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No Rites (Truth Seeker prequel)



Chapter One


"Haven't you ever heard the phrase 'the more you squirm, the tighter it gets', or something like that?" she shook her head to loosen the confusion from her mind. "I'm not sure how it truly goes, but the point is, the more you fight this, the tougher it is going to be, cupcake. I don't want you to strangle to death before I can have my way with you."

            Her victim dangled from the hook on her ceiling, and she walked around him slowly again, checking out her haul for the night. The rope around his hands connected to the hook in the ceiling, then the rope around his neck.

            "You know, for a deadbeat, no-good, violent, trashy, loser, you are pretty hot," she praised as she finished her circle, and stopped in front of him.

            "Fuck you, bitch. I'm going to eat your liver for breakfast!"

            "Wow! Tough guy," she pretended to seem offended then chuckled. "I love it. Okay, my real response? But I'm so sweet, I might give you diabetes! Seriously? Aww, how sweet. You mean you’re thinking of 'eating me' for breakfast. You kinky little devil," she flicked him in the chest with one glossy, red tipped fingernail. "There will be none of that. I have plans for you, none of which involve you eating a single thing. Though, I might be forced to have a bite or two," she chuckled at her own joke.

            She edged her way closer to him, enjoying the fear that would always roll off of her victims, once they got to this point. Every one of them. No one was above fear. She did everything as slow and methodical as she could. The point when they realized she was going to end their life was her absolute favorite part. They would cry or beg and sometimes admit to things they had done that no one knows about. On rare occasions, some would even repent. That was the best kind. When there about to be ended and be made into dinner for a creature of the dark, because of how they lived their disgustingly wretched life, then they suddenly remember God. It was so… poetic.




Grace strutted across the parking lot of the seedy bar on a mission. Her last victim didn't put up much of a fight, after he realized what she was. Such a shame! The night was young and she was determined to enjoy it.

            She had started to feel more and more like something was missing. Doing the job of every cop in the city tends to wear a girl down after a few decades. Not that being a badass justice dealer wasn't her favorite part of life, or rather afterlife, so far, she just felt like it wasn't enough. Even when she was alive, she strived to do the best and be the best at everything. Competition ran through her veins then, and it certainly did, now that she had no blood pumping through them.

            When she thought back to her change, it was the worst day of her life. Hands down. Worst ever.



New York - 1943

She awakened to a note from her sister saying she had left early for school and that there was breakfast in the kitchen. She checked the clock on the mantle and saw it was already 9:15am. Great. So, no ride to school and no walking partner, but breakfast? Okay, she could work with that.

            Street car usage had started to fall off in the last few years anyway and they were integrating into buses for the students. They only ran once a day each way then and she had missed her ride time by more than an hour. Riding the bus was just weird for her. She preferred to walk anyway, but didn't enjoy walking alone. Even though women were just starting to truly enter the work force and were making a stand for themselves, many men didn't like the changes and still saw women as property or servants. Grace was never that sort of woman and continually said she was born way before her time as she was a modern woman trapped in the wrong era.

            When she got to the kitchen, she saw that her breakfast was not only cold, but her sister’s cat had helped herself to at least half of it already. She sighed and decided to settle for a piece of toast. She popped it in the toaster and headed to get dressed. Of course, nothing fit right or looked good, but she just went with it. When she got back downstairs to grab her toast, she saw it was officially burnt to a crisp and still in the toaster.

"Fine, no breakfast. I will have lunch on campus," she told herself and the cat who was sitting on the corner of the counter gawking at her.

She stepped outside, praying for sunshine to wash away some of her cloudy insides and, as if on cue, it began to rain. She had locked her keys inside, along with her umbrella. Even though she felt that she should just give up, she stood a little taller and soldiered on to school anyway. A little rain never hurt anyone.

