Thursday, November 4, 2021

NEPHILIM HARBINGER: The Cursed and the Fallen 2 by Selene Kallan


I definitely angered a god in a past life. I was minding my business and enjoying my burning chemistry with Nox, my demon warden, and then bam! I'm getting dragged to literal Hell under the orders of Lilith, Queen of Hell... and Nox's mother.
It turns out there's a lovely prophecy that says I am the Harbinger, the Catalyst for the Apocalypse that will burn down Hell and Earth. And Lilith wants to kill me to prevent it. Cornered, Nox and I bargain with Lilith, and she agrees to let me live... as long as I keep my dirty Nephilim fingers away from Nox.
Naturally, Nox and I find as many loopholes as possible for our bargain, but our relief is short-lived. New enemies pop around like daisies, and old ones come back even from the dead. Light and darkness lay their claim on us, determined to render our connection to ash.
Are we strong enough to subvert the prophecy before Heaven and Hell cleave us apart? I don't know, but I sure as Hell will fight with everything I've got, even if I burn.
I’ve always loved playing with fire, anyway.

The second installment of The Cursed and The Fallen series.

Praise for DEMON WARDEN ★★★★★ “Holy angelic WOW - this is the pandemic escape I didn't know I needed. Fantasy author Kallan has reached new fantasy heights with this sexy romance-action-adventure.”—Laurie Forest, Bestselling Author of The Black Witch Chronicles.

Fans of Hush Hush, Crescent City, and The Dark Elements will love the mix of urban fantasy and romance fantasy in NEPHILIM HARBINGER.


Saturday, October 2, 2021

How not to stalk a vampiress

This reminded me of a scene from Huntress Prey. Only it's a fangs-to-the-neck instead of a blade-to-the-heart situation. 



The door of the vampiress’ apartment was made of steel.

I cursed under my breath. While steel didn’t hinder my magic as much as pure iron did, it wasn’t easy to get it to bow to my will either. It would heat the metal and leave a trace she would notice.

But I needed to know who she truly was.

I placed my palm against the cold metal and sent a mix of mental force and magic with a murmured spell. The heavy bolts clicked open.

I pushed the door, closing it behind me quickly. The apartment was tidy and as impersonal as a hotel room. Decorated in a mix of deep green and white, with a plush sofa and a 40-inch flat-screen TV on a mahogany shelf, bracketed by two other shelves containing books. A quick browse placed most of the titles in the science fiction and informatics genres.


I looked down at the vampiress’ tricolor, fuzzy cat. He was walking towards me, eyes narrowed in suspicion.

I arched a brow. “Are you going to attack me?”

The cat sat down and flicked his bushy tail.

“I’ll take that as a maybe,” I muttered, heading towards the immaculate, near-sterile kitchen and opening the stainless steel fridge. Glass bottles with water, a couple of bottles of wine, and six bags of A+. Curiously, there were also eggs. I saw from the corner of my eye how the cat jumped to the counter.

“Are those for you?” I inquired.



I walked to the bedroom. The door slightly creaked when I opened it. Strange, considering the borderline obsessive neatness. The bed was made with a pine green duvet; a genetics book on one of the nightstands and two small lamps. I turned one on. The bulb gave the same soft, buttery light as the one in the living room. Vampires have hypersensitive, eagle-like eyes that suffer under fluorescent lights and sunlight.

I opened one drawer, spotting something I was certain she didn’t want a stranger to see, but nothing that said anything about who she was. The dresser was the same story, with neatly folded clothes, and clean shoes.

The cat—who had followed me into the room—also entered the bathroom. With a jolt of surprise, I noticed she used the same brand of organic products we did. The company was run by fae. Behind the mirror, in the cabinet, she had little bottles of mouthwash, rubbing alcohol, and hand sanitizer.

There was hardwood across the entire place, except for the bathroom. She could very well have a stash of valuable information somewhere. I went back to the bedroom and crouched near the bed, deciding that was a good place to start.

The sound of a key tinkling and a muffled curse made me stand.

“What the Hell?” came the feminine voice.

The cat, now sitting on the bed, gave me a smug look.

The bedroom window was too small, so I bolted for the one in the living room. The same she had jumped through before. I caught sight of the vampiress, of her wide teal-sky eyes and ruffled long, dark hair just before crawling through the open window and jumping with more force than intended, which sent me several yards ahead—beyond the corridor of grass and the iron fence of the apartment complex several stories down—before falling. I turned in the air to break the fall, landing in a half-crouch on the road and seeing the bright lights of a large truck a second too late.

Something, no, someone, collided against me with enough force to steal my breath, getting me out of the way of the truck and tossing me to the ground a few yards from the road, into the tree line.

The vampiress was standing a few feet away from me, gaze wide and breathing hard as she looked back toward the road, where the massive truck loaded with logs passed by faster than it should have. The crash wouldn’t have killed me, but the recovery wouldn’t have been pretty either.

I stood, facing her, keeping my eyes on her as I slid my hand to my back and summoned my stake from one of my many inter-dimensional pockets. The vampiress didn’t notice the slight flash of green magic. I closed my fingers securely around the stake.

“You could have died,” she said, her melodic voice showing surprise. She pressed her lips and frowned. “Which is what you deserve for breaking and entering and damaging my lock.”

