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This tale is about Allison Dutch, a young girl who stumbles into the vampire world. She finds out many secrets, both about herself and the people around her. Thus begins the vampire apocalypse, which everyone expects her to lead. View her journey to adulthood and vampirehood in the first of a three-part series. Read the exciting beginning of whirlwhind romances, taking over the world, and learning to make peace with the devil inside.
The Changing of Allison Dutch I,Elissa Neal, am currently 20 years Allison Dutch, a young and rather old. When I began writing this book, Allison Dutch is sucked into a mind-altering life poor girl, is whisked into a dark I was on a vacation in Myrtle Beach with friends of the family. It took me two years to write this book. I currently have over 60 books now, most are unfinished. I found that I with the vain Frenchman, Jeffery Beale, and his hot-tempered Irish counterpart, Mark Ashton. She reminds the two men of someone they knew a long time ago, in another life. As she learns from them, she discovers that there's a lot more The Changing adventure by two mysterious men. There is Jeffery Beale, an extremely handsome, as well as vain, Frenchman. The other is a teenage boy named Mark Ashton, who's hot of Allison couldn’t resist including vampires in to herself than she thought possible. She learns temper and loose hands push Allie to the majority of my books, so this one to stand up to her friend Cris (who has stolen the edge. These three meet on a cruise is an ode to the many dif erent most of the guys Allison liked)and claims Jeff through the Caribbean, and the vampires and their powers. In my and Mark for herself. All of a sudden, everyone, romantic setting begins to work its spare time, when I’m not writing, I males and females alike, cannot get enough of toll on them as they fal helplessly in dance, read, and think up funny Allison. Can she deal with it or wil she need to love with each other. But there are alternate story lines for some of my favorite shows. I live in Cincinnati, Ohio and currently attend the University of Cincinnati for Brain and Mind Studies. I love the sky and take a break from the demanding life that she's stumbled into? Which suitor wil she choose, and what life wil she live? Her mind is stretched to its limit as she finds out the world as she knows it has just been twisted sideways. There Dutch dark secrets in each of their lives, and the more they spend time together, the deeper into seeming insanity they fal . Can they handle all of the life- changing information revealed, and I love to fly, as makes itself apparent when my characters are flying. There’s nothing like a good sunset or are creatures she never imagined out in the world, and they're waiting for her. It's never quite what you can they prove that there is such a thing as unconditional love? Join in on Allison's first adventure, as she sunrise. I hope you enjoy the read! think, is it? changes into a person with dif erent desires, dif erent thoughts,and a dif erent appetite. ISBN 978-0-557-05154-0 90000 ID: 232349 www.lulu.com Michon Neal 9 780557 051540 1 The Life of Allison Dutch is published by Lulu.com, with permission from the copyright owner. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form, for any reason or by any means, whether re-drawn, enlarged or otherwise altered including mechanical, photocopy, digital storage & retrieval or otherwise, without the prior permission in writing from both the copyright owner and the publisher. The text, layout and designs presented in this book, as well as the book in its entirety, are protected by the copyright laws of the United States (17 U.S.C. 101 et seq.) and similar laws in other countries. All Rights Reserved Copyright © 2009 by Michón Neal No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the publisher or author. nd 2 Printing ISBN 978-0-557-05154-0 Published by Lulu.com Lulu Enterprises, Inc. 860 Aviation Parkway, Suite 300 Morrisville, NC 27560 First published in 2007 by: Red Lead Press 701 Smithfield Street Third Floor Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222 U.S.A. 1-800-834-1803 www.redleadbooks.com with the ISBN: 978-0-8059-8467-5 Library of Congress Control Number: 2007922057 Printed in the United States of America 2 The Changing Of Allison Dutch By Michon’ Neal 3 Dedicated to Rocky Inlow, who helped me face the darkness of my own soul 4 Chapter One I woke up this morning, and I knew that something exciting lurked around the corner. At least I hoped so. Outside, it was raining. It usually rains out where I live. Especially in October. It is very rare that we go even three days without rain. Wait a minute! This isn’t my room I’m waking up in. And whose bed is this? I jump to my feet and look around. I run to the round window. Why is this house surrounded by water? Oh no, it’s flooding. I am going to die! Wait a minute, you idiot! Don’t you remember that you’re on a cruise? Duh! I’m with my friend’s family. I relaxed. Hey, this means no school! No duh, I told myself. What else could it mean? Laughing at myself, I dressed in black bell-bottoms and a sleeveless green shirt. “Ah, magnifique!” I declared as I looked in the huge, round mirror. I put on my brown hunting boots. A bit informal, but no one really cared. I put on a white headband to hold my hair down and strolled out. I bumped into a boy in the hallway as I was closing my door. “Oh, I’m sorry!” I apologized, turning around. “No, it was my fault,” he assured me. “I was in a hurry,” he explained. “Oh. Well, you should probably get going. I’m fine.” “Yes.” As he walked down the hall, he stopped. Turning around, he said, “Maybe we’ll meet again.” “Wait!” I ran to catch up with him. “Where are you headed?” “To the pool.” “Oh, I can’t swim too well.” 5 “Really?” he laughed. “Why are you swimming at night? That doesn’t make sense.” “I like the night. See ya.” He hopped onto an elevator and disappeared out of my life. I waved then turned around and headed to the dining area. I spotted my friend, Cristinn. I took my seat next to her. “Hey.” “You’re almost late,” she scolded lightly. “Sorry.” “What were you doing?” “Well, I took a nap. Then, as I was on my way here, this guy bumped into me.” “Was he cute?” “Way,” I grinned. “He had this awesome red hair! It was fire engine red, not like yours. He was about three inches taller than I am. He looked at least 17,” I paused. “What color were his eyes?” She was interested. “Were they big?” “No. His eyes were like mine but without the super long lashes. They were green but… they were weird. They kinda scared me.” “Why?” “They were glowing.” “You must need glasses.” “No, I’m serious!” “Sure you are.” “What if I could prove it?” “Allie, you can’t prove something like that. It’s not possible. Maybe what you saw was the light reflecting off his eyes. Like a cat’s.” “Well, I did just wake up. Besides, I didn’t really get that good of a look at him.” “See? There you go. A perfectly logical explanation for it.” “Yeah. I’m just…” I trailed off. “Al?” Cris looked at me. I tried to tell her to look toward the starboard door but only a small gasp came out. I could only stare past her and into the eyes of the stranger coming closer. He kneeled down in front of 6 me. His eyes were glowing. “Did you happen to see a key fall out of my pocket back in the hallway? It’s for my room.” I shook my head, dumbfounded. Do you see this? I wondered at Cris. He sighed, seemingly annoyed. “Well, if you find it, I’ll be at the pool. Oh, but when morning comes, I’ll be on the lowest deck, starboard side.” Finally, I found my voice. “Ok. What’s the key look like?” “It’s silver. It’s attached to a tooth. But smaller. Thanks a lot.” “Sure.” “Aren’t you going to introduce us?” Cris asked me. “Oh, I’m sorry. Uh, this is my best friend Cris,” I said. “Hello,” he nodded at her and smiled. “Hi,” she put on her flirting smile. “I’m Allison but everyone calls me Al or Allie,” I continued. “And I’m Mark Ashton,” his smile widened. I caught a flash of some odd-looking teeth before he kissed my hand. I was really beginning to wonder if we should be talking to him. There was something strange about him. His teeth weren’t necessarily ugly, just unnaturally sharp. I could sense myself blushing. “Oh.” Cris looked jealous. “Who are you here with?” she asked. “I came by myself,” he responded, standing. “Must be rich,” I mumbled. “Yes, I am.” I looked up at him. How could he have heard me? I’d barely heard myself! “Wha- ” He winked at me. “Well, I’ll see you girls later,” he began to leave. “Wait, do you mind if I join you at the pool?” Cris asked. “I don’t mind.” “Do you mind, Al?” She gave me her you-better-let-me-do- this look. “Go ahead. Have fun. Don’t let me stop you from swimming,” I waved her away. If I had any luck, maybe he was some psycho and would kill her. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” she promised. Yeah, right. 7 “Shall we, mademoiselle?” Mark held out his arm to escort her. She eagerly took hold. Although I smiled, I felt cheated. This wasn’t the first time Cris had stolen a guy that I liked. Nor was it the tenth. He may be weird, but he was hot as hell! Yet, I was always either too shy or had some other disability (in this instance swimming) that prevented me from making a move. Cris was flawlessly flirtatious. As they walked off, I let all of my hopes vanish. Again. I wished Cris’ parents a good night and went back to my room. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something. I looked to my right and there was some tall, dark, and handsome dude at my door. I approached with caution. “Can I help you?” I wanted to know. He faced me and I could see his baby blue eyes, his defined features, and his skin that was pale beyond all reason. Maybe Albino, I thought. “Are you Allison Dutch?” “Why, is there a problem?” I thought about the treats I kept lifting from the little store. “Oh, no! Of course not. I’m Jeffery Beale, your partner.” He shook my hand. “Partner?” In crime? He held up a flier. “For the dance they’re holding. You signed up for them to assign you a partner… Well, here I am!” “Wow. Cool. You want to go somewhere so we can get to know each other?” “Sure.” “Ok. Where to?” “How about the arcade?” “You know what? I like you already.” He laughed as a Frenchman might. His beautiful blond hair shone in the light. “You’re a cool fille, eh?” “Oui, monsieur.” “Ah, tu parles francais?” “Un peu.” “Oh. Well I definitely like you.” “This is so cool! So, I ‘m 15 and a half. I’m a Gemini, born June 5 t h . I was born in Connecticut. I have two siblings. I’m sort of poor but my friend’s family brought me on this trip. But you 8 know what? I want to hear about you. So, you talk. Besides, I like your voice.” “I was born in France. I have three siblings that lived, three died. My family was rather wealthy. I was an actor for a little while, then I began to travel.” “Wow! You should take me with you!” I joked. “Maybe I will.” Even though he smiled again, it seemed he was serious. Suddenly, he reached out and grabbed my hand. I became shy again. I found the bland off-white walls and doors the most fascinating artwork I’d ever seen in that moment. “I wish,” I whispered. “Are you alright? Am I being too forward? Shall I let go of your hand? I’d very much like to keep hold of it, though.” “A gentleman. Aren’t many of those left nowadays. Where’d you come from?” “The 17 t h century.” Again, there was that odd seriousness. “No, but you can hold my hand anytime you like. It’s kind of nice.” “Kind of?” I looked at him. “Kind of.” I smiled. “Well to continue in that manner… You’re kind of nice.” “So are you.” Ha! I thought at Cris. If she could see the hunk I was with now! We’d reached the stairs and the elevator now. We had been walking rather slowly, as we had plenty of time. “Do you like exercise or are you lazy? Although you appear to be athletic, right now you just want to get there quickly. Am I right?” “What are you, psychic?” “Maybe.” “So how old are you?” “20,” he answered as we got on the elevator. I stopped smiling. Once more, for the second time in that very hour, my hopes deflated and vanished. “Oh,” I said bitterly. My hand went limp. The doors closed. Jeff looked at me. “Allie, did I offend you?” he asked gently. “A little.” “I’m sorry. What was it I said?” “It’s stupid really. Forget it.” 9 “I hope this doesn’t scare you but I think the reason you’re angry is because you think I’m too old. I most likely have a fiancée back in France, I wouldn’t be interested in a ‘little girl’, or all I’d want is sex. In addition, one of your friends would have a better chance with me. Did I hit the bulls’ eye?” “Shit yeah.” I stared at him in amazement. He smiled. “None of that is true, you know. If you think about it, I’m sure we act a lot closer in age than we are. Besides, if boys mature three years slower than girls do, then that means either I act 17 or you act 18 or both. However, age is just a number, right? That shouldn’t create a boundary.” “My thinking exactly,” I said quietly. I gazed up at him and realized his eyes were purple now. He gazed back at me steadily. Usually, I don’t openly stare at people, but to me, he wasn’t a normal person. His skin was like marble, white marble. And his eyes, they captured the light and threw it back out, like crystal prisms. Mesmerizing and irresistible both he was. The more I stared at him, the harder it was to look away. Until the doors of the elevator dinged and opened. I blinked and felt embarrassed suddenly. “Oh, I must seem so rude. I’m sorry. Excuse me.” “No, no. It’s all right. It happens a lot,” Jeff assured me as we stepped into the hallway. “People have to do a double-take of me when they realize how beautiful and sexy I am.” I laughed and refrained from saying a teasing remark. I stopped immediately because he touched my back. I felt nervous as he led me toward the arcade. All the game junkies were in there, all boys of course. Most were gathered near the Tekken station or the other Japanese fighting games. I loved Tekken. I couldn’t wait to tell my friend Beverly of how the male- dominated game room was shocked to find me in there every day. And I rocked! Beverly is the only person I know that’s as big a game junkie as I am. We sat on two stools near the soft drink station. It has always puzzled me that high acid pop can be considered a soft drink. Anyway, he immediately started up a conversation about the different games. This escalated to movies and songs. Then we talked about acting and singing. That was excellent. “I’ve been in one movie and three plays. The movie wasn’t that big and I didn’t have a really big part but hey, acting’s acting!” I shrugged. 10 “Ah, I love acting. I stayed for a very long while with one company. I was always the lead because I’m so beautiful.” “Obviously,” I said dryly. “But I can act. And I can sing. Wish to hear?” He seemed excited. “Sure.” “What would you like me to sing for you?” “Sing me the Champs Elysées song.” “Ah, you are very familiar with the French customs, oui?” “Somewhat.” “Alright. ‘Au Champs-Élysées. Au Champs-Élysées. Jour et nuis, sous la plaît à midi et a minuit, il y a tout c’est que vous vous-le, au Champs Elysees.” His voice was like magic. I could only stare and listen in wonder. “That was beautiful. Sing me another one. Please.” He sang a song that was at least four hundred years old. How he knew it, I could only guess. It might have been passed down generation to generation. “Are you tired yet?” he asked, grinning. “No way! I could spend these whole two weeks listening to you.” He laughed amiably. “Well, maybe we’ll try to do that but I’m sure we both have other businesses to tend to sadly. But if you ever desire to find me, think of me and I’ll come. I’ll find you, no matter where in the world you are. There’s only one catch.” “What?” “I can only come to you at night, evening, or early morning.” “Why?” “It’s complicated. But I will tell you sometime. I promise.” “Oh, is it a surprise?” “Yes. And you like surprises.” “Yes, I do.” “Thought so.” I yawned suddenly. This guy seemed to be able to last however long he needed to, and then some. But I figured since he’d only come to me at night, he’d be used to staying up late. I also figured that he slept in the daytime. “Geez, what time is it?” “It’s about 4:52,” he answered. 11 “Oh, crap! I should’ve been in bed hours ago. I’m sorry for keeping you out this late!” I got to my feet. “No, it was all my fault. I should have realized that I was keeping you. I’m so used to being out so late, it’s become a habit. I’ll escort you to your room if you wish,” he offered. “Oh, that’s so kind of you. You’re so old-fashioned. There aren’t many of you left.” “Yes, that’s true. You’ve mentioned it before.” “Oh, yeah. Duh! I feel stupid. Well, you don’t seem to mind.” “No. I… rather do have a liking for you. Come on then. We must get you to your room. The sooner you get there, the sooner you’ll see me again.” He grabbed my hand again and led me out. I noticed even the game junkies had all left. “Then let’s hustle!” I said, rushing ahead of him. He let out his lovable laugh. “Eager, eh?” “Very.” I smiled back at him. “Wait, wait a second,” he said. “I'm sorry but I can’t keep from doing this any longer.” He stopped me as we entered my hallway via the stairs. He gently backed me against the wall. He leaned down and kissed my cheek. Then he appeared to be struggling with some other, more dangerous desire of his and very slowly pulled away. “What was that?” My heart seemed like a rocket about to take off. “It felt wrong to me that I hadn’t kissed you. After all, it’s how we French formally introduce ourselves.” He was across the hall now. “Oh.” I said hesitantly. I continued to my room, which was just ten feet away from where I stood. I opened my door, then stopped. “Uh, Jeff?” “Yes?” He didn’t look at me. “It’s been interesting tonight. I enjoyed it. Maybe sometime another night we’ll get together. Remember, just think of me and I’ll come.” “Yeah. Um, I don’t know if I should say good night or good morning.” He gave a short laugh. “Have a good rest, Allison.” He ceased being preoccupied for a moment to look at me. 12 “You, too. Bye.” I closed my door. Cris still wasn’t back yet. I felt a twinge of jealousy, then of guilt. I hadn’t made any move, after all. I didn’t bother changing into pajamas and just slept in my clothes. In the bright morning at 8:25, I woke up to get ready for breakfast. Cris was already up and awake. She was pulling on her high-heeled hooker boots as I got out of bed. “So, you are prob’ly just dying to know what happe’d with Mark and I,” she started, beaming. “Prob’ly? Happe’d?” I repeated. “You’ve never said those words before. English?” “That’s how he talks. Probably and happened.” “I figured as much.” “Oh, and he’s joining us for breakfast.” “Oh goody. Well, tell me what happened.” “Ok. Well, I put on my bathing suit and we went out there to the pool. Gosh, he is such a flirt! And he’s very courteous. And he is soooo cute! We talked almost ‘til seven.” “Wow,” I congratulated blandly. “What all did you talk about?” “Stuff. You know.” That meant they’d talked about her. Surprise. Surprise. “That’s cool. Well, ya ready to go?” “Sure. But do you want to know everything we did?” Her eyes were flashing. “What?” I was at the door. “He kept sucking on my neck.” “I feel so happy for you. Did he officially ask you out?” She faltered. “Well, no. But I’m pretty sure he will. I mean, he kissed my neck so it should be… uh…” “Inevitable?” I helped. “Yeah, I guess. It’ll prob’ly be today at b-fast.” “That his word, too?” I wanted to kill her. “Actually, he picked it up from his old friend, Azel.” “Oh. Can we go now?” Before I murder you, I finished silently. “You first. I have to put on all my makeup. Go on without me and if he’s there, put in a good word for me.” “Ok.” I opened the door, stepped out, and closed it. I leaned on it and closed my eyes. I can’t believe she already did this. Why do I put up with her? All thoughts left me except one 13 suddenly. I was thinking about how I went to bed. I’d lain down when I felt something piercing into my leg. I found a silver key in my pocket. Attached to it was a very sharp tooth, just a little big to belong to a human, but smaller than a shark’s. I flew down the stairs to the lower deck, starboard side. I stopped to catch my breath and checked my pocket to make sure I had the key in there. I began to run again when I bumped into someone. “Nice to bump into you again, Allie.” “Hey, Mark.” “Come to pick me up for b-fast?” “No, actually. I found your key.” I held it out to him as if he would bite me. “Oh! Thank you. Where’d you find it?” As he took it, his hand closed around my fingers. “It’s weird but… it was in my pocket.” One of his eyebrows rose. “That is weird.” He let go of my hand. “So, you and Cris like each other?” “Cris likes me.” “You don’t like her?” “Please! She’s not my type. And the worst thing is, she blew you off for me. Plus she totally stole me away from you. I don’t get why you let her control you like that.” “I’m too shy.” “You have no need to be shy. At least not with me. ‘cuz I’m gonna be straight with you. Really, I wanted you to come wit’ me. But I ain’t wanna break Cris’ heart so soon.” “What about me?” “You’re my type. And for some reason, I know that you can handle it. You can handle me.” “Then why’d you flirt with her? Why’d you kiss her so many times? You led her on.” “No, I didn’t. I treat every girl the same.” “You suck on their necks?” So he was a freak! “Sometimes, yes. I find them very beautiful.” He reached up and rubbed my neck. “You’re too fast, Mark.” “If only you knew how much.” “Get away from me. You’re trouble and I don’t need that in my life.” I began to walk away. 14 He was in front of me. I gasped. “Allie, don’t be angry at me. Come on. This is our chance to get to really know each other. I know I definitely want to get to know you.” “How many girls have you told that lie to?” I snapped. “One including you. And it’s not a lie. There’s something that separates you from other girls.” “Could it be because I don’t act like one?” “Prob’ly. ‘cuz you walk, talk, and sit like a boy.” “Talk like one? How the heck do you do that?” “You don’t talk about the stuff girls do. You know, stuff that ain’t important.” “Oh, so everything a girl says isn’t important?” “Not anymore. And most of the things said by anyone today aren’t important. But stop twisting around my words.” “I’m not. I’m just trying to keep things straight.” “Ok. Now can we go to b-fast? Please!” he begged, getting on his knees. I looked down at him. “Why do your eyes glow?” “The better to see you.” “No, seriously.” “You wouldn’t understand.” “Why not?” “Well, it’s not very common. Let’s just go to b-fast.” “Why are you putting up with me?” “I should be asking you that. But maybe I like you.” “Please! I hardly qualify.” That hadn’t been what I wanted to hear. “Let me be the judge of that.” He stood up and held out his arm to escort me. “Fine, we’ll go to breakfast now.” “Cool.” “Um… where’d you sleep last night? I don’t want to be nosy or anything.” “No, no. I don’t mind. I just stayed at the pool then came down here at 5:00.” “Oh. Are you from another country? You seem a bit… foreign.” “I’m Irish. 100%. Although, je parle francais beaucoup.” “Oh, cool! I know some French.” 15 “Oh. Well, I definitely like you.” He sounded eerily like Jeffery. “Déjà vu!” I murmured. “About what?” “How can you hear so well?” “I have good ears. Like a dog’s.” “Tough in Hide and Seek, eh?” He smirked. “Prob’ly.” “Wow, you look like the world’s idol. You should be with one of those models or a princess or something.” “Done it. Bored with it. I want you.” I gulped. “We’ve only known each other for, like, 16 hours. You couldn’t possibly know in that little time… I mean, it’s so…” I looked at his eyes. “Sudden?” he finished for me. “Yeah,” I breathed. “Time is irrelevant to me. If you feel anything is wrong, just tell me. I already know I want you. If you don’t want me, there’s nothing I can do about it. I won’t force you. Just take your time. It’s all right. No pressure.” We had reached the dining area now. I led him to our table. He sat in Cris’ chair. “I’m confused about you,” I admitted. “You’ll understand one day.” “Sure.” Cris waltzed up and sat in Maury’s chair. He was sick anyway so wouldn’t be coming. She grabbed Mark’s arm. “Hey, Mark,” she purred. “Hi, Cris. Did you sleep well?” he asked courteously. “Yeah. And I had a dream about you. Did you dream of me?” she persisted. “Well…” he scratched his ear. “Oh, come on, it’s not that hard.” “No. I had a dream about my old home, actually.” “Oh.” She seemed disappointed. “Well, I dreamed that you asked me out.” “Oh. That’s interesting. By the way, I loved that bathing suit you wore last night. You looked appealing.” “Thank you,” she beamed. “Want to swim again tonight?” “Sure. If it’s ok with Allie.” 16 “She won’t care. She can hang out with the rest of the freaks in the arcade.” “I love the arcade!” “Well, sorry.” She frowned. “But I like the pool better. I get to see all the sexy girls.” I tried not to roll my eyes or barf. Instead, I ate my breakfast. Then I went to the upper deck and looked out at the ocean. Cris and Mark came up and kept flirting. I ignored them. About four lifeless hours later Mark wanted me to go to the arcade with him. I snapped at him to take Cris and ran to my room like some idiotic schoolgirl. I played one of my favorite rock CDs. Cris came back around dinnertime. With Mark. I rolled away and faced the wall. Someone pounced on me. I let out a cry and took off my headphones. Mark and Cris were laughing. “Get off of me!” I tried pushing him off. He just proceeded to tickle me. I couldn’t help but laugh. Cris appeared jealous. I guess he’d never tickled her. His fingers were soft and I realized he’d lifted my shirt. I wriggled and twisted. “Stop!” I begged. “Sure.” Instead, he blew raspberry into my belly button. I knew I was blushing like crazy but I couldn’t help but to laugh again. “Oh, come on, you two!” Cris interrupted angrily. “Mark, I can’t believe you did that!” I mused after he got off of me. “Well, I did,” he answered breathlessly. “You jerk!” I shoved him and we all laughed. “Alright, dinner!” “Should we change?” Cris wanted to know, batting her eyes at Mark. “You both are… well, you’re beautiful, Cris, but Allie’s a disaster!” I scowled at him as Cris beamed. “Well, thank you, Mark.” “Why don’t you go on ahead, Crissy? We’ll meet you at the dinner table,” Mark suggested. “Alright.” To spite me, she gave him a perfumed, lipsticked kiss on the cheek. He reddened slightly with pleasure. Some French phrase left his lips and Cris grinned, then left. “That girl is persistent!” “Gee, ya think?” I retorted. 17 “But so am I, see?” He locked my door then appeared to float over to me as if levitating but a few centimeters above the floor. Warm hands held mine and he gazed at me, almost transfixed. “And I want you.” “Then why’d you go off with Cris? I don’t understand you at all.” “Ah ha! There it is. I’ve caught you in a lie. The reason you don’t understand me is ‘cause you self-consciously do. You won’t let yourself see on the surface.” I could only stare at him, knowing that as ridiculously idiotic as it was, it was utterly, fully true. I did know exactly what he meant to do and hated him for it. “You are insane to think I’d like such an asinine person as yourself!” My hands pushed him away. “Don’t insult me! I don’t get why you don’t just give in.” “I'm not one of those airhead girls you like to make fun of! I won’t fall all over you just because you’re cute. That is not what I’m looking for in a guy. It’s not my top priority. Because they all act the same: they’re hot and they know it. But I’m not going to have this conversation with you.” I turned away, meaning to dismiss him, and rested at the window. “You think I’m cute?” he asked and I could sense a smile in his words. “That’s a good thing, right?” “Get a clue!” I faced him. “I’d be stupid or blind not to know you’re cute. But… you can be cute without me liking you.” “Oh.” Disappointment became his features. “Well, I’m sorry but you’ve got the wrong impression of me. The reason so many girls like me isn’t because of my looks. It’s because I treat them like women, not dogs. I respect them.” “Then respect my wishes and leave me alone.” “Now that is a lie,” he accused me. “Maybe it is but you don’t know for sure.” “That’s the thing. You never know for sure.” “So?” “Take a chance for once in your life. ‘cuz one day, everything’s bound to change. Try to find yourself before that happens.” He left and nearly slammed my door. Sulkily but thoughtfully, I walked out. In the very corner of my vision, I saw a large black object. My eyes wandered over and took in the shiny golden hair, the prismatic blue eyes, the 18 white marble-like skin, the expensive, tailored black suit, the smile on the seemingly inanimate face, and the long, white marble, outstretched cold hand. “Jeff!” I exclaimed. Immediately, I felt ashamed that I hadn’t dressed appropriately. “Ah, your beauty exists not just of your face or features, but of your whole countenance. It’s the way your clothes shift around your figure: in how your jeans experiment with the shape of your legs and thighs, in how your loose shirt moves around your breasts,” this comment made me blush a little (that meant he’d noticed them), “in how you use the clothes to your advantage. You’ve made these your own. That is the beauty of you.” “What book did you steal that from?” “I didn’t get it anywhere but from my head and yours.” He felt my face with his hand. I nearly slid down the wall. He stepped in front of me and closed my door. “Don’t want anyone getting in, eh?” “Why are you here again?” His gaze was caring, as was his tone. In a soothing, low voice he spoke, “You have been calling me all day. Nearly nonstop. Did you think it would not work? Well, here I am at your dispense.” Spontaneously, my arms came to life at my sides and embraced this cold, hard figure before me. His body did not melt with mine, yet it molded. My body let go and relaxed. For some odd reason, I began to cry on him. His hands supported me and he sang that eerie but beautiful old song, lullaby, whatever it was. “I don’t know why I’m crying. I look like such a baby.” “No, no. You are under a lot of stress. Is someone bothering you?” “There’s this guy that won’t leave me alone. No matter where I go, he pops up.” “Do you know who he is?” “His name is Mark.” “Mark Ashton?” “Do you know him?” He stepped away. “Do I? How could I not?” “Is he maybe your brother or something?” 19 “Oh, heavens no! We are mutual acquaintances. Frankly, we can’t stand each other.” This was said with a lot of vehemence. “Oh.” “I won’t let that bias my decisions about your situation. Please continue.” “The thing is that I like him but hate him for exactly the same reasons.” “Oh,” he said understandingly. “But… I guess you already know I like you. I have since I first met y’all. But this is all happening way too fast. I don’t want to jump into anything.” “I understand perfectly.” “I shouldn’t dump all my prob’s on you like that. It’s just that Cris makes me so angry. Oh, look at me; I’m having a one- sided con with you.” “You sound freakishly like the lad.” “No, I don’t. I’ve talked like that for years.” “Let’s go up to the main deck. I want to see the moon.” He changed gears. “Sure!” I allowed him to lead me. Once we’d reached outside, I carefully went to one of the railings. He stood next to me. Then he became so still, as a statue might. I found myself staring at him once more. His eyes were even more translucent in the moonlight. I wasn’t frightened by him, but mystified. I’d never tire of watching him. “Look up at the sky instead of me. Isn’t it beautiful?” Reluctantly, I did as he said. It was fully worth it. The starts were so much brighter out here than at home. There was a full moon that shone so beautifully. “You know that the full moon can have strong and strange effects on people?” “Yes. Does it affect you?” “A little bit too much.” He emitted a short laugh. “Ah, to spend all heaven’s time with you.” “Dude, you’re getting Shakespeare on me.” “Am I?” he raised an eyebrow. “No, Shakespeare always rhymes. Besides, most people nowadays neglect the art of writing. Everything’s gone visual.” “Ah, one so smart for what they say is so young.” 20 “Rarely I act my age. You should know that. Besides, I don’t have much hope for these teens today, especially the girls!” A pleasant, amused smile played with his lips. “I agree. But they have so much freedom nowadays.” “Are you kidding? Oh yeah, I looove wasting half my life trapped in a dingy cell they call a classroom, then waste the other half slaving away because I have to pay for my food. I’m sorry.” “You’re awfully… cynical.” “I know. Bad habit. I don’t mean to put the world down but I can’t seem to help it.” “It’s alright. It’s interesting actually. I tend to be an optimist while you seem to be an odd pessimist. You remind me of a friend I once had.” His beautiful eyes dimmed. “He committed suicide.” “Oh, I’m sorry. What did he do?” “He threw himself into a fire. He was incinerated.” “How horrible.” “It’s alright. It was a long time ago.” “Oh.” We stayed quiet. 21 Chapter Two Until Cris and Mark came waltzing toward us, Cris holding onto Mark almost desperately as his face became red with anger and envy. “What is this? You sneak behind my back?” he shouted when they came within five feet of us. I wasn’t sure to whom it was directed. At first. Then Jeff stepped forward. “It’s not going behind your back! I have every right to introduce myself to her,” he spoke contemptuously. “Then why didn’t you tell me you met her?” “You hadn’t told me you’d met someone so sensational.” “I have to discuss something with you,” Cris took my hand and we moved away a few paces. While the boys argued, Cris grilled me. “Who is the major hunk and why haven’t you told me about him?” “His name is Jeffery Beale. Apparently you were so wound up with Mark, I couldn’t tell you, let alone get a word in,” I replied. “Who is he and how do you know him? And he looks too old for you. He looks like he’s in college. Don’t you know what older guys want?” She was staring at him as if he were her afternoon snack. She looked willing to give this “college boy” exactly what she was warning me of. 22 “I met him the same night I met Mark. He’s 20 but I don’t know if he’s in college. He doesn’t have a girlfriend or a fiancée and he’s a real gentleman.” “Well, still. I’m older so I should watch over you.” “Puh-leeze!” I rolled my eyes. “All you want to do is romance him, then when a better-looking guy comes along, you’ll drop him!” I snapped. Jeff and Mark were oddly debating over territories. “You should stay on your side,” Jeff scolded Mark. “Ha, I don’t have to take orders from a pampered asshole like you!” Mark retorted. “I am not pampered. I just choose to dress as a man.” “With the implication that I am but a boy! Oh you mother-” “Why are you snapping at me? What have I done to make you hate me suddenly?” Cris wondered, dense as ever. “You boss me around and take advantage of me. I’m sorry but I won’t let that continue. And you want to know something? I like Jeff and Mark and they like me back.” It was childish. It was effective. The boys shut up as Cris’ eyes widened. “I hate you, Allie. You’re nothing but a whore!” She slapped me. The expressions and manner of Jeff and Mark became outrage. How dare she! My own jaw tightened, as did my fists. The nerve of this twit. “That’s too far.” All the frustration I’d felt toward her was released suddenly in a punch to her torso. She doubled over and I slapped her, then pushed her over. She curled up on the ground. “I hope you’re happy because after this trip, we’re officially not friends. Unless you straighten up.” Mark said the “d” word. Jeff looked inanimate again, face displaying no emotion at all now. Cris cried. “No guards yet but we can’t leave her like that,” Mark noted. “Come on, Cris. Let’s go to our room.” I lifted her and we hobbled inside, followed by Mark and Jeff. We put Cris in our room, then Mark, Jeff, and I went down to the lower deck. We went into Jeff’s suite. It was huge and beautiful. Everything was luxurious, fancy, and French. There was a room with a locked door, a vast closet, and a fairy tale bathroom. “Make yourselves comfortable,” Jeff welcomed, going into a kitchenette. I sat on a sofa and Mark chose to stand. I guessed that the locked door led to Jeff’s bedroom. Everything was orderly and neat. “Why don’t you sit down, Mark?” I asked. 23 Stiffly, he sat next to me. “Ok, I deserve the cold shoulder. I’m sorry I lied to you.” I reached for his hand. He neither encouraged nor discouraged me from holding it. Jeff came out and handed me a glass of some weird strawberry juice. “I’d like to apologize for losing my temper earlier,” Jeff announced. “Apology accepted,” both Mark and I replied. “We both should have told you that we knew each other. Our quarrel was foolish.” “Jeff, it’s alright. You don’t need to apologize so much. I should’ve said something as well,” I said. “The point is that we all had the chance to avoid this confrontation but no one did. But it’s over. So forget it,” Mark summed. “Yeah,” I agreed. “Dude, don’t you have a radio in here?” Mark wondered at Jeff. “For the 875 t h time since we arrived on this boat, no I don’t have a radio!” Jeff sighed. “Well, I’m not going to have her in my room so I’ll bring mine in here. If ya don’t mind, that is?” He looked to Jeff. “Permission granted.” Mark seemed to almost disappear for a moment, then he and Jeff exchanged a wary look. Somewhat cautiously, Mark walked out. Before I could ask what their look was all about, Mark returned with the radio as if it had been right outside of Jeff’s door. He sat it on a beautifully painted glass table and bent down in search of a plug. I felt puzzled. A song with and insanely fast tempo flew into my ears. Mark’s legs seemed to lead his body in movement. I watched him, impressed. I felt Jeff’s cold, hard stare but didn’t grant him my acknowledgment. I’d never seen anyone so led by the music before. Mark was pure in that moment. Not pure as in purely evil or pure goodness. Just simply pure. He didn’t hold anything back; everything poured out of him. I saw all of his passion for me as he danced over. “Come, let us dance. All fault’s forgiven.” His hand extended toward me as he spoke. “Oh, I don’t know…” I shyly looked down at the difficult design on the red and gold carpet. 24 “Oh come on! I know you can dance. And I can see it in your eyes that you want to dance.” He shook his hips at me. I allowed a short laugh to escape. “If Jeffery doesn’t mind?” I gazed at the statue across the room, posing as a man. “Oh, I’d love to watch. Its not often I can sit and enjoy such entertainment.” He suddenly came to life with an attitude of an eager child, without so much as smiling. Mark lifted me by my hand and we moved into the more open space. Almost like magic, the song changed and my body began to move. Mark’s excitement grew. I twirled around and moved my feet swiftly after kicking off my shoes. Mark moved up behind me and matched my footwork. Then he did it twice as fast. I stopped and whirled around, doing a jerky robot. It wasn’t the typical one, either. Then I moved my shoulders like only I could. Everything else was forgotten. I knew nothing in that moment, not even my name or age. Next, my hips switched in my own style of the twist. Mark had stopped the footwork and now his torso took it away. Our bodies were unconsciously moving closer. Our eyes locked and our dancing switched from Latin to R & B as a song came on. Mark held my waist and we rocked our hips back and forth together. I backed up, put my thumbs in my pockets, and shook my hips. Mark did a bounce and moved his shoulders to imitate me from earlier. Then my arms went up and my head moved by itself. My whole body gets into it. I put out some cold pop-like stuff. Mark’s eyes lock on me again as one song ends and a reggae one plays. I began to move closer. He waited eagerly for me. I turned and leaned on him. He held me and we matched our motions. I laughed in delight. He took my hands and spun me around as another song replaced the reggae. I’m certain my mother wouldn’t have approved of how I shook my body parts then. At first, I just shook my butt. Mark definitely liked that and twerked on me. I twerked back, then broke away and rolled one of my hips. Mark seemed increasingly touchy-feely. His passion transferred to me. I made dancing my own. Near the end of the song, we moved together again. As the end came, he dipped me, breathless. I stayed there for a moment, taking in the room upside down, then came up quickly when I felt something I 25 shouldn’t have. I stood with my hands on his chest for a little bit, then stepped back. His eyes were brighter than ever. I felt very wary of him suddenly. And I still couldn’t forget that little prodding poke against my upper leg. I didn’t even want to begin thinking of what it looked like. I relaxed when Jeff came to my rescue. “Mark, this is one of those times to practice self-control,” he encouraged. “Uh, right.” Mark nodded and snapped out of some spell. “Sorry if I scared you, Allie.” He smiled at me kindly. “It’s alright ‘cuz I still trust you.” I returned the smile. “I’m tired.” I sat on the couch and gulped down the strawberry drink. “I must say I was rather moved by your display,” Jeff addressed me. “It’s how I usually dance. No big thing.” “It’s very different from what I often see. Your full beauty is expressed.” He came to me and got onto his knees. His smooth hand stroked my face and I shivered. “Are you cold?” he wondered in a soft voice. That didn’t help. My eyes closed as I tried to remember not to be seduced. It was pointless. My body was shaking, as if from fear or adrenaline. “No,” I barely said. “Are you alright, child? You seem… disoriented.” Jeff’s voice was hypnotic. “We should get her to her room. Before she falls asleep. You know how dangerous that would be.” Mark’s words floated from somewhere and brought me back. “Oh, yes. I’m sorry to be here so long.” I rose to my feet. So did Jeff. “I might see you tomorrow night. So we can discuss the dance on Friday.” “You’re both awfully nocturnal, eh?” I blurted. Mark blushed slightly while Jeff looked amused. “I almost never sleep,” Mark replied. “What’s your secret?” I half-joked. “C’mon now, lassie!” Mark took my hand. “I’m not that retarded dog!” “Don’t look like it, that’s for sure!” I got the feeling that he checked me out when I wasn’t looking. 26 Jeff gave his amiable laugh, but I heard a bit of devilry in it. “Oh, Mark, boy.” “Hope to see you tomorrow, Jeff,” I waved at him. He caught my hand and kissed it. “Au revoir, ma chérie.” Again, I shivered involuntarily. “Likewise.” As I looked back, I saw Mark’s eyes on my butt. “Mark!” I exclaimed. Blushing, he averted his eyes as we went into the hallway. “Could you blame me?” he asked as the door closed behind us. I rolled my eyes. “Not sure yet.” “So I gots a few q’s for ya,” he said as we reached the elevator. “Ok,” I agreed. “What was up with all that shiverin’?” I blushed. “Well, he, uh, seems to give me this dreamy feeling. I feel like staring at him for the rest of my life. Everything else ceases to exist. And I know it’s dangerous because I’d let him do anything.” “Yeah. Happens to me, too.” “Are you?” “No, but he is.” “Really? But I still can’t help liking him.” “I know. He has that disarming effect on everyone. Shoot, when I first met him, I stared at his eyes for, like, six hours. He’s got some serious attractions!” “I bet no one leaves him alone.” “That’s why he most of the time covers up as much as possible. So, who do you like more?” “I like both of you the same.” I shrugged. “I’ll stop pretending with you.” The elevator doors opened and three guys stepped off. They all glanced at me. Hurriedly, protectively, Mark shepherded me onto the elevator as one of them yelled, “Hey, baby! Leave that asshole and come with me!” “Try again!” I replied and pushed the button to close the doors. Mark’s hand went from mine to over my shoulders. His body rubbed against mine. “Ok. I’m never letting you out of my sight.” “Overprotective, are we?” 27 “I have to be with you. It’s not to ruin you, it’s to help them avoid a crucial beating.” With his other hand, he rubbed my cheek. I reddened again. “Alright, where was I? Oh. Did you enjoy yourself when we were dancing?” “Of course I did.” “Do you like us as, like, boyfriends or someat?” “Yes. However, it’s too soon for either of you to ask me out. We’ve only known each other for about two days. I don’t want to be fast.” A weird sound was emitted from his mouth. “Well, you know, if you’re not wanting to be around Cris, uh, my door’s open.” Before I could protest, he said, “I promise I won’t touch you if it’s a problem. It’s just a thought, you know. I wouldn’t want to find Cris has murdered you. You don’t have to, though.” “That’s a sweet offer, Mark. But since we’re headed to my floor, let me get a change of clothes,” I decided. “Sure. Whatever you want!” We reached my floor and stepped off the elevator. “Oh, man, my leg’s falling asleep!” “Then I’ll get you an outfit. I’ll move a lot faster. Just give me your blue card and hold the elevator.” “Ok. Don’t disturb Cris.” “She won’t even know I’m there. Just be patient. And if any guys try to talk to you-” “Mark, I’ll be fine. I’ve survived without you just fine until this trip. I can take care of myself.” “Right. Be right back!” I rested against the elevator wall and stuck my huge foot in the doorway. It couldn’t have been ten seconds before Mark returned. Actually, it only seemed like two seconds had passed. But that was impossible. “I must have drifted off,” I mumbled. “Why?” he asked. “I forgot about your ridiculous hearing.” He stepped on, my things in a nap sack on his back, and picked me up like one would hold a baby. The doors closed and he pushed the button for his floor. I held him around his neck but he seemed unaware of my weight. Our stop came and he got off. He turned left, starboard side, and went to the very end of the 28 hall. The silver key was retrieved from his pocket and he unlocked the door. Everything was dark. I was laid on a large bed. In five seconds, candles were lit around the room. My shoes were taken off, and he asked if I wanted to change into pajamas. I told him I was too tired. He took my jewelry and put it somewhere. I had no idea where he was. Frankly, I was too tired to find out. Before I could think about what I was doing, I fell asleep. When I woke up, I blinked a few times. The first thing I saw was a red chair, then Mark in it. He was watching me. My heart jumped and I tried not to cry out in surprise. I sat up slowly. I yawned. Looking around the mostly red room, I spotted my outfit laid out at the end of the king-sized bed I was on. I scooted off the red thing and went toward my clothes. “Good morning, Mark,” I greeted. “Top of the morning to ye, as well,” came his reply. “Is there a bathroom I can use?” I asked, looking at him. He pointed to a corner while giving me an odd look. “The second door,” he said quietly. I swiftly walked over, wondering again if he ever slept and why he didn’t. Making sure to lock the door behind me, I dressed quickly. I straightened my scarf. I was somewhat surprised that Mark had picked out a good outfit, my blue jean bell bottoms and form-flattering white t-shirt. When I went back out, I didn’t see Mark. I slipped my white, size 12 in women’s, sneakers on and went to sit on the long, velvet red couch. Someone let out a cry and I jumped to my feet. As I realized I’d sat on Mark, I blushed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there,” I turned around and apologized. His face was red, too, but for another reason. “It was my fault. I should have said something. But I didn’t think you’d actually sit on me. But, hey! Can’t say I hated it!” He couldn’t keep the smile off his face. Simultaneously, we laughed. “Where do you want to go today?” “Is the arcade alright?” “Sure. Let’s go.” He stood up. “Where’d you sleep at?” “Well, I didn’t really sleep but I sat in that chair and watched you almost all night.” 29 “That was sweet, I guess. I can’t believe I slept in your room. That was a mistake. I always make ridiculous decisions in my sleepy mode.” His face displayed hurt. He locked his door behind him. I took his hand and said, “I trust you, Mark. I don’t regret it or anything. Obviously, you can control yourself because you didn’t do anything but watch me sleep. I’m not mad. It’s just that Cris might take it the wrong way, especially since she likes you.” Seeming to brighten, he suggested that we take the stairs. “Hey, why do you have a key instead of a card?” I wondered as we walked upstairs. “I have a special room,” he answered shortly. Swinging our hands as we went down the halls, he mused, “I like this a lot.” “What?” “This. Holding hands with you, walking. And it’s just us. I’ve never had this feeling with anyone, not even my sibs.” “Tell me about your family.” “Well, I have two brothers, Joey and Erik. My parents are still married but I haven’t seen them for ten years. I didn’t run away but technically, I’m on my own. Most of the time I live with Joey, my oldest bro. Erik’s in college in Egypt. He’s 25 and Joey’s 32.” “And you?” “17.” “Oh. I have a brother, younger, and a sister, older. One’s 12 and the other one’s 18. My parents are divorced. I live with my Aunt Jamie. My sibs’ names are Jake and Malorie. I’m 15, not gon’ be 16 for ‘bout half a year.” We’d reached the arcade. By now, the boys had gotten used to seeing me in there. Automatically, they moved away from my favorite fighting game. One boy named William even put in credits for me. “Nice seeing you back here, Allie,” the 16-year- old chubby boy greeted. I smiled and stood in my spot. “I’m glad to be here again with all of yas. Where I belong,” I addressed the 20+ group. Joshua, a 14-year-old boy who looked as if he played football for the Dallas Cowboys, got me one of the movie director/lifeguard chairs. “Here ya go, Princess.” For some reason, he’d dubbed me that. Every other boy flocked over and gathered around. Mark was at my immediate side. I chose tag 30 team, my best characters as usual. The game room fell silent but for the noises of my kicking some anime butt. Every so often, Jimmy, Joshua’s nerdy looking 19-year-old brother would get me a drink; a mix of every soda over there. I was in the zone. Lunch was retrieved at 1:00 p.m. for we never ate breakfast but I refused. Mark moved behind me and held my waist. I faltered a bit but tried to ignore it. Joshua ran off with the boys’ money to get their lunches. When 2:30 came around, I said without turning, “Yo, Will, take over for me. I gotta stretch my legs.” William stepped up next to me. I did a double move and slid away form the game. William took the controls and Mark led me away. “See ya in a bit, Al!” Half of the boys chorused. I waved. Mark harried me into the hallway. “Gosh, you think they goggled over ya enough?” “Oh, Mark. Don’t get jealous. I ain’t sweatin’ them.” “They doin’ more than sweatin’ you! Gosh, if I weren’t there they mighta raped ya!” “Mark!” I was aghast. I snatched my hand away. “I’m sorry. Don’t hate me. I just… it’s weird. I’ve never felt this protective for anyone before, not even my brothers. But, man, I just go crazy with or without you! I don’t even flirt with other girls anymore and that’s saying something for me ‘cuz I love flirting.” “Are you serious?” “Why would I lie? I’d love to tell you everything about me ‘cuz I know you’d appreciate it.” The enthralled look came into his eyes. “I am rather interested in knowing both you and Jeff’s pasts.” His eyes were puzzled for a short moment. “Did I lose you?” I asked. “No. How did you say that? Inter-es-ted. You fully pronounced it, is all. It’s kind of cute. Say interest.” “Interest.” He smiled in delight. “I love the way you say that!” “What? It’s how it’s spelled.” “I know. But you know how other people say it.” I was beginning to realize he more than just liked me. “Anyway…” 31 “How far do you want to walk? The boys prob’ly miss you already.” This was said without contempt. “Prob’ly.” I agreed, relieved. “Usin’ my word!” he gave me a light, friendly punch on the arm. “Let’s head back now. I hope they haven’t screwed up yet!” “Alright.” We headed back. Once again, they made room for me. A few left as night began to fall. A lot of them left for a bathroom break or to collect money from their parents. Oddly, within 15 minutes, just Mark and I were there. Then I felt him draw away, saying that he needed to catch his dinner. I found that an odd way to put it but erased it from my mind. “I’ll be back in a short while,” he promised. It took me ten minutes to notice that someone stood next to me. I jumped and missed my chance to win. The other player, the computer, won. I turned and stared at the unmoving figure. “Oh, gosh, Jeffery! You nearly scared me to death! Where’d you come from?” “Good evening, Ms. Allison,” he greeted, bowing cordially. My heart was on fire as those now-gray eyes stared into me. “Uh…” “I admire your skills on and pertaining to this game.” His hand extended toward me in a smooth, almost unseen gesture. I let his fingers grasp my hand and guide me out of the chair. In a surprised cry, I declared, “You’re warm!” And he was. His skin now held a nice, rosy tint. “Ah, that I am!” he seemed highly pleased. “Come, come! I want to know the events of your day.” He was leading me away from the game room, and down the hall, toward the stairs. The tale spilled out as we descended to the lower floor. I left out a few parts about Mark, but Jeff didn’t ask me to elaborate. We were going to his room, I knew. He had me sit on the couch and gave me a glass of water. My hands were sweaty and the cup slipped from my hands. Tiny fragments of it ricocheted off of the coffee table and sliced at my hands. “Oh, I’m so … so extremely sorry,” I apologized profusely as my hands began to show tiny red dots. Jeff didn’t move. Instead, he seemed fascinated by the blood trickling down my fingers. 