Wednesday, August 31, 2022

HUNTRESS SOULMATE by Selene Kallan




Blurb:
BORN TO DESTROY EACH OTHER. BONDED BY DESTINY.
Fae Warrior Prince Axel has defeated many flesh and blood demons, but not the darkness haunting his past. His grim memories besiege him whenever Valentine’s fangs get too close to his neck. Which is often, since the vampiress' iron self-control melts under the alluring call of Axel’s blood. He tempts her as no one has before.
So the enemies-turned-friends-and-almost-lovers cling to apprehension-fueled restraint to avoid acknowledging their unstoppable soul-bond.
Until their most feared enemy returns to shatter them both, and unleash Valentine’s most savage, lethal side.
Driven by pain, Valentine is closer than ever to losing herself under the torment of the beast that made her a monster.
But Axel won’t give up on Valentine so easily, not after they have bled and fought for each other. He will use his most forbidden powers to defeat the beast seeking to break Valentine.
No one hurts Axel’s soulmate and gets away with it.

The second installment of the Bonded by Blood and Magic series.


CHAPTER 1


VALENTINE


The tangy scent of human fear reached my nose.

I stopped daydreaming about late-night conversations and stolen, forbidden, definitely not just friendly kisses with Axel, and focused on finding the source of the scent.

The small supermarket I always visited when I needed organic eggs for Freckles, my 35-pound Maine Coon, was nearly empty. A few other patrons filled baskets with that sedate, half-absent attitude most humans have after a long day of work. Pop music drifted from the speakers on the ceiling, a familiar tune that had been popular along with fruity body splash.

I did my best not to squint at the bright white fluorescent light reflecting against the clean, white-tiled floor as I advanced one position in the line, behind a middle-aged man wearing a cardigan and khakis.

The tingling sensation of discomfort became strong enough to make my forearms itch just as my eyes landed on the cashier, a young girl with pale skin, copper hair, and many freckles. The bluish imprint of the veins in her delicate neck became starker as her pulse ratcheted.

She gulped twice, hands shaking as she registered the products of the man in front of me. A bead of sweat ran down her hairline despite the AC.

For half a second, I thought perhaps she had sensed something odd in me. Some humans did, after all. But I’d been completely relaxed and smiling like an idiot, lost in my musings, so I wasn’t the catalyst for her apprehension. No, it was the middle-aged man who had bought bottles of water, canned food, bleach, a mop, and hygiene products.

The man, who was about half a head under my almost six-foot-one, was openly staring at her with his indecent little brown eyes, particularly her chest.

Having been a victim of leering looks from disgusting men since I was ten, I felt bad for her. Reining in most of my mental force, I aimed a silent, scolding command at the mind of the man.

I wasn’t careful enough.

My telepathy flared and before I could stop it, a barrage of images flashed in my mind’s eye.

I locked my muscles not to drop or crush the eggs in my hands.

Maybe I should have taken this one instead; the man mused in his mind. I clenched my teeth not to gag at the revolting way he felt about the adolescent girl registering his purchases.

The rest of his thoughts came in sensations and images instead of words. He envisioned his hands around the freckled girl’s slim throat. He was imagining how her screams would sound. He imagined her in his trunk, bound with rope, or naked and chained to the floor.

The harrowing vision of a thin, pale girl, crying and bound with a chain, played in the forefront of his mind.

Gods, no.

My heart kicked into a race, and I was certain that if I could produce bile, it’d have crawled up my throat.

Either the bastard had a disgustingly vivid imagination, or he had a young woman trapped in a basement. Maybe a container? I wasn’t sure.

“Ma’am?”

I shook my head, cutting the mental connection to the man who was picking up his bags and giving me a once over.

I turned away from him, meeting the brown eyes of the still-pale cashier.

“I, um, just realized I forgot my wallet,” I lied. “At what time do you close?”

From the corner of my eye, I saw the man exiting through the glass doors, heading towards the parking lot.

“At nine,” the cashier responded.

Someone cleared their throat behind me.

I placed the eggs on the empty register to my right, gave an apologetic smile at the peeved customers and confused cashier, then darted out.

The man got inside his SUV and drove out. I cursed my decision to walk instead of using my car and headed for the nearest building at full speed, faster than the human eye could register, and jumped on the rooftop, then ran towards the next building, leaping the two-yard gap with ease.

