Despite the blush spreading across my cheeks, I narrowed my eyes and crossed my arms over my chest. “So you’re not the villain?”

“I’m not sure that most people would call me the good guy, but I’m definitely not bad and would never do anything to hurt you. Ever.” He sprawled out, his thigh resting against my side. Despite the layers from his pants and my dress between us, goose bumps still broke out across my skin just from our bodies touching. It could also be how serious his vow sounded. Or a combination of both.

Either way, my instincts told me that he was worthy of my trust—vampire or not. “So, nightwalkers are the bad kind of vampires?”

“Yes, we have good and evil like any other species,” he confirmed, nodding as he propped himself up on an elbow. I was distracted by the play of his muscles on his chest and had to shake my head to concentrate on what he was telling me. His lips curved up in a smile full of masculine satisfaction, showing me that he knew the depth of my reaction to him, before he continued, “My family, and others like us, are not like the vampires in stories. We can walk in the sunlight, although our skin burns more easily and our eyes are sensitive to it. We survive on blood but can still enjoy the delights offered by food and drink. Holy water, garlic, and crosses do not have the same impact on us as they do nightwalkers. A stake to the heart won’t kill us; though it’s painful as fuck and would definitely slow us down until we healed. Unless we’re beheaded and burned, we’ll recover. It’s a good thing we’re so hard to destroy when it comes to tracking nightwalkers down. I’ll take any advantage I can get when dispatching them to where they belong before they can destroy a potential consort.”

I’d always been open to the idea of the supernatural, so I wasn’t all that surprised when I accepted all the mind-boggling information he was giving me without freaking out. At least until this part. My heart started racing, and I had to gulp down a lump in my throat before I asked, “And a consort is the person you’re supposed to spend your very long life with?”

“Yes, fate gives every daywalker a consort, the one person they’re destined to be with. But many of us wait century upon century until they are born. They bear the mark of a potential consort on their neck.” His gaze dropped to my neck, staring at the spots that had always made me a little self-conscious. But as his eyes ate me up and he licked his lips, I suddenly felt like preening and showing off my mark. “And you’re mine.”

“How can you possibly know so quickly?” Hope started to build inside me, but I was afraid to believe. “You’d barely seen me across the room before you warned your brother away from me.”

“All night long, some part of me knew you were close, and I think my ring had something to do with the strength of that instinct. It can’t be a coincidence that I was drawn to this”—he lifted his hand, and the amethyst that was a perfect match for my eyes sparkled—“one hundred years ago and have been wearing it ever since.”

My fingers trembled as I reached out to trace the gem, jerking my hand back when it felt as though the stone sent a spark of electricity into my body. “It zapped me.”

“Earlier in the ballroom, it warmed as though it knew you were near and was urging me to find you.” Athan pulled the ring off his pinky and slid it onto my left ring finger. “I’m not sure how it’s possible, but I think the ring has been waiting all this time to be where it belongs. Just as I’ve been counting each and every day until I found you.”

That had to be the most romantic thing I’d ever heard in my entire life, which was apparently much shorter than Athan’s since I would turn twenty-one on my next birthday and he was hundreds of years old. But some part of me was still resisting the idea that everything could fall into place between us so easily. “It’s kind of hard to believe we’re meant to be together and only met by accident because my best friend and your brother are together.”

“I would have found you no matter what,” he vowed, tugging my hand until I tumbled onto his chest. “I’ve spent almost eight hundred years searching for you. Daywalkers are unable to feel sexual stimulation for anyone but our mate. When I touched you, my body finally stirred to life, and it was better than anything I’ve ever imagined. As was the sweet taste of your blood. Nothing could have kept me from you now that you walked this earth.”

Tags: Fiona Davenport Dusk Before Dawn Fantasy