Unraveling Soren Emerson


As I look back on my life, I notice some discrepancies. There was the little matter of my father lying to me half my life. Okay, so I’d been lying a lot recently, too. But there was a bigger mission at stake than my father’s trust in me.


I leaned back and bit my lip. This was harder than I’d anticipated. Naming my weaknesses was easy. Naming my strengths…I had no idea. Still, I supposed that writing college essays wasn’t much different than a job interview. Unfortunately, I’d never had a job interview. The one job I’d had was a business owned by my father, Prince Mordecai Emerson of the vampire race.

I was his only son, Prince Reese Mordecai Emerson. My role was still undetermined in the grand scheme of things. I was never going to be king; if Grandfather died, the role would go to my uncle Soren, and if he died, the role would go to his son and my favorite cousin Louis, who was like an older brother to me.

But lately, we’d all been distracted. There was the little matter of the Vampire Council trying to overthrow us, and then the matter of an evil spirit named Jordan constantly trying to take over my human girlfriend, Sarah Harper Cresley. Then there was the werewolf pack, who were still angry with us about Sadie’s suicide over me. See, I’d made a stupid mistake. I slept with a werewolf.

Sleeping with a werewolf is like tying a knot of marriage to the wolves. And then I got back with Sarah, and then things took a turn for the worst. Maybe it is my fault that Sadie died. Either way, I was just happy to be back with Sarah. Truthfully, I just didn’t care about the pack, despite the fact that my father’s boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend as a possibility, is the pack leader.

My father and I shared a few things in common: our eyes, our tempers, our strengths, and our preference for both lads and lasses. I’d dated a guy before I dated Sarah, even slept with him. Father had not dated any guy before he dated Faolan, only women, including my mother.

Anyway, back to business. I could ask Louis; he’d be willing to share his tips. He went to college more times out of any of us. He even went to medical school and has the most recent medical expertise. I sent him a quick text, and he quickly replied back, giving me his own tips for writing the essay.

I knocked out the essay in less than an hour after that. I quickly sent it in e-mail form to Harvard. My grades were good enough that I’d get in. Not necessarily my dream, but whatever. My real dream was to marry Sarah and have babies. To turn her into a vampire. I purred as I dreamed about my future children. A daughter named Caitlin, like Sarah wanted, and a son, name yet unknown.

Plus Cirino, Sarah’s baby with Michael Nales. He was about eight months out of the womb, and he was growing big, even starting to babble. He called me “Ree”. He had yet to say “Mommy” or “Daddy”, which irritated Mother greatly.

I didn’t know anything about babies, so I didn’t know when he would stop babbling and start speaking in full sentences. He was growing, though. Already, we’d had to buy new clothes several times. He was crawling around, at least.

I finished the rest of my college essays and sent them. I was applying to several prestigious colleges, including North Hampton School of Music. Sarah herself had been applying to several colleges as well, including Los Angeles School of Fashion, Harvard, Oxford, Toronto School of Fashion, Dartmouth, Brown, Rhode Island School of Design, and so on.

Truthfully, I wrote most of those. I also made it so her grades looked higher than they actually were. Oh, she got As and Bs on her own, but I wanted the best for my girl. I sent copies of our transcripts to each and every school we applied to.

If that didn’t work, there was always the singing route. Sarah had been singing a lot at clubs and other places and celebrations. She let me teach her how to play guitar and the piano, which went well with her soprano voice.

I clutched my head. I couldn’t think anymore. I looked at the time, surprised to learn that it was already five in the evening. Time for dinner.

My dinner usually consists of drinking bagged blood warmed by the microwave, but tonight, I felt like hunting. I usually drink from the guys hurting people, but it had been a while since I’d killed anyone. North Hampton was unusually quiet on the crime front. It had been quiet for too long. I needed action, something to keep my mind off of my problems.

I flipped my long hair back. It was now long enough to go past my shoulders. I needed a trim. After a moment, I gave up and used a hair tie around my wrist to tie my hair back into a bun. I was on the roof of the house. I took a deep breath. I smelled the forest, the animals, the other vampires who lived in the house, including my father, Toby, Spencer, Uncle Soren, and Mitra. Mitra was here? She must have been with my uncle. And a few more guards scattered around.

I turned to the woods and smelled it. I smelled foxes, coyotes, rabbits, and…was that a wolf? Wolves usually didn’t hang around in our neck of the woods.

I took another deep breath and heard a car arriving.

That must be Augusta, I thought. Augusta was our new housekeeper. Now that we had more to do, less time to take care of our regular chores, Father had decided to hire a cleaner. She would clean the house every Saturday from now on. I jumped off the roof and onto the driveway.

I landed perfectly on my feet, and then went around to the back. I heard Augusta’s car pull up, and she got out. I went to the backyard, where a new fence had been built to keep the cats in and the predators out. A white picket fence, just like in those old movies and those perfect houses you see in nice neighborhoods.

When I was younger, my father taught me to do my own laundry and warm my own blood, because “a little manual labor never killed anyone”. I used to mow the grass, take care of my own room. Until the cats came along, then my responsibilities shifted to litterbox duty. My sensitive nose took a beating when that was my job.

Now we had Augusta, who happened to love cats, so she eagerly cleaned out the litterbox in addition to everything else.

My own cat made his appearance quickly enough, going through the dog door that led into the pool area. His new collar twinkled, and I checked his stats on my phone. He had burned three hundred calories this week just following me around.

“Where are you going?” he asked. Oh, and all the cats can talk. Shadowfang was the first to talk, and he said that he was my familiar. I had thought only witches had familiars, but according to Father, vampires can have familiars, too. All the usual creatures are usually a vampire’s familiar. Spiders, snakes, bats, rats, cats, and dogs. And all familiars can speak intelligently. Some can even shapeshift. I’d yet to see that with Shadowfang.

He rolled around on his back in the grass, chewing on one of the blades.

“I’m hunting,” I told him.

“Can I come with you?”

“No. What if a dog finds you?”

“Look at me. I’m bigger than most small dogs.”

“Small dogs. What about big dogs? Are you finally going to let me harness you?”

He growled. “Fine. But if I see a dog, I’ll beat him to pulp just to prove you wrong. On second thought, I changed my mind. No harness, no leash.”

I sighed. He changed his mind about it every single day.

“Can I have milk?” he asked.

“All right, give me a minute.”

I went in through the door leading to the pool area, with him on my tail. I went into the kitchen and poured him a dish of kitten formula. Spoiled cat. He’d disagree, of course. He thinks all cats should have the right to milk. He won’t listen when I tell him cow’s milk isn’t the best for cats. If you want to give your cat milk, get kitten formula.

I went back up to my room and finished the rest of my homework. I went over Council notes next, laws suggested.

  • Register each and every vampire currently living

  • Register each vampire death

  • Register the humans killed by said vampire

  • Register each human/vampire marriage

  • All humans informed of the vampire world MUST be Turned

  • All Vampire Hunters are to cease operations immediately.

  • All Vampire Hunters are to register the vampires they have killed and the crime committed

  • Each Coven, Brood, Pack, or Family must register with the Vampire Council

  • Each Coven must choose ONE leader by elect

  • Each Coven Leader, Head, or Alpha must register their coven.

Some of these laws made sense, and some of them were already in place. Example: Vampire Hunters were already required to register each vampire they kill to the Council. But registering each marriage, each coven, and each vampire was positively Draconian. I and my family did not agree with some of these suggested laws.

Getting rid of vampire hunters was also a good idea, I thought. The Head of the Vampire Council, Bram King, was one of our least trusted allies. Now he was an enemy, fond of the power he had. He wasn’t too fond of me, truthfully, as I’d once embarrassed him in front of the Council and my family by stating a proven fact: more and more vampires each year choose to consume donated blood, instead of taking it.

My father had suggest a poll, a vote among vampire citizens. The Council, or the Nicolai/Emerson clan? So far, we’d gotten the word out to the rest of our allies; among the guard, servants, maids, cooks, housekeepers, groundskeepers and gardeners, and so on. I was told to dress more conservatively when I was awake. I had to look like a young banker or lawyer, and Father had begged me to let him cut my hair. I said, no way. It’s my hair.

Work was constant, never-ending. I had college applications and essays, homework, and Council notes to go over.

I looked at the suggested list of laws again and sighed. Bram King was out of his fucking mind if he thought the entire Council would agree to this. Oh, I expected a huge fight; a massive, politically-shattering, heartbreaking, humungous fight.

I sighed again, then brightened. I smelled Sarah. She was close by. She was behind me. She walked forward: I could hear her tiny feet walking on the carpet, and she wrapped her arms around my waist.

I grinned and turned to face her. The one thing brightening my exciting, dangerous life, was my human girlfriend. I loved her to death and back. I picked her up and held her close, and she wrapped her muscular legs around my thin waist. I held her up and squeezed her pert bottom. I loved her curves. I loved every part of her. I love her soft brown curls, her bright green eyes, her clear, smooth light brown skin, her personality and sweet nature. I loved her intelligence, her stubbornness, her unconditional love for her family, especially her younger sister, Sabine.

She giggled and tugged on my large, curved nose. She loved my nose. Then she pecked my lips and buried her face in my shoulder.

“I missed you,” I said.

“I couldn’t get away from the restaurant,” she said. She currently worked as a waitress in an American-themed restaurant. “Kayla wanted me to work her shift, so she could be with her sick baby. And then Harlow wanted me to work so she could go to her boyfriend’s band concert.”

“Is the band any good?”

“No, they suck. But she’s crazy about him, and I love her, so I couldn’t say no. Besides, I owe her for taking my shift when I got the flu.”

“The flu can go screw itself. It should know you’re mine,” I teased. Truthfully, I’d been worried. Sarah has a weak immune system, due to her mother’s constant drinking while pregnant. She had also forgotten to get the shot in all the excitement of the preceding year. My mother, who had taken a liking to Sarah and fallen completely head over heels for her, blamed herself and said it was her duty as a mother to make sure all her children were taken care of, especially the weak, fragile humans.

Sarah, Sabine, and Cirino. Cirino was Sarah’s son from Michael Nales, who had raped her the November before last. As a result, the baby was born last July. He was still tiny and gassy, but he’d grown a lot since then. He had started to crawl, for one. Sarah’s dog, Spunk, had learned to crawl along with him. The golden retriever would slide along the floor on his belly, using his back feet as propellers. The dog was not very bright. Their other dog, Coffee, a Tyrannosaurus Rex in the form of a brown Chihuahua, had taken a liking to Cirino and made herself protector of him.

Coffee would no longer let me near Cirino. Granted, she refused to let me near Sarah for the longest time. Sarah insisted that Coffee just didn’t like males, but the little tyrant’s relationship with my future stepson and my cousin Kieran proved her statement wrong. Kieran had attached himself to the family, despite his strained relationship with my stepfather, Alexander. Kieran blamed him for his mother’s death. Kieran was half-human, a rarity in the world of supernaturals and paranormals. His friend, Kellan, was fully vampire, an albino man with a massive crush on Kieran. Kieran, however, had been reluctant to date anyone since his mate, Thomas, had passed away.

Sarah put her feet on the ground, then sat on my bed cross-legged. I noticed that she was wearing one of her cheerleading practice outfits: leggings, and an oversized t-shirt that used to be mine. Her feet were bare, though. She whipped out her cell phone and texted furiously. No doubt to one of her many friends. She was currently the most popular girl in school. Frankly, it didn’t matter to me how many friends she had.

She was mine, that was all that mattered. My unconditional love for her had begun not long after I rescued her after she’d been raped by Nales. Before then, I’d loved her, but I didn’t know her very well.

She stopped texting and looked up at me.

“Your hair’s getting long again,” she said. “I like it long. Don’t ever cut it again.”

“Baby, I might have to. Toby might be fine with waist-length hair, but that’s not for me,” I teased.

“Yeah, how is Toby?”

“He’s better. He can speak freely now.” Last year, my friend and ex-guard had been hung from the ceiling with a rope around his neck. He’d been dangling there for five hours. He couldn’t speak for weeks. His mate, Spencer, had expressly forbidden him to be a guard again. Toby was now working as a house cleaner instead.

Sarah uncrossed her legs, then laid across my bed. I laid on the bed on my stomach, gazing at her as she focused her attention back onto her phone, which had vibrated.

“Who are you texting?” I asked.

“Ariella,” she replied. I tensed. Ariella Spears, my human ex-best friend, had chosen the werewolves over me and Uncle Soren, with whom she’d had a brief, mostly physical relationship with.

