Nightshade | Chapter 17 of 37

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

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TEARS STREAKED DOWN MY CHEEKS AS DECLAN screeched the truck out of the parking lot and headed back to the highway.
“Why the fuck are you crying?” he demanded.
“It’s just a little something I do when I’m freaking out.”
“I never should have let you go off by yourself. Christ. That bitch could have killed you.”
It was on the tip of my tongue to say something nasty back to him, but I realized that he’d saved my life. As horrible as that had been to experience, if he hadn’t intervened, I’d be dead right now.
I wiped at my face. “Thank you.”
“For what?”
“Stopping her.”
“So you believe in vampires now?” He eyed me sideways.
“Yes.” My breath hitched. “Unfortunately.”
“Let me see.” He reached over and pushed at my hair.
I batted his hand away. “What are you doing?”
“Checking your throat. Seeing if she did any damage to you.” He roughly slid his index finger down the undamaged skin there. “Looks fine.”
“It’s the other side that has the puncture wound. But that wasn’t from fangs.” I looked at him. His neck was bleeding. “She hurt you.”
“It’s nothing.”
“I don’t have any water to throw at you for healing purposes. Will Coke work?”
He frowned. “No. It doesn’t matter. I’ll heal shortly.”
“I was joking.”
“You can joke after what just happened in there?”
“It’s either that or I keep crying.” I pulled out a napkin from our bag of food and pressed it up against his throat. “Here.”
He took it from me and his warm fingers brushed against mine. The intense and unexpected sensation jarred me. I balled my hand up and placed it safely in my lap.
“I’m sorry you had to see that,” he said after a moment. “Killing vampires isn’t a pretty sight. Luckily, there was only one of her.”
“You didn’t hesitate. You just ... killed her.”
“She could have torn your throat out.”
I didn’t doubt that. And I hadn’t even meant my comment as a criticism, which is how he seemed to be taking it. Had I enjoyed seeing someone—especially a woman—overpowered and murdered right in front of me? Of course not. But she hadn’t been innocent and she hadn’t been human. And if she was willing to attack me, who knew how many others she’d hurt in the past?
“She said something to me,” I said. “Same thing you said. About my scent. She’d seemed coherent before that. Said she saw me on the news and seemed like she wanted to help. But as soon as she caught a whiff of me, it was all over.”
He nodded. “Humans have a scent that separates them from other species. Vampires hone in on that. It helps them locate the nearest food source. Your scent just seems ... more pronounced.”
“And dhampyrs?”
“Same deal. The desire is there ...” he said, and I felt him looking at me. My heart picked up its pace at the way he said it, but I kept my eyes fixed on the road ahead of us. “But the human side helps a little in holding me back.”
“Then why take the serum?”
“I said it helps a little. But there’s still room for error.”
“So if given the opportunity, you’d drink my blood?” It seemed like a simple question, but it was met with absolute silence.
When I finally braved a look at him, I noticed how white his knuckles were as he gripped the steering wheel. His expression was so tense it looked like it might shatter. Actually, he looked ill.
I reached over and touched his shoulder. “Are you okay?”
“You really shouldn’t touch me right now.”
I drew my hand back as if it had been burned. “Why not?”
“I know you’re blond, but I’d prefer not to think of you as dumb. I haven’t taken my serum for way too long. Longest ever. I’m feeling ...” His jaw clenched. “A bit out of control at the moment.”
A shiver went through me. “Which means you want my blood.”
“No. Not blood specifically. But I am feeling a very inconvenient hunger for you.”
There was a predatory look in his eye, as his gaze traveled the length of my body. I began to feel very warm, a heat that spread over my cheeks and down my neck to my breasts, stomach, groin, legs. Or, in other words, everywhere he was looking.
Hunger. That kind of hunger.
I reached into the paper bag. “You’re going to have to settle for a hamburger.”
There was a sound like a laugh, only sharper. “I’ll try my best.”
He took the burger from me when I handed it to him and I avoided any chance of touching him this time.
“Bad news,” I said. “She forgot to put the pie in the bag. However, there seem to be extra fries.”
“A feast.”
It was. I had no idea how hungry I was until I bit into the meal-to-go. That diner might have had a vampire patron, which considerably lowered their “good restaurant” rating for me, but they made some great greasy food. It helped the constant churning in the pit of my stomach subside a bit. I sincerely hoped I wouldn’t soon be throwing it all up. Seemed a waste.
