Authors: Amber Riley
My fangs sunk into her delicate skin and found her vein. My jaw clamped down, and I felt the warm blood flood my mouth. Every cell in my body felt the shock from her heat. She tasted as good as she smelled. As good as she looked. The more I drank, the more the thirst grew.
I wasn’t aware of how much blood I had stolen from her until my thirst was quenched. I stopped sucking and slowly pulled my fangs out. I loosened my grip on her shoulders and lifted my face away.
“Lyn?” I took her chin in my fingers and held her head up. She was extremely pale. I felt a jolt in my stomach. “Can you hear me?”
Her eyes fluttered open, and she let out a soft sound. Blood was trickling from the puncture wounds. I looked around for something to use to apply pressure, but I couldn’t find anything. I panicked, pulling off the shirt I was wearing and holding it against her neck. It shouldn’t have been bleeding that much. The bacteria in my saliva should have acted as a coagulant.
“Lyn, if you can hear me, say something,” I urged.
Her hand reached up toward her neck. “I can hear you,” she whispered.
“Don’t touch it,” I told her, lowering her hand away. “Are you okay?”
“I’m tired,” she replied in a very low voice.
“Are you cold?” I felt her cheek. “Dizzy?”
“No. I’m just tired,” she repeated.
I pushed the hair away from her face. “Are you positive?”
I lifted my shirt to check the bleeding. It had finally clotted. I picked her up and pulled back the sheets. “You can sleep,” I said, tucking the sheets around her. Her heart was still steady, and her breathing was normal. She would be all right.
She will be,
She has to be.
I left the room, unable to bear it any longer. The smell of blood, her blood, made me sick. If I had fed earlier, then I would have had more control. I had no one to blame but myself.
Sullivan was standing at the end of the hall shaking a snow globe as I stormed from the room. I couldn’t face him. I couldn’t even face myself. I started in the opposite direction, going nowhere in particular. I just had to leave.
“She will grant you forgiveness,” he whispered, looking out the window. I stopped and clamped my eyes shut. I didn’t want to hear it. “You didn’t force yourself upon her. She won’t hold it against you,” he promised.
I continued to walk away from him, down the stairs and out the French doors. I crossed the backyard and drove my fist into the thickest tree I saw. It creaked, and a few of the remaining leaves fell around me.
Someone moved in the shadows. “What now?” I screamed. “If you want me, come and get me. I’m right here. I’m right fucking here.”
“Kaden,” Sullivan called softly from behind me.
“What?” I snapped, and all the anger left my body. The guilt came crashing around me like a tidal wave, making it hard to breathe. “What?” I asked quietly.
As I watched Lyn sleep, her chest gently rising and falling, I went over and over Sullivan’s story in my head. He had finally told me exactly what happened before he ended up in Canada. He had accidentally killed the human woman he loved and upset some important vampires at the same time. It didn’t put me at ease, but at least I understood. A lot of things suddenly made sense, and it made me all the more determined to protect Lyn with everything I had.
She made a small sound, and my body tensed. When she didn’t wake up, I relaxed against the headboard. I traced the line of her jaw with my finger and glanced at her neck. I hadn’t been gentle. There were two deep puncture wounds that were swollen and red.
“Kaden?” Her eyes opened slowly, searching for me in the dark.
“I’m so sorry,” I told her, staring at the ceiling. “I’m so, so sorry.”
She reached in the direction of my voice and found my hand. “You’re warm.”
I let out a groan and pulled my hand away. Her blood would stay warm inside my veins for hours. I would have an extra boost of strength and energy until it was out of my system. Going back to my diet now would make me feel twice as weak.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you,” I whispered.
The sheets rustled as she pulled herself into a sitting position. She let out a little gasp as she touched the holes I had left in her. “I’m not mad at you,” she told me. “I wanted you to do it.”
“Why?” I asked. “Why didn’t you run when I told you to?”
“I wasn’t afraid.” She looked in my direction and gave me a small smile. “Can you turn on the light? I can’t see anything.”
I got up and flicked the switch. Lyn blinked against the sudden light and gasped. Before I realized that I was topless, Lyn cried out, “Oh, my God.”
I hit the light switch again, throwing her back into darkness. My breathing picked up, and I counted backward from ten. I had never let anyone outside the family see my scars. Just the thought of them took me to a dark place.
“What happened to you?” She hopped down from the bed and stumbled.
I caught her and set her on the edge of the bed again. I knelt in front of her and put my forehead on her knees. “I took more than I should have. You might be a little dizzy for a bit, so don’t try to get up.”
I squeezed the sheets on either side of her legs. “I’m sorry. I can’t say it enough. I never … I didn’t want … I was supposed to protect you.”
It felt like someone had stuck a knife in my stomach and was twisting it around and around. She was such a fragile little thing. If I couldn’t keep my control around her, then I was a liability. I felt so guilty that I couldn’t imagine it happening again though. I hated myself.
“It’s okay.” Her fingers ran through my hair. “It really is.”
I sighed. I would never be able to make it up to her. The fact that she was fine with everything, that she had wanted it, made me feel even worse. I didn’t understand how she could be all right with it. I wanted her to be mad. I wanted her to yell at me and try to storm out of the house in a fit of rage.
“What happened to you?” she asked again.
It was in that moment that I decided two things that would make everything good again. The first thing: I would tell her what she wanted to know. She deserved that much. I flipped on the light again and stood in front of her, trying not to be embarrassed.
“Give me your hand.”
