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1

“I smell someone I know in our apartment,” I warned, my shoulders tightening as I hurried and opened the door. “Shit!” I wished I hadn’t when I saw who waited in our apartment amongst the floral shop.

“Hello, honey, how was your day?” Andre purred with a smirk and twinkle in his eyes. “I heard you and Brian broke up and Julie adopted you. That makes us of the same rank, so there will be no issues when we start dating.” He got up and instantly was across the room hugging me, which made Nicole gasp. “I’ve missed you so, you little minx.”

“What are you doing here, Andre?” I growled, pushing him away.

“I’m here to court you and persuade you to come back to New York with me,” he chuckled. “Where do you keep the blood around here? It was a short flight, but I’ve been waiting for you to come home for so long. My heart ached just knowing you were going to come home to me soon.”

I rolled my eyes and knew this was not going to be a quick conversation.

And if he didn’t start behaving, I’d be on the phone with Jules later… Explaining why I had to beat to death the elder of New York.

Damn!

“Andre, you ever break into my house again, I call my dad, you understand me?” I paused to let the threat sink in as my arms started tingling in need to swing them. “I highly doubt vamps do very well in jail, even old ones.”

Oh, so we told Nicole?” He tucked his hands under his arms as he rocked back on his heels, shooting Nicole a strange look.

“Yeah, this is her place too.” I realized he was staring at her like dinner. “She’s off limits, you look at her like that again, I’ll rip your throat out so fast. I’m not playing, Andre!”

“My dear Kelly.” My shove had launched him a good distance away from us… I could be proud of that later. He frowned as he crossed the room to me since I’d stepped in between him and Nicole. “I understand completely. I would never hurt her or bite her unless she asked.”

I was waiting for the wave of air I felt when people lie to me, it never came. It was a talent I had before I was a vampire, being able to tell when people lie. It was hard to explain the feeling… It was like stepping outside right as a strong wind came along. Not only was there the feeling of the breeze, but the difference between the stagnant air inside and the fresh air outside.

That was what it felt like when someone lied to me, it varied depending how big the lie. I also never knew what the truth was. Someone could tell me, I didn’t rob the store. I knew if they were lying, but did they rob the store, or were they just involved or the getaway driver. It took me years growing up to understand what it was—and needless to say it made me pretty strange as a child.

“I believe you.” I nodded and moved away from Nicole. “Let’s go talk in my room.”

“That’s moving fast. I like your style,” he jeered, his tone laced with the implication of more than I had meant.

I sighed as I led the way to my room and closed the door behind us. “Andre, you can’t be doing shit like this, breaking in and whatnot. Now why are you really here?”

“I’m here to see if you are okay,” he replied, and I raised my eyebrow, but didn’t feel the wave of him lying. “Seriously, Kelly. You’ve been in a crazy spiral of news and changes. I just wanted to see how you were.”

“You could have picked up the phone, Andre.” I tried to ignore how amazing he looked wearing jeans and a long-sleeved chocolate brown, button-down shirt. It complemented his lighter brown hair and matched his eyes perfectly, drawing attention to them even more than normal since they were so captivating. He must have been tan when he was turned, since he was darker than most vampires I had ever seen. “Want some blood?”

“Yes, but I wanted to see you in person. Are you offering yourself?” he teased, referring to the blood offer.

“Ha, ha.” I threw him a pint of blood from my closet. “How long are you here for?”

“Whenever. It’s my plane. I’ll probably leave Sunday, unless you ask me to say forever.” He winked and gracefully sat down on my bed.

He’s like the tiger and I’m prey. I shook off the thought and focused on the conversation. “Not likely, I wouldn’t hold your breath, Andre. Brian knows you are here?” I sat at my desk chair and eyed him suspiciously. We hadn’t bonded so much as friends that I didn’t think he’d ever drop his life and come check on me like this.

