Harris spoke. “Miss St. Claire. Do you remember St. Patrick’s Day two years ago? You and your friend Layla went out drinking. You two drank from noon to well past two in the morning. You were both extremely intoxicated.”

I blink behind the blindfold, thinking back. “Yes. I remember.”

“You were wearing a lime-green T-shirt and a pair of jeans. Layla was wearing a…well, I suppose one could call it a dress. It was…rather short.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at his description. Layla’s dress had barely covered her ass, and if she moved wrong, the bottom of her ass did actually show beneath the hemline. Then the fact that he knew exactly what we were wearing that night sank in, and I started shaking. “You were…there?”

“I was always there, Miss St. Claire. Out of sight, but there. You and Layla were too drunk to even walk straight that night, but there were no cabs, and the bus didn’t go where you needed to go. So you ended up walking—and I use the term ‘walking’ very loosely—all the way home. Seventeen blocks. At two in the morning, in downtown Detroit.”

I shuddered as I remembered that night. We had been living together then, in a shitty-ass apartment downtown. We rarely ventured outside past dark and never, ever, alone. That night, though, we did. And we’d thought, the next day, that it was a miracle we’d made it home alive. Now I was starting to think it was less a miracle than Harris’s unseen protection.

“That was an insanely bad decision on our part,” I said. “We woke up the next day amazed that we’d made it home intact.”

“You shouldn’t have,” he said. “You almost didn’t.”

“What?” I took a sip of Scotch, for courage. “What do you mean?”

Harris answered. “Layla was so drunk you basically carried her the whole way. She couldn’t stand up, couldn’t walk, couldn’t even speak. You weren’t much better off, but you managed somehow. I’ll never know how you did it. You actually puked a few times, while you were dragging your blacked-out friend.” Harris’s voice was bemused. “You remember anything from that walk home? Any sense of danger? Anyone who might have proved to be a threat?”

I thought hard. That walk home was a blur in my mind. I remembered very little, just a few random thoughts: how heavy Layla had been, how tired I was, how drunk, how badly I wanted to be home. I remembered trying not to think how much farther we had to go, focusing on one sidewalk square at a time, ignoring the ache in my legs and in my back. It was as Harris had said; I had essentially carried Layla home. “I have a vague recollection of…three men. At a street corner. They were shouting at us, I think. In some other language. Spanish, maybe? I think…I think they followed us for a while. I remember…I remember trying to walk faster, but Layla was so heavy, all but unconscious.”


“Yes. Those three. They did follow you, in fact. For three blocks. And they were indeed shouting at you in Spanish. The things they said…it’s good you don’t speak Spanish. They were saying vile things to you. I won’t repeat them, but it was disgusting.”

“Would they have hurt us?” I had to ask.

“Oh, yes. They fully intended to rape and kill you both.” Harris’s voice went cold, hard. “That’s what they were saying. Telling you exactly what they intended to do. Their plan was to follow you home, wait till you got your front door open, and then push you both in. Rape you, kill you, and leave you in your own apartment. No one would have ever known what happened, and they would never have been caught. There were no cameras in your building. No one knew you’d left the bar — no one was expecting you. It would have been days before anyone found your bodies.”

I felt sick then. “They…how—what stopped them?”

Harris didn’t answer right away. When he did, his voice was arctic and dark. “Me. Once I realized their intentions, I…confronted them.” He hesitated again.

“By ‘confront’ I assume you mean you…fought them?” I wasn’t sure I wanted to know, but I couldn’t help asking.

He answered. “Harris doesn’t ‘fight.’”

“Then what?” I asked.

Harris cleared his throat. “They were scum. I do not take lives lightly, but I enjoyed ending those three. I did the human race a favor when I slit their filthy f**king throats.”

A wave of dizziness washed over me. “You—you killed them?”

“Quickly, and easily. Don’t feel any guilt for their lives, Miss St. Claire. They intended to take turns raping you two for hours. They were evil, sadistic creatures with not even a speck of humanity in them. I showed them the mercy of quick deaths.”

“But you…you killed them. For me.”

“Yes. I did. And I would do so again.”

“Then there was also the matter of a potential mugger, just this past month,” he said. “Harris made sure the mugger never reached his intended point of ambush. That particular individual was merely…persuaded, shall we say, to give up a life of crime.”

“Indeed,” Harris said. “I can be rather persuasive.”

I had a hard time breathing suddenly. “What—what else did you do on my behalf?”

He answered. “Only one other matter required intervention. The last gentleman you dated. Steven Higgins.”

“Steven? What did you do to Steven?”

“The Steven you knew, and the real Steven…they were not the same person.” He paused, and I heard the tone of his voice shift to address Harris. “You may go. Thank you.”

“Good night, sir. Miss. St. Claire.” I heard Harris’s footsteps recede, and the front door close.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “I dated Steven for six months. He was really great.”

“Steven Higgins is a vile, vulgar, abusive animal with disgusting predilections.” His voice was thick with contempt.

“Wh—what do you mean?”

“He is a predator, and the worst kind of abuser. He hides his true self well, hides it until he’s sure his prey is too deeply ensnared and too weak to get away.”

“I—I don’t understand. Steven never laid a finger on me. Not—not that way, at least. He was never anything less than a perfect gentleman.”

“As I said, he is predator. A hunter. He spent six months with you, assessing you, drawing you in, making you think he was kind and innocent and…vanilla. He was a BDSM dominant, Kyrie. Although those who practice BDSM would take great offense to labeling a monster like Steven as a dom. What Steven enjoyed was not BDSM, but merely torture. I have photographic evidence, police reports. I’ve put the file in your bedroom for you to look over later, as I realize my word won’t be enough to convince you of the veracity of my claims.” He sighed. “I couldn’t let Steven get his hands on you, Kyrie. He breaks women. Ruins them. Destroys them. I suspect he’s responsible for at least one death, and I further suspect his taste for blood and inflicting pain will only grow.”