Craved (Gwen Sparks #1)(3) by Stephanie Nelson

“This,” I began, pointing to Amy’s arm, “was made with a needle. Whoever kidnapped her didn’t drain her with his fangs.” Wyatt came around the table to get a better look at the small hole.

“Huh? We assumed that was nothing.”

In human crime labs, they didn’t disregard a pinprick as nothing; but otherworldly beings were different, we didn’t inject drugs like humans did.

I went on to tell Wyatt everything I had seen as he held his tape recorder out in front of him. “I didn’t recognize the area, which means she wasn’t killed in Flora. What it did mean was that the person who killed her was an otherworldly, and most likely a vampire. A human can’t cross our protective borders.” My initial conclusion that the perp was a vamp was founded not on the fact that her blood was drained, but that she had conjured a stake.

“This must have something to do with brew,” Wyatt said angrily.

“Brew?” I pursed my lips in confusion.

“This doesn’t leave this room, understand?” Wyatt threatened.

I nodded my head. “Of course.”

Satisfied that I was trustworthy, Wyatt leaned against the wall and said, “There was a case two years ago in Hemlock. Witches’ bodies showing up drained just like Amy’s. Word on the street is that young vampires can get high off witches’ blood; they called it brew. It’s sold in bags of blood that are slipped into regular blood shipments, making it almost impossible to trace back to its origin. It’s also highly addictive.” Wyatt took a ragged breath, as if the world had just plopped onto his shoulders.

“If we’re dealing with brew dealers, then this case just got a whole hell of a lot more complicated.”

I was completely speechless. Witches’ blood helped young vampires high? How I never heard of this was beyond me. I didn’t keep in contact with the NAWC (North American Witches Council) so maybe that was why I was out of the loop, but still. I would have assumed if vampires could become addicted to our blood, they’d at least send a newsletter warning us. Had there been a memo I didn’t receive?

Wyatt took a phone call before I could question him further. He covered the end of his phone with his hand and said, “I’ve got to run. I’ll talk to you later.” I nodded my head because my mouth wasn’t working at the moment, too overwhelmed with this new information.

I drove back to my shop but I couldn’t stop the flow of thoughts that infiltrated my mind, like, what was a girl like Amy Harper doing in a rundown part of town? And, was it true that a witches’ blood could cause a vampire to get high? I didn’t have any of the answers but I knew who might. As much as it chapped my ass, I was going to have to talk to Aiden.

3

I called Aiden once the sun was on its way down, and to say he was amused that I needed his help, was an understatement. In the two years since I’d known him, I evaded contact with him as much as I possibly could. It wasn’t that I held a weak disposition towards vampires, just a weak sense of self-control around a certain dark haired vamp.

He lived in the Cula subdivision, named after the infamous vampire, Dracula. The architect responsible for building and naming the subdivision was also a vampire.

I parked my red car against the sidewalk and with anxious hands, opened the door. Aiden’s home was ostentatious, but then again, so were most vampires’ homes. He lived in a six thousand square foot villa with burnt orange stucco and Spanish tile roofing. Wrought iron railings decorated the balconies, of which there were three.

I took a calming deep breath to relax my nerves and finally, after debating whether it was a good idea to be visiting Aiden, I knocked. The door opened slowly, as if an apparition was welcoming me.

“Aiden?” I called into the expansive entryway.

Nothing.

I stepped just over the threshold and the flickering of light caught my peripheral vision. Aiden’s entire living room twinkled with a hundred white candles, and standing by the front window, was a shirtless Aiden. My eyes shot wide and my jaw dropped to the floor. I thought he was delicious in clothes, but out of them, he was mouth-watering.

Realizing I was staring, I averted my gaze. “Did I interrupt something?” I asked nonchalantly, but a twinge of jealousy stuck in my stomach like food poisoning.

“Actually, the guest of honor just arrived,” he said, moving at warp speed to sit on the couch. “Care to join me?” he asked, patting the cushion. A small smile tugged at my lips but I quickly straightened it and crossed my arms.

“I think you got the wrong idea, again.”

Before I could blink, Aiden was standing in front of me, bare chest and all. I jumped slightly, which made him laugh, damn it.

“Did I?” he asked, his voice thick with seduction. He was a good five inches taller than my five-foot-seven height, so I was eye level with his sculpted body but I refused to let the drool leave my mouth.

“Yes,” I murmured. He reached for my hand and brought it up to his chest. Then he slowly trailed my palm against the ridges and valleys that made up his spectacular physique. His flirtatious actions should have pissed me off, but I was enjoying myself too much to be mad. If my body had a switch, than Aiden had just turned it on. His lust set his blue eyes on fire, and if I wasn’t careful, I could get lost in those aqua pools.

“Stop it,” I protested, as I snatched my hand away, “I need to talk to you about something serious.

“How serious?” he asked, uninterested.

“Life and death serious.”

“Of course it is,” he said with a heavy sigh and slumped his shoulders.

Aiden suddenly disappeared along with the glow of candlelight. I squinted my eyes against the sudden glare of the overhead light, to see that he had used his vampire speed to extinguish all of the candles. He was in the middle of pulling a white t-shirt over his head and caught my admiring gaze. I quickly gained my wits and stared at a large painting that hung on the far wall, rather than give him the satisfaction of knowing that I found him attractive.

“You didn’t even get to see my use of the flowers you rudely returned,” he said with a pointed look. I smiled, happy that my “return to sender” spell had worked.

“That’s too bad, but I simply couldn’t accept so many beautiful flowers from a man I turned down,” I said, sending him my own pointed look. A smirk bent the side of his mouth up.

