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       Wisdom, p.10

         Part #4 of My Blood Approves series by Amanda Hocking
 
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“I didn’t come anywhere close to killing you. ” She rolled her eyes. “If I really wanted to kill you, you’d be dead. ”

  “So what were you doing then? That’s not training! That’s like… attempted murder. ” I fumbled for a biting comeback, but it didn’t faze her at all.

  “I want you to remember that. What it felt like believing you would die. If you really feel it, really own how horrifying it is, you’ll make sure that you never feel that way again. ” Violet pointed at me using the stake, and that didn’t really make me feel any better.

  “I already don’t want to die. I’ve been in shit before. I know what it’s like to fight your life,” I said. “You didn’t need to do that. ”

  “Maybe, maybe not. ” She wagged her head.

  “How did you learn how to fight like that?” I asked. “You weren’t that good the last time I saw you. ”

  “No, I was, but Lucien wasn’t, and I let him call the shots,” she shrugged. “That was stupid. But living on the streets, alone, a lot of vampires will mess with you. You have to learn to fight back, or they’ll kill you. ”

  “I’m sorry to hear that,” I said quietly.

  “It doesn’t matter. ” She shook her head as she walked back towards the stairwell. “Come back tomorrow. We can practice more then. ”

  “Wait. Do you know what Olivia meant by what she said? That I have a ‘draw?’” I asked.

  “Who knows what Olivia means,” she replied and went inside.

  I rubbed at my chest, and my heart still pounded heavily underneath. I looked around, but I couldn’t admire the skyline the way I normally did. I thought about how terrified I had been in that split second when I really believed Violet meant to kill me. I wondered if Jane felt like that. If she knew she was going to do die.

  I climbed up on the edge, standing on the wall so my shins pressed against the railing. I could see the spot where Jane had been found, and I wondered if I would live if I jumped. My bones are hard to break, but it’s not impossible.

  Swallowing hard, I stared down for a minute. It was so hard to fathom life and death anymore. The idea of both had become such foreign concepts to me. In order to live forever, I’d be constantly surrounded by death. I’m not sure I could ever get used to that.

  Page 28

  When I walked through the penthouse, I didn’t look for Olivia to say goodbye. I just wanted to get out of there. I raced home to a quiet house, disappointed to find everyone in bed. Matilda was the only thing awake, and I stood outside with her, watching her play.

  My body still rang with adrenaline. I didn’t want to sleep, but I couldn’t think of anything better to do. I made Matilda sleep with me since I didn’t want to be alone. She usually slept by the door when Jack was gone, as if she could summon him that way.

  Eventually, I managed to fall asleep, but it was fitful. Nightmares plagued me, and I kept having that same feeling I had when I’d been Australia. That panicked paralysis, and I’d wake up and kick my legs just to prove I could move.

  Jack came into the room late that afternoon, sneaking as quietly as he could. Matilda whimpered with happiness, and he tried to shush her, so I pretended to be asleep. He climbed in bed and laid next me, his chest pressed to my back. When he wrapped his arm around me, I snuggled deeper into him.

  “I missed you,” I said, holding his arm to me.

  “I missed you, too. ”

  He kissed the back of my neck and hugged me tightly. He held me for a minute and then propped himself up on his elbow. I rolled onto my back so I could look up at him, and his blue eyes were etched with worry.

  “Is something wrong?” Jack asked.

  When I looked into his eyes, his feelings hit me even more intensely. His love and concern wrapped around me, enfolding me like a blanket and pushing away whatever I’d been feeling before.

  “I’m just glad you’re home. ” I reached up and touched his face, soft skin heating up against my touch.

  He leaned down and his lips met mine. I kissed him deeply, parting his lips hungrily, and pulling him to me. The more I kissed him, the more he washed over me, and I needed him.

  I needed to love him and feel how much he loved me. I had to erase all the horrible things I’d been feeling, and Jack was the only one that could really make me feel good.

  I buried my fingers in his hair, and he moaned against my mouth. He was surprised by my reaction, but it didn’t excite him any less. His hands roamed over my body, getting stronger and more forceful as they moved over my smoldering skin.

  I stopped kissing him, and without thinking, I put my mouth on his neck and bit him. He gasped with surprise, but it quickly turned into a breathy moan. He’d bitten me several times, but this was the first time I’d bit him.