Half of my focus zeroed on the SUV, the rest on making sure I landed on a solid surface not to make a hole through the ceiling of a building. My limbs buzzed with the relief of letting out my usually contained strength. The wind ruffled my loose hair beyond repair and made my calf-long black coat fly behind me. That raptorial part of me I usually kept under control slowly uncurled from its cage.

Thankfully, this neighborhood was near the suburbs, and the buildings were mostly under ten stories high, because otherwise, I’d need Spiderman’s webs to reach the rooftops.

I kept close to the front of the buildings, running and leaping, grateful I had fully recovered my strength after being kidnapped by Johan and his demon friend.

The SUV took a turn towards a road that led to suburbia with mansions built in the middle of the forest. I jumped down from the last building, a two-story hardware store, and leaped over two moving cars. Still following the SUV’s trajectory, I hid behind the first line of pine trees that bracketed the road.

I slowed my speed in tandem with the SUV, sticking to the shadow of the pine trees as the vehicle headed towards a massive, industrial-design white house. My breath came in shorter bursts than usual and my heart thrummed but not from physical effort. The predator in me was relishing the hunt.

I watched as the man parked the car in a large square of concrete on the left side of the property. He left the car, taking his purchases towards a white shed near the other side of the tree line. He paused, half turning to look behind him. His brow furrowed with mild concern as if he sensed he was being watched. Not surprising, since my control over the hungry monster dwelling within was fraying.

The man adjusted his glasses, peering intently at the cluster of trees, almost where I stood. His eyes were too weak to see me in the shadows. I grinned in satisfaction as he shook his head, no doubt thinking it was his imagination, and opened the lock on the metallic door, entering the shed and closing the door behind him.

I waited for a minute, afraid of taking too long and also of going inside too soon.

Keeping my steps light, I approached the door. My skin tingled and my sight sharpened, signaling my shift. Dull pressure exploded in my gums as my fangs descended halfway. It took only a sliver of my mental force to open the lock.

There was no sound coming from the inside, so I slipped in, locking the door behind me.

I narrowed my eyes to adjust to the white fluorescent light of a lamp hanging from the ceiling. The shed was neatly organized and pristine. Shelves full of tools, and a worktable; the smell of paint thinner, gasoline, and bleach assaulted my senses.

There was another door at the end of the room.

This one had a digital lock, but that hardly mattered. It still had bolts and I could force those with my mind, so I did. As soon as the door opened, I was hit with cold air that reeked of bleach mixed with urine, vomit, and that salty, metallic, sour scent of fear that was unfortunately branded in my mind.

I clenched my teeth not to growl, slowly descending the steep stairs, my heart pounding with apprehension. I loathed closed spaces.

He’s locked in here with you now, not the other way around, I reminded myself.

I reached the bottom of the stairs, pressing my ear against the closed metallic door.

“Please, please let me go,” I heard a broken feminine voice beg.

“I brought you some food,” responded the man. “You will eat it. And I’ve also bought toiletries. You will use them all and shower at least twice a day.”

“Please,” the woman sobbed.

My stomach churned. There was suddenly no air reaching my lungs and my head pounded.

Really? This was the time my ridiculous brain was choosing to have a panic attack? What the Hell was wrong with me?

I sank my fangs into the inside of my lower lip, drawing blood and causing enough pain to halt the panic and regain control.

“I see you cleaned yourself and the mess you made, good,” the man continued, ignoring her. “Remember, there will be a punishment if you ever behave like some sort of wild animal again.” His tone was prim. He sounded genuinely insulted that the poor woman had soiled herself after whatever the fuck he’d done to her.

I’d heard enough.

I stretched a line of my power and unlocked the door so hard it flew open.

The scents were much stronger now, and the sight nearly sent me to my knees.

A young woman with long dark hair and pale skin, completely naked. Her abdomen and face were covered with angry purple-green bruises. A shackle, tight around her right ankle, was anchored to the white concrete floor with a chain. There was a bed near the left wall and a full bathroom with acrylic walls near it. On the other side, near the door, there was a kitchenette with a concrete counter.

“What—” the man began.

I growled at him.

