I’d never felt so connected to anyone.
Looking up, I met Zeke’s gaze and trembled. His eyes were no longer blank, but shone with an intensity I’d never seen before. His lips were partially open, and his fangs gleamed inches from my face.
I swallowed, knowing what he wanted…and tilted my head back, baring my throat to him.
He lunged, and for a split second, I felt a jolt of fear, remembering the horrible pain when Kanin had bitten me. I tensed, but then Zeke’s fangs sank into my flesh. There was a tiny, initial stab of pain, and then warmth spread through me, turning my bones to liquid. It burned through my veins, soothing and wonderful, silencing even the constant ache of the Hunger, the raging of the demon. I closed my eyes, holding his head to my neck as he yanked me against him. Zeke growled, driving his fangs deep, and I gasped, arching into him, desperate to get closer.
He can see you. A tiny, panicked voice emerged from the layers of bliss, making me frown. He can see you now, the real you. Who you really are, behind that wall you put up for everyone. What will he think now that he knows what you real y are? A kil er. A monster.
I didn’t care. Let him see, I thought, holding him more tightly, urging him on. I thought of the moments we’d shared, my reluctance to trust anyone, especially a human, and how he had broken down every wall with his unshakable faith until I had to let him in. I remembered the look in his eyes just before he’d kissed me, knowing I was a monster, not letting it scare him away. I let him see the utter devastation his death had brought, how the demon had nearly won, and how it was my memory of him that finally drove it back.
This is me, I thought, wondering if he could hear my thoughts, as well. All of me. I’m here, Zeke. I won’t let you go.
Abruptly, Zeke stiffened. Pulling his fangs from my throat, he shoved me backward, his eyes wide with horror, as if just realizing what he’d done. I stumbled, caught myself, and faced him again, ready to leap away if he attacked.
He stared at me, blood smearing his lips and trickling from the corner of his mouth, his face contorted in anguish. With a shaking hand, he touched a finger to his lips and pulled it down to stare at the crimson spotting his skin. His eyes went dark with shock and disbelief, and he took one staggering step back, shaking his head.
“Zeke,” I whispered, stepping forward. My legs shook, possibly from blood loss, and I nearly fell. Zeke didn’t notice, staring at his bloody fingers. He looked horribly sick, like he might actually throw up if he could. “Wait.”
“Why didn’t you kill me?”
I stopped. His voice was so harsh it was almost a growl, his gaze desperate and accusing as he glanced up. “Why, Allie?”
he whispered. His fangs were still out, and he bared them at me in an unconscious snarl. “Why didn’t you end it? You promised me you would.”
I swallowed my own desperate reply, meeting his condemning stare. “I promised I wouldn’t Turn you if you were dying,” I choked back, trying to steady myself. “I promised I’d let you go. I never said I would help you destroy yourself.”
“No,” Zeke agreed, slumping. “No, you didn’t. I can’t blame you for that.” For a moment, he stood there, the hazy blue light falling softly around him. Raising his head, Zeke looked at the ruined ceiling, letting the light wash over his face. Glancing at the hole, I felt a twinge of nervousness. The stars had faded, and dawn was very close.
I looked back at Zeke, who had closed his eyes, hands clenched at his sides. “It’s up to me, then,” he murmured, his voice broken but determined. He took a step back. “I’ll have to do it myself.”
“Zeke.” Suddenly very afraid, I started forward, wooziness forgotten. “Wait. What are you doing?”
He gave me one last, anguished glance. “Thank you,” he whispered. “For…bringing me out of it. For helping me remember. I… What you showed me… I don’t deserve it. Not now. But at least I’m free of Sarren.” He glanced up at the ceiling, at the open sky overhead, his expression resigned. “Kill him for me, vampire girl,” he murmured. “Promise me you’ll kill him. Send him to hell, and then I’ll finish the job myself.”
Ice shot through my veins. “Zeke, no.”
But he turned and fled, covering the room in several long strides, ignoring my cries for him to stop, and vanished from the chamber.
I chased him, following him out one of the doors and up a crowded, rubble-filled staircase, scrambling to catch up. Zeke ignored my calls, not looking back once, moving through the ruined theater like he was possessed. When his path became blocked by debris or walls or the fallen roof, he quickly chose another direction, but continued to move steadily upward. I had to push myself to keep pace with him, sometimes even climbing the crumbling walls of the theater, toward the roof and the lightening sky.
Finally, I pulled myself up a final beam, onto the blackened, skeletal roof of the old theater. Wind tossed my hair as I straightened, gazing around frantically. The gaping hole of the building plunged straight down several feet away, crisscrossed with steel girders that hung precariously over the edge.
The top of the CHI AGO sign hung crookedly from the far wall, and beyond it, a terrifying orange glow had crept over the horizon.
A lean figure in black stood across from me on the rooftop, facing that oncoming light. He perched at the very edge of a metal girder, suspended out over nothing, the wind tearing at his hair and clothes. My vampire instincts were screaming at me to get inside, away from the killing rays of the sun.
There wasn’t any time left. But I forced myself to walk carefully across the roof, easing around the gaping pit, to where the lean, pale figure stood, awaiting the dawn.
“Zeke.” My voice shook. Terrified, of both the rising sun and the thought of watching Zeke slowly erupt into flame right in front of me, I stepped to the very edge of the building and stared at the figure at the end of the beam. So close and yet, a lifetime away. “Don’t do this.”
He barely inclined his head, continuing to face the rising sun. “Go back inside, Allison,” he whispered, his voice calmer now. Resolute. “You don’t want to see me burn. From what Sarren told me, it’s quite painful.”
His voice trembled on the last sentence. I swallowed my fear, the instinct to take his advice and flee inside as quickly as I could, and inched forward. “Not without you.” He didn’t reply, and my voice became desperate. “Zeke, please, listen.