I closed the door and showered, dressing quickly. After brushing the knots out of my hair, I went to the massive window that stretched between the bookcases and pushed back the lush drapes. I wanted to feel the sunlight on my skin. I wanted some semblance of normalcy. Right then, my life felt perfect. When the drapes parted, I saw the lawn gleaming white with snow. It covered everything and left the world bright with its shimmering cold touch.
His hand on my shoulder made me jump. I squeaked and turned sharply. I clutched my heart. Collin stood behind me, but I didn’t feel him approach. He held a cup of hot cocoa. I took it with thanks. My hands were freezing. I wondered if I’d ever be warm again.
Collin swallowed and looked past my shoulder and out the window. Tension lined his body, although I couldn’t feel much of his thoughts. He seemed distant. Confused. I wondered if he was doing it on purpose.
I turned to him, lifting the cup of cocoa. “Thank you.”
His eyes were lifeless, like melted wax from a blue crayon. They revealed nothing. “For what?”
I turned back to the window staring at the blanket of snow that covered the frozen earth. I raised the cup to my lips and took a sip. The lack of warmth in Collin’s voice, the way he was acting—still defensive and angry—worried me. Why couldn’t I sense the reason? The bond made it difficult to hide things, especially when it was so plainly painted across his face.
Looking down into my steaming cup, I answered, “For last night. I was exhausted… Thank you for taking me here.” He nodded. I could feel the movement behind me. When I shifted my focus from the cup to his reflection in the glass, I grew more concerned. I studied his dark hair in the glass, wondering how he could be so hidden from me. How did he sneak up on me? That’d never happened before. My teeth grazed the side of my lip, as I worried. My gaze was locked on the window, too afraid to turn around.
But minutes passed, and Collin’s expression didn’t change. His eyes were dull and dark. The lines of his face creased, as he tried to maintain his composure. I should be able to hear his distress. I should have known. But I didn’t. When I couldn’t stand it anymore, when the silence was too deafening, I finally asked, “Why can’t I feel you? Why are your thoughts hidden from me?” I turned toward him, looking up into his face. “Your mind, your feelings and thoughts… ” my voice dropped to a concerned whisper. I searched his eyes looking for the answer. “I can’t sense them.”
His gaze shifted off the frozen window pane and down into my face. His hair tumbled forward, and he blinked once, slowly. Dark circles clung under his eyes. Weariness lined Collin’s lips as they formed into a thin, straight line. He lifted his hand, and slowly moved his fingers toward the ends of my hair. I didn’t flinch or pull away. The lack of sensation between us made it much easier for me to control my actions.
Lifting a curl, he affixed his gaze upon it, and then looked back at me, dropping the lock of hair. “I don’t know.” His jaw opened, as if he was going to say something else, but he snapped it shut and turned from me. My eyes slid over his back as he walked over to the bed, turned and sat down on the edge.
Stepping away from the window, I stared at him. He’d changed his clothes from last night. His hair was perfectly rumpled, his deep blue shirt clung to his body, revealing the subtle curves of his form. But something seemed wrong, in addition to the bond. Maybe it was because I couldn’t sense him? His scent wasn’t tempting me very much either—that sweet seductive fragrance that was enticing me only days ago, was so faint that I could barely catch his scent. I pressed my bare foot to the floor, growing more concerned with each step I took towards him. With each pace, I expected his scent to fill my mind with passionate thoughts. But it didn’t. I took another step, and then another. Toward the bed. Towards Collin. But nothing happened.
My head tilted slightly. Damp hair hung in twisting curls that fell to my back. The black tank I bought covered me, but I still felt exposed under his gaze. Collin’s eyes slid over me from where he sat on the edge of the bed. They rose from my bare feet, to my hips, slowly sliding over every curve until his eyes met mine. Collin leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees, with his arms draped over his lap. Icy eyes, the color of midnight watched me. They were mysterious once again. His eyes revealed nothing. No thoughts. No desires.
One last step and I stopped in front of him. My gaze drifted across the room to a mirror. Inside its silvery walls I saw myself standing in front of him with damp hair and bare arms. My throat tightened as I watched Collin. My foot began to slide back, but he reached for my waist and pulled me to him. Shock shot through me, causing me to inhale sharply. He pressed his face to my waist, inhaling slowly. I rested my hands on his shoulders, and looked down at him. Collin’s grip was pressed against me. I could feel every curve of each finger through my clothes. I could feel the strength of his hands as he held me.
But the bond was silent.
My desire was non-existent. If his hands were on me like this last year, my heart would have exploded in my chest. But now, I could feel his grip. I knew that Collin was there, and I could sense the pressure and weight of his hands on me, but it was like our connection was broken. The alluring nature of his touch was gone. Slowly, he turned his chin and looked up at me. I could see it in his eyes, in the hollowness that lined his face—he could sense it too.
The bond was broken.
I placed my hands on top of his, wanting to see if the skin on skin contact still worked. When the bond started, Collin could only hear me if we touched. Maybe it would still work. Looking into his eyes, I slid my palm over his hand. There was warmth, and it still brought comfort to feel his skin beneath mine, but there was no connection. I couldn’t hear his thoughts. His mind didn’t brush mine. There was only the touch of our fingers, not minds.
