“Vincent allowed the others to share Chansey but he kept me to himself.” The thought of them passing her around makes me sick. “The first night wasn’t what I expected. He opened a vein in my wrist to drain what he wanted into a cup and then sealed the wound. He was never so gentle with me before so I was surprised. I expected a ravenous attack.”

My expectations were the same as hers. “He was kind to you?”

“Only the first night. He wasn’t in control when he returned.” She’s shaken by a rigor. “The addiction had taken him over again with a new vengeance. He had no self-restraint and was greedier than ever.”

The second night was when I lost my connection to Avery. “What did he do to you?”

“He said my blood was different and better than it had been even at my highest adrenaline rush. He drank until I collapsed. Chansey thinks I was out for at least eight hours but there’s no way to know for sure. I guess it must have scared him because he didn’t come back for a while.”

“Nine hours and twenty-seven minutes. That’s how long you were unconscious. I felt it the second it happened and I knew the exact moment you woke.” I pull her closer using the arm wrapped around her shoulders. “I thought he had killed you when I lost our connection. It took a lot on Curry’s part to convince me otherwise.”

She laces her fingers through mine. “I had someone trying to convince me everything would be fine as well.”

I’m sure Curry used his powerful bond with his agápe to keep her strong so in turn she helped Avery remain hopeful. “I’ll need to thank Chansey for keeping your morale high.”

“It wasn’t Chansey.” I lift my head from the pillow and Avery looks up at me. “Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to belittle her encouragement but it was Eden.”

“Eden.” She must be the fylgia that appeared to me.

“You and I had so little time together before Vincent took me. I never got to tell you about my twin that died at birth. I know it sounds crazy but I see her sometimes. Chansey says she’s my fylgia–a supernatural being that accompanies me in connection to my fate. She usually appears in my dreams but she acts as my guardian when she materializes.”

Her arm feels cool so I rub it briskly from her shoulder to her elbow to produce warmth. “She guides me in protecting you as well.”

“How so?” Avery asks.

“She appeared in Vincent’s house while I was tearing it apart looking for any clue to where he had hidden you.” Even now it seems unbelievable. “I thought she was you when I saw her standing there. Even her voice is identical to yours. ”

“You saw Eden?” I hear the amazement in her voice. “I always thought I was crazy because no one else could.”

“She’s the reason I located the secret compartment in the mantle. It’s where I found one of the original keys to the house where Vincent was hiding you.”

She’s confused. “I don’t understand. How did the key help you find us?”

I pull it from my pocket–the place I’ve carried it for over two weeks. “The sigil identified the house.” She takes the key and holds it closer to the bedside lamp for a better look. “But Anna was the one to recognize it.”

There’s a knock at the door just as I’m preparing to tell her the rest of the story. “That’ll be Dr. Knight.” There’s plenty of time for explanations but for now I need to hear that Avery is the picture of health. “Come in.”

Michaela Knight eases the door open and is carrying the black leather bag she has every time she has made a medical call. “I hear I have another patient.” She enters the room and sits on the bed by Avery’s feet. She reaches out and strokes her lower leg. “It’s good to have you back.”

Avery pushes herself up in the bed. “I’m happy to be back.”

“I understand that you and Solomon made quite the discovery just prior to your kidnapping.”

Avery beams. “It’s true. I’m his agápe.”

“That’s wonderful news.” She pats Avery’s leg and then looks at me. “Are you staying or going while I examine her?”

I don’t know. What does a vampire do when his agápe is being seen by a doctor? “Do you want me to stay or do you prefer I step out?”

She shrugs. “I don’t mind you staying but I need to speak with Dr. Knight about some female issues so you might be uncomfortable.”

She wants to talk periods. And the lack of hers.

I don’t pick up on the scent signaling the menstrual cycle she should be having right now. It could be the result of the pregnancy I so strongly suspect or simply related to the stress or blood loss she experienced but I’m certain she wants Dr. Knight to confirm the cause. “Okay. I get it. This is girls only stuff so I’m out of here.” I kiss her forehead. “I’ll be in my office and I’ll return as soon as you’re finished.”