            When she eventually did get to school, she realized she had also left her term paper, which would result in a zero for the term, on the counter next to her breakfast-turned-cat snack. Her teacher generously gave her a chance to bring it in by the end of the day. She graciously accepted, but upon leaving the classroom remembered that she had to work after school. She wondered if her sister, Catherine, would be willing to go home and get it for her, but she wasn't able to find her on the large campus. Between the disgusting weather, her dwindling spirit, and every other obstacle that blocked her path for the day, Grace just decided to let the assignment go. She would find a way to make it up or retake the semester at another time. This was obviously not her day or week or month.

            After such an amazingly failure-filled day at school, she headed to work. She was prepared to keep her spirits up, remembering that rainbows follow storms, so eventually it had to get better, right?

She grinned at the Rosie the Riveter poster as she stepped into the factory. She wanted to be a tough chick like Rosie and not only do her patriotic duty, but work doing real work. Her dark brown hair and fairy-like features made her look much less intimidating than she would like to be but she had the spirit of a lion inside. Grace wasn't made to bake cookies and fold sheets. She wanted to work with her hands and make a difference and being in the factory gave her that feeling each time she opened the door.

            Just as she was getting started, she was greeted by her boss who promptly let her know that she was late even though she really wasn't and that her pay would be cut. Of course, there was always some reason to harass the women that came in to cover the low number of workers. The war snagged most of the men, leaving the work to still be done and only the women to do it. No matter how great the women were at doing the job, they were still treated poorly. It annoyed Grace to no end that she knew she was a great worker, but no one ever appreciated it.

She was given a zillion and ninety-four things to do by the end of the day. Her boss was nice enough to remind her that they had been "kind" to give her a job and a chance at making money and she should be grateful. She was grateful and happy to work. She was even happier to make money to help her sister. Since their parents passing, Catherine had stepped in as the unofficial mom. Even though she was only one year older than Grace, she felt it was her duty to take care of everything. Grace was hoping that this job and finishing school would show Catherine that she was just as helpful and strong as Catherine.

            By the end of her shift, Grace did some damage control the various scrapes and bruises she had managed to pick up during the course of her shift. She also discovered she had a nasty headache. It was only as she was clocking out that she realized she didn't bring her lunch or even dinner for herself. She's not eaten anything all day.

            When it was blissfully time to leave work, she heaved a healthy sigh and smiled finally. She was completely famished after a full day of annoyances and no food, but happy that it was finally over. Before leaving work, her boss had allowed her to use the office phone to call her sister. Grace invited Catherine to meet her at their favorite local place and even teased her with the offer of make-overs and girl chat later. The weekend was always their favorite time to catch up on rest. They would also do housework, cook a nice dinner, and hang out together. It was their weekly ritual.

She promptly left for the restaurant to wait for Catherine after hanging up the phone. As she approached the building, the amazing smells assailed her immediately. Her stomach grumbled loudly and she blushed and immediately covered her stomach. No one was around to hear it, but she was much hungrier than she realized.

            She waited nearly twenty minutes before she decided to step out of the cool night air and snag them a seat at her favorite booth. She ordered a drink and waited some more. After nearly thirty more minutes went by, she signaled the waitress, ordered two specials to go and gathered herself to prepare to leave. She waited for Catherine, but she never showed up. Something must be wrong.

The waitress brought the meals and Grace quickly paid the check and nodded a thank you to the lovely woman. She handed her a nice tip and apologized for wasting her time.

            Instead of heading home, Grace decided to give it a few more minutes, so she decided to sit on a bench just outside of their favorite place. She shivered from the chill in the air. While she waited, she went over her horrible day in her mind and cringed. Then something slammed into Grace's mind like a truck. It wasn't like Catherine to not show up. She was the most reliable and punctual person Grace knew. If she said she was coming, she was.

            Hunger replaced fear in Grace's stomach. She slowly stood and turned toward the direction of the local hospital. It was only a few blocks away. Something pushed her feet to work. She took a deep breath, said a rare prayer for strength, and walked away from the bench, abandoning their food and her hope for a decent end to a horrible day.

            Before she could register it in her mind, she stood in front of the small hospital. After a brief pause, she silently headed toward the emergency entrance. She resolved that she could make it to the doors and find out if she needed to be bathing in fear right now or if she could officially just collapse under the weight of the day and start over tomorrow. She was so ready for the day to just fade into a bad memory.

