Sabretooth: Redemption – Chapter 7 – The Enemy Within

I step out of my skin
You wouldn’t know me now
Couldn’t you go away?
Shouldn’t I?

Leave me the hard part
It’s all I want, I need.

I won’t be your soft one
I won’t be encircled
You might become
Something I need

If you must know
Must know
Get closer

Should I go, away?
With the dust of your skin
In my – mouth

Don’t show me your weakness
I can’t rely on you
To know by now

Don’t show me your weakness
I might become
Something you need
Something you need
Something you need
To destroy

~ Need To Destroy (T.H.C.)

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Sam’s back was warm, almost too warm. Did he have a fever? Tabitha snuggled in closer, slipping her hand under his arm at his waist to thread her fingers between his. The hand flexed and five sharp points pricked the skin of her palm.

Her eyes snapped open, widening in shock as her muscles tensed. Oh, crap – I was dreaming. Sabretooth! She forced herself to relax, expecting at any moment to hear his rasping voice tease, berate, or threaten her. To her surprise, he didn’t stir or speak. Under her arm, she felt his body move with his deep and regular breathing. He’s still asleep? Dumbfounded, she thought, I slept through the night cuddled up to a homicidal maniac…

She remained as still as she could in the dark room, wondering abruptly if it might still be night. The windows and shutters were all closed, as were the main suite doors. The sliding door to the study was still open, but only a dim light came in through it. The fire had died down to embers and the room was cold, but she didn’t feel it while she was pressed against her psychopathic bedmate.

Creed’s claws released her as he began to turn with a grunt onto his back. She risked waking him and moved, or he would have squashed her. On her back beside him, she turned her head to see the outline of his profile in the meager light from the study.

As the large hands settled over his ribs, the lethal claws partially retracted until they were barely showing, not even extending past his thick fingertips.

Fascinated, she studied his face. His mouth was closed, the deep and even breath through his nose devoid of any snoring. His lips, their line broken by the sharp lower fangs, were not thin; his habit of stretching them into cruel smirks or frightening toothy grins only left that impression.

The cheekbones were high, the brow heavy but in proportion to the rest and his broad chin had a wide, shallow cleft in it she hadn’t noticed at first due to the scruffy stubble on his face.

Everything about you is bigger than it should be – how did anyone ever mistake you for human? Got to admit it ‘Tooth, I’m even more shocked that you don’t snore. His face was relaxed, the brow and upper lip, so often furrowed and curled in frowns, snarls, and evil grins were smooth. Damn it, you are pretty – do you have any idea how cosmically wrong that is?

She struggled not to flinch when the planes of his face tightened into a frown, the ears pinning and the upper lip she’d just been admiring pulling up into a characteristic snarl. When he spoke, she almost answered, until she realized with a start that he was speaking in his sleep.

“Quiet … be … no.” His head turned slightly to the left and right, then stilled. The snarl fell, smoothing again into an open expression she’d never seen on his face awake. “I’ll keep … keep ya … with me, keep ya … safe…”

He shifted his shoulders and Tabitha’s gaze dropped to his hands. As she watched, the claws lengthened, tearing wounds in the skin at his fingertips as the narrow metal edge pushed out, lifted, and curled just like a cat’s claw. Only when they were fully extended did it appear as if the fingers possessed a wide nail bed of gleaming adamantium.

Creed moaned, a long and low noise of loss that made her heart constrict in spite of her growing fear. His face tightened again, but with pain instead of rage.

Jubes said Wolverine wakes up violently sometimes – this might be bad. Maybe I could slip out and – Before she began to move, he spoke a name and she froze in shock at his broken tone.

“Bonnie … no…”

He shifted restlessly once more and then went still all at once as if a switch had been thrown in his brain. Stunned, Tabitha looked down to see the claws retracting slowly. The metal pulled in, rose up as it became thinner along the top, and then sank into the broad fingertips. She watched the red edges of the cut skin draw together and quickly heal over.

Forcing her breathing to slow and even out, she looked back up at Creed’s face and yelped at the twin slits of amber staring back at her.

He moved fast, sitting up and twisting to lean over her, one hand on the join of her neck and shoulder – in the exact spot she’d seen him grab to break men’s necks.

“Yer gonna lie t’ me, ain’t ya, girl?”

“N-no!”

“What’d ya hear?”

“You said a name, you said you were going to keep someone and keep them safe.” He glared down at her and she added, “It’s the truth, I swear. You … told them to be quiet first…”

“Tha name… Tell me!”

“Bonnie!”

He growled in her face, the teeth dripping saliva. “Sure those boys didn’t tell ya that?”

“No!” The fingers clenched tight. “Wait – Perrin said you talk in your sleep sometimes – that he heard you say a name, but he wouldn’t tell me what it was. He got mad at me when I tried to push about it! I swear, please … please, it’s the truth…”

She couldn’t help the shudder that gripped her when his tongue lashed out to lick the saliva off of his chin before it dripped onto her chest. His body and fingers were still as he stared at her, sniffing the air between them.

Tabitha tried to go limp. When a sharp explosion of noise erupted behind him, her body jerked and she would have screamed if his hand hadn’t moved to cover her mouth.

The noise had barely made his shoulders twitch and she realized it was the cell phone. She would be hard-pressed to call it a song, but as it went on, it sunk into her brain that it was a cacophony of an electric guitar and a man’s voice screaming militant lyrics in German – some sort of rough cut of a Metal tune.

“Shut up, frail.”

Turning away from her, he picked up the phone and the noise stopped, but Creed didn’t answer it and it dawned on her that it had been some sort of alarm he’d set.

Creed put the phone down on top of his book on the nightstand and scrubbed his face with his palms. Between his fingers, he spoke to her, the words a menacing rasp.

“Sit up an’ listen up.”

Tabitha sat up and turned to face him, her hands holding the blankets against her chest.

“Ain’t gonna tell ya more’n once: forget every motherfuckin’ word o’ that. Bring it up t’ me, or any other soul on this planet, an’ I’ll hunt ya down tha minute I hear ‘bout it an’ start killin’ ya. Promise ya, frail, it’ll be a week before ya die.” His hands dropped, the claws sprang out and he twisted his torso again to take her face between them. One thumb pad touched her cheek, the tip of the claw poised half an inch from her pupil. “Tell me ya understand, Tabitha.”

“I understand… Oh God, please – I promise.”

Flexing the thumb back to lift the claw higher, he let the pad of it stroke her cheek before he released her.

He got up without looking at her and went to the window that he had closed during the snowstorm. Unlatching and opening it, he opened the shutters as well, the soft morning sunlight bathing him in a golden glow. It flashed off of the claws as he turned back to her.

“Gotta grab a shower an’ get outta here, probly be back t’morrow; we’ll start buildin’ ya int’ a more efficient X-chump then.”

“Can I go? Out of the room, I mean?”

“Nope. Stay here ‘til I say diff’rent. Better not smell ya anywhere near tha phone, neither.”

“I won’t touch it.”

“Unclench, girl – ain’t gonna eat ya, if ya behave.” He moved over to the fireplace.

“Do I have to stay in the bed?”

Creed chuckled. “Best place fer a woman, ain’t it?” Taking chopped wood off of a brass holder, he picked up a long, heavy poker and coaxed the fire back to life. The manila envelope he pulled papers from to use as tinder looked familiar.

“That picture of you they gave me was a little misleading.”

“This one?” He held it up to look at it, leaning the poker against his thigh as he tossed the entire envelope onto the new blaze. “Surveillance photo, from when I went t’ Rothenberg’s place in Vancouver an’ told ‘im no – shitty quality an’ ancient history. Somethin’ tells me he didn’t wish ya a helluva lotta success in yer mission.”

Creed spun the photo into the flames, replaced the poker in its stand and approached the bed. Smirking at her, he bent to pick up her bathrobe and tossed it in her lap. Tabitha clutched the blankets tighter, making no move to touch it.

“I know yer gonna be tempted t’ play Nancy Drew an’ poke ‘round – don’t care if ya do, long as ya don’t mess anythin’ up. Keep t’ tha study an’ master suite. If ya need tha bathroom, come right on in, ya won’t bother me none.”

“I’ve filled my quota of being observed while I pee, thanks,” she muttered.

“Heh. What ya an’ tha cornhusker did fer kicks ain’t any interest t’ me, girl. Water sports ain’t my thing.”

Tabitha bit her tongue, twisting the edge of the blankets in her fists as he passed the foot of the bed. She turned her head to track him until he disappeared down the hall that led to the bathroom.

Glancing guiltily at the phone, she wondered if the screen would be locked and if it wasn’t, what had been the speed dial for Iron Man. In the distance, she heard the toilet flush, and then a shower started up.

Don’t even think about it, Tab. You know that asshole can hear you breathe even when his head’s under the water. Besides, if you aren’t so sure Professor Xavier would bother with you, why the hell would Iron Man waste his time? Even if you reached him, you’d be dead before you could tell him you needed help. She shuddered again, thinking of Creed’s latest threat. Or you’d be dead a week from now; either way, it would mess up your morning.

Tabitha tried to relax, but her thoughts were whirling. The events of the night before and now this morning, left her so tense that her muscles ached.

Get up, walk it out. Hell, get your mind off it by ‘playing Nancy Drew’. How often do you get a personal invitation to snoop around in a psychopath’s bedroom? I wonder if he has a secret porn stash.

Slowly uncurling, her eyes continuously darting back to the hallway, she grabbed the bathrobe and wrapped it around her. She intended to snoop, perhaps in the study as well, but her feet went the other way. As the sound of the shower grew louder, she berated herself, gulping as she crept to the bathroom as if pulled there on a string.

You know he killed that Bonnie woman, he must have – it’s what he does. Remember what Brys said about women tossed into that horrible pit in the dungeon? Holding herself tighter, she sighed. So why did he sound so … broken … when he said her name? A woman who got to Sabretooth; I bet she chewed glass and pissed diesel – probably had a notch on her lipstick case for every kink in the book.