She stared at me, shocked. “What …”
I took her hand and directed her fingers over the first set of scars. She didn’t flinch away but touched them carefully, like they might still hurt. Her eyes studied each of the three crosses on the left side of my lower abdomen.
“That’s where he pressed a crucifix into my skin until I lost consciousness. When I came around, he did it again. And then a third time.” I moved her fingers around to my side. The scars there were the ugliest. It looked like someone had carved strips out of my skin with a melon baller. “And this is where he dripped the holy water.”
“Who is ‘he’?” she asked, mesmerized.
“The Marquis. He takes care of the punishments for the master vampire, and he enjoys every second of it.”
She trailed her hand freely over the scars. She outlined them one by one, touching first the skin around them and then the wounds themselves. Her fingers left streaks of heat behind that were barely noticeable with my new body temperature.
I stepped back as her hand reached the bottom of the last holy water trail. She watched without changing her expression as I pulled a clean shirt from my dresser. It made me self-conscious. I knew how bad the scars looked. I turned away from her until I was covered again.
Lyn winced from pain as she turned her head. “What were you being punished for?”
I bent down to her level and took her chin in my fingers, moving her hair to the side to get a better look at the wounds. “I tried to leave,” I said. “Someone ratted me out.”
“But you got away,” she said, half statement, half question.
“I was more careful the second time,” I explained.
The fang marks weren’t healing like they should have been. In fact, they looked infected. They couldn’t be though. My saliva was free of anything that could cause that from happening. It was just bruised and sore.
“It’s not that bad,” she lied.
“It is.” I let go of her chin. “I bit too deep.”
“Don’t.” I met her eyes. “I’ll get you some ice for the swelling. Lie back down and try to get some more sleep so you’ll heal properly.”
She did what I told her, snuggling between the sheets, as I headed down to the kitchen. Reece was there, sitting on the green marble counter, talking to Sid. They both shut up as soon as they saw me, making me curious. No one ever stopped talking unless they were saying something they didn’t want you to hear.
I went straight to the freezer and started pawing through frozen food. It was a mystery to me when all the microwave dinners made their way into the house. I hadn’t really thought about what everyone was eating. But there was an extraordinary number of supposedly healthy meals.
“We’re going with you,” Reece told me. “To the meeting.”
“I figured you would want to.” I continued to move boxes around. Ice shouldn’t be that difficult to find. “How’s the pack?”
“Alex is using the car to get them all back to the city,” Sid explained. “He should be getting back from the last trip in a few minutes, and then we’re heading out.”
Where were the ice trays?
I started taking boxes out and stacking them in the sink. They had to be in there somewhere.
“What are you looking for?” Reece asked.
“Ice,” I grumbled.
He hopped off the counter and grabbed a glass from the cupboard. He started to shut the freezer slowly until I moved out of the way. Setting the glass on the shelf inside the stainless steel door, he asked, “Crushed or cubed?”
Does it matter?
I thought. Ice was ice. It would do the same thing no matter what shape it was in. “Crushed,” I answered anyway. It would be more comfortable to set on her neck.
Reece pushed the button, and ice came falling out. I had bought the refrigerator because it looked nice and matched the rest of the kitchen, but I had never needed to use it before. When the cup was full, Reece hopped back onto the counter and grabbed an apple from the bowl beside him.
“Thanks.” I grabbed a dish towel from the drawer and dumped the ice onto it. “Where are the two of you heading? Home to get some rest, I hope.”
“Alex is going to stay here,” Sid said. “But I’ll need Reece to come with me. We’ll be back in time for the meeting though.”
“He’s back.” Reece took a big bite from the red delicious as a car rolled up to the house. “Ready to go?”
Sid nodded. “See you later.”
They were up to something. He had gone around my question without really answering it. If they didn’t want me to know what they were planning, maybe it was better that I didn’t. It was always easier to deny something if you didn’t know the details.
Lyn was half-asleep when I got back. Her eyes were fluttering in an attempt to stay open. Her hair was clinging to the pillowcase with static electricity, and her hand was resting over the puncture wounds. I sat down behind her and lifted her hand.
I grabbed my cell phone off the nightstand and checked for missed calls. Merv hadn’t called back. There was a part of me that was in denial over his death. I hadn’t seen his body. Maybe he was alive somewhere too.
I tried to force myself to accept the truth. Francesca didn’t know I had been listening to that specific conversation. Merv was dead. I hadn’t been able to save him, but there was still time to save Tom. He didn’t like me at the moment, or maybe he never did, but I could do something for Lyn’s sake.
Lyn moved her hand over mine to hold the ice in place. Her eyes were shut, but her grip on the ice was strong. I let go and let her keep the pressure on it so I could send the message.
I had less than two hundred characters to text Tom to stay inside and not let anyone in until I said it was okay. I had to do it without scaring him, and I had to mention the idea of keeping silver bullets handy. I was sure he would catch the werewolf reference, but I had never admitted to him that they were real before. I sighed and clicked the message out.
It had been a long night. My body was still buzzing with Lyn’s blood, and my head was still spinning from the talk with Francesca. My mind didn’t even have the capacity to fully grasp everything with Sid and the Philadelphia pack. And there was still the second part of my decision to take care of before I could get some sleep.
“I’ll be right back,” I whispered in Lyn’s ear.
Then I went to stand in front of Sullivan’s door. It was intricately carved with scrolls and little flowers, just like the rest of the ones on the second floor. My hand hesitated before knocking. I was determined that I had made the right choice, but I couldn’t stop feeling like it was wrong. When he told me to come inside, I had to ignore the urge to turn around.