That power I’d shoved inside me for so long broke free. Translucent vines of kinetic energy pinned the bastard against the left wall. His brown eyes went wide with shock, glasses clattering to the floor, and a strand of brown hair fell on his pale, sweat-sticky face.

I peeled my lips at him and let him see just what kind of monster he’d encountered.

He didn’t scream, but the sheer fear pulsing from him in little waves was satisfying as Hell.

But he wasn’t my priority.

I turned my attention to the shivering woman standing near the bed, wrapping her arms around her frame. She was gaping at me as well, and I hated her shock, her fear. Not for the first time, I wish my true self was less threatening to the victims.

I lifted my hands, showing her my palms. “I won’t hurt you, I promise,” my voice sounded cold and sharp as it always did when I used my hypnosis. “I will release you, alright?”

Haltingly, she nodded.

“Who do you think you are?” the man sneered behind me. “This is a private matter—”

I growled, wrapping another vine of my power around his throat. “Shut up.”

The woman shook like a leaf, silent tears streaming down her face.

I neared her as slowly as I could manage, crouching and taking the shackle in my hands. “It’s going to be fine, I promise you.”

She shivered but didn’t recoil as I cracked it open. A low, broken sound of relief left her throat. The skin where the shackle had been was inflamed and reddish; as if she were allergic to the metal. It was iron, I realized, and couldn’t help but wonder if maybe the woman had some fae blood in her.

I stretched and took off my coat, handing it to her.

With trembling hands, she took it and put it on. Her green eyes swam with tears. She was small—her head barely reached my shoulder—so the garment covered her down to her ankles.

“What is your name?” I asked as gently as I could.

She gulped. “Becca Williams.”

I nodded, wrapping a careful thread of my coercing power around her mind. “Behind that door,” I pointed behind me, “there’s a flight of stairs. Go up and wait in the shed for me. I’ll be right behind you.”

Becca launched a fearful look at the pervert, who was breathing like a bull, eyes manic on us both.

I placed my arm around her shoulders and steered her towards the stairs, covering her with my body as much as possible. She made her unsteady way to the top, looking back at me with questioning eyes.

“Close the door and wait,” I commanded as gently as I could. “I’ll be there in a moment.”

She obeyed.

I turned to meet the gaze of the pervert, fully letting go of my aura. Dark satisfaction curled inside me at his desperate attempts to pull free of my power’s hold. The scent of his fear further awakened the predator in me.

“What are you?” he mouthed, blood vessels stark against the whites of his eyes.

I flashed him my fangs. “A huntress and you are my prey.”

He kept struggling in vain, smashing his head against the wall in frustration, veins throbbing in his neck. A popping sound came from his wrists and he screamed. The sound was sharp and shrill, like a pig in a slaughterhouse, which was appropriate.

I wished I had Axel’s magic so I could cast a silencing spell and slowly dismember the fucker.

Rarely did I feel the desire to torture someone. Only once had I done it and I’d been sick afterward.

Knowing I didn’t have the stomach or the time for torture, I stepped closer to the pervert, gripping his jaw. “Quiet,” I commanded, barreling my mental force against his mind.

His scream died, teeth grinding so hard one broke.

I forced his head to the side and bit down over his jugular. Bloodlust and disgust mixed in a violent cocktail inside me as I drank long gulps of bittersweet blood, cracking open his mind and reading all I could.

His name was Tom Parsons, and he had a beautiful fiance, who was a pediatrician.

Becca was his tenth victim. He’d become obsessed with her since she began working for his construction company. He’d forced her to write a resignation letter saying she was going on a trip to Europe so that no one suspected he’d kidnapped her. Becca had no family who would challenge such a rash decision.

The faces of all the other women he’d tortured and killed flashed in fast, nauseating succession in my mind.

I’d seen enough.

I retracted my fangs and swiped my tongue over the puncture marks. My stomach nearly turned at the taste of the salty, rank sweat of the fucker.

Stepping back, I went to the concrete counter and riffled through the shopping bags, finding the mouthwash I’d seen him buy. I used it, opening the faucet on the sink to wash away the blood-tainted green liquid. My mouth burned by the time I tasted nothing more than mint.

Tom the degenerate was nearly unconscious. I’d taken over a liter of his blood.

