Authors: Nichole Chase
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Copyright © 2012 by Nichole Chase
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Table of Contents
For my husband, my very own guardian.
I will always go where you go
Tristan looked around the large living room in disgust. It was the week before Christmas and the students were enjoying their short-term freedom. Teenagers lounged about on the furniture, while others danced in the corners or made out in the shadows. Running a hand across the back of his neck, Tristan tried to not think about the thirst that consumed much of his thoughts. His gaze stopped on the back of Shannon’s dark hair. She was sitting on Michael’s lap, her hand wrapped around the idiots’ thick neck. Red crept into Tristan’s vision and he had to quickly avert his gaze. If she wanted to act out the charade tonight, that was fine by Tristan. Taking a swallow of the beer he was holding, he choked it down and wondered what else they might have to drink at the party.
“Hey, Trist.” A girl from his chemistry class sidled up next to him and ran her hand up his arm. “You don’t seem to be having much fun.”
“Hey, Emma. You’re looking good tonight.” He smiled down at the voluptuous girl and tried to not focus on the lush skin of her neck. He turned his attention to other interesting body parts and slid an arm around her shoulders. She giggled and pressed against his chest. Shaking her curly hair, she leaned back in a calculated move that gave him a good look at her cleavage.
“Maybe we could go hang out somewhere else. You know, if the party is boring you.” Licking her lips, she smiled at him and placed a hand on his chest.
“Well, we could always go work on some chemistry homework. I always thought we might make good lab partners.” If he couldn’t quench his thirst, he could get lost in other things. Emma would be a fun distraction.
“I was thinking along the same lines.” Grabbing a fistful of his shirt, Emma turned and sauntered toward the stairs leading to the second floor. They passed Paden, who rolled his eyes at Emma and shook his head at Tristan. Winking, Tristan tried to not be bothered by his best friend’s disgust. There had been a time, not that long ago, when Tristan would have never disappeared with a girl like Emma. Paden would never understand what it meant to be the scholarship kid. It didn’t matter that Tristan was the star soccer player. The only things he was good for were taking the school to state or serving as a distraction for the rich girls before they settled down with someone their family would approve of.
Unintentionally, Tristan’s gaze moved back to Shannon. She was still sitting on Michael’s lap, but now her scrutiny was focused on Tristan and Emma. She narrowed her dark eyes. Tristan could almost smell her anger and jealousy from the other side of the room. He stumbled on the bottom step making Emma giggle. Yanking his gaze from Shannon’s, he set his cup down on the banister and swooped Emma up in his arms. She threw her hands around his neck and laughed as he took the stairs two at a time.
The bedrooms were already taken, so Tristan pushed into the bathroom and kicked the door shut behind him. Emma immediately started untucking his shirt and running her hands across his stomach. When she pressed her mouth to his, he tried to focus on the kiss instead of the thud of her heartbeat. It seemed unbelievably loud in the small bathroom. Pushing away from the wall, he shoved Emma against the counter and smiled when her eyes grew large. His gaze focused on the thumping of the artery in her neck. Moving back to her, he ran his hands up into her hair before yanking her head to the side.
“God, you smell delicious.” Using his tongue he traced a path down to her shirt collar.
Her hands reached between them and began to unbutton his pants. Even though he could taste the spike of fear in the air, she wasn’t going to miss her chance to score with the school’s soccer captain. While he was excited by her desire, he was even more excited by the thought of her blood. His turning couldn’t be far now; he could smell the girl’s blood through her skin.
With his hands still fisted in her hair, he scraped his teeth along her neck. She groaned and pushed her body closer to his. Testing, he bit her as gently as he could and tensed when she gasped in pain.
The door to the bathroom slammed open and Shannon stood glaring at them both. The light from the hallway framed her in a glowing halo, and Tristan could taste her fury. He lifted his head slowly away from Emma, his tongue darting out once more to trace her neck as he pulled away. Shannon’s nostrils flared, and her hands fisted on her hips.
“Geez, Shannon. This bathroom is occupied.” Emma yanked her hands out of his pants and tried to readjust her shirt.
“Get out.” Without waiting for them to move, Shannon walked into the bathroom and yanked Emma off of the counter.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Emma glared at Shannon. “Couldn’t you just use one of the other bathrooms?”
“I don’t need to use the bathroom. I just need you to get the hell out of my house.” Though she barely stood five feet tall, Shannon dominated the tiny space. Emma backed out of the bathroom and flipped her hair over her shoulder.
Tristan could see his bite mark even in the dark of the bathroom. He tensed and wondered if Shannon had seen it too.
“God, you act like you haven’t fooled around with Michael while you were at my house. We were just having a little fun.” Emma’s eyes went past the tiny girl blocking the doorway and she smiled at Tristan. “What do you say, Trist? Wanna talk about our homework somewhere else? Seems we’re not welcome anymore.”
“I didn’t say anything about Tristan, idiot. I just said for you to leave.” Shannon crossed her arms and tilted her head. “Or are you so stupid you couldn’t understand the simple words I used?”