The food didn’t help to keep my mind off Declan’s problem. No serum. No control over his vampire side. If I wasn’t worried about this, I’d be an idiot. I was new to this world, brand-new kicking and screaming upon being birthed into the knowledge that vampires exist. For real. And they were fucking scary.
Declan’s healing ability was enough to prove to me he wasn’t entirely human. I’d also witnessed how the serum affected him because there had been two Declans I’d met today: the first one, a deadly, emotionless machine who’d been willing to kill me if ordered to. And the other Declan, a bit more personable—for a killer—and focused on keeping me safe, even if it was from himself and his ... hungers.
I was afraid of him on too many levels to count. But there was also a part of Declan Reyes—the man who’d put me in danger, threatened to kill me, kidnapped me, tossed me around and bullied me, but also saved my life and comforted me when I’d been sick—that I’d slowly begun to depend on and even ... like. And that was just as scary as anything else I’d had to deal with today.
We ate in silence that began to feel uncomfortable, and I felt the overwhelming need to say something. Anything.
“Will I be able to contact my sister once we get to Silver Ridge?”
I put my Coke into the drink holder and glared at him. “Why not?”
He sighed. “Do you need an explanation for absolutely everything?”
“Yes, I do. Why can’t I call my sister? Or my friends? If what happened was on the news, they’re going to be worried to death about me. The least I can do is let them know I’m okay.”
“Silver Ridge is not a publicly known location. If word of what it is and what’s done there gets out, the sanctuary will be ruined.”
“What happens in Silver Ridge, stays in Silver Ridge?”
“Something like that.”
“So what happens there?”
“It’s a secret.”
I just looked at him.
He glanced at me, then balled up the foil that had contained his hamburger and tossed it into the empty bag. “Let’s just say it’s a small community of like-minded people who have pooled their resources together to figure out a way to fight against the things that go bump in the night.”
“A town of vampire hunters.”
“No, not exactly.” His jaw tightened. “There are hunters, but it’s mostly made up of researchers. The government funds it—”
“The government funds a secret anti-vampire town?”
“They fund the research program my father’s a part of. They’re just as interested as anybody in destroying a threat to human life, whether it has fangs or not.”
“And how long has this research gone on?”
“About twenty-nine years. Around the same time Carson found my mother and learned about vampires in the first place.” There was a haunted, pained look on his face whenever he mentioned his mother.
“Declan, I know you’ll say I don’t know you. And I don’t. I’m not claiming any amazing insight on you other than a gut feeling. But ... no matter who your real father is, I don’t think it has any true bearing on who you are. You’re in control of yourself, not some magical connection to an über-violent gene pool.”
“Is that what you believe, or what you want to believe?” he asked tightly. “That I’m not a true threat to you?”
“That is a factor, I’ll admit it. But ... but how do you feel? Like, right now?”
“Cloudy. Like there are a million things in my mind all battling for first place. But even though my head’s messed up, my senses are more acute. I can see better, sharper. My hearing is improved. My taste ... well, that burger was the best thing I ever remember eating. Normally it’s dulled for me. Food is bland. I eat because I have to, but it doesn’t matter what it is. And my sense of smell is ...” He gripped the steering wheel even tighter, “... distracting.
“Well ...” I grappled for something to say next. He could smell me, that’s what he meant. And for some reason, despite being disgusting and pukey and generally grubby, he found how I smelled appetizing on several levels. “Maybe this is how you’re supposed to feel. Maybe dulling everything with a serum is doing you more harm than good.”
“Is that your professional opinion, doctor?”
Welcome back, sarcasm.
“That’s just my opinion.” I leaned back in my seat and tried to look relaxed when I felt anything but. “A few years ago I was on some medication myself and it dulled my senses. Evened out my moods.”
“What was it for?”
“It was ... for depression.” I didn’t like saying it out loud. It brought back too many unpleasant memories.
“Why were you depressed?”
“It started with my parents’ deaths and spiraled from there. My life wasn’t going according to plan, and one thing heaped on top of another, and I just fell into a deep well and couldn’t get myself back out. The problem runs in my family, so it was always lurking in the shadows, ready to jump out and grab me.”
“And your doctor put you on medication?”
