“Where would you like to bite me?”
My eyes went wide. “Are you serious? I thought you’d, you know, bite yourself and uh, drip the blood into my mouth.”
“Yeah, well, you thought wrong. So,” he gestured to himself. “Where?”
“Um, your wrist, I guess.”
Leslie unbuttoned his cuff and rolled up his sleeve. His arm was pale and coursed with lean muscle. The top side of it had a few scars on it, and I reached out to touch them. Before I could, he flipped his arm over and raised his wrist to me.
“So, I just…”
“Bite through the skin.” Tentatively, I nipped at him. “Come on, Camellia. Really bite me, hard, like you bit Luc.” I breathed out, and this time I put force behind the bite. The sensation of my teeth sinking into his flesh sickened me, and I almost vomited. “Okay, now you have to drink.”
I looked up at him and saw his fangs poking out from under his upper lip. His eyes were slightly out of focus. I shuddered and looked down at the bite. I licked it and found that Leslie’s blood tasted like the most wonderful substance on earth, like chocolate-caramel- vanilla-peanut butter-cotton candy. I wanted to drink it until my stomach exploded. As I latched onto his arm and sucked, my good hand came up and wrapped around his arm.
After I took three hard draws, Leslie said, “Okay, you can stop.” I shook my head and rubbed my lips at his wrist. “Camellia,” his voice strained, “Stop!” He wrenched his arm free and staggered back from me.
Energized and hungry, I launched myself out of the chair onto him. He caught me by the wrists and held me back. A thin trickle of blood ran down his forearm, and I longed to lick it. I felt that if I had it, all my problems would melt away into delicious oblivion. As I struggled toward it, our bodies brushed. I felt him, hard and excited, pressing against my belly, and suddenly, I wanted his body and his blood.
I rubbed my breasts against his chest, and he lost some of his control. His tongue raced over my neck before he growled in frustration. He flung me toward the door of the bedroom. As I stumbled away, he caught me around the waist, and we flew into the bedroom. I fell onto the bed, and his hands cuffed my wrists, holding them against the mattress. He straddled me and pinched his eyes shut.
“Take me,” I said, breasts heaving. He kept his eyes closed and my arms pinned. “You want me.”
His eyes flashed open to lock onto mine. “More than anything.”
“You know I want you.”
“Yes, now, but is it real?” His eyes narrowed, piercing me. “Until it is, we’re not doing that.”
“What do you mean, real?” As I began to think of something other than bloodlust, my self-control returned. I relaxed in his grasp.
“I mean until you decide you want me, without having been influenced by thrall or by blood, I won’t make love to you.”
“Another promise you made yourself when you reformed?” Part of me hoped that, by mocking him, I would anger him into taking me. I had never wanted anything more than I wanted to feel his body against and inside mine.
“No. A promise I made myself regarding you.” He closed his eyes and turned his head to the side. While I watched, his fangs retracted.
“Oh, and what makes me so different?” I barked at him.
“You’re Camellia, goddamnit!” He released me and literally swooped out of the room.
I lay still on the bed, just letting my thoughts clear. The bloodlust vanished, and I could hardly remember the flavor. I couldn’t believe the madness that had come over me. I raised my hands in front of my face and found my knuckles and my right wrist completely healed, as if nothing had ever happened to them. It took less blood and time than I thought. I let my hands fall down onto the mattress.
Famous or not, I couldn’t understand why Leslie valued me so much. I wondered why he had been looking for me and why he didn’t just give in to his desires. Now, a completely different kind of ache gnawed at me. Idly, I spun the ring on my finger and the wheels in my head. Since I couldn’t answer my questions about Leslie, I switched trains of thought.
I wanted to see Aster, and I would convince Leslie that it was the right thing to do. If he would agree, she could come visit me at his house, alone. I didn’t want to go back to Benoit’s until I was prepared, mentally and physically. I couldn’t understand why Luc wanted me. He had only seen me the one time, and I thought his reaction to me over-the-top. Maybe he really was especially selfish. Maybe he was crazy. Aster certainly wasn’t all there. Perhaps living with Benoit did something to their minds. I wondered if making friends and loved ones insane was a special vampire talent. Would that qualify as a talent?
I turned over and dragged the bedspread with me. Life had suddenly become really weird.
* * * *
I couldn’t see her, but I knew Aster’s voice anywhere, all vampire-y or not. “This is an unnatural time to rest, but I need to talk to you.” When I only mumbled she said, “Cami, pay attention. Your dreams don’t last very long, and it’s the only time you let me in.”
“I’ll try,” I said testily. “Did you tell them who I was?”
“Of course. I’ve never been good at lying. They’ll let me have you.”
“I love you, but no.” She started crying. I hated it when she cried. I felt myself soften. “Why don’t you join us?”
She pouted. “He’d never let me, but Mister Wells would let you go. We could be together again.” With a hopeful look on her face, she came forward and took my hands in hers. “Yeah, and I’d get fed on and raped by Luc every night. I’d rather slit my throat.”
“I can keep him away.” She gave me a weak smile. “Guillame would see to it.”
“Aster, that’s naïve, even for you.”
“But I want you with me,” she wailed. “I have to see you. Knowing you’re still alive—I feel like my life is worth living again. You have to be with me. I don’t want to be here alone with them.”
She squeezed my hands, and her pleas tore at me. I knew it would be a very bad idea to go to her, but she was my sister. I couldn’t bear to see her in distress. I heard her fear and pain in every word. I saw it in every facial expression and every gesture.
“If you come to me, I’ll end it for you. I can give you release.”
Her eyes narrowed at me. “I don’t want release; I want you.”
“Get in line,” I mumbled.
“Camellia,” she whined. She only used my full name when she really wanted something from me. “I want you to come here and live with me. I’ll make you a vampire if you want. Please.” She knelt before me, crying full force now. I lowered myself down to the ground and hugged her. She wrapped her arms around me tightly. “Please, I love you. I’m begging you.”
“I love you too, but what you’re asking for is my life, Aster.”
“I can give you a new one. Our parents are gone, but we can be a family again.”
If I went to her, no one would have to know my parents lived. They could escape Florida, live safely. For that reason alone, the idea tempted me. “Leave me, Aster. I’m tired.” I needed to think, if it was possible to think inside a dream.
As I waved her away, she raked at my forearms. Pleading, she said, “Say you’ll come.”
“I’ll think about it. I love you.” With that, the dream faded to nothing.
* * * *
Sometime later, I woke but not fully. I felt someone curved around my back. I stirred a bit, and when I tried to roll over, an arm slid around my waist and held me.
“Go back to sleep,” the male someone said. His breath blew through my hair to the back of my neck, and I felt him nuzzle me. The arm at my waist pulled me closer to him.
“Is this Leslie or Justin?”
“Leslie,” he answered, irritated.
“Good,” I cooed groggily. “Hey, I’m sorry.” My speech slurred, and I snuggled into him. Even though I had a blanket wrapped around me, it felt good and safe in his arms.
I smiled and let sleep take me again. Again, I dreamed. In the room, I felt dawn approaching, though there were no windows. I lay on a bed with Leslie at my back, yet he rested. I rolled over, and though it was dark, I saw him. He was lovely, like an angel without wings, and yet he could fly. His hair was a mess, scattered about his pillow, but his face was tranquil.
In my dream, I traced my finger down his nose, across his cheeks, over his lips. He sighed but not his usual exasperated one. This was the sound of deep contentment. It made me smile. So pretty, I thought.
“Why do I matter so much?” I asked the sleeping angel.
“Because you are Camellia, the first and only.”
“The first and only what?”
“One I’ve ever loved.”
END CH11, P2