Nightshade | Chapter 15 of 37

Author: Michelle Rowen | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 2590 Views | Add a Review

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IT WAS ANOTHER FOUR HOURS UNTIL DECLAN WOKE up. He’d officially missed two doses of serum. Both times the reminder alarm sounded, I scurried to his side and shut it off as quickly as I could and tried very hard not to think about the consequences.
Since I’d had hours to wait, I’d taken the time to study him rather intently—his face and his body. Long enough to imagine him without his scars or the eye patch or that flat, emotionless expression. If you took those things out of the equation, Declan Reyes wasn’t all that monstrous to look at.
I tried to guess his age. Earlier I would have guessed high—forty, maybe more. Now that his face was at rest, I’d say no more than thirty.
A good age to be fighting a war nobody knew about and showing that very battle on your skin.
I looked away, refusing to feel anything for him other than hate and disgust. He’d caused me enough pain so that the last thing I wanted was to empathize with his.
I tried to think about something else, anything else. It had only been hours but my old life—the one I’d had before I’d met sleeping beauty, that is—felt like an eternity ago.
When Declan finally woke, I tensed and clutched the knife in my hand. I wasn’t sure what would happen next. He was dangerous enough to start with, but add on the fact that he hadn’t been given his serum ...
I had no other options other than to wait and see. I was dead for sure if I didn’t. I just thanked God that I hadn’t had another squid attack since coming back to tend to Declan’s wounds.
He groaned, and it sounded as though it was from the act of waking than any indication of pain. He stretched his arms over his head, arching his back. I studied him warily. He was still shirtless. I’d taken the bloody and wet T-shirt off his stomach a couple hours ago, wrung it out, and draped it over the railing of the stairway a dozen feet to my right. It would still be dirty, but it had to be mostly dry by now. His hand went to his face, touching his eye patch as if to check if it was still there. Then he turned his head toward where I sat in the shadows in the corner of the room.
If he attacked me, I wouldn’t hesitate. I’d stab him.
I braced myself.
“How long ...” he began, then tilted his watch so he could see it. It was dusk. Still light enough to see, but not very well. “Okay. That long.”
“You were out for a while.”
“It’s the silver. And the healing process taps my energy. The more wounded I am, the longer I’ll stay unconscious.” His muscled abdomen contracted as he sat up. Then he touched his shoulder, tracing his fingertips over the new scar. “You did it.”
“You sizzled.”
“I’m sure that wasn’t pleasant for you.” His gaze moved to the knife I clutched, as if it would hold back the demons from hell.
“To say the least.” I watched for any sign that he was out of control, a monster ready to suck my blood and do other horrible and violent things to me.
He reached to his back and touched the scar from the bullet wound, then nodded as if satisfied with what he found. Then he frowned as his hand slid down to the side of his groin where the third wound had been. His eye flicked to me.
I felt my cheeks heat up. “Just don’t let it happen again. I’m no Florence Nightingale.”
“Thank you,” he said after a moment. Those two words surprised me. He didn’t seem the grateful type. “I don’t normally lose so thoroughly against blood servants.”
I swallowed hard. “Don’t thank me. Just get me to your father. That’s the only reason I did it. You get me to him and he helps me with this poison and we’re all happy.”
His hand moved from his hip up to his stomach, just under the old scar there. “You stuck to the schedule?”
It took me a second to figure out what he meant. He was asking me about his serum, touching where I should have injected him if all had gone according to plan.
“Yes. I have your case safe for later.” I didn’t elaborate further than that. I’d deal with telling him what I’d done when the time came.
He nodded. “Good.”
He believed me. Then again, why wouldn’t he? He’d instilled enough fear in me about his “vampire side” that there was no way I wouldn’t do anything possible to prevent it. After all, what woman in her right mind would disregard the threat of being raped and murdered?
If he believed that lie, then it might work as a placebo. His personal beliefs would keep his vampire hungers at bay.
No, that didn’t make any sense. This wasn’t a diet pill that gave a patient extra willpower. The serum worked as some kind of behavior modifier. And his vampire hungers wouldn’t merely be for a slice of cheesecake.
Maybe every three hours was just a precaution. He’d probably built up a huge surplus of the serum. Missing a couple of doses wouldn’t really do anything at all.