            The blinding lights in the lobby made her feel more dirty, exhausted, and pathetic than the dingy sidewalk she had just been stepping on. Each flaw to her skin, clothes, and heart was visible inside the achromatic room. She shuffled to the desk, gave her information, and waited for a response. The grim look on the plastic desk-servant's face told her everything she needed to know.

            Not wanting to even think of anything but ending the pain of the day, she numbly turned and left the way she came. Her head was hung in agony and all fight and spirit had left her body. She was just a shell of a woman.

            She stepped back on the grimy sidewalk and was never seen again.




Chapter Two


Grace's tongue glided slowly across her teeth as she surveyed the meat market of would be dinner choices. Since being turned, she had a selective palate; evil tasted good. Not because she was evil, or because she even enjoyed the dingy taste of the blood that came from a source that had filled their life full of agony at the cost of others. She just refused to take the life, or blood of someone that was a good soul. Blood of an innocent tasted like acid to her. Like killing a kitten for being cute; it was just wrong.

            When someone sins, it is written on their soul until they are forgiven by God for their discrepancy, or they do enough to work off their debt. The more a person sins, the more tainted their soul becomes. It clogs their aura and anyone that pays enough attention can simply look at the poor creature and see that their soul is choking on their own bad choices. That alone should be horrifying for a human, but it's almost as if none of them can see it or were willing admit to it. Some people refer to it as karma. They say bad things happen because of karma. Whatever way people want to say it, your soul holds on to discrepancies in your character; if you suck, you pay for it eventually.

            Grace remembered being so close-minded and way too trusting if life. The term naïve would have fit her once upon a time, in fact. She remembered a time when meeting someone; she would have a bad feeling, a tingling at the back of her neck that screamed the person was just not good. She always chose to ignore the feeling, telling herself she was over-analyzing or being paranoid. She would always give people a chance and accept people into her life, even if they didn't earn their place next to her. She always forgave mistakes and chalked it up to them being human and not perfect.

            The truth being, no one is perfect. Never can be, never will be. However, the human body is like a diary of your life. It documents every bad decision as well as every happy moment. Everything you had ever decided is written on your body in some way. Scars, tattoos, heart, the soul, all reflect changes around someone and their impact. Some people just simply do not look further than the flesh, to see what needs to be seen; Grace never has this problem.

            Grace had always been very perceptive about things around her. If her sister was upset or frustrated, she could tell. If someone at work had done something they shouldn't have, she would know. If someone was having dark thoughts, she felt it. She would sometimes try doing little things to let people know she was there for them and supportive, but in the past people had looked at her like she was a lunatic for knowing things she shouldn't, so she had learned to keep them to herself.

            Since the moment that she was snatched from the sidewalk of hospital, Grace's mind had been set. If she somehow didn't die, she would never let someone get away with something evil again. She made a decision then and there, to never be a victim again. She would always think before she acted. She would use what she knew to try to help ensure that no one else was going to hurt anyone else again. If it was in her power to stop it, she would stop it. And she did.

            Though she had been taken by a vampire that night, she was too weak to be a full meal for him. He discarded her thinking she would give up and simply die, but that was not in her nature. Drained of blood and barely able to move, she forced herself up and began to make her way home, looking as well as feeling like death. As she approached her apartment, truly within just a few yards of the door, the same vampire that had snatched her off the street and left her for dead hours prior, happened to see her. Alarmed and impressed, he made his way to her just as she was fading. He saw the strength within her and decided she would be a worthy companion.

            For nearly seventy years since then, Grace had gone out each time she needed to feed or was bored. She would always start with a soul-check. She would scan a person or area to detect when evil tainted souls were near her. If someone was a repeat-offender of being a jerk, she would straighten them out, or end them; always a happy ending in that for her. She would produce a new angel for society or a new playmate for the devil; either way, she and the city were `winning’.