“You’re exaggerating a tad, don’t you think?” I asked, holding the stake tighter.

She narrowed her eyes. “Who are you, really?”

“Is your memory that bad? I am your genetics professor,” I retorted.

Her fists clenched. “I didn’t know sneaking inside a student’s apartment was part of the duties of a college professor.”

I gave her a faux smile. “It depends on the student.”

I could practically see smoke coming out of her slightly pointed ears.

She inhaled, staring at me. “You’re not human.”

“Neither are you,” I shot back.

She took a step closer; I backed down, measuring the space, pondering whether to use my power or see if I could take her down without it.

Her pale eyes—bright in the darkness—widened. “Did—did he send you?”

Whoever he was, evoked a shiver of fear so strong in her I could sense it as if it were mine.

“Funny, I was about to ask the same,” I admitted.

She clenched her teeth, stepping closer. “I’m done with your little game. Tell me who you are and what you want from me, now.”

A wave of invisible power slammed against my forehead and curled around the nape of my neck. Her hypnosis was strong, ridiculously so. Only once before, in my nearly six centuries of life, had I felt something like that.

“No, I don’t think I will,” I said, pretending nonchalance even as my spine tingled and my heart raced. “I’m a gentleman, you see, so ladies first.”

She growled and moved to grab me by the neck.

I swung the stake and missed slicing her neck by half an inch. She was fast, more so than I had imagined. Still, I didn’t stop, but launched an attack. Her eyes widened, and she dodged each attempt, looking over my shoulder and hers, seeming tempted to run away instead of fighting.

Her defense faltered, and my stake sank into her right shoulder.

“Ouch!” she cried out, surprise and indignation in her voice.

She hit me, open hand against my chest so fast I barely saw it and I flew back, stopping as my back hit a tree. With a low growl, she tore the stake off her shoulder and tossed it aside. Moving fast enough to be a blur, even to my eyes, she grabbed me by the neck.

Her strength was colossal.

Many human hunters had assumed female vampires were weaker than male vampires, by the logic of their biology. They’d soon discovered they were sorely mistaken. Female vampires have a small edge in strength and twice the viciousness of their male counterparts.

Her irises changed from clear blue to bright teal-silver, pupils enlarged and vertical, like a cat’s. Her hand tightened around my neck as she curled her lip, exposing pearly, almost-inch-long fangs.

“You can tell me what you want with me or I can drain you dry and figure it out on my own, which is it?” she snarled, an inch away from my face.

“How about neither?” I managed to say, hitting her solar plexus with my knee.

Her hand loosened slightly, and it was enough. I twisted her right arm behind her back, eliciting another scream, and tried to break her neck. She tossed me over her shoulder with a snarl. I rolled to break the fall and summoned the stake back to my right hand. She hissed, face transformed into a mask of anger and pain, and launched herself at me. Instead of just dodging like before, she fought back. Each blocked and landed blow reverberated in my bones. Her strength nearly doubled mine.

It wouldn’t be the case if I let out the hot power stirring in my core, demanding an out.

A blast of my light could stop her enough if the stake was not an option, and it was looking like it wasn’t at all. But if she managed to dodge me, if others were watching, using my light would be a terrible idea.

If her vampire allies found out about me, about my true power, and what kind of fae I really was, they would torture me until I confessed my mother’s whereabouts. And I couldn’t jeopardize Alanna or the others.

I needed to know if she’d been sent by that vampire beast.

I had to read her, and since her mind was armored, in such a way I had no hope of breaching her shields easily, I’d have to use my empathy. But the rage and despair—the fear and wariness coming from her were revealing nothing. I’d have to touch her to properly gauge her intentions.

My survival instincts blared in alarm, but I fought against them. I slowed my moves just enough, allowing her to breach my defenses in a way that wasn’t obvious, but put her closer, even as every cell in my body screamed in protest.

She kicked out the stake from my hand and tackled me. Her legs came around my waist and her hands clenched around my wrists in an iron grip that threatened to break my bones.

She let out a tiger-like growl just as I breathed in. To my surprise, her breath didn’t stink. A swathe of her long mahogany hair fell over her shoulder and tickled my neck.

“Who the Hell are you, you pointy-eared psycho?!” the vampiress demanded.

I blinked. The glamour wasn’t working with her?

She sniffed, her eyes moving to my forehead. Just then, I felt the slight sting of an open wound. It would be closed in a matter of seconds, but one drop of blood was more than enough to tempt a vampire. She made a strangled sound and shook her head, pinning me harder.

My power core stirred, hot and demanding an exit as a reflex of the adrenaline coursing through my veins. I reined it in, wary of letting her see the true extent of my skills. But I could summon my stake and drive it right through her heart if need be.

“What are you?” she asked, her voice holding more wonder than rage.

I snorted. “As if you didn’t know already, as if that’s not the reason you took my class.”

She blinked. “Excuse me? I was in that class before you showed up. And I’d not be asking if I did know.”

“I don’t believe you,” I snapped, carefully sliding my empathy toward her, taking advantage of her unexpected questioning.

Her upper lip curled, displaying those blade-like fangs. Her eyes slid to my neck. My heart hammered, a curling, cold sensation wrapping around my chest. I honed my power into an invisible blade and summoned my stake.


