Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Tags High school, vampires, witches, love triangle, best friend, romance
Release: January 18, 2013
Editor: Katie Carroll
Line Editor Greta Gunselman
Cover Designer Marion Sipe
Attacked as a young witch and left for dead, Ashlinn is deathly afraid of being bitten again. Having survived until she’s almost eighteen without donating blood to any of her vamp friends, Ashlinn figures she’ll continue to live bite-free. After her crush reveals how powerful she is, however, the Vampire Council declares she be claimed as a familiar, which requires biting. Ashlinn doesn’t want to be owned, even by hot vamp, Conor. Luckily, her best friend, Matt, volunteers for the job. She is given one week to choose her protector, and the list of willing biters keeps growing. Will she go with best friend Matt, hot vamp Conor, or someone else to protect her? Will she be able to get her power under control by then? Will she overcome her phobia of being bitten? And who says she needs to be protected, anyhow?
“Ash, we kind of have a problem,” Matt said, leaning forward, bracing his forearms on his thighs. My stomach clenched. “What?” It came out in a whisper. “Your power. It’s strong,” he said. I shrugged. “I’m almost eighteen. Mom said it would get stronger until then.” He looked away briefly. Cora threaded her arms around one of mine, holding me protectively. “Get to the point, Matthew,” she told him harshly. I loved that she kept calling him Matthew. He ran a hand through his hair and looked at Conor again, who gave a slight nod. Matt turned back to me. “Yeah,” he said roughly. “But it holds a certain appeal to some of us.” “Us?” I inquired.
“Vampires,” Conor spoke for the first time. His low and seductive voice brought me back to the library when he’d told me to read. I shivered. “What kind of appeal?” Cora broke in. I felt small and vulnerable, again realizing all my friends were vamps. My power appealed to them? Matt and Cora had never said anything before. “It calls,” Conor said softly. “It’s…alluring.” I looked at Matt. “Matt, you’ve never said anything. Is it like that for you?” He wouldn’t meet my eye, shaking his head. Cora spoke what I had been wondering. “So when you say ‘us’ you mean…”
“He means me, mostly,” Conor cut her off, reaffirming what we’d all been thinking.
I gave a short bark of laughter. “What?” I asked sarcastically. “So, you’re a chocoholic and I’m a chocolate bar?”
Conor’s face twisted in disgust. “Please don’t trivialize it. Yes, you seem to be irresistible to me. I can feel your power, almost taste it, and I want it. I can restrain myself—if restraint is needed.” Matt cleared his throat. Conor’s eyes moved to his friend then back to me. “Which it is,” he added with a small grin.
I shifted, clenching the blanket in my fists, as this all sunk in. “So, in the hallway, and at your house, you don’t want me to just be a donor. You want my…power?” I was incredulous, and could feel my face growing hotter. Which was worse? Using me for blood? Or my power?
“I told you she’d get mad,” Matt mumbled.
I stood, letting the blanket fall to the floor. I watched both boys’ gazes drift down my bare legs and back up to my face. I rolled my eyes. Boys!
“Matt, how long have you known this?”
“Since this morning,” he replied, meeting my angry glare. “Sit, Ash. Let me explain.”
I obeyed, reluctantly, sitting on the edge of the couch. My anger receded a little with the promise of an explanation, finally.
Matt rubbed a hand over his face. “Okay. I called Conor this morning to ask him what he’d been playing at in the hallway the other day. I wanted to know what to expect at the party. He…” Matt looked at Conor, who was looking at me. Conor nodded for Matt to continue. “He said your power was suddenly there, in the hallway, calling to him. He’d never really noticed it before, until you walked into him. He got closer to double check and…”
“I wanted you,” Conor finished simply.
I looked at him sharply. “You wanted my power,” I corrected.
So that was it. He had a taste of my power in the hallway and wanted more in the library. He must have loved it when I used my power to throw him across the room, further proving to him how strong I was.
The boy raised a shoulder like it was nothing. “Your power is you.”
I shook my head at him. “It’s not the same thing. You don’t actually like me.” My dumb voice broke a little. Cora put a hand on my shoulder, solid and reassuring. “You only like what I can give you.” Now my dumb eyes grew hot and traitorous with threatening tears.
“Isn’t that what all relationships are?” he asked, “What someone can give you? How they make you feel? Isn’t that why we’re attracted to certain people?”
I would not be persuaded. “It doesn’t matter. It’s not happening. No one’s going to bite me. Ever.”
Conor looked to Matt. “Matthew,” he said softly.
Matt shifted and looked at me, dejected. My anxiety level spiked.
“Ash,” he started, wringing his hands, brows furrowed. “You have to be claimed by someone.”
My eyes widened. “What do you mean, claimed?”
“You have to let someone make you their familiar, claim you under their protection.”
Oh, Goddess. The only way to become a familiar was to be bitten, not just once, one had to be a regular donor to a certain vampire, and ingest their blood. My heart sped up. “What? Why? What the hell does that mean?”
Matt pressed his lips together, face paling. “The Council thinks your power will begin to attract vamps from all over. You need someone’s protection or…”
He trailed off and looked at the ground.
“Or every vamp in the tri-county area will be trying to bite you,” Conor filled in.
Cora’s hand tightened on my shoulder. Horror washed through me, my mouth hung open in shock, cold seeping into my core. I will not freak out. I will not freak out, I thought.
Matt moved to stand, probably to come to me. Conor put a hand on him, holding him still.
“I’m sorry, Ash.” Matt’s voice was full of sympathy. “I didn’t know before today.” He paused. “The Council wants you claimed by the end of the week. Otherwise they’ll force it on you to prevent any fighting.”