Tabitha didn’t think for one moment that the man didn’t know she was leaning in the doorway, almost hugging the wall. Even turned away from her with his head thrown back, the water splashing on his face and chest, she knew he could smell her there.

The shower had several jets at different heights and most of them were on. The back wall was black stone, probably marble like the walls, but the shower was enclosed in glass. Sabretooth should have been plainly visible through it, but the water was so hot that he moved in and out of a cloud of steam.

Planes and bunches of muscle became clearly defined only to fade and disappear as he turned or stepped back.

This is not smart, Tab. Holy crap, he’s … beautiful. No, she chastised, frowning, he’s a sick and demented bastard, a murderer. Sighing again as the truth intruded on her thoughts, she slumped into the wall, the point of it pressing into her chest and cheek. You know what Victor Creed really is, even if he won’t admit it. He’s a man who was raised by a monster – until all he knew how to be was a monster.

She watched him rinse out his long hair, the golden wet ropes falling and sticking to his skin. He wasn’t pale, either, which had always surprised her. Even more surprising was the lack of tan lines anywhere and the fact that he could manage a light tan through all that body fur. The mental image of him tanning nude on a rooftop somewhere made her chuckle.

Creed disappeared into the steam again, and then one palm pressed against the glass, the claws on the fingers only partially extended. She didn’t flinch when the amber eyes appeared above the sharp smile, but she couldn’t stop the shudder that flew down her spine when he drew a smiley face on the fogged glass.

Tabitha waited for him to open the door to the shower and order her to join him, but he didn’t do it.

He was right – you are crazy. Go check out that big wardrobe cabinet in the bedroom and live to fight another day, huh? Maybe that’s where he hides his magazine collection of Play-Cannibal.

She straightened, but only to shift and put her back to the wall. When he turned off the water and opened the door, she tried not to tremble. She’d had enough evidence of his mercurial moods to inspire her to flee, but she stayed rooted in place, trying not to let her gaze wander over his muscled abs and legs. Most of the shorter fur was too blonde to be obvious if you weren’t up close. She was far too close.

“Playin’ valet instead? Works fer me – hand me tha towel.”

Forcing herself to move, to obey, she picked up the heavy folded white towel on the sink counter and walked over to hand it to him. The water on his skin where there was no fur to absorb it was distracting – rivulets of it streaming down and dripping off until they were wiped away by rough rubs with the towel.

“Cat got yer tongue? Or are ya thinkin’ yer gonna miss me, so yer gettin’ a good eyeful t’ tide ya over?” When she remained silent, he frowned. “If yer thinkin’ ‘bout shit ya shouldn’t be, best t’ let tha cat keep yer tongue.”

“I-I wasn’t. Thinking, I mean.”

“Heh, no kiddin’ – certifiable’s what ya are.”

Tabitha couldn’t stop a smile from quirking the corners of her lips when he attacked his hair with the towel just like Sam used to. Must be a guy thing, regardless of mental health.

“Funny – didn’t I lecture ya once ‘bout starin’ at me all tha time?”

“Not to do it like an insect specimen is what you said. I’m just … admiring the view.”

“Yeah, well, ‘tha view’ needs ya t’ get outta ‘is fuckin’ way.”

She moved out of the doorway, but he went to the sink to wipe the mirror with his towel. Slipping back to her vigil while hugging the edge of the wall, she tried to keep quiet.

Creed dropped the towel on the counter by the sink and stood there letting his damp hair drip down his back. She was so engrossed in watching the droplets, she almost missed the fact that he was actually shaving.

With his odd fondness for gadgets and fancy things, she was surprised that he was using an old-fashioned straight razor to scrape his chin and upper lip smooth. Cleaning up the edges of the mutton chop sideburns, he finished under his jaw and up his throat.

Putting the razor down and dropping the brush back into the mug of lather, he turned on the sink and let that water steam too, before splashing it up to rinse his face and neck. Retrieving the towel, he dried his face before looking up to stare back at her as the mirror slowly fogged again.

“Fascinated, girl? Never saw a man shave before? Not surprisin’, all tha boys ya go fer.”

“Not with one of those.”

“Some things, I like t’ keep simple; ‘sides, it’s tha only sorta shave that lasts worth a damn on me.”

“So are you sprucing up for this Ellison, or someone else?”

“Fer me, that’s who; can’t run ‘round in a fancy suit lookin’ like a yeti.” He grabbed a bottle from the counter and slapped on some sort of cologne that smelled like sandalwood. “Ya gotta prob with it?”

“No, it’s just a bit weird to watch you do normal guy things, I guess.”

“Spend plenty o’ time doin’ tha scruffy maniac thing; do it ‘round some folks just so’s they’ll keep thinkin’ I’m an idiot.” Turning, he winked at her. “Though I ‘spose Ellison might be less o’ a tremblin’ weasel if I look somewhat civilized – fer tha cat’s sake, natch.”

“Of course. Who is Ellison?”

“He’s an irritatin’ flatscan who works with a group that protects an’ rescues cats – big ones. Lotta assholes think it’s great t’ have a pet tiger or lion, an’ they’re cute when they’re cubs. Then they get big an’ tha morons can’t deal with ‘em anymore. Tha group goes after tha ones that abuse ‘em, or lock ‘em up an’ starve ‘em. Ellison’s their liaison, he’s got tha sorta contacts I need t’ make sure tha snow leopard gets somewhere safe. Anybody ever got wind o’ tha fact that she’s been fed people, they’d just kill ‘er. Ain’t a whole lotta snow leopards runnin’ ‘round – she needs t’ get goin’ on keepin’ ‘er species from swirlin’ down tha drain. I been helpin’ ‘er t’ remember what she is an’ teachin’ ‘er some huntin’ tricks t’ give ‘er an edge.”

“I’m … impressed.”

“Gee, Tabitha, that just makes my fuckin’ day.”

She backed into the hall when he came at her and watched him head for the dressing room. “Do you want me to go away?”

“Told ya t’ stick ‘round, frail; if ya wanna spend yer mornin’ starin’ at my ass, be my guest.”

“Okay, then.” Tabitha followed after him, ignoring the voice in her head that screamed at her to slip off to a safer place. Translation: any room the demented killer is not currently in.

When she entered the dressing room, he was zipping up a pair of dark gray suit pants. She sat on one of the long divans and watched as he dressed, managing not to flinch when he sat beside her to put on dark socks and a pair of black leather dress shoes.

“Shoes don’t bother you?”

“They’re a necessary evil – part o’ tha costume.”

“A Versace costume.”

“It’ll drive a bleedin’ heart tree-hugger like Ellison nuts; that’s why I’m gonna pull out all o’ tha stops – see if he’s dumb ‘nuff  t’ ask why I don’t give my money t’ tha needy or some shit.”

“Just to annoy the man whose help you need?”

“Yup. Gotta keep up my rep fer bein’ a bastard, don’t I?”

He rose and picked up a narrow black silk tie, the gold watch, and fancy diamond cufflinks. White dress shirt still open and tailored jacket unbuttoned, he straddled the divan and sat facing her. He set the tie on her lap and handed her the watch as he put on the cufflinks.

“Wow. I wouldn’t want to try pronouncing that. It’s pricey, huh?”

“Bvlgari,” he said, pronouncing the first syllable for her as ‘bull’, “from tha Diagono line – tha V in tha U spot is just fer looks, an’ yeah, it’s pricey.”

“Is it fun being rich?”

“It don’t suck. Make yerself useful, Tabitha,” he said, gesturing to the shirt buttons.

She started at the bottom and worked her way up just to see how it looked half undone at the top. She had thought the fresh shave around the sideburns would have made him appear less savage, but somehow it only heightened how inhuman he was.

Picking up the tie, he donned and knotted it expertly, but the finery didn’t make him look civilized – probably none of it ever would. It was more than the bestial facial features, the claws, or even his alien eyes. Maybe she could have been fooled if she’d never met him, didn’t know him – but she doubted it. Something about him reeked of cruelty and death, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on the root of it.

“Earth t’ Tabitha,” Creed commented with a sneer on his lips. He was holding out his hand palm up and after a beat of confusion, she handed the heavy watch to him. “Nearly all set. Yer addled brain recalls I said not t’ leave tha master suite?”

“Loud and clear.”

“Unless it’s t’ go int’ tha study; if ya can find where tha hell tha remote ended up, there’s a TV behind tha big paintin’.”

“Okay, but you didn’t want Brys waiting on me; do I get to starve?”

“Maybe I’ll have ‘im feed ya tha people I don’t like.” Grinning, he added, “Brys’ll bring ya stuff, but stay put. Should be clear weather ‘til I get back, so leave tha window open fer tha cat. If ya don’t bug ‘er, she won’t bug ya back – just steer clear.”

“Where is she, anyway?” Tabitha turned her head when he pointed under the hanging suit jackets. The shine of eyes gleaming in the lights overhead stared at her, making her shiver. “Is she ever going to forget about that hook kick?” She looked back at him and startled to find his face within an inch of hers. “What?” she whispered.

“Not a bit observant o’ shit, are ya?”

Tabitha stiffened, partly from fear and the rest from annoyance. “With you in the room? Keeping an eye on anything else is downright suicidal.”

Leaning back, he burst out laughing. “Point t’ tha frail.”

She was caught letting her eyes wander, but the deep rumbling that started in his chest was almost a purr. Her hand rose and then paused. “Can I … touch you?”

“How ‘bout we cut t’ tha chase an’ lemme touch ya instead. Ain’t got no time left fer a proper romp, an’ if we muss up my pretty, I’ll be late.”

He leaned in and kissed her, his mouth pushing her back into the divan as he advanced. Fingers devoid of claws invaded the bathrobe and opened her knees, moving one leg until she was straddling the divan like he was, if not as easily.

Creed broke the kiss and slid down to the edge of the divan, stretching out his long torso and dipping his head down to kiss her thighs.

Tabitha moaned before his tongue touched her. Opening her legs wider, she gasped when it thrust inside her, stronger than some men were during the main event.

