All the Devil's Greed

“By trying to convince himself I was a devil by nature, my father made me a devil by nurture.”

Mary-Ann Lansfield’s outbursts cause strange happenings in their house, prayers and church visits seem to stir unbearable pain inside her, and her hunger is so insatiable she’s forced to raid the pantry every night just to keep it at bay. It’s no wonder, really, that everyone believes she’s possessed by the Devil.

The more she’s hurt and berated by those around her, the wickeder Mary-Ann feels, and the more she longs for the freedom she’s been denied all her life- the freedom to live however, love whoever, and eat whatever she chooses. Even after everything she’s been told about the evil in the world, what she really wants is to become every inch the monster she’s feared to be.

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Author's note

Hello! I'd just like to stress that this book contains a lot of blood, guts, violence, abuse, and religious themes. My protagonist is extremely morally skewed and her opinions are most definitely not my own. I never killed anyone, honest! Never!
AA

17. Power

Everyone is asleep, but I can’t help but wonder whether the enormous pile of my clothes goes unnoticed, falling from my window and onto the lawn with a FWUMPH sound. I climb up to stand on the windowsill, head tilted up, hair tugged outside by the wind. Then, I pick up my skirts and hurl myself after it. I land on my back with a heavy THUMP that would have yanked the wind from me, had I had any. I sit up, glancing wildly to my right, and see the glassless dining-room window for the first time. It’s boarded up. A shiver runs through me as I remember the night I abandoned this house for the first time. Blood all over my face. Hysteria in my eyes and murder on my mind. Now, I’m properly dressed and scrubbed clean, and there’s no rain in the sky- only a thin dusting of icy fog- but the thoughts in my head remain the same.

The contents of my corset dig painfully into my ribs as I get to my feet, and spend a few seconds adjusting myself before I take off for the forest. Hope to God nobody saw me.

I can’t run as fast as I could barefoot in my thin nightgown, but I’m more than grateful for the extra layers. I’m still bloody freezing, and some semblance of a barrier between my skin and Geoffrey’s hideous hands won’t hurt either. Geoffrey didn’t tell me where he and his men would be when I returned; he simply told me that they would be ‘easy to find’. He underestimates my terrible navigation skills, the cryptic moron. Even though I’m not out of breath, and never will be again, I slow my run to a walk once I’m in the shade of the trees and clutch at my ribs. The slight lump under my corset fills me with comfort. Soon… God, soon I’ll be a vampire. Soon I’ll be the most powerful woman in England. Soon, I’ll yank that stupid thing out of my corset and give it to him, and he’ll be forced to let me drink his blood. I don’t want to think about what he might do to me in the meantime, but whatever it is, I will take it. It’s all in the name of power.

I walk in as straight a line as I can once I’m in the forest, cursing him under my breath. Where the hell is he? He wouldn’t be so bold as to camp close to my house, so what the hell could he have meant when he told me he would be easy to find? I keep walking, glancing up on occasion as the sky starts to redden and then darken. The air smells of must and mould. I have to admit, it’s interesting to never grow short of breath, nor to feel my heartbeat growing harder, nor to be forced to swallow this muddy air, but I’m colder than ever and getting angrier by the minute. I want it. I want it now. Where the hell is he?

After just a few minutes, I grow hot with panic, suddenly afraid he’s abandoned me. Perhaps I took too long, and he panicked and took his peanut gallery to some other town before the police caught up, leaving me to starve to death as a half-breed. I detest this dependency I have on him- detest the way he’s forced me to find him again. I know what he’s doing. He’s trying to build up my desperation, so that when I find him I’ll want to cling to him, to do whatever he wants.

It may be working. I’m already longing for his voice. Maybe it’s only a matter of time before I start to long for his arms, his mouth.

I stop in the middle of a clearing, deciding I must have taken a wrong turn or misunderstood his instruction. Premature panicked sobs start to leak from my throat as I look wildly around me. What if he was tricking me? He just left me? No- he wouldn’t. He wants the money too much. And me. He does want me. He does. He does.

“Where the hell are you, you bastards?” I whimper to myself, the hunger weakening my voice.

