First, I'll get to the bad part.
I'm SO sorry!! ALTERED, the third and final book in the Devoured series that was supposed to release tomorrow, will not be releasing tomorrow.
I've had so many issues while trying to write this book - my computer crashing being one of those reasons, on top of some personal stuff. I was able to recover most of my work and just write on my laptop, but the main reason I can't release Altered tomorrow is because it's not finished. And the reason it's not finished is because it was supposed to be a novella. A 25,000 word novella. Well, Enoch has decided that didn't work for him and currently, I'm sitting at over 50,000 words!!! And I'm still not done, but I'm so close.
So that's the good part. You'll no longer be getting a novella, you'll be getting a book! So I'm hoping to have Fay and Enoch's story done by next week instead, but I'm not promising anything at this point because Enoch has been pulling the reins on this one. He was such a surprise for me. I expected one thing from him and have been so pleasantly surprised by him. And he wants the book to just keep going and going.
I told my hubby I was going to have to tell you guys that the book was going to be late yesterday, (he said I wasn't going to make it last week by the way - point 1 to hubby) and he said you better...
So my "I'm Sorry" face is this. Below are the first three chapters of ALTERED. It's not edited a lick, but I hope you enjoy Enoch and Fay as they begin their journey.
Once again. I'm sorry! You don't have to wait long. I'll keep you posted on the progress of it and when I finish, I'll definitely let you know and let you know when the editing will be finished and I will NOT be withholding. I will be publishing it the second I am done with editing and all the good stuff. I'll post like crazy as soon as it's live, but you know how things have changed on Facebook with their posts so you may many not see it.
So make sure you like my Facebook PAGE, you're following my Facebook profile as well HERE to get all the updates, as well as my TWITTER and following here on the blog, and you can even follow the blog by email so the posts get delivered to your email and stay up to date that way. I know social medias are making it harder and harder to for us to get the word out about things so we're trying our hardest keep up with you.
Without further ado, here are the first three chapters of ALTERED!
This picks up right where Consume left off, as most of my books do! :)
I stood there and watched as he married Clara, as he turned away from everything that we stood for and became human in every way possible. And somehow he was dragging me down with him. I was changing, I could feel it. Ever since that human had gotten her claws in my brother and bonded to him, I had begun to change, too—though I’d never admit that to anyone.
I stood there and watched as she looked up at him and I knew she loved him. I wanted to be happy for him—I came back for his wedding for God sakes—but that was the problem wasn’t it? I wasn’t supposed to be happy for him. I wasn’t supposed to want to see him get married or anything else. This whole thing was making me soft. I hated that I cared. Though the bond wasn’t there anymore, there was still a lingering in the back of my mind that made me wonder how they’re doing.
And it pissed me right off.
As soon as they said I do and he took her in his human arms, holding her and kissing her, I stormed down the aisle. I’d done my brotherly duty, hadn’t I? I was done with this charade of human bullcrap. So done. I got into the car that I’d hotwired and went back into town. I went into the first bar I saw and dared anyone to look at me except the one person I was after.
The brunette in the corner would work just fine. She favored Clara a bit and I smiled at the satisfaction that was going to give me. She was standing by the jukebox looking through the songs with a beer in her hand. I stalked up behind her slowly and let my eyes roam the selection as I let my thighs press against the back of hers. Her breath swept from her lips in a hiss. She turned to put me in my place, but immediately lost her train of thought when our gazes collided. Her lips fell open, but it wasn’t to reprimand me for my behavior. Her eyes moved to my lips and back up again. I felt them form into a grin. Ah, so good to be bad again.
“Hi,” she returned, no voice, just breath.
“Find anything good?” Her eyes widened a little. “In the jukebox.”
“Oh,” she said and turned back, snapping out of the trance finally. She cleared her throat and clutched her beer bottle to her chest like a security blanket. “Not yet. Nice accent.”
“Thanks. Mind if I…?” I pointed and leaned in to see the song titles.
“Find something to dance to,” she ordered.
I looked over and knew this was in the bag. I didn’t need to feed the meter on this deal any longer. She was practically salivating as her hips swayed before I’d even put the quarter in the jukebox. I took her arm in my hand and leaned in. “I’d rather go somewhere, if I’m being honest. Just you and me.”
“Ok,” she couldn’t say quickly enough. “My place is—”
“Too far.” I pushed her, my hands gripped those hips tightly out the back door to the dark spot I knew would be there. I let the door slam behind me and turned her to face me, pressing her back to the wall. Her dazed eyes tried to focus on mine. I smiled inside—and I hadn’t even started yet. This was too easy. “Right here is just fine.”
“But, someone might come back here.”
“No one will come,” I assured her, pushing my persuasion into every word. “And if they do, I’ll bloody take care of them. But I really want is to take care of you.”
I opened my senses up, wide open, and let my nose coast across her cheek to her ear. Her fingers gripped my shirt and her breath caught. I could taste her lust all over my tongue and all I wanted was to drown in it. I smiled and let my lips touch her skin. “What’s your name?”
I rolled my eyes. “Isabella. What a sweet name. Do you taste as sweet as you sound?”
She smiled, almost shyly. “You are awfully good at that.”
“Making me feel like you actually want me for more than just a good time.”
I paused and looked at her eyes. Green. Like Clara’s. My God…I was ruined, wasn’t I? She smiled again and rubbed my chest.
“Don’t worry, slick. I’m not about to go all Wicker Park on you. I was just saying that it’s obvious you’ve had some practice at this.” Her smile was genuine. It wasn’t a sloppy, come-hither like they usually are when they try to get with a man. It was so completely genuine. It enraged me in my soul that I noticed this, let alone cared.
I didn’t say anything else, I just moved in, letting my lips touch hers. The harder I pressed, the more she fed me. My eyes rolled back into my head at having my first good meal in days. The more clothes disappeared, the more I felt like my true self was coming back, the more evil I felt.
When it was all over and we dressed, I started to walk away without a word, but she asked me for my name. I let it build slowly. I wanted to feel like the Devourer I knew I was so I unleashed the terror on her, seeing her eyes search around and the way she skittered into the back wall and covered her face with nowhere else to go.
And I fed.
