Chapter Eleven

My mother was cutting up raw meat on a cutting board in our kitchen. Candles flickered from the chandelier overhead. I slouched in the doorway, watching my brother Jude clear the plates from the table. We’d just finished dinner.

Mother turned, wiping her hands on her apron. She left red streaks on the white apron. Her hair was pulled up in an elaborate up-do on the top of her head. Her makeup was severe—crimson lips, heavily lined eyes. Her eyelashes were long. She batted them at me. “Don’t run off yet, Jason. I have an errand for you.”

Jude dropped the plates in the sink with a clatter. “Mo-om,” he complained. “You always let him go on the errands. How come I can’t go? Huh?”

Mother’s thin lips curled into a smile. “Jason’s the oldest, sweetheart.”

I glowered at both of them. “Send Jude,” I told my mother. “I’m busy.”

“See,” said Jude. “He doesn’t even want to go. Let me do it. Please? Please?”

Mother didn’t even look at Jude. She locked eyes with me. “No, Jason will do it, won’t you, darling?”

I sauntered over to her. “What is it?”

She smiled up at me, fluttering her lashes. “I just want you to take a little trip through the woods. Take these treats to your father.” She gestured to the hunks of meat she’d been cutting up.

They seeped red juice onto the cutting board she’d been using. Flies were swarming all around the pieces of meat. Mother swatted them away.

“I didn’t think you two were on speaking terms,” I said.

Mother’s eyes widened innocently. “What? Just because he’s left me to raise the two of you on my own and shacked up with that woman who’s old enough to be your grandmother? Why would I hold a grudge over that?”

Wonderful. The last thing I needed to hear about was my parents’ drama. I rolled my eyes. “What are you going to do, Mother? Poison him?”

Mother laughed, a tinkling noise. She placed a hand on my cheek. “Oh, Jason, you are so melodramatic. What’s wrong with sending him some meat? Edgar always did love meat, you know. He liked having something to sink his teeth into. And this is so fresh. He’ll love it. He may have hurt me more than I can ever say, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t be the bigger woman, does it?”

“I think you should poison him, Mother,” said Jude. “He’s always been a royal jackass.”

“Shut up, Jude,” I told him.

“Boys,” said Mother. “Don’t fight, now.” She went back to cutting up the meat on the cutting board. “If I were to poison him, it would be fitting if you brought the poison to him, Jason, though, wouldn’t it? You were always his favorite.”

“You’re everyone’s favorite,” Jude pouted. “Mother likes you better too.”

Mother turned to Jude. “Don’t be ridiculous, Jude. I love both my boys equally. Jason just happens to be…” She winked at me. “Older.”

I started for the doorway. “I’m not killing Father for you, Mother. I have much better things to do with my afternoon.”

Mother darted across the room, wedging herself between me and the doorway. “Don’t go anywhere, darling.” She fluttered her long lashes at me. “I already told you I wasn’t going to kill him, didn’t I? Don’t you trust your mother?”

I rolled my eyes again. “I’m busy, Mother.”

“Oh, come on, Jason. Do Mother this little favor, won’t you?”

I looked back at the bloody meat, still covered in flies. “Can I take the car?”

“I hardly think you need the car,” said Mother. “It’s a twenty minute walk from here. Just through the woods.”

“Forget it,” I said, pushing past her.

“Jason Edgar Weem,” said Mother. “You get back here this instant.”

I hated it when she used the Mother voice on me. My shoulders sagging, I turned back around. “I don’t see why I have to do it. Jude is practically salivating for it. Why can’t you just send him?”

Mother went back to the meat and began wrapping it up in white paper. “We’ve been over this, Jason.”

“Whatever,” I muttered.

Jude was sulking next to the sink. “You really could let me go, Mother.”

“Not another word, Jude,” warned Mother. She placed the packages of meat in a wicker basket and set it on the table, right underneath the chandelier. The basket flickered in the candlelight. Mother beamed at me. “Thank you so much, Jason.”

“Yeah, sure,” I said.

She embraced me. “Give Mother a kiss.”

Obligingly, I pecked her on the cheek.

