Please enjoy the first chapter of my debut novel, Wereleper. Or don’t. But I hope you do. ;}
True Romance, Pulp Fiction, Die Hard I… III, IV… V wasn’t out on DVD yet, but what happened to II? Maybe if Mr. All-Hands-On-Deck would detach his lips from my neck I could ask him.
Say Anything… how about Stop, before I do it for you?
Natural Born Killers… I rolled my eyes at the irony. How did I let it get this far? Stupid movies; cataloguing them wasn’t helping me figure out my exit plan.
He slipped a hand into my dress. The lacy bra I was wearing enhanced his touch and not in a good way. My nipple perked to almost painful attention under his manhandling. I dragged his hand away and put the focus back on his DVDs stacked harmlessly beside the T.V. cabinet, to keep my hormones stable. He couldn’t care less that my attention was diverted, though. Any minute now, if he didn’t stop, that would change.
As if on cue, my head spun, the beginning effects of life careening toward the worst-case scenario.
His hand was still doing its damage to my breast as he pinched my nipple aggressively. The growl slipped from my mouth, uncontrollable. Things were getting out of control, and quick. My already sharp canines punched out, and I felt my back burn with the shape of rosettes rising to the surface. Despite the dress I was wearing, my arms and legs and, more importantly, my face would still reveal my secret. At the moment, the dim lights were my best friend.
I froze and tried to harness my emotions; like my panting wouldn’t give me away. That’s probably what was egging him on. He may have looked like the predator in this situation, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I had to get him to ease up, so I pushed at his chest. The innocent move could have knocked him across the room, but I had lived around humans long enough to have mastered my strength.
He shoved me further into the cushions of the couch and stuck his face in my neck. He was tripping all over the things that would set off the animal inside me. Maybe he, too, was pushed beyond his limit of return. Did humans get that way, or was it male stupidity?
“You like to play rough, huh?” he breathed hot into my ear, grinding his erection into my pelvis. Yeah, definitely stupid is as stupid does. He stuck his tongue in my ear and growled low, but it was different than the sounds I make, and with a whole different meaning.
Then his teeth latched onto the skin behind my ear, and that set me off.
My memory of the murder was butchered into snippets, much like the victim. They were mostly the thoughts of a feral animal, which wasn’t exactly normal, even for a were. I remembered a wash of anger came over me that I unleashed in a great roar. Blood shot through the air. Ragged screams were cut short with the slash of my claws. And then, dead weight as he lay limp, his neck in my jaw.
I tossed him aside like a wet rubber, its usefulness just expired, and stood there, slowly shifting back to myself. The gravity of what I had done shocked me into silent horror. I was a killer, yes, but not of humans.
Standing there, highlights of the last few days leading up to this moment played over in my mind, stuck on repeat. Once again, how had I gotten hoodwinked into such a catastrophe? It was so unlike me. The date with a stranger I had met in a bar; the result of peer pressure from my ding-bat co-worker. I never even went to bars, let alone allowed myself to be picked up in one. I tiptoed through life making best friends with my anonymity: a condition of my 40-year exile. Years that would take a couple of centuries to catch up to my appearance. If I lived that long.
I guess it was no surprise that, in the foreign situation of a date, I would accept his invitation to come up for a nightcap. I didn’t even know what that was.
Guess I still had a lot to learn about the human experience, but how complicated could a date be? What first threw me off was when he wanted to drive me home. He had insisted on picking me up, and the corner Starbucks seemed harmless enough. Definitely couldn’t have had him knowing where I lived. My home was my final bastion of privacy. No one went there. I mean, what was I thinking… like he was supposed to call me a cab from his place? It seemed so stupid now, standing a few feet from his mangled body.
I had to cover this up and fast, and get rid of the evidence. Highlights from my favorite crime shows went through my mind. A feeble attempt at practicality, true, but the skills to cover up a murder had to come from somewhere.
My nose pointed me in the direction of the bathroom and I flashed inside—movement quicker than the human eye can track—andturned on the shower. I should have flashed myself out of the damned apartment when Mr. Hands-on got frisky I scolded myself.
I got under the hot spray and stripped off my ruined clothes, tossing them in a bloody heap in the corner of the tub. Using his heavily perfumed soap reminded me of the weird taste that lingered on his flesh as I… well, let’s not go over that again.
