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Our desire ends in death.

Working at a funeral home provides the perfect opportunity for me to get rid of the evidence. As I’m investigating the property, I find a woman indulging in intimate “self-care” among the dead.

 

Ren works at the mortuary too. Every day, she buries herself in her self-loathing, using pills to numb her senses. As I stalk her, I learn that more than anything, she wants to be sensually used until that bitter end.

 

I see her potential: An empty void. A vessel waiting to be filled. A toy for me to break.

 

We make a deal: I’ll use her to practice my murderous craft, and in return, I’ll help her end it all. 

 

As we near her final days, I realize that torturing Ren with pleasure and pain is the greatest high I’ve ever known.

 

Then a rival takes matters into his own hands, giving her the ability to finish herself. I won’t let that happen. 

 

I’ll force Ren to realize that not only do I own her final breaths, I own her death too. 


Author’s Note: This dark stalker romance follows a serial killer and his obsession with a depressed crematory operator. An extended content list can be found within the book and on the author’s website. Read discretion is advised.

Content Warnings

Triggers: funeral care, depression, suicide ideation and attempts, flashbacks to the suicide completion of a secondary character, rape during forced incest, physical and mental abuse (of both main characters by their caregivers), necrophilia, murder, serial killer main male character who sees all people (including the heroine) as less than human, fear play, water torture, spit play, female ejaculation, asphyxiation, gun play, knife play, attempts at rape with female murder victims but no actual cheating

Kinks: backdoor action, blood play, bottom feeding, breath play, confinement, crawling, degradation, dubious consent, fear play, forced orgasms, gun play, knife play, necro play, non consent, restraints, spit play, squirting, voyeurism, water torture

Standalone

Chapter 1
Blaze

The whisper of a moan escapes down the corridor, sneaking toward me like a spider hiding in the cracks of a wall. I step forward, easing the door shut behind me, my boots inaudible against the tile. Moonlight creeps in through the curtained windows, illuminating the caskets like they’re trophies on display. Gilded urns. White flowers. Clean tile. As if this is a luxury store, and not a mortuary. 

 

Another primal moan. It’s mournful, in a way. The base of my neck tingles. It’s a feminine moan, one that indicates pleasure. I raise my brow, keeping my ear aimed toward the sound, itching for more of it. She—whoever this stranger is—must have a key to the funeral home like I do. A coworker of mine, perhaps.

 

And she’s getting off.

 

This time, the sound is deeper, demanding more. I step in time with her cries, drawing closer to her, my fingers skimming against the wall, pretending like I’m touching her bare skin.

 

The storage room’s entrance is open. I stop. One of the refrigeration units is ajar, exposing a naked corpse. A woman. Mid-twenties. Its eyes vacant. 

 

Earlier today, this same body was wearing black pants and a stained white shirt. The difference sticks with me; I don’t give a shit about a corpse’s modesty, but the fact that the body is now naked intrigues me.

 

Must have to do with our little trespasser.

 

I glance around. This whole situation has distracted me. Supposedly, the owner leaves the funeral home unguarded after hours, which would have given me a prime opportunity to dispose of bodies here. But that noise—that primal, sorrowful, pleasure-filled noise—grows louder, chaotic in its lack of structure. The compulsion builds in me, parting my lips. The need to know. The impulse to hunt.

 

Who is she? 

 

Why is she here?

 

The door of the crematory is left open, the sporadic groans of the conveyor belt adding to the orchestra of desire. The scent of musk and ash fills the air. A body twists on the conveyor belt, writhing like a demon conquering a body, dominating its final host. A canvas bag covers the face, and black hair streams out from under the edges of the haphazard mask. The buttons on the black pants of the twitching body are undone, a hand inside, between the legs. The white shirt crumpled over the stomach, blood dotting the fabric like a constellation of violence. 

 

This woman stole the clothes from the corpse back in the refrigeration unit. 

 

Her breathing grows frantic. Her writhing unpredictable. A woman possessed. I gleam at her with sudden focus, my pulse increasing. The need for proximity. The desire to know more. I can’t see much of her body; the clothing covers it. Blood swells in my bulge anyway. My hand clutches my length, urging my natural response to cool. This arousal is not about the physical attraction—I can’t even see her face—it’s about her helplessness. She doesn’t know I’m standing right above her.

 

I finger the switchblade in my pocket, licking my lips as the blade clicks open. She practically screams in lust this time, so unaware of the knife. Her body bucks, her back arching, the shirt stretched across her frame. My bulge twitches, and I lean down, holding the knife an inch above her neck, so close it’s practically breathing on her skin. All it would take is a slice across her neck and she’d be humiliated in her final moments, left pleasureless and alone. Anyone who found her would think that it was a political statement—finding a disheveled corpse with bodily secretions strewn across a funeral home—and I would know the truth.

 

She did this to herself.

 

The stranger jerks in bliss, reaching that ultimate peak, and I pull back instinctively. I angle my head to the side, my tongue skating over my teeth. She’s not my usual type. Skin tinted with golden-yellow hues. Black hair. Not pale like me. Not blond like them.

