Chasing Shadows
Author:Christina Moore

chapter Seven

First thing Mark and I did was go into the barn make sure the water troughs were full in each stall. As we worked, he asked me questions about vampires, wanting to know which of the myths he’d read about in my books were real and which weren’t. Once again I told him that most of the biological information I had included in the Everland stories was true; only the allergy to sunlight was false. He found the truth (which I’d not included in the books) that daylight hours made a vampire tired enough to fall into a coma-like state very amusing.

Mark asked if vampires really had fangs, to which I answered yes. I told him that the transformation from human to vampire lengthened the root of the eyeteeth—more commonly known as upper canines—and that when a vampire’s system became flooded with adrenaline, such as a prelude to violence or when sexually aroused, the canines pushed down through the jaw, giving the appearance of fangs growing. Vampires could also consciously extend their canines; when they were hungry this aided them in feeding because biting with blunt teeth, as any human with cause to bite a person could attest, caused skin to tear and made quite a mess of things. Fangs allowed a vampire to pierce the skin without having to bite down too hard, especially if they were sharpened—which most vampires tended to do. I admitted that mine had dropped earlier when we’d made love but that I’d forced them to retract for fear of freaking him out, to which he confessed that he had been so focused on getting me into bed that it probably wouldn’t have mattered if he’d seen them. He also told me that I should never be afraid to show or tell him anything about me, so I popped my fangs down and smiled, letting him get a good, long look before pulling them up again.

When I told him that the myths about vampires having no reflection in mirrors and the rumored inability to be captured on film were both complete fabrications, he admitted that he’d always thought those two particular myths were a bit ridiculous. He then asked me if vampires had any “freaky” abilities like flying, telepathy, or the ability to control animals. I said that no vampire could actually fly, but that they could jump very high and very far with a single leap, making it appear as though they were in flight. I also told him that such preternatural gifts as telepathy and communion with animals, although rare, were possible. Not every vampire developed a special ability, and while I did not technically have one, my ability to sense the presence of other supernatural beings could be considered one. When he asked if the supe-sense was unique to me or if all hybrids had the ability, I told him that while I had also never met another of my species it was supposedly a common trait among dhampyr.

I shooed the birds inside for the night as Mark wrangled the pigs indoors, then we turned for the pastures. He spoke kindly to Herugrim as we approached the horses when the stallion acted nervous at the sight of him, and I was reminded of how very lucky my new bondmate was to be what he was. Had he been fully human, I knew, he could very well have been trampled to death. The thought frightened me and I shivered.

When all the animals were inside and brushed down, Mark asked if I had any spare lumber anywhere so he could fix the door.

“I don’t like the thought of leaving it until tomorrow,” he said, “and Carter’s would be closed by now.”

I was in full agreement, and took him up to the unconverted side of the hayloft, where I kept bales of hay and fencing materials for spot repairs on my pasture fences. There he found what he needed, including a hand saw and a cordless drill, and we carried the items back down to the house. Juliette was just coming out of the tack room with a bundle of sheets in her arms.

“What is that?” I asked as the three of us walked into the house.

She glanced at me with a sour expression. “Surely you don’t expect me to sleep on sheets my brother had sex on, do you? I even flipped the mattress,” she replied, shuddering as if disgusted.

Mark laughed and I felt my cheeks flush yet again. But I smiled as well, because I suddenly realized that my bonding hadn’t just given me an amazing sex life to look forward to, but a family life as well. I had gained another sister in Juliette, one that I actually liked and got along with, and I would quite possibly have surrogate parents in Daniel and Monica Singleton—at the very least, they would hopefully be friends for as long as Mark and I could remain in their lives.