But now Damon Sage had dumped her again. I had never cared for Damon Sage, anyway, even before I knew he was a wolf. I always thought he was dumber than a box of rocks. No sophistication, no class, no dynamic. It was all leather and motorcycles and cigarettes and beer for him.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“We’re discussing our next study session. Senior year is so important. Everything you do matters.”

“Don’t overwork yourself,” I warned.

“You’re one to talk. What, how many pieces of paper are in your bookbag?”

“A lot. But it’s not all schoolwork. I also have Council notes, college essays and applications, and I have to keep practicing guitar if I’m going to teach you how to play it.”

“Yeah, about that…I’m not sure I want to learn guitar. Piano, yes, but not guitar.”

“I can teach you piano, too. It’s a great way for you to learn something and for us to spend time together.”

“Yeah…I’m not sure if I want you to teach me, either.”

I tensed. I remembered Eric Martin, a werewolf and her original piano teacher. He’d chased her until she told him to stop. What if that happened again? My girl was more than a human; she was also part fairy. Her fairy blood was what drew more people to her. Sure, she was naturally beautiful, and sweet, a beautiful soul, but her fairy blood enabled her to control people if she so desired. Not that I was afraid of that. No way.

And what girl wouldn’t want a million guys chasing her? Or so I’d thought. Love triangles are messy, confusing, and unfair to the person who will not wind up with the love interest. But still, girls seemed to want guys always after them. Or maybe it was simply the female company that Sarah hung out with, who really did have at least a dozen guys chasing them.

Sara “Honey” Blynn, Rachel Griffin, Angela Montgomery, Mia Rayport, and now Ariella Spears. Scarlett and Jordan Hart no longer included.

The worst of the worst. The best of the best. The ruling clique. And Sarah is at the top, and she’s the best of the best. She had at least four hundred guys lusting after her, but she stayed with me for some unfathomable reason.

“I hope I didn’t insult you,” she said after a while.

“No,” I lied. “It’s okay.” No, it was damn well not okay. She was mine.

Control yourself, Reese. I blinked. Of course Father would be listening in. Girls don’t like jealous guys. It’s a red flag.

He was right. Of course he was. He’d been married and divorced once, to my mother, even though he was over two thousand years old. Or so I thought. I had the feeling that he had been with more people than just Mother and Faolan, but he never mentioned them. Perhaps he didn’t want to remember them, or maybe he was afraid I would try to find them, which was irrational, but totally something that he would think I’d do.

I went over to my stereo and turned on REO Speedwagon. Both Sarah and I liked them, one of the few bands we could agree on, along with Breaking Benjamin, Journey, and Green Day. She was listening to more and more of my music, though, and I was listening to more and more of hers. Our bookshelves had mixed genres. I preferred horror, she preferred romances. But she had read Dracula for the first time recently, and liked it. She asked me how much of it was true, and I said a bit. There are vampires who can’t handle sunlight. There are a select few who can turn into animals. There are a few who are allergic to certain foods, but onions and garlic mostly stink to us.

I asked her if all humans were entitled brats. She laughed and said that some were. She dealt with entitlement all the time at her job.

Anyway, I took Sarah in my arms and lifted her up. She put her feet on the floor, and we started to dance to the music. Then Jack Savoretti, who was one of her favorite artists, came on. After a few more minutes, she broke away, saying “Bathroom break,” and sprinted to the bathroom. I watched her muscular legs as she moved.

I turned back, and blinked. Who was that in the window? It was a man, that much was clear. He wore glasses, and he had light brown hair and brown skin. His eyes were green. Then I realized…he looked like Beckett Cresley, Sarah’s dead father. He jumped down when she came back.

“What’s so interesting out there?” she asked.

“N-nothing,” I lied. She looked concerned, and I took her in my arms again. We danced for thirty minutes, then she sat on the bed, pulling her knees up to her chest.

I took her hand in mine and sat beside her. I looked at her hand. Soft, brown tan, the nails long and rounded, covered in a dark red nail polish. The knuckles were sparkling.

“Did you put on some shimmery lotion?” I asked.

“No,” she answered, looking confused. “Why are my hands sparkly?”

I couldn’t answer that. She stretched, her arms reaching up to the ceiling, and I heard her back pop.

“Oh, my back hurts,” she complained. “Four times I had to have Stella on my back, because Ms. Kent said my pyramid work was sloppy.”

“What a bitch,” I said, the appropriate answer for Cella Kent, whom all the cheerleaders hated, as she’d insulted every one of them at least once. Chris, Sarah’s personal guard, was now watching the outside practices under the guise of a watchful aunt, ready to intervene if things went too far. She had reported that Kent was definitely a bitch, but nothing that warranted intervention yet. Sarah could handle it herself. And the cheerleaders, although some of them hated each other, stuck up for each other at this point, they all hated her so much.

Chris had grown attached to Sarah, almost like another mother. Sarah had my own mother, as her own mother was now dead and my mother acted more like a mother to her than her mother did. There had been a brief incident last year, when a vampire named Jessica acted strange, following Sarah around, saying that she reminded her of her dead daughter.

Subsequently, my mother won that brief cold battle.

Sarah finished stretching, then laid back upon my new queen-sized bed. She looked at her phone, then yelped.

“I should be at Sabine’s school right now! I’m supposed to pick her up from cheer!”

Apparently, Sabine had also decided to become a cheerleader.

After Sarah left, I thought about what I’d seen. Beckett Cresley was dead. No way he could be alive. Or maybe he’d only pretended to be dead? If he had, that was a crappy thing to do.

The next morning, I went down to find a glass of blood already set out for me. I drank it quickly, pausing to wipe my mouth with a napkin. I had some time before I had to leave for school, so I looked over my homework and made sure I got all the Calculus problems right. I was sure I’d screwed up somewhere on question nineteen.

I checked Sarah’s Facebook, as I did every day. She’d already posted her daily selfie. This time, her hair was in a fishtail braid, her lips pink, her eyes lined with brown eyeliner, making them look bigger, and her mascara was perfect, as always. She was sipping her daily iced mocha from McDonald’s. Twenty-four likes already. I checked her Instagram. Thirty-four likes. No doubt her Twitter had some likes, too.

I shoved my homework back in my backpack, then headed to my car. I’d fallen in love with a Nissan GT-R last year, and now drove it. Along with a Toyota on occasion. I also had a Jeep, and a Chevrolet Astro that no longer worked. I was sad, because I loved the Astro, and always would. My father had even more cars. A Rolls-Royce, a Ferrari, a Corvette, a Lamborghini, and a Dodge Charger. Sometimes I wondered how we had room in our expansive garage.

I got settled in the Nissan, then started the journey to school. I went to a public high school, North Hampton High School. The biggest public high school in North Hampton, New Jersey. Across town there was Martin Luther King Jr. High School, a private girls school, and a Catholic school. My school was in the center of town, close to City Hall.

I found a parking place and parked. I was just about to get out, when I felt a jolt and heard a BANG!

Dazed, I looked around. I’d only been in one car wreck before, and it was a lot worse than this. Sarah, who was with me, had to go to the hospital.

I got out and saw the spark of fear in Caden Cartwright’s eyes. So it was him. His yellow Mustang was severely damaged in the front, and I wondered about the engine. Immediately, a secretary came out to see what had happened.

“I’m so sorry,” Caden squeaked, flinching under my glare. “I was looking at my phone, and I wasn’t paying attention….”

“At least you’re still alive,” I said. “But I don’t think your Mustang is.”

“Dear, do I need to call the police?” asked the secretary.

“I d-don’t th-think that’s n-necessary,” Caden trilled.

“It should be reported, at least,” I said. The secretary went inside to call the cops and I got out my insurance.

Principal Turner came out, looking displeased.

“Oh, did you cause the accident?” he snapped at me.

“Of course not,” I snapped back.

“It was my fault,” Caden said, regaining some of his confidence. “I was looking at my phone.”

The police arrived and I told my version of events to a cute dark-haired Hispanic female officer while Caden was questioned by a formidable-looking bald male.

“All right, it was clearly not your fault,” she said to me. I saw Principal Turner’s glare deepen in my peripheral vision. I’d deal with him later.

I was thirty minutes late for my first class, Calculus. Principal Turner was with me.

“He has an excuse,” Turner said. “He was in a car accident. Everyone’s fine.”

“Everyone?” said my neighbor.

“It was just me and Caden Cartwright,” I explained. Then the buzz started and everyone started shooting questions at me. “I had just parked, when Caden rammed me from behind. He was looking at his phone. There was some minor engine damage to his car, and some mild damage to mine.”

“Enough gossip,” Principal Turner snapped. “If you’re done being a show-off, Reese, class may continue.” He left, leaving me to glare at his back. My fists were clenched so tight the knuckles were whiter than usual.

“What the fuck is his problem?” said Tyrese Mallow.

“Language, Tyrese,” chided Mr. Grouse, though I could tell he was confused with the principal’s behavior as well. “Well, Reese, I’m glad you’re okay. We’re discussing logarithm. If you would turn your book to page thirty, we’ll continue.”

I managed to get through my first two classes, Calculus and Advanced Senior English, without more problems. It was break between my second and third class that things got weird.

“I swear, Caden said he’s a vampire!”

I paused. Did I hear Jody Williams correctly? I decided to continue. But by the middle of Sociology, I could no longer ignore it. People were whispering all around me, despite the quiz we’d been assigned. I ignored them, trying to focus on the terms in front of me.

According to Marxist theory, a character mask is a-

“He’s, like, got fangs! And what’s with the hair? I always thought it was dye!”

I could name several dystopian novels that had character mask as a theme. I’d recently read 1984 again and The Hunger Games.

Name one of the problems women still face on a daily basis because they are women. Obvious answer. Unequal pay.

“He’s super rich! He’s got a million cars, and his dad’s, like, a prince!”

Focus! Name one book or movie with a character mask in it with a female leader.

“He’s a prince too!”

“I never knew! Is that why he doesn’t speak?”

Name three things women have done to achieve power or fame.

Oh, there were a number of answers to that question, but the teacher had only asked for three things.

Name one past female leader who has been arrested, killed, or impeached because she was female.

I’d have to think about that one. What was it the teacher had said? Oh, he’d mentioned Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who stabbed in the chest by Luigi Lucheni. Lucheni later committed suicide. I named the reasons he’d killed her and read the next question.

“Is he really a prince? What country?”

“Oh, it’s not a country. He’s a prince of vampires.”

“That’s crazy.”

Mr. Patson re-entered the room, and quiet resumed. He paused at my desk, then moved on. I continued, trying to ignore the thoughts swirling around my brain. How many people knew, or suspected? Did Sarah tell her clique? Would she do that? If they asked, would she tell the truth or lie? Or could it possibly have been Caden, or Elliot, or one of my other rivals?

By my fourth hour, I was hearing another rumor.

“Did you hear about Sarah?” Amara Ruick asked me as she slid into the seat next to me in Mythology and Folklore.

“What about her?” I asked.

Amara picked at her chipped multi-colored nails.

“This is information from Jody Williams,” she warned. Of course. The gossip queen. “Apparently, in Sarah’s English class, Mrs. Kleaver started yelling at Sarah because she thought she was copying another student because they chose the same book. Sarah lost her temper and yelled back. She said Kleaver was a bad teacher, that crosswords and puzzles are for first-graders, that she had idea what she was talking about, that it was a mere coincidence, and that…she said ‘First Kent, now you. When will you people realize that there are more dangerous things out there than you?’ Kleaver sent her to the office, and Principal Turner gave Sarah a detention.”

I was shocked, then furious. How dare they?

“Sir, may I be excused to the restroom?” I asked Mr. Nguyen.

“Yes, Mr. Emerson,” he said without looking up from his papers.

I took off for the restroom, where I sent Mother a text explaining the situation. Of course, she called me immediately.

“What happened?!” she screamed.

“Look, I can’t talk long, because class has already started. But a teacher yelled at Sarah in front of everybody, and Sarah yelled back. I didn’t see this, I heard it from a friend. But she got a detention. The teacher’s name is Mrs. Kleaver.”

I hung up and went back to class, where we discussed Brynhildr and Sigurd. I already knew the story, of course. It was like a Norse version of Sleeping Beauty, except Sigurd was a hunter, not a prince. Brynhildr was a princess, though. We discussed similar stories and tales, and compared notes. Mr. Nguyen told us to compose our own version of Sleeping Beauty. It had to be original, complete, and had to be at least ten pages.

During my lunch hour, I texted Sarah, as it was her free period. She was in the restroom, according to Angela, who actually texted back. She was apparently having a panic attack.

I walked over by the girls’ room and sat on the bench to listen in.