Once all of his “evidence” was off me, I wrapped myself in his towel and walked outside the bathroom to find a linen closet. I took a couple more towels, found some bleach under the sink, and set about cleaning the blood trail I’d left from the body to the bathroom. Thank the gods the floor wasn’t carpeted. That would have made things impossible. I bet the manufacturers of laminate flooring didn’t have this in mind in terms of easy cleanup.
The pungent bleach burned in my sensitive nostrils as I splashed it around like an all-purpose eraser. Wasn’t even sure that it would kill the DNA traces of blood that could be seen with Luminol—a term I’d heard many times on those favorite cop shows I mentioned earlier. I just hoped the police wouldn’t instantly think they were chasing a killer who showers afterward and then goes around cleaning up after herself. Come to think of it, I was leaving evidence that would lead police to that exact conclusion. Despite my criminal status, murder was not a career choice.
Busy at work, I noticed the apartment was blanketed in quiet. In any other city, the neighbors would have called the cops and had them swarming by now. But Los Angeles was full of people with the case of see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil and damn sure don’t call the cops on evil. But since it was working in my favor, I wasn’t going to poke a finger at it.
My thoughts ran repetitiously over my “CSI” checklist. To lighten the mood, I made a name for this new side of my personality, “The Cleaner.” All murderers probably had it, I thought, mortified at how easily I linked myself to a group of psychopaths. But, how does the saying go? “If it walks like a murderer, talks like a murderer…” Heck, I didn’t do any of those things, just the murdering part. I winced. I was thinking too hard about this. Focus on the task at hand.
After picking through his closet, I found a pair of shorts and a t-shirt small enough to fit me. My curvy lumps and bumps stretched out the areas that were sized for a man’s stature. I turned and caught a glimpse of my reflection in the closet mirror.
Time seemed to stop. In that moment, it didn’t even make sense why I had been hiding all these years. My dark skin was sickly pale and a panicked expression was chiseled into my face. I looked… well, 10 minutes past dead. I could clean up this mess or get caught; it didn’t matter. I was already a criminal with a fictitious rap sheet and, now, I was living up to the name. It was spelled “disgrace.” Disabled, handicap, special is what they called it in human society, but where I came from it was a condition punishable only by death. On cue, my head snapped toward the living room. Ha! Funny… living room, where the dead body was. And a poor, defenseless human, no less. Wow, I really was the weakest representation of my race.
Tears stung my eyes, but the self-pity needed to wait. It had no place here in this stranger’s apartment, with said stranger congealing in the next room. I pursed my lips, determined to finish this.
Moving at a feverish pace, I threw everything with my DNA on it in a plastic bag and washed down the surface of the tub and shower with more bleach. The whole place started to reek from it, and I realized the police were sure to notice. My main concern was eliminating my presence; they could think what they want about the murderer so long as they couldn’t connect it to me, a notorious, exiled wereleopard.
I must have flashed through the apartment ten times to make sure all my stuff, my DNA, was accounted for and waiting at the front door. Once outside, it was still dark. The cool air blew across my skin raising goosebumps. Weres don’t get cold, but the light, human-like hairs covering my body worked more like heightened sensors compared to those on a human.
I pulled my cell phone out of my purse to see it was barely past midnight. I might still be able to make a necessary trip out to my hunting grounds. Find a permanent hiding place for this evidence bag. Technically, the territory belonged to another wereleopard. I encroached on it with the unofficial permission of her boyfriend. I was his little secret because if she knew about us she would kill me. Wereleopard females were infamous for not sharing well, especially with a mutant like me. Those shortcomings kept me from overseeing a territory of my own. I wasn’t strong enough to defend it.
The run home would have gone quicker if I didn’t have so much to carry and such a compelling reason to take the back, back roads. Chunk, my pet Frenchie and only trusted companion, was waiting inside the door of my bungalow apartment in West Hollywood. No surprise there. He had to pee like a racehorse, but I was in a one-track state of mind. I opened up the back door off the kitchen and left it ajar for him to do his business while, inside, I changed into my own t-shirt and shorts. The borrowed clothing had to be disposed of with all the other evidence.
Back outside, with my head in the passenger side of my car, Chunk came running up as I shoved the bag with the bloody clothes onto the floor. He propped himself up beside me, peered inside, and sniffed loudly.
“Yeah, I know it smells like fresh meat.” I often spoke to him like he could understand me. In his own way, he could.
“Let’s keep this between you and me, ‘kay?” He snuffled loudly in affirmation.
I picked him up, ran back to my apartment, and tossed him back in. “I have to do this on my own, Chunk. Be back later.” He whined after I closed him in and locked him up tight.
