“I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.”
- Pablo Neruda
I’m still dreaming, in that half-asleep moment before dawn, when I feel his hand curl between my legs.
It’s always dark when he comes for me.
My eyes open slightly as his hand presses between my thighs, the coil inside of me going tight already, making me moan softly with desire. I blink, my eyelashes fluttering against my cheeks, but it’s not light outside yet. The sky is a deep, deep gray, the stars turning invisible one by one.
His other hand wraps around my throat. His grip is tight and controlled. Very controlled. That’s one thing I’ve never seen him do—lose control.
“There are two ways to get rid of a shadow, Jessica.”
His voice comes through to me as a low murmur. His voice invades my dreams, drives out the demons. His strong fingers grip my thighs as I twist under him, forcing them apart. I try to move, but my wrists are bound above my head. The rope is cold and tight against my skin.
I open my mouth to cry out, and his lips press down against mine. He seals in my moan as his fingers push into the place where I am already slick. When he breaks apart from the kiss, I can only gasp his name.
“The first way is you light a candle. Light hundreds of candles. Put them on the floor, on the shelves, all around you. Light up the whole room with a thousand different pinpoints of light. Your shadow will disappear, right? The brightness swallows it all up.”
There is no moon, and the last stars in the sky are too far away, too dim to be candles. I try to move, but my wrists are bound above my head. Is this a dream? I have been dreaming this dream for my whole life, maybe.
His mouth is on my neck, and his hand strokes me where I am now dripping wet with desire. If I had panties on, they would be soaked, but I am naked, completely naked. The stars are fading into the fabric of the sky. He moves down, farther, farther.
He pins my hips with his strong hands, and his tongue sinks into me. He thrusts me from one dream into another, with no time to wake. Then he releases me, and I arch up in agony, needing to be satisfied.
“Two ways to get rid of a shadow,” he says again, and now the sky is pale and thin and all the stars have disappeared, but the rope is still around my wrists and I am still aching for his touch.
“The second way is easy,” he says, and the coil inside me winds tighter. When he speaks, his breath sends shivers across my sensitive skin, shivers that deepen and resonate until my whole body is vibrating for him.
“Vale.” My voice is ragged, gasping with desire. His hand comes down and caresses my body slowly, possessively.
How? How do I get rid of this shadow? But he answers me before I can speak again.
“All you have to do… is close your eyes.”
“I don’t know,” Dan said.
This is the best job, I’m telling you. Tell him, Vale.”
I leaned over the checkerboard table in the old Hollywood diner and clasped my hands together in front of my brunch plate. Dan squirmed in his seat, like he thought I was going to stab him with my fork. Of course, I wasn’t. I would never get blood on a perfectly-cooked omelet.
“It is absolutely the best job,” I said. “You get to do what you like, when you like. You control everything.”
“But… but you have to kill people,” he said, whispering the last two words.
Rien laughed. I leaned over my plate toward Dan, pointing in the air with my fork for emphasis. He followed the tines with rapt attention.
“Dan, you get to kill them. They’re the bad guys.”
Dan rubbed his lips, looking doubtful. Our waitress came by to fill up our coffee cups, and we all clammed up. I eased myself back in my chair.
“Thanks, darling,” Rien said to the waitress. “Could I have another stack of pancakes? I’d hate for all this whipped cream to go to waste.”
“For you, honey, anything,” she said, smiling back at him as she poured his coffee. All of us watched her swishing hips as she walked away from our table, waiting for her to be gone so that we could speak openly again.
She thought we worked for the government. And in a way, we kinda did. The CIA sent their targets to me, and I sent them to Rien to cut up into little bitty pieces. Sometimes, if the targets didn’t go for the “federal witness” trap the CIA laid for them, I handled them with a gun. But that was messier.
Rien didn’t like messy; he was a clean surgeon. Neither did Dan—he was some forensic tech guy who worked for the local cops. Rien must have had something on him, or I don’t think Dan would ever have helped us out. He was too scared for that. He hated blood, and dead bodies, and killing in general.