I pick a random direction, turn, and start to hurry faster, but I stop again after only ten feet. Leaves crunch behind me. And then, suddenly, a hand lands on my shoulder.

I yelp- for some reason, my father flashes through my head- before I spin, arms raised, and see Geoffrey.

He smiles at me, and I realise I nearly hugged him.

“Where were you?” I sob angrily. His other hand finds my other shoulder, but I manage to twist away from him. “Where is everybody?”

“It’s alright. It’s alright, Mary-Ann. Calm yourself.” He chuckles. I want to strangle him. “We’re right on the edge. Or, at least, we were.”

I sigh. “Were?”

“I had to follow you, before you got lost again.”

“Why didn’t you announce yourself, you bastard?”

His grip on my shoulders tightens, making me gasp and then choke as he squeezes into the soft parts of my joints. “Don’t you dare use words like that against me. You should be grateful I waited around for you, woman.”

I glare at him, but I am still too afraid to answer back. I feel the jab inside my corset. Give it to him now. But I want to wait until he’s given me what I asked for.

“It is you who should be grateful to me.” I say.

His eyes darken. “You’ve got the money?”

He still doesn’t let go of me. If anything, his grip tightens.

“Yes, of course.” I say.

“Was it hard to steal?”

“No. I waited till he was in bed, then swiped it from his study.”

“Good girl.” The phrase twists my gut. “How much?”

I look up at him. “What?”

“How much?”

“The five thousand you wanted.” I say, honestly. Then, I flash him a wry grin. “Plus a bit extra.”

His grin widens, and his eyes glitter. “How much?”

“God, you’re greedy. There’s a bit over eleven thousand in the envelope.”

“Give it to me.”

I stare up at him. Then, we’re interrupted by a shout of: “There you are!”

I look over Geoffrey’s shoulder and see the other five men walking towards us, Richard and Zagan at the front, the other three skulking behind. David appears to have lost his cloak. Before Geoffrey lets go of me and turns to face them, I see a flash of frustration in his face. He was hoping to have me to himself for a while. Well, he wouldn’t have gotten anything before turning me. Nothing. I want this pain inside me to end, now. I’m hungry.

“Hello.” I say to the rest of the group. I feel so much stronger facing them now I’m properly dressed.

“You got the money?” Zagan asks. I raise my eyebrow.

“That’s rude.” I say. “Are none of you happy to see me?”

“We just want to make sure you’ve got it.”

“We’re relieved, admittedly.” Richard says. “We were starting to think you wouldn’t come back.”

I laugh. “You were? You know my father the best of all.”

“Was it hard?”

I know he means to get the money, but the poisoning comes back into my head. I can still taste it, slathered over the hot crawling in my gums. I remember my mother, too.

“Yes. Excruciating.” I lie.

I turn back to Geoffrey, trying to hold back the excitement in my voice.

“Come on, then, Geoffrey. Time to pay up.”

He bites his lip. “All in good time.”

“No.” I say viciously. “Now.”

“You’ll not order me about.”

“I’ll do what I want; I made you a deal.” I say. “Give me what I want. Now.”

“First, give me the money.”

“No. First, you turn me. Do it. Or I’ll take it myself.”

The rest of the group are staring at us. Richard and David are muttering.

“You wouldn’t dare.” Geoffrey says.

I stop. I wonder if he’s right. Then, I grit my teeth, desperate to uphold my strength even though I’m getting weaker and weaker with every passing second.

“You have no idea what I would and wouldn’t dare.” I say. Then, my hand lands on his shoulder; he slaps me away, viciously.

“You’re an impatient woman,” he says, the anger in his voice making me stop. One wrong move and he kills me. That’s something I keep managing to forget.

“And you’re an impatient man.” I say softly. “Why must you have the money now, this instant? It’s almost as if you were planning to, perhaps… double-cross me.”

He frowns. The group mutters louder.

“I would never.” He says.

“That didn’t sound convincing,” I say, biting back the urge to grab his throat and take what’s mine. “Say it better.”

