Before he’d made his promise to Marta, he’d resigned himself to seeking a temporary escape in the arms of women. No matter how many women he’d pleasured, he couldn't escape the bitter loneliness or the creeping sensation that always reminded him that he couldn't trust them. He couldn't trust anyone but Marta and that knowledge made it damn difficult to focus on the woman begging for more. More often than not, old panic would surge through him as he tried to take a woman and he'd have no choice but to leave. It was the main reason why he hadn't sought out a woman to warm his bed in over fifty years.

Last night while he’d held Cloe in his arms he’d willed her to fall asleep before the panic could take over and force him to flee her bed, but it never came. Instead, he found himself enjoying the feel of her in his arms. While she’d slept, he took his time studying her face, running his fingers carefully through her hair and breathing in her unique scent. Until a few hours ago he’d been able to ignore how enticing her blood was, but once hunger hit, it had become a struggle that he’d almost lost several times.

The sun hadn't been able to rise fast enough for him. When the cravings began a few short hours ago, he should have just left to save himself the torture of being near her and not being able to have her, but he hadn't been able to forget the fear that he saw in her eyes last night. That alone kept him in her bed and his arms wrapped around her. When the sun had risen high enough that he’d felt it was safe to leave her, he hadn't been able to get away fast enough.

Another minute and he would have ripped into her throat without a second thought. As he made his way downstairs, he had to fight against the urge to do just that. His stomach growled viciously as he caught a hint of her mouthwatering scent coming off his clothes. His hand shot out and grabbed the railing as he struggled for control. In seconds, the hardwood banister snapped beneath his hand as he fought his body's demand to go take what was rightfully his.

He shoved that disturbing thought away as he forced his feet to carry him the rest of the way to his refrigerator. In seconds, he had a bag of blood stuck on his teeth and another two in his hands, ready to take its place before the last drop was gone. By the time he’d moved onto his sixth bag, he was already calculating the amount of blood that he was going to need to order to make sure that there were no more close calls.

Even as he decided that the only safe way to do this was to triple his order, he realized that the smartest thing to do would be to send her away. It wouldn’t be too difficult. After the scare she’d had last night it probably wouldn’t be tough to make her want to leave. If he hadn’t realized just how badly he’d f**ked up last night that’s exactly what he would be doing.

Instead, he was making plans to binge on blood to keep her safe so that she could stay. If she’d had family, someone that he thought would take her in and care for her, he wouldn’t hesitate in sending her packing, but she didn’t. After Marta had refused to fire her the first night, he’d done a little investigating of his own. All of her family had been killed years ago in a lodge fire. She’d been the only one to survive, but she hadn’t come out of it unscathed. Her back was proof of that.

She’d spent three months in a trauma center after the fire and then two and a half years bouncing around in the foster care system. Once she’d turned eighteen, she’d started to work a string of shitty jobs while she’d put herself through school. Once she had her nursing degree, she used it to travel the country. It wasn’t difficult to figure out that she didn’t seem to like to stay anywhere for long. He doubted that she’d stay here for very long, but until he felt that she would be okay and he found her a new position that was safe for a young woman with no family, she was staying.

Chapter 12

Before last night, Cloe could have honestly said that she didn’t embarrass very easily, but now…..

Now, she was actually looking forward to Christofer firing her this morning so that she had the excuse she needed to leave without looking like the coward that she truly was. Last night had been a mortifying experience, one that she fully planned on forgetting. The faster that she put distance between her and this house, the better.

She had no idea where she was going yet and she didn’t really care. She just wanted out of here. She wanted to get away from that damn shed, away from the nightmares that were even now threatening to destroy her and away from the memories of how pathetic she’d been last night. The only thing that she wished that she didn’t have to leave behind was Marta, but she knew that it was for the best.

Marta was such a sweet, caring woman and it was going to kill Cloe to have to leave her. In just a few minutes she was going to be fired and really, what choice did she have in the matter? She’d been hired to take care of Marta and she wasn’t doing it. Yesterday the poor woman had been left on her own and that had bothered Cloe almost as much as being trapped in that shed.

Actually, knowing that Marta was all alone with no way of getting home had cranked up her desperation to get out. She’d only known the older woman for a week, but she knew how stubborn Marta could be about protecting her from Christofer. There was no doubt in her mind that Marta would have done anything and everything to keep Christofer from finding out that Cloe wasn’t doing her job, including walking home instead of calling Christofer to come pick her up.

Cloe had been terrified that the older woman would do just that. In between dealing with her own fear, she’d been terrified that Marta had walked home instead of asking for help. She’d hoped that Marta would ask someone at the center for a ride or call a taxi, but Cloe hadn’t been sure that Marta had any money on her. When she saw the feisty older woman storm into the kitchen last night, healthy and whole, she’d felt herself relax, somewhat.

She’d still been on edge and it should have only gotten worse during the night, but somehow Christofer had managed to do what therapy, pills, time and prayers hadn’t been able to do. He’d chased away her fear, made her feel safe for the first time in years and she didn’t know how to deal with that. The only thing that she was sure of was that Christofer was a dangerous man.

He made her feel things that she had no business feeling and made her want things that she could never have. She was glad that he was a complete jerk. It helped keep things in perspective and kept her from doing something foolish like falling for a man that she could never have.

Long-term relationships weren’t possible in her life, not with the need to move hitting her every couple of years. She couldn’t handle anything permanent in her life, mostly because there was no such thing as forever. She’d learned that lesson the hard way.

Tags: R.L. Mathewson Pyte/Sentinel Fantasy
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