I pass the hallway leading to Curry and Chansey’s quarters as I’m on the way to my office. I want to stop by to check in on Chansey after her visit from Dr. Knight but I don’t. I think knowing she is well would put my mind at rest but I resist because I don’t want to disturb their family time with the babies. Or their agápe reunion.

I know nothing will stop mine with Avery once I know she’s well.

Chapter Seventeen

I’m sitting at my desk in my office staring at the paperwork that has accumulated over the past two weeks. I had a lot of business to catch up on now that Avery was home safely. I should use this time to get some of my work done but I’m useless because I know Dr. Knight is evaluating Avery’s health. And possible pregnancy.

I cheat because I’m anxious. I close my eyes and reach out to that place where only Avery and I exist. I’m inside for a brief moment before she knows I’m there and she pushes me away. That’s never happened before. How did she do that?

I hear the chime of the doorbell and I walk over to open the door. It’s Curry.

“Just checking in on you while Dr. Knight is with Avery. You doing okay?”

No, I’m not. “Avery just pushed me out of our connection.”

He laughs. “Chansey must have taught her that little trick. It’s annoying as hell, isn’t it?”

Right now I don’t find it annoying. It’s … hurtful. I want to be there with her–even if it’s not physically–when she learns if she’s pregnant or not. “How did she do that?”

“You close the invisible gate. It takes concentration and a lot of practice. I bet Chansey has been coaching her for the past two weeks.”

I don’t understand. “Why would she want to shut me out? Isn’t that why we are what we are? So we can know everything about one another inside and out?”

“Everyone needs a little privacy–even from the agápe bond. Trust me. It can cause problems when you know every little emotion. There’ll be times when you don’t want her to know how you feel and you’ll be glad there’s a way to turn it off.”

I don’t like this. At all. “It feels like she’s hiding something from me.”

“It’s not exactly hiding. Agápes don’t have the power to do that because you can’t keep secrets from one another. Think of it as withholding. Or postponing. The truth will always come out unless she never thinks of it again. If that happens then whatever it is must be of very little consequence and doesn’t matter anyway.”

Is it okay to ask about Chansey’s condition? Do I want to know? I’m guessing it must be good or Curry wouldn’t be here now. “Chansey is healthy?”

“She’s well enough to send me for a status on Avery. And maybe keep you occupied while she’s being examined,” he laughs. “Michaela suggested a sedative but she refused because she wants to nurse the babies. I was afraid her body might have stopped producing milk or the twins would be confused after having bottles for two weeks but everything is as if nothing happened.”

Dr. Knight seems to be taking much longer with Avery than Chansey. Is that a bad sign? “I didn’t think it would take so long.” I’m growing more and more worried by the minute.

Curry looks at his watch. “It hasn’t been as long as you think. Your fear and the fact that she’s cut you off makes it feel like longer.”

There’s a knock at the door and I hope to see the good doctor on the other side. I’m instantly there with my hand on the knob to open it and I’m pleased when I see Dr. Knight. “I’m finished with Avery’s exam. She’s asking for you.”

I’ve just learned that my agápe has the ability to hide from me so I can’t resist asking about her condition in case she plans to try to withhold information from me later. “Is she okay?”

She smiles and I’m relieved before she says a word. “Avery’s strong and healthy so she’ll make a full recovery. Her body is already working overtime to replace the loss of plasma. It’ll take longer for the red blood cells to regenerate so I want her taking a vitamin every day to help with that process.” She holds out a piece of paper. “She didn’t want a sedative but I’m leaving a prescription in case she changes her mind. I would be surprised if she didn’t have night terrors after the things she experienced.”

There were nights when I sensed horror and panic from Avery after she arrived at the compound. At the time, I thought it was related to her fear of me but I see now that wasn’t the case. She was having nightmares about Vincent. I wish I had known. I could have helped her through it.

“Avery thinks she’s okay but she’s going to need you more than she knows.”

I was up for the task. “I’ll be by her side every step of the way.”

“Good.” Michaela moves aside. “Get out of here. Go to your agápe.”



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