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Kahli felt Will pull away, and the small window to his soul that had slipped open, closed. She felt it slam shut, blocking her from seeing whatever secrets he had hidden. His suggestion to let him bite her was so outlandish that she couldn't fathom it, but the more Kahli thought about it, the more frightened she became about the King.
Fear wasn't something that Kahli was used to. Sure she felt it, but she didn't let it dominate her and she wasn't about to start now. Thinking about it, Kahli picked through Will's suggestion trying to figure out what part she was reacting to the worst. It wasn't a stupid idea, in fact it was brilliant, but Kahli couldn't fathom belonging to someone else. Even now, the King could feel her and sense her thoughts to some extent. The idea made her skin crawl. If Will's bite would keep the King out of her mind, was it worth it?
Kahli rested in the metal bed, staring up at the ceiling. She didn't bother airing out the cot mattresses. Instead, she threw a blanket over the springs to keep the metal twists from pulling her hair and lay down. Will was across the room, hunched over the table, in the dark. He found a lantern and a brittle old book that he was reading, slowly turning one page at a time. She tried not to watch him, but when a page cracked and fell out of the spine, he looked so boyish. The paper dangled in his fingers for a moment, and when he tried to press it back into the book, but the page crumbled like an old egg shell.
Kahli turned her face back toward the concrete ceiling, wondering what tomorrow would look like. Ever since she was little, there was no tomorrow. Will was right about that. As long as she was running, as long as they hunted her, she had no life of her own. It was theirs. The vampires stole everything she had and twisted her existence to suit their needs. Kahli was prey being hunted, not a human free to do what she wanted.
Rolling onto her side, she pondered these things - what would her life would look like if she didn't have to run? What would she do every day? Where would she live? Did she want to keep hunting Trackers and spilling more blood? Was there ever enough to satisfy her thirst for vengeance?
There is no such thing as peace, she thought to herself. Peace is for the dead and since I breathe, that is something that will never be mine.
Her gaze lifted to Will, taking in his form. The way he pulled his legs up under him while he read, the slight curve of his shoulders when no one was looking, the way his ring finger tapped his temple - they were things that made him seem human. If she had her days to fill as she chose, would he be a part of them? Allowing him to bite her meant that he would be there as long as he lived. It was a marriage of sorts, one that could not be broken.
Kahli's heart ached. She didn't realize it until that moment. There was no amount of preparation that could have saved her from this. The world was a frigid, lonely place. Did it matter that she found solace in a vampire? Did it matter that he was Bane? She wasn't sure anymore. It wouldn't have made a difference to her parents. A vampire is a vampire. A square is a rectangle, and that sort of logic.
God she missed them. Kahli ran her fingers over her side where her runes covered her skin. There was supposed to be a man, a man to protect her, and share her life. Her parent's selected him when she was born. Allowing this relationship with Will to continue defied everything she'd been taught, and made it explicitly clear that all hope of finding her betrothed was gone. Whoever he was, he vanished like everyone else who'd been important to her.
Hours passed, but Kahli wasn't able to sleep. She just laid there staring at the ceiling. The thought of agreeing to Will's request set her nerves on end. She had to do it. Kahli knew that, but she still didn't want to. When she couldn't lay there another second, she sat up. Will was still reading, hunched close to the lantern.
She sat down next to him and said, "There's no other choice, is there?"
Will set the book down and looked up at her. She couldn't read his thoughts, but she could feel a nervous jolt rush through him. Her question startled him. It was so late that she thought she should have waited until morning, after she slept, but Kahli couldn't sleep as long as the question continued to bounce around in her head. The uncertainty was driving her crazy.
"I don't see another option, Kahli. I wish there was." Will swallowed hard, like his throat was dry.
Kahli looked down at her hands on the table top. "What will it do?" She glanced up at him slowly. "How much will you feel? How much will you know?"
"Everything," he breathed. "There will be no secrets, for either of us."