He downed the contents of the bag and then blew me air kisses… Drops of red still on his lips, which he had to know would alone be tempting to me. “Yes, I told him I would be here for the week on business. I just didn’t tell him if the business was personal or professional, thanks for the blood.”

“You’re welcome. You know I have to work all week. Do you have a place to stay?”

“I’ve not made any plans, I was waiting to see how you received me,” he answered with that brilliant smile. “So you told Nicole?” I glanced around as if trying to figure out what I still had to do before going to sleep—anything to avoid Andre’s focused gaze. That man could see way more than what was on the surface and I didn’t want that right then.

“Yeah, it made sense since we’re living together now. And since my fight with Brian, it was hard for her to understand why it was so devastating. I can trust her, Julie knows and is okay with it. Nicole’s cool with it. Just don’t freak her out, okay?” I yawned as I eyed my bed longingly.

“Kelly, I won’t do anything to her, I promise. I wouldn’t have even picked the lock, except I didn’t know when you would be home. Please forgive me, I was just tired and didn’t want to sit outside and wait.”

“I understand, just give me the heads up next time please. I’m exhausted, I’m going to get some rest. Want to go hunt in a few hours? I’ve only gone out with Brian once and I’d like to get some more practice if that’s okay with you?” I coaxed, hoping to at least make him useful if he was going to drop in unexpectedly.

“Sounds good. Gives me an excuse. Sometimes when you get older you will find bagged blood doesn’t always feed your cravings.” He rubbed his hands over his face a few times before sighing and finally coming out with it. “Are you really okay, Kelly?” I could see the deep concern in his hawk-like eyes that were studying me so intently. For all his jokes and flirting with me, he really did care.

I shrugged and shooed him off the bed as I stood. “I’m really not sure. How much do you know?”

“Enough to know Brian’s an idiot and understand why you would be hurt and confused.” I couldn’t bear to look at him when his tone was as gentle as it was… I wanted to accept his comfort too much already.

“Sounds about right. We’re supposed to talk at the end of the week, I just have to figure out what I’m going to say to him. Thanks for asking though.” I plopped on the bed and crawled under the covers. It was a nice night out, still early, but I wasn’t snuggling with my covers for warmth. Twenty-six or not, it was nice to have a security blanket sometimes… Even if it was literal.

“May I join you?” he hedged and I shot him a look. “No funny stuff, I promise. Just seems like you need a friend.” After a few moments, I nodded. He kicked off his shoes and joined me. I couldn’t help but snuggle up to him and he put his arm around me, careful to not touch anything inappropriate.

It was nice. He felt so different than Brian and since Andre was keeping it non-sexual, I could relax. His six-five, well-built frame made me feel secure enough I drifted off to sleep.

I woke up when the alarm on my phone beeped several hours later. It was set for one, so we had slept a little over three hours. I quickly changed out of my scrubs, threw on some jeans and a long-sleeve T-shirt in my closet. Turning around, I would have had a heart attack if my heart still beat.

Andre stood there watching me change with a very large grin on his face and I had forgotten he was there.

“Ready?” I ignored the grin but felt a slight ego boost through my negativity of late that he was so intent on getting any look at me without clothes.

Andre had already put back on his shoes, and he gave me a half bow and gestured to the door. “After you.” I grabbed my keys and wrote Nicole a note.

We went downstairs, got in my car, and headed to where my dad worked during the day. It was only a few minutes away, but I seemed to get sideways glances from Andre. Finally he just asked, “Where are we going? Why didn’t we just stay around your place?”

“My dad works here and I figure if we’re going to hunt, we might as well do some good in a crappy neighborhood.” He just looked at me and nodded, whether he understood what I was really up to, I didn’t know. I found a parking spot and from there we got out and walked. He took my hand and it was nice, uncomplicated. There wasn’t a single person in sight so we could walk at what was normal speed for us. “Andre, can I ask you a question?”

“Sure, as long as it’s not how many women I’ve slept with. I find it poor manners to talk about such things when trying to get one interested in me,” he teased, making me laugh before I could stop myself.

