The Bite That Binds Page 1

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CHAPTER ONE

(Sam)

She was there again. She came nearly every night. I still wasn’t sure whether she was a dream or a hallucination. But I knew that as soon as she crooked her finger, I’d follow her like she wanted me to. It was always the same.

It was like being in a trance, and yet not. I knew the choice to follow her was mine, but it was like there was some kind of pull that overrode my reservations. So, like I always did, I slipped out of bed and walked behind the tall, slim vampire who was clothed in only a torn emerald-green dress that matched the colour of her eyes. Her coal-black hair was so thick and long that it covered most of the pale skin of her arms. Just like always.

I followed her into the living area of my apartment where a large oval-shaped mirror stood, totally out of place. The vampire turned and smiled; it was reassuring and friendly, but I wasn’t reassured at all. Then she lifted her arm and pointed at the mirror. It wasn’t my own reflection staring back at me. Instead, it was like I was looking through a large doorway. There was a derelict one-floored house that seemed to be in the middle of no-man’s land.

The vampire stepped through the doorway and gestured for me to follow her. Not bloody likely. Every instinct I had in this dream or hallucination or whatever it was screamed, ‘No!’

So I did the same thing I always did; I shook my head and mouthed ‘no’. Again the vampire indicated for me to follow her, but again I shook my head. Her smile fell as anxiety and dejection filled her eyes. The doorway closed behind her, and that was when it ended.

“Sam,” a familiar voice murmured as fingers combed through my hair. His spicy, masculine scent swirled around me, stirring my senses. But, then, everything about Jared had each of my senses on high alert. And the cocky sod knew it. “Sam, baby, wake up.”

Nah. Although the mattress felt a little harder than usual, I was too tired to care. I shoved at the firm, hard chest I could sense hovering over me, but Jared only chuckled.

“You did it again.”

“Did what?” I mumbled.

“You went for a stroll in your sleep and ended up on your living room carpet.”

Peeking through one eye, I saw that he was right. Groaning, I allowed my eyelid to drift shut again. Apparently tired of waiting for me to move, he scooped me up and arranged me so that I was straddling his lap on the floor. “I dreamed about her again,” I explained drowsily as I rested my head on his shoulder.

He sighed. “You know, I think we should arrange a meeting with Antonio so we can talk to him about this.”

“It was just a dream. I don’t think that warrants a visit to the Grand High Master Vampire.” In truth, I wasn’t as unworried as I sounded.

“Almost every night over the past two weeks, I’ve woken up to find that I’m alone in bed. What if it wasn’t a dream and you weren’t sleepwalking at all? What if it would have been possible for you to follow her through that door, or whatever it was?”

I’d wondered about those things as well.

“I don’t want to take the chance that one night you do as she asks, and I wake up to find that you’re gone. You need to talk to Antonio.” He lifted my head to seize my gaze with those hazel eyes that had more of an effect on me than I cared to admit. It was like they were designed to snatch and trap a person’s attention – they certainly seemed to have that effect on the females around here. The effect wasn’t lessened by the red tinges to his irises that marked him as a Pagori vampire and glowed whenever he was thirsty, angry, or horny.

I didn’t envy Jared being a Pagori, despite that that breed of vampire was the most powerful of the three and had incredible strength and speed as that strength came with a price – their bloodlust was just as strong.

The bloodlust wasn’t so bad for the hypnotically beautiful Keja vampires. All vampires had a preternatural allure, but a Keja’s allure was enchanting and bewitching. The breed was identifiable by the fact that they had fangs and also amber tinges to the irises. Like with Pagoris, the tinges glowed if the Keja was angry, thirsty, or horny.

Sventé vampires, like myself, didn’t have this characteristic, which I was quite happy about – I liked my irises just as they were thank you very much. But although Sventés were stronger and faster than humans, we were weaker than the other two breeds of vampire. We did have some strong points; not only did we have the agility of jungle cats, but our bloodlust wasn’t overpowering – enabling us to walk among humans without losing control and leaping on one. Having a manageable bloodlust, however, meant that the other two breeds considered Sventés to be very tame and human-like and, therefore, inferior. Snort.