The pad of his thumb, oddly devoid of callus, stroked the smooth flat skin below her navel. She couldn’t figure out why until she realized it was driving her wild, intensifying everything his mouth was doing to her.

When the hand lifted to grope at her breasts, she tore the robe open for him, writhing.

“Call me Victor,” his rasping voice spoke against her slick folds.

“You didn’t want me to,” she murmured, afraid. She was certain last night’s permission didn’t count.

“A man can change ‘is mind same as a frail can, ya know.”

“Would you … please … stop calling me that?”

One blonde eyebrow arched over the amber eye that stared up at her from between her legs. The other eye had closed in a wry expression that might have been humorous if it weren’t for the fangs gleaming so close to her soft, exposed skin.

“Ya want me t’ bitch ya out right tha hell now, or keep at this?”

Tabitha bit her lower lip as a smooth and strong fingertip moved back and forth, toying with her just short of the mark. Gasping again, she gulped out, “Keep … at that…”

Chuckling, he went back to thrusting his tongue inside her, and then licked it down over her ass once before sitting up to smirk at her.

“You’re stopping? Now?”

“Made a request, didn’t I? Bothered t’ ask nice’n everythin’.”

Flushing, she dropped her gaze. “Please, Victor – don’t stop yet.”

“That’s better.” He set two fingers on either side of her pussy and licked between them, the fingers moving and pressing at counterpoint to his flicking tongue and suckling lips.

Tabitha’s hips bucked involuntarily when she came, but the push of his mouth was too insistent to dislodge his tongue. It slapped and swirled, lapping clean every hidden cranny so attentively that she nearly went off a second time. When he abruptly shoved both of the poised fingers into her, she did come, her back arching.

Slipping the fingers out and sucking her wetness off of them, he moved up to kiss her again, pressing her down with his chest.

Bare skin on the suit jacket became a new craving and the feel of the cloth against her nipples took her breath away. Before she thought about it, she had lifted her hand to his face, a thumb stroking the sideburn there. It was surprisingly soft, unlike the bristle of his chin that had scraped her skin so often in his bed.

Creed broke the kiss and poised above her, watching her. For once, his expressive mouth was closed, a straight line interrupted by ivory spikes.

Nervous of his silence, she whispered, “I don’t know why I went to watch you showering instead of keeping my distance like a sane person.”

“Ya like tha way I get ya off; yer even willin’ t’ risk gettin’ chomped when tha mood strikes. Plus, we’ve established tha fact that yer fond o’ a diddle pre-mission.”

Daring to look up into his strange eyes for just a moment, she tried to smile. “I guess this’ll make you mad, but I have to say it anyway – I had a weird sort of crush on you in the Danger Room.”

“Do tell.”

“Partly from watching you – your body is amazing – but also because later on you talked with me, wanted to be with me. No one else did … no one but you.” Bitterness seeped into her voice as she added, “Of course, you were just playing me. Biggest dumb gullible jerk they ever slapped an X on, that’s me.”

“Not at first, I wasn’t.”

“What?”

“Ya heard me.” He rose up and backed off of her, standing to his feet with a surprising grace. Frowning, he growled down at her. “Don’t say ‘what’ just t’ buy time while yer brain grinds gears. Coy round-‘bout bullshit ain’t toppin’ tha list o’ my peeves, but it’s right up there.”

“I’m sorry. I just want to understand, that’s all.”

Huffing out a breath, he tucked in the shirt, buttoned the jacket, and began to pace as he talked. “After I could speak again, I didn’t remember fuck-all ‘bout who or what I was; got tha impression it wasn’t sunshine an’ daisies, though. A critter like me can always tell what folks think o’ me, an’ tha disgust an’ hate from all corners ain’t exactly relaxin’.” He shrugged. “Ya didn’t care.”

“I was a mess, but I didn’t want to face my problems. It’s easier sometimes to try to fix someone else’s. I know you think I only did it out of some weird kink quest, but it wasn’t like that.” Almost as an afterthought, she drew the robe closed and tied the sash before sitting up to face him. “You seemed so lost; I wanted to help you.”

“It was confusin’ as all hell, bein’ like that… Shit, I dunno. Ya came t’ see me an’ kept showin’ up; it mattered. Then tha memories started creepin’ back in, an’ that was worse. Oh, they were hurried along by tha fuckin’ Cajun an’ ‘is illicit morality lessons, but it was just a matter o’ time. Some o’ that mess I’d be better off without, though; ‘cept that I’d hate t’ end up like tha runt, barely rememberin’ how t’ wipe ‘is own ass most days, let alone who he is, where he’s been. Point is, girl, when tha peace slipped outta my hands, false or not – tha big black hole slid right back in. Ain’t ‘nuff  blood, pain, money, pussy, ass, or killin’ in tha whole world t’ fill it.”

Tabitha’s heart was racing as she tried to stomp on her rising fear, knowing he would have already smelled it. She wanted to believe he was actually opening up, trusting her with something real – but she couldn’t. She was quiet on purpose, waiting for the smirk or the shrewd narrowing of his eyes that would tell her he was messing with her head … stringing her along.

Creed watched her in silence, his expression almost blank and utterly unreadable. One hand lifted, the fingers brushing drying strands of long hair out of his face. All at once, he turned his back on her and the strange mood was broken.

The man called Sabretooth began to walk away, his tone low and distracted when he spoke again. “Gotta get outta here, frail; goin’ mad from cabin fever – pay no mind.”

His proud bearing seemed to slump a bit; it was a tiny change that nonetheless made him abruptly seem little like his brutal namesake. He swept one of his long black coats on, caught his hair up into a ponytail with a band from his wrist and headed for the doorway.

Swallowing hard, she murmured, “Tomorrow, then?”

“Probly. I’ll bring ya a present, huh?”

Brys appeared holding a black leather duffle bag. Creed took it from him with a nod before glancing back at her, his eyebrow arching again.

“Uh, sure…” Yikes; what, a severed head?

She hesitated until the men were out of sight and then followed, planning to watch Creed walk down the stairs from the double doors. When she reached the bedroom, the doors were closed. She opened them, careful not to exit the room, but he wasn’t on the stairs or crossing the hall. Her gaze arrowed to the nightstand where he’d left the phone – but it was gone. Victor Creed had vanished without a trace.

~ ~ ~

“It’s the ugly metal wall art in the hall by the dressing room, isn’t it?” Tabitha asked Perrin. “The maximum security thingamabob, like in the kitchen and over the front doors – he went through the one here in the suite, right?”

“I didn’t see him leave,” he answered, “but most likely.”

Tabitha sat on the bed, still in her robe, with one of the ugly masks from the mantel in her hands. “I almost fell into it earlier when I spooked the cat. She bolted past me to get to the open window and I stumbled… It was on, too, with lights blinking and wires humming – but I managed to dodge it. The thing shut off maybe half an hour after that. Sounds like you know where it leads.”

“I’ve been up there, yes; strictly speaking, it’s not a part of this suite, however.” He moved to close the antique wardrobe cabinet, his gaze lingering on its contents for a moment. Turning, he put his back to it to face her.

“Out of bounds, got it. You know, the crap in that cabinet looks like set dressing for a horror film – or a kinky bondage porn shoot, what with the horse-size dildos in straps; it gave me the willies. So – into that, are you?”

“I’ve learned to appreciate it.”

“Meaning that stuff is all his taste? Wow. You don’t bruise easily either, I guess.”

“He knows how to leave marks where they won’t show – when he chooses to bother with hiding them. Also, it’s mostly for him, not for me.”

Tabitha stopped fiddling with the mask and stared at him. “He lets you tie him up and go to town with that junk?”

“As I believe you’ve discovered, bondage on him is largely a joke – it’s a matter of when, not if, he’ll break free; it’s the illusion he’s after, maybe… It’s hard to say.”

“Yeah, but, he lets you… There are knives in there, and a whip, and… I don’t even know what some of it is.”

Perrin smiled as he moved to the table and sat in one of the chairs. He pushed the lunch tray out of the way. “You didn’t notice the car battery and cables on the bottom of the cabinet? Some of those items he brought in as torture implements for prisoners he caught that where dumb enough to try to keep their secrets. I’ve since heard him refer to most of the inventory as ‘marital aids’.”

Tabitha shook her head. “He was chained up, beaten, tortured, whipped, and maimed as a child – why the hell would he make that a part of his bed games, ever? I’ll never understand wanting to be hurt.”

“Then why do you keep aiming yourself at his bed?”

She wished she could muster offense at the question, but there seemed little point. “I’m not looking to be hurt,” she muttered. “I just want… Oh, hell, what’s the use? Maybe I’m going bonkers. Earlier, he told me how he ‘really wanted to tear my throat out’. He said it like other men would say something provocative. I mean, what the fuck?”

“To him, it is provocative. We told you that you would either be used for sex or prey. In Victor’s mind, there is only the thinnest of lines between the two.”

“Yeah, I noticed. I know I can’t keep boning the man without getting seriously injured sooner or later. It’s just a matter of time, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“Gee, couldn’t you vague that up a bit, just to make me feel better?”

“Why? You know it’s the truth. When he tires of you, he’ll either kill you outright or make a game out of doing it slow.”

“Can’t I stick my head in the sand, pretend that he just wants to get laid while on vacation and when we go to Vancouver on business, he’ll pay me and let me walk?”

“It’s your fantasy.”

“I think you forgot your pom poms, dude; you’re doing a crappy job of cheering me up, here.”

“You wanted company for lunch and Brys is busy – I didn’t come up here to brighten your day.”

“No shit, Sherlock.”

She rose and carried the mask back to the fireplace. The long and wide mantel was crowded with them, most of them displayed on stands. Between them, odd bits of bric-a-brac had been placed, but the arrival of lunch had postponed her explorations.

“Weird thing to collect, isn’t it, a bunch of hideous masks?”

“He told me they’re from all over the world. Brys is convinced some of them ought to be in museums. They just showed up about a month ago; he said he brought them from another safe house, in New York.”

