The Hunger, страница 1
This is for Ms. Winter who gave me a lovely little pep talk whilst I deliberated over the title for this story.
Nikki: Janet Eckford, expert at creepy prose. It’s what you do.
Day 1.. 5
Day 2.. 13
Day 3.. 18
“Don’t move or make a sound.”
Mia froze at the command given by a guttural male voice. The sharp point of an object pressed into her back, between her shoulder blades, was even more alarming because it could only mean he had a drawn a gun on her. She’d moved to her neighborhood three weeks ago, and though it wasn’t the best of places she could live, it was all she could afford and she hadn’t thought about midnight muggings when she signed her lease. She blinked rapidly and tried to think of how she would walk away from the encounter with her dignity intact. Fear was an emotion she hadn’t become accustomed to in her new life.
Fear in the past for her had always been an appetizer to the main course of pleasure. Even now, as she waited for instruction, the heady memory of chasing down prey caused her body to tingle with anticipation. Her senses sharpened, and her mouth watered at the remembered taste of hot flesh and warm skin. It was a hunger that would never be fully sated now that she’d left her other life behind. Mia would not be swayed by the delicious vices of her past.
“Open the door slowly,” the man hissed in a low whisper.
Mia paused; the hard press of his weapon in her back let her know he was serious about his threats but her brain wasn’t willing to comply. Actually, it was the part of herself she locked away, her other half of teeth and pain that wasn’t willing to follow orders. Her silent other self that was gnawing at her from within, hoping to burst forth and feed the constant ache of hunger she tried daily to avoid.
“Please, I don’t have much money but take what I have,” Mia said with what she hoped was the appropriate amount of panic.
“I said open the door.”
Her attacker’s voice was laced with enough menace to make his words ring true but her initial shock was starting to wear off. It was late, her shift at a local coffee shop going longer than she’d expected, but it was not so late she couldn’t hear the night sounds of cars and people making their way through the darkened city. If she screamed someone would hear her--they might not save her but they would hear her, and the risk this home invasion presented far outweighed whatever her attacker was hoping to achieve.
Stepping forward, Mia turned around quickly and looked at the man who dealt in the business of terror and strife. She had expected another example of his prowess, a strike to the face, a menacing growl, or even the flash of his weapon to illustrate he was still in charge, but instead she watched as he faltered in his step and pulled back from her.
Mia stared in fascination as her attacker tried to rebuild the guise he’d donned so recently, but the moment had passed and she could sense his fear. She’d been so wrapped in the memory of her past exploits she hadn’t noticed the sweetly enticing scent of his anxiety permeating the space between them. Her secret other half snarled at the idea of taking him apart bit my delicious bit, and she shuddered from the exertion of keeping her natural tendencies buried deep within.
“You need to do what I say,” the man rasped out.
His gun shook ever so slightly. Others might have not noticed it, but she was always aware of the telltale signs of weakness. Those little indicators of body language that indicated a person was nervous and were trying so valiantly to pretend they were not. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath and inhaled the aroma of his anxiety, letting it roll over the back of her tongue like a fine wine, and breathed out through her noise slowly, savoring the promise of an invitation she could not take.
“I know they put you up to this, but you have a choice. Run now--you may not get far but at least you’ll know you tried,” Mia whispered, infusing her voice with sincerity.
The man shook his head mutely and waved his gun. He was one of their good little sheep and was determined to reap the praise and adoration of his master. She sighed sadly; she knew the fate of sheep that were cared for by wolves.
“This isn’t going to work,” she called out loudly into the night.
“Be quiet,” the man hissed, looking nervously around him into the dark.
They must be near, she thought as she folded her arms across her chest. Of course they would be near; they’d put the bait in her path and were probably waiting expectantly to see if she would take it. Mia loathed them, the Family, and loved them in equal parts. All they had ever known was the easy prey of humans, the sweet taste of their warm blood and the tangy flavor of their flesh. Centuries of conditioning as the top of the food chain, the predator that walked in plain site as it hunted within the shadows, her kind couldn’t imagine another way, but Mia was determined to try. She was young enough to have hope still and planned to live her life on her terms.
“I will shoot you.” The man stepped closer, pointing his gun with more purpose.
The light she’d left on earlier to illuminate her front door caused the dark metal of his gun to shimmer. She could see a silencer fitted snugly to the weapon, and she was sure he would indeed shoot her. The Family was big on making a point, and a lesson was never quite learned unless pain was involved. He had probably been told to shoot her where it would hurt but not enough to cause “real” harm. The poor fool didn’t understand he would have to shoot her in the heart or the head to do any real damage. If shot, the old Mia would have smiled as she pressed her fingers to the wound, pushing and prodding until her fingers were coated with her own blood. Humans were usually squeamish when faced with blood, and to see a nightmare come to life, reveling in their own pain, always sent her prey into a tailspin.