She patted my shoulder. “You’re such a good boy. Hurry and take this to your father, then. And make sure you watch out for wolves. They’re always after meat, you know. And they roam the woods in the evening.”

I nodded. She was always going on about the wolves. I picked up the basket and started out of the kitchen.

“Jason?” called Mother.

I stopped. “What now?”

“Make sure you take your hoodie,” she said. “You don’t want to catch a cold.”

She had to be kidding me. “I don’t need a coat, Mother.” I kept walking, gripping the basket.

“Just pick up the red hoodie from the rack on your way out,” she called after me. “Jason?”

“What?”

“You’re taking the jacket, aren’t you?”

I picked up the hoodie from the rack. I wasn’t going to put it on, but if I didn’t take it, she’d never shut up about it. “Yeah, I’ve got it.”

“Be careful, sweetheart. Watch out for wolves!”

I stepped out of the house and slammed the door. Wolves. Yeah. Sure. I hated my mother.

Outside, the sun sank blood red in the sky, tingeing everything else around it with a scarlet glow. A chilly wind nipped at my nose and fingers. Grudgingly, I pulled the red hoodie on over my shirt. I started off down the path that led from the front door of my house towards the woods. The dark lines of the trees pulsed and bled darkness into the world. I stuck the hand not holding the basket into a pocket in my hoodie and entered the forest.

There was a tiny path that wound amongst the tree trunks. As long as I stayed on it, I’d end up at the house my father was living in. It was dark in the woods. I wished I’d brought a flashlight.

As if in response to my thought, there was a clicking noise, and a glowing red light appeared ahead of me on the path. It was a cigarette. Azazel Jones was leaning against one of the tree trunks a few feet away. She was smoking. I watched as she brought the cigarette to her lips and then slowly blew the smoke out.

Azazel was one of the girls at school who was always in trouble. She got kicked out on a regular basis. She dyed her hair blue-black. She put ashy eye makeup all around her eyes. It made her look as though she was always bruised. The cigarette lit up the hollows of her face, so that her cheekbones glowed. “Well, well,” she said. “If it isn’t Jason Weem.”

Azazel made me nervous. Even though she was a troublemaker, she always appeared dangerously attractive to me. Whenever I saw her at school, I always followed her with my eyes, taking in all the curves of her body. Now wasn’t any different. I couldn’t help but stare at her tight black corset or her torn jeans or the lace-up black boots that came to her knees. “What do you want?” I asked her.

She sucked on her cigarette. “Nothing.”

Fine. Whatever. I yanked my hood up over my head and continued down the path. The sooner I did this errand for Mother, the sooner I could get back home and be alone.

“Where you going?” Azazel asked.

I stopped. I’d caught up to her and when I turned my head, we were facing each other. She was beautiful up close, her dramatic makeup making her eyes look big, her whole face somehow both vulnerable and worldly, like a child and woman mixed together in one body. I was seized with the desire to touch her, let my finger graze the translucent skin of her neck and throat. “I’m going to your grandmother’s house.” That was where my father had gone. He’d gone to live with Azazel Jones’ grandmother. It was the scandal of our small town. It made Mother hide her face in shame when we were out and about. And it was my only connection to Azazel Jones, the positively gorgeous bad girl. I held up my basket. “I’m taking my father some meat.”

Azazel bit her lip. I watched it plump out under the pressure of her teeth. I wanted to be the thing putting pressure on her lips. I wanted to… Oh, God, the things I wanted to do to her. “Meat?” she said. Her lips parted. She ran her tongue over the tips of her white teeth. “I like meat.”

What was she saying? I tore my gaze away from her. “I have to go. It’s getting dark and there are wolves in the woods.” Even though I didn’t really believe it when Mother went on and on about the wolves.

Azazel pushed off from the tree trunk. She bent over to put out her cigarette, giving me an eyeful of her breasts, which bulged out over the lacy corset she wore. “I see you watching me, you know.”

I couldn’t look away from her breasts. They were so white and perfect. “I don’t watch you.”

She stepped close to me, winding an arm around mine. Now she was practically rubbing against me. I gazed down into her cleavage, unable to help myself. “Sure you do.”

