“Nothing,” I said, smiling. “Just never thought I’d see you choose a bloodbag over a human to feed from. Are we finally rubbing off on the big, bad raider king?”

He rolled his eyes. “I’m a vampire, sister. I’m not stupid.

If one of these meatsacks up and vanishes without a trace, who are they going to blame first? We don’t need the heavily armed, vampire-hating soldiers poking around and asking questions, and it’s so tedious to dispose of a large pile of corpses. But not to worry.” He settled against the wall, crossing his long legs, and bared his fangs in a smile. “After we stop Sarren, I fully intend to indulge in a nice killing spree to get this taste out of my mouth, so don’t think you’ve defanged me quite yet.”

I grinned. “If you say so. James.”

He glared at me. “Shouldn’t you be saving orphans with the puppy right now? Or pretending to be interested in Kanin’s stories? Go bother someone else for a while.”

Triumphant, I turned away, preparing to leave. “Where are Kanin and Zeke?”

“Hell if I know. Last I saw the old man, he was talking to the mayor, making plans to leave tomorrow and all that shit.

They didn’t look like they needed me, and besides, I was bored.” Jackal took a long swig from the bag. “So I thought I’d do my own exploring. Oh, and by the way, they cleared out a room for you so you don’t have to share the common area with the sickies. Guess having a vampire in the hospital made them a bit nervous after all.” He waved the bag at me, arching his brows. “Sure you don’t want one, sister? You could split it with the puppy over candlelight.”

I walked into the hospital, leaving Jackal outside with his stolen blood. The rooms were quiet now, most of the humans sleeping, only a couple nurses milling around the beds, checking on patients. They ignored me as I made my way through the halls, not really knowing where I was going. I wondered if I should go look for Zeke, but figured I’d leave him alone tonight. Maybe he was weary of my constant hovering. Dawn was less than an hour away, and I was tired. Zeke knew I was here; if he wanted to talk, he would come to me.

I finally stopped a nurse in the corridor and asked where my room was. She pointed me in the right direction, then fled, hurrying around a corner as quickly as she could. So, apparently, some of the humans here knew of the vampire wandering the grounds. Hopefully, they’d keep that knowledge from the rest of the patients. I could only imagine what a mob of scared, panicked humans might do if they realized a vampire was sleeping in the room next door.

I walked into my room, which happened to be a large storage closet with a bed in the corner, and froze when I saw a figure leaning against a shelf, waiting for me.

“Zeke?” I blinked as the door swung shut behind me.

“What are you doing here—”

Zeke took three steps forward, took me gently in his arms, and pressed his lips to mine. Shocked, I stiffened, but only for a moment. Then my arms snaked around his waist, and I leaned into him as he pulled me close. His mouth worked against mine, gentle but insistent, almost desperate. I could feel the hard cords of muscles in his back, in his arms, like steel bands dragging me closer. His hands rose to tangle in my hair, and I sighed against his lips, feeling a different hunger rise up, burning through my veins. I wanted to tip my head back, baring my throat, but Zeke held me so tight, it was all I could do to kiss him.

When he pulled back, I was a little dazed. His arms were still around me, pressing me close, and didn’t feel like they would loosen anytime soon. I looked up at him, meeting that intense stare, and gave him a puzzled smile. “What was that about?” I whispered.

Zeke touched his forehead to mine, closing his eyes. “That was me…finally realizing what’s important.” He sighed, his voice full of regret. “It shouldn’t have taken me this long, but it seems I’ve always had trouble seeing what was right in front of me. I guess…” His brow furrowed, and he shivered.

“I guess everything had to be taken away for me to get it.”

“Zeke…”

He pulled back, his eyes tormented as the stared into mine.

“Eden is gone,” he said, making my stomach clench. “My home has been destroyed, and my family…is probably dead.

And I’m a vampire. I’ve lost almost everything.” His grip tightened painfully, his gaze almost desperate. “I can’t lose you, too.”

“You’re not going to lose me,” I said, feeling my eyes prickle. “I’ve told you that before, Zeke. I’m here. I’ve been right here the whole time.”

“I know,” he choked out. “God knows I don’t deserve it.

I don’t deserve a second chance, but…I can’t imagine my life without you, Allie.” His hand rose, pressing against my cheek, his eyes bright with emotion. “You’re the only person that makes me feel human again. When I’m with you, I can actually see a future. One that isn’t full of blood and death, one that I can live with.” He paused, his voice soft but determined. “I can’t change what I’ve done, but I can try to make things better. I want to live, and I want to spend forever with you. If…if you want it. If you want me around that long.”

I swallowed hard to clear my throat. “You’ve always had me, Ezekiel,” I managed, meeting his bright blue stare. “Time never mattered. Vampire or human, if we had forever or just a few years, I’d always choose to spend it with you.”

He blinked, and his palm traced a searing path down my cheek, his gaze intense. “I love you, Allison,” he whispered, making my stomach twist into a knot. “With everything in me—heart, mind and soul. Even Sarren couldn’t take that away. Even when I was on that table, screaming and wishing I was dead, all I could think of was you. You’ve been with me every step of the way, and you never wavered, even when I was ready to give up. I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to figure it out.” He took one of my hands, holding it to his chest, his gaze never leaving mine. “So, this is me, all of me, forever. No more looking back. No more regrets. From now on, vampire girl—” he lowered his head, brushing his lips across my skin “—I’m all yours.”

My throat closed up, and my eyes went blurry. Relief and emotion rushed through me, making me want to laugh, cry and hug him all at once, but all I could manage was a weak smirk and a strangled “It’s about damn time.”


Tags: Julie Kagawa Blood of Eden Book Series
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