I glanced at my cell phone for the third time in less than ten minutes, sighing when it still showed no text messages.
The music was blasting through the speakers of the home stereo installation, and the room was filled with the sweat-covered bodies of half-drunken teenagers. For some teens, this was the perfect Saturday evening. For me, it was torture.
This many people cramped in such a tight space, the alcohol and the rhythm mixing into adrenaline that caused their blood to pump in their veins, speeding to their hearts like freight trains.
I would rather be anywhere but here. Sitting on the couch at home, reading a book while tucked under a blanket and not a single sound to distract me, except for the occasional chimes of the grandfather clock in our living room—that was my scenario for a perfect night.
But Camille and Dean had dragged me along, nagging me for the umpteenth time about why I should join them to this party, which was already duped to be ‘the best party of the year’, only because the hostess was none other than Nathalie, perfect princess Nathalie, queen bee and captain of the cheerleading squad. If Nathalie held a party, then everyone was there.
Everyone, it seemed, except the one person I was waiting for.
Camille elbowed me in the side. “Don’t space out on me, Kieran,” she shouted over the music. “Move!” She demonstrated how exactly I should move by swaying her hips in a rhythm that did not match the music’s rhythm in any way, shape or form. Camille, with her blonde curls and petite frame, looked like a pixie, light and elegant, no matter how terrible her sense of rhythm was. If there was someone who could be called the epitome of ‘cute’, then it was my best friend.
Next to her, I sometimes felt like the epitome of ‘boorish’. I was at least a head taller than Camille, which still only made me of average height, but when standing next to her, I always felt like an oversized giant. My long, brown hair was straight, so stubbornly straight that even when Camille and I attacked it with a curling iron, it refused to hold a curl for longer than half an hour.
“You guys want a drink?” Dean asked, tipping his empty cup from left to right demonstratively. Dean was the third member of our friend’s circle, and he looked like the regular guy next door: the kind of blue-eyed surfer boy your parents would be thrilled about if he came to pick you up for a date.
“No, thanks,” I said.
“I want some!” Camille pushed her empty cup into Dean’s hands.
“Okay, see you in five.” Dean turned and vanished into the crowd, his blonde hair disappearing in seconds.
Camille moved in front of me, grabbing my hands. “What’s up?” she half-yelled at me.
“No—” Before I could even respond, a new song came up, and Camille’s eyes went wide, her mouth dropping to the floor.
“That’s my song! Woo!” She started dancing with more enthusiasm, dragging along several people who were dancing next to us—classmates, vague acquaintances, for Camille it didn’t matter. She was a social butterfly, including anyone easily into her social circle.
If you wanted to get into my social circle, you practically had to lay siege on the walls I had pulled up, survive a bombardment of sarcasm and supposed-indifference, and then maybe, just maybe, I would let you in. At least, that was how Dean and Camille always described it.
While Camille danced with another girl from our class, Evelyn, I dug out my cell phone and pressed on the screen.
One new message.
A wave of relief rolled over me. Finally, he’d replied.
The only reason why my two best friends had managed to pull me away from my couch, which had looked more and more attractive with every passing minute before they had arrived to pick me up, was because going out was a good excuse to see him. The alternative, namely sneaking out of my bedroom in the dead of night, was far more dangerous—not that I hadn’t done it countless times before, but I rather erred on the side of caution.
Because if my parents knew what I was up to…
If they’d knew what I had been doing for the past months, nearly a year… I could consider myself lucky if they only grounded me until I was in my eighties.
I clicked to open the message. On my way. I’ll be there in five.
Sent at 11.14. And it was now… I glanced at the clock on my phone. 11.20.
Cursing under my breath, I pushed a way through the crowd, toward Camille.
She had thrown her hands up in the air and was jumping up and down, screaming at the top of her lungs.
“Cam.” I touched her arm, startling her.
“What?” She stopped jumping, while the music kept on trying to make my eardrums pop, as if someone was deliberately crunching up the volume every minute.
“I have to go. I’ll…” Looking at her face for a second, I tried to decide whether to tell the truth or a lie. I didn’t want to see her disappointed in me, again. This wasn’t the first party I had bailed out from.
“I’ll be back soon.”
She didn’t get to finish her sentence, because I stormed off, nudging people here and there as I struggled to get out of the mass.
With Camille and Dean next to me, I could manage somewhat. It helped to focus on them. But without them, it was pure torture. Every person I bumped into was another pulse, another rhythm, their own beats a thousand times louder than the blaring music, swelling into a cacophony that made my head hurt.
