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“I’m glad you like it.” He lowers the necklace until the stone rests a little below my collarbone and fastens it around my neck. Then he steps back to check it out. “It looks good on you.”

“I can’t take this, Jaxon.” I force the words out even though everything inside me is screaming for me to hold tight to the necklace and never let it go. “It’s…” Huge. And I can only imagine how much it cost. More than everything I own put together, I’m pretty sure.

“Perfect for you,” he says, nuzzling the pendant aside and pressing a kiss to my skin underneath it.

“To be fair, I’m pretty sure it’s perfect for any woman.” Of its own volition, my hand creeps up to hold on to the stone. I don’t want to give it back. “It’s so beautiful.”

“Well then, you’re well-matched.”

“Oh my God.” I groan. “That was ridiculously sappy.”

“Yeah,” he agrees with a little you’ve-got-me shrug. “And you’re ridiculously beautiful.”

I laugh, but before I can say anything else, he’s kissing me, really kissing me, and anything I was going to say flies right out of my head.

I open to him, loving the way his lips move over mine. Loving even more the way his tongue brushes against the corners of my mouth before he gently scrapes a fang across my lower lip.

I shiver as he moves lower, brushing his lips across my jaw and down my neck. I’ve never felt anything like this before, never imagined that I could ever feel something like this. It’s so much, physically and emotionally, that it’s almost overwhelming—but in the best way possible.

“You’re cold,” he says, misinterpreting the shiver. “Let’s go inside.”

I don’t want to go inside, don’t want this magical, mystical night to end just yet. But as Jaxon pulls away, the cold catches up with me, and I shiver again. That’s all it takes to have him lifting me up and all but shoving me through the window.

He follows me in, then slams the window shut behind us. I reach for him, feeling a little bereft now that we’re back down here in the real world instead of dancing across the sky. But I’m finding that Jaxon on a mission is not to be deterred, especially when that mission involves something he considers important to my safety or comfort. So I wrap my fingers around the pendant I never want to take off and wait for him to do his thing.

Within minutes, he’s got a new blanket around me and a cup of tea in each of our hands. I take a sip to placate him, then take another one because the tea is really, really good.

“What is this?” I ask, bringing the cup to my nose so I can sniff it a little. There’s orange in it, along with cinnamon and sage and a couple other scents I can’t quite identify.

“It’s my favorite blend of Lia’s. She brought it to me this afternoon, kind of a peace offering, if you will.”

“Lia?” I can’t keep the surprise out of my voice, considering the conversation she and I had this morning. I take another sip. It tastes different than the tea she made me last week, spicier, but very good.

“Yeah, believe me, I know. When I opened the door, she was the last person I ever thought I’d find on the other side of it.” He shrugs. “But she said you talked to her this morning and she hadn’t been able to stop thinking about me since. She didn’t stay long, just brought the tea and told me she was willing to try to get back to how things were if I was.”

“And are you?” I ask, joy a wild thing within me at the idea of Jaxon finding a little piece of what he lost.

“I want to try,” he tells me. “I don’t know what that looks like or what it means, but I’m going to give it a shot. Thanks to you.”

“I didn’t do anything,” I tell him. “It’s all you two.”

“I don’t think so.”

“I do. In fact—” I break off as he drains his tea and then sets the cup aside. His eyes are glowing in that way they do when he wants something, and my stomach does a slow roll at the realization that I’m what he wants.

I set my half-drunk tea aside and reach for Jaxon, everything in me straining to be close to everything in him.

He pulls me against him with a growl, burying his face in the curve between my neck and my shoulder and pressing long, slow, lingering kisses on the sensitive skin there. I shudder a little, press closer, loving the way his mouth skims over my shoulder and down my arm to the bend of my elbow. Loving just as much the way his hand slides up and down my back over the thin fabric of my dress.

Usually, when I’m with him, I’m covered in layers of clothing—sweaters, hoodies, thick fleece pants. But right now I can feel the warmth of his palm through the thin fabric of this dress. Can feel the softness of his skin as his fingertips skim over my shoulder blades.

He feels really, really good. So good, in fact, that I just lean into him and let him touch me wherever, and however, he wants.

I don’t know how long we stand like that, him touching and kissing and caressing me.

Long enough for my insides to turn to melted candle wax.

