Silence surrounded the woman. The chaos had stopped and along with it the constant cacophony of blistering noises—gunfire, horns blaring, dogs barking, the screaming.
She fingered the red chiffon dress hanging on the bedroom door’s hook. He said the diaphanous garment was his favorite. A pair of strappy black stilettos sat on the dresser. He liked the way they made her long legs look.
The ticking of the wall clock, counting down every second, grabbed her attention. It’s not like she hadn’t known it would come to this. When she made the bargain years ago, it was her sacrifice. The one thing she’d have to give up in order for humanity to be spared. And now he was coming for her.
His smell, like scorched earth, traveled beneath the door. She needed to hurry. Those who made him wait received punishment instead of pleasure.
The door creaked open. His massive form filled her hallway.
“Have you said your goodbyes?” His deep voice shook the shadows and sent shivers through her bones.
“There’s no one left,” she said hoping he wouldn’t see through her lies. If he knew there were others, he’d take them too.
“Very well.” He held out his bony hand.
A foul wind embraced them. The woman’s home of twenty years disintegrated around her. She choked back the tears and tried not to think about the deal she made to become Death’s paramour.
Seems like I’ve spent my whole life running, scampering away at the first sign of trouble. My shrink liked to think it was because of my absentee father, the sperm donor, or my overbooked mother. Their rearing of me, or lack thereof, had no bearing on what I was trying to avoid. I was the only one to blame.
Opening my apartment door to hundreds of roses, all black, let me know that I’d been an idiot. I didn’t have to guess who they were from. HE had found me.
Our affair started innocently. I met Azra in a dive on the edge of town. Mind you, I wasn’t trawling but working. I hated Jake’s Place as much as any sober person, but when you barely graduated from high school you do what you have to do.
The man—muscles and clean-cut with hooded dark eyes—didn’t belong at Jake’s. He was better suited for a gym or maybe the board room. Even his choice of punishment—Grey Goose vodka over ice—was out of place among the beer and whiskey crowd.
Azra lifted the glass to his full lips and eyed me over the rim.
“Can I get you anything else?”
“Your number,” he growled.
I had a weakness for take charge guys, but I couldn’t let him think I was that easy. “And why should I give it to you?”
He pushed the empty glass toward me. “You asked. I answered… and I’m waiting.”
I scribbled my digits on a napkin, balled it up, and tossed it to him. He caught it and jerked his head at the door. “When are you out of here?”
“Not for another couple of hours,” I told him.
He tossed the napkin back at me and said, “Wrong answer.”
Azra strolled around the bar and pulled my boss, Jake, to the side. Next thing I knew Jake slunk over to me. He tucked his shoulder-length blond hair behind an ear. “Jen, you’re done for the night.”
Although I took offense with Azra’s method, I appreciated leaving the stuffy, smoke-filled bar. I grabbed my jeans jacket, pack of smokes, and my purse expecting a one-night stand with the handsome stranger.
That was four months ago.
Azra treated me like a queen. Whatever I desired he gave it to me—clothing, jewelry, sex.
The man was hung like a bull and could fuck for hours. He satisfied me in ways I didn’t even know I needed.
In a very short time, however, I learned that Azra was nobody’s savior. Quite the opposite, in fact. If a man looked in my direction, Azra struck him down. He left a trail of dead bodies wherever he went. The first time I witnessed a death it mesmerized me. He didn’t need to touch a victim. He merely looked in their direction. I envied that type of power.
Azra kept me so guarded I couldn’t leave.
“If you ever try to leave me, I will find you. It may take a moment, but I’ll find you and make you pay. You are mine.”
His voice chilled my soul. I had no doubt that Azra meant every word that he said, but I had to take my chances and try.
I kept looking for my way out. Azra locked me in a room where I stayed day and night.
I heard the arguments outside my room. The hideous smell spiraled beneath my bedroom door as the body count grew.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that Azra’s ability was nothing a mere human should have. People spontaneously combusted. Some choked to death. Others collapsed on the spot.
One night I witnessed something no one should ever see. Azra left me locked in the room and hurried outside. I ran to the window and saw a tall figure who glowed in the night. Behind him were white wings like those on a bird but larger. I blinked. I had to be wrong. The two argued. Flames shot from Azra’s hands and the other figure crumpled at his feet before exploding into white light.
Azra left his leather jacket behind, something he never did. On the back of it was a pair of black wings. Beneath them was the name Azrael. An inscription circled the picture which read ‘Death Comes to All Those Who Speak My Name’.