While Mark worked on fixing the doorframe I set about making dinner, putting pork chops in the oven to bake. As I was mixing vegetables and lettuce for a salad, my mind drifted again, and I couldn’t help thinking that Mark was right—it all seemed a little crazy. Technically we had only known each other for a day, yet we had already made love three times and he was moving in with me. I realized, though, that I didn’t feel like we were jumping the shark—it simply felt right that he would be living in my house and sleeping next to me in my bed. I couldn’t wait to fall asleep wrapped in his arms every night or to wake up next to him every morning. I looked forward to building a life with this man I barely knew and for the first time I could recall, I welcomed the unknown future with open arms.

The only thing that put a damper on my happy mood was the thought of children—I did not know yet if I could have them, let alone whether or not Mark even wanted them. Arthur and I had made love numerous times, naturally, during the four years that we were married, and since we were husband and wife we did not once use any kind of birth control. But I never got pregnant, and even though I knew it sometimes took years for a woman to conceive, I had considered the possibility that the rumors of hybrid infertility were true. And when I remembered that vampire males could still conceive children (albeit only with mortal females), I had also wondered if perhaps I would have to mate with a vampire in order to have children of my own.

With effort, I pushed all thoughts of children aside and finished preparing the food. Mark was finished with his task before I was with mine, and spent the rest of that time carrying his clothes upstairs to my—our—bedroom, or moving the boxes aside in the living room to be dealt with tomorrow, when we had time to discuss the sharing of space. Juliette, of course, had asked me where the washing machine was so that she could clean the bedclothes she’d carried over from the apartment.

The three of us sat down together to a simple meal, and of course the topic of conversation was centered on the supernatural. Now that Mark knew all about vampires, he wanted to know all about shapeshifters, and he fired question after question at his sister. Since it appeared that shifters were likely to be a part of my life from now on, I was also curious to know more about them, and listened eagerly for her answers. She told him all of the histories she had learned after she had phased for the first time, and explained that the rule of secrecy was for the protection of both shifters and humans. If humanity found out that shapeshifters were real, they would most likely react with fear by harming or killing, or would want to capture them and conduct genetic experiments. Shifters would, in turn, want to visit upon those particular humans the same unjust treatment, and there was a chance that both sides would eventually annihilate the other.

The same was true, I told them, of vampires. My father’s people did not want to be hunted or persecuted as had been done in the past, which was why anyone who learned the truth had to become one of them or die.

“And if you think about it,” Juliette went on, “some people just aren’t capable of handling the truth that some monsters are real. There are rumors that humans have been driven mad upon learning their neighbors could become animals.”

“That’s why Mom’s afraid to tell Dad the truth?” Mark asked quietly.

Juliette nodded. “Partly. But like I said, she also thinks that he’s already been through enough. Because he’s her husband she’s allowed to tell him, but she told me it was a burden she didn’t think it would be fair to put on him. Not after losing your mother the way he did.”

I looked at Mark then. “You know, your sister is right about one thing,” I said.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“You are being unbelievably rational about all of this. I was planning to tell you the truth about me, about what you are, when I felt the time was right because I didn’t want there to be any secrets between us. To be honest, I was expecting to have a hard time convincing you,” I explained. “I was afraid you wouldn’t believe me, that you’d think I was crazy.”

“That’s what Mom and I were afraid of,” Juliette put in, “that you weren’t going to believe us. Of course, simply showing you what we can do would have done the trick, but then there was always the chance that you’d freak and try to kill us. You are a Marine, and Marines are trained in the dark art of killing, as you so kindly pointed out before.”

Mark sighed and put the fork he had just raised back down on his plate. “It is all very incredible, the kind of stuff that probably would make the average person think you were fuckin’ crazy—pardon my bad English—or think that he himself was going crazy. And I can’t say that if it weren’t for the fact that I already knew I wasn’t normal I’d be having as easy a time of it.

“But I did already know I’m not normal. Never getting sick wasn’t so much an indicator as breaking my arm and having it heal perfectly within an hour. Or cutting myself numerous times and having them heal almost instantly. Or my surviving having shrapnel from an IED slice through a vein that should have bled me dry and dead in minutes. I dunno, maybe my Wolverine Syndrome is the real reason I joined the Marines—maybe I was purposely pushing the envelope, seeing just how far I could go.”