“Not here.” He says, taking me by the arm. “Come with me.”

The group follows us like a pack of lost puppies.

“Where are we going?” I ask.

He says: “Deeper.”  His voice sounds calmer now.

“And then you’ll turn me?”

“God, woman! Yes.”

“Good. And then I’ll give you the money.”

It digs into my ribs. The sharp nudging turns into a deep ache. I want to get it out now, but I must wait.

“Good.” Geoffrey says.

“Where are we going, Geoffrey?” Richard pipes up from behind us. I look up at him in surprise as his expression turns frustrated.

“We’re going deeper into the woods, for God’s sake!” He yells. I can tell he’s angry they’re following him. Bet he’s regretting turning them. Wants nothing more than to jam me up against another tree. I can feel his want, crackling the air.

“Why?” Richard says. I close my eyes. Geoffrey doesn’t reply, though. He just grips me tighter and keeps walking.

“You’re hurting me.” I inform him. I don’t just mean the way he’s gripping my wrist. I mean the way the hunger inside me is rapidly worsening, knotting my organs. I want to scream and weep and kill, it hurts so badly. But I must wait.

Again, Geoffrey doesn’t reply.

After ten minutes or so of walking, we stop. “This’ll do.” Geoffrey says.

I look around. We’re not even in a clearing. The trees here are thicker in girth and speckled with decay- some are dead, lying splayed on the ground, broken in half, or uprooted and leaning heavily on others. The earth below us is wet and dotted with earthworms and mildew. It seems, to me, a completely random spot.

“It’s wet here.” David moans.

“Yeah.” Says blonde Adam. “And cold.”

“Shut up or I’ll shut you up myself.” Geoffrey says. I grin up at him, amused by how little control he really has over his posse.

They stand there for several seconds, unsure of what to do. Eventually, I can stand it no longer.

“What the hell is it you actually do with yourselves?” I ask.

“Shut up.” Geoffrey says.

I burst out laughing, even though it hurts my stomach desperately. Geoffrey tightens his grip on me.

“Shut up!” He growls.

I do.

We stand in silence for a couple more seconds.

“So you’re going to turn me now?” I say, trying to resist the urge to grab my stomach and hold back the vicious anger in my voice

“Shut up.” Geoffrey says, wringing his hands.

Finally, there’s a scarlet explosion in me and I twist my wrist away from his, breaking our hold and turning to glare at him. “I DEMAND you uphold your end of the bargain!” I yell. “I went through HELL for you, Geoffrey! Absolute BLOODY hell! You know my father just tried-”

I yelp as his hand flashes up and knots into my hair, yanking my head sideways. Then, he jerks his arm forwards and slams me back against one of the trees, jamming me in place with his elbow on my chest. Dizzy sickness pulses through me and I have to force myself to choke back vomit.

“My father…” I say weakly, trying to get him away from me and failing. I’m even weaker now than I was this morning. “Tried…”

“I don’t care.” Geoffrey drools into my cheek. “I own you now, Mary-Ann. I own you. You belong to me. You will do as I order you and you will only speak when you are spoken to.”

I raise my head, my mouth trembling as cold doubt settles into my bones.

“I am never s- spoken to.” I say. “Never.”

“Then you will never speak.”

“We had a deal, Geoffrey.” I croak as the pain worsens. “We had a fucking deal.

His other hand finds my hip, and his fingers dig in hard enough to make me gasp. The anger in me’s so thick and hot it stoppers my thoughts, my words. “Stop.” I say weakly. “Please. We had a deal. There’s no reason to be like this.”

“I have every reason to be like this.” He says. “You are disobedient. Why the hell should I believe you’ve really got that money at all? Why the hell should I believe, with all this talk of double-cross, that you’re not intending to double-cross me?”

“Why would I come… back-” I whimper as he squeezes tighter with both his hands. “If I didn’t- have- the money?”

Geoffrey pauses, looking away from me and casting his eyes down.

“Show it to us, Mary-Ann.” Zagan says. I glare at him, but more voices begin.

“Yeah. Show Geoffrey the money, Mary-Ann.” David adds. “Show it to him, or he’s right; you are a liar.”