Kahli's eyes drifted to the spot where his runes started under his shirt. She'd wanted to know where they came from, and who gave them to him. If he bit her, she'd know, but that didn't make her happy. She didn't want to learn about him like this. She wanted him to tell her, but Will couldn't. She breathed deeply and leaned forward, resting her face in her hands.
"What secrets do you have left to hide, Kahlahandra?" Will said softly, his hand touching the top of her head. There was no compulsion in his voice, but Kahli still shifted like there was. Her name falling from his lips felt like a caress.
"Nothing you won't pry out of me," she meant it to be light and joking, but it wasn't. It was the crux of the problem. There was a difference between offering and taking.
Will took her hand when it flopped down on the table. "You don't have to do this now. We can wait."
"No, we can't. I left a trail of blood behind me. I wanted to get out of there so badly that I didn't think of what I left behind. Will, I have to go back and get Cassie and Cole. And - "
He cut her off, "And the rest of them. I know."
"There's only one way to do that." She looked up into his eyes.
He shook his head. "Not tonight. Sleep. If you still want to - "
"I don't want to, Will. I'll never want to. I have to. There's no other way to undo what the King has done, and after this, there'll be no way to undo what you've done. It's a necessary evil."
"I see," Will flinched and withdrew his hand.
"I didn't mean it like that," Kahli wanted to scream and yell, but not at Will. It wasn't his fault. Her voice softened after a beat, "I would have wanted to tell you everything. I would have wanted you to know me, but over time. Doing it this way, it's like spilling everything out all at once. You'll see everything. The good and bad," she smirked sadly, "But it's mostly bad."
"I know," he breathed, "I feel the same way. There are things I don't want you to know, not yet." Thing's that you won't fully understand even when you see them. I've kept things from you, things you won't forgive me for doing. His heart sank at the thought and he looked away from her.
Kahli quietly sat across from him, watching his face. Will looked nervously around the room. His gaze drifted from his hands to the walls and finally lifted to meet Kahli's emerald eyes. She smiled at him, "There's no point in waiting, you know. Actually, if the risk with the King is that serious, we should have done it already."
Will's eyes locked with hers. The endless blue pools were hypnotic and she couldn't look away. There was something broken about him, something that called to her. "I know."
"Then, why wait?"
"We shouldn't," Will replied and stood. He walked in front of her and swept her hair away from her neck. Everything from her soft skin to her scent drove him crazy and now she'd know just how much he wanted her - and why he couldn't have her.
His hands cupped her face as he leaned closer, his eyes focused on her lips. Will breathed lightly, his warm breath slipping over her skin. Kahli's body was rigid. The King had torn apart her neck when he drank from her. The memory shot through her mind and it took every ounce of self-restraint not to fight Will.
But he already felt her pulse accelerate and her nervous stomach twist. Will took her hand in his, leaving his other palm on her face. Looking into her eyes, he said, "There's no going back. Are you sure?"
Kahli shivered even though she wasn't cold. Will's fingers slipped down her cheek and rested on her shoulder, just below her neck. That's where he'll bite me. That's where he'll drink, she thought.
Cassie's words came flooding back, roaring through her ears like the girl was standing there saying it. Drinking is like sex, the two are connected.
"Will?" Kahli breathed his name. Every inch of her body longed for his touch and he hadn't bitten her, yet. Would it be worse? Would she be able to control herself? She didn't know how to ask. It was something she hadn't thought of and she didn't know how to deal with it. "I, uh..." she took a deep breath and tried to say it. "I'm kind of attracted to you." Kahli felt Will's lips pull into a smile as she said it.
"And...?" he prompted, as if he already knew that part.
"And, I wanted to know if things will change?" She spoke close to his ear, softly, feeling the warmth of his cheek next to hers. She didn't want to move. She didn't want to expose the flush that colored her face. "Right now, I try to stay away from you. Will I be able to decide what I want after this? Or will it be decided for me?"
Will pressed his face against hers, hugging her, feeling her body against his. "I won't force you to do anything you don't want to do."
"How can I know that?"
"You'll have to trust me. Just like I'll have to trust you not to spill my secrets across the court and get me killed as soon as we walk through the palace door." He sucked in a ragged breath and said, "You'll always have a choice with me, Kahli."
