And the blush gets even worse. “Yeah.”
“Yes. I drank from you. And Cole. And then you again in the tunnels. So, no light for me.”
“For how long?” I ask, because it’s been days since the tunnels, and he definitely hasn’t drank from me since—even though I’ve kind of wanted him to. But apparently me nearly dying of blood loss has him less than eager to sink his fangs into my neck any time soon.
“Until the hormonal spike that comes from metabolizing human blood wears off.” When I look mystified, he continues. “It’s like humans and insulin. When you eat high-carb foods, your insulin spikes and takes time to come down. When I drink human blood, my body secretes a hormone that makes it impossible for me to be in the sun. It takes about a week for all traces of that hormone to disappear. Animal blood doesn’t trigger the same hormone.”
I count back in my head. “It’s been six days since the tunnels. So by tomorrow, you should be able to go out in the sun again.”
He shrugs. “Probably the day after to be safe. And that’s if I don’t…”
“If you don’t bite me again.” A sudden surge of heat flares through me.
Now he’s the uncomfortable-looking one. “Something like that, yeah.”
“Something like that?” I put my cup down on the bench and wrap my good arm around his waist. “ Or that exactly?”
He looks down at me, eyes dark and just a little bit dangerous. “That exactly,” he murmurs. And I know—if I wasn’t covered from head to toe in piles of clothes, he might very well be biting me right now. The idea gives me a thrill I don’t even try to pretend away.
“Stop looking at me like that,” Jaxon warns. “Or I’m going to take you back to your room, and we’re not going to do what I brought you here for.”
Not going to lie. Going back to my room suddenly sounds pretty good. Except… “Why are we here?”
“Why else?” He reaches into his backpack and pulls out a long, skinny carrot and a hat. “To build a snowman.”
“A snowman?” I gasp. “Really?”
“Flint’s not the only one who knows how to play in the snow around here.” His face stays relatively expressionless, but there’s a bite to his words that has me wondering all kinds of things. Including if Jaxon could possibly be jealous…which seems absurd, considering Flint tried to kill me on three separate occasions. Not a lot there to inspire jealousy.
“Well, are you coming?” Jaxon asks as he leans down and starts scooping snow into a giant ball. “Or are you just going to watch?”
“It’s a good view,” I tell him, openly checking out his very fine ass—which is encased in way fewer layers than mine currently is. “But I’ll help.”
He just rolls his eyes at me. But he does wiggle his butt a little—which makes me laugh. A lot.
It’s not long before we’re both cracking up as we stare at what has to be the world’s most lopsided snowman. Which makes sense for me, because I’m a San Diego girl. But Jaxon has lived in Alaska for years. Surely he’s built a snowman before.
I start to ask, but there’s something about the way he’s staring at our snowman that makes me hold my tongue. Even as it makes me wonder if maybe Jaxon hasn’t had much time to play in his life—even when he wasn’t first in line for the throne.
The thought makes me sad as he looks around for stones to use for the snowman’s eyes. He’s been through so much in his life. It amazes me how he could have gone through all of that and still emerge on the other side, this boy who feels so much. Who cares so much. And who is willing to try to play for me.
It humbles me even as it makes me ache for him.
The ache only gets worse as I remember the question that’s been nagging at me on and off since I woke up in that infirmary three days ago. “Jaxon?”
“Yeah?” Something in my voice must tip him off, because his smile fades into concern. “What’s wrong?”
“I’ve been meaning to ask…” I take a deep breath and blurt out the question I’ve tried so hard to ignore. “Where did Hudson go? I mean, we saw Lia die. But where did the black smoke go? Did it die with her? Or…” I don’t finish, because the thought is too horrible.
But Jaxon’s never been one to sugarcoat things—or avoid them. His face turns grim as he answers, “I haven’t figured that out yet. But I will. Because there’s no way in hell I’m risking Hudson being set loose on the world a second time.”
There’s such vehemence in his tone that it hurts to hear it, especially knowing how much Jaxon has already suffered because of his brother. I hate that he’s had to go through so much, hate even more that the threat of Hudson coming back will probably hang over us forever.
After all, it’s hard to relax when a homicidal sociopath has it out for you…and the rest of the world.
