Innocent Devil's Harem (Book 1)

Or begin with Chapter 1 for free:

I got home from school, parking my silver used car in its usual spot, and went inside to begin making dinner for my older sister, Serenity. The two of us had been living together by ourselves for five years now, ever since our parents passed away in a car accident.

My sis had been eighteen at the time, still in her Senior year of high school, causing me to be sent to a foster home for almost a month while she attempted to gain custody of her thirteen-year-old little brother. In hindsight, I was surprised it had only taken a month for her to legally adopt me, since I wasn’t actually her brother biologically and there was no adoption paperwork on file.

It helped that we had been left with five million dollars in insurance money, split equally between us, in addition to the fact that there was plenty of evidence that I’d lived with my family basically my entire life.

Plus, my Delayed Birth Certificate on file was detailed enough to include adoptive parents’ names, even though the actual adoption paperwork didn’t seem to exist. Granted, my sister and I both knew that the dates of my actual birth were only estimates.

Eventually, the court decided that a clerical error must have been made somewhere along the line, and allowed the adoption to proceed, with the judge seeing no reason to put a kid who’d just lost his parents through hell over a technicality.

Now, my older sister was legally my guardian, though I wasn’t sure how me turning eighteen a few days ago affected that status. I had no idea if emancipation was automatic or if I had to file for it. Not that it really mattered, since I still had to finish my last year of high school either way, and would probably still continue living at home while I worked on some college credits.

Initially, after the adoption went through, we tried living in our old house for a while, but it was too painful. Thus, within the first six months, we’d moved into a much smaller house, hidden away in the trees on the edge of the city, with her having purchased it with a portion of her half of the insurance money.

Even though Serenity’s parents weren’t mine biologically, that didn’t matter to me.

It was just as agonizing to lose them. They were the only family I knew, and they had raised me as their own since I could remember. I was well aware that the official story was our mom found me on the doorstep, but honestly not even Serenity knew for sure where I actually came from.

She just remembered me showing up one night when she was about to turn seven.

Her childish mind had thought God answered her prayer for a younger brother as a birthday present, and to this day she occasionally teased me about being ‘her gift from God.’

But I doubted it was God, or a god, that had been the one to answer her prayer, given what I knew about myself. Granted, I would never dare tell my older sister why. She was the only person I truly loved, and I could never betray her by revealing that I’d discovered at a young age that I wasn’t like her…

That I wasn’t human.

Our new house, which we’d lived in for over four years now, had a large spacious kitchen that also served as a dining room. Despite the fact that it was only the two of us, we’d kept a lot of the furniture from our old house, unable to part with everything. Thus, the dining room table could seat six people comfortably – two on each side and one person at each end, with plenty of room in between. Really, the table was large enough that eight people could probably be squished together if an extra chair was added to each side.

However, as it was, only two chairs were used with any frequency.

Sighing, I glanced at the clock and then sat down at the table, leaving the hot ‘cheddar, potato, and bacon soup’ I’d made on low heat on the stove to prevent it from getting cold. On a good day, Serenity would arrive home a little after 5 PM from her job as a police detective.

However, as it neared 5:45 PM, I began to suspect this might not be a good day. She had been working on a case recently that was causing her a lot of stress, but she hadn’t brought home any of the files yet, so I didn’t know what it was about.

Yes, I sometimes snooped through her casework files. I snooped through a lot of her things, if I was being honest, though I’d never share that with her. She’d probably be mortified if she knew I’d been through her underwear on numerous occasions.

Sometimes, although very rarely, if the work situation was bad enough, I would intervene myself to stop the criminals. However, I also knew that it might raise suspicion if someone made the connection that all the incidents where I’d helped happened to be my sister’s cases. Thus, to avoid that outcome, I only got involved in the situations that were exceptionally upsetting for my older sister, usually involving abuse against women.

And by abuse, I mean serial killer cases where the victims wouldn’t survive without intervention.

Serenity didn’t technically have to work, since we had enough money to last us for an extremely long time, possibly all our lives, but she’d initially wanted to make sure no one doubted she was responsible enough to raise her little brother.

Still, I didn’t know why she’d chosen to pursue a career as a detective. Prior to getting the position, she’d held another job almost full-time while attending the police academy, and yet soon found herself with some of the best scores in the state. I’d asked her ‘why’ once, but she only gave the allusive answer that she enjoyed solving mysteries – allusive, because I didn’t feel like her answer explained her intense drive.

Glancing at the clock again, I got up to grab my backpack, deciding to get to work on my homework while I waited for her to get home. It was near the end of the spring semester, my graduation only a couple months away, so it was already warm outside on most days. I really enjoyed the warmer weather, mainly because I liked it when there were leaves on the trees. But I was also glad school was almost over in general, eager to get that part of my life behind me.

I was an adult now and wanted to feel like an adult, instead of a kid or dependent.

Honestly, I didn’t mind school itself, so much as I was tired of dealing with my shallow human peers. As I’d gotten older, my body became lean and muscular, sparking a lot of interest among my female classmates, as well as attempts made by the guys to win my friendship. However, my memory was a lot better than theirs, and I wasn’t one to forgive easily.

I could still remember all the jokes and teasing they’d done just after everything happened, coming from both the boys and girls. It hadn’t taken long for the whole school to find out I’d lost my parents, and I quickly discovered just how hateful middle school kids could be, with them beginning to harass me about living alone with my ‘hot’ older sister.

Apparently, one of the kids had overheard a couple of teachers discussing the problem with the adoption, finding out that we weren’t related biologically, and I didn’t hear the end of it after that for a solid semester.

Honestly, in hindsight, it was only about four months of torment, but it felt like an eternity to my crushed thirteen-year-old self. At the very least, it slowly taught me to not let words bother me – otherwise, I might not have survived the regular onslaught of bullying.