I spit, but Geoffrey hurts me more; he twists both his wrists till I’m sure my hair’s about to tear out. I moan with pain again. “I’m- not- a liar- Ah!” I sob. “Please stop. Please, please, please stop.”

“Show me the money.” He growls in my face.

“Show him.”

“Show him, Mary-Ann!”

“Give it to us, you lying thief!”

“Geoffrey. Kill her and take it.”

I widen my eyes, unsure who just spoke. I think it was brunette Adam. Then, to my horror, more voices begin to join in.

“Yeah, Geoffrey! Kill her. It’s on her somewhere.”

“We can find it. We don’t need her to give it to us.”

Frantic, I start to try to twist out of Geoffrey’s arms, but twisting only makes it hurt more. “We had a DEAL!” I scream over the voices. “We had a DEAL- how dare you?”

“Kill her, Geoffrey.”

“Why keep the deal? Kill her and take the money.”

“Shut UP, all of you!” Geoffrey bellows. They all shut up, but they don’t look happy about it. I glare at them.

“Geoffrey-”

“One more word out of your mouth, Richard, and I’ll kill the lot of you.” Geoffrey says. He turns back to me.

“They want me to kill you right here and now, Mary-Ann.” He drawls. “Then, it wouldn’t matter whether you were lying or not, would it?”

I choke: “Let go of me.” My voice is so mad with fury it’s barely comprehensible. “Let go of me.”

“No.” He twists his hands harder. I press my mouth and strain my neck upwards to keep my moans contained. “Do you remember when we first found each other, Mary-Ann? Once again, I’m the only thing standing between you and them. I’m the only thing keeping you alive. Would you care to keep it that way?”

Slowly, trying not to strain his grip on my hair anymore, I nod.

“Good girl.”

Then, he drops me. I sob with pain, not daring to touch my hip or my temple. Anger burns me from the inside out. Is he going to turn me? Maybe not. Then why hasn’t he killed me? I think I know why. And it’s not the money.

I take a deep breath. Then, I start to reach for the lacing on my dress, unravelling it as best I can with my shaking fingers. What’s inside still gouges at my ribs, but I’ll get it out soon.

I look up, and see Geoffrey watching me. I see the hunger in his eyes. It’s despicable, but euphoric. It lets me know I still have a tiny shred of control.

Our eyes meet, and I say:

“Use me as you will. And I will decide after that whether I would rather live or die.”

“Geoffrey, kill her.”

“She’s not worth it.”

“Just kill her and take the money.”

I spit at them. Geoffrey turns to them and bellows: “I’M in charge here!”

I finish unlacing my dress, baring my white corset. This is the last chance I have. The last. I close my eyes and try to calm myself.

When Geoffrey’s mouth finds mine, though, I’m still not ready. Not ready at all. And not ready, either, for the unbearable strength with which he grips my hips, exacerbating the ache. I force myself to at least try to kiss him back, as I did before. I let him open my mouth, let him curl his tongue in. He’s not sloppy- he’s strong and he knows what he’s doing- but I still feel sick to my core. Perhaps it’s because of the way the others are watching us. I had desperately, desperately hoped this move would get the rest of the men away from us, but I feel their eyes on me, on my body, on us. Geoffrey encircles my waist and presses me so hard against the tree stars explode in my vision. Then, his mouth’s on my throat and his hands are on my shoulders, pushing my sleeves down and the bodice of my dress with them. A pulse of panic runs through me.

“Take this off.” He says, yanking at the dress. If he rips it he’s dead. Oh, who am I kidding?

I crane my head away from him, and say: “Give me what I want first.”

He slams my bare shoulders against the tree-trunk with his hands. “I’ll not be manipulated by you.”

“You already have,” I mutter through the pain. He growls.

I jerk my head up at the other men. “Get rid of them. I want them gone. Now.”

“They’ll stay if I tell them to.”

“They want me dead. I want them gone.”

“They’ll stay.”

“Then you’ll get nothing.” I hiss at him. “Nothing.”

