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She doesn't take him under right away, which might be cruel; they've only done this once and it was an unexpected delight, to witness the intensity of his struggle as the full moon arced toward its apex in the sky. So young to be wrestling with himself so furiously—he's thirty-five if she remembers. (It took her almost three thousand years even to consider it.)

The warehouse is nothing special, chosen only for the fact that it was empty on a Saturday evening but for the rows of rusty shipping containers. The rope is nothing special either. It isn't coarse—she could have bought rope that would rub and burn his skin as he twisted and writhed but that isn't how she wants to approach this. The first time she was lazy and no more than efficient. She did not realize until afterward the opportunity that had passed her by and does not mean to waste it now. Even his knees are cushioned by her folded-up sweater. She's wound thick bands around his thighs and tied his wrists there, and now she goes behind the pillar at his back, circling the rope around his upper arms, tying them together with a short length between them. It forces his shoulders open, and she binds his ankles as well.

"Samira."

She glances up. "Hm?"

Jesse's voice is rough with effort, with fear. "These won't hold me."

He's very strong. Elsewhere he would tear through the ropes in a second. Samira lacks that variety of strength but has never required it. "Do you think they need to hold you?" she asks.

He doesn't respond but the hesitancy lingers. Still at work on his ankles, she reaches forward and runs a hand through his hair. He leans into it immediately. So desperate for control. She supposes that, having never broken his creed to not kill humans, it must be that much more important to him. She's killed thousands. Although the craze affecting them all these past few weeks has in fact affected her very little. The presence of another monster king did give her brief pause, until she found it just as impotent as the last one and decided to ignore it. But younger monsters have not been so fortunate. Hector has been seducing and killing across the continent. John Taylor steals new limbs every week, and from afar she feels the itch in his mutable flesh, the strings knotting and twisting in unrest. But she merely finds herself thinking about killing her marks in an absent sort of way, and has no trouble at all maintaining her little self-experiment.

Having bound Jesse to a satisfactory degree, she rises and goes to her purse. Inside is a device she commissioned from a welder who was no doubt confused, after leaving her sphere of influence, as to why he might have taken on such a project in the first place. "Here," she says, and crouches in front of Jesse.

It's a bit gag, much sturdier than what she normally uses. This one is made of a heavy metal spool wrapped in thick cable. She is aware of Jesse's ability to snap bones between his jaws, even the thick bones of the upper arm or leg. With luck, and a little of her own influence, this should hold through the night. Jesse's eyes are yellow like an animal's. But he isn't an animal. He's a monster, and so is she. He opens his mouth, showing thick, yellow-white teeth exquisitely shaped for tearing flesh. Although their methods are quite different, there's something admirable about the simple efficiency of a werewolf on the full moon. An uncontested desire to maim, and the tools with which to do it. That's her task tonight, to control that desire.

It's eminently possible. She's much older than he is, and his unique nature, his mixed lineage, makes him susceptible to her abilities. His teeth close around the cable and she buckles the gag behind his head. The last touch is the soft leather belt that she loops around his neck, securing it behind the pillar so he can't move too far from it. Finally she stands back, appraising her work.

Kneeling, wrists to thighs. Arms, ankles, neck to pillar. His jaw compresses the cable, teeth heavy and jagged around it. His nakedness, and his fear, might make one think of him as a human sacrifice, trussed up to be offered to some beast or god. But of course it's just the opposite. Every human is a sacrifice which they are owed. Only Jesse doesn't want them. He wants not to kill. It's unfortunate for him, Samira thinks, that he was made to be so very good at it.

There's a step stool leaning against one of the tall metal shipping containers and Samira unfolds it and sits down. "You can let go," she says. "You won't break out."

He gazes at her with nervous eyes. He won't let go, not on his own. Fine.

Samira takes her shoes off, props one foot up on the crossbar of the stool, and spreads her legs.

Her form today is the same she’s had for at least two years. She can change at will and has done so extensively in the past; but she is trying to be herself, or at the very least make herself out of the hungry black thing inside her that drives her to do harm. So she has chosen a form that will belong to her. Her face of a shape and color forgettable in most circles; her hair is pin-straight and her body small (she draws attention whether she likes it or not but her stature mitigates the effect). She wears a white blouse and a narrow dark blue skirt that she needs to hike up to spread her legs properly. Sometimes she wears stockings but Jesse isn’t a human so they do not have much of a role here.