I eased my car out of the driveway with the lights off, in case one of my neighbors happened to sneak a peek outside. Wasn’t worth the risk of them having anything to tell the authorities should they come knocking.
It was a bit of a drive out to the woods, but at this time of night there was little traffic. In L.A., there were always cars on the road, and I mean more than you would expect.
I turned up the road, off the PCH, that lead into the forested area. I got that familiar flutter in my chest that seemed to get worse each time I visited the territory. Couldn’t help but worry if this would be the time she discovered me… and subsequently gutted me.
The male who lived on the territory had been discreet so far, but that didn’t take away the danger. I hadn’t quite put my finger on why he did it, outside of the fact that we occasionally had sex, which sounds obvious, but it was a risk for him as well. He wouldn’t go unpunished if he got caught. Most likely he would be worse off. Weres could be awfully inventive with causing pain. When you can heal most cuts and grow back limbs, the limits of torture are the stuff of bloody, slasher films.
Torture for me, however, wasn’t such a far-fetched concept. Being mutant and having suffered a past of abandonment and neglect, just the trade of sex was an exercise in suffering. I had only hours ago made mincemeat of a guy for trying to do just that.
I knew it wasn’t normal, what I did. Most humans and weres avoided mixing things up, but weres could control their impulses enough not to attack during sex. And that’s beside the fact that we shift during the act, at least, if we want to do it to completion. But I am a mutant. I don’t fully shift, which you would think makes me a more palatable match for a human and, yet, doesn’t explain why I mistook my date for a late-night snack.
As for the male who lived on the hunting territory, well, he had his female to have sex with, so why he bothered with me—and all of my issues—was a mystery.
I tucked my car under some low-hanging trees on the edge of the woods. The male had shown me the places the female hung around most within the territory. Naturally, I avoided them and headed to an area I hoped was remote enough. True to my nature, the outdoors washed calm over me. It just felt right to be out here in the bushes and trees with the sights and sounds of so many living creatures, bugs and animals alike.
Without ceremony, I picked a spot and shifted my hands into claws. I dug about a three-foot hole and buried the bag. During the task, I thought it probably would have been better to burn the contents and then bury the ashes, but the smoke would have drawn the female out for sure.
I bent over the patch of ground patting it down to make it look undisturbed, then spread leaves over it for camouflage. I heard the soft crunch of a dried leaf a second before he tackled me to the ground. We rolled away under a bush. I swatted him when we came to a stop, slashing a wound in his neck. I knew it was the male by his scent, but my nerves were shot from the night’s earlier events.
He roared into my face, quite impressive in his animal form, and I yielded. He was pissed, but I didn’t know if it was because I was on the territory without letting him know first, or if he knew what I was up to.
As if he understood my thoughts, he stalked over to my burial spot and sniffed. He looked back at me and snarled, took a step in the opposite direction, and waited for me to follow. He wasn’t going to let me leave so easily. The male and I had a bargain with food and sex, not telling him my business. Now, the evening that had started as a long drawn-out nightmare was turning into an outright marathon. I thought about making a run for it but knew I wouldn’t get far. Instead, I sulked along, following his path deeper into the woods.
We approached the male’s hut nestled in the branches of an old sycamore tree. It was a beautiful specimen. Big, wide branches with fat leaves. Like the Bel Air of trees. I admit, I was a little jealous. Once up there, he shifted back to human. The wound I had inflicted healed instantly with the change. Another jab at the ego. This was the double-edged sword of my life. I longed to be with my kind but being around them shined a spotlight on my inadequacies. Amongst humans, I was the superior form.
The male stood naked, of course, and I averted my eyes around his pad trying to find new interest in the familiar décor. His state-of-the-art laptop sat atop a small computer desk connected to a printer, the only semblance of modern technology amongst the natural setting. The hidden generator’s sound was a constant background murmur coming from outside the hut nearby. There were a few down mattresses with lots of pillows grouped together to form one large bed/lounge area. The whole hut was about the size of my bedroom. No need for a kitchen or bathroom since nature provided that for him. That isn’t to say that he didn’t eat take-out from time to time. But, for sure, he ate more fresh kills than human food.
I stood in an awkward stance near the entrance of the hut, hands clasped in front of my body like a makeshift chastity belt. The male—I didn’t know his name after so many months (didn’t want to)—was a constant sexual threat to me whether he was naked or not, because of our deal. And, yet, he had gotten more acquiescence out of me than any other male before him. What stuck in my craw, now, was I felt weird in his presence after what I had done with my date earlier. More so for the sexual foreplay than the murder itself.