“It was her first and only suggestion, actually. And I know lots of people who’ve been on depression meds and it’s worked just fine and dandy for them. But for me ... I never felt like it was the right fit. It made me feel ...” I thought back to my nearly five years of being on a succession of different meds. “Kind of like floating on a river with no oars in my boat. I finally went off them a few months ago. I felt kind of crazy for a couple of weeks, but then the fog cleared.”
“Are you still depressed?”
“I have my moments, but I deal in other ways. Pills weren’t the right solution for me. For someone else it might be different. However, it feels like the solution to any problem these days is medication.” I felt at my neck for the needle wound. That was another drug developed to fight a problem. “We rely on drugs to take away any ache or pain we have. It makes it easy, but it doesn’t necessarily make it right. Not all the time, anyway.”
“But your depression didn’t cause you to harm others,” he said pointedly.
“No. But it made me think about doing harm to myself. Once. Luckily, the urge passed. I counted all the things I had to keep me here. Things I’m still counting right now that make me fight to keep living despite becoming the walking, talking petri dish for your father’s little experiment.”
Declan was quiet for what felt like a long time. “Your situation is not the same as mine.”
“I never said it was.”
“And talking isn’t taking my mind off it.”
“Not trying to.”
“Yes, you are.”
I pressed my lips together. “Maybe a little. But consider yourself one of the privileged few. I don’t discuss my mental issues with just anyone. Only very close friends or men who’ve kidnapped me against my will.”
That earned a quiet snort of laughter. “I guess I fit the bill, then.”
“Can I have my knife back?”
He hesitated, then reached to his side to hand me the weapon. “Keep it out, just in case.”
Just in case I needed to use it on him, he meant.
I examined the blade, expecting to see blood from the vampire, but there was nothing but the sharp silver surface, shiny in the moonlight. I wrapped the handkerchief around the blade again.
“Do you really think your father can help me?” I asked a little while later when silence had settled around us. “Or do you think I’m going to die?”
“I think he can help you.”
I was surprised at his definitive answer. He’d hinted at it before, enough to make me believe I needed to stick with Declan in order to meet this mystery man, but he hadn’t outright said that the path to Silver Ridge was the path to my bright and shiny future.
Since I liked the answer, I didn’t press for details in case they would burst my optimistic balloon. I noticed that Declan was looking at my hand. Or not specifically my hand, but my wrist. He wasn’t the only person who had scars.
“You just thought about it, did you?” he asked softly.
I made a move to hide the mark, but he grabbed hold of my wrist, turning it so he could see better. His thumb brushed against the faded, two-inch-long scar.
“It was a long time ago,” I said.
“And now you’re different.”
I nodded soundlessly, fighting back against the sting of tears. Sometimes I forgot about my wrist. The scar had faded a lot. I usually covered it up with bracelets or a watch. Earlier it had been covered by the long sleeves of my shirt, but I’d rolled them back in the diner washroom. Besides, it was only my left wrist that was affected. It had hurt so much, it had knocked sense into me enough to stop before it was too late.
After all, I really hated the sight of blood. Especially my own.
“Just don’t let it happen again,” he said, and he sounded angry. He squeezed my wrist, the heat from his skin sinking into mine.
“Don’t worry, I won’t.”
“Good. Because if you’re not willing to fight to stay alive, then why the fuck should I worry about what happens to you?”
That surprised me, as did the fierce way he said it. “You’re worried about me?”
“It’s my fault this happened to you in the first place. Your life is in my hands right now until I set things right again.”
“Even though you were going to kill me.”
He was quiet for a moment. “Things change.”
I chewed my bottom lip. “Even though you want to drink my blood now, right?”
“I don’t want to drink your blood, Jill,” he said, his attention on the road ahead of us again. “I want to tear off your clothes and bury my cock deep inside of you while you scream my name. There’s a big difference.”
For a moment I think I stopped breathing. He’d intimated that was on his mind—his hungers—but for him to state so bluntly that those hungers were of a sexual nature left me without any possible reply.
His words should have scared me, made me feel threatened by his dark intent, especially after being told about his vampire father. But they didn’t. I was afraid of Declan, but not for the reasons he probably thought I was. And as he continued to stroke his thumb over my wrist, I didn’t pull my hand away from him.
So there I was, hurtling down the highway in a stolen pickup truck toward a secret anti-vampire research town with a scarred, dangerous dhampyr on the very edge of his self-control holding my hand, comforting me about a failed suicide attempt once upon a time, and proclaiming that he wanted to screw my poisoned brains out.
It was like a fucking fairy tale.

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Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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