“Normal is overrated,” Draven remarks. “Now, please, feed on her. I’m dying to see it.”

The full reality of what’s about to happen starts to sink in. Laylen’s going to bite me and it’s going to feel… well, as far as I’ve seen good. Yet too good, almost to the point that I might become addicted to the feel of my blood being drunk.


“Tell us about Jocelyn first,” Laylen demands. “Or no deal.”

Draven shakes his head with a wicked glint in his eye as he traces the triangular symbol on his arm with his finger. “We’re not in Keeper’s land anymore my dear Laylen. You are nothing except an ordinary Vampire with a very unfortunate mark on your body that brands you good in the world of the bad.”

Laylen’s Adam’s apple bobs up and down as he swallows hard. “Fine.” His eyes reluctantly drift to me and, if it were possible, his skin looks even paler. “Gemma, I’m so sorry.”

“You don’t have to do it,” I whisper at the sight of the discomfort in his eyes. “If you don’t want to. We can find another way or…”

I trail off as he shifts his body forward in his seat, bending his back and moving closer to me. My chest heaves ravenously as anticipation and fear collide inside me and I turn inward to bring myself closer to him. He maintains my gaze as he cups the bottom of my neck softly, yet at the same time with purpose. I wonder if he can feel my rapid pulse. If he can smell the scent of my blood in my veins. What he’s thinking. I wonder a lot of things, until he leans in so close I feel the heat of his breath caressing my skin, and then all thoughts are lost as a silence overtakes my body.

“Just breathe and try to relax,” he whispers, the pupils in his eyes expanding and taking over all of the blue in his eyes. His lips part, his breathing sharpens and his pointed fangs descend.

My mind tells me that I should be afraid, but my body won’t have any part of it, the prickle on the back of my neck stabs wildly, releasing an abundance of emotions. I lean into his touch, his hand tightens around the bottom of my neck and my knees press into his. I know Draven is watching us, but I block him out and focus on my breathing. Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

Laylen’s head slants to the side, so he’s moving in toward my neck at an angle. When he’s only inches away, his tongue slips out and slides across his lips, moistening them and skimming along the tips of his fangs. I feel a tremor in his fingertips as they delve against my skin and I reach forward to grasp onto his legs. I hold my breath as his lips graze my neckline and then squeeze my eyes shut as his fangs pierce my vein.

It’s far more intense than just the scrape. Blindingly intense. A body-altering intensity. I fall so fast into the dark that I can’t even remember what the light looks like. I hear myself groan, however it barely sounds like me, and an invisible connection seals the inside of my body to him. It guides me forward, forcing my back to arch and I end up pressing my chest against his.

Laylen’s fingers stab into my neck and I feel the skin bruising, but the pain only enhances the experience. He feeds on my blood, sucking it out of me and putting it inside himself. My hands clamp down on his legs as I whimper, my body going limp as all the energy is drained from me.

Laylen pauses, the tug from him sucking momentarily ceasing. He groans and I think he’s going to stop, even though my mind is screaming at him to continue. However, then he bites down harder, and suddenly, I’m being laid back toward the table. The edge of it cuts into the center of my back and I cry out as he slides me up and sprawls me down on the table, aligning his body with mine as he sucks on my neck, spilling blood all over my skin and clothes. My hands wind around his back and I stab my nails into his shoulder blades, grasping onto him. I can barely see anything anymore besides the color red. Blood red. I can smell it, taste it. It’s driving me crazy. I need more of something. My body is being starved.

“Laylen,” I manage to choke out, my head drifting to the side as my legs fall open. His body responds, curving inward and rubbing up against me. His fangs sink deeper, plunging into the arch of my neck. Then suddenly he’s pulling away. I think it’s over as he wipes the blood off his face with his hand and licks it off his lips with his tongue. I don’t want him to be done. I want more—need it. I’m not sure where the sensation is stemming from, what drives it. Regardless, I fasten my legs around his waist and cross my ankles tightly around him.

He opens his mouth and bends his arms, letting his body softly fall onto me, and his lips crash against my own. I can taste salt and rust along with a thousand different things, most of which I have no idea what they are. I open my mouth, letting his tongue slide into me as I clutch onto him for dear life. His hand glides up my ribcage and resides just below my breast, where he grips forcefully. It feels so right, yet through the fog in my head, a voice whispers at me to stop; that this is wrong and Laylen isn’t who I’m supposed to be with. Although, I can’t remember the name of the person I belong to.

Laylen moves his mouth away from mine, and starts trailing kisses down my neck, licking off the blood while his teeth graze my skin, barely breaking it as I feel gentle stings.

I let him, too. I’d let him do anything to me at the moment. He owns my body and mind as well as my fractured soul. As he sinks his teeth into my neck again and starts to drain me of my blood, I eagerly allow him to suck my blood until I can’t feel my body anymore and I fall into the dark.

