Fractured souls, p.7
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       Fractured Souls, p.7

         Part #2 of Shattered Promises series by Jessica Sorensen
Page 7


  Laylen’s fingers are trembling as he opens his eyes and releases my wrist. He holds my gaze for a moment and the atmosphere intensifies between us as a connection forms. Ripping his gaze off me, he turns to Kameron. “Now get the fuck out of the way,” he orders in a stern, yet subdued voice.

  Kameron’s demeanor is casual as he steps back, sucking in a breath and breathing in a mouthful of air. “Are you sure you don’t want to share?” he asks. “We could each take a wrist. ”

  Laylen says nothing and shoves his way inside the warehouse, slamming his hand against Kameron’s chest hard enough that he crashes into the door. I hurry in, pressing my hand to my wrist.

  “Oh, fine. Take the fun out of my job. ” Kameron shuts the door and walks around us, heading for a spiral stairway in the middle of the empty concrete room. We follow him and, with each step, the air grows colder and the atmosphere darker as the roof shifts from dingy, broken skylights to rusty, metal beams. I can hear music playing from somewhere, smell the potent scent of salt and sweat, and feel the ground pulsating below my boots from the rumble of the bass.

  When we arrive at the top of the stairway and halt as Kameron begins to unlock the multiple padlocks on a solid steel door. Laylen’s head is down, his chin tucked in, and I’m worried he’s upset about what he’s just done. I hook my finger under his chin to get a better look at his expression.

  He’s not upset. More like intense. His fangs have retracted, his blue eyes appear shades darker, almost like sapphires, and there’s blood on the bottom of his lip, a thin trail just beside his lip ring. My blood, waiting for him to lick it.

  “You have blood on you lip,” I mutter. I reach forward and slowly swipe my finger along the spot of blood. I smear it a little and go over it again until most of it is off his lip and on my finger. I’m about to pull my hand away, when his mouth unexpectedly moves forward and my finger ends up inside it on top of his tongue. Shutting his eyes, he sucks the blood off, licking my finger while he inhales deeply and then exhales.

  He moves his mouth away as my jaw drops. I’m shocked and shamefully turned on in ways I didn’t know were possible. I pant heavily, my chest heaving. Laylen opens his eyes and his tongue slips out of his mouth again, licking the remaining blood off. “God… you taste so good. . . ”

  Then Kameron utters something about letting him get a taste and Laylen looks away from me, breaking the tension as he glares at Kameron. Clearing my throat, I quickly wipe the blood on the side of my shorts and put my hand back over my injured wrist.

  Kameron gets the door open at the same time that Laylen catches my eye as we step over the threshold and onto the grated flooring. There’s something in his expression, shame or desire. Perhaps a mixture of both.

  I’m freaking out inside, unsure how he feels at the moment or how I feel—how I should feel. The prickle is getting me nowhere, stabbing at my neck and pumping all kinds of disorder through me.

  Yet, as I glance around at the room, any thoughts or feelings of anything else float from my head.

  Vampires. Everywhere. And they’re feeding.

  Chapter 4

  Watching a Vampire feed is a strange sight. However, watching an entire room of Vampires suck blood from willing humans is appalling. Yet, in the twisted side of me, the one I’m barely getting to know, it’s strangely stimulating.

  “Rascauche” by At The Drive-In flows from the speakers surrounding the room. The lyrics and soft tune encompass the large floor and lights shimmer down onto the Vampires’ euphoric faces. A lot of them are dancing, but some are simply standing in the light watching the others, doing one of two things that my mind can barely comprehend; touching each other and feeding off the blood of a human. Some have their fangs plunged deep into the neckline of the victim, while others choose the wrist.

  “You’re on your own now,” Kameron calls out over the music, and then disappears somewhere into the crowd, grabbing the hair of a woman wearing a floor-length satin dress. She looks happy to be with him, content, and I wonder if I look the same way right now.

  “Good riddance,” Laylen mutters, and then makes his way toward a bar at the back of the room, motioning me to follow. When he reaches the countertop, he scoops up a shot of a brownish liquid that the bartender magically puts down the moment he arrives. He swigs it down, sucking every last drop out with his head tipped back. He licks the brim of the glass with his tongue before dropping the empty glass back down on the counter.

  The bartender, a medium height, curvy brunette smiles at Laylen as she wipes the counters down, her lips parting as if she’s about to say something.

  “Not now, Taven. ” Laylen says, then makes a veer to the right toward a corridor with blood-red doors and floors as black as ash.

  I rush to keep up and he waits for me in the arched entryway. “Are you okay?” I ask as we enter the corridor. The black marble, domed ceiling is laced with red lines that look like blood and there are lanterns and a few chains as well as cuffs secured to the walls.

  He nods only once, though his jaw tightens. “I’m fine. ”

  I stay silent, hyperaware of his distant attitude. It terrifies me not only because he’s my friend and I’m afraid I’ve broken him, but also because of the craving soaring through my body, the strange need for his fangs to return to my skin.