I slapped him awake and pushed my mind inside his before he could speak. “Your fiance has no idea what a twisted bastard you are, does she?” I asked, tilting my head and slamming my hypnosis power against his feeble brain. “You will go inside that pretty house you have, write down all your perversions, and leave them where the police can find them. And then, you’ll put your 9mm inside your mouth and pull the trigger.”

He tried to fight me, but it was futile. I ripped to pieces his will, submitting it under mine, leaving enough awareness so he became a prisoner in his mind and suffered until he took his last breath. He appreciated his life oh so very much, something common in psychopaths.

“Count until one thousand,” I commanded. “Then you will do as I say. Oh, and make sure to write down where you keep your trophies, too.”

I released him, and he dropped to the floor like a sack of manure.

He shook so hard his teeth clashed. “You are a monster.”

“‘You are a monster,’” I mocked, scoffing. “Your ilk always points that out once the tables turn.”

I rushed back upstairs, finding Becca huddled near the door leading outside.

“Come along,” I said, opening the door for her.

She stepped outside, gazing up at the stars. Tears shone in her eyes.

I placed my hand between her shoulder blades and guided her towards the road.

“W-where are we going?” she asked.

“That depends,” I answered. “Do you want to go to a hospital or do you want me to take you home?”

Becca gulped, mulling it for a moment as we made slow progress through the concrete of the back of the property, and then the uneven ground of the forest. “I’m not hurt. I mean, I’m hungry and sore but he didn’t…” She took measured breaths. “I don’t think I need the hospital, and I can’t afford it either.”

He hadn’t raped her yet. I knew this, but the bruises on her abdomen worried me.

“I can pay for it if you wish to go,” I insisted. “If not, I’ll make sure you’re at home and safe.”

“Home, please,” she muttered.

I nodded, reluctant to force her to do anything she didn’t want to.

Becca winced, hissing, and toppled to the side.

I caught her waist. “Sorry, I should have found you some shoes.”

Her wide, green eyes met mine. There was fear coming from her, but also cautious hope and gratitude that made my eyes itch.

“I will not hurt you,” I promised again, carefully prodding her mind.

Not human. She’s not human, she’s a vampire, Becca thought. Grandmamma said vampires liked to kill people like us, but this vampire saved me. Can I trust her? God, what other choice do I have?

I hid my surprise as much as I could. She knew what I was. Humans didn’t immediately think, ‘she’s a vampire!’ as soon as I showed them my fangs. At least not since my kind had become only mythical for most humans. And that thought about her grandmother…. Was I right? Did Becca have fae blood?

“I can carry you, if you will allow me,” I said.

She licked her dry lips and gave me a tentative nod.

I slipped an arm under her knees, the other around her shoulders. Her weight was nothing. I could carry her for a hundred miles and not feel tired.

“Do you have a car?” Becca asked.

I shook my head, biting my lip. Should I pretend I didn’t know she knew about my true nature? Should I not give her any answers and wipe her mind at the end? Everything inside me recoiled at the idea.

“I walked to the supermarket to buy some things, and ran into Tom,” I said. She shivered, seeming to shrink as I mentioned the pervert’s name. “I’d have lost him if I waited to get a taxi,” I continued. “So I ran after him.”

She gaped at me. “You… can run that fast?”

By that time, we had reached the road. “I think 180 miles per hour is my speed limit,” I confessed, walking further to leave Tom’s property.

Becca stayed quiet as I deposited gently on her feet to fish out my phone from my leggings’ pocket and ask for a taxi. Neither of us broke the silence for the long minutes we had to wait for our transport to arrive.

I opened the door for her and followed her inside the car that smelled like pine, mint, and the driver’s sweat. Gods, some days, I hated my hypersensitive nose.

“Where to?” the man asked.

Becca launched me a speculative look.

I mulled it. Leaving her to go home alone was irresponsible of me. What if the taxi driver was a pervert? What if she fell and hit her head? She was dehydrated and weak.

But it wasn’t my choice.

“If you prefer to go alone, I’ll understand,” I said.

I could run after the car to make sure she reached her home safely.

She took a deep breath, examining me for a second, and then recited her address to the driver.

I gave her a tentative smile, which she returned.

***

Becca had lost consciousness halfway to her apartment.

I let her sleep until we arrived at what could be considered the ghetto of the city. It wasn’t dangerous per se, as far as I knew, but the buildings were closer together, the apartments smaller and the houses not as well taken care of.