I dropped the jacket as if just holding it would kill me. It was then that I realized the error of my ways—I’d become Death’s mistress—and I planned my exit.
It was a hot, miserable night when we first met. I ventured into the city on business, but my heart wasn’t in it for a change. Every potential mark I targeted held my interest for all of five minutes. Some nights are like that in my line of work.
Sweat rolled between my boobs. I dabbed at my damp brow and stepped into the Starbucks on Canal Street. Venturing into the coffee house served two purposes—air conditioning and a chance to people watch. When I’m unable to secure a conquest, I like to duck into the place and check out the scenery. I’ve never been a fan of coffee, but I’m a huge fan of humans. The quaint establishments offer a front row seat to watching all of your quirks.
I hold my hair up off my neck and let the chill of the manufactured air work its magic.
It doesn’t take long for the floor show to begin. A scantily dressed female wearing far too much eye makeup and lipstick saunters up to the counter. At first glance, she appears confident. Look closely. Her discomfort hangs around the perimeter. She’s hoping nobody notices, especially men. The woman orders a macchiato, her attempt to be sophisticated.
The door swings open and a woman pushes a stroller through the door. Why on Earth is she here this time of night? If it wouldn’t wake the child, I’d clap for the ability of it to sleep in this atmosphere. The haggard mom wears yoga pants that should have been retired a few classes ago. I guarantee there’s a man in her life who wishes she’d remember she’s a woman first. Her whole image—dark hair in a messy bun, tired appearance in desperate need of make-up, stained t-shirt—needs a life make-over. She wears her frustration like a too-tight bra.
I take my eyes off the human train wreck and that’s when my eyes land on him. He’s a perfect specimen. The dark tank top he wore barely covered his sculpted chest and bulging biceps. A pair of cargo shorts hung off his slender hips. He had the body of a god. My fingers itched wanting to run through his thick, dark wavy hair. I shifted in my seat and worked my magic.
In a matter of seconds, a brilliant smile crossed his face and he was cutting a path to my table. My eyes dropped to his crotch—yes, he was definitely packing. I licked my lips and uncrossed my legs.
“Mind if I sit?” His voice was so deep it vibrated through me.
“Actually I do,” I hissed.
“Forgive the intrusion.” He turned to leave.
I cleared my throat. “But I didn’t say you could leave.”
“Oh?” He pulled out the chair, turned it around, and straddled it.
I imagined straddling his sun-kissed body. Be patient.
He extended his hand. I admired his long fingers. “Name’s Anton. Yours?”
“Not yet.” I smiled and grasped his hand, firm and calloused. “Call me Bella.”
Anton flashed another magnificent smile. “Bell-a, what brings you out tonight?”
“I’m very serious,” I said, my voice soft and dangerous.
He laughed. “So, you came out tonight looking for me? I don’t even know you.”
“We can remedy that.” My eyes locked with his and I winked. “Let’s get out of here.”
Anton’s golden eyes looked me over. I knew he liked what he saw—firm tits, perfect hair, shapely mouth. After all of my years amongst humans, I learned what men liked…no needed in women. “My place or yours?”
He placed his hand on the small of my back. Anton leaned in and whispered in my ear, “Bell-a, you could be a bad habit.”
A sly smile crossed my face. “And one you won’t want to break.”
An unedited excerpt from a work-in-progress, tentatively titled.
Stale whiskey and old cigarettes. That’s what his mouth tasted like. Usually the flavor disgusted me. I guess I was too far gone to care. Maybe that’s why I engaged in something called the Eiffel Tower with the twins. It was another night in Hell for me.
I stare out the office window. It is a typical morning. I hate these sessions, but I have no choice in the matter.
“You realize that never happened? It’s a manifestation of your illness,” Dr. Sygmund says.
“Yeah, right. I guess I beat the crap out of myself, too.” I finger the red and purple bruise forming on my arm. It is in the shape of his fingers.
We go through this same BS once a week. I talk about what happens. She tells me I’m dreaming. Don’t you have to be asleep to dream?
“Does it make you feel better believing that?”
Her pen is poised over a pad.
I’ve been a resident of the Laing Clinic for the Criminally Insane for a year. My parents say it is for my own good. The law didn’t give me a choice.
“This is not about me feeling better. Wouldn’t you like to leave this place one day?”
It will never happen on their terms. Even if I manage to physically leave, my mind and soul are forever trapped.
“I leave nightly. Isn’t that enough?”
“If you insist…” Dr. Sygmund shakes her head, her golden blonde curls bouncing around her gaunt face. “Never mind. What else happened last night?”