“No, I don’t. I need to go. I’ve got to get back home before dark.”

Azazel’s fingers were under my chin. She tilted my head up so that I was looking at her face and not her chest. “Come into the woods with me, Jason. Leave the path.”

“Mother says if you leave the path, the wolves come,” I said. But I thought all that stuff she said about wolves was bullshit. I always had. Mother wanted to control me. And I was sick of being controlled.

Azazel raised her eyebrows. “Is Jason afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”

I stiffened at the accusation. I wasn’t afraid.

“Or is Jason afraid of me?” She took a step back, running her hands over her waist and hips. “Can’t handle this, Jason?”

I chuckled. “That’s the wrong question, Azazel,” I said, stepping closer to her as if I were stalking my prey. “The question is whether or not you’d be able to handle what I’d do to you?”

She grinned, biting her lip again. “Let’s find out, then.” She walked off the path, one hand trailing around the trunk of a tree. She circled around it, peering around the tree at me from the other side. “Off the path.”

I hesitated, but only for a moment. The sky was growing darker, and the trees cast heavy shadows in the red light of the evening. If I left the path, I didn’t know if I’d find my way back. But I wasn’t sure I cared. Azazel beckoned to me, and she was a sweet, dangerous temptation. How could I resist? I followed her off the path. As the tree branches closed around me, I heard a howl in the distance, but I didn’t turn back. Instead I followed the white gleam of her skin through the darkness.

When we were deep in the forest, she turned around, snatching hold of my hoodie and pulling me against her. She slid her hands under my clothes, cold against my skin.

I thrust her body into a tree trunk. I pressed myself against her. I trapped her lips with mine.

* * *

Azazel’s bare skin was white and immaculate. Wrapped in her, I sighed into her eyebrow. The darkness was complete around us, black velvet, caressing us deeper into the night. The forest was silent except for the sounds of our shared gasps.

And then another howl. A wolf shrieking at the sky as if his heart were breaking.

I raised my face from Azazel’s, trying to penetrate the inky blackness with my sight. I couldn’t see anything.

Azazel’s hand was on my face then, forcing my gaze back to her. “Let them come.”

And I lost myself in her eyes, in her flesh, her limbs, in the way our bodies tangled together.

If there were more howls, and there were more, they hardly seemed important anymore. I was consumed by our union—savage, blazing. So consumed that the brush of bristling fur could have been the fingers of the darkness, stroking me. So consumed that the scratch of teeth and nail could have been the wind dragging the branches across my skin. So consumed that the howling, so close to my ear, could have been the cries I made myself.

When we broke apart, she lit another cigarette. The smoke spilled out of her mouth when she spoke, making a halo around her face. Her makeup was smeared. There were angry red scratches marring her white skin. She didn’t seem to mind, and I couldn’t quite be sure where they’d come from. Had I done it myself, or had something joined us there in the dark forest? Had something taken us, entered us, mounted us, ridden us until we were its plaything? “You ever think about killing?”

“What about it?” It was cold outside, but I didn’t feel it anymore. The icy breeze cut into my skin. I didn’t care. I felt relieved, as if I’d been carrying around something heavy, and someone had taken it away from me. The brisk air felt good in my lungs. I felt alive.

“Doing it, I guess.” The tip of her cigarette glowed bright red as she took a long drag.

I put my hands on her again. It was too tempting, her so close. “Sometimes. Do you?”

“Sometimes,” she said. She arched her back, presenting herself to my hands.

I drew her close. “Who would you kill?”

She closed her eyes. “Anyone I felt like killing.”

I bent my head to her skin. I put my mouth on her, ran my tongue over her.

She gasped. Moaned. Let the hand holding her cigarette fall limp to her side, surrendering herself to my mouth. I raised my eyes to hers, keeping my lips on her. Half-lidded, her eyes returned my gaze. “Who would you kill?” she asked.

I trailed my tongue over her skin to the deep scratches. I kissed them. I pulled away. “My parents.”

She brought the cigarette to her lips again. “Would you kill mine too?”

“Would you help me?” I asked.

She blew out the smoke. “Sure.”

I took in her perfect skin again. Beautiful. “When?”

