"Shh… Listen. Do you hear that?" I whispered. "That's the sound of your own pulse pounding in your ears. A muffled, destitute lub-dub, lub-dub. Music, really—can you taste it?"

He worked his jaw, struggling to swallow past the blood seeping from his mouth.

"Sweet, sweet copper pennies, trickling across your tongue, smearing those quivering lips a real, true, lovely ruby," I trailed my fingertips across his lip, bringing them up to my own with a delighted muse; he tasted like fear. They always do. It was a genuine, raw expression of it, stemming from absolute shock. I can't say I blamed them, really. You follow a woman home, thinking you've got it made. Then she peels back that attractive ruse, revealing a wolfish leer right before this happens… I smiled, singing in the low, rapturous tone that lured him here. "Hey pretty, don't you wanna take a ride with me? Feel my world…"

Hands twitched in their bindings, desperately grasping at air. Feet strained and kicked to no avail. A bare, tone, handsome torso convulsed on the bed, writhing in exemplary agony that excited every predatory fiber of my being. His jeans were unbuttoned but intact, seemingly the only unblemished thing left. His mouth opened again, letting a wracking hack escape.

"…What's that?" I leaned closer with an inquisitive gesture, peering with facetious concern. "Those are the boney fingers of panic clutching at your throat, I'm afraid. You want to be screaming, I know. Be patient, they will come."

"Please," a croak, no louder than whispered sweet words in a lover's ear. "Please…don't…"

I straddled him with an unhurried sweep of my leg, leaning, moaning softly when his hot, viscous blood pressed against my skin, slick and sinfully enjoyable. His eyes were impossibly wide, unspeakably blue, and inches from my own. Eyes are the window to the soul; I liked what I saw in the window, craved to make it my own. My hand snaked its way between us, finding the gaping cavern in his chest that bubbled with each labored breath he took. Oh, the feel of his heart in my hand… I trailed my tongue along his jaw, tasting the salty sweet tang of his terror, murmuring darkly in his ear. "Shh… they will come, precious."

And they did; a high, piteous keening erupted from him in frantic pants, like a crying lamb in the dark. A glorious crescendo of sacrificial glee, those last screams gave me butterflies. I smiled against his cheek, listened to bones crack, tendons snap, and blood swirl. He jerked and cried out, wailing useless, incoherent things. They always do. Begging, hoping, praying someone would hear his screams; come to his aid in the nick of time, save his wretched little life. They always do… I tightened my grip on that trembling, thundering, beating heart, squeezing until wet warmth oozed between my fingers. It was another few chaotic, shuddering seconds before his body stilled beneath me with a final gurgled breath. I watched the life flicker like a flame and then fade from those fetching cobalt eyes.

It was a warm, airy silence that followed. I rolled off of him, stretching languidly on those crimson splashed sheets with a sated sigh. I made a low, satisfied sound, trailing my fingers along the gush of vermillion dripping down his side, thinking this moment unequivocally serene. My silent St. Louis night. It smelled like home. Every sense was heightened; I was aware of the soft chirping of tree frogs outside, the quiet babbling of water meandering down the brook. Honeysuckle, lavender, wisteria, and wet earth mixed with the heady aroma of a so recent kill. A mid-Summer's night wet dream… The dark desires were placated, pleased with their gift; some waiver of sanity shifted back into place, leaving me relaxed, content and tremendously hungry. I glanced back at those vacant, skyward staring eyes, wondering if he would have taken me out to dinner if I hadn't been in such a rush. What was his name? It began with a D, I was almost certain. …Or was it a J?

The sound of the front door slamming shut permeated my post orgasmic bliss. Familiar footsteps neared. I sat up on my elbows, peering over my dearly departed friend just as the lights switched on. Ah, crap.

"Jesus fucking Christ." Gorgeous fuchsia eyes took in the scene before her with a broad sweeping motion, lingering on me with a touch of disbelief. "We talked about this," she gestured unnecessarily as she walked into the room, heels clacking loudly on the hardwood.