I fed on her terror and fright and it tasted like heaven in my mouth. But as I looked down at that woman who had just given herself to me, and I hadn’t even had to persuade her to, it washed over me all at once how I didn’t really want to hurt her. That I wanted to hurt people, but not her. Not really. I had gotten everything I needed from her without doing that, hadn’t I? I was full and sated. Now I was just letting my true nature take over, letting the Devourer in me take over.
But wasn’t that what I was supposed to do? I looked down at that woman and was so confused. I cursed Clara and Eli and all their love and human bullcrap for turning me into the thing that I was now.
No. I realized then that this was my turning point. That if I let this girl go, that I would be just like my brother one day and that wasn’t what I wanted. I was not going to be some human. I was a Devourer. My chin ached from clenching it so tightly. I turned my glare fully on her and knew that honestly it wasn’t her fault, but she was about to pay the price for my brother’s mistake.
“I’m sorry, love.” I lifted her by her arms and then leaned into her, pressing her to the wall.
“For what?” her small voice asked, falsely reassured by my about-face. “What are you doing to me?”
“I’m sorry that our night is just beginning.”
She seemed to understand and her face crumpled. “Please. I’m sorry for whatever I said to—”
“It’s not you,” I grinned as evilly as I could muster, “it’s me.”
I rose slowly and stood, looking at the judge, awaiting my fate. I prayed his next words showed me mercy that I myself hadn’t bestowed upon anyone in the last year. I had been bitter and angry, and no one was safe from my wrath. Especially not Clara. I closed my eyes as I remembered all the things I’d said to her.
“Miss Hopkins, it the decision of this court that you be dishonorably discharged for your actions on…”
I tuned out the rest, but got the gist. Oh…what was I going to do now? I had nowhere to go. The military was all I had. The pastor wasn’t my family like they were Clara’s. I barely knew them. Clara had run off and married some idiot boy and they moved. I had her last letter. I’m sure she thought I never kept them, but I did.
I had no choice but to eat a ton of crow and go find her. Who knows—she may not even want me now. I may have waited too long. I was really angry with her. I mean, I still was. She did get the easy street in all this and then wanted me to put Band-Aids on everything like when we were little and make everything better. But she was too naïve to see that everything wasn’t going to be better.
And I was young, too. It wasn’t my responsibility to deal with.
The judge’s gavel banging made me jump and he glared at me for daydreaming. “I see even now that nothing gets through to you. You’re dismissed. I hope once you get home and are surrounded by people you know and are used to that it can help you to see that the world isn’t out to get you, Miss Hopkins. The world is actually a pretty fair place.”
I felt the scoff rising from my soul. “Not from where I stand.”
I turned, grabbing my bag, and left without a backward look.
My Jetta made it about a hundred miles past the Montana state line before the engine gave out. I was almost completely out of cash, hadn’t slept properly in days, hadn’t eaten a real meal that wasn’t from a gas station in I didn’t know how long. I left my car smoking on the side of road and shook my head as I headed across the street to the motel. The difference between a motel and a hotel was night and day in small towns like this. It could mean the difference between getting sliced in the middle of the night, but it was all that I could see.
I prayed—again with the praying, like someone was listening—that there was a room for less than thirty dollars. Otherwise, I was screwed. Because I only had thirty-five dollars to my name and that five dollars was my dinner for the night. Tomorrow would have to worry about itself.
A car honked as it barely missed me, skidding past on the road behind me. I didn’t even know what town I was in. I just knew I was close to Clara. I opened the door, the chime of the doorbell and the smell of muck and cigarettes slamming into me. I coughed, offending the young attendant. He scowled at me and cocked his head. “Can I help you, duchess?”
“Do you have a room, please?” I asked in my most pleading, small voice.
He thought, pausing. “For the night or for the week?”
“Just for the night.”
“Working girl?” He smiled. I tried not to cringe.
“No. Just traveling through on my way to see my sister.”
His look of interest went away and so did my hope of getting a room. “Seventy-nine plus tax.”
“Please…is there anything cheaper than that?”
“You can take the room or get out of here. I ain’t running a charity.”
I sighed and turned to go. I could sleep in my car, I just didn’t want to. As soon as I got inside, I tried to lock the doors, but my battery was dead. The automatic doors wouldn’t work, nothing did, with the battery dead. I sighed again and laughed. It turned hysterical as I laid my head on the steering wheel.
Nothing was working out for me anymore. Nothing. The world was giving me the big middle finger. I deserved it. I leaned back and hoped that no one messed with me while I slept. I couldn’t even lay my seat back because the seat was powered. So I sat there and closed my eyes, trying to forget my life so I could sleep.
Eventually, I did sleep. I dreamt someone was touching me. I moved my face toward his hand and he chuckled. That seemed to wake me and I opened my eyes to find the motel attendant crouching down next to me with my car door open. I opened my mouth, but before I could scream or say anything, he covered it roughly with his hand. I could tell my eyes were as wide as tangerines. He smiled at me and said softly, “It’s okay. I’m not going to hurt you.”
I scoffed beneath his hand and his smile widened. He gripped my arm and tugged me out of my car and pressed me to the side of it.
“I’ll give you a place to stay for the night. No charge. You give me a little something in return, okay?” I shook my head hard under his hand and he gripped me to stop it. “No harm, no foul. You need a place to stay and I like you. What’s the problem?” I mumbled under his palm. He laughed a little. “No screaming, beautiful.”
My skin literally crawled under my clothes as he let his hand slide from my mouth to my neck. “I said, I’m not into that kind of thing. I’m fine in my car, but thanks.”
I waited, my breath pulling from my lungs painfully.
“Ah, honey,” he drawled and I knew it was over, “this isn’t a negotiation.”
I turned to run, but he had a handful of my hair before I could get anywhere. I used my elbow to his gut and he ‘oophed’, which just upset him more. He was a lot bigger than me. He opened the backdoor of my car and tried to shove me in. I knew if he got me in there, I wasn’t coming back out. So I fought as hard as I could, used every bit of training I could recall, but honestly, I’d done basic training and that was it. People thought just because you were in the military that you were some kind of killing machine. That’s not what it meant.
When I got a good palm jab to his nose, he cursed and that was it for me. Any bit of gentleness he’d been reserving for me was gone. He held my arm behind my back and yanked the handful of hair in his fist so tight that I saw stars. “You little b-“
“What have we here?”