The scent of his blood was the single most delicious thing I’d ever inhaled.

Why did he have to be so tempting?

Part of me wanted to bite him just to taste him, and that’s why despite the sharp fear that he was sent to capture me by that beast, despite his trespassing and stabbing me, I held back.

I had never killed someone simply because I craved their blood. It had always been a case of hunting perverts, self-defense, or taking revenge for someone who couldn’t.

So I stayed as far away from his neck as I could, considering I was straddling him and pinning him to the damp forest ground. Despite the fresh air, there was no escaping his scent. A mouthwatering combination of dark chocolate and spices I couldn’t name. Warm, heady, and achingly enticing.

I sensed invisible but mighty power coming from him. It felt like a burning blade aimed straight at my heart, and I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of might he possessed. Carefully, I loosened my tight leash on that force that dwelled inside me, and I feared and hated in equal measure.

“Tell me what you are, who you are,” I tried to demand, but it sounded more like a plea thanks to my fear, bloodlust-addled brain.

Like before, my hypnosis was wholly ineffective, repelled by a burning shield.

Part of me wanted to end him then and there, but I needed to know if he’d been sent to capture me.

“Only if you tell me why you’re hunting me down,” he bargained. Despite his fast heartbeat—and the slightly citric tang that I suspected was a telltale sign of fear—his voice was steady, confident.

“I was not hunting you down,” I said again. “You are the one who broke into my apartment. If someone is the hunter here, that’s not me.”

He snorted. “Bit ironic for the people-eating, fanged creature to say that, don’t you think?”

How did he manage that infuriating tone while being at the mercy of a people-eating creature, as he’d said?

I arched a brow.

“I came to stop you before you tried to kill me,” he added, the duh implicit.

“I hadn’t considered killing you until you broke into my home and scared my cat,” I testily confessed.

He scoffed. “You’re more frightened than your cat ever was.”

I glared at him. He was right, of course. “This is a very bizarre conversation.”

“And one I’d rather have without you on top of me, no offense,” he drawled.

I’d calmed down enough to register the rather suggestive position, to feel the pulsing heat and raw power emanating from him in waves. To be very aware of each point of contact, even through the barriers of our clothes.

I moved at full speed, locating the stake near his feet. Weird, I’d thought it was a few yards to my right. The crystal was hot in my hand. It felt curiously alive; as if it buzzed with power.

Alexander, if that was his name, stood fast; rubbing his right wrist as he gave me a reproachful look. A swathe of dark golden hair fell across his forehead, and I had the crazy impulse to put it back in place for him, imagining how soft it would feel between my fingers.

Just in case I needed any more confirmation that I was going crazy.

“So, what are you?” I pressed.

He rolled his shoulders, looking regal and nonchalant despite his messy, blood-stained clothes.

My blood, I remembered, quenching the instinctive impulse to bite him in revenge. The last person who had ever managed to make me bleed had died long ago. And he’d begged for his life.

“Are the pointy ears not enough of a hint?” he asked, locking those unearthly eyes with mine.

“An elf, like Legolas?” I asked, hating that I was playing his game.

He blinked. “Not precisely.”

I clenched my teeth, fighting down the instinctive hiss.

He heaved a dramatic sigh, but his gaze was reading me with sharp intensity. “Fae.”

“A faerie?” I asked, incredulous. “Like Tinker Bell?”

He flashed me a look of mock offense. “Not quite.”

Was he saying the truth?

I wasn’t sure which version had it right; if the stories that claimed faeries to be tiny naughty beings with wings and magical powder, or the ones that claimed they looked… Well, like gorgeous humanoids with pointy ears. The latter was a pretty close description of the striking, annoying, stabby idiot standing two yards away from me.

And who cared if he was lying? He had been trying to kill me just a couple of minutes ago.

My upper lip flickered over my still-lengthened fangs. He cocked a brow in a way that said ‘bring it on.’

And though that baser, violent part of me wanted to throttle him, I reined it in. I needed to know who he was and what he wanted. And I had the feeling he wanted the same from me.

“I’ve answered your question. Now, may I have my stake back?” he asked, stretching out his hand.

“Hell no. Why did you think I was hunting you down?” I demanded.

His eyes flashed. “Because your ilk enjoys killing my kind,” he replied.

I could sense his disdain when saying that.

I blinked. “Why?”

“Because our blood is more delicious, and nourishing, naturally,” he sneered.

I swallowed hard.

If that was true, if he wasn’t fooling me into lowering my guard to kill me, that was a repugnant reason.

“I would never kill someone just because they taste good,” I affirmed.

He scoffed. “Of course not. You are a bookish, animal-lover geek who wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Maybe I’d rushed into deciding not to bite him.

“And you’re just an innocent, sparkly faerie who was merely making sure I’m not a mean vampire,” I snorted. “It isn’t quite as simple as that, is it?”

He shrugged one shoulder. “Life rarely is. Now, may I have my stake back?”

A growl rumbled in my chest. “You stabbed me with it, you bastard. No, you can’t have it back.”

He smirked and tutted. “Has no one ever taught you that holding grudges is bad for the soul?”

“Has no one ever taught you it’s rude to break into people’s homes and then stab them after they save your ass from becoming faery-puree?” I shot back.

He shrugged. “I took nothing from your apartment, you are stealing from me.”

