Sixteen-year-old Aden Stone has had a hell of a week.He's been: Tortured by angry witches. Hypnotized by a vengeful fairy. Spied on by the most powerful vampire in existence. And, oh, yeah, killed—twice. His vampire girlfriend might have brought him back to life, but he's never felt more out of control. There's a darkness within him, something taking over. . . changing him.Worse, because he was meant to die, death now stalks him at every turn. Any day could be his last. Once upon a time, the three souls trapped inside his head could have helped him. He could have protected himself. But as the darkness grows stronger, the souls grow weaker—just like his girlfriend.The more vampire Aden becomes, the more human Victoria becomes, until everything they know and love is threatened. Life couldn't get any worse. Could it?
About the Author
is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author whose teen novels have been featured on MTV and in Seventeen magazine and have been praised as “unputdownable.” Growing up, she always had her nose buried in a book. When it came time to buckle down and get a job, she knew writing was it for her. Gena lives in Oklahoma with her family and three slobbery English bulldogs. Become her friend on MySpace, or a fan on Facebook and visit her at GenaShowalter.com/young-adult.
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To the usual suspects: Haden, Seth, Chloe, Riley, Victoria, Nathan, Meg, Parks, Lauren, Stephanie, Brittany, and Brianna. What can I say, guys? In a world where I am Queen Decision Maker, fangs sprout. Claws grow. Dark descends. You’re welcome.
Once again to The Awesome, editor Natashya Wilson, for her brilliant insight and dedicated beyond-the-call-of-dutying. Yes, I just made that entire phrase a verb. Not once did she freak out when I said, “I don’t know. I’ll figure it out later.” (Which pretty much sums up my writing process.)
To the wonderful folks at Harlequin, who took me in and made me one of their own!
To P.C. Cast, Rachel Caine, Marley Gibson, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Linda Gerber and Tina Ferraro for helping me run the Unravelled puzzle contest last year. Such a blast. I owe you, ladies!
To Pennye Edwards, the best mother-in-law a girl could have. Honest to God, she kept me sane while I was writing this book. Well, as sane as a girl like me can be.
To my Love Bunny. When I locked myself in my writing cave, he made sure the beast was fed. Even if he had to slide the food under the door and run for his life.
To Jill Monroe and Kresley Cole. If I wasn’t already married, and they weren’t already married, I’d marry them. For reals.
And this time, I’m not going to dedicate the book to myself, but to L’Oréal hair colour (medium to dark brown). After writing this book, I needed this miracle worker more than ever.
ADEN STONE STARED DOWN at the girl sleeping on the rocky dais. Long hair the color of a wintry midnight, dark yet glimmering like the moonlight on snow, spilled over slender shoulders. Spiky black lashes cast shadows over high, model-sharp cheekbones. Lush pink lips glistened with a sheen of moisture.
He’d watched her lick those lips several times, and he knew. Even lost to slumber as she was, she scented something delicious and craved a taste.
Taste … Yes …
Her skin was snow-white yet constantly flushed a deep rose in all the right places. Not one flaw did she possess. Not a single line or wrinkle—even though she was over eighty years old.
Young, for her kind.
She wore a tattered black robe that draped from just under her arms to the tips of her toes. Or would have, if she hadn’t rucked the material up one of her legs. The slender limb was bent and angled outward. A feast for his gaze, perhaps even an I-want-you-to-drink-from-the-vein-in-my-thigh invitation.
He should resist.
He couldn’t resist.
She was the most beautiful female he’d ever seen. Fragile-looking, dainty. Like a priceless piece of art in the one and only museum he’d ever toured. The curator had slapped his hand for trying to touch something he shouldn’t.
No need to guard this one, he thought with a small smile. She could protect herself, snapping a man’s neck with a single twist of her wrist.
She was a vampire. His vampire. His sickness and his cure.
Aden placed one of his knees on the makeshift bed. The T-shirt that stretched underneath the girl, cushioning her ever so slightly, snagged underneath his weight and pulled tight, rolling her in his direction. She didn’t moan or utter a breathy sigh as a human might have done. She was quiet, eerily so. Her expression remained the same: serene, innocent … trusting.
You shouldn’t do this.
He was going to do this.
He wore a pair of ripped, bloodstained jeans. The same jeans he’d worn the night of their first date. The night his entire world changed. She wore the robe and nothing else. Sometimes their clothing was the only thing that kept them from doing more than drinking from each other.
Drinking from each other. Or “feeding.” So mild a word for what happened. He would never purposely hurt her, but when the madness came upon him—hell, when the madness came upon her—affection was forgotten. They became animals.
You shouldn’t do this, what was left of his conscience repeated.
One more drink, and I’ll leave her alone.
That’s what you said last time. And the time before that. And the time before that.
Yeah, but I mean it this time. He hoped.
Once, he would have been talking to the three souls trapped inside his head. But they weren’t inside his head anymore, they were inside hers, and he’d reverted to talking to himself. At least until the monster awoke. An honest to God monster, prowling through his conscious, roaring, desperate for blood. The monster the sleeping girl had inadvertently given him, the monster responsible for his new favorite sport—jugular tapping. Then he didn’t talk to anyone at all.
Down … down Aden leaned until his chest flattened against the vampire’s. He placed his hands at her temples and balanced his weight. The tips of their noses were a mere whisper apart, yet he wanted to be closer to her. Always closer.
He applied more pressure to his left hand, the soft strands of her hair pulling as tight as the T-shirt had done, causing her head to loll in that direction and exposing the elegant length of her neck. At the base, her pulse thumped steadily.
Unlike the bloodsuckers of myth, she was not dead. She was a living, breathing being, born rather than created, and more alive than anyone he’d ever met. Unless he accidently killed her, of course. I won’t.
You might. Don’t do this. Just a sip …
His mouth watered. He inhaled … and felt as if he were breathing for the very first time. Everything was so new, wondrous … he held the breath … held … could almost taste the sweetness of her blood already … slowly released. No relief was forthcoming, just an increased awareness of that ever-present hunger. He ran his tongue over his teeth, his aching gums. He didn’t have fangs, but, oh, he wanted to bite her. Wanted to drink her down. Savor, drink again. Drink, drink, drink.
Even without fangs, he could bite her. And, if she were human, he could drain her dry. But because she was vampire, her skin was as hard and smooth as polished ivory. Reaching a vein with his teeth was impossible. He needed je la nune, the only substance capable of burning through that ivory. Problem was, they’d run out. Now, there was only one way to get what he wanted.
“Victoria,” he rasped.