“I understand completely. I was thinking last night, and I should have asked Julie but we were dealing with enough things. I was wondering—am I soulless now? I mean, do we lose our souls?” The idea of it made my whole body start churning but when he didn’t respond right away, my heart felt as if it was melting.

“Wow, that was so not where I saw this conversation heading. To be honest, I’m not really sure. We have morality. It’s not like in the movies where we are monsters who don’t care. Our bodies work, just our hearts don’t beat anymore. Does that make us dead? Yes, technically?” Andre paused a moment but then squeezed my hand. “Let me ask you this, has the way you feel about your family changed? Do you still love them?”

I didn’t have to think to answer, but I wondered where he was going with this.

“No, I love them just the same as before.” It was my turn to pause as I mulled that idea over in thinking about the future. “Do you? After hundreds of years, can you still love?”

“Do you think you can love without a soul? Know what’s right from wrong without one?” I stopped where I was and gave him a huge hug. “And yes, I can still love.” Andre’s tone changed on that last part and I realized that it was longing. He longed to love. How weird. A hot, sweet guy like him had to be crawling with prospects.

“No, I don’t. Thank you. I realized last night I might have lost my soul and it really bothered me. I mean, I’m Catholic, even if I’m not practicing—I still went to Catholic schools and have the beliefs. Can we go to church? What about holy water?”

“We can,” he assured me gently, “and holy water has no effect on us. I still go to church here and again. I was raised Catholic too. I go on the anniversary of my parents’ and my ex-wife’s deaths.” He pulled away, and I let him, understanding the need for space at times.

That didn’t mean I didn’t totally gape at him given the bomb he’d just dropped. “You were married?”

“Yes, I was married about a hundred years ago, she was murdered. It was when I still lived in Italy and some people in the village had figured out what we were. They came like you see in the movies, with pitchforks and torches. I woke up when I heard her scream before they cut off her head. I was able to fight my way free and migrated here.

“She was also my maker and I loved her dearly, but I’m not sure if I loved her because she was my maker or if I was in love with her,” Andre finished and turned away, stepping up the curb to continue on and nearly tripping. I reached out and easily caught him, mouth agape that someone so smooth could stumble—until I realized his eyes looked wet. Then I did the polite thing and pretended I didn’t see.

“I understand, the relationship is confusing. So you really get what I’m going through with Brian more than anyone could?” I let out a huge breath, not feeling quite so alone in this anymore.

“Yes,” he ventured. “I really do. I did want to take you out while I was here, not so much because I thought you would fall madly in love with me. I wanted to show you there are other options than Brian. You aren’t obligated to be with him. You need to follow what your heart tells you.”

I started to nod, when I heard something and turned away. We looked at each other, and without a word, I took off, Andre on my heels. We skidded to a halt about a mile away, to witness a drug deal going down. There were five very big guys.

I hope Andre knows how to fight.

I went after the guys on the right, first grabbing the two guns they had. I threw them to the other side of the alley and planted a roundhouse kick on the first guy. He landed so hard against the wall he was instantly out, but I had advanced so fast the second guy hadn’t even moved. I hit him in face so he fell but was still conscious so I could put the whammy on him.

Vampires called it “wiping,” when we erased humans’ memories with our minds and put in what we wanted them to do instead. All vampires were eventually able to do it, but it took time and training. Someone as young as I was didn’t normally have the patience and control to do it.

I held onto his shoulders while doing my visualization. “You will do exactly what I say and forget I was ever here. Do you understand?” He nodded and I gave myself a pat on the back for pulling it off when it wasn’t a controlled setting like practicing on Nicole. “You will stop selling drugs and get a real job, do you understand? You will take a ten minute nap, wake up feeling refreshed and determined to better your life, do you understand?”

He nodded both times and was out. I turned to make sure Andre was okay and saw he was still brawling with two of the guys but his smile said he was having a great time. I bit the guy I had just mesmerized and took a pint or so from him before I licked him and the wound healed.

