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Chapter 1 Excerpt

The air hummed all around us. The items on my bedside table shook. The beads on the lamp clinked together. My phone inched closer and closer to the edge. Everything on my dresser did the same. Books fell over, and Mom’s jewelry box rattled.

     “Ruby, calm down.”

     I glanced up at Patrick from where I sat on his lap. We were on my bed, and his body was curved around mine. The soothing warmth of his voice pulled at something in me to do as he wanted, to “calm down.” But the need was free once again and too loud to ignore. The Ancient was right. The very suppressed vampire nature inside me, the need as I had always called it, was powerful. Was he still helping Patrick? Was he still giving my boyfriend the strength to help me until the Ancient, my vampire father, could be here to do it himself?

     I sure as hell hoped so.

     “Please, Ruby. I need you to relax. You can do it. I don’t want to hurt you.”

     Patrick’s tone changed to one of sadness, and I refocused on his features. His jaw was clenched, and his neck strained. The energy inside him had reacted to the energy in me since the moment we met. My vampdad had tried to keep the need hidden from me. Well, guess what? I found it.

     Again.

     The reminder of that little fact blinded me from all else. Laughter rumbled in my chest, but I couldn’t hear it for the chaos inside my head. For years I had been fighting this thing, trying to contain it when it wanted to get out, but no more. I didn’t want to hide it or bury it. I wanted to let it go.

     Desires and instincts flooded my bloodstream as disasters played out in my mind: destructive tornadoes, explosions of black fire, cracks in the earth that would open great chasms straight into Hell. The ideas were too fantastical. The laughter built.

     My mirror cracked again, and the windowpanes shook.

     Yesss. More.

     “Ruby!”

     All at once a million pounds of pressure encased me. The impact left me stunned and whimpering. Air rushed from my lungs. My skin ached and burned. It was as if I’d been transported to the deepest part of the ocean, or maybe outer space. The sounds of screams and terror in my mind were exchanged with a deafening, high-pitched, piercing note that was surely making my eardrums bleed.

     I tried to reach for my ears, but I was immobilized by tight bands. Muscles twitched and convulsed as I struggled, at least, I thought I did. I wasn’t sure. Everything was a bit confusing. Was it all in my mind?

     By slow degrees, the aching and the weight lifted. The noise in my head lessened, and a low rumble replaced it. This new sound was deep but peaceful, and I gravitated to it until words formed.

     “I’m sorry, Ruby. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry.”

     Patrick.

     His face was pressed into my hair as he mumbled and rocked me softly. Over and over, he said he was sorry. I clung to the comfort of him, and eventually, the world around me settled once again.

     When my head lifted to stare up at him, Patrick moved back an inch to peer down at me. His fingertips brushed strands of my hair off my cheeks and temple. I missed this. His touch. His calming nature. The chaos in me grumbled at the admission of enjoying the calm, but I smiled when it retreated once more.

     “Are you back with me?” Patrick asked.

     I blinked up at him and let the small smile shine out to him. He was the perfect boyfriend. I was so messed up, probably the doom of the world, yet he loved me anyway.

     “I think so,” I said, but it came out as barely a whisper.

     “Ruby, I’m so sorry.” He kissed my forehead then leaned back. “I need to find a better way to handle that.”

     Understanding dawned. He had smacked my growing chaos back with his containing forcefield. My gaze darted around. If I concentrated enough, I could see it in the air around us. Like waves from gas fumes, it rippled and distorted.

     The last time he had done that, he wasn’t quite as strong, but, I guessed, neither was I then. What I didn’t want to happen was the fight and the breakup that followed the first time.

     With a deep breath that felt pretty good, I struggled to sit up. Patrick loosened his hold then placed a steadying hand on my back and helped me.

     “It’s okay,” I said. “Guess I deserved it.”

     My room was a mess. Everything from the dresser and desk was on the floor. My chair was tipped over, the shade on my lamp was cockeyed, and posters on the wall were hanging by a thread.

     I bit my lip and lifted a shy smile up at Patrick. “I feel better, though.” I usually did when the destruction was over. Like an addict after a hit, I had been sated.

     “I’m glad. Though I’d rather not hurt you to do it. You don’t deserve that, Ruby. No matter what you do. I know you hate being controlled like that, and I, well, I hate it too. I don’t want to control you. You don’t deserve that either. There has to be a better way. Something that balances the need in you instead of restricting it.”

     Balance? A word missing from my life for, like, ever. Maybe Patrick could be that for me when everything else was chaotic.