            The pickings in the low-lit bar were thin and tasteless, so to speak. Tonight there were just a handful of random normal slackers that were always there, hiding from their wives, feeding on the bottle like infants, wasting their lives away. Not to mention that it was starting to smell like a frat party. The room felt almost clammy, as if you needed an antibiotic just to walk through the place much less sit and touch things on purpose. She knew she was doing what was right for her own undead soul, but sometimes she wished she had sensory deprivation when she walked into places like this.

            She made her rounds and saw no one of true interest. A cheating husband here, a tax-evader there; still bad and definitely worthy of a little lesson time with her at some point, but nothing to call mom or drop fang about. Just as she was deciding the place was all out of hope for a quick nibble, she caught a flicker from the corner of her eye. She saw a man in the shadows, by the ember on the end of his cigarette. Nothing too vile or noteworthy from a distance, but something was off with him; just her type.

            She sashayed her way over to his table just in time to see him look her up and down, and whisper, "Totally not interested, sweetheart. I'm sure there are many in here who would jump at the offer of a kick-ass biker pixie, flittering around to offer them the ride of their life, but I'm really not the one."

            It was the first time someone had bested her in an opening fuck-off line. That was almost epic in fact. A new feeling of competitiveness washed over her. Even if this guy wasn't to be her next victim or project, he was going to at least feel the brunt of her silver tongue.

            "Wow, someone is certainly full of himself. That's adorable how you think anyone would want to just walk up and offer themselves up to you like a sacrificial lamb, or even more like a virgin prom date. Sorry but I'm also, not the one. I just wanted to know if you had a light, but since I see you're super busy with being all mysterious and dickheadish, I’ll be on my way. Thanks anyway. You saved me from a full minute of conversation I would have had to regret! Phew!"

            She turned on her heel and stalked away from him as quick as her leather-clad feet would take her. What nerve that guy had! Did she win that verbal tussle? She hoped so.

            Outside the door of the bar, she did a quick visual scan of the area and then closed her eyes sending out a soul-check feeler. If she couldn't see a tainted soul with her incredible sight at first glance, she could still feel one if she focused on it. She stayed perfectly still, faced her palms away from her body with her fingers spread out, and, without moving, reached out to the surrounding area.

            Ah yes, of course, there had to be at least one or two out and about at this time of night in this neighborhood. Her senses showed her that one was nearby, to her right. She turned to see if she could trek down the ugliness and slammed into a wall of muscle.

            "Excuse you! There is a whole lot of sidewalk to be used here, buddy. Must you be in my path? Geez," she huffed, as she pushed past the mass in her way.

            "No more snarky comments or bitchy slams to my person now? Or have you come outside to find me a prom date?"

            The jackass from inside had followed her out. She hadn’t heard him leave the bar or feel him near her until she slammed into him. When her senses should have been on fire, they were dormant. Everything about this was wrong.

            "Are you in the habit of following defenseless women out into the night and badgering them about putting you in your ill-advised place? Or am I just special?"

            "Not usually, but I guess you must be special. What makes my place ill-advised? I did nothing to harm you, besides light a cigarette, which isn't a crime the last time I checked. If you recall, you were the one who asked for a light for your own cigarette or was that just a ploy to get my attention because you had an ulterior motive? Perhaps you were you simply being an ass to me for no reason? Typical."

            "You were in the most disgusting bar in this city, hiding in the shadows, being a smart ass to the first person that spoke to you. Doesn't bode well for your future of being inducted into their fan club or getting an official I Got Drunk at Chubby's sticker. I know it's a real shame."

            "That's okay, I'm not big on fan clubs, I didn't drink in there, and you were in the same place, so everything you just said about me is invalid. Are you just one of those women that like to degrade others because you are really sad inside and want to bring others down to your level?" When she flinched, he continued, "I pegged ya, didn't I?" She tried to side-step him, but he blocked her from being able to pass on the sidewalk. "And you noticed I was in the shadows, so that means you were looking there. Did you get bored in your knitting circle and decide to try to be a badass for the night? Try something new? Live dangerously for a change?"