She pushes her underwear aside.

Her cunt draws his eyes immediately, although his fear dilutes not at all. Curious. Either he’s more resistant than she believed (unlikely—they’ve done this before and it was quite easy) or his fear of killing is enough to overcome the latent power of her body alone. Very well. He’s been fearful long enough. “Jesse,” she tells him. “It’s time for you to let go. I am in control.”

He does, finally, just a flicker, a drop in his guard. It’s enough for her to seize upon, and his eyes go yellow and wide. He lunges against his bonds.

Good. They may begin.

Samira masturbates idly, pulling her skirt all the way up to give Jesse a better view. He hardens in moments, watching her fingers move. Another lunge, the belt pulling taut around his neck. He loses control so quickly. Not his fault, to be fair. Werewolves have the short end of the stick, wild things at the mercy of the moon; they make a lot of noise and never live very long before being hunted down. Jesse is very different, was born, not made, and with only half the rabid blood. Thirty-five years is about ten times longer than any werewolf she’s known has survived.

She rubs her vulva, splitting her folds with her fingers. She has chosen to be trimmed now so her cunt will not be hidden from his view, though not entirely shaved—she attempts realism. To imitate or approximate a human is the goal, after all, to live comfortably among them and prey upon them at the very same time. But it is a challenge. (Except for the monster kings, of course, and to an extent Jesse.)

She is wet because she wishes to be. Touching herself is not pleasurable and neither is intercourse. Pleasure is only attained by feeding. Jesse yanks against his bonds, arms tightening, muscles bunching up. An even balance. He could break free but knows she does not wish it, so he pulls only enough to strain the rope.

“Do you want to fuck me?” she asks.

Jesse snarls, teeth glistening with saliva. His fingertips split and thick black claws emerge. Good. She can suppress anything, even his overwhelming desire to kill. But transforming it instead requires some finesse, and she doesn’t get the embarrassing feeling like she’s clubbing somebody over the head. (Hector tells her he used the former method, which is his prerogative. Samira rather suspects he couldn’t manage the latter anyway, as all the finesse he hasn’t wouldn’t fill a thimble.)

With one hand she unbuttons her blouse, exposing her chest. “Would you like to touch me?” she asks. “Would you like to be inside me?”

He snarls again, thrashing. His eyes are wide and wild, not even focused on her anymore. The need to fuck her obliterates sense. Instead he thrusts at nothing, his cock thick with blood and bobbing in the air. She has well and truly invaded him now. The tendrils of her influence strangle him like creeping vines. Hardly gets a chance to do this to humans anymore. The second she has her claws sunk in they fall apart.

“Show me,” she says.

Her order penetrates the insensate want. Jesse’s eyes find hers again, and his thrashing calms to something more purposeful. His thrusts fall into nearly a rhythm, interrupted now and then by a breakthrough of desire. Wonderful. He walks a knife’s-edge, held in the orbit of her command and pulled away by his monstrous need.

She continues to masturbate and watches him, expectant. His effort does not satisfy her yet. In just a moment he seems to realize this, and he tosses his head like a nettled horse but accepts the condition. His thrusts grow less erratic, more measured. That’s better. The strength of will is what pleases her, the struggle to master his own physical urges. Although she must admit there is something about the way it looks that attracts her—the undulation of his hips, how his whole body rolls like ocean surf.

Perhaps he senses her satisfaction, because the ferocity recedes from his face, and he pumps into the air steadily despite how his cock strains red and swollen. Samira rises from her step stool and crouches in front of him. Experimentally she reaches out and strokes his face, his wiry beard. His breath catches in his throat but there is no stutter in the rhythmic roll of his hips. That pleases her enough to make the offer.

“Would you like to come?” she asks.

Jesse pauses—perhaps disbelieving of his good fortune, but Samira is capable of keeping him under her control with or without withholding his orgasm. He nods at her now, the belt tight around his neck.

Samira touches him.

Only with her fingertips, but Jesse’s hips jump so she opens her fingers, depriving him of contact by bare millimeters. He moans in disappointment, shifting, pulling at the ropes that bind his wrists to his thighs. “Control yourself,” she commands.

Jesse nods, his eyes hazy. She might be overdoing it. Has not exerted this much power in a long time. He lifts his hips, offering himself. Good. She touches him again.