     I nodded then brushed my lips across his. When the pain of my split skin didn’t come, I touched it with my fingertips. It was mostly healed. That was one perk of my vampire nature that truly benefited me. It seemed I was prone to getting hurt, but vampires healed a lot quicker than humans. When my vampire father wasn’t holding my nature back, it healed me up nice and swiftly. The bruises on my arms and legs from the car accident were much improved too. That was when I noticed the fang marks on the inside of my wrist. Or rather, the lack of them. Patrick had bitten me for the first time just minutes ago, but only tiny, pink specs remained.

     A pout formed before I could stop it. Of all the marks on me from this and that, the sign of his fangs having been inside me was one I wouldn’t have minded hanging onto for a while.

     Patrick watched me with a small grin. Though he’d lived his nearly eighteen years knowing he was a vampire, I had not. These little vampy tricks were all new to me.

     “Vampire bites heal quickly, even on humans.” He said as if reading my mind. “On each other it’s very fast.”

     “How?” My thumb rubbed over the disappearing dots.

     “Years of evolution, so I’ve been told. We wouldn’t be very good at keeping our species a secret if tons of people ran around with bite marks on them.” He grinned again. “The same properties that heal us transfer a small portion into the bite to seal the wound quickly. Well, unless we were biting to cause injury. Feeding only requires a small prick into the vein. That’s easy enough.”

     “Uh, excuse me. Tons of people?” I tried for a pissed off expression, but Patrick only laughed. “Just how many humans do you plan on biting, Patrick?”

     He didn’t answer, only laughed more. “Of course, that’s what you hear.” He squeezed my hip. “Come on, let’s clean up the mess you made.”

     My wannabe grumble evaporated when Patrick pecked my mouth with his, then held my hips while I stood. My legs shook for a moment, but with every second I was getting more and more back to normal. Normal for me.

     It didn’t take long to have everything straightened up. There was no help for my mirror or the crack in my window. Patrick taped it up for now, but I’d have to figure out a way to tell Ted that it needed replacing.

     Ugh, Ted. How could I have gone off the deep end and not thought about him? I had been barreling right for utterly destroying this house—with me in it, but I didn’t care about that—and never thought how he might be trapped in the debris. Vampire-dad was right, which I would never admit to him. I wasn’t ready for my nature. Yet. Big yet. Huge. The annoyance of it rumbled inside me, but I took a deep breath and pushed it aside. Yet was okay. That still meant one day. One day I would own the hell out of my power.

     “Thank you, Patrick.”

     He twisted his upper body to stare back at me from where he re-taped a poster on my wall. “What for?”

     “Stopping me. Again.” I grumbled the last word. More than anything I wanted to be able to control myself, but each time, I proved I really couldn’t. I would call it me being a stubborn teenager, but I was afraid it was something a bit larger than that. Something I might never grow out of.

     Patrick turned around but stayed where he was. He knew this aspect of all the vampire jazz was a major point of contention for me. I didn’t grow up with the same rules and ideals as other female vampires. I was not contented with being ruled by the stronger males in that world. Knowing I couldn’t handle this on my own was bad enough, but knowing I needed him to help me—even worse.

     “You know I have never minded helping you. Forget everything I said that night, okay?”

     That night referred to the argument that led to our breakup. We had both said a lot of mean things. Maybe there had been some truth to them, but it was all said in anger instead of trying to figure them out. We had been accusing and tired, and both of us had lashed out.

     Patrick kept his eyes on mine as he crossed the room. His movements were slow and measured, and I could assume it was in case I wanted to stop him. Though so much had happened between then and now, this was our first night being back together for real, and the anxiety of our fight was still a bit unresolved.

     When we stood toe to toe, Patrick lifted a hand and cupped my neck. His fingers tunneled in my hair and gently rubbed right behind my ear. I would have purred like a cat if I could’ve.

     “I was so blinded with rage at my father and so very worn-out.” His eyelids slid closed, then he kissed the top of my head. “I should never have said I wished you were raised as a vampire. I don’t know where that came from. Forgive me for all the stupid things I shouldn’t have said. You never held me back, Ruby. If anything, you pushed me to be greater.”

     Forgiving someone you love was easy. It was the forgetting that people struggled with. I was ready to do both. There were too many other really bad things going on that mattered more than me holding on to grudges. Besides, me knowing how to act like a “proper vampire” might have helped in that specific instance. The thought of being raised as other female vampires were made me want to throw up. However, had I known all he was going through with his birthday trials, I might not have pushed him so hard that night.

     “I forgive you, Patrick. Can you forgive me for all the times you’ve had to smack the need on the butt, and all the times you’ll have to keep doing it?” It was hard to come to terms with needing him for that right now. A flicker of hope remained though. My vampire dad said he would teach me how to handle it once he arrived here.

     One side of his lips twitched up when he snorted a laugh. “Absolutely.”

     With the room straightened back up, I sat on my bed with my legs tucked against my chest, and Patrick sat on the chair at my desk.

