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Authors: Anthology

Tags: #Fantasy, #Fiction, #General, #Anthologies (Multiple Authors)

Hotter Than Hell (49 page)

BOOK: Hotter Than Hell
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That doesn’t matter, her instincts—new instincts, like static across her skin, like the heat of blood drawing her—told her. The emotion is a by-product of need. He is yours because you’ve won him.

You’ve already won him, you have only to claim him.

She reached out—she could feel him without looking, by sensing the way the air folded around his body—and brushed her fingers across the back of his hand. He reacted instantly, curling his hand around hers, squeezing, pulling himself toward her, and kissing her—half on cheek, half on lip.

He pulled back, waiting for a reaction, his breath coming fast and brushing her cheek. She didn’t breathe at all—would he notice? Should she gasp, to fool him into thinking she breathed, so he wouldn’t notice that she didn’t? Another deception.

Rather than debating the question, she lunged for him, her lips seeking his, kissing forcefully. Distract him. In a minute he wouldn’t notice anything. She devoured him, and he was off balance, lagging behind as she sucked his lips and sought his tongue. She’d never been this hungry for someone before.

The taste of his skin, his sweat, his mouth, burst inside her and fired her brain. He tasted so good on the outside, she couldn’t wait to discover what the inside of him tasted like, that warm blood flushing just under the surface. Her nails dug into his arm, wanting to pull off the sleeves of his shirt, all his clothes, to be closer to his living skin. She wanted nothing more than to close her teeth, bite into him—

She pulled back, almost ripping herself away. Broke all contact and took a step back, so that she was surrounded by cool air and not flesh. She could hear the blood rushing in his neck.

This wasn’t her. This wasn’t her doing this. She couldn’t do this.

Chris gave a nervous chuckle. “Wow. That was…Emma, what’s wrong?”

She closed her eyes, took a moment to gather herself, drew breath to speak. It would look like a deep sigh to him.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I can’t do this.”

She couldn’t look at him. If he saw her eyes, saw the way she looked at him, he’d know about the thing inside her, he’d know she only wanted to rip him open. How could she explain to him, without explaining?

“I had a really nice time…but I’m sorry.”

Holding the collar of her jacket closed, she fled before he could say a word in argument.

Alette had had to force her to drink blood the first time. Emma hadn’t wanted to become this thing.

She’d threatened to leave the house at dawn and die in the sunlight. But Alette persuaded her to stay. A haunted need inside her listened to that, wanted to survive, and stayed inside, in the dark. Still, she gagged when the mistress showed her the glass tumbler full of viscous red. “It’s only your first night in this life,” she said. “You’re too new to hunt. But you still need this.” Alette had then stood behind her, embraced Emma and locked her arms tight with one hand while tipping the glass to her mouth with the other. Emma had struggled, fought to pull out of her grasp, but Alette was deceptively powerful, and Emma was still sick and weak.

Emma had recognized the scent of the blood even before it reached her lips: tangy, metallic, like a butcher’s shop. Even as she rebelled, even as her mind quailed, part of her reached toward it. Her mouth salivated. This contradiction was what had caused her to break down, screaming that she didn’t want this, that she couldn’t do this, kicking and thrashing in Alette’s grip. But Alette had been ready for it, and very calmly held her still, forced the glass between her lips, and made her drink. As much spilled out of her mouth and down her chin as slid down her throat. Then, she’d fallen still. Helpless, she’d surrendered, even as that single sip returned her strength to her.

Eventually, she could hold the glass herself and drain it. She even realized she should learn to find the blood herself. She thought she’d been ready.

Alette found her in the parlor, sitting curled up on one of the sofas. “What happened?”

Emma hugged her knees and stared into space. She’d spent hours here, almost until dawn, watching dust motes, watching time move. This was fascinating—the idea that she could see time move. Almost, if she concentrated, she could reach out and touch it. Twist it. Cross the room in a second. She would look like she was flying. She’d almost done it, earlier tonight. She’d have taken him so quickly he wouldn’t have known…

Alette waited patiently for her to answer. Like she could also spend all night watching time move.