Chapter 5

I feel so cold, like icicles have bronzed my bones, chilled my heart and frozen the veins running beneath my frosted skin. Unbelievably cold.

Am I dead?

My eyes flutter open. The first thing I notice is that the air smells less smoky. Then I notice the grey sky. I gradually sit up, the skin on my upper arm’s blazing like it’s on fire. I press my hand to the area as I take in the sight of my surroundings. Miles and miles of muddy land, stretching toward the grey horizon and buried beneath piles of metal objects. Some are small, some large, some with a basic structure while some are so complex it takes a few blinks of my eyes to get them into focus. Some are embedded with jewels, others dull and faded. It’s like a junkyard for the collector of strange objects, but where and what is this place?

I unsteadily get to my feet and immediately reach for my neck, shocked when I find that there’s no blood on me, no wounds, as if Laylen hasn’t bitten me.

“Hello!” I call out, making my way around a massive steel box with the lid crushed in. “Is anyone here?”

Ravens flock from the heaps of misshapen metal and flee into the dusky sky, sending black feathers to the ground. I begin to walk, weaving around objects and dirt piles, hoping to find some sort of explanation of how I got here and where here is. The walk seems endless, though, and finally I sit down in the dirt.

As my skin ignites, I remove my hand from it and peek underneath it. My heart stops at the sight of a triangular symbol on my upper arm, black overlapping red. The same mark I had seen on Draven. Shit.

Panic soars inside me and something painfully alters in my heart. I feel different—powerful—like I can do anything. The power is stemming from the symbol on my arm. I slowly rise to my feet, ready to do whatever it takes to get out of here and knowing I mean it, even if I have to take another life.

There are so many terrible things flashing through my head right now that they practically swallow up my identity with a blanket of needles.

“Gemma…” Someone whispers behind me.

I turn around, glancing at the land behind me. I search for what seems like forever, feathers raining down on my head. When I give up and turn around something smacks me upside the head.

My ears ring and my skull feels like it cracks as I drift into the ground, into darkness.

When I open my eyes, it takes my brain a second to process where I am. There’s too much confusion. One minute I’m being fed on, then I’m in some weird junkyard, and the next thing I know I’m lying on warm asphalt, with a very dim lamppost shining down on me as I gaze up at the stars.

“Are you okay?” Laylen’s voice sedates me.

I turn my head to the side and find him kneeling next to me, the top of his shirt covered in blood, his eyes like shadows. I feel strangely calm, all things considering, and I have a suspicion Laylen has put the emotion into me.

“Where am I?” I croak, my fingers drifting to the area on my neck that’s coated with a warm, sticky substance. I turn my shoulder inward and glance at the place where the symbol was on my skin, but it’s gone.

It was just a dream. A nightmare. Thank God.

“We’re just outside of Adessa’s, in the parking lot.” Concern and guilt mask his face. “You blacked out.”

I gradually sit up. “Owe.” I wince, clutching onto my tender muscles.

“Easy,” Laylen says, his voice soothing as he traces his fingertips up and down my spine. “It’s going to hurt for a little bit.”

I bring my hand away from my neck and hold it up in front of my face. My fingers are drenched in blood. “What else am I going to feel?” I whisper.

“I’m not sure…” He struggles for words as his hand rests on the small of my back. “Gemma, I’m so sorry.”

I slope my chin up to meet his eyes, then reach up and brush his hair away from his forehead. I move robotically, as if I’m supposed to be doing what I’m doing, not of my own accord, but because my body needs to touch him. “It’s not your fault. I’m the one who said to do it.”

“But I didn’t have to do it,” he says and then shuts his eyes as I place a hand on his cheek and run my thumb along his jawline. “Part of me wanted to do it,” he admits, opening his eyes. “Part of me has wanted to… to bite you ever since you reentered my life.”

I’m uncertain how to take his revelation, whether I should be frightened or feel flattered. Honestly, I feel neither. I feel drained dry, subdued and emotionally empty. “What happened exactly? I just blacked out?”

He nods, smoothing his hand down my back. “It happens sometimes… from the loss of blood and emotional overload.”

“Did Draven tell you anything about my mother?” I ask, praying to God that all of this didn’t happen without a reason.

“Yeah, he… he told me… he said that she’s still there, in The Underworld, fully alive.” He looks like he’s unsure whether he should be happy or not

I’m not sure if I should be happy or not, either. Yes, she’s alive, but she’s also been down there for a very long time. I think of the dream, although now I’m starting to wonder if it was a vision I somehow entered without a crystal ball, something I’ve been wondering if I can do for a while. “So she’s still alive?”

He nods, but then quickly adds, “But Gemma, Draven could see if she was still there, but what he couldn’t tell me is what condition she’s in.”


“Whether she’s continued to be sane or if she’s lost her sanity to the torture,” he tells me uneasily.