I laugh aloud. Should I tell her how the twins screwed me all night long? Or should I tell her why the nurse found me tied to the bed butt naked?
“Since I’m imagining everything, maybe you can explain the rope burns on my wrists?”
“Restraints. Those are marks from the restraints we were forced to use. You were uncontrollable for most of the night.”
That happens when you’re having a three way. “Did you check surveillance? I know you like to watch.”
“What did you see?”
“You aren’t supposed to have residents in your room,” she admonishes.
The corners of my mouth quirk up as I lean forward on the chair. “Those weren’t residents.”
“We are investigating last night’s incident. Which residents were with you?”
I shake my head. The woman never listens. “Once again, they were not residents.”
Dr. Sygmund scribbles on her pad. “It should be easy to figure it out. We just need to see who the twins are here.”
“Did you know you can tell the difference between them by how they fuck? They’re both hung like bulls, but Dante likes to take his time. Dorian is a serious beast.”
“I do have to report—.”
“What? How will that go? Two smoking hot demons came into my room, got me blitzed out of my mind, and had their way with me for hours? Be sure to add that Dorian likes it rough. He tied me to the bed, face down, and pummeled the hell out of my ass.”
She flushes. I guess that gets a rise out of her.
Like I said, this is our routine. Dr. Sygmund hates to hear about the twins. She’s tries her best to ignore my evening antics with them, but they are real. Dorian and Dante and me. We’ve been a team for quite a long time.
The twins are the reason why I landed here. Of course, we can’t forget the night they found me with the knife in my hand.
He’s late and it’s not appreciated, not in the least bit. I check my phone again. He never comes when I want him. Time moves on his accord, I’ve been told. There’s nothing I can do to change that about him, it’s his nature.
We’ve been meeting this way, me on the street corner after the sun has set, for years. He won’t have it any other way, and I’m too ruined to want anything else.
I inhale deeply. His scent, slightly smoky with a hint of something earthy, excites me as he comes closer. My skin tingles in anticipation.
“You came again,” he drawls.
“Always,” I say and lose myself in eyes so dark my reflection doesn’t shine in them. “You’d miss me if I didn’t.”
“True. Shall we?” He offers his arm to me like one of those guys in a stuffy romance novel. “What delights you tonight?”
It’s not often he asks for my input. The question confounds me for a moment, but I know the game. It’s not my pleasure he seeks.
“Surprise me,” I tease.
His eyes rake over me. He takes note of the skin-tight black leather dress, black stockings so delicate that the breeze threatens to rip them, and dangerously high stilettos. “That can be arranged.”
Hours later, the dress lies on the scuffed, wooden floor. My black lace thong is torn to shreds. The matching bra is gone. He always takes pieces of me.
I sit up, dazed, and rub the marks on my wrists. Every time it’s like this. He arrives. I give in. He leaves and I have no recollection of what happened, just evidence that something vile took place.
Common sense tells me to stop the insanity, but I’ve come to crave it. We’ve been doing this tango for way too long.
Part of me loves the darkness. It offers a much needed escape from my mundane existence. My days are spent in a sterile world devoid of emotion. A place where people pay good money to hide behind walls of their own making.
I love the secrecy he offers. No one knows me like he does and no one ever will.
I pick up my dress and run my fingers across the claw marks. Another dress permanently ruined. They remind me of blemishes like the ones etched on my soul.
Someone once told me not to flirt with Death. Bad things happened to people who did. I should have listened. Too late to turn back time.
The dress and my undies go into the trash. I check the time again already counting down the hours until our next meeting.
Yes, it’s true. One shouldn’t flirt with Death. We’ve been scandalously intimate for years. He’s claimed my body and my soul. It’s only a matter of time before I’m his forever.
At first the situation unnerved me, much like putting on a too-tight sweater. I stretched and groaned but it refused to give. My lungs struggled trying to breathe against the restriction. It was a stubborn fucker, testing my resolve.
Someone once said the harder you fight, the harder the fight. So I relaxed. I let my mind go blank and thought of other things. Waves for some asinine reason entered my head. But not just any waves. These waves were blood red tinged with a sea foam of pink. Ghastly if you considered my immediate situation.
I shook my head and attempted it again. My muscles quivered wanting to flex, but it was too soon. Think happy… no… better thoughts. Sunshine. Radiant rays of sun streamed over my body. Something smoked. A fire? From where? Oh shit. Think of something else. Quick.
