She was a demon. I knew because I always know. Though to give her credit, she was blending into humanity well. Her long black hair shimmered in the sunlight, and there was a peaceful look about her face as she watched the birds. She wasn’t too still. She wasn’t looking upon the world with an inhuman wonder. She didn’t have huge claws or fangs.
And yet, I knew.
I knew because I’d been tracking her for a week straight. After school, before school, once even during lunch. She sat there watching the day go by until somebody naïve came along and started to talk to her.
She dragged them in with a story of woe. It wasn’t something that meant anything to her as she changed it each time she told it. Sometimes it was an ill child. Sometimes it was a lost job. Sometimes it was an unhappy relationship.
They all fell for it, one by one. And I’d sneak behind them as they tried to escort her home. Once there, I’d look through the window as the beautiful woman opened her incredibly large mouth and sucked the life straight out of their bodies.
Well, we were always taught not to talk to strangers, weren’t we?
Pulling in a giant breath and steadying myself, I tugged my jacket close to my body to hide my array of weapons and went to sit next to her.
Her gaze drifted from the sky down to me. Her eyes were too blue. That’s the only thing I could see that had gone wrong. They were glistening with something supernatural. Of course, she couldn’t help that. She was a demon after all. A normal, average human eye would never have seen it. But I did.
It was then she burst into tears, covering her face with her hands. It was an excellent show on her part. Her shoulders shook. There was true sorrow in her tone.
Did she regret taking the lives she took? Was she trying to stop?
It made no difference to me. She was doing too much harm for me to turn away. So yes, she was distracting me from the true villain I had my eye on. Give me a break. I couldn’t resist.
“I’m sorry,” she said, wiping her eyes. “I don’t know what came over me. I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable.” Her voice cracked sufficiently, and her tone squeaked, and I almost believed her.
It was time for my line. “It’s all right. No worries.”
She sniffed and smiled at me. It took all of my strength to stay in my seat, keeping my hands in my lap when they really wanted to jump into my jacket.
She blinked those glistening eyes at me, wondering why I wasn’t saying anything more.
No way, miss. You’re gonna have to work to get this meal. Shame I’m going to leave you hungry.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Iris.” I let her have it. Why not? I hadn’t see her do any damage with names. Very few could. Only the super-impressive ones as far as I knew. If she started doing something with my name, I’d be mighty impressed indeed.
I cringed. “Maybe. I dunno. I kinda always hated it. What’s yours?”
New name today. Lucky old me.
She sighed in this big mournful huff, and I fought not to roll my eyes. I wasn’t about to ask what was wrong like those other suckers. I kinda wanted to see what she would do if I gave her nothing to work with. I hadn’t seen this one give up on a victim yet. But then again, she hadn’t had to. They all went willingly. Sometimes a hundred percent human meant a hundred percent stupid. Or gullible at least.
“I’m not usually like this,” she said, squeezing her hands in her lap. I wasn’t sure whether it was part of her act or whether she was trying not to kill me out in the open. I had to squeeze my own hands to stop them giving me away.
She couldn’t kill me out here.
I couldn’t kill her out here either.
Here, we were both trapped. Although, I had the upper hand. I knew she was going to try and kill me. I’d bet the last slice of Aunt Sylvie’s chocolate cake that she didn’t know what I was going to do.
What I was.
No one knew. Not even Erin.
Kayleigh made a little cough-sniff-gross noise as she tried to rid herself of the last of her tears. It took more effort than it should have not to smirk. She really didn’t know what to do with me.
Well, I had all day.
“You see, it’s my boyfriend.” She shook her head and looked away. “You don’t want to hear this.”
Touché. What human could resist that? Dangle juicy gossip in front of a human being and they can’t control themselves, even if they don’t know any of the people involved. What was that about? Something evolutionary for sure. It must be. Why else did we do it?
We. I wasn’t sure if I should group myself with the rest.
“What did he do?” I turned to look at her, and her eyes lit up. It wasn’t that I wanted to hear it. I could’ve done without it to be honest. But I wasn’t giving away my biggest secret that easily. Anything that could rat me out had to be avoided. Even if that meant having to sit and listen to a made-up tale of heartbreak. Anything to keep suspicion at bay. It might’ve been my own paranoia, I didn’t know. But I wasn’t about to risk it.
Her lip wobbled, and I wanted to tell her bravo. “I found him with…”
“Right. I see.”
“My best friend.”
Oh, nice. She saved an especially scandalous story for me. “I’m guessing they’re not your best friend any more.”
“Not after this.”
“I don’t blame you.”
Her eyes welled up with tears again. “I just can’t believe it. I thought he was the one, you know?”
“Yeah.” No. I didn’t have a damn clue. There was no ‘one’ for me, of that I was certain.
“I’m sorry,” she said again for some reason. “You’re only young. Don’t want you to lose hope in love.”
“No worries,” I repeated again, playing her at her own game. If only all the demons were this easy to play. I’d probably have a lot less going on.
“Don’t let anything like this happen to you, Iris. If you think something’s wrong, something is.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
“Don’t let love blind you.”
“Don’t plan to.”
She sighed. “Then you’re cleverer than me.”
No argument there.
There was another pause as she looked up at the sky, and I pushed some overgrown hair out of my eyes. Any minute now…
Looking at the sky, and assuming once we got back to her place I was going to be less than ten minutes, tops, I was going to be home in time for dinner. Sweet. Didn’t need Sylvie keeping that apple pie away from me as punishment again.
“I don’t know if I can face it.”
Bingo. “Face what?”
“Home. I told him to go. It’s going to be so empty.”
“You’re strong. You can handle it.”
I almost saw a flicker of fire in her eyes. I’d be annoyed too if I’d used one of my best stories and best techniques and couldn’t guarantee a meal.
