Excerpts from Addicted in Blood

Cook explains Devon's past addiction

“Well, no matter.” Cook continued to work the dough as he spoke, his furry brows drawn down. “Devon’s parents were killed in a freak accident about, oh my, it must be a hundred years ago now. It was a terrible tragedy that rocked the foundations of this great House. Devon had been away for several years, building relationships with other Houses as he began filling the role as the successor. But that is another story.

“The word at the time was that he wasn’t prepared for taking control of the family business and the stress wore him down. In truth, there were many stories on why Devon took his first dose of the Poppy, but that’s all it takes. It’s quite addictive and weakens the mind, giving the beast more control. After a time, the beast takes over completely, leaving little of the man behind.

“It required sheer mental willpower to come back from that. Decker helped, though I don’t know the specifics. He gave Devon a place to live and a job. Eventually, Devon returned home and filled the House seat on the Council.”

He placed the dough in a bowl and covered it with a towel. “If he did it once, this cadre will see him through it again. You must trust in them—and in Devon.”

I laid a hand on his arm. “Thank you. Before I came here, I lived close to the Hollows. I’ve seen firsthand what addictions can do to a person. This time, the Poppy wasn’t his decision. I’m convinced of that. He’s strong. We just need to find him and bring him home.”

He patted my hand. “And perhaps that is all it will take.”

“Maybe so.” I picked up my mug and was almost to the door when I turned back to him. He was already cleaning off the counter and pulling over a basket of apples. “Thank you again for the scones and the information.”

“Devon has one more thing he didn’t have that first time.”

“What’s that?”

“He has you.”

Cressa dreams through the Beast's eyes

I wake to a dark room and an acidic scent I can’t place. It’s cold, and I tug the puffy blanket closer. My body aches, and there’s a hunger that nothing satisfies. I unfold my limbs and stand, the cover dropping to the floor.

My eyes adjust, and the room comes into focus. Alone. Hungry. I move to the next room, tripping over something on the floor but catching myself before I fall. A bank of lockers is against one wall. They’re large, and I yank one open. Empty. I try the next. Empty. I continue until the fourth attempt. A dear hangs upside down. I slice it open with my long fingernails. And I feast.

“Devon!”

Cressa meets with Colantha

“It sounded like you expect me to move here. How long do you expect this to take?” Yep, this was all too good to be true.

Colantha clucked her tongue at me. “My dear, Cressa. It will take years.”

“Yeah, well, I only have a couple of days and a friend to save, so we’ll need to do the speed-reader’s equivalent.”

“You can’t learn about dreamwalking in just a handful of days. Dreamwalkers spend years, decades learning their craft.”

I pushed the footrest down and stood. “I think we might have gotten our signals crossed. I came here to find my father or some idea where he might be. I’d also hoped to get some basic training or maybe an instruction manual for my necklace.”

I was suddenly in the middle of a raging forest fire. The flames whipped around us, and though the heat was bearable, my skin was slick with sweat. A dome barrier kept the fiery storm at bay, but it didn’t make it any less nerve-racking.

While I was a hot mess, Colantha was dressed for a garden party—a white summer dress, bright-pink platform sandals, and a face filled with anger. “Instruction manual? You are a neophyte.”

I should be terrified, but name-calling was somewhat below my standards. Until she became Simone-scary, it was hard to waste the energy on getting worked up.

“Yes. I am.” We had different expectations. I should have anticipated that, and I held up my hands in truce. “I have a debt I haven’t repaid and a friend in trouble. I admit I know nothing of being a dreamwalker or how it will impact my life, but I’m not ready to commit years of my life to studying it. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect it, but for now, I just need to learn how to control it. The necklace was a disaster, but I have to know more about it.”

