I shook my head sadly. “You don’t get it. The more I’ve pushed down that side of me, the less me I’ve become. The more I try to ignore the bloodlust and the darker sides of myself, the more they rear up and demand to be noticed. Just like when I ignored my mage side in L.A. and I was so out of balance. It’s not about choosing one part of me over the other. I am both light and dark.” My heart kicked up as the truth of that statement sunk in. “I have made mistakes. And I should have told you about Slade earlier. But the real issue here is that you can’t accept me for who I really am. Fangs, magic, and all.”
A muscle worked in his jaw. “Fangs, magic, and lies, you mean. You can try to make this about poor little Sabina being misunderstood because she’s a mixed blood, but this is really about you not being able to be honest with me—or yourself.”
“That’s not fair. After everything we’ve been through together, I deserve more credit than that. I have never lied to you except about Slade. And I wouldn’t have done that if I wasn’t worried about hurting you. I love you, Adam.” He shied away, as if the words stung. But I forged ahead. “Do you love me?”
His eyes hardened. “How can you ask me that? Of course I love you.”
I looked into his green eyes. The same eyes that used to wink at me and crinkle at the corners when he’d laugh with me. Now they just looked tired. “I’m the first to admit I don’t have a lot of experience with love. But it seems that if you love someone, then you should love all of them. If you can’t love all of me”—my voice cracked—“then I don’t know if we can be together.”
He looked like I’d struck him. “Nice. You lie to me but I’m the ass**le.”
I took a step toward him and put out a hand to touch his cheek. He reared back like he expected a slap. I paused and pulled back. “I’m just asking you to love me without demanding I ignore half of my nature.”
With that, I walked away and took refuge in the bedroom we used to share. When the door closed, I leaned against it and closed my eyes. I started counting, willing him to come after me.
One, two, three…
To walk through that door and tell me that I was enough.
Four, five, six…
That I’d misunderstood and that of course he loved me, all of me.
Seven, eight, nine—
The front door slammed. The sound echoed in my head like a judge’s gavel condemning our relationship to death.
I didn’t come back out of my room until the next evening. And then only because Giguhl threatened to break the door down if I didn’t open up.
He took one look at my red-rimmed eyes and held up a claw. “Get dressed first and then you can tell me all about it on the way to Vein.”
Thirty minutes later, we were in a cab on the way to the club. In cat form now, Giguhl sat in my lap and listened to my sordid and sad tale. The cabdriver shot me worried looks in the rearview but spent most of the ride chattering to someone on his cell phone. When I finished, Giguhl stood and put his paws on my shoulder. He looked me in the eyes and blasted me with his rank cat breath. “I know you’re hurting right now, but you did the right thing. I respect the hell out of Adam, but you haven’t been yourself for months.”
“So if I did the right thing, why do I feel like I ruined my life?”
“Stop being a drama queen,” he said. “Of course it’s going to hurt. You love Adam and he loves you. But sometimes that’s not enough.”
The cab pulled up in front of the Chinese restaurant then. I was so busy getting my gear and juggling Giguhl and making my way through the restaurant to the secret entrance that I couldn’t respond to the cat’s insightful comment. But I thought about it all the way through the restaurant and down into the tunnel, as we made our way through the club to the dressing rooms. I pondered it while I changed into my ridiculous costume and laced up my skates.
Was the demon right? Was love not enough? I’d not known love before Adam. Lust, sure. Passion, definitely. But loving someone? Never. Not before Adam barged into my life. I’d fought my feelings for him for a long time, but in the end, he’d gotten to me. I lowered my defenses and let him in because he’d proven I could trust him. Yet all along, I was blind to what was really happening. To the price I had to pay personally to live up to his image of who he thought I could become.
From the start, Adam had encouraged me to get in touch with my mage side. Until he showed up, my mage blood had been a source of shame, something to ignore and hide. Because of him, I realized I had power I’d never conceived of before. Because of him, I found my sister and an extended family made up of both relatives and friends.
But all of those wonderful things had a darker side. Because even as he was pushing me to get in touch with my magic, he was also pulling me away from my vampire side. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized I’d missed her. She didn’t let anyone push her around. She went after goals with the stubbornness of a mule. She was strong and brave and confident. All things I’d lost when I left her behind on that battlefield in the Big Easy.
What had Slade said about vampires who embraced the light? As much as I hated to admit it, he’d called this inevitable implosion between me and my darker nature. He’d been through it himself to some extent.
I sat on a bench, thinking all this over, when Giguhl blew his whistle. “All right, Marauders. It’s time to go kick some ass. Who’s ready?”
When the ladies around me shouted, I stood and joined them. I was looking forward to getting on the track and unleashing my dark side. It’d been far too long since I’d let her play.
As I skated out of the room, something else Slade had said popped into my mind: How long has it been since you killed anyone?
The elbow smacked me in the nose. A painful crunch. Wetness on my lips. The taste of my own blood.
“Oops,” Merry Machete said, shooting an evil smile over her shoulder. The vampire wore boy shorts, fishnets, and a tank top with a skull bedazzled on the back. I smiled at her retreating back. Finally, an excuse to get serious.
My legs pumped harder, faster. I caught up with the vampire. Delivered a jab to Merry’s ribs as I passed.
Her fist slammed into my kidneys with the force of a sledgehammer. Spine-bending pain almost sent me to my knees. My skates scrambled for purchase, but I somehow managed to dig in and right myself.
Rounding the corner, I scooted ahead. Adrenaline buzzed through my veins. Giguhl screamed something. I looked over my shoulder and spied my real prey. The black star on her helmet acted like a bull’s eye.