We both turned to look at the man who was standing near the back of the car. He had an accent and looked like death warmed over. He was pale and disheveled, his hair was a mess and his clothes wrinkled and dirty. He stared at me, his mouth open, and though he seemed to be trying to help me, he also seemed to be enraptured and licked his lip more than once as he looked between the man and me.
“None of your business,” the man barked. “Scram.”
The interrupter looked at me and watched. His eyes…were purple. I could see that even in the darkness. He licked his bottom lip again, but gave me an almost sad look as he began to back away. A sob escaped my throat at the fact that I’d never reach Clara, never get to tell her that I was sorry, that I’d been wrong to blame her just because I happened to be older when our parents died. Of course I’d been given more responsibility. Of course people were going to expect more from me. But she’d never know that I loved her. She’d never know.
Another sob rose when my captor actually chuckled, realizing that my rescuer wasn't rescuing me at all, but was backing away. I had nothing left to hold back for, so I let is all go. It bubbled up and my chest ached so hard. The guy who had interrupted us gasped and looked up at me over his shoulder, his eyes lidded, and he swayed. I was so confused as to what was going on, but it didn’t matter. He wasn’t helping me and the man wasn’t waiting any longer. He turned to put me in the car. I started to fight, but no matter how hard I fought, he was overpowering me. He raised his arm back, slapping my cheek and then slamming his fist into my gut when I kept fighting. I could barely breathe through the pain as I gagged and gasped. That effectively ended all movement from me.
“Now, stop fighting me,” he growled and pushed me back into the car, lifting my legs. “I’m actually a good guy once you get to know me.”
Then he was gone. I gasped at the sudden movement and clasped my stomach, finally able to breathe and get some relief. The interrupter stood there, one arm outstretched into the air, which he’d slung the man off with.
“I somehow doubt that,” he said, his voice grating.
He fell to his knees, looking worse than I did somehow. I looked between the two of them, one way across the road as he was sprawled on the sidewalk, and one on his knees as he held on to his last bit of alertness. He swayed and stared up at me. “If you want to wait for him to wake up, then that’s fine, but I suggest that we go.”
“We?” I breathed.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that I’m not exactly…doing so hot.” He swayed again, catching himself on his fist in the dirt. I moved forward to put my hands on his shoulders to help steady him. “Where are you staying tonight? Your car’s done for,” he stated the ever-so-obvious.
“I didn’t have enough for a room,” I told him softly. I leaned down to look at his face. “I was sleeping in my car.”
“Help me up.”
Under normal circumstances, I would have told him to go to hell, but he had just saved me and he was obviously distressed himself…to some degree. I didn’t know what was wrong with him, but I couldn’t walk away after he helped me. I pulled on his arm until he was standing over me. He looked down at me, seeming to study me. He looked like he was starving. He took the ends of my hair in between his fingers and rubbed it for a few seconds before letting it fall.
“I need something from you.”
I sighed, my hope falling all over again. “I’m not having sex with you—”
“Not that. Come on. I’ll get us a room.”
He started to turn. “I need you to help me. I haven’t fed in so long. I’m weak. Get me to the motel room. I’ll get you dinner and a place to stay if you’ll just help me without question.”
I stalled. He hadn’t fed? That was a weird way to say he hadn’t eaten. He growled. Actually growled. “Why would I save you only to hurt you myself?” Good point. “Besides, I can barely walk. I’m not going to be of any use to a woman tonight.” He grinned devilishly and I knew that when he was at his best, all cleaned up and on his game that he was a force to be reckoned with. “You’re safe...for now.”
I sighed, biting my lip and knowing that this was my only chance of getting to see Clara again.
“Fine.” I leaned down and put my shoulder under his arm and helped pull him up. I looked over to see my attacker still out cold on the pavement. But his breath puffed in the chilled night air, so I knew he was alive. I shook my head and looked over at the man I was holding. I hadn’t realized how tall he was, or how close he was. I tried to move back some but there was nowhere to go unless I let him go. I sighed, my puff of breath meeting his in the small space between us as he stared down at me. He seemed puzzled by something. Almost an angry puzzlement, like he was fascinated and couldn’t stop, but didn’t like what he was finding.
“Let’s get a room, blue eyes.”
“Fay,” I said and gulped at how affected it sounded. I coughed and hoisted him up a little as I started to help him across the street. “And if you think I’m sleeping in the same bed with you—”
“I don’t sleep. I just need to rest. The chair will do just fine.”
“You don’t sleep,” I drawled and didn’t believe a word of it. “You look as if you could keel over at any minute, buddy.”
“As soon as I feed, I’ll be fine.”
“Then let’s eat first,” I insisted because I was starving and if he was offering up a free meal, I was taking. Though by the looks of him, I didn’t know how he was doing so badly if he had the means and money to take care of himself. Why not just go eat if he was so hungry? “Let’s grab something quick at the diner at the motel. That okay with you?”
“Whatever, blue eyes,” he grumbled and closed his eyes as he let me guide him. When we came to the diner’s door, a mother and her child were coming out. The little girl was crying about something, obviously upset. The mom was coddling her in an amused but exasperated way that showed she’d been at it for a while. “You can’t only eat pie for dinner. It doesn’t work that way, Carline.”
I snorted. That’s why she so mad—her mother saddled that precious little thing with a name like Carline. I sympathized. Fay wasn’t exactly a young name, and then add my middle name Annie to the mix and I was doomed to hick nickname hell. Fay Annie Hopkins. I’d been picked on a lot for it. Fannie…Ah, I hated that nickname. Clara and my parents especially let that stick and wouldn’t let it go no matter how much I said I hated it.
Now…I’d give anything to hear Clara call me Fannie. I’d never felt this hopeless in my entire life. Even though I knew where she was, I felt like she was drifting further and further away and I’d never catch up to her. I didn’t know if she was safe or happy or…
My rescuer sucked in a breath beside me and I looked over to see his eyes now open. He watched me, his mouth slightly open. His tongue snaked out to taste his bottom lip, but he grimaced. “Oh, Gah… What are you thinking about?”
I felt my brows gravitate toward each other in confusion. “What?”
