My lips quiver. “Yes.”

“Are you sure?”



He pauses. “Okay.”

I let out an exhale, glad he can’t see me, see what I mess I am. I allow the tears to fall freely as his shadow shrinks as he moves away. However, then the entire bathtub suddenly darkens, his shadow expanding over me when he draws back the curtain.

He grips onto the edge of the curtain, staring down at me naked in the tub, hugging my knees. There are droplets of water on my face and tears pooling in my eyes and my hair drips in tangles down my back.

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“You don’t look okay,” he says, keeping his eyes on mine. “You’ve been in your room for over two days. Aislin said you probably needed space—that it would take a few days for the…” He shuts his eyes, gathering himself before opening them. “For the sensations of the bite to wear off. That’s how it was for her.” His gaze sweeps over my face. “But now I’m wondering if she was wrong.”

I don’t know how to respond. I did need time; I chose to stay in the room, but while isolation might have been a good thing for Aislin, I don’t think it was that great for me. I’ve had too much of it during my life.

I want to tell him this, but when I open my lips all that comes out is a quiet sob. “I’m sorry.” I’m not even sure what I’m sorry for, but it feels like it needs to be said so I go with it.

“Gemma…” He reaches for the faucet and shuts the water off. Then he leans back and slips his hands into mine, helping me to my feet. I bite my lip as I stand naked in the bathtub before him, feeling self-conscious. “You don’t need to be sorry.” He tucks strands of my wet hair behind my ear. “I get why you did it.”

I’m a little shocked. “You do?”

He nods, smoothing my hair out of my eyes. “I just wish you would have found a different way—an easier way. Yet, I understand how it feels… to want to see your mom again.”

The way he says it, makes me wonder. “Do you not know your mom?”

He presses his lips together, releases me, and then takes a step toward the towel rack. “My mom disappeared when I was younger.” He grabs a towel off the rack and turns back to me

I can suddenly feel it; the sparks and the elated electricity reuniting wholly with my body. It’s wonderful and heartbreaking, welcome and, yet, unwanted. “What happened to her?”

He grips the towel in his hand. “I have no idea.” He lets the towel fall open. “How about we talk about what we’re going to do about your mom?”

I wrap my arms around my body as the cold air gets to my dewed skin. “Why? Are you going to help me?”

“Lift your arms up,” he instructs and I hesitantly obey. “I was thinking about it, but only if we do it smartly.” He wraps the towel around my back and then drags it across my sides, wiping away the water.

“Why, though?” I wonder, fighting my eyes to stay open as he moves the towel along my ribs, my hips, my stomach, and back, drying off my body. “Why would you all of a sudden help me? You’re acting very strange right now. Too nice.”

“I’ve always been helping you, Gemma. It just might not always seem like it, especially when your emotions get in the way.” He pulls on the towel, moving to the front of me, and begins to wipe off my neck. “And I’m trying to be nice because you deserve nice.”

I swallow hard as his hand holding the towel wanders toward my breast. “Your emotions get in the way sometimes, too. You can be so hot and cold.”

He stares at my chest as he begins to dry it off. My nipples harden and a gasp escapes my lips, even though I fight it. “I can’t help it,” he says softly, moving his gaze and hands away from my chest. He wraps the towel around my body and secures it in a knot at the top. Then he moves back and holds his hand out. “It’s how I’ve been taught to be… detached.” He stops as I set my hand in his then he helps me out of the tub. “I can’t help it and I don’t want to help it. Besides, I’m beginning to believe that everything I was taught is bullshit.”

He’s being so cooperative and the surprising thing is that he seems genuinely nice at the moment. “I want to believe you,” I say. “But it’s hard to after everything that’s happened.”

“I know,” he says simply and then he winks at me even though he looks sad. “Give me time, though, and I’ll change your mind.”

“We’re always arguing, though,” I point out.

He winks again and this time a smile shows through. “Don’t pretend like you don’t like it—that it doesn’t get you all turned on.”

I don’t say anything because he’s partially right. We stare at each other for a moment and I can hear us both breathing erratically. Taking a step forward, he carefully backs me into the sink and sweeps a lock of my hair away from my face. When his gaze meets mine, my body nearly melts as electricity spirals through it. I decide that, despite whatever I said, I did miss it. A lot.

He leans in toward me, tracing my jawline with his fingers. “You bring it out of me, you know. Before you, I could completely control everything I feel, but you… you drive me crazy.”

“You drive me crazy, too,” I agree, my voice a lot less steady than his. “You make me so frustrated… and I don’t know if I should, or if I even can, trust you.”

I wait for him to get angry, but he seems to be very distracted by my neck, his gaze is glued to it as he sketches his finger back and forth across the healing teeth marks.

