I woke up the next morning with no desire to get out of bed. I felt completely drained. Christ, I hope all of our fairy study sessions don’t make me feel like this. Sometime that afternoon, Vance called. It took every ounce of energy that I had to even reach for my phone.
“Hello,” I croaked.
“Karli, are you okay?” he asked.
“I’m really tired. Abnormally tired. Is it always going to feel like this after I try something new?”
“You shouldn’t feel tired from using your magic,” he said. “If anything, you should feel energized. This is likely a phase in your immortality.”
“Oh, I didn’t think of that. I guess I just need some more time to sleep then.”
“Do you need me to come over?”
“No. I appreciate the offer, but I’ll be fine. I’m just going to go back to sleep. I’ll call you when I wake up.”
“Okay, well, let me know if you need anything,” he said. “Hey, before you go, I wanted to let you know we talked to Chad.”
“What’d you find out?” I asked.
“Well, he admitted to being with Jordyn the night she was murdered. Apparently, he met her on her break. I found footage of them slipping into a janitor’s closet for a while right before she stepped outside to the loading dock. He gave us a list of all the women he’s been with over the past month. Well, the ones that he can name, anyhow. I have a man looking through the films from each evening Chad was at Voyeur-Gasm but it’s going to take a while because he’s been there a lot.”
“Wow, that sounds like a lot of fun,” I said sarcastically. “Hey, Vance, thanks for calling but I really need to go back to bed. Can I call you later?”
“Sure, Karli. Are you sure you don’t need anything?”
“No, I’m good. Bye.” I had barely hung up my phone before I collapsed back into bed. I stayed there all day and throughout the night feeling like hell. Every muscle in my body ached. I called in sick on Thursday because I was still too tired to move.
Leo and Vance tried calling me several times but I didn’t answer. I heard someone buzzing at the door twice but I ignored them. I thought a shower would help but I barely made it out before fainting on my bathroom floor. When I came to, I crawled back into bed still soaking wet. I woke up sometime later because a familiar hand was petting my hair. Leo.
“What are you doing here?” I asked groggily. “How did you get in?”
“I’m here because I was worried about you,” he replied. “You already know that locks are not a problem for me.”
“Oh, yeah. I forgot.” I rolled over to look at him. Crap, I was still naked. Oh well, at least I pulled the covers up before I fell asleep. At least I think I did.
“What’s going on, my love?” he asked, concern heavy in his voice. “Is this about the detective?”
“Huh? What would Vance have to do with this? I just don’t feel well. I’m really tired so if you don’t mind, I’d like to go back to sleep.”
I tried rolling back over but he stopped me. He held my shoulders into the bed, forcing me to face him. “Don’t lie to me, Karli. You must forget that I can sense your emotions. You are distraught. Why?” Damn your vampire abilities!
I scowled at him. “Don’t worry about it, Leo. I’m just tired. Really, really tired. I’m not upset; I just have a lot going on. I think it’s starting to take its toll on me, that’s all. I’ll be fine in a day or two.”
“What did he do to you?” He stood up and started pacing. “I swear, if he hurt you, I will kill him.”
Startled, I sat up in bed, almost forgetting to clasp my comforter to my chest. “What? No, Leo you have it all wrong. Why do you think Vance is the cause of this?”
“Because I know you spent the night with him.”
“What?” I asked incredulously.
“Your scent was all over him the night that girl was found in the dumpster,” he replied, clearly trying to fight back his rage. “And again the next morning. I found it very hard to control myself back then, Karli, but I dealt with it because I want you to be happy. But seeing you like this makes me want to harm someone. Specifically, Vance Alexander.” Great, the last thing I needed on my hands was an angry, jealous vampire.
“Look, Leo, calm down. It isn’t like that. Vance isn’t the reason I’m like this. This is about me. This is about my issues with who I am.”
He relaxed marginally and sat down on the bed. “I’m confused.”
“I can’t explain it, Leo. Trust me, I wish I could. It would be a lot easier. But I can’t. You just have to believe me that Vance is not the cause of this. I am. I’m sorry about calling in sick but I’m just so tired. I even collapsed coming out of the shower. I just need some rest and I’ll be fine.”