He paused and looked between us. “I had some unexplainable feelings yesterday when I met Saphrona, feelings that made me more determined to get to know her than I’ve ever wanted to get to know any other woman. I got trampled by a horse this afternoon and now you can’t even tell he touched me. Then there’s the fact that I saw my little sister turn into a dog—twice. Even a thick-skulled jarhead like me can’t deny the truth when it’s as plain as the nose on his face.”

Juliette looked a little incredulous. “You actually felt the pair-bond before you guys…you know?”

“I must have,” he replied. “I just knew the moment I set eyes on her that I had to do whatever it took to make her mine. I knew I would wait for however long it took to convince her to be with me.”

Mark took my hand as he said the last part, the look in his eyes warm and full of emotion. I smiled and allowed all my feelings for him to fill my own expression, and for just a moment I was mildly disappointed that Juliette was sitting there. The late husband I had gotten emotional over earlier may have made the table we were eating on, but I didn’t think Arthur would mind too much my making love on it with another man—I had known him long enough to know that he would have wanted me to be happy, to find love again.

Besides, I thought bemusedly, Arthur and I had already christened it.

“Why does that surprise you?” Mark was saying, bringing my attention back to the conversation at hand.

Juliette shrugged. “I know you’re a dhunphyr and all, but I figured that except for the healing factor and possible immortality you were just as human as any other. When a shifter imprints, the human doesn’t feel anything out of the ordinary, only we do.”

“Do shifters imprint on other shifters?”

She nodded her head. “Yeah, but it hasn’t happened in a very long time; we don’t know why, really, and it’s been over three hundred years since the last time it did,” she said. “We don’t imprint on vampires, either. We used to think it was because they really were dead. Saphrona has shown us different.”

Mark and I exchanged a glance. “How have I done that?” I asked when I looked back at our companion.

“For one thing, you exist. Shifters have known about dhampyr for ages, of course, but shifters have never been certain whether or not your kind constituted a living being. A dhampyr in our midst may actually be a good thing—we can learn so much from you. You’re living proof that our opinions about vampires have to change. I mean, vampires’ hearts beat just a few times every hour, so few that it may as well not beat at all. But yours is almost normal…well, perhaps a little faster than average, from what I can hear,” Juliette said. “You’ve also confirmed that most of that biological stuff Vivian Drake wrote about vampires in the Everland series is true.”

“Yeah, but you can’t go around telling people that I told you,” I said, realizing in that moment that I was going to have to tell them about Diarmid’s request.

“Why not?” Mark wanted to know.

I turned my eyes his way. “Because the vampire community is not happy with Vivian Drake as it is. She’s telling some of their most valued secrets in a medium the entire world has access to. The reason Evangeline was here yesterday was because my father wants me to find Vivian and find out who her source is—according to my sister, the source is considered the betrayer of vampire kind. Imagine how pissed they’d be if they found out another vampire was telling the local shifter population she’s telling the truth.”

Mark’s eyes widened. “Saphrona, are you in danger?” he asked, his voice tight.

Juliette looked between us. “He knows that you know Vivian? Are you her source?”

She had asked me that last night, and although I had neither confirmed nor really denied the question, it was becoming clear to me that Juliette Singleton was no fool. I was going to have to tell her the whole truth.

“I’m not just her source,” I said slowly. “I’m her.”

“What?!” Juliette shouted.

“Damn it, Saphrona!” Mark said in a voice that I knew immediately was filled with tightly controlled anger. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me they wanted you dead when you told me you were Vivian Drake?”

“Because at that precise moment, I wasn’t thinking of the danger,” I said, rising from my chair. “And they don’t want me dead, they want Drake’s source dead.”

