Blood Lust: Vampire’s Choice 1
A Dark Vampire. A Desperate Gamble.
Centuries of isolation and self-denial have left Dorian Thorne a half-living shadow. He can’t survive without living blood. Yet all those who have given to him in the past three centuries have died from his kiss.
Cora Shaw seems different. Another human, yes, like all the others. But she awakens sensations in him that he had given up for lost. And he almost dares to hope that she might be the one he has been waiting for all this time.
Without his blood-kiss, she will be dead in a matter of months from her terminal disease. With it, she will die instantly…unless she bonds with him as his consort, making him whole again.
Bonding is something he can’t control, but it’s the only thing that will save them both now. Cora can’t refuse him. And if she’s doomed, Dorian can’t save her.
It’s the ultimate gamble, and the stakes are forever.
Brilliant! Deliciously dark, seriously sexy, completely captivating, thoroughly compelling and definitely entertaining! I was totally spell bound from beginning to end. Hands down, one of the best vampire romances I have ever read and I’ve read too many to even count! Congratulations Ms Black, you’ve outdone yourself again! I can hardly wait for Book Two.
This book is SO fantastic! Dorian Thorne is so very “swoon-worthy”, but this is so much more than your typical billionaire vampire romance. This author excels at transporting you through her imagination into a world that you never want to leave!
Another amazing story by V.M. Black that grabs you from the cover and has you turning the pages to see how the story develops. Blood Lust is a supremely well-written story with an excellent storyline and answers to many of the unknowns about Dorian Thorne and Cora Shaw from the Cora’s Choice and Cora’s Bond Series. If you are a fan of V.M. Black like I am, this book is for you. Highly recommend!
What is hope? What are its properties, its defining qualities? Happiness I remembered as a yellow sort of emotion, warmth through my cold veins, a lightness as if I had a balloon in my chest that might lift me off my feet.
But hope…hope was something that I had forgotten. Did it have a taste? A smell? Maybe it was the first warm spring wind after a long winter.
I guessed that. I didn’t know. It had been so long, so long since I had felt anything in my heart but the darkness and the hunger that threatened to consume everything…
…until she walked into the room. She was, to all appearances, very much like many of the humans I saw in similar circumstances: thin with sickness, weak. Dying.
And then I remembered.
Hope looked like her.
The screening process had been laid out years ago, its structure set up after intricate negotiations about details whose importance were long forgotten by me now. We had cultivated a network of doctors, mostly those who treated diseases that were progressive and struck the young while leaving the human mind, such as it was, intact. Cancers, primarily, and some dystrophies. Congenital heart defects were taken on a case-by-case basis, as a human might live for many years with a failing heart. But end-stage cystic fibrosis was clear-cut.
Consent was important. We had to hold on to what was important. And only those in possession of their full faculties could give consent.
The lab was mine now, despite the delicate diplomacy that had accompanied its creation. Only mine, now that Alys was gone. My allies, the other Adelphoi, might review it whenever they wished…but they hardly ever wished. And so when I pressed my thumb on the biometric lock and entered the main white room, the light so bright it almost hurt, I was the only agnate among the dozens of bustling lab-coated people who worked there. The only one among them whom their busy research was likely to affect.
But I didn’t think about any of these things. Not then. There wasn’t much of me that thought at all at that point. Instead, I moved through the grooves of habit, which approximated thought but had no substance behind it.
I returned the greetings of each of the human thralls, their names springing automatically to my lips without my having to flick my gaze down to their nametags. Names were important to humans. So despite the short span of each of their flickering lives, I memorized them effortlessly now to regurgitate as needed.
The lab benches and the vent hoods, the well plates and the pipettes. The details had changed over the years: the PCR machine was new, and the microscopy lab had gone through dozens of variations. The human faces had changed, too, not just as individuals but in gender and color. But the sense of the place was the same, the quiet busyness and the antiseptic smell.
Dr. Harriet Buchanan came out of her office as I finished my circuit of the main room. She had dancing blue eyes and blonde hair that curled about her heart-shaped face. She smiled at the sight of me, as she always did. She wasn’t human. Not anymore. She was a cognate, belonging to the dissolute agnate Jean and providing their sole means of legitimate support through her work for me.
“Good morning, Dorian. Is it Wednesday already?”
“It must be.” That was my voice, making the right sounds. On Wednesday, I reviewed the lab. I was here, so it must be Wednesday.
