I smiled. “Excellent! In that case, House Medeis, stand down!”
“Drake Family, disengage,” Killian shouted.
Our people pulled back from their pursuit, and as if on cue, at the far side of the field, the Paragon waved a white flag, signaling the battle was officially over.
The Night Court still crowded as far away from us as they could get, but it was over.
The Drake vampires were offering each other curt nods and a few smiles and back slaps, until Momoko hugged Celestina and it became a free-for-all hug fest that involved most wizards chasing down slightly panicking vampires.
(My favorite, I think, was when June snuck up on Rupert and gave him a hug. He squealed like a pig, but sat through it like an obedient dog.)
Something in me loosened, and I shifted so I could see Killian again.
My wizard mark was still stark on his face—the edges actually glowed a soft blue light.
Huh, mine must be doing the same.
Killian crossed the gap between us in a second, steadying me when I staggered.
“You know,” I finally let go of my katana and shook out my numb hands, “it is disgusting you look this good with my wizard mark when you are clearly a vampire.”
Killian gave me a crooked grin, which actually made him look a lot younger and less perfect. “If I made an inappropriate joke here about your blood and my looking good while on it, I assume you would stab me.”
I glanced at my katana, which was still staked in the ground. “I don’t think I’d have the energy for it,” I admitted. “My arms feel like noodles. That was about a thousand times worse than shielding you all in the Cloisters.” I leaned slightly so I could peer around his side, still barely able to believe it was all finished. “It’s over?”
“It’s over,” he confirmed. “We won.” He tugged on my arms, and I happily tilted forward, letting him take my weight.
“Thanks for trusting me,” I mumbled into his suitcoat.
“I should say the same.” He slid his arms around my lower back so he could better stabilize me. “Are you feeling okay?”
“Yeah, just a little light headed.” I tilted my head up so I could suspiciously look at him. “Unless the Elite or Paragon is heading this way. Then I feel awful.”
“Because they’re going to grill us?”
Killian chuckled. “Once word gets out, we’ll have to face a lot more than just those two.”
“I know.” I leaned back so I could smile up at Killian. “But just think how long we can drag out telling everyone. We can exclusively own the supernatural rumor mill for the next month at least!”
Killian leaned down and brushed his lips against mine. “I think we can make a few more scandals that will last much longer than a month,” he murmured before delivering me a knee-knocking kiss in the steaming remnants of the battlefield.
Earlier That Day…
I followed Killian down the hallway. We were heading to a room in Drake Hall I hadn’t ever seen before, the place where the blood donors fed the vampires.
It was in the basement and highly secured. Killian said some vampires would be standing guard at the doors once we got inside, but I was so glad they weren’t there yet. This whole thing felt twenty degrees of awkward.
And, apparently, I was the only one feeling it.
When Killian reached the unremarkable wooden door at the end of the hallway, he unlocked it with an elaborate gold key and stepped inside.
I, however, hesitated in the doorway. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“If you’re worried I won’t be able to actually drink your blood, it shouldn’t be a problem. We’ve already established you smell…amazing to me. The greater issue is whether you trust me enough that the magic in your blood doesn’t taste rancid.” He flicked on a light switch, illuminating the room.
It was more…average than I thought it would be.
It still had all the same expensive and comfortable furniture the rest of Drake Hall had—imported Turkish rugs, fancy wall sconces, and elaborately framed portraits.
The plate of fruit and reusable water bottle placed on the coffee table were a bit out of place. But they were probably for me.
Killian had explained that usually blood donors were immediately escorted out after a vampire fed so they wouldn’t see how helpless the vampires became. It was going to be the opposite for us.
They were locking me inside the room with Killian—it would be a big security risk to open the door if someone ever found out what was going on, and, frankly, he was safer with me at his back since I could blast anyone who tried to attack us, and my magic wouldn’t harm him.
If this all worked.
I still wasn’t certain Killian really trusted me enough to go through with this.
“My blood will taste fine.” I wandered up to the plate of fruit, noticing it contained all my favorites. (How…thoughtful? And a little weird, honestly.)