            "Well, doctor, your psychoanalysis of me is respectable and enthralling. I'm definitely not your type. I wasn't attempting to pick you up, if that's what I've managed to do, please do give me instructions on how to put you back."

            "Ouch, you wound me," he gasped as he clutched his chest. "Are you part devil? Does that fork in your tongue usually sting so hard?"

            "You have no idea. They didn't teach me that in my knitting circle, if you're curious," she added sweetly.

            His rich chuckle filled the space between them, and then echoed off the empty street and surrounding building. "You are amazing. Nice job. I don't think anyone has ever been able to keep up with me in a battle like that before." He smiled and his eyes lit up slightly. He nodded his head at her and said, "I'm Jaxon. And you are?"

            "Leaving. Nice to meet ya."

            She turned quickly and sprinted in the opposite direction, leaving no question whether or not she was serious about getting away from her new acquaintance.




Chapter Three


Grace ended her night with a light snack on the way home. Not a big deal for her, just some loser who felt hitting his wife was a good idea. He'd been doing it for years and had recently started on his children as well. A real winner.

Abusers had a certain extra tinge to them that Grace picked up on the quickest. It was like when you're reading and someone takes a highlighter and slashed it across something amazing that you shouldn't miss. Bright and screaming. "Grace! Come over, this snack is tasty and full of vileness!"

            Her neon-reminiscent victim knew what was happening the moment her eyes locked onto him. He began to plead and cry. He apologized profusely and asked for his soul to be saved at the very last minute. Smart. Just on time.




            Feeling as if she had accomplished something worthy and was doing what she needed to rid her town of some of the evil doers; she decided to reward herself with some normalcy. She knew she couldn’t possibly stop every crime or save every victim, but she still felt as if she was doing well for something. She absolutely refused to completely waste her immortality. She didn't take lovers and didn't have any hobbies other than her vigilante side-job, so she stuck with a regular routine and made the best of her time.

            She had no need to sleep, but still loved to be as human as possible, so she went through the motions every morning. With the muck of the night still clinging desperately to her, she went to her bathroom for a shower and to change her clothes. As she shed her clothes a shiver tickled across her bare back. She checked to see if a window was open or where a breeze might be coming from. Withy safety being a key with her, just as usual, she had everything locked up tight. Strange, but life was full of strange things, so she decided it was must be one of those things and jumped in the shower.

            Her shower was quicker than normal. Usually she liked to take her time because she truly had nothing but time these days, but something made her feel rushed. In her own space, she never felt tense, rushed, uneasy, or any other negative thing. She spared no expense to make sure her security was up-to-date and her house was impenetrable. Normally, that would give her peace of mind, but tonight was different. Something was wrong.

            She dressed quickly in Capri pants and a tank top and went to the center of her bedroom. Something just wasn't right. She prepared to do a soul-check. If something was off anywhere near her house, she would know about it right away and be able to fix the problem so she could enjoy the rest of her day in peace.

            As soon as she closed her eyes to perform the soul-check, she felt it. The air shifted and her body pulled her toward the door. Someone was tainted and very close. She couldn't get a read on the kind of person it was or why they were tainted, which was very strange for her. All she could tell was that something bad was going on or had happened; that's all she needed to know.

            She headed toward the door, grabbing her favorite sneakers on the way out. The night was calm and only slightly chilly. It was a perfect night for some justice and no need for a sweater. Score!

            Without hesitation, she followed the feeler to the tainted soul. She could sense him now, not much further away. She could sense at least a dozen other souls with him, though; all innocent. Children. Oh no!

            She sped up her pace. It was nearly right at seven decades ago now that she had lost her sister to some random violence. She was especially sensitive to crimes dealing with kids or women.

            She rounded the corner and came face-to-face with the same wall of muscle she had nearly mowed down earlier.

            "Oh, it's you," she said to him sounding annoyed.

            "Well, it's 'Leaving'. So! Nice to see you again. Please, don't hold back your excitement from our last chance meeting. I can feel the happiness oozing off you, really."