“What’s your name?” she asked softly.
“I will hurt you.”
Oh, she thought, they’d chosen well with this lovely little bit of male delicacy. He would hurt her and enjoy every minute of it. With each second that passed and she didn’t attack him, the sadistic nature that helped herald him into the loving bosom of her family became stronger. She was no longer the monster he’d initially feared; she was weak and easily controlled. The fact that the family had sent him to cause her pain probably reinforced this belief, bolstering his confidence. Mia didn’t need the gift of mind reading to know he would enjoy breaking her, but it would be done with a slow precision that would ensure that, once broken, she would never be put back together again.
“Shoot me if you must, but when I step inside and shut the door I suggest you run and run fast. As I’m sure you’re aware, they do not tolerate mistakes.”
Mia turned quickly and opened her front door, stepping inside the dimly lit hall of her tiny, first-floor apartment, and shut the door quickly. The man didn’t shoot her, and before she could exhale the breath she’d been holding she heard a muffled cry. It seemed as if the night sounds disappeared, and all she could hear was the sound of that man’s death. They’d chosen him because in the past she’d hated men like him, sheep that tried to pass themselves off as predators. They were always too loud and too rough, taking when there was no need, and lacking the patience to really learn how to hunt.
The sounds of fabric ripping and then flesh caused her heart to race in anticipation. She could smell blood mingling with the scents of the night, and the slurping gulps of who that had sent him caused that forbidden half of her to moan in ecstasy. Mia clenched her hands at her sides and tried to will herself to walk away from the door, to go into her bathroom and run a hot bath with lavender and jasmine. She would cleanse her senses of the blood and g
Mia was tempted--she was paralyzed, actually, with the desire to open the door and beg for the bits that were left. Savor the taste of a meal like no other, but she didn’t because she knew if she failed this test she’d never be able to pass any other the Family chose to send her way. She was her own woman now, and though it was difficult, she pushed that dark half of herself that craved the hunt back down into the deepest, darkest hole within her she could find. Her skin prickled and sweated from the exertion, but as with most challenges she faced, she surmounted it and breathed a sigh of relief.
Pushing from the door, she shook her whole body and felt the tension of the last few minutes fall off her like discarded water. She tuned out the noises from the other side of the door and walked through her tiny studio apartment, touching the now-familiar things she was collecting in her new life. The gesture grounded her and helped keep her in the present. All of this stuff was an example of the life she’d planned for herself, a life that was away from The Family. She could do this, she thought as she headed toward the bathroom and the promise of a hot bath.
“You’re getting sloppy.”
The cultured tones and deep timbre of a male voice startled Mia. She should have known the Family wouldn’t have stopped with the attraction outside her door but would also send backup just in case she was stubborn enough to pass on what they were offering.
“This is my sanctuary. I guess I assumed wrongly you all would respect that.”
She turned slowly and watched as he unfolded himself from the dark shadows that danced at the very edges of the room. It was as if they were one and the same, and as he stepped fully into the low light she’d turned on when she’d left for work earlier in the day, Mia resisted the urge to sigh out her appreciation.
It was hard, because one could not look at the sheer perfection that was Galen and not utter a sigh of contentment. He was darkly handsome with olive skin, burnished golden from his time in the sun, a tall, leanly muscled body that spoke of agility as well as strength, and a rakish mop of wavy raven hair that seemed to balance perpetually between groomed and wild. It was his eyes, though, that always held her captive, and as she gazed into them she resisted their magnetic pull.
He was the bad boy incarnate that had you whispering a reluctant no even as you dreamed of him slipping those strong fingers under the edges of your panties. Galen was heartache and restless nights, but also moments of such exquisite pleasure that when he was deeply embedded inside you his bad boy ways didn’t matter. He was the ultimate predator, and it would take all the strength Mia had to resist him, because though she could deny her dark other half the pleasure of blood and flesh, they both longed for the pleasure Galen could create with one well-placed kiss.
“You have had your fun--it’s time to come back home,” he stated flatly, interrupting her wandering thoughts.
“My departure was approved by the elders. Your trespassing is in violation of that agreement,” she replied firmly.
“Would you punish me, sweet Mia, for breaking the rules?”
His question was like the warmest caress with the hint of a sharp sting. She resisted blushing as the memory of such caresses surfaced in her mind. Mia would not succumb to the charms of the bad-boy predator. No matter how enticing those charms were.
“Not me personally, but I’m sure a call to the elders would suffice,” she retorted, raising her chin in defiance.
“That is assuming you can reach the phone.”
“Unless you plan to restrain me, I don’t see there being a problem.”
