She pushes the door half-open, peers around and takes a look at the stack of papers on the desk in front of me. “You’re busy. Should I come back later?”

“No. It looks a lot worse than it really is. Please, come in.” I realize my mistake as soon as I ask her to enter my office. I shouldn’t ask her to come into a room alone with me even if I’ve never attempted to drink from her again. There’s not a chance in hell she’ll feel safe unless someone knows she’s with me.

I rise from my chair and gesture toward the door. “Or I can join you in the living room.” This is my way of offering her an out without it becoming awkward. Truth be told I’m doing it more for me than her. I don’t think I can stand seeing the fear she’ll have by being alone with me.

She leans against the door and uses her body weight to close it as I’m walking toward her. “No. What I have to say doesn’t concern the others so I’d rather stay here. This is between you and me.”

I almost think I hear the screech of my shoes when I stop dead in my tracks after I comprehend what’s happening. Avery has closed us off from the rest of the family. And the world. No one can hear a sound behind these walls.

I take a step in retreat and the back of my legs collide with the desk. She smiles and I can only guess that it is sparked by my unusual display of clumsiness. “It’s okay, Sol. I’m not afraid of being alone with you.” She steps away from the door and walks around to one of the chairs. “I know you won’t hurt me. I wouldn’t be in here if I thought otherwise.”

She sits in one of the black and white damask print chairs and places her hand on the arm of its mate. “Will you sit with me? I’d like to talk about us.” She wants me next to her–not on the other side of my desk. And she wants to discuss us?

I proceed with caution toward the empty chair because it’s been my way with Avery from the beginning. I’m always careful to make slow, deliberate movements in her presence so I don’t startle or frighten her.

My mind is racing with wonder about what she could possibly want to discuss. “Is there something wrong?”

“No. It’s the complete opposite. Something ….” She stops and appears as though she’s choosing her words carefully. “No. Make that everything is finally right for once.”

It’s painful when I understand what she’s referring to. I feel a dreadful heaviness deep in my chest because I realize everything finally being right for her translates into one thing: she’s thrilled that I’m leaving. And it breaks my heart but I can’t allow her to see that. “It’ll certainly make life easier for you once I’m gone. You won’t have to look at me every day and remember what I did to you.”

She shakes her head from side to side slowly. “I’m not happy you’ve decided to leave the Savannah compound. I’m happy because your decision has forced me to realize how badly I don’t want you to go.”

Confusion immediately sets in. She’s been fearful of me since the night of the blood jewel ceremony. Why would she want me to stay and put her through the torture of living under the same roof? “I don’t understand. You’re terrified of me. I thought you’d be pleased to hear that I’m leaving.”

“I’m not scared of you.” She looks down at her hands in her lap. “But I am terrified by the feelings I have for you and the things I want you to do to me.” She looks up and swallows hard. “I want you to stay. With me.”

Is it possible I’ve mistaken her body’s reaction as fear all this time when it was something else all together? Like … love? No. I won’t get my hopes up because it’s a ridiculous thought to imagine she could possibly have feelings like that for me. She is a blood jewel and I’m a vampire. Ironically, our roles are reversed. She is an unintentional predator and I am her prey. There’s only one relationship that could possibly exist between us and it doesn’t involve love or romance. It is sordid and exists solely for the purpose of addicting me to her blood.

I look at the pained expression on her face and see that she truly believes the things she’s saying. And that’s why my words are going to hurt her. I get up from the chair and walk to the window. I can’t look at her anymore. She makes me hope for more than what is possible between us. “You’ll see that it was the right decision after I’m gone.”

I hear her get up from the chair and approach me from behind. “Turn around and look at me.”

If I do, it’ll be my undoing. I’m certain of it. “I can’t.”

“Yes you can.”

There’s an internal battle raging inside me but I give in and turn to her because it’s what she asks. And because it’s what I want as well.

She lifts her hands to touch my face, placing her palms on each side. She looks into my eyes and a smile–a breathtakingly beautiful one–appears. “I’ve wanted to touch you like this for so long.”