            That was when she realized it was him that was sending off the feeler. A feeler with a light green tinge. A new one for her.

            "What are you doing out here at this time of night or morning, I should say?"

            "I could ask you the same thing, once again, Miss…?"

            "You could, but I wouldn't answer. You’re in my neighborhood, creeping around just before the sun comes up. I’m pretty sure you don't have a leg to stand on in asking why I’m out. Perhaps I’m walking my dog."

            "I don't see the little bundle of cuteness. Where is he? Or she?" he asked, goading her.

            "Look, I know you are up to something, and I know it's a sinister act."

            "Oh? How could you know such a thing? What are you, an angel or something?"

            "Something," she answered flatly.

            Fear skated across his face for a moment then he said, "It's none of your business why I’m out. I’m not doing anything wrong, in fact, I am helping someone. Now, mind your business and get the hell out of here."

            "Sorry, no can do, buddy," she took a defensive stance as if preparing to fight him.

            He chuckled loudly, "You're joking, right? Must be. Nothing as tiny as you could possibly beat me in a fight."

            "You are one of those judge-a-book-by-the-cover types then? Sweet. An advantage to me," she leered.

            "Girl, I have at least a foot in height over you, at the very least fifty pounds of pure muscle, as well as more attitude than you think you have."

            "Oh, be still my weary heart. I just needed a big, strong man to come along and try to Neanderthal his way through a fight and directly into my panties." Her bored stare alerted him that she wasn't impressed, in case her words missed the mark.

            "Was that an option or invitation? I missed the memo," he said with a sly wink.

            "This conversation has gone on far too long. I hate to even do this. I promise you won't feel a thing," she assured him, as she placed her palm on his chest and he fell to the ground solidly. "You big idiot. Now my morning is going to be all clogged with torturing information out of you."

            She dragged Jaxon off of the ground and easily flipped him onto her back to make the short trek home. Her strength was always one of her finer attributes, and right now she was thanking the powers that be, that she could handle this task on her own. It could get tricky trying to explain to some random person how you knocked out a huge goon and why you wanted to take him to your house for a torture session. Not everyone was into that kind of thing. Shame!




Chapter Four


Water splashed across Jaxon's face, waking him from his slumber. He tried to wipe the water from his face, but found he was shackled behind his back and chained to a wall. At least it wasn't in a basement; that always sucked and was too damp for his taste.

            "Good morning, sunshine!" his captor chirped. "Now, I'm sure you aren't going to like this, but I had to do a little something to get you here, so I could get answers. If all goes well, I won't gut you. Deal?"

            "You're so sexy when you get all violent. I love this side of you. Is this foreplay, because usually I like to take the lead; call it a man-thing."

            "Please keep your man-things to yourself, this is business, not a petting session, sorry."

            "Perhaps we can make a trade, I give you whatever it is that you're wanting, and you can give me what I'm wanting."

            "Sorry, doesn't work that way, big guy. I'm the boss. I run the show. You're my captive and will do as I say, or you’ll die for your troubles."

            "Yes, baby. Just like that. You make me all tingly. Do you want to get right to the point or should we drag this out? I mean, if it's not foreplay, you're sort of working us up to some pretty tense moments later and I'm just not in the mood for that."

            "To the point, it is. What did you do with the children?"

            The shocked poured off of him. "The children? I'm not that kind of guy."

She looked at him blankly. "Tell me," she commanded.

"Sorry, I'm honestly afraid I don't know what you mean."

            "Yes. You. Do," she measured her words carefully, and tried to remain calm, and in control of the situation as much as possible.

            "What are you talking about?"

            "Look, we seem to be headed toward a problem here and I'm completely not in the mood for this. Not to mention, I am completely full from my last meal, I will just jump right to it. I'm a keeper. It's my job to dispense justice where I see fit and right wrongs as often as possible."

            "A keeper? I don't even know what that is," he responded with a smile. When she didn't flinch at all, he added, "Wait. What? So, you're like some vigilante?"

