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CHAPTER ONE

The weapon was gripped tightly in my fist, hanging by my side. The silvery lethal tines were extended. Moving forward, I took another step down the dark hall. Ornate frames lined the walls and housed massive paintings. Paintings of rich tones and vivid scenes that came from the mind of someone long dead. The rug slid silently under my foot making it easier to move through the house unnoticed. There wasn’t a person in sight. The house had a creepy quietness that seemed unnatural for a home this large. There should have been a housekeeper moving about the property. The kitchen should have been filled with the clatter of cooking, and the scent of coffee. But there was nothing.

Only silence.

This was the house. I was certain. The ornate banister was the same. The grand room below was identical. Intricate carvings lined the support beams of the second floor with leaves and ornate swirls—just like before. The dark wood gleamed just as it had the last time I was here. There wasn’t a speck of dust anywhere, despite the fact that the home appeared abandoned. But I knew it wasn’t. I knew he’d come back here. There were very few places to hide.

Finding the house again wasn’t an issue, but getting there was another matter. Not being able to effonate without freeing the venom in my chest was… irritating. The night he slayed Al, the night she fell—was horror beyond words. My grip on my weapon tightened just thinking about it. I couldn’t find Eric fast enough. Revenge lined the thoughts of my mind until it was overflowing. It’d taken too long to get here. He could be anywhere by now, but I suspected he was here. Old habits die hard and this place was a little too clean for an abandoned mansion.

Anger burned deep within me. I could hear it crackling in my ears like water in a greasy skillet. It surged into every last inch of my body. My muscles twitched, ready to fight. I wanted to fight. I wanted to kill Eric for what he did. I pushed the thoughts down, and took a steadying breath. If I failed to control my emotions, then my hair would turn into a purple torch. That would be counterproductive, since I didn’t want him to know that I was here. My bare toes pressed against the floor. I took another step.

In front of me—at the end of the hall—were several doors. They stood in the darkness, large and imposing. A muted voice poured through the thick wood. The familiar inflections made a grin stretch across my lips. He was here. It was Eric’s rich voice wafting through the darkness. His words weren’t clear, but that didn’t matter. I wasn’t here to chat. And I didn’t care who he was talking to.

Only one thought lingered in my mind—vengeance. Squeezing the grip on my weapon, I slid forward. As I looked down at the gleaming silver in my hand a strange sensation slithered up my spine. Twisting my wrist, I examined the blades. They curved like the claws of a massive animal. They were light like the sickle of a reaper. And in a matter of moments they would sink into Eric’s flesh. He would fall to the floor and the blood that he used against me—the blood that I still yearned for—would drain from his body. A perverse sense of satisfaction flared within me, and twisted the smile tighter on my lips.

My eyes shifted back to the door. Light spilled under the dark slab of wood, forming a golden puddle of light on the carpet. Extending my hand forward, I reached for the golden knob. The metal scraped lightly as the knob twisted in my hand. The tiny sound made my heart lurch in my chest. My breath caught in my throat. Swallowing hard, I held the twisted knob in my sweaty hand, afraid to allow it to twist back. Eric kept talking on the other side of the door. If he noticed the sound, he had chosen to ignore it. Forcing my wildly beating heart to steady, I placed my palm on the dark wooden door and gently pushed the door open a little bit—so I could see what was happening. If he saw me, I’d have to attack. The element of surprise would be lost. But he was speaking with someone, and I couldn’t throw myself in front of them without knowing who it was. As the door cracked opened, I could barely breathe. I held it steady, still refusing to release the knob.

My eyes rimmed violet. Heat washed through me as anger pressed to flow into the rest of my body, but I repressed it. It wasn’t time yet. Pushing the foaming rage back down was like trying to subdue a rabid dog with a pat on the head. Pain twisted inside my stomach when longing and vengeance crashed together.

That’s when I saw him.

CHAPTER TWO

Eric was standing with his back to me. His arms were folded confidently across his chest. A dark shirt clung to his torso. Jeans hugged his narrow hips. Golden brown hair was tousled and gleaming in the early morning sunlight. A massive window was behind him, painting him in rays of light. When I saw him, a wave of lust washed over me. Desire pulsed, warming my body. My heart throbbed in my chest. My eyes slid over his slender frame causing my fingers to twitch. I wanted to undress him, button by button. The thought of feeling his skin beneath my hands coursed through me. My lips parted, and a shallow breath rushed out. My eyes slipped over his entire body in a gaze that would have made me blush. I leaned harder on the door, fighting the lust that hazed my thoughts.

The blood lust was an issue, but I’d overcome it before. I thought I could do it again, but I didn’t plan on spying on him before attacking. The delay sent my body into an internal war. I fought back, trying to subdue the effect of his blood on me. In the end my mind made a merger that the lust-driven side and the vengeful side could agree on—blood. They both wanted his blood spilled on the floor, taken from his body so that he was no more.

Eric didn’t move as I drooled at him behind his back. He seemed unaware of my presence. And no one was with him. He appeared to be speaking into a phone on the desk. Hope swelled within me. This is what I’d wanted. The muscles in my arms twitched, making my fingers press against the blade in my hand. The haze of lust that had glued me to the door was thick. I had to temper it, and I knew exactly how.