“I don’t give a flying fuck about you calling in sick!” he shouted. Wow, I didn’t think I’d ever heard Leo use profanity before. Lowering his voice, he added, “I’m here because I care about you. I’m concerned about you. Your despair is killing me. I don’t like feeling helpless, my dear, in any respect, but especially not when it involves you. I want to make this better for you. I just wish you’d trust me.”
“I do trust you,” I said.
“No, you don’t. Not enough, at least. I don’t know what I can do to change that since you won’t share your problem with me.”
“Leo, please just let me be. I’ll see you tomorrow night at work, okay? I promise I’ll be fine by then.”
“If you want me to leave your bed, fine.” He crossed his arms. “But I am not leaving your house until I know that you’re okay.”
“Leo, don’t be ridiculous. My window blinds are not nearly enough to block out the sunlight.”
“I don’t care.”
“Leo, you’re being stupid. I’m not going to sit here and allow you to cause yourself harm because you’re being a stubborn ass.”
“Again, I don’t care. I’m not leaving.” He sat down again to prove his point.
Sighing, I asked, “Okay, what’s it going to take to make you leave?”
“Come with me to my place,” he answered.
“It’s the only way I’m leaving. I can at least keep an eye on you then.”
“Leo, you’re not my father. I don’t need you to take care of me.”
“I am well aware that I am not your father, Karli. I am your future lover; therefore, it is my duty to take care of you.” My future what?
“Did you forget to mention that you were clairvoyant the other night?” I snapped.
“No, of course not,” he scoffed, actually having the nerve to look offended.
“Well, then you don’t know what you and I will or won’t be in the future. Now please leave.”
“Not without you,” he insisted.
Knowing that I could not possibly best a vampire physically, I finally conceded defeat. I made him leave my bedroom so I could get dressed. When I was decent, I packed my overnight bag, intentionally stomping around and huffing as much as was possible in my weakened state. It seemed to have no effect on Leo because he just sat there with a smug expression on his face. Ugh!
We got back to his place and I walked straight into the bedroom, slamming the door behind me. I was so exhausted I could hardly think straight. I locked the bedroom door, knowing that wouldn’t really keep him out, but I was trying to make a point. I crawled into bed fully clothed and fell asleep.
I woke up the next morning determined to get Leo off my back. I took my time getting ready, trying to gather both my strength and my courage. I still felt weak but I needed to deceive his stupid senses. I walked out of the bedroom, looking as bright and chipper as possible. “Good morning,” I called, using my best Julie Andrews impression.
“Good morning,” he said as he lifted his head from the newspaper. “You look better. Did you sleep well?”
“Yes, great, thank you!” I gave him a big smile and in return he gave me a suspicious look. Damn, turn it down a notch, girl; you’re being too obvious. I grabbed the room service menu and started looking for something to eat. If he was going to hold me prisoner, he was going to pay for it. Literally. Wow, everything on the menu looked really good! “Hey, do you mind if I get some breakfast? I’m starving.”
“Of course not. Please order anything you’d like.”
I picked up the phone and began placing my order. I decided on an egg white omelet with a side of pancakes. Leo raised his eyebrows at me when I added a bagel with cream cheese and a fruit plate. Then he actually had the nerve to laugh when I called them back to tack on some strawberry waffles, biscuits and gravy, and some coffee.
Okay, I was originally ordering so much food because I wanted to rack up a huge bill, but I became really impatient waiting for its arrival. I think I may have even started pacing. Leo just smirked and said, “Hungry are you, my dear?”
I glared. “Shut it, Leo.” He just shook his head and resumed reading the headlines.
The food came and I actually began salivating while the server was transferring everything over from the cart. Okay, this had to be connected to the change. My God, I felt like I could eat a horse! I made a mad dash for the table as soon as the guy left. I began shoving food into my mouth at an alarming rate. Leo came up to the table and asked, “Do you mind if I grab some fruit?”
“Do what you want,” I replied while chewing on a piece of bagel. “It’s your dime.”