“It’s okay, Sarah,” said Rachel’s voice.

“You really told her,” said another voice. Mia Rayport.

“Yes, but…but…”

“Come on, your mascara’s running,” said Angela. “It’ll ruin your foundation.”

“What will Marina say?”

“She loves you to death,” said a voice I recognized as Ariella’s. “Come on, let’s dry you up.”

I heard the sounds of wiping and makeup containers being opened. I went back to my lunch table, where my friends were watching me closely.

After school, Sarah went straight to her car without greeting me, but I managed to catch up with her.

“Hey-what happened?” I asked.

“I couldn’t deal with her bullshit anymore,” she said. “I just…lost control.”

“There are witnesses,” I said. “We can sue the school for this-“

“I don’t want to sue anyone,” she said. “I just want to get home and pretend this never happened.”

“When do you have to do detention?”

“Tomorrow morning. Super early. I have to get up at four-thirty.”

“We’ll fight it,” I said.

“Indeed,” said a voice. I turned and saw Mother.

“Hello, Mother.”

“Hello, son. Daughter.”

“What are you doing here?” Sarah asked.

“I have come to fight it. Alexander will be here shortly. He has a tendency to terrify people into submission.”

“He has a tendency just to terrify people,” I said.

“Exactly. I will order them to send me videotapes, and then I will speak to Principal Turner.”

“He hates me,” I said.

“Indeed. However, he has not met me yet. I will make him see reason. Go on home, my children. And do not worry. I will handle this.”

Sarah got into her car and drove away, and I got into my Nissan GT-R. I drove home, worrying the whole way. I saw Sarah’s car in the drive-thru at Starbucks.

I decided to go to Mother and Alexander’s house first. I was greeted by the usual kisses from Spunk, and the usual yappity mistrust from Coffee. Zie briefly greeted me, then went back to the kitchen, where she was making snacks for the girls. I sat on the couch and flipped on the TV, turning it to the local news.

“And here we have Patty Nelson with the story.”

“Thank you, Jen. More signs of wolf markings have been placed around several parks. It appears to be a wolf howling at the moon. Is this a new gang sign? Is it a club or a cult? No one knows for sure, and the police haven’t given us any ideas. Meanwhile, police believe they know who killed seventeen-year-old Michael Nales last year, who was indicted for raping a classmate.”

The camera panned to show Emma Greene. “We can’t say anything now, but we have a general idea of not only who killed Michael Nales, but several teachers at North Hampton High. We will be talking to him soon.”

My stomach dropped to the floor. I started shaking, I felt cold all over. This was all my fault. I asked Father to kill Nales as a favor to me. Now he was going to be arrested, and it was my fault. I had to go home.

Father was on the porch, smoking a cigarette, when I arrived.

“The police know what you did!” I yelled as soon as I got out.

“I know,” he said, stepping on the cigarette.

“You know? But what are you still doing here, then?”

“I did wrong. I have to pay for what I did. Even if he deserved it, the little shit.”

“But Father-“

“No buts. I broke the law and now I have to face the consequences. But here’s the twist: I have diplomatic immunity, due to my position. So they can’t arrest me.”

“You would really…I mean…you would tell them that you’re a prince?”

“Yes. Father thinks it’s time that the general public knows, anyway.”

“Even though the Council…?”

“Don’t worry about the Council. We will handle it.”

With that, he got up and went inside.

The next day, I got a text from Sarah.

Sarah: Marina and Alexander worked it out. I don’t have to do the detention!

Reese: That’s fantastic, honey. So now what?

Sarah: I’ll be moved into a different classroom. My grades are good enough that I can be in Advanced Senior English!

Reese: Wonderful!

I headed to school apprehensively. When I got there, Mrs. Kleaver was not to be seen, and word was she’d been suspended. Sarah arrived shortly after I did, and we each headed to our respective classes. I thought about all the people my family had killed lately. I made a list in my head.

  • Michal Nales

  • Darla Danielson

  • Matthew Herman

  • Peter Scott

Not to mention all the murderers and rapists we’d gotten rid of. I thought about that. Were we really helping? Or were we hurting?

I was confused. I was beyond confused. School passed by in a blur, and I went home in a daze.

Father was on the front steps again, drinking blood. I was afraid he’d be caught, but he finished it in seconds and threw it ten feet into the garbage can.

“You and I are needed at the police station,” he said gravely. “Leave your bag here.”

He got into his Rolls-Royce, and I followed him. He popped a mint into his mouth, then grimaced at the strong taste.

When we arrived at the police station, we were directed into an interrogation room. Father’s eyes flashed as Emma Greene, and Arastoo Armada entered the room.

“Hello, Mr. Emerson,” Emma began. “Fancy seeing you here again.”

“Under different circumstances,” Father said.

“Not too different,” Arastoo said. “I mean, rape and murder, they’re not much different from each other if you think about it. But you didn’t care when you killed Michael Nales, did you?”

“Yes,” Father said, “I killed Michael Nales. I drank his blood and tore his heart out of his chest with my bare hands.”

“No, Father,” I said, ignoring his warning look. “I asked him to kill Nales. It was my fault, not his.”

“So you confess to murdering Michael Nales?” Emma asked.

“Yes, I killed him of my own volition. And several others who were rapists and murderers. I did my own vigilante justice.”

“Father, stop,” I begged. He put a hand on mine.

“I killed Michael Nales. I killed several others. I stole their cash and cards to make it look like a robbery. I am a vampire. I drink blood. I’ve killed countless humans. I am also a prince of vampires, the second one living.”

Emma Greene and Arastoo Armada stared at him. Then Armada spoke up.

“I suppose now we’ll have to arrest you.”

“Not quite,” Father said, holding up a finger. “I can prove I have diplomatic immunity, even for murder. I can prove that my son has diplomatic immunity. So does my brother, and my nephew.”

“I like to see proof,” said Armada.

Father produced a card from his pocket. Armada stared at the card wide-eyed, then showed it to Greene. She sighed.

“Then you’re free to go,” she said, handing the card back.

“Thank you, officers,” said Father.

When we got home, I tried to go straight to my room.

“Wait a second, Reese,” Father said. “We need to have a family meeting.”

I sat at the dining room table, followed by Father and Uncle Soren. Father called Grandfather and Louis.

“We need to talk,” Grandfather said. “I have proposed to the Council that we let the vampire race decide who they want as leaders. It will be like an election, like it is done here in America.”

“An excellent idea, Father,” Uncle Soren said. He looked weary, I noticed. I wondered how things were going with Mitra Dearwood, his new girlfriend, a beautiful two-hundred-year-old Native American vampire who called herself the guardian of the Lenape tribe.

“I need to speak with the werewolves,” Father said. “I am sure that…well, no, I’m not sure at all that Faolan would be willing to help, especially after Sadie.” I swallowed ashamedly. It was because of me that Sadie, who was like a daughter to Faolan, had killed herself recently.

“We need to discuss laws,” Louis said. “I agree with a few of the Council’s suggested laws, but the rest are Draconian.”


I had not seen Apollo in a while, but now he was in front of me, standing in the door.

“Where is your father?” he asked.

“Dad!” I called out. “Apollo’s here!”

“What does he want?”

“To speak with you.”

Father arrived, a cigarette in his hand. “What do you want?”

“A moment of your time, obviously,” Apollo said tersely, still smiling.

“Come in.” Apollo followed him into the dining room.

“What’s the deal?” I asked, joining them.

“I wish to tutor the boy,” Apollo said.

“My boy? Why?” Father looked suspicious.

“He needs to know what happened many, many, many years ago,” Apollo said. “When Alexander tried to kill me and failed.”

“You killed your wife,” Father said.

Apollo looked sad. “I was angry, because my baby was dead. My only daughter. I have lain with many women and men since then, but none compared to my Kida. I…regret it with great intensity. There are times when I thought of…of ending it all. So to be with my beloved wife and baby. And now Alexander’s brothers.”

“He had brothers?” I asked.

“Aye, seven. But he is the only one left, and he is the oldest. The only family that still speaks to me regularly is Kieran. And that crazed albino, Kellan, keeps pulling him away. I have the feeling that Kellan sees Kieran as more than a friend.” He smiled. “I am happy to have my grandson in my life. I am sure that he feels the same way about me.” He paused. “Of course, you have Sarah, Reese, and Mordecai, you…well, you did have Faolan.”

“Before he dumped me,” Father muttered. “I’m sure that he doesn’t regret it.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” said Apollo. “You never know what someone is truly feeling. Sometimes even that person doesn’t know.”

“I know that my mother and father love me,” I said, “And so does Alexander.”

“A parent’s love for their children is almost always strong and never-ending. No doubt my son sees you as another son. And I have no doubt that Marina and Mordecai love you, as well. Like Marina loves all her children, including Kieran and the humans. And of course you are the apple of your father’s eye.”

“So what did happen thousands of years ago?” I asked.

“Most of it has already been explained. My daughter was stillborn, and I killed my wife in a fit of anger. In retaliation, Alexander and some of his brothers tried to kill me. I think there were five of them in all who wanted me dead. My son Balthazar told me in time, and so I managed to survive the attack. Alexander was already a vampire at this time, but no one knew. He had angered one of God’s angels, and so the angel cursed him. There were already different kinds of vampires at this point, but Alexander was the first human-born vampire.”

“Which angel did he anger?” I asked.

“He won’t say. But it was an archangel, one of the high-ranking ones. Possibly Michael or Gabriel, even.”

“Only Alexander can tell you the whole story,” Father said.

“But he won’t,” I complained.

“Keep pestering him until he does.”

“That’s like poking a sleeping porcupine!”

Apollo spoke up. “I have seen the extinction of many, many animals, Reese. So has your father. The quagga, the dodo bird, the elephant bird, the great auk, and so on.”

“You just named three kinds of birds,” I said.

“Who are all extinct. Anyway, I have seen the rise and fall of many civilizations. Rome, Alexander the Great, China, Persia, Greece.

“Greece and China are still around,” I said. “And Alexander the Great is a person.”

Apollo smacked me upside the head. “Don’t talk back.”

Father let out a warning growl. Apollo ignored him.

Apollo finished his story and got up to leave. He bowed to me and Father, and then headed out the door.

“My lady,” he said. I looked around for Sarah. To my disappointment, it was Selena.

“Little brother,” she said to me. “Mordecai, I need to talk to you.”

“About what?”

“I’m worried about Mom. She’s pale, she’s not eating, and she’s lost weight. She’s trying to be Super Mom, but not everyone can be like that.”

“Why are you coming to me? Why not, say, Alexander?” he asked.

“Alexander is the most insensitive, evil, carefree…I don’t trust him. I trust you.”

“I practically raped her!”

“I know, and she’s forgiven you for that. Well, no, she hasn’t. But she eventually will. It produced Reese, didn’t it?”

“Don’t remind me,” I growled.

“Exactly. Meanwhile, Sarah’s running around like a chicken with her head cut off. Therapy, school, studying and homework, cheerleading, piano lessons, trying to be a good sister, daughter, and girlfriend.”

“My schedule’s busy, too,” I said. “I have the duties of a prince, of a mate, and I have been applying to different colleges. I am a son, a stepbrother, a cousin, a nephew, a grandson, and a half-brother. And I will soon be a stepfather.”

“How do you know?”

“I will ask her to marry me. And she’ll say yes. I know she will.”

“If you say so. Anyway, I just wanted to let you all know how things are going here.”

“Thank you for keeping us informed, Selena,” Father said. “It is important that we are aware of each other’s stresses and duties.”

“That’s what I think, too,” Selena and I said in unison.

“But anyway, I have to practice guitar now, so I’ll bid you adieu.” I gave my sister a salute and nodded to Father before I left and went up to my room, where I grabbed my electric guitar and started playing some random notes. Then I started playing a song by the band Ghost. I’d gotten into them lately, my ears satisfied by their tones, notes, and pitches.

I kept playing until I got blisters on my fingers, then went to bed early.


I was busy with watching Sarah practice. Chris was next to me, watching her as well. Sarah’s form was perfect, but her face kept making the odd pained look.

“Sarah, enough with the stinkface!” yelled out Ms. Kent. “You’re a cheerleader! Smile! Show those teeth! Wider! Stella, suck it in! No one wants to see your flab!”

“Okay, I’ve had enough,” I said. Chris grabbed my arm and pulled me back.

“Not yet,” she said. “She hasn’t gotten physical or cursed yet. We must wait. However…..” She pointed to the baseball cap she was wearing.

“A hidden camera?” I asked.

