“Hello again.” I pay close attention to my connection with Avery as I move across the room and I’m certain she is down the hall to the left. I look at Curry and he cocks his head in that direction to tell me he feels Chansey there as well.

Vincent stretches his arm out across the back of the couch and begins laughing as he casually crosses his legs. “It took long enough for you to find me.”

He doesn’t appear frightened or the least bit challenged by our presence. I’m sure he believes we come in peace because of who we are and what we do but he couldn’t be more wrong. We will fight until death for the ones we love. “You have my mate.”

“Your mate?” he laughs. “Surely you don’t mean one of my blood jewels.”

“Avery isn’t a blood jewel to me. She’s my agápe so you know that means she is my everything.”

Curry steps next to me. “And Chansey is mine so we’re here to take them home.”

“Agápe or not, all of you are out of your minds if you think I’m going to allow that to happen.” His voice is cold.

“Vin.” I hear Anna’s voice behind me.

Vincent’s expression changes from arrogance to disbelief. He rises from the couch and his eyes are focused behind us. “Anna.” It comes out as a whisper because he’s clearly effected by her presence.

Anna crosses the room and he meets her half-way. He cradles her face in his hands and gazes into her eyes the way a lover would. He strokes her cheeks with his thumbs and then takes her in his arms to pull her close. “My sweet Anna. It’s been so long.”

Both are silent as they hold one another and I’m overwhelmed by the reality of my future with Avery. This is how she and I will be if she remains a human. We’ll be happy but I’ll watch her age. And then die.

Anna is the one to let go first. “What are you doing, Vin? This isn’t you.”

He steps back and slides his hands into the pockets of his trousers. “I’m afraid this is very much me.”

Anna shakes her head. “You were never unkind but what you’re doing to these girls is cruel.”

“There’s no way for you to imagine the way I felt after we separated,” he says. “I was miserable so I searched the world for anything that might bring me some semblance of happiness. The blood of the jewels is the only thing that can free me of my misery.”

“But it’s wrong.”

“Not being able to be with you because I’m one thing and you’re another. That’s what is wrong.” I once believed the same thing about me and Avery so I understand where he’s coming from. “I wanted you to live the dream. To experience everything life had to offer. A husband. A family. Sunlight. Happiness. You could never have had those things with me.”

“I went on to experience everything you wanted for me. I have a husband and a family I love very much including a granddaughter you’re holding captive.” His eyes widen as he steps back. “She’s a mother. She has two newborn babies at home–my great-granchildren–and they desperately need her. They’ve not done well since she was taken and I fear for their health and well-being. Please, Vin. They need their mother back.”

He runs both of his hands through his hair and then laces his fingers across the top of his head as he appears to be thinking. “Silas,” he sighs. “Bring the dark-haired girl.”

“Yes, sir.”

Anna puts her hand up to stop Silas. “Vin, you have two girls to release.”

Vincent shakes his head. “I can’t do it Anna. I have to keep Avery or I won’t survive. I thought I’d die after she was taken a few months ago. I can’t go through that kind of withdrawal again.”

“Coven of Landra can help you. It’s what they’re trained to do,” Anna tells him.

It’s our job to help the unsavable but I’m not sure I could tolerate having Vincent inside my home so close to Avery. I could never bring myself to trust him.

“The only time I’m able to forget all the ugliness is when I drink from a blood jewel. And I don’t plan on stopping. The Landra can’t help me if I don’t want it.” He doesn’t want to be helped. Suits me. I’m happy to kill him.

“Please try. Do it for me.” Anna’s voice is pleading.

“No.” Vincent’s face is pained. “I can’t be cured.”

Anna walks to Vincent and places her hands on his upper arms. “Don’t ever say that. Vampires that can’t–or refused to be helped–are destroyed. That can’t happen to you.”

Silas brings Chansey around the corner and she falls into Curry’s arms as he reaches her. “Thank the gods.” He squeezes her tightly and kisses the top of her head. “I love you, Chansey. I’ve missed you.”

“I love you too. I’ve missed you and the babies.” She lifts her face and Curry showers her face with kisses. “Tell me they’re both all right.”