“Don’t know how I missed them before – I must have been too busy watching Creed like a hawk. He’s not much for bright lighting, either; I guess he doesn’t need it… So what else is up here? Oh – eww – okay, that’s like, remains or something!”

“It’s a stack of tattoos – removed from Rothenberg’s men. There have been quite a few over the weeks since Victor stole the snow leopard from him.”

“Tattoos… This is skin? I thought it was leather at first…”

“Technically, it is leather – mostly cut from biceps. He likes … unusual trophies.”

“I thought he tossed them all into that awful hole with the rest of his corpses!”

“He did. A few days ago, he went down and … retrieved these. I have no idea why – I was just happy he hadn’t wanted any help and I didn’t hang around asking questions. Dropping them in is one thing – messing with them weeks later is quite another.”

“Ugh. A few days ago, that would have sent me running for the toilet – I’m not sure if it’s good or bad that I’m not doing that anymore.” She moved away quickly from the raggedly cut pieces of skin. “What’s this odd glass box? Is that hair in there?”

“Don’t touch that!”

“What is it?”

“It showed up with the masks and he told me to never touch it.”

“Funny, he told me I could ‘Nancy Drew’ if I didn’t mess anything up; there wasn’t a ‘don’t touch’ list.”

“He told you not to leave this suite and the study. Do you know why?”

“So I won’t be tempted by back kitchen doors?”

“To prove whether or not you meant your promise to obey him. He’ll be able to scent it if you leave and it will make him angry – even if you’re standing right there when he returns.”

“Okay, creepy – but not surprising. That doesn’t explain the glass box, though.”

“We think it’s … hers – her hair.”

Bonnie. “I’m not supposed to discuss that, with anyone; the threat was pretty steep.”

“He might have decided not to say anything so he’d have an excuse to hurt you. Just … leave it be.”

“No problem. Hey, if you’re not careful, you’re going to end up giving a damn about me.” While he gawped at her over that, she looked down at the box again. ‘Don’t touch’ doesn’t mean I can’t look at it. Blonde and curly? Not what I envisioned for the twisted freak who stole Sabretooth’s heart… It wasn’t glass, either, but probably crystal; the thick curling lock was encased in it. One end of it is shorn off, straight and clean, too – was that the swipe that slit her throat? Why keep a lock of her hair? Curiouser and curiouser, ‘Tooth. Catching Perrin’s nervous stare, she shrugged and moved off again.

“I’ll take the tray down to the kitchen. Do you need anything else for now? Brys said he’d come and check on you later.”

“Leave the pitcher of juice and I’m good for a while, sure.”

He took the pitcher and her glass and set them on the table before picking up the tray and heading to the door.

Tabitha ended up facing the cabinet again. “Perrin?”

“Yes?”

“Do you like hurting him? I mean, can you do it without being … sick or disgusted?”

“I like pleasing him; if that’s what it takes, that’s what I do. You’d be surprised what you can get used to, and in time … even learn to enjoy.”

Tabitha held herself tightly and stared at the cabinet and the bed beyond. “Not anymore, I wouldn’t.”

“Maybe he will just pay you and let you go.”

Tears pricked her eyes even as her body burned, missing what Victor Creed could do to it. She hadn’t had the guts to disrobe and look in a mirror, too afraid to see the marks he’d left on her – all of them in places that would show the world what she’d let him do to her.

Let him? I didn’t get a choice. It was lay down or die – but I know he’ll kill me eventually if I stay here. To her reluctant companion, she whispered, “Thanks… It’s a pretty lie, isn’t it?”

The tears began to fall, punctuated by the soft closing of the double doors.

*****************************************************************

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Author’s Note: There is a lot of Japanese going on, story-wise, in this next section, but since I don’t speak Japanese by a long shot, I’ll be marking it off like this inside of the regular quotation marks: “[Yes, Creed-san.]” I’ll do that in the future for any language a character is speaking that I can’t type outright, after making a mention in narration of what language is being spoken at the start of it. Also, for those who may be unaware, the Japanese say the last name first, which is why you’ll see Obinata say “Cuvier Brys” and so on. Also, no, Victor’s accent probably wouldn’t sound the same while he’s speaking another language, but I’m going for consistency.  Twitter: @MET_Fic  –  Anon

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Vancouver International Airport ranked reasonably low on Victor’s list of least favorite places to be. Located on Sea Island in Richmond, British Columbia, it was only about 7.5 miles from Downtown Vancouver.

Convenience was only part of it, however. Security here thought he was a wealthy businessman and thrill-seeker, with his finger on the pulse of mutant affairs – and after enough high-ranking palms had been greased, they looked no further. He stored several vehicles and planes here in a private hangar, since the Yukon safe house, now his main base of operations in Canada, was too remote and rugged for most of his toys.

Workers paid by his banker scurried to tend to the black twin engine Sikorsky S-76 helicopter the moment Victor landed. He grabbed his duffle bag and nodded briskly to them before he walked away, heading for the hangar.

Standing in the huge open doorway was a small Japanese man bundled warmly against the cold. He was dressed as richly as Victor and smiling a greeting – one of the few men who meant the gesture without his scent telling a different tale.

Victor ignored the bow his banker gave him and didn’t offer to shake hands, either. “Coulda met me in tha city, Obinata; why tha change?”

Ryu Obinata adjusted his thin metal frame glasses and chuckled. “You are a difficult man to schedule a meeting with, and all too likely to slip away to other pursuits unless I corner you at the outset.”

“Cornerin’ me ain’t advice ya’d give any other breathin’ creature.”

“That would depend on my plans for them, wouldn’t it? Surely, I’ve earned special privileges by now. We have much to decide on, Creed-san; things that cannot be discussed in front of clients … or young lady friends.”

He ignored the jibe about the skirt. “Ya ridin’ with me, then? Seein’ as ya never bring yer own car.”

“That would be acceptable – if no one is trying to kill you at present.”

“Yeah, right – like ya wouldn’t just pop out an’ leave me t’ not die if they did.”

Victor passed him to enter the hangar and approached a black Bentley. The man who handed him the keys smiled nervously before backing away. The banker went to the passenger door and got in when Victor unlocked the car. After tossing the bag into the backseat, Victor slid into the driver’s seat with a growl of pleasure thrumming in his chest.

The smell of the red leather interior and the sound of the 530 horsepower engine felt like freedom. Grinning over at his passenger, Victor asked, “She’ll do 0 to 100 in 11.7 seconds, Obinata-san; ya ready fer this?”

He braced himself and replied, “If I feel the need to escape your driving, I shall.”

Laughing, Victor pulled out of the hangar without testing the Bentley’s speed record.

Obinata wasted no time discussing business. Victor didn’t look over at the slender mutant as he drove into Vancouver, simply nodding and giving short answers when necessary. For the sake of the other man, he had cracked his driver’s side window only a little bit to let the freezing air in and he was taking in everything the city could throw at his senses.

When the banker switched to Japanese just to see if he was really paying attention, Victor smirked and spoke it back to him.

“[I have heard from your man Cuvier Brys at the Yukon estate and he assures me I should have your package for Stark Industries in my New York office by tomorrow. If I do not –]”

“[It’ll be there, don’t worry – Brys ain’t in tha habit o’ fuckin’ up. Contact Stark when ya get it, I want that gadget tha minute he’s done with it. Where we headin’, anyway? I’m meetin’ Ellison fer dinner, so I got all day t’ kill – so t’ speak.]”

“[I have constructed a new branch office in this city; we can kill the day there. As I said, there is much to discuss.]”

Victor frowned and changed lanes illegally just to relieve his annoyance. The frantic honking behind them made the edges of the frown curl up a little. “[I get a chance t’ stretch my legs in a real town fer tha first time in weeks, an’ ya wanna coop me up in a stale office buildin’? Better have an extra secretary I can eat.]”

“[It’s state-of-the-art, my friend, not stale at all, and I probably do have one or two extra assistants. Feeding them to you is cheaper than letting them go, after all. The last intern I fired went right to the authorities to spill secrets.]”

“[No loss – ya own tha cops already, right? Slackin’ if ya don’t. Yer lucky tha li’l shit didn’t go t’ tha press instead. So tha great expansion continues, huh? How long ‘til ya gotta office in every damn town?]”

Obinata smiled. “[Not long, Creed-san, not long at all. The Ryu Foundation will one day cover the world in the shadow of its wings.]”

“[More fuckin’ romantic samurai shit; yer startin’ t’ sound like tha runt.]”

“[Speaking of Logan-san, I am pleased to announce that I have won that court case against Landau, Luckman, and Lake. As a result, they, and he, have been forced to cease and desist their attempts to harass my foundation – and by association, you.]”

“[He’ll cease harassin’ me when I figure out how t’ kill tha bastard. ‘Course, t’ be fair, I usually harass first. Watch out fer L.L.L., though – they got their fingers in a lot more pies than we do. Ya wanna go global – they’re galactic; I ain’t kiddin’ neither.]”

“[Duly noted.]” The banker gave him the address of the new offices and returned to bringing various business matters to his attention without pause until they arrived. “[Ah, here we are. Welcome, my friend, welcome.]”

“[Go on up. I don’t want anyone seein’ that I know ya personally ‘round here. Gotta rep in Vancouver, an’ trust me, ya don’t wanna rub elbows with me in public on these streets; not if yer still tryin’ t’ appear legit.]”

“[Very well. Although as my best private client, I would prefer to show you every courtesy.]”

“[I better be yer only private client; start collectin’ capes, good or bad, an’ yer gonna find out what bein’ harassed is really like.]”

Obinata clicked his tongue. “[Fear not, Creed-san – aside from the masses that bank with us, you are alone in the top boardroom with me, as always.]”

“[Not quite – don’t forget my complimentary secretary. I’ll see ya upstairs in a tick. Matter o’ fact, send ‘er t’ come get me fer my ‘appointment’.]”

“[As you wish, my friend.]”