I clung tightly to that theory.
“I’m just surprised they didn’t kill me,” Declan said. “Or you. What the hell happened here?”
“They weren’t interested in killing us. They just wanted the formula. When it was obvious to them that we didn’t have it, they finally left.” I rubbed my aching head. “The guy hit me pretty hard, though. Knocked me out.”
He frowned. “Asshole deserves to die.”
“He’s not on the short list to join my book club, that’s for sure.”
“So that was it? They just left?”
“Are they here right now?”
His jaw clenched. “No. And neither are we. I’ve wasted enough time recovering. We’re late and we have to go. Come on.”
He got up from the floor so fluidly it was as if he’d never been shot or gored or unconscious for hours. It only served to remind me how tall, strong, and dangerous he was. He snatched his T-shirt and put it back on. Then he grabbed me by my upper arm and pulled me roughly with him out of the house, down the stairs, and past the dead body of the guy he’d shot.
“No need to manhandle me.” I tried to wrench away from him.
“Fine. Just try to keep up.” He let go of me so abruptly I nearly lost my balance, and he walked away from the house on long strides. I had to jog to catch up to him. When we’d reached the gas station, he stopped and turned to look at me. “We need to go to the main road and flag down a ride.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“How are you feeling?”
“Can you walk?”
I nodded. “I haven’t had any pain for a few hours.”
His eye moved to the knife I held. “You should put that away. You might cut yourself.”
“I’ll keep it out, thanks.”
“You really think that’s going to protect you against me?”
“I think it’s better than nothing.”
“It’s silver.”
“I thought it was. So you’d better watch yourself or—” Before I got another word out, he came at me so quickly I barely saw him move. He pushed me against the side of the abandoned gas station, successfully knocking the breath out of me. He squeezed my wrist and I dropped the knife.
“Or what?” he asked calmly.
My heart hammered against my rib cage. That wasn’t pretty. And it didn’t make me feel very good about my own abilities of protecting myself. Pathetic, really.
“Or you’ll be sorry,” I finished.
“Right.” He didn’t let go of me right away. Maybe he was sick of me. Maybe he wanted to end this once and for all so he wouldn’t have to cart me around. They could always find another chemist to make more of the poison. Maybe I wasn’t as important as I thought I was.
“It’s strange,” he said.
“Your scent.” His forehead was furrowed as if he was concentrating very hard. “It’s different than before.”
“I probably need a shower.”
“No, it’s not that.” He brought his face closer to mine, then to the side of my neck, so close that I felt his warm breath on my skin. My own breath hitched as I realized he was smelling me.
Panic coursed through me.
Oh God. He wanted to tear out my throat. Drain my blood. No serum meant a loss of his control. And a loss of his control meant ... bad things.
But he didn’t bite me. Instead, he pushed away from the wall and me and shook his head, scrubbing his hand over his scalp.
“That was strange,” he said.
Yeah. For both of us.
I didn’t move. I waited to see what would happen next. I hated feeling like a mouse cornered by a snake that might or might not be hungry.
Whatever the look on my face was, it made him snort loudly.
“I know I’m fucking scary, but I have no intention of hurting you. Let’s just get that straight.”
I cleared my throat. “You know you’re scary?”
“Of course. I’m not stupid.” He bent over and snatched up the knife I’d dropped. I looked at it warily as he hefted the weight of it in his hand. “They gave this to you?”
I just nodded.
“Why would they do that?”
“The woman, she suggested I ...” I trailed off, thinking better of discussing something like this with him.
“She suggested you kill me while I was unconscious?” His lips curled to the side.
He hadn’t smiled before—not genuinely, anyway. He seemed strangely at ease now, more expressive. Friendlier, even.
Was it because of the serum—or, rather, the lack of it? Taking it regularly flattened out his moods. Kept his emotions in check. Now that he wasn’t on it, he was acting a bit more like a normal person would, not just a cold-blooded assassin.
“She may have mentioned something like that,” I said.
“But you didn’t kill me. You helped me to heal instead.”
“Like I said before, I need you to take me to your father.”
“If you hadn’t needed me to get better, would you have been able to do it? After all, you knew what I was willing to do earlier.”
Kill me in the alley if he got the okay without a moment’s hesitation or guilt. I remembered it all too clearly.