 

I’m not one to jump to conclusions, but I know a good opportunity when I see one. For fuck’s sake, she’s lying on the conveyor belt leading to the crematory.

 

She could be practice for me. 

 

She reaches up, a flash of a tattoo on the top of her hand. A rope, maybe? I can’t quite see. Frantically, she pinches the canvas bag over her nose as the other hand vigorously circles her sensitive flesh. Going for multiple, I suppose. In this position, her hands stay in place long enough to give me a clear view.

 

A noose on one hand. On the other hand, a gun. As if she’s carving her own desires into her flesh as she pinches her nose shut. 

 

Finally, a sigh expels from her chest. Another peak reached. Her body deflates like a balloon, then she lies still, her uneven breaths filling the empty space. Exhaustion. Sleep overwhelming her.

 

Killing her would be something. Perhaps it’s the change I need. 

 

Even so, it’s not what I want right now.

 

I make my exit. 

 

The next morning, I clock in before the funeral director arrives. I scan the area, searching for evidence of my fellow trespasser. The doors of the storage units are closed now; the metal gurney is folded against the wall of the crematory. No evidence of a break-in or of any uninvited presence. The black-haired woman has practice at this herself. 

 

How long has she been breaking into the mortuary to masturbate?

 

Once I have my sunscreen and black clothing protecting my skin, I get to work, using the excavator to hull out another beachside grave. It’s a big machine; the arm scoops down into the earth, pulling out as much as it can into the bucket. In the distance, a tourist walks across the white sand, glimpsing up at the gravestone littered hill, then walks quicker across the beach, as if the dead will sense his presence marking the sand. As if the rotting meat buried in this hill will rise from the ground to cast their revenge.

 

The dead don’t give a shit. 

 

A flash of black hair crosses over the windows of the mortuary, leaving the break room. I quickly power off the machine and remove my gloves, heading inside. The scent of burnt coffee fills the air. I leave the break room and turn toward the crematory.

 

I see her. 

 

Black hair cascades over her shoulders, stringy and thick with natural oils, framing her face like the strands of Spanish moss gripping the branches of a tree. Her cheeks puffy. Round face. Pink lips pursed in pensiveness as she studies the dials of the retort. Hands fidgeting in front of her. Those two tattoos—a noose and a gun—like beacons of certainty. The little masturbatory trespasser. Her dull brown eyes focus on the numbers in front of her like she’s done this a million times before, the same thing day in, day out.

 

I wait for a few minutes, my nose finally growing numb to the acrid stench in the air, curiously entertained by the woman in front of me working her magic. She mumbles to herself, perhaps speaking to the cooking body. My gaze sears into her, encouraging her to look at me. To confirm my suspicions.

 

She never once looks up. So focused on her own little world. 

 

Physically, she’s different from the others. Perhaps somewhat behaviorally too.

 

That doesn’t make her special. 

 

What interests me is that instinctual emptiness inside of her—her lack. It calls to me. I recognize that absence in myself. It’s lust, in a way. A need. Sailing through life as if nothing else exists besides desire. Pleasure. And pain. 

 

Her eyes flick over the door frame briefly, immediately returning to her work. Assuming I’m another mourning customer. 

 

I knock on the director’s office door. The redhead flashes a soft smile. She opens her mouth ready to regurgitate her standard response. 

 

I stop her. “Who’s the crematory operator?” I ask. 

 

“Oh, Ren?” she asks, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “Ren’s a good girl. Been here for years, actually. Always does her work. Here on time. Never asks questions if I need her to stay late. Hasn’t even asked for a raise, actually. Oh! By the way—” The funeral director takes off her glasses, giving more thought to our conversation now that it’s on her terms. “How are you liking it here?”

 

I didn’t come to Last Spring Mortuary for manufactured pleasantries, nor for the discount on my own prepaid plot. I don’t need the comfort of knowing my corpse will enjoy a seaside view of the sunset. I get sunburned easily, and the thought of my meat roasting in the sun annoys me. 

 

In this industry, there’s typically a high turnover rate until you find someone solid. Someone like Ren. The groundskeeper before me lasted a month, and the employee before that? Even quicker to flee. In the death industry, they’re always desperate for more bodies, living and dead.

 

Finally, the director learned to advertise the job for what it is: gravedigging. I jumped at the chance. 

 

Without answering the director’s question, I shift the conversation back to my interests: “Would Ren be willing to teach me the ropes?” 

 

The ropes. Like that deathly tattoo. 

 

The funeral director laughs. “Have you cut the grass yet? I’ve got a showing today, and I—”

 

“Ren,” I repeat. “Does she like it here?”

 

The director pauses, finding a respectful way to explain her hesitation. Half-hearted amusement tugs at my mouth. The phone rings, and the director holds up her hand. 

 

“Just a second,” she whispers. She answers the phone, her voice both solemn and friendly as the caller wails on the other end. She gives her full attention to the potential customer, thwarting my attempt to gather more information on Ren.

