I was five seconds away from killing the girl beside me.

It was nothing personal—she was a sweet creature, twenty years old with short blonde hair and the bouncy beauty that accompanied youth. She was enjoying the sunny Florida afternoon in a frilly white skirt and a shirt that left little to the imagination. One hundred long years of perfecting my human mask had broken to pieces in that split second; a blink of the eye to my immoral family.

Self-control did not come easily to me. I'd not inherited my father's strict and straightforward diet of cambion blood. Instead, I had been stricken with an insatiable lust for humans: blood, energy, flesh, sex. It was an impossible burden. I could not have them the way I wanted and was reduced to mingling in Hell to satisfy my urges to bite and tear and fuck.

Irksome mortals. My lean fingers clenched into fists underneath the table we were seated at in the back of the lecture hall. I passed the time attending college and was typically able to separate myself from the humans, sequestering into a dark corner to observe them. The occasional female would notice my presence and approach to sit near me, awed by my physical appearance.

This one was Rebecca something or other and she peered at me while the professor droned on about stoichiometry. I'd learned it a thousand times. I shifted in my seat, gnashing my fangs together.

"Hi," she whispered.

Fuck. I plastered a smile on my face. If I killed another human my parents would be displeased. An unhappy Atticus was frightening, but Keira was downright petrifying.

Class was dismissed before I was socially obligated to respond. I scooped my book off the table and left the room in a hurry, struggling to resist the screaming in my head to tear Rebecca's head free of her neck. Humans were food when their blood was given to me in microwaved packets.

I teleported home, where the bitter salty air from the ocean soothed the fire in my veins. Inhaling to clear the rest of the torturous memory, I ran a hand through my hair as I allowed it to return to the white shade I had been born with. It attracted too much attention to wear on a constant basis. My pupils shriveled to their proper size and my fangs dropped, sore from restraint.

"Mom, dad, Dante's home!"

Sigrid was on the porch waving her arms madly as if I couldn't see her. She was a human but due to our coincided development, she had the vague aura of a demon. It was a blessing that kept me from wanting to brutalize my own sister in the way I fantasized about brutalizing humans.

I stepped onto the porch and ruffled her long white hair. "Are they back from Europe already?"

"Big brother!" squealed another voice.

My youngest sister, Nova, came hurtling from the house and leapt on me. I supported my textbook in one hand and caught her in the other, actually staggering back several inches. She was a cambion like our mother and a mere six years old. I assumed mine and Sigga's birth had turned my parents away from wanting to have any more children. Thankfully, Nova was a brunette with brown eyes.

The entire family had come around, it seemed. Atticus and Keira were sitting in our living room, my mother's eyes closed as she leaned her head on his shoulder and he rested his cheek on the crown of her skull. My grandparents, Cecile and Sebastien, were sitting together in a similar manner, both untouched by the throes of time. It was a conglomeration of dark hair and Sigga and I stuck out.

Luvart and Olivier were chatting animatedly in the kitchen while Verrier, our resident demon dog, chased Nova through the house. Only my maternal grandmother and grandfather were missing.

Sigrid swung into the dining room, throwing an arm around my waist, and promptly scowled. "Gross, what are all of you doing? Get a room!"

Atticus blinked as if he was emerging from the Deep Sleep and smiled at her. Thankfully, my father had not passed on some of his more disconcerting traits to me, like requiring 12 hours of sleep every two weeks. I had no inner insanity or raging evil to control like he did, only a limitless craving for humans.

"You weren't gone for long," I said, sitting at the head of the table away from the rest of the family.

My mother lifted her head, yawning. "No, this was a short trip. We wanted to see how your first week of classes went without us. You didn't have any slip ups, did you?"

"Of course not," I snapped.

Sigrid collapsed in the chair beside our grandmother, though we hardly used such a title for Cecile, and embraced her tightly. They were close but the ancient and stoic Sebastien preferred his self-imposed solitude. His fingers were loosely intertwined with his mate's and his golden eyes watched my sister chatter excitedly about a new recipe she had taught herself.

My father raised an eyebrow. His appearance bore more similarities to Cecile than Sebastien. There was no question that I was related to Beelzebub himself—the attributes were quite close.

"Why so defensive?" Atticus asked.

"Did you hurt one of them?!" Keira gasped.

It was a rule strictly enforced by my parents: I was not permitted to interact with humans beyond what they could comprehend. No contracts, blood drinking, energy sapping, manipulation, or any other manner of trickery. Atticus collected blood for me to subsist off of. It did not compare to a living, pulsing, warm human body. The mere thought was torture.

"This is why I avoid visiting you people," I snarled, petulantly glaring at the wall. "One of them decided to sit beside me and I made the mistake of breathing. After a century of this I'm fairly certain I can resist temptation, no matter how loudly it screams at me."

Sebastien shifted, thawing but not looking at me. "It will continue to worsen. Stay away from humans."