I finally made it to the front of the house. The front door was wide open—Nathalie clearly couldn’t care less if her neighbors called the cops on our semi-illegal house party or not—and the hostess herself was leaning in the doorway.
As soon as I reached the door and breathed in the night air, I let out a sigh of relief. The cacophony of noise, that haunting symphony, was behind me. Before me, loomed the night—calm and tranquil, so much more enticing than the day.
Nathalie chuckled, and I turned toward her. She was sipping from a cup that, judging by the smell of it, was obviously filled with liquor. Her eyes were a little glassy, and she was obviously tipsy, but nowhere near as drunk as half the people inside her house were. “Are you tired of my party already?” She seemed amused by the thought, as if it was a ridiculous idea, and maybe for someone like her it was.
“Just catching some air.” I tried to keep my tone neutral, while I started walking off the stairs that led up to her home.
“Don’t catch a—” She stopped mid-sentence, blinking as she gazed at something in the distance. “Who’s that?”
I didn’t even have to look to know it was him.
I could see it just by watching how the features changed on Nathalie’s face, how her glassy eyes turned focused, glistening with interest, how her lips curled into a smile that was supposed to be seductive.
He had that effect on people.
Rather, his kind had that effect on people.
We were hardwired to like them, to feel attracted to them, because how else could they lure us into their trap, whisper sweet promises to us that led to nothing but death and despair, and how else would we be stupid enough to believe them?
The wind carried his scent. To Nathalie, no doubt mesmerizing—a mysterious, ancient aroma, a bit musky, similar to vintage wine. But if you inhaled deeply, you could catch a wisp of death in his scent, however vague.
I turned toward the street and saw him standing there, at the bottom of the stairs, clad in black jeans and a dark red shirt the color of blood. How fitting.
His hair was as black as a starless night sky, but his eyes were the color of garnets, brown with a hint of red.
A dark god walking amongst humans, using us for his own pleasure and entertainment. A creature of hell, a demon who preyed on the weak and innocent.
I rushed down the stairs toward him, two steps at a time.
“You’re late,” I spat at him, trying to muster as much annoyance as I could.
He shrugged. “I’m not at your beck and call.”
The first time I had met with him, I had been terrified. I had trembled with fear when he had come closer, when his ice-cold skin had touched mine, feverish with heat.
Part of me was still terrified when he was this close. Then, I tried to tell myself it was good to be afraid; it was wise to be on my guard.
Always. It’s like handling a tiger at a zoo: even if you’d done it a thousand times and you knew the tiger quite well, could predict most of its behavior, you still had to be watchful, because one day, that tiger might turn on you, seemingly without reason or cause.
He was like a tiger—no more fitting comparison existed. Glorious, powerful, a predator, capable of reigning destruction on everything in his path.
But I was quite good at keeping up my bravado, at trying to fool him that I wasn’t as scared as my heartbeat no doubt gave away. “Seems like you are,” I said with all my false bravado, “because whenever I call for you, you show up.”
Arthan smirked, not in the least phased by my sneer. “Yet, you’re always the one calling me.”
“Let’s go. Too many eyes here.” I glanced up at the front door, from where I could feel Nathalie’s eyes burning into my back.
We walked away, him following my lead.
Nathalie’s house was at the end of a cul-de-sac, and besides the immediate neighbors who were, no doubt, being kept awake by the musical bombardment, the rest of the street seemed very much asleep.
“You know, since we’ve been doing this for this long, I was kind of hoping you’d become a bit more open by now,” Arthan said with a hint of amusement in his voice. “More like: ‘How are you doing, Arthan? How is life on the dark side? Still looking gloomy up there?”
I grinned, and for a second, I had trouble sticking to the sarcastic, fake-tough persona I always put up with him, the self-defense I had developed so that he wouldn’t get too close.
As if he’s not already way too close. You’re only fooling yourself, Kieran. You became way too close from the moment you started this madness.
The trouble was, I realized while I moved in the shadow of an overgrown tree in the front garden of one of Nathalie’s distant neighbors, hiding from the moonlight, that he wasn’t as bad as I thought he was. He wasn’t as horrible as I was raised to believe he and his kind were. Or maybe he was, but he was extremely good at hiding it. His dry humor sometimes managed to pierce through my defenses and if he was anything but what he really was… Then I might’ve even liked him.
As silent as a ninja, he also moved under the cover of the tree, away from sight.
“Do you have it?” I asked. To my horror, my voice trembled a little.