Since the night Al died, I’d pressed back the anger and grief at her loss. The feelings didn’t stop, but I couldn’t deal with them until Eric was dead. So, I shoved them deep inside of me. Anger, betrayal, lust, remorse, and more—they all lingered in the back of my mind, silently choking me for weeks. But now, now they would fuel my vengeance. They would topple the effects of Eric’s blood. There was only one chance, and I knew it. Eric was a better fighter than me, and he wasn’t wounded. I was. There was one chance to kill him, and I took it.

The floodgates of my mind—the ones that held my rage in check—cracked opened. I felt a wave of raw emotions rip through my body. Any trace of lust drowned in a wave of blind hatred. Every part of me tingled, and tensed as I threw my shoulder into the door. It flew open, crashing against the wall with a loud thud. And I sprang at him. My body flew through the air with my hair streaming wildly behind me, illuminated with a faint purple flame at the tips. A singed scent filled my nostrils. I disregarded it. The muscles in my back flexed. The power built in my arms. And I swung my deadly silver blades at Eric’s chest.

But, Eric didn’t turn. He didn’t move. Instead, he continued to stare out the window as I hurtled through the air toward him. Something was wrong. A desperate cry ripped out of my throat as I tried to stop myself, but it was too late. I collided with the stone-still Eric, knocking him to the floor. As soon as my fingers touched his cold arm, the boy turned to ash. Springing to my feet, I whipped my head around the room. No one else was there. My heart hammered in my chest. Sweat poured down my spine. I spun around looking for him, my eyes sifting through shadows. I stepped away from the pile of ash, and spoke into the empty room.

CHAPTER THREE

“I know you’re here,” I growled. “I can smell your blood through the darkness. This thing wasn’t you.” I pointed at the pile of ash. “Masking yourself won’t save you—not from me.” Narrowing my eyes, I turned slowly allowing my senses to take over. Keeping my weapon ready, I moved slowly toward one of the corners in the room. Heavy drapes hung from the ceiling to the floor, preventing the morning sun from illuminating this area—but I could see through the darkness. That wasn’t what drew my attention. It was a small detail, a detail that might have been overlooked by someone else. The light that spilled across the floor from the other window came to a certain point and abruptly stopped, as if something were blocking it. As if something were standing there.

Without hesitation, I launched myself at the spot. I flew through the air, ready to strike. Eric’s golden eyes appeared in front of me. Before I could move his arm shot out, reaching for my neck. I was jerked to a stop as his fingers closed around my throat. My toes scraped against the ground as Eric dragged me toward him. His arms flexed and lifted me to his face. Our eyes met. The lust that was stirring within me exploded. It felt more powerful. More seductive. Eric’s touch filled me with desire. It didn’t matter that he was strangling me. I wanted him. I needed him. Suddenly, every bit of tension that laced through my body evaporated, and I relaxed in his grip.

Eric’s hand tightened around my throat. He dragged me closer to his face, so close our noses were touching. His soft pink lips were perfect. I wanted to taste them. Eric laughed. “After all this time, and you finally found me… It’s been, what? Three weeks or so?” His lips twisted into a smile. I was transfixed by his voice, his words, and his scent—but something inside of me was crying out with rage too intense to ignore. It made me feel completely insane. My body didn’t know which impulses to follow—lust or rage.

Rage. Moving suddenly, I swung my blade at him. The long silver tines sank into his side forming four punctures in his flesh. Then I pulled. The silver sliced through his skin like a piece of tissue paper. I stared into his eyes as my weapon slid across his gut, spilling Eric’s blood. Blood I wanted. Blood I needed. His grip on my throat loosened, as his side ripped open. But he didn’t release me. That much of Eric’s blood was irresistible. But as soon as the scent intensified, so did my fury. The muscles in my arms flexed, and I twisted the blade in my hand, ready to shove it upward to Eric’s heart.

Eric looked down at me, golden eyes calculating. He didn’t seem surprised by my attack. His expression was that of annoyance, but when my blade turned upward, he moved faster than me. His free hand wrapped around the blade of my weapon. The hissing sound of his sizzling flesh filled my ears, as he tried to jerk it away from me. But I refused to release the weapon. As he twisted, so did I, but his grip on my neck held me in place. The lust burning through my body made me weak. Eric pulled, again. I tightened my grip, but my fingers slipped over the hilt with the sharp tug. The deadly tines cut deeply into my palm. They nearly severed my fingers from my hand as the weapon was jerked away from me. Slick warmth quickly turned to fire, as blood flowed from the wounds. Eric’s sharp tug made the blade cut into his fingers, as well. When my grip slackened, he yanked and pitched the weapon across the room. The comb clattered across the floor leaving a streak of blood. Eric looked at me from under his brow, wiping his burnt hand on his jeans.

His fingers were still tight around my throat when he jerked me toward his face, “You’re a fool.” His gold eyes bore into me, never wavering.

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