Spoiler: Lexi almost forgot he was a literal predator There wasn’t much to do for a few nights. Lexi had meant to leave Liadan on the couch and return to his office, but as soon as he got too far she had let out a horrible half-sob. When he looked he found her still deeply unconscious, but her brows were creased, her whole body curled tight and unhappy. When he lifted her he found her both lighter and heavier than he’d expected. Lean muscle made her denser than her features would suggest, but he’d had very little reason to use his strength as a vampire and it was the ease at which he could carry her that surprised him. She didn’t wake, but curled against him and began to relax once more. She had been like that during the day, he barely remembered. If he were capable of dreaming that’s what he would have thought it had been, but there had been evidence, slight as it was. The other side of the bed so slightly rumpled, a small smear of red left from the edge of a wound that had reopened. He brought her to the office, where he set her on the couch, picked up a book, and tried to drown out every thought in his head under the torrent of words. Her heart, audible from across the room like a voice on the other side of a wall, was even but a little quick. There was a sour sharpness to the air, and the steady draw of her breathing sometimes stopped short before resuming. It had been easier, last night when he’d had a goal. She’d only been injured, and Lexi was well fed enough her blood had barely been a distraction. Now she was healed but stressed, and it pressed against every one of his senses. Lexi had been dead ten years now, but he’d never had to hunt; Caelia had sent him donors from the start, and they were always more than willing. He had yet to be so close to someone so distressed, so afraid, so vulnerable in his presence. Something in his head was stirring, something that had lived there all along but never had a reason to wake and so he had never needed to control. He stepped out of the room very briefly, both to get her a blanket- he knew the shakes weren’t from cold but he hoped it would help anyway- and to escape the weight of that stress-scent, her heart, the frail little sounds she kept making in her sleep. It had been a mistake. He hadn’t been gone more than a minute and she was still asleep when he returned, but she had pressed herself into the back of the couch like a wounded animal seeking shelter. Her heart pounded in his ears, her hands gripped her arms tightly through her jacket, the sounds had escalated nearly to cries, her shakes to fullbody tremors. Once more it began to ease as soon as he was close again, and the only reason his own hands weren’t shaking as he settled the blanket over her was because that was a physical impossibility. Unconscious, she took such naked comfort in his presence, and he forced himself away to the other side of the room. He returned to the book, needing to reread the same lines over and over again in his inability to focus. The fact that she was calmed by him when he could so easily hurt or kill her was sandpaper on his nerves. The fact that some unfamiliar part of him did want to was burning holes in his mind that filled in with painful awareness of each breath, each heartbeat, each uncomfortable shift of her body. This was going to be a problem.