“You’re… You’re sad. I can see it. What are thinking about?”
Before I could answer, the little girl bumped into his leg. She looked up at him like had dropped her lollipop. “I’m sorry,” the mother said, but chuckled and took the daughter’s hand. “Carline, say you’re sorry.”
“Sorry, sir,” the little girl, who couldn’t be more than four, spouted sarcastically.
They walked away and the man stood there, his mouth open, and watched them go. Then he broke into the biggest smile. His chest began to shake and he looked up at the sky, shaking his head. “Eli, you bastard. I bet you’re just loving this, aren’t you?”
His words were harsh, but he was still smiling. I was confused, but he was obviously having some revelation. I waited and eventually he looked back over and down at me. “Ready to eat, blue eyes?”
“Uh…are you in need of some medication or…”
He laughed hard. “Ah, man. We are going to get along so well. Come on.” He tugged me into the diner. Or dragged me really because he could barely hold himself up. He slammed into a booth and I slid into the one across from him. The diner was clean for all intense and purposes, but would be receiving no rewards for service or cuisine. I could see that from where we sat.
As the middle-aged woman waddled over and asked what we wanted to drink, he waved her off and said he didn’t want anything. I looked blankly at him. “I thought you were so hungry. What do you mean you don’t want anything?”
He seemed to think about that and then grimaced. “Oh, yeah. Bollocks.” I scoffed, but he smiled at her and began his list. “I’ll take the strongest coffee you’ve got, a stack of flapjacks, and a side of bacon—enough pig to feed a small army.”
“So a lot of bacon, then,” she drawled sarcastically.
“You went to Harvard, I see.”
“And I’ll take,” I rushed on and scanned the menu quickly for something, “the same, minus the arsenal of bacon. A regular ol’ portion of bacon is fine.”
She left without another word and I looked over at him. “Me Fay, you…?”
“Enoch.” He smiled. “At your service.”
“Enoch.” I smiled. I couldn’t help myself. “I really like that.” His purple eyes met mine and he seemed again like he was trying to figure some puzzle out. “What do you do?”
He barked a laugh. “No, not really,” he evaded. “What do you do?”
I let my eyes fall to the table. He sucked in a quick breath like he was in pain. I looked up at him and he was watching me with his mouth open. He licked his lip and shook his head. “Ok, don’t tell me right now. Right now, I need to feed.”
“She’ll bring the food soon. Besides, you didn’t even want to eat, remember,” I reminded him.
He nodded carefully. “This is where the part about you helping me comes in. When we finish our meal, I’ll let you know what we need to do, all right.” It wasn’t a question. He brightened and looked over at the door as it chimed. “Never mind. I think dinner just walked in.”
I glanced over, feeling more creeped out by the second, and saw a man and woman—obviously in a fight. They hissed in whispers and glared at each other as they found a seat. I looked back at Enoch, so happy to finally know his name, but so confused. I smirked, willing to play his game if that’s what he needed right now.
“So you’re a vampire or something?” He chuckled and shook his head, staring at the table as I went on. “You want me to club them over the head when they leave so you can suck them dry in the parking lot. That wasn’t exactly what I signed up for in my part of this arrangement.”
“No,” he said softly and looked up at me. When he saw my face, how that smile seemed to affect me, his face hardened a little. “No,” he said harder. “It’s nothing like that. Just forget I brought it up. It’s been taken care of.” He leaned back and watched the couple, his lips slightly open.
Their waitress came and took their order and they seemed to fight about that, too. Enoch’s eyes closed and he sighed. I wanted to bolt, but something was holding me back. Something was keeping me there. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine, blue eyes,” he said, never opening his eyes. But when a chair scraped, we both looked over to see the couple storming out. “Bloody hell,” he muttered. “Should’ve known it wouldn’t be that easy.”
“What’s going on with you?” I asked quietly. Maybe he escaped from somewhere, a clinic or something. Maybe there was some medication he hadn’t taken. I didn’t know, but the guy clearly had something going on.
He looked at me sadly and I didn’t understand why. “We’ll talk about it later. You can tell me about your job,” he said slowly and nudged my foot with his gently. “Anything you want to talk about.”
“I shouldn’t tell you all my secrets. You’re a stranger,” I said to lighten the mood. “Haven’t you ever heard of stranger danger?”
He grinned—that grin transforming his whole face. “They coined that term because of me, sweetheart.”
It had been exactly thirty-two days since I had forced an emotional feed from someone. I followed them around until I found someone who was pissed off or sad and then I fed. It had been like this for months now. It didn’t always work out and sometimes I had to cave and force my terror on them because I was about to starve, but mostly, I avoided it at all costs.
Ever since that night in the alley after Eli and Clara’s wedding, my life hadn’t been the same. I couldn’t get that woman’s screams out of my head. I dreamed about them—as much as a Devourer could dream because we don’t sleep. They invaded my thoughts during the day in flashes that came out of nowhere. I got no peace, no rest. I tried everything to rid myself of it. At first, I ignored it and went on with life but soon realized that that just made it worse. When I stopped bringing terror to others, it got better.
Like I was being punished.
It didn’t go away, but she doesn’t haunt me as badly. I’ve done everything I could to make up for what I did to her in the alley that day by almost starving myself. But it’s a miserable existence. It’s a pointless existence.
I’ve thought about finding Eli and seeing what he thinks about what’s going on, but I knew he would just say I was becoming like him. The change in him began with a little boy and a revolving door. After that, he didn’t force feed on people unless he had to either, but he hadn’t gone to my extreme. I would literally bring myself to the brink of starvation. He said he found a way around it by going to high school. That there was enough angst and drama there that he never had to force fear on anyone, but I wasn’t doing it. I’d live this miserable existence if that’s what it took, but I wasn’t going to high school and have some love sick girl fall in love with me.
I looked up at find Fay watching me. I sighed and looked away. If I couldn’t get her to talk about whatever made her so upset earlier, then I was going to have to force it out of her. I was too far gone. This was the brink. I guess I could use someone else, but I didn’t want to let Fay go yet. I wanted her to stay the night and make sure she had a safe place. The thought of watching her sleep not only fascinated me, but made me feel like I’m sure Eli felt when he got that look on his face, the one he used for Clara. It pissed me off just as much as it intrigued me, just once, to know what the big deal was about.