“Don’t argue semantics with me,” Mark said, also standing. “Based on what you’ve just told us, I don’t think they’re going to see the difference.”

“Mark, I can handle this,” I said firmly. “Given enough time, I know I can come up with a plan for diverting Diarmid’s attention away from Vivian Drake. I’ll be fine.”

“Planning on throwing my brother at him as a distraction?” Juliette seethed.

I turned and noted that now we were all on our feet. “What did I tell you last night about your tone of voice?” I reminded her, my own ire beginning to rise. “I also recall telling you that I love him and will do whatever it takes to protect him, so you can stop accusing me of plotting to use Mark for his blood!”

I paced away from both of them, needing space, stopping after a few steps to turn back. “I thought that we had settled things after our talks last night and earlier today, but apparently I was wrong,” I said to Juliette. “You obviously still do not trust me. Fine, but I’m through with you and your accusations against my character. Call your mother to have her come pick you up, because I won’t have you living on my property.”

Juliette’s stunned expression barely registered as I switched my attention from her to Mark.

“As for you, we are bonded for life now, and there is no changing that. But I will find a way to live without you if you can’t trust me to know what I’m doing. You’re also free to leave.”

With that, I stormed out of the kitchen and up the stairs to my room, where I slammed the door closed behind me. In the dim evening light filtering through the uncovered top half of my bedroom window, I registered a stack of four boxes next to the dresser—Mark’s things—and I felt anguish mixing with my anger. I walked over to the boxes and laid a hand on the top one, tears once again filling my eyes as I recalled having just told Mark he could leave.

I don’t know for how long I stood that way, but the next thing I knew, Mark had entered the bedroom—I hadn’t even heard him come up the stairs. I turned to him as he shut the door, and was shocked when he was in front of me in two long strides, his mouth crushing mine in a fierce, almost painful kiss. His arms were like vises around my body, but somehow I found room between us to grab at his shirt, wanting nothing more right then than to feel his sparsely-haired chest beneath my hands. My mind barely registered the tearing of the fabric, followed by more tearing when Mark returned the favor and tore my own shirt open. Even as he continued to punish my mouth, his tongue tangling with mine or roving over my teeth, feeling the sharp points of my fangs as they came down, his hands moved to my front where he next grabbed hold of my bra and tore it as well. He took a breast in each hand, pinching and rubbing my nipples as he had earlier that day, and I moaned with pleasure.

I kicked off my shoes and reached to pull my socks off, then shimmied out of my jeans and underwear. I reached for Mark’s jeans and opened his fly, desperate now for the feel of him in my hands, inside my body. I had just pushed his pants and briefs past his hips, freeing his already throbbing erection, when he spun me around and bent me forward. I lay down on my forearms on top of the low dresser to give him better access, and a second later I cried out as he took me from behind. One of his hands grabbed my shoulder as the other reached around me and massaged my clitoris. Already waves of pleasure began to spread through me and I moaned again, my breath coming in ragged gasps.

The sound of skin slapping against skin was strangely erotic to me, and I found myself crying out, “Yes! Oh, yes!” At the sound of my voice, Mark groaned and began thrusting harder, faster, and I moved with him, meeting each of his thrusts with a backward movement of my hips. The speed of the fingers massaging my overly sensitive nub increased to match the pace of his gyrations, and I began to feel a massive orgasm building in my core. When it hit me I screamed in ecstasy and instinctively grabbed hold of the hand grasping my shoulder. I brought it to my mouth, biting down on his wrist.

Blood flooded my mouth, and the flavor of it was like nothing I had ever tasted before—warm and thick, it was richer than the finest Swiss chocolate, with just the right amount of salty tang. It was incredible! I realized that my enjoyment of it was increasing the pleasure I felt from my orgasm, and I held him to me tighter as I took more and more of it, never wanting the sensations washing over me to end.

