“You can think whatever you want.” I get to my feet as the prickle does a nagging dance on the back of my neck and I fill vindictive. “But I’ve actually talked to him about this long before he even bit me, and he told me the craving is always there.”

She gives me a cold, hard stare. “Well, you forced him to delve into it.”


“You know what, you’re right.” I head around the couch and toward the hallway. “But you’ve also done a lot of shitty things, too, like help everyone make sure my soul is detached. “

It’s a great exit line and I take the opportunity to leave the room. I go to Laylen’s room and find him out on the deck with the blood of the woman still on his hands, shirt, and jeans. His arms are resting on the wood railing as he stares out at the ocean waves rolling up against the sandy shore.

I walk up beside him and put my own arms on the railing. I gaze out at the ocean, waiting for him to speak first because I can sense that it’s one of those moments. He needs to say what’s on his mind first before I can plan what I’m going to say, so it’ll be the right words.

“For the last few years,” he finally starts with his eyes fixed on the ocean, “I’ve felt so empty. After I was turned into a Vampire, Alex and Aislin wouldn’t have anything to do with me—none of the Keepers would. My parents were already gone, so…I was basically all alone.” He turns his head to the side and then meets my gaze. “I pretended it was okay. I shut down and it helped, but all that crap I’ve kept bottled is slipping out and I don’t know what else to do other than feed because that’s what my instincts are telling me to do.”

I place my hand on his arm in a comforting gesture. “Laylen I’m so sorry for making you bite me… I didn’t realize how bad things would get.” I shake my head. “I’m really screwing everything up.”

“No, you’re not,” he says. “I wanted to bite you. It was my fault.”

The prickle emerges and suddenly I know I need to say something important. I turn to face him and he moves with me so we’re facing each other, my neck angled up to actually look at him. The sun shines from behind him and I blink against the brightness.

“I know you want to take responsibility for this,” I say. “But I kind of need to, you know. It’s part of learning and I need to learn because I spent so much time in this dark, subdued, hindering place. It makes it hard to know what’s right and what’s wrong. I need to learn from this and I need you to accept that if I wouldn’t have been there to make you do it, then we wouldn’t be in this place.”

He opens his mouth, but then quickly shuts it when he spots tears forming in my eyes as my guilt becomes too much to keep bottled inside me. He lets out a sad sigh and then wraps his arms around me, tensing just a little before relaxing into me.

-- Advertisement --

“All right, Gemma Lucas,” he says, kissing the top of my head. “You can take the blame for this one, but the next thing we screw up together is all on me.”

“Deal,” I whisper against his chest as hot tears stream down my cheeks. “I’m sure there will be many more. At least on my part.” I listen to his heartbeat. “You’ll be okay, right?”

It takes him a moment to answer. “Honestly, I’m not sure.” He carries doubt, yet I don’t anymore. I’ll make sure to help him, no matter what sacrifices I have to make. I will make up for what I did to him.

We don’t move. We barely breathe as we hold onto each other and stand in the sunlight out on the deck. We stay that way for a long time, just two friends who understand each other. Two people who know what it feels like to have no one. Maybe that is no longer the case, though.

Maybe we have each other.

Chapter 25

“I feel like today is the day,” I tell Alex as we sit down on the bed, cross-legged, facing each other with the Ira positioned between us on the white comforter.

It’s been two days since Laylen’s episode and he seems to be feeling better, for the most part. He’s talking to me again and I even caught him smiling, which has so much beauty in it that it’s almost heart stopping to witness. I in no way think he’s completely gotten over it, however. I know it will take time. A lot of time. But I’ll make sure to be there for him through it.

Alex crooks an eyebrow as he leans back on his hands. “Wow, someone’s really cheerful today.”

I skim my fingers across the sparkling, teal glass. “Well, it’s about time, right?”

The French doors are agape, letting the sea breeze blow into the room and the white curtains surrounding the canopy bed flap around us.

“I love the spout of confidence,” he says. “But can I ask where it’s coming from?”

I shrug, putting my hand onto my lap. “Nowhere in particular.”

That’s actually a lie. The feeling was seeded and started sprouting when I’d gotten done hugging Laylen for hours, then I’d gone back to my room and cried. Cried for him. For me. For my mother. For Alex and Aislin who can’t help who they are—or were. I cry for everyone’s lives that have been messed up because of this stupid star inside me and the tears were liberating. I woke up feeling everything again; not just the heat of the sun or the touch of the air. I could feel what was inside my heart and who I really was.

A girl with a lot of power.

A girl who was going to save her mom and the world so people like Laylen, who are genuinely good at heart, can have a chance at life.

“You’re acting weird,” Alex states with curiosity.