Victor watched him just to try to see him do it – but when the banker teleported from the passenger seat up to the offices high overhead, all he saw was a smeared blur of color. Unlike the X-Man Nightcrawler, no explosion of brimstone gas, sound, or any other indication announced Obinata’s exit.

Driving into the skyscraper’s garage, he parked in a spot on the top level marked with the banker’s name.

Ryu Obinata was in his forties and he had managed Victor’s money for over a decade. With some of that money, the brilliant man had formed and built the Ryu Foundation from the ground up. The foundation was primarily a bank that catered to the super rich and it was rumored that it didn’t matter if their records were clean or not. To balance the scales in the eyes of the many governments he operated under, Obinata funded thousands of charities, programs, and political campaigns – all managed through offices that were scattered throughout the world.

It should have taken hundreds of men to run an enterprise of that scope, but Obinata was a multi-talented mutant whose brain was practically a living computer. He was also one of the few mutants Victor trusted almost without reservation.

Victor took the executive elevator from the garage, amused that the codes from the New York location worked for him here. He arrived in a sumptuous lobby on the twentieth floor that the average bank customer would never see and was greeted instantly by a young man in a fine suit.

“Good morning, sir – may I help you?”

“Yup – name’s Victor Creed; I’m here t’ see Mr. Obinata, ‘bout a new account. He’s ‘sposed t’ send someone t’ fetch me.”

“Very good, sir. If you’d care to wait just a moment, I will call ahead for you.”

“‘Preciate it.” Not a beat lost over my looks; did my wily partner start hirin’ mutants an’ mutant-friendly types here, too?  Boy don’t smell like one – must not mind ‘em. Wonder if my snack’ll care? Victor looked around until the boy returned, impressed with the place in spite of it being an office building. It sported enough glass to avoid making him feel caged in, at least. Tha man made good use o’ my money, that’s fer damn sure.

“Mr. Creed?”

The female voice was young and unafraid. She smelled like morning sun, the leather of her new designer shoes, and a delicate rose soap. When he turned, she was brunette, pale and pretty, and close enough to the size of the X-skirt back home to make his lips stretch into a lascivious smirk.

“That’s me, darlin’ … an’ ya are?”

“Fiona Cavanagh, sir. Mr. Obinata sent me to take you up to his office.”

“Did he now? Imagine that. Lead tha way, doll – I’ll be right behind ya.”

As she turned away to lead him to a different and singularly fancy elevator, the look she gave him was one of the strangest of his life. It wasn’t fear of him, though her scent was abruptly laced with an oppressive dread of something. Yet the way she’d stared up at him had been almost … hopeful?

Maybe she’s as crazy as the X-skirt, too. Intrigued, he smoothed his mouth into a friendlier smile with some effort and let the hunting instinct simmer beneath it.

Inside the elevator car, he stood too close to her, expecting her to shift away. When she didn’t, he almost spoke, but she beat him to it and the whispered question was a stumper.

“Logan sent you, didn’t he? He said he’d send someone else.”

What tha flyin’ fuck? A quick sniff told him little; if she’d been with the runt, it had been too long ago for casual detection, with too many men in between. Studying her desperate face, his mood morphed in an instant from surprised annoyance to amusement. Why not? Might be fun. In a hushed tone, he replied, “Yeah, he did – but ya better have a code word fer me before I say anythin’ else, girl.”

Predictably, she wilted, her fear rising – though she still wasn’t afraid of him.

“Oh, God… He didn’t give me that. Please, I swear, I’m the one who helped him before, in the New York building.”

“When?”

“Months ago … three months. He had those lawyers arrange my transfer when Mr. Obinata opened this branch and told me to watch for someone – someone like him.”

Like ‘im? Hoo boy, is this bitch in fer it now. Gotta plot cookin’, though, huh, runt? Cease an’ desist orders be damned? Color me shocked. Reaching out, he placed a gentle, clawless hand on her delicate shoulder and gave her a reassuring smile. “That boy’s always playin’ jokes – dangerous jokes; I coulda hurt ya before I knew ya were legit.”

“Oh, Mr. Creed … thank you. Now that you’re here, I know it will all be okay.”

“He told ya I’d protect ya?”

“Yes, but I won’t get in your way, I promise. What are you going to tell Mr. Obinata? I mean … what is your cover?” Blushing under his stare, she glanced down at the light that illuminated the button for the fiftieth floor.

Oh, lordy, I must be livin’ right! How many pulp noir tales did he stuff ‘er with before he stuffed ‘er regular? Ain’t gonna get bored now, not a prayer. Moving one finger under her chin, he lifted her face up to look at him. “I’m gonna be ‘is newest filthy rich client. Don’t worry yer pretty li’l head ‘bout a thing – I’ll make sure ya get outta this in one piece. Now I want ya t’ do anythin’ I tell ya, without question, got it?”

“Yes, sir, I will.”

As his fingers stroked her jaw and chin gently, she leaned her face into them, her scent slowly spicing with a tentative lust.

Are ya a feral groupie, or do ya just miss tha runt that much? Obinata-san, ya may hafta kiss my ass later fer what I’m ‘bout t’ unravel fer ya, right under yer nose. “Take me t’ ‘is office, then go back t’ work an’ try not t’ talk t’ anyone. What time do ya get off?”

“At five o’clock.”

“I gotta dinner meetin’ t’ go t’ t’night, part o’ my cover, but I’ll meet ya after that. Go home. I’ll find ya there.”

“Yes! My address is –”

“Logan already told me, darlin’. Don’t fret; I’ll see ya sometime after ten.”

“Oh, thank you, Mr. Creed!” She flung her arms around his waist in an exuberant show of gratitude, pressing her body against his. “You even talk like him.”

Gritting his teeth, Victor forced his lips to smile down at her. “Playin’ tha cards I’m dealt, is all. Straighten up, now – get yer game face on.”

Pulling away from him moments before the bell rang and the doors opened, the girl stepped out. An air of chilly civility settled around her as snugly as her tight-fitting white blouse and black wool skirt. She passed a security checkpoint, speaking to the guards there briefly and giving them his name.

By the look of them, they’d been told to watch for him and knew exactly who he was. Proof came when their hands didn’t reach for the heavy firepower he could smell behind their marble counter.

Following the girl around a corner and down the hall to a pair of ornate double doors, Victor watched her figure. The brutally high heels made her short stature taller and her calves and ass magnificent.

Before she opened the doors, he slid up behind her and set his hand low on her hip, leaning over to whisper to her as she began to tremble with fear and lust.

“Obinata can’t hurt ya now, darlin’ – trust me.”

“I do … I trust you.” She turned her face up, almost begging for more, but that was too easy.

“Gonna wear somethin’ pretty t’night fer yer knight in shinin’ Bentley?”

“I’ll do anything you want – just help me survive all of this. I think … Mr. Obinata suspects me already.”

Victor tossed her a wink before nudging her back to face the doors. Leaning lower, he murmured in her ear, “Try t’ be calm an’ leave fast after ya introduce us.” He let his lips brush her hair, a purr making her shudder. Breathing in deeply, he struggled to wipe the wicked smirk off of his face at the tales her skin told up close before the expression could give him away.

She opened the doors with shaking fingers, but her voice was steady and cool as she announced him. Obinata stood to greet him and Victor passed the girl without a glance. As the doors closed behind him, Victor’s amusement tore free, displaying sharp teeth in a Cheshire grin.

“You appear to be the cat that ate the canary – though the bird I sent still flies free.”

Victor ignored the opulence of the room and headed for the conference table. Pulling out the chair nearest to the windows framing a stunning city view, he put his boots up on the polished table and cracked his knuckles one by one.

Obinata left his desk and took the chair across the table from him, folding his hands on the wood and smiling. “Do you like our latest flagship building?”

“Got more windows than New York, I like that.”

“There is an office and suite set aside for your use with roof access. It is adjacent to mine and accessible from the executive elevator.”

“Might bring my new toy ‘round t’ see it; left ‘er at home fer this trip.”

He frowned at the wall that faced the man’s desk. A few feet in front of it was a massive and artistic fountain in the form of a wall of water that stretched up to the top of the vaulted ceiling. As he watched it, lights and water combined to form pictures, the thin sheet of water making a gentle hissing sound.

“Guess yer all int’ those in Tokyo, but tha fuckin’ things just make me need t’ take a piss.”

“Would you prefer I called for your bird to come back up and distract you?”

Victor grinned again and rewarded the man’s patience. “Ya ain’t gonna believe this shit. I just stepped int’ a dime novel bit o’ heaven an’ before I’m done, that bird’ll be plucked but good; worth two in tha bush, ain’t she?”

~ ~ ~

Victor parked the Bentley in the center of two metered spaces close to the Gotham Steakhouse at 615 Seymour, half hoping some jackass would key the car so he could kill them for it. Grinning, he used a claw to scratch the words ‘Try it’ on the first meter.

A short stroll brought him to one of the few Art Deco buildings still around, built in 1933. He liked his tech and toys to be cutting edge, but for comfort, vintage had its charms. The place was full of warm colors, rich velvets, glossy dark woods, and Art Deco details and paintings. Comfortable and large club chairs, private table nooks, lots of windows, and an outdoor garden patio with a fireplace made it one of his favorite haunts, right in the heart of the city.

Victor caught Ellison’s scent in the foyer, but after the hostess had eyed him like a designer bit of meat, he let her lead him to the private dining room up the grand curving staircase. He had booked the room for two reasons – it was perfect for discussing criminal plots, but it also had doors that opened up one end of it to a balcony railing that looked out over the first floor of the restaurant. There were ten dark wood and leather chairs around the long dining table, but his dinner companion was smart enough to choose one near the railing that left the best view of it to Victor.

The man who stood to greet him was only scant inches shorter, but thin. He had draped his coat on the back of his chair and his clothes were barely up to the ‘smart casual’ dress code. Victor was aggressively overdressed, but much like the cars he drove, it had its perks.

“Mr. Creed, we meet again,” he announced, hand outstretched.

