Devour - By Megan Duncan Page 0,1

me. Their penetrating scrutiny rattled me, and I looked across the bodies and flames to find Nicolae’s eyes locked on me. We’d thought him dead until mere hours before the pyre when he and Fox showed up at the palace. They said they’d chased down members of The Dark to the far corners of the region before seeking shelter in a nearby safe house. For some reason, a small part of me didn’t believe them. Maybe because I didn’t really trust anyone anymore; or maybe it was because Fox always seemed to rub me the wrong way. Vampires healed quickly, but we all looked paler than normal and several of our injuries had yet to mend themselves because we weren’t feeding. However, there was Fox, standing off to the side of the crowd looking no worse for wear. He didn’t even look like he was very upset. I suppose some handled grief differently, but when it came to Fox, nothing seemed right.

Mara had said it was part of the mourning process to not feed for six cycles of the moon. It was evident in all our faces. We were hungry, grieving and exhausted. The hunger inside me screamed for nourishment, but even though I was starving, it wasn’t that hard to ignore it. Human blood wasn’t what I was craving most. No, I was craving sustenance of another kind; and there was no way to satisfy that until Baal’s cold, dead body was lying before me.

My eyes held Nicolae’s until he finally looked away. There was pain in them, and even from across the inferno I could sense his grief. I could never read him before, but now it was almost too easy. Did he simply stop hiding his emotions, or had I grown more powerful? I guess it didn’t really matter. His agony was sincere, and though I thought I would revel in it, I actually felt pity for him. The man who had me kidnapped as a child and fed me nothing but lies still managed to lay claim to a small piece of my heart. A very small piece, but a piece nonetheless.

We stood there until the fire died down and the bodies turned to ash, leaving no sign of their existence in this world except for the scars on our hearts. They say time heals all wounds. Well, I had an eternity. We all did.

A lump formed in my throat as I watch the crowd disperse. The roar of the fire that had consumed the sounds of the night no longer covered the wails of the grieving. The sting of loss was much greater, and cut much deeper than when I was human. I’d lost my grandparents, or whom I thought were my grandparents, and I helped Liz through the death of her father. But back then, I believed we’d all be reunited again. Not now. Now we must face an eternity alone, an eternity separated from those we loved. That’s what lies ahead for us if we don’t stop Baal and his army of dark vampires. Infinite time with our suffering.

A new wave of loneliness washed over me when Robin released my hand to follow her mother back toward the palace. I watched her walk slowly away, her mother latched onto her arm like she was a lifeline. Edgar, her father, had been slain protecting Mara during the attack. The poor woman had to watch her mate die right before her eyes. I’d only known him a short time, but after those brief moments I’d spent with him, I had grown to love Edgar and his family.

“We should head inside, too. It will be dawn soon. I think we could all use some sleep.” Arrick kissed my forehead and pulled me beside him as I followed woodenly. The palace was a shell of its former beauty, but already there were massive tarps draped over entire wings, and scaffolds towering up the sides, like the bones of a skeleton. Nicolae wasn’t wasting any time with the repairs. But, even with new paint and new bricks, it would never be the same.

I was surprised when we’d finally made it to my room. I couldn’t recall any of the walk back. I guess my mind was too full to concentrate on anything else. My heart warmed as I watched Arrick pull the heavy drapes across my windows. It was the first warmth I’d felt in days, and I didn’t fight the small smile that tugged at the corners