My mind raced, trying to think of the safest way to remove myself from this mess.
I should call Xander. I don’t know if he’d get here before Kit pounces though.
I shifted slowly, angling myself toward the door to the library. The water was still running and would muffle any struggle before Kit got to me.
Kit stalked toward me and I reflexively backed up closer to the door. He saw my path and let out a warning growl, rumbling deep from the back of his throat.
“Kit, please just calm down. I know...”
In a blink, Kit was in front of me, fangs exposed as he charged down on my body. I tensed and fell backwards, tripping over the rug beneath my feet and letting out a scream. His strong arm crashed down onto my chest, rendering me immobile and knocking the breath out of me as it pressed hard against my throat. His fangs came down to my neck and were ready to pierce my skin when I felt him wrenched off of me, followed by a loud crash. I rolled over, gasping for air. As my breath slowly began to return to my lungs, a strong pair of arms swooped me up and the room was gone in a blur.
I opened my eyes to see that I was back in the library, hearing the door shut and bolt behind me. My entire body began to shake from shock and I felt the strong arms around me tighten. I looked up to see Xander’s face stern. His eyes met mine and he searched them, trying to determine if I was hurt. He sat me down onto the large leather couch and instantly began to look over my body, searching for the source of the blood I knew he could smell. He took my hand and looked over the injury, steeling himself against the scent of my blood. His jaw clenched and his face strained in concentration as he ripped his shirt off in one fluid movement and tore a large piece of fabric, wrapping it tightly around my hand to stop the bleeding. He searched for further injury and stopped when he sensed my withdrawal as his hand searched across my chest and neck.
“Emma, I’m so sorry, I hadn’t expected him back so soon. I smelled your blood and when I came in he was on top of you. Did he hurt you?” His hand gently touched just above my collarbone, gauging my pain.
I knew what he was looking for. “He didn’t bite me. Thanks to you.”
His shoulders tightened and he looked into my eyes, brushing my hair from my face. “You’re going to hurt where he pinned you down. Do you want me to heal you? I don’t want you to be in pain.”
I shook my head and stared blankly. “No, I’m ok.”
“Please Emma. It will heal your hand too.”
My sight shifted back to him and I realized why he was asking me. “Is it tempting you?”
He held a breath and his face was scowling in concentration. “No. I mean yes of course, but I’m more concerned with if he comes back before it’s healed. I sent him away and told him I’d call him to come back when you were ready. But, I saw his face when I pulled him off of you. He wasn’t going to stop. He smelled your blood the way I have, but his resolve is not quite as practiced as mine.”
I shivered and nodded absently. “I don’t want you to have to fight the urge against my blood any more than you already are. I don’t want you to be in discomfort. What do I have to do?”
He nodded and looked into my eyes, taking my hand. “You’ll have to drink my blood, only a few sips, but it will heal you. Do you think you can do that?”
I shuddered and then agreed, setting myself for the task. His fangs bit down hard into his wrist and brought it to my mouth, gently cradling my head as I placed my mouth to the wound.
I gagged in distaste at the thick metallic liquid coating my mouth, but I met his eyes as he willed me forward. “Come on, just a few sips. You can do it.”
I took three long drags and he pulled away, leaving me coughing down the rest of his blood. He handed me his shirt and I wiped away the blood from my mouth. I sat, trying to keep it down and letting the warmth of the fire in front of me warm me. I slowly felt my body begin to tingle, and my chest and hand started to itch tremendously, like they were on fire. I gasped and in an instant, it was gone. I yanked the now tattered piece of cotton from my hand and saw no cut.
“It’s healed! Oh my God, that’s incredible.” I took a deep, filling breath to find no pain on my chest or throat. My eyes shot to Xander’s and he was watching you, grinning. “This is amazing. I can’t believe it. It’s completely gone.”
He nodded and let out a laugh.
“Is this what happened to your chest at the hospital?” I asked, still in disbelief.
He nodded again and smiled at my response. “It’s so normal for us, but I forget it can be truly exciting to see it for the first time.”