I gently prodded Becca awake, then used my power to erase the memories of the cab driver and gave him ten times the fare before sending him off.

Becca headed towards the back of the building and climbed up the fire escape stairs. I trailed after her until she reached her floor. She tried to pull her window open, but it didn’t budge.

I unlocked it with my mind.

She shot me a look over her shoulder, but opened her window and carefully entered.

The apartment was tidy and clean. About half the size of my living room, with a small kitchen-dining area, and a compact living room with a blue sofa that had seen better days and an old flatscreen TV.

I blinked as Becca turned on the lights. She bit her lip, staring at me. I could sense relief and wariness battling for dominance inside her.

“If you are certain you need no medical care and wish me to leave you alone, I will leave,” I offered.

She swallowed hard. “What did you do to Tom? Will he—” she placed a hand against her chest “—will he come after me again?”

I almost snorted and asked her how bad at being a predator did she think I was but held back the snark.

“He’s probably committed suicide by now, as I compelled him to do,” I said.

Her eyes went round. “Oh.”

“Unlikely as it is for any human to break my compulsion, I will make sure he’s dead tomorrow,” I assured her.

She breathed out, running a hand through her tangled hair. “I… thank you? Is that the right thing to say?”

My lips flickered. I shrugged. “I’ve no idea, but you’re welcome.”

Becca huffed. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but will you stay a bit longer?” She shifted her weight nervously. “I don’t doubt your skills, but I don’t want to be alone right now and I-I have no one else.”

My stomach felt laden with sympathy. “Sure, why don’t you shower and I’ll make you some coffee?”

She let out a relieved breath, nodded, and headed to her bedroom.

***

As promised, I had a warm cup of black coffee waiting for Becca when she returned, smelling like soap and toothpaste. I’d also found cheese and bread that hadn’t expired—indicating her kidnapping had not lasted long, fortunately—and made a couple of cheesy sandwiches.

Becca sat at the table and lifted the white cup to her lips, drinking eagerly.

I bit my lip and tried not to stare but caught the widening of her eyes and the bob of her throat as she drank nearly all the cup.

“What did you do to my shitty coffee to make it taste good?” she asked.

Well, I added one tablespoon of my blood to it. I hope you don’t mind.

Doing so had painfully reminded me of the time I’d done the same for Adam, the man I’d almost fallen in love with over half a century before.

I refilled her cup, sitting at the table across from her. “Used a new filter and added a tiny bit of honey and cocoa,” I responded, which was true as well.

Becca shot me a grateful smile and ate her sandwiches in record time.

I abstained from asking her if she was sure she didn’t want to go to a hospital again. The blood I’d given her was taking effect before my eyes. Her skin went from too pale to a more normal milky color. The green bruises on her cheekbone and forehead cleared to a yellowish color.

And if she had any internal bruising, it must have healed as well.

Becca leaned back in her chair, examining me. “Can I ask you something?”

“Go ahead, although I can’t promise a response.”

“Fair enough,” she agreed. “Why did you help me instead of killing me?”

I froze, not knowing how to feel. It was an understandable question, but I couldn’t deny it offended me somewhat.

Her cheeks reddened. “I don’t mean to insult you, it’s just…” her shoulders drooped. “My grandmamma, she was… different, and she told me of your kind, and her experience had not been pleasant.”

I wrinkled my nose. “I had no idea vampires enjoyed feeding on fae until recently,” I admitted. “Hell, I just found out that fae are real a few weeks ago. And even if I’d known, I would have never fed on one just because they taste good.”

Becca gaped at me. “How did you know I have fae blood? My grandmamma was half-human, and I hold no power at all.”

“You are violently allergic to iron,” I told her.

She let out a breath. “Oh, that.”

“Yes, that.” I mulled it for a moment, but what the Hell. She was aware of supernaturals and not entirely human. “I won’t pretend to be some sort of hero, but since my transformation, I’ve hunted down degenerates.” I half shrugged. “What’s the point of having all this strength and power if I don’t use it to take down as many bastards as I can?”

Becca gulped. “I suppose not all vampires are as terrible as the ones in grandmamma’s stories.”

I sighed. “I’m glad you are nuanced, but considering I’ve met quite a few assholes of my kind, and I’ve done my best to hide from them for centuries, I’d advise you to keep your distance, if possible.”