 

Not that I give a shit. All I care about is keeping my record clean until I find my new rhythm. A craving like mine doesn’t go away overnight. Going on seven months of being this wholesome, clean person in this tourist-filled town, the desire aches inside of me. The itch to do more. To gut a woman until a scream shudders out of her body. It gnaws on my bones until they’re chewed up glass. 

 

It’s only getting worse.

 

I rake leaves. Reposition a headstone. Pull weeds around the mausoleum. Hours pass.

 

I watch the windows, waiting until the funeral director is in the showroom with a new client, then I slip inside of her office, taking a quick picture on my phone of Ren’s driver’s license. You never know what you might need when it comes to these things.

 

That night, I park across the street from the mortuary. Ren exits her car, her black hair swishing as she draws toward the funeral home. She checks both ways before reaching the entrance, cautious of being caught, and yet there’s a fluidity to her movements that indicates a definite pattern.

 

She grabs her key. Twists the lock. Opens the door and disappears inside.

 

A smirk paints my lips. I don’t care what she does in her free time. It is amusing, though.

 

The masturbator of all things dead and dying. 

 

The lights in Last Spring stay dark. Eventually, I glance down at my phone. I’ve been sitting in the Margarita Shack’s parking lot for over an hour. I should leave. I should try to think of my other victims. To remember why I came to this vapid town in the first place.

 

I can’t get caught here. Not if I’m careful. Not if I keep to my plan.

 

The image of Ren lying on that conveyor belt, a bag covering her head, fills me with blood, that pressure surging in my groin. 

 

Somehow, those goals seem irrelevant right now.

 

After some time, Ren leaves, hastily driving away. Another ten minutes go by, then I flick through my phone’s gallery to find her address. I drive to her home. 

 

The house is lush with blue, purple, and pink tulips decorating the front yard, a stone path lining the grass. Two cars sit in the driveway, one that I recognize as Ren’s, and another environmentally friendly option. A boyfriend’s car, perhaps? Or a roommate? A family member? 

 

I hop the fence. Faint snores greet me through an open window. An invitation. Bending over the frame, I catch her sleeping form on the bed resting against the opposite wall. I climb silently inside, my heart pumping in my ears. I don’t know how many people live here, and if I screw this up, it might be my last time hunting prey.

 

Oil and smoke permeates the air. Ren’s legs spread across the small twin mattress. Black hair sprouts from between her legs like spindling vines, her musk thick with come from her nightly ritual. 

 

Stringy black hair covers her face, hiding her expression. My fingers twitch, itching to rip those strands from her scalp. 

 

A pill bottle catches my eye. I pick it up from the nightstand, scanning the label. A prescription for Xanax. I skim for the patient’s name. Donna Richmond. Ren’s last name is Kono, though a different last name doesn’t mean anything. Is Richmond her mother? A grandmother, perhaps? Does Donna—whoever she is—even use the Xanax, or is this secretly Ren’s medication?

 

A screw-capped wine bottle, half-empty, next to the prescription. Red, like blood.

 

A pile of laundry lies on the floor. I pull out her underwear—a stretchy mix of nylon and polyester, seamless, dampness lining the crotch. I suck it in, the blood rushing from my head to my bulge.

 

She smells like death. Faintly sour. A sweetness locked inside of the harshest scents. The musk is heady, like the foam on top of a beer, dripping with shame and desire. The violence to cut through her grows inside of me. 

 

I move forward, sliding open the top drawer of her nightstand. A rope tied in a hangman’s knot is crumpled inside, like her tattoo. No gun though. 

 

Her hands are stuffed under her pillow, tucked underneath the weight of her head. A bluish-green bruise circles her neck. Visible. Fading fast. 

 

She is fucked up.

 

Like me. 

 

An idea burns inside of me. I’ve used a woman while she’s dying before, but I’ve never once used a dying woman that enjoyed the torture of her inevitable death. When I close my eyes, I picture the fear in my first, the second, the third—how tight they squeezed around me, fighting for another breath. How the will to survive always overpowered their anger for me.

 

I thought choosing victims that looked alike would help; that satisfaction never returned though. It was only the first that meant something to me. The only kill that got me high.

 

Ren is different though. She may be the exact thing I need. 

 

I stare down at her, rubbing my palm over my straining erection. She whimpers, a subtle snore, and my head fills with air. She might’ve taken a benzodiazepine and consumed the wine. It might’ve been her goal to die tonight. An overdose may take longer. Still, it’s simpler than a noose.

 

The idea sparks me. How ironic would it be to use the blackmail of her after-hours activities to force her into an arrangement where we both get what we want? She could teach me to work the retorts, and I could give her that deadly rush. I could even kill her exactly how she wants.

 

She doesn’t look like the others, but looks aren’t enough. I need some way to confirm that she’ll scratch that itch. I won’t chase a false high again.

 

Which means I need to know Ren. To learn her. To consume her every moment. 

 

The little corpse wants a taste of death?

 

I’ll force-feed her it.

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