He stretched out on the mattresses, his head propped up on his hand. He had too much confidence for my taste. If I didn’t know any better, I would have accused him of throwing it in my face. But it wasn’t his fault he wore his sexuality like an oily sheen on his pelt. Much like casting disdain on everyone I meet is beyond my control.
He patted the empty space beside him.
“I’m not in the mood.” Impatience had me shifting my weight to the other foot.
He frowned, put his hands up in surrender. “Fine. No touching. At least, not that kind of touching.” He chuckled at his own joke then paused, dropping the niceties. “What did you bury in my mistress’ woods?”
“You know what they say about the price of tea in China?” He looked clueless, so I gestured with my hands and said with a bad New York accent, “It doesn’t matta’.”
“I’m not going to ask you again.” His tone was dead and serious. I cast my eyes down, feeling every bit the scolded cub at the abrupt shift. He had never been angry with me before. Then again, I had never given him a reason to be.
I shifted feet again, silent in my guilt. “It’s better if you don’t know,” I warned.
He was up and across the room so quick, quicker than I could have moved. He caressed the stray hairs out of my face. “You look pale,” he said, then made a face. “And you smell like men’s cologne. What happened?”
“Like I said…” I fell silent and avoided his eyes, fearing he might somehow read the events on my corneas.
“The blood wasn’t were, it was human.”
“Don’t.” Worried he might press me to tell the truth, I turned on my heel to walk out. He grabbed my arm and pulled me into an embrace. I fought but knew it was useless. So, I went stiff as he carried me to his bed area. I kneeled onto the soft mattresses and crawled away from him to lean against the wall at the far edge of the bed.
He went to his cooler next to the desk and opened it. I could smell the blood of his latest kill waft out.
“I’m not hungry.” I curled my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around them. It was an immature display, but I had lost all sense of humility long ago.
“You still should eat something.” He brought a small portion over to me and my stomach rolled, reminding me of the human’s flesh. That is, until he put it close to my nose. The musk of venison kicked my instincts into gear and I gobbled it down. Like he predicted, I felt a little better. I would never get used to his taking care of me. It was something my parents never did.
“It’s not safe for you out there.” He lounged next to me while he licked the blood off his fingers. I gave him a look to show how absurd that idea was. I was fodder amongst our kind, and he knew it. The corner of his mouth turned up. “No, you’re right, I guess it’s not safe for you anywhere.”
The secrets he kept for me were mounting. He kept my presence in his mistress’ territory from being discovered and, now, he knew I was into some illegal shit. Keeping the details from him was the least I could do to preserve what was left of my wall of privacy.
“I gotta go.” I squirmed to get up, which wasn’t easy in the downy softness of his bed. And I wasn’t the most graceful of my species.
He slipped an arm around my waist that kept me from getting anywhere. “You shouldn’t be alone tonight.”
I turned and put a firm hand in his chest, frowning at him.
“Hey, easy. We don’t have to do anything.” He backed up a few inches and lay back down, his arm spread out inviting me to spoon in the crook of his body.
I was repulsed and eager at the same time. Cuddling was essential to my species, but bad memories had turned me against it long ago. On the other hand, I had to give the male credit; he had a way of forcing me to live more fully in my animal nature. It was probably a sign of trust, but I would never admit to it. Instead, I sat there, unwavering in my instinct to bolt. But my instincts were hard to override.
He leaned over and blew out the hanging candle next to his bed and lay back down. He positioned himself to be as non-threatening as he could. Soon, the warmth from his body snaked its way toward me, drawing a line of comfort along my right side.
Inch by inch, I let out a breath I didn’t know I had been holding, releasing some of the tension that was so much a part of my M.O. Suddenly, I felt stupid sitting up in the bed, in the dark. Having done this with him before, I knew I was safe. I scooted down until his muscular arm was under my neck. The position was uncomfortable, so I scooted closer, slid my head into his armpit, a natural fit. The rest of my body followed, melding into the curve of his. His heat washed over me and intensified my own.
After a few minutes, he turned toward me, completing the joining. His arm slid around my waist. The length of his cock—he was still naked—slipped into the crevice of my thighs and I froze, once again.
He paid my reaction no mind, though. He, too, had been to this rodeo. Only this time, I wasn’t riding the bull, so to speak. My breathing soon matched his and my body softened until, before I knew it, I was asleep.