I had to know why Eli would give up everything for it. I mean this sucked, but I could live this way if I had to. One day, I would go back to normal. I knew it. I had to.
I was a Devourer. I was not a human and never would be.
I ate all the food in no time. I wasn’t really into human food like Eli, but I had to put on a show for her. She actually plowed through her food, too, which surprised me because I thought human girls complained about their weight and survived on three ounces of protein a day or something. This chick ate the means of a grown man.
“What?” she said and cocked her brow at me.
A chuckled slipped past my lips. “That’s really cute.”
“What?” she asked, seemingly affronted by my compliment. Another anomaly since in my experience, human girls practically begged for compliments.
I squinted. “I’m not allowed to say you’re cute?”
She opened her mouth to speak, but seemed to think better of it. “I guess so. No one has said I’m cute in a long time. Sorry. Occupational hazard.”
“And what occupation is that?”
“The occupation of being able to take down the guys I date,” she replied smartly.
“You didn’t do so well with the guy out there,” I reminded her.
“He caught me off guard, number one.” She pointed and drove her points home. “Number two, he confined me to a small space where I couldn’t get a good swing at him. Number three, he was a lot bigger than me.”
“All valid, cupcake,” I goaded. This American, human girl I knew was having a hard time in her life now, but somehow I also knew at some point in her life was spoiled and pampered. A daddy’s girl perhaps.
She scoffed and pushed her plate away. “Check,” she called and motioned to the waitress.
I chuckled, pleased with how affected she was by me. “You’re feisty for someone who was attacked not long ago.” She let her gaze settle on me and shrugged before looking away. “It’s a great show of character.”
“Like I said, occupational hazard. I was in the military. They trained us to move on, not let things get to us.”
“I don’t think it was the military,” I mused. “I think it was something else.” Her face paled a little and I sucked in a quick breath. “There,” I told her and moved toward her across the table as close as the table would allow. “Whatever that was you were just thinking about. That’s what made you strong, that’s what made you what you are.”
She looked as if she might cry for a split second before she banished it.
“Nice one, Dr. Phil,” she said easily and looked at the table. “Listen, I’m tired.” She looked up at the waitress as she came and started to pull her wallet from her purse.
“No,” I said gruffly and handed the waitress a fifty. “Keep the change.”
I stood and took Fay’s arm. “Come on. You owe me.”
“W-what did you do that for? The bill couldn’t have been more than twenty bucks.”
“Because I can and I didn’t want to wait.” I pulled her roughly—I knew it was too rough—out to the parking lot and searched for something, anything. “Fay, I need you to keep up your end of the bargain. Find me someone who’s fighting or upset. I don’t want to…”
“What?” she asked and it was the first time all night she’d been frightened of me.
“Just, please.” I stepped closer slowly, “Fay, please.”
“Do you have some fetish or something or are we back to vampires?” she said wryly.
My vision blurred a little and I groaned. “Whichever one makes you want to help me.”
She sighed. “There’s no one here.” I started to speak, but she held up her hand. “I know where we can go if you promise to…” she sighed and threw her hands up in exasperation, “to not get me murdered in an alley or something.”
“I’ll keep you safe. I promise. I like having you around, Fay.”
I jolted at the realization. I couldn’t stop myself from saying the first thing that popped into my head. She seemed to recognize that I had made a mistake and smiled a little. “Okay. Okay, Enoch, I’ll go on this crazy, wild goose chase of an adventure with you tonight. But tomorrow, I’m back on my own wild goose chase, all right?”
“What are you searching for?”
“My sister. I haven’t seen her in a very long time and, last I heard, she moved out here with her new husband. I was…discharged from the military so I’m hoping that she’ll want to see me.”
I grimaced. “Family’s overrated.”
“That’s what I used to think,” she said softly, “until you don’t have any left.”
I sucked in a ragged breath at tasting her sorrow. Ever since that day in the alley, things didn’t even taste the same. The emotions that I used to relish in now tasted like acid, and though I needed them to survive, I didn’t enjoy them anymore. She looked at me curiously. “Wait, if we’re looking for someone who’s fighting or upset, then what about sad?”
“If they’re really sad, that’ll work,” I answered automatically and regretted it. “But not as well as anger does.”
“I’m really sad,” she insisted and started to come toward me. “Use me for your little experiment.”
“No,” I insisted back, but it came out a growl.
She faltered for a spilt second, but kept coming. “Why not?”
“Because.” Whatever she was thinking about must have been awful because the sorrow was eating her alive. I groaned just as she reached me and opened my mouth to protest, but her sadness filled it instead. I looked down at her through eyes barely still open and watched as she remembered whatever it was that was making her so sad. Right before her chest shook, I moaned and licked my lip, unable to stop myself. She seemed enthralled by this and taken aback.
“Fay, stop,” I pleaded.
“It’s not real,” she said into the air, as if she needed to say it, to convince herself.
I took her face in my hands and that one small gesture solidified my fate. Oh, no… Was this what Eli felt when he met Clara? Some unknown reason and pull to know her? To know why she mattered and ticked all of sudden out of all the people and woman in all the world? Why this one person?
Why her…to make me feel?
I let my thumb run across her cheekbone and realized in the hundreds of years that I’d lived, I’d never taken the time to just see what a woman felt like.
Anger rolled over me at the fact that my life as I knew it was over. I was a dead man, for all intense and purposes. I couldn’t go home again. It wasn’t her fault; I was just finally coming to terms that I had changed. And there wasn’t any going back.
“Fay, please don’t think about what happened to you. I don’t want to…feel that. I don’t want to…feed off of you. I don’t like it. Let’s find someone else, all right?”
She gulped, looking up at me. “You truly believe you can feed off of my emotions.”
“Humor me,” I said and smiled cockily to bring some of the snap back to the conversation. I swept her hair behind her ear as I let her go, stepping back. “Let’s just find what we need and then I’ll get you a soft, warm place to sleep.”
She sighed. “All right. You’re clearly insane, but all right.”
She eyed me as she pulled her cell out. She asked the person on the line for a cab at the motel. We sat side-by-side on the curb in comfortable silence for ten minutes waiting for it. When we got in, she told him to take us to the shipping yards. I looked at her curiously. She sat with a little knowing smile on her lips.