“But you kept the dress.” I feigned interest in the eclectic doodads that adorned his bookshelf, all the while trying to figure out a good excuse for keeping the dress.

“I was afraid it’d get ruined in the transport spell,” I said, deciding that sounded truthful.

Aiden laughed and walked into the kitchen, with me on his heels. Like the rest of his house, the kitchen was top-notch, black and stainless steel appliances, dark brown marble countertops accented by cherry cabinets. Wrought iron light fixtures and burnt orange tile, reiterated the Spanish theme of the house.

“So, what have you gotten yourself into now, my Gwen?” he asked, as he set a teakettle on the stove and retrieved two coffee cups. Aiden had been saying “my” Gwen ever since I had met him, and telling him not to call me that only made him enjoy it more. It had especially pissed off Micah when Aiden had claimed I was “his” Gwen. A smiled played on my lips at the thought.

“I’m not really supposed to discuss this with anyone, Wyatt swore me to secrecy, so do I have your word that this stays between us? Or am I gonna have to use a memory wipe spell?”

Aiden scoffed at my warning, “I’m surprised you think so little of me.” Deep down I knew he wouldn’t tell anyone what we discussed tonight but I had to throw the warning out there. If he had any desire to mention even the tiniest bit of information, he knew I‘d take action. The kettle’s scream echoed through our uncomfortable silence, shaking me back on track.

“This is serious and the FPD will rip me a new one if word gets out about what I’m about to tell you. It’s not personal but I need to make sure I can trust you,” I told him. Aiden filled both of our cups with the boiling water and plopped a teabag into each one.

“Got it, serious,” Aiden said, as he pretended to zip his lips shut and hand me the imaginary key. I shook my head at his juvenile gestures, but my lips turned up into a smile.

“Shoot, what’s so top secret that you’ll threaten me with a memory wipe spell?” Aiden asked as he took a sip of his tea. I wondered what it would be like to be a vampire. They could drink any liquid but had to give up solid foods. That would be some kind of hell in my mind, but Aiden seemed at home as a vampire. They weren’t dead like a lot of the myths claim, just infected with a demonic virus.

I had found a magic encyclopedia a few years ago. In the book, I discovered that a demonic virus was responsible for vampires. God had cast the devil out of heaven and into hell; the devil didn't take it too well. Human books told why the devil was sent to the netherworld but none of the books told what the devil did because of it--too scary to advertise. He loathed God’s children He believed they weren’t worthy of receiving God’s love, so he made children of his own, vampires. Perfect really, his children would feed off of God’s children and infect them with a demonic virus.

The first vampires to ever exist were nasty creatures, bat-like wings, with sharp clawed feet and hands, who haunted the skies waiting for lone humans to feast upon. The allergy to the sun came from the virus being of the netherworld--dark; whereas God’s children came from the light. Over time, the horrendous genes that made up the first vampires became diluted. Seemed the humans, although infected with the devil’s virus were able to conquer the evil in it with the free will God had given them, eventually evolving into the vampires we had today. Incredible story really, I had read it at least five times, never tiring of the complexity of what made Aiden who he was today.

“Gwen?” Aiden said, drawling me out of my thoughts, “You have a vision?”

“You know I can’t have visions without Aura,” I told him.

“So you were what, daydreaming about what would’ve happened if you would have given into me earlier? I can put those thoughts to rest and show you; care to follow me upstairs?”

Would I be a horrible person if I said I was thinking about taking him up on his offer? We were both single and adults, why not? The thought ran through my head as I watched Aiden over the rim of my teacup. Remembering that I had come here to discuss entirely different matters smacked the lusty thought from my head, much to my dismay.

“Have you heard anything about the effect witches’ blood has over new vampires? Anything called brew?” I asked, steering the conversation back onto the track I intended traveling tonight. Aiden arched his brow as he thought about my question.

“I have not heard that. What have you gotten yourself into, my Gwen?”

“Don’t call me that, I’m not yours.”

“All in good time,” Aiden promised, shrugging his shoulders as if it were only a matter of time before I came to my senses and lived happily ever after with him. I shook my head as annoyance snaked its way through my already stressed nerves.

“Will you please stay on track? A young girl is dead because of this rumor, which is turning out to look more like a fact,” I said, aggravated.

“Which girl is dead?”

“Amy Harper, don’t you read the newspaper?

“Not unless I’m searching the want ads,” he smiled. Flora’s newspaper had a small section that advertised willing blood donors from neighboring cities. Vampires could drink otherworldly blood but needed human blood to feed the virus and most vampires liked drinking live blood rather than bagged, which could have been sitting for who knows how long.

“You are so…infuriating,” I remarked. I told myself I was pissed that he wouldn’t take this serious, but there was a hint of jealousy at the thought of his lips on another woman’s body, as irrelevant as it was. Hadn’t I just got through telling him I wasn’t “his” Gwen?

“My apologies…you obviously feel strongly about this and I wish I could help, but I haven’t heard that a witch’s blood could affect a baby vamp. If you like, I could ask around?”

“No, don’t ask around, I wasn’t even supposed to mention it to you. I just thought since you’re a vampire you might’ve heard something.”

“And you’re sure it’s vampires doing this?” Aiden asked, as if it were as crazy as him stepping into the morning sun.

“Yes, I went to the morgue and read Amy Harper’s last thoughts. It was a vampire and he drained her using a needle. She wasn’t killed in Flora though, so I don’t understand why the vampire would drop her body here,” I said, slowly drifting back into my thoughts as I tried to put together the pieces.

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