32 “I’ll clean it up,” I offered. I stepped into the kitchenette. I grabbed a cloth, a small hand broom, dustpan, and a tiny garbage can. I scooped the glass into the garbage can, then wiped up the spilled liquid. After I put everything back into it’s rightful place, I carefully went to the statue in the chair. “Um… is there a First Aid kit somewhere?” I asked timidly. He seemed to awaken as if from slumber. His blue eyes met mine, yet they looked hungry. “Uh, in the bathroom,” he responded distractedly. I walked backwards into it. He stared at me the whole way. I quickly tended to my cuts, then went back out. “I think that I should be going now. You seem… preoccupied.” “Forgive me! I have been so rude. I should have cleaned up the glass.” He rose to his feet. “I hope I didn’t frighten you.” “Should I still leave? You seem to be dealing with something.” I stayed at my distance, gulping. “Please don’t be afraid. I’d hate for you to be fearful of me.” “Allie, are you all right?” a terrified Mark appeared seemingly out of nowhere at my side. I jumped. “Mark!” was about all I could say. My heart raced and I contemplated how long it would take me to run through the open doorway. “What’s wrong with your hand?” Mark lifted it. “I… I cut it,” I stammered. I really wanted to get out of there. In fact, it was almost a passion; I wanted to escape so much. “Let me see,” he requested quietly. I let him take off the Band-Aids and inspect my injuries. I stared at the open door, willing it to guide me to freedom. I felt Mark’s warm lips press against my hand in several spots, several times. What caused me to look back at my hand was a faint tingling sensation. I blinked dully as I watched my cuts shrink. “I must be dreaming,” I spoke in dull disbelief. “We both screwed up. Now we have to decide how to-” Jeff never finished his sentence and both boys looked, no, stared at me. “What the hell is wrong with you two? Goodness, can’t I ever meet anyone normal!” I screamed. I was hysterical. They both watched me. 33 I couldn’t take it. Anger was swelling inside of me at not knowing what was up with these two. Couldn’t we just have a regular friendship? No, because one always looked like a living statue of corpse, the other appeared out of nowhere (I’m sure he’d make a great thief), my best friend was a bitch, both guys had issues because one appeared to zone out while the other had weird healing kisses. I could understand the mind reading but the cold skin, glowing eyes, and weird movements? Something set me on edge about those two. They talked strangely and knew something about each other that I didn’t. “Call me when you’re normal!” I started to walk out of the door. Jeff blocked my path. “Allie, you’re overreacting.” “Your little mind control won’t work when I’m pissed off. I am not overreacting. If you won’t tell me answers to your weird behavior, I don’t want to have to worry why.” “What about the dance on Halloween?” “I’m still going. But we should keep away from each other a little more. I guess we could set up everything tomorrow, dinnertime. I’m sure with your freaky gifts you could find me.” “What about me?” Mark wondered. “If I bump into you, that’s cool. But don’t stalk me.” “Why would I do that?” “And you can stop being overprotective of me because you’re not my boy friend.” Mark only appeared mildly surprised. “Geez, you’re moody!” he mumbled. “Placing restrictions on my part of the friendship.” Ignoring that comment, I said, “We shouldn’t act so serious. Let’s just have fun being friends. Besides, Mark, you’re too fast and Jeff, you’re too old. My mother, excuse me, aunt, would never let me date either of you. I’m not even sure she’d want me to just know your names. I’m not saying you’re bad guys, it’s just that she’s very critical about who I bring home.” “Wonder what she said when she met Cris the Piss.” Mark laughed. “I think you mean priss. I have to go. Cris might be worried.” “I can’t believe you’re still gonna be the twit’s friend!” “We’re not going to let some guy we’ve known for three days ruin our friendship of three and a half years! We’re not 34 airheads who break up over such minimal things. Now, I have to go. See y’all later.” I rolled my eyes and let out a short laugh. “Shall I accompany you?” Jeff offered. “I’ll be fine. See you tomorrow.” I hugged Jeff, waved at Mark, and left. When I got to me and Cris’ bedroom, her older brother Sam was sitting on my bed. I had had a crush on him for two months when I was in the eighth grade and he was a junior. But of course, he had had a girlfriend. They broke up after senior year. My crush had receded by then. Plus I barely ever saw him, anyway. But moving on. I said hi to him and asked where Maury was. “Maury hasn’t gotten better yet. He’s been in his room for most of this trip already. But Mom brings him food every few hours. You know he loves to eat. How have you been?” “Where’s Cris?” I overlapped his last sentence. “In the shower.” He gestured lazily. “Why are you on my bed?” “It’s comfy. Cris told me ‘bout your fight.” “You mad at me?” “If I was, would I still talk to you?” “You’re right. I didn’t mean to beat her up. It just happened that way.” “Uh huh,” he said skeptically. “You think I started it!” I sat down in front of him. He shrugged. “And if I do? What does it matter?” “It doesn’t. But still… you know what a jerk she can be.” “Only too well.” He smiled secretively, but it was a secret I didn’t know. “Oh, and I’m fine, to answer your question.” “Good. I’d hope so. I heard you fought over two guys. What’s that all about?” I was used to him not pausing between subjects by now. “Not just two!” I mumbled under my breath. He laughed. “It surprised me ‘cuz you usually behave yourself. You’re lucky the guards didn’t see you do it.” “Yeah.” “You know someat? You’re not a little girl anymore.” Before I could ask what he meant by that, Cris waltzed out in a dress that matched her eyes. She looked beautiful in a way I never could. “I see you came back,” she said cautiously. 35 “When has a guy ever divided us?” I retorted. “True.” She allowed a little smile. “My belly still hurts a little.” “It’ll get better,” I promised. “If it don’t, you won’t miss it!” Sam grabbed it. Squealing, she took up a pillow and beat him with it. “Help me out here!” she called to me. Just like that, best friends again. “Ok!” I jumped on the 18- year-old strawberry blond and proceeded to beat him up. He screamed and thrashed around. But I wouldn’t be deterred from my mission. Besides, I needed something to calm my confused mind. I refused to take in the weirdness of Mark and Jeff. So I forgot about them. Finally, he pinned me down. He sat on me. I screamed for Cris to help me but she said it would ruin her dress. “Hey, where are you going?” “I have a date. His name’s Mario and he’s Italian. He’s so cute! You can have those two freaks, kay?” “Sure.” They were probably much better looking than Mario was, anyway. There was a knock at the door. Sam sat back but still held me down. Cris disappeared, locking the door behind her. Sam resumed pinning me down. “Now I’ve got you all to myself! Heh heh!” he looked so evil I began to feel worried. But he only tickled me. Afterward, we sat side by side. “When’s the last time we hung out, Allie?” “Uh, I think last Christmas.” “Wow. I didn’t mean to neglect you.” “You sound like my long lost boyfriend or something,” I joked hopefully. He laughed softly. “I always did like you.” I sat there, unchanged by this information. A moment passed before he looked at me. “When I get married, will you come to my wedding?” “What?” I panicked. He was supposed to marry me! Ok, so maybe I did still have a crush on him. “Just kidding. You’re so gullible. Still. But you’re definitely not a kid anymore.” “What do you mean by that?” “Just that. You’re grown up now. Whenever you find a decent guy, I want to meet him. To me, you’re like my good 36 sister. A cute one but that’s another story. Um, I just want to protect you, I guess.” “Thanks. That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever done.” He blushed now. “Your face matches your hair now,” I pointed out, for lack of anything more interesting to say. He punched my arm lightly. “You jerk!” I laughed. “I miss hanging out with you. I forgot how fun it was.” It also reminded me of why I had liked him to begin with. “Then tonight, let’s hang out. Just you and me. Ok?” “Alright. Let’s go.” I followed him into the hallway. We wandered around for hours, popping in at odd places at odd hours. Many people stared at us, but I didn’t care. As we were riding the elevators, we happened upon Jeff and Mark in the hallway. They were discussing something in lowered voices. Yet I distinctly heard, “Look, this is my half. You can go to your side and hunt. But this is my territory. Understand?” come out of Jeff’s mouth as they rounded the corner down the hall. I chose to forget this odd statement as they headed straight for us. Mark didn’t answer but instead glanced at me. Jeff gazed at me. Neither seemed at all surprised or alarmed to see me. Jeff nodded at me and continued on his way. Mark tagged along. “Wat up, Sam? When you gonna call me?” he wondered. We both looked at him. “Oh, sorry, man! I lost track of you. I’m not good at keeping up with people, as you can see.” Sam gestured to me, who had a perplexed expression on my face, no doubt. “I have enough keeping up with this girl.” He squeezed my shoulders. Why do they do that? I wondered as the two continued talking in a chummy manner. Somehow, they started discussing my relationship with Cris. So, Mark found out that Cris was Sam’s sister and Sam discovered that Mark and I were well acquainted. “Nice to see you, Allie,” Mark smiled. “Oh, Jeff says he’s sorry. I think you hurt his feelings.” “Oh,” I coughed. “Um, hi, I guess.” Why did I feel as if I’d been caught cheating? Mark laughed. “Ooh, can you wait here a sec? I’ll be right back,” Sam excused himself and went into a hallway restroom. “No one in the hall,” Mark noted. 37 “Don’t even-” He leaned down and kissed me. On the lips. I was definitely shocked. But damn, he kissed well! He didn’t even try putting his tongue in. Just like that, he was absolved of whatever he’d previously done. He was turning me on. I’d never before been actually horny. Yeah, I’d feel momentarily aroused but this was beyond my control. He pulled back slowly and gazed at me. The only thing I could do was stare at him in amazement. “You like that?” he asked softly in his sexy, honey-like voice. That’s what his voice was like, smooth, sweet, and thick as honey. “Wha… Get away from me. Why’d you?” I stammered. “Couldn’t help it. Sorry. Don’t keep yourself so open. You couldn’t stop me if you wanted to. So don’t even try it. I can see everything you feel in your eyes. So does Jeffery. You can’t fool us.” “Why is he up at this hour anyway?” “Ask him.” “Mark!” I groaned. “Nah, though, it’s a special occasion.” “Oh. You gonna tell me what?” “Prob’ly not!” he smirked. Sam strolled up. “Did I miss anything?” “Nope,” Mark chimed, grinning at me. “Oh, well, I’m s’posed to spend the day with my pal so can I get back to it?” “Sure. I’m not preventing you.” “Bye!” Sam waved at him. Sam didn’t see Mark blow me a kiss as he turned around. I blushed. This wasn’t the first time I’d been kissed (I’m not that lame) but it was the first time I’d gotten hot over it. How could he do that to me? I mused. He turned away and disappeared. “Where to?” I managed to croak out. Why did they keep doing that to me? I tried to block it out. Sam bought me brunch in the Italian restaurant. We both got pizzas. “Thanks a lot, Sam,” I said. “No problem. I owe you, anyway, squirt.” He shrugged. “True. Hey you got a house yet?” “Nah. I don’t even have a car yet.” “Oh. What college you wanna go to?” 38 “Still applying. Any one with entertainment electronics as a major.” “That’s good. When do plan on going?” “You… oh, um, I’m gonna take a year’s break. I’ll go next year. I need to get a car first.” “Yeah, good idea. But… don’t go too far away,” I said quietly. “You would miss me?” he asked gently, looking from the window to me. He set his pizza down. I looked at my pizza. The color of the cheese and the pepperoni (I’m no vegetarian) blurred in my vision, becoming some warped form of, believe it or not, a Picasso. “Well, of course I would. You’re an honored friend of mine, Sam,” I finally got the courage to say. 39 Chapter Three “Really?” He scooted closer. I risked a glance at his face. “Eh…” His arm encircled my shoulder and he hugged me tightly. Caught off guard, I dropped my pizza and gasped. He smelled very strongly of pine trees and the ocean. It’s amazing, no matter where we were, he always managed to smell of the forests back home. When he pulled back, he explained. “That’s just in case I don’t get to see you again for a while. Ok. Sorry it just came out of nowhere like that. I…” he sighed. I cautiously finished my pizza and Mountain Dew. He gazed out of the window and at the islands we were now approaching. I choked on my drink as he blurted out, “Wanna go on the main island together? We’ll be in port until dinnertime tonight.” “Sure. Why not?” I got out after some acid shot out of my nose. I wiped the carbonated drink off of my face as Sam chuckled. “Sorry ‘bout that,” he smiled. I rolled my eyes. “Let’s to the island.” I stood. “Right. Everything’s on me so feel free to get what you want. Alright?” “Cool. You’re a good guy.” “Yeah, that’s what everyone says,” he boasted. “Even the guys?” I snickered. “What?” He looked at me suspiciously. “Nothing.” I began to run. 40 “Hey! That is not funny!” He chased me. We had docked in the bay now so people were already departing. I stopped in my room to get my pass and my room key card. Sam shoved me onto my bed. After cracking up, I locked my door and followed him down the ramp. I caught a glimpse of Cris’ new beau. Poor boy, I thought sadly. Caught up with a girl like that. Oh, well. Nothing I could do. So I breathed in ocean and palm trees. There were also food smells wafting off the island. My eyes closed and for a few seconds I enjoyed the feel of a new land yet to be explored. “Come on.” Sam touched my shoulder. “Yeah. Lead the way.” “Ok. I looked at a map of this place on deck and there are a few stores that I feel you’ll like.” “Tres bien. Tres chic.” I looped my arm through his. He laughed as we headed down into unforeseen adventure. I almost was knocked over by a large man in a suit. My hand went out and met Sam’s chest. I held onto him to steady myself, then apologized. “Don’t apologize. I li-” he stopped himself and laughed. “Don’t worry. I’ll protect you, ‘kay?” “Sure, you would.” We reached the dirt path and he led me as if his feet had been there before. Completely sure of himself, he made me close my eyes as I was taken into one of the huts. “Ok. Sit here,” he ordered so I did. “Open your eyes.” “Oh, my God!” in front of me were laid beautiful native dresses. They had wrap-around skirts of magnificent earthen colors that would surely flatter my skin tone. Sam smiled. “Do you like them?” “Like? I’ve never seen anything so beautiful in my life! Are… are these for me?” “Try them on. You’ll need one for later on.” “Are you serious?” “Go ahead.” I picked them up. An adorable little girl showed me to the dressing room. Quickly, I changed. Barefoot, I stepped out into the main room. Sam couldn’t take his eyes off of me. “Allison?” he breathed. He sat down on one of the big, fluffy stools. Passersby peeped in to see this new island beauty, me. Delicately, as if I was a timid queen, I walked over to Sam. “Can I… touch you?” 41 I giggled. How exactly? I wondered to myself. “I’m not a different person.” “No, you’re not. It’s just, I’ve never seen you like this.” “Of course,” I said blandly, rolling my eyes. In kicks the male hormone testosterone, was my thought. He didn’t miss a beat. “No, I didn’t mean to offend you. But then again, I am a guy. Can you blame me? After all, we’re more visual while girls are more physical about these things.” “I understand.” I put a hand up. Still looking at my face, he reached out and held my hand. “Come on,” he said. He paid for the dress, put my regular clothes in a sack, and carried me on his back to another, larger hut. Inside was awesome! “Wow!” I exclaimed as he set me down. I realized it was a dance club. This was the first time I’d been in a club. Music washed over me, pure, unpoisoned by America yet. It was pure reggae. “Care to dance?” Onto my round hips, his hand began to slide. Being hard to get, I slid away and glided down the stairs onto the semi-crowded dance floor. Hearing him follow me swiftly, I chose a good spot and let the music work on me. My body found the beat as Sam did. Again, he took my hand. I reclaimed it, playing with him. I threw my head to the side at an angle and rocked my hips. His eyes were glued to them for a long while. “You should get a belly ring,” he mentioned. At that note, I did a belly dance. I’d never seen his bright green eyes so large before. I laughed. Then I stopped. “This is weird,” I yelled over the loud tunes. “Why?” “I’ve never danced with you before.” “There’s a first time for everything.” It seemed he really wanted to dance. I began to move my feet now. Mind you, they were still bare. He watched me intensely. “What?” “I never would associate the art of dancing with you.” “Well, you were wrong.” “Big time. Now that I think about it, I guess I did have hints that you could. It was just a matter of paying attention.” “You are a fast learner!” “Hey!” he lightly pushed my shoulder. 42 I laughed and twirled around so my skirt flared out. Sam himself was an excellent dancer. “Ah, how do you dance so well?” “I work at the recreation center. As a dance instructor.” “Oh. Cool!” He smiled. We had a lot of fun dancing. We stayed there from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Stumbling out, laughing, we went to a few more stores, got another bite to eat, and walked on a little trail before heading back to the ship. Sam disappeared in the woods. I called out at first, then realized he was playing with me. “Hey, you jerk! When I find you I’m going to kill you!” I shouted, chuckling. Growing silent, I crept around on my bare feet, listening for him. I found him in a coconut tree. How he got up there was hard to imagine. “You must be really athletic,” I concluded. “Gymnastics for eight years,” he explained. “We’ve got one more stop, then we can head back.” “Ok. Lead the way.” He showed me this extraordinary waterfall. We got a passerby to take a photo of us, then sat down for a break on the edge of the pool. “Did you have fun today?” “Yes, I did. This was definitely a good day. What makes me appreciate it the most is because it’s you. I mean, you actually took the time to spend today with me and I am grateful of that.” “That’s good to hear. You enjoyed yourself?” “Very much.” “Good. Um, I don’t know how to put this so I’ll blurt it out…” “What?” I followed a tropical fish with my eyes as it darted around. “Allison,” his voice deepened oddly. “Was there ever a time when you liked me?” I blushed. “Yes. From April to June of my eighth grade year.” “That was a while ago.” He whistled. “Yeah. I… I got over it because I knew nothing would ever happen. That we would always be friends and nothing more.” Anything more would be downright illegal. He sighed wistfully. “I have great timing, don’t I?” he laughed. 43 “Yeah, ya do. Maybe one day we’ll get it right. But not today.” “Yeah. Not today.” He hugged me close. I looked up into his pretty eyes. “One day perhaps… if I still feel the same.” “I would say yes. But now it just wouldn’t work.” “I understand. But would you mind if…” he trailed off and looked away. “Just this once. But we’re friends until we both decide to change it.” He smiled. “Understood.” He leaned down and gave me a quick kiss. Then he lifted me and we raced back to the ship. We showed the security our I.D.’s and he walked me back to my room. We watched a movie, then he went up to dinner. I arranged all of my new souvenirs on my bed. I had my door propped open to get a draft so the air would circulate. A hand, pale and white, suddenly touched mine. I jumped. “Oh, my goodness!” I whispered. “Relax, ma chérie. C’est moi, Jeff.” “You scared the hell out of me! Where did you come from? Why’d you barge into my room like that?” I sat down. “Look,” he spoke hostilely, “you asked me to come so I did. I’m here now. Are we going to talk or what?” He glared down at me, a hard, cold figure. “I…” I stared at him. His features softened all of a sudden. He sat next to me. “Oh, Allie, forgive me for being rash. It’s just that I haven’t eaten yet and my hunger is definitely not something to disparage or ignore. In addition, I will not have you shout at me so. Don’t make me have to silence you. I understand that I alarmed you but that does not mean I’ll let you trample all over me. Now, look at me.” I did. “Come now. Where shall we talk?” “Here is fine.” “Ok, now. Listen, dear, about the other night…” “What about it?” I asked softly. “I didn’t mean to mess up like that. I wish you could grasp the importance of even knowing about Mark and I. But I cannot tell you now.” He seemed to be in great stress. 44 “But why? Can’t you just tell me what’s wrong with you? I’m sure it would help me understand your behavior,” I begged. “Oh, would it!” he replied bitterly. “Are you Albino?” “Not in the sense you mean. In my own dark way I am. Yet, it goes so much deeper than that. Much more unique.” “Please! What’s more odd than an Albino? Why, you’d have to be a vampire to live like you do.” An odd look he gave me at that moment, as if he was debating on whether or not to laugh or kill me. He didn’t speak. “How much do you know about me?” “Everything. I know everything you’ve ever done, seen, felt, and thought.” He was talking but his eyes were calculating something. “You can’t,” I argued. “Can’t I?” he challenged. Then he began to name off things that not even my diary knew about. “Stop invading my privacy. I could sue you.” I was holding onto my head as if it would stop him from getting in. “Foolish!” he ruled, baring his teeth. “It wouldn’t harm me in the least. You want money, I’ll give it to you.” With that he produced a thick stack of $100 bills and dropped it into my lap. “See? To me, money is nothing. Now, can we talk or do you have more questions of irrelevance?” I realized something and made a connection. Jeff and Mark had the same weird teeth. They looked like the one on Mark’s key. Exactly like it. And I’d seen that kind of tooth before. Frequently. Yet, will I let myself process all of these weird clues? “You know what? I’m going to go get my dinner, all right? I will be back within the hour. By that time we both should be a little more agreeable,” he decided. “Yes. Do that. We can collect ourselves. My door will be open,” I agreed, putting the money in my drawer. He squeezed my arm, then left. I set to work, looking through all the books I’d brought with me. I even wrote down all the odd encounters I had had. Finally, I had an answer, but as freaky as it was, it made perfect sense. I had found the picture of the tooth. And guess what it belonged to? A vampire. I sat back and digested all of this. The 45 more I thought about it, the more it made sense. There was nothing I knew that refuted this information. Everything fit together suddenly. Yet, there was one small question. Were Mark and Jeff the same type of vampire? Evidence pointed to no. Well, I guess I’d have to ask them. Nevertheless, it was inevitable. “What have you been up to, my desert rose?” came a voice behind my ear. Soft fingers ran through my hair. “Figuring out something. You should already know.” I turned around to find Jeff on his knees, gazing at me, his skin rosy, alive for tonight. Further confirmation. “Yes, I do.” “Then you also know my question?” “Yes, Your hypothesis was correct. In both cases. However… you don’t appear afeared.” “I’m not. Strangely enough. I think you guys like me too much to kill me.” “You’re right.” There seemed to be more to this answer but I did not implore him. “Since when? Now I’m really interested in you both. You must have so much to tell me.” “Yes, I do. Shall I tell you tonight?” “Please?” “Alright. I was born in France on May 21rst, 1645,” and he proceeded to telling me his life story. It turned out he was made a vampire against his will in 1665. When I wondered why he didn’t cast himself into the sun if he didn’t want this life, he responded that he wanted to see the world change. I said that I’d do the same, then let him continue. It was 8:15 when he’d finished. “On the eighth hour tonight I will return.” “Ok. Thank you.” “Likewise.” He kissed my hand, then left. As I hadn’t received the needed hours of rest, I slept a good part of the day. Apparently, Cris had only come in once to change clothes. I found this strange. At about three o’ clock or so, I took a much-desired shower, dressed, then went to Mark’s room. Weirdly, he was sitting against his door, looking lost. “Mark, can I talk to you? In private?” He looked up. “Allie! Sure. Uh…” He got to his feet. “Can we go into your room?” 46 “Yeah. Come on.” He opened the door and let us in. “Um… I finally understand you and Jeff’s behavior.” “Really?” “May I sit?” “Go ahead.” He watched me. “But yes. I realized what you were yesterday night.” “And what was that?” “You and Jeff are vampires.” Man, it was weird saying that and being completely serious about it. His eyebrow raised. “Who told you that?” “Jeff confirmed it for me.” “Then… why are you here?” “Because I want to hear your story.” “My story?” “Of your life. I might not have time to tonight but I definitely want to.” I was feeling a little nervous now because he was just standing there staring at me. I couldn’t read his expression. “Let me summarize it for you. I was born on April 8 t h , 1824 in Ireland. My family immigrated here in the 1920’s. Basically everything I told you was true except for my brother’s ages,” he spoke without emotion. “When did you become a vampire?” He looked confused for a few seconds. “I was born a vampire, honey. My brothers are 212 and 235. My parents are in the 500’s. They’re older than Jeff. Poor Jeff. He can never reproduce.” “Wait, so what would you be to each other? How are you related?” “We’re different species of vampire. He’s a logmin and I’m a scaroth.” “I don’t know what that is.” “We’ve got a lot to teach you. You’re so ignorant. This’ll take a while.” “Prob’ly.” He smiled. “When are you gonna let me be your guy? I promise I wouldn’t drink from you. If you’re good enough, I’d even convert you.” “Convert me? You mean turn me into a vamp?” “Yeah. How many kids you want?” 47 “What?” He laughed insanely, full of emotion now. “Just playin’, boo.” “Oh.” “But seriously, are we gonna move forward or will we be stuck at pause ‘til you die?” “I don’t know. You and I are a completely different species. According to-” “Forget all that!” His fingers touched my lip. “None of it’s true. At least when it comes to vamps. We break nearly every scientific rule out there. So don’t associate. Ok?” He grinned. “Well, still. When would we see each other? We prob’ly live nowhere near each other.” “It could all be arranged.” “You’re serious, aren’t you?” “Yes. I have yet to teach you the ways of a vamp such as myself. Say, I can tell you loved that kiss I gave you.” I blushed. “Why wouldn’t I? But why did you do it?” “Couldn’t help it, like I said. I mean we like each other, so why shouldn’t we?” “Maybe it’s not time to.” “Do you know how irrelevant time is to me? I am not a slave of it like you are.” “Oh.” “Isn’t it just the oddity?” “What is?” “Us meeting each other?” “Yes, it is.” “Prob’ly the biggest oddity in my life.” “Besides the fact that you’re a vampire?” “That’s only an oddity to you.” “True.” I sat there, further processing this information. “What now? Where do we go from here?” he pondered. I sighed. “Just act normal. It’s all we can do, right? But I guess now you guys can be completely honest with me.” “True.” “Why are you two after me, anyway?” “You attract us. You’re not a normal human girl. You didn’t run off screaming, after all or something equally stupid. I 48 mean, just because I’m a vampire doesn’t mean I’ll drink everyone’s blood. You know? You might not go crazy.” “Crazy?” That didn’t sound good. “Jeff can tell you about that.” He seemed uncomfortable suddenly. “Ok. Do you two have a lot of friends?” “No. They usually go crazy,” he said matter-of-factly. “Was Jeff’s friend a…” “Ask him about it. Why ask me? I know less than you do about him. We don’t like each other, remember?” Now he was annoyed. “Sorry. It’s just I’ve never seen enemies act so respectful towards each other. Most of the time, that is. I mean, everyone has their moments…” “Shh… Why do you always feel the need to talk so much? No need. I know you like to be quiet. Let’s just sit in silence, eh?” he suggested. I watched him as he sat. He appeared to be debating an important issue, like whether to continue our friendship that way. He looked at me a few times. I felt questions building up inside of me like lava in a volcano. Yet I refrained from bombarding him. Out of the blue, he took my hand. He was very warm. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. I took a bold step and laid my head on his chest. I could hear his heartbeat in my ear. Before I could ask, he answered, “I don’t have a heart. It’s just an empty space in there. Nienta. Nothing.” “Why?” He smiled. “That’s an answer for another time. A subject, in fact… Would you… dance with me again?” “When do you… feed?” “Whenever I desire.” “Hey, how can you walk in daylight?” “I only have one weakness: I’m a sucker for girls. I’m allergic to garlic but nothing can kill me.” “Nothing?” “That doesn’t mean I can’t get hurt, unfortunately.” I looked up at him. “Do you need to blink?” “I don’t even need to breathe, babe.” I got to my feet. “This is a lot weirder than I thought.” 49 “Why? Didn’t think we were so complex? Surely you didn’t believe that all we did was drink and curse the light? What a boring existence! Even the drones do more than that!” “Drones?” “The ones that are made vampires, but become zombies instead. Drones are very cool people. Yeah, they smell but they have an awesome sense of humor.” “Oh.” I began to laugh. “Hey, I wanna show you someat. C’mon!” He was suddenly by the door, taking my hand. “Didn’t you want to dance?” I remembered. “We can do that later. Right now I want to give you a lesson.” “In what?” “Speed and flight.” “Speed?” I gulped. That explained all those times when he seemed to disappear. I gasped as all of the colors in my vision blurred. Vertigo crept up on me and I felt as if my body was coming apart. Next came a wave of nausea. Without me being aware of it, we stopped. Now we were on the balcony of the ship. Or, one of them. Holding on to Mark as if I could never let go (which is how I felt), I caught my breath. “What… was… that?” He laughed, lifted me with ease, and said, “That was me running from the bottom of the ship to the top. Not that far. You want to go on the water?” “No!” “Want to go in it?” “Definitely no.” “I’ll keep you safe. I wouldn’t let you drown.” He rubbed my arms. “Still, I…” “Then let’s go up now, shall we?” His arms locked around me and up, up, up, we went. “Oh, my god! I didn’t know you could fly!” “Yep. I can do so much more than that.” We broke through the clouds. “Oh, wow. This is beautiful!” I exclaimed. “I get to see this anytime I want. I can navigate from anywhere in the world. Therefore, I can never be ‘lost’,” he bragged. 50 “How long does it take you to grow up?” “As long as I want. We have almost forever to find out where in life we want to be. At any time we can be any age we desire.” “So you can be an old guy?” “Yep. Or even a baby. It’s all a simple matter of reconfiguring our DNA and molecules.” “So can you also change your appearance, then?” “Yes. But I prefer to look the way I’m more or less supposed to. I was born with red hair and green eyes and that’s how I’ll stay. I don’t get why anyone would want to be old.” “Wow. You must be a genius.” “Oh, so you assumed I wasn’t very smart based on my appearance and speech? Honey, I helped Einstein create the atom bomb. I helped a few famous composers write music. I came up with the idea for a car. I tipped off Ford. Also, I began organized crime. Enough yet?” “Yeah, yeah. Sorry.” Instead, I watched the sun above the clouds. Up here, the colors were awesome. I sighed and held on tighter to Mark, who seemed physically unaware of me. “I won’t let you fall. I’ve got you.” My head rested on his chest again, over his heartbeat. “That’s so weird. But cool.” Mark’s manner changed. He held me almost as if for warmth. “You remind me so much of myself,” he spoke dreamily, looking down at me and stroking my face for a second. “I was just going to say that about you.” He smiled. “Don’t you know how pretty you are?” I scoffed. “What cheesy place did you steal that from?” “No, I’m serious. Do you have low self-esteem?” “What are you, my counselor? And what teen today doesn’t have low self-esteem?” “No. Yours is different.” His eyes narrowed. “ Whatever.” Silence reigned for at least a half-hour. He took me far. The effects of the high atmosphere were catching up with me. I was cold, tired, and my ears kept popping but everything was still beautiful. “Tell me something. Why do we fight like a married couple?” came gently from his red lips. 51 “I wouldn’t know. We did say that we weren’t gonna play around, that we were gonna be real with each other. And usually that means we’re harsher to each other. It’s for the better.” “Hopefully.” “What do you mean by that?” “Prob’ly just what you think. You know how fickle you humans are, after all.” “Fickle?” “Don’t make me drop yo’ ass.” Although he sounded serious, he was smiling. “You wouldn’t!” “Nah, I’d rather touch it.” “Oh, you bastard! I bet you would!” I did my best to punch him. He laughed and did a loop-de-loop. “And I will.” “Hell no you won’t!” I protested. “Wanna bet?” his laugh rang out. “Boy, I oughtta!” We turned and twisted, not good for my stomach at all. “Oh, come now, lassie! Be a sport.” I’m going to throw up all over him, I thought to myself. Sensing my distress, he slowed down. Coming to a complete stop, he directed me toward the sunset. I gasped. “Oh, awesome! That’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen!” “Yeah, well, you’re the single most beautiful thing I’ve ever beheld and been blessed to see in my entire nearly two hundred years of life,” Mark told me sincerely. “Whatever, dude. That’s nice,” I disparaged him. I hated compliments. It made me feel as if I owed the person. He frowned. “Why’d you do that? You always answer with an asshole remark.” “I’m sorry to anger you but I just-” “Want to make sure I’m serious, right? I am. You’ll know when I’m joking.” “Hope so.” “Trust me a little bit more, eh?” “I’ll try.” The corner of my mouth lifted. “All right.” His lips grazed my ear. “Sorry.” “Yeah, right!” I teased. 52 Allowing a small laugh, he enjoyed the view. “Isn’t this cool?” “Yeah.” A slight shiver went through me. “You cold?” he wondered, concerned. “I’m sorry. Here, let me warm you up.” “How?” I panicked. “Body heat, of course.” “No thank you!” “Girl, what do you think I’m trying to do? Come here and stop being weird!” He seemed to be concentrating. Gradually, I grew warm. “Wow! How’d you do that?” “I pissed on you.” “What?” “No, I can’t tell. It’s a surprise.” “You have a weird sense of humor… I once knew someone who said that. ‘Can’t tell. It’s a surprise,’ was his favorite phrase.” “Then maybe I’ve met him.” “I doubt it.” “Don’t be so sure.” “I guess.” “Come now. You didn’t forget about Jeff, did you?” rang out around us. I glimpsed him flying in a circle around us. “Go away. Can’t I have her to myself for a while without you poisoning her? You’re the stalker!” Mark was definitely not pleased. “Please, my boy. I only stalk my prey.” “And what am I?” “Simply a delectable snack, my dear.” He moved behind me and whispered in my ear. Then he seemed to shoot off. “Is this how you really are?” “I’m known to other vampires as the Punk Prince,” he laughed from somewhere. “Great. This is an odd turn of events. The gentleman becomes a child and the boy becomes a man,” I mused thoughtfully. “Hey!” both of them protested. “You know I really could drop you,” Mark threatened. “I’m sorry!” I held onto his neck. “But that’s how I see it.” He growled. 53 “Let’s just go to more level place, eh? Here, give me the girl,” Jeff demanded. “Fine.” He let me go and Jeff caught me as if I was a baby. Then he took off at a high speed. My eyes were forced to close. I heard Mark tell something to Jeff but with the wind rushing past I couldn’t make out the words. Suddenly we were landing. Our trajectory changed. I opened my eyes and realized we were back on the ship. “Madame, if I may?” Jeff bowed, then grinned. “If you may what?” I wondered. He and Mark both exchanged a look. Then, laughing, they… well… I’m not sure what they did but all I know is that next we were in Jeff’s suite. “Welcome back!” “Why?” I started. At the same time, all eyes fell on the locked door. “Why what?” “What’s in there?” I asked. “What do you think?” Jeff smiled. “Show her.” Mark egged him. “Come, child. Don’t be afraid.” Jeff led me forward towards the door. I felt scared. The red thing in me pumped out my blood like a piston or a gun shooting out bullets. It almost hurt. My hands and face leaked fluid like Niagara Falls. “No,” I whispered, shaking my head. “Oh, come now and look alive,” Mark pushed me. And I flew forward. Jeff had flung open the door at such a speed I didn’t see it. I tripped over some sort of ledge and toppled into a rectangular box headfirst. “Oh… my… god!” I mouthed. When I calmed down enough, I noted how nice the interior of Jeff’s coffin was. “Enjoying that? Maybe one night we might try and lie together.” Jeff suggested. As I sat up and faced him, his eyebrow raised over his fluorescent green eyes. “No way! I don’t trust you that much,” I retorted. “Ah, we wouldn’t be able to anyway, unless you were to become a vampire. I cannot go into vampire sleep with a human present for I would crush your bones. Those delicate bones in that delicate frame.” His eyes roamed me. A gasp came out of me 54 as, faster than I could see, he was in the coffin with me, laying me back. “Go to sleep,” he cooed. “What? No.” I’m surprised his weight didn’t crush me. Mark couldn’t stop laughing. The boy (or man) sure had an odd sense of humor. “You look as if to bed her. I know for a fact you can’t. And neither can you extract her nectar. Insofar as I know, she is to be considered a sacred malek to us. Don’t disrupt that.” “Ah, don’t rub that in my face. ‘tis the only thing of my human life that I’d take back. Yet there’s so much more I can give her,” Jeff replied. “Whereas I could give her the same things and more,” Mark smiled. “Ha!” Instantaneously, Jeff’s face was very close to his. “Dare you interrupt!” “Then let’s show her the Stash,” Mark suggested. “Ah, of course!” Jeff held his face and kissed his cheek. Mark shook his head. “Maybe we could get along.” “Jeff, why this drastic change in behavior?” I inquired. “There is no change. This is how I am. At least when I’m in a good mood,” he answered. “Lead the way, Mark.” “Certainly. I won’t be Amaedo to you any longer,” Mark began to turn. Jeff’s face displayed a strange emotion: angst. For Amaedo? Either way it deeply upset him. What horrid memories floated through his head? I wondered as he lifted me out and set me on my feet. “All is forgiven. Now, you shall perhaps be a Lance to me,” he looked to Mark again. “Sure,” Mark nodded, turning on his heel and seeming to disappear. Jeff and I disappeared after him. As Mark stopped to unlock his door (when did he lock it), I turned to Jeff. “Who is Amaedo?” I asked. “An old acquaintance. He wanted to be my companion but I refused. I hated him as I’ve never hated anyone. It was his theater I was with. Needless to say, he obsessed over me. He followed me to my new Florida home.” I didn’t ask anymore. Mark took my hand and left me in front of a wall. I looked back at him, confused. He seemed to remember something and reached past me. Placing his palm on 55 the wall, he pushed what appeared to be slightly. The wall seemed to fade, but I’m sure it dissolved, and another room was revealed. I stepped in and looked around, but I couldn’t see anything but white walls with odd clear designs. I faced the guys and shrugged. Mark came forward and did some weird gesture with his hands. The walls became drawers. He stepped over to one wall and opened a drawer. Motioning for me to come closer, he fiddled with something in there. When I got closer, I realized it was a body. A very beautiful girl lie in there, brown, soft hair, smooth skin, good form. She was at least 18. “These are Jeff’s victims. Mine are on the fore and aft walls. Also the ceiling. His last set is in the floor,” Mark explained. “Floor?” Sure enough, there were drawers on the floor. My arms prickled as I took note that Mark was no longer next to me. Looking around, I spotted him on the ceiling with Jeff, inspecting a blond, ten-year-old boy. Sickness crept over me. None of these people seemed dead, but asleep. Then I noticed something odd. Sensing my thought, Jeff opened all of the drawers telepathically. “Study them,” he told me. I did and came to a conclusion. “Why don’t they have any marks on them?” “The same reason you don’t,” Mark nodded at me. Before asking what the hell he was talking about, I thought back. That day, er, night I cut my hand. After Mark kissed it, the cuts disappeared. “Healing kisses. Right,” I remembered. He dropped down in front of me. “I want to see you and Jeff,” he demanded. “See us what?” I inquired. “Dance.” “After this morbid display? What do you do with the bodies?” “Send them to a grave nestled in the depths of earth alive with movement,” Jeff said. “In other words, you toss them in the ocean, don’t you?” They both smiled at me, and then proceeded to walk out of the room. “Wait! Do you want me to dance or not?” “Do you want to dance?” they asked together, stopping in their tracks. 56 “I’ll do anything to take my mind off of that room.” I caught up to them. “Anything?” They both faced me then, smiling. I eyed them. “Within reasonability.” Their smiles grew wider. Each taking one of my arms, they did that weird thing and suddenly I was back in Jeff’s suite. Mark was putting in a CD and Jeff was slowly walking toward me. “Ready? Think you can keep up?” “I don’t know. Je ne sais pas.” “Pourquoi? Why?” He came closer. “Je suis fatigue. I feel sick.” “I can help that.” He put our foreheads together. I felt better at once. “Thanks.” “Sure.” As a song began, he dipped me very deeply. He brought me up with great speed and it became a spin. He knew how to move me. He twisted, bent, stretched, and moved me in ways I didn’t think I was capable of. At one point he even tossed me up, caught me, and swung me around as if I was a cheerleader. I couldn’t stop laughing. He spun me faster and faster until the room was a blur then let me fall back on his waiting arm. He leaned down almost to the floor, then flipped me over him so that when he came up, I was behind him. His hands held mine and his feet began to move very rapidly. I tried to copy. Then he told me to jump. I did, bounced once, twice, then he flipped me over his head. “Whoa!” I laughed when I landed. Automatically, his feet moved again, this time as if to step on mine. Therefore, I moved them. “What are you doing?” “Tango. You do well for a first-timer.” I giggled as he placed me on his waist and spun around with me. Then he spun me over to Mark. Mark swung me around, then finished the Tango. Next, he put me on his waist and did a flip. Scary. He let me step back and held onto one of my hands as we danced. I snaked it and he moved his hips, wiggling in closer. Soon, our bodies swayed together. The same motions we did, as if our minds were one. How awesome was that? I’d found the two best dancers in the world! Mark leaned me back. My leg straightened out and aligned with my body. Ballet was something I knew. His hand ran up my belly. My body trembled at his touch. His hand moved onto the 57 bare skin of my belly. So warm. So smooth. So soft. It ran over my hip, then grabbed my butt. I jumped. Mark grinned. “Told ya.” Then he started dancing again. “Come on. Don’t let that stop you.” Now I didn’t care. I felt free. So I shook what God granted me. His hands held my hips, which rolled again. Our bodies moved closer, until our bellies grazed. We twerked again, with me “snaking” it. Our bodies fit and moved well together. One of his hands moved to the small of my back. “Asshole!” I smirked. “I love how you move your body,” he complimented. “Ha. Likewise.” “Wonder how good in bed you are,” he whispered in my ear. I tried to break away but he had me locked against him. I’d never be able to fight him off. “You are sick!” “No, I’m not. It’s only natural, right?” “How many girlfriends have you had?” “Vampire or human?” “Both.” He smirked. “Can you even remember?” “Yes. I remember every face, every voice, and every body. About 2010 vamps and around 1950 human. Each year.” “Damn. Consistent, huh? And you must’ve had to cheat. Constantly.” He just smiled. “Can I have my partner back?” Jeff wondered. “Fine,” he relented, letting me go, obviously not wanting to. I rested my hand on Jeff’s shoulder as he took up my hand. We began to waltz. 58 Chapter Four Later that night, both of my vamp suitors tucked me in. Quite funny, actually. They fought over who got to kiss me first. So they both kissed a cheek at the same time. Mark ran his hand up my leg as Jeff turned down the light. “Now, now, Mark. Self control,” he scolded without turning around. Mark grinned. But his hand continued its trek. It was at this moment I realized how helpless I was. They could do anything to me, ANYTHING, and I couldn’t stop them at all. They could have complete control. For the first time, I felt real fear. They saw this, yet said nothing. They must’ve known I would come to that conclusion eventually. “It’s all right, sweetie. Don’t panic.” He lay next to me and held me. He brushed back some hair from my face gently. “Baby, want me to stay the night with you?” he asked ever so softly. “I’ll keep you safe, warm. Let me see you sleep again. You’re beautiful when you sleep.” His glowing eyes were so odd. “Why not? Not as if I could stop you anyway,” I scoffed. Laughing softly, he kissed my nose. “Jeff, be useful and shut the door.” “I shall take my leave of you. On the morrow night, I shall come to await the malek for our dance.” Jeff bowed and retreated. 59 Good night, I thought to him. My eyes closed slowly. Mark kissed my eyelids. “Malek, I’ll be good to you. Can I ask again that you’ll be mine? I beg of you.” “Well, will you ever stop asking me?” “Not until you become undesirably old.” “When would that be?” “When you turn 40. Once you hit menopause that shit’s fucked.” I laughed. “Fine. If you’re so persistent, I relent,” I finally caved. “There’s no point in resisting it anymore.” “Cool. You made the right choice.” His lips touched mine again. They were so soft, his whole body was. Unlike Jeff’s cold hard body. I fit with Mark so well; I was so comfortable with him. I’d only had that feeling with one other person, but he was long gone. After our kiss ended, I lay curled up in Mark’s side. I mentally noted that I hadn’t seen Cris for two straight days now. This was beginning to be a problem. Worry for her sprouted in me. Then I thought, I’m the one I should be worried about. There’s a vampire in my bed and I’m perfectly ok with it. “Say, how many of your girlfriends knew you were a vampire?” I questioned. “Not enough. Only a very small portion. This is actually the longest I’ve known one mortal.” “Wow. Well, I guess so!” “Heh. Want me to let you sleep?” “Doesn’t matter. I’ll get the sleep eventually.” “Tomorrow holds a big night for you. I’ll let you sleep. When you wake up, we’ll get you ready,” he decided. “You’ll be the belle of the ball.” “How cliché but thank you.” “Anything for my lady.” He stroked my face. I opened my eyes to see his glowing ones. “I’ll take care of you.” He kissed my nose again. “Will you?” I smiled. “Yes.” “Mm, good.” “Go to sleep, babe.” “Night, Mark,” I whispered, putting my ear to his chest so I could hear his heartbeat. 60 “Night, love.” He held me against him. “Go on to sleep, lass,” he whispered in my ear. “Wait, what’s a malek?” “A special human. The closest English word for it is priestess.” “Don’t they have to be virgins to be a priestess?” “Depends.” “How?” “A vampire priestess has to have been born human, know about vampires, accept them, even protect them. Also, they have to be fertile.” “Why?” “You know why. A priestess must be between the ages of 13-35, IQ must be above average, they must not have any physical handicaps,” he recited. “Basically, they have to be good breeders for capable vampires?” “Yes. That’s only half of it, however.” “Do you mean to take over the world?” “No. Only cohabitate. It’s just that… most humans hate us.” “How could they?” “Well, we are killers.” “But one of the natural laws is kill to eat, right? Humans are just mad ‘cuz they’re not at the top of the food chain anymore. Because they’re not the most powerful or even the most intelligent. Don’t you dare feel guilty. You know why? Everyone’s a killer, whether you believe that or not.” “You’re right. And I know that. But they won’t realize it.” “Exactly.” “See? You know exactly what I’m about.” “Yes, I do.” I held his sides. He kissed me one last time. “Try on that dress,” Mark suggested. I took off the green one I wore and slipped into a sleeveless, curve-necked dress. It barely touched my knees. “Which shoes would go with it?” “The black ones… Nah, put on… hey, put this one on. It’s gorgeous.” 61 “Yes, master.” “C’mon now.” He laughed, handing me a red dress with black outlining. After I slipped into it, he said, “That’s it! that dress is perfect. You’re beautiful.” I smiled shyly. “Which shoes?” I asked quietly. It was very weird getting dressed in front of him. “Black ones. The boots.” “Hooker boots?” “No! You’d put them to shame. Now, let’s get your makeup on. I’m sure you want to look your best for Jeff tonight. He’ll love it. Oh, and I have some advice for you.” “What is it?” I began straightening up things. Suddenly, everything was clean. I jumped. “Sorry. But learn to close off your mind. That way, you keep Jeff guessing. When you can block your thoughts, you can protect yourself from other people and whatnot.” “Uh, ok. Sure,” I nodded. “Want something to eat?” “Sure.” Next thing I know, I was sitting down at me and Cris’ table with Chinese food before me. The lights were dimmed and Mark was in the seat next to me, leaning over. “Oh, wow!” I exclaimed. “Thank you. Did you… steal it?” “No, I left money. Most of the time I pay for stuff.” “Oh,” I chuckled and ate. Mark picked up two chopsticks and began to eat. I stared at him. “What? Didn’t think I could eat? Just because I’m a vamp doesn’t mean I don’t have normal human functions.” “True. Sorry.” “It’s alright, honey.” “How’d you know I liked these certain foods?” He smirked. “I happen to have a friend who can read minds.” “You can’t read my mind? Then how do you know what I’m thinking?” “Partially, it’s that strange human bond, or rather, the bond between two beings that enables us to ‘see’ the other’s thoughts on certain subjects. This has more to do with my ability to read emotions. Although you don’t display your emotions too well.” “That’s for sure.” 62 As I continued eating, I became aware of Mark staring at me. I happened to look at him and again, he seemed entranced by me. “Don’t ever let any other boy see you like this,” he told me, taking my hand. He leaned closer and kissed my neck. It tingled. “No drinking!” I said suddenly, drawing away. “You don’t trust me still.” “No, I do but I haven’t seen you drink yet. What if your thirst takes over?” “Only a logmin has that problem.” “Oh.” “So much to teach you,” he sighed. “Don’t make me feel stupid.” “You’re not, sweetie.” He squeezed my hand. “I don’t know what to think. I mean, my IQ on an adult level is 135. But compared to a vampire…” “You could know. There is a vamp IQ test. I can get it for you. We can find out. Mine is 200.” “Geez! What’s average?” “It’s just like the human test except harder. Average is 90- 110, the same. Only difference is the questions.” “When can I take it.” “Whenever you want to. Just give me the word.” “Alright. Maybe tomorrow.” “Ok. I’ll get on that for you. Now, you’ve got three hours left. You nervous?” “Not really. I’m not one for being nervous. It’s a waste of emotion and energy.” “Interesting.” “What? My take on things?” “Yeah. Come, let’s practice the waltz. I noticed when you were dancing with Jeff you really weren’t sure of what to do. Am I right?” “Yeah. Show me.” “Ok.” We spent nearly two hours perfecting my step. Then we took a break. Jeff arrived to pick me up at exactly half past the hour. He wore a handsome tuxedo, much like suits he usually wore. “Oh, Jeff, you look handsome. I always liked a guy in a tux,” I complimented. He laughed. “Darling child, you are beautiful. You remind me of a child vampire I once knew, Chloe.” 