“Several. In different places. Sarah has one, too. On her water bottle. Marina wants all the evidence she can get before the school kicks Cella Kent’s ass to the curb.”

“Clever,” I said.


Kent continued to yell at the girls.

“Trish, how often do you brush your teeth? They’re yellow! Rebecca, that was a crappy move! Do it again! Hannah, what do you think you’re doing?! That’s the worst herkie I’ve ever seen!”

“Oh, shut up,” I said to myself.

“Why are you crossing your arms like you’re pissed off?”

“Because I am.”

I lit up. That was Sarah’s voice.

“You’ve been nothing but abusive since you came here,” Sarah told Kent.

“No one cares what you think! You don’t matter! I matter! I MATTER! LEAVE NOW! I SWEAR TO GOD, IF YOU LEAVE, YOU’RE NEVER COMING BACK! HEIFER!”

“BITCH!” Sarah yelled out. I heard a loud slap, and I jumped from the stands before I could control myself. The cheerleaders looked at me. Sarah was tearing up and holding her cheek, and Kent looked angry.

“What’s the goth doing here?” she said.

“That’s my girlfriend you just hit,” I growled.

“Girlfriend? Pfft! You don’t have a girlfriend! You’re ugly! All of you are ugly!”

“Sarah’s right,” said Stella. “We’ve had enough of you.”


“Not according to my cameras,” said Chris, pointing to her cap. “Actually, there are several cameras placed around here, and all of them caught everything. You’re going down.”

Kent knew she was screwed, so she ran. She ran to her car. I started to chase after her, but Sarah called me back.

“Put some ice on it,” said Tiffany Schroeder. “I think I have some in my car.”

After the practice was over, Chris gathered up all the hidden cameras and told me her instructions. Send them to Mother, who will then send them to the school. Hopefully Cella Kent would never show her face again, but if she did, she would be sued.


Mitra Dearwood and Uncle Soren were on the porch, talking. Mitra was leaning against him, looking especially tiny next to my large, big-muscled uncle. Hard rock was blaring out of speakers, blowing up my ears. I loved it. Uncle Soren had a half-smoked cigarette in his right hand, and in his left hand was Mitra’s shoulder. She was quiet next to him, her eyes full of tears and her lip bitten to blood.

“It’s not your fault, baby,” said Uncle Soren. “It’s my fault. I should have warned you. I understand that Ellis was your friend. I know what it’s like to lose a good friend. But we’re together now-I have you, and you have me. I can protect you. I can spoil you. I can place guards around the reservation. You won’t ever have that burden on your shoulders again.”

He looked up. “Hello, Reese.”

“Hello, Uncle Soren. Do you have another cigarette?”

He reached into his pocket and tossed me the carton. I took a long menthol out and lit it using a zippo lighter in my pocket.

“Hey, skinny,” said Mitra.

“Hey, short stuff. How are you?” I realized what a bad choice of words this was after I said it.

“Eh, I’m not so great. I still feel like it’s my fault that Ellis is dead.”

“Mitra, it’s not your fault. Didn’t my uncle just say this? It’s our fault, for not being more careful. Did anyone from the reservation die?”

“No, thank God. Nana is still safe, and so are the girls. Mama is still missing, though. I can’t scent her out.”

“Why do you call her Mama? Aren’t you older than her?”

“Much. She’s still human, but I call her Mama out of respect. She’s sort of my many-greats niece. So is Nana. She cares more about the old traditions than I do. It was me who stopped the white men from taking our children and putting them in boarding schools.” She made a disgusted face.

“That was very brave of you,” Uncle Soren said.

“Trust me, anyone else who could have done it would have. But it was just me at the time. I didn’t meet Ellis until the forties. Since then, he’s been my best friend. Now I have a boyfriend for the…second time in my long life.” She bit her lip again.

“Second time?” Uncle Soren said. “Who else…?”

“Well, there was a cute guy back in the sixties. He’s dead now, but we made love all the time.”

“How did he die?”

“He was killed by a werewolf. Disgusting canines.”

“What about Romeo?”

“What about him? I’m supposed to like him just because he’s got scars and he’s closer to my age? I don’t think so. Of course, scars are hot. So is long hair. But muscles and experience are hot, too.”

Uncle Soren lifted his shirt, revealing his chest and stomach. Tiny scars dotted his upper body. I barely noticed them anymore. There was a new one that was bigger than the others, a slash going from his chest to his navel. Mitra felt his scars, looking impressed.

“Wow,” she breathed. “You’re unbelievably hot, Soren.”

“I’m glad you find me attractive, dear one,” Uncle Soren said. She felt his chest and stomach even after he let his shirt fall, covering his scars.

“I used to have one here,” Uncle Soren said, pointing to his eye. “But it sort of faded over the years. I also used to have one near my lips, and there’s a small one under my nose.”

“How old are you?” she asked. He smiled.

“I still remember small groups of woolly mammoths.”

“Wow,” she said. “Were they big?”

“Huge,” he said. “Humans would surround them with spears and throw rocks at them. Oh, I’m sorry, my love. I know you like animals.”

“It’s okay,” she said, wiping a tear away. “What else do you remember?”

“I remember animals that have since gone extinct.”

“So have I,” I said.

“Unfortunately, species are always going extinct. Most species who have gone extinct died off years and years ago. I could name animals that humans thought only existed in fairytales.”

“The Loch Ness monster?” I asked.

“A plesiosaur who has not died yet, or a group of them who have managed to survive.”

“Unicorns?” Mitra asked.

“Died off years ago. They fade to dust pretty quickly, hence why no skeletons have ever been found. They were hunted for their horns, fur, hooves, blood, and organs.”

“Leprechauns?” I asked.

“Ugly little demon-like creatures who look like the leprechaun from the horror movies. You’ve seen them before, Reese. At the Night Market.”

“I know wendigos exist,” Mitra said. “I fought one once with Ellis.”

“What about cat people?” I asked.

“Cat women? Oh, they’re still around. They prefer to stay hidden, though. They worship Bastet and other cat gods and goddesses. And before you ask, dog people do not exist. They are fictional, created by humans for TV.”

“Good, because they look disturbing,” I said.

“Agreed,” said Mitra.

I closed my eyes.

I was about seven years old. I was at a restaurant with Father. I was drawing on a piece of paper with some crayons. Father was dressed in his serious black, and so was I. I turned when I smelled my cousin. Louis came in, also dressed in black.

What are you drawing, little buddy?” he asked.

The garden,” I said, showing him.

In Denmark? Looks great, buddy. Uncle Mordecai, why did you call me here?”

I need you to watch him,” Father said, gesturing to me. “I have a deal to complete.”

With…oh. Yeah, I’ll watch him. Stay put, little buddy. Here, eat some chicken strips.”

He pushed a plate toward me. I picked a piece of chicken and dipped it in honey mustard. I knew that sometimes it was necessary to eat yucky human food to maintain our secrecy. Besides, I was a kid, and kids are supposed to like chicken strips.

I drew while I ate. Father had ordered a rare steak for himself, and Louis just had some water. My attention was diverted when I saw a man walking toward us. I didn’t like the look of him: he was lizard-like, with slitted pupils in red irises and long blond hair tied back into a ponytail.

You brought your youngling,” said the man with a hiss.

I had no choice,” Father said. “Say hello, Reese.”

Hi,” I said, waving my greasy fingers at him.

Such a polite boy,” he said. “Mordecai, we have the same goals. Humans drove my kind to near extinction. They have killed hundreds of your kind and killed thousands of innocents in the pursuit of God.”

They are mere children,” Father said. “I can handle my own. Now, the documents,”

The man handed my father a stack of wrinkled yellow papers. Father took them with a flourish and handed the man a stack of bills.

I would keep your youngling close, Mordecai,” the man hissed.

Is that a threat?”

It’s a warning. My kind are not pleased with you. Your protection is failing. Hunters are killing my kind by the dozens. Smashing eggs, cutting us open, destroying our hearts. We have only a few females left, and they are scrambling to find mates. My wife is worried that she is next. This is your fault, Mordecai. We will have either our own protection, or no protection.”

I opened my eyes.

“Dragons,” I said.

“Yes, dragons,” Uncle Soren said. “Your father made a deal with dragons years ago. He’d give them protection, if in turn they gave the vampires their fire.”

“Their fire?” Mitra said. “That’s a pretty big deal.”

“Yes, it is. Fire is essential to dragons for survival. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, so now vampires and dragons don’t like each other.”

“Hello, son,” Father said, typing quickly on his phone. “I see that your uncle has told you all about my deal with the dragons. Thank you, Soren.”

“Shut up, Mordecai,” said Uncle Soren. “The boy has a right to know all our secrets.”

“The boy,” I quoted. “Like I’m a stranger.”

“Fuck you, Soren,” Father said. “Hello, Mitra.”

“Hi,” Mitra said.

“I have a meeting with a national chain expander,” Father said. “Emerson’s Electronics is expanding.”

“That’s good news,” I said. “Are you going to promote Richard?”

“Yes, of course. He’s a good employee. I must remember to raise his wages.”

“Just how many businesses do you guys own?” Mitra asked.

Father and Uncle Soren looked at each other. “The shipping company, the train, the airport, the malls, the electronics store, the medical equipment company, the publishing company, not to mention all the rebels and rogues we’ve conquered.”

“Just how rich are you?” Mitra asked.

“We’re richer than Donald Trump,” I said. Mitra started to laugh, then stopped.

“Oh…you’re serious! So how come…why do vampires have to remain secret?”

“It’s not really a secret,” Father said. “We do not care at this point. However, there are some groups and cultures that will kill any vampires they find, which is why we have representatives in every country.”

Mitra leaned against Uncle Soren.

“So much thinking,” she said. “I’m tired.”

“Sleep then, love,” Uncle Soren said. “I will carry you to bed.”


I was floating over a cloud. Any moment, I would fall and hit the cloud. When I looked up above me, I saw the face of Odin. He was smiling at me. Thought and Memory were on his shoulders. Then I rolled over onto my belly and saw Loki. He was huge with a baby. I turned and saw the Fates. Ugly women with gaunt faces.

Past, Present, and Future. Future split into several paths. One led to Evan. Two of them led to Sarah. One of them led to my becoming king of vampires. One of them led to my death. All of them led to a different fate. In one fate, I was with Sarah, and she was pregnant again, with my baby. In one, she was her usual self, not pregnant.

I knew which one I wanted most. I crawled toward the one fate where Sarah was pregnant with my baby. When I reached her, I stood up. She put my hand on her belly.

Feel her,” she said.

Her?” I was elated. I was going to be a father. I was going to have a daughter. I felt my baby kick, and then I felt myself being pulled to another fate.

A ridiculous crown was placed on my head. My hair grew longer, shinier, the tips whiter. I grew taller, and filled out. I was as big as Uncle Soren. I spent the same amount of time being king, then felt myself being pulled to a different fate.

Sarah, only she wasn’t pregnant. I was happy with this. I threw my arms around her, kissing her fiercely. Then I was pulled to Evan. For a moment, I just stared at him, then I kissed him just as fiercely.

Forgive me,” I said.

I already have,” he replied.

Then I was pulled to the last fate. My death. At first it was only blackness, then I was being suffocated and choked. I was drowning in water. I was being stabbed over and over again. My head was cut off. I was staked. Fire was being poured over me. I couldn’t scream. My mouth had disappeared.

Reese! Reese!”

I heard Father’s voice calling me.

Reese! Stop dreaming!”

I was startled awake, and I managed to hit Father in the process. He frowned as he rubbed his chin.

“Sorry,” I said.

“You were screaming in your sleep,” he said.

I looked around. My blankets were thrown off, my sheets being torn from the mattress.

“Hold me?” I said to Father.

“Of course. Scoot over.”

While Father held me, I had a dreamless sleep.


Apollo was at the dining room table the next morning. Kieran and Kellan were sucking face in the corner.

“Save it for the bedroom, boys,” Father snapped. Kellan broke away and glared at him. “What’s going on here?”

“I wish to tutor the boy,” Apollo said.

“Still? Okay, fine. He’s all yours. Teach him everything you know. How little that is.”

“Be nice,” I warned Father.

“Fine,” he said. He turned to Apollo. “I’m sorry.”

“Just be careful,” Apollo said. “Remember, all of you are infants compared to me.”

“Do not call me an infant,” Kellan growled.

“What do you wish to teach me?” I asked.

“Everything. You can bring Sarah along, too.”

“I don’t know…” Father began.

“Father, I’m eighteen. I’m doing this.”

“Well, okay. But if I find out that you’re using this opportunity to hurt him- “

“Mordecai, I am not Alexander, even though I created him. I am not going to hurt your boy. By the way Reese, our first lesson begins this Saturday. Be ready.”

