I wanted nothing more than to devour her.

I tried to push her off me, but my resolve was evaporating by the second. Once she’d positioned her neck so that my lips were touching it, I was a lost cause.

I gripped her waist and rolled her off me, slamming her against the ground as I positioned myself on top of her. I sank my fangs deep into her soft neck.

I groaned as her hot, sweet blood flowed into my mouth, lighting my body on fire.

“Caleb,” she moaned as she writhed beneath me. “Turn me, my love.”

Although my conscience was screaming at me to stop, my body was now beyond the point of return. I took three more deep sucks of her exquisite blood and released my venom into her.

I continued drinking from her until her blood began to taste bitter—her transformation now underway. I pulled away from her and watched as she lay writhing on the ground, screaming with pain and coughing up blood.

What have I done?

I stood dumbstruck as the warmth faded away from her, the dark disease consuming every molecule of her body.

Finally she stopped writhing and lay motionless on the floor.

“Annora?”

I rushed over to her and shook her. Her eyelids fluttered a little. I continued shaking her, shouting her name. Finally, her eyelids shot open, her eyes now a steely grey, nothing like the delicate color they were before.

She reached for my neck and gripped me, her claws digging into my flesh. She lifted herself up to me and attempted to dig her fangs into my neck.

I pushed her away, pinning her to the ground.

“I need blood,” she gasped. “I need blood.”

Watching her was like reliving my own turning. The horror of craving another’s blood without remorse. Feeling like I’d stop at nothing until I got it.

“I-I’ll find blood for you,” I stammered.

Grabbing the fisherman’s net I’d found while roaming along the beach, I gripped her arm and pulled her out of the cave. I walked with her until we reached the sea. I pulled her into the waters until we were deep enough to catch a decent load of fish.

Now that I still had the taste of Annora’s blood in my mouth, fish blood seemed the most disgusting thing in the world to me.

“Annora,” I muttered, turning around to face her.

But she was no longer by my side—in fact, with several strong strokes, she had almost reached the shore. Alarmed, I began to swim after her. She jumped out of the water and sprinted along the beach toward the town.

“No!” I yelled and raced out of the water after her.

Her speed almost matched my own, so it wasn’t until we were about two miles along the beach that I managed to catch up with her. I threw myself at her and wrestled her to the ground.

“Who goes there?”

Both Annora and I looked up. A young fisherman was approaching us in the darkness, dragging a net full of eels along the sand.

Annora slipped away from my grasp and hurled herself against the man. By the time I reached her, she’d already dug her fangs deep into the man’s throat.

Attempting to rip her apart from him now would be pointless. Her fangs were embedded so deep, she’d have torn through the man’s artery. I had no choice but to watch her drain him to death.

When she’d finished, she dropped the corpse on the sand. She looked up at me, wiping the blood away from her face with her bare arm. She gave me an eerie smile.

The glimmer of darkness in her eyes disturbed me more than I could describe. Gone was the innocent girl I’d fallen in love with. In her place was a monster.

I comforted myself that perhaps she would get better with time, once she got more used to her bloodlust. I hoped that her old personality would return.

So over the following days, I did my best to keep her inside the cave at all times. I was afraid to even sleep in case she claimed another victim.

But it was becoming increasingly difficult. Her cravings appeared greater than my own and she was showing no signs of even attempting to control them. When a group of humans approached our area of the beach one night, I knew that it was time to move. But I had no idea where to.

I was beginning to grow desperate when, one night, a ship drew in just outside our cave.

The ship of the saffron merchant.

To this day, I don’t know how he managed to find out our location.

He told us he could take us somewhere where other vampires lived away from humans. Away from the threat of being discovered. Although I didn’t trust a word that came out of his snake-like mouth, we had no other option than to follow.

He ended up taking us to the Elder’s castle—The Blood Keep. I knew we’d made a mistake as soon as we drew up outside the tall black gates. The castle from the outside appeared to be a place of nightmares, and once we stepped inside the nightmares became real.

As it turned out, the Elders didn’t want Annora and I to remain in that castle for long. They wanted us out of the human realm entirely.

They wanted us in Cruor. The dark hell that was the realm of the Elders.

I had to pause for a moment as the memories washed over me, the images fresh in my mind as if it was only yesterday. Rose’s eyes were glued on me. Her chin resting in her hands, she hung onto my every word, a look of horror mixed with fascination on her face.

I’d told her far more than I had intended to already about myself.

She frowned at me as soon as I had stopped. “So you went to Cruor?”

I nodded.

“What was it like?”

I didn’t want to give Rose nightmares, so I refused to give her details. “Suffice it to say, Cruor made Annora much worse. She never returned to her former self.”

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