One guy was on Andre’s back so I grabbed him and threw him off, putting the same whammy on him as I had his buddy. I now had four guns and a case full of drugs. I was going to have to figure out what I was going to do with all this. Andre subdued the last guy and drank from him, then we finished mesmerizing and drinking from them all.

“You know how to show a guy a good time.” He beamed as he nodded to the pile of shit that added up to about twenty years of jail time. “What do we do with the loot?”

I felt my forehead wrinkle as I glanced around. That was a really good question. “I can show you where the police station is, if you wouldn’t mind turning it in? I don’t know any of the guys but I also don’t want to be seen by them. Do you mind? Just tell them you found it?”

“How about I leave the bag at the front desk and book it? They would have a lot of questions how I would just happen to find this,” Andre offered as we ran. I didn’t want to be seen with the goods either. We stopped in front of the station. Andre ran in and was back out in a snap. He adjusted his shirt sleeves carefully and didn’t meet my eyes. “I think that was enough excitement for one day, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I think it’s back to bed. I’ve got a big day at work,” I agreed, heading back towards the car. When we got a few feet away, I gave Andre a big hug. “Thanks, Andre. I appreciate the help—and the talk. It was nice of you to open up to me like that.”

He smelled so good I leaned into the hug a little more. He was warm and completely surrounded me like a big safe blanket. He was taller than Brian, probably the same height as my younger brother, but filled out more. I could feel his muscular arms as I leaned against his pecs and perfect abs.

Whoa, calm down, girl. Then suddenly he was pulled away from me and thrown across the street. Stunned, I turned to see Brian, and was he ever glaring at me, nostrils flared like a bull and all.

“What are you doing, Kelly?” he bellowed.

“What are you doing, Brian? What are you even doing here? Are you following me?” I yelled right back and realized he was heading back to Andre. I ran towards Brian and put my hands on his chest. “Answer me!”

“He had his hands all over you, Kelly. I thought you were giving us another chance?” Brian defended and I threw him against a building, I was on him in an instant, fangs out.

I felt numb as I cocked my head and studied him. “I was. I just gave him a hug. He’s been a good friend to me, and this is how you react?”

“I just—well, I thought he was getting fresh with you. I came here to hunt, hoping maybe I would get a chance to see you, but you are here with him.” He tensed back up as Andre crossed the street towards us, looking just as livid.

“Brian, what is your problem?” Andre hollered, his face tight as his skin stretched over his mouth as if about to snarl.

“Wait. Both of you stop. Brian, I am not yours to control. Andre, please, I don’t want you guys to fight, I just want to go home. Brian, you completely overreacted. Again!” My chest hitched as I got off him and did my best to stay calm.

“Kelly, I’m sorry—” he pleaded as I interrupted him.

“I’m tired of your apologies, Brian. Don’t bother sending any gifts this time. I still have a bunch from last time. I have to bring more of the flowers to the hospital so they don’t go to waste. Nicole and I aren’t home during the day to appreciate them, I don’t want them to die and nobody gets to enjoy them. You need to back off and give me space. I will call you when I’m ready to see you, after I’ve had some time to think.”

I wondered if Brian had my gift and could tell if I was lying… Would he have felt the breeze of deceit? Part of me worried I was agreeing to call him because it was the path of least resistance. I didn’t want this type of behavior in my life, this drama, and there was no indication it would taper if I let Brian back in.

His shoulders drooped as if he might know it too. “When will that be?” Brian whispered, gazing away from my eyes.

“I don’t know, I just don’t know, Brian. Every time I think we are getting somewhere you start trouble again. You should be thanking Andre for being a good friend to me and helping me. I was all excited because I was able to mesmerize people on my own tonight.”

I let out a sigh that had pent up practically written in a cartoon bubble. Pent up what? Fuck if I knew. It was only my life. I never said I understood any of it.