She smiled. “What are you doing tonight?”

* * *

When we entered the house, I fantasized about what it would be like if it wasn’t my house, and I didn’t know every detail of it intimately. If it weren’t my house, if it were the house of a perfect stranger, she and I would have to grope along in the dark, careful not to make noise, trying to get the lay of it, trying to figure out where all the rooms were. We’d have to communicate without words, let our bodies and our expressions do the talking. I imagined it would be fantastically exciting, breaking into someone’s house about to do what we were going to do.

But it was my house, and I did know it. So I opened the back door and let Azazel in. She ground out her cigarette under the heel of her boots, leaving it smoking on the back porch. I led her through the back rooms and took her to the kitchen.

Mother and Jude had cleaned up after dinner. The counters were wiped clean. The sink was empty. The dishwasher was chugging along in the background. I opened the refrigerator and peered inside, feeling a little hungry. I turned to ask Azazel if she wanted a snack before we got to work, but she was already sliding a knife out of the holder we kept them in on the counter. Its blade glittered, fiendish and serrated. It winked at me.

Azazel stared at it in her hand, gripping and releasing it. She smiled at me. “I think this one will work.”

I selected a knife too. Its blade was straight and pointed, like a wolf’s fang. It would slide into flesh cleanly. It was the knife my mother had been using earlier to cut up the meat she wanted me to take to my father. I knew it was sharp.

“After we do this,” said Azazel, “we should go to my house too. Kill my family. I feel as though they belong dead. As though, really, they’ve all been dead for a long, long time.”

I nodded. “I know exactly what you mean. They’re empty husks. We’re just putting them out of their misery.”

“Yes,” she said.

I set my knife down and was next to her in two steps. I encircled her waist with my arms, lifting her up onto the counter. She wrapped her legs around me as I kissed her. Her lips tasted like adventure and danger and wickedness. I didn’t think I’d ever get enough of it.

* * *

Jude was crouched in front of the television, playing Dead Island , a zombie video game. The light of the TV reflected red on his face. His eyes were wide as he took in the carnage on the screen.

Azazel entered first, but I stopped her, shaking my head. I needed to do this myself.

We crept up behind him, our knives behind our backs. My heart thudded in my chest in anticipation. I was giddy with excitement. I felt as if I’d been built for this. This was my destiny, what I was meant to do.

Jude must have seen our shadows approaching. He paused the game, a digital zombie looming frozen on the screen, its rotten jaws hanging open, its decrepit arms reaching out. Jude turned to us, making an annoyed face. “I’m playing here, Jason.” He noticed Azazel. “Oh. It’s her. You brought her here.”

Azazel bared her teeth at Jude. It might have been a smile if it hadn’t been so fierce.

I pulled the knife out from behind my back. I pointed the tip of it at Jude. “You tried to kill me,” I said, my voice low and even. “Put a bullet in my skull. You chased me across Europe. You betrayed me to our crazy mother. Worst of all, you kissed my girlfriend.”

“I did not,” Jude whined. “If you keep this up, I’m telling Mother.”

The knife flew up, slashing down so fast it made a swishing noise through the air.

An arc of blood spattered against the television screen.

Smiling, I turned to Azazel. “Mother’s upstairs.”

She offered me her hand. Arm in arm, we left the living room and mounted the steps.

Mother was sitting on her bed. She wore a silky black dressing gown. It pooled against the satiny crimson bedspread. Her face was scrubbed clean of makeup. Her hair fell down her back, a curtain of darkness. She didn’t look surprised to see us. “You went off the path, didn’t you? You coupled with the wolf girl.”

I showed her my knife, still wet with Jude’s blood. “Will you call me names, now, Mother?” I asked. “Will you say I’m an abomination? Will you curse my birth?”

Her eyes were sad. She got off the bed and came to me. She brushed a strand of hair off my forehead. “Oh, darling. You’ve killed me already. Wasn’t once enough?”

I shook my head.

“Thousands and thousands of bodies heaped on a pyre,” she murmured. “I said it. I made it come true. I spoke, and the universe reacted.” She looked over my shoulder at Azazel. “What have you done to my son?”

