It was over half an hour later that his eyes finally flickered open. Relief breezed through me. “Hey, shithead.”

Tired eyes landed on me and his mouth slowly curved into an amused grin. “Hey, ass**le.” He looked totally drained and hung-over, but that was a hell of a lot better than how he’d looked a few hours ago.

“Here.” I handed him an orange-flavoured NST. He chugged it down. “Take it easy.” Evan being Evan, he didn’t listen. “I’d hug you, but you still stink.”

He chuckled. His voice slightly hoarse, he said, “You found a counteragent?”

“You don’t remember what happened?”

He shook his head. “I don’t remember much. But I remember the thirst. I remember the hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach.” He gave me the empty bottle and then gratefully took another NST. He drank that one a little slower. “It’s strange…I feel thirsty, really thirsty, but I don’t have awful hunger pangs or anything. Shouldn’t my system want to make up for lost time?”

“Mary Jane put you, Max, and Stuart on a drip of pure blood for the first hour after you were healed when you were all unconscious.”

“That explains it then. But it doesn’t explain how I’m healed, or how I ended up unconscious in the first place.”

“I didn’t find a counteragent. I found someone who, sort of, has the ability to heal.” I told him about Paige West, including the part about Luther’s vision – it turned out that Evan didn’t remember the time I had telepathically told him about it all while he was ill. I also told him about the assignment and about how Sam had been bitten. His eyebrows rose higher and higher as the story went on. “I’m sorry I never brought Paige here sooner, but?”

Evan raised a hand. “Don’t be. You were protecting your mate. I’d never want anything to happen to Sam either. She’s like my sister. I’m glad she’s okay.” His face pulled into a frown. “It’s kind of odd that her bite wound healed by itself, huh.”

“Antonio thinks it’s because she’s now a hybrid. Her skin heals unbelievably fast – maybe even so fast that it began to heal before The Call had the chance to fully taint her system and f**k up its healing abilities.”

“Is the ugly mark still there?”

“No, it disappeared once Paige removed the taint from her body.” I rubbed my nape as I continued, uncomfortable, “On a whole other subject…There’s something you should know. Alora’s here.”

Evan blinked. “Alora? Why?”

“When she heard you were tainted, she came here.”

Incredibly perceptive, Evan narrowed his eyes as he said accusingly, “You broke your promise, didn’t you? You let her see me like that?”

“Alora cares about you, Evan. She wouldn’t have come on an assignment and endangered her life if she?”

“You let her go on an assignment?” He gaped, clearly horrified and pissed.

Damn, I was just digging a deeper hole for myself here. I pushed on. “Even though she believes you’ll never want her, she came here and asked for permission to stay for a while to help find a way to save you.” I let that sink in for a minute. “She told us everything, Evan. To be honest, I was a bit of a bastard to her in the beginning because I thought she’d rejected you.”

He averted his gaze. “It was me who rejected her. It was a shock, you know. What she told me…I’d never have seen that coming.”

“Me neither.”

He blew out a long breath. “I guess that because I saw her in the vision, I always took it for granted that she’d be mine. That once I finally found her, everything would fall into place, you know? It never occurred to me that there would be other obstacles. And as obstacles go, this one’s a bitch.”

“Was it only shock that made you reject her or is she right and you really don’t want her?”

He ran a hand through his unkempt hair. “We’d never have what you and Sam have.”

I leaned forward in my seat. “Evan, I love being Bound to Sam. If you want the truth, it’s the extra security that someone as f**ked up as me needs. But we were still happy before the Binding, and we would have continued to be happy if we hadn’t done it.”

He met my eyes then. “But could you have been happy with her knowing that someone else was Bound to her? That she belonged to someone else?”

“I won’t lie, it would have been f**king torture if she was Bound to another guy. But it wouldn’t have kept me away from her. Nothing could.” It was the truth. “You’re thinking that Alora belongs to that prick because they’re Bound, but that’s not how it works. Someone can only belong to you if they allow it. We know that better than most. Our mother never saw people as people – they were objects for her to own, use, and manipulate. But we never let her own us. We rejected her, just as Alora rejected that prick.”

“I can’t even kill him. If I killed him, she’d die.” His laugh was hollow. “Hell, Jared, her f**king life-force is tied to someone else’s. I don’t know how to even begin to deal with that.”

“I get that but, like I said before, she doesn’t belong to him. She made an error of judgement when she was young and she’s been paying for it ever since in a truly big way. Do you think she likes being joined to someone she despises? Or did you get so wrapped up in your pain that you forgot about hers?” His silence spoke for him. “If you’re prepared to let this keep you from Alora, then maybe you were wrong and you guys aren’t meant to be together after all.” Evan opened his mouth as though to object, but then he snapped it shut. “Maybe you just made yourself think she’d be yours because you saw her in that vision through Luther. Maybe you had that vision for no good reason at all.”

Evan tilted his head. “You’ve never told me about the vision that you had through Luther.”

I stiffened. “You never told me about yours until Alora finally arrived here.”

He winced. “I didn’t want you to spoil it.”

“How would I have spoiled it?”

“By laughing about how I was being faithful to someone I hadn’t even met yet.”

That actually hurt. “I’m not that much of a bastard, Evan. Just because I hadn’t really seen the point of relationships back then didn’t mean I thought everyone else was dumb for wanting one. I knew you didn’t function like I did, and I didn’t want you to. I envied the fact that you weren’t f**ked up about women and relationships despite our childhood. But I was glad for it, too.”

Tags: Suzanne Wright Deep In Your Veins Vampires