Unfortunately, Jared had once been one of those prejudiced vampires. When I’d first arrived at The Hollow from London to partake in the try-outs for a place in the legion − Antonio’s personal army − Jared had thought the idea was absolutely ridiculous. It hadn’t mattered that I was unique in being a Feeder: a vampire gifted with the ability to absorb and manipulate the energy around them. Nor had he been impressed by my perfect control of this overwhelming gift that should technically only be a Pagori power. He, like many others, had been too hung up on the fact that I was not only a Sventé, but female.

As such, it hadn’t helped my cause that Jared was one of the assessors during the try-outs. He had denied me a place in the new squad, despite that I’d earned one. But that attitude had kind of backfired when Antonio then made me Jared’s co-commander. Ha. It had been a while before Jared accepted me as his co-commander, but now the arrogance and narrow-mindedness that had created his prejudices was gone.

Not that Jared had had a personality transplant or had switched from alpha to beta. No, he was still assertive, imposing, and demanding – and could even be cocky and irritating, for that matter. But the narrow-mindedness that had once acted as a huge barrier between us was no longer there.

He wasn’t a chocolate and flowers person, wasn’t the type to spout pretty words or shower a girl with compliments. In fact, he could probably be described as a little emotionally awkward. He very rarely shared those three important little words, but he was also attentive on the most intense level. When I needed him, he was there. When I wanted his attention, he gave it. When I had a problem, he tried to fix it − even when I didn’t want him to.

It was strange to have someone who I knew I could totally rely on. I’d never had that before, didn’t want to lose it; didn’t want to lose this person who I had come to love and had every intention of Binding with in just nine evenings’ time.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that a Binding was a week-long event that culminated in a wedding-type ceremony. The guests would all arrive in two evenings’ time, and entertainment would be provided each and every night as part of the celebrations.

Taking me from my thoughts, Jared gently mashed his mouth with mine. “Want me to help you pack your stuff so we can move it all into my apartment after the meeting?” He narrowed his eyes when I didn’t speak, scrutinising my face in a way that made me squirm. It would be fair to say that I’d been seriously procrastinating taking this big step. “If you expect me to live apart from you, Sam, get that idea right out of your head. Is it that you’re having second thoughts about the Binding? You have to be honest with me. How am I supposed to tie you to the bed and make you come until you change your mind if I don’t even know you’re having second thoughts?”

I smiled – he wasn’t kidding. Lightly running my fingers through his short, chestnut hair, I told him, “It’s not that.”

“Then, what?”

Finding it hard to explain, I released a frustrated sigh. “For so long, I was under the control of Victor” – my deceased Sire and a prick of epic proportions – “and had my every move watched. The weird bastard even chose my clothes; it was part of the control. I didn’t have anything that was mine. So getting a position in the legion…it was the most amazing feeling. Suddenly I had a title, a job, an apartment – things that were mine, and mine alone. So this place is more than just a home to me, and I guess I feel a bit possessive of it since I only got it a few months ago.”

A short pause. “That’s it?”

“Yes.” Even if it didn’t make an awful lot of sense.

He shrugged carelessly. “Fine. I’ll move in here.”

I gaped rather unattractively. “You’re blowing smoke up my arse, right?”

He nipped my lip before sucking it into his mouth. “No.”

“You’d really give up your big, swanky apartment?”

“If you don’t want to move in there with me, yes.”

“But you love your apartment.”

“I love you more, dumb ass.”

Although he didn’t say the words often, there was no doubting that he meant them. It was in his eyes, his tone, his expression. “Thank you for understanding.”

He snorted. “Baby, I’m not that selfless. Maybe you haven’t considered that once we’re living together, I have your body available to me whenever I want it.”