The shudder runs through his whole body and he sags in a defeated way, waiting for her word. “Go ahead,” she murmurs.

He moans in gratitude, rolling against her. Her fingertips slide over him—only the lightest of touches. She won’t do this for him. The wildness has receded some and he thrusts into her fingers with purpose. He opens his shoulders a little and splays his legs, seeking not only his own release, but also—as he should—to please her. Curious. She had not expected that level of clarity at this stage, after the way he growled at her earlier. But here he is, displaying himself. She smiles, which makes him moan again, hips pumping. That’s interesting. She would like to test it.

She holds his climax just out of reach but summons pleasure into her fingers. Jesse grunts in surprise, hips jerking. His eyes flick up to hers, asking for answers. She gives him none, only an abundance of pleasure, and he bares his teeth, his cock sliding through her feather-light grip. Perhaps he does not sense yet that climax is forbidden from him; or perhaps he senses it but cannot stop himself from seeking it regardless. Her smile has transformed into something a little cruel. A bad habit. Jesse is an ally. He is not human, not undeserving. He only requires help, and she can help him.

“Look at me,” she murmurs.

His eyes meet hers for a few seconds, a thread fraying; then it snaps and his focus yaws past her as he rolls his hips desperately. She withdraws, not truly disappointed, but a werewolf on the full moon will understand only the most primitive lessons. A moan rumbles out of him, abashed, pleading, and he twists, his hands curling and uncurling. “Look at me,” Samira repeats. “And do not look away.”

He tries again, utterly at her mercy. His eyes are yellow and nearly glow with the light they reflect from the moon outside. Pretty, in a way. She does not touch him yet and he stills but for the subtle shiver of his breathing in the chilly air. That impresses her—she didn’t think he had the capacity left, with the lunar craze, the way her power is ruining his mind. Yet here he is. Very well.

She touches him again. His hips twitch up but he stills again instantly, waiting for her permission. His eyes have not left her. She smiles, stroking him lightly, and he shudders and lets out a low noise from deep in his chest. With a hitch of hesitation he starts to move, his eyes questioning her, and she nods.

He moves with exaggerated control, perhaps to convince her of his devotion, perhaps simply to rein himself in. Remarkable, really, with how swollen his cock is, how precum began seeping from the slit as soon as she touched him again. He still can’t orgasm, of course, but at this rate she’ll allow it soon enough. “It’s all right, Jesse,” she murmurs. “There’s no need to be coy.”

He moans, head lolling back against the pillar. It makes his gaze break from hers but he remembers himself and finds her eyes again. She will forgive it. “Would you like to come?” she asks again.

His hips jerk and he sucks in air through his teeth. Of course he would. “Go ahead,” she says.

She has not released him. Nevertheless he begins to thrust with less caution now, his soft, smooth foreskin sliding across her palm. The roll of his body interests her, his flesh that looks human but is not, like the work of a skilled sculptor—but alive, an artwork he both wields and is entrapped by. Jesse begs her silently, must have discovered that climax remains out of his reach. Her instinct tells her to deny him. But she came here to help. “You must not look away,” she tells him. “Do you understand?”

He nods. The wild creature that snarled at her earlier is gone, smothered. Instead it’s Jesse she sees behind those livid yellow eyes. “Come,” she tells him.

Not a moan but a huffed-out gasp, so long denied that the suddenness of it is a sting. His entire body tenses and the ropes strain around him, his muscles tautening and stretching his skin. So natural to him—and he doesn’t even need to try. The ropes would snap if he fought them for one more second but when his cock releases its first pulse of seed he relaxes, gazing at her, still thrusting gently into her hand—offering his orgasm to her. She milks him for a long few seconds while he shudders and bares his jagged, heavy teeth. But he does not look away.

Samira, thoughtful, allows him to soften. “You’ve done well,” she tells him.

Jesse remains still a moment, the orgasm having taxed him. Then he shifts against his bonds, restless. Fine. She squats behind him and undoes the belt at his neck, the knots that restrain his upper arms and ankles. For now his wrists will remain tied to the bands at his thighs. Samira rises and crouches in front of him.

“Thank you,” he murmurs.

She is curious and releases him from her influence, abruptly and all at once.

