Entwined

For your listening pleasure: tinysong.com/nOra

When the back of the chair broke, I’d left the breakfast nook to go hit my heavy bag once or twice in one of the back rooms so I wouldn’t do anymore damage to furnishings. Seeing someone else feed from Nico proved a bit more than I could take, which pissed me the hell off too. She was a fucking healer. What was I going to do when she did her damn job with other vamps that weren’tfemale? What if that’d been my brother instead?

Fuck. This just had bad idea written all over it.

Trent and Thalia took off not long after I returned. I heard my twin trying to convince Nico I wouldn’t hurt her. But the fear was still in her eyes as she stood in the kitchen, unmoving or unwilling to move because she had to get around me if she wanted to lock herself in the bathroom again.

I stared at the broken pieces of chair on the floor. If I couldn’t fix this, those pieces would symbolize our relationship. “Nico, look . . .” I said as I stepped forward, over a piece of wooden chair.

She took a step back, shaking her head. “Don’t come near me.”

I stopped and cocked my head to the side. “Do you really think I’m going to hurt you?”

“I don’t know you anymore,” she said, the words nearly catching in her throat.

“Don’t know . . . ?” I took another step toward her. “Are you fucking kidding me? You find out one new little thing about me and it throws your whole world off?”

“I wouldn’t call being a goddamn assassin little.” She’s trying to hide behind anger. It usually worked for her, but I could still smell the fear.

I held my hands out before me. “Okay, wait. You’re fine with me being a vamp—who kills people to feed, by the fucking way—but you’re not cool with me doing that for a living? Kinda fucked up moral system you got there.”

“Fuck you,” she shouted and bolted to get past me.

I stepped in her way and caught her around the waist. “You forget I’m faster than you.” My lips peeled back, exposing my fangs. Running on her part was a really bad idea.

“Put me down, Shawn.” She struggled against me.

“I can’t do that,” I said. “You’ll run.”

The fear returned to her eyes briefly as she looked up at me. “What would you do to me if I ran?”

I pulled in her scent as I closed my eyes, savoring it to the point I’d licked my lips before answering. “I don’t think you want to find out.”

She struggled even harder to get away, and let me tell you, it wasn’t easy holding on to her. Nico was stronger than most. She knew at a young age she was quite different from the other kids. But fear was never really a factor for her before. It weakened her. Normally, she could put up a pretty good fight against any vamp. I’d seen evidence of it.

“Let go of me.” Fear irrationalizes everything. Nico’s a smart girl, but when terror was the overriding factor, all those smarts flew right out the goddamn window.

If she wasn’t dhampyr . . . “Nico, really, I’d suggest you calm the fuck down because this is doing one of two things to me right now.” I knew the scared dhampyr shit was because of her recent experience with Cianán—the fucker. I should kill him outright. She’d never put up with my shit before and she certainly wasn’t afraid of me then.

But to top off being a snack for the Druid master, she’d just become what dhampyr feared most—hunted by both humans and vamps. I saw the look in Cianán’s eye. It wouldn’t be long. And then it wouldn’t be long before others figured it out.

Which was the other reason I couldn’t let her go.

She froze, but trembled all over.

My gut twisted. Who the hell was this girl? Not my Nico, that’s for damn sure. I pushed her up against the wall and she let out a whimper. I grabbed her face.

“Open your eyes and look at me,” I said, a low growl rumbling in my throat.

She kept her eyes shut tight.

My hand flattened hard against the wall next to her. “Damn it, Nico, look at me!”

A tear ran down her cheek. My finger swept it up and I stared at the droplet.

Warmth flooded my mind and it dawned on me that perhaps I should be the one to calm down. I drew in a deep breath and relaxed my shoulders, letting my hand fall away from her face and dropping to one knee.

“Please, Nico . . . .”

I knelt before her with my head down.

“There’s a part of me, of my soul, that is so dark, it’s like a black hole; a void in space.”

She didn’t move, but I could tell she was watching me, listening to me.

“You’re the only light I have—” I swallowed hard, trying to choke down the words. It felt like Trent was the one talking instead of me. “—and I would die protecting you, keeping you safe.”

I knelt, still as a statue. She had to make the first move. Any movement on my part would send her careening around the corner and through the house . . . and it would kick start the predator in me.

Her fingers drifted through my hair, but I still didn’t stir. She needed to set aside her fears. They were new to her, so likely difficult to comprehend in her half-vampyre mind. Human fears she’d had yet to uncover in her twenty-five years.

I had to be a rock—her rock if she’d allow me. I realized that I wanted nothing more in this world than the beauty that stood before me. I wanted to tell her I’d stop . . . stop killing people for money, but the words hung in my throat.

“You won’t . . . hurt me?”

I grinned. “Not unless you want me to.” I tipped my head up to look into her chocolate brown eyes, and her hand fell, brushing the side of my face. I reached up and pressed her hand against my cheek.

The corner of her mouth twitched.

I stared resolutely into her eyes. “I love you, Nico.” I turned my head a little and kissed her hand. My nostrils flared at the scent of fear still lingering on her skin. Beneath that . . . chocolate. Nico was mine, and after watching two other vamps feed from her, I needed to mark her. I should have the last time I was with her. Cianán would have known then.

But that probably wouldn’t have stopped him.

She dropped to her knees and took my face in her hands. “Jesus, that must have been a real bitch to say.”

A grin split my lips, flashing fang. “There you are. Fuck, woman, you had me scared for a minute there.”

She cocked a thin brow. “You, scared? That’s laughable.”

“I know, right?” My arms slipped around her and pulled her closer to me, and my eyebrows jumped. “Wanna play predator and prey?”

“Is that what you were talking about with the running?”

“Yes and no,” I said. “If you ran scared, it wouldn’t have been a game.” A flash of fear hit her eyes. “Just remember not to run when you’re scared and all will be well with the world. You should know that shit anyway.”

She grinned. “Yeah, I do, but that dude kind of fucked me up.” She rubbed her neck where Cianán bit her. “It’s like I can still feel his fangs in me.”

“Really?” My brow dipped. Okay, this was not cool and shouldn’t be happening. “So where do dhampyr go when they need fixin’?”

She snorted. “Well, cowboy, they get themselves all fixed up on their own.”

“How?” I’d been curious about this for some time now. I’d had an idea she was dhampyr, but didn’t know if she needed blood or not—at least, not until a recent visit—because she never took it from me. During that visit, I’d smelled and tasted the blood on her lips. It pretty much connected the dots.

“Blood.” She traced a line down my neck, over the large vein pulsing with immortal undead life and likely her blood. “You’ve already given me some.”

“Do you need more?”

She grinned and nodded.

I let go of her and she slid off my lap. “Then I suggest you run.”