From the cold.
But it wasn’t the cold that sent shivers through my spine—it was the anticipation of what was to come.
“Yes.” He fumbled in his pocket, and then revealed the small, cylinder-shaped tube filled with burgundy-red blood. “All yours.” He moved closer toward me, his scent encompassing the entire space around me. For a moment, he was everything: the world began and ended with him, and me, and this tree in a stranger’s garden.
The night was still, holding its breath in anticipation. A church owl howled in the far distance, but around us, the silence was almost unearthly: no crickets, no mice squirrelling over the grass, no cats meowing to their feline friends.
My heart was beating faster, racing through my chest.
He put the vial in my open hand and then closed my fingers around it.
No matter how much I hated myself for it… I enjoyed it. I enjoyed his touch, the cool fingers against mine, the ice toning down some of my own heat…
He licked his lips, and I inhaled sharply. This was it.
This was my darkest secret, the most horrible thing I had ever done, and continued to do, because I could not stop. Not just because then he wouldn’t give me what I needed, but also because this… this feeling… it was like a drug, too powerful for me to quit.
Adrenaline coursed through my body and I gasped as Arthan opened his mouth, revealing his sharp, white fangs. I had seen those fangs before, at least a dozen times, but still, the sight of them shocked me every time—they weren’t natural.
Then again, nothing about him was natural. Not the way his eyes, already almost red, now turned bright red and brighter than the sun. Or the way he had no heartbeat, which was suiting for me rather than alarming.
Arthan closed the distance between us, as swiftly as a tiger jumping its prey. He pushed me against the tree, and I could feel the cold tree bark against my back, but it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered except him, and me, and this moment. It meant everything, and perhaps that was the greatest sin of all.
His one hand circled around my waist, while his other hand removed the choker I wore around my neck. Luckily, chokers were good fashion statements nowadays, but they also worked well to hide the two tiny bitemarks decorating the skin of my neck.
A shiver went through my spine when he took the choker off, as if I was finally set free from an invisible chain holding me back.
He pulled my head to the side—softly, always so softly—and his fangs pierced the skin of my neck. It hurt, but only for a second. Then, he drank my blood, and all the pain was forgotten; none of it mattered anymore.
There was no noise, not a thousand heartbeats trying all at once to get my attention. That constant humming in my head, the always-present sound of blood rushing through veins, was gone. His kind, vampires, had no heartbeats, had no streaming blood.
He squeezed my shoulders, and I could almost feel his own hunger, his own desire.
Our union was unholy by all standards, his kind’s, and my kind’s, but for something so unholy, it certainly felt… perfect.
A moan escaped from my lips. I felt alive, all my senses on edge, my heart just about jumping out of my chest. I clutched on to Arthan’s back, my fingers digging into his skin.
It was wrong on so many levels. Wrong because he was what he was, a vampire, and I was what I was, and we were supposed to be enemies.
Not just because our kind and his kind were at war, not just because of the ancient history of bloodshed between us, but also because everything about us, probably even down to our DNA, was hardwired to hate each other, to destroy each other.
But in that moment, while he drank my blood, deeper and deeper, and my fingernails scraped his skin and I had to struggle not to moan out loud again, none of that mattered. Not the ancient blood feud. Not how my family would hate me and probably disown me, if they ever found out.
It didn’t even matter that much anymore why I—we—started this in the first place. Nothing mattered except the here and now, except the feeling that washed over me while he drained me of my blood, the feeling—
He stopped, letting go of me, and the moment vanished as swiftly as it had started, and the world had somehow become a little bleaker, a little more tainted.
I didn’t move. Trying to catch my breath, as if I had run a marathon, I just stood there and stared at him, taking him in. We were still so close that if he had been a living, breathing human being, I would’ve no doubt felt his breath on my skin.
A small trail of blood traveled down from his lips. My blood.
Blood that was as black as the starless night above us.
Wicked Blood (Blood Witch Series #1)
Unfortunately, Kieran’s powers are nowhere near as spectacular as her sister’s powers were…
That is, until her sister was attacked and severely injured. Her survival now depends on the blood of their sworn enemies: vampires.
But to get the vampire blood her sister desperately needs, Kieran is forced to commit the ultimate sin: offer a vampire her own blood in return.
The first book in a brand new series of witches, seduction and mayhem.
Release Date: October 8, 2019
Exclusively available in the Playing with Fire box set.
Buy the box set from Amazon.
Read the free sample of Wicked Blood on Wattpad.