Azazel toyed with her knife, her forefinger dancing over its serrated edge. “Me? You did it. You made him this. This is what he is. This is what we both are. Breaths of the Darkness. You tried to stop it, but you failed.”

Mother sighed. “I suppose I did.” She touched my face again. “I loved you, you know. I always ached for you, my sweet baby boy, so tiny and beautiful in my arms.”

I shook my head again. “No one loves an abomination, Mother. No one can love me.”

Azazel’s breath on my neck, her voice whisper-soft. “Except me.”

I gave her a sidelong glance, a knowing smile. “Except you.”

“It’s not too late,” said Mother. “Turn around. Walk away. You can still let go, you know. Find your peace.”

“You let go,” I growled. My knife thrust forward. In. Out and then in again. Again. Again. As she stumbled backwards, drunk on her feet, like a newborn animal flailing for balance.

She fell on her back onto her scarlet bedspread.

My knife wasn’t done. She gasped and gurgled. Her skin opened in fine, red threads, blood beading up and flowing. Seeping into the bed, flowing down onto the satin coverlet.

We stood over her, admiring my handiwork.

“So much pretty red blood,” I said.

Azazel tugged at me. “My turn,” she urged.

My mother’s car was in the garage. She never let me take it anywhere. She loved that red sports car more than anything on earth. I took the keys from her purse. Azazel and I slid into the leather seats of the car. When I started it, it purred like a cat. The steering wheel hummed under my hands. “Let me give you a ride home,” I told Azazel.

Her eyes shone bright and excited.

We drove across town with the top down, the cold breeze tangling our hair with icy fingers. We were free. We were in charge. We were alive. The world was a shining hard gem, ready to be carved and shaped.

At Azazel’s house, all the lights were off.

“They’re all in the basement,” she told me as we got out of the car. I followed her into the house, through the silent living room, to the steps of the cellar. When she threw open the door, we were greeted by soft candlelight, the sound of steady chanting.

Azazel bounded down the stairs as if she were a wild thing set free. She let loose a yell—almost a howl. I went after her.

In her basement, her parents and her brothers stood in a circle. They all wore black hooded robes. They were intoning foreign words in even voices. They didn’t even look up when Azazel tore into the center of their circle, her knife glinting and flickering reflected firelight.

Azazel screamed, swung the knife around in the middle of their circle, inches from their throats.

They opened their eyes. “The Vessel,” they said in one voice.

“No,” she said. “Not your vessel. Your child. Your sister. You all used me.”

They pointed at me, but they kept their eyes on her. “Kill him.”

“No,” she said. “Not him. Never him. You. I will kill you.”

And she was frenzied, knife arcing through the air, blood splashing. Stumbling black robes knocked over candles. Azazel moved too quickly to watch, a blur of movement in the darkness, light flickering like a strobe, flames climbing as the robes caught fire.

We left them in a jumble of bloody limbs, black fabric, and smoky flames.

She joined me, out of breath. We climbed back up the steps together. “To Grandmother’s house we go,” she gasped.

* * *

Azazel writhed beside me in the passenger seat to the car. “God, that felt good.”

I stole a glance at the glimmer of her white curves, and then snapped my eyes back to the road. Ahead of me, the road stretched out between rows and rows of dark trees. They scraped against the ebony sky. The night was so black, no stars in the sky. “Definitely good,” I said.

She reached across the seat, slid a hand into my hair. I felt her lips on my jaw and neck. I turned my head to kiss her, my eyes still trained on the road.

She took that as encouragement. Both of her hands were on me now. She was right beside me. Her kisses were more urgent. The wind whipped over us, since the top was down. It blew her hair into my eyes.

I gently pushed her away. “I’m going to wreck,” I said.

“Pull over,” she said. Her voice was urgent.

I shot another glance at her and pulled the car over.

When we started driving again, Azazel lit another cigarette. Sparks trailed from its lit cherry, blinking out in the wind. “Did you think it was weird, the things we said?”

“What things?” I was hardly in the frame of mind for thinking, currently. I was actually feeling a little drained.

“And the things they said,” she continued. “Your mother said that you’d already killed her once. Why do you think she said that?”