“Did it hurt?” he asks, pressing down on the marks.

I wince, but only because the contact of his skin makes my body flame hot. “Not really.”

His eyes glide up to mine. “Did it feel… good?”

“Honestly?” I ask and he nods. My breath falters. “It felt good, bad, and… confusing.”

His hands glide up the front of my neck, his skin agonizingly hot as it stops at the top. “Did you do anything else?”

“I don’t know.”

“Yes, you do.”

“I know, but I don’t want to tell you.”

He pauses and I feel his hand tremor. “I need to know. It’ll drive me crazy if I don’t.”

I swallow hard. “We kissed.”

His grip tightens on my neck, not enough to choke me, but enough that it’s intense. “Just kiss?” he asks and I nod.

He loosens his grip slightly, pressing his thumb against my pulse. “Does this feel good?” he asks in a husky voice. “When I touch you?”

I shake my head as hot tingles coil up my legs. “I don’t know.”

His other hand touches my knee and then slips up the front of my towel, his fingers delving into my upper thigh. “How about this?”

Unbearable heat spreads up my leg and causes me to tremble irrepressibly. “Maybe…” I fight to tell him the truth; that he gets to me in ways I can barely grasp. That no matter what happens, if he wants me, then he’ll eventually get me because battling my emotions and the sparks will break me down in the long run.

I unintentionally gasp as his breath catches, and then his hand inches higher. I lean back against the mirror. “Alex… what are you ….”

I drift off as his fingers touch between my legs without slipping into me, merely resting just outside. I bite down on my lip as every single one of my nerve endings blaze with fiery heat and every thought inside my head dissipates

“I can’t take this anymore,” he says in a breathy whisper as he leans in closer, his eyes glossed over. “I want to be angry with you, but I can’t stop thinking about how I need to make you mine again and how I really don’t deserve you for everything I’ve done to you—all the lies I’ve told.” His lips hover above my mouth as his chest lines up with mine, burning me with ecstasy and driving me crazy. I grip onto the countertops, struggling to cling onto reality.

“How do you think I feel?” I groan. Hold on, Gemma. Don’t let go. You need a clear head… clear… “I never know what you’re thinking… what you want… what’s the truth… what’s right and what’s…” I drift off as his fingers slip inside me. My body bows into him and the towel slips loose before falling to my waist, my bare chest pressing against him.

His fingers start to gently move inside me. “Just trust me okay?”

I shake my head because I don’t entirely trust him or myself and what I’m feeling, but I don’t argue because I can’t. I want him to keep doing what he’s doing, feeling me, touching me, diminishing the void inside me. Giving me the human connection that I crave.

His fingers keep working as I struggle to breathe. I clutch so tightly onto the counter that the edge stabs into my palms. Finally I let go and grab onto his shoulders at the same time his hands slide around my back. He pushes on it, forcing me to move closer to him.

My body arches into him so he can touch me even more, even though he’s already touching me all over. It feels like there’s something missing in the midst of it all. Another connection I’m being deprived of. Then his lips come down on mine and I understand. I needed him to kiss me in order to breathe, function, and be whole again. The entire time the electricity was gone I felt so out of whack, so incomplete, and incredibly wrong. I need Alex, however the question is, do I need him because I want him or is it because of the electricity and whatever’s causing it?

I shove the thought out of my head as his fingers push me into blissfulness. As I scream out, he trails kisses down my jawline, my neck, and my breast; sucking hard on my nipple before returning his mouth to mine. He kisses me fiercely. Forcefully. Until my lips are going to bruise. My body and mind unwind and for a moment everything seems perfect. Complete. Whole.

Then I start to regain my composure, however, I don’t want to just yet. I want to lose control, drift away, feel every emotion amplify and leave.

I reach for the bottom of Alex’s shirt as I pull back my lips.

“What are you doing?” he asks blinking, his lips swollen as he slips his fingers out of me.

I don’t say a word as I start to tug his shirt over his head.

He opens his mouth to argue, but then clamps his jaw shut, deciding against it before he then rips his shirt over his head. My hands glide up the front of his lean muscles, trace the lines of the golden flames trimming a ring, the Mark of the Keepers branding the side of his ribcage. He crashes his lips into mine and steals the breath out of me. I writhe my body against him as I slide my hand to the top of his pounding heart. The feeling of it hitting my palm fuels me with desire and I reach for the button off his jeans. He jerks his lips away and the lack of control in his eyes is undeniable. Like the first time we had sex when he lost control of what he was doing. I’m losing control, too, and I don’t give a shit. I want, no, need him to be inside me now, and I don’t even completely understand why. It’s like I’m drowning in emptiness and being with him is the only way to save me.

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