“Stealing sounds so rude,” I said, barely resisting showing him my fangs. “Let’s call it a gesture of good faith.”

He cocked a brow. “What a tough bargainer you are.”

I barely held back the desire to throttle him.

“I have questions,” I admitted. “You can’t just say such things and expect me not to have many questions.”

“An interrogation in the middle of the forest, in the dark of night done by a vampiress,” he pretended to muse. “Yeah, it’s a no from me.”

Stabbing him wasn’t the same as biting him. Maybe just a little stab.

“Perhaps tomorrow, after the class is over, we can grab a cup of coffee and have a conversation,” I suggested. That sounded reasonable and not at all as if I was planning to bite him.

His lips flickered. “Asking me on a date already? Don’t you think it is perhaps a bit soon after a murder attempt?”

“It was self-defense!” I cried.

“Tomato, tomahto,” he drawled. I growled. He rolled his eyes. “Fine, tomorrow, at the nearest coffee shop, we shall debate on the meaning of life and whatever else you like. For now, I must conclude our little dalliance.”

I locked my muscles not to kick him. He took a step back, eyes on me, and then turned, walking towards the tree line. Despite the facade of nonchalance, I could feel that he was wary. By far not as much as humans feared me once I showed them who I really was, but still.

He glanced both ways before crossing the road and heading towards the back of the building. I followed him, stashing his stake under my ex-favorite green blouse. His car was a beautiful, elegant sedan. He got inside and winked, before starting the engine and leaving me there, standing in the middle of the road, wondering just what the Hell had happened.

©π’πžπ₯𝐞𝐧𝐞 𝐊𝐚π₯π₯𝐚𝐧 𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟏

Did you enjoy it? This is a scene from HUNTRESS PREY, which you can order here:

Saturday, September 25, 2021

HUNTRESS PREY: Bonded by Blood and Magic by Selene Kallan

Preface and the first chapter of HUNTRESS PREY: Bonded by Blood and Magic 1.


After almost three centuries of running from my past, I should be used to loneliness. Being a mythological monster isn’t compatible with relationships. My heart bears the burning wounds of the times I’ve forgotten this. But the craving for company grows stronger every day, turning routine into an endless nightmare, consuming what’s left of me, and making me wish for an end to my immortality.
The explosive encounter with someone who knows what I am and how to destroy me reminded me of that proverb: be careful what you wish for.

I thought fate could not surprise me after almost six hundred years. And then there she is. The echo of the brave young woman I’ve heard legends about. Only she isn’t human anymore, but a vampire—the greatest enemy of my species. After a fight that could have killed us both, and an uneasy truce, I am left with burning curiosity and so is she.
But will curiosity be enough to quench her thirst for my blood and my impulse to kill her before she strikes?


