Hunters & Prey
(Book 2 in the Immortalis Series)
I stormed into the master bedroom, slamming the door behind me. I needed some alone time, and a hot shower to help wash away the stress of the day.
The shower had always been a place where I could relax and be at peace with my thoughts—something I desperately needed at that moment. Between the near-death experience with Quentin and Lysander’s stubborn anger about Fallon, my nerves were on edge.
Why does he have to hate my best friend?
I walked into the bathroom and found my reflection in the vanity mirror. Mimicking
Lysander’s monotone voice I repeated, “Then accept that your friendship is over. Our two worlds cannot co-exist.”
I rolled my eyes and turned away to start the shower. A high-pressure cascade of water shot out of the showerhead as I twisted the brushed nickel knob.
“Just because it hasn’t happened, doesn’t mean that it can’t. Who’s to say we can’t remain good friends? I mean, she already knows about us.” I shrugged off my coat and unbuttoned my jeans.
“Thank goodness for Rozaline. At least she seems to be on my side.”
I slid the jeans down around my ankles and stepped out, and then made quick work of my top and bra.
“How do I get him to understand? We’re not that different, Fallon and I. We can remain friends when this mess is all over.”
Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, naked, I studied myself.
“Okay, maybe we are a little different.”
No sign of the previous fights marked my perfect, smooth skin. Amazed, I fingered the spots where I remembered the bullets tearing though me. I noticed how closely my skin matched the vanilla ice cream-colored walls. I almost blended in like camouflage. Only the pink of my nipples, the blue of my eyes, and the red of my hair made me stand out. It still surprised me, even after months of life as a vampire, how different I was. As a human, I should have been dead, or at the very least, scarred and mutilated from all of the action I had seen. But my immortal body always returned to its original state of perfection, healing with no trace of injuries.
“Well.” I turned away from my reflection. “Even if we are a little different, I’m not losing my best friend again.”
Steam flowed from the shower, telling me the water had reached the perfect scalding temperature. I loved the heat. My poor circulation and slow beating heart left me in a constant state of chill—especially in places like my toes and fingertips. I loved to be around any form of warmth.
I stepped into the shower, enjoying the momentary shock, the initial hot sting from the temperature change. It quickly turned into a sensual, full, heat that warmed my entire body. I felt some of my stress melt and slide away, disappearing down the drain. Facing the water, I let it hit my face and run down my neck and breasts, washing away whatever grime might be left from the day.
The door opened, and from the corner of my eye I saw the dark hair and athletic figure of Lysander. There went my relaxing shower.
“I don’t want to talk to you right now,” I shouted.
I turned around and let the water run down my back and busied myself by opening a bottle of citrus-scented shampoo. I didn’t feel like being lectured by him anymore and hoped he’d take the not-so-subtle hint to go away.
“I do not wish to fight with you. But you must understand my position.” His voice carried that annoying hit of authority he used when he wanted things done his way.
I ignored him, spreading the shampoo into my long hair, massaging it into my scalp, creating a foamy mountain of lather on top of my head.
“Alyssa, stop acting childish and listen to me.”
His choice of words were far from endearing and had the opposite effect on me. I turned my back, facing the water, letting it wash away the bubbles. The rushing cascade muffled Lysander’s words.
The shower door opened and Lysander stepped inside. His hand grasped mine, pulling it from my hair. With one twirling motion, he forced me around to look at him.
“You will not ignore me,” he said, a note of frustration in his voice. He stood naked before me, holding me, crushing me against his hard body.
“I have nothing to say to you.”
I didn’t need another lecture. I had done what I thought best at the time, for better or worse. There was no way to go back and change those actions. Harping on me wasn’t going to solve anything. I tried wedging my hands between our bodies, but he wouldn’t allow it.
“You endangered us all. Don’t you see that?”
“No. I endangered myself,” I snapped at him. “Do you think I would have willingly done things to hurt the clan?” I pushed again at his body, trying to free myself from his grasp. “You think I’m so naive, that I have no sense at all, don’t you?”