Being like this with her is exactly what I have been dreaming of for months. It’s no less wonderful than I imagined but I can’t ignore how wrong it is. And dangerous for both of us. We shouldn’t be this close. And we damn sure shouldn’t be alone in this room. “You need to go.”

“I don’t want to go. And I strongly suspect that although you’re telling me to, you don’t really want me to either.”

She couldn’t be more right. “And that’s all the more reason you should.”


I shouldn’t need to explain this. “Because this isn’t right for either of us.”

She strokes her thumb over my cheek. “Nothing has ever felt more right to me.”

I shake my head. “You and I should never be alone behind a closed door.”

“Because you drank from me?”

“Yes.” I squeeze my eyes shut before making the confession that will scare her enough to make her leave. “But mostly because I liked doing it entirely too much.”

She pulls my face toward hers but I can’t open my eyes because I’m too ashamed of what I’ve just confessed. She has to think I’m a monster for enjoying that terrible thing I did to her.

I feel her breath against my lips as she whispers, “It felt so different with you. It was the first time I ever liked it. I’ve never wanted anything so much in my life.” I feel her lips lightly brush against mine as she continues talking. “And I haven’t stopped wanting you to do it again.”

My eyes pop open at the shock of her admission. “Absolutely not. I will never hurt you like that again.”

“You didn’t hurt me at all.” Her hands slide from my face to my shoulders and the tip of her tongue grazes my mouth as she licks her lips. The moisture there doesn’t have to make contact with my tongue for me to remember the way she tastes–sweet and delicious. “Something happened between us that night and it was beautiful. Please tell me you felt it too.”

I encountered something extraordinary but decided I had imagined it because it seemed too good to be true. But even as much as I enjoyed it, I could never put Avery in that kind of danger again. “I felt every moment. I covet every second of what I experienced with you but it can never happen again.”

“You believe that you hurt me but you didn’t.”

She didn’t understand the danger. “Who’s to say I wouldn’t the next time?”

“Me. Because I know you wouldn’t.” She caresses her cheek against mine. “I felt your gentleness then and I feel it now. I’m certain you’d never hurt me.”

She’s wrong. I’d do nothing but hurt her. Or it could possibly be the other way around. Maybe she’d hurt me. “You’re a blood jewel, Avery. None of us knows what that means except vampires that drink your blood become addicted to it.”

“But not you. You’re the only one that hasn’t been effected by it.”

I beg to differ. I’ve been highly impacted but in a much different way–possibly an even more dangerous manner–because my side effects have made me believe I’m in love with this girl. Maybe that’s why the thought of her wanting me simply out of pure curiosity is so painful. “Is that what this is about? You’re mesmerized by my lack of addiction to your blood?”

“No, not at all.” Her scent suddenly engulfs me as she comes up on her tiptoes so her mouth may connect with mine. I haven’t kissed a human woman since Lisette but time doesn’t matter. There’s an instinct lingering within me and it takes over as my tongue joins hers in a seductive dance.

Her hands lock behind my neck while mine find her hips so I can pull her closer. She arches into me and my mouth trails kisses down her neck. She lifts her chin–giving me full access to her neck–and I feel the pulsation beneath my lips. “Make me your blood doll, Sol.”

My blood doll? Is that what she thinks I want her to be? “Do you even know what a blood doll is?” She can’t possibly understand or she wouldn’t ask to become that.

“Yes. And I want to be yours.”

“A blood whore? That’s what you want to be?” It’s true. I used that term to shock her into realizing what it is she’s asking to be.

“You can label it whatever you’d like but I want to be the only one you drink from. I don’t want you to partake of the blood swans anymore.” She lifts her chin again. “Make me your only one.”

“No. I can’t do it.”

“You can.” She strokes the vein I drank from previously. “All you have to do is pierce this and drink.”

I think she sees the battle raging in my head. I don’t have the desire to drink her blood but I want nothing more than to feel the connection we shared when I did because it was so amazing. And this is what she wants too–as much as me or possibly even more.

“Make me yours, Sol. Please. It’s what we both want.”