“I thought you were insane trying to walk around, but you were healed the whole time at the end weren’t you? Why did you let me keep you on the cot the whole time?”
He laughed and I turned abruptly to face him in mock fury. “It’s not funny! I thought you were dying. ”
“Well, when I’d just gotten blown up and a beautiful American girl was trying to comfort me, who am I to stop her?” He smirked and I shot him a playful look.
For the first time, I took in his figure sitting near me as I turned toward him fully. His muscles were lean and his strong shoulders and arms flexed as he saw me watching him. I caught a glimpse of the tattoo that had peeked out from under his shirt sleeve. It was large and placed on his inner arm. I couldn’t make out what it was exactly, but it appeared to be some kind of series of symbols, like an otherworldly loose family crest. The eye was placed prominently in the middle for all to see. His muscles seemed to ripple down his body as he shifted under my gaze and I realized I was biting my lip as I stared. I flushed furiously and looked away, causing him to let out a laugh.
I heard him flash to the door and unbolt it before flashing out and back in again, pulling a new shirt down over his shredded stomach as he walked to the couch. My heart fluttered and I felt the heat rise in my cheeks, surprised at my disappointment that he was once again dressed. He laughed lowly, seeing my blush and sat down on the other side of the couch, his hands strong against his knee. Remembering what he’d said about my scent when my blood rushed, I fought to calm my pulse.
“I thought this would make you a little more comfortable. And me too to be honest. I can’t sit here all night listening to your blood rush and fighting the draw of you.”
Blood once again rushed up my neck again and I cursed under my breath, fighting it back down. Turning my attention back to the fire, I took in the warmth radiating in front of me and lost myself in the glow.
His low voice jolted me from my trance, and I jumped. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I was just asking if you wanted a drink.”
“Oh! Yes, that would be great after the last two days. Sorry, I must have dazed for a minute. Thank you.”
He walked over and poured two glasses of dark amber liquid and handed me a glass before sitting back onto the couch, stretching his legs casually in front of him and leaning back in comfort.
“Sorry, whiskey’s all we’ve got right now. I don’t normally have company.”
I shot him a smile, but his eyes were closed in contentment as he sipped his drink. “I actually like whiskey. I don’t normally drink it straight, but that’s ok. I don’t mind.”
He smiled and looked over to see I’d leaned back as well, slowly relaxing into the couch. I tucked my knees under me and reclined into the cushions. “So, is it normally just you and Kit then?”
I shivered as the memory from the kitchen jumped back into my thoughts. I pushed it back down and took a long drag from my drink.
“Yes, but not always. More often than not, it’s just me. He comes and goes.”
I nodded, listening and taking another long drag from the glass. “That sounds so lonely. So you’re pretty much on your own then?”
I felt him shift, but didn’t open my eyes. He knew what I was asking. “If you’re asking if I am taken, the answer is no. I’ve had companions, but I’ve never found a mate. It’s just me.”
For some unknown reason, I felt myself relax at his answer.
I barely even know this man, but I feel so connected to him already. Every time he touches me, or looks at me, it’s like he’s overtaking me. It has to be something about his being a vampire. Surely everyone feels this way with him.
I was pulled from my thoughts as his voice spoke thoughtfully.
“What about you? Is it just you, or do you have someone back in America?”
His voice was level, but I sensed his curiosity, hearing him take another long drag on his glass.
I spoke slowly, feeling the dark liquid in my hand begin to soothe me. “No. It’s just me. It’s always been just me, so I’m used to it. I’ve dated, but it was never more than that.” I swirled my now empty glass in my hand and looked over at him. “I could use a refill, if you don’t mind.”
Alexander opened his eyes to see me facing him, smiling. He drained his glass and took mine, refilling them both before returning back to the couch and handing me the glass. I took another long swig and stayed seated to face him. He saw my change in posture and sat up to face me.
I asked anxiously, “So, how old are you anyway? I’ve been dying to ask.”