Long enough for every cell in my body to catch fire.

More than long enough for me to fall even harder for Jaxon Vega.

He smells so good, tastes so good, feels so good that all I can think about is him. All I can want is him.

And when he scrapes his fangs across the delicate skin of my throat, everything inside me stills in anticipation.

“Can I?” he murmurs, his breath warm against my skin.

“Please,” I answer, arching my neck to give him better access.

He draws a lazy circle right above my heart with his fangs. “You sure?” he asks again, and his reticence—his care—only makes me want him more.

Only makes me want this more.

“Yes,” I manage to gasp out, my hands sliding around his waist to hold him close. “Yes, yes, yes.”

It must be the reassurance he needs, because seconds later, he strikes, his fangs sinking deep inside me.

The same pleasure as earlier sweeps through me. Warm, slow, sweet. I give myself up to it, up to him, because I know that I can. Because I know that Jaxon will never take too much blood from me.

He’ll never do anything that might hurt me.

I slide my hands up his back to tangle in the cool silk of his hair even as I tilt my head all the way back to give him better access. He snarls a little at the invitation, but then I feel his fangs sinking deeper, feel the pressure of his sucking getting stronger, harder.

The longer he sucks, the deeper I fall into the pleasure, and the more I want to give him.

But slowly, the warmth I feel in his arms is replaced by a chill that comes from my bones and seems to swallow me whole. A creeping lethargy comes with it, making it hard for me to think and even harder for me to move, to breathe.

For a moment, just a moment, some modicum of self-preservation rears its head. Has me calling Jaxon’s name. Has me arching back and struggling weakly against his hold.

That’s when he snarls, his grip on me getting harder, tighter, as he pulls me more firmly against him. His fangs sink deeper and the moment of clarity fades as he begins to suck in earnest.

I lose all sense of time, all sense of self as I shudder and wrap myself around him. As I give myself up to Jaxon and whatever he wants from me.


No Use

Crying Over

Spilled Tea

Everything kind of fades after that, so that I have no idea how much time passes before Jaxon shoves me away from him. I hit the bed and tumble onto it, where I lay, dazed, for several seconds.

Until Jaxon snarls, “Get up, Grace. Get out now!”

There’s a wildness to his voice that cuts through the lethargy, at least a little. An urgency that has me opening my eyes and trying desperately to focus on him.

He’s towering above me now, fangs dripping blood and face contorted with rage. His hands are curled into fists and a deep, dark growl is coming from low in his throat.

This isn’t my Jaxon, the voice inside me all but screams. This caricature from every B vampire movie in existence isn’t the boy I love. He’s a monster, one teetering on the brink of losing all control.

“Get out,” he snarls at me again, his dark eyes finally finding mine. But they aren’t his eyes, not really, and I shrink back at the soulless, bottomless depths staring out at me even as the voice deep inside me echoes his words. Get out, get out, get out!

Something’s wrong with him—really wrong—and while there’s a part of me that’s terrified for him, right now there’s a much bigger part that’s terrified of him. And that part is definitely in control as I scramble off the bed, careful not to make any movements he can interpret as the least bit aggressive.

Jaxon tracks me with his eyes, and the snarling gets worse as I start inching toward the door. But he doesn’t move, doesn’t make any attempt to stop me—just watches me with narrowed eyes and gleaming fangs.

Run, run, run! The voice inside me is full-on screaming now, and I’m more than ready to listen to it.

Especially when Jaxon bites out, “Get. Out.”

The fear and urgency in his voice cuts right through me and has me running for the door, to hell with worrying if that will trigger the killer in him or not. He’s already triggered and if I don’t heed his warning, I’ll have no one to blame but myself. Especially when it’s obvious he’s doing everything in his power to give me the chance to escape.

With that in mind, I stumble to the door as fast as my shaky legs can carry me. It’s heavy, so I grab on with both hands and pull as hard as I can. But I’m weak from blood loss and it barely budges the first time. I can feel Jaxon getting closer, can feel him looming over me as I try desperately to find the strength to make the door move.

“Please,” I beg. “Please, please, please.” At this point I don’t know if I’m talking to Jaxon or the door.

He must not know, either, because suddenly his hand is there on the door handle, pulling it wide open. “Go,” he hisses out of the corner of his mouth.