63 “Tell me the story,” I begged. “Alright. This child was only five when my unwilling companion Lance drained her. I wanted to keep him with me so completed her transformation. Less than 100 years later, Amaedo took her from this world, from me. Although Chloe and I always fought in life and she attempted to kill me twice, I loved her. I loved her so much. She was our child, our lover, and our keeper. She was the most beautiful thing I’d ever beheld. If I were to know her horrible fate, I’d have striven to make our relationship different. Four women in my life have I truly loved, each for a different reason; my mother, who left me, Chloe, who died, Aeryn, who was murdered as well, and Dana, the only human, ran away on some religious fetish.” “Yeah, you mentioned all of them but I didn’t know you loved them.” “Well, I did.” “Do you miss them?” “I can still find my mother, and Dana and Chloe were both lost causes to begin with. Aeryn… she was my world. But her children killed her, her fledgling vamps. She was the first logmin vampire. Of course, she chose me as her king. But I couldn’t save her.” “How sad. I’m sorry.” “Don’t be. You know, you look like her.” “Do I?” “You have her almond eyes,” he touched them, “her small nose,” he kissed it, “her strong jaw,” his finger ran along it. “You even have her attitude. That scares me.” “Maybe I’m her reincarnation,” I joked. “Maybe,” he smiled. His eyes studied my body. “But that’s where it stops. You’re thicker, younger than she was.” His hand touched my arm. “After the dance, we should, what’s the term, hang out together.” “Yes. I’d like that. Mark, do you mind it?” “No, go. It’ll be unforgettable,” Mark smiled. “Ok,” I said. “We should be going now, malek Allie,” Jeff urged. “Oh, yes. I’ll see you tomorrow, Mark.” I hugged him. He kissed my lips again. “Ok, baby. Go have fun tonight.” 64 Jeff took my arm and we walked toward the ballroom. On the way, various people joined us, including Cris and her parents. “Where’s Mark?” Cris asked. “Off somewhere. Where have you been? I haven’t seen you in over a day.” “Off. Don’t worry about it. What have you been up to?” She took my other arm. “Guess who else likes me?” “Who?” “Sam.” “Sam? My brother?” she squealed. “Yes. But I turned him down. Then Mark asked me out.” It didn’t strike me until later that Jeff wouldn’t feel comfortable having anyone but Mark competing for my affection. And what if Mark found out? “So why aren’t you with him now?” “Because this is a predetermined arrangement. He’s ok with it.” “Sorry, I never formally introduced myself. I’m Jeff.” “Hey,” Cris replied. “Hello, Jeff. Nice to see you again, Allison,” her parents chimed together. They freaked me out sometimes. “Same here. How’s Maury doing?” “He’s better. You should visit him sometime. He misses you.” “I’m sure he does, Mrs. Dayner.” “You look so cute in that dress! You should wear them more often.” Cris goggled over me. “You do look awfully pretty,” her father added. “Paul, stop staring!” the mother scolded him. I laughed. We’d reached the ballroom now. “Where’s your boy at?” I asked Cris. “He’s going to meet me there. Want to meet him?” “Sure.” We left her parents. She led Jeff and I across the now crowded room to a bunch of Italians. Why did they always seem to travel in packs? That supported the idea that they were all in the Mafia. “Mario! I’d like you to meet my best friend Allison and her date, Jeffery.” 65 “Hi,” greeted the cute Italian. “Eh… I’m Mario. Pleasure to meet such pretty girl,” he flirted. “Thanks,” I blushed and giggled. “Ladies and gentlemen, if I may speak for a moment! I’m the one in charge of this dance. First of all, thank you so much for being here tonight. I hope you all have fun tonight. A lot of people worked really hard to put this together so make it happen everybody!” some psycho they let out of the hospital stole the microphone and addressed us. Everyone clapped on cue. The first song began to play. Jeff took my hip and my hand and began to move us. People also danced around us. It was a lot of fun. Jeff waited on me and I felt like royalty. At one point, that annoying person came and captured the stage, holding it hostage. “Now, we ask everyone to vote for their favorite couple tonight. These two will share a dance on the floor and a complementary romantic dinner for two in a specially secluded spot. So, let’s vote, everyone. If you need the names of a couple, their pictures are up here next to their name. Just put a mark next to the names.” “Whom will we vote for?” I asked Jeff. “Ourselves. These idiots can’t dance,” Jeff said arrogantly. “Are you serious?” I pulled Jeff back. I had his arm in both my hands. His cold arm. “Who else would you vote for? Your asinine friend!” he demanded quietly. “No,” I sighed. “What about the Latin couple?” “Fine, malek Allie,” Jeff smiled and touched my chin. After all was written and done, the real idiot took over the stage. “Alright we have a winner! It was close, but by eight votes Mr. Beale and Ms. Dutch have won! Let’s give them a round of applause!” A standing ovation welcomed us to the dance floor. The song played and Jeff led me in a waltz. “Ah, you’ve practiced! Mark, right? And you are together now. Good for you. He must’ve also taught you to block your thoughts. Smart lad.” “You’re right on all accounts, Mr. Beale,” I told him. “Ha ha. Funny girl. Ready for our dinner? Or rather, yours.” 66 “Yes. Let’s go.” I ate an Italian meal while Jeff studied me. Then he took me down to his room. “I had a great time,” I told him. “So did I, my malek rose. Here, sit. Desire a drink?” “No, I’m fine.” I sat on his couch, wondering why he was always giving me drinks. For a fraction of a second, I thought maybe he put something special in them to calm me down. He sat next to me. “You just look so beautiful tonight. Mark helped you, no doubt… I can honestly say I’m glad I met you.” “Same here. But I have a few questions for you. Why did your friend kill himself? Was he a vampire, too?” “He was my first best friend. Later on, he was angry with me for becoming a vampire and keeping it from him. When I was with Amaedo’s company, he took over it. My mother had told me he would be a disaster when I made him. After he had control, he cast himself into fire.” “How sad. You say that I remind you of them, these people you loved so much. Does that mean you have the same feelings for me?” “Yes,” he answered simply. My insides decided to become a pinball arena. My heart was the pinball. I began to tremble again and leaned forward. I put my head in my hand and held my belly. He moved closer. “Why do I feel like this?” I groaned. “Just relax. Don’t let it take over. Breathe slowly,” he guided, taking the hand that was in my lap. “Breathe, honey.” Maybe I should’ve taken that drink. I took a deep breath and felt a little better. “Thanks. It’s…” I shook my head. “I know it sounds strange, but it’s true. I can’t help it. That’s how I am. And you are a gift. I need you right now.” He stroked my hair back, then lifted my face. I leaned back, laid my head on the top of the couch, and stared at Jeff. He moved closer, taking my small body into his hands gently, pulling me closer toward him in a hug. I could do nothing but hold onto his sides. “Are you calm, chérie?” “Yes.” I looked up at his face. “Hold onto that. I’ll try not to hurt you,” he promised. His head lowered and he kissed my neck. My heart rate increased. “It’s ok. Calm down. Just a little one,” he consoled. One of his 67 hands moved onto my neck. “So beautiful,” he murmured, holding me tightly. As his lips moved over my neck, I felt his teeth brush against my skin. Then a searing pain went through me. He penetrated my skin. My body tensed. Relax, came into my head. Relax, again. So I tried. The pain wasn’t so great now. Next, I felt something being drawn out of me. I held onto his neck as tightly as I could. It continued like that for a long while. Finally, I just grew so, so tired. Good night. I woke up in my room. Getting out of bed, I stumbled over to my mirror. I had a headache. Suddenly, I reeled and started to fall. I was dizzy now. “Allie!” Someone caught me. I felt like fainting again. “Allie, wake up!” “Mark?” I asked, trying to stand up. “Don’t! Let me help you. What happened?” He put me back in my bed. “Baby, you don’t look…” he gasped. “What is it?” I asked. “Honey, did you know that Jeff bit you?” “Yeah. Is that all he did?” “Um, lay out flat and let me look at you.” “Sure, doctor.” “Now, just stay still,” he ordered. “Where would I go?” I joked. He smiled distractedly. His hands felt my neck, then lifted my shirt and felt my belly. Meanwhile, he was muttering under his breath incoherently. He pressed down. “Ah!” I let out. He looked at my face. “Sorry. That hurt?” “A little.” “Where?” “My stomach.” “I knew it.” He sat by me on the bed. “What? Is it bad?” He wouldn’t look at me. “He gave you some of his blood.” “What does that mean? How?” “After you lost your blood, he gave you some of his. Not enough to change you, but enough to mark you. So…” he swallowed, “you might have… enhanced abilities.” “Like what?” “Whatever abilities you already have will be magnified ten fold.” 68 “Wait, what of my IQ?” “It’s the same as before. Yet once you begin absorbing information, you can better retain it.” “Are you angry with me?” “No, you were helpless.” “You angry with Jeff?” “No.” “Then what’s wrong?” “I care for you, Allie. I just wanted to be the first one to drink your nectar. Now I can’t.” “Mark, there are other things I can let you be the first to do,” I took his hand as I said this. Like turn me on, I thought, blushing. He looked at me then, and hinted, “Like your body. Your haven.” “Uh, I don’t think I get you.” I played dumb. “Yes, you do. Shall I show you what I mean?” Turning, he lay me back. His hand left mine and felt my side instead. “No, not now. I’m way too dizzy. Don’t even try anything, buddy!” I reiterated. “Please, just a tad. Nothing serious.” “No, Mark! Are you crazy. We’ve only known each other for about a week.” “Remember, I’ve not been in a relationship with anyone else this long before. And I am extremely fast. If I had had it my way, I would have had you that first night and every night since. Maybe even the day,” he confided. “Oh, la vache! Mon Dieu! You are fast!” “Only to a human like you. I told you, time is irrelevant.” “Which means you’d inconvenience me.” “No. Not at all. I understand your needs but I’m saying that to me the time doesn’t matter.” “Ok, I think I get you. But is sex that important to you?” “It’s only a natural occurrence. If it happens, it happens. It’s not the best thing in the world.” “You sure?” He laughed. “Maybe with you, it is. But I don’t know that yet.” “You mention that as if it would happen,” I pointed out, sitting up. 69 “It will.” “How do you know? Why are you so sure.” “I don’t have to be a psychic to know that,” he grinned. “Oh, really?” I challenged. “Yeah.” He turned toward me, scooting closer. “Ha! Well, how do you know exactly?” I asked again, moving closer to my wall. “Because of how things are going right now. You and I have awesome chemistry. Everything’s just right. It might not be tonight, but it’ll eventually happen. There’s no doubt about it, babe.” He crept closer. I pulled my legs in. “Sure. Whatever you say.” I rolled my eyes. He crawled over my legs. “Even though it might not happen today, that doesn’t mean something won’t.” His face stopped inches from mine. Staring into my eyes, he spoke softly, “Malek, malek, the perfect little malek.” One of his hands touched my face. It slid down over my neck, shoulder, then arm. After holding and kissing my hand, he touched my knee. A trail of tingles followed. With both hands, he opened my legs and straightened them out on either side of him. Then one of his hands led my face to his. Once more, his lips swallowed mine. His hand held my face and his other wrapped around my back and fiercely pulled me closer. “Allie, you are so hot right now,” Mark mumbled as his lips studied my face and neck. “How so?” I asked. He lay us down. Your temperature is rising. I can sense it.” His hand moved under my shirt. Wait, shirt? Maybe Jeff changed me when he brought me back. Ooh, weird. I was snapped out of my thoughts when Mark bit my tongue. “Oww!” I said. “Sorry, baby. Forgot you aren’t a vamp.” How do you forget something like that? “Am I bleeding?” “No… If you want, you can taste my blood.” “Is blood good? I’ve only tasted my own.” “Of course it is!” Yeah, ok, stupid question for a vampire. “How do you keep from getting a disease?” “We can tell who has a disease and who doesn’t. We’re not that primitive. Only logmin have problems like that.” 70 “Oh.” “Here.” He bit his tongue, then kissed me. Blood spilled onto my tongue and fell down into my throat. Something carnal stirred in me. The blood filled my mouth and touched my throat as nothing else had. It was warm, thick, and tasted sweet, unlike my own salty blood. Vampire blood. Delicious. A wave passed over me. When he tried to pull away, I pulled him back. He broke free, saying, “Don’t take too much. You’ll get sick, baby. ‘sides, your body can’t handle anymore without you having to lose some blood yourself. You do understand?” “Yeah. I got carried away, I guess.” “Don’t be embarrassed. If you ever get in the mood to, you know, drink blood, I’ll be here.” “Are you ok?” “Yeah. I’m cool.” He sat back against the wall. I turned toward him. “Are you tired?” I asked in a bimbo- like voice. “No.” He gazed at me strangely. “Then are you tired of me?” I continued in the same manner. “Never. What are you getting at?” “You’re acting like you don’t want to touch me anymore. As if I have a disease or something.” My tone became hard. “But I do. What is wrong with you?” “Nothing. Turning away, I got up and wandered across the room. He sat there for a few seconds, then cautiously slid in front of me. “Baby, you’re acting weird.” “I’m not a baby,” I replied hotly. “No, you’re not. What would you have me call you then? Malek?” “Just call me Allie. Or malek would be fine. Don’t call me what I’m not.” “Ok… Allie, what’s going on?” “Nothing.” “Don’t lie to me.” “On one level, I’m not. It depends on your reality.” He caught on suddenly. Sweeping me off of my feet, he walked over to the bed and tossed me on. Quickly, he came over 71 me and pinned me down. “You little bitch!” he laughed. Then he kissed my face, moved down to my neck. “What about now?” “No.” I smiled. “I can try, can’t I?” He grinned into my neck. His hands left my arms and grabbed my sides. He turned us on our side and slid his hands into my shirt. His temperature was naturally higher than mine. I arched my back. He pulled me into him harshly. His hand ran up my back. I held his arm and tried to push it away from my bra strap. I had no doubt he was an expert at unhooking them. He fought me a little bit to make me squirm against him. Then he played with my waistline. I fought him off there as well. “Stop trying to undress me.” “If I wanted to, I could.” “I know that.” His hand ran up my side. “So why resist in the first place?” “Stop. I have to visit Maury today.” I wriggled away and put on my sneakers. “Aw, you suck!” “You wish.” “Ain’t Maury Sam’s bro?” he changed the subject. “Prob’ly.” “What is with you?” “Never mind it.” “You on your cycle or something?” I narrowed my eyes. “Why is it that every time a woman gets angry, the man says, ‘Oh, it’s just that time of the month,’ like we can’t be angry any other time?” He grabbed my arm tightly. “Where’s Maury’s room?” he asked coldly. “Room 283.” Just like that, we were there. I wrenched my arm away from Mark and knocked. “You really need to have sex. Get rid of all that extra energy.” Whirling around, I spat out hotly, “I thought that only human boys were arrogant and said idiotic, asinine things but I guess that goes for all males, human or animal.” Mark slammed me against the hallway wall with a force that would scare a normal human. “You dare say that one, I am pompous, and two, I am an animal. I very much think that you 72 should revoke that statement and all like it. I do not disrespect you so do not disrespect me,” he growled, glaring at me. “Fine!” I tried to slow my heart, which was pumping out adrenaline. “Why are you pissing at me?” he demanded. “I was just confirming something.” “Don’t ever test me!” he almost yelled. Then he hugged me. Someone came out of their room and said, “Please keep the noise down.” “Sorry,” Mark said offhandedly, still staring at me intensely. A door closed. Mark held me against him at that moment. I gazed up at his beautiful face, into those awesome green eyes of his. Closer, closer to him. I was caught up in the sensation of his body wrapped around mine. His heat against my cheek. “Mark,” I breathed. His eyes and manner did not change as he leaned down and kissed me. Apparently, he’d bit his tongue again and blood poured into me, that sweet, thick juice. “Ready to go in,” he asked softly when he pulled away, same expression on his face. I nodded. “Yeah, honey. Let’s go.” He held my waist and we knocked on the door. Maury said to come in. He was sitting by his window. “Hi. Nice of you to come visit me,” he greeted. “Hey. Do you know Mark?” I asked, going to sit by him. Mark stood behind my chair. “Hello, Maury,” he waved. “Hey,” Maury nodded. How much it would have helped things if he’d answered my question. “How are you feeling?” I wondered. “A lot better. I might be awake for dinner today. By tomorrow, I’ll be able to walk around freely.” “Good for you.” I squeezed his hand. “Has Cris been here?” “Nope. Course not. Didn’t expect her to. Sam did, though.” “Does anyone like Cris?” Mark inquired. “No. not once they get to know her,” Maury laughed. “What have you been doing?” was my question. “Reading, mostly.” “Reading what? More sci-fi novels?” “Yeah. Course. What else would I read?” “Don’t know!” I lifted the right corner of my mouth. “What do you do for fun, Mar?” Mark asked. 73 “Read,” we both answered. Then we laughed. “Ok,” Mark said slowly. “If you don’t mind, I need to catch a meal.” “Well, guess I’ll see you later,” I said. “Yeah.” He walked out. “Did you hear all that racket? Two people were fighting in the hallway,” Maury asked. “Oh. No, I heard nothing.” Cough. “Well, anyway, I‘ve finished Broemmer’s books and am starting on Ricking’s series.” “Cool. You like Broemmer?” “He’s not as good as Shelter and he’d never beat Alexia Clarence, but I like him fine.” I nodded. “You’ll love the series.” He waited a while before he asked, “Is Mark special to you?” “What do you mean?” “There were some flares between you as you came in. You looked as if to kill each other with love as you came in.” I choked. “Love?” I peeped. Then I cleared my throat. “I’ll admit we’ve grown close in a short amount of time. Yet…” yet what? I knew that this guy would affect me my whole life. If it wasn’t love I felt for him, what the hell was it? Infatuation? No, I was infatuated with Jeff, not him. I didn’t feel my insides melt with Mark. He was there like my body was. We tuned in to each other. I felt so self-assured with him. So… love, infatuation, a crush? None, it was as it was. “Yet I wouldn’t call it love.” Yet. Sigh. Then what was it? It irked me, trying to figure out what was passing between us. Should I ask him? Would he even comprehend? I needed an answer. But not now. I had to tend to Maury. I guided him off of the odd subject and onto his uneventful life. No more questions about Mark and I left the 13- year-olds lips, which were very thin. He reminded me of Ghandi, skinny and smart. His brown hair was a mess. Fleeting thought of Mark’s red hair. Where was he? Stop it. Pay attention to Maury. What did Mark feel? Shut up. Finally, Maury decided to take a nap so I left. I went back to my room, wondering when the hell Cris was coming back. Her bed and belongings were untouched. Should I worry? Nah, forget 74 it. I watched a movie. It was some old horror movie. Pretty funny. Until I screamed. Someone grabbed me and flung me on my bed. “Help!” I tried to scream. No sound came out. I tried to fight off the intruder. A good uppercut to his jaw sent him reeling backwards. Getting to my feet, I ran out into the hall and clambered up the stairs. It was then that I was tackled. I hit my ribs on the steps and the wind was knocked out of me. Still, I squirmed. Rapist was one possibility that ran through my head as I was dragged back to my room. My door was closed and locked. Once again, I was forced onto my bed. I stared at my wall. Suddenly, he slapped me. Bewildered, I looked up and blinked. “Stupid girl! Who do you think I am?” Mark asked. “Oh, mon Dieu! Mark! You scared me shitless!” “More like clueless.” “Don’t do that! Please stop sneaking up on me,” I begged, squeezing him. “Oh, malek.” He pulled me up into him. I sighed with relief. “Did you drink?” I leaned back to look into his glowing eyes. “Yes.” All of a sudden, I felt some insane jealousy. “Let me see the victim.” “Ok.” He got up. “Want to run?” His hand extended. “Fine.” I took it. Zip! We disappeared. Once in his suite, he pressed against the wall again. It dissipated and I went in. He opened a drawer in the floor. It revealed a woman of 20 years. She was a beautiful Latina. Brown, curly, soft hair; eyes closed but probably brown; body of a model. “You only take the beautiful people?” I asked, touching her silk lingerie. “No,” he answered. She was a good two inches taller. I moved closer to her. Such a shame to put such beauty to waste. “This is why all the pretty people are few in number,” I muttered offhand. Realizing I sounded so lookist, I paused. “Touch her if you want. She can’t hurt you,” he urged. I felt her face, which was still a bit warm. A vision flashed in my mind of him embracing her, running his hands over her voluptuous body. I shuddered. I began to cry as my hands studied 75 her frame. She was beautiful beyond comparison. My hand barely covered her hip. “Did you enjoy it?” “Why wouldn’t I?” I leaned against this girl’s full body, continuing to weep. Her breasts were my pillows. “Could you love her?” “Yes, I could. There are many girls I could love but I choose to be with you.” “Couldn’t you leave me then? Why me with all of these able bodies?” “Simply the fear. I’d never find this same chemistry. Do you understand that I’ll take no one else?” “But look at her!” I screamed. “She’s the one you should be with. Make her a vampire!” 76 Chapter Five “You mean that?” “Yes,” I spoke with conviction. I turned around to face him. “Ok. Do your magic.” “You can do it yourself,” he declared, grabbing me. As he bit me, I gasped. So different from Jeff's bite. My body went limp. I let out a moan as he drank. It didn't hurt but it paralyzed me. «Stop!» I tried to say. He held me tighter. This is what it was like to die. This is what she felt, I thought, staring at her face. I felt extremely dry inside, like a corn husk. No motor skills at all, I couldn't even blink. My heart had ceased to beat. Ever so gently, I was laid on the floor. I stared up at Mark. He seemed to be doing something internally. Oddly, I saw Jeff appear behind him. I couldn't believe my eyes when they embraced like lovers would. They seemed to be kissing then. I realized they were fusing their blood. To anyone normal, they looked like a homosexual couple. That was when my skin pricked. Maybe they were considered gay to other vampires. They sure had a lot of explaining to do. Either way, the whole process was neat. Not a drop spilled. Uh oh! I thought as my body felt like it was splitting. Is that my soul coming out? I thought, panicking. I'm dying! Hurry 77 up! I directed at them. They finished their vamp make-out session and kneeled down on either side of me. Together, they bit me. Dudes, I have no blood left! I thought. But they injected some sort of needle into my skin. Then, ceremoniously, they bit each other's wrists. They put them, one by one, against my lips. Blood dripped into my mouth. Surprisingly, I didn't choke as it ran straight down my throat as if it knew where to go. I didn't swallow at all. Didn't have to. The blood did its job. Jeff kissed me first, breathing into me as his blood continued to come into me. His tongue gently massaged mine as his life force flowed from him. His hand curled under me and held me against him. Slowly, my body was coming to life. Then Mark took his turn. He held me ever so gently, pushing his blood into mine. My heart was pumping so hard now, processing this new liquid. My soul snapped back into place. Mobility returned at my full command and my arm wrapped around his neck to pull him closer. I felt a strong connection to him. Completely in tune, it felt like we were one and the same. Even our heartbeats were now the same. The rhythm moved me. I felt his heart against mine, directing my heart’s beat. Thump thump. So hard. His body, his eyes, his hair. Now it was infatuation. Is that a step forward or backward? Blood given, I changed this transformation into a kiss. He allowed himself to be led into me. Both his arms held me to him to his chest. I never wanted to release him, but I had to be realistic. I enjoyed it for this moment. He kissed my neck underneath my chin. Now came the shivers, the trembles. And gently, Jeff guided him away. I let him go, collecting myself. I knew I was changed in more ways than one. Rising to my feet as they watched on their knees, I looked around. Taking in the smells, the sights, the feel of the air or the fabric on my body, the taste of the air, the sounds of the ocean was my goal. I felt serene and peaceful. Mark and Jeff’s thoughts were revealed to me suddenly. Mark was thinking of how I was taking this and Jeff of my similarity in movement to Aeryn. “We need to talk,” I decided in a new, stronger voice. They rose to their feet and led the way out. At the wall, they turned back to look at me. “Say goodbye to her for now. 78 You can change her later. I’ll explain how but not at this moment,” Mark directed. I stepped up to the girl, realizing she wasn’t dead but in a dreamless sleep. “Only for a little while,” I murmured. I held her face, which was losing life with every minute. “Hurry. The longer we wait, the sooner she’ll die,” Mark informed me. Leaning closer, I kissed her soft, full lips. Whispering, “Later, my sweet,” I followed Mark and Jeff. We went to Jeff’s suite, which seemed to be the favorite hangout nowadays. I sat in Jeff’s chair and they sat on the couch. “Obviously, I have some questions, the first of which is about that awkward display. Explain to me these homo-like behaviors.” “Well, you already know about me. Vampires don’t really distinguish sexual orientation. What you consider ‘gay’ behavior is probably considered normal to our kind. What transpired between Mark and I had nothing to do with preference. It’s just as you humans might shake hands,” Jeff explained. “That doesn’t fully cover my question. Are you or are you not? Or rather, were you?” I elaborated. “I had taken a few males in my human life if that’s what you mean. I had no preference. It mattered not to me who you were. If the party was willing, I’d partake. In fact, that’s the reason I became a vampire. I went home with the wrong person, did the deed, and he turned me into a vampire.” “You could have a few hundred bastards lying around, the both of you,” I said sharply. “A discussion for another time, my dear,” Jeff touched my hand. “So much for you to answer for,” I sighed. “And all the time in the world to tell you,” he replied. “For myself, I’ve never done it with a guy in the human sense. Although I have connected like I did with Jeff earlier. That’s something way better than sex. I’ve done almost everything save for sex with males. I don’t see what you’re getting at,” Mark supplied. “Vampires don’t question sexuality? Uh… life partners? Companions? Pretend like you’re human for a moment. If you were, could you take a man as your partner?” I rephrased. 79 “Yes,” they both answered, only slightly puzzled. Now that I think back on it, they were probably playing with me. “Why shouldn’t we?” Mark wondered. “You’re not understanding me!” I sighed again. “Let me put it bluntly. Are you bisexual or not?” “Oh!” they both said, glancing at each other. Jeff spoke first. “You mean…” They both began to laugh. “Honey, all vampires are bi. We don’t have to choose like humans do. We don’t fight over such stupid things,” Mark added. “Ok,” I said slowly. “That makes sense.” “When one becomes a vampire, one realizes there is no choosing. You can’t have one without the other. No one can survive alone and so almost any company is welcome. The most unlikely couples derive.” “Like Amaedo,” Mark snickered. “Please don’t remind me! I can’t stand that sort of weakness,” Jeff waved. I laughed. “I know this sounds perverted but I want to know if you two would kiss each other without the blood,” I dared. “Why?” they asked. “To prove your security… Do you like each other?” “Mark’s alright. He could be my companion,” Jeff said warmly. “Jeff’s a fine lad.” Mark grinned, patting him on the back. They both laughed. “So kiss!” I urged. “I’d rather kiss you instead,” they both answered. “Why?” “We don’t love each other yet,” Mark answered as if everyone should know the answer. “Just the same. If you want to kiss me, kiss each other first,” I compromised. “What is your fetish with us kissing?” Jeff wondered. “I want to know something.” “The things we do for this girl.” Mark said as an aside. We all laughed, then Mark turned toward Jeff. “Come here,” he told him tenderly. I suppressed my feelings as Jeff leaned toward Mark. My heartbeat quickened so I knew Mark’s had. Jeff took Mark into his arms and Mark kissed him first. After a few seconds, Jeff let 80 him go. “Whoa,” I mouthed. They’re really serious, was my thought. “Now are you satisfied?” they asked. “There was nothing in that kiss!” I protested. “Did you expect there to be? What do you want? That flashy, movie, passionate kiss?” Mark asked. “A little bit.” They laughed. “Can we close this deal?” Mark requested. “Deal?” I squealed. “Don’t play stupid. You owe us both a kiss. Now, come on so you can change the girl.” Mark yanked me up. “Fine. How do I run?” “Know where to go and go,” Jeff told me, skimming me as he walked by. Funny, but I’d always associated that move with teenage boys. Huh. I felt a rush and we were all there, in the morgue. “That wasn’t so hard,” I noted offhandedly. “Ok. I’m your student, teachers.” Mark took my hand and led me in front of the girl. “This is a preserver. Keeps them in the same state. If they’re barely alive, they sleep, as you’ve noticed. If they’re dead, their bodies are kept from decomposing. She is alive but unconscious. Take her in your arms. Support her. Hold her as if to kiss her,” he instructed. I held her head and her back. “Now what? Bite her?” “There’s a way to do it. Now remember this, there’s no guarantee she’ll like you.” “I know.” “Here, watch how I bite Jeff.” He turned. Jeff let him take full reign. Mark bent Jeff backward and dramatically inserted his teeth. “Doesn’t that hurt you?” I questioned. “Always,” Jeff replied. I smoothed the hair from the woman’s neck. My tongue ran over my teeth. They felt like Mark’s, like Jeff’s. I had studied those teeth in their mouths, felt them graze my skin. The changes continued. I felt them. Her skin felt different to me. I imitated Mark’s lead. Mark pulled back from Jeff. “Dig in until you feel the vein… That’s it… Now remove your teeth and suck… Beautiful,” he guided me. 81 There was only a little blood left of course. I looked at him as if to ask, “Now what?” “Give blood back,” he said simply. I laid her on the floor and bit into my wrist. Dull, throbbing pain greeted me. Opening the girl’s mouth, I put my wrist over it and squeezed blood into her. After a few minutes, I couldn’t take it anymore. I kissed my wrist and bit my tongue. After I tasted blood, I leaned down and stuck my tongue into her mouth. Do your work, I thought. Pushing in farther, I breathed into her as well. I felt her heart begin to beat a little stronger. Her breath became even and noticeable. Some time passed and she grasped my hand. Progress. Her heartbeat matched mine now; I felt some force changing hers to match mine. Mine controlled hers. Then the magical moment came when her eyes opened. Brown, just as I thought. She looked at me for the first time. “Welcome to your new life,” I told her, drawing away. I let her begin to sense things on her own. I sat on my legs. Slowly, she sat up. “Who are they?” she asked me. “Those are my fathers, Jeffery Beale and Mark Ashton. They made me as I’ve made you. What do you make of this, love?” “What am I now?” “A vampire.” “All of you are?” “What do you think?” I asked gently, not in response to her latter question but as a route off of my former question. “I’ve watched you since we got on this ship. I wished but thought we’d never meet. It seemed so… farfetched, you know? I didn’t even know you, didn’t know what your type was even. Dream come true, how you say.” Her accent was so beautiful. Her voice was soft and definitely feminine. It wasn’t so high that it was annoyingly girlish, it was pleasant. She sounded as if she could sing. She laughed gently. And here I sat, fully expecting her to be pissed at Mark for nearly killing her. Turns out she had the hots for me. “Well, this isn’t a dream. This is real life,” I said, delighted. “Tell me, why are you not afeared?” Mark asked her. “My sister was a vampire. One bit her. I’ll tell you more about it later but right now, let me know you,” she replied. 82 “Then, let’s back to my room for a small discussion. Then we shall take a day’s rest even though you three don’t need it,” Jeff decided. Rising to our feet simultaneously, we glided out of the room. Mark closed the wall, and then we walked as a uniform to Jeff’s suite. A few people in the hallway stared at us as we floated past. The girl and I walked in front of Jeff and Mark, holding hands. Lustful glances followed us as well as pure awe. Sigh. We’d reached the room now. I pushed the door open and we strolled in. Together, we sat down on the longer couch. “Tell me your name,” I directed at the girl. “Amada Valejo,” she responded. “Allison Dutch.” “I know. I saw you, both of you at dance.” “You were in that Latino couple I voted for!” I realized. “Si. That was Laredo Allejandra, an acquaintance.” “Ok… You know, we’ve been blessed to meet each other.” “Oui,” Jeff agreed. “Aye,” Mark nodded. “Si.” “Even more question arise in me now,” I sighed. Jeff kissed my forehead. “Little one, it’s time to sleep. I’ll explain your lifestyle tomorrow,” he promised. “I am tired.” “Come. We’ll share my coffin. Mark and Amada can use the bed.” He guided me toward the locked room. “No sex!” I made sure to tell Mark. “Not like I could anyway. She really is gay,” he replied. I rolled my eyes. Jeff waited for me to lay down first. He locked the door. “You sure you can’t reproduce?” I asked him as he lay beside me. “Yes. Why? Want me to prove it?” he smiled. “Ha! Funny.” “Shh. Let the sleep come over you. You don’t need to sleep at daytime like I do yet you’re so tired now.” He held me in his arms after closing the lid. Now I appreciated his solid body. I felt safe. From what, who knows? I cuddled into him like I would a blanket. Then I whispered, “This is weird.” “Being in a coffin? It is at first. I don’t know why I like coffins but I do. A fetish, perhaps, like you about Mark and I.” 83 I felt myself blush. “It’s interesting, is all… Do you think he wants her?” “Like he said before, he wants you.” He stroked my face. Warm now. I gulped. After a very long pause I got up the courage to ask, “Do you?” “Yes,” his simple answer to everything. “Why?” “You’re what I’ve been looking for. Just like Aeryn. You might even have her dreams. From what I’ve seen of your life, I know you must be related to her somehow. I’ve yet to decipher how. Now go to sleep. The sun’s coming up and I don’t want you awake after I am. Understand, love?” “Yes, Father.” He laughed softly and kissed my face. My body hardened like stone and I was unconscious. My first vampire sleep. Dreamless. When I awoke, Jeff was pulling my body closer. The coffin lid was open and the sun had just set. “Shall we lie together, ma cherie?” “How, precisely?” I wondered suspiciously. Laughing, he kissed my neck. “So beautiful. I almost wish I were human again, just for one night even.” He stroked my face softly. “Whatever for?” I asked, almost heartbroken. “To love you like a man,” he spoke wistfully. I hugged him tightly. “No, Jeff, don’t despair over me.” Cold and hard. All over? His tears, red with blood, dripped onto my arm. “Why not? It’s what I know.” “I’ll teach you differently. Don’t do this, Jeff.” He kissed me at that moment. Dizziness draped its arm over me. My whole body began to shake. I’d let him do anything, I knew. My infatuation with him was too much. When I tried to touch his back, he whispered sadly, “No, cherie. I’ve told you I’m not capable of that anymore. I’m sorry.” “That doesn’t mean you can’t try!” I cried out in disgust, leaving him alone in the coffin. My arms folded. He sat up. “Try? What do ask of me?” “You know exactly what. I know you can. Simply a seed cannot grow is all that’s wrong with you. I’ve seen your 84 capability. I’ve seen it. Whatever, fuck it. We don’t need to talk about this.” I stared out of the window. He embraced me from behind. Another shiver. “Cherie, cherie,” he murmured, drawing me into not only him but also his spell. I gasped. “Please don’t forsake me, love. I need you as Amaedo needed me. My malek rose.” His right hand held my face and his left wrapped around to attach itself to my right hip. “What are we to do if you won’t even try?” I began to cry. Unlike Jeff, my tears weren’t stained with blood. “No crying,” he soothed, bending to kiss my throat. “I won’t cry over you. Let me go,” my voice became hard. Sadly, reluctantly, he released me. “As you wish.” I’d left a gash in his heart, I knew. Depleted him of his nightly blood. At this moment, though, it was hard to care. “Shall I break the door?” I asked sarcastically. He opened the door for me. Mark was already up and in the kitchenette. Rapidly, he was preparing a meal for himself, Amada, and I. “Amada is in the shower,” he informed. “And what are you making?” I inquired. “Mexican pizzas. She likes those. Even though she was born in Puerto Rico, she grew up in California, Mexico,” he supplied. “Oh.” I sat in Jeff’s chair. Without a word, Jeff flounced out. Mark stared at me. “What did you do to him?” “I only got defensive about one little thing and he…” I stopped because Mark gave me a strange look. “What?” I asked softly. Suddenly, he appeared suspicious of me. His chin jutted out. “You brought up coitus, didn’t you?” “Why?” “That’s his sore spot. You’re lucky he didn’t kill you.” “What of yourself?” “I make light of it, he knows that, but you criticized him for it. Since he loves you, it hit him hard that it was so important to you and he couldn’t provide it. He must hate you.” “Over something so stupid?” “He wants to provide you with everything.” I was quiet while he set the table. When he finished, I said, “You and I need to talk.” 85 “We are.” “No. There’s a subject I want to discuss.” “Go ahead.” He sat on the edge of the chair I was in. “What do you feel for me?” “Adoration. Confusion. Infatuation. Desire. Excitement. Love?” A beat passed. “Love? Are you even capable of that?” “As I am of everything else!” “Well, I don’t know what it is I feel for you. It’s not infatuation and it’s not love. I feel… complete, myself. Uh, I have no words for it.” That intense look came over his face and I knew something intense was going to happen. Our heartbeats were hard and fast now. “I can complete you in more ways than one,” he said huskily. “I know that.” “Let me show you.” He leaned closer. I put my hand up as if to stop him. His hand reached for mine. “Wha,” I began but stopped as our hands touched. A jolt went through us both. Electricity crackled. It leaped from our fingers and onto the table. Fire, I thought, getting to my feet. Mark held me behind him and put one hand over the fire. As his hand moved, so did the fire. He was controlling the fire, I realized. He put his hand down, palm facing up, on the table. The fire jumped into his hand. In a daze, I watched him lift it and swallow the flames. “Oh, my goodness!” I put my hands to my mouth in shock. Turning around, he looked right at me. “That’s never happened before.” “The fire?” “How it came out of us. I’ve directed fires, only small ones before, but never have I seen two people create electricity of that magnitude just by touching! That was amazing!” “Yes, it was.” “I told you we had awesome chemistry.” He smiled. “I guess so.” I laughed. “C’mere.” He grabbed me and held me close. He put our chests together so we could feel the other’s heartbeats in the same rhythm. “How romantic!” Amada cooed. 86 We looked at her and let each other go. “Eh.” “In shower felt heart go faster.” “Oh. Je crois il et en amour,” I told her. Understanding, she laughed. “J’envie. J’ai envier pour tu,” she responded. “Where’d you learn French?” I asked. “School.” “J’envie tu. Je desire tu,” Mark said in a serious tone. I chuckled. “I bet you do.” Silence. Both Amada and I looked at him. Dead serious. “Well, I’m hungry,” Amada broke the silence. We all sat at the table. I learned a lot that night. Mark set Amada and I down and first had us take a vamp IQ test, then taught us some things. I got a 108 and Amada got a 150. After the test, he went over vamp history. Then he taught us the thousands of subspecies of vamps, even evolved forms. He could only give a brief explanation for each one, of course. I could only remember a few hundred. No specifics were delivered for how these splits and evolutions came along. He only covered the bare minimum. Which is about all I could handle. It was becoming increasingly lighter outside and I was beginning to worry about Jeff. I excused myself and left. Standing in the hall, I waited a beat. Where could he possibly go? Anywhere? I should’ve asked Mark about Jeff’s weaknesses. Too late now. I started down the hallway. As I came around a corner, I said, “Hi, Mark.” “Didn’t think I’d let you wander off alone, did ya now, lass?” Mark asked, his accent clear. He stood in front of me, one hand against the wall, staring at me as he leaned to the side, hand on his hip. He looked as if he were posing for a picture as the world’s sexiest bachelor. But then again, he’d pledged himself to me. “Come on.” As I walked by him, he turned and took his place next to me. “Amada?” “Watching a movie. She’s… odd.” “It’s a lot different when you actually get to know your victims, huh?” 87 “Don’t get on my case again, please!” He was running his hand along the wall. “Fine… Where would he go?” “I dunno. I’ve never pissed him off before.” “Hey, don’t get on my case, either.” He smirked as a dirty thought filled his head. “Oh, there’s somethin I wanna get on but it ain’t no case, that’s for sure.” He laughed. I scoffed. “Boy, you’re promiscuous.” “Hell ya. Now let’s find your would-be lover before he casts himself into the Sun.” He touched my back. “Would-be what?” I repeated incredulously. “You heard me,” he leaned down to say in my ear a bit menacingly. “I’m not sure if I want to know what that means.” “I think you already do.” “Whatever.” I rolled my eyes. “Seriously, though. He shared his coffin with you. That’s deep. Logmin rarely share their coffins, if they have one. If they do, that means you’re really important. ‘Cuz they’d unknowingly kill anyone who came near them if they were human or they didn’t like them. So he’s, like, serious about you.” “Doesn’t that bother you?” “Why should it? It flatters me, actually, that he wants you. That makes you more valuable.” “What about when you two fought that day when you found out he knew me?” “I didn’t know him like I do now. Ever since you appeared, we’ve gotten along. We’re like brothers almost. We… we talk now.” “That’s good, I guess.” “You don’t get it. Without you, Jeff and I would be feuding to the very ends of time itself.” He stopped me. I regarded him. Sincerity blasted at me full force. Now I understood why people were dishonest. All of these truths weighed on me as the world did on Atlas’ shoulders. “I’m a peacekeeper?” I questioned. “Basically… Look, I think we should split up. We can find him easier that way.” “How will we let each other know-” 88 He touched my chest. “Remember, your heart is connected to mine.” “True.” Stepping forward, he kissed me quickly, then disappeared. I stood still for a few seconds. A mental cry I sent out for Jeff. His time was running out. It was almost dawn. Mark’s words resounding in my head, I searched the upper decks. Sadly, I looked over the water at the rising sun. Slowly, I began to cry. An arm touched my back. Next to me stood Jeff. “Why didn’t you tell me you were staying out all night? You lied to me.” My voice conveyed hurt. “How so?” “I called you and you didn’t come!” I said evenly. “I'm here now.” “Not when I want you to be.” “Such a human emotion,” he whispered lovingly, running a hand through my hair. My eyes closed. Keeping my cool despite my silent tears, I declared, “Do you expect me to forget my worry for you, bastard?” “No. But if you didn’t still have your human qualities you would understand how pointless this is.” “Stop treating me as if I’m inferior! I want to be your equal. I thought I was.” I turned away. “It’s getting light out. Back to my room,” he decided. Before I could protest, we were suddenly in his suite, in his room. Involuntarily, my heart sped up its routine. The door was shut. “Now,” he began, sitting on the ledge of his coffin effortlessly, “I’d like to apologize.” “You sincere?” “On Aeryn’s grave.” “Aeryn. You still need her, don’t you?” “Perhaps.” “Tonight, I want to find something out. For now, go to sleep. I don’t want you to die.” Looking away, I told him this in the tenderest of voices. “I won’t… Would you lie with me again? Or do you have other matters to tend to?” “Well, I need to change and take a shower. I prob’ly stink.” 89 He laughed. “Oh, silly girl. Come for at least a moment.” His arms extended to welcome me into his embrace. “Why not?” I shrugged, stepping forward. He nearly crushed me. I tilted my head up to see his face. The body that was so hard barely moved underneath me. Skin like marble touched me. The heat came to my face. As he saw this, he smiled. In the sunlight, his hair and eyes were jewels of multifaceted colors. “Don’t worry. A little sun won’t hurt me,” he assured me. Holding me across his lap as if I were a baby (or Chloe?), he lifted my chin, drew my face closer to his, and delicately let our lips touch. My body melted. “Well, maybe for today,” I murmured as he slowly lay back in the coffin, taking me with him. “Good.” He continued to kiss me as the lid closed. My body surrendered to him. And for an odd moment, his body softened to that of a baby’s. I felt his chest with my hand. He didn’t stop me. License of the blind he gave me. Muscle everywhere. Definitely one of the beautiful people. Up, up to his face, his lips. His lips kissed my fingers as he pulled me closer. My fingers moved down, taking his loose shirt off. No protest when I touched his hips, his waist. I wonder… I started to think. “Not today, love,” he smiled. “Why not?” I latched my hand onto his hip. “No time. I’m tired. I’m going to sleep now.” “Ok.” I curled into him and together, our bodies hardened. My thoughts took over. Jeff did love me. He’d do anything for me. He knew all of my secrets. I wasn’t the innocent, outspoken girl I came across as, and he knew that. The most crooked things I’d ever done, he already knew. And he loved me for it. In me, he saw the same dark likeness of Aeryn. She must have been evil. She must have been beautiful. Definitely, she had been awesome to enrapture Jeff so. Yes, I’ll find my ties to her, I vowed. 90 Chapter Six Eyes of many colors radiated against my retinas. Above me, Jeff lay, as if we were preparing to make love. Seeing that I was awake, a soft smile crept onto his face, so separate from his expression. Inasmuch as I’d just awakened, a bit of addled thoughts unleashed themselves inside my cranium. “Good night, my love,” spilled forthright from his perfectly shaped “bouche”. What odd words to put together when one is waking. “Are you awake yet?” I stretched. “Oui, Monsieur Beale.” He drew back to give me room. “J’adore tes singeries peu. Tu est tres bete! Bete fille,” he said warmly. I giggled as I sat up. “Do you have a computer?” “Oui. J’ai un ordinatuer. Suivez moi.” Easily, soundlessly, he jumped out of the coffin. I wandered over to the wall at which he stood. I noted that he hadn’t replaced his shirt. Various candles had been lit around the room. “How long did I sleep?” “Only half an hour after me. So very tired you are.” “Aye.” “Well, I suppose you know how to use it?” 91 “Of course!” I took the seat and booted up the computer. Actually, it was a laptop. Computers were so old. I logged onto the Internet and launched a search for my family tree. After some intense digging, I found what I was looking for. “Jeff, look at this!” “Ah! Je sais il.” “I can’t believe it. I’m related to Aeryn. And Montesqieu. And… Pocahontas? Oh, no some Native American named Poca Hintae. But, I’m a descendant of Aeryn!” I chanced a look at Jeff. Tears leaked from his multicolored eyes. As I got to my feet, he dropped to his knees. I held his head against me and let him cry. “You must be her, then. You have to be!” he declared. “How am I to find out?” “Ask Mark. He knows.” “I’ll do it later. This seems as much as you can take right now.” “Yes, please. Let me touch you?” His marble hand reached up and stroked my face. Now his infatuation with me was greater than mine was for him. At least insofar as I knew. “Anytime you wish, Father. But please, allow me to get clean. I very much desire a shower.” “Of course, my queen. Je regrette. I’ll let you go. Don’t stray for long, eh?” “No, I won’t.” I kissed his smooth, cold, white cheek, then pried his arms off of me, and walked out. Mark was playing himself in chess. “Did you hear?” “Yes,” he answered. “Maybe you are her. I remember her,” he sighed. “You knew her, too?” “Knew of her. All vamps did. And we all wanted her. It was out of jealousy that her children murdered her. Such a shame. And now that I know of your relation to her, I believe you may be the reincarnation.” I nodded. “How can I find out?” “I’ll tell you after you shower.” “Did you sleep any?” “After my heart quickened, I came back. Amada and I got to know each other more deeply. She’s crazy about you. I told her what I knew of you. You two are very compatible.” 