Victor took it with claws retracted, pressing just enough to make him wince before releasing him. “I brought tha photos o’ tha cat, an’ tha faster we sort shit out, tha better. I gotta date.”

Smiling to cover his nerves, Ellison asked, “Our pretty hostess, perhaps?”

“Nope, but ZZ Top didn’t lie ‘bout skirts bein’ crazy fer a sharp-dressed man.” Victor sat in the opposite chair without removing his coat.

Kenton Ellison had never seemed to care about the trappings his family’s money could buy. He had adopted the costume of an American hippie, including the goatee and shaggy appearance. His blue-blood West Vancouver relatives were probably ashamed to be seen with him.

“First, I have a matter to discuss about the job. There’s been a change – one I think you’ll like.”

“After I get some meat slapped in front o’ me; been holed up in a fuckin’ bank all damn day an’ then they cater in French shit fer lunch! Sliver o’ bird wrapped in a lettuce leaf! I nearly ate one o’ tha waiters.”

“Yes, of course – I assume this den of animal products has a salad of some sort to offer.”

Victor’s smirk wasn’t pleasant, though he’d chosen the place solely because it would irk the vegan. “Ya should try a slab o’ beef; ya look more’n more like a twig each time I lay eyes on ya.”

“To each his own, Mr. Creed – a bit of lettuce would do you good, as well.”

“Ha! I get my greens by eatin’ vegetarians now an’ then.”

When the waitress arrived, she smiled and flirted with Victor, too. He tossed a wink at Ellison.

“Bring me oysters t’ start with. Ya got Sam Adams Utopias in those fancy porcelain bottles?”

“Yes, sir, we do.”

“I want six o’ ‘em.” Not pausing to acknowledge her surprise at the order for the $300 each bottles, he ordered an obscene amount of meat.

“How would you like that cooked, sir?”

“Can ya ride it in, doll? I’d rather carve some off as ya go by.”

She giggled. “Extra rare it is. For you, sir?”

Victor reached into his coat and took the white envelope full of a handful of photographs out of an inner breast pocket and laid it on the table. When the girl finished taking the order for Ellison’s rabbit food, Victor touched her elbow.

“Six brews are fer starters. If I never hafta see tha end o’ those bottles, yer tip might put yer kid through college, darlin’.”

Grinning, she answered, “Consider it done, sir.”

“I love this town,” he announced when she left. “Most folks don’t give a rat’s ass ‘bout mutants ‘round here – ‘specially if they think they’re rich.” He pushed the envelope over. “We talk my business first. She’s young, healthy, adjustin’ well, an’ coolin’ ‘er heels with me just fine – but I can’t stay up here after yer gig is done. I can’t leave ‘er with my people here, or take ‘er with me, neither. What she needs is t’ be back in Nepal. I can take ‘er there, but I ain’t riskin’ no fuck-ups, got it? That’s where ya come in.”

Ellison studied the images, all of them of the snow leopard outside on the grounds. No image or inkling of where she was could have been detected.

“She’s a beautiful specimen, for certain.” Replacing them in the envelope, he slid it inside one of his dangling coat pockets. “While I understand your situation, I cannot fly off to Nepal right now.”

“It ain’t ‘right now’; it’s right after ya finally gimme tha green light on yer Operation Ground Zero, or whatever tha hell ya were callin’ it. Bit o’ advice, too: if yer gonna start alterin’ tha deal, it’ll go better if I’m already a happy man.”

“I could increase your fee.”

“More cash ain’t a concern o’ mine. Personal cat delivery’ll get ya a lot further. My transport, my nickel fer tha trip, an’ I’ll drop ya wherever ya wanna go when she’s settled somewhere safe.”

“Mr. Creed, I can’t just –”

“Maybe ya got beans in yer ears, Ellison, so I’ll give it one more shot, on account o’ yer a good repeat client. She’s been through hell an’ I ain’t lettin’ ‘er go through no more o’ that shit. Call it a workin’ vacation; or would ya rather find some chump t’ blow up yer ‘environmental poison plant’ an’ risk ‘em botchin’ tha job?”

“You’d walk away from two million –”

Victor winked at the waitress when she arrived with their drinks and appetizers; he knew she’d heard the man’s outburst. “Thanks, doll. Off ya go.” When she left again, he leaned his elbows on the table and steepled his fingers together. A glint of metal showed in the smooth tips. “Told ya, it ain’t ‘bout money; I got money. Ya don’t come through fer this cat an’ I walk.”

“The authorities in Nepal would listen to you just as well, Mr. Creed.”

Victor popped the resealable top on the first ornate porcelain bottle and chugged it down. “Don’t bet on it; I’m on a lotta ‘most wanted’ lists, worldwide. I ‘preciate that yer busy with yer tree-huggers, but I need ya t’ play liaison now, so this don’t get screwed up fer ‘er. That was tha deal before ya became a client, remember?” He tipped a few of the oyster shells to his mouth and swallowed the delicacies. “Mmm, almost as good as pussy. Well, dead pussy, anyhow.”

Ellison cleared his throat and began to eat a few tomato slices, which he’d ordered without the crumbled bleu cheese. He nattered on about how busy he was for a bit. Victor paid more attention to the oysters.

“Some of my preparations have been affected by the changes I want to make, causing a regrettable delay. However, as long as the pilot plant is destroyed before they can begin producing chlorine trifluoride, we will be on track.”

“I first heard ‘bout that shit after tha fact. It used t’ be called N-stoff an’ tha Nazis wanted t’ develop it as an incendiary weapon an’ poison gas against tha Maginot Line in tha early thirties. Way tha tale was told t’ me, sounded like they bit off more’n they could chew.” Victor shook his head and slurped down the last oyster. “Now they practically use it like bleach in tha computer industry fer their clean rooms an’ keep wishin’ they could figure out how t’ use it fer rocket fuel. Ya know tha old sayin’, ‘Wish in one hand, shit in tha other an’ see which gets full tha first.’”

After killing his weeds, the vegan set down the fork. “Indeed. They are clearly insane. Perhaps I should explain the changes to the job before we make any decisions.”

“Shoot. I got brew aged fifteen years t’ savor.” The arrival of the meat was a welcome interruption. “Give us a bit, darlin’, would ya?” he asked the waitress. “Got biz t’ discuss.” He accepted the extra three bottles she’d brought with a grin.

“Of course, sir.”

Victor watched her shapely figure as she left – aware she knew and didn’t mind. “See how I’m ‘sir’ an’ yer just my dinner pal? That’s what Versace does fer a man.”

“I have more problems than being invisible to a waitress.”

“Yer loss. That li’l brunette piece could be desert. Don’t let yer lettuce get cold while yer explainin’.”

Ellison barely ate as he described how he wanted things to go down. Victor devoured his meal as he listened, now and then sneering at the way the other man picked at his salad.

“I trust you have no objections to the changes? Do I need to add to the fee now?”

“Do I gotta remind ya what answer o’ yers will get what ya wanna hear outta me? Tha original fee is fine – plus one favor.”

“Very well, I agree. This will be far safer for everyone and the planet, if they never even get the chance to push a single button. Remember, the pilot plant has to be razed to the ground, especially the lab, control room, and process plant.”

“Heard ya tha first time. Don’t fret – I gotta ace in tha hole fer razin’ shit but good. Fer tha rest, don’t forget t’ have my party favors in place.” He let the fork he’d mostly remembered to use clatter to the empty plate. Draining more bottles one after the other, he picked up his fifth and chugged it.

“Storage boxes in the records room, it will all be there and ready. We have impressive support from the locals, who all live in the area.” Ellison sipped his spring water. “Where and when do you want to meet for the trip to Nepal?”

“That might be a logistics puzzle, convincin’ my furry guest t’ get int’ a truck an’ then a jet. Gimme a few days t’ a week after tha job’s done, an’ I’ll call ya when I got ‘er on tha jet. We’ll come get ya wherever ya are, an’ head out from there.”

“I was under the impression you were in a hurry.”

“Aw, quit yer bellyachin’; ‘sides, that’ll give ya plenty o’ time t’ shovel some plausible deniability t’ tha press after tha big bang.”

“That won’t be a problem; I intend to be very publicly elsewhere at the time.”

Victor chuckled. “Peru might be far ‘nuff . I suggest pickin’ up some hookers, too, an’ play big tipper. They love t’ talk t’ tha press an’ most folks eat that shit up; tha perfect cover fer a wayward blue-blood eco anarchist.” He downed the last three bottles of Canada’s finest and with a scrape of his chair, he stood. “I got tha tip – ya got tha check, moneybags.”

One glance over the balcony railing let him locate their waitress at the front. He walked off without looking back at Ellison and headed down the staircase to speak to her. She was so obvious checking him out as he approached, that the older man working near her made a rude noise.

“Everything was good, I hope, and rare enough?”

“Yup. Pencil Neck’s gettin’ tha bill, but I owe ya a tip.”

She glanced over at the man and motioned for Victor to follow her out into the foyer. The painting there abruptly made him feel nostalgic, though he hadn’t paid any attention to it in years.

A burning cigarette sat poised in an ashtray, martini glasses and cards lay on a table, while the unseen card player could watch an alluring 1930s femme fatale in a white gown at the bar – as she watched him back. Memories of illicit gin joints during Prohibition tugged at him and he wondered if there was a reason the artist had painted the Jack of Spades as the top card.

The woman’s scent drew him back. She was an interesting mix of subtle and obvious, not unlike the lady in the painting.

“It’s really not necessary to tip me, sir. Are you staying in town? If you wanted to sightsee, I’m a great guide.”

“Ya don’t gotta go home t’ yer li’l girl? It’s gettin’ late.”

“How did you know I have a daughter?”

He could smell the child on her, from when she’d dropped her off somewhere that morning, but he wasn’t in the mood for the truth; he wanted to play.

Victor reached out and snagged the gold chain around her neck with one finger. Pulling it up out of her blouse, the small gold and diamond child’s ring on it glinted in the lights. “I’m a good guesser. Seems this escaped when some o’ yer buttons came undone between tha brew an’ tha grub.”

