I place my hand on her lower back and massage. “Does that bother you?”

“Not at all. I like older men.” She breaks into a mischievous grin as she leans down to kiss me.

When we pull away I look into her eyes trying to decide how young I think she is. “What is your age?”

“I’m twenty.” I think she interprets the look on my face as a direct indicator of the distress I feel because she quickly adds, “But I’ll be twenty-one next month.” As if one year really makes a difference.

I’m silent for a good minute before I’m able to respond. “Shit, Avery. You’re even younger than Chansey.” I remember the hard time I gave Curry about having a relationship with a young girl. I may have even called her a child but at least she turned out to be his intended. Now I’m doing whatever this is with an even younger girl and she isn’t my mate so I have no excuse.

“I’m not a child so don’t go there. I feel much older than twenty after the things I’ve been through.”

“I know and I’m so sorry for everything you’ve experienced in your short life. I wish I could take it all away for you.” She leans over and places her head on my shoulder. She’s curled up like a child in my lap so I put my arms around her to hold her close. “Don’t worry. Vincent will never get to you again.”

The mention of her former captor sends her heart racing. “You don’t know that. That monster could find me years from now.”

I should tell her about the oath to protect her. Maybe it’ll put her at ease knowing I’ve sworn to always be near her and keep her from being harmed. “What do you know about sacred vows–I mean the kind a vampire makes?”

“Nothing.”

“I want you to look at me when I say this.” She sits upright and twists in my lap so she can see me. “A sacred vow occurs when a vampire makes a pledge. It’s an oath that exists for the lifetime of the vampire so it isn’t taken lightly because it’s unbreakable and can’t be undone. It’s a very old tradition but because there’s no going back, very few vampires practice this.” I take her hand in mine and grasp it tightly. Even if it’s only in the background, I’ll forever be a part of her life and I have no idea what her reaction will be. “I’ve declared only one sacred vow in my two hundred and seventy-five years as a vampire. It is to keep you safe at any cost.”

I see her drawing a conclusion. “By any cost, you mean … ”

“I will die protecting you if necessary.”

She’s upset. “No. I don’t want that. I’d never want you to die for me.”

Good thing it isn’t her choice to make. “It’s done and there’s no undoing it.”

“When did you do this?”

“The morning Curry brought you to the compound. And I’m not sorry. I’d do it again if given the choice.”

She places her palm against my face. “I can’t believe you did that for me.”

I move her hand to my mouth and kiss it. “I am your protector. Always.”

She leans forward and places her forehead against mine. I feel her sweet breath against my lips and I can’t resist kissing them. She welcomes my tongue into her mouth and I reel over all the sensations rushing toward me at once. I remember the way I felt when I kissed Lisette but it could never come close to rivaling this.

Avery rises and turns so she may position a knee on each side of my hips. She lowers herself to straddle me and wraps her arms around my neck. I watch her finger tap against the pulsation in her neck as she tilts her head to invite me closer. “Kiss me right here.”

I know what she’s doing. She wants me to drink from her again. I won’t but I lean forward to place my lips against the throbbing vessel because I want to taste her skin.

She places her hand on the back of my head and presses my mouth against her throat. “I want you to drink from me again.”

“It’s too soon.”

“It’s not. Twice in the same day is nothing to me. I’ll be fine.”

I know her body can withstand a large blood loss but that isn’t the point. “Fine isn’t good enough for me. I want you healthy and glowing.”

“I would definitely glow if we connected like we did a few minutes ago.”

Humans aren’t meant to have their blood drained so often. “Drinking from you too soon is hazardous to your health and I think we just covered how committed I am to your safety and well-being.”

She sucks my lip into her mouth. “You’d never hurt me.”

We needed boundaries. “That’s right. I wouldn’t and that’s why I won’t drink from you more than once every three days. Your body needs time to compensate for the blood loss.”

“Three days? I don’t want to go that long without intertwining myself with you.” A sad look comes over her face. “Unless you don’t want me.”