I stepped from the cab and looked around at my surroundings. I knew there was a bar around here somewhere. Where there was a bar, there was a bar fight not too far away. If vampire boy over here wanted to get his kicks by watching somebody get his lights punched out, then fine. As long as I didn’t have to sleep on a park bench with cold fog coming from my mouth all night, I could deal with a little crazy from this guy.
I had dealt with worse.
The guy was so weak, I had to help him from the cab. I didn’t know if he just needed a good night’s sleep or what a meal hadn’t helped him any. “Are you going to be all right?” He sighed and I heard him gulp as we walked. “We probably should have just went to the hotel.”
“That wouldn’t have been good for you,” I heard him mutter low under his breath.
I rolled my eyes. “Sticking with it, eh?” He stayed silent. “Fine. But if you pass out, I’m calling an ambulance and then I’m out.”
He chuckled, his voice rough, but still managing to be amazingly sexy as it skated across my cheek.
“Okay, blue eyes.” I shook with goose bumps, unable to contain them, and he groaned a little, whispering, “Bloody hell. You’re killing me, little human.”
“It’s cold,” I lied. It was cold, but that was absolutely not the reason for the goose flesh. He knew it and I knew it. And I hated it. I didn’t like for people to get under my skin. It made me feel too vulnerable, like they had power over me. When they had power, they could hurt you, leave you, die and leave you destroyed. I wasn’t up for any more of that. Except for Clara; she was already attached to me and I owed it to her.
He looked over. Even in the dark with barely any light being provided from the streetlamps, I could see his purple eyes searching mine. “Just help me and then you never have to see me again.”
It was almost like he could tell what I’d been thinking about.
Before I could open my mouth to rebut, someone calling Enoch’s name and then following throaty laugh was heard from behind us. We both looked over our shoulders to find a tall redhead standing there. She was smirking in a way that showed her obvious enjoyment. “Oh, Enoch. It’s delightful to see you again, babe.”
“Don’t ‘babe’ me, turncoat,” he growled back. He looked over at me, suddenly furious and shook me off. “And you. Get out of here and stop hanging on me like a bloody leech.” I felt my eyes go wide. Excuse me? I opened my mouth and his grip tightened on my arm. “I said. Get. Out. Of. Here. You stupid little human.”
I yanked my arm away and bumped his shoulder hard as I passed him. I heard his sigh as I did so. It was relief, and I knew exactly what he was doing. I turned the corner to the building and stopped at the edge where they couldn’t see me.
He had been trying to get me away from the situation quickly, that was obvious, and he thought the quickest way was to upset me. It was a tactical move, but why? What was going on? I strained to listen but not make a sound. I calmed myself down, breathing slowly.
I could hear the redhead speaking, even as people came in and out of the bar across the street. “You should have stayed with the rebels, Enoch. At least there, you might have stood a chance. Now, you’re just going to die alone, here, on this dock.”
“You going to take me out by yourself?” Enoch asked her.
“Oh, I’m not by myself,” she answered with a laugh and walked around him once slowly, stalking him like a cat as he stood still, as if he knew what was coming. “Don’t you know me better than that?”
He began to take slow steps backward toward the alley. I pressed further in, making sure not to be seen, but couldn’t leave. Enoch had saved me when he could have just walked away, even when he clearly was weak or sick or in withdrawals…whatever is wrong with him. He hadn’t left me; I wasn’t leaving him. One thing I had learned was that no matter what, you didn’t leave someone behind. Not only was it a douchey thing to do, but it would come back to bite you.
I had left Clara behind and was paying that price every day.
I strained to see but not be seen as she came back around to his front. He was perfectly still, almost inhumanly so. She pulled something from the bag draped across her chest and he hissed, taking another step back, another step closer to me. “Wow, Ang, you’re really going to stick that thing in me? You’re going to take the rebels’ ways and use them against our kind?”
“Isn’t that what you did to the Horde at Arequipa?” she seethed.
“How did you make it out alive, by the way? I thought you’d be worm food at Resting Place by now.”
She gripped his throat with speed that didn’t look possible. I blinked as he choked and took a step back, throwing her arm off. He stepped again, but she followed. “These legs are for more than just looking good.”
He scoffed and I wondered why he was so intent on antagonizing her when she clearly had something over him. “Did you really just say that, red?”
I looked on the ground of the alley for something while they bickered. A metal pipe was all I could find, but it would do. I would help Enoch and then we’d be even-steven. The closer they got, the more heated their words were. She was practically screeching by then and I rolled my eyes at the fact that I used to be just like her. So dramatic and thought I was so entitled. You know, except for the drug dealer part.
I peeked out again and wondered if the reason he wasn’t fighting back was because she was a girl. She slammed his head with the side of her fist, but his head barely moved. “Tell me where they are.”
“I haven’t seen them since I left.”
“He’s a human now,” he growled and I fought to keep my breaths even. Human now? As opposed to what? “I don’t want anything to do with him.”
“I know that the Enoch I used to know would be telling me the truth right now, but I don’t even know who you are.” She gripped his neck and this time, he couldn’t push her off. She squeezed and lifted him just a tad so his toes were only touching the ground. I watched and couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing. How could she be doing that? That wasn’t possible. Even for a really strong person, that wasn’t possible. “You’re not feeding,” she said steadily and my lips fell open. “You’re bringing yourself to the point of starvation and probably trying to live off emotions that aren’t forced, just like Eli had been doing.”
Eli was Clara’s husband’s name, too.
“Then kill me and get it over with.”
She shook her head. “Why, Enoch? What happened to make you do this? What did Eli do to you?”
“Nothing,” he groaned and scratched at her arm. “Eli had nothing to do with this.”
“I don’t believe you. There is a reason for this. Devourers don’t just turn soft. It’s not in our nature to. I don’t know why or how but Eli did something to you and I’m going to find out what. He won’t get away with this. He won’t do this to someone else. We’re going to stop those rebels once and for all.” She must have squeezed tighter because he began to choker harder. “I’ll avenge you, Enoch. I’m going to make him pay for what he’s done to you.”