     “It was hard dealing with it then. Now, maybe it’s due to being a blooded vampire or just easier to read without all that other junk from the trials in the way, but I actually like doing it, Ruby.”

     My head cocked to one side. “What do you mean? You like what exactly?”

     “Containing your need like I do. Well, should we call it the need any longer? It’s just your too-powerful vampire nature.”

     I nodded. “Yeah, that’s how I understand it from the Ancient, but it will always be the need to me.”

     “I understand, and that makes sense. The uniqueness to your nature is the need you’ve always felt. You’re second generation and all that that entails. Other than the Ancients, there aren’t any vampires alive from that time. That I know of, at least. The council could be lying about that. Females now are so much weaker, they are kept in line with a single glare, not you though.” He smiled to show his words weren’t an insult.

     “Lucky me.” I heaved a tired sigh. “All of this is still so unbelievable. With this power inside me, I should be able to protect myself from the council, but I can’t.”

     “I know it’s got to be frustrating, but we’ll figure it out, okay?” When I nodded, he said, “It’s not exactly the same, but I can sort of relate. When the bloodlust started taking over inside me, I was down on myself a lot. Everyone else around me controlled it with seemingly little trouble, but not me. It consumed me. If it weren’t for Bash, I’d probably have killed someone the first time it spiked.” He smiled, showing off his sexy fangs. “So, not exactly the same, but I have a bit of understanding on how it feels to need someone to help control the uncontrollable.”

     I appreciated him telling me that. Though his bloodlust wouldn’t have destroyed the world as I was destined to, according to some smelly old prophecy, it was nice to know he had leaned on Bash as I did him.

     “How does it feel to you? Earlier, when you put the smack down on the need, it hurt.” Patrick winced, so I hastily added, “I’m not trying to make you feel bad about it, I just want to know.”

     A long slow breath lifted his shoulders, and when they lowered, so did his eyes. His cheeks reddened a bit, which I didn’t understand the cause.

     “For starters, it doesn’t hurt me,” he said in a low voice. “It takes quite a bit of concentration, but when it’s done, when all that rolling energy around you is trapped inside this bubble I’ve made, it feels really amazing.” The last two words were mumbled, but I caught them.

     I giggled at what I now knew was his embarrassment. His head lifted until his wide eyes focused on my smile, then he sighed with a lazy grin of his own. Ugh, he was so devastatingly handsome.

     Before I could get carried away with those kinds of thoughts, I swallowed hard, and said, “It sounds right opposite of me then. When I mess things up, it feels great, like, a relief. I can breathe easier. For you, having all of my crazy trapped in an orderly little box feels the same way.”

     “You’re not crazy, Ruby, just different.”

     I nodded, but really … Crazy? Different? It was all the same to me.

     “Do you sense it now? The need? It’s not battering against me anymore.”

     My brows came together as I tried to sift through everything I was feeling. My joints and muscles were still a tiny bit sore, but I already felt better from earlier this afternoon when Ted brought me home from the hospital.

     The impending visit of my vampire father was heavy in my mind, and I had to figure out how to tell Ted, my very human stepdad, that his daughter was a vampire. Plus keeping all of me off the vampire radar, the worry over my BFF still recovering in the hospital, and the elation of getting Patrick back, was enough to keep me in a tailspin.

     All those things should be enough to keep feeding the craving inside me to mess stuff up, but I still felt it, a worm wiggling inside my gut. One wrong move would agitate it and make it surface.

     “It’s there,” I said. “What you did, I know it might have seemed extreme to you, but it helped.” Requiring such drastic measures to contain this growing need for chaos should add to my worries, but I couldn’t deal with that right now. There was too much going on. The need wasn’t going anywhere, and there were a few more immediate things to worry about.

     “What happened to Josh?” I asked while picking at a loose thread on my blanket.

     Patrick’s chest rumbled with a growl. “He was taken care of.”

     “I kinda need to know.”

     “Why?”

     Why? Uh, knowing what happened to the guy who tried to kill me was a part of the closure I needed. It wasn’t enough to know Patrick killed him. Watching my boyfriend viciously sink his fangs into Josh’s neck and drink his blood, take his life, was sickeningly satisfying, but I needed to know what happened afterward.

     “Well, um, I told Ted I k-killed him.” I tried for casual, just any old words strung together on any given day, but failed. My voice was as shaky as the confession to Ted had been.

     Patrick’s eyes sparked with red lightning then lit up with fire. His lips pulled back to show his gritted fangs as a rumble emanated out of his chest and straight into mine. I had never been afraid of Patrick, but his now blooded vampiness was pretty terrifying. On instinct, I clutched my legs tighter with a jerk of movement that raised the head of the need, AKA the chaos monster in my gut.

     “You did what?” he hissed.

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