Content and Trigger warnings:
Use of a slur for mixed-race people as a self-reference.
Use of slurs regarding intellectual disability and mental illness as a self-reference.
Bloodletting, consumption, and exchange
Graphic shape change
Suicidal ideation and intent
Depression, anxiety, C-PTSD
Extreme body modification, scarification, branding
Mention of child abuse as a memory (no scenes)
Domestic violence references (no scenes)
Reference to animal abuse (no scenes)
Warning: This book contains sexually explicit content, which may only be suitable for mature readers, rough sex with willing participants and R.A.C.K (Risk Aware Consensual Kink) BDSM
ONE: GET USED TO THAT
Ready for some more stories on how I fuck my life up? Got tissues? A drink? You might need them. Okay. Oh… and yeah, I still swear a lot, so you probably need to get used to that.
Chill fall rain slithered like a snake down my spine and into the waistband of my pants, between my skin and pistol holster. It sucked; wet leather chafes. I shrugged my shoulders to loosen my muscles under my black, calf-skin jacket as I waited for my prey to show themselves.
Autumn had hit London, Ontario, Canada with a vengeance in the past two days and it was rather obvious to me now why colonists had named it London.
Personally, I think they should’ve kept the First Nations’ name of Kotequogong, but I’m not really a fan of colonists. The people had occupied the area for over 10,000 years; why invaders always have to change names I’ll never get.
Remember, I’m Welsh… Wales wasn’t always a part of the UK.
Only an English—or apparently, a Canadian—town could be so miserable, damp, and inhospitable as London, Ontario, proved to be in those first few wet days of fall. The weather is so weird in London. Meg had warned me, but I hadn’t quite understood how odd it could be.
Today had been long, and I needed it finished. My skin and muscles ached with the chill and my feet were probably up for some sort of whose-toes-are-the-most-waterlogged award, even though I’d been avoiding the puddles as best I could, and we waterproofed my boots.
Seriously, by that point, my brain wanted to crawl out of my head with how frustrated and impatient this hunt had left me.
My insides were crawly with irritation that it had taken me so long. The tension of my bloodlust had long since taken up residence in my shoulders and the back of my neck. It always showed up there, and little but killing eased it.
Hunting on this side of the shroud had never been my favourite activity. Not only did I have to track the quarry and eliminate their asses, I had to do it discreetly so humans wouldn’t catch on. If they ever did, en masse, that would signal the tearing of the veil and the return of all the nice supernatural critters humans tell horror stories about.
Horrific for good reason, humankind doesn’t like to think of themselves as prey, but to many supernats, that’s exactly what they are. Dinner.
I shoved down on the rising need to kill in my gut and sliding up my back, while continuing my stake-out. Cars with glaring headlights swished through puddles out on Richmond Street and the air brushed heavy, frigid, and moist against my skin.
I huddled somewhat miserably with one leather-clad knee on the gravelly ground, the other foot planted for a quick leap if I needed to chase after the bloke again.
The alley I lurked in resembled a post-apocalyptic landscape, torn up and rugged from construction. Chunks of ripped tarmacadam lay in grit covered splendour next to twisted and rusty rebar. Orange safety netting and traffic cones festooned the alley in a bizarre, Halloween-like atmosphere. Steam billowed from an open sewer hole and the smell? Let’s just call it unpleasant and leave it at that. Humans stink.
The rain dampened down the stench of dust, shit, and tar enough to let me concentrate on the swampy-muddy scent of the frog-man I’d tracked for the better part of the day and evening. His aroma of damp, rotting wood, musty greenery, and the earthy taste of fungus was unique enough that I didn’t have any trouble parsing it from the effluvial reek.
He’d started preying on homeless humans for some reason—even though humans tasted absolutely terrible more of the time than they didn’t—and been avoiding his superior on this side of the veil to give an explanation.
The leader of the Llamhigyn y Dŵr had called me for help, my responsibility and a part of my duties. I’d been tracking this guy for far too many hours now. I wanted to finish this contract and go home damnit, tonight was my night with Kai.
Down, girl, no need to get your knickers in a wad. That’ll make it hard for Kai to take them off later.
I snickered quietly and perked up, not moving to do more than breathe when the glamoured frog-man came out of the strip club I’d tracked him to. I should really learn how to shadow-walk, it would make things so much easier for me, but fuck it.
I could use the exercise, anyway. Staying quiet for so long with my bloodlust riding me made me antsy, and I didn’t think I’d have to shift to take this guy down. For the sake of my tetchiness, it would’ve been nice if I had needed to shadowmelt.