After indulging one of my needs, another more enjoyable one was always awakened; particularly when I saw her. I took this time to let my eyes wander, admiring the view. That short pink hair never failed to appease me, especially when she let it go a bit wild and messy. She was absolutely stunning, really, no matter what she wore. Tonight's outfit was a ten as always; tight jeans, sexy tank top, pointless but arousing scarf draped around her neck… mmm.

She dropped a plastic bag on the dresser, crossed her arms and leaned against the only other furniture in the room; brows set in an almost disappointed manner informed that she was slightly perturbed. "You promised you'd stop bringing things home with you."

"I didn't promise," I interjected fairly, slowly getting to my feet with another stretch. "I recall saying that I would try."

"Well I'm going to need you to try a little harder," she muttered, inspecting the lifeless heap strung up across the bed. "You know I hate surprises. Don't make me make you promise. And get rid of that."

The blood was starting to dry on my flesh, threatening to itch. I peeled off the ruined bra and panties I was wearing, tossing them carelessly across the dead man, along with his shirt. I was quite pleased with myself for not making a bigger mess. Everything stayed on the bed this time. Easy to clean up. With a simple thought and wave of my hand, all evidence of my evening's conquest vanished with a ripple of smoke, sent to that far off place of oblivion. Out of sight, out of mind. I glanced at the empty space, motioning mildly. "Why do we have a guest bedroom if I can't bring over guests," I pouted, cocking my hips coyly.

"Toys are not guests," she commented distractedly, tilting her head faintly as her eyes ran over my gore-spattered nakedness in her own appreciative stare. "I hope that set wasn't one of my favorites. It's hard to tell with all the artwork you smear around…"

"Of course not," I scoffed. "You, my love, aren't a toy. You get all the exquisite things I can offer." I brushed a strand of hair out of my eyes and glided towards the door. "You wouldn't believe how incredibly horny, tasteless and uncouth this one was, though. I'm convinced he would have followed me home even if I was wearing a moo-moo. I did the world and gene pool a favor—" Her hand snatched my one clean wrist as I passed, tugging me closer without touching. Blood didn't bother her; she just didn't like the idea of some stranger's blood on her. We all have our peculiar tastes, I suppose.

"I want a kiss before you shower," she murmured, eyeing my lips in contemplation. I could see the questions warring in her eyes, feel her thoughts bicker back and forth as she wondered exactly what I had done with him while knowing it was nothing she didn't approve of. It was only a moment's hesitation, but long enough to let me know she wasn't falling into the lull of complacency. She lived with a monster; she didn't serve one, or let one take advantage of her. It only made her all the more appealing to me. Someone that could keep me on my toes. How exciting.

"Absolutely," I smiled softly, brushing my lips lightly against hers. She slipped one hand around my neck, returning the gesture with a slow, sensual, horribly arousing kiss. Our tongues writhed, curved, swayed in an evocative velvet dance, filling my chest with an intensely warm longing for her. A dark voice lurking in the depths of my mind surfaced, demanded her touch immediately; I shuddered, refusing it. I resisted touching her with begrudged restraint, clenching my fists hard enough to dig my nails into my palms. She was testing me. She enjoyed it, actually. I was too stubborn to give her reason to doubt me, so I suppose in a backwards sort of way I was letting her win. Regardless, I was struggling.

Sensing my turmoil, she pulled away slowly; eyes half-lidded and dark studied me in the closeness before letting me go. "Make it a quick one?"

I smirked faintly, reaching around her, trying to peer into the bag on the dresser. She slapped my hand away, snatching the bag before I could get a glimpse inside. "It's a surprise," she growled, holding one hand out between us in a stay back gesture while the other kept the bag hidden behind her back.

I gave her a mocking look as I backed out of the room. "You know I hate surprises," I lilted, hitting her voice and accent almost perfectly.