“You can’t know that for sure.” Killian swung the door shut. It creaked on its hinges, and I heard the lock click into place.
I didn’t love the idea of being locked anywhere, so the noise made me a little uneasy. “Of course I know for sure,” I said. “I trust you, and I can just feel it that my magic isn’t going to reject you. And I wasn’t actually referring to my blood or any of that, I meant are you sure you want to do this? I know what this means…can you actually do it?”
Killian shed his suitcoat and pulled his tie off, tossing them both on a padded chair before he started rolling up the sleeves of his dress shirt. “You mean after everything I told you about how helpless we become and how easy we are to kill, can I really stand putting myself in a position where you could off me?”
I rolled my eyes. “I was trying not to be indelicate, but since we’re abandoning thoughtfulness, yeah. How are you going to be able to do this? Having you drink from me and then using my magic on Queen Nyte and Consort Ira while you hold them down is the best sucker punch we could ever come up with because your unwillingness to drink from a donor is an image you’ve been building for decades. Or centuries, even. But can you actually set those hundreds of years aside for this?”
Killian considered me—his eyes were their usual obsidian-red shade at the moment. “Could I do it for the battle? No. However…” He crossed the room in the blink of an eye, joining me by the coffee table.
Slowly, carefully—as if he was afraid he might break me—he raised a hand and brushed my right cheek. “For you? I will.” He smirked. “And I am not planning for this to be a one-time thing.”
That news floored me. I reared back in surprise. “Wait, for real?”
His smirk lost that usual edge of arrogance he always had. “Yes…seeing how much I trust you, why would I limit it to just this once?”
“Because of everything you’ve told me! Even if you trust me, even if you know I won’t hurt you, it’s still a risk every time. And after the fight everyone will know that you drank from me, so it’s not like we’ll even be able to keep it a secret and—”
“You are right, I know you won’t hurt me,” Killian interrupted. “You’re too good for that, and you continue to be a virtuous idiot.”
“Yeah, but…” I trailed off, unable to grasp the immensity of what he was saying. “Why? With this fight it makes sense, but we’ll never be able to use this again. Supernaturals will know. What’s the point?”
“Because it’s the only way I can prove how much I trust you,” Killian said.
I stared up at him, trying to puzzle through what he meant. “I don’t get it.”
“I’ll never be able to tell you everything,” Killian said. “Even if I trust you with my life, there are politics in play I don’t want you to have to know about. But I can drink your blood, and prove to you time and time again that I don’t just trust you enough to drink your blood, but I trust you with my life when I’m weak.”
The red in his eyes flared to life like hot coals, and he intertwined his fingers with mine.
My heart spasmed in my chest, but it was his explanation that floored me. This was about us? That’s why he was doing it?
“It’s the greatest reassurance I can give you.” He took a step back to give me breathing room, but he kept my hands enfolded in his. “Will it be enough?”
It wasn’t exactly what I wanted…but I was realistic enough to recognize he was right. No matter how much we trusted each other, there were certain things we couldn’t share.
I had become obsessed with trust after Mason’s coup and my parents’ hiding so much from me.
But demanding absolute clarity wasn’t possible for us, particularly since he was the Eminence and there was a slight possibility I might one day be the Elite.
If he drank my blood, though, I’d know. It was a physical symbol of our trust. There was no way for him to manipulate it, and even with my belief in all things right, my magic wouldn’t passively sit by if it thought there was a problem.
This was how I would always know, and always have something to lean on.
Killian Drake was manipulative, powerful, and lethal. But he was willing to risk it all just for us.
“Are you sure?” I repeated the words I’d uttered when we first came in here. “Even with all the risks?”
The smallest smile tugged at his lips, and he leaned down so we were almost eye to eye despite our huge height difference. “Of course,” he said. “Because I’ve found something I love more than my survival.”
I couldn’t help myself. I threw my arms around his neck and kissed him.
Yeah, I kissed Killian Drake.
And it was even better this time.
That electric tingle was still there, pulsing at the pads of my feet. But everything clicked together in a way it hadn’t before. It was still overwhelming and passionate, but I could feel magic breezing through my body.