“I already have…” He says, running his ugly eyes over me. “everything I want.”

My blood chills. Once again, he’s right. He’ll soon have the money, and not only does he have me- he doesn’t need my permission to use me. He’s too strong for me to hold off.

“You’re weak.” I say to him, my head racing as I try desperately to think of an excuse. “If you can’t even shut up your peanut gallery when you want them quiet.”

There’s a long pause. Then, Geoffrey turns to the other men.

“Geoffrey, she’s messing with you.” Richard says, making me growl.

“How the hell is she messing with me?”

“She’s trying to get rid of us so she can get to you.”

“How the hell would I get to him?” I say, resisting the urge to pull my dress back up. “Look at me, for God’s sake!”

“Geoffrey, she-”

“I’m getting rid of you to protect myself!” I say. “Nothing more.”

“All of you, get out.” Geoffrey says, jerking his head at them. “Now. Leave us.”

“But-”

“Get OUT!” he yells.

When they all turn their backs and walk away, muttering, I can’t hold back the smile any more. It’s working.

Once the shadows have gulped them down, the quiet, cold emptiness around me seems to close in and suffocate me.

Geoffrey turns back to me.

“That was very stupid of you, Mary-Ann.” He says, and then, he starts to kiss me again. This time, he clamps one hand onto my breast and hooks the other into the fabric at my waist, yanking viciously. I reach behind my back, my hand worming up inside my corset, and scrabble till I’ve found what I’m looking for. I can’t reach it- he’s too close. I’m trapped.

I put my hand on his chest and try to push him away. “Stop for a second.” I say. “Please. Just a-” He doesn’t stop. “Geoffrey, please. Just give me a second.”

“You presumed to question my strength as a leader,” he snarls. “And a strong leader takes whatever he wants.” He presses his hands down hard, ripping my skirt, and I gasp. Then, my hand finally closes around the handle of the knife. I yank it out from behind my back, lift it between us, and force it up against his throat.

“Does… that make me your leader?” I ask him shakily.

He stops.

I smile slightly. The knife dug into my ribs, but God, am I glad I brought it. It wasn’t even hard to steal.

“What the… What the hell are you… doing?” Geoffrey says softly. He slowly moves back from the tree, letting me stand a little straighter. He doesn’t move his hands from under my skirt. He looks down at my hand as best he can, his head pulled far back into his neck, giving him a double chin. “M- Mary-Ann-”

Get your hands off me.”

He does.

“Now turn around.”

He stares at me. “What… you- you-”

“Yes. Back up against the tree. Now.”

He does as he’s told, and we turn, switching places. As I look up at him, feeling the dull crawling craving in my gums, I see his mind working frantically behind his eyes.

“You won’t use that knife.” He says. He sounds doubtful.

“Geoffrey, that’s the stupidest lie you’ve ever tried on me.”

He says nothing.

“Before you go saying anything, you should know it’s made of silver.” I growl. I press it in harder. He moans. “You should’ve lectured your lackeys harder on secrecy. They told me everything I needed to know when I was tied up. And I won’t hesitate to cut your throat if you so much as whimper for their help.”

“What do you want, Mary-Ann?” He says.

I step closer to him. Somehow, when it’s this way around, my body against his feels good. I crane my head up, pressing myself as close to him as I can.

“You know what I want.”

He widens his eyes, seeing me rolling my gaze over to his throat. I press the knife in harder, forcing him to look up. Then, he starts to talk again.

“Mary-Ann, being a vampire… You don’t… You don’t want it.”

“No. That’s the stupidest lie you’ve ever tried on me.”

“No, Mary-Ann. You don’t understand. You don’t understand. It- it- it’s not the way you think it is.”

“Shut up, Geoffrey.”

“Please!” He sobs with pain. “Please. Please. You have to listen to me. I swore when it started taking over me that I’d never do it to another soul; not another soul.”

“Not another soul?” I snarl, pressing the knife in harder. “Geoffrey, you killed those five men barely a month ago.”

“No, no… I- I didn’t.”

I stare at him. “Yes, you did.”