Becca shivered. “Thanks for the advice, and for saving me.”

“You are welcome,” I said. “I don’t mean to pry, but is it impossible for you to move somewhere safer?”

She took a deep breath and hugged herself, her expression so forlorn I felt the impulse to hug her. “I’ve always dreamed of moving to Iceland. Grandmamma was from there, and we went there on a holiday once. I had my chance years ago, but then my mom got sick and I used all my savings to pay for her medical bills,” her throat bobbed. “After her death, this is as far as I could afford to make it.”

“How much would you say you’d need?” I asked.

Becca blinked. “Uh, I don’t know. Fifteen grand maybe?”

Incredible what could be a life-changing amount of money to some and pocket expenses to others.

I hummed noncommittally, calculating how much cash I had at home. I wagered about twice that.

“I should get going,” I stood. “You will be safe, I promise. And if you need help, I’ve left my number written down in the notebook under your phone.”

Becca stood, went to her kitchen, and rifled through a drawer until she found a set of keys. She unlocked her door for me. “Do you want your coat back?”

I shook my head. “No, keep it or throw it, as you wish.”

“Okay.” She rocked on her heels. “Thanks again.”

I stepped outside, trying not to squirm. “No worries.”

The hallway was well-lit, and a quick scan with my empathic awareness told me there was no one dangerous in a one-mile radius, so I headed for the stairs.

“Wait!” Becca called.

I turned. “Yes?”

“What’s your name?”

I hesitated for a second. “Valentine.”

Becca smiled. “It was nice to meet you, Valentine.”

I returned the gesture. “Likewise, Becca.”

She closed the door, and I descended the stairs, feeling tired but satisfied.

This night had been evidence that being a freak could come in handy sometimes. It wasn’t always this satisfying. Sometimes I arrived too late, sometimes I had to use too much of my coercion with the survivors so they wouldn’t have a panic attack in my presence.

One night at a time, I reminded myself.

***

I entered my apartment, closed the door, and leaned against it.

Freckles waited for me on the island, yellow eyes transmitting worry and impatience.

I sighed. “I know, I’m a terrible cat mother who never got you your eggs. But stuff happened. It’s a long story.”

Freckles flicked his bushy, tricolor tail, whiskers moving as he licked his nose.

I approached him, kissing his forehead. “I know, honey, but your salmon is not bad. I promise I’ll buy you the best eggs you’ve ever eaten tomorrow and—”

A low chuckle came from my bedroom.

I froze, all my instincts awakening sharply enough for it to be dizzying.

Axel appeared on the threshold of my bedroom’s door, leaning against the frame with that nonchalant ease that not even I could emulate. A swathe of dark golden hair fell down his forehead, almost obscuring one green-gray eye. Dressed in black jeans, a white button-down shirt with two open buttons, and black boots. Casual and hopelessly beautiful, as usual.

“You are such a crazy cat lady,” he teased. “It’s adorable.”

The reflexive growl that had been forming in my chest turned into an undignified groan-squeak. “You scared the shit out of me, you idiot!” I cried.

Axel’s lips flickered as he controlled a smile. “It’s not my fault you are such a disaster of a vampire, darling.” He clicked his tongue. “Some apex predator you are if you can’t sense me mere yards away from you.”

“You were using a spell to cloak your presence again,” I accused.

He shrugged, wholly unrepentant. “Maybe.”

I was torn between the maddening impulse to kiss him senseless or whacking him in the head to erase that self-sufficient smile from his face.

Axel grinned, approaching with graceful steps until he was a foot away from me. “Now, I know what you’re thinking.”

I licked my suddenly parched lips. “Do you?”

“Indeed,” he said, voice low and slightly scratchy. “You want to shut me up with that pretty mouth of yours.”

“You are so full of yourself,” I countered, trying to sound stern and coming out slightly breathless.

My knees felt weak and heat built in my stomach. My body’s reaction to his presence was beyond ridiculous.

Axel leaned until we were inches away. “Denial is futile, Valentine.” He leaned closer, and I almost proved him right and attacked his mouth, but then I remembered what I’d done earlier and I stepped back.

His eyes widened slightly, something like doubt and a spark of hurt flashing there so fast I’d have missed it if I didn’t know him better.

