Book 2, Chapter 079

Michael yelped as well and jumped back a step, jerking his hands behind his back. He was not a fighter. He didn’t want to get in a scuffle that might get noisy enough to attract attention.

As she had when she’d surprised Ean at his door, Rachel quickly recovered. “I’m sorry,” she said nervously — Michael really freaked her out. “You startled me.”

“Oh,” said Michael. “Um. Right. Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. Er… I just saw you run out of the theatre, and I wanted to check and make sure you were alright.” He did his best to smile convincingly. It turned out sickly, instead.

Strangely, Rachel actually did relax a little. Or maybe it wasn’t so strange: she was mad enough at her instincts for insisting that Ean was trustworthy that she took their screaming run! run! this guy is going to kill you! as a sign in Michael’s favor. Her shoulders dropped slightly and she gave Michael a heart-stoppingly sad smile. “I’m okay,” she assured him. “My date stood me up.” She forced some wry humor into the tilt of her lips. “Again.”

Michael fidgeted nervously. He wasn’t used to interacting with his victims. He was extremely conscious of the stungun he was holding behind his back — and of just how beautiful the woman in front of him was. Rachel’s beauty tugged at something deep, deep, deep within him: a small measure of protectiveness he’d long ago stopped listening to. “That’s awful,” Michael said. “What a jerk! Would you…” He hesitated, ambitions warring with emotions he didn’t really recognize anymore. “Would you like to grab a coffee somewhere and talk about it?”

Rachel’s stomach did a little — oh god no! No no no no no — flip that she succeeded in not showing. What is wrong with me? she wondered. Sure, she knew better than to trust her feelings about Ean anymore. And yes, Doom and Fred made her skin crawl and behaved in ways to back that feeling up — but what had this guy ever done besides selling her theatre tickets and checking to see if she was okay when she ran out before the performance? Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, she thought tentatively.

But she couldn’t make herself ignore her instincts completely. “Um,” Rachel said. “Not tonight? I think… I think I just want to go to bed and process, you know?”

“Oh, yeah,” Michael said. Rachel started to say something else — something about maybe the weekend being a better time — but Michael didn’t notice. “Sure,” he snapped, sounding a little agitated. “You pretty girls always think you’re too good for the undead guy.”

“What?” Rachel asked — confused and more than a little alarmed by Michael’s tone. But he didn’t answer. He wasn’t talking to her, anyway: he was ranting to himself.

“Honestly, what did I expect? That we’d get together and rule the arcane world as king and queen or some bullshit? Yeah, right.” He scoffed — then whipped the stungun out from behind his back. He lunged forward, jabbing it into Rachel’s stomach and pressing the trigger. Electricity crackled. Rachel tensed up everywhere, then collapsed.

Michael looked around quickly to see if anyone had noticed their exchange. When he didn’t see anyone he bent down and picked Rachel up by the armpits. “This is your own fault, Rachel,” he commented. Then he started dragging her to his own vehicle — a big, windowless van. “We could’ve tried the whole king and queen of the arcane world thing. But nooooo, you just had to be a stuck up bitch.” He shoved her into the back of the van, then climbed in after her and took a moment to zip-tie her wrists and ankles, and plaster duct tape over her mouth. Then Michael hopped back out. He took another look around to see if anyone was watching, and then slammed the van’s back doors shut.

Still no one. Michael grinned to himself. Then, whistling nonchalantly, he got in the front and started driving home.

After all: he had a ritual to prepare.

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

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