92 “Why is she gay?” “Been that way since birth. Basically. Had her first girlfriend at five. They kissed under a slide every day at lunch. But I’ll tell you more later. Take a shower first.” “Ok. Where is she now?” “I taught her how to fly and hunt. There are a few islands nearby.” “Oh.” I went into Jeff’s bathroom. “Mind if I join you?” Mark asked from the doorway. “Yes. Go away!” “Come on. We’re gonna see each other sooner or later.” “No.” “Geez, you’re still a bitch even after I turned you. Why?” “I know I’m changed but I’m still not ready for…” I stared at him, imagining him in the nude. Quite attractive but still. “You never will be if you hold on to your American ideologies.” “Still… I don’t think I could handle you like that.” “I never even said we’d do anything. I just asked to get in the shower. That doesn’t mean anything’s gonna happen. Stop jumping to false conclusions.” “Are you mad?” “A little because you always assume that all I desire of you is sex,” he pointed out. “Do you?” “I admit that I do desire that of you but I’m not forcing you and that’s not the only thing on my mind. I’m not a human male. I’m almost 200 years old, damnit! I think I’d have more sense than that.” “I’m sorry if I come across like that. I don’t think that’s all you want.” “Then why keep bringing it up?” “Well, I think about it, too.” “So?” “Well, I want it, too, but I’d have no idea where to begin.” He looked surprised. “I’ll teach you.” “I know. I’m just scared.” “But you’re not scared of Jeff?” “I’d let him do anything, you know that. But you, it scares me. You scare me.” 93 “How?” “You can hurt me. I don’t like that. You are me in a different form. You know how to hurt me.” “I wouldn’t,” he protested, stepping forward. “You slapped me,” I reminded. “You were nearly hysterical.” “True.” “I wouldn’t hurt you.” “You’re capable of it. You get rough sometimes.” “You like that. It’s provocative and it turns you on. It excites you.” “That’s why you do it?” “Yeah. Want me to stop? I don’t wanna ‘cuz I like it just as much as you do.” I stayed silent for a few moments, just staring at him, then I turned around and started up the shower. Out of nowhere, something hit me and I fell into the shower. Twisting, I sputtered, wiped water out of my eyes, and saw Mark’s grinning face. He was barefoot when he stepped into the shower. “What are you doing?” “I didn’t say we had to be naked, did I?” He leered over me. Just like someone else had long ago. Stop it. He’s gone from you. Mark laughed as I struggled to get to my feet. We wrestled in that large tub in that warm water. Finally, he lifted me and slammed me onto the porcelain. Quickly, he pinned me. “Ha ha! I am victorious!” he crowed. “And my how you’ve gotten stronger.” “Ach! You bastard. Let me wash up.” “I can wash you.” My heart fluttered. I laughed. “Maybe another time.” “Oh, darn… I’ll wait for you outside. We’ve got lots to do tonight if you want to involve Jeff.” “Ok. I’ll be quick.” I wiped some of the water from my face. He helped me up, then locked the door on his way out. How thoughtful. I stripped off my outfit and let the water pour over my body. How I bet Mark would have loved to see me like that. I shivered just thinking about it. I slapped myself. “Stop fantasizing!” I scolded myself. I stayed in the shower for half an hour despite my promise to Mark, then clambered out and into 94 my clothes. After I made my debut in the living room, Mark rolled his eyes. “What the hell was that? Did you wash your insides as well? Geez, woman! I said a quick shower. That was not quick. I know I said time is irrelevant but we have things to do tonight.” “Sorry!” I sat down. “You know we’ve only got two days left?” “Yes. But don’t worry. This isn’t the last you’ve seen of us. Ok? So don’t even think about crying.” “I’m not… Hey, what about aging?” “What about it?” “How will I age?” “However you want to,” he replied. “You mean I control it?” “Yeah.” “How?” “Try it.” “Uh… ok.” “You can do it. Figure it out.” “Fine.” I stepped over to the mirror. I imagined myself at 20. What would I look like? I wondered. My form began to change. I now looked four and a half years older. “What the-” “See? You can do it. It’s very simple.” I returned to my normal state. “But how am I to make it look normal? Can I do it slower?” “Of course you can! You already know how. Just do it. Like when you ran. Remember, whenever you want to know how to do something, just do it,” he instructed. “That makes very little sense but whatever.” “Ok. Ready to find out if you’re Aeryn?” “I don’t know.” “Yes, you do.” “Je ne sais pas.” “Oui. Here, I’ll show you.” “Wait. Let me… let me calm down.” “It’s ok. But this needs to be done tonight.” “Fine, whatever you say.” I put my head in my hands. This all was so weird. Oh, yeah, I’d picked the perfect time to reflect. But seriously, what was happening to me, to all of us? Did they really know or were they posers? And what the hell had 95 happened to Cris? What would happen when I got back home? Would anyone be able to tell that I’d changed? I hoped not. Thank God I was a daywalker. If I had a schedule like Jeff’s I’d definitely have issues. “You ready now?” “Yeah. What do we do?” “Sit on the floor,” he ordered. I followed his directions. “Ok. Now what?” He sat down in front of me. “Fold your legs.” I did. “Ok, now I’m going to hypnotize you. Listen to my voice only. Block out all sounds. Do exactly as I say. Close your eyes. Feel your heart beating. Stop all of your thoughts. Let my voice fill your head. Don’t question, just do. Give me your hands. Close your eyes.” He put my hands in some weird position. Then he held my head against his. “Relax. Let go. Let me have control. Imagine yourself in a desert. The wind is blowing the sand about. The sun is beating down harshly on your back. “You’re walking East, toward a city. There are a few pyramids to your left, three to be exact. You reach the city. You’re walking through. These are old buildings, made of mortar. There’s a palace up ahead, very beautiful and tall. People watch you as you pass. They bow to you. They are your subjects. For this is the heart of Egypt. And you are their princess. You are Pharaoh’s daughter. At the golden gates of the palace, the sentries also bow at the sight of you. “Pharaoh waits for you at the steps. As does the queen. They walk with you as you enter the main hall. It is time for dinner. A grand feast of lamb, wine, and many fruits and grain greets you. There is a handsome young man awaiting you. This is your betrothed prince. Today you wed. The ceremony has been prepared for many months. After the banquet, your mother helped you dress. Flowers were put in your hair. Then they presented you to your husband. Afterward, a great party is held. There are dancers, which you lead. Everyone cheers. “The party ends and you are taken to the bridal chamber, where your groom awaits. The doors are closed. It’s time to consummate your marriage. Tell me what happens.” “He takes me, first with his member and then his teeth. I am now a vampire. I broke away too early and so am only 96 partially transformed. And now I am the first of my kind, the logmin. The sun cannot touch my skin, for it would burn.” “Come slowly out of it. When I count to three, you’ll be normal again. One… two… three…” I opened my eyes slowly. “Whoa!” “Are you alright?” “What was that?” “A memory.” “Of what?” “Aeryn’s transformation. That means that you are Aeryn. Only she would know that.” “What about you?” “I’m the reincarnated husband.” “Oh, I guess that makes sense,” I noted, stretching my legs. “Jeff is gonna die.” “Excuse me?” “When he finds out. He’s already crazy over you, now he’s never going to leave you alone.” “Is that a bad thing?” “Not necessarily,” he spoke slowly. I let it go for a few. “Wait… why don’t I remember anything else but that?” “It’s like amnesia.” He allowed me to change the subject. “The memories come back over time. I’ve had 200 years and I’ve had plenty of time to get mine back.” “How’d you die the first time?” He drew back from me. An odd look came into his eyes. He was guarding something, holding back. He got to his feet and walked away from me. “I don’t know,” he lied. “Yes, you do. Don’t lie to me. What happened to not holding anything back?” “There are some things you’re better off not knowing. Some things to find out on your own.” His voiced was dark, just like… well… sigh… “I’ll take your word on that, then.” “Trust me. I don’t want to keep it from you, but it’s imperative that I do for now.” “You sure that’s all?” He faced me. “What else could there be?” I glanced down at the floor. 97 “Are you concerned about Amada?” he inquired. “I don’t want her, trust me.” He hugged me. “Even though she does look better.” “What?” “Kidding, malek. In my eyes, no one looks as good as you.” “Whatever.” “Except Jeff,” we both said together and laughed. Then we sat at the table. “You thirsty?” “Yeah, actually. Now that you mention it.” “Come here.” He pulled me onto his chair. Brushing the hair form my neck, he leaned closer. “Don’t tense up.” “Well, your bites don’t hurt like Jeff’s.” “Don’t mention him right now,” he pleaded, kissing my neck. “Let’s go to my room for more privacy.” His voice was soft, even a little husky. He gathered me up into him. “Ok,” I relented. That odd thing happened and suddenly we were on his bed, in his room. The teeth broke through my skin. This time it did not numb me. This time, as my blood left me, it felt so good. I felt relieved. He pulled back, lips red from my blood. The look in his eyes sent a shiver through me. It was so caring. He was so beautiful. Why was he with me? I wondered sadly. It made it that much more important to me, knowing that he was so loyal to me. Pulling his head down toward me, I licked some of the blood off of his lips. I could tell he wanted more than my blood, however. So I kissed him. Once again, he pulled my body into his. He bit my tongue and I bit his. The blood filled our mouths quickly. I almost felt drunk on it. Heartbeats speeding before they match paces. Of course, I took more blood than he did. His shoulders moved like that of a cheetah in preparation to attack. He held my neck and kissed it again, very gently. My whole body tensed and shook. My eyes shut tightly. My breathing was almost choppy. “M… M… Mark, I… I can’t –I can’t…” “Shh. Malek… let me fill you… I’m yours, hamaria. Zeilep ashta haznaika,” he hissed. “Ami avorey cashli,” I hissed back. My eyes opened. “You just spoke logmin.” I grinned. Then I held him and rolled him over. I forced him onto his back and like an animal bit into his neck. I held him 98 as I drank. “You are mine!” I declared. Gorging myself, I concentrated on his heartbeat. Finally, composing myself, I lay my head down on his chest. “Thank you, mon amour,” I breathed. His arms held me. “You have good instinct.” “What did you expect?” “I love you.” I licked my lips. “We should tell Jeff.” Sighing, he let go of me. “Tonight?” “Yes. Tomorrow night we’ll be packing to leave.” “You’re right.” “What will happen to Amada?” “She will go home. Jeff has agreed to take her in. Don’t worry, you’ll see her again. Remember, we have all the time we need.” “True. Oh, I need to find Cris today. I need to see if she’s alright.” “Of course.” “Hey, how often do I need blood?” “At least once a week. You don’t need to kill to get it, either. All you need is a pint. “Where do I get it?” “There are places that will understand your ‘problem’. Why do you think they ask so many people to give blood? Here’s a number you can call to set up something with the nearest blood bank.” He pulled out his address book from one of his drawers and ripped out a page. I didn’t even know he owned an address book or what he’d need it for. As he handed it to me, I asked, “Is there a certain type of blood I should avoid or what?” “O blood is the best type. A ranks second and B is completely useless to you. They’ll understand.” “Ok.” I slipped the paper into my pocket. Then I took his hand and we appeared in Jeff’s room. He was sitting atop his coffin. Amada was next to him. “Jeff, it’s true. I’m Aeryn and Mark had been my husband. You were right,” I announced. I never saw him move. I didn’t see anything, actually. The next thing I knew, we were flying. Jeff was holding me against him tightly and we were headed toward a piece of land that was too big to be a rock and too small to be an island. We plummeted into the soft earth. He didn’t say a word as the ship slowly sailed away. His eyes were such a bright blue that they were almost 99 pale. "I will try now,” he whispered. My heart had never beat so hard or so fast before as Jeffery undressed me. Powerless to stop him, I only waited as he removed his own clothes. I couldn’t prevent my self from the inevitable gasp at the sight before me. His organ was hard and poised as if he were aroused. Lips touched me ever so gently. My hands touched him. Once again, his skin had reverted to being baby soft. His strong arms held me tightly to him. Our skin was pressed against each other. “Jeffery, are you sure?” I asked. “I am always sure.” He had entered me. What the hell is going on? I thought as a sharp pain went through me. “Jeffery!” I cried out. “Relax and it won’t hurt,” he directed. What choice did I have but to follow his orders? Suddenly, I felt really good. Gently he kissed my lips as he exercised his skills. How sweet of him to do this for me! Elation filled my body. This time, my body tensed in a good way. All colors molded in front of my eyes but the end product wasn’t white. These sensations were so foreign to me. Mark would hate me for this, I knew. Would he ever get to be first at anything? Swept out of my thoughts, I noted that Jeffery was squeezing me so hard, I could feel the blood trickling down my back. Unlike a human, Jeff didn’t sweat. However, he still put forth a tremendous amount of effort. His back was so solid underneath my fingers. When I finally closed my eyes, he bit me. Pain again, but in my neck now. Such bliss. I sighed with pleasure. Slipping off into a world of feelings. My body writhed and danced under Jeff’s frame. He moved with me. Our bodies, blood, and minds mixed and combined. His body was warming up. The blood was coursing through both of us. I had the strangest desire for him to drain my body of blood. I shook that feeling off. Instead, I bit his neck. Our thoughts merged. I love you. J’adore tu, ma cherie. Mon amour. His thoughts in my head. He would definitely never let me get away from him. We were on our side now, and he moaned in ecstasy as his blood flowed into me and mine into him. His organ filled me so perfectly, as if it had adjusted to me or something. I wondered what it would be like if he were alive. Now I understood why his master had made him a vampire. Those several hundred years did 100 not rust his abilities at all. “Jeff,” I murmured, my mouth full of blood. His mouth found its way to mine. “Quiet, cherie. Let me work on you,” he whispered, kissing my chin gently. He sucked on my neck again, then my collarbone, then my breasts. Next, he moved to my belly. By now I was trembling so badly I almost looked like an epileptic. To top that off, I was hyperventilating. My heightened vampire senses were killing me. Everywhere he had touched me was marked by a warmness. Slowly, he kissed my hips, then moved toward the center. Softly, he stimulated me. After he was sure I had achieved an orgasm, he held my body against his, feeling my tense convulsions until they finally ceased. “Thank you, Jeff,” I mouthed. “The pleasure is mine if it satisfies you, my queen.” I could only lay there. “Wow.” He dressed us and said, “We must go to the ship now. It is close to dawn and I must rest. And all of us must prepare for our departure.” “I do not want you to leave me,” I voiced. “I will not be apart from you for I will always know where you are. Call to me and I will come, no matter what,” he promised. “No matter what?” I questioned. “No matter what,” he confirmed, lifting me and flying back to the ship. We landed on the deck and walked briskly to the lower floors. We glided into his room where Mark was pacing and Amada was trying to calm him down. They both stared at us when we walked in. “What the fuck did you do?” Mark demanded. “I allowed you to touch her, but now you’ve crossed a boundary.” “Mark, understand properly what has transpired between Queen Aeryn and I,” Jeff started. “She was my wife! Before you were even born, she was my wife!” Mark yelled. “So that’s why she-” “Shut up! She doesn’t need to know that yet. Geez, will you let her and I have anything to ourselves? She said she was with me. Respect that.” Mark continued, grabbing my hand. His grip was so strong. I was forced to kneel. 101 “I know she’s your wife. Nevertheless, she left you. For me. To be with me,” Jeff countered. “No! I know that. But we have hundreds of years in our past. You couldn’t possibly know the desires of her heart. If she wanted you now, she’d be with you.” “Mark!” I rasped. “Please, let me go,” I begged. He practically shoved me away in disgust. “And you let him. You let him!” he screamed, crying now. “Mark!” we all said as he fell to his knees, holding his head. Amada got to her feet. “Oh, God!” His eyes squeezed shut. “Mark, stop! I love you. I want to be by your side. Jeff and I are close but you are my other half. You make me whole. You were my husband. I’m sorry for what I’ve done to you, in both lives. Jeff is only innocent. What did you expect? He needs me. And he can’t have me without you. We come as a package. Do you understand me? You and I belong to each other. So you cannot abandon me. Now grow up and act like a man. Act like the vampire you are. I never want to see you complain again,” I told him evenly. He regarded me. “We should all get packing for tonight. We’ll be back home pretty soon. Meet me on the deck, port side at the rail at 8 p.m. Don’t be late. We’ll share a drink, then depart. Whenever you desire to, find me in my hometown. Is that clear?” I ordered. “Yes,” they all answered simultaneously. “Good. I bid you good-night.” “It’s quite near morning, actually,” Amada mentioned. “Whatever,” I shrugged, kissed her cheek, then headed out to my room. Ironically, I almost forgot where it was. As I finally stumbled in, I saw something I definitely wasn’t expecting. “Cris!” I exclaimed. She looked up at me brightly. “I haven’t seen you in forever!” she squealed, jumping to her feet and squeezing me. Warmly, I returned her embrace. “What’s been happening to you? I’ve been so worried,” I enthused. “I’ve been so worried,” Sam imitated. I broke away from my friend and lightly socked Sam on the arm. I knew I had to be careful now not to hurt him. He laughed, as I expected him to do. I sat on my bed, where I hadn’t been for 102 what seemed like ages. This room was so alien to me now. That window I had so lovingly looked out of now seemed desolate and empty. None of this belonged to me now. Not like it ever did to begin with since it was the ship’s. I sighed. “But seriously, what’s up with you?” “Nothing much,” she shrugged, shoving clothes into her suitcase. “Why aren’t you packing?” I asked Sam. “I finished it yesterday,” he bragged. “Then you can pack my things,” I joked. “Yeah, right!” he scoffed. “I don’t like ya that much.” We all laughed. “How’s Maury?” “He finally came out of his room.” “That’s good. He’s always getting sick.” “Tell me about it. That’s why I avoid him.” Who else but Cris would say something so selfish and heartless? “Right,” I said slowly. Getting to my feet, I began gathering my belongings. “Wow, we’re really leaving. I just want you guys to know that I really appreciate this. This has been such an odd but cool experience for me.” They both smiled. “Same here. Thank you for coming. It would have been so boring without you. Even though we haven’t spent time together like I wanted, I did enjoy our every moment together,” Cris said, hugging me again. “It was cool havin' you tag along. Anytime I travel, I want to take you with me,” Sam supplied, joining our hug. “Let’s go to the deck and watch the ocean until our last dinner together on board this fine ship,” Cris suggested. “Wonderful idea,” I agreed, leaving my suitcase half packed. All holding hands, Cris, Sam, and I walked down the hall to the elevator. Being silly, we danced to the elevator music. Ah, to feel normal, human again. Not having to worry about honesty, fidelity, and intense feelings. Not having to fret over hidden passions and smothering love. I was free of an unnamed bondage. The wind caressed my skin as Jeff and Mark had done so many times before. Sam and Cris both held me from each side. I felt content being with them. By listening to their thoughts, I could tell that they felt the same. Our bonding moment was ruined when suddenly, some blond kid decided to expel his breakfast into the beautiful green 103 ocean. Since the sea was turbulent at the moment, all three of us got sprayed by whatever food it had been. We all groaned in disgust and broke apart. “Even if I’m a vampire, that is still disgusting!” I declared. Sam laughed. “You are strange, Allie.” I just smiled at him. You idiot! I thought angrily to myself. Can’t you be careful? This is dangerous. No one can know how you’ve changed during this trip. “Let’s go back down to our room and clean off. I am not getting off this boat looking like a drunk red-head from New York!” Cris exclaimed. “Talk about your stereotypes.” I giggled as we began to run. As we entered the bathroom, we all were struck by a fit of laughter. Sam turned on the water and clumsily; we washed our arms and faces. Splashing water on each other, we could barely stand up. Sam slipped in the water on the floor and fell on me. In turn, I fell on Cris. We could not stop laughing. “Some… one… turn… off… the… water,” Cris tried to say. “Ok!” I answered. “Sam, move!” “No, I’m very comfortable right here,” he replied. “Sam, remember that I’m between you and your sister.” “Yeah, that’s a turn-off.” He was convinced and got to his feet. I lunged for the faucet and turned the water off. Then I relaxed against Cris’ chest. “Alright.” She guffawed. “We’ll be home in a few hours. This is awesome. Sam can finally move out of the house.” “Aw, that’s harsh,” I said, reaching out to hold his hand. “I won’t be far away. Cris and Maury will spend the night sometimes. You should, too.” I glanced up at his face. He looked suspicious and devious. “Are you serious?” “If you want. It’s your bo-er, it’s your choice. Our parents trust us, don’t they?” “What are you insinuating?” “Ugh, you are so dense, Allison! The only reason he’d want you to spend the night is to commit illegal, immoral acts with him,” Cris ruled. “Ha! Funny for you to speak of illegal and immoral acts,” both Sam and I pointed out. 104 “That wasn’t the point I was trying to get across,” she sighed. I pulled my hand away from Sam and gazed at him in wonder. He didn’t strike me as one of those men who would take advantage of younger people. Actually, I’d believe him to go after older women. He hated anyone younger than him in fact. That leaves the question of why he finds me attractive. Well, I guess I could just peak into his mind and find out now, huh? I was an exception, I knew. Was that good or bad? “You really think about that?” I inquired. “I’m only a man. We think all sorts of strange things, none of which I’m about to divulge,” he said. “I wouldn’t ask you to.” I wouldn’t have to, I added silently. “Finish packing so we can eat,” he ordered. “Right.” I climbed to my feet again. I completed my packing and set it on my bed. “Let’s go!” When I saw Maury in his seat, I gave him a huge hug. “Maury!” I squealed. “Allison! I’m all better now. Will you come to my birthday party on Thursday?” “Sure. I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” I promised. “You’re not serious, are you?” Cris wondered. “Of course I am. I can be friends with all of you, can I not?” I replied. “Whatever.” Flipping her hair, she took her seat. “It’s nice to see everyone at the table again,” Cris’ dad said happily. “Paul, stop staring,” Mrs. Dayner ordered. This was beginning to become a regular occurrence. I chose to ignore it. Cris started singing. She did have a beautiful voice. One by one, the rest of us joined in, Sam first, then Maury, me and finally the parents. What fun. I almost felt human again. Until the feeling came over me to drain their weak, pathetic bodies of blood and discard their useless husks. That’s when I decided to go visit my fellow vampires. “I’ll meet you guys as we dock. I’ve got to bid ado to a few friends I’ve made,” I excused myself. Of course, “friends” was an understatement and I’d literally made one of them, the other two made me. In any case, I descended the stairs quickly, sensing my time shortening. The thought of not seeing Jeff and Mark’s sweet 105 faces, of not hearing all three of their accents complimenting each other, of not seeing them interact, it would kill me. I ran by Jeff’s room first. The door was locked. I willed it open and looked at the room that had held so much magic for me. It was bare now, I didn’t know how Jeff had moved out his coffin, but the rest of the furniture sat there as if it had never been touched. Jeff… Next I sped off to Mark’s room, also locked. I broke in and went over to the wall that wasn’t there. Surprisingly, it opened for me. All of the bodies were gone. Where would they move them all to? Oh, well. I don’t think I really cared. It was almost time, I realized. No, it couldn’t be! My legs went weak at the thought and I ran (human pace seemed as fast as I could manage for the moment) up the stairs. Such relief ran through me and my heart melted as I saw Jeffery, Mark, and Amada, facing the ocean, all eyes to the moon. I almost dropped with relief right then and there. Simultaneously, as if they’d synchronized it, they all turned toward me and smiled. That gave me energy. I propelled my body forward. Into Mark’s arms I settled first. “Why, you came after all. I thought I’d been stood up,” his sweet voice caressed me and I gazed into those glowing eyes. He stroked my face. “Hey, blood,” I spoke to Amada as I pulled away from Mark and hugged her. “Allo,” she replied, kissing my cheek. “My love,” Jeff said warmly as his turn came. I couldn’t prevent the shiver from going through me. “I love all of you,” I gushed. “Please don’t take too long to come to me.” “It might take a bit to free Amada, but we’ll hurry as fast as we can,” Mark assured me. I nodded and took a deep breath that I didn’t need. They looked at me oddly, as if wondering why I was breathing. “How long do you think it will be?” “Busy yourself. Even with eternity, vampires can also be impatient. If you’re busy, the time will pass,” Jeff evaded answering. “Right. Let’s have a drink before I cry,” I sniffled. Mark held the cups while Jeff poured blood out of a wine bottle. I rolled my eyes, thinking How typical of him. We toasted 106 to our coming reunion and drank. We all sighed with a breath we didn’t have. “This has been one of the best weeks in my life,” Mark announced. “Hear, hear!” the rest of us agreed. “That’s time,” I said sadly as the ship pulled into the harbor. “I’ll see you all again someday.” “I love you,” all three spoke together. We all shared a group hug then I went to meet Cris and her family. We were home. My aunt was waiting for us in her huge black van. I was squished between Maury and Cris and bags and suitcases. Aunt Jaime asked the standard vacation questions, and I realized that most of the answers we gave were lies. That only goes for the kids, of course. I hadn’t been with the parents much so there wasn’t any honest way to know if they’d lied. Not like I’d care much to read their minds to check. Finally, we pulled up to the Dayners’ mansion. We waved good-bye, then headed to our condo. 107 Part 2 A few months later… 108 Chapter Seven “Allie, you are so slow! Come on! The teachers aren’t going to be any nicer this year,” Joey yelled. I groaned. “I don’t want to go to school. I shouldn’t have to,” I grumbled. “Come on, Allie,” Joey ushered me out the door and into his car. “What’s the matter with you? You love school.” “People change,” I answered simply. “That’s true,” he agreed, looking at me. I glanced at him coolly then gazed out of the window. “Just get us to school alive.” “Ok,” he replied. I had done a pretty good job of keeping my secret just that. It wasn’t always the easiest, what with my cravings for blood once a week and strengths I sometimes forgot. Of course, there was one thing that made it easier. Now that Cris was growing, everyone focused on her. I was still shocked by the news that she had become late. The unknowing partner in crime was her “friend” Mario. Those damn Italians! For now, she would stay home. I pushed her out of my mind and walked up the steps of my high school. It will never feel the same again, I realized as I crossed the threshold. The sounds hit me first, washing over me in waves. Joey stood behind me, waiting. “I hope we have the same classes. I don’t want to be separated from you again,” he told me. 109 “What do you mean?” I questioned, my neck prickling. “Those two weeks you went on that cruise. I was so worried about you. And you never called me,” his voice tapered off as if he were fighting to keep some intense emotion from pouring out. When one is a vampire, one knows these things. “I’m sorry. I was a little busy and besides, there were no phones on the island.” “People had cell phones.” “Look, this is stupid. It was only two freakin weeks! Get over it.” I started off, annoyed. Why was he pressing it? “Damnit, Allison, wait!” he whispered. “What is wrong with you? You’ve done nothing but get on my case ever since I got back.” “You never told me what happened. I didn’t understand that because you used to tell me everything. I don’t get it,” he admitted. “I already told you, people change. I’m still trying to sort out what went on during that trip,” I said. Well, I knew exactly what went on. I lost my morals, if I had any to begin with. “Come here.” He took my hand, catching me off guard and setting me off balance. Hey, I’m a newbie, so get used to it! He led me down a hall that was supposed to be under construction. Before I could collect myself or understand what was happening, Joey, my best guy friend, was kissing me. It reminded me so much of someone else, but who? I pulled away. The bell was ringing. I ran to my homeroom. As I slid into my seat, I realized what I’d done. When Joey strolled in and took his seat next to Matt, I felt myself blush. Did I really just run from him? What was wrong with me? The schedules were passed out. It turned out that there was only one class Joey and I had apart from each other. That was an advanced law class. We weren’t that far from one of the most prominent law colleges in the country. I planned on going to law school. Joey wanted to be a mechanic. Snore. As soon as I entered the classroom for American Law, I tripped and fell. Luckily, I was the first student to arrive so only the teacher saw my clumsiness. “What are you doing here? Are you? But…” I was confused. 110 “I told you we’d come,” the tall man answered, smiling broadly. “I would hug you but we’re in school. Please, take a seat, Ms. Allison.” I could feel my eyes tearing. Jeffery was really right here in front of me. I slid into the seat closest to his desk. “Why this class?” I wondered as other students filed in. As he answered me, I worked hard to ignore the stares the other girls gave him. “It was the only way that I could have you all to myself,” he replied in a low voice. “Joey would surely catch on to something. Perhaps you might be my TA?” “I’d love to!” I beamed. “But what about-” The bell ringing cut me off. Jeff made a slight gesture with his hand to me then started class. I didn’t hear a word he said. I was too busy admiring his azure eyes and wild platinum blond hair. As usual, he wore a suit, but this one matched his eyes. Suddenly, a thought struck me. How could he be out in daylight and not be hurt? In my mind he answered, This is a special occasion. Besides, it’s usually raining here. As long as I’m not in direct sunlight, no harm can befall me. I relaxed, content. I couldn’t wait until school ended. Since he was my tenth bell, I stayed after. We graded winter homework in a few minutes then he drove me home. “When will I be able to see you outside of school?” I asked. “Don’t you recall what I said? Call to me and I will come, no matter what.” He stroked my face, then drove off in what could have very well been a stolen car. Malorie and Jake were already home, watching something incredibly stupid on TV. “Some chic called for you,” Malorie said, yawning. “You write it down?” Cuz that would help so much, I added silently. “Maybe. Go look. You’ve got eyes.” Oh, the day I could leave these brats and get out on my own. What paradise. Malorie hadn’t written the caller’s name, and we couldn’t afford caller ID so I was pretty much screwed. I trekked upstairs to finish my useless homework. I was working on a Trig. problem and Jeff appeared out of nowhere on my bed. “Shit!” I jumped up and pushed my door closed, also locking it. “Why did you not use your gifts?” 111 “I’d rather keep my muscles. I could do that with gifts, too… You startled me!” “I’m sorry. You called, I came. How are you coming along?” “Quite well, actually.” “I’m glad to hear that.” I sat next to him, in some sort of daze. “Are you really here?” “If your perceptions are to be believed.” I smiled. “One may never know.” “Still as jovial as ever.” He rested his face on his hand and regarded me, studying me. I looked away. “Why do you suppose Joey is a threat?” I wondered. I didn’t want to bother asking him how he knew about Joey in the first place. “He’s a smart garcon. From your memories of him, I can conclude that he most definitely will find out something. He has deep affection for you, you know.” “So I found out today,” I said dryly. He laughed. “Oh, yes. He kissed you. Acted a bit like Mark for a short spell, huh? Odd character, he.” Oh! Yeah, Mark was rough like that. My heart beat a weird tune. A flash of heat came and went instantaneously. “Is Mark here?” I turned around. “Perhaps so,” he answered, a tad annoyed. “Why did you wait so long?” “It took a bit longer than expected for me to move to this country. Plus, this isn’t one of the most frequented states.” Unable to hold back any longer, I laced my fingers through his. They were still the cold hands I had come to love. Suddenly, he kissed me. It was so needy, I almost pushed him away for fear he was an imposter. Then I sensed his familiar strength and held him. I loved how perfect and sculpted he was. I couldn’t bring myself to let him go, even when he pulled back. “Jeff, I missed you. I felt so out of place here. With you, I feel normal.” “I understand, love. Je comprends, amour.” He smoothed his long fingers through my hair. I leaned my head back. “Drink from me,” I begged. “It feels so good now, and there weren’t any others to do it for me. Please.” 112 “You are so lucky. For me, it always hurts.” “That’s why I want you to do it to me.” I moved over his arm and back to lie down. I almost laughed as his eyes glimmered in surprise and pleasure at my little cat-like display. “Aren’t you hungry, father?” I asked innocently. He grabbed me so fast I jumped. One of his hands held my neck; the other supported my body again. He lowered his lips to my neck and bit me. Again, I wanted him to drain me. I shook it off, feeling embarrassed and stupid for wanting that. That might kill me, I reasoned. Finished, he let me lie there. He licked his lips and I shuddered. Why was he so beautiful? I wondered, gazing up at golden hair and silver eyes. I could stare at him forever. Yet, all moments must be ruined. “Jeff, a question. What… you know, occurred… that day. You…” I coughed, one human response I was reluctant to part with. His manner changed from satisfied to concerned. “Did I hurt you? Was I too rough? It’s been so long since I committed that act, I’m not really caught up on all the things that have been added. Moreover, women are shaped differently nowadays. Not as thick as back then. I didn’t mess up, did I? Oh, I should’ve thought that through. It’s just that I love you so much and finding out you were Aeryn multiplied that. I’m sorry if I didn’t meet your expectations. Your first time should’ve been with a human, or at least a scaroth.” He continued rambling apologies and explanations. I began to laugh. “Jeff!” He looked at me sharply. “Jeff, it was wonderful. You were wonderful.” “I never asked your permission.” “I know. I liked that, how you just came out of nowhere like that. If you had hurt me or violated me in any way, you would know. I called to you for a reason. Read my thoughts, my memories. There’s no moment more precious than when someone shows their love for someone else!” Boy, did I want to eat my words later on! He appeared shy. “I pleased you?” Was his memory shot or something? “Yes. You don’t remember?” 113 “In moments of passion and excitement, a logmin tends to register his own feelings and may not be aware of all that transpires.” I sat looking dully at him. “You’re telling me you don’t remember?” I asked plainly. “No, I remember what happened,” he contradicted himself. “I just don’t recall how you responded.” What? “You’re not making any sense to me so forget it.” “What was your question?” he wondered softly. “Will it happen again? I mean, is it possible? Or is it just a one-time fuck up for you?” As soon as I said that last question, I wanted to revoke it. Jeff appeared highly offended. “That was one of the best moments of my life. You refer to it as a mistake? I did it because I love you. I’ll do it again because I love you. It will never be a mistake,” he spoke gravely. “I’m sorry. I’m not sure what to call it.” “Making love,” he suggested. “It’s such a heavy thing. I’m still trying to get used to everything. I’m sorry. I’m an idiot,” I began crying. Why was I so stupid? My suitor looked awed by my tears. I could understand that. It was almost like being high for a vampire. Your senses were heightened and everything moved in waves for you. If you weren’t careful, you could be stuck staring at the same thing for years. Slowly, he leaned forward and kissed my eyelids. I sighed. “Darling, my child, it will all sink in. Give it time. Don’t be distraught. You have me here. And Amada can’t wait to see you again. We’re all here for you. If we did not care, we never would have approached you.” I let my body melt into his. “Thank you.” “I love looking at you. You’re so beautiful.” “Yeah, right. You just love me because I’m Aeryn.” “I loved you before I knew who you were. “You thought I was like her,” I pointed out. “True. Yet I can’t really love you if I overshadow you with a former love’s memory.” “Good point.” He smiled, wiping the remainder of my tears away. My insides fluttered. “You’re still amazed by me?” 114 “I will always be amazed by you,” I admitted. Pulling me into his lap, he held me close. I grabbed hold of him and allowed him to sing me to sleep. When I awoke, it was by the alarm clock and Jeff was, of course, gone. I pouted for five minutes, cursing him, then I pulled on my raincoat and ran outside as Joey pulled up. As I slid into the passenger seat, he said, “I’m surprised. I thought I bothered you yesterday.” “I’m not one to run away,” most of the time. “I want to know why you did it, what’s up, you know?” He ran a hand through his brown hair. “Allie, I was scared you had found someone else and that’s why you won’t tell me what happened. I don’t want to lose you to some foreigner.” “Foreigner?” I interrupted. “Who else goes on those cruises? No offense. But,” he shook his head, “I thought we were on the same level, you know what I’m saying?” “You thought I wanted you as a boyfriend?” I choked. On what, who even knows? He didn’t answer as we almost went into a spin. “You’re my best guy friend, Joe. I never thought you’d like me in that way.” Never wanted you to, either. Geez, why is it this year that everyone wants to hook up with me? What happened to make them all want me? “Well, you were wrong. So was I right? You didn’t tell me because you found someone else?” “Well, no.” I found three, but one’s a girl. And they’re all foreign. So there! “Then I still have a chance? Prom’s coming up. It’s our junior year. I want to take you. Before you say it, I know I’ve taken you to every dance since junior high, but this year, I want to go as your boyfriend.” “I don’t know what to say about that. I’m flattered but…” “Why not? It’ll be fun, I promise. Look, I even learned how to dance just for you.” He’d been contemplating this for some while now. Then, in my head, Jeff’s voice said Do it. It will keep him distracted. Go ahead. Trust me. “Sure,” I replied. Excited, he grabbed my hand. “This is wonderful! Great! We’ve got planning to do.” 115 “What?” Damnit, I hadn’t been talking to him! “Um, alright.” We pulled into the school parking lot. “This is the best day of my life. No, Prom will be. I’ll show you what a gentleman I can be.” My gut wrenched as I recalled what was supposed to happen on Prom night. I felt physically sick for a moment. Joey appeared by my door. I looked up at him, imagining. Ooh, Jeff had to tell me a few things because I didn’t understand how he wanted Joey to play into this. As soon as 10 t h bell ended, I walked up to Jeff’s desk. “If you’re reading my mind you understand why I’m here!” I preluded. He gazed at me, assessing something. Then he said coldly, “It’s for your good. The less time he has to ask about your trip, the more time you have to run free. Don’t you get it? He’s going to be too busy vying to make you happy to worry about anything else.” At that moment, Romeo showed up at the door. “Allie, ya ready to go? I want to take you home,” Joey was beaming. “Ok. Let me grab my stuff. I’ll meet you outside,” I told him. “Alright.” He kissed my cheek before running out to his car. I glared at Jeff. “How can you sit by and let him do that to me? This will not be fun at all. He is going to be so hurt when he finds out.” “That’s the only drawback.” I knew he meant that it was always this way with humans. I was an exception. “That’s horrible.” “Allie… if I’ve upset you in any way, I apologize. I’m doing what I think is best for everyone. Better to have heartbreak than to fall into the confusing realm of vampirism. That road only leads to one thing.” He stared at me oddly. I hated this. “Why didn’t I go crazy?” “You are Aeryn. Deep down, you were always all right with it. You have that strength, still unidentified by any of us.” “Will you visit me tonight?” “Only if you want me to,” he replied, looking down. “Go to your boyfriend before he gets suspicious.” 116 Defeated, I had a revelation. Jeffery was as hurt by this as me. He didn’t want Joey to be with me any more than Mark would. Oh, shit! What was to be done about Mark? I worried as Joey drove me home. “I’ll pick you up tomorrow!” Joey promised, giving me a hug. “Sure. See you then.” I managed to give him a smile before he drove off. Trudging into the house, I went straight upstairs and fell into bed. After a catnap, I realized that Jeff lay beside me. My heart jumped. “When did you get in?” “Only a few minutes ago. You are surely a vision to behold as you sleep,” he complimented. “The door!” I remembered. “Locked. I did not forget.” I settled back down. “I feel like Cris,” I moaned. “How so?” “All she does is concern herself with guys. I don’t want to be like that.” “You are not. You just happen to have three suitors.” “What about Amada?” “What of her? She likes you, but she’s of herself. She won’t be heartbroken if you don’t choose her.” “Choose. I guess I should have known. I’ll have to choose one of you eventually.” The thought drained me. I would lose two people that were very dear to me. “Cherie, cherie, if you choose to be with anyone else, you will not lose my heart. I will always support your wishes.” “That means so much.” I hugged him as tightly as I could. I never wanted to let go of him. His hard body seemed to be protecting me. “Never abandon me. I want to always know you are watching out for me.” This time, he kissed me to sleep. I didn’t want to fall asleep because I knew he’d be gone in the morning. Yet, sleep won out. Joey could not stop talking about the Prom. I only half- listened as he dragged me by my hand through the hallway. Perhaps I should not have been so involved in my thoughts for I ran right into someone. Man, I sucked for a vampire! “I’m sorry! I wasn’t watching where I was going,” I apologized. “No, that’s alright,” the boy replied oddly. 117 “Are you alright, Allie?” Joey asked as we continued walking. “Yes, I’m fine.” I glanced back at the redheaded boy, who was staring after me, surprised and almost angry yet amused. “What a weirdo!” “Yeah, did you see his hair? Tres creepy,” Joey agreed. Someone tapped my shoulder. It was the redhead. “What do you want? Joe, wait up!” “I can’t believe this,” he mumbled, annoyed. “You can’t even recognize my face after what we did to you? Hello, Earth to Allie!” “Who are you?” Now he was really angry. “Only the one who first met you. I’m your boyfriend, you stupid girl! Are you on drugs or something?” he was on the verge of yelling. It sank in. “Oh, fuck! Joey, go to class without me.” “Why? What is he talking about?” Joey protested. “Just go. I promise I’ll tell you anything you want to know but I need to talk to this guy alone, please.” “I really don’t like this but I trust you.” I led Mark to Jeff’s classroom. Jeff didn’t have a first bell so it was empty. “Mark, I am so sorry,” I began. “Oh, no way, lass! Here a come 5000 miles ta see ya and one, ya don’t even recognize who a em, en two, yer holding some blokes and? What do a make a this?” his Irish accent was prominent now. “Mark, Jeff put me up to it. Ask him why he wants me to go out with Joey.” “Jeff did this?” He was pacing now. Shit! “Mark, a lot is on my mind. Let me fill you in so all of this makes sense.” “Ok. Tell me what’s going on. If a don’t like it, ahm outta here,” he threatened. “Look, Joey’s got this major crush on me and wants to take me to Prom. Right now, I’m trying to do as little as possible because I don’t want to lead him to think I wanna do that thing on Prom night. I’m so scared. Jeff says it’s so he won’t find out what we are but I don’t like it. I don’t feel like a vampire at all. I’m confused, hurt, angry, and God am I scared. Mark, please don’t leave me. You’re the only sane person I know right now,” I 118 blurted out. I so badly wanted to hug him, to kiss his thick red lips and hair, and so much more. He looked from me to Jeff repeatedly. Finally, he turned to Jeff. “Why Joey?” “He’s our biggest threat. I want him to focus on her and not the two weeks of her life he was not a part of,” Jeff answered. “So you don’t like him?” he asked me. “Mark! He’s my best guy friend. I could never be romantic with him. We’ve known each other all our lives and that’s a real turnoff. He’s the boy across the street for goodness sake!” I tried to redeem myself. All of this was true, and I needed him to know that. “That doesn’t explain how you forgot me.” “I feel so horrible. I wasn’t expecting you to show up in school, too. I was so worried, I didn’t even notice you. My brain was already on overload, I didn’t realize that the man I loved was right there. Besides… look at what you’re wearing.” He was dressed like a khaki boy. “I wanted to fit in.” “Congrats on that. I like your other clothes better. The punk outfits.” “Ok. Never mind. So you don’t like Joey at all?” “Right!” “And you’re just stressed out?” “Yeah.” “How come you recognized him?” he pointed at Jeff. “Joey hadn’t asked me out yet.” “He kissed you!” When did he find that out? “Yeah, but I had no obligation, like I do now.” I glared at Jeff. “True enough. Ok. All I’m saying is, you’d better recognize me later,” Mark warned. “I’d never forget you, Mark. You only got looked over this time, is all.” He nodded, then ran off. “Is he still mad?” I questioned Jeff. “You’re alright. Don’t worry. Look out for him later. He’ll be sure to stop by.” “Why was he here at school?” “Only to see you. He’s not going to attend here, his pride won’t let him.” 119 “Why did you come here?” “To see you. Besides, American Law fascinates me and will be an asset to all of us later on.” “Good idea. Oh, crap, I need to get to class!” “I’ll write you out a pass.” Joey looked seriously peeved when I sat next to him. “Well?” “It was an old boyfriend of mine. No need to worry. The cops took him away. He used to stalk me.” “Why didn’t you ever tell me?” he was taken aback. “I didn’t want you to worry.” “I’m going to protect you. I won’t let that creep near you again,” he declared. As if you stand a chance! I thought, almost laughing. I though about Mark for the rest of the day. I couldn’t wait to see him again. Even if he was angry. He was sexy when he was angry; all flushed and energetic. Almost like instead of being or maybe even if he was angry he was… you know hot, HO’d, bothered. That struck me as funny. I found myself imagining that, then I felt embarrassed for thinking like that. What was the matter with me? I wasn’t one of those nasty girls who thought about sex for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Hmm, what would it be like to have Mark for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Stop it! Geez, what is with me today, I wondered after I kissed Joey goodbye. I locked my bedroom door and sat on my bed, in deep thought. Someone tackled me. I grunted, trying to fight them off. When I became aware that they were stronger than me, I figured it must be one of my vamps. I relaxed. He turned me over. “Mark!” Relief flowed into me. Wrapping my arms around his neck, I kissed him. I wouldn’t let him go. He tried to speak but I pushed my tongue into his mouth. I could feel his resolve melting away and his body hardening. He wore his clothes now; I could feel the difference. I began to remove his leather vest when he pulled away. “Whoa, whoa, girl! Time out!” “I’m not a horse.” “I know.” “But you’d still like to ride me just the same, huh?” “Oh, yeah. Wait! Allie?” “Yes.” 120 “I’ve never heard you talk like that.” “As if you were around me much.” I began to pull his body back onto mine. “Wait a minute. No. That’s not it. Are you horny?” I tilted my head and looked up at him, admiring his bare chest. “Allie, snap out of it. How long have you felt this way?” “What? What’s going on? I didn’t really try to strip you, did I?” I inquired, scared at myself. “Allison, it’s ok. This is normal.” “Not for me.” “Stop. You need to understand this. I am so glad I showed up when I did. Listen, as a scaroth matures, they change. Right now, you’re alternating between two extremes, fear and arousal. After a few weeks, it should even out, though,” he explained, holding my arms. “You’re telling me I go from coward to freak in a matter of minutes?” “Yes. Which is why I’ve got to stay away from you.” “No! Why?” I looked into those familiar glowing green eyes. “Hey now! Trust me. I don’t want to take advantage of you like that. That’s wrong. I’ll come back when you’re evened out,” he promised. “No! Don’t go! I haven’t seen you since Halloween. I’ve waited long enough. You are not bailing on me.” I held onto his arm. “Allie, I don’t want to hurt you. If I, if we do something, you might hate me for it later. I’m trying to protect you.” “That’s why I want you to stay here with me. I’m scared right now and these moods usually last hours. It’s been going on for a week now. But one thing’s remained constant.” “What is that?” “You. I’ve never stopped thinking about you. When I’m afraid, it’s because I don’t want to lose you. When I’m… the other one, you’re the first one to pop into my head. I realize during both moods that you were right.” “About what?” He looked puzzled, left eyebrow raised. “We are gonna have sex,” I stated simply. 121 He jerked and moved to my swivel chair at my desk. “That’s not what I wanted to hear,” he spoke gravely. “How come?” I sat up. Stressed, he gazed at me helplessly. “You don’t understand. I don’t want to take you in your time of confusion. I want you to be level-headed and calm so you can think this through.” “Mark, I don’t regret one memory we share, one action we committed. I hate it that I didn’t recognize you. The thing is, you and I are alike. So, when you want it, I want it. We’re tuned into each other like that. Whether I’m ‘tainted’ or not, I know what I’m doing. Come back over here. I want your warmth.” “Do you even know what you’re saying?” He was incredulous. “Right now I’m in my scared mood. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting you. I think you’re just scared,” I teased. “I am not!” he retorted. “Of course you are. I can admit it, why can’t you?” “I’m not scared.” He stood over me, his hands twitching. “Then why are you holding back?” A peculiar look came over his face. “You’re serious?” I had to laugh. “Yes.” “You’re really serious?” “Ask Jeff if you don’t believe me.” I was growing impatient. “Wow,” he whispered. “Knock it off. I like it better when you’re sure of yourself.” I pushed him away. He kissed me. I’d never sensed such need from him, such desire. I let my vampire senses take over and drowned in the feelings. Even though he was demanding, he loved me slowly and gently. After we finished, I lay on his chest, in his arms. “Are you going to leave when I fall asleep, like Jeff does?” “No.” He kissed my forehead. “Are you alright? I didn’t hurt you, did I?” “No, you didn’t.” “Take a shower when you wake up. Can’t have you smelling like me all day, Joey might notice.” He squeezed me close, smelling my neck. 122 It tingled, and I recalled how we’d drunk each other’s blood only moments ago. A strange question arose. “Mark, I wasn’t bad, was I? I mean, you’ve prob’ly been with better.” The look he gave me was of amazement. “Allie,” he started seriously, “no one’s better than you. I’m not saying that because I love you, it’s true. You know me, know what I want. Besides, you’re so cute when you come.” His hand pinched my cheek. “Shut up!” I blushed. “Hey, you asked!” he reminded. I sighed. “Why can’t I be with you instead of Joey? I don’t want him!” “You are with me.” “Yeah, I am.” My eyes closed. “Can you put your pants on at least?” “Why?” “The idea of waking up with a naked man bothers me. I’ve already had a good look at you; I want to wake up to you, not your body.” Even though he was sexy as hell! “Then why don’t you put on a long shirt? It’s only fair.” I tsked. “Fine.” He looked so odd. I never recalled seeing him with his eyes closed before. It was a tad alarming. For some reason, I almost thought it wasn’t possible for him. I took in a breath as I looked at him. How beautiful! He was handsome beyond comparison. Well, excluding Jeff. I reached out and smoothed my hand over his facial features. At once, his eyes opened. I jerked back, panicked. “Morning,” he greeted. I couldn’t speak for a few moments. My alarm clock went off. I didn’t even see Mark as he turned it off. “I thought you didn’t sleep?” I finally asked. “I don’t. I was meditating.” “Oh, I’m sorry.” I held onto his arm. As I felt it, I realized how muscular he was. “Oh, God!” I exclaimed. “This is all yours.” He took my hand in his, kissed it gently, then pressed it against his chest. My face burned. I’m so lucky, I thought. “I should’ve had you put your vest on, too,” I mumbled offhandedly and kissed his chest softly. 