Her blush pleased him. “She’s with her father this week. I had to pull some extra shifts and he’s better than paying a babysitter.”

Studying her, silently breathing in her scent, he thought about the games he had lined up for the night. This skirt was a tempting thing and not a munchkin for once, though not much of a chase – but reeling in and gaffing a woman the runt had once claimed and wanted to protect trumped playing tourist. For the hell of it, he spread on the bullshit just to enjoy watching her lap it up a bit longer.

“Wish I could accept, darlin’, but my lady’s waitin’ up fer me; I’d best get on home t’ ‘er while I’m still a good boy.”

Predictably, she melted – though she had a good poker face on her. “Oh, of course … I’m sorry.”

“No need, pretty thing like ya; here – I promised.” He handed her a thick fold of bills in an emerald-encrusted money clip.

“That has to be over $600! I can’t take that, sir, I can’t.”

“Yeah, ya can. Tha clip’ll fetch a few grand; pawn it an’ take a week off – get yer kid back home with ya.”

Stepping closer with the money and clip clutched in one hand, she grasped his hand and held it to her chest. “Why are you being so kind to me?”

“Not a clue – any other night, I woulda eaten ya by now.”

She laughed nervously, proving she thought he was making a sexual joke. “I’d probably let you, Mister…?”

“Call me Victor, darlin’.”

“I’m Liane. Thank you, Victor. If you feel like being a bad boy before you leave town, come back for more raw meat and we’ll discuss our options.”

Victor smirked. “If yer lucky, girl, I won’t.”

He started to pull away and leave, but her hands gripped his. “I’m not afraid of… I’m … not afraid.”

Leaning down, he kissed her cheek, making sure the long shafts of his fangs pressed into her soft skin. Purring into her ear, smiling at her weak-kneed shiver, he whispered, “Ya should be, Liane; all tha shit ya do fear – is scared t’ death o’ me.”

He popped his claws, barely missing cutting her fingers before she jerked her hands away.

The shocked burst of her anxiety made him chuckle as he stepped back, went through the doors, and walked off to his car. Sliding inside it, half wishing he’d made her feel obligated to at least blow him, he started the engine before glancing back up toward the front windows of the restaurant. With a smirk, he drove by them slowly.

She had fled back to the hostess podium, still clutching the money. The older man was speaking to her and probably offering comfort. She looked up as if she could feel Victor’s stare and watched, frozen, as his car prowled down the street.

The thought that they might give Ellison a hard time about the incident only made him laugh.

~ ~ ~

“Home’s where tha heart is, Fiona,” Victor whispered as he climbed the stairs up to her second floor apartment. “Hope ya ain’t given yers over t’ tha runt entire – I’m dyin’ fer a taste.”

He had returned to the bank and from there, it was easy to track her. Halfway up the steps, he could already hear her in the small flat. Victor took a deep breath. Her movements where erratic and nervous, but she was alone.

Obinata had suspected her of disloyalty; it was the reason she was being fed to Victor. Yet disloyalty was enough for the banker; he’d been unaware of the runt’s continued efforts to infiltrate and spy. Victor had offered to get to the bottom of the plot solely for the ugly fun of it.

Lifting his fist, keeping his claws retracted, Victor knocked softly and listened as her steps rushed to answer it.

“Who is it?” she called.

“Creed.”

The number 202 on her door came loose and swung down on one nail when she yanked it open. Not seeming to care who might see her in the street, she stepped out in a bit of crimson silk to embrace him.

“Gonna catch yer death, darlin’,” he admonished, using his body to push her back into her home. Stepping around her, he added, “Don’t forget t’ lock that.”

Her apartment confirmed many of his assumptions. She was paid well, but her effort to blend in with her well-dressed peers burned through most of her cash. With the exception of a few feminine efforts to make the place a comfortable home, Victor had seen prison cells with more possessions in them.

The furniture was sparse and mismatched, though the place was meticulously clean. The bedroom door was open, as was the closet inside it and that was where her money was kept – on hangers and a wooden shoe rack.

He grinned when the lock clicked. She approached from behind, the scent of the rose soap stronger on her skin from a shower just a few hours before. She touched his back like a woman who knew what was expected of her in return for her companion’s help.

“I’m so relieved… I couldn’t wait –”

“Shh,” he answered, and turned. “Yer safe now.”

Hands reaching for her face as he bent to kiss her, Victor took the time to explore the taste of her. Her hands covered his, as if she didn’t want him to ever stop touching her. Yet he was always far more interested in the main event. He broke the kiss, sliding his fingers down her arms.

“Nice t’ know ya ain’t cartin’ ‘round a torch fer Logan,” he murmured against her mouth.

“He left me up here to fend for myself and I’ve been living in terror for months, waiting … but you’re here now.”

“Gonna make ya forget ‘is name, girl.” Hands stroking back up, he cupped her small breasts and squeezed them gently, his thumbs teasing her erect nipples.

“Your coat –”

“Later, doll. We got all night.”

He dropped to his knees so fast that she stepped back in surprise. Grabbing her hips, he pulled her to him, shoving the negligee up to lash at her pussy with his long tongue.

Lips brushing her shaved skin, the shafts of the fangs pressing in, he nuzzled against her, a purr riding his whispered words. “Open fer me, Fiona … lemme taste ya.”

Her scent charged with heady lust, her hands came down on his shoulders for balance before she moved one bare foot to stand with her legs slightly open. Growling, Victor’s fingers reached down, curled around one of those tight calves and pulled it, nearly toppling her to spread her legs wide.

She cried out when he shoved his tongue up and in. Working her into a weak and gasping thing, his fingers rose again. Grabbing up two handfuls of silk, he ripped the thin cloth from her body, marking her milky shoulders when the straps there were pulled before they broke.

When she came, he sucked the slick liquid into his mouth, lapping at her slit to get it all. She lost her balance, but he caught her easily and rose, lifting her in his arms to carry her into the bedroom.

“Oh, my God,” she murmured, her voice fluttering in her throat.

“Might make ya earn my help, darlin’ – whattaya think?”

“I think … I want you naked in my bed before I die.”

“Careful what ya wish fer.”

He set her on the edge of the bed and threw his coat over a small wooden chair at a desk. Standing still, he let her undress him, draping his couture over the coat piece by piece. Stepping back to remove shoes and socks, he grinned as he opened his pants and stripped them off.

Crawling over her, he fell onto his back and groaned when she grasped his erection with both hands without a moment’s hesitation.

“Ride it,” he ordered, his rasping voice nearly a hiss.

She didn’t wait, didn’t simper about condoms or lube, and as she straddled his hips and pushed it in, she was already wet enough to take it all.

With a grunt, Victor ground up into her, fucking her rough and fast. She wasn’t anywhere near as tight as the X-skirt, but he didn’t care – he was going to kill this one, maybe while he fucked her, maybe not, but the promise of blood drove him mad.

“Hoo yeah! Got it good an’ slick fer me, huh? Just thinkin’ ‘bout fuckin’ me got ya that wet?”

“Y-yes,” she stammered, her skin flushing pink. “Mr. Creed, I –”

“From where yer sittin’, may as well call me Victor.” He grinned again, displaying all of the sharp teeth at once and licking his tongue across them for good measure. “Ain’t a romantic bone in my body, Fiona – unlike yer dear Logan – an’ I’m real fond o’ dirty talk an’ dirtier games. Wanna play my way?”

Meeting his gaze, she swallowed any wise reservations in her head and grinned back at him. “I do, Victor.”

“Gonna lemme hurt ya?” When she hesitated, he made a tsk, tsk noise. “Said ya’d do anythin’ I asked. Were ya lyin’ t’ me, sweets?”

“Y-you mean like … spanking?”

“I mean bondage fun. Ya can tie me up later if ya want, but it’s ladies first, ain’t it? That’s how my pa raised me.” He snatched her wrists and held them tight, loving the slow inevitable mix as fear invaded her lust.

~ ~ ~

Victor breathed deep, high on the reek of her terror and the salt of her blood. The ropes of twisted nylon hosiery had burned her wrists. They were wound up tight and short now from all of the times he’d turned her body to her back or her belly. One smooth calf muscle was bleeding from a vicious bite after she’d kicked him in the chest.

Her skin was slick with sweat, his saliva, and smears of his cum. Lying beside her, he watched her ribs and stomach heave with her breath.

She had stopped making loud noises after the first scream earned her a punch to the jaw. It was purple now, but he’d left her able to speak, and then gave her reasons to spill everything she knew about the runt, his plans, and anything he’d done or might yet do concerning the Ryu Foundation.

Tears still streamed down her cheeks, but she’d stopped sobbing.

“Bet ya figured out it might be more economical t’ get good breaths in, huh, frail? Never know when one o’ ‘em might be tha last.”

She whimpered prettily and then moaned, gritting her teeth, when he pushed two smooth fingers back into her ass. He’d been nice at first, playing along, getting her hot all over again as she warmed to the kink of being trussed up and pleasured. Unfortunately for her, he’d tired of the game quickly.

Since then, every hole had been tried as he strove to eradicate all trace memory of the runt’s soft style. The fact that Logan had been in all of them first didn’t really surprise him, though, or bother him – he’d be there last, after all.

“Ya know, it’s a shame, doll – I’ve plum run outta questions fer ya. Gettin’ closer t’ dawn, too; ya know what that means.”

She licked her split lower lip, her throat working painfully. “Please … don’t kill me … please…”

“Maybe I won’t. I could take ya with me – keep ya fer a travel-size toy. Tell ya what, after I get my fill, I’ll let ya up, give ya time t’ pack a few bags. Ya own luggage, don’t ya?”

