him.

“Don’t die yet,” I whisper, and slide him inside me. No finesse. I rip his orgasm from him. He explodes in seconds, spurting blood as he thrashes in bliss. He arches his back and goes rigid. His eyes turn white, his cheeks sink, his skin drains of color. I scream with the ecstasy of devouring his soul.

Fatty scrambles over the table, slipping on the blood and alcohol on its slick surface.

“Please,” he begs. His hands stretch out to me, imploring.

I wheel off Sharp and throw Fatty against the window. My right hand wraps around his neck. His cock throbs eager in my left.

I feel his passion, his power, his eager soul. The lasers strobe over the seething dance floor behind him. Lust thunders from the crowd. I tremble as it pulls at me. The power of the two I consumed, the power of the one I’m about to, fills me, and I want more. I want it all. The dancers below are so embroiled by lust I could walk onto the dance floor in my full demonic glory and take every last soul in an orgy of desire.

And I would damn the soul I’m struggling to redeem, if it’s redeemable at all.

“Fuck.” I release Fatty’s cock, but keep him pinned by the neck. “What’s your name?”

His throat bobs under my palm. “Scott.”

“Scott. I’m leaving. When the police come, you say you wanted to drug and rape a girl, you fought over who got her first, and you killed them. Make them believe you. If you do this, I will find you, and you can do whatever you want to me.”

A grin spreads across his face, and he giggles. “I can?”

“Anything you desire, Scott. But only if you do what I ask.”

“I would do anything for you.”

I lean forward and brush my lips against his. “I know.”

He shivers. His cum spurts across my top, and he slumps back against the wall.

I wipe the cum off and flick it in his face before leaving. My glamour is back up. Just another clubber, probably glowing in the black lights with all the body fluids on me. No one seems to notice as I push my way downstairs. The afterglow of feeding lingers, turning down the urges that buffeted me before to a manageable hum. About ten minutes before a waitress goes in and notices the mess. Plenty of time to….

I feel its presence behind me an instant before its sword plummets at my head. I wheel to the side. My kukri is out in the same move. The black sword misses my head by less than an inch and cuts through two guys dancing nearby. Blood sprays over the dancers around them.

The Andrasi demon towers over the crowd. No glamour. Angelic wings fan out behind it. The Cursed’s muscular arms hold a blood-stained sword as tall as me. Its translucent crimson skin glows with the fiery black skeleton underneath. Its eyes blaze emptiness.

“You die, succubus,” it growls, straight into my mind.

“What the fuck….” A girl turns as blood splatters across her face. She stares at the two bodies on the dance floor, shocked in to silence for a handful of seconds. Then she looks up, straight into the eyes of the vengeance demon that cut them down. She screams.

The club goes apeshit.