ConsumedBy: Suzanne Wright
The Deep in Your Veins Series
It wasn’t often that I found myself scowling. In general, I was a happy, upbeat, animated person. Even when I was a toddler, I’d always had a ready smile on my face. Always had more energy than I knew what to do with. My father had called me ‘dippy’. My mother had called me ‘neurotic’. Whatever. Both sounded fun.
I knew I was a little too…easily excitable…for most people’s tastes. Knew I was quirky with the whole ‘humming at random times’ thing, my refusal to eat anything green, and my aversion to all things luminous yellow – it was a weird colour and I didn’t trust it. But I didn’t see the point in changing to please others, it was a thankless job. And it seemed totally dumb to let people or their behaviour get to me. But when it came to a certain blond Pagori vampire, I didn’t seem to have much choice in the matter.
It was a few months ago, before Samantha Parker and Jared Michaels had ascended to become the Grand High Pair, that my brother and I had come to The Hollow – a gated community set on an off-the-map Caribbean island. The previous ruler, Antonio, had agreed to help me and Cristiano locate some of our missing nest. Sam, Jared, and their personal squad had accompanied us during the search, and that was when I’d first met Salem McCauley.
Confident. Focused. Reserved. Fearless. Dangerous. Private.
Salem was a complex character. He also had a very unapproachable air about him; his posture seemed to scream ‘stay the hell back’. Most vampires did. Maybe I should have been one of those people who gave Salem a wide berth. I didn’t, though…because his tall, trim build and his confidence and intensity always sparked a primal need to build inside me, twisting my stomach. It was too basic and elemental for me to make any sense of it, so I’d stopped trying to.
Normally, only one thought raced through my mind when I was around him: He is so freaking hot.
Right now, a totally other thought was zooming through my brain: I’m going to kill him.
The conversation I’d had an hour ago with Fletcher, Sam and Jared’s PA, replayed in my mind once again:
“Fletch, you should see the new member of Evan’s squad, he is so cute. We talked for a while, and he seems really nice – smooth, too.”
“You know that he won’t ask you out, though, don’t you?” Fletcher said carefully.
Offended, I frowned. “Why not?”
“Well…he wants to live.”
“Okay, you’ve totally lost me.”
“If he touches you, Salem will kill him.”
I shook my head. “He wouldn’t.”
Fletcher’s smile was almost pitying. “Ava, you’re on an island where the ratio of men to women is something like 60 to 1. Don’t you find it a bit weird that not one bloke has come onto you? Salem put the word out that if any man touched you, he’d kill him.”
I ground my teeth. “He has some fucking nerve.”
Fletcher shot me an impatient glance. “Oh, come on. Did you really expect anything different? I don’t know why you two haven’t got together, but I do know he won’t let anyone else have you.”
And so, I was going to kill the shithead.
Said shithead was currently beside me at the long, glass conference table with the rest of his ten-man squad. I didn’t have a clue why I’d been asked to sit in on their meeting with Sam and Jared in the main building of The Hollow. Until the pair finally entered, I wouldn’t know. I might have been excited if it wasn’t for one thing…I’m going to kill him.
It had been a week ago, when he’d cornered me outside the restrooms of a bar, that he’d quite unexpectedly kissed me. No, ‘kissed’ wasn’t the right word – it was too tame. Salem hadn’t kissed my mouth, he’d taken it, plundered it, left me aching for more. But he hadn’t given me more.
Another conversation replayed in my mind…
Off-balance by the way he’d so abruptly pulled away, I stumbled, breathing hard. Every part of me cried out for him, and I knew by the bulge in his pants that he wanted me too…So why was he standing all the way over there?
As if Salem had seen the question in my eyes, he stated, ‘I’m not going to fuck you. I don’t want a one-night stand or a fling.’
‘What do you want?’
His eyes flared. ‘Everything.’
The unexpected response made my stomach clench – whether that was in anxiety or excitement, I didn’t know. Probably both. But there was one thing I did know: ‘I don’t do relationships. I can’t give you more.’
His mouth curved slightly. ‘Oh, but you will.’