Nevertheless, I still hated them all. Or maybe ‘hate’ wasn’t the right word. It was more like I couldn’t consider trusting them again, even though I’d never had much trust to begin with.

When I finally heard my older sister’s car pull up, I glanced at the clock to see that it was almost 6:45 PM, indicating that it might have just been a really busy day. However, my powerful senses told me differently.

Even over the noise of the car engine, with its familiar clanking sound from a loose bolt, I could hear her fast heartbeat. And even despite the smell of bacon, I could smell her salty tears, as well as the scent humans gave off when they were grieved – something that shouldn’t even be possible for a wild animal.

The only predators who had a comparable sense of smell were the shark, which could detect a drop of blood from about a quarter of a mile away, as well as the bear, which could smell a food source almost twenty miles away. However, my supernatural nose could home in on a scent from much further if I concentrated hard enough.

When Serenity didn’t come inside after turning off the engine, I realized she must not want me to see her crying. Granted, it’s not like she would be able to hide the fact that she had been crying. I knew her face would be red and puffy, even if she managed to get ahold of herself anytime soon.

Sighing again, I got up to go bring her inside.

The kitchen was connected to the rest of the house by the foyer area, where the door, stairs, and hallway to the living room all met. The wide entrance to the living room was only about halfway down the hall – someone coming down the stairs could easily see into it – but the hallway continued on to the laundry room and backdoor.

Underneath the stairs was a small bathroom with only a toilet and sink. Upstairs, above the kitchen, was Serenity’s room, along with a spacious closet, whereas on the other side of the house was my room and the bathroom we both shared. It was only a two-bedroom house, but all the rooms were extremely spacious, providing more than enough living space for just the two of us.

Opening the front door, I saw my sister resting her head against the steering wheel, her dark brown hair disheveled, trying to control her breathing like she was on the verge of having a panic attack. Her blue car was parked at the edge of the long gravel driveway, in its usual spot next to my silver one.

Tall trees lined each side of the drive, including all around the house, giving us a sense of privacy since we were about a tenth of a mile off the road. Even though we lived on three acres of land, I only had to mow roughly half an acre in total, including the two strips of grass along the driveway.

Not wanting to startle her, I tried to be noisy as I walked over and then gently tapped on the window, rather than just opening it. However, despite her not looking up at me, I knew she’d heard me. Keeping her forehead on the steering wheel, she moved her hand to unlock the door, only to open it up herself. The moment I was able to, I knelt down and reached out to pull her into a hug.

Serenity immediately accepted the offered gesture, returning my embrace as she began to sob.

“Can you tell me about it?” I whispered after about a minute of her crying on my shoulder.

She immediately shook her head no, before answering. “Not officially…” She then told me anyway. “It’s a s-serial killer case, Kai. And it looks like h-he targets only women.” She sighed heavily, trying to speak clearly despite her sobbing. “And what he d-does to them is…horrible.”

“How many?” I wondered, already considering intervening, since this predator had made my older sister so upset. This was by far the worst I’d seen her.

She tried sucking in a deep breath. “T-Technically, he’s only killed two so far. But a new girl was just kidnapped…” Her voice trailed off as a whine escaped her throat, a sob then erupting from her chest as she began falling apart again. Her face was twisted in anguish. “And if w-we don’t find her soon…”

“What’s the timeline?” I asked, speaking in a way I knew would help her mind shift into detective-mode.

It worked – not perfectly, but it worked.

My sister took a shaky breath and began speaking more clearly, as if a switch had flipped in her brain. “If his two victims are indication of a pattern, then she’ll be dead by midnight. He leaves a spray paint symbol, along with a token from his previous victim – that’s how we know who kidnapped her. Previous evidence suggests that the first two were tortured in the most inhumane ways possible, before he killed them while sexually assaulting them in the woods.”

“The woods?” I repeated in surprise, feeling that was odd if it was really the pattern.

“Yes…” She pulled away to look at me then, her deep brown eyes hesitant, knowing she shouldn’t be sharing information about this, but deciding to do it anyway. “We think he enjoys the chase. He wants them to run, probably so they have a sense of hope – that they might find freedom after being tormented.” She paused. “Only for him to catch them and finish it off horribly.” A pained expression crossed her face again as she barely managed to maintain her composure.

Suddenly, I realized I’d missed a fundamental question – something to explain why my sister was upset to this extreme. Because her reaction was far beyond what I’d ever seen before.

“Serenity…do you know her? The girl he took?”

Her composure broke, and she lost it again.

I waited patiently for her to gather herself, not wanting to seem too pushy. After all, I could never let my older sister find out I might get involved in this situation. She could never know my secret.

While I waited, my mind began going through the people she knew, wondering who it might be. Honestly, my sister didn’t have very many friends – the only close friend she had was a girl named Gabriella who she met only a few months ago. Serenity also had a few coworkers who she was friendly with, including Jessica and Abby, but otherwise the list was pretty short.

Granted, it could also just be a random acquaintance from high school or the police academy. Simply knowing the person could make a case feel a lot more personal. All it would take was just seeing a familiar face, coupled with knowing what might happen to the girl if they didn’t catch the guy in time.

After a few minutes of holding onto my sister, I was about to prompt her again, but then she finally responded to my question on her own.

“Kai,” she said in a strained voice. “It’s my friend. It’s Gabriella.” She sobbed again, her words coming out in a whine. “And they removed me from the case when they realized my connection.

Dammit.

Suddenly, I found myself holding my breath. Because it wasn’t just someone she knew more casually. It was the worst person it could possibly be. And not just for her.

For me, too.

Gabriella was twenty, only three years younger than my sister, and when they’d both noticed they frequented the same coffee shop regularly, they struck up a conversation over a book that quickly turned into a friendship. It also helped that Serenity occasionally had lunch at the Chinese restaurant next to the nail salon where Gabriella worked, giving them an easy way to hang out almost daily.

Even when my sister wasn’t in the mood for Chinese, she went anyway to socialize, and before long they were having lunch together every day at one of the many restaurants in the area.