Jaxon’s obviously better at dealing with his fear than I am, though—or maybe it’s just that he’s had longer to live with the threat. Whatever it is, he’s able to shoot me a real smile as he finally makes the snowman a face out of stones and the carrot he brought for the nose. “Come on,” he says. “You get to do the pièce de résistance.” He hands me the hat.
It’s the first time I’ve really looked at it, and when I do, it makes me laugh. And laugh. And laugh.
Because maybe I wasn’t being ridiculous earlier after all. Maybe Jaxon actually is jealous of Flint.
Jaxon just shakes his head at me. “Are you going to put the hat on him or what?” he demands.
“Oh, I’m going to put the hat on.” I step forward and do just that before moving back to where Jaxon is standing so we can both admire him.
“What do you think?” Jaxon asks after a moment. And even though he sounds like he’s ready to make a joke, I can hear a little bit of vulnerability in his voice. A tiny little need for my approval that I never would have anticipated.
So I turn back and look at our poor, lopsided, listing-to-one-side snowman and, despite the cold, nearly melt all over again. Because to me, he looks perfect. Absolutely perfect.
I don’t say that, though. I can’t without revealing to Jaxon that I see more than he ever imagined. So instead, I tell him the only truth I can. “The vampire hat is a really nice touch.”
His grin is huge. “Yeah, I thought so, too.”
He reaches for my hand at the exact same moment I reach for his. And it feels good. More than good.
It feels right.
For the first time, I let myself think about what Lia said before she died, about me being Jaxon’s mate. I don’t know what that means, but as he pulls me close and his warmth slowly spreads through me, I can’t help thinking that maybe I should find out.
Why Can’t a
Girl Just Have an
Four days later, I finally get to start classes again—for real this time, complete with Brit Lit homework, a research paper on the causes of the Salem Witch Trials, and my very first counseling appointment with Dr. Wainwright. Plus, actual makeup work for what I missed when a psychopathic vampire tried to murder me. Which seems a little unfair, if you ask me, but who am I to complain when I get to spend every morning, every lunch period, and nearly every evening with Jaxon, who is doing an admirably good job of staying in the moment and not borrowing trouble.
We’re together right now, in fact, grabbing breakfast in the cafeteria and joking around about Luca’s latest dating debacle—which, even I have to admit, is a doozy.
I’m eating brown sugar Pop-Tarts—Macy grabbed the last pack of cherry ones, because she’s mean like that—and Jaxon and the rest of the Order are drinking their morning rations of school-supplied elk blood out of opaque tumblers. Turns out, that’s what all the big orange beverage coolers are for—feeding the vampires.
Cam still hasn’t worked up the nerve to join us yet, but Macy has high hopes for him finally coming around. I’m not so sure—Jaxon’s reputation has only grown more intimidating since what happened with Lia got around, and nearly everyone is giving him an even wider berth than usual. I keep telling him they’d relax a little if he smiled more, but so far he hasn’t taken my advice. Personally, I think it’s because he believes that the more scared they are, the safer I am.
I don’t necessarily agree, but I do have to admit things have been shockingly quiet lately. No one has tried to poison me or turn me into a human sacrifice in at least ninety-six hours. It’s definitely a record, one I am more than happy to ride out as long as possible.
The warning bell rings as I take my last sip of tea, and I glance up to find Jaxon staring at me, a (very) slight smile on his lips. “What’s up?” I ask as I grab my Pop-Tart wrapper and mug.
“Just looking at you.” He leans over, presses a kiss to the corner of my mouth. “Wondering what you’re thinking about.”
“You,” I answer. “Just like always.”
Rafael pretends to gag. “No offense, but could the two of you try to refrain from sending the rest of us into sugar shock?”
“Vampires don’t metabolize sugar the same way regular humans do,” I inform him with a grin. “Hence, no sugar shock.”
“Now look what you’ve done,” Mekhi interjects. “You’ve created a research monster. She’s obsessed.”
“Pretty sure it’s the librarian who’s done that,” Jaxon answers dryly. “Every day, Amka has as least five more books for Grace to check out.”
“Hey, if I’m going to live with vampires, I need to know as much about them as possible,” I tell them as I stand up and tuck in my chair. “It’s pretty normal to want to learn about your surroundings.”
“You know what else is normal?” Jaxon asks as he bends down so his mouth is only a few scant inches from mine.