Faster, faster; I thought desperately, silently urging my trembling, exhausted body to move. 
The sodden, muddy, heavy skirts did not help what was already a difficult trek across the forest. Barefoot and sore. Parched and terrified. 
“You can’t run away from me, little girl, I can smell you!” the bastard mocked.
I bit my tongue to avoid crying out as my right foot slid on a sharp rock and pain lanced up my leg. Bleeding was the worst thing that could happen right now.
Please, please.
But who was I begging for help?
Long ago, had I forsaken the idea of a merciful god. 
“Where are you?” he chanted. His voice sent yet another bolt of fear down my spine. 
I knew what he was, what kind of monster had hidden behind the refined appearance of a wealthy man. I had seen it so many times before, cruelty and evil wrapped in an attractive package, but not like him. Not like the beast that preyed on innocents and was now determined to destroy me.
Something hit my side and sent me flying. I crashed down against a tree trunk, sprawled on the wet ground, unable to draw air to my lungs, a cry trapped in my burning throat.
I fought against the heavy press of unconsciousness; feared being at his mercy without being able to fight.
A groan left my raw throat as I gulped air and forced my body up. Frantic, I looked around, back against the rough bark of the tree. It was an eerie night, with no moon or stars to illuminate the dense expanse of the forest. I flexed my knees, reaching out and desperately trying to find something, anything, that could serve as a weapon. 
My hand closed around a rock just as I saw a flash of bright feline eyes in the gloom. 
“Got you,” came the rough, inhuman voice.
Faster than I could react, he was standing in front of me. 
Unbidden, a cry left my lips, cut off by the hand that closed around my throat. He was almost a foot taller than me, something bizarre considering I was almost six-foot-tall. I tried to hit him with the rock, but he trapped my wrist, squeezing. His strength was colossal, impossible. He clenched his hand tighter, and I heard the crack of my bones. My hand opened reflexively, letting go of the useless rock. A strangled sound left my lips. It would have been a piercing cry if not for the pressure around my neck.
Fetid breath hit my face, my eyes locking with the beast’s eyes. As if by some thrall, I couldn’t look away.
“Do you know how much it cost me to get such high-quality cattle?” he growled.
Cattle. People, they were people, you miserable bastard! I wanted to scream.
He came closer to my face, growling low. Painful fear ran down my spine, my whole body shook, my heart thundered. His hand tightened around my neck and I began to drift.
He violently shook me back to consciousness. My head throbbed.
“Not so fast,” the beast said, upper lip curling to expose sharp, inch-long fangs that glinted like blades in the gloom. “Let’s see how you taste first.”
My eyes widened. I kicked out and smacked with my left hand, but it was as useful as hitting a wall of rock. He released my neck, and I drew in enough air to let out a weak croak just as he savagely bit me and lancing pain cut through the base of my throat. 
It burned. 
I could feel the beast’s sharp fangs embedded deep in my vein; hear his long gulps. My body became paralyzed with fear as my lifeblood was taken. The beast growled and released me. I fell to the ground like a discarded rag doll.
The beast snarled and spat my blood. “Disgusting,” he sneered. “A complete waste of time and money.”
An echo of pain pulsed in my heart. The knowledge that the man I had called father not only trafficked with the lives of innocent people but was also willing to sell his own daughter to the best bidder was sickening.
I supported part of my weight with my left hand and tried to move, fueled by fear and the desire to live. 
A blow to the side had me flying again. My chest smashed against another tree. All the air left my lungs, a few of my ribs cracked. I couldn’t scream, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move. Could do nothing but watch as the beast neared me. And I could see him now, see the muscular frame and the wind-ruffled black hair, the disturbingly handsome face, and wicked silver eyes with cat-like pupils. There was so much malice in him I would have retched if my stomach hadn’t been empty; if I could move.
“Should I just kill you now or take you with me?” he pretended to muse. A cruel smile spread across his face, making him look demonic. “I do not think you have received the punishment you deserve.”
Why am I not dead yet? I agonized.
I didn’t have the energy to stand. The sharp ends of my broken ribs stabbed me with every ragged breath; I could taste blood on my tongue. 
“Yes, I think we can still have some fun together,” the beast said, taking a step closer. 
I hated the tears that clouded my sight, the sheer terror that made me want to beg for mercy. But I wouldn’t. I knew that would please him and the last thing I wanted was to give any satisfaction to that monster. 
He knelt beside me, silver eyes bright with repugnant excitement. A surge of adrenaline shot through my body, giving me the strength to rise on my elbows and stand, barely managing one step before being yanked off my feet to fall face-first onto the ground, my skin breaking and burning as the bastard dragged me to his side. He turned me roughly to face him, his hand clamping down on my throat. I kicked and scratched, no air entering my lungs. My chest was heaving, my broken ribs an unrelenting agony that blackened my sight. Slowly, my body went limp.
The beast shook me roughly to keep me from drifting. A shivery sensation wrapped around my skull. 
“Open your eyes,” he commanded.
I did at once, knowing he was invading my mind, hating it even though I had the terrifying suspicion that was the least he was going to do to me. 
Still, I fought back against his clutch in my mind, imagining talons tearing through the invisible hands choking my will; throwing every bit of mental force I could summon against him.
His eyes widened, and his upper lip curled to expose those huge fangs. “Interesting, such a waste of potential,” he jeered, looking down at me as if I were an item on a shelf. “Who knows? Maybe after you receive your deserved punishment, I might still find a purpose for you. What do you say?”
An unbidden cry rose in my throat. His iron clutch turned it into a barely-there whimper. 
His other hand took hold of my corset, tugging. Panic flooded my veins, chilling me to the bone. His eyes locked with mine, holding me prisoner so I couldn’t fight. I gagged, not wanting to imagine what it meant that he was tearing my clothes off, begging the universe my body would break and give up soon.
Please let me die, let me die, let me die—