“For what?”

“Just trust me. You’ll like it.”


So that Saturday, I got myself up at six. I ate a big breakfast, then showered and dressed. I was wondering what my first lesson would be. I was sure it would be something that Alexander had probably never learned.

Apollo met me at the edge of the woods, Wordlessly, he started walking into the woods, gesturing for me to follow him. We walked until we reached the lake. I saw minnows swimming in the shallows, the occasional splash of a fish or a frog in the lake.

“There are no second chances in love,” Apollo began. “And there are none in life.”

“People get second chances all the time,” I said.

“Yes, but, here’s what I mean: A father abuses his children. Do they forgive him? Once they become teenagers, they won’t. They’ll see him for what he is- pond scum. But when they are children, they hope. They hope he will get better, that he will get help. All families fight. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone is rude to somebody else at some point, sometimes without meaning to be. But true abuse is unforgivable.”

“What’s your point?”

“I just gave it to you, silly. Pay attention. I did something unforgivable, Reese. My sons never forgave me for it. Only Alexander is still alive, and he wants me dead. Think about it. Evan forgave you, but he’s with someone else.”

“Hey, I introduced them. I wanted them to be together. He’s meant to be with Reid.”

“Are you sure? Are you sure you did not make a mistake?”

“Hey, I’m happy with Sarah. I wasn’t happy with Evan.”

“There you go. Happiness is key. True relationships are not just fucking all the time, although there is that in a lot of romantic relationships. I have dated thousands of women, and I fucked each one eventually. I also fucked up. I thought a relationship was all about sex. It isn’t. There needs to be trust, respect, and communication.”

“It was your own fault,” I said. He grabbed my throat.

“Do not say anything like that ever again,” he growled through clenched teeth. “I know it was my fault. I don’t need an eighteen-year-old telling me that.”

“I’m sorry,” I breathed. Then something hard knocked into us.

I rolled a few yards, then looked up. Father was pounding the shit out of Apollo.

“Father!” I shouted. He barely reacted. “FATHER!”

This time he looked at me. His eyes were bright red, the pupils slits. His fangs were piercing his lips.

“Son,” he muttered, his voice deeper than normal. He growled at Apollo. “No more lessons. If you touch him again, I will rip your head off.”

“Good riddance! I want to die, anyway,” Apollo exclaimed. “Just kill me already so I can be with my beloved Kida.”

“You don’t deserve to live,” Father said. “But it would be crueler to kill you. So I’m letting you off with a warning. Do not touch Reese again. Do not go near him.”

I stood up and dusted myself off, then started to follow Father back to the house. He scooped me up, bridal-style, and then ran back to the house.

A strange man was waiting in the backyard.

“Good to see you in one piece,” said the man. He was huge. He was as big as Uncle Soren, with long black hair tied back, and piercing yellow eyes with slitted pupils.

“Hello, Shadowfang,” Father said.

I was stunned. “Shadowfang?”

He nodded. “Some familiars, like myself, can change our appearance. I only recently acquired the ability to do this. Hell, you have to be well over a hundred years old to be able to do it. Mishka and the kittens can’t do it yet. They’re too young.”

I looked at my cat/man in amazement.

“So what are you going to do as a human?”

He shrugged. “Mostly hang out with other familiars. There’s a hangout place in some warlock’s house. Friend of Krauvas’. Your friend Mason goes there sometimes to pick up ingredients for Krauvas or himself. I’ve already gotten a birth certificate, a driver’s license, and a credit card.”

“How long have you been able to do this?”

“About two weeks. I didn’t tell you before because I didn’t want to startle you. It was a shock. I just woke up one day and I was human. I thought I was dreaming. But Frodo and Belle told me that they watched my change. Maybe the camera caught it. I don’t know.”

“What camera?”

“Oh, your father installed security cameras in every room, including the dungeons and your room.”

I looked at Father, who was intently studying a patch of dead grass.

“You know to avoid the dungeons, right?” I said to my cat.

“Yes, and I told Mishka and the kittens that, as well. Even if they do get stuck down there, we can communicate telepathically, kind of like vampires. No one is going to get stuck there.”

He sniffed the air. “My nose works even better. There’s a damn coyote about three miles away. That’s still too close. Maybe I can scare him off.”

He started to shrink. His ears became furry and pointed, whiskers growing from his nose. His mouth formed into a triangle, and his hands and feet became paws. Soon, his clothes were bigger than him, and he became a cat again.

He started running, I presumed, in the direction of the coyote.

“Don’t get eaten!” I called out. He paused and gave me a disgusted look before continuing.

“Familiars.” Father shook his head. “Your grandmother would have loved him.”

Sarah was in the living room.

“Louis let me in,” she said. “Who was that guy?”

“That was Shadowfang,” I said, and I told her what he could do.

“Wow,” she said. “So he can turn into a human when he wants to?”

“Yep,” I said, popping the P. “What are you up to?”

“I just got back from the doctor. She prescribed another medication.”

“Another one? How many are you taking now?”

“Well, there’s birth control, antidepressants, anti-anxiety, and one for anger issues. I’m also taking one for PTSD now.”

She looked ashamed at this.

“Well, you’re taking it because you need it, right?” I said. “And you’re not taking more than you should, right?”

“No, I really watch how much I take. If it looks like I need more, then I just go to my room for a while.”

“And the medication takes everything away?” Father asked.

“No,” she told him. He looked confused. She explained. “The medication just makes it so I can function normally. The antidepressants don’t take the depression away completely. I may always live with depression. But it makes it so I can ignore it or control it better. It sort of fixes the chemicals in my brain for a day until I need it again. Sorry, I’m not very good at explaining it. But the anti-anxiety and PTSD medication works similarly. It makes it so I can better control my attack or function normally.”

“I see,” Father said. “Well, have you spoken to Principal Turner?”

“You’re not going to believe this, but he blamed us for Kent’s behavior! He threatened to suspend or disband the whole squad. And since I’m co-captain, I got blamed the most. He really doesn’t like you, Reese. He said it was because I was spending too much time with you and I should stop. You should have seen Mom go at him. She practically tore his head off when he said that!”

“Marina was there?”

“Oh, yeah, and a bunch of other parents. They’re going to discuss it at the next PTA meeting.”

“I see.” Father paused. “In that case, I will kill Principal Turner.”

“Dad, no!” I said. “You’re on thin ice already with the cops!”

“What?” Sarah was stunned. “They know?”

“Of course they know…” I said carefully. I looked at her.

“Reese, I’ve known for a while. I know that you asked Mordecai to kill Nales. Thank you.”

She hugged me.

“Of course, sweetheart, I’d do anything for you,” I told her. She smiled at me, showing her white straight teeth. “What does the rest of the squad think?”

“Well, Rachel Griffin’s dad is a lawyer, so he’ll represent us for free. The rest of the girls are applauding me for catching most of it on camera. They want to know why I didn’t go to Principal Turner sooner with the footage.”

“That wasn’t your fault,” I said. “Mother insisted.”

“She did. And now my Xbox is going haywire.”

“You have an Xbox?” Father sounded impressed.

“Yeah. I love playing videogames. I got the Xbox from Dad one Christmas. Didn’t Reese tell you?”

“She totally kicks my ass in every game,” I told Father. He looked even more impressed.

“I don’t know why that’s impressive,” Sarah said. “A lot of girls play videogames. My friends and I beat each other’s high scores all the time.”

“Your friends?” I asked.

“Mostly Ariella, Angela, and Sara.”

“Blynn? You never call her Honey anymore.”

“She hates that nickname, so we’re sticking with Sara. It’s a good thing our names are spelled differently, or we’d be in a world of trouble! The guy she’s seeing was told that she kissed another guy! It’s not true, but he texted me, thinking I was her, calling me a bitch and stuff.”

“That’s whacked,” I said. “I trust you.”

“I know! But once it got cleared up, he was so embarrassed that he texted the wrong Sara. Sara decided he wasn’t the guy for her, after all.”

“Have you spoken to Elliot lately?” I asked.

“No, and I don’t want to. He acted like a total asshole. I have a boyfriend, and I adore him.”

“That’s me,” I grinned cheekily.

“Exactly. But now Britt hates me, which sucks, because we could have been friends.”

“Even though she’s heavier?”

She punched my arm lightly. “Don’t be a jerk. I don’t care how heavy someone is. If they’re a good person, loyal, honest, and communicates well, that’s all I care about. I don’t like drama.”

“You love drama,” I reminded her. “You watch Pretty Little Liars.”

“I don’t like to be in the middle of drama!”

“Okay, my pretty one, if you say so.” I smiled at her. She stood on her toes and pecked my cheek.

“It’s so nice to see young people in love,” Father sighed. “Your chemistry is amazing. I’m glad he wound up with you, Sarah.”

“Thanks,” she beamed.

“Want to go up to my room?” I asked her.


I took her hand and led her up, where we made out on my bed for about five minutes. I tried to put my tongue in her mouth, but she pulled away and said, “No tongue. I hate tongue.”

I complied with her wishes and used lips instead. She tasted amazing, as always. Like chocolate and mint. I wondered how long ago she’d had her daily mocha. I wrapped my arms around her thin waist. She scooted closer to me. I grasped her hips and pulled her forward.

I growled as the kiss became rougher. I needed her. Only her. My instincts became wild and frazzled, and my fangs started growing. I pulled away, not wanting to hurt her. My belly was tight, my legs wrapped around her like a spider holds its prey. I was no spider, though, and she was not my prey.

I forced myself to relax, my teeth going back into my gums. My heart pounded as I felt my muscles tighten. I forced the wolf in me to relax next.

I am not a predator. I am not a predator. I am not a predator.

But I was a predator, and the love of my life happened to be my natural food source. It was becoming harder and harder to control my urges. A part of me wanted to bite her and drink from her; the other part wanted to make love to her, and yet another part of me wanted to be a gentleman.

I shoved my nose into her hair and took a deep breath. Light brown with streaks of blond. Curly beyond comprehension. I loved the scent of her hair, like Spanish amber and rain.

“It’s raining,” Sarah said.

“Rain, schmain,” I replied. “The rain can go screw itself.”


“I’m serious, Sarah. I don’t give a damn about the damned rain.”

“Ever since I saw The Notebook, I’ve wanted to kiss in the rain. And then I recently read a book where the two main characters kissed in the rain.”

“What kind of book was that?”

“You wouldn’t like it. It’s too romantic and very general.”

“I want to know the name.”

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.”

“Very interesting. But back to us.”

I rolled my hips and pressed my chest against hers. My newly-beating heart beat even faster than before, beyond pounding now.

She pulled off her shirt, and I admired her before taking off my own. She kicked her shoes off, and I kicked mine off. She unzipped her jeans, and I unzipped mine.

“You have a V,” she said, admiring my abs as if this was the first time she’d seen them.

“Enough about my abs,” I said, even though I was excited that she liked them.

We made love slowly and carefully. I was gentle, and I went slowly until she told me to go faster and be rougher.

We lay in each other’s and our own sweat. This was the first time I’d ever sweated. I didn’t like it. Sweat was sticky and salty and stunk. Sarah seemed to like it, though, and she was turned to face me, just as I was turned to face her.

I admired her naked form. This was the kind of beauty that inspired paintings.

“I want to paint you,” I said.

“Paint me?”

“On canvas. I want to paint your form.”

“I didn’t know you could paint.”

“Not very well. It’s been years since I’ve painted for fun. But you have the kind of body that inspired men such as Leonardo DaVinci.”

“I inspired the Mona Lisa?”

“I’m sure your ancestor did. He’s Italian, you’re part Italian.”

“You’re so weird,” she giggled. She turned over. “Why don’t you give me a massage?”

“One massage coming up.”

As I warmed my hands, I noticed a shadow on the wall. I turned around, and noticed a figure on the window. I got up and the figure jumped down. It was a man; I could see that much. I saw the shadow of glasses as he ran.

“Did…did Beckett Cresley wear glasses?”

“Yes, why do you ask? Reese? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” I lied. “Sit up and I’ll give you that massage.”


I was tired and hungry, and now I had a Charlie horse. I growled and circled the living room, loudly protesting the lack of food in the house. I could have gone out and hunted, but it was daylight. Besides, Father told me not to leave.

When the door opened and I smelled the meat, my predator instincts went wild. I jumped onto Father and took the side of beef from him before stuffing myself until I was ready to pop.

“Calm down, son,” Father said gently. “I have more.”