Somehow, some way, a sound broke through the fog of my feeding frenzy. I couldn’t say what it was, but it dawned on me with sudden, alarming clarity that I was drinking Mark’s blood. With an anguished cry I threw his hand away from me and disengaged our still-joined bodies, turning around just in time to catch him as he fell.

“Oh God, what have I done?” I breathed in horror as I retracted my fangs and lowered us to the floor, grabbing his wrist to put pressure on the wound—the wound I had caused. “Mark? Please, oh please, say something! I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!”

Mark moaned, and a moment later his eyes fluttered open. His gaze was clouded, like he’d been dazed by a blow to the head.

“Mark, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to!” I said.

He struggled to sit up, swaying as he did so. I held him still with my free hand, and when he had taken a few deep breaths, he removed my hand from his wrist. Already the bite wound had closed, the teeth marks no doubt the angry pink of a fresh scar, which I knew might well be gone in hours. Yet I feared that it would, like the shrapnel wound on his neck, leave a permanent reminder.

“I’m so sorry,” I said again, tears spilling down my cheeks. “I never meant to hurt you.”

He reached up and brushed my tears away. “You didn’t hurt me,” he said slowly. “Felt like a bee sting, honest.”

I couldn’t believe he was being so casual about it. “Mark, I drank your blood! I haven’t lost control like that in nearly two hundred years—hell, I haven’t even had human blood since I was fifty years old! Please forgive me, I didn’t mean to—”

Mark hushed me by placing his lips over mine. When he sat back, he said, “Saphrona, it’s okay. Hell, it’s probably my fault. “

“How is it your fault that I attacked you?” I asked.

He sighed, and I noticed he wore a chagrined expression. “I all but forced myself on you—I’m the one who should be apologizing. It’s just… I couldn’t seem to help myself. Once I saw you, all I wanted to do was take what was mine. You were probably reacting to that. I can’t blame you for following your instincts.”

“If I’d thought you were forcing yourself on me, Mark, I wouldn’t have given myself so freely,” I said.

He looked at me with a small smile on his lips, and other things occurred to me suddenly: the sounds…and the smells. Although with my heightened senses I could hear and smell more than a normal human, the blood I had just ingested—dhunphyr blood—made every sound and every smell so much sharper and clearer. The thump-thump of Mark’s heartbeat seemed louder, and I could now hear the whoosh of his blood as it flowed through his veins. I knew just from listening to it that his pressure was low, but again, that was my fault. And the smells! The musky odor of sex was ripe in the air, but stronger and much more attention-grabbing was the scent of Mark’s blood. I found myself licking my lips and looking down at the wrist I had bitten, and I recalled how delicious it had tasted. How warm and rich. I began to salivate just thinking of the wonderful texture of that hot, thick fluid washing down my throat.

With a sound like a roar I stood and threw myself away from him, and stood with my back against the bedroom door, my chest heaving. “I am a monster!”

“Saphrona,” Mark said, standing slowly. When he had to lean a hand on the dresser to steady himself, a strangled cry escaped me. “You are not a monster.”

“I drank your blood. I could have killed you!” I cried. “The man I love, whom I have loved for more than two centuries, and I have done that which I swore I would never do! And what is worse is that I know I’ll only want more—even now, I can think of nothing else but having another taste!”

“You said that you love me,” Mark began, shucking his jeans completely and taking a step closer. “I think that because of that love, that’s why you stopped. You didn’t kill me, Saphrona, and I don’t think you could. Whether you want my blood because it’s human instead of animal or because I’m a dhunphyr, you still stopped.”

He had stepped closer to me with each word, until he was standing right in front of me. I looked up at him, knowing a mixture of fear and hunger was in my eyes. “But what if it happens again? What if next time I can’t stop?”

Mark raised his hands to cup my face and leaned closer, and when he spoke I felt the warmth of his breath on my face. “You’ll stop,” he said simply, and gently touched his lips to mine.

I could only wish to have as much conviction in my entire body as he had put in those two little words.


