Kelly ran with everything his lungs could give him.
The silence of the warehouse district at night told a story he wasn’t prepared for, the story of a predator. There should have been the bass thump of a party nearby, the sound of drunken carousing, something.
He heard his breath and the thready thud of his heart.
Overhead, a shadow passed between him and the moon and he covered his head with his arms without missing a stride. He ducked between two forgotten buildings, eyes darting up to try and catch the silhouette of what waited for him.
Was this what mice felt like when the hawk came close?
He didn’t care to know.
Ahead, an empty soda can dropped in his path with a clatter. He shrieked and cowered back in the shadows of the closest building. Maybe if he stayed out of the open?
He had been warned. His buyers. His suppliers. His friends. His lover. They all agreed moving in on the Magus’s turf was bad juju. Nothing could would come of it. His first few sales had been good. Better than good. They had been lucrative. Then came the well-dressed young man with the silver hair.
Cease and desist. Or face consequences.
The short conversation left an impression. Except the money left a bigger one. If he could make a few more scores like his first, he’d be set. He could get out of this racket. It looked like he was getting out of the racket anyway, just not the way he planned. Kelly scanned the space before him.
Less than a hundred yards to his car. Less than a hundred yards, sure, but it was across open blacktop. He’d be a mouse all right and the predator would have its day.
“Hey! Can we make a deal?”
They were human, right? They could be reasoned with. Bargained with. Bought off. Right? He had the money. All he wanted was his life.
“Deal?” A female voice spoke up.
He could have died for relief. A woman. Of course, it would be easier with the fairer sex. They trusted more.
“Yes, a deal. I give you the money. You let me go. I’ll never trouble you again.”
A woman slipped into his view, inviting brown skin and strong form. Taller than him, but not by much. Maybe if he stood a little straighter, she seemed like she might be interested in playing along.
Kelly’s hand went to the .45 in a holster under his arm. They were always a little too trusting. He whipped the gun out and fired wild just as she got close enough to touch.
She hissed and sudden shadows blotted out the light. In a blink, Kelly realized those shadows were wings, black wings like a demented angel. She grabbed him.
Her fingers ended in claws that split his skin with ease as he tried to bring the gun around for a second shot. He howled in pain and let go of the weapon. She jerked him close and closed her wings around him as she darted her face forward to snap off his nose. Pain lanced through his face.
Then she smiled, ample lips highlighted in blood.
Kelly tried to scream again as her claws pierced his throat and she hoisted him off his feet. He gurgled as his hands fought to draw her claws away. All the while, he couldn’t help looking into her eyes, those avid, glittering eyes.
They were the last thing he saw.
When she dropped him, she shook flesh pieces off her claw tips before reaching into her belt for a pair of well cared for leather gloves.
Blinking, she looked down at the form still slowly bleeding onto the pavement. Someone would find him in a few days. With her gloves on, she took a card from her case and placed it between his teeth.
She needed a drink to wash the taste of his blood out of her mouth. The screen on her phone lit up.
Of course Alexander would want to know if things had concluded satisfactorily. With a tap, she opened the voice function.
“Target deceased. Card left. Drinks question mark. Fury out.”
Seconds later: Drinks on me. As always.
Aliyah put the phone away. Her night still held promise. As she walked away, her wings faded from view waiting to return at her need.