“I hunted down a pervert and I need a shower,” I said in a rush.

Axel blinked.

I clenched my fist not to facepalm. Yes, that was just the thing to say to the male who was still wary of me.

But… I am what I am and if he can’t handle it, that’s his problem and not mine.

So I squared my shoulders and held his gaze, even if I was squirming on the inside.

Axel recovered his nonchalance, leaning his hip against the counter and caressing a curious Freckles’ head. “That explains why you were gone for so long. Freckles and I were a bit worried.”

My heart squeezed with aching warmth and delight.

Centuries.

I’d been so lonely for centuries.

And having someone who cared, even if that someone was Axel with his acerbic, nonchalant habits and circuitous way of saying things, was as thrilling as it was terrifying.

I swallowed and looked down towards Freckles, blinking fast to keep the tears stinging in my eyes at bay. I wanted to hug Axel so badly that it hurt. I wanted to run out the door away from him and the complicated feelings he’d awakened in me and were sure to be my doom.

My chest was too tight. Heavy with all the decades of isolation, with the terror of loving someone and losing them. With the self-loathing that I was still struggling against.

I gulped, trying to clear my voice enough to say something that sounded vaguely normal and not weepy. “I’m sorry for worrying you guys.”

Ugh, my voice was hoarse.

I scratched Freckles’ neck, trying to keep avoiding eye contact with Axel.

A cautious, warm hand cupped my jaw. “Are you alright? Did the pervert hurt you?”

My treacherous eyes met his.

His brow furrowed. “Valentine, please say something.”

Tears overflowed my eyes. “I’m sorry,” I laughed ruefully. “You must think I’m ridiculous.”

His hand fell to my shoulder, where he gave me a reassuring squeeze. “I don’t, but you are worrying me.”

I sniffed and wiped my eyes. “I’m fine, I promise.”

“If you are certain,” Axel said dubiously.

“I am,” I insisted, knowing that I’d scare him if I tried to explain the sudden suffocating sadness making me feel small and pathetic. “I’ll just go have a shower and then you can tell me how the Hell you got inside my apartment.” I tried to smile, but it came out as a wince.

His lips tilted, but his eyes remained worried. “We’ll be waiting for you.”

***

After a quick shower, considering the meltdown I had halfway through, I dressed in a beige jumper and pajama bottoms and headed toward the kitchen.

The sight that welcomed me nearly made me trip over my feet.

Axel was pouring hard-boiled, diced eggs onto Freckles’s plate. My furry rascal munched them at once, making happy noises.

“Where did you get eggs?” I asked.

Axel turned to look at me, examining my face.

Thanks to my lightning-speed recovery and healing skills, I wasn’t as red and puffy as I would have been if I were human, but the careful curiosity in his eyes wasn’t precisely reassuring either.

“You mentioned Freckles had eaten the last three when we texted last night,” Axel replied, breaking eye contact to quickly wash the cutting board and knife. “I decided that I should bring some since I was planning to invade your apartment again.”

That was… considerate and showed he’d paid attention to everything I said.

And gods, that made my eyes itch again.

Was I hormonal? Could vampires get hormonal? Or was it just my depression taking one of those weird turns at a completely unexpected moment?

“Thanks,” I finally managed.

Axel dried his hands with the towel hanging from my fridge’s handle. “You’re welcome.”

The kettle whistled, startling me.

Axel hummed, taking two cups, dried lavender, and honey from my cupboards with complete familiarity. Not rare since I’d made tea for him a few days ago and apparently, he paid me as much attention as I did with him.

I could do nothing but stare at the bizarre but domestic sight of Axel using my kitchen, while my chubby cat ate on the island and watched us both between bites. I felt brittle inside, as if I were about to crack open and spill pieces of my heart all over the floor.

After making the fragrant tea, Axel pointed to the sofa.

Forcing my body to move, I nodded, and we sat like we had a few nights already. Keeping a safe distance, but close enough that I could feel the heat of his body and his tempting scent filling my lungs. I sat cross-legged, facing him and hugging a pillow. He handed me my cup, and I drank a few sips, feeling marginally under control.

Axel leaned his elbow on the backrest and gazed at me openly as he took a sip from his tea. “Do you want to talk about it?”

I sighed. “It was nothing out of the ordinary, really.”