I looked at him for what felt like a long time without replying, my gaze moving over his scarred face as if trying to find the answer there. Would I have been able to kill him? If he’d just kidnapped me, threatened my life, and taken me here? If I wasn’t poisoned and in need of his help? Kill a man when he was unconscious. With a knife?
Yes, I could.
Just the thought of it made tears well up in my eyes, but I swallowed them down. No time for that. I could fall apart when all of this was over.
He finally turned away from me. “Forget I asked. Just put it somewhere safe.”
I was ready to ask what he was talking about when he held out the knife to me, hilt first.
I frowned. “You’re—”
“Just take it.”
I took it. Then he turned his back and began walking again.
I walked behind him along the side of the dirt road. No big surprise, but there were no cars that just happened to come by. We walked in silence until it was fully dark. The moon was full enough tonight to help me not fall over my feet. I carried my heels since they hurt too much to walk long distances in. It still wasn’t exactly ideal, but the dirt road was more dirt than rock so I didn’t run the risk of cutting up my bare feet.
After forty minutes of brisk walking had passed, I had to ask.
“Why did you give me back the knife?”
He didn’t slow his pace. “Because you need it more than I do.”
“I need it?”
“It makes you feel more secure. Like you have some control over this situation.”
“And I don’t?”
“Afraid not.”
Anger worked well to help burn off some fear. “Aren’t you afraid I’m going to kill you?”
“Not really.” I could hear the smile in his voice now. “Don’t take it personally, though. You’re untrained. You’d need a lot of practice before you could even come close to cutting me.”
“Looks to me like you’ve been cut a lot.”
“Yeah, well ...” The smile was gone. “Every time I take a wound, I get a scar. Some of these weren’t even that bad to begin with.”
“They look bad.”
That earned me a glance over his shoulder. “Luckily it’s dark now so you don’t have to look at me. People usually can’t stand the sight of me. I scare the shit out of them.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Doesn’t matter.”
“Besides, I find it hard to believe that all people would feel that way.” I didn’t know why I felt the need to say anything, but I did. “Sure, some are superficial, but not everyone.”
“Like I said, it doesn’t matter. It’s not an issue for me.”
“What’s not an issue?” I was confused again. It seemed like my default setting.
“I’m not ...” But whatever he was going to say, he stopped himself.
“Not what?”
My persistence earned me an unfriendly glare. I’d caught up to him enough that I walked next to him on his left.
“Along with curbing my lust for blood, my serum helps curb my lust for ... anything else. So whatever anybody might think of what I look like doesn’t really matter.”
“Are you trying to say that you—”
“I’m trying to say that I take the serum because I refuse to be like my real father. He hurt my mother. I won’t run the risk of hurting anyone like that. Ever.”
I tried to piece it together. The serum didn’t only flatten out his emotions, but it also flattened out any natural desire or lust he might feel. No emotion, no passion, no ... sex? The man was a machine, even if he was made of flesh and bone.
“How long have you taken the serum?” I asked.
“A long time.”
“Every three hours?”
“Have you ever tested it? Gone longer without a dosage?”
“But at night—”
“My alarm wakes me.”
He was so dedicated to taking his serum, he never got a full night’s sleep. The fact that he was obsessive-compulsive about it didn’t help to relax me.
“And how long have you done this? Fight ... uh, vampires?”
That got me another amused look. My annoying cascade of questions had launched into action again. “You still say it like you don’t believe me. Are you still in denial?”
“A little,” I admitted.
“You’ll get over that.”
“I’m not sure I want to.”
“I trained from the time I was a teenager. I was active when I turned eighteen. That was ten years ago.”
He was twenty-eight. “You’re the same age as I am.”
He’d been through a lot in his life. I felt like I’d been through practically nothing. Our lives couldn’t be more different. He fought and killed vampires and had the scars to prove it. I worked for a temp agency, had never been passionate enough about a job to pursue it full-time. There was no way we ever would have met if it hadn’t been for my being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Suddenly, I felt a pain in my stomach and I stopped walking. “Oh, no.”
I hit the ground hard enough to bruise my knees, sweat breaking out on my forehead as the pain swept over me. I didn’t have the strength to deal with this. I’d so quickly gotten used to being okay again, I could almost lull myself into a false sense of security that it was over.
