The sound of leather striking skin ripped through the air and Seraphina cried out. But she did not move. Twice. Four times. Six times. Ten times, the belt struck her flesh, leaving welts across her bottom. Still, she never moved; only her fingers gripped the bed, ripping the sheet from the mattress and crushing it in her hands.

Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen.

I did not relent. I could never let her see weakness in me or I would lose her. Spanking Seraphina lightly, taking pity on her, would only turn her off. It was a good thing because I would never have taken pity on her. I liked inflicting the pain as much as she liked taking it.

“Fredrik, please!” she begged with a tear-choked voice. “Please stop…”

I slapped the leather down again, and again, and again until I reached twenty. It was always twenty. She knew it would always be twenty lashes no matter how much she begged me to stop.

I set the belt aside on the bed and crouched between her legs once more. Her body trembled underneath my careful hands, resisted for only seconds underneath my warm lips. I kissed every inch of her pain, every welt, every minuscule cut where the skin had broken. And then I gently pulled her lips apart with my fingers and dragged the tip of my warm tongue between them. Slowly. Intently. Seraphina moaned and whimpered and dug her fingers into the mattress.

She no longer felt the pain.

All she knew was the pleasure.

I fucked her hard, the only way either of us ever wanted it—hard and violent. And after I came, I lay across her back, still buried inside of her.

I kissed her back and her spine and her shoulders and her neck. The razorblade beckoned me on the nightstand, but I waited. Just a little longer.

“There is no one else in the world like us, my love,” she said in a soft voice, staring off at nothing with her cheek pressed against the mattress. “I would die without you.”

Absently, I continued to push myself deep inside of her slowly.

“You’ll never be without me,” I said and kissed the back of her neck. “And like you said before, we’ll die together.”

“Do you promise, Fredrik? Will you go down with me if I die before you?”

I kissed the side of her mouth, pressing my hips against her. She gasped.

“When you die, I die too,” I whispered against her ear. “You’re the love of my life. My beautiful swan. And you’ll be my undoing.”

I swelled inside of her. Her lips parted in a silent, breathy gasp and her fingers found the top of my dark hair.

“No one can ever love you like I love you,” she said. “No woman in this world knows you like I know you, understands your needs, your pain, your past. No woman can ever give you what I give you.”

And she was right.

I thrust harder and deeper and suddenly the razorblade was wedged between my fingertips and thumb.

I raised my chest from her back, just enough that I could see it.

Seraphina whimpered and gripped the bed when I made the first cut, vertically down her back about two inches. It would soon heal and become like the other scars I’d left there. Then I leaned over and lapped at the blood seeping from the wound with my tongue. Seraphina raised her bottom against me, forcing me deeper. My fingers wound tightly within her hair.

I leaned over farther, seeking her mouth with my own, and I kissed her long and hard and bloody.

“No one, Fredrik,” she whispered and licked my tongue, “no one will ever love you like me.”

I don’t know how long I’ve been staring down into this newspaper, the words printed in black ink blurred across my vision. How long will my memories of Seraphina torture me? Oh yes, of course—until I die along with her like I promised.

My briefcase is on the floor underneath the table, sitting upright between the wall and my legs, hidden in the darkness. The patrons in this diner, like in every public place, are oblivious. They have no perception of the truth, the same truth that surrounds them every day of their quiet, innocent lives—that evil lives next door, passes them on a sidewalk, prepares their meals, or in this case, dines just a table over from them. If they only knew what secrets my briefcase knows, or the horrific things these hands have done. Or the vivid and merciless memories that plague my mind like a wound that never heals.

I curl two fingers around the handle of my coffee and bring the mug to my lips, gently blowing steam rising from the top before taking a careful sip. Again, my eyes scan the newspaper on the booth table in front of me—maybe this time I’ll actually read the words.

I go to set the mug back down, but just before it settles safely back on the table, the kid sitting in the booth behind me bangs his head against the back of my seat again. A few droplets fall from the rim and onto the table. I calmly wipe them up with a napkin.

“Avery!” the mother scolds. “I told you to sit still—I’m really sorry.”

I think that last comment was meant for me.

I turn my head only slightly, not enough to see the woman, but enough she knows I heard her.

“It’s fine,” I say and go back to reading the newspaper.

Three more times—in addition to the probably ten others before that one—the little boy bangs against the back of my seat, until finally the mother hurriedly leaves with him, apologizing to me again just before she walks away with her young son’s hand clasped in hers. And yet again, I told her it was fine. What I didn’t tell her though is that I, in a strange way, welcomed the nuisance. I tend to appreciate the simple, and otherwise irritating things in life—after a night of torturing someone, an innocent little boy beating the back of my seat, being a little boy, is a nice change of atmosphere. I envy this ‘Avery’. What kind of man would I be today if I had been allowed to dine with my mother and not care what the man sitting behind me thought about my head hitting the back of his seat? Perhaps that briefcase underneath the table would be filled with paper and a packaged lunch rather than needles and knives and pliers and poisons and rubber gloves. Perhaps there would be another woman in the world who could love and understand me.

“Ready for a refill?” I hear a sweet voice say.

I look up, pulling my mind back into the moment, to see my waitress whose nametag reads ‘Emily’, holding a pot of coffee in one hand.

“No thank you.”

She smiles down at me from an oval-shaped face with kind lips and kind hazel eyes and cream-colored skin.

“Are you going to have your usual today?” she asks. “Two eggs scrambled. Three slices of bacon—crunchy not flimsy—and a glass of lemon water?”

Tags: J.A. Redmerski In the Company of Killers Book Series
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