I tossed the ribs to the side and went out to the truck, where there was another side waiting. I growled and took the side before stuffing myself again beyond my point. My jeans were becoming tight, so I unbuttoned them to make room.

Happy with my meal, I crawled out into the yard and rolled in the grass. I shoved my face in the dirt and rubbed myself in it. I looked up at Father, who was watching me in amazement.

I ignored him again and rubbed myself against a young cherry tree, bending it. Then I started digging.

Father had to pull me away before I hit something or reached the dungeons. I panted, my tongue sticking out like a dog.

“Relax,” Father said. “Relax. Take a deep breath. That’s my boy. Stay calm.”

“I-I’m- “

“Shush. Take a deep breath. Now relax. You’re covered in blood and dirt. Go shower, then rest for a bit.”

But we heard something at the same time: the telltale snap of a twig. The problem was, we didn’t hear or smell anything except….

“Again? More vampires?” Father said. “Go inside, Reese. I’ll handle this.”

“Father, I can help.”

“No, no, go inside and take a bath.”

“Shower, bath, shower…”

“Shush. Then change and rest in bed. I will be along shortly.”

I could smell the other vampires as well. I stayed in my room, though, waiting patiently. I thought about texting Sarah, but she was at work and wouldn’t answer her phone. I had an idea.

I got into my Nissan and headed to the restaurant. Sarah’s new job was waitressing at a mom and pop restaurant. She said that all the walking around kept her fit, and the tips were great.

I made it to the restaurant in record time, and the hostess greeted me with a smile.

“Just one,” I told her. “And can I be seated in Sarah’s section?”

“Sure,” she said, and I followed her to a two-person table. I watched Sarah as she asked how the next table’s meal was, then headed over to me.

“Well, hello there, handsome,” she smiled. “What would you like to drink?”

“Water, please. No ice. And the rarest burger you have on the menu. No mushrooms, garlic, or onions.”

“Because they stink?”


“How do mushrooms stink?”

“They have a fungal smell. You don’t sense it, because your nose is less powerful than mine.”

She brought out the food in record time. She hurried over to where a bratty kid was throwing food, and asked if she could do anything to improve their experience.

“Yeah, you can tell my kid to stop throwing shit,” said the lady.

“With all due respect, I am not a babysitter. Your kid is your own responsibility.”

The lady frowned and snapped her fingers at another waitress.

When her shift finished, she and I decided to go for coffee. I threw some money on the table to cover the bill, plus a hundred dollars for a tip. She looked impressed as she took care of the bill before clocking out and hanging up her apron.

“Bye, Carlos!” she called into the kitchen. “Bye, Gigi!”

She smiled at me as I stood up. “I love Gigi, she’s like the aunt everybody loves.”

“What about Carlos?” I asked.

“He’s more like a big brother. Plus, his sister is on the squad. Do you know Nita Rivera?”

“I’m afraid I don’t,” I said.

“She has the long black hair with blond and red highlights. She’s kind of short, slightly smaller than me, and she always wears skirts because she doesn’t believe in pants.”

“She doesn’t believe in pants? What does she think guys wear?”

She punched my arm. “Stop it. Be nice for once. Oh, here’s Bean.”

“It’s called To Bean or Not to Bean.”

“Shut up. You know what I mean.”

We both ordered a cappuccino, and then we sat at a booth in the corner. Sarah went to the bathroom first, though. While she was in the bathroom, I noticed Ariella Spears across the room. She was looking at me. She came over and sat in front of me.

“How are you?”

“I’m okay,” I said. “How are you?”

“Not so good. You were right, Reese. You can’t trust werewolves. I wish I’d listened to you.”

“Well, it’s okay.”

“No, it’s not. I acted like a bad friend, and I hate myself for it. Can you forgive me?”

“Of course,” I told her. “Want to be friends again?”

“Friends,” she said, holding out her hand. I took it and shook it.

“So, what else is going on?” I asked.

“There’s a girl named Candace,” Ariella said carefully. “I think I’m falling in love with her.”

“You’re bi?” I asked.

“I think I might be. So, we have another thing in common-we’re both bi. Candace is so amazing. She’s sweet, and funny, and rich, and she’s gorgeous. She has this blond hair and these wide blue eyes and these long black lashes.”

“Hi, Ariella,” Sarah said, scooting next to me.

“Hi, Sarah,” Ariella said. “The girls want to go to a Jason Mraz concert this week. Are you in?”

“Count me in,” Sarah replied. “Text me the deets, and I’ll be there.”

“Done.” Ariella looked at me. “So, how is your family?”

And then we talked for two hours as if there had never been a rift at all between us.


I was happy and humming by the time I got home from my surprise date. I was friends with Ariella again, and we’d forgiven each other. I told her that Uncle Soren had found Mitra and was falling hard for her, and she said “Good for him. He deserves it.”

I told her about Kieran, Kellan, and Apollo. I told her about Grandfather, Louis, and Father. She told me about Chips, her betta fish, and talked about her parents getting separated. Apparently, she’d caught her dad in bed with his assistant from his law firm. Her mother found out, and became angry. Now she was living with her mother while her dad found another place to live.

When I walked into the living room, Uncle Soren and Mitra were making out. I averted my eyes and walked up to my room. I glanced back. Mitra was feeling my uncle’s large biceps.

I went up to my room and started playing on my guitar. I hit a few random notes, then found a rhythm and started playing “A Reason to Fight” by Disturbed. I got into it, playing the song over and over again, until Louis shouted at me to stop, as I was giving him a headache. I played a few more notes just to annoy him, then checked my e-mails.

A few notes for the Council, some favors to answer, a few pleas for help, and one from the dealership where I got my Nissan GT-R, asking how I liked it. I replied back in order of importance, then looked through my bookshelf for something of interest. A few of Sarah’s books were scattered around. I chose one about dragons and sat in my reading chair.

I was on chapter four when I scented unfamiliar vampires.

More strangers? I’d had more than enough of those lately. I looked outside, looked toward the woods, and spotted a small male vampire eyeing the house. I turned and went downstairs, where Father waited.

“Stay inside, Reese,” he said.

“I’m going to confront him,” I said.

“No, you’re not. Spencer will. Spencer, go see what he wants.”

Spencer nodded and headed outside. Toby followed after him.


I went outside after Toby, despite my father’s protests. He followed after me.

“Who are you?” Spencer called out to the strange small male. The male leapt down. He had ear-length messy black hair, tanned skin, and dark brown eyes. He was sort of cute, in an emo sort of way. His clothing was distinctly teenage. He wore a Blood on the Dance Floor t-shirt, black skinny jeans, and studded faux-leather boots.

“I’m Isaiah,” said the small male in a high-pitched Spanish accent. “My leader sent me to see who else was here. Who are you guys?”

“You don’t know much about the royal family, do you, boy?” Spencer quipped. Isaiah shook his head.

“You mean you guys are…?”

“These are two members of the royal family,” Spencer said, gesturing to me and Father. Isaiah looked confused.

“I’m Reese Emerson,” I told him.

“And I am Prince Reese’s father, Mordecai Emerson,” Father said.

“Nice to meet you,” said Isaiah, kneeling. I noticed that his eyes were lined with gold eyeliner. It made his eyes sparkle.

He focused in on Toby then. Toby blinked, then started to look uncomfortable.

“Who are you guys, then?” Isaiah asked.

“I am Spencer, the head guard,” Spencer said. “This is my mate, Toby.”

Isaiah looked disappointed.

“Who is your leader?” I asked. Isaiah looked at me.

“My leader’s name is Bram,” he said. We looked at each other. The Head of the Council.

“Come inside, Isaiah,” Father said. Isaiah followed us into the house.



I was not surprised that the Council sent the boy to check on the Emerson home. As I watched from the shadows, I wished my son was beside me. Both of them. My son Kieran, and Reese, who should have been my son. Cirino, too, but he was still an infant.

My insides churned as I watched Isaiah follow the guards into the house. My phone vibrated in my pants. I looked at it. My wife sent me a text message.

Marina: Where are you?

I couldn’t respond, not yet. I was sure of a few things. I didn’t trust Isaiah, not one bit. My instincts were to go in and protect my boy. My son. My child. I took a careful step forward. Then another.

I leapt down from the trees and landed perfectly on my feet and hands. Then I headed to the Emerson home.



Isaiah settled himself at the dining room table. Before he could speak, though, Alexander broke the door down.

“What the hell, Nicolai!” Father shouted.

“Don’t trust the boy!” Alexander yelled, ignoring Father.

“Alexander, what’s going on?” I asked.

“Bram sent the boy here to spy on you,” he said.

“Alexander, we know,” Toby said.

“Oh, you know? Then you should also know that the boy is not as ignorant as he’s pretending to be,” Alexander said.

“Shut up, Alexander,” Father snapped. “Just leave. You’re wasting our time.”

Alexander snarled, but he shut up and sat at the table we were at.

“Spencer, go fix the door,” Father said.

Isaiah spoke up. “Bram was the one who changed me. I was walking around and- “

Kieran walked through the door next. He paused when he saw Alexander.

“What do you want, Kieran?” Father asked.

“I came to- “ His eyes fixed on Isaiah, and widened.

“Isaiah was just about to tell us an interesting story,” I said. “Care to join us?”

“Definitely.” He sat down between me and Isaiah. Isaiah would have been blushing if vampires could blush. Yuck.

“Anyway, Bram was my sire. I didn’t know he was the Head of the Vampire Council. I just knew him because we met at a club.”

“A nightclub?” Kieran asked. He and I looked at each other. Bram at a nightclub? That was unheard of.

“Yeah. He told me that he chose me for a special purpose, that humans were created to serve vampires and vampires were created to keep the human population under control.”

“Bullshit,” Alexander broke in.

“Yeah, I call bullshit,” I agreed.

Isaiah shrugged. “That’s what he said to me. And he…well…I don’t want to go into details.”

“What happened?” Kieran demanded.

“That’s not much of a story,” Spencer said, sneering. He leaned over and kissed Toby’s hair.

“My mate is tired,” Kieran said.

“Mate?!” Alexander shrieked, sounding very much like a bird. “You’re fucking nuts, Kieran. You just lost Thomas!”

“I know, but…” He turned and looked at Isaiah, who had a bemused expression.

“Well, I have to go,” I said. “I need to go clear my head.”

“Go,” Father encouraged. “We’ll take care of this little situation.” Isaiah gulped.


I was asleep in bed when I felt someone stirring over me. It was Father. Apparently, once I’d hit the bed, I’d fallen asleep immediately, and felt asleep with my clothes on, including boots. Father eased the boots off first, then started to take my jeans off. I shoved his hand away and undid the button myself, then slid out, taking my shirt off in the process.

“I worry about you, Reese,” Father said.

“Stop worrying,” I replied. “I’m fine.”

“Don’t lie to me. I was a teenager once, believe it or not.”

“About two thousand years ago.”

He smirked. “Yes, I’m an old man. You’re a young man.”

“I know that, Father. But trust me-I’m fine.”

“All right, if you insist.”

“I do and I did. Now good night.”

He frowned at me, then left the room so I could sleep.


Sarah was beautiful. Of course, she’s always beautiful, but now she was especially beautiful. She was directing her squad like nobody’s business. Even though the cheerleading squad was not supposed to practice or do anything together until the deal with Kent had been investigated, Sarah and Stella, the other captain, were getting together once a week to practice and work out. Anyone was welcome, but it was not required to attend, since technically the squad had been disbanded until further notice.

Tonight was the PTA meeting, and the entire squad was required to attend to testify against Cella Kent. Mother would attend, as would Alexander and Father.

It was already six o’clock, and the meeting was at seven.

“Time to get ready,” said Stella. All the girls finished their routine, then headed inside the house to get ready.

Thirty minutes later, the squad was getting in their cars to go to the meeting.


Principal Turner did not look happy to see me. Chris had her hand on Sarah’s back as she guided her through the crowd. She glared at Principal Turner, who noticed her and quickly looked away. Mother and Selena were there with Sabine, discussing her fifteenth birthday, which had already passed. Sabine had insisted she did not want a bat mitzvah, and Mother was trying to talk her into it.

“Give it a chance, love,” she said.

“Okay, fine. You can plan one,” said Sabine, rolling her eyes. I swear, sometimes my girlfriend’s sister acted more like a twelve-year-old than a fifteen-year-old. Despite that, she was as loved as Sarah, and Mother loved spoiling her.

“I wish you would not wear those shorts,” Mother continued. “I can see your butt cheeks.”

Sabine pulled up the leg of her shorts and waved her butt at Mother. Mother sighed and shook her head.

“Teenagers,” Selena said sarcastically. “Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.”