But it wasn’t.
“Just breathe.” Declan pressed his hand against my back.
I didn’t want to throw up again. That felt worse than anything else. The look of that black syrup and not knowing what it was or where it had come from other than an indication that my internal organs were dissolving ...
I grabbed hold of something, anything, to keep me from falling off the edge of sanity as the pain wracked my body. Luckily, it did pass. No more than five minutes this time. And I didn’t throw up.
Only after my head cleared and I blinked my tear-filled eyes did I realize what it was that I’d grabbed hold of. It was Declan, who’d sank to his knees in front of me. I clung to him; my fingers dug into his shoulders.
“You okay now?” Instead of the flat disregard from before, I now heard concern in his voice.
I nodded and found I wasn’t letting go of him quite as quickly as I should have. He felt so solid. So real. Like an anchor that could keep me from getting swept into the void.
He pulled back from me. His thumbs wiped at my tears as he held my face between his hands.
“You’re okay, Jill. You’re okay.” It sounded like how you’d talk to a child when one stumbled and skinned her knee. Calming her down so she didn’t keep crying.
I inhaled shakily as I got control of myself again and the pain and fear retreated.
Declan gently stroked his fingers over my face as he dried my tears. I inhaled sharply as his thumb slid slowly across my bottom lip, his gaze now focused there.
Suddenly it didn’t feel as if he was only comforting me anymore.
His Adam’s apple jumped as he swallowed. Then he shook his head and got to his feet so quickly that it nearly knocked me backward.
“What the fuck is wrong with me?” he asked.
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t ...” His expression looked strained and confused. “It’s like I ...”
His hand moved over his stomach before slipping into his pocket. He frowned. “You said you have my serum case. I need it back.”
My mouth felt very dry. “What?”
“The case holding my serum. Give it back to me now.”
I got to my feet with effort. Declan didn’t move to help me this time.
“I don’t have it,” I said.
He swore loudly. “You left it back at that house?”
“Then where is it? You said you had it.” His hands were now clenched into fists at his sides.
I had nothing prepared for this discussion yet—one I’d wanted to put off for as long as possible. No more lies came readily to me. My head hurt and I felt achy and defeated and tired and angry.
“I gave it to them. The blood servants. They were looking for a formula, so I gave them the one you had. It satisfied them enough to leave without killing us.”
He gaped at me. “You gave it to them. Just like that.”
“Yes, I did.”
“So when my alarm went off, when I was unconscious and you were supposed to inject me ...”
“You got nothing.” I looked warily at his reaction to this news, but stood my ground.
His reaction was to look at his watch, which would tell him how many doses he’d missed—two of them. Then he turned and started walking again. “I knew it. I felt that something was off, but I wasn’t sure what. You should have told me.”
I grabbed my shoes and the knife from where I’d dropped them. “You’re fine.”
“You have no fucking idea what you’re talking about.”
“I’ve been watching you closely since you woke up and you’re fine. In fact, you seem better than you were before.”
“Is that so?”
“Yeah, before you were horrible and emotionless. It was like you weren’t even here. Now—”
“Now I’m beginning to lose my control. And you don’t want to be around me when that happens.”
I literally had to jog to keep up with him. “You seem fine to me.”
He stopped walking and grabbed my upper arms so tightly that I gasped. “You don’t know me. You don’t know what fine is and how far from it I am.” He looked down at his bruising grip and released me. “Damn it. It’s not even your fault. I can’t blame you. It was smart what you did, it’s just fucking inconvenient. And I should have known it the moment I smelled you after I woke up.” His gaze flicked to me. “You smelled too good to me—like food. Made my mouth water. So until we get where we’re going, you need to keep your distance, got it?”
I nodded stiffly. “Got it.”
“Good. And if anything happens, you take that knife of yours and do your best to sink it in me up to the hilt. The silver will slow me down so you can try to escape.”
“I’m not going to try to escape.”
He gave me a very unfriendly look. “Do you want to die?”
“No. I don’t. Which is exactly why I’m sticking with you until we see your father.”
“Fine. Your call. But I take no responsibility for anything that happens to you from this point forward.”
With that, he turned and walked away from me.
I followed after him.

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Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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