"He'll get used to it sooner or later," Cecile said with a dismissive wave of her hand. "A century isn't a long enough time to know your true limits. It's important that you mesh into human society, Dante."

Yes, I'd suffered the same spiel from my parents since I was a young boy. My mother was particularly adamant about my introduction to humans and continued to support it even after my bloodlust presented itself. They feared I would become my father and treat mortals with haughtiness and callous disregard. It was tremendously frustrating.

"I hate humans!" Sigrid chirped, beaming.

My mother sighed. "You are a human."

"Siri can be whatever she wishes for as long as she wishes," Atticus said. He stroked his chin and smiled across the table at her. "You're perfect, darling."

"And a spoiled brat," I chimed in.

Nova clambered into Sebastien's lap and amused herself by pulling back his lips to look at his fangs. The rest of the family gabbed about my parents' trip to Europe while I simmered in my chair, pensive. A demon that was forbidden to use his powers—it was infuriating. I lived far from my family in rural New York where I was not forced to interact with humans beyond attending classes.

Though I was free of my parents' influence, I was never entirely liberated from them. Atticus and Sebastien kept close watch on my actions on Earth to ensure I wasn't jeopardizing the family. In Hell I could do what I pleased, which mostly consisted of fucking female demons.

All facets of my life felt controlled. I watched all of them chattering for several minutes before I'd had quite enough and needed to leave. They were accustomed to me disappearing without a trace, sometimes extending into years of being utterly alone. My life was not my own: I had been cut off from my demon nature and shucked into the mold that befitted the family.

They knew what became of powerful rogue demons.

The din faded away when I reappeared in my small, rather miserable cottage. It made sense that the home reflected the owner. Darkness had fallen but it did nothing to my eyes and I walked silently across the wood floors that would creak under human feet. My touch was feather light.

I showered—a result of habit. My body was cold and dead, never excreting the fluids or pheromones that were part of life and repellant to bacteria and other microorganisms. I was never truly dirty, but I appreciated the warm water. I could not manifest heat and though I didn't need it, I enjoyed it. I closed my eyes and ran my hands through my snow white hair.

"Tom! Get away from there!"

The throbbing of two heartbeats snapped me from my reverie. The hunting shift began: my fangs dropped forward, eager to rip flesh, my pupils narrowed to slits, my ears elongated to hear them better than I already could, and talons slid forth from my fingers. I stood perfectly still in the shower amidst the falling water while I listened to the humans outside my home curiously moving forward to investigate.

It was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded on all sides by tall trees and protected from sunlight. I loathed the sun. It was rare for a human to stumble across my home but when they did, they were helpless to their mortal questions. Who owned it? Why did they live far from humanity?

The doors were locked to prevent them from entering. Some would promise to return with tools to shatter the windows and enter but few were able to find the cottage again. I tilted my head toward their voices while pulling on clothes. A male and a female. The female had a repugnant presence about her; perhaps a religious affiliation. She was not devout but I could sense it clinging to her skin.

"Come on, Phoebe," the male named Tom whined. His voice was irritating. "Look at this place! We should see what it's like inside."

If they stepped foot past the foyer it gave me plenty of reason to kill and drain them both. I shifted into my ethereal form, invisible and essentially a ghost, to observe them from my upstairs bedroom window.

Young, both no more than twenty. I was disinterested in the male and his uncharacteristically foul blood but I could taste the female, Phoebe, even from afar. She was of average height with long blonde hair pulled into a hasty ponytail and overalls that befitted her for some reason or another. She was lanky, with a thin heart-shaped face and fear clear in her green irises.

I reappeared in the dusty window beside my front door to examine her more closely. The scent was unmistakable—a virgin. She continued to argue with her little friend while I pressed my nose to the glass, a hungry dog craving a meaty bone. It had been so long since I had a human. Certainly no one would miss Phoebe and her friend Tom?

The inconsistent presence about her was disconcerting. Tom's was stronger. He was fiercely religious, but Phoebe was less certain. Faith protected humans from us in most circumstances but superior demons such as myself and my fathers before me were less bothered by it. My only obstacle was a church or other hallowed ground. Crosses and Bibles were silly baubles.

"I'm leaving!" Phoebe snapped suddenly, spinning on her heel and walking off.

I growled under my breath. Fuck. Tom was blind to my existence but she could sense me. Some humans had the ability to feel a demon, even if it was only a mild discomfort and the sensation of being watched. They proved to be the most difficult quarry.

Tom groaned and hurried after her through the dark forest, flicking on a flashlight. I narrowed my eyes, flicking my third eyelid across them to tighten my focus. It would've been easy to kill them both but Atticus and Sebastien would punish me severely for my transgression.

My lip curled back over my fangs in a starving, angry manner. If they returned, I would kill them both. Trespassing was terribly rude, after all.