Chuckling, he said, “Okay, well I was just making sure. I was afraid you’d gnaw my hand off if I just went for it.” I countered his smartass remark with a good ol’ two finger salute, which only prompted an even bigger laugh out of him. I’m glad I can be so amusing, asshole.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I ate everything on the table. I’m even more embarrassed that I had a witness. When I was done, I stood up from the table and started walking back into the bedroom. “I need to take a nap,” I said as I stifled a yawn.
“Doesn’t surprise me. I thought you were going to go after the chairs next. That’d be pretty rough on the company dental plan.”
“Ha! Ha! Very funny,” I replied, slamming the door behind me.
I wasn’t sure how long I’d slept but I woke up in a much better mood. My stomach growled. Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me! I ate enough to last me a week! Nope, I was definitely hungry again. There was a soft knock on the door as Leo said, “Karli, can I come in?”
“Yeah, go ahead.” I Iooked over at the alarm clock to see what time it was. Oh shit! It was after eleven! I had slept for twelve hours! Christ, I was supposed to have been at work by six.
He opened the door and smiled. “I could sense that you were awake. I hope I’m not bothering you.”
“No, Leo, you’re not. I still don’t appreciate you making me come here against my will, but I don’t want to be mad at you.”
“Good, my darling, because as entertaining as that was, I would much rather spend our time together doing more constructive things.”
“Why didn’t you wake me up? I’m really late for work. And why are you not down at the bar?”
“I gave you the night off,” he smiled. “It’s one of the perks you get for being the favorite.”
“Jesus, Leo! I don’t want the other girls to think I’m getting special treatment!”
“Don’t worry, my dear,” he said. “I told them you were still suffering from a terrible head cold but you expected to be in tomorrow evening. To answer your other question, I have one of my men taking lead in my absence.”
“Oh, okay. Thanks.” My stomach growled again, making me think of food. “Hey, Leo, can I ask you a question?”
“Of course you can,” he replied.
“Well, I’ve been wondering something lately. When was the last time you had blood?”
He smiled. “Excluding the small taste of yours, the night we officially met. I believe you remember Natasha.”
“How could I forget?” I said bitterly.
His grin got even bigger. “Why do you ask?”
“Well, because it’s been almost a month. Didn’t you say you require blood every month or so?”
“Yes, you are correct. Are you offering?”
Cripes, here comes the blush. “No…um, I was wondering something else though.”
“And that would be?” he asked.
“Are you planning to find a…donor soon?” Please say no!
“Maybe,” he replied. “If that bothers you, I could always visit a blood bank.”
“Didn’t you say that tasted bad?”
“It’s nearly unbearable.” His fangs lengthened a little. “I’d much prefer present company.”
“Does drinking blood always lead to having sex?”
“Typically, yes. It makes the experience much more pleasurable for both parties.” Oh, I have no doubts about that anymore!
“Did you sleep with Natasha the night we met?”
“Does it bother you to think of me being intimate with another woman?” he asked.
“Can you refrain from having sex when you drink someone’s blood?” I countered.
“Are you avoiding the question, my pet?”
“Leo, please. I need to know.”
“Yes, I can restrain myself. Again I ask, are you offering?”
“I don’t know. I’m just gathering information here. How much longer do you have before you have to drink?”
“Perhaps another week or so.” Perhaps sensing I didn’t know how to respond, he started walking towards the bathroom. “I’m going to take a shower. I would’ve done so earlier but I didn’t want to wake you. Care to join me?”
Still blushing, I hid my face and replied, “Um, no thanks. You go ahead. Is it okay if I order some food?”
“Yes, of course. If you change your mind about the shower, you know where to find me.” He wagged his eyebrows at me before disappearing behind the door.
I decided to check my phone before I did something stupid, like oh…jumping in the shower with Leo. I got out of bed and headed for my bag in the closet. As I found my phone, I noticed that the bathroom door was slightly ajar. I didn’t think anything of it until I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. My body became possessed as I walked over to the door for closer inspection.