  His blood hit my tongue, and the heat jolted through me, searing my veins. He tasted sweeter than honey and stronger than alcohol. He burned down my throat, with a pleasurable flame. I buried my fingers deeper in his flesh, digging them in so hard, it had to hurt, but I couldn’t stop. I only gripped him tighter and swallowed him down.

  His love felt amazing. It was like I could read his soul, and his kindness and sincerity always stunned me. I couldn’t believe that anything could be as simply good as he was, and it pushed away any negative feelings I had. I could only feel him radiating through me.

  My whole body pulsed in time with his heartbeat. I could feel him in every inch of my body, pouring through me. Pleasure ripped through me, and my heart felt it might explode.

  Something changed. Something dark flickered through him, and I could taste it. Biting him still made him feel wonderful, and he groaned with pleasure, but something was off.

  Almost too late, I realized it was death. I’d been drinking him for too long. His life was fading, to a dangerous level, and if I didn’t stop, I could kill him.

  Even with that thought, it was a fight to unlatch myself from his throat. I tasted it again, that darkness ebbing in and leaving bitter fear lingering on my tongue.

  I jerked back, swallowing down what blood clung to my mouth, and Jack collapsed on the bed. He gasped for breath, and I’m not sure if it was because he was having trouble breathing now, or if he’d forgotten to breathe when I bit him.

  Whenever Jack stopped biting me, I felt his painful cold separation, but when I stopped biting him, I felt nothing of the sort. I felt fuller than I ever had before, but in a really wonderful way. Like I was complete, whole for the very first time.

  His blood made me woozy, and the whole world seemed to glow. The colors were so bright, they were almost painful to look at it. My vision had a hazy, blurred quality around the edge, and I struggled to sit up. Faintly, underneath that, I could feel weakness emanating from Jack.

  “Jack. ” I reached out for him, touching his face, and his skin felt cold. “Jack. Are you alright?”

  I listened, and I couldn’t hear his heartbeat. I couldn’t hear anything or feel anything from him. For the most horrifying moment of my life, I thought I’d killed him.

  Then Jack exhaled deeply, and his heart thudded.

  “Oh, my god, Jack!” I gasped, and his eyes fluttered open. “I thought you were dead. ”

  “Not dead. ” He smiled crookedly. “Just… you took a lot out of me. ”

  “I’m sorry. ” My cheeks flushed with shame, or at least flushed more than they already were.

  “Don’t be. I loved it. ” He let out a contented sigh. “You’re so beautiful. You’re glowing. ”

  “That’s the blood loss talking,” I shook my head. “Do you want me to get you something to drink?”

  “No. Not yet. I want to feel this. I can still feel you in my veins, and I don’t want to lose that yet. ” He reached up, resting his palm against my cheek, and I leaned into it. “I love you. ”

  “I love you, too. ” I kissed his palm and lay down with him, resting my head on his chest and wrapping my arm around him.

/>   “Not that I’m complaining, but what made you decide to do that?” He ran his fingers through my hair, slow and weary.

  “I don’t know. I just… I needed to. I needed you. ” I snuggled up closer to him. “I don’t know what I’d do without you. ”

  “Me neither. ” He kissed the top of my head. “And let’s hope we never have to find out. ”

  “We better not. ” I pressed myself tighter to him, suppressing the chill that ran down my spine.

  “Don’t worry, Alice,” he murmured into my hair as he drifted off to sleep. “We’ll be together forever. ” I fell asleep in his arms and almost convinced myself that I believed him.

  When he awoke later in the evening, I found him crabbier than I’d ever seen him before. With Jack, that didn’t mean the same as it would if it were me, but he snapped at me without just cause and yelled at Matilda. I’ve never heard him raise his voice in anger to the dog, but being drained of blood did not sit well with him.

  Page 29

  He went down to the kitchen, wearing only the pair of boxers he’d slept in. I admired the view but couldn’t act on it. He devoured two bags of blood within three minutes, and Matilda and I waited on the other side of the room until we were certain he’d gotten his temper back under wraps.

  “Sorry,” Jack said, crumpling up an empty blood bag and tossing it in the garbage. “I didn’t mean to be so… you know. ”

  “It’s okay. I didn’t mean to drink so much of your blood,” I said.

