Bubbles of pain rupture behind Roseline’s eyes. Spirals of color fill her mind’s eye. Her body crumples in on itself as she sinks to the floor.
Her thoughts spin out of control as she fights to remember why she resists the blood’s call. Nicolae’s heartbeat, strong and healthy, pounds in her ears. Her control is slipping, breaking apart in fragments of mutilated resolve.
“You need blood.”
Nicolae’s voice reverberates through her body. She bites down on her tongue to stifle the moan that builds within her. He is right. She desperately needs blood…but she can’t bring herself to bite him.
The thought of his blood spilling into her mouth makes her ravenous, her stomach growls with need. But she knows the consequences of bloodlust. Too much and she might not be able to return from it.
“I’m not a monster,” she rasps. Her jaw sets into a hard, distinctive line.
“I didn’t mean to imply that you are,” Nicolae declares softly. He stares at the floor. “I was merely stating a fact.”
Her chest tightens. Roseline ignores his attempt to pacify her. “You Hunters are all alike. You think you have everything figured out.”
Nicolae places his hands in his pocket and leans back against the wall. A vein throbs down the center of Roseline’s forehead. His indifference, and its implication, makes her grind her teeth: She is not a threat now, and he knows it.
There is a long pause before he answers, “I know far more than you would like, Roseline.”
“My name is Rose.”
Nicolae pushes off the wall, adopting a challenge tone. “To Sadie? Sure. William? Yeah, he might still buy that crap. But we both know abbreviating your name doesn’t change who you are.”
Roseline’s nostrils flare. She rises, her feet plant wide as she bares her teeth. His words dredge up age-old fears of becoming the monster Vladimir created her to be. A killer, vicious and unmerciful.
“I am not a monster.”
Crossing his arms, he watches Roseline sway slightly back and forth. “Would Sadie agree with that?”
The memory of Sadie’s hollowed out cheeks and pale complexion makes her throat tighten. She had come close, so close, to losing her friend.
Nicolae tilts his head to the side as he steps closer. He leans in, challenging her. “She would be dead if not for Fane’s intervention.”
Muscles along her neck strain against her delicate skin. Her face flushes, hands quake, as a rumble builds in her chest.
Knowing he is right only infuriates her more. Does he think she actually meant to kill Sadie?
A brilliant sheen of sweat drenches her forehead. Her stance balances out as her temperature rises, burning through the tranquilizer that pollutes her blood.
Nicolae observes the changes. He chooses his words carefully. “You might not have killed her this time, but you will someday. It is in your nature.” His voice drops low as he leans in. “You are a monster.”
Violent, uncontrollable rage, sweeps through her. Roseline launches at him, a guttural roar spilling from her mouth. Her fingers latch around his shoulders, squeezing. Nicolae clamps down on his lip, repressing the pain.
Roseline writhes on top of him, snarling like a wild animal. Too far gone to realize Nicolae doesn’t fight back.
“She is my friend!”
Her long nails claw into the tender flesh of his chest. A gasp of pain leaks from Nicolae as he presses back into the floor. Then the pressure changes, lessens.
Roseline pants heavily; her head sways with dizziness. The whites of her eyes appear as she collapses to the floor. Her limbs twitch uncontrollably.
Darkness glides over her eyes as she stares up at the ceiling. Her rage fades, like a receding tide. Weightlessness cocoons her.
“Oh crap,” Nicolae grunts, shoving her off so he can kneel beside her.
His fingers press against her neck, searching for a pulse. Roseline’s heart batters her ribcage. Her chest pumps rapidly as she gasps for air. Her vision blurs as she stares up at him.
“Hang on.” His fingers shake as he tries to roll up his sleeves. He growls in frustration, impaired by a button. Gripping the fabric, he yanks the sleeve free.
His hand fumbles in his back pocket. A glint of steel vanishes into supple flesh. He hisses as blood drips from his arm. “Drink, Roseline!”
She feels her body pulled into his lap, her head gently eased under his arm. Droplets of Nicolae’s blood splatters against her face. Her over-bright eyes lock onto his arm as he lowers it to her mouth.
Color drains from Nicolae’s face as her lips curl around his wound. He gasps as she feels the vein give way, dispensing his healing blood down her throat. She clings to him, moaning as the pain begins to recede.
Weakened, Nicolae collapses to the floor. “Roseline, stop.”
She barely hears his faint plea over her greedy sucking. His hand flutters over her head, attempting to fight her off. Anchoring her nails into his forearm, she refuses to let go.
“Please…” he whispers, his head lolling against the floor. “Remember Sadie.”
Roseline’s teeth retract from his flesh. Her bulging eyes sweep his unconscious form. “Nicolae!”