She pulled back and looked into his eyes, melting in them, wanting him in ways she shouldn't. Kahli leaned forward and pressed her lips to his, softly at first, teasing and tasting him with gentle flicks of her tongue. Will's hands slipped down her back, feeling her curves under his palms. When she pulled back, he held his hands on the small of her back, pinning her against him.
Kahli's heart raced harder and faster than it ever had in her life. She nodded her consent and tilted her head to the side, letting her long red hair slip behind her shoulder. Will's hands slid up her back, pressing her closer, holding her tighter. His mouth kissed hers gently, before trailing kisses to her neck. For a moment, he hesitated. Kahli could feel his ragged breaths, the longing within his body. Kahli pressed her eyes closed when she felt the tip of his fang scratch across the surface of her skin. It made something unexpected shoot from her core and fill her body.
She shivered and gasped at the same time. Will didn't move. He didn't bite her and for the first time, she realized that she wanted him to. She wanted to be his. There was something wrong with her. After all this time fighting to be free, Kahli handed herself over the first vampire she saw. Her nails dug into his skin and she pulled Will's head down, tugging his dark hair.
Will's lips pressed against her throat, giving her one delicious kiss at a time. Kahli's head was swimming with thoughts she couldn't control. Will teased her, nipping her neck, but he didn't pierce her skin. Kahli felt something within him, an emotion that she couldn't identify. In a moment, she'd know what it was - she'd know what he was thinking. There would be no more doubt, no more wondering about him. They'd belong to each other in a way that shouldn't have been possible.
Just as Will's control snapped and he opened his mouth to sink his teeth into her neck, something outside exploded. Before anything happened, Will yanked Kahli and spun with her in his arms away from the sound. Breathing hard, they looked at each other. Will's blue eyes were wide. He blinked once and the lust was gone. It took Kahli another moment to collect herself. When the second crash came, it was enough to make her body forget what happened between them.
Will grabbed Kahli's arm and screamed, "Go! We have to go! Now!" Another blast shook the floor and chunks of concrete fell from the ceiling.
Will shoved her toward the door just as part of the wall caved in. Rock slid down and dust formed a powder cloud that filled the room. Kahli gasped for air, glancing back over her shoulder. "Will!" she screamed, trying to see him.
Before she could go back, the side of the hill collapsed. A massive opening appeared. Earth and sunlight poured in like rain. Kahli was momentarily blinded. Holding her hand to her face, she tried to block the sun to see what was happening. As everything settled, she could see someone standing there, right at the rim of the hole. He was a slim black shadow against a blinding array of light. Kahli's eyes couldn't adjust to the light fast enough. Before she knew what was happening, there was a flash, and suddenly a handcuff wrapped around her wrist. It was connected to a chain. The man above yanked the chain hard. Kahli fell forward, one arm was nearly ripped out of its socket, as she was pulled from the blown-apart safe house.
"Better hold on, dear," Reggie shouted down to her, as he hoisted Kahli up. A pleased grin covered his face, as the girl reached the top. Kahli yelled and kicked, but she mostly just tried to keep her arm attached to her body. When she reached the top, Kahli clung to the ground trying to ignore the screaming pain in her arm. Tears filled her eyes. The pain wouldn't stop. He dislocated her shoulder pulling her out like that. Kahli tried to slam her shoulder into the ice to pop it back in place, but Reggie lifted her like a lost object and turned her back and forth examining her in the sun.
He tutted and shook his head, "Someone has been very naughty. Was it young William or someone more royal?"
Kahli screamed, kicking at him wildly. The pain in her shoulder made her vision fade at the edges. "Put me down!"
Reggie laughed in her face and handed her to Thomas. Then, the graceful vampire turned and called down to Will. "Thanks for keeping her for me. She looks pretty good, with the exception of that ghastly scar. You've been a naughty boy, William. I'll settle up with you another time," he lowered his voice and said dryly to Thomas, "assuming he's still alive down there."