“I love the girls like they are my own,” Mother said. “As I love Cirino, and Reese, and you, and Kieran, and Taran, and Viktor.”

“Your ex-stepchildren, too?”

“Of course. I will always love those boys like they were my own, as well.”

“Hello, Mrs. Nicolai,” said Principal Turner.

“Hello, Edward,” Mother said.

“Um, my name is Eton,” Principal Turner said, looking uncomfortable. Go, Mom!

“Whatever. I know how you’ve been treating my boy,” Mother said. “And I know that you are reluctant to reform the cheer squad because Sarah is dating Reese. I’ll tell you right now- I don’t know or care what your issue is with my son, you will not take it out on Sarah. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Principal Turner said, looking embarrassed.

To make things worse for Principal Turner, I noticed several parents watching the exchange.

“And another thing-you have been treating Reese like shit lately. I don’t care what your pitiful excuse is, that stops today. Clear?”

“Yes, ma’am. I will investigate further with Cella Kent and make a decision based on all the clear facts.”

“And the facts are this: Miss Kent deliberately abused the girls for months. Verbally, emotionally, mentally, and physically. She will be fired based on the video evidence we have gathered, and I think that all the parents would agree to fire her. If she is not fired, we shall see how you do without a cheerleading squad.”

Principal Turner actually went as white as a ghost. Even if he threatened to disband the squad, he was screwed without it. And based on how he’d been treating me lately, it was not likely to work out in his favor tonight. We had witnesses.

“I call this meeting to order,” said a tall woman with short red hair. “My name is Barbara Clymer, and I am the head of the PTA. First things first, we need to discuss the cheerleading squad. Play the video.”

The videos were played of Kent yelling at the squad, calling them heifers, calling them whores, insulting their looks and their performance, how they dressed, how they practiced, and so on.

“We will now take a vote on whether or not to fire Cella Kent. All in favor, raise your hands.”

Almost everyone raised their hands. The only one who didn’t, I noticed, was Principal Turner and a tall man with silver hair.

“So that’s done. Cella Kent is officially let go from the position as cheer coach. Next item, the issue of soda machines…”

So that was done. I noticed Principal Turner glaring at me.

“Hey, problem?” I asked.

“You’d better watch your mouth, boy?”

“Why do you hate me so much?” I asked. “Is it because I’m goth, because I’m Asatru, or is it something else? God forbid, do you have a crush on me or something?”

Father put his hand on my shoulder. I noticed that we were being watched now by the whole session.

“Turner, you have been bullying Reese for too long. Leave him alone!”

“People like him should not be allowed in school!” the principal yelled. “No one likes a freak!”

“A freak, am I? You’re not the first person to call me that, and you won’t be the last. But coming from someone who is supposed to keep me safe, who is supposed to watch over me….”

“Just shut up already! No one likes you!”

Father stepped forward, and Principal Turner turned as white as a sheet. Father grabbed Principal Turner around the throat.

“You have threatened and insulted my boy for the last time. The very last time. I would watch your back if I were you.”

“Father,” I said, tugging on him. He ignored me.

“Mordecai, we are being watched,” Mother said. Father looked around at all the people watching him. He let go of the scared principal, then turned to me.

“Come, Reese. We are leaving.”

When we got home, I found myself trying to control my stomach. Isaiah and Kieran were making out on the porch. Kellan was nowhere to be seen.

“Get a room!” I shouted. Isaiah ducked his head, looking embarrassed, while Kieran glared at me.

“You know what I think?” Father said. “I think that you, Kieran, are fucking Kellan and Isaiah to get over Thomas!”

“Do not speak about Thomas!” Kieran growled.

He jumped on Father, who immediately started pounding him. Alexander and Grandfather ran out, along with Uncle Soren and Louis.

“Stop them,” Grandfather said, a desperate edge to his voice.

Alexander grabbed Kieran, and Uncle Soren grabbed Father, who struggled.

“Mordecai, what’s gotten into you?!” he cried.

“Ask him,” Father snarled, pointing at Kieran.

“Kieran?” Alexander inquired.

Kieran took a deep breath. “Fine, I’ll tell, but only if Soren admits to Reese what he did with that cute green-eyed brunette.”

“Excuse me?” I breathed. “Oh my gods, you didn’t!”

“No! I just…well…I was already drunk and I…well, kissed her,” he admitted.

“You son of a bitch!” I pounced on him, only to be grabbed by Louis. “Bastard! Let me go! I’ll pulverize him!”

“Reese, it was one time, and she told me that she would not date me,” he continued. “She said maybe in another life, but she found you first.”

“She what? I swear to God, I will fucking kill you, Soren!” I jabbed Louis in the gut with my elbow, and then started toward my uncle. Father grabbed me first, managing to get out of my uncle’s grasp for a moment.

“Reese, look at me,” Father said. “What Soren did with Sarah is nothing compared to what Kieran did with Faolan!”

I looked back at Kieran with narrowed eyes. “You fucked him.”

“In simple terms, yes,” he said. “What am I supposed to do? My true mate is dead, and now I am lonely and alone again. Being lonely was the worst thing to ever happen to me.”

“Dude, I was single for sixteen years, until I dated Evan,” I said.

“Lonely is not the same as alone,” Alexander said in a gentle tone, the gentlest I’d ever heard him speak. “If you had come back to me, maybe you wouldn’t have been lonely!”

“Go die in a ditch, old man,” Kieran snapped. “That’s it! I’m leaving again! And this time, no one can stop me!”

“No, Kieran- “Alexander pleaded.

“Kieran, there are rogue vampires about,” Grandfather said. “They’ll kill you.”

“Death is better than this,” Kieran hissed.

“You don’t mean that, Kieran,” Alexander said. “Please, stay. If I lost you again, I’d never forgive myself! At least talk to me first! Talk to Marina!”

“No! I’m gone!” Kieran shook off Alexander and ran off.

“Louis, go find Kellan, he’s the only one who can talk sense into Kieran,” Grandfather ordered.

Louis ran off, and Grandfather took up the task of preventing me from killing Uncle Soren.

“I have to find Sarah,” I said, and then took off toward her house.

She was in her room, in the process of taking her shirt off. I climbed up the ridges of the house to her room, breaking the screen. She jumped at the sound, then turned and saw me.

“Reese, you scared me,” she said, sounding relieved.

“What exactly happened between you and Soren?” I asked. I turned off her radio, which was playing a song by Corinne Bailey Rae.

“He got drunk, and he kissed me,” she admitted, too hastily. I grabbed her shoulders.

“And what did you say?”

“I-I said…maybe in another life, but I found you first.” She blushed and looked down. “I’m sorry, Reese.”

“No, no, it’s not your fault. It’s his. I will fucking kill him.”

“Reese! Not okay!”

“I don’t give a damn! You are attracted to him! I have to get rid of the competition!”

“Doesn’t he have a girlfriend?”

“Oh gods, yes! Mitra! I swear, I’ll get revenge.”

“What do you mean?”

“I will tell Mitra.”

“Reese, don’t. It will just cause more drama.”

“Do you think I care about drama? This is about keeping you to myself! You’re mine! You belong to me!”

“Reese, stop. Think about what you’re saying!”

“I’m sorry, baby, but it’s how I feel.”

I heard Cirino crying then. Sarah looked behind her.

“I have to check on him. I don’t know where Zie went, and Marina’s not back yet.”

She pulled a t-shirt over herself, and went down to check on the baby. She carried him back up. He was babbling to himself, playing with Sarah’s now-loose hair. She patted his back, and he let out a huge burp and a noisy fart.

“Someone’s stinky tonight,” she cooed. He giggled and then looked at me. He frowned, then smiled again. I looked into his green eyes. Sarah’s eyes. He was her son, after all. But his hair was blond, like Michael Nales’. But what Nales’ did was not Cirino’s fault. He was innocent. He was not capable of evil yet.

“Hey, little buddy,” I said to him, stroking his hair. He gurgled and burped again. He grabbed my finger.

“I think you’ve got a fan,” Sarah said.

Cirino started to pull my finger into his mouth, then I pulled away. I did not want baby germs. He smiled anyway, and babbled to me.

“Yeah, I like you, too,” I said. “You’re a cutie. Just like your mother. Well, I’m sorry I freaked you out. I’m still going to kill Soren, though.”

I had an image of then kissing, and hissed. Wait, this was more like a memory. Was I…could I read Sarah’s mind, if I put effort into it?

I closed my eyes and focused. I focused on the sound of her voice, the feel of her arms. I remembered our conversation where she’d first revealed to me that her father was dead and she had a sister. I focused, I could feel the edges of her mind. I was sure of one thing, and that was how much I loved her. How much she loved me.

I focused on our memories together. The time in the orchard. Her stress seizure. The car accident. The time I’d found out she was pregnant. The time I found out she was having a boy, and her disappointment that it wasn’t a girl, but her insistence that she’d love him just the same.

I remembered when I’d met Alicia, met Sabine. When I should have met Beckett, but he had been dead for a year already. Her.

I was in. I explored her current thoughts. She was wondering what I was doing, but she didn’t care. She was more focused on Cirino. There, I found the memory of her and Uncle Soren. They were on the couch together, and Uncle Soren had been drinking. Alcohol is the only human drink that can affect vampires. Why was he drinking, anyway? He does not hold alcohol well.

He turned, turning her head toward him, and then he leaned forward. She started to ask what he was doing, but he pressed his lips against hers in a passionate, for him, kiss.

I exited her mind suddenly. I didn’t want to see anymore. I noticed that her eyebrows started to furrow together.

“What’s wrong, lover?”

“Just a…really bad sudden headache. It almost feels like a brain freeze. But I haven’t eaten or drink anything cold today, except my mocha, and that was hours ago.”

“I’m sorry, I was…reading your mind.”

“You can do that?”

“With effort, yes. We will also be able to speak to each other using our minds.”

She looked impressed. “So we’ll be able to read each other’s minds? You were seeing which memory…when Soren kissed me.”

“Eh, yes, I admit it. I was. I also noticed something else. He practically attacked you!”

“Yeah, he was as hard as a rock. It’s amazing, the size difference…shutting up.”

I frowned at her. “Is he bigger than me?”

“Much bigger. He has the biggest one I’ve ever seen. Well, felt.”

I snarled at that.

“I’m sorry, Reese-“

“No, baby, it wasn’t your fault. It was his. I swear, I’ll rip him to pieces.”


“I’m serious. He is going to die by my hand.”

I kissed her, then kissed Cirino,


I was back at the house. Uncle Soren was waiting for me.

“Reese, I can’t tell you how sorry I am,” he said. “The truth is, I love her. I’ve always loved her. But she was yours first.”

“Why does she attract so many males?” I hissed.

“I don’t know, but again, I’m sorry. Maybe it’s just bad luck, or maybe there’s something deeper going on. Learn more about her ancestors. Her breed. Maybe that will give you answers.”

“What about Mitra?” I asked.

“I love her, too. Gods, how I love her. Is it possible to love two people at the same time?”

“Anyone who loves two people at the same time is a no-class, beatdown piece of shit.”

“Reese, I said I was sorry!”

“I don’t give a damn! Just leave her alone. She’s mine!”

“Reese, it’s her decision whether or not she wants to stay with you. She could just as well dump you for me.”

“Shut up! Mine! She’s mine!” My knuckles were as white as pearls, my fists balled up. “I don’t give a damn if every guy in town wants to fuck her, she’s mine! I will slaughter every single person who hurts her!”

“Just like you slaughtered Michael Nales? Oh, but that wasn’t you, was it? It was Mordecai! You asked him to do it!”

“Shut up, shut up, shut up!”

Red colored my vision. I pounced on my rival, my teeth aiming for his jugular. A pair of strong hands wrapped around my waist and pulled me back.

“Reese, calm down! Spencer, hold him!” The pair of hands around me didn’t move. “Reese, look at me!” Father grabbed my shoulders. “Son, you have to calm down! Soren, I swear to Odin, I will kill you!”

“I know, I know, I shouldn’t have pushed him. But what am I supposed to do?”

“Control your damn hormones! You jump to girl after girl. You did not love Sarah the minute you saw her. You lied about that.”

“I did not! I love her!”



“I’m telling Mitra,” I said. I fought to get out of Spencer’s grip.

“No, Reese! I beg you!” Uncle Soren followed after me to the front door. “Please, don’t tell Mitra! I don’t want to lose her! She’s lost so much already! She’ll kill herself!”

“If she wants to kill herself, then why is she still here?”

“Reese,” Father warned. “You did not mean a word of that.”