I woke up with a jolt, kicking the blankets and backing down. The back of my head smashed against the solid wall of my dark bedroom. An undignified meow came from inside the room. My eyes grew accustomed to the dark at once, but the shadow near my bedroom door seemed to move, to be walking closer. I lurched for the lamp on the bedside table, turning it on. The sudden yellow light made me flinch. I squinted as I examined my empty room, save by the chubby, multicolored cat flicking his tail by the foot of my bed. The ajar door had produced the shadow that had seemed so terrifying.
Nevertheless, my eyes darted frantically around, looking for danger. I let go of my empathic skills as well, casting a web of awareness that stretched out nearly half a mile away. My heart thundered in my chest for the ten seconds it took me to fully realize the fear clutching my gut came from the nightmare. 
Well, the memory.
The memory of the night I became a vampiress. 
I swallowed hard against my parched throat, my body trembling with the vivid sense-memory of that beast breaking my bones, invading my mind. Of the long hours of torture that had left me speechless for days. 
And then when he left—thinking I’d be mauled by a mountain lion—a new searing pain invaded every shattered bone, torn muscle, and destroyed joint. The scorching agony lasted for hours, even in unconsciousness, as my mortal body healed and changed into something else. 
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, focusing instead on the bittersweet pang of nostalgia that remembering the mountain lion elicited. He had kept me warm while I woke up and had stayed with me long after that. Even though I had turned into a monster, despite the wariness I knew he sometimes felt.
Freckles, my thirty-four-pound Maine Coon, jumped on the bed, yellow eyes reproachful as he moved his tail. 
“Sorry about that,” I said. 
He kept the baleful look for a couple more seconds and then sat on my lap, purring softly. 
I caressed him with still slightly trembling hands and decided all cats were nuts, big or small. Dogs were smarter, they could tell something was off with me and either barked at me until I hissed at them or cowered and fled.
Freckles meowed and jumped off my lap.
“What?” I asked. 
He pointedly looked towards the door and walked outside of the room, fluffy tail up.
I sighed and got up, following him to the kitchen. He was already waiting for me, sitting on the quartz kitchen island.
I rolled my eyes at him. “You are a spoiled brat.”
“Yes, you,” I grumbled, but still went to fetch a can of premium salmon. I couldn’t help but wrinkle my nose as I poured the stinky meat into a porcelain plate and placed it in front of the chubby cat. 
Freckles made a contented sound and dug in with relish. My throat was dry. I opened the fridge and took a bottle of cold water, gulping the cool liquid as I looked at the unappetizing bags of A+. They were never particularly tasty, but at that moment, the idea was almost repugnant. Perhaps because of the memories I was trying to ignore, or because every once in a while my body demanded I fed on the source. 
Bagged blood wasn’t quite as nutritious, and wasn’t that a creepy thing to know?
I closed the fridge door and slid to the floor, closing my eyes. Unbidden, the questions formed inside my head, as they usually did.
What if the beast found out I was still alive? What if he came after me? What if one day I woke up, and it wasn’t the shadow of my door, but a six-foot-ten vampire?
I snorted. After all the people I had killed in the last two, almost three centuries, I didn’t have the right to fear my own kind. But fear is rarely a rational thing, is it?
A heavy someone landed on my legs and I opened my eyes, meeting the worried yellow gaze of the only being who knew the truth about me.
Maybe that was part of the problem. The only friend I had was a cat. A smart one, admittedly, but some days I worried about my sanity. And others, I hated being weak and craving for human interaction. The last time I’d tried to pretend I was normal and taken a human for a lover had ended horribly.
I hugged Freckles and kissed the fluffy spot behind one ear, where his scent was stronger and comforting. He let me; purring and licking my cheek. When Freckles gently pulled away, I released him and he left, full and content, towards the bedroom. 
Just the thought of trying to sleep again made me anxious.
I sighed and got up. 
After washing the dish, I grabbed the sneakers I’d left by the door. I had the habit of sleeping in leggings and T-shirts, so I didn’t need extra clothes. Instead of going for the door, I opened the living room window. My apartment was on the fourth floor of a fairly new building. A narrow stretch of grass and then a ten-foot-tall iron fence separated the building from a road next to a large park, which suited me fine since I often suffered from insomnia. Taking a minimum impulse to avoid the fence, I jumped forward, twisting in the air and landing on the road, silent as a cat. There was always something exhilarating about those seconds of weightlessness. 
Ever since the change, I was only able to sleep three times a week tops. I didn’t tire, thankfully. It seemed to be one of the aspects that had changed with my new biology. Along with the lack of sweating, the superior senses, speed, strength. Oh, and that pesky hunger for blood. 
I shook my head, deciding to keep the maudlin thoughts at bay. Yes, I was a bloodsucking monster, but others had it worse. I didn’t have the right to complain. I kept a slightly faster pace than most humans were capable of; the park was deserted at such a late or early hour.
My stomach clenched with the almost painful hunger. Just that morning, I had consumed two bags, and I had actually bothered to heat them. But when was the last time I had fed on a human? 
I cast my mind back and winced, remembering the filthy basement and the scared teenage boy. A low growl left my throat. I’d made the degenerate bastard who’d kidnapped the boy scream. I had almost been too late. The cops would have certainly never arrived in time. 
That had been four months ago.
I felt no remorse whatsoever for taking the lives of degenerates. Not only did they seem to be an unlimited source of food, but their death brought safety to good people. A monster I might be, but oftentimes it takes a monster to destroy another. 
My thoughts spiraled down towards the insidious fear that had been a constant and unwanted companion for centuries: what if he came back for me? I was certain immortals could hold grudges forever, I certainly could. So, what if I ran into another like me, and what if this hypothetical vampire knew him and told him I’d survived? What if he captured me and tortured me again? 
I was stronger than several dozen humans, something I had discovered in the most violent way, but something told me he was even stronger. 