“I should be happy, instead I’m going home sad again. Go back to your condo and think about what you did and if you really see this working. Do you understand?” He nodded and I looked at Andre, his eyes wide… Which wasn’t reassuring. “You’re going to not think about seeing me all week or inserting yourself in my life, do you understand?”

Again he nodded and a chill surged through me. “You’re going to take a ten minute nap, forget that we talked but remember what I said, do you understand?” He nodded and sat down against the building and went to sleep. I turned back to Andre. “Is that possible? He’s just messing with us, right?”

“I don’t think so, Kelly. What would be his goal in playing us? It would just piss you off, and that’s the last thing he would want to do. I think this might be your gift. I’ve never heard of such a gift, being able to wipe other vampires.” He sounded almost scared. “I wouldn’t tell anyone about this until we are sure, okay?”

“Yeah, I think that’s smart, you cool with keeping this secret, right?” I asked, already knowing the answer, but the building tension mostly dissipated when he nodded. We got in my car, leaving Brian where he sat, and went home. Once we arrived, Andre followed me upstairs in silence and we crawled into bed.

“It’s going to be okay, Kelly, we’ll figure this all out,” he said, wrapping his arms around me, and I could feel his hands were warm, sweaty. “It’s a cool gift, just very powerful, and something a lot of vamps would want. Some humans we can’t control, but if you can control vampires you could control them. Maybe we should go see Julie this weekend, think about it, okay?”

“Yeah, that sounds like a good plan. I’m glad you ended up coming, Andre. I’m not sure I would have been able to handle something this big on my own. I would have run to Brian, partially because I’m scared and upset. I have another support system that I trust and understands. Sleep tight, handsome, and by the way—you were really hot fighting those guys tonight,” I muttered as I drifted off to sleep again, and I thought he said something, but I couldn’t make it out.

* * * *

The alarm went off again at four am. I rolled over and shut it off, hearing Nicole’s as well. I grabbed my morning blood and drank it while showering, then got dressed. “Geez, Kelly, you make it really hard to be your friend and behave myself,” Andre bitched from behind me.

“I want to try one thing,” I hedged, walking to him, still only in my undergarments.

I ran my hands through his hair and planted a big kiss on him. He put one hand around my lower back and one in my hair. The kiss was amazing and I hated to break it, but I did. I finished getting ready while Andre just stood there, lips parted with wide eyes.

“Bye, Andre, I should be back tonight. I left the fridge that has the blood unlocked, and if you get bored, you can bring some of the flowers to the hospital.” I walked out and met Nicole at the door with Andre still not having moved his feet but was now rubbing his eyes vigorously. I caught the raised eyebrow from Nicole that spoke volumes of why Andre was half-naked in my room in a daze.

The day at the hospital started about the same as yesterday, Nicole and I sat in the doctors’ lounge looking over the charts. I filled her in on what happened last night with Andre, and then with Brian. She told me about her conversation with Trent and the date she set up for Saturday. It was nice to see her so happy and excited about her date.

We went through rounds at exactly seven am, and I nailed four out of the eight patients’ histories. It seemed my shyness about being a know-it-all was long gone. Bringing out my aggressive nature last night was helping me in my internship.

“God job in there, Kelly,” Dr. Mike Malinowski—my resident—praised. “You’re in for all my surgeries again today. Study up and check the board, don’t let me down.”

“I won’t, I promise. Thanks, Mike, I appreciate this. Let me know if you need anything else,” I gushed, heading over to the surgical board, wondering how far I’d be willing to go for that anything offer. Granted, I wasn’t willing to do anything immoral for him or to stand in on surgeries… That wasn’t what I meant. I knew it was his job but he was also teaching me a lot already and he would continue to.

Wasn’t that something a person repays? Maybe wash his car?

Mike was slotted for three surgeries. I took a look back at Mike and came up with a few other ideas besides washing his car. Someday I would need to get a handle on these vampire hormones. He was what I would call my type. He was tall, lean but muscular, blond hair, blue eyes, and an Indiana Jones smirk that just melted me.