Hot damn! Directly in front of me was a full frontal view of Leo standing naked behind the glass door of the shower. He looked like a statue of Adonis under a cascading waterfall. He was breathtaking! No, make that mesmerizing. I was suddenly filled with some very impure thoughts. I felt compelled to rub my naked body against his until my skin was raw. My breasts heaved, my breathing was ragged, and my nipples were painfully hard. I just stood there frozen, as moisture started pooling between my thighs. I ached to be filled by him. He must have sensed my desire because he turned his head in my direction, making direct eye contact with me. He gave me a sexy smile and silently invited me in with his eyes. Weird, I was having some pretty major déjà vu. What the hell am I doing? I ran out of the bedroom as fast as I could.
“Oh my God, I’m such a moron!” I said aloud as I smacked the heel of my hand against my forehead. I couldn’t believe I had just been caught drooling over Leo in the shower!
Thankfully, I had the sense to grab my phone before running out of the room. After taking a few deep breaths, I scrolled through my missed calls. Erica had called once. Vance had called six times. Ugh, not good. He had to know I was not at work by now. Might as well get this over with. Holding my breath, I dialed his number.
“Karli, where the hell are you? I’ve been worried sick!” he shouted upon answering.
“Um…I’m fine, Vance. Calm down.”
“Where are you?” It sounded like he was gritting his teeth. Yeah, that couldn’t be good.
“I’m safe. I’m fine. Calm down,” I repeated.
“Karli, why aren’t you answering my question?” I couldn’t think of anything to say so I just sat there in silence. “Okay, let me rephrase my question,” he said slowly. “Why is Leo’s Porsche sitting outside your apartment building?” More silence. “And why is your car parked in the valet garage at the hotel?” Why did I insist on taking my car, again? Oh, that’s right, because I was pretending I was in control of the situation. Fuck!
“Well, if you knew where I was, then why did you ask?” I snapped.
“Jesus, Karli, I thought we got past this shit! What the hell are you doing with Leo?”
Okay, now I was pissed. “Look, buddy, drop the accusatory tone, will ya? I’m only here because he refused to leave my house. I slept in the bedroom. He slept on the couch.”
“Oh, that makes a lot of sense,” he replied sarcastically. “You had to go to his hotel room because he wouldn’t leave your home? Are you fucking kidding me, Karli?”
“Hey, seriously, watch the tone!” I warned. “Leo was worried about me so he came by my place. He refused to leave me alone. My house wasn’t safe for him once the sun came up so he suggested we come here. I didn’t have a choice.”
“Yeah, you did. You should have let him burn. It would have been nobody’s fault but his own.” Did he really just say that?
“Nice, Vance. Try telling me how you really feel about it. I don’t think I got the message clearly enough.”
“It’s not like he doesn’t deserve it for all the things he’s done,” he said.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” I yelled.
“You should ask him,” he replied. “Maybe then he wouldn’t be such a perfect guy in your book. Maybe then, you wouldn’t go running to him every time you needed a rescue.”
“I didn’t need someone to rescue me!”
“Whatever, Karli. You know what? Maybe I was wrong about you. Maybe I was wrong about us. I’ve gotta go. I wouldn’t want to keep you from your boyfriend.” Click.
“He’s not my boyfriend!” I screamed into dead air. I threw my phone up against the wall and took out a chunk of sheetrock. “Shit!” Turning around, I saw Leo standing in the doorway.
“I heard shouting from the bathroom. Are you okay?” When I didn’t answer he walked up to me and braced his hands on my shoulders. “My love, are you okay?”
I shoved him…well, as much as I could anyhow. “No, I’m not okay!” I screamed. “Is that what you wanted to hear? Everything is so fucked up and I don’t know how to make it right! I have all these damn changes going through my body and I have too many fucking thoughts running through my head! I’m sick of trying to sort through all of it! To top it off, I’m pretty sure I just broke my damn phone!”
I started bawling hysterically as I pounded my fists into his chest. He just stood there taking my abuse, not saying a word. He let me vent until I couldn’t scream or cry anymore. I was so exhausted that I eventually collapsed onto the floor. I started protesting when he scooped me up into his arms and carried me over to the bed, but he ignored me and gathered me into his lap, whispering words of comfort into my ear. I was too drained to fight so I just let him rock me and pet my hair while I sobbed. I think I saw the dawn coming through a break in the curtains before my lids became too heavy to hold open.