From what I understood about Gabriella, she was extremely kind, although somewhat shy. She didn’t have many friends of her own, largely because she wasn’t interested in the stuff most of her peers liked to do, like partying. Instead, Gabriella loved to read, with the book she’d been carrying being what prompted Serenity to talk to her.

I’d only met her once briefly when she visited the house a few weeks ago, but I quickly excused myself after being around her for only a minute, because I’d never reacted to anyone like I was reacting to her. And it threatened to expose my secret.

Gabriella had red hair, green eyes, and was exceptionally attractive. However, unlike other redheads I’d known, her hair was so red that it almost looked dyed, and she kept it fairly short at just a couple of inches above her shoulders. She was about four inches shorter than me, two inches shorter than my sister, and had a massive wrack large enough to make any guy’s head turn and most girls jealous.

But the biggest attraction was actually her scent. Everything about her aroused me, but her natural smell was nearly overwhelming. I had no idea what caused it, wondering if the fact she was vegetarian, which I’d learned by eavesdropping, was the reason.

Technically, it wasn’t dangerous for me to be fully aroused, and it was actually something I allowed to happen on a regular basis when I was alone in my room…sometimes in my sister’s room, when she wasn’t home. But the problem was I couldn’t avoid revealing the fact that I wasn’t human.

I’d learned at a very young age that strong emotions and desires caused my body to begin uncontrollably transforming into my more devilish form, my hair turning white, my skin turning dark gray, my irises transitioning to a glowing gold while my sclera turned pitch-black. At the very least, if I hadn’t run upstairs when I did, then I doubted Gabriella would have ever returned, never mind my sister’s reaction.

I was sincerely afraid of Serenity’s rejection, in particular. She was the only family I had, and honestly my only friend. I couldn’t afford to lose her. I couldn’t take that risk.

However, the attraction I felt toward Gabriella was so strong that just thinking about her was making me aroused now. And pissed, when combined with the knowledge that she was probably being tortured at that very moment. Between the two emotions, I could feel my body threatening to turn gray underneath my clothing, my chest definitely darker now, as well as the back of my neck and the skin along my spine.

I took a deep breath in an effort to clear my mind, knowing there was nothing I could do right away, without Serenity suspecting something was wrong.

Yet, I didn’t want Gabriella to suffer either. While I’d never been tortured myself, I knew that even minutes of something unpleasant could feel like hours, depending on the severity of the situation.

Taking another deep breath, I sighed heavily and spoke up again. “Let’s go inside, sis.”

She nodded in agreement, her hands and legs trembling as she grabbed her purse and attempted to stand up. I offered my support, since it was obvious she was struggling on her own, helping her walk up to the house.

The front porch was only about five feet wide and two feet deep, from door to stairs, the overhanging roof just big enough to allow someone to be comfortably out of the rain if they were waiting outside. The window on the right side of the door peeked into the kitchen, whereas the left one looked into the living room.

Granted, the front windows had sheer white curtains hanging over them, preventing anyone from seeing inside during the day, and allowing them to only see shadows at night. The only other way to see into the house from the front was through the door, which had a decorative half-circle window near the top.

I carefully escorted my sister into the house, keeping my thoughts controlled, and helped her sit down at the kitchen table. Realizing from the scent that the soup was beginning to burn slightly, I went ahead and turned off the stove entirely, glancing at the clock as I did so.

It was just after 7 PM, which meant it would be dark soon, given the time of the year.

In a way, I was almost glad the victim was Gabriella…Or rather, I was thankful I’d been given the opportunity to meet her at least once. It could be difficult for me to help in a situation when I didn’t have much to go on, but coming into close proximity to her allowed me to nail down the most important thing that would help me find her.

Her scent.

Just thinking about it was enough to almost expose me again. I could feel the base of my hairs rise slightly, being well familiar with the sensation, knowing my hair would begin rapidly turning white if I wasn’t careful with my thoughts.

“Do you feel like eating?” I asked gently, trying to distract myself.

I began preparing a bowl even if she said no, since I hadn’t eaten yet myself. When she mumbled that she wasn’t hungry, I added a few extra scoops, considering I ate a ton more than her. I then sat down at the table and began working on my dinner while Serenity stared into space.

I suspected she was beginning to feel numb as it settled in that there wasn’t any hope for her friend – her best friend. It was actually kind of amazing how close two people could become in such a short amount of time, but they really hit it off. If it wasn’t for the fact that they looked so different, someone might even think they were sisters by how comfortable they were with each other. As it was, most people would probably be shocked to discover they weren’t childhood friends or something similar.

Unexpectedly, Serenity bolted from her seat, almost knocking over her chair. “I’m going to try to find her,” she announced, not waiting for a reply. “I know I probably won’t be able to, but I have to try. I can’t just sit here and do nothing.”

I nodded to indicate I understood, not about to suggest she do anything different. This case wasn’t at all like the others. Plus, this was good for me too. It meant I could go searching for her sooner without having to worry about my sister wondering where I’d disappeared to.

“Okay,” I said in agreement. “Just be careful…” My voice trailed off. I hoped she wouldn’t be upset that I wasn’t offering to go. On the one hand, I was still in high school, but on the other hand, I was legally an adult now, so it wasn’t like she’d be bringing a kid along.

Serenity seemed surprised by my response though, looking like she didn’t expect me to agree so easily. She then dashed around the edge of the table and nearly tackled me in my chair with a hug. “I will, I promise. I’ll have my gun and mace. I love you.”

“I love you too,” I whispered simply, holding her thin athletic form in my arms, knowing there was a small part of me that meant that more deeply than I probably should.

She gave me a quick kiss on the temple, and then grabbed her things to head out the door.

I ate more quickly when I heard her car engine start and the tires began kicking up gravel in her rush to get on the road.