His boyish smile had me smiling back. If I hadn’t seen him fighting during the attack on The Hollow, I would never have believed there was a ruthless, merciless streak to his nature. I’d always thought I’d seen him at his harshest. The first day we’d met, when we duelled during the try-outs, he’d aimed some big bad electric bolts at me. It hadn’t been until the attack, when I saw exactly what he could do with his gift of electrokinesis, I realised just how much he had held back from me.

That night, I’d learned just why so many vampires feared him. He’d killed without blinking, had been almost like a machine. Not once had he hesitated, faltered, or let any of his morals interfere. Not many people could block out their conscience like that. As someone who was still trying to perfect that technique, I was very much aware of how difficult it was.

Touched that he wasn’t pushing me to give up my apartment, even though he probably didn’t get why it was a big deal, I gave him a kiss filled with gratitude.

“If you really want to thank me, you can talk to Antonio about these weird dreams. Please, baby. For me.” He gripped my h*ps and pulled me tighter to him, making sure I could feel the proof of his arousal. Like I already hadn’t! He seemed to be almost permanently hard, but then, Jared was a randy bastard. Or maybe he just had a gratification disorder. In any case, I saw no need to complain.

“What’s in it for me?”

His devilish smirk surfaced. “The same thing that’s always in you. Exactly where it belongs.”

I sighed at my personal assistant, who had fast become my best friend. His petulant, sulky expression shouldn’t have made him seem more adorable than he already was. Even the indignant look he shot over his glasses made me smile. Watching him type crazily on his work computer, I realised I’d been dismissed.

Perching myself on the edge of his desk, I said, “Fletcher, don’t be an arse. It’s just that I don’t want to look like a slut at my own Binding ceremony. Is that really that much to ask? If I had my way, it would be a small, simple, private event.”

Fletcher – a fellow Brit – was fabulous to go shopping with, but he was never happy unless my cl**vage was on show and every curve of my body was accentuated. Not because he was a perv. Being gay, the last thing he was interested in was my body. He was simply determined to get rid of my tomboy look but had taken it to the extreme. Having just heard that he had been secretly working with the designer of my ceremony dress, I had every intention of going to choose something ‘off the rack’ – to his utter horror.

“Sam, luv, you’re going to Bind with the Heir of the Grand High Master Vampire. It isn’t possible to keep something like that private and simple.”

He was right, the smart little shit.

“It’s a good thing that Antonio and his personal assistants are taking care of the plans and not you or there’d be about five people gathered in a garden tent.”

He was probably right about that as well. Actually, I was glad that I didn’t have to worry about things like colour schemes, table centrepieces, and chair covers. I’d be hopeless at it anyway.

“Come on, just trust me on this,” he implored, giving me a pitiful look that was designed to eat at my defences. “I promise the dress is fabulous. And not to be a drama queen or anything, but I think I’ll choke on tears if you reject it again when you haven’t even seen it. I have a very fragile ego.”

“Emotional blackmail? Oh now that’s low.”

“I prefer to think of it as a request said with love.” Pouting, he gave me another pitiful look.

Rolling my eyes, I sighed. “Fine.” It was hard to refuse that cute little face – especially when he had the Keja hypnotic allure. The breath whooshed out of me as, in vampire speed, he was out of his chair and wrapped around me, sniffling.

“I’m getting all emotional here.” Pulling away, he fanned his face as if it would hold back the tears. “You won’t regret it, luv, I swear it.”

“I’m warning you now that if it turns out the dress is slutty, I’ll slash up all your designer clothes.”

He gasped. “You wouldn’t.”

“Oh I would.”

“Now that’s just bitchy.”

I gave him a bright, totally unapologetic smile.

Returning to his seat, he asked, “So…have you decided what to give Jared as a Binding gift yet?”

I groaned. “Don’t remind me.” The tricky thing was that it was tradition for the couple to make each other’s gift. I could just about make a sandwich. Sure, I’d thought about cheating, but then I’d feel like shit when Jared gave me his hand-made gift.

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