And what if, instead of being found and killed, I ended up losing my sanity, or what was left of it? 
It wasn’t such a distant possibility. More than half a century had passed since I’d had close company; since I had allowed myself to care for someone. It had ended horribly, and I promised myself to never allow it to happen again. The closest thing I had to a friend was a young woman at work, and of course, Freckles. 
But I still felt empty and each day more. Selfish as it was, in my moments of weakness, I craved for someone who knew my truth, someone I didn’t have to hide from behind a facade of humanity.
It was more than selfish; it was irresponsible. What if I became close to someone, and they died in the hands of the beast who turned me? 
And what if I became an even worse monster because of the loneliness eating me up inside? 
My stomach clenched violently again, leaving me breathless. My heart kicked into a race, something unusual unless I was scared or in pain. I placed my hands on my knees and breathed deeply. A hysterical laugh bubbled up in my throat. I was having a panic attack. A vampiress having a panic attack. There was irony there, I was certain of that. 
A muffled cry echoed in the distance. I stood straight, opening my senses. And there it was, another faint cry that was distinctly feminine. 
My body was moving before the decision was fully formed. I would be little more than a blur to human eyes at that moment, my speed more than doubled that of a cougar. 
It took me less than half a minute to find the origin of the sounds. A man straddling a young woman wearing pink sports clothes; he had a knife pressed to her neck. 
I yanked him off her by the collar and sent him flying away. The moon was bright enough for the pervert to see my silhouette, but I hardly cared. I turned my attention to the young woman, crouching beside her. She had a cut in her forehead that was bleeding copiously and her pink hoodie was half torn, but she seemed to be unharmed otherwise. The feeble light of the lamp that marked the path about ten yards away wasn’t enough for her eyes to distinguish me clearly. She cried out and landed a few feeble blows to my chest.
“Easy,” I said. My voice was slightly scratchy thanks to the thirst. 
“Please,” she begged, wide brown eyes full of tears. 
“Shh, I won’t hurt you,” I promised, even as the clean scent of her blood twisted my stomach further. 
“Watch out!” she cried, looking over my shoulder. I stood and turned, grabbing hold of the man’s wrist, squeezing hard enough to make him lose the knife. Not that it could actually hurt me much. He cried out, eyes wide with shock. I delivered a punch to his solar plexus that made him fly back and land with a thud, unconscious. 
The woman’s eyes grew wider. She must’ve gotten used to the dark enough to see what I’d just done. Her wound dripped more blood, a crimson rivulet running down her face and staining her clothes as she recoiled and her back found a tree. My mouth watered, but I pushed the hunger down; it would soon be satisfied, but not with her.
Still, she needed to leave before I unleashed the monster stirring inside me. 
“Listen,” I commanded, my voice turning icy as it always did when I used hypnosis. She obeyed at once, even as her heart thundered and I smelled the metallic tang of her fear. “Stay still, I will not hurt you.”
She watched with wide eyes as I approached and crouched in front of her, cradling her face. Her velvety, dark skin was hot under my hands. My temperature was usually ten degrees lower than a human’s, and it cooled further depending on the weather. I licked my parched lips and braced myself as I lowered my head and licked her open wound. It was bad enough to need stitches, and she would lose consciousness unless I stopped the bleeding. My saliva was excellent at coagulating and healing wounds, something I had discovered out of desperation long ago.
She let out a muffled sound of surprise and fear. I ignored the way my mouth watered and my stomach clenched with the clean taste, swiping my tongue over the wound again and pulling back to examine the result. The cut began to knit back; the blood flow effectively staunched.
I released her and met her wide, dark eyes. “You will leave straight home, clean yourself up, and then go to the doctor. You fell and hit your head because you tripped, the lighting was poor. But you won’t do that again. You will subscribe to a gym or buy a walking machine. It is dangerous to be out there alone. Repeat what you’ll do.”
Her eyes lost most of the fear as she recited my instructions, and I hated having to push her like that. And I hated even more that no matter how much the world supposedly improved, some humans remained the same repugnant beasts. 
“Good,” I approved, helping her to stand. “How far away do you live?”
I looked back to see the man still sprawled on the ground, unconscious. 
“Not so far. My building is just a block away,” she responded.
“All right, go,” I instructed. “Once you get home, you will forget about me.”
She nodded, waking steady enough for me not to worry. I trailed after her for a few yards, then waited by the path until she disappeared from sight. It was highly unlikely she would run into yet another predator. 
She had found two tonight, after all.
A groan sounded behind my back, followed by clumsy, hurried steps. I waited for a heartbeat and then trailed back towards the human predator. Less than ten seconds later, there he was, reeking of fear and looking around him frantically, his dark eyes landing on me. 
He was holding his knife in the hand I hadn’t broken.
He curled his lips, leering at me, hesitation and revolting lust mixing in him.
It was always the same. 
They saw me as prey even after I’d stopped them from harming innocents. Their feeble minds tried to find a logical explanation for what had happened.
I waited, keeping my shift in check, letting him think he had even the slightest chance of overpowering me.
The fear his ilk felt once they realized they’d fallen into the clutches of an inhuman monster amused me. I could not deny it. 
I could read the confusion, fear, and anger warring in him. His breathing sped up, the clutch he had on the knife so strong his knuckles were bone-white. The instinctive fear that came from being in my presence mingled with something darker, repugnant. 
I stayed still and let him get closer.
“Wanna dance, bitch?” he asked, still torn. 
Unbidden, his muddled thoughts reached my mind. 
‘She’s tall, but she can’t be that strong. It must’ve been just a lucky blow. Yeah, I can take her down. She looks even better than the other bitch—’