He squeezes her again. “They’re fine but anxious to have their mother back.”

Vincent watches the union. “Take your granddaughter and leave this place. And remember me the way I once was and not as the monster you see before you now.”

Anna shakes her head. “No. I know what will happen when I leave.”

“It’s the way it has to be.” Vincent pulls her into his arms–and maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to trust him with her–but my intuition tells me he would never harm her. “I was a fool but I’ve never regretted my love for you. I wish I had been selfish enough to turn you. We could have had a good life together.”

“Anna, it’s time to go. Lairah will take you and Chansey home while we tend to our unfinished business.” She’s hesitant to let go. I’m guessing she suspects what will come next. Vincent will refuse the one last offer of help and that’s when things are going to become violent.

“Chansey, please wait for me in the car with Lairah,” Anna says.

I see the exhaustion on Chansey’s face. She doesn’t have the strength to debate the issue and she accepts assistance with walking when Lairah offers.

Anna waits until Chansey is safely out of hearing range. “What makes my granddaughter a blood jewel?” He looks to the floor to avoid her eyes but Anna is persistent. “I need to know for her. And her children. If you ever had any feelings for me, you must tell me.”

He’s hesitant but finally answers. “All blood jewels are agápes but not all agápes are blood jewels.”

“What makes Chansey and Avery different from other agápes?” Anna asks.

“It happens one of two ways.” He lifts his face so he can see her eyes. “Their human mothers or a maternal descendent shared blood with a vampire.”

Shared could mean two different things and we need to know the difference. “Shared as in gave or shared as in drank?” I ask.

“Does it matter?” He deflects answering with a question.

How could he think it wouldn’t? “Hell yes, it matters. There are countless blood swans all over the world. They have the right to know if they’re putting their future daughters at risk.”

Vincent hesitates before replying. “There is no risk for the blood swans. It only happens when the mother or one of her maternal descendants drinks the blood of a vampire.”

I’ve never heard of this and I can tell Curry hasn’t either by the expression he’s wearing. “Why would a human drink blood from a vampire if she wasn’t being turned?”

Vincent looks at Anna. “I won’t have her subjected to any more of these questions.”

Anna closes her eyes and tears roll down each of her cheeks. “I did this to Chansey. She’ll spend the rest of her life in danger because I tried to make you turn me.”

“I would never hurt her now that I know she is your granddaughter.” He’s telling the truth. I hear it in his voice but that doesn’t protect Avery from him.

“But other vampires won’t care,” Anna whispers.

Chapter Fifteen

Anna turns one last time before leaving the house and a look passes between her and Vincent. I think it’s her final plea–begging him to give himself up to Landra. But I see rebellion in his eyes and expect no surrender from him. He’s addicted to the blood of my agápe–my heart and soul–so he dies tonight if he doesn’t willingly return her to me.

There’s no point in being unclear about our intentions. “You have two choices. You can come with us and allow Landra to help you with your addiction or you can die now.”

“Fools,” Vincent laughs. “Chansey had a get out of jail free card because she’s Anna’s granddaughter but you can’t possibly think I’d willingly hand over my only other blood jewel.”

“Actually, that’s exactly what I expect. Avery doesn’t belong to you. She’s my agápe and you know what that means. I’ll fight until the end for her. And it’ll be your demise. Not mine.” He knows this so maybe he has a death wish.

“Your union is ordained by Anteros. Blah … blah … blah. Do you think I give two shits about your bond with her? I only care about her blood so there’s no way I’m handing her over.” He’s persistent. I’ll give him that.

“I’m giving you one last chance as a courtesy to Anna.” I offer him one last out because I promised her I would. “Let Avery go or die.”

“I couldn’t if I wanted to. Something about Avery’s blood has changed. It’s richer now and my addiction to her is nearly insatiable. It’s so bad that I fear my own unquenchable thirst.”

Avery’s blood is becoming richer to nourish the life growing inside her. And every time he takes blood from her, he’s taking life from our child. I’m certain of it.

He has admitted he’ll never let Avery go so there’s no debate. It’s time for him to die. And I’m not a bit unhappy about being the one to do it. “You tortured my agápe for months. You murdered her parents and turned her sister.”