There is no sudden change, no lunge or snapping of jaws. Jesse remains as he is, calm and quiet. Remarkable. The werewolf blood should be swollen like a spring-tide with the moon, thundering inside him. Yet he appears to be struggling not at all. Does he really have such control? Does he know, in this submissive state, that his blood is contained under his own influence alone? Did he know beforehand?

He leans into her suddenly, unable to touch her with his hands still bound, only to press his forehead to her shoulder.

She recognizes this. Humans become this way frequently after she’s finished with them, provided she’s left them conscious. It’s a need. They’ve been made vulnerable and haven’t the capacity to take care of themselves afterward. They need her.

Samira freezes. It disgusts her.

He’s a monster. He should be a monster. But monsters do not need. If he, the very stuff of his body, imitates humans so closely, what is to say his monstrousness is the truth of him? What is the difference anymore, if the gap is this narrow?

His breath is hot and his skin is hot like a human’s. Samira dampens the urge to recoil. “Do you want me to feed on you?” she asks.

It’s not a fair question. He couldn’t say no right now, not after what she’s just done to him. “Yes,” he says, and sits back. His eyes are glassy.

“Then lie down,” she tells him.

He obeys, a little unsteady with his hands still bound. Samira straddles his crotch and pushes her underwear aside. It’s been a long time. A very long time.

She starts to sink down onto him, and he shudders, letting out a quiet noise.

She engulfs him like a storm cloud. Inside her he is insignificant; where they are joined is the conduit through which she will feed. But this is a rare occasion and she takes a moment to settle, to make herself comfortable. Her thighs hug his waist, and she rests her weight on his hips. He watches her like she’s an angel, a divine creature visiting upon him who might disappear at any second. It’s been three thousand years but it still amuses her how badly her victims desire their own doom. Too hard for her to resist anymore. She flattens her hands on his bare chest, trying to feel if there’s anything there that makes him different from her thousands of other victims. If the flesh is cool like hers, if the texture is wrong (sandy and firm like a red nun’s, or stringy like a graft’s). But no. He is warm, the blonde hair soft and curled under her palms. She discovers a small pang of jealousy. To blend so naturally with humans, to pass among them without thought. Even for her it becomes effortful to try to exist in that way, struggling to understand the way they act and feel. Jesse has professed some difficulty as well, yet his comfort has always been far greater than hers. In that way he approaches the perfect specimen—the ideal monster, one which preys upon humans but passes among them undetected. In his case it is the former criterion which he fails.

Distant anger stirs in her. To have this ability and waste it. What she would do with a gift like that.

Samira digs in her claws.

Jesse moans, and under his arousal she senses the pain. Somewhere in the haze he knows what she is doing. Not that it matters. He can’t stop her. She squeezes his chest and the power flows out of her unchecked, vast, dark and inexorable like the River Styx. And she the endless spring.

Beneath her Jesse drowns.

He is dragged under, suffocating almost instantly. A delightful curiosity—monstrous enough to survive, but not enough to resist. She reaches out to him and takes.

She takes and takes. He has so much to give—so much energy, and it all belongs to her. She discovers, as she had suspected, that all of it is empty; he is a monster and she can extract no sustenance from him. But she can still take. Jesse squirms weakly beneath her, his eyes unfocused and sheered with tears. Samira shivers in delight, her back bending in a slow arch. When was the last time she used this much power? Has she ever? It feels incredible. To ruin someone. Jesse’s breath comes quick and shallow. She is hollowing him out. She takes everything and then comes back for more. A human would be dead. Fifty humans would be dead. But she cannot kill Jesse. He must be in agony, feeling every second that he is dying, yet unable to die. The reverse, she supposes, of her role in this, stealing everything yet never growing full. An even balance. He struggles and is unable even to move her. Samira sits back, pleasure permeating down to her core. The lack of true nourishment holds climax out of reach; but she may be able to fix that.

“Do you want to come?” she asks, hisses, almost, and rocks on top of his hips. She does not wait for an answer.

The pleasure she bestows upon him is not deliberate, not that with which she turns humans into slavering devotees; rather she bears down with the bulk of her strength and forces it into him, straining even when he resists it (not consciously—he has limits, although she swells and bursts them readily). Still she withholds his orgasm. Is curious of whether or not she can do damage. It shouldn’t be possible—he is a monster. But she is three thousand years old.