  Halfway down the corridor, we pass two large men dressed in black suits stationed in front of a shut door. Neither of them acknowledge us and we continue walking, the music from the bar fading the further down we go.

  My wrist has stopped bleeding, but there’s a drying trail on my hand. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

  He nods, and then shakes his head, letting out a sigh that seems to clear the tension between us just a little. “I’ll get there… I just… I just hate drinking blood. ” He avoids eye contact with me. “Yet I don’t, which makes me hate it more. And yours…” He squeezes his eyes shut for a moment. “God, it smelled so intoxicating. ”

  My heart aches for him, but at the same time his words put a wave of hunger in me; one that wants to feed, or him to feed on me anyway. We’re embarking into dangerous territory and, even though I know it, it still takes me off guard.

  “You didn’t drink it, though,” I remind him. “Only drew it from my body. ”

  “Still, I wanted to drink it. ” His gaze meets mine as we arrive in front of a door at the end of the hallway. There’s a colossal, golden and black vase on each side and a mirror above it that reveals our reflections. We look high and sedated. “I wanted to taste you, so fucking bad. ”

  I’m unsure what to say to him. “Okay. ”

  He seems as perplexed as I do. “Okay?”

  I’m not sure what we’re agreeing to, but it feels like we’re agreeing to something. The atmosphere lightens and Laylen’s demeanor changes, his posture unstiffening, his jaw loosening.

  He hesitates before knocking on the door. “Stay by me at all times,” he whispers.

  I quickly nod as several latches click, and then the door cracks open.

  “What do you want?” a voice snarls through the crack as smoke rushes out of it.

  “I’m here to talk to Draven,” Laylen states calmly.

  The door opens wider and a shorter man with silky blond hair and wearing a black suit steps forward. “Concerning what?”

  Laylen tucks his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “Concerning the donum of obscurum. ”

  “You’re very brave to come here and say such a thing,” the blond guy states, his gaze sliding to me. “Is this an offering?"

  Laylen protectively leans in toward me. “No, she’s with me. ”

  The guy rolls his eyes and starts to shut the door. “Come back when you have something to offer. He doesn’t just share his gift with anyone. ”

  Laylen flattens his hand on the door and shoves his foot into the crack at the bottom, holding it open. “I’ll offer him something else, just not the girl. ”

  The guy considers this for a moment, his eyes wandering to my wrist as he licks his lips. “Just a second. ” He steps back and Laylen removes his hand and foot from the door so the guy can shut it.

  I shoot Laylen a puzzled look and he puts his finger to his lips. A second later the door opens again and potent smoke rushes out so quickly I choke back a cough. I’m not sure what kind of smoke it is and I think I might be better off left in the dark with this one.

  The door opens wider and a different man stands on the other side with greasy black hair, pasty skin, and he’s wearing a tuxedo while carrying a silver platter.

  His fangs point out as he grins, gesturing at the room. “Please, do come in. ”

  Laylen takes my hand as we enter the room. My pulse promptly quickens and he gives it a gentle squeeze, then his fingers move lower so they’re covering the wounds on my wrist.

  The room is small, though broad, with an extensive table down the center that’s surrounded by spindle-back chairs. In every chair, a male Vampire sits holding cards, their fangs fully in view. Poker chips are stacked in front of them and there are ashtrays everywhere, covered with cigar butts. Standing behind each Vampire is a woman. They look human, but from a different era, their flowing corset dresses very out of date.

  Laylen confidently approaches the table, dragging a very unconfident me along with him. As we reach it, one of the Vampires sitting at the end extends his arm back toward the woman behind him. He grabs the back of her neck and she voluntarily leans down to him. He sinks his teeth into her neck, gripping her waist as his sucks the blood from her vein. Her eyes roll back into her head as her body lifelessly slumps against his shoulder. She groans and pleads in a muffled voice for him to bite her more.

  I tighten my hold on Laylen’s hand. Then the Vampire releases her and she staggers back, plummeting to the flood with blood drenching her dress and neck.

  The Vampire returns to his cards, wiping the blood from his chin with his hand, grinning as he says, “I think I’m about ready for another round. ”

  The other Vampires mumble in agreement and reach for the women behind them. Shaking with fear, loathing, and curiosity, I let out a quiet gasp. Suddenly everyone is staring at us, and I wish I could shrink myself into a ball.

  A man with jet-black hair sitting at the end of the table rises from his chair. He’s tall, perhaps even taller than Laylen, with broad shoulders and dark eyes that match his shirt and slacks. He has a golden chain on his arm that stretches to a collar that’s attached to a woman wearing a silky blue dress.

  “So, Laylen,” he says, walking toward us and dragging the woman with him. She seems dazed, her bare feet dragging along the floor as she stumbles after him. “To what do I owe the honor of a visit from the one and only known Keeper turned Vampire?” His eyes flick over to me and he drinks me in as he stops in front of us and the woman kneels behind him. “And with such breathtaking company. ”

  Unsure of what to do, I hold his gaze, remaining impartial as I fight the urge to gape at the woman behind him.

  “I need your help,” Laylen mutters, his grip constricting on my hand.