Hattie nodded, and her ringlets bobbed. “The current trials are very promising. Of course, we’ll need more cognatic samples soon, to run comparisons. Will and I can only do so much with only our own, and I’ve used up the others.”
I pulled my phone from my pocket. It was such a cold, foreign thing in my hand, even after several years of using it. I typed quickly, using Hattie’s words almost verbatim. It was easier that way. Even talking to her made my head feel strange, like it was stuffed and hollow at once. I sent the message.
“The council knows,” I told Hattie as I slid the phone back into my pocket. “The next collection will be made.”
Hattie started to speak, then stopped herself. I waited. People either spoke or they eventually left, and I had the time for either. I had nothing in the world but time.
“They send less,” she said quietly, speaking perhaps a moment later, perhaps an hour. It was all the same to me. “You should know that it’s been happening for the past five years or so. Every time the call goes out, they send a little less than the last time. I used to get three months’ use out of a single batch. Now it’s more like three weeks.”
“I understand,” I said. It was simple enough. There had been more; now there was less. The creaking emptiness inside my mind was untroubled by this fact. There were very few things that troubled it anymore.
“No, don’t think that you do,” Hattie said, dropping her voice even lower. “They’re losing faith, Dorian. They might not say anything, but they are. The Kyrioi scarcely made quorum at the last meeting.”
They were falling away, as I was falling away from myself….
She sighed. “Anyway, I thought I’d bring it up. I don’t see why I bothered, though. You hardly made the last meeting yourself.”
“I always go to council on the first week of every odd month,” I said reflexively.
“Yes, you do. And that’s the only reason that you do anymore. You’re a windup vampire now, aren’t you? I hope we find a cognate for you before you wind down.”
Sharp spikes of worry shot through her voice, enough to reach across the veils of nothingness and into the place where a spark remained. The spark woke, combed through the last handful of memories, and I was able to respond:
“I hope so, too, Hattie. For all of our sakes.”
Too long, too long without a cognate, she must come soon or else all will be lost….
Those thoughts echoed hers, belonging to me but no longer a part of me. I should care about that. I should be afraid….
But the spark was gone again, and I could not summon the effort to bring it back.
I left the lab then, as I did every Wednesday, and retired to my bedroom, where the small dining table had been set with dishes and my tablet.
It had become my custom to examine each day’s screening submissions for candidacy over black tea and whatever small breakfast trifle the chef had devised to attempt to stir my senses. As I ate—a crepe this time, with some kind of elaborate filling that didn’t quite register—I flipped open my laptop and tabbed through the profiles, scanning each page rapidly.
I felt it was my responsibility to know in some way the people our research might save…or might kill. And also, there was the other possibility. The one that I no longer allowed myself to think about. It was enough that the act of reviewing the files provided a glimmer of something—not hope but maybe some pale imitation of it. Interest. Engagement.
With it, I felt like I remembered what it was like to be alive. And if a woman’s profile woke enough of that sense in me, I would pluck her name from the long list of unfortunates and ask that she be brought to me personally if she called to seek the possibility of the treatment only we could offer.
It never amounted to more than that. Nine times out of ten, they failed the screening anyway, and that was that. And thus far in that remaining one out of ten times, at the moment of truth, I was disappointed—and she was dead.
That morning was like every other morning on a day like every other day. But it was the day that I saw her image, and my finger froze above the screen instead of swiping her away. She looked like any one of thousands of teenaged girls in her several-years-old driver’s license photo, brown hair, darker brown eyes, a slight goofy Department of Motor Vehicles smile on her slightly soft face.
And yet…there was something there, a spark in her eyes, maybe, a hint at the corner of her lips that said that she was different. Special. That there was something under her normality that was truly exceptional, whether or not she knew it.
Her name was Cora Shaw. Age now—twenty-one.
I scanned down the page, digesting the barest facts of her life, reduced to little more than numbers and diagnoses. The story it told was desperate. She had a form of leukemia that I recognized as almost invariably fatal. The one treatment, which was viewed as life-extending rather than life-saving, had failed. Her weight had dropped precipitously. Her last lymphocyte count indicated that she had weeks rather than months to live. And she had no next of kin.
I looked at the happy, unsuspecting face in the photo for a moment longer, and I checked the box to be notified if she called.
Then, as her face was replaced by another, I promptly forgot her…until she did.
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