As the words left her mouth, she stifled a groan of frustration at the smirk his luscious mouth formed. He stepped farther into the light, and she resisted the urge to retreat, even as the dark intensity of his sea-green eyes held her in their snare. She should never have mentioned restraints to Galen, because that had always been his favorite form of play.
“Oh, sweet Mia, I would so love to have you bound for our pleasure.”
The deep timbre of his voice washed over her body, and she could almost feel the cool texture of the satin ties he used wrapped around her wrists and ankles. He would have her spread open, aching and waiting for his masterful touch. His strong fingers would knead sore muscles and his delicious mouth would kiss skin sensitive from having him so near. He would trail his too-sharp teeth gently across delicate parts of her body, nipping where needed as he kept her hovering between a state of pleasure and pain. She both hated and loved his unique ability to do that to her body.
Mia took a deep breath and ignored the way his nostrils flared as the scent of her arousal permeated the space between them. She was her own person now, and the bad-boy predator was not going to drag her back. Straightening her spine, she gave him a cold look before she brushed past him to her front door. She disengaged her locks and opened the door swiftly, indicating with her head what she wanted him to do. He gave her a toothy smile that was white perfection and too-large teeth and sauntered in her direction.
“Resisting always makes the chase that much more exciting,” he whispered close to her ear before he walked into the night and the shadows.
Mia slammed the door behind him and ignored the sound of his husky laugh that seeped into her apartment like a provocative perfume. Her darker half whimpered with a need that had nothing to do with her earlier hunger, and Mia wanted to sit down and cry with her. She should have known it was too easy when she was released from the fold and told she could go out on her own to discover a world made in her creation. She envisioned a world that wasn’t ruled by The Family, one where she chose to live as human. Mia should have been more suspicious, a little bit more cautious, but now that she knew they weren’t going to play fair, she would be on guard and ready for the next time they sent their messenger out on a call.
Mia slowed as she passed the mouth of an alley. She couldn’t articulate what slowed her, but she knew there was something in the dark shadows of the deserted access way that she was supposed to see. The hairs on the back of her neck felt as if they’d been infused with electricity as they crackled against her skin. Taking deep breaths, she was thankful she’d declined her coworker’s offer to walk her home. They lived in opposite directions from the coffee shop they both worked at, but Mia’s destination would take her through the less savory area of the neighborhood, and her coworker worried about her walking it alone. Suggesting instead to accompany Mia and have the coworker’s boyfriend pick her up from Mia’s place.
It was a sweet gesture that spoke of kindness Mia hadn’t quite gotten used to. She had never been abused with the Family but little niceties had never been part of her existence. One either thrived or didn’t, and the thought that someone cared for her safety warmed her enough that she almost gave into the temptation, but as she stared into the too-quiet darkness of the alley she realized she’d made the right choice.
“You might as well get this over with, because I’ve had a long day and don’t have time for bullshit.”
She infused her statement with as much bravado as she could muster. Mia really was tired; she hadn’t slept the night before, as her dreams were plagued with dreams of submission. They were torturous, promising fulfillment but never taking her where she needed to be. She’d woken several times in the night after the sensation of the cool press of leather against her skin or the tingle of her hair being pulled by familiar, strong hands sent her body into a frenzy only to have her mind squelch the pleasure with reality. Mia was grumpy, and if the family wanted a fight, she felt obliged to give them one tonight.
“Oh, piss off!”
She screamed into the dark alley and turned to continue on her way only to be stopped by a whimpering plea for help. Mia knew it was a mistake, but the siren song of that plea drew her forward and caused her dark half to
“I’m going to call 911. Just stay calm,” she called out as she fumbled in her bag with numb fingers.
Calling for help was so counter to who she was that she focused on who she wanted to be, a person that didn’t prey on the weak, or she would falter in her decision. If there was someone injured inside the alley, there was nothing she could do for him or her without the aid of medical professionals. She would only tempt the tenuous hold she had on her control after her sleep-deprived night, and if she was going to beat her inherent drive to conquer by subduing the predator that resided inside her, she had to avoid all opportunities for temptation.
“You really aren’t any fun anymore.”
Mia almost dropped her phone at the sound of Galen’s voice. This was the second time he’d caught her unaware, and she wanted to kick herself for being so stupid. Growling with frustration, she shoved her phone back into her purse and stared into the smug face of her tormentor.
“Don’t you have anything better to do?”
“Yes, but the person I want to do better with isn’t willing to play,” he said with a lecherous grin.
She wanted to knock out those perfect white, too-sharp teeth. Not only that--she want to shave off that rakish mop of wavy raven hair and mess up the perfect angles of his strong jaw. Mia wanted to shake him until he fell apart and wasn’t such an archetype of sex and sin taunting her back into the life she’d chosen to step away from. Giving him the bird, she pulled her hobo bag closer and walked away. His husky laugh should have irritated her but instead it strummed a primitive tempo against her clit.