“I don’t know.” Even after all that had happened, her voice sounded like a little girl’s. She still felt like a child. “I liked him. It was…it felt good. I thought…” She shook her head. The memory was a distant thing. She didn’t want to revisit it. “I got scared. I had him in the palm of my hand. He was mine. I was strong. And this thing rose up in me, this amazing power—I could do anything. But it wasn’t me. So I got scared and ran.”

Poised and regal, Alette sat, hands crossed in her lap, the elegant noblewoman of an old painting.

Nothing shook her, nothing shattered her.

“That’s the creature. That’s what you are now. How you control it will determine what your life will look like from now on.”

It was a pronouncement, a judgment, a knell of doom.

Alette continued. “Some of our kind give free rein to it. They revel in it. It makes them strong, but often leaves them vulnerable. If you try to ignore it, it will consume you. You’ll lose that part of yourself that is yours.”

In her bones, in the tracks of her bloodless veins, Emma knew Alette was right, and this was what she feared: that she wasn’t strong, that she wouldn’t control it. That she would lose her self, her soul to the thing. Her eyes ached with tears that didn’t fall.

How did Alette control it? How did she manage to sit so calm and dignified, with the creature writhing inside of her, desperate for power? Emma felt sure she wouldn’t last long enough to develop that beautiful self-possession.

“Oh my dear, hush there.” Alette moved to her side and gathered her in her arms. She’d seen Emma’s anguish and now sought to wrap her in comfort. Emma clung to her, pressing her face against the cool silk of her jacket, holding tight to her arms. For just a moment, she let herself be a child, protected within the older woman’s embrace. “I can’t teach you everything. Some steps you must take alone. I can take care of you if you like—keep you here, watch you always, hold the creature at bay and bring you cups of blood. But I don’t think you’d be happy.”

“I don’t know that I’ll ever be happy. I don’t think I can do this.”

“The power is a tool you use to get what you need. It should not control you.”

Not much of the night remained. Emma felt dawn tugging at her nerves—another new sensation to catalog with the rest. The promise of sunlight was a weariness that settled over her and drove her underground, to a bed in a sealed, windowless room. At least she didn’t need a coffin. Small comfort.

“Come,” Alette said, urging her to her feet. “Sleep for now. Vanquish this beast another night.”

Her mind was still her own, and she still dreamed. The fluttering, disjointed scenes took place in daylight. Already, the sunlit world of her dreaming memories had begun to look odd to her, unreal and uncertain, as if these things could never really have happened.

At dusk, she woke and told herself all kinds of platitudes: she had to get back on the horse, if at first you don’t succeed…But it came down to wanting to see Chris again. She wanted to apologize.

She found his phone number and called him, half hoping he wouldn’t answer, so she could leave a message and not have to face him.

But he picked up. “Hi.”

“Hi, Chris?”

“Emma?” He sounded surprised. And why wouldn’t he be? “Hey. Are you okay?”

Her anxiety vanished, and she was glad that she’d called. “I’m okay. I just wanted to say I’m so sorry about last night. I got scared. I freaked. I know you’ll probably laugh in my face, but I want to see you again.”

I’d like to try again, an unspoken desire she couldn’t quite give voice to.

“I wouldn’t laugh. I was just worried about you. I thought maybe I’d done something wrong.”

“No, no, of course you didn’t. It’s just…I guess since this was my first time out since I was sick, my first time being with anyone since then…I got scared, like I said.”

“I don’t know. It seemed like you were really into it.” He chuckled nervously. “You were really hot.”

“I was into it.” She wasn’t sure this was going to sound awkward-endearing or just awkward. She tried to put that lust, that power that she’d felt last night, into her voice. Like maybe she could touch him over the phone. She held that image in her mind. “I’d like to see you again.”

The meaning behind the words said, I need you.

Somehow, he heard that. She could tell by the catch in his breath, an added huskiness in his voice.

“Okay. Why don’t you come over.”

“I’ll be right there.” She shut the phone off, not giving him a chance to change his mind, not letting herself doubt.

Emma could screw this up again. There was a gnawing in her belly, an anxious thought that kept saying, this isn’t right. I’m using him, and he doesn’t deserve that. She was starting to think of that voice as the old Emma. The Emma who could walk in daylight and never would again.

The new Emma, the voice she had to listen to now, felt like she was about to win a race. She had the power here, and she was buzzed on it. Almost drunk. The new Emma didn’t miss alcohol because she didn’t need it.