123 “Whoa, I think you switched moods over the night,” he commented. “With your skill, how could I not?” I flirted, sitting up. “Um, I don’t think you have time for a quickie. Get ready for school,” he ordered. “But I’m ready for you.” “Cut it out!” He jumped up and stood across the room from me. “You are no fun.” I got up, found an outfit, and changed. “I mean, come on, that’s like, all you ever talked about with me.” “No, it wasn’t. God, you’re such a liar!” “And you’re not?” I regarded him. He shrugged. “When you’re with Joey, think of me. It’ll help,” he sighed. “Just don’t, uh, touch him too much. Save all that for me, ok? Don’t dance with him, either.” This was hard for him, I knew. I reached out to hug him but he refused me. “Why not?” He coughed, which made me laugh. “Great, I’m acting like you now. Um, go eat or something. Get away from me, little weirdo! I’ll see you later,” he laughed, pushing me away. “Ok.” I grinned as I left my room. I woke up Malorie and Jake, then fixed them breakfast. Joey showed up early so I fed him and the dog. When we were in his car, he reached out and held my hand. I gazed out of the window, thinking of Mark. A warm tingle kept creeping through my abdomen so I tried to redirect my thoughts. “You alright?” Joey asked. “Yes, why?” I asked glancing at him. “You looked flushed. Your ears are all red.” “Just a little embarrassed from yesterday. That dude.” “Oh. Look, it’s ok.” He rubbed my shoulder. “I’ll make sure it will never happen again.… For Saturday I got tickets to a movie. I also thought we might stop for dinner somewhere.” We’d gone on dates before but I knew this one would be different. He’d be expecting something. I just hoped he wasn’t a sleaze who wanted a go on the first date. Just because he’d never tried anything before didn’t mean a thing. Some guys liked to wait until you were comfortable enough with them to be alone, then they transformed back into the horny creeps they were. I 124 hoped he wasn’t one of them. “Um, I’ll see if I’m doing anything and let you know.” “Cool.” He ran around and opened my door. “Thanks,” I smiled. He was leaning in as I was coming up. Crap, another kiss? I wondered. I pretended to sneeze and he recoiled. Whew, that was close, I thought. “Bless you,” he said. “Thanks.” “Welcome.” He followed me into the building. Jeff nodded at me as we passed his room and I waved. “Isn’t he a little young to be a teacher?” Joey narrowed his eyes as we continued on our way. “What do you mean? I don’t think so. He’s 29,” I lied. Heck, he could be! “Really? Then he’s a pedophile,” he ruled. “How did you reach that conclusion?” I inquired incredulously. “I think he likes you.” I began to feel sick. Why the hell couldn’t he be stupid and oblivious like every other kid? “You’re being paranoid.” He shook his head. “I’ll explain at lunch.” We’d arrived at our classroom. We took our seats and class began. I squirmed the whole time. I had a really bad feeling. By the time it was lunch, I felt like throwing up. I sat across from Joey. Beverly had been sick so wasn’t here today. She’d have to make up her work on our two off weeks. We have school year round, so our scheds like this: January- 1rst two weeks February- 1rst two weeks March- all four weeks April- 1rst two weeks May- all four weeks June- 1rst two weeks July- 1rst two weeks If you want to have a month off for summer, you have to come during the off weeks of another month to make up the time. August- all four weeks September-1rst two weeks October- all four weeks 125 November- 1rst two weeks December- 1rst two weeks Every time you miss a day during the scheduled school weeks, you make it up during the off weeks coming up. There is no Saturday school. Detentions are served after school and during off weeks. Just to clear all that up. We had rotating classes, and the weeks we were out of session, other classes were going on. Their schedule was the exact opposite of ours so they started two weeks later but learned at the same pace. Their full months were April, June, September, and July. Interesting, huh? There were even different teachers for the different sessions. Anyway, I desperately wished Beverly was present because what Joey told me at lunch that period made me so worried. Beverly could sort out stuff like that. I could, too, but right now I couldn’t concentrate on that. I’d never really noticed how cute Joey was before. But now, sitting across from him, I admired how the light played in his long brown hair. It hung in over his eyes, but the light brown flashed through under surprisingly thin eyebrows. He possessed a rather angular face, as if he should be someone important, like the CEO or an ambassador or some really suave government worker. He had a runner’s body, lean and strong. I wanted to be wrapped up in it, tangled into him. I jolted back to reality, thoroughly disgusted. This whole mood fluctuation thing was seriously screwed! “Allie?” Joey wondered. “Sorry. You wanted to tell me something?” I stared out the window, nearly choking on my food as I laid eyes upon Mark. To a mortal, he was nearly invisible, hidden amongst the trees. “You seem really jumpy. Although, considering how Mr. Debusk has been eying you, I’m not that surprised.” Damn Jeff! “Wait, when?” “It’s always after class or early in the morning. He won’t do it during school hours. But whenever you talk to him alone, he gets this puppy dog look in his eyes. Like he wants to take you away forever.” That’s how Mark looked right now. “It’s sickening, really. And every time you walk away, it almost seems like he wants to drag you back into the room, lock the door, and do something weird.” 126 “Something weird?” I made a face as I turned my attention back to Joey. “Yeah, like… eating your foot or drowning you in syrup.” Ok… “What am I supposed to say to that?” He shrugged. “Aren’t you going to eat?” “After that?” “Sorry. Hey, though, listen to me. If he does anything to you or says anything inappropriate, tell me. I’ll get him fired and you won’t ever have to see that creep again. Don’t even let him touch you, alright? Especially don’t let him do that.” He seemed so concerned for my health. “I’ll be ok!” I assured him. “I can handle it.” I caught myself before I mentioned the cruise. “Yeah, you will.” Reaching across the table, he grasped my hand. His blood, drink his blood! Something screamed inside of me. I started. “Whoa.” “What?” “Just thinking about something.” The lunch bell rang and we went to class. Joey watched me closely for the rest of the day. After 10 t h bell, he showed up early to “save” me. “Jeff, I need to talk to you later,” I said before Joey had entered the room. “Alright. I’ll stop by,” he nodded, looking so in love with me. Joey gazed at him warily. “I’ll carry your stuff for you,” he offered. As he turned his back I gave Jeff a warning look. “Be careful. He’s onto you,” I mouthed. In the blink of an eye, Jeff’s face and manner were devoid of all emotion. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Allison. Have a good evening,” he told me in his teacher voice. Wow, I’d have to learn how to do that! I mused as I got into Joey’s car. “Thanks for carrying my stuff. You really don’t have to, though.” “No, it’s alright. I like doing stuff for you.” I had to hide my face. Would I ever stop thinking like a horny freak? I asked myself as an image appeared in my mind. How annoying this would be. Then I laughed. This was a little bit funny. “Ok. Fine.” 127 “Why are you laughing?” Like it’s any of your business! I thought indignantly. “A joke someone told me.” “Are you gonna share it?” He was expectant. “Um, it’s kind of long. I’ll tell you tomorrow.” “Ok.” He followed me to the porch when we got to my house. As I noticed Mark’s red hair flash by, I jumped. Joey held me. “What is it?” “Thought I saw something. So, uh, what movie are you planning on?” I changed the subject. “It’s a surprise. I’ll pick you up at five. See you tomorrow, Allie.” He squeezed me, then left. Calming my self down, I went inside, made a snack for Malorie and Jake, left some forms for my aunt on the kitchen table, and flew upstairs. I was getting better at it. Mark cornered me at the door as soon as I closed it. His kiss disarmed me and I felt myself slipping into my senses. “Mark,” I called him as he pulled back a little bit. My voice was thick with need. I wanted his blood. “Allison, I don’t want to pressure you but you know how I am.” His lips were studying my neck and he moved my shirt off my shoulder so he could kiss that as well. I tilted my head so he had better access. Suddenly, he was lifting me against the door. “M… Mal and Jake…” I tried to tell him. I couldn’t focus on anything but his hands and lips on me, his body pressed against mine. This must be how Cris got into her mess. My eyes flew open. “Wait! Stop,” I said. Immediately, he stepped back. “I’m sorry,” he apologized. I locked my door, then we both sat on the bed. I took a deep breath. “Wow!” I muttered. “What is it? What’s wrong?” he asked after a silence. “I don’t want to end up like Cris. She’s late,” I explained. “Oh!” he nodded. “No, see, it’s not the same with vamps, especially scaroths. Well, if you were full scaroth, it would take 50 years before you could bear a child. But you’re half logmin.” “What are you saying?” I looked at him. “You can’t have children anymore. Logmin don’t have sex.” “So I can’t get pregnant?” “No.” 128 “Why didn’t you tell me before?” “There was so much other stuff to learn. I figured since your only partner was Jeff, you wouldn’t need to know yet. I’m sorry.” “Stop apologizing!” I snapped. “This is strange. I’ll never have children.” “No, you will, but you won’t physically give birth to them. Any fledgling you make. Like Amada.” “Oh. That makes everyone related,” I realized. “Don’t think about it or everything will make you vomit.” “Why didn’t I realize this before?” “Hey, it’s alright.” He hugged me closely. “I didn’t come to that conclusion until I was damn near 50!” “I need time to absorb all of this,” I concluded. “Should I leave?” he questioned. “No. Please don’t.” After a while, Jeff appeared. “She’s absorbing,” Mark warned him. “Oh. You told her about the…” he sat down behind us, trailing off, looking so sad. “This was more complex than I imagined at first,” I mentioned. “It’s alright. You’re still a baby vamp,” Mark rubbed my shoulder. “Right. Geez. Now I und why people go crazy!” I let out a mirthless laugh. A solemn look crossed Mark’s face. “You won’t,” he promised firmly. “Well, I definitely can’t end up like Cris, huh?” “No,” both men shook their heads. “Figures,” I sighed, laying back. Leaning on their hands, they formed a picture. It was interesting, they looked so godly. Their surreal bodies opposed, yet complimented the other. Mark represented youth, danger, rebellion, change; chaos. Jeffery stood for wiseness, nobility, power and calculated steps; serenity. Like yin and yang. I wondered how I fit into that. They were pretty much stoic as I stared at them and thought about all that had happened. The next thing I knew, the alarm clock was going off. I had fallen asleep. Without much thought, I telekinetically turned it off. 129 Jeffery and Mark lay on either side of me. I glanced from one to the other, sighed, then got up. They watched as I gathered my things and chose an outfit. “I think I can do this. But you guys have to help,” I reasoned. “Of course,” both replied, already standing. Geez, that freaked me out! “Thanks for being here, guys.” “Jeff, can I have Allie to myself for a moment?” Mark asked. “Sure.” Jeff disappeared. “Mark, what do you, oh!” I exclaimed as he picked me up, pressing me against my wall. One of his fingers touched my neck, finding a vein. “Not this way, Mark,” I pleaded. “You’re such a romantic,” he rolled his eyes, putting me on the bed. He put my arms up near my head. “What about time?” “I set your clock two hours early,” he explained, taking off my shirt. Since I was in one of those moods, I wasn’t panicked about someone busting in on us. However, I made sure to tell Mark, “Be gentle,” before he removed his pants. So he was; he explored my body first, memorizing it and prodding it. I reciprocated, and we delved in our senses. We were almost melting into each other; we were so focused and absorbed on what we were doing. In fact, we hadn’t even started making love yet when Joey banged on my door. “Allie, wake up! You’re going to be late! Geez!” he yelled. Simultaneously, Mark and I looked at the clock. It was 9:02. School started in five minutes (don’t ask, I don’t know who established that odd time). “Damn!” Reluctantly, Mark and I untangled our limbs and I dressed. “I’ll see you later. We can pick up where we left off,” I whispered to Mark. He kissed me, then jumped out of my window. As I joined Joey in the hall, I wondered what Mark did all day when he wasn’t spying on me. “Allie, vamanos! I grabbed a donut for you,” Joey ushered me into his car. “Oh, yeah. How filling. Thanks,” I spoke blandly, angry at him for interrupting, angry at the government for banning truancy. But wait, did I really have a legal obligation to attend school now that I was a vampire? More questions for Jeff. 130 “Hey, I waited five minutes ‘cuz I thought you were getting something last minute!” He glanced at me, then stared for a bit. “Are you sweating?” he seemed incredulous. “Am I?” “You look like you just came from the gym or something. Do you feel sick? Or maybe you’re hypothermic,” he began delivering all sorts of medical problems associated with sweating. “No, I’m ok. My room was just really warm, that’s all.” Well, something was but I wasn’t about to reveal anything. “But you’re sweating so profusely. What were you doing before I came up?” he laughed. If only he knew. “Nothing,” that concerned him anyway. “Look, let’s just get to school.” I bit into my donut, ranked almost tasteless next to Mark’s sweet, warm blood. Mm, Mark’s blood. Joey threw some napkins at me and I glared at him. “You’re drooling,” he noted. Man, I really had to stop getting sidetracked. I didn’t have time that morning to stop by Jeff’s room, obviously, and I was pissed. What is happening to me? I wondered. I’d never been like this. It must be Jeff and Mark’s blood. That brought up another question. Had their blood tainted me in more than one way? I really needed to talk to Jeff. Without thinking I ran, at human pace, out of the room, saying, “Bathroom,” as I passed Ms. Wilson. I went straight to Jeff’s room. He was standing in front of his door, as if he’d been waiting for me. “What’s wrong, child? I sense such confusion from you,” he held me against him. “Take me somewhere,” I whispered. “Wait here.” He stepped back into his classroom, told his students something, closed the door behind him, and headed toward the office. I stared at the water fountain cherub. I wouldn’t know how he would convince them to let him take me out of school; at the time, the thought never even crossed my mind. In any case, he was back in a flash and gathering me into him, moving toward the exit. Safe in the cover of trees, he flew up. After a short while, he landed in a nearby wood. He lay down but did not let me go. “Tell me, child,” he ordered. 131 All of my questions came out, and I was surprised. He must have slight power over people. I asked him that as well. “I don’t know what to make of anything anymore. What if you were wrong? I might go crazy, after all.” “No. I will not allow that to occur,” he was so stern, I could only sit and stare. “Now that you’re a vampire, human rules and limitations do not apply to you. Your only problem is that you keep thinking like a human. That’s why you’re confused. Your vamp side wants to do things that you personally have beliefs against. It’s perfectly normal. You’ll just have to get used to it. Of course, it’s a lot easier if you decide which you want to listen to. For the first few years, I tried to follow my human side. Yet, eventually my vampirism took over. It’s different for each vampire, of course. Some are weaker because they stick to their human idiosyncrasies. The stronger ones you find have chosen to fall completely into their new selves. Humans might call this a dual personality and it might be true. “In order to not go insane, you must accept one and destroy the other. I don’t want to scare you, but the new vampire in you will fight you for control. The sooner you decide the better. In order to dispel one of the warring personalities, you need to…” he paused. “Jeffery?” He looked back at me. “You need to take half an hour by yourself in a secluded area much like this.” His voice was so low a human would barely hear and he was speaking as if this were conspiratorial. “You need to bring a pen and parchment. Close your eyes, meditate, then begin to draw,” he stopped. “Then what?” I prompted, puzzled by his behavior. “Your drawing will give you your answer,” he finished. “And everything else will fall into place?” “Yes.” “Ok. I believe you.” I sat up. “Thanks, Father.” I hugged him. He kissed my hair. “If you grow it out, you’ll look just like her,” he murmured, breath tickling my forehead. “My hair, you mean? And I suppose you’re referring to Aeryn.” He seemed embarrassed. “Sorry for my musing.” 132 “It’s ok that you need her.” I squeezed his hand. “Right now, I need you and Mark. I’d prob’ly go crazy if I didn’t have you two with me.” “Although, wouldn’t it be our fault if you lost your mind in the first place?” he posed. “I try not to think of that.” “But shouldn’t you so-” “Jeffery, silence. I have one more question. My vampire half, for me, is it Aeryn?” When he didn’t reply, I knew my suspicion to be right. “And if I choose my human side,” I looked down. “Aeryn dies,” he finished for me. “I could never do that to her.” “Are you sure? Most humans would rather preserve themselves,” he seemed shocked. “Look, I love you and Mark and I’m not going to hurt you by rejecting your vampirism.” “Really? You’d sacrifice yourself for us?” “Yes, you idiot! What is up with you? Why are you acting like that? I owe both of you big time.” “No one else has ever been so noble.” “I’m not being noble, I’m being fair. You made me a vamp, I’ve got to act like one,” I reasoned. “I guess you’ll never understand where I’m coming from,” he laughed. “Perhaps not. But at least you love me.” “I more than love you.” He turned my face toward his. Tilting my head back, he massaged my neck. My eyes closed and I moaned as he softly kissed it. “This will help you,” he whispered. No shit! Something took over me and I reached for his face. His arm squeezed my body against his so tightly; if I were human, I would have snapped in two. Of course, now I was a perverted vampire, it turned me on. My nails dug into his pale flesh, and his blood covered my hand. He was bending my body backward over his knee, going for my belly. He bit my belly button and I squealed, shutting my eyes. Ok, yeah, you’re freaked out. Hey, so am I! I had no idea I was capable of being so gothic and grotesque. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t peg Jeff as a belly man. Or a… never mind. Hee hee! 133 So there we were, in the forest, doing something weird. And I didn’t mind. It just felt so natural. After that, he took me to his home. It was one of the larger three-story houses with a garage. His car was in the driveway. “How-” I began to ask. “Amada picked it up from the school for me,” he explained, cutting me off. “Oh. So she’s here?” I was excited. He smiled at me. Holding my hand, he led me up to the front door and then into the front hall. It was not a house, but a set for famous movies, I thought to myself. It was ridiculously perfect. “The living room is on the right, there,” he told me, locking the front door. What for, who knows? I entered the room slowly, examining all of the beautiful pictures of foreign people I’d never met before. The carpet was equally breathtaking; some impossible yet regal design sewn in gold thread into the royal blue and rose red. The coffee table in the center of the room was all glass with a crystal design etched in the winding legs. The furniture matched and was made of redwood. When did he stop by California? I wondered. There were no electronics, only an antique grandfather clock. “It’s beautiful!” I murmured. “You are, too,” that sweet Spanish accent rang out, echoing a little bit against the red walls. “Amada,” I said warmly, embracing her as she walked up to me. “Allo, Allison,” she giggled. “Long time no see, yes?” “Very.” “How have you been?” “Um, ok. Has Jeff taken good care of you?” “Yes. And so has Mark.” “Mark?” My eyes narrowed. “He did not tell you? He arranged for my moving into the U.S. Until Jeff showed up, he let me stay with him.” “I see.” And he had nerve to harp on me being with another person! “Would you like a drink?” she asked courteously. 134 “Yes, please.” I sat on one of the three couches. Jeff was leaning against the doorframe, regarding me. “Why hadn’t you told me? Aren’t you both vying for my affection?” “True. I was waiting until an appropriate time. Seems I missed my chance,” he looked at the floor for a few seconds. “How does it make you feel?” 135 Chapter Eight He entered at that moment. “Allie, what happened?” “I had some question I needed answered. Jeff kindly did so. But now I have a few more,” I stood. Mark looked at Jeff as Amada returned with my drink. “For who?” “I need to speak with you alone. I hope I can keep my voice level because I’m very angry,” I told him. “About what?” “Stop being an idiot!” I almost yelled, taking the cup from Amada and gulping the contents down. “Is there a sound-proof room in this house, Jeffery?” “The basement should be sufficient,” he answered. Without a word, I walked out and into the kitchen. Flinging open the basement door, I didn’t bother turning on the light as I ran down the stairs. Mark followed slowly, shutting the door. He ordered the light on and trudged down the stairs. “Hurry up! I have to get home soon,” I snapped. “What is the matter with you?” he questioned, keeping a distance of five feet between us. “You slept with her, didn’t you?” “Who?” he asked. “Amada! I know you at least tried to. Why even bother moving here if you wanted her?” His face went blank. “Because I love you.” “Don’t lie to me!” I screamed, punching the wall. 136 He actually jumped. “I’m not. I do love you,” he said desperately, on the verge of tears. “Why are you scared? I thought you were a man?” I sneered, walking up to him. “I’m a vampire. Shut up!” He ran up the stairs. “Did you fuck her?” I yelled, balling my fists. “I tried. God knows how I did. But she wouldn’t have me,” he admitted, sinking down on the stairs, his eyes pleading with me. “Well, at least she’s faithful,” I spoke evenly. “Why the fuck would you do that to me? How could you? I should’ve known you’d be an asshole.” I was trembling with rage. “Baby, I’m such an idiot! I messed up. And I am so sorry. I have never felt so damn bad in my life. How can I redeem myself? Please, it’ll never happen again!” “You’re right. It won’t.” My body suddenly felt very warm. “No. Not again. Please not again. I may not come back this time.” He scrambled up the rest of the stairs and flung open the door. “Ah, trying to run again. How dare you. I killed you once; I’m going to kill you again. For the same reason, no less,” I laughed, following him slowly. He never looked so scared to me. He was sweating blood. He fell and stared up at me in fear. “No, Aeryn! Don’t! This is the last of my transgressions, I beg of you!” he swore and pleaded. I felt something in my brain and eyes, and suddenly Mark caught fire. I jumped back, startled. He got to his feet and ran. Jeff blocked his path and held him. Amada rushed in and turned on the faucet. Jeff lifted Mark and dunked him in the sink. After all of the fire had been washed away, Jeff told Amada to get Mark a change of clothes. “No use being immortal if you can’t be comfortable,” he reasoned. “Like I could be comfortable in your clothes,” Mark joked weakly, shivering from fear. “What… just happened?” I inquired, leaning against the counter. “You tried to kill Mark. However, since you’re still very young, you only managed a flesh wound,” Jeff explained, assisting Mark into the hallway. 137 I followed him upstairs to one of the six guest rooms, where Amada was laying out one of Jeff’s suits. “How? Is pyrokinesis one of my abilities?” I questioned. “Yes. Remember when you and Mark created a fire together, and he controlled it? That was his display of the ability. Since he also made you, you inherited pyrokinesis. Also, since you are Aeryn, you are much stronger than you would be normally. Let alone the fact that a woman’s wrath, a vampire woman’s wrath, expands your talents.” Jeffery laid Mark on the bed, undressing him. I tried but could not tear my eyes from the hideous sight of burned flesh. Tears silently rolled down my cheeks. I had done this. I had wounded the one I loved. But then, considering what he had done, I’d say it was even. Still, I stepped closer. “Mark, does it hurt?” “Of course it does, love. You always know how to hurt a guy.” He winced as Jeff toweled him off. “Easy, Jeff!” “Stop whining! By tomorrow, these burns will be gone,” Jeff scolded. “That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt,” Mark muttered. Jeff looked like he wanted to slap him. Instead, he dressed Mark, even tying his tie and shoes. “There. Now you look appropriate.” Amada giggled. “Ugh! Now I look like you,” Mark frowned. The burns on his face had already disappeared. “You mention that as if it’s a bad thing,” Jeff smiled. “I think you’re very handsome, Mark,” Amada added. “Yeah?” He glanced at me for approval. Taking his hand in mine, I said, “Next time I will kill you. It would be a shame, though, to put such good looks to waste.” “I understand. There will be no next time.” “That’s good. Now, I must get home. School’s been out for a bit.” Together, they bowed. Then Mark said, “I will come by later.” “7:30,” I agreed. I kissed them all, then Jeff drove me home. Aunt Jaime was peeking through the blinds. “Who is that?” she rasped as soon as I opened the door. 138 “My name is Francois Debusk. I’m your daughter’s Law teacher.” I hadn’t realized Jeff had followed me up the drive and stairs. He held her hand and shook it heartily and firmly. She looked down her glasses at him. “I’m her aunt, not her mother. Why did you bring her home?” “Allison wasn’t feeling well,” he said shortly. “That doesn’t explain anything.” “You were at work and no one else except a student could say where she lived. I also went to a medical school so the administrators trusted me to take her to receive help.” “I called the hospital. They never admitted her today.” “What she needed I had in supply. Besides, the hospital here is not one I would trust. It’s rated number five on the worst hospitals in the country’s list. I am more equipped to provide care for these students. I double as a nurse at the high school,” Jeff spoke so easily I wasn’t sure whether or not to believe him. “Shall I get him something to eat or drink?” I was timid, as if I was scared to bring out in the open the fact that she was being inhospitable. “Malorie!” she hollered. Malorie trudged out, looking bored. “What, ma’am?” She was chewing gum. How obnoxious! I thought. “It’s ‘yes, ma’am’ from you,” Aunt Jaime scolded. “Be useful and get a glass for Mr. Debusk.” “Glass of what?” Malorie was quick on the way to getting popped. “Wine, of course!” she snapped, as if her life was oh, so difficult. Of course, with a niece like Malorie, who could blame her? Malorie practiced her sexy walk as she went down the hall. I wanted to push her. “Yes’m.” Just as Aunt Jaime opened her mouth to ask Jeffery in, Malorie yelled, “Which one?” Aunt Jaime looked about to pull out her Uzi and Tommy and go at it with the best of them. “The ’71,” she spoke in a voice so controlled as to be suspicious. “Mr. Debusk, come sit in our living room.” “Of course, ma’am. Allow me to go and turn off my vehicle,” he requested, bowing. 139 WTF? I thought. “My stuff’s in there,” I remembered. Amada had gotten my homework from school and left it in the back seat. As Aunt Jaime went to yell at Malorie, no doubt, Jeff and I lazily strolled down toward his car. While we were leaning in, we had a quick conversation. “Excuse my aunt. I told you she was like that. And why ‘vehicle’? It’s a car in America. Stop acting like a foreign guy from the 1940’s.” “Sorry. You’ll have to help me assimilate. That woman is very uncivilized. At least she has good wine.” “Yeah, she’s a drunk.” He laughed. “I want to see you tomorrow. I know you and Mark have things to do tonight. I want to try again.” “Try what?” I felt my eyes widening involuntarily. I shut the door, slung my bag over my shoulder, and started back up the walk. He locked his doors first, then quickly with his long strides caught up to me. “I believe you know, my flower. We have only coupled once and I much desire to try it again.” “Whatever for? Pourquoi?” I was blushing again. “If it pleases you as much as you have previously made known to me, then it is almost my duty to repeat it. Besides, after today’s fiasco, I believe you’ll need a release.” I couldn’t reply for at that moment, Aunt Jaime appeared again in the doorway. “Why are you red, Allison?” she asked impatiently, as if she had expected an answer before she’d asked the question. “She’s with a slight fever, I believe. Perhaps she should remain home on the morrow,” he suggested before I could think. Aunt Jaime nodded. “Into the living room with you both.” After we were all settled in (me sitting across from the two), she inquired, “So you’re a trained doctor, I presume?” as she sipped on her tea. “Yes. However, I am only medically employed at the school now. I am a private physician. I left my hospital job to become a teacher. I am the only qualified doctor in this town,” Jeff answered, accepting his glass of wine from Malorie. “I see. Well, then, perhaps the authorities should make an exception and allow you to treat this town’s population without being forced to work in that crummy building they deemed a hospital,” she actually laughed. 140 I drew back in surprise. “Perhaps,” Jeff agreed, smiling. “So, what’s wrong with Allie?” “I’ve discovered she has a rare but noncontagious illness.” Aunt Jaime’s eyebrows raised. “Oh, dear. What is it?” “I have this disease myself. It’s called Andre’s disease. It’s incurable, but you can lower the risk of having an outbreak. It’s blood-related,” he elaborated. “Wow! What do you propose should be done?” “I would like to monitor and treat Allison. If you will allow, I shall be her private doctor. I hope it will not be too much of a pain to see me at both school functions and inside your home.” He looked so concerned and polite it was impossible to refuse his offer. “I’m so glad we’ve met, Mr. Debusk. Or is it doctor?” “Call me what you wish, Ms?” “Dutch, same as Allison.” “Ah, Ms. Dutch. Here is my number if you should ever wish to contact me.” From his breast pocket, he produced a business card. How did he make one in advance? When did he do it? How had he even known to do it? There was something very suspect about this. “Thank you. I’ll be sure to call you.” “It includes my address. Feel free to call me anytime.” “Sure,” she nodded. “I would like to visit Allison tomorrow if you do not mind. To monitor her illness.” “What does this illness do?” Aunt Jaime had once wanted to be a reporter. “It creates periods of dizziness, confusion, nausea, and even fainting. It usually lies dormant until the later teenage years. I have a pamphlet on it at home. I will leave it with Allison tomorrow, if I can come by.” “Oh, of course. I’ll leave my work number on the refrigerator. If her illness is serious, I’d like to help all I can.” “Just allow me to visit her.” “Oh, of course. I might even have a key made for you.” What was going on? He must be using his mind power. He was very capable of bending people to his will. As she reexamined his card, he winked at me. I raised an eyebrow. Just 141 stay quiet, he ordered in my mind. “Well, I believe I should be leaving. It’s about 7:30.” He stood. “Ah. Come as early as you like tomorrow. If Allison is awake, then she will answer the door. If she’s not, a key will be in a blank envelope in the mailbox.” “Of course. Thank you.” They shook hands once more at the door. “Goodbye.” Aunt Jaime closed the door behind him. “Well, what a fine young gentleman! How old did you say he was?” “I believe his early 30’s,” I began to feel uncomfortable. “Looks fresh out of high school! I might just have to date him,” she confided, winking at me. She wasn’t that old herself, only 34, but she had an old soul. I tried my best to keep from either laughing or throwing up. “Oh,” was all I could say before I went upstairs. However, I couldn’t prevent a shudder from going through me as I entered my room. Mark was laying on my bed, a model of everything a man should be, including half-naked. “If she dates him I swear I’ll be sick!” I mumbled. “So, Jeff’s going to try and screw your brains out morrow,” Mark said sarcastically. “No, he’s going to make love to me. I’m the only one he’s making such a sacrifice for. I mean, think about it. He can’t cum so he will go for as long as I want him to.” “Just drive the knife into me real deep,” he sat up. “Get off my bed. You don’t deserve to lie on any bed I’ve been on.” When had I become such a bitch? Hurt, he sort of slumped down on the floor. Kicking my shoes off, I sat on my mattress, glaring down at him. “Will you continue to punish me?” “No, punishment is when I slice you up into thousands of little pieces and drop one piece in every major city in the world. You’d never be able to pull yourself back together in time. It would take you eons.” “That is harsh! You actually did that to me once.” “Oh, joy. Tell me, then. Why are you still with me if I tortured you so?” “I love you for being the only being to make my life worth living. My life is exciting and meaningful with you in it. You brought me to life,” he gazed at me as he spoke all of this. 142 “What type of music appeals to you, Mark Ashton?” I wondered out of the blue. “Music? Phil Collins is my most recent favorite. Before that, it was Stevie Wonder. Before that it was Beethoven.” I laughed. “Really?” This seemed to be an allowance for him to move since he moved between my legs, staring up at me. “Hey, Phil is awesome!” I held his head on my thigh. “You are odd, Mark.” “Isn’t that why you love me?” he asked hopefully. I only smiled at him. “Don’t we have unfinished business?” He turned to look at me so quickly it was comical. His face was turning red. “Being in this close proximity to you does excite me. I was becoming impatient.” “Ha!” I laid back. As he began kissing me, the phone rang. “It’s him,” I spoke with disgust. “What is it?” I snarled nastily as I lifted the receiver. “Allie? Uh… I’ve been trying to reach you all day. Are you sick?” Joey dutifully sounded worried. “I’m fine. I’m staying home, though. Doctor’s orders.” “You have a doctor?” “This one’s from out of town.” “Oh. Ok. I just wanted to make sure you were alright.” I’ll be alright as soon as I get off the phone with you so I could get back to what I was doing! I nearly screamed out loud. Instead, I said, “I am. You don’t need to worry.” “Ok. I’ll give you a visit tomorrow,” he promised. “That’s nice.” I scratched the inside of my ear. “Alright. Bye, Allie.” “Uh-huh. Ciao.” I dropped the phone. “What an ass!” Mark rolled his eyes. “Him or mine?” “Well, yours is excellent but he’s a loser. Only I’m allowed to kiss your ass,” he declared. The familiar tingles ran through my abdomen. He was kissing my belly. His tongue sneaked into my belly button and I squirmed in delight. He sure did make up for trying to cheat on me. I didn’t do one thing for him. By the time we got done, he 143 was exhausted and I was satisfied. “You should be gone by the time Jeff gets here.” “I understand.” “What do you do in your free time?” I questioned lightly. “Listen to music and dance,” he replied in a bored voice. “Really?” “Most of the time I’m following you. Making sure Joey doesn’t do anything.” “You mean like you did over Halloween? I almost thought I’d need a taser!” He laughed, rubbing his face in my neck. “Did I ever tell you how soft you were?” he mumbled. “No.” “Well, you are. You’re as soft as a cloud,” he ruled. I smiled. “Let me sleep, love. You’ve repaid your debt.” “You’re not going to sleep with him, are you?” “Who?” “Joey.” “Don’t make me set you on fire again. Why would you ever bring that up?” “Well, I figured you’d want to get even with me.” “Doing that would be so ultimately wrong as to damn me! He will never touch me in that way!” “Sorry. Sorry. I'm sorry,” he kissed me. “Forgive me, lass.” “I should make you leave.” “No, please! Let me stay a few more hours. I’ll be good.” I dreamed that Joey kidnapped me and put me in a cage. He fed me onions and Brussels sprouts. I woke up puking. I was a little bit surprised, I didn’t think I could still throw up. “Easy girl. Relax,” a soothing, mesmerizing voice spoke to me. Gentle hands cradled me against a solid body. Feebly, my eyes opened. “Why did I vomit?” I asked. “The fight is making you sick. This is what happens when a young vampire has more power than they should. Aeryn’s powers are exhausting you. I suggest you keep from using her abilities until you are at least a few decades older.” Decades! “That’s a bitch!” I commented. “Perhaps. But the time will pass quickly. If you allow it to. Start thinking in years instead of days. Remember, we have all the time in the world.” 144 “Unless we’re extinguished.” “You won’t be. Your fledglings, er, Aeryn’s don’t know you are still alive. When they find out, they will come for you. Mark and I will stand by you, don’t worry. I refuse to let them harm you again. To lose you so soon after I’ve found you, that would be tragic.” Tears welled up in his multicolored eyes. “Don’t cry. I hate it when you cry.” I held his face and rubbed my thumbs over his tears. “I love you so much,” he smiled sadly. “Let me clean off.” “Of course.” I ran into the hall, gathering cleaning supplies. I changed the sheets and blankets on my bed, putting the dirty ones in the laundry. I scrubbed and bleached the mattress, then went to take a shower. I set my outfit for the day on the towel shelf, stripped down, and hopped in. Jeff stood right outside of the shower curtain, first looking at his reflection, then turning to watch me. “You’re making me self-conscious,” I told him, making a feeble attempt to cover myself. “But I have seen you before. I have loved this body you are now cleaning. It is beautiful. Why should you be so self- conscious if there is nothing flawed about you?” he challenged me, but it was with such ardor I could feel my heart melting. I gazed into his silver eyes, and he stared steadily back. When most guys would have lowered their gaze to look over my body, he seemed completely fine with simply studying my eyes. “You are unbelievable,” I whispered. “You are lovely.” He moved into the shower, fully dressed. I moved back against the wall as he slowly came closer to me. “You are so lovely. My little flower, fully and beautifully blossoming.” His head lowered, and I felt bad for being so short compared to him. Holding my neck in both hands, almost a soft choke, he sort of lifted me and kissed me. Our lips molded into one shape and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I pulled on his suit jacket, which was soaked. “Aren’t your clothes a little heavy?” I spoke into his mouth. “Not as heavy as my feelings for you,” he didn’t miss a beat. “Don’t be impatient. 145 I opened my eyes so I could see his green eyes for a moment. His head disappeared as he put his lips to my ears and neck. In one shudder, I knew what he planned to do and almost pushed him away for fear of such a pleasure. He would cover every part of my body in kisses. And I was helpless. I tried pushing his head away, and he looked up at me and gave the sweetest smile. “You’re going to kill me!” I exclaimed, laughing. Jeffery was kissing my arms now. The warm water poured down over our bodies, and he looked even more irresistible, if it was possible, with his wet blond hair plastered to his face. No matter how he was positioned, he’d still be beautiful to me. He could be shitting in the toilet (although I admit I am GLAD he can’t defecate anymore) and he’d still look godly while doing it. Yet this ethereal creature was now kissing my back, and I felt like I was floating or falling. My knees buckled but he held me up. He would force me to endure this painful pleasure. “You are not going anywhere,” he said softly. That’s when I started crying. Ok, you prob’ly think I’m retarded, but if you could feel his lips! They were unbelievable. I could barely stand. His lips did this little thing where they were moving in this really strange way and I could barely stand it. Finally, he let me lay on the shower floor. I was surprised the water hadn’t gone cold yet. He kissed my legs slowly, from the bottom up, after he’d kissed my feet. (I’m really weird about my feet so I kept my toes curled.) I tried desperately to push his head away as he got to my thighs. I was shaking so badly, I couldn’t get a good grip on him. So of course he won out and I just about died. I’m gonna scream! I thought. “Go ahead.” People will hear. “Let them. We’ll say you were hurt.” I am hurt. It feels so good it hurts. “Then you’re ready,” he decided, and painfully, tortuously slowly, removed his clothes. I was grabbing at him, my body aching because he was no longer touching me. My body needed him like he was crack and I was the addicted baby. Come back! I pleaded. He told me to be patient, and I would have set him on fire if he hadn’t promised me pleasure. When he finally lay on me, I nearly came. “No, no. 146 Not yet. Patience,” he told me. “This is going to go slow.” He touched my lips with a soft finger. “Beautiful flower.” He kissed me, moving his arms underneath me to help join our bodies. Once again, his member was large and hard, as if he could really be horny. Why? I asked him silently. I love you, he replied in my mind, beginning to move us. I tried to get him to go faster, but he forced us to go slowly, and of course I gave in. I ran my hands over the back that he’d never before let me touch. He was giving himself to me but controlling me at the same time. He knew the best way to please me and stuck to it, no matter how I screamed or fought. And the water soaked us. I noticed his hands didn’t prune up like mine did. I loved those beautiful fingers he had. He had model’s hands. His eyes were now purple, and it was so beautiful. We were in there for hours, the water running over us and turning deliciously cold. I put my fingers through his hair, which was starting to clump. I’ll comb it out later, I though to myself. I kissed his eyelids. His eyelashes were so perfect. I never wanted to part from him. My lips found his neck and I let my teeth break through. His blood tasted like heaven to me. I caught flashes of his memory, his feelings for me, his fears. I absorbed it all, loving him even more. At long last, I lay back, eyes closed. He pulled away from me to turn off the shower water. “What clothes shall you wear?” he requested. “Pick something out. What of yourself?” I replied. “I don’t know.” “Um. Let me put them in the dryer,” I offered. “Am I to walk around nude?” he smiled. “As lovely a thought as that is…” I leaned over the side of the tub. “There are some old clothes in the attic. My Aunt’s Uncle’s clothes. You might fit them.” “Alright,” he agreed, toweling himself off. Fixing the towel on his waist, he chose another one and wrapped me up in it. I laughed as he lifted me. After he dried me off, he followed me to my room. “Wear this for me.” His eyes shone as he softly fingered a red velvet dress. “You want me to look like Chloe!” I accused him. “Like a doll.” 147 He frowned. “I like the way you look in dresses. I can admire your legs,” he explained. “Oh, fine. Come on. The attic’s this way.” We went down the hall to a locked door by the bathroom. Fetching the key form the hook, I unlocked it and led Jeff upstairs. It was pretty clean because my aunt was obsessive-compulsive. I knelt down by a large chest and opened it, “See if there’s anything you like.” Of course, he chose one of the suits. It was a little bit big on him. “Oh, how annoying!” he ruled. “Wait. Let me try something.” I held onto the suit and concentrated. “There. Now it fits.” “Magnifique! But remember, don’t use Aeryn’s powers too often.” “I know. But it looks so much better.” He frowned again. “Don’t be angry.” The doorbell rang so nothing more could be said. We ran down to the first floor. I wish I’d never opened the door. “Allie? What is he doing here?” Joey’s mouth hung open. “Uh, this is my doctor.” Jeffery was standing too close to me. Joey looked very suspicious. “Mr. Debusk is your doctor?” “Yeah. I didn’t want to tell you because I know you don’t trust him.” “He knows!” Joey seemed scared. “She expressed your concerns. I’m sorry if you feel that I have perverted tastes, Mr. Lawrence. I can assure you that I am as involved as I am allowed and no more. You’ve no reason to worry. I will take care of Miss Dutch,” Jeffery spoke, willing Joey to leave. “I’ll see you on Saturday,” I said. “Ok. Um, here.” He handed me a package of useless cookies. “Ok. Let me get back to school. Oh, can you please not tell that I left school grounds?” “I never saw you so you never saw me. I don’t want to be everyone’s doctor,” Jeffery commanded. “Right. Bye, Allison.” He hugged me. I did my best not to crush his weak body under my fingers. “Mr. Debusk,” he nodded, then walked very quickly to his car. “You embarrassed him,” I told Jeff. “Just by being here.” 148 “You should have crushed him. I detest that human!” Jeff bared his teeth as he shut the door. “You were human once.” “So were you.” “But then again, I also used to be Aeryn.” “Let it pass. Come, let’s go talk of music.” He sat on my bed. Kneeling behind him, I lovingly combed his hair. It was unbelievably soft and thick. He leaned back against me, gazing up at me with baby blue eyes. “Does it amaze you to see how far music has come?” I inquired. “Some of it disgusts me. Yet, some of it has grown to be beautiful… I was a rock star in the early nineties, did you know?” “What!” I jerked, studying him. “You!” “Yes, I was. I’ll show you my guitar sometime. Right now it’s in Italy.” “Italy?” I repeated. “You are so strange, Jeffery.” “That is how we found you. How I found you. No vampire, I’m speaking of logmin, of course, had ever entered the realm of humans so boldly. You were attracted to that and came out of… wherever you were hiding after you killed Mark for the last time, and to me. You snatched me up from my home in L.A. and took me to Italy. One of your castles was there.” “And then they killed me. My own children,” I was shaking with rage. He recoiled. Then he held me tightly. “Don’t be angry,” he pleaded. “At least I’ve found you again.” “I can’t wait to see them again. Donartez, Raphael, Nadia, Carlos, Emma. I shall torture them first. They will be afraid that I have returned.” My eyes narrowed as unlocked memories flooded my head. Kissing my eyebrows, he implored me, “Don’t become Aeryn so fast. I fear for you.” “Perhaps I am more like Aeryn than you intended. Don’t feel bad that I have changed so much. It is what you wanted.” That’s when I witnessed something shocking. Jeffery’s eyes held an emotion so alien to him (even when I was Aeryn before) I had to move away from him. “It is what I wanted. I never imagined it would occur so rapidly. You’re using powers I haven’t mastered yet in my few hundred years. If you knew more 149 about vampires, you’d understand how bizarre this is. They’re not as strong as you think.” “I will remember.” “Isn’t that cheating?” “It’s my memory!” “But it’s Allison’s life!” he pleaded. “If you really loved Allison, you would not have turned her into a vampire. You knew she was Aeryn from the start. You manipulated me into becoming Aeryn. But there’s no way you could’ve done it alone,” I realized. That feeling in him grew. Now I basked in it. “What are you accusing me of?” “You are so frightened by me now. When you mess with magic, you get exactly what you ask for. You wanted me, Aeryn Su Namun, and you got me! Own up to your deeds. Don’t dare try to tell me I’m unnatural. I’m the most powerful preternatural being on this Earth. I dare you to prove me wrong. Ever since I came into existence for the first time, I have never perished for good. I have returned, stronger than ever before. The next time I see you, I want Amada and Mark there as well. There are some things we need to straighten out.” “Allison,” he was amazed beyond belief. So scared he was that he was sweating blood. I bent down, for he was now on the floor cowering, and licked his face. The blood was on fire with his fear. “Don’t worry. I will not kill you. I promised you that, and I follow my word.” Noticeably, he relaxed. “I know. Forgive me. I thought you would be extremely upset with me. Also, I never could have guessed you’d figure everything out so quickly. You never cease to amaze me.” “Don’t underestimate me.” He stared at me blankly, unable to think. He looked so handsome, laying on the floor the way he was. The borrowed shirt he wore was unbuttoned at the top, revealing the pale, marble skin of chest. Not one blemish of his mortal life had remained to mar his perfect body. I sat on him, leaned forward, and kissed him. “I love you,” I told him, hugging his body. He softened and hugged me back. “Your siblings are here. I’ll have to leave now but I’ll come for you tonight. I’ll have all 150 of the involved in my home. Until later, ma cherie.” He kissed me slowly. “Ok.” He showed up around 10. “Ready, mademoiselle?” He extended his arm so I could hold on. I stood against him and we flew out the window. When we were in his living room, I saw three people. Mark and Amada were sitting while the stranger was leaning against a wall. As Jeff sat, I stared at this person. I knew he wasn’t human, but he wasn’t a vampire either. His hair and eyes were black. I started, wondering how in the world that was possible. Only one person I’d ever met before had been missing the whites of their eyes. At the time, I really hadn’t thought of how disgusting that was. He was a khaki boy; khaki pants, a plain white long-sleeved shirt under a short sleeve, button-up red one. He had on some odd- looking sneakers. This unbelievably irresistible person regarded me softly. “Hello,” his voice was dark; as if he’d seen all the world’s suffering in an instant. “Don’t I know you?” “Yes. From a long time ago. However, there’s not really much time for this now. I have things to do, you see. So I must be leaving soon.” I was torn apart. “Will I see you again?” “Not for a few years.” “Naturally.” I smiled. “What do you have to do with this? You all knew about me before I went on that cruise. So how did this come about? I know Mark planted that key on me.” “Immediately after you died, I seeked out Mark. You see, vampires, if they desire to, can be reincarnated in a human body. I wanted to see if you’d come back. Mark and I met about a week later in France. We settled our differences because we both wanted the same thing. We began a search of the whole world to find girls that threw off Aeryn’s aura,” Jeff started. “Of course, we needed more people. We found Amada in Mexico. She was the best in her field. She knew more about vampires than any other human did. Even their combined knowledge was only half of what Amada knew. We recruited her with the promise of getting to meet you. She found some gene in 151 your DNA that signifies the rebirth of a vampire. We arranged for a move to America,” Mark picked up. “Where does he come in?” I gestured to the third male. “I knew you. Moreover, I wasn’t human. They wanted to be absolutely certain you were Aeryn. They didn’t actually approach me until after I left you,” he replied. “I did move around a few times.” “Yes. And it’s harder to follow people in America. They’re all so paranoid,” Jeffery added. “They came to me about a year after I left, told me who and what you really were, and I agreed to help them. The plan was to relocate you, let you know them, and then manipulate you into becoming Aeryn again. And now you have. And everyone is afraid of you now,” the other elaborated. “Even you?” “No. I never was afraid of you. No, I’m not stronger than you, yet that’s an invalid reason for me to hate or fear you. In fact, I love you even more for it, if that makes any sense.” “You love me?” I asked, heart racing. Mark and Amada looked at each other, touched their hearts, then looked at me. “I always have. But I’m not going to fight for you. You have to come to me if you want me. Besides, you have a situation right now. If I’m in the picture, it just complicates things. Now is not a good time to make my move.” He held out a hand as if to stop me from advancing. “So you’re leaving for awhile. How will I find you?” He shrugged. “You’ll find me if you want to. It’s not like I’ll be hiding from you. You never hide from someone you love.” “I hate you,” I said quietly. The other three recoiled. “You always say such endearing things to me yet you behave as if you feel nothing!” He shook his head slowly, sadly. “This is not the time to discuss my affection constipation. And… I have to leave now. You understand.” I sighed. “I understand.” Unable to bear the pain he was putting me through, he came forward and touched my shoulder. “I’ll see you.” “Sure.” I felt cold inside. He was abandoning me again. 