“No, I didn’t. They’re… they’re not vampires, Mary-Ann.”

“What are they, then?” I suddenly feel just a little uneasy. “They’re…”

“Day- daywalkers…” He says. “Like… like you.”

“What?”

“They’re daywalkers, Mary-Ann. They don’t drink blood.”

I lick my lips, utterly confused, but try to keep my focus. Those other men are daywalkers? “You expect me to believe that, you ridiculous fool? Whatever you’re trying to do, it won’t save you. Daywalkers? How the hell could they be daywalkers? They’d die.”

“After a few… a few weeks, yes. They… they will.”

“You turned them to die? Why?”

“Because… because…” He trails off, perhaps regretting blurting this all out. I try to decide whether I believe him, and whether I care. Richard and the others are dying? Was Geoffrey stringing them along, as he was me, promising he’d turn them only to keep putting it off and putting it off? “Because I needed… the… blood.”

I frown in shock. “You needed the blood?”

“Yes. I- I- I made them daywalkers. Drank them almost dry. The blood, you see… it comes back into their bodies, when they’re not turned fully. After a few days, their bodies… make more of it.”

“And you needed it?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because without blood for a few days, Mary-Ann, I lose my mind; that’s what I’ve been telling you! I’m an… an… addict! They’re all better off daywalkers than as monsters like me.”

“They’re in AGONY, you sick bastard!”

“I don’t care. I had to take their lives from them, but I won’t let them do it.”

“Do what?” I snarl. I want to shut him up, but there’s a conviction in his voice that holds me still.

“Do it. You know what. Drink… drink blood. I won’t let you do it. I won’t let you destroy yourself- not like that. Just take the starvation. Just die. Please. Please. You’ll wish you had once you’ve had your first taste.”

“Don’t be an idiot.” I say, starting for his neck.

“No, no, no! It’s not a need- it’s an addiction, Mary-Ann! It takes you over! It may feel great at first but it’ll take hold of you and it’ll destroy you; it’ll make you its victim. Please. Please don’t do this. I know you’re incapable of managing that power. Please; you have to listen; it’ll destroy you! You won’t be able to control yourself!”

I press the knife in harder, making him gasp, and hiss: “Exactly.”

“Please. You’re killing yourself doing this. You’re dooming yourself. You have to listen to me- Ah!”

“You’re lying, Geoffrey. I know you’re lying.” I hiss. “So shut up.”

I stop, knowing now’s the right time to stop monologuing and start drinking. Before the others- those poor daywalkers- come back and find us like this. Imagine their faces. I look away from Geoffrey and try to tune into the hateful hunger in my body, to intensify the pressure in my gums, to get my fangs out, if I have any. If not, I’ll have to go without. Then, as I press my tongue into the roof of my mouth, I feel the crawling growing harder. Two of my teeth begin to smart and as they do, I think of blood.

“It takes time, you stupid girl.” Geoffrey says. “To get used to everything. To conjure up the necessary sadism. You won’t be able to do it; you need my help.”

I ignore his words, letting his whining fill me up with more anger. Then, in a sudden blinding burst of pain and a flood of the taste of metal, two of my teeth come loose. I stand still for a second, and then spit the teeth and the blood out onto the ground. Geoffrey’s words die in his mouth as I absently run my tongue over my new fangs. They feel crooked. Hard. Sharp. Thoroughly and irrevocably mine.

Better than I’d imagined.

I look up at him. All he says is, “Oh.”

“If you so much as blink,” I say, “This knife goes all the way in.”

Then, I feel him shudder as I grab his waist, just as he did me.

“Bend down.” I say. “Towards me.”

He does. I keep the knife on his throat. Then, I lean forwards and bite down on his neck without a second thought. He groans gutturally with pain, and something in the groan lights a fire inside me. I don’t know why it felt so easy. It’s somehow natural to me, like I’ve done it before. The blood that floods into my mouth tastes like dishwater. I keep drinking. As I do, and as he continues to make his noises of protest or pain or panic, I become aware of a seed of warmth growing deep in my stomach. Then, slowly, deliciously, the pain inside me starts to dissolve. I try not to sigh in relief. The drinking gets easier, and as it does, I tune back into the world around me. To Geoffrey’s whines. He’s batting at my back, saying: “That’s enough. That’s enough. That’s enough.” But I don’t stop; I keep going, beginning to enjoy the taste more and more.