“What?” Emma looked at Shannon and then at Tristan. “Are you going to let her tell you what to do?”
Shrugging his shoulders, Tristan leaned back against the bathroom counter and folded his arms across his chest. “It’s her house.”
Emma set her jaw and glared at Shannon and then Tristan. “Whatever.” Turning on one heel, she flounced away, her hair swinging angrily.
“Emma?” Closing the door, Shannon turned to glare at Tristan. “And you bit her! Jesus, Tristan. What has gotten into you?” Stepping up to him, she poked his chest with one small finger. “Get a grip, will you?”
“I’m not far, Shannon.” Scrubbing his eyes with the palm of his hands, Tristan leaned his head back against the wall. “It’s got to happen soon. I could smell her blood. I wanted to bite her, wanted to do much worse.”
“You think they’re going to turn you now?” Shannon’s voice grew quiet and something in her eyes looked sad. “Are you sure this is what you want, Trist?”
“I want this.” Standing up straight, he placed his hands on her shoulders and leaned down to look in her eyes. “I want you. And this is the only way I can have you. The only way your father will ever let you be with me. I’m tired of watching you pretend with that giant idiot. You’re too good for Michael and it makes me sick to watch him touch you.”
“Don’t you want it too? I thought that’s why you introduced me to your dad. Told him who I was.” His eyebrows drew together.
“I do. I want you, Tristan. You know I do. But, will you still be you when you turn? I think we’re in over our heads.”
“You think your dad would let something bad happen to you?” Tristan snorted. “Never mind. Of course he would. He would sell you to someone if it would get him a good deal. But he’s right about one thing. I’ll never be more than a soccer player or a mid-level employee stuck in a dead-end job. You deserve more than that, and this is the way that I can give it to you.”
She stepped forward and leaned her forehead against his chest. “I don’t deserve you, Tristan.”
“No, I don’t deserve you. But that’s all going to change soon.”
“I still think we don’t know enough. I don’t think my father is telling us everything.”
Leaning down, Tristan kissed the top of her head. “It’s going to be okay. We already know the worst of it. Blood drinking creatures of the night, right? I can handle that.”
“He hasn’t had any of their blood. Not one drop. But he encourages us to drink it all the time. You especially. He never lets me drink as much as you and Michael.”
“Don’t talk about Michael to me.” Stiffening, Tristan pulled back from Shannon a little. Rage coiled in his belly and he knew that his eyes were taking on the black smoke that marked him as a darkling.
“Don’t be stupid, Tristan. It was your idea for me to stay with him. To keep people off our trail.” Shannon turned away from Tristan and pretended to check her makeup in the mirror. Raising her eyes to meet his reflection, her mouth twisted sardonically. “I think it’s time you leave. Otherwise people are going to start talking.”
Brushing past Shannon, Tristan yanked the door knob and heard something crack as the door swung open. Without turning around he said, “You’ve always been a bitch, Shannon.”
“That’s why you love me.” Shannon’s voice was soft, meant for Tristan’s sensitive ears
Scrubbing the sleep out of her eyes with the heels of her hands, Ree blinked in the sun filtering through the window. Moving slowly so that she wouldn’t wake Melanie, Ree sat up in the bed and looked around the room. If she was quiet enough, she might be able to sneak to the bathroom and change out of the borrowed pajamas that she was wearing and back into her clothes. Shifting her weight carefully, she stood up and tiptoed across the wood floors to the chair with her clothes.
Melanie rolled over, but her breathing stayed slow and even. Biting her lip, Ree left the room and continued her careful journey down the hall to the bathroom. She threw her clothes on the edge of the bathtub and turned on the water in the sink. Dark circles under her eyes spoke of the long night she had before finally getting to sleep. Even though she didn’t feel bad physically, her mind was beaten down by everything that had happened in the last couple of weeks.
Cupping her hands under the water, Ree let the cool liquid pool in her palms before splashing it on her face. Barely two weeks ago, she and her friends had been attacked by a monster; threatened by a myth. Something from a Hollywood movie set. The attack, car chase, and fear in her friend’s expressions ran through her mind and she splashed some more water on her face.
The world had been dumped on her shoulders. Literally, the world depended on her and she had to come terms with that responsibility. She had been lied to, mislead, and worst of all, betrayed. It was the darkest form of betrayal; the kind that can only come from someone you love, someone who is supposed to love you. Her brother had sold his humanity so he could be something inhuman. Even though it meant that it would be the death of Ree and her friends if he won.
Ree looked up in the mirror and smoothed the hair away from her face and turned the water off. She shed Melanie’s pajamas and pulled on her dirty jeans. They smelled like smoke and there was a blood stain on the left knee from where she had knelt in Sophie’s blood. Pulling her shirt over her head, Ree was glad to see that the blood stains were mostly hidden by the dark color. She snagged a rubber band from the back of the sink and swished some of the mouth rinse before finally cracking the door open and sneaking downstairs.