Jesse whines not like a man but a kicked dog. He is hard and full inside of her and she squeezes him, a smile breaking on her face. His suffering, the way his eyes search without avail for escape, the way he can’t control how his hips twitch or his toes curl. All of it brings her a familiar joy. “Do you want to come?” she breathes again, and again denies him as she inundates him with intolerable pleasure.

The choked sound he makes in response is enough to elevate her to climax. She sighs and relaxes, in ecstasy for a moment, knowing it is transient at best. She could not feed on him. Yet she is satisfied. It was a liberating experience, and instructive. He is in agony, yes, but his memory of the event may not be perfect afterward. Perhaps she could persuade him to do this again. If that fails she could simply make him. To use her full power was…refreshing, rare.

“Samira.”

A hoarse whisper. She looks down.

In her distraction Jesse has regained the ability to speak. His eyes are wide and fixed on the wall to her right, unfocused. “Please stop,” he manages.

Samira sits on his hips, abashed.

She had not meant to do that. Should not have done it. Distantly she relinquishes his orgasm. Caught by surprise, he lets out a broken whine and spills himself inside her.

“I’m sorry,” she says, and rises, letting him slip out of her.

He closes his eyes and falls still. After an ordeal like that he will sleep for some time, full moon or no.

She fixes her underwear, sits back down on the step stool, and waits.

——

He wakes after the sun has risen. A cloud passes outside and a ray of white light splashes across the cement floor, splitting him in two.

Samira shifts, straightening. Waiting a few hours does not bother her, but she has been keen to make amends. “Good morning.”

Jesse’s eyes flick up. He seems to have grasped the situation quickly, and his face darkens in anger. But he does not berate her. Instead he says, “Thanks for untying me.”

Sarcasm. He is still bound. She should have done that. His arms flex and the ropes binding his wrists to his thighs snap. Samira rises and buttons her blouse. She should have brought his clothes too. But he is already going over to them and getting dressed.

Samira picks up her sweater and waits for him. She wants to apologize again but senses he would not take it well, not now.

“Just couldn’t help yourself, huh?”

Jesse pulls his jacket on and combs his fingers through his beard. “I made a mistake,” Samira acknowledges.

“Least you figured that one out.” He gazes at her with his jaw set in muted fury. But he does not shout or scold, only considers her. Finally he says, “Let’s go get a cup of coffee.”

She follows him out of the warehouse.

——

It’s early still and the sky is grey, a chill autumn wind sending crumpled food wrappers and plastic bags skittering past them on the concrete sidewalk. Jesse’s hands are jammed in his pockets, his shoulders hunched. He doesn’t shiver. Neither does she. Cold doesn’t get to them much. He doesn’t talk to her, not yet. She follows regardless. An odd feeling, like she has failed somehow. When was the last time she felt this? Has she ever?

Jesse seems to know where he’s going. He hasn’t lived here in a few years, if she remembers, but he has worked for a wage in the past and might be familiar with this area. A handful of humans are out at this hour. A man with crinkled brown skin holding a lit cigarette in his fingers. A younger man pushing a stroller with a small child inside. A short woman tottering past, carrying along the smell of alcohol. Jesse drifts to one side or another to allow them passage. Samira would not do so routinely but does now.

They cross a shabby park, dry leaves hissing in the wind above them. Jesse winds around the empty fountain in the center of it. Somebody is asleep on a bench. Across the street the crossing signal is red and two cars roll by so they wait a moment and then Jesse crosses anyway. There’s a coffee shop on the corner but he walks past without stopping. Samira points. “There’s a coffee shop.”

“I know,” Jesse says. “I want to walk a little while longer.”

“Why?” she asks.

“Still pissed,” he answers. “Helps to keep moving.”

Interesting. Her own anger is vanishingly rare these days but what helps her is to torture a human until she breaks their mind or body or both. More people are awake here—families, humans with dogs. She begins to attract more stares and makes a moderate attempt to deflect the attention. The clouds have begun to disperse, and the glare of the morning sun pierces through the gaps between buildings. Samira shades her eyes. This walk is becoming tiresome. She wants to speak with Jesse and address what happened between them.

Jesse takes a sharp left and pushes open the door to a diner.

Samira goes behind him, wiping her shoes on the dirty black carpet. The woman who greets them asks if they’re just two and Jesse answers politely in the affirmative. The woman takes them to a booth by a window and Samira slides in opposite Jesse, settling on the padded red seat. “Coffee for you both?” the woman asks.