I didn’t think; I let my nature, my basic instincts take over, and they moved forward swiftly in the dark behind her and cracked the steel pipe over her head. Enoch fell to the ground coughing and cursing. I moved to help him, knowing he was going to be angry with me for not leaving. I didn’t realize how angry, however.
“What the bloody hell are you still doing here?” he growled and jerked his arm away from my outstretched hand.
“Saving you, looks like.”
“Saving me!” he scoffed and stood, coughing the last bit as he looked around. “That is rich, little girl. Now you’ve done it. I tried to be the good guy and you instead had to be the big bad girl who saves the day, didn’t you?” His voice went up a few octaves as he mocked me. “Oh, look at me, I’m such a chick, I think it’s a good idea to sleep in my car in the middle of the night in a seedy neighborhood. Oh, look at me, I’m such a girl, I agree to get rooms with complete strangers for the night because I have nowhere else to go.” His voice was getting lower and more back to normal the louder and angrier he got. He moved toward me as he spoke. “And bloody hell, I think I’ll stick around and get myself killed after I’ve already been told to get lost when I see someone about to get his block knocked off when it’s obvious I have no business being there to begin with!”
I felt the wall slam into my back as my eyes went as wide as they could go. I was staring at something that wasn’t possible. It was being fed to me in small pieces, this puzzle. He has said it, she had said, and now I was staring it in the face—he wasn’t human.
His neck and arms were lined in little blue veins that had only popped out when he’d gotten truly angry. All I could do was stand there and stare because I was truly, honestly, in my very being, terrified. Of him? Of what was going on? Of the fact that there was obviously things in the world that I didn’t want to know about? I didn’t know. But right then, I just knew that he was angry and looking at me as if he wanted to hit something. And I was the only thing that was around.
I felt the breaths as they escaped my lips, in and out, but I didn’t move. His eyes searched my face for several long seconds that seemed longer than they actually were, I was sure, before he seemed to snap back onto himself. He looked down at my mouth and back to my eyes. Then his gaze wandered to his arm to find the little blue rivers, seemingly no surprise there, then back to my eyes. He sighed and took a deep breath, closing his eyes for a few beats before opening them, all the while keeping his hands at his sides, his fists tight.
“Fay,” he said slowly as he looked right into my eyes, “don’t be afraid of me.”
“You weren’t lying,” I whispered, “about needing to feed. You’re not human. I heard her say it and now…”
“Just don’t be afraid of me,” he commanded softly and stared into my eyes. Weirdly, I felt calm. Almost too calm, but I knew he wasn’t going to hurt me. He kept saving me. Why would he hurt me if he kept doing that? I nodded. He nodded back. “Good. Now,” he scowled now that that seemed to be out of the way. “Why didn’t you leave when I told you to? I was a jackass to you. Why would you stay?”
“I knew you were just being mean to get me to leave.” His scowled deepened. “And I knew you were just getting me to leave to keep me safe. You saved me earlier at the hotel when you could have just left and kept going, but you didn’t. You helped me. It wasn’t right to leave you, especially when you were so weak.”
“I knew you were just being mean to get me to leave.” His scowled deepened. “And I knew you were just getting me to leave to keep me safe. You saved me earlier at the hotel when you could have just left and kept going, but you didn’t. You helped me. It wasn’t right to leave you, especially when you were so weak.”
He groaned in a huff, looking at my throat, anywhere but my eyes in that moment. “I’m not weak, I’m—“
“I’m not hurting your ego—”
He laughed, a scoff more than anything. “Oh, really!”
“I’m just stating a fact. You were weak. Whatever is going on with you…whatever it is, you’re not doing well,” I finished slowly, sucking my breaths in slowly through my trembling lips. He noticed and watched them as he spoke.
“You going to lie to me and say you’re cold again, little human?” he sneered, but his eyes were soft and I could tell it was all a front. He was just like me. He pushed people away so he didn’t have to deal with them. So he didn’t have to feel. Being alone was better than being disappointed. Someone had disappointed him before and he was trying his hardest to nip this in the bud.
“No,” I breathed and lifted my hand to touch his arm. He pulled back, but I didn’t let him get away. I grabbed his wrist quickly and turned it over in my hands. I could hear his breath hissing through his teeth at my forehead as I looked down at our hands. “I’m not cold. I’m afraid.”
“I told you not to be afraid,” he said softly. He pushed my fingers away gently and held my hand captive to stop my searching. “You won’t find any blue veins. It only happens when we can’t…contain our anger.” I looked up to find him watching me closely, curiously.
“What are you?” I dared to ask though I knew…
“I need to get you out of here,” he said, but didn’t move. “You need to get as far away from me as possible. Run and don’t look back. Don’t ever think of me again.”
I sighed and screwed up my lips. “That’s not going to happen. How can I forget?” He took a deep breath and it gave me pause as his grip on my hand tightened just a bit, just enough to be telling. “Can you…make me forget?”
“No,” he answered quickly. “I can only help you feel better about things my persuasion. Help you feel comfortable with a decision.”
“I don’t want to leave,” I said harder. “I need to find my sister. She’s close. Don’t you dare send me away.”
“That’s good.” He nodded, his black hair ruffling in the cold wind. “As long as you’re not with me.” I winced at his words a little, unable to stop myself. He saw and smiled a little, the cruel face making a reappearance. “Don’t forget that I don’t want you here. You need to leave as soon as possible.” He looked around and then down at the redhead. He jerked his gaze back up to mine. “In fact, I’ll get you a cab right now.”
“Why are you so afraid? What happened to you?”
He didn’t pretend to not understand. “I’m not afraid, Fay. I’m just not a good person. You don’t want to know me. Trust me on this. I’m doing you a favor.”
He pulled me forward by my arm out to where the alley me the street. “I don’t believe you.” I tripped over the stoney road and he yanked me back up. “I don’t believe you!” I said louder. “You’re being a coward.”
“Why do you want to stay with me?” he asked harshly, turning me to face him. “You know that I’m not human. I’m. Not. Human.” He stared for effect. It was working. I gulped. “Why do you want to stay with me?”