He looked down, locking his eyes on mine. I felt the odd press of his mind, trying to delve into my own. I knew he was trying to use his power to subdue my anger, and I didn’t want that. I had every reason to be angry with him, and that anger helped me focus enough to break his stare. I turned my head away from him—the only real defense I had. I was no match to play mental games with a two-thousand year old vampire, and I knew it.
A low growl rumbled in his throat. I could feel the rage like an electric current, vibrating inside of him. A small voice in the back of my head told me to just be quiet and let him say his piece, but anger consumed my better judgment.
“I left you at the hotel. I went after Fallon, alone. I never once involved you or the clan in my attempt to save her. When we escaped, I brought Santino to a neutral spot. Never once did I contact you or give you or the clan’s location away. So you tell me, how the fuck I endangered anyone but myself?” I slammed my fist into his chest, punctuating the anger in my words.
He stood silent for a moment. Against my better judgment, I looked up, intending to demand his answers and apology. Our eyes met, but I didn’t see anger there. Pain was etched across his face. My rage faltered. The hypnotic pull of his twilight eyes caught me in my momentary weakness. His voice whispered in my mind. I thought I had lost you.
My head began to swim, feeling heavy as his power invaded. Fear crept into my mind—not a fear of Lysander or of death, but of the all-consuming emptiness of a broken heart.
I never want to lose you, Alyssa. He whispered in my head. I was so afraid for you. You are my reason to continue living. You ended my loneliness. Be angry with me for acting as a leader and reprimanding you, but please do not endanger yourself. I could not bear that loss. I need you at my side.
He wanted me to feel everything: the fear, the pain, the sadness, the loss. He wanted me to feel how hurt he had been when I left him there in the hotel. And I did. The crushing weight of those devastating emotions enveloped me. For a brief moment my own heart ached as if it were being slowly ripped from my chest. A lump formed in my throat, and tears welled in my eyes. It felt like my world had fallen apart.
He released me from his mental hold, and I collapsed into him.
“Please do not make me worry like that again.” His tone gave away the emotions he felt. He sounded so wounded. So lonely.
My head cleared and the tidal wave of heartache receded. I understood his anger and pain, and felt terrible for causing him to feel that way; but he needed to understand my motivations. “I’m sorry, but I had to. You wouldn’t have let me save my friend.”
“Alyssa, you will always bring trouble, won’t you?” He reached a hand up and stroked my hair.
I buried my head into his hard, muscular chest, unsure how to take his words. Did that mean he understood? It certainly didn’t refute the fact that he wouldn’t have saved her.
“I don’t know,” I whispered. “Probably. Trouble loves me, right?”
Lysander wrapped his arms around me. “It seems you live only to attract danger. You are my heart, Alyssa. You allowed me to feel for someone again. You could have been killed. I don’t know that I could survive that.”
“It was my life at risk, and it was a risk I was willing to take. I couldn’t let them harm my friend.”
“Your life is not something I want to risk. You are young, and though immortal, you are not invincible. I do not want to lose you.”
“But I brought her into this. I had to save her.” I felt like I would have to drill the point into his head to get him to understand.
“You did not have to bring her into this.”
“What’s done is done. I can’t change what’s already happened, and you have harped on me long enough for this.”
“You are right. I know your intentions were good. As the leader of this clan, I cannot condone your actions, but as your mate, I’m glad that you did what you felt you had to in order to survive, even if that meant bringing a mortal into this.”
I smiled, my face still buried in his chest.
He’s never called me his mate before. “You consider me your mate?”
His hand trailed up my back. Long soft fingers twisted into the hair at the base of my neck. I breathed a deep sigh, enjoying the gentle caress of his touch.
He slowly pulled me away from his chest, urging me to look up at him.
“Yes, Alyssa, how could you think we were anything less? I love you. I want us to share immortality as mates, like Crystal and Drew, or Nicholas and Rozaline. You are my heart.”
I melted as his words sunk in. He loved me. He cherished me. Underneath that hard, aloof exterior his heart beat for me.
“I love you too, Lysander,” my voice was barely a whisper, but I saw the acknowledgement in his eyes.
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Winner to Be Chosen January 1, 2012