I did not sleep that night. After he had kissed me, Mark picked me up and carried me over to the bed, where he set me down and then lay beside me, wrapping his arms around me and holding me against his chest. While I relished the closeness and the warmth of his body, I did not find any comfort in the circle of his arms.

I was too busy cursing myself for what I had done. What I still wanted to do. I had harmed the best thing that had ever happened to me, and there was a very real chance I would hurt him again. Now that I had tasted his blood I was only going to want more of it. His ready forgiveness for that act of transgression astounded me—I simply did not understand how he could be so confident that I would stop if I were to bite him again, and I did not think that I deserved his faith in me.

As soon as I was assured by the steady rise and fall of his chest that Mark was asleep, I extricated myself from his arms and got out of bed. Putting on a robe, I went downstairs and found Moe and Cissy asleep on the couch. They raised their heads and looked at me when they heard my cautious approach. I patted both on the head and scratched behind their ears, whispering an apology that they had been shut out of the bedroom. Content that their mistress was alright, the Chihuahuas laid their heads back down, and with a tandem sigh both went back to sleep.

In the kitchen I found everything as I had left it, and morosely began the task of cleaning up. I tried to be quiet so as not to disturb Mark or the dogs, scraping the left-over food into a small bucket I’d retrieved from under the sink to be carried out to the pigs in the morning. After washing the dishes and turning out the kitchen light, I retreated back upstairs. I felt restless, my body still buzzing from the power of Mark’s blood. After a look in the bedroom at his still-sleeping form, I went downstairs once more and padded into my office, where I fired up my computer and…

At first I sat staring numbly at the screen, unable to think of what to say. Then, thinking of how much I hated myself for having enjoyed drinking from Mark, I leant forward and began typing furiously. Word after word appeared on the screen, page after page was filled, and by the time I heard the alarm go off in the bedroom, I had written another ten chapters. Unfortunately for my protagonist, she was now going through the same thing I was: self-loathing.

Saving the latest addition to my story, I shut down the computer and got up. Though I had not heard him rise, I found Mark in the bathroom washing the dried blood from his arm. My gut twisted to see that there was still evidence of what I had done.

Seeing my expression, Mark gave me what I assume was supposed to be a reassuring smile as he showed me his wrist. “See? Didn’t even scar. Maybe only mortal wounds scar me,” he said with a shrug.

“But what if I attack you again?” I countered. “I still hate myself for betraying you like that.”

With a groan that spoke clearly of his exasperation, Mark turned to me. “Saphrona, stop it. You did not betray me, okay? So you bit me in the heat of the moment, so what? Stop beating yourself up for doing something that’s only in your nature to do.”

“But what if that nature leads me to kill you someday? I could not go on living if I ever lost you.”

He reached for me and I went willingly into his arms, wrapping my own tightly around his waist. “I don’t believe you would do that. I don’t know how I know it, but I do. I also know that you love me, and your love for me would never let you go that far. At least you didn’t turn me, right? I’m not in the midst of becoming a vampire, though at least if I were I’d be assured of being able to love you forever.”

“You won’t turn, Mark, hybrids don’t…” I looked up, startled. “Did…did you just say you love me?”

Mark smiled. “I guess I did. And I mean it, too. The rational part of my mind can’t help wondering how it’s possible when we’ve only just met, but it’s something else that I just know is true. Like how I know that if you ever bite me again, you’ll stop before you go too far.”

I raised an eyebrow. “And you’re okay with that? That I could bite you again and drink your blood?”

He shrugged. “If it makes you happy, or it’s something you need…”

His voice trailed off, and I felt his eyes on me. I knew it was because heat had flushed my cheeks, for I had recalled just how happy drinking his blood as I came had made me, having given me the most mind-blowing orgasm I’d ever had. I hadn’t wanted to dwell on that as I kicked myself all night because of how much I hated the fact that I’d bitten him in the first place.