  “It’s okay,” he shrugged. “It felt really good, and it’s not like I haven’t taken my share of your blood. ” He opened the fridge and pulled out another bag. “I can’t believe how thirsty I am. ”

  “Sorry,” I said and hopped on the counter. He shook his head because he was too busy gulping down the blood to answer me.

  Ezra must’ve heard us in the kitchen and came in to talk us. He eyed up Jack’s underwear only attire with a raised eyebrow, but he didn’t say anything about it.

  “How did everything go?” Ezra asked Jack.

  “Good. The transfer went off without a hitch. ” Jack squeezed the bag, making sure he got the last few drops from it. When he was satisfied, he threw it away and rolled his shoulders. “I wish I didn’t have go there every few weeks to do it in person. It’s the future. Technology ought to have caught up to us by now. ”

  “It’s good for you to work and get out of the house,” Ezra said. “I’ve been spending too much time here, and I’ll be joining you again next time. ”

  “You sure you don’t wanna just go in my place? I feel like I’ve spent more time away than I have at home in the past few months,” Jack said.

  “If that’s what you want,” Ezra shrugged.

  “I barely remember what my girl looks like anymore,” Jack grinned and walked over to me. He leaned on the counter next to me, looping one arm around my back. “You sure are pretty. ”

  Ezra’s phone rang in his pocket, and it was always surprised me that it was the Bee Gees. He’d apparently gone through some horrible disco phase in the seventies, and Peter had said he’d been terrified that Ezra would never come out of it.

  “Aren’t you gonna get that?” I asked.

  “No. ”

  “Is there any reason why not?” Jack asked, giving him the same odd look I was.

  Ezra sighed heavily before answering. “It’s Mae. I doubt I have anything to say to her. ”

  “How do you know it’s Mae? Are you like phone psychic?” I asked, getting excited. I hated seeing Mae and Ezra apart, and if she was calling him, maybe it was a step closer to them getting back together.

  “She’s been calling all day, and I’ve been avoiding it all day. ” He ran a hand through his hair and shook his head. “We’ve got nothing to talk about. I have no reason to answer her calls. ”

  “Ezra! You love her. I think that’s plenty of reason,” I said.

  “She made her choice. ” Ezra’s voice resonated through everything when he got firm. He made it so hard to contradict him.

  “I don’t think she had a choice,” Jack said, surprising me by coming to Mae’s aide. He’d been pretty angry with her since he found she’s the reason why he became a vampire. “At least she knows that you’re alive and you’ll be fine without her. But if she had picked you, the kid’d be dead. ”

  “Maybe so. ” Ezra lowered his eyes, growing contemplative. “But I’m not ready to make amends. ”

  “Have you even listened to the messages?” Jack asked.

  “No. ” He breathed deeply. “I don’t want to hear her voice. ” He shook his head and looked up at us. “And quite frankly, I don’t want to have this conversation either. I’ve made my decision. ”

  “I don’t know why all your decisions get to be final. ” I crossed my arms over my chest.

  “I’m older and wiser. ” The edge of his mouth curled into a hint of smile. “On the subject of which, how are your studies coming?”

  “Great,” I lied. I’d gotten through the three chapters in history with Milo, but I’d barely cracked open the anatomy book.

  “I expect you’ll be ready to go over them later,” Ezra said. “Also, I left a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird in the living room for you to read. ”

  “What? Why?” I wrinkled my nose. “I read that in like tenth grade. ”

  “Read it again. ”

  The subject was apparently closed because Ezra turned and walked over the kitchen, back to his den to do whatever he did to pass the time without Mae. I sighed loudly and leaned back, resting my shoulder against Jack’s.

  “Your studies?” Jack raised an eyebrow. “What’s going on?”

  “Ezra thinks that since I’m not going to school or working, I should be doing something so I don’t end up a total dimwit. ” I picked at a few stray Matilda hairs that stuck to my jeans. “He’s not wrong, but that doesn’t mean I like it. ”

  “So what are you studying for?” Jack asked, his interest piqued.