“Just … just let me go…”

“What, so ya can run t’ tha runt an’ cry ‘bout how I stuffed ya full an’ tore ya all up? Ya think he’d care? Man’s a bona fide slut, ya know. ‘Love ‘em an’ leave ‘em’ was invented fer that bastard.” When she began to cry again, he smirked, drinking in her pain and hopelessness. “Aw, I’m sorry, Fiona – did I wreck yer fantasy o’ ‘im givin’ a shit fer ya? Did ya think he loved ya? Hell, maybe he even said he did.” Victor laughed outright. “Ya mean yer mommy never told ya that a man’ll say ‘I love ya’ fer sex like a boy says please fer candy?”

Working his fingers in and out of her cut and crimson body, he pulled them out bloody and sucked them clean as she stared in horror.

“You’re a filthy animal,” she ground out through her bludgeoned throat.

“Careful, frail – ya don’t wanna make me mad, do ya? Gets worse if ya do.” His hand fell to his cock and worked it hard again with a few brutal tugs. “Fer now, I’ll be nice an’ fuck yer pussy again, huh? Unless ya wanna call me names some more.”

Just to be perverse, he suckled her again, proving he could control her body and make her come even now. Rising up and over her, he set himself at the edge of her opening and held her face, licking gently at her tears and the spray of bloody drops around her mouth.

“At least tell me … who you are? Did Obinata pay you? Is that why…?”

“Poor Fiona; it’s tha other way ‘round, girl. My money started ‘is bloody foundation.”

Her eyes flew open wide. “You’re the secret partner … the one he wanted to find out…”

“Who, tha runt? Oops. Guess he ain’t gonna find out from ya now, is he?”

“Let me go or take me with you, just don’t kill me. I’m begging you, don’t…”

“Shh,” he soothed, his lips at her ear. “Hush now, an’ lemme fuck ya; then I’ll decide what t’ do with ya. Tell ya what – I’ll set ya loose.” His claws popped and she winced, having felt them often throughout the night. Victor slashed the nylon, leaving part of it attached to her wrists. “Here’s tha rules o’ tha new game: convince me yer havin’ fun this time, an’ ya get t’ live. Got it?”

She tried to nod, but the cuts and bite on her neck made her gasp. “Yes,” she whispered.

“Loss o’ blood’s made ya paler, girl; that makes any woman alive tha most beautiful that ever lived…”

He shoved himself deep, his mouth catching the scream she couldn’t stop. This time, he was slow, even gentle, as she tried to cling to him, tried to pretend.

Victor moved his mouth to her neck, below where he’d bitten her before. “Fiona, darlin’ … I thought o’ ‘nother question fer ya. Did tha runt tell ya he loved ya? Tha truth, now.”

She began to sob again. “No…”

“Didn’t think so.” He chuckled against her throbbing pulse, licking the blood that still leaked from the other bite. “Ya just thought it was special, didn’t ya? Cuz he was nice, made ya feel so good… Am I right?”

“Yes,” she whispered. “Please don’t…”

“Know why I ain’t nice? Mind my delicate feelin’s now, ya gotta lot ridin’ on this one.”

“I don’t know why…”

“Cuz,” he answered, nuzzling her neck, “ya let that asshole touch ya. Ya gave ‘im a good time, made ‘is life a bit brighter, didn’t ya? Road pussy is tha brass ring t’ ‘heroes’ like ‘im, girl. Yer tasty, too – probly even managed t’ wipe that scowl off ‘is ugly mug fer a few rolls in tha hay, huh?”

“He was beautiful … and so kind.”

“Goin’ t’ yer happy place, darlin’? Might not wake up if ya do.”

She was drifting, likely from blood loss. Rather than make new holes, he sliced his fangs carefully into the older bite, opening it up again. Blood flowed and he sucked at it, letting her life coat his throat as her body worked his cock. When he came, he bit down harder, fighting against the instinct to close the fangs in her flesh and rear his head back to tear it out.

~ ~ ~

The girl stumbled, a naked and bleeding mess. Victor watched her move back and forth from the closet to the bed, where he’d dragged her two suitcases out and opened them up. She gathered shoes and clothes, both everyday items and some of the designer treasures she’d learned to love and hate at once.

He dressed slowly, enjoying how his attentions had almost crippled her. The odds were good that one of those rounds had fractured her pelvis, but he couldn’t be sure. He hadn’t been trying to, as it would lessen the remainder of his entertainment.

“Don’t forget that jewelry box,” he told her. “Ya keep glancin’ at it. Somethin’ in there ya don’t want t’ leave behind?”

She went to it and opened one of the tiny little drawers of the wooden miniature cabinet. With trembling fingers, she pulled out a diamond pendant on a gold chain.

Victor was behind her in a heartbeat, pretending to be gallant and help her put it on. Moving her dark hair, he sniffed at her neck, peering down at the stone that hung just above her red-smeared breasts.

“Why weren’t ya still wearin’ that, if yer brave hero gave it t’ ya?”

“Because he said … he’d send someone to help me, and … he never did.”

“Oldest tale in tha book, girl – outta sight, outta mind.”

“I was so sure he would.”

“Yup – so sure that ya believed my bullshit, hook, line, an’ fuckin’ sinker. Yer a credit t’ yer gender, ain’t ya?”

He stepped back from her, turning away as if to inspect her packing efforts. Listening to her heart pound in her chest, to the blood she still possessed rushing through her veins, the catch of her breath – Victor knew the exact second in which she made the decision to attack him.

It was the letter opener next to the jewelry box and she lunged up with a scream as he turned, slashing it across his throat. Instinct drove him to roar in outrage, but he couldn’t – her blow had done too much damage. Clutching the fearsome wound, he staggered, falling back onto the bed.

The girl screamed again, dropped her pathetic weapon and bolted to the front door.

Victor heard her struggling with the lock, loud sobs weakening her further. His healing factor buzzing to close the wound, he sat up when she got the door open. She never looked back, probably half mad and thinking she’d murdered him.

A smile stretched his lips, morphing into a leer as he rose. By the time he reached the open door and saw her running down the stairs, his throat had healed.

Growling low in his chest, he jumped and vaulted over both landing and railing – straight down to the concrete below. His coat whipping behind him, Victor roared and rushed down the dark street after his prey.

Turning her head to look, she stumbled and fell hard onto her back, too shocked to scream. As he advanced, she tried to crawl backward on her hands, shaking her head and moaning.

“Knew I bled ya too fuckin’ much – takes tha fun outta tha hunt.” He crouched beside her on the balls of his feet. “Time t’ say goodbye, Fiona.”

“You … should be dead.”

“Remember when ya insulted me before, ‘bout me bein’ just like tha runt? One thing we got in common, no argument – is a grade-A healin’ factor. Ain’t that just a bitch.”

Murmuring words in a jumble that made no sense, she grasped the diamond on her chest with her fingers.

“Don’t worry, Fiona – when I do see Logan again, I’ll tell ‘im what a good sport ya were. He’ll be so proud o’ ya.”

“Logan,” she whispered. “I’m … sorry…”

Snarling, Victor reached out and slashed her throat with his claws. He started to leave her there, but then picked her up instead.

~ ~ ~

“Try t’ be quiet, huh? My wife’s still sleepin’.”

“Yes, sir.”

Victor smiled at the man Obinata had sent over to help his client. The fellow wrestled with the pair of large suitcases all the way down the stairs to the waiting Bentley.

Bending over the girl one last time, he breathed in the scent of death like a drug. Left ‘nuff  forensic evidence, pre- an’ post-mortem; even if this bitch is in tha ground before tha runt gets wind o’ it, he might still be able t’ sniff out what I did t’ ‘er from ‘er tombstone. Merry fuckin’ Ho-Ho, Fireplug.

Victor tucked the covers around her head, pressing a chaste kiss to her blood-soaked and slowly drying hair before he straightened and went down to the car.

On the stairs, he buttoned his coat closed over the ruined suit, smiling at the thought of Perrin’s inevitable disgust at his treatment of his clothes.

“Sir? Mr. Obinata said I was to ride with you to the airport and help you load your bags there, is that correct?”

“Yup. ‘Preciate tha assist.”

“No problem, sir. Mr. Obinata said you were top priority.”

“Did he now?” Victor settled into the driver’s seat as the man put the bags in the trunk. Pulling a small object from his coat pocket, he grinned as the morning light flashed on Fiona’s diamond – a gift from the runt.

“That’s a beauty, sir. Two carat, if I’m not mistaken, isn’t it?” the man asked. He got into the passenger seat.

“So it is. Gotta have it cleaned; it’ll be a nice surprise.” Pocketing it again, he started the car and slipped a CD in. “Tell me ya like Joe Cocker.”

“Every day of my life, sir.”

Victor smirked and drove off. As the slow strains of Now That the Magic Has Gone began to play, he wondered who would find the girl’s body – or most of it – and how long it would take for the runt to hear about it.

Fresher’s always better. Gotta date fer tha job at least, an’ a plan fer gettin’ tha cat back where she belongs. Now that I got ‘nother one o’ tha runt’s skirts in my teeth, maybe I can muster tha patience fer tha next game.

Settling into the drive, grateful that the borrowed help Obinata had insisted on sending wasn’t the chatty type, he let his mind wander along the path ahead of him.

Wonder if Tabitha misses me yet? Gee, he thought, grinning broadly, I hope she likes ‘er presents.

 

******************************************************************

Author’s Note:  Thank you to everyone reading for your patience. All of your comments and reviews are highly appreciated, too! The good news is (and I hope you all agree) that Victor has wrangled not one sequel to this tale out of me, but two … possibly three. I’m also plotting a story where Victor and Logan have to work together on a mission/adventure. Oh, and those sequels won’t have anything to do with Tabitha, I’m afraid. Make of that tidbit what you will…   :)

PS: I’ve wrestled with this, researching madly, and finally decided to go with historical accuracy; therefore, Victor is being given a foreskin, and Logan is next! Logic (and research) states that men born in the mid 1800s, who were not Jewish, wouldn’t have been circumcised. Sorry if that bothers anyone. I’ve kept the edited mentions of it to a minimum in previous chapters. Personally, I don’t think it detracts from their feral yummy factor at all, and might enhance it. (@MET_Fic)  –  AnonGrimm

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