READ CHAPTER 1:
Some people are called to certain things in their life. That’s what hunting is for me. An urge. A desire. The closest thing I have to a calling.
My name is Ryann Wilkanson. I’m fifteen years old.
And I’m a killer.
It was hard to pick my first. Call me sentimental, but it had to be just right.
I knew what I wanted. What I needed. Someone worth the risk, the challenge. Somebody who deserved it. Now, I’m not talking about the horrible, abusive assholes you see on TV. I wanted someone who I thought deserved it…
And to be honest, that could’ve been just about anybody.
Some people might think it’s odd to contemplate killing someone, but it was the most natural thing in the world to me. I didn’t dare talk about it—I somehow knew that much—but my thoughts raced with vivid, red-tinted images.
While my fantasies were fun, I had to wait. I still lacked the skill and organization to actually go through with it.
And, as I matured, I realized part of me was still hesitant. A piece of the puzzle was missing. It was as though I was waiting for permission. Something to give me the final push into action.
Funnily enough, I got that that clarity six years ago, when I was nine. My dad thought he was simply giving me a ride to school, but he initiated the defining moment of my life.
I remember it like it was yesterday. He’d just come off nights and wasn’t in the best of moods when my mom asked him to drive me and Bri. I’d raced to the car first, winning shotgun, leaving Brianna to storm behind me. She was a sore loser, and it only made my grin bigger.
We were just a few blocks from the house when Dad started with one of his commentaries on all that was wrong with society.
“Jesus. People like that make me sick.”
We had stopped at a red light, and I spotted a guy standing on the corner with a sign that read Please Help.
At first I felt kind of bad for him, and I didn’t understand why Dad was upset. “At least he’s not dealing drugs,” I suggested.
“Brilliant observation. Maybe we could put that on a T-shirt for him,” Bri said. My father laughed and my stomach dropped. She never wasted an opportunity to make me look stupid.
Dad grunted. “Don’t be naïve, Ry. He’s probably scraping enough together to get his fix. People like that are after one thing—and it’s not a job.” He rolled his eyes, disgusted. Not a minute later, while we were still waiting at the light, a kid in a fancy sports car passed us. “See, look at that. Punk probably had it handed to him from Mommy and Daddy. He’s what—seventeen? Probably hasn’t worked a day in his whole goddamn life. Entitled brat. This is the problem with the world. You got two lazy bums on opposite ends of the spectrum, and neither are worth their salt.”
My father didn’t have a whole lot of empathy for anybody, and he certainly didn’t entertain excuses. I had to be the best if I wanted him to love me. “People need to either lead, follow—”
“Or get out of the way,” I finished. He patted me on the head. I knew this rant well and kind of understood my father’s reasoning. The homeless guy couldn’t even be bothered to walk up and down the rows of stopped cars to beg. He just stood there with an empty cup. He really was a waste.
I fought the urge to point out to my dad that I was nothing like those people—and never would be—but I knew he wouldn’t care. He loved me, but nothing I did seemed to impress him, especially since my older sister Brianna, the golden child, had perfected every- thing before I even had a chance to try.
I had to do something really big to make an impression.
I had to be a leader.
In the car, all those years ago, I realized that my desires could turn into something much more. Those entitled, useless people my dad despised were taking our hard-earned money, space, and air. And I was someone with deadly urges who wasn’t afraid to do something about it. Not everyone could say that.
But unfortunately, I would have to wait. I was much too young to execute my plans in the way I wanted.
My thoughts, however, were uninhibited, and I became enamored with the power and control that selecting the right kill could bring. The foreplay was intoxicating. I daydreamed about the countless ways I could do it. About all the places I could sneak up and strike. About the legacy I would leave behind.
For years I researched and studied serial killers— or as I liked to call them, The Greats. Most of The Greats hadn’t started until well into their adulthood. Call me an overachiever, but I wanted more kills in less time. I had all the qualities required: above-average intelligence, inside information (Dad was a cop), and a sweet cherub face.
But I also had something more. Tenacity. I knew what I wanted, and come hell or high water, I was going to get it. By fifteen, the thirst inside me could finally be quenched.
Cue my first planned victim—a snotty little brat who lived only a few streets away from me. Olivia McMann. Ugh. She was exhausting. Spoiled. Whiny. Brianna used to babysit her. I’d be dragged along because my parents usually worked overtime at their respective jobs. I was twelve and old enough to stay home alone, but they insisted. Like I had nothing better to do.
Brianna would be online with her friends or texting her boyfriend, and she’d stick Livy with me. Olivia wouldn’t leave me alone. One night she pestered me for hours on end until I lost it on her. Then she got the quivering lip and teary eyes and went crying to Bri.
Bri’s voice ripped across the room. “Ryann, what did you do now?”
“Nothing! Why do you always assume it was me? Maybe Livy is being a little crybaby over absolutely nothing,” I said, arms crossed tightly across my chest.
The brat came running up behind me. “You’re mean, Ryann. I hate you!”
I swept my hair into a ponytail and turned my back to her.
Death glare in full force, Brianna dug into me. “Why are you being such a pest? Leave Olivia alone already. Go find something to do, and don’t think for one second I’m giving you any of the money.”
She proceeded to get Olivia some licorice. A reward for her evilness. Maybe they were in on it together and shared private laughs while discussing different ways to torture me.
Brianna was seventeen at the time, and she hated me. No matter how hard I tried, she always dismissed me like I was an annoying pain in her ass.
“Well, she’s not the one in my face right now. Go play with her for an hour until her bedtime, and maybe I won’t tell Mom.” Smiling smugly, Bri tilted her head. I wanted to punch her. As soon as we were out of her sight, Olivia stuck her tongue out at me and danced around, joyous in her victory.
“See, I told you I’d get you in trouble. I always get my way. You have to do what I say.” She laughed.
I promised myself I’d never forget.
Back then, I’d imagined choking her or holding one of her mom’s embroidered pillows over her face until her squirming stopped. I knew her parents were well-off. Only the best for their princess. Olivia was the type of kid who tantrumed, tattled, and fake-cried to get what she wanted, no matter the cost to anyone who got in her way.
Olivia was going to turn into the same kind of spoiled, manipulative bitch I’d seen time and again at school.
I knew how to deal with someone like her. After all, I had killed. Once.
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