I can’t believe she’s trying to pull that card on me. “You don’t need to hear me tell you how much I want you. You can feel it.”

“You’re right. I do.” She puts her head on my shoulder and nuzzles against my neck. “Won’t you need blood more often than every few days?”

Not as of lately. “I can do without.”

“I don’t want you doing without. You wouldn’t ask me to not eat.”

She doesn’t understand what it’s like for me. Hell, I didn’t even understand. But things had changed. “I don’t need as much blood as I once did. I can easily go three days between feeding.”

“But Sebastian partakes of the blood swans every day and he’s older than you.”

“I think he probably does it mostly for the companionship. He can’t possibly require blood every day if I don’t.”

She lifts her face and looks me right in my eyes. “Promise you’ll come to me if you need to feed.”

“I will. I promise.”

“Do you think it’ll be hard to pretend nothing is going on between us when we’re with the others?”

I feel like quite the actor. “I’ve been pretending everything was normal between us for months now. I think I’m pretty damn good at it if I do say so myself.”

“Your poker face is quite good. No one suspects anything so I guess we’ll continue as we were but how are we going to do … this?”

“We wait and you’ll come to me on the third morning when the others are sleeping.”

“But I don’t want to wait that long to be with you again. Can we see each other the mornings you don’t drink from me?”

Vampires associate with their blood dolls for very few reasons other than the drinking of their blood but that isn’t what was happening here. I couldn’t give a name to what we were doing just yet but it definitely wasn’t that. “I’d like that very much.”

Chapter Four

Three days. That’s how long it’s been since I drank from Avery but this morning will put an end to our wait.

We’ve been thieves stealing every available moment together and taken far more chances than we should. It’s becoming harder each day to not allow myself to look at her for too long. Touching her at dinner is now pure torment because it always ends too soon. I almost blew it last night when I held her hand for too long after the sacrament and I strongly suspect Jenn noticed. I’m almost certain of it.

It’s dawn and the others are down for the day. Avery should come to me at any moment and I’m impatient to have her in my arms. It has nothing to do with drinking her blood and never has; I don’t need it. I just want to share our special coalesce again.

And return her most treasured possession.

The buzzer rings and I streak toward the door to open it. I can’t walk at human speed because I’m too anxious about having her close. I’m enchanted by her–not that I’d want to break free of the spell she’s cast over me.

I open the door and she gives me that look–the one that tells me she can’t wait to be in my arms with my mouth pressed against her skin.

I suddenly feel timid about what we’re going to do. “Hi.”

“Hi.” Her hands are behind her back and she’s twisting back and forth as she shrugs her shoulders and tilts her head to the side. She looks so sweet and innocent. It’s a great look on her.

As if possible, I want her more than ever.

She brings her hands from where they’re hidden behind her back and I take them so I can pull her into my office. Once she’s inside, I push the door closed. And lock it. I don’t want anyone walking in and interrupting what comes next.

I can’t wait to touch and kiss her so I pull her close. She puts her hands over my shoulders and leans in, pressing her body into mine. Our lips touch and she opens her mouth to invite my tongue inside. She tastes so good–all sweet and minty.

I feel her mouth spread into a smile. “Today took it’s sweet time getting here.”

“I couldn’t agree more.”

“How do you want to do it this time? The bathroom again? Or would you be willing to try something … different?”

All of what she just said sounded naughty. “Sounds like you have something in mind.”

“I do if you’re up for it.”

She wasn’t the only one that had been thinking about this for days. “I’ll try anything you want.”

She takes my hands and leads me around to my chair behind the desk. She puts her hands on my chest and pushes. “Sit.” I do as she says and she climbs onto my lap–a knee on each side of my hips–so she’s straddling me. I think she likes this position.

Oh, hell. There it is again–that intoxicating aroma that takes over and controls my brain anytime when we’re close like this.

She reaches for her hair and pulls it away from her neck so it falls over one shoulder. “I want to try doing it like this if it’s okay with you.”




Line : 67

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