Now that she mentioned it, that was sort of strange. “Mother was crazy.” That put an end to it.

“When we were with them, I felt as though I knew things,” Azazel told her cigarette. “Things from before. Before we were here.”

That didn’t make any sense. “There’s no before.”

“How can you be sure? Didn’t you feel it when our knives were at work, slicing and slashing? Didn’t you feel as if at any second you might cut through the fabric of this illusion and take us back to reality?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Maybe it’s because I’m the wolf, and you’re Little Red Riding Hood,” she muttered. “You’re the mark. I’m in on it. But what do they want us to do? And why?”

“We’re going to kill your grandmother,” I said. “And my father. Because we want to, and because we like it. And there’s no one else. As for wolves, you were right. There was nothing to be afraid of.”

“Right,” she said, her voice sounding stronger. “We’re going to kill them. Because we like it.”

We pulled into the driveway of Azazel’s grandmother’s house. It sat in the woods, all shuttered windows and crumbling wooden siding. It had ancient spires and towers, like a castle, but they were all falling apart—old like the grandmother was.

We got out of the car and shut the doors behind us. The sound echoed through the dark woods. Clutching our knives, we made our way up the stone walkway to the front door of the house. Azazel tried the door. It was locked. She bent down and moved aside the welcome mat in front of the door. There was a glittering little silver key there. Azazel snatched it up.

I had an unsettling feeling that I’d seen someone pick up a key for a locked door recently. Before. I looked at Azazel sharply. Was this what she had meant?

But she had the key in the lock, and she was turning it. It caught and the doorknob turned. Azazel opened the door—slowly, slowly—and the door creaked so loud, I thought all the wolves in the forest would hear it and come running.

We entered the house in the foyer. There was a set of steps into the upper levels of the house there. A table with a vase of dried, dead flowers. And a rack for coats nailed to the wall.

Azazel gestured with her knife to the steps. We climbed.

As we ascended into the depths of the house, we began to hear noises. Little cries and grunts and a rhythmic clack-clack as if something were being pounded against a wall over and over. Azazel and I exchanged grim glances, recognizing the noises right away. My father had left my mother for an old woman. The thought of them together was positively disgusting.

Azazel and I bounded up the rest of the steps, not worrying about our noise anymore. They were distracted. They wouldn’t hear us coming. She strode down the hallway and banged on a closed door. “Grandmother!”

The noises abruptly stopped. Snickering, I walked up behind Azazel. I kissed her neck. She turned to gaze into my eyes adoringly.

“Who is it?” called an old woman’s voice.

“It’s your granddaughter Azazel,” she said.

“And your son, Jason,” I said. “I’ve brought you some meat.” Even though I’d left that basket God knows where.

“Jason?” said a male voice. My father.

“Can we come in?” Azazel asked sweetly.

“No, no. Give us a moment,” said the grandmother.

Azazel and I grinned at each other. She turned the doorknob and the door opened. In we went. To the bedroom. Where the two of them were in a four-poster bed, tugging burgundy patchwork quilts over their pasty nakedness, expressions of horror on their faces.

Azazel and I laughed. They were ridiculous. They were old and weak. And yet they’d destroyed us both. Both of them together.

“Why Grandmother,” said Azazel. “What wide eyes you have.”

The grandmother shook, fear all over her.

Azazel held up her knife. “And what big knives we have.”

“The better to cut you with,” I said.

Father darted from the bed, lunging for his pants. He thrust one leg inside, but his other got caught up, and he hopped around on one leg, trying to get his trousers up.

I moved forward, knocking him backwards on the bed. “Now, now. Where do you think you’re going?”

“Jason,” said Father. “It doesn’t have to be this way. You can still fight the Darkness riding your back.”

I sneered at him. “Pull up your trousers.”

Father fumbled with his pants. “You fought it so hard. You’d conquered it. Try to remember, son.”

I put the knife in his face. “I’m here to kill you. You deserve it, after everything you’ve done to me.”

Azazel paced behind me, gesturing with her knife. “The both of you together. You started it all. You made him what he is. We thought you’d be pleased.”

The grandmother cowered behind her quilts. “I warned you he wouldn’t be human soon. I didn’t want him to drag you down with him.”

