He allowed himself to be filled with her renewed sobs and imagined the pleasure of killing her, but no, never again would he walk where that path led. If he went that route, he knew he would destroy himself on excess, even though his blood screamed for sadistic satisfaction. Blood rites offered a certain cathartic element for the human psyche, but he realized that purely animalistic acts were stupid, even vulgar.

He circled her, waiting for his sexual momentum to return. His eyes flitted from the flickering light to her svelte form. Soon, she renewed the volume of her moans, and this time he listened with desire. A fantastic animal control overcame him, as though he could have cannibalized her with his angry phallus. His rejuvenated blood flowed through him with relentless oppression, his carnal appetite returned.

"Beck!" he whispered in his hateful voice. She shuddered and struggled with her binds. He sensed that she must think him some psychotic monster, but no, Beck's serum had driven him to this state. He had her wrists tied with twine and duct tape, and bound to a dog leash anchored two feet into the broken cement floor. The twine had cut into her skin, and the way she squirmed reminded him of Carol Doyle, the one he had killed. Carol had Alana's figure and fairness, although she had auburn hair, not blond, and a fuller figure, maybe, but also that curved, thin visual perfection. A thrill stole through him as he recalled her death, but also shame. Carol Doyle's blood had been the red of the brightest setting sun.

"Savagery."

Again his terrible voice curled out in the gloomy structure and echoed back in whispered gothic mania. He leaned over and touched Alana's breasts, squeezing the nipples; the dreadful impulse dominated him again. He lay on top of her and moved in pleasure over her. The candlelight cast horrendous shadows, like mutated predator spirits at a feast of human souls. Then the hate flowed out of him. When he had finished, he rose, and without a rush, calmly dressed in his expensive grey suit and tie, dashing some Escape for Men over his face and behind his ears. He watched her body tremble; she made a gagging sound like she might vomit. The low glow of candles reduced the repugnance of his act and the filthy surroundings where he had committed them. From his pants pocket he withdrew a small, glossy leather case that contained a sterile needle and syringe. With familiarity, he filled it, emptying a small medical vial, and injected the fluid roughly into her right arm.

For some moments, she thrashed and moaned. When she settled down, he untied her hands. "Put on your clothes," he said. "If you want to live, don't touch your blindfold."

He had attacked her from behind and used ether to subdue her. As he had with the others, he had studied her habits carefully. Now, she fumbled while she dressed. He could still smell her. He leaned over and snatched up her panties, handing them to her. Just this simple act aroused his desire again, even though he had achieved multiple orgasms—maybe as many as eight. Though this struck him as miraculous, he hadn't been able yet to achieve any lasting satisfaction. This also angered him, and scared him too.

She stood, and without the benefit of sight, tried to make sense of her torn clothes. He squeezed her neck in the crook of his arm.

"Do you know what I've done for you?" he whispered in his desperate, bleak voice. "You have no idea how your life will change now. You'll live forever and ever. It's you and I, together, for eternity." He lowered his voice even more. "From this day on, I own your soul—you're my blossom."

She shuddered, and he released her. After she dressed, he taped her hands behind her back. "Don't be afraid," he mocked. "You may not believe this, but you'll be home soon. I'm not going to kill you, nor bother you again. Some time in the future, you'll search for me to thank me. Until then, I'll be waiting."

He guided her through ruined doors and out into the cool September night. The fresh air hit him in a wave, and he watched while she breathed it in through her small, splendid nose. Together they walked some two hundred steps, then he tied her with thick rope to a tree.

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