He laughed and took a swig of his drink before answering. “Well, let’s see. I’m coming up on 150 years next month actually.”
I gasped and my eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Wow. So, how old are you biologically, as in when did you stop aging?”
He sighed and settled in, stretching his legs in front of him again as his body angled toward me. “Vampires who are turned are frozen at the age they are turned. Their body never changes, but one that’s sired is different. We’re physically born and grow at an accelerated rate. 7 years after my birth, I was fully grown at 18 years old. We experience small growths as time passes until the time that we’re ready to mature. There’s no set rule when that is, but it’s believed that it’s when you’re designed to be mated. I am currently 23 by biological standards.”
I listened intently, and my thoughts began to race. “So, when you age, does it hurt?”
He smirked and looked at me playfully. “Would it be any fun if it didn’t? That’d be too easy.”
I shot him a questioning look, indicating I really wanted to know.
His face turned serious and he answered frankly. “Yes, it is fairly painful, but nothing that can’t be tolerated. Usually it happens within a day or two. Did you ever experience growing pains as a child?”
I nodded, remembering the painful growth spurts of childhood. “Yes, I used to cry myself to sleep during mine. They were terrible.”
He frowned and nodded. “So imagine that times 100. I’ll have one more whenever my body is ready for full maturity and then I’ll be required to choose a mate.”
My eyes widened as I absorbed the weight of his words. “What do you mean required? Like you don’t have a choice?”
He looked at me intently, seeing my reaction. “Basically. I can either choose, or one will be chosen for me. As heir to the bloodline, I’m required to rule with a mate. No one vampire can rule an entire bloodline alone. The only requirement is that she is of a true bloodline, as in she was not turned by someone they’ve turned. She would have to have been turned by an elder or sired like me.”
“I can’t imagine being forced to make such a huge decision on a timeline. How do you even know there’s someone out there you’d want?”
He laughed and sat forward, draining his glass. My cheeks flushed and I matched his draw, handing him my glass for another refill. His eyebrows shot up, but he took the glass, filling it once more.
When he sat back down, he seemed closer as he leaned forward. “There’s definitely someone out there. We are designed to be mated. It’s just a matter of finding her in time.”
“Wow, very confident. Ok, so how do you know you’ll find her in time? What if you don’t?”
He looked at me as if deciding how to answer.
“It wouldn’t be the first time. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, they will take a mistress or she will take her own, if that is how it works out.”
I shook my head in shock. “Why would you do that though? Why can’t you just wait? Or get divorced? I don’t understand.”
He inched closer, trying to convey his point. “It very rarely happens, but I’m not going to lie and say that it has never happened. It’s more common with bloodline families since anyone else can wait until they find the one they want to mate with. We simply don’t have the luxury of time to find the one we could spend our eternity with.”
My eyes widened as I listened. “But why?"
“Our biology forces our hand. As bloodline families, if we wait, our health and strength begins to fade. If we wait too long, eventually it could kill us. We’re designed to have a mate, a partner.”
“Then why can’t you just leave them and mate with the one you want to be with once you’ve found her.”
Xander shook his head, looking at me seriously. “We do not separate like humans do. Once mated, we are linked, our souls tied together. Even if there is no love, you feel connected within every fiber of your being. If that’s broken, the other mate will eventually wither away and die. Some have stayed connected and still have a man or woman on the side, but not as often.”
My jaw dropped and I fought to keep it shut as I listened to the insanity that was his culture. My heart panged as I remembered the requirements of his mate. I knew that it excluded me completely.
Why does it even matter? I don’t want to be that, or be in this world any more than I have to, but I can’t help but wish I could be that for him.
“I hate that that’s expected of you. I hope you find the one you want before your time comes,” I said as I took another sip of my drink, filling the pang aching at my heart.
A charged silence filled the space between the two of us as the weight of the conversation settled over us both. I took another long drag on my drink, and saw that he did the same. Feeling the warm liquid fill my stomach, I closed my eyes and let the warmth wash back over me, feeling the fire warmth against my skin as I felt myself relaxing in its glow.