“Now,” I said to myself, taking my last bite and standing up. “Time to hunt.”

Heading to the backdoor, I allowed myself to fully transform as I stepped outside, my softly glowing yellow irises allowing me to see as clearly in the twilight as if it was the middle of the day. I then took off my shirt in preparation for what would soon come from my rapidly restructuring back muscles.

A second later, and a pair of lightweight bat-like wings burst from my upper back and I instantly leapt into the air to take flight. I had no idea where to even begin looking, beyond the forest, so I just focused on my senses of smell and hearing while flying as fast as I could around the edge of the city where there were still a lot of trees. I was glad my ability to home in on a scent was so powerful, because within a matter of minutes I’d captured Gabriella’s aroma, even despite the plethora of other odors vying for my attention.

She was at least ten miles away, and I could smell that the chase was already on. Her sweet scent was stronger than usual from her sweating, ironically making it easier for me to pick up on it, and it was also tainted with terror.

Just like other emotions, fear had a distinct scent.

“I’m coming for you,” I whispered, quickly changing my trajectory in the air.

 While flying was much faster than running, it still took me a few minutes to find the general location of her whereabouts. However, once I was close enough, I could hear her too. She was running as fast as she could, although oddly, as if she didn’t have arms.

I doubted she was sincerely lacking them though, because I didn’t smell any blood. But her breathing was panicked, and I knew her mind was probably escalated beyond words as she literally ran for her life. There was someone chasing her too, running smoothly like they were holding themselves back. I suspected the predator had great endurance, significantly more than his prey.

Quickly dropping into the trees below, I slammed into the ground, dropping onto one knee from the impact before rising again to continue the chase on foot. However, I didn’t have to go far before I was already almost on her location.

Just as she was about to come into sight, I heard her trip and fall hard on her front, coughing and gasping from having the wind knocked out of her. She then abruptly screamed as her assailant caught up to her, crouching down and flipping her over while laughing, like he was having the time of his life.

Enraged, I silently burst through the foliage just in time to see that the serial killer had the tip of a knife just beginning to draw blood on her partially exposed breast. I realized the reason why she couldn’t defend herself was because she had her arms bound behind her back with a series of leather straps, like some kind of weird bondage fetish.

However, between the panicked look in her eyes, the terror as she screamed, the vulnerability of her body – I caught a glimpse of why this bastard was aroused by torturing his victims. It was everything that excited a predator, and I felt ashamed that her vulnerability even excited me a little…minus the panic and terror.

It was time to end this. Now.

Rapidly, in one swift motion, I closed the distance between me and my prey, grabbing him by the throat and yanking him off his feet into the air. In his shock, he reflexively tried to stab me with his blade, but I instead snagged the back of his hand like lightning and shoved the knife straight into his heart with my inhuman strength.

He didn’t even have time to scream before the life was rapidly fading from his panicked eyes, not that he would have been able to make much noise anyway with my grip around his neck. A few seconds later, and I tossed him to the side, his body strewn awkwardly on the ground.

I then focused on the vulnerable girl lying before me, her short red hair strewn against the dirt in chaotic strands. My attack happened fast enough that I watched as her emerald eyes visibly registered that the monster who had been torturing her had unexpectedly been replaced with another. However, instead of screaming, she began crying in devastation.

I could smell it.

I could smell the brief hope she experienced leave her body as she accepted that she was going to die one way or another. She closed her eyes and turned her head away, her beautiful face twisted in grief as she sobbed.

Moved by her tears, I slowly knelt down, positioning myself so that my legs were straddling her thighs, though I wasn’t actually touching her. I then reached out with a clawed hand, my black fingernails dangerously sharp, and gently touched the top of her torn blue shirt.

She flinched from the contact, sensing my fingers. “Please,” she whimpered. “Please don’t.”

Realizing what she must think my intentions were, I gently grabbed her shirt at the chest and pulled it up to prevent her from being exposed any more than she already was. Her bra was missing, likely removed by the perp, but her torn shirt still mostly covered her up. The next biggest exposure was around her waist. She had white jeans on, but they were unbuttoned, revealing her pale pink underwear, held up only by their tightness around her butt and thighs.

The visible skin I could see on her arms and torso was already heavily bruised in most spots, except for her face surprisingly, yet I still didn’t smell any blood on her other than the small cut on her chest.

Deciding to respond, I spoke quietly.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” I whispered. However, despite my words, she began crying even harder, and I could smell that there was just a hint of hope lingering around her again – just a hint, since she knew I might be lying.

To emphasize my point, I concentrated hard in order to force my black fingernails to return to a normal shape. I then slowly reached down and buttoned her pants back up, carefully pulling the zipper to the top. I could smell the hope strengthen, although her fierce sobbing didn’t let up.

I then carefully moved to her side, sitting beside her and cautiously placing my hand beneath her neck, gently pulling her up into a sitting position. Gabriella was still a complete mess emotionally, unable to see through her tear-filled eyes, so I lifted her into my lap and rested her head against my bare chest while I began working on freeing her arms from their bonds.

As the last strap fell to the ground, she slowly pulled her arms in front of herself and let them lay limp in her lap. I wasn’t sure why I was staying at this point. I really couldn’t afford for her to find out who I was, but something about her vulnerability did more than just entice me.

I was beginning to feel an emotion I had only previously felt for my sister, although it was obviously a little different since there wasn’t a complicated set of emotions hidden behind it. But as I held her, I slowly began to realize that I wasn’t going to be able to leave her side unless she asked me to.

Because I wanted to feel that emotion, without the extra shameful stuff associated with feeling it for the wrong person.

‘No,’ I silently chastised myself. ‘She can’t know my secret. No one can.’

Without warning, I slipped my hand underneath her knees and abruptly stood, causing her to gasp. Her entire body was trembling as I began moving, but I ignored it, instead focusing on walking back the way she and her attacker had come. I could smell gasoline in the air, and after walking almost half a mile I found a white box-van parked at the edge of an abandoned street.

