What had he been thinking, turning a woman?

He mentally backtracked. She was barely a woman, barely more than a girl. He’d thought she would be grateful. He was an idiot. She was reckless, emotional, a danger to herself… and to him.

Asher leaned over her. She’d gone down hard in the park; whatever strength she possessed, she’d used it up escaping. It would be a simple thing to kill her now, before she woke up. It would be the smart thing.

Asher released his fangs and bent down. Her scent was strongest in the crook of her throat: patchouli and female. Impossible though it was, he swore he could feel warmth clinging to her. He closed his eyes. He could still picture her lying in his arms, her blood covering them both, staring up at him with a trust he didn’t deserve.

He swore, and straightened again. At the same time, a soft breath whispered between Grace’s lips. Asher quickly retreated across the room.

She came to with a start. Her eyes settled on him, wide and wild. “What happened?”

Asher folded his arms across his chest and pasted a scowl on his face. “You were about to blow your cover, that’s what happened.”

Apparently, the scowl was a little too convincing. Grace shrank back into the blankets. “What are you talking about?”

Asher forced his expression to relax. “There are some things you need to understand, Ms. Alan. First, there are no female vampires. They were forbidden by the Watchmen centuries ago, for good reason, or so I hear. If anyone were to learn of your existence, you would be hunted down and killed. For that matter, so would I.”

Grace lifted a hand to her throat. “What about my family?”

Asher sidled forward, stopped when he reached the edge of the bed. “If your family knew about you, they would be obligated to turn you in. Either that, or risk punishment themselves. The Watchmen aren’t exactly known for their leniency when it comes to blood crimes.”

Grace paled. “If that’s true, why did you turn me?”

He didn’t have a good answer for that, but her expression tugged at him. Lynch’s voice echoed in his head again: she’s your responsibility. Asher shrugged out of his jacket, and came back around the side of the bed.

Grace sat up. “What are you doing?”

“It’s time for your next feeding. You used up most of your strength on that harebrained escape plan.” Asher raised his wrist to his mouth and bit into the vein. He held his arm out, ignored the blood that dripped onto the blanket.

Grace recoiled. “I can’t. I won’t. I don’t want to.”

Asher hissed a breath through his teeth. “You don’t have a choice. Not if you want to live.”

Grace raised her chin defiantly. “Maybe I don’t.”

“Not your call.” Asher steeled his resolve, then grabbed her arm and dragged her to her feet. Grace yelped. Asher clamped a hand over her mouth, spun her around and pressed her cheek to the wall.

She snarled and thrashed, but her movements were weak. He trapped her against his body and pressed his bleeding wrist to her mouth, kept it there until she finally latched on. Approval radiated through him. “That’s it. Drink up.”

Grace moaned. The sound sent a warm shockwave down his spine. Asher bit his lip. Of all the things he’d done to escape the boredom of oblivion, none had given him a rush like this. Grace moaned again. Some of the starch went out of her. She gripped his arm with both hands and drank deeper. Asher stared down at her.

She hated him, of course. If she didn’t now, she would grow to. Everyone always did. But for now, it didn’t matter. For now, she needed him; needed him to feed her, to hide her, to show her everything she could become. One day she wouldn’t.

But for as long as she needed him, she would be his.

† † †

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