"Get out," she took a few menacing steps towards me, "go take a shower, you stink."

I made an affronted face, glancing down at myself. Sure, I was covered in blood. I didn't tell her the smell of her oil paints was just as horrid to me. See, I can be reasonable. "Well we can't have that, can we," I mused, disappearing down the hall before she threw something at me.

As I stood in the shower, letting the torrent of hot water sluice away someone else's blood, sweat and tears, I curiously berated myself for not simply reading her mind to see what was in the bag. It just didn't occur to me in the moment. Why was that, exactly?

"You're ruining me," I murmured, standing in the doorway to the kitchen in nothing but a bathrobe. She had changed into her black silk robe that clung to her in all the right places. It was all I could do to keep from tackling her to the floor and having my way with her.

She glanced up, chef knife in hand. "What are you talking about?" she sent me a skeptic look and returned to her slicing.

I peered at the offending plastic bag sitting empty on the counter, scanning the room. Even now, I realized, I wasn't probing her thoughts to find the answer. I could easily overpower her. I could kill her with a fleeting thought... But I never ever would. I've never pined after someone before; or missed them; or wanted their company indefinitely. That is, until I met her. I've done terrible, atrocious things. I consume fear, pain, and death like they're a fine wine. I've ripped souls to pieces. I've lived through hell. But the only thing that has ever kept me up at night, plagued my thoughts, haunted my dreams… was Jinx.

With a few slow steps I was right behind her, pressed against her back, feeling our curves mesh together like two things meant to be. "You make me play fair," I grazed my teeth along her neck, inhaling her familiar scent, letting my hands ghost up her arms with the lightest of touches.

"It doesn't take much effort on my part," she mused, peering at me out of the corner of her eye. "You behave all on your own, which amuses the hell out of me." Long, pale fingers picked up a piece of strawberry, succulently pulling it between her lips with a flash of tongue. I felt that gesture in a low, warm place. "Except of course the occasional slip-up," she turned in my arms to face me with a lopsided smile, lacing her fingers around the back of my neck. "Someone that won't be missed, right?"

"I found him in Miami," I said distractedly, running my fingertips and lips across her skin. "That's what happens when you leave me for work. I have to entertain myself."

"Honestly, Raven, I was gone for three days," she smiled good-naturedly, brushing her lips across mine. "I thought someone of your caliber would have a little more self-restraint."

I feigned an offended expression, trying to bite her on the neck. She laughed, shying away, one hand pressed against the side of my head, pushing me back. With a twist she escaped my grasp, dashing around the island counter with a playful smile that just melted me. Gods, I loved her, even if she had the capacity to be an enormous pain in the ass.

She placed both hands on the edge of the counter, leaning forward with a stern face. "I might be a little jealous that I walked in on you enjoying someone else's company in our home," she said crisply, holding up a hand before I could speak. "I know it's not sex, and it may be a little backwards and perverted to be envious of someone you killed… But I'm still jealous. Make it better or you don't get your surprise."

Here we go… "Is the surprise sex?"


"…If I don't make it better does that mean I'm sleeping on the couch tonight?"

"No," she smiled sweetly. "On the floor, at the foot of the bed."

"That's cold," I muttered. After snatching a strawberry off the counter, I mimicked her posture, giving her a narrow-eyed stare as I chewed. "Is this the part where I have to break into song?" I asked dryly.

Her eyes lit up, meaning I had answered correctly. "Perhaps."

I gave her a considering look, weighing my options for a moment before taking a breath. "Every single day I walk down the street I hear people say baby so sweet. Ever since puberty everybody stares at me—boys—girls—I can't help it, baby. So be kind and don't lose your mind, 'cause you know that I'm your baby. Take me for what I am, who I was meant to be, and if you give a damn—take me baby, or leave me…" I sang in a low, rippling tone.