Identifying a more feminine smell amongst the others, my nose picked out the scent of lip gloss in the van – I suspected it might mean her purse was there too. With my wing, which was very much like a large bony hand with webbed fingers, I reached out and opened the side door, before reaching inside and hooking the purse’s strap with the tip of my wing’s finger.

I then held it open with both wings in front of us, carefully sticking my hand inside while continuing to support her legs in the crook of my arm. She was still trembling, her eyes closed with her arms wrapped tightly around herself now. Finding her phone, which had been turned off, I powered it on and waited for it to load. The sudden bright screen caused my pupils to shift their shape slightly, and I noticed from the corner of my eye that the light prompted her to open hers as well, to see what I was doing.

I quickly dialed the number to call the police the moment I could. However, I then hesitated just as I was about to start the call, deciding to speak to Gabriella for the second time. I glanced at her as I began, seeing that she had been eyeing me, before abruptly looking away when I made eye contact.

“Just to get our story straight. Obviously, someone rescued you, killing your would-be murderer, but you didn’t see who it was…” I paused. “Or what it was. Understood?” She nodded quickly, still looking away. Satisfied, I gestured with my hand. “Take the phone,” I instructed.

She slowly complied, and then upon seeing the number on the screen, she hit the appropriate button and held it up to her ear, still averting her gaze. The call barely rang once.

“What’s your emergency?” a female voice asked abruptly.

Gabriella hesitated as she tried to speak clearly. “Umm…I need help. I’m…I was…kidnapped.”

“Do you know where you are?” the woman asked in a quieter tone.

Gabriella shook her head, as if forgetting that the person on the other line couldn’t actually see her. “No. I’m outside.”

“Can I use your phone’s GPS to find you?” she requested.

Gabriella looked up at me then, as if she wasn’t sure if she needed my permission, so I nodded in response. She replied slowly. “Umm, yes.”

After a few seconds, the dispatcher spoke again. “Okay, sweetie. The police are on their way.” She then lowered her voice. “Is your kidnapper near you?”

Gabriella shook her head a second time, prompting me to smirk at her for gesturing again as if the woman could actually see her nonverbal responses. Her face flushed when she realized why I was suddenly grinning.

Sounding embarrassed, she tried to focus on answering the dispatcher. “N-No. He’s dead.”

There was a brief pause on the phone, before the woman finally responded. “How did he die?” she asked cautiously.

Gabriella glanced at me again as she replied. “Umm, someone saved me.”

The woman’s voice sounded urgent again. “Is that person with you now?”

I quickly shook my head, even though she should know the right answer, not wanting to even chance Gabriella giving them any indication that she’d spent any time with me.

Nevertheless, she hesitated in her response. “N-No…I’m by myself.”

“Okay, sweetie. The police should be there soon. I’m going to stay on the phone with you until they arrive, alright?”

Gabriella glanced at me again, as if wondering what she should say, but I had turned my head away from her. In the distance, I could hear a rapidly approaching vehicle speeding down the road. I doubted it was a police car, because it didn’t have any sirens running. However, I could hear a scanner in the vehicle spouting out police codes.

There was also something familiar about the sound of the engine – a clanking sound, as if one of the bolts holding the engine was loose.

Snapping my head to look at Gabriella, I held out my hand for her to give me the phone, her knees still in the crook of my arm. She complied immediately, and I hung up on the dispatcher. I then slowly lowered her to her feet, but when her knees buckled underneath her, I lowered her to the ground instead.

I quickly replied to her confused expression. “Like I said. No one. Don’t even tell your friend. Understand?”

She nodded slowly, just as confused as before, but then she heard the car approaching too. As she looked away, I used the opportunity to silently disappear into the trees. The sudden headlights on Gabriella’s face caused her to shield her eyes, and she then looked back toward where I had been standing. When she realized I was gone, she quickly looked all around, seeming to search for me urgently as the car slammed on its breaks.

I watched as my sister jumped out of the vehicle, gun in hand, and began running up to Gabriella with it pointed at the ground to the side. “Where is he?” she demanded.

“W-Who?” Gabriella asked, sounding scared.

Serenity looked at her in confusion for a second, before clarifying. “The serial killer.”

“He’s dead,” she replied quickly.

It took Serenity a second to register her words, visibly relaxing a little. “Are you sure?”

Gabriella nodded in response, and my sister hesitantly holstered her gun, glancing around one last time before kneeling down and wrapping her arms around her friend. They both began crying again.

“Oh Gabriella! I was so worried! I’m so glad you’re safe!”

I could finally hear sirens in the distance and decided to get ready to leave before a ton of police showed up. I waited a few more minutes while my sister and Gabriella sobbed together, before finally dashing further into the forest.

Finding a good spot where the canopy above was thinner, I quickly climbed to the top of a tree, as far as the branches would support me, and then leapt high into the air to take flight.

Once I was high above the forest below, I continued to scan the area for a while longer for any signs of danger, before finally heading home. On my way, I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket, only to pull it out and see that my sister was calling. Of course, I couldn’t exactly answer it while flying, so I let it ring until the call dropped.

Later on, I would just tell her I was in the shower or something.

Speaking of which, I sincerely did need to take a shower. Something about killing people always made me feel really dirty, even when no blood got on me. Certainly, slaughtering this serial killer hadn’t been my first time, although I had never taken the life of someone innocent. Thus far, I’d only killed people who had committed murder at least once, viewing it as an eye for an eye.

And I never felt remorse for slaughtering a murderer, although I did always feel filthy afterward.

Dropping into our secluded backyard, I allowed my body to quickly deconstruct my wings and turn back into my human form. I was glad our house was surrounded by trees without any close neighbors. Otherwise, it would be difficult for me to come and go in this manner.

I then dashed inside and quickly got in the shower to begin rinsing off, in order to get rid of the sensation that was beginning to plague my mind. Unexpectedly, it was washing my hands thoroughly and roughly that seemed to help.