It felt good. Everything she moved toward felt so physically, fundamentally good. All she had to do was let go of doubt and revel in it.

That near-ecstasy shone in her eyes when Chris opened the door. For a moment, they only looked at each other. He was tentative—expecting her to flee again. She caught his gaze, and he saw nothing but her. She could see him, see through him, everything about him. He wanted her—had watched her for a long time, dreaming of a moment like this, not thinking it would happen. Not brave enough to make it happen. Assuming she wasn’t the kind of girl who would let him in.

Yet here she was. She saw all of this play behind his eyes.

She touched his cheek and gave him a shy smile. “Thanks for letting me come over.”

Gazing at him through lowered lids, she pushed him over the edge.

He grabbed her hand and pulled her against him, bringing her lips to his, hungry, and she was ready for him, opening her mouth to him, letting him devour her with kisses and sending his passion back to him.

He clutched at her, wrinkling the back of her shirt as if he were trying to rip through it to get to her skin, kneading, moving his hand low to pin her against him. These weren’t the tender, careful, assured movements he might have used if he were attempting to seduce her—if he’d had to persuade her, if she had shown some hesitation. These were the clumsy, desperate gropings of a man who couldn’t control himself. She made him lose control. If she could now pick up those reins that he had dropped—

She pulled back her head to look at him; kissed him lightly, then slowly—staying slow, forcing him to match her pace. She controlled his movements now. She unbuttoned his shirt, drawing out every motion, brushing the bare skin underneath with fleeting touches. Lingering. Teasing. Heightening his need, feeding his desire. Driving him mad. He was melting in her arms. She could feel his muscles tremble.

Taking hold of his hands—she practically had to peel them off her backside—she guided them to her breasts and pressed them there. His eyes widened, like he’d just won a prize, and she smiled, letting her head fall back, feeling the weight of her hair pull her back, rolling her shoulders and putting her chest even more firmly into his grasp. Quickly, he undid the buttons of her shirt, tugged aside her bra, and bent to kiss her, tracing her right breast with his tongue, taking her nipple between his teeth. For all that had happened, for all that she’d become, her nerves, her senses, still worked, still shuddered at a lover’s touch. Her hands clenched on his shoulders, then tightened in his hair. She gasped with pleasure. She wanted this. She wanted this badly.

She pulled him toward the bedroom. Didn’t stop looking at him; held his gaze, would not let him break it. Her own veins were fire—controlled fire, in a very strong furnace, directed to some great purpose, a driving machine. She needed him, the blood that flushed along his skin. His very capillaries opened for her. She did not have a heartbeat, but something in her breast cried out in triumph. He was hers, to do with as she pleased.

She ran her tongue along her top row of teeth, scraping it on needle-sharp fangs.

He tugged at her shirt, searching for more bare skin. She shivered at his touch on the small of her back.

His hands were hot, burning up, and for all her desire, her skin felt cold, bloodless.

She would revel in his heat instead.

She pushed his shirt off his shoulders and let it drop to the floor, then wrapped herself around him, pulling as much of that skin and heat to her as she could.

“You’re so warm,” she murmured, not meaning to speak at all. But she was amazed at the heat of him.

She hadn’t felt so much heat since before…before she became this thing.

He kept his mouth against her, lips working around her neck, pressing up to her ear, tasting every inch.

Her nerves flared at the touch.

And suddenly, finally, she understood. It wasn’t just the blood that drew her kind to living humans. It was the heat, the life itself. They were bright sunlight to creatures who lived in darkness. They held the energy that kept her kind alive and immortal—for there would always be people, an endless supply of people, to draw that energy from. She was a parasite and the host would never die.

Neither, then, would she.

With new reverence, she eased him to the bed, made him lay back, and finished stripping him, tugging down his jeans and boxers, touching him at every opportunity, fingertips around his hips, along his thighs. She paused to regard him, stretched out on his back, naked before her, member erect, whole body flush and almost trembling with need. She had brought him to this moment, with desire burning in his eyes. He would do anything she asked, now. She found herself wanting to be kind—to reward him for the role he’d played in her education, in bringing about the epiphany that so clarified her place in the world.

BOOK: Hotter Than Hell
10.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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