She didn’t respond, but the fire disappeared, replaced with a mountain lake, and we stood in a field of spring flowers. Intense emotions had created my shared dreams with Devon. Was it possible Colantha’s emotions dictated these constructs as she called them? There’d only been one time where I’d had control over a dream, and I’d ended up in Devon’s bed. If I could only remember how I’d done that. Somehow, I needed Colantha to teach me that much before I left.

“There’s a matter of some urgency. Someone’s life is in danger.”

The scene changed again, and we were in an office or—I twisted around to take in the walls of books—perhaps a personal library. Colantha sat behind an immense desk. It almost dwarfed her, and she wasn’t that small of a woman. My head spun from jumping so quickly between constructs.

“What did you have in mind?”

Cressa meets the Beast

A noise made me spin around and reach for my dagger. No one was there. Another sound—the scraping of metal. He was coming. I stepped toward a spot of daylight and slowly turned, searching the shadows for movement.

On my second turn, he was there.

At the edge of the receding darkness, his large misshapen body lumbered toward me. It wasn’t until he got within twenty feet of me that I could see the torment in his icy-blue gaze. Fear. Anger. Pain. Regret. When each emotion flickered by, I envisioned Devon in his true form. Fear for my safety. Anger at my disobedience. Pain from his physical torture. And regret. It was the last one that almost did me in.

I didn’t know if it was regret for not seeking me out sooner, or regret for our future that would never be. The emotions washed over me, but my own sense of loss for something that might never be didn’t make me sad. It made me spitting mad. No one was going to take away our future. I wasn’t exactly sure what that future was, but what I knew, deep in my heart, was that this wasn’t the end for us. It wasn’t the end for Devon. Not like this.

Simone might never find the real killer. Devon might have to face the Council, but he’d do it in his true form—not the beast. That was the only thing I could guarantee.

I opened my arms wide and waited. His steps were tentative, as if I were a magnet drawing him in as he fought against the beast.

“Come to me. I’ve missed you.” The tears fell without warning, and maybe they were the exact push needed to force Devon the rest of the way. By the time he reached me, he was shaking his head no, but he couldn’t stop his momentum until he was directly in front of me.

His appearance hadn’t changed. The ridged forehead was still prominent, and his face contorted as if caught between two forms. His fingers still ended in long, sharp nails, and the tips of his fangs showed.

He was a man stranded in the desert, and I was his oasis. The thought made me smile.

“I’m here to give you what you need.”

When he took a step back, I reached up and caressed his face. “I’m not here for Devon. I’m here for his beast, and I’m not afraid.” I stepped toward him and threw my arms around his waist, laying my head against his chest, listening to the quick staccato of his heartbeat. His arms hung by his side, and he refused to touch me.

“Listen to me, beast. I’m here for you. Push Devon aside. He won’t help you. Only I can help.”

He struggled, trying to push me away, but I locked my hands behind him and held on. It was like harnessing a tornado, and we danced across the debris-littered floor.

My foot caught the edge of something hard, and I let out a squeal but refused to let go. Devon wasn’t expecting my legs to go out from under me, and it pulled him off balance. We crashed to the ground, and we rolled once before stopping with me on top. I took immediate advantage, pressing my lips to his, letting my weight go limp on top of him. I ran my tongue over the corners of his mouth, distorted, and somewhat ghastly. The taste was part Devon, part dead deer.

I closed my eyes and pushed back the bile. I refused to back down.

He responded.

Maybe it was Devon, maybe it was the beast. It was passionate and hungry. It had been five days since we’d been apart. It shouldn’t have been that big of a deal. We’d never had a chance to talk about what was between us. Was it just the sex or the companionship? Perhaps it was something deeper that neither of us were ready to share. It didn’t matter. The heat he exuded and the demanding kisses set my blood on fire.

I was so caught up in the moment, I almost forgot the reason behind this ploy. While my body said just go with it, my mind held on to the last thread of reasoning. I reluctantly pulled away from his kiss and moved my lips down his neck. Then I bent my head to the side, my neck exposed.

“Drink from me, my beast.”