152 From the window he was about to fly off from, he turned his head to look back at me. “Don’t say that! I never abandoned you. I told you I’d come back.” Just not permanently, I thought. Now he was angry. He slammed the window and walked up to me. Tilting his head, he gazed down at me. “Stop putting that wall up. There’s got to be room for me. Always. I’ll tell you when I’m leaving for good. And that is not today. We’ll meet again.” “Yeah, at my grave.” When I noticed how preposterous that statement was, I began laughing. Everyone else laughed at the same time as well. Then the person that never before touched me kissed me. He dipped me low, forcing me back. He was powerful as he parted my lips. I got a jolt from him as he held me. He snapped back up and I almost fell. “One promise fulfilled.” “You never promised me that!” I remembered. “No, but I promised myself I would taste all of you eventually.” “Jeff just did that earlier today!” Mark laughed. I blushed. “And I shall be better. But this is no time to tease or brag. I’ll be seeing you.” “Bye.” I was happy now. After he left, I looked at the two of my suitors and the scientist. Stretching, I said, “I want to go to bed. Wait. Why do I sleep?” Together, they blinked, then looked at Amada. “I have no idea. It might be because of all your power. One can never be sure,” she answered. “Oh. Ok, then! Good night!” I beamed. Saturday was torture. Joey kept trying to cuddle but I wasn’t feeling it. One time, he snuck a kiss when I was laughing. “Joey!” I said harshly. “What’s the matter?” “I’m not a slut!” “I’m not trying to make you one,” he spoke honestly. “I just figured since we were a couple we should act like one,” he continued, embarrassed and dejected. The movie ended. He rose and started walking down the stairs. 153 “Joey, wait!” Slowly, he turned around and faced me. “What?” The way he said it was so depressing. My heart broke into a million little pieces. “Oh, Joey, I’m sorry. I haven’t been the best girlfriend and I know you deserve better.” I took his hand. “From now on, I promise I won’t neglect you.” I could feel his blood pumping through his body. What would it be like to drink from him? Would that be how Jeff had felt that night of the dance? “Really?” his eyes brightened as hope returned to him. I hugged him. Geez, he was sturdy! All of those muscles! Not as nice as Mark or Jeff but then again, he was only human. “Yes,” I vowed. “I’m glad you’re feeling better,” he said for the thousandth time. “Yeah. Come on, let’s go see another movie.” We bumped into Beverly and Sam in the hallway. “Allie!” Sam hugged me. “Hey. Whatcha both doin' here?” I asked. “We’re not together, if that’s what you think.” Beverly pushed her glasses up on her nose before continuing. “I came to see that new sci-fi flick.” “And I saw that new vampire movie. When I came out and saw Beverly, I figured you must be around.” Sam grinned. “Actually, I’m here with Joey,” I jerked my thumb at him. “Alone?” Sam’s eyebrows quirked. “Yeah,” I replied slowly. As things began to get awkward, I suggested we all see a movie together. I ended up between Sam and Joey. Fortunately, Joey was preoccupied, engaged in a heated argument with Beverly about some new video game. Sam leaned down so no one else would hear him as he talked to me. “Why are you here with him?” he asked. “He’s my boyfriend now.” It felt weird saying it. “Oh.” I could feel the distaste in his voice. “Good for you.” “Sam!” I whined. “Please don’t hate me. It’s not exactly what you think. I’m doing this more for him than myself. He’s a fragile person, you know that. If I’d have turned him down, he might’ve gone completely crazy. I don’t want to be the cause of that.” 154 “You’re right… So listen, you never did come to spend the night.” His tone changed. Heat rose to my face. “What about it?” “Next weekend, you and me. My place is fantastic!” “What about Cris?” He frowned. “Well, she’s incapacitated right now, ain’t she? Look, if you’re that worried about being alone with me, bring Bev. She’s cool. Or I could have Mark there. He’s an alright guy. Did you know he’s in town again?” Choking, I managed to shake my head. I finally blurted out, “No, I had no idea. But how could two guys make me feel comfortable? I’ll just bring Bev.” “Ok. Your aunt already said it was ok. I talked to her yesterday but I wanted to tell you myself. She said you were sick or something. And when you were better, you had to stay after school or whatever. She said she’s going out of town as well.” “Oh, yeah, I forgot about that. How convenient.” “Yeah,” he chuckled. “Your sis is stayin' with her fiancé and your bro is stayin' at my people’s house.” “So I can’t leave if I wanted to,” I realized. “Or Aunt Jaime’ll have a fit.” “Pretty much.” “Well, ain’t you lucky,” I said dryly. “Hey, don’t treat me as if I’m a rapist. Just cuz I like you and I’m a guy and I got you all alone in my house for a weekend does not mean I’m going to force you. I would never hurt you, kay?” He touched my cheek. Then he ruined the beauty of his statement by adding, “Besides, if Joey over there finds out, he’d kick my ass!” “Then just don’t let him find out,” slipped out before I grasped the implications. His eyebrows raised but he smiled. “I thought wrong of you, Allie. You are a bad girl.” No, I’m just a 14000-year-old vampire with all the power in the world. Does that make me evil? “Watch the movie,” I told him, pushing his head. Of course, I barely saw the movie. There were so many victims, possible slaves, and servants. Aeryn was intoxicating. Since Sam and Bev were with us, Joey invited them to dinner. Thank God he was nice! Wait, can I do that anymore? 155 Maybe not. I ordered a large meal, hoping to slake my hunger. Wanting blood is as bad as being horny, I decided, bursting into laughter. My friends looked at me, and I told a joke about Catholic priests. So we all were laughing maniacally as the waitress brought our food. She was very pretty, but neither guy seemed to notice her. That quickly dissolved my laughter. “I need to use the restroom,” I lied, leaving quickly. I went into a stall and brainstormed. According to how Jeff and Mark reacted to me, I concluded that my power was limitless. Of course, to compensate for the energy used, I’d need to sleep a little extra and drink a lot more blood. I became a shadow and made my way over, jumping from table shadow to table shadow. Even though I could not see, I could sense where everything was. Shadows were warm; everywhere else seemed to be freezing. Instead of hearing voices, I sensed vibrations. Joey was now talking. “It almost seemed like she was cheating on me. She dodged most of my kisses, always seemed preoccupied, and stuff. But I think she just needed to get used to me being her boyfriend. She was still thinking of me as a friend. I can’t wait ‘til Prom, though.” “Oh, yeah. We all know what happens on Prom night!” Sam cracked up. “You’re sick!” Beverly declared. “Oh, my goodness! I had almost forgot about that!” Joey exclaimed. “Wait. First of all, how in hell could you forget what Prom night is for? Secondly, are you planning on using it that way?” Sam questioned. “I don’t know. I mean, I really like her but I’m not sure she’d be up for that. She’s a good girl, you know.” Yeah, that part of my life was definitely over! “Man, you are such a goody-two-shoes! You’re not even going to try?” “I’m kind of shy about that stuff.” “Do you want to?” “Oh, yes!” he blurted. “Every time I see her.” “But you won’t?” “I'm scared to. I wouldn’t know what to do.” “I could tell you if you want.” 156 “Oh, yeah, you’re an expert on how to get women into bed, huh?” Bev teased. Sam chuckled. “I haven’t been turned down yet.” I quickly returned to the restroom and grew back into Allie. As I reached the table, Sam laughed again. “Hey girl, we were just talking about you.” “Oh? Pray tell.” I took my seat. “Some little stuff. Like why the hell you like Cris!” “You want to know the truth?” “Sure.” “Lean forward,” I told him. He did and I whispered in his ear, “Once I learned she was your sister, it was inevitable. I became her friend so fast; the whole family loved me. It was all for you.” When he sat back, he smiled. “Oh, you are so sweet. I was wrong about you in so many ways.” Joey looked suspicious. “What? I want to know,” he complained. “I felt sorry for her. If I wasn’t her friend, who would be?” I lied. “Oh.” I really needed to get home. Blood would not stay off of my mind. “I’m kinda tired. Would you mind taking me home, Joey?” “Ok.” “Bye, guys. It’s been fun.” I hugged Bev first. Joey went to pay the bill as I was hugging Sam. I jumped when Sam grabbed my ass. I punched him in the arm with human strength but he only laughed. “You perv!” “See you next week, Allie,” he waved as I walked away with Joey. Joey walked me to my door when we got to my condo. “Thanks for coming with me today.” “Thank you for taking me.” I hugged him. Oh, his blood smelled so delicious. I found myself kissing his neck. He flinched and I snapped out of it. “I’m sorry.” I stepped back. He didn’t let me go. “No, that’s ok. Not what I expected but ok. I want you to feel comfortable with me.” “Of course.” Again, I tried moving away but he still held me. 157 A peculiar expression was on his face, a combination of surprise, wonder, and desire. “Allie, there’s something we need to talk about.” “Ok. Can it wait? I’m really tired.” “Yeah. Can I come over tomorrow?” “I’ll ask Aunt Jaime.” “Ok.” Before I registered what was happening, he was kissing me. It was different from the ones he’d given me before. I could sense his impatience. “Oh, Joey,” I murmured yet again as we broke apart. That seemed to be his name now, OhJoey. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” “Ok.” “Lunchtime will be fine.” “Alright. Bye, Allie.” “Bye.” I slipped up to my room, locking the door. Falling back on my bed, I rubbed my cheek. Jeffery and Mark appeared. “Allie, do you understand what you’re doing?” Jeffery asked. “What am I doing?” I asked dully. “You’ve inherited Aeryn’s tastes. Aeryn had thousands of lovers, most of which she killed, but that is not important.” That disturbed me a little bit. “Because of who you are, everyone is meant to love you. They sense who you are, even if it’s only subconsciously, and they want you. History will repeat itself; there will be fights for you.” “So, you’re saying it’s part of my nature to cause destruction?” I summed. “Yep,” Mark agreed. “It’s not fair, really. Jeff and I are supposed to be your lovers, but your scouting for more.” “You can only pretend for so long. You should have known that eventually I would get used to being with Joey. I never really liked him but I enjoy being with him. Even though half the time I want his blood,” I spoke. “It starts again. You want to experience everyone, right?” Mark asked. “Pretty much.” “It is not our place to hold you back,” Jeff told me. “We only hope you will not forget us,” Mark added. 158 “How can I forget you? I love you.” I held both of their hands. “I love you very much; my children, my fathers, my lovers. I will always love you.” Seemingly reassured, they moved in closer to hold me. “We love you with all of our being!” they proclaimed together. Jeff was crying, and I kissed him. I pressed his head to my chest, kissing his hair. Then I turned to Mark and bit into his neck. “I have a question,” I said after I’d drunk from him. “What does it feel like never to sleep?” I wondered. “Boring,” Mark replied. “Every moment of your life is reality. Unless you took a hallucinogen.” “Have you?” My eyes narrowed and I wiped my mouth off. His eyes glittered. “What do you think, my love?” “I’ll say this, I am suspicious.” He laughed. “Why does he leave every single morning?” I whined. “He doesn’t love you as much as I do,” Mark decided. “Sure! Hey, Joey’s coming over for lunch.” “Yeah. I heard. Prob’ly to talk about sex.” “What?” I recoiled. ‘Oh, come on! Don’t play stupid. I saw what happened yesterday. That dude wants to sleep with you as badly as I do,” he scoffed. “That’s disquieting. Golly, is that all you men think about?” “Humans, sadly, yes. Not me. After a couple of centuries, it gets old. Same old thing each time. It fascinates me how much humans enjoy it.” “Are you serious? The way you were harping about it with me?” “It’s what leads up to it that’s exciting. The sex itself is unimportant.” I shook my head. “You are strange. But does that mean you don’t enjoy it?” He looked over at me. “I haven’t enjoyed having sex in about a hundred years. I enjoyed it with you because you are the only woman I actually love. And you sure do look hella cute! You get this adorable look on your face. I wish you could see it,” he guffawed. “You’re just so helpless. You don’t see that in 159 people nowadays. You just…” his face wrinkled attractively as he searched for the right word, “surrender completely. It’s the only time I feel like you trust me.” “That’s really cool. But how did I end up with two guys that don’t want sex? That really doesn’t make any sense.” He shrugged, folding his arms behind his head. “Huh. That really makes me wonder what you both want from me.” “We want nothing from you. We want you. Don’t you understand that yet? Wake up, Aeryn. All anyone ever wants is you. You can fuck anyone you want but that means nothing. That’s why you’re powerful, people don’t just want to bed you.” “That’s unfathomable!” I muttered. “Stop. I don’t care.” “I should prob’ly get going, eh? That horny lad’ll be along soon,” he smiled. “Ugh! Get out. You are still pretty perverted for a guy who doesn’t like sex.” He only raised his eyebrow. “Perhaps I should pop by Sam’s place next week to see how you’re doing? It will be interesting, I think.” “Quit implying shit!” I pushed him toward the window. He was laughing really hard as he flew off. Not a moment too soon had he left, for Joey knocked on my door the instant I shut my window. I answered it. “Hey, Joe.” “Hey. Your aunt went to church already. To the basement?” “Sure.” “Um, you wanna change?” he asked. “Why?” I had on a wife beater, no bra, and shorts. “Just asking.” He started down the stairs. “Where are Malorie and Jake?” “Jake’s playing video games next door and your aunt dragged Mal off to church.” I stopped on my descent to the basement. “So we’re here alone?” “Yeah. We’ve been here alone before, Allie.” He tugged on my hand. “Not as a couple, though,” I reminded. “Well, your aunt still thinks I’m your friend.” He seemed disgusted. “But I guess it’s easier that way. She doesn’t think I have a penis.” 160 I almost fell the rest of the way down the stairs. Then I realized that his last statement had been a thought so relaxed. “Whoo!” I laughed. “Are you ok?” he wondered. “Yeah. Just lost my footing.” We sat next to each other on the couch. “Wanna watch TV?” I looked at him. No, he definitely didn’t want to watch TV. It had just dawned on him that he was alone with his girlfriend. Quickly, almost dumbly, he shook his head. “Ok, then.” The silence stretched on. I admired the tiled floor and light green walls. I was so absorbed looking at the light; I didn’t see Joey move closer. So when I felt his legs touching mine, it startled me. “What are you thinking about?” he questioned. “Nothing, really. What about you?” I rested my head on my hand. “Well, um, Prom night,” he mumbled. “What about it?” When he looked up sharply, I silently cursed myself for my mistake. “Huh?” “Did you say Prom? I think that’s what you said,” I amended myself. “Yeah. I didn’t realize until this week how, um, different Prom is. Cuz everybody expects to, uh, you know, get, uh, laid, or whatever,” his voice was getting softer with each word until he completely trailed off, red as a ladybug. “Is that what you want?” I inquired softly. “What?” he almost shouted. He started wringing his hands together. He wouldn’t look at me. “Joey, calm down,” I ordered. “It’s ok.” He seemed alright now. “Well, I’m looking to you for boundaries. I’m inexperienced, you know that. I don’t want to go too fast or too slow.” “Well, mostly, it depends on if you’re ready or not.” “Oh, but I am!” he blurted. “I read every book I could find. I know the stuff; I’ve just never done it. I’ve always wanted you to be my first.” Oy Vay! “I never knew that.” “I’m sorry. I must seem like just another guy to you.” He began rising to his feet. 161 “That’s not true, Joey.” I grabbed onto his hand. “You’re not just some guy. You are a wonderful human being. You’ve never hurt me. I doubt that you ever can. Please sit back down.” He did. “I just really want to be with you. I’m confused and don’t know what to do around you I want to do so many things to you, but none of them seem right.” “I’ll always tell you if I don’t like something. I always have. Just chill out and let things happen naturally. Stop thinking so much,” I smiled. “You’re right.” He sat back. I leaned over and pecked him right on the lips. “What was that for?” “For me being so difficult.” “Can you do it again?” “Why?” “Just because.” Smiling again, I leaned over to kiss him. He held me tightly, not letting go when I pulled back. “Joey, what are you doing?” I asked. He lay me down and kissed me again. Why did it seem so different from Mark and Jeff? Was it because he was human? I didn’t think so. Being careful not to hurt him, I pushed him off of me. “I’m sorry, Allie. It won’t happen again,” he apologized, helping me sit up. “Yes, it will. If we’re still together, that is. You caught me by surprise there. How about we make out on Prom night instead? By then, I’m sure we’ll both feel more comfortable.” “Ok,” he agreed. “But if it happens before then, that’s ok, because when we both are completely sure, it won’t matter.” “Um, how will I know?” “We’ll both know.” “How do you know so much?” “Well, I was friends with Cris…. Wanna play the game?” I suggested. “Sure.” We set it up and went at it. I sat in his lap and he grinned. Then we concentrated on the game. It was a lot of fun, just hanging out with him again. “Sam, you still awake?” I called out softly. 162 No answer. I crept into his room. Already asleep, he was snoring lightly. It was Friday night. Sam and I had stayed up until midnight eating pizza and making fun of Beverly, who had fallen asleep first. Then Sam wanted to sleep so he could catch his Saturday Morning cartoons. He looked a lot like Mark, lying there in his sweatpants; red hair as wild as it wanted to be. I climbed onto his bed, getting as close as I could. Gently, I bit his neck as I drank. His blood was rich and thick. I moaned, savoring it. I forced myself to pull away after I’d drunk a little less than a pint. Then I turned to leave. Sam reached out and pulled me back. Funny, as strong as I was my body was still so light! I let out a small cry. “Um, what are you doing?” “What were you doing? You prob’ly left a hickey on my neck, girl! You want to do something with me, please, wake me up! What are you creeping around for?” “I was scared to wake you. I know you like your cartoons.” He scoffed. “Cartoons are not as important as you. What is it you want, huh?” “Oh, I’m ok now. Really.” “Liar.” He pressed my body against his mattress, sitting on me. “You wanna make out or go all the way? Or do you just want a kiss?” “Why don’t you find out?” Aeryn dared. Geez, this woman was fearless! He leaned down and tried to kiss me. I turned my head, not wanting him to taste his blood in my mouth. “What’s the matter?” he wondered. “Neck and under tonight. I’ll kiss you tomorrow.” “Ok.” He kissed my neck, starting to nibble himself. His warm body felt so good against mine. I wanted to feel all of his skin. Aeryn loved it, feeling skin. She was a very hands-on person. She wanted textures and tastes. Again, Sam was grabbing my bottom. I could feel his excitement in my crotch. Oh, crap! I thought to myself. “Don’t worry. I’ll only touch. I don’t want to knock you up,” he assured me when I tensed. I didn’t bother telling him it was impossible to impregnate me. He did a little bit more, then lay down. “I’m tired. Bev’s gotta go home tomorrow so we’ll do something then. Stay here for the night.” 163 “In your bed? She’ll see!” “No. She won’t. I promise. My alarm clock’s set for 5:30. Ain’t no way she’ll be up. Stay here tonight. I want you nearby.” “Fine.” He wrapped his arms around me. “You are so precious.” He kissed my hair. “Why?” “You just are. I enjoyed watching you grow up. And then you come and change everything I ever thought about you. Somehow, you transformed from the girl I liked into the girl I’d dreamed of.” I stayed silent, listening to his heart, drunk on blood. “You even crept into my bed. I really thought I was dreaming at first. Man, my serious girlfriends never even did that.” “Go to sleep or you’ll sleep through your cartoons.” I smiled against my hand. Kissing the back of my neck, he stayed quiet. He had disappeared. Painfully aware that Bev was in the spare room next door, I quickly rose and walked to the restroom. Still half asleep, it took me too long to realize that someone was in there. Bad habit. I opened the door to a new sight. Sam had just gotten out of the shower, all wet, apparently with his morning erection, ready to wrap a towel around himself. His body was full of confidence and pride. His eyes were gazing at his length. Startled, he looked up to meet my gaze. He had a dancer’s body, gently muscled, you could tell it was graceful and lean. I expected him to blush, but then recalled he was very different from my other friends. “Come to sneak a peak?” His eyebrows quirked and he stepped forward. “Oh no! I’m not like that,” I protested. “Sure you’re not.” He sauntered up to me and held me against his naked form. “Please let me go. Beverly will see.” “You’re so worried about that. I can’t wait until she leaves.” He smiled infectiously. I found myself smiling. “You are so silly!” I laughed. “I need the bathroom for a moment to freshen up. You need to get dressed.” 164 “What if I don’t want to?” “Then I won’t kiss you.” I leaned back. “Point taken.” He released me, retrieved his towel, and wrapped it around himself. He passed me without incident except to say, “There’s something red on your lip.” I covered my mouth and quickly shut the door. “Shit!” I quickly and harshly scrubbed my teeth. When I went to kitchen, Sam and Bev were laughing. “What’s funny?” I asked. “Nothing.” Sam straightened up. “Ok. Time to get you home.” “Ok. I’ll go grab my stuff.” Bev ran off like a little girl. I sat at the bar. “What were you laughing about?” “I told you it was nothing,” he spoke, stiff as he opened the fridge. I sighed. When I read his mind, I was so shocked I could only stare blandly. He turned and I felt the embarrassment as I realized I had been looking at his posterior. He had followed my gaze to his crotch then smiled. “You were checking me out again?” “You are very presumptuous.” I got to my feet. “Well, I did catch you looking. Can’t deny it.” “Shut up!” I seeked refuge in the TV room. “I’ll be back in about 15 minutes,” Sam told me as he and Bev left out the front door. “Should I come with you?” I offered. “No. Stay here. Wait for me.” Sam winked. I blushed at the implications. Why was I still here? My heart sank into my stomach. Maybe I wanted to be alone with him. Was it Aeryn or Allison? Realizing that it really didn’t matter, I watched a few music videos. The images fascinated me. Strong hands rested on my shoulders. I gazed up at Sam; so light, full of himself, full of life. He jumped over the couch, cradling me. His lips met mine hungrily. So this was human passion, I found myself thinking. A shiver passed through him as his hand touched my bare back. “This is really happening.” “Yes,” I replied. He kissed me again, drowning me in his emotions. My senses consumed me. He seemed to know my responses and imitated them. We became lost in each other, blending together. His hands were mine, his flesh my flesh, his thoughts bared to 165 me. Contrary to what everything else portrayed about men, he was thinking only of me, not some model or porno star. I completely possessed him at that point. I dipped into his soul and drank of it, becoming a different kind of vampire. In our exploration of each other, we had fallen to the floor. I found myself grateful that he had no coffee table to obstruct us. Suddenly came a moment of realization so strange we separated. Sitting side by side on the couch, we caught our breath. Well, he caught his breath while I returned to reality. He stared at me, leaving his shirt on the carpeted floor, forgotten and abandoned. Before he could open his mouth, I pleaded, “Don’t speak.” “Why not?” “I don’t think I could hear it. It would hurt me if you said it.” “Then answer me this: What are you?” “What do you mean?” My heart sped up. “You’re not human. I could feel it.” “What are you, some character from a sci-fi movie?” “It’s one of those instances, like when you find out God is real. There’s no explaining it, you just know all of a sudden.” He gazed at the floor. “Then you know exactly what I am.” “You drunk my blood last night.” It was a statement. “What will you do?” “I am still your friend, Allison.” He moved closer and held me. “Then you are not human, either.” My tears ran down his chest. For some reason, that made me imagine him under a waterfall. He didn’t answer, only held me. He was certainly the dearest man in the world. “Friends for as long as I live,” he whispered, squeezing tightly. “Don’t tell Cris. She will not understand.” “I never tell her anything.” Neither do I, I realized. Perplexed when I examined the past few months of my life, I could only sigh. Sam still hadn’t released me. “Why won’t you let me go?” “I don’t want to,” he replied. 166 I decided to drop it. “Being a vampire is almost like being gay,” I thought aloud. “Really?” he laughed. “Yeah. Everyone hates you because of their preconceived notions about it. But if they actually were one, they’d realize how wrong they are. Seriously, I think they’re jealous of our freedom. We don’t need to meet anyone’s standards, and that pisses them off.” “What? You’re gay, too?” I bared my teeth at him. “That is not what I’m saying.” “Just asking, is all. I knew Mark was a vampire. Did you know that? Hey, did he make you?” “Yeah. Look, I don’t want to tell you too much. You don’t need all that extra stress in your life.” I shifted so I could see the TV. “You’re right. Hungry? I’ll order pizza.” He stood. “Sure.” His skin looked so warm. I had loved touching it. Someone had told me once that wanting flesh was a sin. But since I could not die, flesh is all I had, right? Whatever, that rule was for humans. (If you ask me, I think cannibalism should be at the top of everyone’s list as an abomination. That’s just sick. Shudder.) “You ok?” Sam asked, holding my chin. “Yes.” He went into the kitchen and called the nearest delivery place. Returning to my side, he pulled me up into his arms. “Now I know what you are, I can’t keep away. This body is something supernatural. To feel it…” he trailed off. I turned my head up to stare into his eyes. Such a green! His resemblance to Mark was downright creepy. “Are you related to Mark?” I can’t believe I’d never noticed this before. On the other hand, perhaps I hadn’t wanted to notice. His head tilted at an odd angle. He scooted back and breathed deeply. “Why do you ask?” “That would explain how he knows you. He prob’ly also used you to find me as well.” “Find you?” “Never mind it.” I concentrated for a few moments. “At least he’s not your father. That would be sick.” 167 “Somehow, I don’t think it would change anything if he was,” Sam began quietly. “Vampires don’t follow human rules. Even so…” Oh, my goodness! He’d actually paused! “Who cares? What goes on between you and your lovers is up to you and between you and them.” “Wait. How do you know I’m with Mark?” Now he was smug. Leaning back, he folded his arms and shrugged. “I can tell. Every time I talk to him, he asks about you and Joey. He gets so worked up. And he was pissed he couldn’t come this weekend.” “I hate you people. You all know too much.” “Hey, relax. We’ll all make sure Joey remains clueless.” “Good.” “Up, pizza’s here!” He hopped to his feet and sauntered over to the front door. If Mark wasn’t his father, then what was he? Unless… I felt the blood drain from my face. I moaned. “Sam,” I said breathlessly. “What is it, Allie?” “Help.” I fell to the floor. He dropped the pizzas on the counter, jumped over it, and lifted me. “Can you move?” he asked. “No.” “I’m gonna put you in my bed.” Once I was wrapped up in his blankets, he picked up the phone. “I’m calling Mark.” “Why?” My heart raced. “No.” “What? But maybe he could help you.” “No. It’s because of him I’m like this.” He set the phone back in its cradle and sat by me. He stared at me. A few moments of silence passed. Then I braved up and asked, “Do you know that Paul is absolutely your father?” Perplexed, he didn’t answer for a few moments. “Why do you ask me that?” “I think Mark is… more closely related to you than we think.” “You think Mark’s my…” I stayed silent. “And what if he was?” I looked into his green eyes. “I don’t know.” 168 “That doesn’t change the way I feel,” he declared. “Please don’t say it.” “Don’t worry. I won’t. Look, I want you to know I don’t care if Mark’s my dad. You can’t have kids so…” “How do you know that?” “Didn’t you know? I can read your mind.” “How?” “Not really sure. No one else in my family can.” “God, this is becoming a soap opera!” I moaned. He laughed. “Let’s eat some pizza.” “Ok.” “Or would you rather drink my blood?” he wondered, pausing at the door. Smirking, I tackled him to the floor. Rolling him over, I held down his arms and bit his neck. He moaned as I drank. Ooh, how delicious his blood was! It was type O, the best. But I forced myself to pull away. I licked my lips. “You ok?” “That hurt a little. Like a paper cut. But I liked it. When Mark does it, it’s just not arousing.” “Mark drinks your blood?” I chuckled. “Yeah. But you’re sexy when you do it.” Sam rested his hands on my legs. “You are such a guy.” I rolled my eyes. “Yes, I am.” He sat up to kiss me. “No, your blood’s in my mouth,” I protested. “Do I care?” Holding my back, he leaned forward. His tongue dipped into my mouth and his eyes closed. He pulled me closer. “How do you like it?” I questioned as it ended. He shrugged. “It’s my blood. Maybe I’ll taste yours sometime. I’m hungry so I’m gonna eat now. You can wait here if you like.” He got to his feet. “On the floor?” “No,” he said in a low, serious voice. 169 Chapter Nine “Then where…” I trailed off and followed his gaze. “Oh, no no no!” I shook my head. He looked sad for a moment. “Please? I’ll go as slow as you want.” “Do you have any idea how many guys are vying for my affection?” “I have an idea. Fine, if you don’t feel like it, don’t worry about it. I’ll still live.” He went down the hall to eat his pizza. Climbing to my feet, I went to the bathroom and gazed in the mirror. I looked radically different. I looked like one of them. You know, the beautiful people. I was shocked. Reaching my hands up, I touched my face. It was so smooth. My fingertips tingled as I felt all this in waves. My hand traveled down; first my neck then arms. Just as soft. Seized by something bizarre, I quickly shed my clothes. I could only stare for the longest time. Absolutely golden, my skin was. Flawless. I was perfectly symmetrical and perfectly a woman. Following my feelings, I abandoned all thought and wondered only at my beauty as my hands studied it. It didn’t strike me until later that I had never cared to touch or explore myself in this way. To my surprise, my body responded to my hands as if they belonged to another. I was gripping the sink when Sam found me. Rush after rush of waves ran throughout me. I’d never known I could do that to myself. The oddest thing was, I wasn’t ashamed in the least. I stared at Sam, who took in the sight of me with the 170 hungriest of eyes. “Allie, did you just masturbate?” he asked softly. “In my bathroom?” “I’m not Allie. I’m Aeryn,” I ruled. Then I grabbed him and kissed him in a way I’d only kissed Mark. He absolutely melted in my arms. “Please,” he mumbled. I had no idea what he meant by that, but I walked back to his bedroom, luring him along. Dutifully, he followed, mesmerized. We reached his room and barely made it to the bed. We didn’t bother to shut the door. “Did you have fun?” I asked Beverly. “Yeah. I’m surprised my mom let me stay over a guy’s house. “Yeah. But don’t tell Joey I was there. He’d be mad jealous.” “Oh, of course. I understand. He’s really sensitive.” Bev rolled her eyes. I watched them, amazed at how light they were. Then I remembered we were in a restaurant and averted my gaze. “So, how’s the game coming along?” I changed the subject. “I’ve got two levels to go,” she said happily. “That’s great. Maybe I’ll help you finish them.” “Sure!” she smiled. “Did you finish your Math? I need help on that, too.” She smiled sheepishly. “You have to let me finish off your milkshake,” I reasoned. “Here ya go.” I gratefully slurped it down. Hm, what was that other taste? I glanced at her, then realized it was her saliva I tasted. Funny, I’d never noticed before. Must be because I’m a vamp. It was really sweet. How strange, I always thought spit was disgusting. “So, what day?” I inquired as I finished. “How about Wednesday? I have a soccer game tomorrow, then a chess tournament,” she explained. “Ok. I’m busy tomorrow as well.” “What are you doing?” She leaned back. “Um, Joey’s planned this picnic at the park.” “Sounds romantic,” she teased. “Shut up!” I pushed her. As she laughed, something came to my attention. Her eyes crinkled in this positively adorable way when she smiled. 171 “Speaking of romantic, what happened when I left? Did Sam try anything?” “Not anything out of the ordinary. We watched some movies and music videos, ate pizza, stuff like that,” I lied. “I wish I could’ve stayed.” “Why?” I asked, disgusted. “It sounds like fun. I only had the game to keep me company.” She sighed. “Besides, you and I don’t spend enough time together,” she whined. “Fine. I’ll ask Aunt Jaime if she’ll let me spend the night on Wednesday,” I relented. “Yay!” She hugged me. “Come on, I promised Mom I’d be home to help Dad with the car.” She tugged me out to the bus stop. It was funny. Her glasses were nerdy, but she was so cool. That gave me an idea. “Hey, Beverly, when’s your birthday? Next week, right?” “Thursday, yeah. Why? You can make it, can’t you? It’ll be my sweet 16.” Sadness distorted her face. “No, I can make it. I just want you to set aside time. I have somewhere I want to take you. It’ll take a few hours.” “Oh. Sure. Where is it?” she wanted to know. “It’s a surprise. You have to wait!” I told her. “Oh, no fair!” she pouted, plopping down on the bench. Sitting beside her, I put an arm around her. “You’ll love it. Trust me.” “Ok.” She looked at me. She’d be so pretty without those damn glasses! I thought, studying her. “You’re staring at me. What’s wrong?” Worry lined her face. “Nothing. You’re fine. What, I can’t look at you now?” “You kinda looked like you were gonna kiss me,” she pointed out. “You wish, you perv!” I poked her side. She giggled. “Here comes the bus!” I was so thankful. Because I did want to kiss her. “Shit!” I said under my breath as we boarded. “It’s full, Bev. Let’s wait for the next one.” I suggested. 172 “No way! I’m late enough as it is! We need the car for tomorrow.” We ended up holding onto the rail. She stood in front of me, chatting away as if it were ok to be standing as close as we were. The bus lurched and she fell into me. So soft, I thought. Our lips were touching. I jerked and leaned back. “Oh, my God!” I forgot I couldn’t do that anymore. God didn’t approve of vampires. “We should have walked,” she said. But she didn’t wipe her lips off. Instead, she gave me a curious look. She was trying not to think of something. “It’s your stop,” she informed me. “Yeah. Uh, bye.” I fled. I didn’t relax until I had locked my bedroom door. I let myself fall onto my bed. “How very peculiar. Why do you desire Beverly?” Jeffery wondered. I groaned. Why did he know everything about me? “Shut up! It’s not me, it’s Aeryn.” “Oh, so Allie’s still there.” “I hope so.” “What if she’s not? Are you using her as an excuse? Maybe Allie really does feel attracted to Bev,” he suggested. “That’s what freaks me out. What if these desires are really Allie’s and Aeryn acts on them?” I posed. “It’s not wrong. It’s not evil. As long as you are not using them or neglecting them, you are fine,” he reassured me. “You mean Sam and Joey, too.” Jeffery hugged me, lifting me into him. “I mean anyone. Amada wants her time as well.” “I only have one body.” “So choose carefully who you give it to. There are those who wouldn’t let you go.” “Will I be able to tell?” I whispered. “You are Aeryn,” he answered simply. “Now rest. You are weary.” “No. I want to stay awake with you. We’ll sleep the day until Joey comes. I implore you to stay with me until then,” I demanded. Such a gentle smile came to his face. “As you want it. Shall we fly?” “I’d love to.” I grinned. 173 He pulled me up and off we went. He stayed close as I practiced some aerial moves. Sometimes he gave advice on an easier way to do something. What an excellent teacher he was. A game began. First, I mimicked him. When I had the moves down, we did them together, making beautiful patterns in the sky. I’d never felt so content. We skimmed the water, played tag in the trees, and streaked across the sky. Out of nowhere, he grabbed me and kissed me. We spun slowly upward. I practically dissolved. His kisses were so disarming. Love you, cherie. Mon amour. His kisses moved down my neck and I went limp. Laughing in his sexy, calming way, he kissed my hair. “Come, cherie. Nous allons a ma maison, oui?” “Oui, mon pere.” So he carried me to his house. Into the basement we went. There was his coffin, big enough for two. Gently, he laid me in it. “Satin for you,” he told me. “Do you mean to keep me here?” I touched his face as he came over me. “One day, ma cherie. Ma petite amie, j’adore tu.” “Je t’aime, aussi.” I hugged him tightly. “One day soon I’ll take you to Italy. I’ll put on a concert just for you,” he promised. “Lovely thought, that is. I can’t wait.” Wow, I thought when I looked into his eyes. They were hazel now. There was a depth in them I could not comprehend. For hours, all I did was stare at him, watching his unblinking eyes change colors. Eventually, I asked him why they never stayed one color. “They change with my mood,” he responded as they went back to baby blue. “Your mood changes that often?” “Yes. Why does that puzzle you?” “You just don’t seem like an emotional person, is all.” He smiled. “What does each color mean?” “Baby blue means I’m excited.” “So you’re excited now?” “Yes.” “Why?” “Because you are with me.” “Continue.” 174 “Purple is content. Prismatic blue represents my concern. Grey is happy. Plain blue usually means I’m hungry. Or that I desire something. Fluorescent green is mischievous. When there are many colors in my eyes, I am usually enraptured or overwhelmed. Azure means I’m bored. Silver is my infatuation. Regular green is impatient. Hazel means concentration. When I’m angry, they lose all color. When I’m frightened, they are a dark brown. If I’m tired, a light brown gives it away. Dark blue is distaste or indifference,” he informed me. I stayed quiet, studying his eyes. “What about when you’re embarrassed or ashamed?” “Black.” “And when you’re sad?” “Very dark green.” “Flattered?” “Grey. Light grey.” “That’s really cool.” My fingers ran through his hair. “You really are perfect, aren’t you?” “I would not say perfect. Most vampires hate me,” he confided. “Why? How can they?” “Envy. They want me dead.” “Will I ever meet any of them?” I asked. “Of course. There just aren’t many here,” he explained. “Oh. Wow.” What would they be like? I had memorized nearly all of the types of vampires, from the simplest to the unbelievably complicated. Although, that didn’t mean I knew their personalities. How cool it would be to meet them. “Will you sleep now? Or is there something else you wish to discuss?” “As a matter of fact, yeah. What’s your original eye color?” “Aqua.” “How beautiful,” I sighed. “Something wrong?” So soft his voice was, as he gently caressed my face. “Last weekend, I did something strange.” “Other than bedding Sam?” he joked. “Yeah,” I said slowly. “I was looking in the mirror. I pretty much fell in love with myself. Is that normal?” 175 “That’s normal. But not for logmin or scaroth. That’s a jenodi trait.” “How is that possible?” “Remember when Mark and I converted you? We shot those needles from our mouths and they went into your skin?” “Yes. They must’ve had DNA from all the vampire species, right?” I concluded. He nodded. “Provided by Amada.” “Thanks. That makes me feel a lot better.” “You are welcome.” I laughed. “You are so proper!” “What makes you so sure?” His eyes were light green. My heart did jumping jacks. “You’ve done nothing to convince me otherwise.” All of a sudden, we were in a ballroom. I was in a long white gown and he wore this handsome black tux. The jacket was long and stopped at his knees. But his hair was wild. “The Punk Prince welcomes you!” he shouted, clapping twice. A band of ghouls lifted their instruments and began to play all of my favorite classical songs. Jeffery seized me and I was swept up in a wild dance. Now that I was no longer human, I could handle more. He pushed my body to its limits. At one point, we were dancing on the ceiling. Then we were in mid-air. Around us danced other vampires and other creatures I couldn’t identify. How crazy it all was. We were moving so fast the room was blurring. And I absolutely loved it. Jeff released me as the classical music became heavy metal. I danced solo for a bit. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him stripping. Dropping his jacket on the floor, he quickly shed his shirt and pants. Rising up into the air, he began to spin rapidly. When he finally stopped, he donned new attire. On his feet were these chunky boots. The pants were black and low on his hips. They were baggy and one could follow the little blond hairs from his belly button down almost to their source. He wore a long, black leather jacket with no sleeves or buttons. The matching black hat on his head was cocked to the side and very much resembled the hats worn in the 1930’s. He really looked like a punk. Dropping back to the floor, he began to sing and dance. His voice was deep and haunting, and his dancing was as downright sexual as it could get without him grabbing his genitals. 176 I watched him, entranced. I’d have never guessed he could be so overtly sexual. He gestured for me to move closer. I did and he ripped at the gown until it was of a gothic nature. Then he held me close while he continued his songs. I laid my head on his chest, basking in the attentions he shed on me. The other vampires vocalized, and it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard. Jeffery dipped me so low we almost touched the floor. Then he brought me up and spun me. As the last song ended, he bit my neck. I jerked. “Was that a memory?” I wondered as I saw Jeff above me. We were still in his coffin, in his basement. “Yes,” he replied. “You really did that? Boy, I was wrong about you!” He moved so we lay side by side. “Does it surprise you that much?” “You always act so respectable and dignified. And you wear suits constantly. And how were you so… uh…. Wild, loose?” “When I was converted, I was partially excited. Some of that sexual energy stayed with me. That’s how I was able to make love to you.” “But you were made by a dude!” I blurted. “Haven’t we already gone over this issue?” “Sorry. It’s only that the only guy I’ve ever seen you with is Mark. And that doesn’t count.” “No, it doesn’t.” “What about now? Could you be romantic with Mark?” I watched his eyes closely. They were hazel again. “This would please you?” he hinted. I shrugged. “I’m just wondering. That’s all,” I clearly stated. His eyes were getting darker. “Mark and I? I never considered it, honestly.” “Are you embarrassed?” I started laughing. “This is priceless!” “Perhaps I should take you home,” he threatened playfully. “No, please no. I’ll stop, I will. Promise!” But I was still getting weak. He chuckled. “I’ll show you. Thursday.” “Why Thursday?” 177 “I have to convince Mark. It’ll take that long.” “Ok. Sounds like fun.” I beamed. He kissed me. “You are such fun,” he decided. “I hope so.” I snuggled into him. “Sleep now, cherie,” he urged. “Fine,” I relented. I wrapped my arms around him tightly and went into a vampire sleep. Jeff woke me at 3:00 the next afternoon. “Joey is waiting for you,” he said. I stretched. “Ok. See you tonight.” “Until then.” I kissed him good-bye and flew back to my house. It was a rare sunny day. The brightness hurt my eyes and I crashed into the wall of my house. “Ouch!” I wheezed, then clambered through my window. Being silly, I put on my outfit dramatically, as if I was some suave spy. Flipping over to my door, I posed before I opened it. I hopped down the stairs like I had in elementary school. I was sliding as I entered the kitchen. Joey eyed me. “What are you doing, Allie?” he chuckled. “Just feeling energetic, is all.” “You’re in a skirt!” he exclaimed. “So?” “Won’t you be cold?” “That’s what your coat is for.” I pinched his cheek. He blushed with pleasure. “Of course. Ms. Dutch, we’re leaving!” he answered, taking my hand and leading me out to his car. Ever the gentleman, he held my door open for me. After he got in and buckled up, he turned on the radio. “For once, I actually hope it doesn’t rain,” he spoke. I smiled at him. “What did you pack?” I inquired. “Some of your favorite foods and games. I want you to have fun.” Why was he thinking about swimming? “I also brought a portable radio,” he added. “Cool.” Now he was thinking about fishing. WTH? I thought. We parked then walked about half a mile to a good spot right by a creek. He carried the picnic basket and I carried the radio. Setting the basket down, he spread out the picnic blanket. I sat on it and leaned back against the tree that was there. I turned the radio to his favorite rock station and watched him. 178 Every few seconds, he was looking at me. I really wanted to laugh. “You cold yet?” he wondered. “Not yet.” It was 59 degrees so I could get away with it. Sitting next to me, he crossed his legs. And stared at me. “Allie,” he finally said. “Yes?” “Why are you wearing a skirt?” “I’ve worn them before!” I reminded him. “Yes, but not on dates. Besides the dances, I mean. Are you wearing it for me?” His voice was low. “Maybe.” I held his hand. He glanced at me. If I weren’t a vamp, I would have missed the look in his eyes. “Oh. That makes me feel special. Thank you,” he grinned. Horny is more like it, I thought as I crammed a sandwich into my mouth. It took a while to notice he wasn’t eating. “Joe, are you not hungry?” “No.” “Why not?” “I just don’t think I can eat right now.” “Are you feeling ok? You’re not sick, are you?” I was concerned. “No. I’m fine.” He sighed. “Ok.” I finished eating, packed up the food, and returned to my spot next to him. Laying my head on his shoulder, I held his hand again. “This is nice, Joey,” I told him. “I’m glad of that.” His voice was strained. I studied him. He was tense. “Joey, what’s wrong? Did I mess up?” “No! You’re wonderful. It’s just that,” he gulped, “I, uh…” “Say it,” I willed him. “This is driving me crazy! Seeing you in that skirt is exciting me,” he blurted, looking surprised. That made me smile. “Joey, that’s normal.” “It’s still annoying and embarrassing.” “Oh, Joey!” I hugged him. “You are too much!” He squeezed me back tightly. His hands were alternately forming a fist and stretching out. I wondered how messed up I could get him. I scooted closer to him so my bare legs touched his. He whimpered. Tilting my head back, I brought his down so 179 I could kiss him. I ordered him to open his mouth and entered my tongue into it. That did it. His hand touched my leg. He squeezed it and smoothed his hand over it. When I didn’t pull away, his hand moved North. He hesitated when he reached the bottom of my skirt. He was trembling. I pulled away. “Wow, Allie!” he exclaimed, gazing at me. I held the hand that was on my leg, torturing him by moving it into my lap. “Wow, what?” I played innocent. “You must be cold. Here, put my coat on.” He draped his large coat over my shoulders. I pulled my feet next to my body so the coat completely covered me. “Thank you.” “Sure.” He sounded absolutely miserable. Just then, I noticed Sam walking in our general direction. “Sam!” I waved. Enthusiastically, he waved back, starting to run. “Hey, you two. Mind if I join you?” he asked in such a friendly way. “Please!” Joey smiled, relieved. Sam plopped down next to me. “Where’s the rest of you?” he joked. “Buried in this coat. I’m wearing a skirt, so Joey made sure I stayed warm. Right, Joe?” I said brightly. “Yeah. Wouldn’t want her to be cold.” He affectionately touched my ear. “There’s more than one way to keep a girl warm,” Sam mentioned. “Sam!” I punched him. It was just enough so he could glimpse what I was wearing. “Whoa! That skirt short enough, Allie? That’s definitely for making out,” he said. “Shut up!” I rolled my eyes. “Sex outside is highly inappropriate, Sam,” Joey lectured. “Only if you get caught,” he amended. Giggling, I reached for a drink. What a mistake that was! Sam yanked Joey’s coat off and kicked me. So they got an eyeful of what was under my skirt. Joey let out a strange noise. I jumped on Sam and hit him repeatedly. “You perv!” I shouted. “How could you do that to me?” “Oh, come on. It was funny. Besides, I’m sure Joey liked it. Didn’t you, Joe?” Sam asked. 