Satisfied that they were clean – and that my conscience felt clean – I let the water cascade down the back of my neck and along my spine. After a moment, a deep sigh escaped my chest and I felt my muscles finally relax. I was glad Gabriella was safe, and that she would probably recover without any physical scarring. However, I knew she might be mentally scarred for life, depending on what she had endured prior to me rescuing her.

Sighing again, I sat down in the shower and tried to clear my thoughts of her, because thinking about the hot redhead was both arousing me and making me pissed again. For one, part of me just felt wrong about jerking off right now, but then I was sincerely pissed at the dead man who might have taken advantage of her, beyond just touching her.

I wanted to stab him in the heart again. I almost wished I had killed him more slowly. Made him suffer more before he died.

‘Stop,’ I chastised myself. ‘She’s not yours. And she never will be. Just stop it. She’s alive. You did a good thing. Now move on.’

I cleared my mind again, and remained like that for a long time, letting the sensation of the water running over me be my only thought. This was the fourth time I had killed someone, with the last three times all happening within the last three and a half years – because that’s about how long Serenity had been a detective. Prior to that, the first and only other time that I’d killed someone, it had been truly an accident when I stumbled upon the scene. At least, an accident in the sense that I hadn’t gone looking for it, knowing what I would find.

Although, me killing the murderer certainly wasn’t an accident. It was also the only time I’d been too late to save the victim, and thus the only time I’d killed out of revenge instead of defense.

At the time, I’d only been nine years old, with the incident happening nine years ago. There had been a full moon that night, which meant I was struggling to sleep, as usual – that always seemed to happen once a month, as if the moon wanted me to come out to play. Or, at least, that’s what my nine-year-old self thought.

I snuck out of the house at about 2 AM, only to have my nose catch the trail of some weird smells that confused me. Within thirty minutes of running on foot, I’d discovered the source, shocked by the scene I stumbled upon.

I’d never been a fan of scary movies, since being afraid or startled could make me transform, so it had been especially traumatizing to discover a horror scene in real life.

Except that was the difference – it was real life. It wasn’t a movie, it wasn’t pretend, and I wasn’t helpless to change the plot unfolding before me. Nevertheless, even though I prevented the monster from dealing the finishing blow, the pregnant woman still died in my small arms just before the paramedics arrived.

Traumatizing indeed, for a nine-year-old, human or not. I didn’t return home that night for almost three hours, and even then, I didn’t act normal for months. Everyone knew something was wrong, but I wasn’t willing to share with any of them what I’d experienced. Nevertheless, the extra affection I got from my mom and sister were what helped me eventually recover.

Unexpectedly, I heard my sister’s car pull up to the house, which snapped me out of my trance, prompting me to realize the water had long since gotten cold. Extreme temperatures didn’t bother me as much as it seemed to bother normal people, so it wasn’t unusual for me to not notice the cold water. I certainly could tell that there was a temperature difference when I was paying attention, so I preferred hot showers like anyone else. But, whether scalding hot or freezing cold, the extremes were easily bearable.

I quickly turned the water off and jumped out.

After drying off, I glanced at my phone to see that I’d showered for over an hour and a half. I grimaced, as I mumbled to myself. “Well, hopefully she won’t be too pissed I used up all the hot water.” Although, I knew it should be warm again within an hour, so it wasn’t like it was the end of the world.

Quickly brushing my short hair, I then got dressed in black gym shorts and a dark gray t-shirt, before exiting the bathroom to head downstairs when I heard the front door crack open.

However, just as I took the first step, I realized there was a second heartbeat with my sister – a heartbeat that was pounding rather quickly. Serenity appeared in the doorway, catching sight of me frozen at the top of the stairs.

“Oh, hey! I tried calling you. They found her!” she announced.

I only nodded, trying to smile as Gabriella stepped into sight, looking straight down, her face actively turning red. Serenity noticed my odd reaction, but continued with her statement anyway.

“She’s been through a lot, so she’s going to stay with us tonight.”

Despite Gabriella’s embarrassed reaction, I honestly wasn’t sure if she knew who saved her. After all, she’d only met me once, although my face still looked the same when I was transformed – the only difference was the coloring. I was glad it was dark when I found her, because that meant it was possible she might not realize it was me. However, I still didn’t want to hang around too long and give her the chance to figure it out.

After all, I’d spoken to her too, so even just talking too much might tip her off.

“Right…” I said hesitantly, looking away. “She can sleep in my bed.”

“Kai!” Serenity exclaimed.

Suddenly confused, I looked back at her, noticing that Gabriella’s face was now even more flushed too, almost matching her red hair. Which was so red that I would have thought was dyed were it not for the fact that I could detect the difference in smell between natural hair, extensions, and dyed hair.

And then it finally dawned on me what it sounded like I was saying.

I quickly held up my hands in shock. “No, no, no! I didn’t mean it like that. I’ll sleep on the couch, obviously. Jeez sis, way to make things awkward.”

But I knew it wasn’t just my sister. Gabriella had misinterpreted what I meant too – that much was obvious just from the color of her face. Was it because of how I’d said it? Maybe my tone was off?

Sighing, I ignored my sister’s apology and headed back up the one step to grab myself a blanket and make sure my room was presentable enough. I could hear Serenity now apologizing on my behalf, since I’d left so abruptly.

“Sorry, Gabriella. I’m not sure why he’s so rude around you. He’s normally not like that.”

“It’s alright,” she replied quietly. “I don’t think he’s trying to be rude.”

Serenity scoffed. “Disappearing whenever you’re around seems pretty intentional to me. I’m sure he will warm up to you though. He was bullied pretty bad after our parents passed away. I think he developed trust issues from it, because he still doesn’t really have any friends.”