I clenched my teeth, blocking the repugnant thoughts. Over the last half-century, it had become harder to keep my empathy and telepathy leashed. My stomach ached with hunger again, and this time I didn’t bother stopping the impulse. I let my sight grow sharper, embraced the slight pressure as my sharp canines lengthened into even sharper fangs, let my upper lip curl, and relished the unearthly growl that crawled out of my throat.
“Oh, shit!” the man cried. 
I knew what he saw. 
My eyes were shining in the dark; pupils vertical, and teal-silver irises enlarged.
He tried to bolt, but I wasn’t in the mood for playing cat and mouse. I held him by the neck, lifting him off the ground to my height.
“Not so brave now, are we?” I hissed, my voice reverberating in a chilly timbre. 
I stopped his weak attempt to stab me and tossed the knife away. 
“No, please!” he cried, the scent of his fear disgustingly tantalizing.
“How many women have begged you before?” I asked.
I didn’t wait for an answer. My fangs were deep in his carotid in less than a blink. The first gulp of blood was bittersweet, something I was fully expecting. The slightly salty, metallic taste was never particularly palatable, but it served its purpose. I let the anticoagulant my fangs injected flow free and took every last drop the pervert had to offer. 
Despite my attempts to block that wretched telepathy, the images reached my mind. His memories, the visions of all the women he’d terrified before, ever since he was strong enough to force a girl. His first victim had been a classmate. Female faces contorted in fear flashed in my mind’s eye on a dizzying display.
I growled, drinking faster, hating the repugnant images, relishing the replenishment of my full strength. 
Faster than I thought, he died. The images mercifully disappeared after that, but so did my hunger. I dropped his body to the ground, cleaning the corners of my mouth with the back of my hand. I closed my eyes, forcing the fangs up and waiting for a couple of minutes while my system assimilated the blood weighing in my stomach. 
I hated the fullness sensation; I hated the visions and the taste. But I couldn’t deny the baser, primal part of me that felt like roaring in satisfaction. Couldn’t deny the sharp relief of feeling at full strength and the disappearance of the discomfort that had plagued me for days.
I opened my eyes, looking down at the empty carcass of the predator-turned-prey. It was time for my less favorite part of feeding, getting rid of the evidence. 
I tossed the body over my shoulder and moved, entering deeper into the park. I would have taken a shovel with me, but I hadn’t planned to kill anyone. I rarely did anymore. Decades ago I had hunted down human predators on purpose, two a week sometimes. I’d stopped, noticing how with every premeditated kill I sank deeper into maudlin states. Now I killed the ones I ran into.
It took me nearly half an hour to find the rickety little shed I’d discover during previous walks.
And hunts.
Inside, there was a shovel and gasoline.
I chose a spot near a tree and began to dig.
I hated digging, but I had seen enough movies, read enough books, and dealt with plenty of humans to know leaving evidence was a bad idea. 
If someone found out about my true nature, I would be in danger. I knew that from experience. 
I could see myself tied to a metal table and cut open to see how I worked. Not that I didn’t often wonder that myself, but I preferred to find out that with less disturbing methods. 
I truly hated digging, however. 
The scent of damp earth, the roots, and rocks made the process harder, the claustrophobic sensation that came from being inside a hole in the ground.
That’s what you get for losing control and killing the fucker; I thought ruefully.
If I had controlled myself enough, I could have sealed the wound and commanded him to jump off a cliff or something, but too long had passed since a proper feed. Not to mention, sometimes the rage I felt when I saw such disgusting thoughts didn’t allow me to think clearly. Not even after almost three centuries. 
So I dug, being careful not to break the shovel with the renewed burst of strength running wild through my veins.
In a short time, I had a nine-foot deep, four feet wide hole.
It was harder to find a body if you buried it vertically, after all.
I jumped out of the hole and tossed the body inside.
It took a bit of pressure to get all the dirt back in place, but I managed it.
I stepped back, examining the ground, making sure there wasn’t an obvious disturbance.
It was unlikely someone actually bothered using a radar detector to find the bastard. People disappear all the time, and human law enforcement is too overwhelmed to look too hard. Still, if someone bothered using radar, it was unlikely they found the body.
I looked down at my muddy self, wrinkling my nose. I needed a long, long shower.
The sun rose, bathing the trees in creamy light and stirring memories. I didn’t turn into ashes under the sunlight, fortunately. It could burn if I wasn’t wearing sunscreen and was exposed for a long period, but first-degree burns at most. Nothing like the movies in which vampires turned into ash, not even bones remaining. 
Still, I wasn’t ready for the full force of the Northern California sun. Granted, it wasn’t quite as bad in early October, but I didn’t have my contacts, and my eyes were hypersensitive to light. It took me a matter of minutes to reach my apartment at full speed. Making sure no one was watching, I climbed my way up using window sills. I managed to crawl inside through my window just in time to avoid the worst of the sun. Freckles was waiting for me on the counter, bushy tail wrapped around his chubby body as he peered curiously at my no doubt messy hair.
“Yours is worse,” I argued.
“Meow,” he called back.
I shook my head and headed to the bathroom. Locking the door to keep the voyeur cat out. I wrinkled my nose as I looked at my reflection. My hair was actually worse than Freckles’, though thick and straight it had the habit of getting tangled. It was slightly shorter than usual, barely reaching past my shoulder blades. My eyes—pale blue with a thin teal ring on the outer edge of the irises when my savage side was under control—were surrounded by slightly dark circles that stood out against my pale skin. Too bad sleeping pills had little to no effect on me. 
There was a smudge of blood on my cheek. The sight paralyzed me as my mind’s eye supplied me with an image of how I looked centuries ago; of the round cheeks and the bright innocence in my eyes.
I swallowed hard and undressed quickly, throwing the clothes in the washing machine under the sink and jumping inside the shower, not caring the water was too hot. 
She was dead. 
The naΓ―ve daughter of the merchant had died long ago. 
I was all that remained. 
Monster and victim.
Predator and survivor. 
Huntress and prey.
Each day more numb than alive.
And to make matters worse, it was Tuesday, and I had to go to work.

©Selene Kallan, 2021. 
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