“He didn’t want me to find my mate. He knew I was obsessed with the idea of my dream girl who came to me at night.”

“Mate?” I ask and wonder if he means a wife.

“Yes, mate. If a vampire is lucky enough to find his mate, then his soul belongs to her. The woman who will save him will be his everything. She will give him a reason to want to live for eternity.”

I sit up and look into his eyes. “I had no idea there was something like that between vampires. It sounds wonderful.” It sounds right and that’s what I want. The tight knot of pain I always have in my stomach loosens and I’m warm all over.

“I think there are many things Gordon kept from you,” he says, and a pained look crosses his face. “If I had known he had you…” Regret flashes in his eyes and he grits his teeth. “He wanted to hurt me, and he knew worse than death for me would be never finding my mate.” He leans in close, his mouth but a breath from mine. “You’re the one.”

All the air leaves my lungs when he gives me what I knew was coming. I could feel it, but hearing him say it confirms what my body and heart have been telling me all along. A weight I didn’t know was there is gone with his easy words.

He lifts me in his arms and I hold him tightly. “Let me show you.”

He carries me through the home and up the stairs. It’s then I realize I have no idea where I am, but I don’t care. It doesn’t take long and he pushes open a door to a bedroom and puts me down onto my feet.

“This is one of my homes,” he tells me. “I dreamt of you for the first time the night I was turned. Over the years more and more of you would come to me. First it was your hair.” He reaches out, wrapping a lock of my red hair around his finger. “Then how soft you were.” His other hand slides up my arm as he touches my skin. “Your eyes took me to my knees. They are a beauty I didn’t know existed.” He gazes into them and I swear I can feel him looking deep inside and seeing all of me.

My mouth falls open because no one has ever said such sweet words to me before. His finger releases my hair and he comes closer as his hand slides around my hip.

“Then this.”

He leans in slowly, and I know right away it’s to give me time to tell him to stop. I’m not going to.

He kisses the bare skin on my shoulder over my birthmark. “I led him right to you, love. I never meant to and I’m so sorry.”

There’s that word again, making my heart flutter.

“How did you lead him to me?” I know Gordon was the one who killed my mother now. He killed her and took me.

He steps aside and his big frame moves away from me. I stand there in shock as my eyes scan the walls. There are paintings of me everywhere and it’s breathtaking.

“You painted these?” My hand comes to my mouth. “There are so many.”

“This is how I know I’m responsible for the death of your mother. Gordon used some of the paintings I did in the past to find you. He used them to hunt you down and take you from your mother. If I hadn’t painted you or kept them secret, then he wouldn’t have killed her.”

“That’s not your fault,” I say defending him. I know in my heart that he’s telling me the truth.

Gordon fed me lies, but deep down I knew that he was evil. I can see straight to Bishop’s soul and it’s pure and good.

“I’m so sorry that I didn’t find you sooner.” He grazes his knuckles along my jaw and my body is alight with heat. “But I’m here now, and I’ll do anything to keep you safe. You’re mine, Loren.”

Eight

Bishop

“I can’t stay away from you anymore,” I say as I cup her face and she tilts her cheek into my palm. “I’ve waited two hundred years almost to the day to find you, and just when I lost hope, there you were.”

“What’s happening?” she says as I lean close and hold my lips a breath away from hers.

“I’m going to kiss you, then I’m going to taste you,” I say as I slide one arm around her back and press my lips to her.

There is a small trace of blood on her lip from where it was split before, and when it hits my tongue I feel it all the way down to my toes. The flavor of sweet sugary cinnamon fills my mouth and I deepen the kiss.

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