I put both of my hands on the Ira and watch the outer shell glow. “As weird as I always am.” I stare at my reflection in the glass, my brown hair hanging to my shoulders, my violet eyes radiating the life within them. Most of the cuts and bruises on my face have healed. On the inside of me, though, deep beneath my skin, I still feel torn.

Alex hooks a finger under my chin and tips my face up to his. “Are you sure you’re okay? You’ve been through a lot over the last few weeks and I’m worried you’re going to break.”

“You know, I should be asking you the same question since a few weeks ago your main concern was that I’d go back to being soulless.”

He shakes his head, frowning. “I may have done stuff to make you think that, but only because I thought it was what I was supposed to do. Deep down I was secretly hoping that you’d be stronger than me.”

“And what verdict did you reach on that one?” I hold his gaze, waiting for his answer.

“I got exactly what I was hoping for.” He slides his finger up my chin and touches my lips as one of the curtains flaps over our heads like a canopy. “Now will you please quit being stubborn and kiss me? You haven’t kissed me all day.”

The strange thing about all of this is after Laylen’s and my talk, things went back to friendly with us. The connection drawing me to him, sexually anyway was broken. I wonder if it’s because we finally talked about the problem out loud. If maybe admitting what we did freed us from everything we were trapping inside.

I give Alex what he asks and lean over the Ira to kiss him. Our tongues twine together as I knot my fingers through his hair, pulling him closer while he presses on the small of my back. Our lips spark like firecrackers and drive my body to the edge of wanting more than just a kiss. It feels like it’s starved and I realize that it’s been forever since he’s been inside me. Jesus, I want to feel it again. So damn badly.

He consumes every part of my body with his hands until I can’t take it anymore. Finally, I climb on his lap and straddle him. He groans as our bodies conform together and I feel his hardness pressing between my legs. We kiss for an eternity, our bodies and tongues melting together and the spark of electricity combusts with eagerness. It wants to be near him just as much as I do and I moan from the heat and need of my sexually deprived body.

His fingers leisurely stray up the back of my shirt, leaving a searing hot path on my skin. I put my hands on his shoulders, pulling myself closer, and rocking my hips against him, rubbing against his hardness. His touch becomes rougher as his hands travel to the front of my body and his fingers graze my stomach, drifting downwards to my hips. He grips me, pressing his fingertips into my skin as I continue to rock against him. His lips make a fervent path from my mouth to the front of my neck, his teeth gently grazing in an echo of his kisses.

My head willingly falls back as he sucks on my skin and a possessive heat swells through my body, building between my legs. I rock my hips faster and he moves with me perfectly in tune. He groans and bites at my skin while I slip my hands under the top of his shirt and stab my nails into his back.

He responds with a shudder as his skin splits open. “Fuck…. Gemma… that feels so good…”

My body climbs higher and higher into bliss until I feel like I’m on the verge of exploding. I tremble, my skin dampening with sweat as fireworks shower through my entire body and the prickle goes wild on the back of my neck. I’m panting as his hand moves up to my chest, slipping under my bra. He cups my breast, grazing his finger across my nipple, adding more heat to the bursting sensation.

I scream out in utter and complete bliss, clutching onto the nearest thing and I end up making more scratches on his shoulder.

“I want to be inside you so fucking bad,” Alex moans against my neck as he grips my hip with one hand and pinches softly on my nipple with his other. He continues feeling me, basking me with kisses and soft nicks until I start to relax and come down from the high he put in my body. He leans back and looks at me with glazed over eyes.

“You’re so beautiful,” he whispers and moves in for another kiss.

I catch my breath and lean back, breaking the moment as I hurry to climb off his lap

“You’re leaving me high and dry after that?” He fakes a sexy pout. “Seriously?”

I hold up my finger as I stare down at the Ira iridescent from the energy radiating off me. “It’s for a good reason,” I say. He keeps pouting as I place my hands on the glass ball, grasping onto the emotions he instilled in me by kissing me and making me orgasm. Lust, desire, pure and heavenly elation are mixing inside my bloodstream, along with electricity. There’s so much power inside me and I let it drain out, heating the glass of the Ira.

“Alex hold onto me,” I whisper as the glass begins to glow.

“You’re getting smarter by the second. You know that?” He places a hand on my knee, scooting closer. The contact only amplifies the voltage of my emotions and makes the crystal ball glow brighter. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

I nod as a teal glow bursts throughout the room and the curtains float above us. “Yeah, I’m about as sure as the last time you asked me.”

He cracks a smile, but it’s a nervous one. He’s anxious as hell.

I’m nervous as hell as well, and the feeling only magnifies as more energy pours through me. “Do you have the diamond?”

He pats the pocket of his jeans with his free hand. “Yep, it’s right here.”