“What did they bully him about?” Gabriella asked softly, her voice a little more distant now that they’d moved into the kitchen. It sounded like Serenity was heating up some of the potato and bacon soup I’d made.

Had my sister forgotten she was a vegetarian?

“Well, he’s adopted,” Serenity explained. “Some of the kids found out we weren’t actually related and teased him because we were living alone together.”

“He’s adopted?” Gabriella repeated, sounding surprised. “At what age?”

“My parents adopted him when he was about two years old,” she replied, before returning to the bullying topic. “But you know what’s interesting? Even though he doesn’t really talk to anyone, I think he still cares about them. For example, there was a fight at school a couple of years back – both of the guys involved were kids who had bullied him in middle school – yet he stopped the fight without hurting anyone, defending the kid who was getting beat up.” She paused. “He’s also always doing nice things for strangers, just little stuff even, like opening the door for people when we go out. I’m really proud of the man he’s becoming.”

Honestly, I had conflicting feelings about my sister’s statement, especially the last part. Because a big reason why I did stuff like that was because I wanted to make her proud. I needed her approval, probably more than she’d ever know, and in a way she’d likely never be able to give me, since I had no intention on ever telling her my secret.

The risk of rejection and losing her forever wasn’t worth it to me. However, I didn’t linger on those thoughts long, since I heard her place a bowl down on the table in front of Gabriella.

Sighing again, I quietly dashed to the stairs and called out to her. “Sis, that has bacon in it!”

Serenity immediately apologized. “Oh, I’m sorry Gabriella! I forgot!”

“No, it’s fine!” she exclaimed. “I’m not religious about it. I’ve just grown up as a vegetarian because both my parents are. Although, I have to admit I’ve never eaten bacon. Only chicken a few times.”

“Are you sure?” Serenity asked. “I can get you something else.”

I heard Gabriella take a big bite in response, causing my sister to chuckle. I then heard her shift in her chair in surprise. “Wow, this is really good! You’re a really good cook!” she exclaimed.

Serenity laughed again, sitting down at the table with her own bowl. “I’m horrible at cooking. Kai made this.”

It was quiet then, which only made me wish I could see Gabriella’s face, desperately wondering what her expression was like.

“He…he did?” she finally managed.

“Yep,” Serenity confirmed. “He does basically all the cooking around here. One day when he was fourteen, he officially banned me from using the stove for anything other than boiling water.” She laughed again. “He was kidding of course, but I think I’ve only cooked a handful of meals since then.”

“Oh…” Gabriella said quietly. “So…he eats potatoes?”

I could tell my sister was confused by the question. “Well, yeah. Why?”

“No reason,” she said quickly, shoving another spoonful in her mouth.

Of course, that only confirmed my worst fears. Gabriella must have recognized me after all, because her heart rate picked up significantly. Not to mention the weird question about my diet. What did she think I ate? People?

I wondered if I could still somehow convince her that it wasn’t me, in the event she asked about it, or if that was a lost cause. ‘I can just play dumb,’ I thought to myself. ‘Act like I don’t know anything.’ I wasn’t sure if it would work, but it was my last chance at this point.

Serenity was still talking about me, whispering now. “I don’t know how he does that.”

“Does what?” Gabriella whispered back.

“Know I was about to give you this soup.”

Gabriella paused for a moment before responding. “Well, it does have bacon in it, which is a pretty strong scent. Maybe he smelled it when you were heating it up and just assumed?”

“Yeah, maybe,” she agreed. “But he’s always done things like that. Like when I came home earlier, I was crying. And somehow, he seemed to know. Normally, he just waits for me to come inside, but as soon as I pulled up, he came out to get me.”

“Maybe he saw you from the window?” Gabriella offered.

I groaned internally, suddenly realizing what she was doing. She was covering for me. She did know it was me, and now that she realized my sister didn’t know my secret, she was helping me hide it.

Dammit! I already liked her a lot, at least physically. Why did she have to start covering for me? I mean, it was what I both wanted and needed, but now it was like we had our own little secret. I groaned again at the thought.

‘Dammit, dammit, dammit. You can’t be with her,’ I chastised myself. ‘She’ll make you transform every two seconds for the rest of your life!’

I’d already long since realized that being with someone wouldn’t be an option for me, but it wasn’t like I was lonely. I had my sister after all, and as far as I was concerned that was all I needed. Granted, there were a lot of complications that came with that arrangement. For one, what was I supposed to do if my sister ever finally got a boyfriend?

I’d been lucky that she’d put it off for so long, despite the fact that she was twenty-three and objectively hot, with her instead focusing on making sure that life was stable for us by not having random men in the house. But I knew it might happen eventually.

Just the idea made me feel conflicted in so many ways.

Being completely honest, I would probably end up feeling jealous if she dated, though I knew I had no right to. However, it was much more complicated than that, with a strange desire in me almost wishing she would date for a variety of reasons

But I knew I shouldn’t even think about it. And with Gabriella? I couldn’t have her either, even if she somehow decided she was okay with the fact that I wasn’t human. I shouldn’t even hope for such a thing, because the devastation that would come, when things didn’t work out, would be unbearable.

Feeling annoyed and defeated now from my own dejecting thoughts, I ran back to my room to grab my earbuds, so that I could try to ignore their conversation. Technically, I could still hear what they were saying if I concentrated, but I had gotten fairly decent at ignoring all the external stimuli bombarding my mind every day. I then gathered the large blanket I planned on using and headed down the stairs.

Both my sister and Gabriella stopped talking when they heard me, and Serenity called out my name, but I ignored her.

Turning on the lamp sitting on the small table on one side of the couch, I plopped down on the soft cushions and got comfortable. Getting my earbuds in, I then turned up the volume as loud as I could tolerate with my sensitive ears and tried to settle in for the night. I was able to successfully ignore them for about ten or fifteen minutes, but then I heard someone walk up to me from behind the couch.

Quickly sniffing the air, I relaxed when I caught my sister’s comforting scent.

