Sang Croc Island, French Polynesia
Eli closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath, welcoming the images that filtered through his mind... a darkened moon, red fluid dripping from its edges. A jugular vein pulsing against delicate flesh... beckoning... calling to him. Fangs piercing the thin membrane... the rush of blood filling his mouth...
Pleasure thrummed through his veins. I'm back where I belong... no rules, no conscience, just me... and the sweet, intoxicating blood.
Another vision intruded... Liberty, eyes the color of a forest at dusk filled with confusion, then hurt, then hatred. Hatred for him, where once she'd looked at him with love.
An empty, yawning ache opened up in his chest. Pain. Human pain... he wanted no more of it. He was not human. Humans were weak... insignificant... sustenance. Nothing more.
"I'm proud of you, son."
Eli's body jerked when his father's grip landed on his shoulder. He'd almost forgotten where he was. Rupert's study. Back in the fold. Where he belonged. What had he been thinking, denying his desires, his instincts? He was vampire. Not some diluted version posing as human. No. He was an authentic, strong, powerful, superior vampire. Time to once more embrace his heritage.
Rupert held a scotch out to Eli and picked another one up off the bar. "Let's toast to your return. I knew your true nature would eventually resurface."
Eli ignored the liquor and looked down at the dead girl lying on the floor. She'd been delicious, but his appetite had not been whetted. Alcohol would not fill the need.
"I'm hungry." He hadn't denied himself blood during his hiatus into the world of weakling vampires, but he'd limited his intake. And, for the most part, he'd taken only from the willing. He'd been missing out. The succulent elixir was so much sweeter, tastier, when the vessel struggled. Terror imbued blood with a unique flavor unlike any other.
Rupert snapped at one of his minions. "Bring my son an untapped human. On second thought, make it two."
"No. Don't." Eli didn't want room service ordered for him. He wanted to be out in the open, where he could breathe freely, track his own prey. He tore his gaze from his most recent meal and looked at Rupert. "I need to hunt."
Pride flashed in his father's grey eyes. "That's my boy." Rupert gestured to the large window. Inviting blackness lay on the other side of the glass. "You have a few hours of darkness left. Enjoy yourself."
Eli jerked a brief nod, then strode from the room and zipped out the front door. The night greeted him, embraced him. Sounds from the forest reached his ears--the warble of birds, the skitter of lizards and centipedes. Nothing to satisfy his hunger for human blood. But he knew where he could find it. If he morphed into a bat, he would be in town in minutes.
But what if he saw Liberty? He couldn't face her this soon, not after what had gone down. After she'd seen him kill the girl right in front of her.
He barked a gruff laugh. Why not? What was she to him? Nothing, that's what. He wouldn't be stymied by a mere human. She wasn't even as important as other humans, since he couldn't drink her. Just to prove that point, if her blood weren't lethal to vampires, he'd indulge until he had his fill. Drain her until her body went limp, until the life left those emerald eyes.
He stalked across the yard. A glint of silver blinked at him from the grass. He bent and picked it up, immediately recognizing the thin chain holding a charm, a map of Oklahoma with a heart dangling in the center. The necklace he'd given to Liberty for her birthday. He could still feel her warmth in the metal. He tightened his fingers around it and envisioned how she'd looked when they made love, the chain glinting against her soft skin... the skin his lips had caressed, his fingers had explored.
He took a closer look. The chain was broken. As if in a struggle. Fear gripped his chest, pounded so loudly in his ears, he thought his head would burst. He whirled in circles and scanned the surrounding area. Had something happened to her? Had she been attacked?
He forced his heartbeat to slow and allowed reality to return. She hadn't been attacked. This close to the house, he'd have heard the skirmish. And it wouldn't have been quiet, or brief. Liberty wouldn't be easily defeated.
Obviously, she'd snatched the necklace off her neck and tossed it away. She wanted no more to do with him. Fine by him. He wanted no more to do with her. After all, what use were humans if you couldn't devour them?
He slid the necklace into his pocket. Holding out his arms, he dropped his head back, closed his eyes and cleared his mind. He focused on the rhythm and sounds of the night... let loose of all tension, all logical thought... In moments, his muscles tightened, his body contorted, re-shaped, his breathing slowed. And he was soaring in the night sky, heading toward the town of Sang Croc, where fresh human blood awaited to sate his ravenous appetite.
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