"Ooo, RENT," her brows shot up and she tapped her bottom lip thoughtfully. "That's a great start. But not quite," she snatched another strawberry, propping herself up on the adjacent countertop. "You can do better."

Damnit. I glowered, glancing around the room for inspiration. I had to pull out all the stops or I was most definitely sleeping on the floor. I'd learned over the years that she was worth every second of irritation she caused. She tolerated a great deal from me, and I certainly wasn't going to argue, especially after what she just walked in on. I mean, really.

"It started out as a feeling, which then grew into a hope; which then turned into a quiet thought, which then turned into a quiet word. And then that word grew louder and louder—until it was a battle cry—I'll come back when you call me, no need to say goodbye."

"Regina Spektor," she grinned, feet dangling back and forth with glee. "So close, love…"

Damnit! Regina Spektor always worked. She was getting more brazen with these requests. I chewed on my lip, grumbling internally as I stared at her fucking adorable face. I never should have let her figure out that I could sing. She used it against me constantly. I was proud, sure, but it's also irritating.

"I memorized all the words for you, but if you only knew how much that's just not like me. I wait up late every night just to hear your voice, but you don't know that's nothing like me. You know I wonder have you already figured out all these things that I try to hide. All this time I've been hoping you don't find out, all these things that I hide on the inside. I can be irresponsible—this is all so new to me. Just when I thought I'm invincible, you come and happen to me."

"Invincible, nice," she smirked. "You're really trying—I like that. Try a little harder."

Goddamnit. I ate another strawberry, stalling as I sifted through songs in my head as fast as I could. That settled it. I was going to have to resort to Lady Gaga.

"You know that I want you, and you know that I need you. I want your bad, bad romance. I want your love and I want your revenge—you and me could write a bad romance. (Oooo) I want your love and all your lover's revenge—you and me could write a bad romance. (Oooo) Caught in a bad romance. Ra-ra-ah-ah-a-ah, roma-ro-ma-ma-ah, ga-ga-ooo-la-la-ah—want your bad romance."

Jinx threw her head back and laughed a brilliant, beautiful sound. "I'm pretty sure we've already written a bad romance…" She hopped off the counter and approached, rewarding me with a kiss that I greedily lengthened. "That was great, but it would have gotten you major bonus points if you did the dance to go with it."

"Dance? You're a cruel mistress," I slipped my hands around her waist, tugging her in the direction of the stairs. "Upstairs. Naked. Let's."

"But don't you want to see your surprise?" she draped herself around me, murmuring suggestively in my ear. To be perfectly honest, I'd forgotten about the surprise… I slid my hands down her sides, feeling the lines of something else she was wearing beneath the robe. I glanced into her eyes as she untied the sash, and the material fluttered to the ground with the soft swish of fine silk.

"Wow," I actually said, sounding incredibly inarticulate and not caring in the slightest. She was wearing quite possibly the most attractive set of lingerie in the existence of lingerie. Black, sleek, highlighting her long legs, covering in a teasing, glorious mockery of the word. I just stared, trying my damnedest to remain in a human mindset as everything in my dark little world rushed forward to get a good view.

"I know that look," her voice was low and smooth as cream. She slipped her hand to the small of my back, trailing the tip of a finger across the hollow of my throat. "Madness comes in many forms, you taught me that. But it's taken me a long time to figure out the method to the madness well enough to cause a little of my own."

I licked my lips, growling out in a restrained tone. "And what madness might that be?"

"Ultimately, the answer to every question of sanity is a secret. It's the pursuit of finding the answer that causes madness, not the secret itself. Lucky for you, I want to torture you so sweetly."

My fingers wrapped around her waist with increasing possessive lust as I fought to remain cool and in control. She was slipping under my skin so flawlessly I almost didn't notice. "And…how do you figure that?"

"Because." Her tongue was a hot, moist caress at my ear, followed by a purring whisper. "I stole this secret from Victoria."