“Kiss ass,” I heard in a whisper from down the hall from a fellow intern.

“What makes her so damn special? I mean she’s no better than anyone else.” another voice bitched. I obviously couldn’t comment, since there was no human who could hear that far.

At least I identified they weren’t going to be friends of mine. I thought it would bother me, hearing what they said… But I wasn’t here to make friends, I was here to do a job. Besides, jealousy could make anyone ugly and I knew the second intern was lying, she recognized I was better than others.

My ego did take over, though, and I made sure to walk by them, acting a little like Ms. America as I smiled and waved… One so fake it should have been in a parade. They did the same and when they thought I couldn’t see them—one flicked me off.

Glass reflects, brainiac. I snickered and waved to them again in the reflection of the glass. The guy went pale and that pretty much made my day. Childish, and stupid, but what could I say, they pissed me off.

I went and studied up on the surgeries, since they were back-to-back. I immersed myself in it for a few hours before I heard some confusion by the nurses’ station and decided to check it out. Andre was there with tons of flowers. “What are you doing here?”

“You said to bring by the flowers,” he defended and then swore under his breath at a volume we could only hear. Andre ran his hands through his hair, staring at his feet. “I was distracted and wound up and still partly asleep before. I’m sorry if I misheard you and embarrassed you.”

“Oh, yeah—sorry, just hand them out however you want.” I leaned in over the nurses’ station and winked at the hottest female there, testing a theory. “He’s trying to get in my good graces by handing out flowers to show he can be supportive and caring but I have to be in surgery soon. I’m observing three today. Can you throw the poor guy a bone and show him where to put them or where you’d like them to go? Who needs them today?”

She snickered and nodded. “I can do that, Dr. Murphy. He does look pretty lost.”

“Yes, well, thank you for making my uncomfortable moment so much worse, ladies. Very kind of you,” Andre grumbled but his eyes were shining so we knew it was really okay. Then he went one more and bowed to us. It was hard not to bust out laughing at that. “Can you spare a minute? I want to talk with you.”

I followed him, curious and praying it wasn’t anything bad. He led me over to the stairwell and when the door closed behind us—he was on me. His mouth was needy and demanding, and I melted against him, feeling light-headed. God he was really good at that. I gave him a few minutes of kissing and groping before I pulled back from him.

“I’ve wanted to do that since I met you,” he muttered against my lips, brushing his softly over them once more. “I’ve not kissed a woman in almost a century. I’ve not even wanted to risk it until I met you.” I wanted to ask what it was but he rushed on, seeming to realize he admitted so much. “I also want you to drink from me, it will help you today to have some elder’s blood in you. Take a few pints and I can drink some blood right away at your place.”

I was so entranced by him, the way he smelled, the kiss he just laid on me, I wasn’t even thinking as I sunk my fangs into him. My hands ran all over his body, under his shirt, over his abs and back. I could tell he was just as excited as he was getting hard, his fangs running right along the dip in my scrubs top. I know I took more than I should, but it just tasted so good, it was like liquid fire in my veins.

I stopped myself finally and let the power just fill me. “Sorry, Andre. I didn’t mean to take so much, it’s just—wow. Are you going to be okay?”

“Yeah, I’m all good. You really liked it that much? I’ll be your blood slave anytime, if you’ll be my sex slave,” he teased, but there was hesitation in his eyes. Maybe he really hadn’t been with a woman in that long? It was hard for me to tell if someone was lying when I was all wound up. He started to wrap his arms back around me but I stopped him.

“Okay, okay, Andre, I’m at work, and no sex slave. I’ll talk to you at home, thanks for the donation.” I gave him a quick peck on the cheek and got out of there, heading back to the lounge. Once again leaving him in the same condition I had that morning.

Maybe I could really have fun being a vampire? It seemed to have upped my sex appeal. Hell, I was starting to feel sexy instead of a dork for once in my life.

I could get used to this.