            She stepped closer to him and flashed her fangs, "Yes, something like that."

            Suddenly the fear he should have been feeling the whole time rushed him. "You're a vampire? A vampire vigilante? Boy, that is rich!" He feigned arrogance. "I've never heard of you nor do I care about whatever you do when you're not polishing your nails or threatening innocent dudes in your play room."

            "Definitely wasn't my job of choice, but you play the cards you are dealt, right?"

            "So, how does that work exactly?"

            "Answer my question! This is not Q & A time for you. I want to save those children. What did you do with them? Are they alive still? It's been over an hour." She paused to give him a moment to answer, when he remained silent, she added, "Please, help me, help them. I will let you go if you help me."

            "So quick to make a deal, Vamperella?" he asked with a snort as he tried to cover his relief in hearing her offer.

             She rolled her eyes dramatically. "You, sir, are so original, I might just swoon." She stepped closer and her eyes glowed with fury. "The kids. Tell me. Now."

            "This is not at all what it seems," he answered, looking sincere. She saw the pleading and raw honesty in his eyes. He spoke the truth, but she wasn't sure how to take them.

            "I am getting a mixed reading on you at every turn and I'm just not sure what is what. This hasn't happened to me before. I just want the kids to be safe. Are you going to help me or not?"


            "Have it your way." She took another slight step toward him and he fell to the floor. She was wishing now that she had chained him in the basement instead of in her entertainment room. He would have hit the floor much harder down there.




            "Bad things happen to assholes who pick on the innocent. I am not a bad guy. If you only knew what you've gotten yourself into by capturing me. You are going to burn for this!" His anger unfurled from his position on the ground, where he chose to stay from his last face-plant into it. Perhaps he felt that if he stayed close to the floor, if she knocked him out again, at least it would hurt less next time he woke up. "Just kill me and get it over with. I won't ever help you."

            She looked up slowly from her current distraction and locked eyes with him. Her eyebrow slowly quirked up as an incredibly evil grin waltzed its way across her beautiful features.

            "Why don't you tell me how you really feel?" she managed as she tried to contain her chuckle.

            He raised his head in a flailing attempt at looking confident. "Tha... that’s how I really feel. I'd rather die, than spend one more moment in your presence."

           "Such a shame that I have to kill you before this is all finished. You were starting to grow on me." The masked grin slipped from her face.                          "Fungus grows, too. Keep that in mind."

            "What would make you think that I would give you information anyway? I know who you are and what you do. I obviously am not afraid of your antics at this point. I think I've made it clear that you don't scare me."

            "Well, darling, while I hear what you are saying, your body is telling me a different story. Your heartbeat is quicker, you've started to sweat a little, and your words are getting a little slower. I totally get it, if you want to be upset and scared. They all get scared. You aren't the first, you won't be the last. Its okay for you to feel those things. You should. However, part of my job is to look directly at your soul. I can see that you have sinned. It marks you, which is why I was even able to find you in the first place. I also saw children in my check of the area. I know they were there, you don't want to tell me, so you will die for your troubles. Makes me no never mind at this point. I am upset that I wasn't able to save those children, but I am confident that I will make you suffer appropriately." She stood and edged toward him. Her calm exterior was somehow much more frightening than when he could have sworn he saw blood dripping from her fangs earlier.

            "First of all, all of those things could also signify a sexual response to you. You are sexy, vicious, and different. Anyone can see that is a bonus. But yeah, I didn't do anything wrong. I mean, I did do things that weren't right at the moment, sometimes lots of things at once, but for a good reason. So it shows up on my soul as a sin, but I haven't even had time to make it right and you swoop in trying to be all ‘Maiden Badass’ and decided it's my time to go. I see your issue. So, either way it goes, if you kill me, then I win. Just like I don't know you, you don't know me either."

            "Point taken. We don't know each other, but in my line of work, I don't need to get to know you. I saw your sin. Everyone pays for sin."

            "What about you? Do you pay for your sin, Vixen?"