Still, I relayed to him the events of the night as we drained our cups. Masochistically, I searched for any signs of revulsion in his beautiful face and warm aura but found none.

He ran a hand through his hair. “Nothing out of the ordinary? Because that sounds quite… hectic to me.”

I shrugged. “Almost a century ago, several of my nights each month were like this, minus running into someone with fae blood who knew what I was.” I bit my lip, remembering a few survivors who had been extra frightened of me. “Or maybe I have and didn’t notice.”

Axel hummed, gaze turning thoughtful but hesitant.

“What?” I asked.

He sighed. “I know you’ve helped many by hunting down psychopaths, and that you need to feed on a human at least twice a month to stay healthy, but it seems to affect you emotionally.”

I laughed ruefully, picking a loose thread in the pillowcase. “And that is why I stopped roaming the streets looking for prey, and simply let it come to me, mostly.” He remained quiet, attentive, and non-judgemental, so I elaborated a bit. “Sometimes I read about serial killings, and I know I can find the pervert faster than the police, and I can’t just sit on my powerful ass and do nothing.” I sighed. “Perhaps I am a deranged vigilante. Perhaps I am as much of a monster as the men and women I’ve killed. Maybe I’m deluding myself by thinking I’ve done more good than damage. But I am what I am.” I couldn’t help but sound defensive at the end.

Axel stretched out a hand and clasped my wrist gently, his thumb rubbing my pulse point. “We are all monsters in someone else’s story, Valentine.” His gaze turned thoughtful. “Light and darkness can both corrupt you. Righteousness suffocates and twists good intentions.” He half-smiled. “The potential for kindness and cruelty dwells in all of us. Knowing when is the right time to use either is what matters. And I think you are rather brilliant at that.”

Gods dammit, I wanted to hug him.

I swallowed the lump in my throat. “How come you always say the right thing when I need to hear it?”

He blinked, surprised. “I do?”

“When it matters, yes.” I smiled at him. “Thank you.”

“Whatever for?” he inquired.

I couldn’t answer without freaking us both out with the painful intensity of all I felt for him.

Axel leaned closer, leaving enough room for me to withdraw. But I couldn’t resist the magnetic pull inside my chest and the storm of affection-fear-gratitude-terror raging inside me. So I met him halfway, shuddering with the touch of his hot lips. This kiss was different from all the ones we’d had before. Not desperate or hungry but warm, like a soft embrace. I nearly groaned as his tongue brushed mine. He tasted like tea, honey, apples, and everything that was forbidden and I craved with every cell of my being.

As I lost myself in the gentle dance of our mouths, which soothed open wounds I had neglected for so long, I remembered that sometimes words were unnecessary.

©Selene Kallan, Huntress Soulmate 2022.
__________________________________________

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Friday, August 12, 2022

Beth Crowley- In The End (Based on The Witcher) (Official Music Video)

In the end by Beth Crowley is a gorgeous song, and it fits most of my characters so well. 




LYRICS

I saw you and
Recognized right from the start
We're both ruined
With matching insatiable hearts
And I knew that
One day we'd take this too far
My misgivings
Fade into nothing when I
Touch your skin and
Feel your heart beat next to mine
I'm not living
If I don't have you at my side

I can tell that we're
Going to destroy one another
Our twin flames could ignite
The whole world for each other
But something this powerful
And dangerous
Will burn until there's nothing left
I can tell that we're
Going to destroy one another
In the end

Separated
At opposite ends of the earth
Is it fated
The way my path leads back to yours
Though I hate it
I've never desired something more
Yes I hate it
But you leave me desperate for more

I can tell that we're
Going to destroy one another
Our twin flames could ignite
The whole world for each other
But something this powerful
And dangerous
Will burn until there's nothing left
I can tell that we're
Going to destroy one another
In the end
In the end

I don't want to
Stay away from you
So I won't even try
You say you will
Stay away from me
We both know that's a lie

I can tell that we're
Going to destroy one another
Our twin flames could ignite
The whole world for each other
But something this powerful
And dangerous
Will burn until there's nothing left
I can tell that we're
Going to destroy one another
In the end
In the end 

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Motionless In White - Werewolf [Official Video]

I am so obsessed with this song! It's helped me write quite a few scenes. LYRICS: I can feel you, I can hear you, howling in my bones  ...