“Tell you what,” I said, handing her a bone. “I better be off home.” I looked at my watch for effect. “But I can walk with you to your house if it’ll make you feel better?”
“Oh, oh, yes please.” Her eyes were too bright. For sure. “That would be so kind of you.”
She jabbered on a little as she escorted me to her front door. The house was average for this town, but pretty, and I wondered how she’d got her hands on it. Maybe she seduced a boyfriend, managed to weasel her name into the deed, and killed him. All that for a steady supply of life-force. Well, a demon’s gotta eat.
I walked her up the path and pretended to eye the tree in her front yard like I’d never seen it before. I stood on her porch as she unlocked the door and swung it open. She looked into the house, and then back at me.
“He’s gone. He’s actually gone.”
“Well, if you told him to go…”
“I didn’t think he’d actually leave.”
Yeah, well, imaginary boyfriends are like that.
She tucked some her behind her ear and toyed with the keys in her other hand. “Listen, would you come inside for a minute?”
“I dunno.” I bit my lip, the kick of adrenaline starting in my heart. Now we’re talking. “My aunt always told me to never talk to strangers, let alone follow them home.”
She chuckled. “I understand.” Then she did this adorable, puppy-like look. Her eyes got all big and her lip wobbled again and her face was getting paler, I swear. What the hell was she up to? “Though you know I wouldn’t hurt you, right?” There it was again, the break in her voice, the Oscar-worthy performance. I had to admit, she was good. No wonder she’d never had to give up on a victim yet.
“Don’t cry,” I said in my softest voice, which wasn’t very soft. “I didn’t mean to upset you.” Just kill you.
She wiped her eyes. “There I go again. I’m sorry. God. I’m so sorry. For all of this. I’m sorry.”
And then she went to walk back inside. Was that it?
Yep. She went to shut the door.
“Kayleigh, wait.” Damn it, I was doing exactly what she wanted to do. Crafty bitch.
She opened the door a little to show me those super-blue eyes.
“I’ll come in for a few minutes.”
I swear I saw her lips twitch. Careful, Kayleigh, don’t want to give me a sick smile there, that’d be inappropriate.
“Thank you.” She sniffed and opened the door wider, letting me in.
She escorted me into a living room and went to get me a drink or something, I dunno, I wasn’t listening to her words. Instead, I stroked the hilt of my knife.
Now for the fun part.
“Do you take sugar, Iris?”
“One please,” I called, though I wasn’t sure what I was drinking. It didn’t matter. I wouldn’t be drinking it.
Taking in my surroundings, I made a note of all my possible exits. The front door. The back door. A lovely-looking window seat I could hurl myself through if needs must. Though I didn’t need another scar to explain to Sylvie.
My fingers twitched, eager to whip out my knife, but not yet. Patience was the most difficult thing in the world to wrestle.
“Are you all right?” she asked as she entered the room with a tray and two cups of tea. Weird. Why not coffee? I thought Sylvie was the only one who offered tea round here.
“Yeah.” I shook the feeling off and plastered my sweetest smile onto my face. Great. Now I felt like her.
She placed the tray on the coffee table and took another pace towards me. “I want to thank you so much for your kindness today.”
Here we go. My heart was leaping against my ribcage like it wanted to jump right out and punch her. I had to swallow down some of my jitters and take a steadying breath.
She reached a hand out for me to take. I looked at it for a second, wondering whether it had some sort of sticking power or she just had a tremendous grip. Either way, I wasn’t taking it. That had been the mistakes of all the other suckers before me.
She cocked her head to the side and studied me, her eyebrows coming together.
Crap. I’d waited too long.
Quicker than a kid running for the ice cream truck, I whipped out my knife. A movement I’d done a thousand times over. One that filled me with this fizzy, I-could-bounce-off-walls, immortal feeling.
She shrieked and threw herself back into the coffee table, spilling tea everywhere. “You?” It was a sort of squawk of disbelief and rage. I didn’t know if she meant she’d heard about me or if she just didn’t believe a teenage girl would be carrying a knife, but I wasn’t going to keep her alive long enough to ask.
I pounced on her while she was toppling and went to slice my knife across her throat, but she kicked out with her legs, sending me sprawling into the wreckage of our tea party, the liquid doing nothing to my leather jacket but soaking into my T-shirt.
An all too familiar growling noise filled the air as she went to disconnect her jaw and swallow my life-force into it. I slashed out with my knife, trying not to growl myself. With a scream, I connected with flesh. As the second of chance passed, I jumped up, the demon clutching its leg, a dark-brown gunge seeping from the wound. Gross.
I leaped at her, throwing all my weight into the back of my knife, plunging it into her chest. Her cry pierced my ears, but I shivered when it turned to laughter. Freaky. I hated it when they did that.
She slashed at my collarbone, drawing blood under her nails. I twisted my knife in further as the weird demon gloop ran down my arm. She tried to reach me, huffing against the blade in her chest. She just didn’t know how to give up. It was like it was only a minor problem that she had a knife sticking out of her.
It took all my strength to haul it out. And before she could take a breath deep enough to swallow my life into, I pulled my knife through her neck, crying out with the effort. I wasn’t going to take her down twice.
With a twitch, she dropped to the ground, her body spraying black demon sludge all down me.
I stood for a minute, panting, trying to compose myself.
“That’s the last time I wear my favourite T-shirt hunting.” I pulled it away from my body and winced.
Taking a look in the mirror, the scratches weren’t too bad, nothing I could hide from Sylvie though. Not that it mattered much. My cover was already blown, what with the black goo coating everything I owned. I flicked it off my knife and wiped it on the cloth in my pocket before returning it to my jacket.
So I guess my doing a science project with Erin cover was blown. Yep. I was dead.