When the agony burning through my body had begun to subside and I had stopped coughing up blood, he held his hand out to me, helping me to my feet. Still too feeble to stand, I sank down in a chair.

“What is this?” I gasped.

“A gift,” he replied, chuckling.

He gripped my bloodstained shirt and threw me off his ship. I lay helpless on the wooden jetty as the saffron merchant’s ship sailed away into the distance.

Those next few hours were the most frightening of my entire life. I didn’t know where to go or whom to trust. I had heard rumors of vampires who walked among us. I didn’t know many details other than that they were evil creatures.

My first wave of bloodlust hit me, so strong that I realized I couldn’t even return to my home without pouncing on my parents and sucking them dry.

I ran as fast as I could toward the beach, away from the town. Away from my family. Away from Annora. I raced for hours along the beach until the sun rose. My skin began to burn so intensely, I thought I was going to die. I ran toward the first cave I could find and hid in its darkest corner. I curled up in a ball, trying to control the way my body was convulsing for want of blood.

I tried to force myself to sleep, to forget the pain and hunger, but it was useless. I stayed in the corner of that cave all day and all night. I remained there for at least five days before a search party came looking for me—a search party consisting of my parents, Annora and her brother.

I was horrified to see them approach the entrance of my cave at night, flaming torches in their hands. I managed by some mercy to restrain myself from jumping on them and instead darted out of the cave. I travelled further along the beach. They had no hope of catching up with me that night. I found another cave and, after filling my body with the blood of a dead shark I’d found along the shore, I retreated for the night.

But they didn’t stop trying to follow me. Eventually, after the tenth day, I stopped running. My parents and Annora had found my hiding place once again. I climbed out of the entrance of my cave and sat perched on the rocks above, looking down at them.

And I told them everything.

My parents could barely believe their ears. I had to repeat parts of my story several times before they accepted it.

Annora, on the other hand, just stood silently, tears streaming down her beautiful face. I’d thought the pain of being a vampire was intolerable—but the anguish on my lover’s face caused me more agony than my transformation.

For the following weeks, I remained living in caves. My parents stopped trying to persuade me to return home. They accepted that I was too much of a danger.

Annora, on the other hand, didn’t stop visiting me. As I begged her to forget about me and move on, she refused.

“I can’t leave you, Caleb,” she’d said, sobs racking her body. “There’s no one else I could ever love.”

I tried to be callous toward her. I tried to scare her with my fangs and claws. But no matter what tactic I used, she insisted on staying with me.

Then one night when she came to my cave, after a particularly aggressive argument, she asked me to turn her into a vampire. I laughed in her face and thought that she was joking. But she was deadly serious.

“You’ve lost your mind,” I shouted, storming out of the cave.

I didn’t return until the morning, hoping she would have been gone by then. But she wasn’t. She’d sat waiting in the cave for me all night.

She approached me as soon as I entered, gripping her hands in mine.

I jolted back. “How many times do I have to tell you? Don’t touch me.”

“Turn me,” she whispered, her voice hoarse, her eyes red from crying.

“Annora, stop it,” I hissed.

She walked closer to me, the smell of her sweet blood invading my nostrils.

“I don’t want a life without you.”

“You’re young and beautiful. You’ll find someone else.”

“No!” She began shaking her head furiously. Then she pulled out a dagger from beneath her cloak and held it to her own throat, its tip denting her skin.

“What are you doing? Put it down!”

She looked up at me with desperate eyes. “Turn me, my love.”

I lunged toward her and wrestled the dagger out of her hands, hurling it out of the cave.

I stood staring at her, unable to believe that she’d just threatened me with her own life. That she’d be willing to give it up so easily.

She broke down sobbing again and ran out of the cave. At first I thought she would retrieve the dagger, but she headed back toward the town.

She didn’t come to visit again the next day, nor the day after. A week passed and when she still hadn’t returned, I thought that she’d finally heeded my request.

But then, on the eighth night, she came to me again.

I was woken from my slumber by the feeling of a warm, smooth body lying against me. Opening my eyes, to my horror, I realized that it was Annora. She’d stripped herself naked and wrapped herself around me.

As soon as she saw I’d woken, she climbed on top of me, her warm hands pressing down against my bare chest, her long black hair grazing my skin as it hung either side of her shoulders. She gazed down at me through her thick dark lashes.

“No,” I gasped.

She lowered herself against me and pressed her lips against mine. She began loosening my pants with one hand, her other hand gripping the base of my neck as she continued to kiss me forcefully. Her scent and the way she touched me sent all my senses into overdrive.

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