I wonder what would happen if I kept drinking. Never stopped. Would he die? Wither? Shrivel up like a leaf under me? Could I sap his life like a parasite, grow stronger as he grows weaker?

Fire seems to flood through my veins, warm and thick and fizzing, and my desire for more suddenly forces me harder against him. I’m now completely devoid of pain or illness.

“That’s enough.” He says, but it’s not. I’ve never felt this way before. So calm, and yet so energised. So empty, and yet so full. It’s gorgeous. But I want more from it. More, more, more. I keep drinking, waiting for the low tightness in my gut to release, but it soon stops building. The heat refuses to grow beyond pleasant warmth; the light refuses to grow brighter than soft gold. I continue drinking, but soon realise there’s no more sensation to come.

I break away from him, disappointed. Blood runs down my chin. I wipe it as best I can.

The knife is looser on his throat now, not even touching his skin, but he’s staring down at me with fear scribbled all over his face. I know why, and the realisation makes me smile blissfully wide as I lick my teeth.

He cannot hurt me now. Cannot kill me. Unless he somehow manages to swipe that knife, I… am unkillable.

“You… you…” He says.

“Yes.” I say. My voice sounds dreamy.

“You… have what you want now.”

“Yes.”

“Everything you want. Everything, Mary-Ann. You’re one of us now.”

“One of us?” I say. “There’s no us. There’s only you and your mindless victims.”

“I’ll turn them fully now- I- I swear. I swear I will. Please… please… remove the knife from my throat.”

I believe him. Planting one hand on his stomach to keep him in place, to make sure he doesn’t try to lunge or get away, I lower the knife, dropping my arm slowly back to my side. This power feels gorgeous. Nothing like I thought it would, but somehow better. I feel unbreakable, and that’s because God, after all this time, I finally am.

Nobody can hurt me.

Nobody.

And those who dared in the past will pay with everything they have.

Geoffrey and I stare at each other. I grin slightly, resisting the urge to lick my lips again. He’s still afraid, but clearly relieved that I’m not going to kill him.

“I’m sorry.” He says. “For the way I treated you. It… it was terribly wrong. I’ll… I’ll change.”

I smile at him. He’s only sorry because I’m now his equal, because I’m a threat, because he knows he may now pay for his actions.

“People like you never change.” I say. I turn the knife over in my hand and stab him in the chest with all my strength, locking my jaw and narrowing my eyes with satisfaction as he stiffens. He arches his back against the tree trunk, clutching his arms up to his chest, and screams loud enough to sling birds from the canopy above us. Then, before I’ve even pulled the knife out, he dies. Just like that. Like a candle snuffed out. His weight drags me sideways.

“I am not one of you.” I hiss as I bend to lower him to the ground, my voice creaking with the effort. “I am not your woman.” I straighten up, immediately busying myself with yanking my dress back up. I’m covered in blood, from my hands to my face to my neck to the front of my corset. “I belong to nobody.”

I’m forced to give up on tying my laces, because they take too long, and within a minute, I’m under siege by running footsteps and shouts of Geoffrey’s name. Drawn by his scream, no doubt.

I sigh, wiping my hand on my dress.

The five men gasp as they come into the clearing. What were they expecting to come upon, I wonder? Certainly not this. As I see their faces, the way they’re looking at me, with the fear I’ve desired and deserved all my life, I can’t resist chuckling. I adore the way it feels in my mouth, now, my new mouth, my new body. I have been infected with new strength, terrifying, dark, but under my control. I raise an eyebrow, holding up the bloody silver knife for them all to see.

I suppose I could keep them alive.

I suppose I could turn them.

But why?

“So what’ll it be?” I say, walking towards them. “Run from a woman, or get killed by a woman?”

As the fear seizes hold of their bodies, the crazed laughter seizes hold of mine.

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