I stood, slowly, easing my long-still muscles as I did so, then ghosted along behind him as he waited for the crosswalk. Cloaked in shadows, he couldn’t see or sense me with any physical abilities, but he knew he’d done wrong. Or he was naturally wary because he kept glancing back over his shoulder. Maybe he could discern my presence—maybe not—many otherkin are jumpy types.
Well, when you live lives like a lot of us do, hunted or hunter, it pays in the best sort of coin to be like that. The coin of survival.
He hopped a fence into the park next to a school on Queens Avenue. I followed. My boots made a slight squelch when I landed, but my shadowcloak obscured all senses. To anyone looking my way, I didn’t exist. They couldn’t hear or smell me either.
The scent of wet earth, dampened car exhaust, falafel, and pickled turnips from a food truck filled my head as I followed, tracking him. The scent of food had my stomach growling. I’d been at this so long I’d almost started eyeing the frog-man as a potential food source.
Hawthorn, holly, and henbane. No, not really. Geez, you eat one pizza delivery guy…
I shoved my frigid fingers into the pockets of my leather jacket. The wet pavement at the intersection gleamed with first red, then green, then yellow as the lights changed.
My quarry took cover from the worsening storm under a bedraggled oak tree, and it was time. It wouldn’t get any darker or more obscure than this. An actinic streak of lightning brightened the moonless night, the sky rumbled, and a torrent of rain bucketed down.
I pulled one of my thigh blades, flipped it to an underhand grip, and crouched down to reduce my profile. A quick step-step-step and I reared up behind the huddled frogger and drove my blade underhanded into the base of his skull. The slight popping, sucking sound of the strike ensured me I’d hit my target.
There wasn’t a lot of blood with that blow, and I liked things clean. The act of making a killing strike eased my bloodlust, and my muscles melted at the release. Godsdamnit that build-up had to be the most unpleasant feeling.
With my other hand, I shoved his now pliant form to the ground. He landed with a squelch and I glanced around to make sure we remained unnoticed before crouching down and pulling him into my shadowcloak.
I cleaned my fingers off on his damp jeans and yanked a yellow, plastic grocery sack out of my inner pocket. Bagging his head in canary environmental hazard; I obligingly poked a few holes in it near his face. He was still breathing, and I didn’t want to suffocate the putz.
He’d live; I shrugged, if his leader wanted him to. We really are nigh indestructible. I left my blade in place so he wouldn’t heal the wound too quickly. I wanted to get home, not have a life or death tussle with this man-eating jerk.
I texted a number on my phone, then hauled frogger into a firefighter’s carry and lugged him to the limo that now waited for me at the corner. I tossed him into the plastic-lined trunk, made sure my blade remained sturdily planted in his foramen magnum—the hole in our skulls where the spinal cord passes through, that sweet little spot at the back of your neck that’s so perfect for an assassin’s blade—and tapped the roof so the driver could close the lid.
Come on, now. Don’t call me creepy, I hate that. I studied killing people; you studied whatever it was you studied. I don’t call you names, now do I?
I instructed the driver where to take us and rode up front with her to the frog-folk clan-home out by Sifton bog. I stepped back out into the rain, opened the trunk, and hauled my prey inside.
Staff got out of the way as I dumped his limp form in the middle of the elaborately tiled foyer.
Warrior-frogs came out and tied the creature hand, wing, and foot, running cords from ankles to wrists, to the joints of his wings and then the neck. Poor homeless-eating frogger wasn’t going anywhere. Not that I gave a rat’s sphincter. I just wanted to finish my duty and go home.
I stood to the side, using a warmed towel to soak water out of my braid. My everything was soaked and unpleasantly drippy. My gaze took in the high-class digs that were so different from their homes in the swamps of Annwvyn.
The leader stood silently next to me. Her glamour in place so she appeared like a slight, middle-aged-woman with silver locs and dark brown skin. I could’ve seen through it easily enough, but in my culture, that’s extremely rude unless your life is on the line.
Even though I didn’t push, the lines of her form wavered in my vision, like heat coming off a summer road.
At her instruction, I retrieved my stiletto from my prey’s head. Bloody ichor and brain matter slid along the fuller and painted the tips of my fingers when I yanked it out; I accepted a cloth to clean my blade with from a waiting attendant.
“Do you want me to hang around for this?” My voice husked around gravel with hours of disuse. I glanced up from my crouched position into the sweet-faced glamour of the leader of the Llamhigyn y Dŵr.
“No, Lady Guardian.” Her voice was a soft mezzo-soprano with a deeper note vibrating underneath, hidden by her obfuscation. “We’ll take it from here. We caught on to what he was doing before the humans did, so we’ll handle it in house.”
“Good enough. It happens again he won’t get a second chance; you know that. I have to maintain the veil between us and the humans.”
“Understood, My Lady.”
I sheathed my blade and left, eager to spend the night with my partner.