            "Every day that I spent on Earth without anyone to love, I pay for my past sin. I right wrongs and keep other safe, every day. Don't you dare pretend to judge me!"

            "You chose to judge me," he pointed out calmly. "Plus, I don't see the problem here and why you're being such a sissy about it. Just go for it. I'm inviting you to kill me. No rush, I will just lay here while you prepare. Do you need a minute?" He truly was just sprawled across the ground, paying little attention to her threats at this point. His strong legs were crossed at the ankles and his hands were behind his head.

            "Don't be such a cocky smart ass. Things like that get people made into skin suits after their heart stops beating," she idly threatened.

            "Kinky. Do you plan to wear me also? Should I put the lotion on its skin?" Her seemingly hollow threat did nothing to evoke a shred of fear into him. The man truly did not care what happened next. What a quandary.

            "No, I want to feed you to my pets. They aren't picky, they don't mind scraps."

            "Why wait 'til then? Afraid I might fight back?" his droll stare made her skin prickle. He uncrossed his feet and started to stand.

            "I have no fear of you. As if you could best me. HA! You can't win in a verbal battle or a physical one! As you can see, you are chained to my floor and in my home. Such a victim, you are."

            "Then bring it on, Mistress of the Night. I'm sooooo scared. Seriously. Shaking." Finally standing and taking a defensive stance, he then invited,               "Okay then. Let's do this."

            His tiny nicknames finally struck a nerve and she hissed at him, stepping forward only one step and pointed at him.

            "Tell me where they are and this can all be over very quickly."

            "The children are safe! You didn't even ask me why I took them. For a vigilante psycho, you don't care about the whys of things do you?"

            "No, it doesn't matter why you kidnapped so many children. It matters that there are children missing now, because of you!"

            "Did you hear on the news that there are children missing? Did you check Amber alerts? Did you see anything or hear anything about a crime being committed dealing with kids?"

            "No," she confessed. "I searched with my powers and waited all night, but nothing."
            "Right, because no children were kidnapped tonight. Children were returned tonight. Criminals don't file police reports, victims do."


            The confusion on her face made him chuckle. "Precisely! You didn't ask or even wonder if what I was doing was the same thing you do. Did you? No! You are taking lives when you are creating justice, are you not?"

            "Sometimes, yes. I know my sins are being forgiven, as I am punishing those who have wronged and caused pain."

            "Those people have families, too. You are sinning by not allowing the true justice system to take care of them. You are no better than any other low-life criminal," he said, then looked down at the floor. "No better than me."

            "What is it that you do then, might I ask?"

            "See, we've still not been properly introduced. I'm Jaxon. I'm a guardian angel."

            "You have got to be shitting me," she said with a burst of hysterical laughter following.

            "Sorry, no. That's the job. I am sent here to protect the weak when they need it and this week my job was to get a group of kidnapped children back to their parents. They were kidnapped from all over Europe and brought here for slavery. So, you see? I was doing a good thing by sinning. I didn't kill or harm anyone. I righted a wrong and brought joy and peace back to a dozen or more families."

            "So you’re saying that you’re better than me?" she queried.

            "I didn't say that, but can you please finally introduce yourself to me? I am here, at your mercy and you know all about me, but I don’t even your name."

            "Grace. My name is Grace."

            "Very nice. Your name suits you very well. Now that we have it straight that I'm not a criminal and you aren't in need of killing me, can you please release me? This is truly not comfortable in the slightest," he said, tugging softly at the ropes that bound him.

            "No, I think I like you like this," she grinned as she circled him to inspect her handiwork.

            "Oh, have you finally decided that you want to have your naughty way with me? Nice. I will stay like this then."

            "Ha! You should be so lucky. No, I just think you are safer like that. An angel, huh? I've never seen an angel before. Am I more powerful than you? I totally knocked you out and brought you home with me."

            "Yes, well, you do have powers that I've never seen before. I might have some pretty interesting powers, too. Wanna see?"

            "Your powers or something else?"

            "My powers. And then something else, if you want," he added sending her another killer wink.

            "Let’s take this one step at a time, angel boy."



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