“What is it?” he asked.

I shook my head, not wanting to answer, but Mark took my chin in his hand and turned my head so that I had no choice but to look at him. “Tell me what you’re thinking, love.”

“Nothing. It’s just… Biting you when I did, at that precise moment…”

A sly, sexy grin spread across his face as realization dawned. “You liked it,” he concluded. “Not just because you were drinking my blood, but because you came harder than you’ve ever come before. I like that.”

And then his mouth came down on mine. My lips parted to allow his tongue entrance, and mine tangled with it as our mouths fused and our hands roamed over each other. Mark pushed my robe aside and fondled my breasts, while I splayed my hands across the planes of his tight, muscled chest. In the next moment I was being lifted so that my rear was on the edge of the sink. I reached down and pushed the sweatpants he had donned down his hips, pleased to see that he wore nothing else underneath, and that he was once again as ready for me as I was for him.

I spread my legs and he stepped into them, entering my quivering folds as I braced my feet against the door of the cabinet under the sink. He kissed and licked his way from my mouth and down my throat, until he had the hard pebble of my right nipple in his mouth, sucking and licking until I gasped. He switched his attention to my left breast, his hips thrusting in a gentle rhythm as I rocked on the edge of the marble countertop, one of my hands grasping his firm, perfect rear, the other fisting in his hair.

Incrementally Mark increased his pace, and I knew that he was coming close to his climax, just as I was mine. He lifted his head and looked into my eyes, which were languorously heavy-lidded.

“Bite me,” he whispered huskily.

I shook my head. “No. I don’t want to risk it,” I replied, my own voice breathy as I came ever closer to release.

He lifted the wrist I had bitten the night before and held it in front of my face. “You want to, Saphrona—I know you do. And I want to give you that pleasure again. Let me do this for you.”

He was right, I did want to. I wanted the taste of his blood in my mouth as the feel of him pushing inside me sent me over the edge; I wanted those two pleasures to combine as they had the night before so that I would feel that same mind-blowing ecstasy.

I moaned as his thrusts continued to push me toward orgasm. I started to gasp again. “Mark, you don’t…you don’t get anything out of it. Why would you…?”

He leaned closer and flicked his tongue across my lips. “On the contrary, love. Giving you pleasure is what gives me pleasure.”

With his eyes on me, I let go of his head and took hold of his wrist, bringing it to my mouth as my canines dropped and biting down…and then my world exploded.

Mark cried out his own release as I began to drink, and I closed my eyes as I fed, my hips jerking against his as we carried each other over into that place of mindless oblivion. The taste of him was heaven; my body felt warm and alive and powerful, and I never wanted it to end.

But somehow I remembered that it had to. I had to stop or I would do irreparable harm to Mark—if I didn’t stop drinking his blood he could die, and that was something I couldn’t live with. As I reluctantly lowered his arm I opened my eyes to find him staring at me with a glassy, far off look in his. Concern flooded my veins and I grabbed his head in my hands.

“Mark?! Talk to me. Please say something,” I pleaded.

Mark sagged against me, laying his head on my shoulder. “Wow,” he whispered, his breathing labored.

I raised an eyebrow. “Wow?” I queried.

“That was incredible.”

“What do you mean?” I pressed. “I thought you didn’t…”

Slowly, carefully, he leaned back, holding himself up by bracing his hands on the edge of the sink on either side of me. “I don’t know if what I felt is what you felt. I just know that seeing that look of pure bliss on your face as you fed and climaxed at the same time made me feel like the most powerful man in the world. Definitely rocked my world, that’s for sure—I’ve never come so hard in my life.”

I smiled slowly, then picked up the hand I had fed from. Once again the wounds were already closed, but there was still blood there, and so I brought the wrist to my lips and licked, cleaning it away. I felt Mark tremble, felt the residual waves of my own orgasm flutter through me, and abruptly laughed.

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