I decide for once in my miserable life since my parents died, I’d tell the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help me, God. “Because I try to be tough, but I’m not always. Because I might get into trouble again and there won’t be another good guy there to save me like you. Because being alone sucks,” he sucked in a breath, but I kept going, “and I’m so close, I know it. I just want to find my sister and I’m afraid that I won’t and I’ll be alone forever.”
He shook his head, his breathing rushing in and out. He squeezed his eyes shut. “Stop. I don’t want to feed off your sorrow.” He opened his eyes slowly, almost as if testing me to see if I’d still be there. He glanced back where we’d been and cursed. “I’ve got to get you out of here.”
“What—” I looked back to see the redhead groaning and getting up. She was awake and rolling up to her feet. Impossible! “She needs stitches at the very least!” I protested. “She—”
“She isn’t human,” he explained. I sighed and ran as he pulled me behind him. “She’ll be fully aware in a minute and be fully pissed on top of that. We need to—”
A loud bang rang out through the alley as it ricocheted off the buildings. I covered my ears and looked behind me, expecting the redhead to be coming up the rear, but there was no one. When I turned back to face Enoch, his hand was outstretched in a fist in front of his face. When he opened his fist, a bullet fell to the road with a dull clang and my breaths refused to cooperate. “You caught that?” I whispered my anguished question. “Enoch?”
He pushed me behind him roughly and kept his arm around me from behind. To keep me calm, to keep me from bolting, to keep me feeling safe as he growled his words to the group of the men that had suddenly come from out of the shadows? I didn’t know. But I gripped his arm tightly in response and tried with everything in me to keep it together as I looked to my left and right for a way out or something to use as a weapon.
“So who is it now?” Enoch asked in a growl and pushed me with his back, forcing me to retreat backward. “Hatch and Reece are toast. I know that for a fact. I saw it with my own eyes. So who’s the piper now?”
“Maybe I am,” the redhead sputtered and slithered her hand up one of the men’s arm. He shook her arm off and glowered at her.
“You can’t even get a simple task done correctly, Angelina. He should be dead now instead of pestering us, but instead I’m going to have to kill him to get to the girl.” I gasped and felt Enoch’s hand tighten painfully on my arm.
“The girl is a human,” he growled. “I picked her up a motel and was about to have my way with her before Angelina butted in.” His breaths puffed in the air in front of him. “What could you possibly want with a stupid feeler?”
I flinched at the insult, though I knew he was just trying to save me. The man tilted his head, clearly not fazed by Enoch’s speech. “She’s going to lead us to Clara.”
I gasped, unable to stop it. “Clara! What do you want with Clara?”
They all stood silent except for the man who had been speaking. He smiled. It was the most evil thing I’d ever seen. I covered my mouth with my palm, knowing my mistake had been grave, knowing I’d given the enemy exactly the ammo they’d wanted. I didn’t know why they wanted Clara. That didn’t make any sense. But it was Enoch’s reaction that surprised me the most. He looked at me over his shoulder, his jaw clenched, his eyes angry. “How the hell do you know Clara?”
I felt my lips part. I dug my nails into his arm. “How the hell do you?” I whispered.
“That’s enough of the family tree for now,” the man said with a chuckle. “Just send her on over and we’ll be on our way.”
“What for?” Enoch growled, still looking at my face.
“Bait.” I heard the smile in his voice. “Come on. Red rover, red rover, send Fay right over.”
Enoch sighed and pushed me back even further as he turned to face them again.
“Do you trust me?” he asked in a low voice as he pushed harder and faster.
“Yes,” I answered without hesitation.
His eyes closed at that admission. “Hold on tight to me.”
In a second before I could think of what he was doing, he snatched me against his chest and sent us sailing over the dock’s edge into the water. I could hear cursing and yelling, even some loud bangs that had to be gunshots, but I just held on tight.
A deep voice boomed, “Don’t shoot! We need her alive!”
We landed in the freezing water and he pulled me under further and further. We swam hard toward the opposite dock. If we surfaced before we made the cover of it, they’d kill us for sure.
The deeper and further we got, the more I tried to stay calm and hold my breath, feeling the burn and ache in my lungs. I needed to a breath soon. I was trained in holding my breath. I had been put in a chamber with tear gas when I went through boot camp, more than once. I knew how to hold my breath. But we’d been under for a long time.
I started to panic and began to fight him. He didn’t understand that I couldn’t breathe like him, that I need air more often—and then his lips were on mine. I couldn’t see much in the murky water, but I could see that his eyes were open. I tensed, still fighting inside, but he held tight and smoothed my cheek with his thumb. I relaxed my muscles, and opened my mouth under his, blowing my air from my nose. He wasted no time in giving me the air in return.
I worried about him for a split second before I remembered that he wasn’t human, number one, and number two, if he was offering obviously he had some to spare. He leaned back and nodded his head as if to ask if I was good to go. I nodded back and he pulled me forward, putting a hand under my butt and pushing me forward to give me a boost. He stayed right behind the whole way. As soon as I saw the docks in the water, it was like a cue for my body to gain some little spurt of energy. Adrenaline.
I took off, determined to get there as fast as I could. My lungs ached and burned, and when I surfaced, I tried not to gasp and moan so loudly in case anyone was close. He surfaced in front of me and wasn’t even winded. I tried to calm my breaths, but it was hard to do with him watching me so intently. “Stop it.”
“What?” he asked, but the smirk he tacked on let me know that he knew exactly what was up.
“It sucks that you don’t have to breathe.”
“Or eat. Or sleep.” Then he looked at me seriously, right into my very soul. “But you don’t have to feed off anyone’s emotion’s either. Their anger, their hatred, to taste it on your tongue.”
I shivered and wrapped my arms around myself. “I’m sorry.”
“Why are you sorry?”
“For thinking about my sister even after you asked me not to.” My teeth chattered. “I don’t know what sorrow tastes like, but I can imagine it’s not good.”
He sighed and ran a hand through his hair, sidelining my subject. “We can go. You have to get out of this water.”
“I’m fine,” I lied. “We should wait and make sure it’s safe.”
“You’re freezing to death,” he barked back. “I’ll handle them. It would take them a long time to make it to this side of the docks. Let’s go and get you that room I promised you. And you can tell me how you know Clara Hopkins.”
I shivered again as he said my sister’s name, because the amount of malice that came with it made my skin crawl.
END OF PREVIEW!!
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