Azazel sprang forward, landing on the bed in front of the grandmother. She crawled up to the old woman. “You already made your choice. You chose this.” She raised her knife.

* * *

We arranged them on the bed, the grandmother in the arms of Father. They would have looked quite peaceful if it hadn’t been for all the blood. I’d gone a little crazy with Father. I’d slashed his throat, and it gaped open, a wet smile under his chin, leaking crimson over his chest. I’d carved a crisscross of cuts into his face and shoulders, a web of tiny red wounds. Azazel had gone the stabbing route with the grandmother. Most of her wounds were beneath the quilts, multiple punctures in the grandmother’s chest and stomach. We left their eyes open, so that they could gaze at each other for eternity, but the expressions were a little off. They both looked so shocked and horrified, it was hard to really make them look as if they were only lying in bed together.

We left the knives in the bedroom and took a long shower together, taking great care to scrub all the blood off each other’s bodies. Maybe we got a little distracted in there too. The water went cold, at any rate, and we emerged, fresh and clean.

Azazel found us clothes to put on. They had belonged to the grandmother and Father, but we thought it was a good bit of fun to put them on and traipse about the house pretending to be the two of them.

Azazel worked in the kitchen on making dinner in the grandmother’s clothes. I sat at the table, holding my fork and knife, a bib wrapped around my neck.

“Well, Edgar,” said Azazel in her impression of the grandmother’s voice, “the next time you decide to have a demon spawn child to take over the world, you might ask me if I wanted to be its mother or not. Imagine how much better things might have gone then.”

“Arabella,” I replied in a gruff voice like Father’s, “don’t you realize I only want to sleep with eighteen-year-olds? After all, I’m a man, and I have desires. You’re getting a bit long in the teeth these days.”

“Well, you always come back to me in the end, don’t you?” said Azazel. “I suppose I have to be grateful for that, no matter how many babies you have with other women or harems you create.” Her voice had shifted slightly.

And somehow, it seemed we weren’t making fun of them anymore. There was something else stirring. “And I suppose I should just forget about the men you shack up with when I’m not around, or the fact that you got all high and mighty about my killing people, when you were just as into it as I was.”

Azazel slammed a plate down in front of me. On it was a rare steak swimming in red juices. “We’re only here because of your brat, you realize that, don’t you?”

I cut into the steak. “I’m sorry I never knocked you up. I didn’t realize you were so keen on squeezing out babies.” I popped a bite of steak into my mouth. “Mmm, this is delicious.”

“Did Polly cook for you?” she asked pointedly.

Polly… Who was Polly? I narrowed my eyes. “Did you cook for Kieran? For Graham?” It was as if my brain had been cluttered with cobwebs, and a strong wind was blowing through, lifting them away.

“It was the apocalypse, darling. There’s hardly been any time to be domestic.”

I shoved the plate away. “I thought this would bring us together. I thought we were finally on the same page. We were having fun slicing and dicing. But it’s always the same with you, isn’t it? Nothing satisfies you. No matter what I do, you’ve got to find fault with it.”

“You’re always so damned jealous,” she spat at me.

“So are you,” I said.

“Well, you had a harem, so I think I’ve got a right. You had a child with another woman. All I did was—”

“Was give your powers away to that sap. That whiny little weakling. You let him steal everything from us. How could you have ever been satisfied with him, when you’d been with me?”

“And the harem?”

I got to my feet, ripping off my bib. “You know you’re all I’ve ever wanted. I only looked elsewhere when I thought you didn’t want me.” I stepped closer to her. “But some part of you has always wanted me, hasn’t it?” I took her by the shoulders, yanked her close to me. “No matter how hard you’ve tried to push me away, you’ve always known that it would be me. You can’t deny your darkness any more than I can deny mine.”

“You’re right,” she breathed. “There’s no one like you.”

Our lips met hungrily. With one hand, I swept the plates off the table, and then I pushed her back on the table. “You’re mine,” I told her.

She threw her head back. “And you’re mine.”

This book is being posted on Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning 1/17/2012. To access other chapters, check out the Onset Posts Archive, here.