“Yeah, that’d be great,” Jesse replies.

She leaves. Jesse watches her go absently. His chin is resting in his hand.

“I’m sorry,” Samira says.

“Are you?” Jesse turns to her.

“Yes. I wanted to help you. I…lost sight of what I was doing.”

“No kidding. I thought you were gonna kill me.” Jesse’s lip curls in anger, but he calms himself.

“I cannot kill you,” she tells him.

“No one knows what can or can’t kill me,” he points out. “Shapeshifters go down pretty easy, you know.”

“You’re only half shapeshifter.”

“Give me a fucking break. You know it’s not that simple.”

“Do I?” She gestures. “You did not die.”

“Well, then I guess it doesn’t fucking matter.” He throws a hand up. “Who gives a shit? Do whatever you like to me, I’ll live.”

She sighs, annoyed. “That isn’t what I meant.”

“Sure sounded like it.” Jesse folds his arms on the table. “It’s because I reminded you of a human. Isn’t it?”

The diner is more than half full at this hour; from the corner booth there’s a burst of laughter from a group of burly men in jackets emblazoned with the symbols of several sports teams. A waiter leads an elderly couple past. The man’s arm shivers as he leans on his cane. The woman’s jacket is split along the shoulder seam and yellowed, fraying puffs of synthetic material protrude from the hole.

“Yes,” Samira answers. “I’m sorry.”

Their waitress reappears with a coffee pot and fills her mug, then his. “Do y’all know what you want?”

“Sausage and bacon with hash browns,” Jesse says, and nods at Samira.

Samira shakes her head a little. “I would not like anything.”

The waitress leaves. Jesse watches Samira for a moment. Then he tips the small metal pitcher of milk into his mug. “Milk and sugar?” he asks.

Samira shrugs. “I don’t care.”

“You don’t care what you put in your coffee.”

“No.”

He grunts, taking a sip. “How’s it going, by the way? Living among humans?”

She had expected more fury and is unsure of his intent. “All right, I suppose,” she says. “I haven’t killed any humans in years.”

Jesse chuckles. “That’s your answer? You haven’t killed anyone?”

She lifts an eyebrow. “Is there another metric?”

“Depends. You trying to keep the monster hunters off your ass? Sure, you’re doing fine. You trying to pass among humans? Understand them? You’re doing a shit job.” His lips curls, less in anger than amusement this time. “Look at you. You didn’t order any food. You don’t even know how you take your fucking coffee. Hector’s better at the human thing than you are and he doesn’t have two fucking brain cells to rub together.”

Samira feels her face hardening. She does not enjoy being insulted. “You should use more caution when you speak to me,” she murmurs.

“See?” Jesse says, undeterred, emboldened, even; he leans in. “You just can’t let go of the fact that you’re stronger than everybody else. It doesn’t matter if you are, and I know you are. Humans don’t work that way. You think any human in fucking history has even come close to what you have? They struggle every fucking day of their lives. They can’t just win with a thought. They take what they can get, where they can get it. Like a cup of fucking coffee with the right amount of sugar. But you.” He nods at her, a grin splitting his face. “You just take everything. Too hard to do it any other way. Or maybe it’s too undignified.

Samira chuckles at him, dampening her fury. “You think it’s beyond me? I’ve passed among more cultures than you are even aware of. Three thousand years of them.”

Jesse lifts an eyebrow. “And you still haven’t come up with a coffee order? That’s pretty embarrassing.”

Samira grasps the scratched steel table knife, if only to distract her from her anger. “Have you thought that it might not be wise to drive me away? Who will help you on the next full moon? Will you go back to Hector again? I heard he was a bit mean to you the last time.”

“Yeah, he was.” Jesse tips his head in acknowledgement. “But I’d go back. I don’t care about my dignity, Samira. Dignity is made up. And I know not killing people when I go fucking rabid on the full moon isn’t an easy fix but I’ll suffer for that too. I’m better at this than you are. You know I am. You won’t suffer. It’s beneath you.”

Samira rises—smoothly, adjusting her skirt. She’s finished with him. The waitress nearly bumps into her as she strides toward the door. Behind her she hears the clink of the plate being set down and Jesse’s easy “Great, thanks a lot.”

She’s finished with him for now. But she has the nagging feeling she’ll be back.