“Kai,” she said. “I’m going to take a shower, and then head to bed. Can you please be nice to Gabriella? She’s been through a lot.”

Without turning down the volume, I waved my hand to acknowledge her. “I used up all the hot water. Sorry,” I said sincerely. “It might be warm enough now for a few minutes of heat, but you may have to wait another half hour.”

“Oh.” She paused, not seeming upset. “Then, I’ll just make sure Gabriella can rinse off first. I can take one in the morning.”

‘No, no, no! Don’t tell me that, sis!’ Suddenly, all I could see in my mind’s eye was Gabriella naked in the shower, imagining her heavy unsupported breasts as water ran across her large nipples, her otherwise thin body exposed, vulnerable, wet…

Shit! I was a virgin if I’d ever known one!

I quickly covered my head with the blanket as I felt my hair begin to turn white. “Sure,” I replied quickly, wanting to get rid of her now. “I really am sorry about the hot water. I put plenty of blankets and pillows on my bed for her. Please make sure she feels at home.”

I could tell Serenity was surprised by my sudden hospitality, but I already regretted my own words. My hair was definitely white now, since I finally registered that Gabriella was going to be spending the night in my blankets, cuddling with my pillow. I knew the scent she left behind wouldn’t leave my bed for at least a week…hopefully longer.

Dammit! I was cutting it way too close! My sister was right there, and I was actively transforming!

I pulled the blanket more tightly against my head. I knew she probably wanted to ask about my odd behavior, feeling like her deep brown eyes were watching me carefully, but she finally sighed and then wished me goodnight.

I then heard two sets of footsteps walk up the stairs and found myself unable to ignore them any longer. My sister took Gabriella to her bedroom and let her pick out a set of pajamas to wear – I realized they must not have stopped by Gabriella’s apartment, instead coming straight here after being questioned by the police.

I wondered what Serenity’s boss thought when they found out she had been the first one at the scene. Granted, who could blame her? Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if she got reprimanded for it, which was likely a small price to pay in my sister’s eyes.

She’d lose her job entirely if it meant saving someone she cared about.

Gabriella picked out a set of pajamas and then was led to the bathroom, so she could take a shower. Serenity warned her about the hot water, to which Gabriella offered to let my sister shower instead. But she politely declined, lying by saying that she normally took showers in the morning anyway. Gabriella thanked her, closed the door, and then quickly undressed while the water warmed up.

I tried to focus on the music again, attempting to pick out all the subtle differences in the beat, only to sit up abruptly when I realized Gabriella was crying. I pulled out my earbuds entirely to listen to her carefully over the sound of the running water. She was sobbing quietly, although she didn’t seem to be out of control like she had been in the woods. I wondered if the warm water was just helping her relieve some of her stress…

I hoped it wasn’t because of me. Had I been too rude after all?

Carefully homing in on her scent, I sifted through the smell of bacon, potatoes, wood, carpet, paint, cotton, water, shampoo…happy. She was happy, or least significantly relaxed. Similar to fear, I’d looked it up once, wanting to understand why people had a certain scent when they were happy. It was most likely due to a hormone called oxytocin, as well as another few creating the right combination. The higher the level, the stronger the scent, and it was exceptionally strong from her right now. I realized she was likely getting a rush of it in her blood, now that she was safe behind a locked door away from anything dangerous.

Deciding I couldn't resist listening anymore, I pulled the blanket over the top of my head to hide my re-whitening hair and remained sitting up on the couch. I then pulled my knees up to my chest, resting my chin on them, and wrapped the blanket around so that only my face and bare toes were showing.

I’d been right about the hot water. After a few minutes, I could smell that the moisture in the air had cooled slightly – oddly enough, water smelt a little different depending on the temperature – and then I could hear Gabriella pick up the pace. Barely a minute later, and she turned the water off and got out, quickly drying off. I then heard her stand still for a few minutes, and began wondering what she was doing.

Thinking about it from her point of view, I suspected she might be examining her bruised body in the mirror.

I heard her make a few odd noises, sounding pained, and wondered if she was touching her darkening skin to see how sensitive it was in various spots. She then began getting dressed, and I was unexpectedly shocked by the sound the fabric made as it slid over her skin.

Suddenly, I was very concerned about what she had picked out from my sister's selection. Most of Serenity's pajamas were made of cotton or something else soft – she liked to be comfortable. And since she hadn't ever really gotten serious with anyone, I knew she didn't have anything to impress a boyfriend…especially since I’d snooped plenty of times.

Yet, I was confident Gabriella was putting on something made of silk or satin. Had it been pajamas my sister only bought recently? And if so, why? I couldn’t imagine that she’d had them for a while.

Either way, the skin down my neck and spine had already turned dark gray, and I felt myself blushing as I listened to Gabriella make her way to my room above me – the unmistakable soft swishing sound accompanying her every move. I was so conflicted again, partially because I wanted to see my sister in those pajamas.

Dammit, when did she get them?

I sighed heavily as Gabriella began readjusting the blankets and pillows on my bed. I was glad at least the shower part was over. I kind of felt like a creep listening in on her, but it was extremely difficult to help it when my senses were so sensitive. I would have to go out of my way to avoid it, and even then it could be difficult.

Trying not to think again about her being wrapped up in my blankets, in my bed, clothed in silky pajamas, I focused on the other noises outside of the house, listening to an owl far off in the distance. Slowly my graying skin turned back to normal.

However, just as my hair was beginning to return to its normal color, I noticed footsteps at the top of the stairs. They hesitated, before quietly making their way down, step-by-step, the unmistakable swooshing accompanying them.

I wondered if Gabriella was still hungry, coming down to raid the kitchen, although that thought didn't stop my hair from shifting back to snow white. I rested my forehead on my knees to hide my flushed face as I listened to the footsteps reach the last step.

She hesitated again, and I listened carefully to see what direction she went.

Her heart was racing.