Since then, he hadn’t kissed me again. But he’d teased me with subtle, light touches –brushing against me as I past, his hands lingering in places they had no right being. Each time, the memory of him devastating my mouth while his hands kneaded and teased would slam to the forefront of my mind. And the bastard knew it. He was attempting to wear me down. But it wasn’t going to work. Nope. Not at all.
Relationships never worked well for me. Guys liked me well enough until they realised just how quirky I really was. The cheeriness, the humming, the giggling, the optimism, and the ‘being a morning person’ thing – or ‘dusk person’, in my case – would begin to wear on them.
Eventually, they would get frustrated with me all the time, would try to change me, and then I’d have to punch them in the dick until they vomited. It just seemed practical to avoid all that and stick to flings, where everything was superficial and casual.
It had been so much easier to resist Salem when he’d been a hot and cold motherfucker: talking to me some days and then blowing me off on others. Even then, though, I’d never been able to stay mad at him for long. There was a deep sadness in Salem; a well of pain. He was good at hiding it, and I probably wouldn’t have sensed it if I hadn’t known someone like him – my brother.
From minute one, Salem had been oddly protective and possessive of me for some unknown reason. In actual fact, I wasn’t sure that he knew the reason either. He seemed confused by his behaviour, seemed to be a person who didn’t trust his own feelings. Or maybe he just wasn’t good at understanding them.
That protectiveness and possessiveness had hit a whole new level in the past week. Every ounce of his natural intensity and determination was focused on me. It was scary and, well, kind of hot. But hearing that the cheeky fucker had literally ordered the other males on the island to stay away from me, thereby stopping me from having a fling with anyone else…not so hot. If he thought he could –
“What’s wrong?” Salem quietly rumbled.
So deep in thought, I nearly jumped out of my skin. His gaze was piercing, searching, concerned. Oh, I had every intention of answering his question, but now wasn’t the time or the place. And it would be fun to torment him a little anyway, particularly since he could be quite adorable when he was irritated.
“What’s wrong?” he repeated.
I sniffed. “Nothing.”
“Ava…” It was a warning.
A warning I snorted at. The red ring to his irises that marked him as a Pagori vampire began to glow, which meant he was either thirsty, angry, or horny. Pagoris were the most powerful of the three breeds; they easily became aggressive and were incredibly strong and fast, but the downside was that they had an overpowering bloodlust. Kejas, who were marked by the amber ring to their irises, all had hypnotic beauty to lure in their prey, but the poor things also had fangs.
I was a Sventé. My kind were the weakest of the three breeds; considered tame in that we didn’t have a strong bloodlust, which allowed us to easily blend in with humans. Also, our gifts tended to be defensive and mostly boring. However, once in a while, there were Sventés with offensive gifts, just like me and Sam.
Sam, who had once belonged to my nest – a nest I might soon leave – had later become a mix of all three breeds, but I wasn’t sure exactly how it happened. It was a story that only a select few knew.
“Ava…What. Is. Wrong?” Salem growled; that deep rumble did strange things to my insides. But I’d ignore that, I’d ignore my body’s responses to him, and I’d ignore his demand for an answer. Instead, I’d do what I always did when he annoyed me.
I smiled sweetly as I gently – and a little patronisingly – patted his rock-hard chest. “Just breathe.” And, yep, his face turned a disturbing shade of red. Ooh, such fun.
The female drove me fucking insane, and I was pretty sure she knew it. I wasn’t usually the type to care about other people’s problems. Just like I wasn’t usually attracted to petite women, and just like I ordinarily found bubbly, ridiculously happy people to be highly annoying. Yet, Ava Sanchez…She did something to me, brought out reactions that I was done with overthinking.
“Stop petting me like I’m a warm, cuddly bear.” She often did that when I scowled or snapped at her, all the while smiling indulgently at me…like a parent might do to a back-chatting toddler. I wasn’t warm. And I wasn’t cuddly.
But then, she knew that. We’d fought alongside each other; she’d seen me use my vampiric gift to kill, seen me enjoy using it. Yet, she apparently didn’t have the common sense to be wary of me. It was satisfying, since it got kind of old when everyone looked at you like they feared you wanted to eat their spleen. But it was also frustrating, because it would be impossible to keep someone safe if they didn’t experience fear. And she clearly didn’t.