180 Blushing like crazy, Joey replied, “Hell, yeah!” That had all of us laughing like maniacs. “So he is a boy!” I teased, getting off of Sam. Joey had never looked so alive to me. Huh, I guess Sam was a lot of help. “I guess so,” he agreed. “I can’t believe I said that!” He shook his head. “Want me to sit in your lap?” I offered. “Sure!” He held tightly to my hips. “Aw, no love for the single guy?” Sam pretended to pout. “No!” I ruled. “Joey?” he asked. “Ugh, man! Hell no!” Joey protested, weak with laughter. “You’re so crazy, Sam!” I declared. “What can I say?” He threw up his hands, winking at me. “Ya hungry? We’ve got plenty of food,” Joey graciously offered. “Thanks.” As he bent over, I kicked him. “Ha, now we’re even!” I decided, slapping high-fives with Joey. “That’s cold. But you forgot, we saw your ass.” Sam had a crazy look on his face. “No, we don’t wanna see it!” we pleaded. After we settled down a little bit, Sam invited us to his house. “My car’s here.” “Then follow me. Where’d you park?” “Over there.” Joey pointed. “Two minutes,” Sam promised. “Ok.” We packed up as Sam went to get his car. “He is so weird!” I told Joey as we buckled in. “Ain’t he? Hey, but are you ok? That was kind of rude how he… exposed you like that.” “I’m fine. At least it wasn’t a big crowd.” “That would have sucked!” he argued. “There he is!” I pointed. “See him.” He shifted gears then shot off after Sam. There was room in the driveway for both cars. We piled out and went inside. “This is nice!” Joey complimented. “Thanks,” Sam closed and locked the door. “To the living room.” “I have some games in the car,” Joey brought up. 181 “Cool. Why don’t you bring em in? Lock the door when you come back in. The living room is at the end of the hall,” Sam instructed. “Ok. Be right back.” He hurried out. Sam and I entered the living room and he sat on the couch. “Why did you do it?” I inquired. “I wanted to see your ass,” he replied simply. “You sure do look good in that skirt.” “Well, thanks. But watch it in front of him. He’ll find out you like me if you’re not careful,” I warned him. When he got up, I thought he was going to the kitchen. Instead, he stood behind me, bending me forward over the couch. “Like if he sees me doing this?” “Sam! Let me go! He’ll be back any second!” I begged. Despite the fact that I liked the way he was holding me, one hand on my hip, the other near my neck. He pressed his body against mine and my excitement grew. “I’ll be quick. You can hear him coming, too,” he reasoned. “What are you doing?” I panicked. He rolled me over and kissed me. I heard Joey’s footsteps in the hall. I grabbed hold of Sam and threw him over my head. “Joey’s coming!” I whispered. He landed on his feet. “Whoa!” Joey came in. “Where should I put these?” “On the floor. What do we play first?” Sam snapped out of it. “Taboo!” I held it up as I sat down. “We’ve only got three people,” Sam pointed out. “So, we’ll substitute.” “Sounds good to me!” Joey shrugged. I was the alternate and they guessed the words. Halfway through, they started goofing off and coming up with retarded words. Finally, I was forced to give up and we played another game, Guesstures. That didn’t get very far, either. I found a deck of cards and suggested we play card games. We played Black Jack, SlapJack, the all-time favorite I Declare War, and inevitably poker. I had done pretty well at Black Jack and SlapJack. Joey kicked our asses in I Declare War. Our poker game was another story. “Sam, we are not playing strip poker!” I drilled into him. 182 “We’re not playing for money, either,” he replied. “Why don’t we just use chips?” Joey wondered. “Don’t have any,” Sam frowned. “What if we don’t use anything? We’ll just keep playing hands,” I suggested. “No. I want some type of currency,” Sam shook his head. “Why don’t we combine it with Truth or Dare? We all agree on it, then the best hand is excluded,” Joey brought up. All together we smiled. “Nothing gross!” I added. “Darn!” Sam whined. “Ok. What’s the first truth or dare?” Joey asked. “We should switch from truth to dare each time,” I said. “Ok,” they agreed. “I’ll deal.” Sam picked up the deck. “Truth: Most embarrassing moments,” Joey started. “Good one.” Sam nodded, then dealt out the cards. “Hey, I’ve got another idea. The truth or dare gets worse as we raise each other.” “Oh, yeah!” Joey and I laughed. “Is everybody in?” “Yeah.” “Anybody want to raise?” We al shook our heads. At the same time, we laid our cards down. Joey had won this round. “Well, I’m pretty sure today was more embarrassing than any other in my life. Can’t believe I fell for that,” I said. “Let’s see. I’d have to say… fifth grade when a dog peed on me. I had to go the whole day having people think I pissed myself. That was embarrassing!” Sam scratched his arm. We laughed about that for a minute, then he dealt the next hand. The dare was to behave like the opposite sex shaving. I won that round. We had raised once, so we had to make it like a commercial. Joey was the voice-over and Sam was having a horrible time shaving legs that looked like a jungle. Eventually the imaginary razor broke and he said sadly, “I should have went with the wax.” His voice was so weird Joey and I couldn’t stop laughing for a while. He also sang the Venus song. The next truth was law breaking. No one wanted to lose that so it escalated to the point where we had to name every illegal thing we’d done or thought about doing it. Staring at each 183 other, no one wanted to put their cards down. Everyone had traded a few cards to the deck. Counting to three, we threw our cards down and looked away. Joey braved up and evaluated our cards. Somehow, we’d come out even. “There’s got to be some mistake.” I was surprised. “You know what? There’s probably some cards mixed in from another deck,” Joey summed. “So we don’t have to do this truth?” Sam wondered hopefully. “We did agree on it,” I remembered. “Shit!” Sam mumbled. “You go first!” Joey and I said simultaneously. “You guys are so evil! How specific do I have to be?” His eyes were glinting. Geez, he looked like Mark! “No names,” Joey ruled. “Cool. Ok. Let me start in order. Theft of store items, including alcohol. Purchase of illegal items. Sale of illegal items.” “Use?” I questioned. “No. Joyriding. Sex with a minor.” He gave me a quick look to let me know I was the only one. “Speeding. You know, all the usual stuff. Harboring a criminal.” “What?” Joey and I were incredulous. “It wasn’t that big of a thing. My cousin, Mark, had a little trouble with immigration.” “Then he’s an illegal alien, not a criminal,” I pointed out. “Whatever.” Oh, no! If my turn came, Joey would know I wasn’t a virgin. He’d hate me. Unless I stayed really non-specific. “I have minor theft and improper conduct with adults. Oh, and as of today, indecent exposure.” Sam guffawed. “Oh. Joey boy. Have you done anything illegal?” “Theft. Possession of illegal drugs,” What? I never knew that! “Use of illegal drugs. And intent of illegal conduct with a girl.” “Aw!” Sam taunted. “He intends to sleep with you, Allie, and before the legal age, too.” “Shut up!” I pushed him. Joey laughed. 184 “So, we’re all a bunch of dirty thieves? I am surprised that you haven’t tried any drugs, Allie,” Sam mused. “Unless you count second-hand smoke,” I muttered. “Wow, you’re a loser,” Sam said. I punched him this time. “Asshole!” “I’m thirsty. Who else is?” Joey jumped to his feet. “I think we all are.” I turned on the TV. He always had it on this channel, I noticed. Did he even watch TV? I wondered. In any case, I got to my feet, shed my shoes, and danced. For a moment, Sam was going to join me. One look at Joey deterred him. After Joey finished pouring the drinks, he brought them in and set them on the floor. As he drank, he carefully examined my body as I danced. Then, one of my favorite rock songs came on and I jumped around wildly. Joey immediately got to his feet and joined me. We screamed the words together as we banged our heads. Sam leaned against the couch, sipping slowly as he watched us. He was thinking of doing it again, making love to me. My face reddened. He only smiled. Tired, I sat on the floor and gulped down the juice. Joey lay on his belly, supporting his head on his hands. “It’s almost time for ya’ll to go,” Sam mentioned, a bit sadly. “Let’s do this again sometime,” Joey decided. “Yeah. Let’s.” Sam looked at me. “Well, I’ve got to get her home,” Joey groaned, getting to his feet. “You’ll always be welcome here. Feel free to stop by any time.” Why did Sam seem sinister all of a sudden? “Here, let me get the games for you.” He packed everything up. “I work Monday through Friday, 7-3. You’ve both got my number?” “I can look it up in the phone book,” Joey replied. “All right. See ya.” He walked us to the door. “Bye!” we said together. “At first I thought he was weird but he’s pretty cool,” Joey told me as we drove off. “Same here. I really had fun today, Joe. Thank you.” I reached for his hand. “I’m glad you did. I had fun, too. Can I call you tomorrow?” “Nope. I’m gonna be at Bev’s. I’ll call you Friday.” 185 “Ok… You chilly? I can turn on the heater.” “No thanks. I’m fine.” “Say hello to Bev for me?” “Sure.” There was a comfortable silence as we continued on our way. He whipped into the driveway expertly. “Here we are. I’ll walk you to the door.” We sat on the rail for a few minutes, watching each other. “Maybe we’ll do something Friday.” “That would be great!” he responded happily. “You should probably be getting inside. Your aunt’s very punctual.” Reluctance leaked from him. I stepped forward and kissed him. He moved off of the rail and held me close. “Good night,” I told him. “Good night,” he echoed. He didn’t take one step until I closed and locked the door. How nice of him! It was almost ten. I slithered upstairs and quickly locked the door to my room. Jeff and Mark stood as far away from each other as possible. “What’s this? I thought you were getting along.” “Mark’s reluctant about this whole thing,” Jeffery sighed. “Mark,” I began, taking his hands in mine. “You said yourself Jeff wasn’t so bad. Why are you mad?” “It’s Jeff! I’m so used to being his adversary,” Mark admitted. “It doesn’t have to be that way. And if you don’t like it, that’s ok,” I consoled him. “Look at Jeff. Don’t attach any feeling to it. Just study him. Tell me you wouldn’t want him.” Mark stared at Jeff, who steadily stared back. I watched them sizing each other up. Mark’s eyes changed. “Fine. What are we doing?” he asked me. Overjoyed, I hugged him. “Whatever happens happens. Start off with something small.” He was twitching again. “Ok. Leave.” “Thursday,” Jeff reminded before he kissed me and left. Mark tossed me on the bed. “You know something? You haven’t changed a bit since I’ve known you,” he smirked. Returning the smile, I hugged him again. “I know.” His teeth went into me, and it was bliss. “I love you, Allison.” 186 “It’s not accurate to call me that anymore. Aeryn will suffice.” “As you wish, my queen.” A tingle ran through me. Queen. I liked the idea of that. “Hey, Mark, are you Sam’s dad?” He sat up. “Why do you ask?” “Just tell me.” “No.” “Then what are you?” “His grandfather, twice removed.” “So that’s why you don’t like Cris!” “I wouldn’t like her anyway.” “But you still flirted with her,” I pointed out. “Dude, that’s incest.” “So is this. We share blood, remember? So shut up already. Man, you’re weird,” he chuckled. “Do they know?” “Only Sam does.” “Why him?” “He’s special. You know how cool he is. I’ve promised to convert him.” “Wait. So does that make them partially vampire?” “The genes lie dormant. So no. But in Sam, they were triggered. That’s why he can do some things. But he only has ¼ of each gene. I started talking to him when he was three. I liked him so much I kept coming back.” “You did a wonderful job with him,” I commented. “Thanks.” “When are you going to convert him?” “Any time now. Our deal was that he get out of the Dayner house. He’s done that. But you came along so we’ve got to take care of you first. He’s very understanding. “This is so weird,” I laughed. “Yeah, it is. Even I’m not used to it yet. But I told you we didn’t follow scientific rules.” “You’re telling me! No wonder people go crazy. There’s no structure.” “Nope.” As I mulled over that, Mark felt me up. “Did you have fun with him?” he questioned. 187 “I did. You can really tell you two are related.” “Heh. Yeah. He talks about you a lot. That’s how we knew to find you here. Some of the things he said about you made us positive that you had to be Aeryn. And lately, he’s just so excited about you.” “He knows my past?” “Some of it. I’ve been sharing it with him gradually. He wants to know everything.” “Wow. He really is odd, isn’t he?” “Baby, we all are,” Mark smiled. “Yeah…. Did he know you kissed me that day on the cruise? Is that why he went to the bathroom?” “Yeah. I told him I wanted to and he agreed because he thought it was extremely funny.” “Wow. Boy, we’re crazy.” We both laughed. I curled into him and went to sleep. Wednesday was fun. Bev and I only got through half of her math work. “We’ve got a whole other week to finish it. Let’s start on the game,” Bev convinced me. She dragged me downstairs to the den. We played for hours and finally beat it. “Yes!” she cheered, jumping on me. “Thank you so much. I knew you could do it.” her arms were like a vice around my neck. I laughed at her. “You’re welcome. What do we do now?” I wondered. She still hadn’t budged. “I dunno. Let’s go back to my room,” she decided. “Ok.” Relief doesn’t even begin to describe it when she finally got off of me. I trailed after her, trying not to check her out. I sat on her bed. “Where am I sleeping?” I asked. “On the bed with me, like we always do. That won’t change.” Off came her glasses so she could polish the lenses. Taken aback by her eyes, my mind went blank. “Why don’t you have a boyfriend, Beverly?” Blushing, she sat next to me. Slowly, she put her glasses back on. “Guys don’t like me and I don’t like them,” she finally answered. “Why?” “Because I already like someone.” “Then why aren’t you with them?” 188 “It’s illegal.” “Tell me who it is. Please!” “Mr. Debusk.” “The law teacher?” “He’s an absolute god! And he’s the only male I’ve ever liked.” “Really? Wanna know a secret. I like him, too.” “Joey would be pissed if he found out. He already thinks he’s a perv. And I heard he’s your doctor.” “Yeah, he is.” This was so funny! “You are so lucky. Does he ever make you wear a hospital gown?” she asked. “No, you little weirdo!” I pushed her. She giggled. “But I know he and I will never happen. I think he likes you.” She turned serious. “What do you mean?” “Everyone I know wants to hook up with you.” “Wow. Why do you think that is?” “There’s something about you. People just feel this overwhelming need to be around you. Even me,” she grew quiet. “Does that mean you like me, too?” I was being very careful not to startle her. “I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like I do, but then I remember that one, you’re a girl, two, you’re with Joey,” she came clean. “Sometimes I feel like I like you, too. Then I remember you’re my best friend.” “Hm.” Silence followed. “I’m hungry. Let’s eat.” I hopped up and took her hand. “You’re a strange girl, Allie,” she laughed. I kissed her. “I know.” She looked shocked for a few seconds, then smiled. We totally raided the fridge, cooking up a bunch of goodies to take upstairs. Her mom and dad walked in. After laughing at us, they helped out. Somehow it turned into a food fight. What fun. There were only three bathrooms, so Mr. Knox waited his turn to wash off. Bev and I ate all the crap we’d made while watching old movies. She fell asleep first. I tucked her in, turned off the light, and went to sleep. 189 The next day, we went for a walk. Bev needed to exercise a lot because of her being on the soccer team. “Let’s stop by and see Cris,” I suggested. “Good idea,” she replied. Breaking into a jog, she led the way to the Dayner’s mansion. I rang the doorbell and Mrs. Dayner answered. “Why, hello Allison. Hi Beverly. It’s nice to see you,” she greeted. “Hello, Mrs. Dayner. We’re here to see Cris. Is she here?” I wondered. “Yes. She’s in her room. You came just in time. Her doctor just left.” She stepped aside to let us in. “Is she ok?” Bev worried. “Yes. She and the baby are coming along fine. She’s just extremely tired. That’s why she hasn’t been in school,” Mrs. Dayner explained. “I see,” I murmured. “If you’d like, you girls can stay for dinner. I'm sure Cris would love that. And everyone will be here for once,” Mrs. Dayner explained. “We’d love to!” Bev and I smiled sweetly. “Alright. I’ll tell Sam to make room for two more.” She disappeared through the dining room door. Bev and I ran upstairs to Cris’ room. Cautiously, I opened the door. “Cris? You awake?” I whispered. “Allie! Come on in. Relax, I haven’t had the baby yet,” she grinned. We sat on her bed. “How have you been?” I asked. “Fine. Bored, but fine. They say that since I’m sedentary the pregnancy just makes it worse. So I’m confined to my room until the babe is born,” she responded. “You always were lazy,” I teased. She kicked me. “They also said I don’t have enough calcium or iron. The doctor’s just ordered some pills for me to help with that,” she elaborated. “We wouldn’t want you getting sick,” I sympathized. “Can they tell what it is yet?” Bev inquired eagerly. “No. It’s only been two months.” “Oh. This is so cool!” Beverly squealed. Such a girl she was, in so many ways. 190 “I want you guys to be in the hospital room with me. And Allie, I want you to be godmother.” Cris squeezed my hand. “Me? Godmother? Are you sure? I’m not very good with kids.” Wincing, I recalled the last time I babysat and I somehow dropped the poor kid in the washer. He wasn’t hurt but no one else would trust me with their kid after that. “I’ve thought very hard about this. You’re the person I trust most. You’re one of the most moral people I know.” I couldn’t keep form chortling. Pretending I had been choking, I urged her to go on. “Allie, I know you’ll do a great job. Besides, I’ll really need your help, seeing that the father is in Italy and may never find out he has a child,” she finished. “I’m honored, Cris. I really am. Thank you.” I hugged her. She was so frail. She wasn’t one of those women cut out for pregnancy. Common sense told me that if she didn’t have extra care, she’d lose the baby. “You make sure to take it easy, ok?” I told her tenderly. “Sure.” “When do we eat?” Beverly asked, bored already. “It’s Maury’s night to cook. Although the food’s really good, it takes forever to make. He wants to be a gourmet chef when he grows up.” Cris rolled her eyes. Beverly giggled. “Hey, Cris, where are my…” Sam burst in. We all stared at him. “Oh, I didn’t know it was you that would be eating all our food,” his tone changed and he grinned. “Yes. I’m stalking you now,” I retorted. “Not like I mind,” he shot back. “Just don’t tell Joey. Cuz Joey doesn’t know. Joey doesn’t know,” we girls all sang together. We all laughed. “You girls are crazy!” Sam shook his head. “What did you want?” Cris asked. “I can’t find my good boxers. I think I left them here.” He came in. Suddenly I felt sick. Oh, heaven help me! I hoped so badly my suspicions were only that and nothing more. Cris didn’t make me feel any better when she replied, “They’re under the bed.” 191 It couldn’t be true! What was wrong with this family? I wondered. “Allie, you look sick,” Beverly pointed out. “I need to go to the bathroom.” Without giving anyone a chance to respond, I fled. Once in the bathroom, I sat on the toilet, trying not to let my dizziness win over. Someone knocked. “Someone’s in here!” I yelled. “Allie, it’s me. Open up. We need to sort this out.” It was Sam. I flung open the door. “There’s nothing to sort out. No wonder you didn’t care if Mark was your father!” I was shaking, trembling. Stepping in, he closed the door. “Allie…” He held my arms. “It’s yours, isn’t it? That’s why she’s sick.” I glared at him. “It is,” he confessed. “When? When did this happen?” “Remember that day you walked into your room on the cruise and I was on your bed? She was in the shower.” “You didn’t do it on my bed, did you?” “No.” He ran a hand through my hair. “How did this happen?” “It was her and Mark’s idea. She already wanted to. I told Mark and he told me to go ahead. He said he wouldn’t make me a vampire if I didn’t do it.” I broke away from him. “She’s your sister!” I could barely speak. “Actually, no.” “What the hell? What is going on?” My voice was rising again. “This isn’t the time for it. Dinner is ready. Now pull yourself together. We’ll talk about this later.” “Soon,” I made him promise. “Soon,” he promised, kissing my forehead. “What are you?” I questioned, looking into his eyes. He appeared sad suddenly. “You’ll find out soon enough. Can you come over again this weekend?” “I’ll try. If I can’t get Aunt Jaime’s permission, I’ll come by at night.” “Ok. Now let’s go to dinner, alright?” Wrapping his arm around my shoulder, he led me out. 192 Maury had prepared a feast. Even though I’d previously been queasy, I consumed a rather large amount. Kind of funny, since I didn’t need food anymore. Whatever. Anyway, I sat between Cris and Beverly. The dinner was pretty nice. We talked about the upcoming baby shower. After we finished, we all watched a family movie, then Sam drove Bev and I home. When he and I were alone, he reached out and grabbed my hand. “Allie, do you still like me?” he wondered. “Yes. I may be disgusted by what you’ve done, yet I still desire your company.” He looked absolutely brilliant in the moonlight. As rainy as this town was, the nights were clear and magnificent. On a whim, he pulled over. Unbuckling his seatbelt, he scrambled across the seat and mounted me. “I can’t wait any longer. Aeryn, love me again.” “I can’t until I know what you are.” I turned my face away, despairing. “That’s too much to explain. I need more time to compile the information.” “So, it’s complicated.” “Yes.” I sighed. “Look at me, Aeryn.” I wished I hadn’t. In his eyes, I saw Mark, but I also saw something else. That curious thing enraptured me. I hugged him again and held him close. “Oh, Sam. What’s become of my life?” “It’s yours no longer,” he told me. As I cried, he kissed my eyes, moving his hands underneath me. “No, it isn’t,” I realized. I was lost in something and there was no way out. Best to let me take over, a voice in my head said. Startled, I realized Aeryn’s spirit was manifesting me in more ways than I had known. Could I really let myself go and be Aeryn? I’d have to decide sometime soon. “What is ailing you, Allison?” Jeffery wondered. “Nothing I understand. It’ll all clear up by the end of the week. Where’s Mark?” “Right here.” Smiling, he came out of my closet. “That’s just weird,” I laughed. 193 He shrugged, grinning madly. “What can I say? I’m unusual. Now let’s get this over with.” He strutted up to Jeff. Jeff peered down at Mark curiously. “I’m very surprised you wanted to do this.” “Shut up before I lose my nerve.” Mark blushed. “Wait a minute. Why am I shorter you?” “You always were,” Jeff reminded him lightly. “Well, forget that!” He straightened up, and just like that, he was tall as Jeff. “There we go.” Leaning forward, he kissed Jeffery. Jeffery’s hands moved to Mark’s shoulders and gently led him back. Mark fell on the bed and Jeff crawled over him. “The things we do for this girl,” Jeff laughed, biting Mark’s neck. Mark’s back arched, and it amazed me. I’d never seen him like that before. I guess this is what he would’ve done if I’d let him. His teeth actually grew before he bit Jeff. They were absolutely lost in each other. For a moment, I didn’t exist. A chill went through me. Rapidly, I pulled them apart. Both surprised, they looked at me. “Aeryn, what’s wrong?” they asked together. “You’d forgotten about me.” “How could we ever forget about you? You are our universe.” Jeff’s hand caressed my hair and face. “Don’t be jealous,” Mark pleaded, moving closer. “We will always love you.” “You would love each other more,” I feared. “I don’t think so, cherie. I would love Mark for different reasons, so it’s not comparable,” Jeff assured me. “Are you sure?” I stared hard at them both. “Cherie, why would you even think that?” Jeffery laughed softly, kissing me. “Silly girl,” Mark sighed, holding me. “Let’s make her feel better, Jeff.” “Sounds like an excellent idea.” Jeff also wrapped his arms around me. “What are you doing?” I asked. “A good old-fashioned vampire blood orgy,” Mark said proudly. “Orgy?” They both smiled, both now having green eyes. “Yes.” “Stop it. That freaks me out.” 194 They only laughed. Then they both bit me. I was overcome with sensations as their hands ran over me. Total, complete bliss washed over me as they drank. I leaned back against Mark, whose hands explored my belly. Jeff was removing my shirt. It was a button-up, so he slipped it right off my arms. He moved his lips from my neck to my belly. My back arched just like Mark’s had. Mark laughed as he brought his face over mine. Our mouths met and my blood came back into me. I bit his tongue and his blood flowed into me. I held Jeff’s head, trying to push him away. He didn’t pay any attention and kept on. His hands held onto my hips. “Cherie, cherie,” he murmured. Mark’s tongue explored my mouth and his hand moved up my side and under my bra. I almost hit him but then remembered that he’d done it before. Jeffery had moved on to my wrist. I thought I’d die, lying there between those two. Jeff’s body covered mine and I held him. Mark’s kiss grew almost frantic. He moved back to my neck, biting me again. This continued on into the night. They bit me again and again, all over my body. What true bliss! The phone was ringing. “Allison, it’s for you! It’s Joey!” Malorie yelled. I sat up and looked at the clock. “Shit!” It was afternoon. “I think you drank too much, guys,” I told Mark and Jeff. They only smiled at me innocently. “Oops!” Mark said. Rolling my eyes, I picked up the phone. “Hello?” “Hello? Allie?” “Yeah.” “What happened?” “I overslept. Sorry.” “Oh. Well, do you still want to hang out?” “Sure. What do you have planned?” As I walked by the mirror, I noticed I was naked. Glaring at Mark and Jeff, I quickly dressed. They snickered quietly like a pair of drunken kids. “Rollerblading,” Joey said. “Sounds like fun.” “Ok. I’ll pick you up in five minutes.” “Alright. Bye.” “Have fun!” Mark said. “You two behave,” I told them, putting on my jacket. 195 “I was never good at that,” Jeff laughed. Mark was sitting between his legs, leaning back on him. “Neither was I for that matter,” Mark grinned. He was back to his normal size. He was holding Jeff’s hands around his neck like some little kid. “What the hell is with you two? Geez, you’re some freaks!” I rolled my eyes and laughed. “Don’t enjoy each other’s company too much.” “We await your return, Queen Aeryn,” they chorused. I closed my door and went downstairs to wait for Joey. He pulled up two minutes later and I told Jake to tell Aunt Jaime I was out rollerblading. “Does she know yet?” Joey asked me as we drove off. “No. I am not going to tell her. She’d never let you near our house again.” “It’s just a little weird. She trusts me and if we’re ever alone there again…” “She doesn’t need to know. If she’s too much of a dumbass to notice, I’m perfectly fine with that. Besides, if you really want stuff to happen between us, it’ll be a damn lot easier without her knowing. You know how she is. If she knew Malorie were engaged, there’d be a massacre at the wedding, like that one movie. Except Malorie wouldn’t end up coming out of a four- year coma and seeking revenge. Aunt Jaime wouldn’t make that mistake. She’d make sure she died.” Joey chortled. “That was an awesome movie. But I guess I understand. We won’t tell her,” he relented. “Thank you.” I held his hand. “Um, are you ever gonna wear a skirt again? You looked really cute the other day,” Joey wondered. “You saying I’m ugly the rest of the time?” “No. No! That’s not what I meant. You’re beautiful. I always enjoy looking at you…. But I was thinking about what Sam said and I realized something. It’s a lot easier to do stuff with you when you wear a skirt. Cuz then I know for sure you want something. But in any other outfit, I can’t always be sure if that’s just all you had left to wear or if you really want me to look.” 196 “Well, thank you for the compliment. I’ll be sure to let you know when I’m in that kind of mood. I’ll wear something really nice on those days. Is that ok?” “Sure!” he smiled. “What does this outfit mean?” “It’s just something I threw on. Barely had time to find a shirt. You wouldn’t have minded but I’m sure everyone else would.” He cracked up. “You’re right about that!” We pulled on our rollerblades and started off. They were playing some pretty cool music so I danced a little as I skated around the rink. Joey was a faster skater than me but I could do more tricks. We played a game of tag, pissing off the older people who we skated too close to. Very funny. One girl flipped over the wall and half of the people started laughing at her. Red as Mark’s hair, she went inside. Her friends tried to convince her to come back out but she was way too embarrassed. Joey wouldn’t stop reenacting her flip over the wall and everyone clapped for him. I finally dragged him away, much to his fans’ dismay. We started spinning. It felt wonderful. We went into the building and ordered salads. Then he drove me home. “Wait, let’s park somewhere, Joe.” I touched his arm. “Ok.” He obeyed, pulling into a store parking lot. I moved closer and leaned against him. “That was a lot of fun.” “Yeah, it was. I love spending time with you.” “This was a good idea after all, us going together.” “I’m overjoyed to know you feel that way, Allie. I was worried for a while.” He put his arm around me. “Oh, yeah, Bev and Sam say hi,” I remembered. “We’re invited to Sam’s next Saturday.” “Cool.” “Allison.” “Hm?” “Why’d you tell me to pull over?” “Just wanted some more time with you. Can you come over tomorrow?” “Sure! What time?” “About ten. I’ll make you breakfast. Aunt Jaime has to work and Malorie and Jake are going to her fiancé’s concert.” 197 “So we’ll be there alone?” he realized. “Yeah.” “What will we do?” “Cuddle and watch a few movies. Maybe wrestle.” “Sounds like fun,” he smiled at me. I kissed him. “I’ll wear a skirt.” “Ooh!” His eyes brightened. “I’ll bring over the new Cobra game, too. We can play that if anyone shows up.” “Did you get that idea from Sam?” “Maybe.” His brown eyes were mischievous. Wow, he’d changed since last year! “Ok, take me home now.” “Yes, ma’am.” “You know, you don’t always have to walk me to the door.” “But I want to,” he replied. “I always thought you were just being nice,” I mused. “No. I like being close to you as long as I can.” “Oh. Well, ok then.” Why was he always thinking about nature? He was thinking about bears. What is with this guy? “Want to stay for dinner? We’re having pork chops, mashed potatoes, green beans, mac and cheese, and apple crumble for dessert.” “I’d love to!” He parked on the street, then followed me up to my house. “Aunt Jaime? Joey wants to join us for dinner,” I yelled as I opened the door. “Of course. Come on in, Joey.” I think Aunt Jaime had a crush on Joey and that’s why he could come and go as he pleased. “How are you?” she asked in her nicest voice. “I’m fine. And yourself?” “Just dandy!” Dandy? What a freak! “Oh, is it ok if he comes over tomorrow? He wants to show me his newest game,” I begged. “Sure! He can stay as long as he wants.” Huh? “Are you sure?” The real question was “Are you high?” “You’ll be lonely, Allie. Malorie and Jake will be gone 'til Sunday at that concert and I have a date tomorrow night.” She was beaming. 198 My heart and stomach switched places. “With who?” I demanded. “I finally persuaded Mr. Debusk to take me out. I don’t know where we’re going. He wants to surprise me.” Oh, how disgusting! “Joey, let’s go to the den while they finish dinner.” I pulled him away from Aunt Jaime, who was smiling at him like a lecher. I collapsed across the couch. Joey sat by me. “Why did that upset you?” “What?” “That your aunt is going out with Mr. Debusk.” “You said he likes me, right? What if he’s using her to get to me?” I decided to fuck with him. His eyes widened. “That would be extremely sick!” I laughed internally. “He’ll prob’ly ask all these personal questions about me. Then one day, she’ll ask him to baby-sit. And we’ll be all alone.” “No! That pervert!” Joey held me tightly. “But wait. He’s my doctor. So he’s over here anyway. If he wanted to do something sick, he’s got plenty of opportunity to do it.” “Allie, don’t scare me like that. You had me ready to call the cops!” He relaxed. “Sorry,” I giggled. “I’ll get you back for that!” he declared, tickling me. Wow, I was still ticklish! I squirmed, trying to get away. He was pretty strong, but then again, most psychopaths are. I called to Mal and Jake to help, but they just glanced down at me from upstairs and walked away. “Ha ha! You’re defenseless!” “No, not the feet! Please! Joey!” I screamed as he sat on me and grabbed my feet. He wouldn’t release me for a few minutes. When he finally did, I lay back and stared at the ceiling. He sat next to me, watching me. His hair was in his eyes again. I reached up to brush it away and he held my hand. My breath caught (yeah, I know, I don’t breath). The eyes that stared back at me were deep. They felt like they were sucking me in. I was losing myself in his eyes. “Allie?” he asked. I couldn’t move. “You ok?” he whispered. “Yeah. You’re so… beautiful,” I told him. “Me?” he grinned. 199 “Yeah.” “Well, thanks.” He laughed. I sat up and kissed him. Caught by surprise, he moved back. Then he held me. Pressing my body against his, I moved my tongue into his mouth. That heart of his beat hard and furiously against my breasts. His lips weren’t as thick as Mark’s but they felt just as wonderful. The power in his body was apparent. Yes, a runner’s body. He was hard against me, similar to Jeff. And there, between his legs, the only thing that mattered to men. Filthy, vile creatures only to be controlled. I tilted his head back, so I could sit on his lap. He was moaning softly, completely gone. I let him go and moved to sit beside him. “They’re prob’ly done with dinner now,” I said. “Oh, right. Dinner.” Obviously, the way he looked at me said I was on the menu. I got to my feet and pulled him up. “Come on.” He made sure he sat next to me. Under the table, he had a pretty damn good grip on my leg. If I were still human, I’m sure he would have bruised it. Mal was out with her beau so it was just Aunt Jaime, Jake, Joey, and I. Why did so many people have “J” names? Whatever. The phone rang and Aunt Jaime answered it. About five minutes later Jake finished his food. I quickly got up and cleared the table. Joey dogged my steps, bumping into me whenever I stopped. “Knock it off! Aunt Jaime’s right in the next room,” I whispered. “Ok. Let me get out of here. Walk me to the door?” “Fine.” I dried my hands and walked after him. As he stood on the porch, he looked back. “Can I get a hug?” Rolling my eyes, I relented. He squeezed me tightly and if we hadn’t been outside, I’m pretty sure he would have ripped my clothes off. “Ok, let me go. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I pried his hands off. For an instant, he looked lost. It was a disturbing sight. He recovered, said, “Good night,” and went to his car. Closing the door, I cursed myself. “What have I done?” Exactly what you wanted to, Aeryn’s voice in my head. “You witch. Now he’ll expect something tomorrow,” I said harshly. So will you, she responded. Why are you still acting like a human? she challenged. I realized I was still behaving like a human. “It’s 200 this house, the school. Having to pretend. Sorry I questioned you, Aeryn.” I ran upstairs and locked the door. I changed into a hoodie and a skirt. “Do you want me to come with you?” Mark wanted to know. “No. Stay here. I’ll see you on Sunday, ok?” “Ok.” I hugged and kissed Mark and Jeff, then jumped from my window. Using the speed I’d acquired from Mark, I ran to Sam’s house. I was wondering if I should knock on the door when he walked up to me. “Where did you go?” “To take out the trash,” he answered, opening the door. I walked in and went to his room. He took his time coming in. Sitting on his bed, he regarded me. “How’s Mark? I haven’t seen him for a few days.” “He’s fine. He’s prob’ly been at my house most of the time…. So, what are you?” “I believe I can explain best,” a familiar Spanish accent went with the voice. “Amada!” I hugged her. “Hello, Aeryn.” I smoothed her hair. “So you know what he is?” “Yes. He’s what’s called a container. A container is in no way human. The ironic thing is, they hold they human DNA. Even stranger, they posses the entire genetic codes for vampires, werewolves, and witches. However, these genes are inactive so most container live their lives out as humans.” “Werewolves and witches really exist?” “Of course they do.” “Where do containers come from?” “They are the spawn of a vampire and a malek. Or a werewolf or witch. Any coupling of each of these supernatural beings with a malek produces a container. Containers have the potential of all four DNA types. This makes them highly valuable.” “What about a container’s child?” I glanced at Sam. “Any child of a container has a 50% chance of being a container themselves. And instead of four sets of DNA, there will be five. This is the case of a human and container.” 201 “So that’s why Mark wanted you to get Cris pregnant. I’m a vampire and, I guess, barren now. Therefore, I can’t have your child. The next person suitable for the job was Cris. She has a few of Mark’s genes. Does she know what you are?” I thought aloud. “She knows I’m adopted,” Sam supplied. “Are you related to Mark, then?” “I am Mark,” he corrected. “What? How? Explain.” I turned back to Amada. “Sam is an experiment. He was cloned from Mark. Although, the DNA of a container, one of Mark’s sons, was also added. When a container mates with a witch, werewolf, or vampire, the resulting child will then contain seven DNA sets,” Amada explained. “So the supernatural DNA doubles? And since there’s only one partial human, only one human set is there,” I sorted out. “You’re only half right. The supernatural DNA is added for every container’s offspring. When the child of the first container mates with one of preternatural roots, three more DNA sets are added on.” “So basically, containers hold all the DNA of their predecessors?” “Yes.” “It would just go on and on then.” “Precisely. Yet containers are rare, for obvious reasons. They would be more powerful, if activated, than any one of the preternatural groups. Therefore, many are reluctant to breed with those not of their kind.” “Wow! And I could never participate, could I?” “That’s not necessarily true. Every time vampires drink from each other, they trade and fuse DNA. Vampires will pass on the DNA of those they have drunk from.” “Humans, too?” “No. Human blood is purely food for vampires. Only vampire blood can fuse with vampire blood.” “Ok. That makes sense,” I nodded. “That is why vampires are very selective when it comes to blood partners.” “But Mark…he’d better not have any more kids!” 202 “That would only be one way to pass your DNA to a container. Because of recent developments in science, you could clone yourself.” “Wow!” I stared at Sam. “Hold on. Does Sam have Mark’s DNA once or twice?” “Twice,” they both replied. “This is amazing!” Amada smiled. “Amada, you truly are brilliant.” “Thank you, querida.” I leaned against Sam. “I’m sorry, Sam.” “Don’t apologize, Aeryn. No need. Would either of you like a drink?” He stood. “I’ll help you,” I offered. “I should be leaving. I have much research to tend to,” Amada declined Sam’s offer. “Why don’t you drop by Sunday? We’ll spend some time together then,” I suggested. “Alright. See you then.” She hugged and kissed me, then left through the front door. “So now you know everything about me,” Sam concluded. “Not really. Did you like me or was it Mark in you that liked me?” I questioned him, leaning on the counter. “I may have Mark’s genes but they don’t dictate my life. They were only activated a few months ago. I wanted you long before then,” he answered me, stepping closer. He held my hips. “My turn to ask a question. Why are you wearing a skirt? That’s make out material.” I only looked at him and smiled. We’d do more than make out. Touching my legs, he ran his hands up under the skirt. “Joey may not have the nerve to but I do.” He kissed me, laying me back on the counter. His hands moved on me like my own had that one day we first made love. “Can I taste your blood? Yi cazi mai neshka?” “Zutor yi neshka. Drink my blood.” I bit my tongue and kissed him. He seemed in ecstasy as he swallowed my blood. His hands held tightly to my hips. “Like it?” I asked him, pulling away. 203 “That’s the best damn thing I’ve ever tasted. Want to go to my room or is the counter fine?” “Do you really need to ask?” I laughed. Chapter Ten Out of breath, Joey was leaning over, hands on his knees. “Came as fast as I could,” he spoke haltingly. “Why are you out of breath? You’re an athlete plus you drove your car here.” I moved aside so he could come in. “Track hasn’t started yet and I haven’t been practicing. And I rushed.” “Whatever. Come on into the kitchen. B-fast is almost ready.” I turned on my heel and walked swiftly down the hallway. Joey shut the door and trotted after me. “Have Malorie and Jake left yet?” he asked, sitting at the table. “No, Brad will be along in an hour or so to pick them up,” I explained. “Damn!” he mumbled. “What was that? Did you just cuss?” I stared at him. “I just really don’t want us to be interrupted.” “Interrupted doing what?” I wanted to know. My hand went to my hip. “Whatever we’re doing. I really don’t like them. They’re annoying.” “Try living with them!” 204 “I brought it.” “Brought what?” I squinted at him. “This.” He slid the game out of his pocket and put it on the table. As the eggs cooked, I examined the case. I nodded. “We might actually play this today,” I told him, giving him an evil grin. He looked down at the floor and laughed nervously. Boy, she looks sexy in that, was what he was thinking. I turned back to the eggs, trying hard not to burst out laughing. He was studying me, I could sense it. I ignored it, putting butter and salt in the grits. I put a plate for him on the table. “Want cheese?” I asked him. “Yeah,” the way he said it made him sound as if he were high. If only I knew. “Ok. I’ll make your plate. Stay seated.” “I see you ain’t made none for us!” Malorie complained as she dragged (or rolled) her fat ass into the kitchen. She was the only fat person in town. “You ain’t nobody. Fix your own food or have Brad buy you some,” I snapped. She stuck her nose in the air. “Your food is nasty, anyway.” “Then don’t ask for it!” I shot back. “Joey, I have no idea why you like her. She’s such a bitch!” “Maybe you bring it out in her,” he supplied. “She is nothing but nice to me.” There he goes again, thinking about nature. Two saber-toothed tigers fighting. Why? I asked the air silently. What relevance did that have to anything at all? Moreover, if he wanted to be a mechanic, he wouldn’t see many animals. Anyway, Malorie gave up on us and went to get dressed. “Ok. Here you go.” I fixed his plate and set it back in front of him. Then I fixed mine and sat across from him. “Thank you.” One of those people who ate as if he would die, he finished his food in about three minutes flat, then rose for seconds. “Joey, you can take your time. You’re not in prison,” I laughed. Smiling bashfully, he made sure to eat slower this time. “This is way better than what I get at home!” he enthused. 205 Secretly, I smiled. “Good, five minutes. Now the food actually has time to digest!” I teased him, patting his belly. He chuckled. “You sure can cook.” “Thank you. Here, I’ll wash that.” I took his plate. He followed me as I went to the sink. Did he understand the concept of personal space? It seemed like he was trying to move into me. I glared back at him. “What is it?” “I want to help,” he said softly, a strange look in his eyes. “Ok. Well, back up first.” “Sorry.” “Don’t worry about it. Here, put the rest of the food in containers,” I instructed. “Alright.” Everything was pretty peaceful until I heard Malorie and Jake leave. Like some kind of freak, Joey ran down the hallway. He came running back, stopping in the doorway. “They’re gone!” If I weren’t immortal, I would have feared for my life. “Ok,” I said slowly. “Where should we go?” “The basement, of course. That’s where we usually go.” Practically pushing me down the stairs, he shut the basement door. He sat on the couch and I put a movie in. “Here’s a cover. Come on. Get under here with me.” He patted the space next to him. Cautiously, I climbed under the thin blanket. Pulling me against him, he sighed contentedly. He held me tightly, and I lay my head by his. Oh, his blood! How quickly it pumped through his veins. My teeth started to tingle. Before I thought about what I was doing, I had bitten him. Sucking in a breath, he winced. “Sorry,” I apologized, pulling away. “That hurt a little.” “You just look so tasty!” I whined, wanting to rip his throat open. “You do, too,” he replied. He stroked my leg, for once looking me straight in the eye. Slowly, his face moved closer. When we finally kissed, he seemed to have lost all inhibitions. The tension left his body completely. Now he was thinking of a stallion. I finally understood what these thoughts meant. They were sexual to him. Whenever he was particularly aroused, he thought of some fierce and strong animal to cover up his real 206 thoughts. It helped him control himself. However, right that moment, I could feel his barrier breaking. Some of the stuff he was thinking of surprised me. I’d never known he was that kind of guy. I soon wore him out, and we lay on the couch, him behind me, holding hands. Another movie was playing. “Allie, I really enjoyed that. I can’t wait 'til we decide to go all the way,” he whispered, kissing my ear. I squeezed his hand tightly. “I know, Joey,” I breathed. “Allison?” “Yes?” “I… think… I love you, Allison Mae Dutch.” That statement hit me like lightning. I got to my feet a little too quickly. “What?” I asked, confused. This couldn’t be true. For so many reasons, it couldn’t be true. “I said I love you,” he repeated. “No, don’t say it again! What’s wrong with you?” My hands rose to my ears. “What’s wrong?” “Oh, Joey. Joey!” I couldn’t love him. “You don’t love me, do you?” he realized. “I’m so sorry, Joey, I really like you. I love spending time with you. I love you, but not the same way.” His head rested in his hands. He was crying. “I ruined it, didn’t I?” “Joey,” I started, speaking in a low voice, “if I had known you felt that way, I would not have done the things I’ve done. By agreeing to be your girlfriend, I was hurting you. I thought this was just a fling or something. That’s not fair to you.” I knelt down in front of him. “Will you ever love me?” he wanted to know. He looked up at me with eyes full of tears, pain, and confusion. “I might. I’m so sorry,” I repeated, hugging him. Sobbing like a wretch, he held onto me tightly. “I never knew you were serious,” I murmured, smoothing his hair down. I kissed his forehead over and over, apologizing countless times. “I’ll wait for you, Allison,” he swore. “I will. I will wait.” I almost cried. His wait would be in vain. Still, I said, “Ok, Joey. Ok.” 207 We held onto each other for a long while, then I sat beside him. “Want to play the game?” I questioned him gently. Soberly, he nodded. “Sure.” I set it up for him. “I’ll make us some tea, ok?” “Ok. That would be nice.” “Alright.” I went upstairs and put a pot of water on the stove to boil. Then I let myself cry. “It’s not right. I guess I thought being a vampire made life simpler. It doesn’t.” I shook my head. “It makes it a thousand times harder. No matter what, you can’t tell them the truth. They will always hurt for us, like I hurt for you.” Mark and Jeff watched me. From whence they came, I did not know. But they had shown up, and I so badly needed them. “That is why I do not become one of them. I keep to my kind and myself. The only reason I interact with them now is because of you, Aeryn,” Jeffery told me. “Humans are destined for heartache. And we hasten that. Because as sad as it seems, only certain people can become a vampire or werewolf. The rest become zombies. Despite what movies portray about us, we are very meticulous when changing people. We convert those with the right traits, the right DNA, and the right frame of mind. It makes me sick how humans talk of us as if we do not think, as if we don’t feel. We know more pain than they ever will. And that’s the very reason we have more joy,” Mark spoke bitterly. As with every other time he was angry, his face was fully red. With his hands on his hips and one jutted out to the side, he was a picture perfect model. Certainly, he was a god. “I can’t wait to be free of them. Why can’t I leave now?” I demanded. “There is unfinished business here. Be patient. Wait,” Jeff urged. “I will try. Make it worthwhile.” “Remember, you have eternity,” Mark said. “Think on that.” Stepping forward, he embraced me. I sighed. Leaning my head back, I whispered, “Kiss me.” He did so in his usual, passionate way that aroused me. Then he pulled away and he and Jeff disappeared right as Joey entered. 208 “Do you need something, Joe?” I hurriedly wiped my mouth. “Just missed you is all. It’s so awful being alone.” He sounded haunted. “I don’t want to be alone, Allie.” “Neither do I.” The tea was done and we took it downstairs. We played the game together, leaning against each other. For the longest time, we sat in silence. Around 6:00 or so, we made dinner. He was feeling better, I could tell, because he got out candles. “I’ve always wanted to do this,” he gushed. “Do what?” “Have a meal by candlelight. It’s so romantic.” I couldn’t help but smile and shake my head. I watched him with interest. “You are some guy!” He laughed. “I’ll get you to love me. Just wait!” he declared. We sat down to eat and I studied him. Could I grow to love him? Sadly, I knew I could not. I would only use him to feel good about myself. To prove that I could have anyone I wanted and dupe them and have them still want me. Because that was Aeryn’s game. I feigned ill the next day so I would not have to attend church. Amada came in through the window and lay next to me. Her fingers ran through my hair. “How are you today, Aeryn?” Her accent was absolutely wonderful to hear. It touched my ears like a gentle kiss (from Jeffery, of course, his kisses are magical). “Better now that you are here. There’s much I want to discuss with you.” “Oh? I am pleased to be of service to you, mija,” she replied. “I love your voice,” I told her, stroking her face. “I love yours, too.” “Ok. I want to know everything you know about vampires, werewolves, and such. Pass your knowledge on to me.” “In order to do that, you need to visit my lab.” “Where is your lab?” “My things are in transportation right now.” “Where are they headed?” “Italy.” 209 “Italy?” I sat up. “Si, senorita.” “What’s in Italy that’s so important?” I wondered. “Italy is where it all began.” “What began?” “The real vampires.” That statement shocked me and I was quiet for a while. Then I asked, “Amada, how old are you?” “22.” “How did you get into all this?” “I’ve always been attracted to the occult. My sister was changed when I was 12. I’ve been studying vampires ever since. She was one of those rare vampires that kept in touch with her family. She taught me many, many things.” “Where is she now?” I held her hand. “In Italy. She will be in our coven. She is a lehalo vampire.” “Wait, wait, I know this one. The lehalo are strictly nightwalkers. They are also shapeshifters.” “Good. But you left out that they can only transform into something of the same… volume, so to speak.” “Mass?” “Perhaps.” “What’s her name?” “Mahira.” “That’s beautiful.” I smiled at her, then got to my feet. There was a question I had, but Allie was too embarrassed to let me ask it. So I stayed silent and watched Amada. “You absolutely must let me prepare you for your Prom. I have this beautiful Latin dress you can wear,” she spoke. “Oh. Thank you. You and Mark should come. I’ll buy his ticket and I’ll have one of my friends buy yours.” “I don’t think they will pay for one they do not know,” she replied sadly. “So I’ll give them the money myself. But I can’t buy both tickets myself. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you can come!” I enthused. “Alright, Aeryn.” She, too, stood. Her smile made me want to kiss her. 210 That made me think of what Jeff had told me before, that she was of herself. But I wanted her to love me. I didn’t want to live just being a vampire to her. In her eyes, I needed to be real. So I quickly closed the distance between us. Looking into her eyes, her deep, brown eyes, I wrapped my arms around her. Like some desperate man I kissed her, hard and long. When I pulled back, she stared at me. She had realized what my intentions were. This kiss hadn’t been caring and friendly, it was initiative. “Aeryn, I had no idea you wanted me in that way.” “Well, I do,” I answered simply, my heart beating furiously. At this rate, her and Mark would prob’ly get heart attacks! I tried to slow it down, then realized that hers was controlling mine now. “Come on. Let me show you my room.” She was in the window now, holding out her hand to me. Her curly dark brown hair waved gently in the wind. Instead of the usual rain, there was a full-blown storm. Lightning ripped through the sky and the thunder was so powerful it shook the houses. The rain was thick and uncaring. Certainly a beautiful day. The sturdy trees were subjected to the wind’s will An idea came to me. I could be the storm. As a matter of fact, I was the storm of the vampire world. I would sweep through and conquer everything and everyone. It would take time, though. I didn’t even know the full extent of my powers. It would be a joy to figure them out. Amada, Mark, Jeffery, and Sam would help me in my quest. I had a lot of studying ahead of me. I let go of my train of thought and grabbed Amada’s hand. Off we flew to Jeff’s house, using the storm as our cover. What I hadn’t realized until about a month ago was that with vampires that flew, our bodies needed to be air friendly. Our overall body structure had changed, becoming similar to that of a bird. Otherwise, we would not have been able to achieve flight. I had always wondered why my body felt differently when I flew, then one day I had an epiphany. Alternatively, perhaps it was purely memory. Either way, I realized that we subconsciously altered ourselves as if we were planes or birds once we lifted off of the ground. It was a wonder people hadn’t seen vampires flying around before! But then, there were many reasons we hadn’t been 211 spotted. In my case, the fact that it was storming helped out a lot. Our speed factored in as well because we arrived there in record time. There was a balcony on which we landed, that led into Amada’s quarters. She had a canopy bed, large and majestic with red comforters and pillows. A large chest stood in the far corner, next to a wardrobe and a closet. A savvy red loveseat sat near a large window. It startled me to see the large radio opposite of an expensive computer. Jeff didn’t seem to be the kind to purchase electrical equipment. What would he shop for and where? I wondered. Amada glided over to the radio and turned it to a salsa station. With a large grin on her face, she turned toward me. “Don’t you love storms,” she sighed. “Let’s sit on the couch and watch, yes?” “Is Jeff here right now?” “Probably. He’s recovering from last night.” I laughed. “I’ll have to ask him how his date went.” She chuckled as she took her seat. I sat next to her and we watched things fly past the window; rocks, garbage cans, small animals stupid enough to still be out in the open. Amada stroked my neck, then bit into it. I shuddered with pleasure and held her close. I pulled our bodies together. We were soaking wet, but it didn’t matter. Her large breasts pressed hard against me. She certainly was voluptuous. I lifted her head away and kissed her. She surrendered to me, as I knew I would make everyone else surrender. She bit her tongue so our blood could mix. I unbuttoned and removed her blouse. I, Aeryn, wanted to see her, all of her. Pretty soon, we lay naked in each other’s arms, drinking from each other and kissing gently, softly, because we had time. Time. It had never gone from me so fast before in all my life. There was only this glorious, well-endowed, soft Latina in front of me, and myself. I spent a long while playing with her hair after we’d both had our fill of blood; laying it over her breasts and face, piling it high and letting it fall. She smelled like strawberries and I absolutely loved it. Then, for the first time in my life, I tasted of a woman and she of me. It was a perfect moment I knew I’d always hold onto. 212 “Happy birthday, Bev!” I exclaimed as I took my hands from her eyes. “Why are we here?” “I’m getting you some contacts. You have the loveliest eyes, and I always want to see them,” I explained. “Now go on.” “Oh, my God! Thank you so much!” She jumped on me and hugged me. “Calm down, you haven’t got them yet. Go in and get your eye exam. I’ll be waiting right here.” “Ok. Can I get color contacts?” “If you want. But get a pair of clear ones so I can see your true color,” I told her. “Sure. Man, I love you!” She kissed my cheek before following the optometrist. I smiled. “Ya hear that? She said she loves me,” I bragged. “There’s nothing like love between two women,” Mark smiled. I rolled my eyes. “I thought you’d be immune to that.” “I am. But seeing you with anybody else amazes me. I love watching you. Like you and Amada. Beautiful. Makes me want you even more.” He seemed ready to grab me and squeeze me to death. I stepped away to discourage him. “Even Joey?” I teased. “Everyone except for him. Please don’t bring him up. Ever,” he scowled. “Did I ruin your mood? I’m so sorry,” I said sarcastically. “Ooh! Wait 'til we get to Sam’s place. I’m gonna tear you up!” “Don’t do anything in front of Joey, ok? And I really don’t want him to recognize you, either,” I reminded him. “Hey, relax. I’m a professional of disguises. Trust me a little, ok?” “I do. Just not when you’re with me. Will you be able to keep your hands off of me?” I asked him. He laughed. “I’ll do my best.” “What about you?” I looked at Sam. “Only when he’s looking. Any moment he leaves you alone, I’ll be all over you.” “Guys! You are not helping.” 