A hand then appeared on my arm, fingers tickling my skin soothingly. Another hand was then in my hair, stroking through a patch of it ever so gently. I sighed, content. The skin-to-skin contact was interesting. A kiss would be nice. Really, really nice.

Opening my eyes, I began to raise my head...and that’s when I left the faraway land and found myself totally awake and realised my little predicament. My body immediately tensed. Oh shit.

There was rumbling in the chest underneath me and a laugh came soon after. I sat up with the bed sheet more or less glued to me. A second later I registered that I was fully clothed but didn’t release the sheet. Gaping, I looked down at a laughing, bare-chested Jared. It was a strain to keep my eyes away from the chest but I did it.

He laughed out the words: “Ah, I wondered how long it’d take before you woke all the way up and realised what you were doing. I bet you hate yourself now. Shame I didn’t get a kiss.”

“What’re you doing in my bed?! In my apartment, for that matter?”

“Relax.” He was still laughing.

“And why are you half naked?”

“You got blood all over my shirt, remember?” He sobered up then. “I guess you probably don’t. How you feeling? Pain gone?”

“Um, yeah.” The words came out quiet. Wow, I’d really killed him. My own Sire.

“After you put yourself unconscious – which was good thinking, by the way – I brought you here.”

“And stayed with me half-naked because...?”

He rolled his eyes. “I was going to go to my room and change but...”

“But, what?”

“You don’t wanna know.”

I tensed again. “Why don’t I want to know? What don’t I want to know?”

“Seriously, you’ll get embarrassed, you don’t want to know.”

“No, I really, really do. Cough up.”

He sighed and sat up. “I stayed because...you said my name.”

“I was unconscious. Unconscious people don’t gab.”

“Not with their mouths. You must have been dreaming about me or something. Was it a good dream? Kinky? I’ll bet it was kinky. Tell me about it, I’ll analyse it.” His smile and arched brow gave him the most impish look ever.

I knew my cheeks were an unattractive beetroot shade at this point, which just made me even more embarrassed. A change of subject was urgently required. “How long was I out?”

He shrugged. “A couple of hours. Not as long as I’d expected.”

“So, what, you just lay there all that time?”

“Yeah,” he said quietly. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone in that much pain. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who killed their Sire either.”

A little guilt nipped at me then. My Sire. I’d killed my own Sire. Victor had been right about one thing; he’d made me...And I’d just gone and killed my maker.

“Hey,” said Jared as he gently pinched my chin with his thumb and forefinger. “Don’t go feeling bad about it. He deserved it. I know they say not to speak ill of the dead but that Victor was one evil son of a bitch. Did he really try to make you want him? As in, like, desire him?” I nodded. “So he could make you horny, make you want to have sex with him?”

“It’s his idea of foreplay. Was. But it was the only way he could ever get me in that bed.”

“That’s sick. It’s basically psychological rape.”

Now I didn’t feel so guilty. But I was still surprised at myself. I hadn’t hesitated in killing my own Sire. Antonio didn’t need my protection. He had enough by the way of guards and two Pit Bulls. But it had been like a reflex to protect him. I hadn’t even realised I liked the bloke all that much. I tended to get along best with outgoing people, and Antonio wasn’t exactly the life and soul of the party.

But he’d freed me from a crazy, cruel, psychological ra**st. To think I’d come so close to folding under all the pressurizing emotions... “By the way, what did you say to Victor? I was almost about to snap, and you said something to him telepathically that made him lose all focus on me.”

“Oh I, um, told him that I didn’t want him to take you back because I wanted to screw you a couple more times first.”

My jaw dropped. “You made him think you’d been shagging me?”

“It distracted him, didn’t it?”

I sighed, conceding that he was right. “God, I’m thirsty.” In the time I’d taken to sling the bedspread off me, Jared had moved with vampire speed to the fridge and back again; now sitting beside me with a red grape flavoured NST. “Thanks,” I muttered, a little taken aback. Feeling unbelievably drained, I gulped down the drink. My stomach felt better within seconds but my body had the enthusiasm of a decaying leaf.

“Antonio said to tell you to take the rest of the night off. And I really think you should, you look half dead.”

“But then the squad will end up having another evening of lounging around.”

“I won’t let them lounge, I’ll have them repeat the training they were doing with me earlier. Then tomorrow you can blast them into the railings again if they don’t turn up at the arena.”

“They’d better.”

His chuckle was silent. He stared at me for a minute. Not as though he had something to say, but as though it was perfectly normal to just stare at someone. I didn’t know how he could be so at ease about it. Before I could comment, he bounced off the bed and retrieved his leather jacket that was hanging over the wardrobe door. My treacherous set of eyes scrolled down from his face to get an eyeful of the lines, curves and sinews of his chest.

Jared – I couldn’t have expected him to not notice really, could I? – raised a brow.

There was really no point in trying to deny it or letting myself fall into a pit of embarrassment, especially when ogling was a favourite past-time of his too. “You look.”

“Hey, I don’t mind you looking. When you’re ready to stop pretending you don’t want to do more than that, let me know.”

“Will do,” I said sarcastically.

Losing his light-hearted air, he sighed as he gazed down at me. “You really don’t look great.”

“Thanks.”

“Take some energy from me.”

“What?”

He sat on the bed and repeated, “Take some energy from me. I know you can easy absorb the natural energy around you but it can’t be as good for your body as energy from a living thing.” He was right. The human body was like a battery. “Come on, the process of severing the link between you and Victor probably sapped nearly every last bit of your energy.”

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