  “I don’t know. Right now, just history and anatomy and To Kill a Mockingbird, apparently. ” I gestured toward the living room and grimaced. “You think a book with a character named Boo Radley would be more fun. ”

  “It’s not supposed to be fun. It’s about the ability of good and evil to coexist in mankind, and the effect the knowledge of that has on innocence,” he said. I gave him an odd look, and he smiled. “You forget that I’m an English major. ”

  “Sometimes,” I admitted. “So, how come you’re working for Ezra and not teaching or whatever it is you planned on doing with your degree. ”

  “There’s no money in teaching. ” He laughed and kissed my temple, then went back over to the fridge. “Sorry. I’m still really thirsty. ”

  “Sorry,” I apologized again. My own belly felt full almost to the point of being distended, so I knew I’d drunken way too much. I’m not even sure how Jack was walking around.

  “I don’t actually have a degree, for one thing. ” Jack opened the fridge and pulled out another bag. He shut the door and turned back to me, leaning on the stainless steel. “And I don’t think I really wanted to be a teacher. I don’t know what I wanted. I just liked English. ”

  Page 30

  “What did you wanna be when you were a kid?” I scooted back on the counter, crossing my legs underneath me.

  “Batman. ” He laughed and opened the bag. “Or Luke Skywalker. ”

  “Very realistic goals. ”

  “No. I think I wanted to be a writer. Or a musician. You know something stereotypical like that. ” He shrugged and stared down at the bag, as if deciding if he wanted to drink or not. “I wanted to be a librarian for a while. I loved reading when I was in high school. I used to lock myself in my room and read and make all these bad mix tapes for this really, really hot cheerleader that didn’t know I was alive. I was all very Duckie from Pretty in Pink. ”

  “Really?” I laughed
. “I always pictured you more as Andrew McCarthy. ”

  “Well, you pictured very wrong,” he smiled. “I had this bad Robert Smith hair, like a horrible black mess, and when I was ‘dressing up,’ I’d add black eye liner.

  “I read constantly, mostly comic books and stuff,” Jack went on. “Alan Moore came out with some really amazing stuff when I was in like ninth and tenth grade. I remember when I got my hands on the first issue of The Watchmen, and I thought, ‘I want to do this. ’ I wanted to be a part of that. ”

  He paused, taking a sip from the bag. He leaned more against the fridge and crossed his left foot over his ankle.

  “I could never draw that well,” he said. “But I worked with this buddy who could draw. We made all these really dark comics and did a whole series based on Edgar Allen Poe’s Masque of the Red Death. One night, I broke into the principal’s office and Xeroxed a bunch, and we sold them for a buck piece. Yeah, I thought I was pretty hot shit then. ”

  “What happened to all that?” I asked.

  “I got detention for breaking into the office,” Jack smirked. “And my buddy got fired, and my girlfriend started taking up more of my time. ” He shrugged. “I don’t know. Life happened, I guess. And I realized that I’d probably never make it writing comic books. ”

  “So you just gave up on your dream?” I asked.

  “I don’t know if I would say that. ” He rested his head back on the door and smiled, but it looked sad around the edges. “I don’t think it was every really my dream. ”

  “What is your dream then?” I pressed.

  “I don’t know. ” He looked more seriously at me. “What’s with all the questions?”

  “I don’t know. I’m having an existential crisis. ”

  “I see. ” He downed the rest of the bag in one quick drink. It hit him harder than the rest had, and he shook his head to clear it of the haze. “What about you?”

  “What?”

  “What did you wanna be when you grew up?” He set the bag on the counter and walked over to me, but his steps were slow and deliberate.

  “I don’t know. ” I furrowed my brow, thinking. “In high school, we did all these aptitude tests, and by the time my senior year started, the teachers had all drilled it into my head that I needed to pick a college, pick a major, and decide right now what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. ”

  “What did you decide?” Jack stood in front of me, putting one arm on either side of me, but that was mostly to support himself.

  “I didn’t decide anything. The pressure overwhelmed me, and I just froze. ” I shrugged. “When I was younger, what I wanted to be when I grew up changed weekly. I wanted to be a vet, a director, a puppeteer, a ninja, a fireman, a pianist. ” I shook my head. “I never really felt at home with any one idea. ”

  “Luckily for you, you have forever. ” He grinned, but it was lopsided. “Now you can try every one of them. You can do and be anything you want. ”

  “It’d be easier if I could only do or be one thing,” I sighed.

  “Yeah, but what good is easy?” He kissed my forehead, and with half-closed eyes, he smiled down at me. “As a great man once said, ‘We learn so little from peace. ’”

 
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