213 “Don’t worry. Joey won’t have the slightest clue,” they answered together, as if they were twins. “I know this is not a good idea,” I mumbled. “Hey, give us a little credit!” Mark said. “Sorry.” “Hey, let’s go take some pics while we’re waiting on Bev,” Mark suggested. “Cool idea,” I agreed. We found a photo booth and climbed in. “So you are gay,” Sam said. “What? No! Shut up about that before I smack you!” I threatened. “I’ll smack you right now!” He laid me over his lap and enthusiastically swatted my derrière. I let out a cry as they laughed. “Let me up! Stop it!” I begged. Sam spanked me a few more times then righted me. Mark pulled me into his lap for some of the pictures. “Why don’t you flash the cameras? Give us a really good pic,” Sam goaded. “No way! You’re out of your mind. What if someone walking by sees?” I protested. “Sam, we can take pictures tomorrow,” Mark informed him. “Mark!” “Oh, come now, lass! Be a sport.” Mark kissed my ear. He turned my head to kiss my lips. “Let me get in on the action,” Sam complained. He pulled me away from Mark and kissed me. When I could get free, I jumped out of the booth. “Crimity, guys! What is with you? We’re in the mall,” I scolded them. They came to my side immediately. “Hey, don’t even try to start that shit! Have you forgotten who you are?” Sam challenged me. “I only scold you because I don’t want to draw attention to myself more than necessary,” I corrected, snatching up the pictures. “Yeah, if you’re not careful, people you don’t even know will try to kiss you,” Mark warned me. “Wow. More reason to try not to grab on me in public.” I glared at Sam. 214 He sighed. “Well, guess we’ll have to save all that for tomorrow.” “Hey, Mark.” I had suddenly thought of something. “What?” “When will I meet your brothers? Do they act like you do? You’ve only talked about them a few times.” “You’ll meet them in Italy. You’ll meet my parents, too. They can’t wait to see you again,” Mark explained. “Oh? I knew them before? Well, I guess so.” “Yeah. Erik and Joey really miss you, too,” he added. “Um… Mark, did I ever… I mean, I don’t remember yet so could you tell me if…” I was red. Mark reassured me by putting a hand on my shoulder. “Aeryn, you had anyone you pleased. Even my brothers. I’m pretty sure my mother was with you at one point as well. My father, he was a traditionalist so he never had anyone but mother. Not like he didn’t struggle, though. He actually did go to bed with you once, and that seemed enough,” he told me calmly. “And you were still with me? You didn’t hate me? Why did you stay?” “Because I love you.” He sounded so serious. “And I had something they didn’t. Your heart. Your whole heart.” “But I was logmin, so you and I, or anyone for that matter, couldn’t make love,” I realized. “True. But I didn’t care. We did other things. And why do you think I harp on you about it now? I hadn’t been able to make love to you for thousands of years! And now I can. I guess I should thank those ingrates who murdered you.” He laughed, then shook his head slowly. “That doesn’t matter. Although I’m sure they’ll definitely try to bed you now. But Italy isn’t going to be for a few years.” “I was born just in time then, huh?” Sam ruled. We all laughed. “Man, I just have so many questions!” I breathed without breathing. “You won’t have answers to all of it. That would be impossible,” Mark reasoned. “I know. But that won’t stop me from trying to get answers.” I was very determined. “Knowledge can be very depressing,” Mark said suddenly in a dark way. 215 Sharply, I looked at him. “I know,” I replied soberly. Sam shuddered. “Stop talking like that. It’s depressing.” “It’s true,” Mark shrugged. “I know. But this is supposed to be a happy day. It’s Bev’s b-day. And tomorrow, tomorrow’s going to be magical.” “Ah, it is. We’ll talk more about my family then.” “Good idea. What do we tell Joey?” I asked. “Tell him you need to go to Cris’ after her doctor’s appointment. He’s got to work, right?” Sam decided. “Yeah. That’ll work,” I nodded. “Cool. Cuz we’ve got big plans tomorrow,” Mark grinned. “Inform me,” I ordered. “Are you finally converting Sam?” “We are,” Mark corrected. “Are we gonna do that whole mouth transfer thing?” I wondered. “Yeah.” His voice was husky. Behind his sunglasses, his eyes narrowed. I smiled seductively. “What fun. Come on; let’s get back to the eye doctor. I want to see what Bev’s picked out.” “Ok,” they said together. “We’ll need to come back in about two hours so they can make sure she takes to the contacts,” I told them. “Cool,” Sam shrugged. “Anything for my bebe.” “Shut up!” I groaned. “Aw, what’s wrong, bebe?” He walked after me. “Stop calling me that!” I snapped. “Yeah, she doesn’t like being called baby,” Mark warned him. “Ooh, then what should I call you?” Sam asked in a low voice. “Why ever did Aunt Jaime allow me to hang out with you?” I chortled. “Because she trusts me. I’m nothing but well-behaved in her presence.” “Oh, yeah. You’re so well-behaved when you need to be.” I laughed. “Only when I need to be.” He stepped in front of me. I stopped, trying to predict what he would do. He only watched me for a minute. Then his hand flung out and came to rest between my legs. 216 I was at a loss for a few seconds. Then I lost it. I pressed my body against him and snaked it. “Think you can handle me?” I whispered. “You always were vain,” Mark chuckled. Sam’s smile grew and he grabbed me around my waist. “I’d like to find out,” he replied. “We’ll find out tomorrow.” I touched his chin and moved away to sit down. Immediately, they sat on either side of me. “Can barely wait. Sure we can’t do it tonight?” Sam questioned. “No, I’m staying the night at Bev’s,” I reminded. “Too bad.” “Shut up already.” “Spoilsport.” I was going to smack him but Bev walked out just then. What a change it was. Her smile was huge and she had a swagger in her walk. “You look gorgeous! Now we need an outfit.” I went to her. “Really? Awesome! Ooh, hurry and pay the doctor.” She was practically jumping. “Make sure to come back in an hour or two to see how she’s doing,” the doctor instructed us. “Yes, sir.” I paid, then took her hand. I led her to a clothing store and we tried a load of different outfits. The guys gave their opinion and I kept handing back clothes for her to try on. I watched her as she changed, mesmerized by her movements. “You have a wonderful figure. Show it off more often,” I sighed. “Really? Are you sure?” She looked back at me in disbelief. “Trust me. You are beautiful.” Rising to my feet, I ran my hands down her sides. “You even feel beautiful.” “Thank you,” she responded. “Welcome.” I returned to my seat. “Ok, I don’t get it. Are you attracted to me or not?” Facing me, she put her hands on her hips. She was of a petite build. Right now she was only half-dressed. I took in the sight of her muscular abs and small, perky breasts. Such a soccer player. “Of course I’m attracted to you. I just don’t want to be a distraction,” I explained softly. 217 Seemingly choked up, she just stared at me for a while. Then she sat next to me. “Can you break up with Joey?” Shaking my head, I replied, “You know the answer to that. He has to break up with me. If I try to leave him, he’d go completely insane. You know that.” “Why did you agree to go out with him in the first place?” she asked angrily. I scoffed. “He would have gone crazy. Besides, there’s something about me I don’t want him to find out. Something that he’d never understand. I need to protect him from that. To distract him, I agreed to be with him. I don’t want to do this because I know I’m going to hurt him eventually. But it’s so much better than…” I broke off. Laying her head on my shoulder, she held my hand. “If I know him right, he’ll never dump you. It’s not fair! I want you.” Bearing her soul to me, she was. I’d never heard her talk like this about anyone. “You have me!” Grabbing her hand, I put it over my heart. “In here, where it counts!” Nodding, she got to her feet. “I think this outfit’s a winner.” Quickly, she put on her old clothes. “Let’s go.” “Want a kiss first?” “Won’t that be cheating?” “Do you really care?” I rolled my eyes. The wheels turned in her head. “Guess I have to grow up sometime,” she decided. Leaning down, she kissed me gently. An amateur kiss. I decided to melt her. Getting to my feet, I took her face in my hands and made her feel my kiss all through her body. And she did feel it, convulsing and digging her nails into my arms. She was on tiptoe now. We pulled away slowly and grinned. Holding onto her hand, I picked up the outfit she wanted and we went to pay for it. Mark gave me a special smile as I pulled out some of the money Jeff had given me on the cruise and paid for the clothes. Next, we found a bathroom for her to change in. The guys flattered her appropriately. It was time to return to the doctor. She was doing just fine. We all piled into Sam’s car and went back to Bev’s house. Cris was there, but in a wheelchair. She really wasn’t doing so well. I hovered near Sam, trying to get 218 some information out of him. “Is it because it’s a you-know- what?” I asked. “We’ll discuss that tomorrow, love. Now is kind of compromising. You’re on the right track, though,” he answered. In the kitchen, we were putting candles on Bev’s cake. I nodded. “You got it?” “Yeah.” He picked up the cake and we returned to the dining room. Beverly was beaming. Positively radiant. Everyone sang the birthday song, then gave her presents. I’d also bought her the newest shooting game. “Come on, let’s go play it right now,” she suggested. All of us swiftly relocated to downstairs. Mrs. Abrams brought down snacks for us then went to work. Mr. Abrams was still working on the car. As we played the video game, we made fun of Joey and doted over Cris. Mark had changed his appearance so she didn’t recognize him. He was still a redhead, but he was taller and thinner, with large eyes and nose. Still handsome as hell, though. We called him Brian. Meanwhile, Bev was kicking our asses on the game. She was extremely happy. Later on, Cris had to go home. I walked them out to their car, helped get Cris into her seat, and folded her wheelchair. Sam put it in the trunk as I was hugging Cris goodbye. I also hugged him. “I’ll stop by again. Ma wants me to run an errand for her. Wait for me, eh?” he asked softly. “Ok. See ya. Make sure Cris stays comfortable.” “Yes, Aeryn.” Smiling softly, he reached up with a cupped hand to stroke my face. “Behave.” “I should be telling you that.” I smiled. “Go on. Get out of here already.” I started back for the house. “Kay.” He waved then drove off. Making sure to close the door behind me, I made my way back to the basement. There was a shadow in the hallway. My body was on guard. What was this? Even though I could see very well in the dark, I couldn’t tell what the shadow was. At once, my heart sped up and I assumed a fighting pose. “Show yourself,” I hissed. The shadow jumped, expanded, then collected. It became solid. The air around me thickened. Any human would have suffocated most likely. My body changed it’s shape, becoming 219 predatorial: longer, harder, sharper nails; shorter hair; my hands and feet grew heavier and longer, my jaw elongated and my teeth grew sharper, stronger; my bones became something else that would enable me to bend in ways both graceful and unnatural. I gave out a low, guttural growl. “Show yourself!” I repeated, louder this time. Instead, the shadow flew at me. I slammed myself against the wall and let it pass. Then I returned to the middle of the hallway. Gathering myself, I launched myself at the black mass. For a moment, I was trapped. The mass closed down on me, crushing me. Letting out a yell, I stretched my limbs and broke free. The mass rushed past me and out the back door. I ran after it, moving as fast as Mark could. “Come on, don’t run away!” I taunted it. “Get your crispy ass back here and fight me!” It halted instantly, and a really disturbing, creepy rasping sound emanated from it. Guess I’d pissed it off. It was at least 20 feet up. Easily, I leaped at it and closed the distance. Wildly, I threw punches and kicks at it, trying to determine its weakest point. Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, it spoke to me. The voice was sexless and lacked enough emotional capacity to belong to a computer. “Foolish! To think you can defeat me this way, Aeryn. Do you see not my form? I am like mist. Look, do not be fooled.” Startled, I fell on my back. “What is your purpose?” I demanded. “You,” it replied simply. I felt cold in a way I never had. Rising to my feet, I changed back into Allie. “I don’t understand.” “Will you ever? It’s up to you.” The mass settled in front of me. “Understand this!” I growled. I widened my mouth and drew in as hard as I could. Slowly, the shadow came into me. It didn’t scream or show any sign that it even knew what was happening. When I finally swallowed the last of it (it tasted like metal), I let out a mighty large burp. Holding my belly, I fell to the ground. My body was pulsing with something. I’d never felt like this. My body felt as if it were nauseous everywhere but my stomach. The nausea was right under my skin. But my stomach felt just fine. “Figures,” I whispered. 220 Before I could pass out, Mark grabbed me. “Aeryn! Don’t go out on me. Aeryn!” He smoothed his hand over my face. He looked worried. “What happened?” “I don’t know. There’s no way to explain something like that,” I whispered, staring at him. My lovely Mark. He’d changed back into the Mark I recognized, but kept his height. “I love you so much, Mark,” I sighed, drifting off. “Stay with me, Aery. Wake up. You’ve still got to keep Bev company. I’ve convinced her to stay with the game and Sam. What are we going to do with you, now?” “Don’t know, love.” “Come here.” He held his wrist over my lips. He had scratched it open. I sucked at his wrist, treasuring the warm, sweet blood trickling down my throat. It was like cappuccino for vampires. Strength returned to me and I began to feel somewhat normal again. “Yes. That’s it, lass.” He encouraged me, although he seemed slightly titillated. This I didn’t understand. At first. Once I could, I moved on to his neck. He gripped me tightly, moaning with pleasure. “Aeryn, my life. My queen. Would that I could take you to my place right now. I’d bathe you in blood.” I sucked harder, halting his chatter. His hair felt thick and fine in my fingers. I absolutely loved his red hair. Pausing, I rubbed my face in his hair. He was smiling when I sat back. “I’m alright now,” I told him. “I know. Tomorrow, lass. Try to remember everything that occurred. Should I have Jeffery and Amada stop by as well? So we can all sort this out?” He looked so concerned for me. “Yes. Bring them, please. Perhaps they’ll understand what it was.” He helped me up and walked me into Bev’s house. “Get on downstairs,” he said. I gave him and Sam a hug goodbye. Then I went downstairs. Bev had passed out in a beanbag chair. How adorable she looked all curled up like that. I turned off the game and the TV, then picked up Bev. I carried her upstairs and laid her on her bed. She stirred, then awoke. “Allie?” she mumbled. “Hey. You fell asleep.” Prob’ly with Mark’s help. “Oh. Did you bring me up?” She sat up. “Yeah. You must be exhausted. Did you take your contacts out?” 221 “Uh huh.” “You sleepy?” I asked. She nodded. “Me, too.” Settling down next to her, I wrapped my arms around her. Warm. My dream was interesting. I was dancing alone at first. Big, slow circles and spirals. Out of nowhere, he showed up. Turning and twisting me around and around. A puppet I was to him. Bent to his will, I was in a sort of daze. “I told you I’d dance with you eventually,” he spoke to me softly, darkly, gently. Completely mesmerized, I stared up into his black eyes. Inside of my head, I was screaming and yelling at him for how he left me. But my lips wouldn’t move. Ignoring the pained expression on my face, he dipped me. He let me go and now I was falling. “Allison Mae, come out to play,” his voice echoed all around me. Yes, that’s what he always called me. That’s the phrase he used every time he came to visit. “Allison Mae, come out to play.” For a long time, I’d thought he was the Devil. Eventually, I realized that he was not of Earth. He’d never heard of Satan. Before I smashed into the ground, he caught me. “Allison Mae. My hearts, my soul. Your soul is mine. Your body belongs to me,” he told me. We were instantly in what I assumed to be his place. We were in a huge black room. The ceiling had to be over 100 feet tall. There were objects and furniture all around but they were alien to me. What I assumed to be his bed looked like a cross between a net and a hammock. The walls formed a square around it, making it into a room without a fourth wall. The ceiling was just as high in there. The bed looked like a giant pillow. There were no comforters that I could see. Maybe he didn’t need to be kept warm. Toward the bed he took me. Since everything was black, it was hard to tell where the rest of the corners were or even where some of the objects ended. Grey was the color of the bed, and the bed was the only thing with a different color. My captor easily hopped onto the bed with me. Finally, I could speak, “What do you want with me? Don’t you have somewhere to be?” I questioned. “I chose you,” he replied simply. “And I don’t have anywhere to go anymore.” Softly, he kissed both my ears. “Without you, that is.” 222 Some strange feeling went through me. He rubbed my shoulders and belly in such a sensuous way. As he began to kiss my lips, I woke up. Bev was bouncing on the bed next to me, telling me to wake up. “Ok, ok. I’m up!” I grumbled. “I made you breakfast!” she beamed, handing me a plate. “Thanks.” I sat up. “Did you have a bad dream or something. You kept saying ‘yi neshka’ or something like that.” “Sort of.” I quickly ate. “What time is it?” “It’s 11:30.” “Joey’s gonna pick me up at 1:00. Is that ok? He’s got to work later on,” I explained. “That’s cool. We’ve still got work to do on the car. What do you want to do?” she wondered. “Let’s play your new game,” I decided. “Sure.” “Want to know something. you really look so much better without those glasses.” “I feel better, too. Thank you so much!” She hugged me. “Alright. You’re welcome.” I changed into a different outfit. “Hurry up. I want to show you something!” she rushed me. “Ok. Ok.” I followed her to the basement. What she wanted to show me was her high score. Pretty impressive. We played some rounds, then went to the backyard. There was a chairswing that sat so it overlooked the park. We held each other and talked about Prom. “There’s just one thing. I don’t have a date.” Bev bit her lip. “Hm. Why don’t you bring Sam?” “Sam? He’s such a perv!” “If he tries anything, we’ll all beat him up.” Laughing, she laid her head on my shoulder. “Sam’s cool. As long as he doesn’t try to have sex with me I’m ok.” “You waitin 'til marriage?” I asked her. “No. I’m never getting married,” she answered. “Why not?” “Cuz I don’t like guys and I never will. The only man I will ever like is Mr. Debusk. There’s something special about that man. You’re lucky to have him as a doctor. What’s it like being alone with him?” she inquired. 223 “Like a fairytale. I just sit and stare at him for hours,” I admitted. “You know, if there is something going on between you and him, I won’t tell. Has anything happened?” “Bev, I…” “Has it? Come on! I’d let him do anything to me,” she confided. “I know he’s a teacher but I can’t help fantasizing about him. There was this one time during eighth bell where he touched my shoulder and smiled. I just about died! He’s way too gorgeous to be a teacher or a doctor. He should be a prince or a model. No! He should be a god!” She was on her feet, doing a weird little dance. “I’ve often had the same thoughts.” “Tell me. You have to tell me! Please? What’s he like?” “Well, I have an idea. Why don’t you stop by one day and see for yourself?” I dared. “Really. You really mean it? He won’t mind?” Absolutely geeked, she covered her mouth. “He won’t mind.” Besides, he owes me, I added silently. “Wow. You must be close, huh?” I shrugged. “You’re so lucky,” she sighed. “Sure,” I replied sarcastically. Giggling, she hugged me. “You’re so cool!” “Whatever. Ugh, I do not want to go to school Monday,” I groaned. “Neither do I.” Her happiness vanished. “We’re almost there. One more year after this.” “Yep. Where are you going to go?” “Italy. I’m not going to college.” “Why not?” “I won’t need it. There’s a plan for Italy. I won’t even have to work.” “Lucky. Can I go with you?” “Prob’ly not. It’s going to be really dangerous. Besides, you’d never be able to be a mechanic,” I warned. “Oh…. Things change, though. Maybe we’ll both change our minds.” “Maybe.” Even though I said it, I knew I was lying. Somehow, I knew she’d never have the capacity to be a vampire. 224 Or a donor, for that matter. It made me sad. That very moment, I vowed to make this year and next count with her. Just then, Joey came out the back door. “Hey, Allie. Hi, Beverly,” he greeted. “Hey,” we returned with. “Ready to go, Allie?” He gave me a hug. “Almost. Let me get my stuff.” We told Bev goodbye and Joey drove to Sam’s house. Sam and Mark were in the backyard. They told us to come on back. Since it was raining in his part of the neighborhood, they were soaking wet. “What are you guys doing?” I questioned, laughing. “Wrestling,” Sam responded. “How have you guys been?” “Fine,” both Joey and I said. “Want to wrestle?” Sam asked me. “No!” I scoffed. “Let’s go back inside,” Mark piped up. No sooner had we gone through the door than the rain began to flood the backyard. Visibility dropped from 20 feet to two inches in a matter of seconds. “Ooh, just in time,” I said. “Yeah,” Sam agreed. Everyone stood around watching the rain for a few minutes. Then we migrated to the living room. “I’m gonna have to leave a few minutes early if I want to get to work on time,” Joey grumbled. “I’ll be ok.” Smiling at him, I squeezed his hand. “Let’s have some music!” Sam decided, turning on the TV. He started dancing. “Allie, join me.” “No. I’m going to dance with my boyfriend, Joey,” I refused. I’d have plenty of time to dance with Sam later. Mark’s eyes flickered for a second, then he grinned. Sam danced over to him. “Come on. Let’s show these amateurs how it’s done.” He yanked him up on his feet. Joey and I started laughing. But instead of dancing on each other like we expected, they did a dance they must have practiced for a while. They looked pretty cool. Me, I started rolling my hips and that got Joey’s attention. Obediently, his hands grabbed my hips and he did the dance he was supposed to do. So all was well. He could anticipate my moves because he had danced with me many times before. After four songs, Joey 225 grew tired. We all sat on the couch and Sam got us drinks. “Anybody want alcohol?” he offered. “We’re all minors, Sam. Even you,” I reminded. “Ah, no fun,” he whined. I rolled my eyes. Sam returned with our drinks and plopped down beside me. “So, whatever shall we do? How ‘bout a good old-fashioned round of Spin the Bottle?” His eyes gleamed. “That will prob’ly be a lot of fun.” Mark smiled. “There’s only one girl, and she’s mine,” Joey warned. “Lighten up. It’s all in fun. We’re all friends, right? Let’s do something a little crazy,” Sam coaxed him. Mark and I jumped in, begging Joey to play. “Fine. But no touching her. Only I get to do that,” Joey determined. “Yay!” I squeezed him. “Ok, everyone on the floor,” I ordered. The floor, where Sam and I had almost made love once. Until he found out what I was and I found out he was in love with me. Sam brought out an empty wine bottle. Turning the volume on the television down, he sat down across from me. “Who’s first?” “You are,” Mark told him. It landed on me. Sam grinned. “Hey, easy buddy,” Joey commanded. “Sure. No hands,” Sam promised. Leaning forward, he kissed me. Forcing my lips apart, he let his tongue enter. I couldn’t hold back and kissed back passionately. I even moaned. I’d bet that we were both imagining touching the other person’s body. I actually forgot about Mark and Joey, even Jeff! I was reaching for Sam’s face when Joey told him to back the fuck off. Quick as lightning, we both sat back. “Joey, don’t be angry at him. He’s just a really good kisser, is all. I’m still your girlfriend,” I reassured him. Reaching for his hand, I gripped it tightly. “I’ll live,” he said. “Ok. Remember, you wanted to play.” “Take your turn,” he instructed. It landed on Mark. My stomach fluttered. Would I lose it like I did with Sam? I moved toward him and kissed him. The 226 way he moved his lips made me want them on my neck. He didn’t put his tongue in, though. He pulled back early. “I don’t know you too well and I don’t want to upset Joey,” he defended himself. Wow! So respectful. Now he spun the bottle. The end pointed at Sam, who just grinned. “Oh, man!” Joey laughed. Sam grabbed Mark and pulled him close. He was kissing Mark the same way he’d kissed me. That surprised me. I’d never read anything from him to suggest he liked men as well as women. Mark kissed back just as animatedly. His hands went to Sam’s face and his eyes closed. They were practically making out. Joey looked shocked as hell. I was relieved because now Sam could say he kissed everybody like that. Slowly, Mark and Sam pulled away. “Yeah, he is a good kisser,” Mark summed, licking his lips. “Dude, that was weird!” Joey exclaimed. You’re telling me! Mark and Sam had never even crossed my mind. “What can I say? I’m willing to try anything once,” Sam confided. “If you ever land on me, don’t kiss me like that. I don’t think I’d like your spit in my mouth.” Joey shuddered. “Ok.” Sam took his turn. Ironically, he had to kiss Joey. He settled for a peck on the lips. Joey was blushing. “I’ve never kissed a guy before,” Joey said. “First time for everything,” Sam smiled. Joey got to kiss me. He was happy about that. He held me close to him, running his hands under my shirt and onto my bare lower back. Being loyal, I pushed my breasts against him. Trusting me again, he slipped his tongue into my mouth. Finally, after about a minute, he pulled away. When I spun, it landed on him. So we kissed again, less intensely as before. Then he didn’t want to play anymore because the bottle chose Mark. “Let’s do something else, please.” “How bout a movie?” Mark spoke. “Which one?” Sam asked. “That new one with that redhead. With all the zombies and stuff,” Joey rejoined with. “Good choice!” Sam complimented him. 227 “I love that movie!” agreed Mark. Moving back onto the couch, we all prepared to watch the movie. Sam was on the other side of Joey, who was next to me. On my other side was Mark. Not a second after Joey disappeared from sight for a bathroom break halfway through the movie did Mark and Sam descend on me like vultures. Sam kissed the back of my neck as Mark bit my tongue. He and I exchanged blood as Sam held onto my bosom. Magically, they managed to situate themselves in their respective places as Joey returned. Now I was hot and bothered, and I had to wait. I was furious. Eventually, 3:00 came and Joey headed out. I gave him a hearty hug good-bye. No sooner was he out the door than Sam and Mark, the devilish pair, dragged me off to Sam’s bedroom. “Amada and Jeff will arrive shortly. For now, let’s get to the blood work. Who’s draining me?” Sam rubbed his hands together. “Aeryn, will you do the honors?” Mark wanted to know. “I’d love to.” I mounted Sam and tore into his neck like a woman possessed. Sounds of ecstasy came from him as I drained him. I began to feel full but still I drank. “All of it!” Mark urged. There was too much. I had to stop. “I can’t take anymore!” I lay down next to Sam. “It’s ok, Aeryn. Most vamps can’t convert for a few years. By themselves anyway. Just relax for a bit,” Mark soothed. Highly interested, I watched as Mark bit into Sam and finished draining his blood. Putting his arms underneath him, Mark lifted him against his body. Sam’s breathing was labored but quick. He was completely limp, except for that bulge in his pants. How could he be hard at a time like this? I mean, he was pretty much dying. The color left his face and his lips began to turn blue. I wondered if that’s how I had looked. Lovingly, Mark laid him down then faced me. “Ready?” he asked me. Taking a last look at Sam, I nodded. Mark held me and put his lips against mine. My mouth opened and Sam’s blood spilled into me. I wasn’t sure how we were doing it, but I knew what we were doing. Digesting his blood and producing vampire blood to replace it. After we finished that, we turned back to Sam. One by one, we fed him blood from our wrists. Little by little, his body regained its strength. I felt high as he sucked the blood from my 228 wrists. He moved his arm around my waist to pull me closer. Biting my tongue, I let my blood flow into him. His heart started beating after mine. I knew nothing but him in those moments. We were one and the same. In one blinding moment, we were coming together. I had to pull away. Now his eyes glowed brilliantly. Mark’s face descended on his and he gave his blood. A few minutes later, I realized Mark was no longer forcing his blood into Sam. Sam was completely transformed now, so that meant they were just kissing. WTF? I thought, confused. Of course that didn’t prevent me from being aroused. Why was he kissing him voluntarily, I wondered. Then it hit me. If you had a clone of yourself, you’d want to kiss them, too. It was narcissism, the common denominator for every vampire. An extreme, overwhelming love for oneself. Interesting. However, I did wonder if they did this often. One thing I did know, they’d be doing this a lot now. Sitting quietly, I just watched them stroking and kissing each other, a lot like Amada and I had. Then they both looked at me, and I was startled. Closer than twins, they’d be. “Aeryn,” they said together, sitting up. Their resemblance was uncanny. “Our beautiful Aeryn,” they chorused, reaching for me. I let myself fall between them. They kissed me, holding me tenderly. I bit into Mark, who bit into Sam, who bit into me. Pure ecstasy. Our bond deepened as our blood mingled and mixed. It was almost sickening how close our blood was becoming. Pretty soon, there’d be no difference between Mark’s blood and my own. And how strong would that make us, and what about Sam? Jeffery had spoken of most vampires being weaker than most humans thought. What did that mean? What did it say about us? Letting go of my questions, I buried myself in Mark and Sam. We prob’ly would have stayed like that the whole night if Jeff and Amada hadn’t shown up. Jeffery carefully peeled us off of each other. “I’m glad you all enjoy each other, but there is much we need to discuss. Please, I believe you’ve had a strange encounter, Aeryn. Tell us all that transpired,” he spoke. His voice was so heavenly. His eyes were bright blue as he gazed at me, in me, through me. I wanted to kiss his beautiful blond hair, his lips, his chest, his belly, his- “Aeryn?” Amada touched my hand. 229 I snapped out of it and recited the strange events of last night. They listened in fascinated, shocked silence. I also told them about my dream of him. “Wait a moment, you said you swallowed this apparition?” Jeffery asked, his eyebrows furrowed. “Yes,” I replied. “I found her lying in the backyard, sort of dazed. Sam helped her back downstairs,” Mark informed. “Well, I can tell you this. Your dream was probably a premonition,” Jeff assumed. “I’ve never heard of anything like that happening to vampires,” Amada spoke about my encounter. Somehow, the way she said that implied something I wouldn’t like. “What does it happen to?” I questioned. “That’s like stuff you hear in horror stories about aliens. But then, no one’s ever swallowed what they were fighting.” She seemed perplexed. “Is there something wrong with me?” I felt like crying. “My instruments are at my house. Shall we go?” Amada looked at Jeff. “Yes, let’s go.” Jeff lifted me effortlessly. “Can we take the car?” Mark wondered. “Yeah, let’s do that,” Sam agreed. No one bothered to buckle up. Jeffery held me in his lap in the backseat. Sam was driving. Mark was riding shotgun. Sitting by the back window was Amada. She regarded Jeff and I with what seemed like jealousy. Meanwhile, Jeffery was fondling me, speaking to me in French, and kissing me repeatedly. “Your aunt doesn’t know what she has in you,” he was saying. “Though she’s enraptured by me, I’ve managed to mislead her. She believes I’m homosexual. Quite entertaining, actually. She’s stopped trying to get into bed with me, though, and I am very grateful!” I chuckled. “Thank goodness. I felt queasy when she was dating you,” I admitted. “This I know. Yet you are the only woman I will ever go to bed with, evermore. Those of my human years do not count.” He ran his hand down my arm. “You are so selfless.” 230 At this, everyone laughed. When I asked why, Jeff replied, “Only for you and those you respect. Everyone else can go to hell!” He said this with such conviction, I recoiled. Downright venomous! But then he smiled gently and kissed my nose. “There’s so much I don’t remember yet about you. Don’t worry, I’ll remember everything soon enough,” I told him. His eyes darkened for the slightest instant. Then they became silver. Moving slowly, as if afraid I’d disappear, he kissed my forehead. “Ma cherie. Ma petite fille. Ma fille jolie petite. J’adore tu tres beaucoup.” “Je t’aime aussi, mon pere.” I hugged him. That look was in his eyes again, where they were multicolored. But this time, there was a lot of blue in them. I shivered. How weird, I thought before his lips closed over mine. Pulling back slowly, he just stared at me, same look in his eyes. Like he wanted to do something crazy, like running off with me. His thoughts weren’t very coherent, so I had no way of knowing what he wanted. I shifted uneasily and in a way where I didn’t have to look at him. He was confusing me almost as much as that messed-up shadow had. Instead, I stared at Sam and Mark. I hadn’t realized before that they touched an excessive amount. Something told me they prob’ly hadn’t been wrestling in the backyard earlier. How long had they been like that? I wondered. After what seemed like a year, we pulled up to Jeff’s home. He carried me as if I needed to be in a wheelchair or something. Amada led us up to her room. I was laid on her bed and she took out her doctor’s equipment. Everything checked out and everyone relaxed. They all lay on the bed with me. Silently, we listened to the rain outside. For a long while, no one spoke. I looked at all of them, studying them closely. They looked dead because not one of them was breathing or even moving. I lay back and closed my eyes, content. Connected. We all seemed to be on some mental plane together. I had a strong sense of them and it obliterated everything else. I didn’t even know where I was. Only Jeff, Amada, Mark, and Sam existed. Swimming in blackness. With them of course. They were, hm, what were they doing? It felt like I was twisting into something or they were twisting me. But it wasn’t unpleasant. 231 Italy. Jeffery onstage. Me leaving Mark. Him crying and begging. The faces of his brothers. Amada’s desire to meet me. Sam’s distaste of being human. Mark holding Amada, trying to kiss her. Me flying with Jeff. My fledglings killing me. Me killing Mark. Amada in a little lab, looking through endless samples of blood. What was our blood, anyway? I rose out of it as if I’d been underwater. “What was that?” “Our brains communing with one another. Our telepathy grows stronger the more we combine our blood,” Amada explained. “Right. Memories and feelings pass through our blood as well,” I recalled. Everyone was sitting up now, save for me. “You are correct,” Mark said. “I love you. All of you,” I gushed. “I love you,” they all replied, hugging me. As the weeks passed, I spent a lot of time out of my house. Jeffery had put a sort of spell on Aunt Jamie, so she let me run around as much as Malorie. He had her convinced I was going to be dead within ten years. Beverly was doing well in her contacts and her parents were grateful. Everyone got together so we could figure out Prom. No student could concentrate on his or her work. The weather was warming up and people were becoming antsy. It wasn’t until April that Bev could visit my house on a day when Jeffery was there. What a fun day that was. It was Spring Break, Malorie was on vacation with Brad, Aunt Jaime and Jake were visiting her mother, I was at home feigning sick. She’d left Sam as my babysitter. Crazy woman, huh? He pretty much seduced me every few hours. Anyway, Sam had gone off on a date with Mark and Jeffery was talking to me about Italy. The doorbell rang. We went down and there was Beverly at the door. “Hey, Allie. Can I come in?” If her smile were any wider, it would have been the Grand Canyon. “Yeah. How are you?” I greeted. “Fine. How are you Mr., uh Dr. Debusk?” She stepped in. “You can call me Francois, if you prefer.” Jeff bowed and kissed her hand. She blushed. “Is that allowed?” she asked. 232 “We are outside of school. Please, if I am ever inappropriate, let me know,” Jeff instructed her. “Oh, it’s ok. I’ve always heard French people were affectionate.” She was actually very brave about this whole situation. “Ah, oui, mademoiselle!” he enthused. “We were just in my room, listening to the radio,” I said. “Can we watch TV? My favorite show is about to come on.” “Anything you wish, Beverly,” Jeff answered. “Would you like something to snack on?” “Sure. If you don’t mind.” She was smiling. “He doesn’t mind. He cooks for me all the time,” I told her. “Yes, it’s true. I feel more like her servant than her doctor,” Jeffery laughed. Beverly giggled. “Thank you very much,” she told him. “It is how you Americans say, no problem.” He went to the kitchen. Bev and I entered the living room. I picked up the remote and asked her what channel to turn to. “243… Man, he is gorgeous! Does he always wear suits?” she interrogated me. “Yes,” I replied, rolling my eyes. “How sophisticated. He seems like a perfect gentleman. There aren’t a lot of those.” “No, there aren’t.” “I really wish he wasn’t one of our teachers,” she sighed. I grinned. “I think every girl has that same wish,” I confided. “You’re right. They drool over him as much as I do,” she shrugged. “They’d kill me if they knew he was my doctor!” I proclaimed. “Yeah, they would.” Jeffery came in then, with a turkey and cheese sandwich and some weird French dessert. “Here you are,” he announced. He set the tray down on her lap. There was a hot cup of tea next to the plate. “Oh, wow! Thank you.” She glanced up at his face. “You are very welcome,” he smiled graciously then sat next to me. 233 There was a red rose on the other side of the plate. When she saw it, she looked at Jeff. “What’s this for?” “I heard you fancied me. I find it irresistible to pay court. What can I say, I’m a romantic. It’s not inappropriate, I hope.” He was playing this very well. “I’m flattered. You’d probably get in trouble for this but I don’t care,” Bev spoke determinedly. “Why is that?” he wondered. “May I be candid? You both have to swear not to tell.” She was gutsy. Where did this courage come from? “Go ahead. It’s safe here,” I urged her. Jeff stared steadily at her. “Go on, Beverly,” he encouraged. “Francois, I like you. Definitely more than I should. And I don’t care anymore if you’re a teacher. You’re way too cool,” she spilled. I watched Jeffery. His eyebrows rose. “You are not the first to tell me this. I don’t know how many students gave me a valentine this year. But I will let you in on a little secret,” he said in his sexy voice. Did he even know how he drove people crazy whenever he spoke? Leaning forward, he motioned for her to do the same. “I’m not a real teacher.” Bev was shocked when she realized what that meant. “Then what are you?” “I’m an agent from France. There’s someone at your school I need to keep an eye on.” “I don’t believe you,” she decided. “Beverly, I trust you because Allison trusts you. Allison is helping me. Here, look at this.” He gave her a badge. This guy prepared for everything! I almost laughed. “You’re dead serious,” Beverly realized. “He’s telling the truth. I was shocked when I found out,” I added. “Why’d he tell you?” “Because I know the person very well. I’m his closest friend.” “Who is it?” “A close relative of Sam’s.” “Whoa!” Jeffery gave me a look that said, “Good thinking.” 234 “So you’re not a real teacher?” she addressed him. “No,” he replied. “Then it’s ok for me to like you?” That’s all she cared about, apparently. “Of course, cherie,” he laughed. “How old are you?” “20.” Usually, Bev was pretty bright. But right now, she was blinded by infatuation and Jeff and I were giving her telepathic nudges. So she’d believe anything we told her about Jeff. “You know something? You’re hot!” she blurted out. “You’re very bold, you know that?” he shot back. “Normally, you’d never know it. But I decided I was going to be straightforward with people. I have to be if I’m going to be running my own business.” “Admirable,” Jeff whispered in amazement. I could see he was warming up to her. He genuinely liked her. “Thanks.” She grew silent and wolfed down her food. “Would you mind if I took the seat next to you?” “No. Go ahead.” He moved next to her and they talked about “automobiles” as he called them. He was impressed at how much she knew. She was impressed that he was really listening to her. “Will you be at the Prom, Francois?” she finally asked. “Yes.” “Will you dance?” “It depends. If you desire, I will dance with you now,” he offered. “Have you danced with Allie?” “Yes. But I want to dance with you right now.” He got to his feet. “Do you mind, Allie?” She turned to me. “Hell no! He is an awesome dancer. Go ahead. You’ll love it. Let me get the music.” I went upstairs to get the radio. Some strange excitement seized me. I’d never seen him dance with anyone else. I played a CD Mark had made for us to dance to. Jeff grabbed her hand and her waist and began leading her in a waltz. She was loving it. The whole time, a huge smile was plastered to her face. After the waltz, they did the polka. Never before had Beverly been so swept away as she was now. I sat on 235 the couch watching and laughing. Finally, some salsa and Tango songs played. Jeffery spun her and dipped her low, moving her as he had moved me. Bewildered, she let out little shrieks of surprise. Jeffery was patient, teaching her the more complicated steps. By the end of the last song, her smile had disappeared. He had dipped her in a very provocative and intimate way, and she was feeling it. He hadn’t released her yet. She stared up at him with lust in her eyes. His eyes, why, they were green. If I could still breathe, I would have held my breath then. Slowly, he brought her back up. She seemed drunk. I wondered if I looked that way when I was that close to him. Most likely, I did. Aeryn, what do I do? He asked me in my head. Let her decide, I thought to him. So he stood there, one hand on her skinny little leg, the other around her tiny waist. She was breathing heavily. For a moment, I thought she was going to push him away. Her arms rose up but they locked around his neck. His head lowered toward hers. Eagerly, she rose up on tiptoe and kissed him. What a strange moment that was. I never knew Bev could do anything like that. I was proud of her. She was her own woman now. She held the kiss for a few minutes, then pulled away. “You let me kiss you,” she stated. “So I did.” Jeff leaned down and kissed her again. That surprised me. I coughed. Jeff blinked, then stepped back. “Don’t get too involved. I’ll have to leave soon,” he said. Bev sat on the couch. “That sucks,” she groaned. “I’m going to get some water.” “Ok,” Jeff and I acknowledged her statement. As soon as she was out of the room, I glared at Jeff. “What was that?” I demanded. “I was caught up in the moment. She kissed me the way you do. I can’t resist the way you kiss me.” “She learned from me. I’m the only one who’s kissed her.” “That explains it. Did I upset you, Aeryn?” “No, you’re fine. I was just worried you were smitten with her.” “I am smitten,” he contradicted me. “What?” My heart sped up. 236 “I’m smitten with you.” He crossed the room. “Oh, Jeff.” I sighed with no breath. He kissed my lips softly and I tasted a hint of Beverly on him. A twinge of jealousy went through me. Jeff only laughed at me. “I love you, Aeryn,” he whispered confidentially. I smiled, feeling silly. He’d never love Beverly just like I’d never love Joey. When Beverly came back, we decided to play her video game. Well, she and I played; Jeffery watched. Bev was a bit distracted. She kept glancing at Jeff. What a day that was! We finally gave up on the game. I lied and said I had homework. Therefore, I willingly left them to their own devices. Sam was back by now. “How did your date go?” I teased him. “It wasn’t a date,” he corrected me. “Sure it wasn’t.” Patting him on the back, I started upstairs. “You are such a rascal!” Quickly, he followed me. “Am I?” I flashed him a devilish look. “What is Jeff doing with Beverly in the basement? Are you leaving them alone on purpose?” he changed the subject. “Yes. Bev’s got a major crush on him,” I sneered. “Poor Jeff.” “You are something else, Aeryn.” “I know, Sam…. So, how is Cris doing? Will she be able to come to Prom?” I grilled him. “She’ll be there. Charles has offered to be her date.” “Cool.” I sat at my desk. “I have a question for you. Are you jealous of Mark and I?” He closed my door and locked it. Puzzled by this, I answered, “A little. You just seem so in tune, so lost in each other. Why’d you lock the door?” “We all get lost in each other. I locked it for privacy. Let them think you’re resting.” “Privacy for what?” “Look, Jeff’s cool and all but I want you to myself sometimes. He’s so overwhelming, you know?” Sam perched on the end of my bed. His red hair was in soft waves. He’d pierced both his ears and had big diamond earrings in them. “Jeff does tend to exude a powerful presence,” I nodded. “No wonder everyone loves the guy. When I first saw him, I couldn’t stop staring at him. Mark of course hadn’t warned me.” 237 “I’m not surprised.” I thought of how cold Jeff’s skin was. Pure statue, he was, all hard and cold. Even his penis had been cold. “His birthday’s next month, you know.” “Is it?” “Now, do we celebrate his birthday or do we celebrate the day he became a vampire? We didn’t have that problem with Mark,” I grew serious. “Mark’s b-day was fun.” “It sure was.” Reminiscing, we sat in silence. That day had been sensational. We hadn’t been sure if Mark would even know it was his birthday, but we went ahead and bought a cake. We set up at Sam’s place while Jeff took Mark somewhere. He was definitely surprised when he showed up. He hadn’t had a birthday party in half a century. Ironically, that was how long Aeryn had been dead. Small world, huh? Anyway, we all danced and played tag. That was really funny because we were shoving each other halfway across the yard. Someone accidentally hit a tree and broke it. To anyone who asked, it was lightning that did it. “Well, Prom is almost here,” Sam drew me out of my thoughts. “I can’t wait!” “Why? You gonna sleep with Joey?” he taunted. “Ugh! Hell no!” I shuddered at the thought. “Not without killing him afterward.” “You gonna sleep with me?” “No,” I snapped. “Why not?” “I’m sick of sleeping with you.” “Really?” “No. I’m only joking, Sam.” He frowned. “That hurt my feelings.” “Grow up!” I shot back. “Mark was right. You are a bitch.” “Ain’t I?” I smiled. Getting to his feet, he kissed my cheek. “Can I say it now? Everyone else gets to tell you but me,” he pouted. “Fine. Say it,” I relented. “Aeryn, I love you.” “Love you,” I replied. 238 His smile was almost comical. “Really?” “Really.” He hugged me tightly. I squeezed him back, loving how his muscles felt underneath my fingers. “Let’s go hunting. Get some fresh blood in us. Also, it’ll be practice for Italy. Their blood bank is overworked.” “Ok.” I took his hand and we ran outside. How wonderful it was to run, feeling the earth under my feet for mere milliseconds at a time. Hunting with Sam was extremely fun. “Hurry. I need to do your hair,” Amada said impatiently. “Sit down. Allie will get your shoes for you, ok?” Grumbling, Beverly sat down and let Amada curl her hair. Her dress was light gray, like her eyes. Amada and I wore twin dresses. Hers was purple with white flowers and mine was red with pink flowers. Amada’s hair was twisted at the top and the rest hung down in soft curls. Two locks ran down the side of her face. My hair was flipped and I had a bang in front. We both wore big hoop earrings. Bev was wearing diamonds in her ears and around her neck. I was wearing a gorgeous beaded bracelet Mark had bought for me. After Beverly’s hair was curled, we put on our black stilettos, checked our makeup, grabbed our purses, then rushed out to the limo Joey had rented. Sam, Mark, and him could only gape at us for the first few minutes. Then they began showering praise on us as we headed for Cris’ house. She was still in a wheelchair but she could walk some. Her dress was peach and she wore her hair in a fancy ponytail. Around her neck were huge pearls. There were matching earrings in her ears. Charles helped her into the limo. All of the guys looked so regal and handsome in their suits. On we drove to Town Hall. Most of our other friends were already there. Giddy with excitement, we all walked inside next to our dates. Well, Cris rolled in. The whole place was breathtaking. The theme was a summer night. They’d done an excellent job. There was a swing band playing. Charles was careful with Cris, who was showing by now. Joey and I had fun imitating the dances of the 1920’s. Mark and Amada swept across the floor like experts. Sam behaved respectfully toward Beverly and she was ecstatic. I spied Jeff in a corner watching us as if he were some proud 239 father. It was a wonderful start to Prom night. “You sure are beautiful tonight, Allison,” Joey breathed as we slow-danced. “Thank you again. You look very handsome,” I complimented. “Thanks,” he smiled. A few songs later, he said, “Um, I sort of promised Kathy a dance. She doesn’t have a date. You don’t mind, do you?” “Not at all. Have fun. You are such a sweet guy.” I kissed his cheek, then turned him loose. “What a noble and chivalrous thing to do,” that familiar French-accented voice spoke from behind me. I faced Jeff. “Will you be noble and chivalrous and grant me a dance?” I asked him. “Of course, ma cherie. I’d love to.” Kissing my hand, he spun me, then drew me in close. I fell in love with him all over again. I barely heard them announce Jenna Hart and Max Ergold as the King and Queen. For their dance, they dimmed the lights. I laid my head on Jeff’s chest as we spun slowly. We were in a dream all our own. Jeff sighed and lifted my chin with his hand. “Cherie, I cannot hold back,” he told me. His eyes were silverish blue. “Neither can I,” I confessed. Reaching a hand up, I touched his face. Before I could register anything, he was kissing me. We held onto each other tightly, kissing as if the world were ending tomorrow. I melted against him, feeling drunk. That’s when the lights came on. The room went silent. Though I knew everyone could see us now, for the life of me I could not pull away. Dread filled me. This could not be happening right now, I thought. The End
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