The moon… dark starry skies… a foul wind. A rancid stench so powerful it would turn the stomachs of weaker men, but somehow it enticed me. It had a life of its own, a taste. I licked my lips basking in the flavor.
My spirit calmed. The weight on my chest began to ease a bit.
Did anyone truly value the ability to breathe? I knew it was a dumb ass question, but when you’re in a precarious spot dumb shit creeps through your head. Personally, I thought breathing was overrated. It’s a given, right? Something your lungs were born to do, no one taught you how to breathe. Even animals do it on instinct. But what would happen if someone wrapped you in a material so tight that breathing stopped? Your heart continued to beat, your brain continued to function, but you couldn’t catch air?
This train of mundane dribble was fucking with me. I lifted my arm and stared long and hard. Slowly the ethereal bonds tethering me to the other side lost their purchase. I yearned to be free, but this tightness gripping me needed to let up.
Think of something else, something pleasurable. Like the time I discovered my true ability. That was indeed a gratifying experience.
In my youth I slipped through life, never enjoying much of anything. I stood on the outskirts of humanity waiting for the moment someone would choose me, but no one ever did. Children can be a cruel lot. It wasn’t until I matured that someone finally cast an eye in my direction.
It was a cold night when she asked for a retreat from reality. I was delighted to indulge her need… she was so needy. She wore despair like a winter coat. It draped over her shoulders and colored all her actions. My actions were swift. One taste energized me. The elements came together. Her humanity reached out to me in the form of a gossamer thread, twisting and turning in the air. I breathed in all it offered. My vaporous existence exuviated, and I became the stuff of nightmares. I became.
Ah, yes, the fit has improved.
Tonight came close to recreating that first time. Emerging from the darkness was orgasmic. She summoned me into the light and I answered. Desire swept across her nubile body. I inhaled as if my existence depended upon it and it did. The moment I exhaled her body shuddered and darkness replaced her light. I don’t remember her name or the location of the room. My only memory is release, a blissful release. Nothing ever came close to the ecstasy I experienced that night, until now.
Oh… much better. It slipped over me.
My muscles rippled beneath the surface. My body exhaled with a joyous shudder. I ached to keep it, so much better than the last one.
The longer I wore it, the better the fit. I ran my hand over it appreciating the sheen, the glow. My head rocked back and I looked over to the bed. A tanginess, like an ambrosia, lingered on my lips. Her body, bloodied and reeking, shimmered in the dark.
When we first met you overlooked my obvious flaws, kinks in my personality unappreciated by the masses. You praised my beauty, loved my body. You made me feel less hideous. Your words spoke volumes and filled my darkness with light.
But I warned you. Repeatedly.
You lavished me with trinkets of love. You said I deserved so much more than you could give. I was a vision to behold.
But I warned you. Frequently.
In all fairness, you were obsessed with the thought of me. You called me at all hours of the night wanting more. I obliged eagerly. It had been so long for me.
But I warned you. Continually.
We went on this way for days, weeks, months. Then the speck in your eye dimmed. You saw that small chink in my exterior. It nagged and troubled you. I, however, wasn’t surprised. I knew it was coming. It always does.
But I warned you. Often.
It came to you and you thought it miraculous. Like Einstein you presented your revelation. I needed to let go. You wanted me to embrace life.
Live free, you said.
Live without expectation, you said.
Live on the edge, you said.
Lose control, you said.
But I warned you. Again.
Who knows why I listened? Loneliness for a human soul, perhaps. It doesn’t matter. I let my proverbial hair down. I inhaled deep and let the darkness cover me. And it was… liberating. It came on a wave of ecstasy. I relished in the moment, needing… more.
You smiled at my joy. I smiled at your naivety.
The shadows pulled apart and took on a mind of their own. I watched them. I watched them cry out their rapture. They desired freedom and I gave it to them.
So caught up in the floor show I almost missed the highlight.
It was too late for you, my love. You beckoned. You summoned the monster and it was only too happy to come out and play.
A gleam of light.
The staccato beat from your chest.
The taste was delectable, like a fine wine aged for years. I’ll never forget the flavor. With time you will appreciate it.
But for now you’ll bleed.
I’ll watch the gossamer threads of life leave your handsome body. Your inability to blink away the pain confounds you. It gets better. The pain will pass and only darkness will remain. You’ll drink it in letting it nourish you. We’ll trade places for a while until you find another.
Remember, I warned you. Time and time again.
I bet you regret your suggestion, your command for me to let go.
For when I let go, my darkness consumes and evil reigns. When I let go people perish.