Collin pressed his eyes closed, pulled his hand out of my grip. His lips pressed together tightly, as if he were going to say something and changed his mind. I waited to hear him speak. I wanted to know if he was as shocked as I was. But the expression on his face kept my mouth shut. I didn’t reach for him again, or ask him to tell me what he was thinking. The slant of his shoulders and the tension in his jaw said enough. He watched the floor, his eyes shifting back and forth, thinking. Silent. He no longer moved his gaze across my body. He wouldn’t look at me.
Collin leaned forward and rose. His body pressed into mine because I didn’t step back. I wouldn’t allow him to leave without a word. The tight muscles in his chest moved against me as he stood. His gaze touched my face, but I couldn’t hear his thoughts. I couldn’t feel his emotions. My stomach stirred. My throat went dry as invisible threads of panic tightened around my neck.
Collin watched me with his lips parted slightly. His chest rose and fell with every breath he took, pressing against me. My fingers slid around his wrist. I raised his hand to my shoulder and placed it on the exposed skin on my neck. Collin watched me take his hands, and said nothing. Gazing into his beautiful face, I felt my breath catch in my throat. My jaw stiffened, as I tore my eyes away. Wrapping my fingers around his other hand, I put it on the back of my shirt. I moved his fingers down my back and to the bottom of my shirt. Collin’s gaze remained locked on my face, as I placed his hand under the fabric and rested it directly on the warm skin at my waist. His arms were stiff. The embrace felt forced. Afraid. His gaze finally lifted from mine, when I lowered my lashes. I leaned into him and slipped my hands under his shirt, pressing my fingers to his back. I rested my hands on his waist, swallowing hard, and waiting for him to pull away. But he didn’t. My touch gently moved across his taught muscles, feeling every dip and curve of his back.
Collin sucked in a small gasp of air when my hands pressed against him. And then neither of us moved. The sunlight streamed across the room, falling across Collin’s face accentuating his perfection. His lashes lowered. They were dark against his smooth skin. His gaze fixated on my lips making me forget what I was doing. His lips parted as I watched him. Collin was so close. His scent filled my head making me forget what I was doing. I blinked once and turned my face from him. His eyes flew back to mine.
Suddenly, I remembered what I was doing, why I put his hands on me, and why I was touching him. Collin? I asked, brushing his mind with my thoughts. I breathed gently, too afraid to move. Too afraid to shatter the moment.
His eyes flickered with relief as he felt it. The emotion echoed back faintly in my mind. He smiled softly at me. Ivy. The way he said my name made me melt. The apprehension in his eyes faded when he felt the warmth of my skin. We could still hear each other. Closing his eyes, Collin pulled me to him, and pressed his face into the curve of my neck and breathed deeply.
Relief flooded me. I didn’t realize how much he still meant to me until that moment. I was so mad at him. When Eric told me that Collin had fed me blood, more than once, I couldn’t forgive him. I no longer trusted him. It didn’t matter what he said or why. Feeding me his blood made it so I couldn’t trust myself. I didn’t know if I really loved him or if that was a side-effect of the demon blood. I didn’t know if the bond was real either. And up until this point, I wished the bond would break. I didn’t want the intrusion. I couldn’t bear having Collin in my mind, not if he didn’t love me.
But his hands on my body, the relief that erased the tension in his shoulders, and his inner sigh as I brushed across his mind—it made me realize something important. I believed him. Collin used his blood to heal me. If he had used his blood on me the way Eric did, I’d feel it. I’d feel it now more than ever. But I didn’t. The emotions coming from Collin weren’t lust-driven. They were deeper. He needed me in a way I didn’t fully understand until that moment. There was passion, kindness, and a steadfast nature that seeped through his thoughts, as his cheek pressed against my neck.
And I needed him. I wanted him with me. I wanted his company. And it was more than his beautiful face, and more than the seduction of his voice. It was him. And everything about him. His determination. His compassion. His sense of humor and the way he saw the world. The way he made me laugh. The comfort he brought. It was him. I loved him. And I realized at that moment, that I always would.
The contact of his flesh against mine made something inside of me stir. My stomach twisted as Collin’s thoughts pressed into me gently with a rush of affection I didn’t expect. He pressed his lips against my neck. Every ounce of restraint broke as his lips touched me. Another kiss at the base of my neck made my knees buckle. Collin caught me in his arms, pressing my body tightly to his, as he lowered me onto the bed. He lifted his hands from under my back and kneeled, looking down at me. The sunlight surrounded him, making him look ethereal. His eyes were sparkling, full of life. He pressed one hand next to my head, and the other by my waist and lowered his body on top of mine, pressing into me.
My heart beat wildly in my chest and I finally felt warm. My arms reached around him, holding him tightly against me. When I released the embrace, my hands traveled along the curve of his back, feeling him against me. The weight of his body on top of mine made me feel sedate and giddy at the same time. Lightheadedness surged through me as every inch of my body felt like it was on fire. A soft smile slid across my lips, as I looked up at him.