“I’m done with you, Soren. I’m done with all of this!”


I actually considered breaking up with Sarah. Of course, we’d broken up before, briefly, and we had not stayed broken up. We loved each other too much. But if I broke up with her now, she’d never forgive me. She would never come back to me. I’d ruin all my chances at being with either of my soulmates.

I had finished crying, and was hovering over my cell phone, debating whether or not to send a text that would ruin my uncle’s relationship with Mitra.

I wondered if Sarah was encouraging all the attention she got. I decided to have her followed.

“Toby,” I said, calling him in. He came in. “I want you to follow Sarah. Namely, see if she encourages all the attention she gets. But don’t let her know you’re following her.”

He nodded and slinked away.

I called Louis into my room next.

“Louis, I want you to do a supernatural DNA test on Sarah. See exactly how much fairy she is.”

“Anything for you, cousin.”

I stalked her Facebook. I looked at her recent activity. She played a game, then uploaded a photo of Cirino with the caption “Little man loves his bottle!”

I checked her Twitter. Same thing. I checked her YouTube channel. She uploaded three more videos, all makeup or hair related. I watched the video of her doing her hair. I wondered how she got those curls. She shampooed and deep-conditioned her hair, then ran a wet comb through it, then used a diffuser on her hair. The effect was amazing. Most women would kill for curls like those.

I checked all her social media. I looked around in my phone. I thought about the consequences of what I was doing. There was a possibility she’d dump me if she found out. I was taking a huge risk in that regard.

I picked up a book called The World of Lore: Monsters, by Aaron Mahnke. It started with the lore of vampires. I got to where he talks about zombies before realizing that I hadn’t absorbed any of it. Sighing to myself, I put the book down. I texted Louis to see how far he’d gotten. He responded with Don’t rush me. I rolled my eyes. Sometimes rushing him was the only way to ensure anything got done.

My phone rang, and it was Sarah.

“Hello, beautiful,” I said.

“Hey. Louis just came by, wanting to take a saliva sample. What’s that about?”

I closed my eyes and shook my head.

“It’s a DNA test. To see exactly how fairy you are.”

“Oh, it that all?”

“Yeah, that’s it. That’s all it is.”

“Oh, well that will be interesting.”

“Yes, I think it will be.”

There was silence.

“Um, Reese, what else is going on?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, how are you?”

“I’m all right. Worried about you, sugar. How are you doing on your medication?”

“I’m doing okay. I’m almost out of Xanax.”

“Ask Chris to stop by the pharmacy.”

“Am I allowed to ask her to do that?”

“Of course. She’s there for your convenience. You can ask her to do whatever you want. What else is going on?”

“Your sister and my sister and I are going to take self-defense. Maybe if I know how to defend myself, you won’t have to.”

“Honey, I don’t mind being your bodyguard. That’s also what Chris is there for. But if this is something you want to do, go for it. Will it conflict with your cheer schedule?”

“Not if we take it on Mondays. Tuesday and Thursday I have cheer, on Wednesday I have therapy, and on Friday I have the games, and Saturday and Sunday are reserved for work.”

“You really like working, don’t you?”

“I feel like I need to contribute. I know that waitressing doesn’t pay much, but I like seeing new people every day and some of the regulars aren’t too bad. But the tips are great. I’ve realized that if I wear makeup and do my hair a certain way, I get more tips. That’s probably not fair to womankind, but that’s how it is.”

“Does anyone touch you?” I let jealousy creep into my tone.

“Of course, but a sharp slap or a couple words do the trick. Or if my boss sees it, she’ll say something. But for everyone who touches my booty, there’s another two tables who treat me well. If I’m being honest, the tables who touch my butt or my leg usually tip well, too.”

I growled.

“Any religious fanatics?”

“Of course. There’s some ladies who go to the Methodist church two blocks away who stop by every Sunday and ask for me. They always tip well, especially when I wear a cross or a Star of David. There’s also a guy who usually gives out pamphlets instead of real money, but he’s not condescending like that other guy who said that I would go to hell when I wore my Star. The next time he saw me, I was wearing the cross, and he said, ‘I’m so glad I was able to change your sinful ways!’ I said, ‘You do know that Jesus was a Middle Eastern Jew, right?’ and then he shut up. Now he avoids eye contact and sits at Greg’s table.”

“Don’t tell him you’re part Israelite.”

“Oh, I won’t. I almost got written up for it, but this girl, Casey, spoke up for me. The managers listen to her because she’s the owner’s daughter.”

“Well, I’m glad it all worked out for you. But if I catch anyone touching you inappropriately, I will most likely kill them.”

“Reese! Not okay! Besides, Chris is always there! She can defend me if it gets out of hand. Anyway, I have to go. Sabine wants to go to the bookstore.”

“All right. I love you, beautiful.”

“I love you too, handsome.”

I turned to my books and studied for a couple of hours. I was interrupted when I started hearing shouting. It sounded like Uncle Soren and Louis. I rolled my eyes and went downstairs. My cousin and uncle were indeed shouting at each other. My father saw me, and hugged me.

“Have you eaten yet?” he asked. “We just got a new batch in from France.”

France. Where Beckett Cresley was from. Sarah had once mentioned that his side of the family owned a farm there. With cows, sheep, chickens, and goats, and a few pigs. Cats, too.

“What are they arguing about?” I asked, forcing myself to focus on the present.

“About last night. Soren blames Louis for you finding out about his kiss with Sarah.”

“But he’s not the one who told me. Kieran did.”

“Yes, but who do you think told Kieran?”

“I assumed Kieran had seen it himself. And I didn’t know that Kieran and Louis were buddies.”

“I didn’t, either, but they were together when it happened.”

I sighed. “SHUT UP!” I shouted.

They stopped bickering immediately and looked at me.

“It doesn’t matter who saw it or who told who what. It happened, and I’m not happy with you, Uncle Soren. I talked to Sarah and got her side of the story. Now I know both sides, and I’ve made a decision. I’m having Toby follow Sarah to see if she’s being honest about telling off guys who hit on her. I’m having Louis look up her ancestry to see what else I can find.”

“You’re smart, Reese,” Louis said, grinning like an idiot. “You’re smarter than Dad is, that’s for sure.”

“Shut up, Louis,” Uncle Soren snapped.


Louis finished his rant and stomped off. I heard his door slam seconds later.

“Soren, we need to talk,” Father said. He turned to me. “Reese, go out. Ask one of your friends to grab a drink or something.”

He was going to start yelling. I grabbed my keys, wallet, and phone, and headed out to my GT-R. I rubbed the sleek black paint, then got in and started driving. I didn’t know where I would go, until I passed the library. I parked and went in.

I loved the smell of the library. Old and new books, coffee, fruity smoothies. I went to my favorite section, horror, and went through the books. I already owned every single Stephen King novel. I searched through more authors, found a few that I liked, and put them in my arms. I went to the music section next. I picked out a book about Stevie Nicks, a book written by Nikki Sixx, and a book about Nirvana.

I went to the check-out, and got away with no problems. It was when I got to the bookstore that we had problems. My card was rejected.

“Sorry, hon,” said the cute blonde, popping her gum. “It didn’t go through.”

“I’ll come back later,” I said. I quickly left the shop, embarrassed even though there was no one around, and I knew I had money in that account. Still, I checked on my phone. I definitely had money in that account. Over a hundred thousand, if I’m being honest.

It must have been the card reader, I thought. How embarrassing. I’d talk to Father about it. Maybe he had the answers.

When I got back home, Father was finished shouting at Uncle Soren. Uncle Soren looked guilty and terrified.

“Hey, Dad,” I said.

“Hey, son. What did you buy?”

“Nothing. My card was rejected.”

“That’s weird. I know there’s money. I’ll check a few things.”

He typed away on his phone. Uncle Soren snuck away and ran upstairs at human speed.

“Huh,” Father said. “All of our cards were canceled. I’ll call your grandfather.”

He found his name on speed dial, and hit it.

“Hello, Dad,” Father said. “We have a problem. All of our cards were canceled. Debit and credit. I noticed it after Reese had some problems buying something. I checked his account, and it was canceled without my or his authorization. There’s definitely money in it. He’s not a big spender, either, unless he’s taking Sarah shopping. I know, just please check it. Yeah, mine, Soren’s, and Louis’ too. Yours, too. No, I haven’t told him yet. He and I just got into a fight. I know, I know, but he kissed Sarah. Yes, Reese knows. They shouted at each other last night. I’ll send a private investigator to do some research.”

He answered a few more questions, and then hung up.

“I have to make some calls,” he said.

I noticed Louis hanging around. His eyes were red, as if he’d been crying.

“How much did you hear?” I asked him.

“All of it. It’s definitely weird. Mine, too?” I nodded. “Huh. Well, I am going to go see Mitra now.”


“Hey, she’s single again. Dad called her and told her the truth. She dropped him like a hot potato. She’s single and legal and I’m going in.”

“It will hurt Uncle Soren,” I said.

“Hey, he’s hurt you, he hurt Sarah, and he hurt Mitra. I think he deserves a little heartbreak.”

“Louis, don’t do anything stupid.”

“Comforting a friend? I swear, that’s all I’m going to do. Comfort a friend. And she needs comfort. They just found Ellis’ ashes. He was her best friend. She needs a friend right now. She’s been walled up too long.”

“Just don’t hurt her.”

“I won’t, I promise. I won’t even kiss her. Pinky swear.” He held up his pinky.

“Okay, I’m trusting you,” I told him. He smiled at me.

“Of course you can trust me. I’m your cousin. If you can’t trust family, who can you trust?”

I sent Toby a text, checking up on the progress.

Toby: I was spotted by Christie. She asked me what I was doing. I told her the truth, and she warned me to stay away or she would tell Sarah. What do you want me to do?

Reese: Backtrack. Retreat. Abort the mission.

It was stupid to send him after her anyway. I had made a big mistake.

Toby: I did see a strange male hanging around. He’s about six foot, wears glasses, has green eyes and brown hair, and wears button-up shirts and black slacks.

That sounded like Becket Cresley again. Was it his ghost, coming back to check on the girls? I wondered.

I needed to see Sarah. I got into my car and headed over. I barely got a block, though, before my car stopped.

“What the fuck?” I checked the battery light. It was fine. I checked the gas. Empty. “Double what the fuck? I had a full tank of gas!”

I sent Father another text. He said he’d send one of the guys to pick up my car. I told him I was walking to Mother’s house.

I ran to the house instead. I normally didn’t run, in case a human spotted me, but I wanted to get there fast. I climbed up the ivy to Sarah’s room. What I saw broke my heart. Caden Cartwright was in her room. I jumped down, then opened the front door. I stomped upstairs, throwing her door open.

“Hello, Reese,” Sarah said.

“Don’t give me that. How long has this been going on?”

“What are you talking about?” she asked.

“Dude, you’re tripping,” Caden said.

“Caden’s only here to donate to the cheer squad,” she said. “Really, Reese. I’m not having sex with him.”

“Why was your door closed, then?”

“Because this house is full of snoops,” she said.

I grabbed her wrists and pulled her up.

“Reese, you’re hurting me!”

I glared at Caden. “Get out. Before I rip out your intestines.”

“Freak,” Caden muttered, leaving quickly.

“How many boys have you been seeing behind my back?” I asked. “Just him? What about Elliot? Glen Crow? What about Dante? He’s not bad-looking.”

“Reese, stop. Let go of me!”

She kicked my leg, then I dropped her wrists. She frowned and rubbed her foot. “First of all, Caden and I did have something going on when we were broken up, but that’s over. I don’t talk to Elliot or Glen Crow anymore. Dante is just a friend. I can have guy friends if I want.”

“She’s right,” said Alexander, surprising me. “It’s her choice whether or not to have male friends just like it’s your choice to have female friends. I can assure you right now, she is having sex with no one but you. Christine has informed me that you sent Toby over to spy on Sarah.”

“What? You had Toby…” Sarah was stunned. “Okay, I can’t take anymore. Reese, I will not go out with you again until you take care of your jealousy. Goodbye.”

Stunned and hurt, I left, tears stinging my eyes. This was all my fault. I acted like an idiot just because I was insecure. And I hurt Sarah in the process. I glanced back to see Alexander looking at her wrists. Embarrassed, I left quickly.

Mother watched me leave without stopping me. So did Selena. I’d disappointed them. I’d hurt Mother’s favorite child. I walked back home.

I ignored Father as I got back into the house.

“Reese, what happened?” he asked. I turned and hid my face. “Son, is everything okay? Tell me!”

“You’ve got enough on your mind,” he said.

“Prince Mordecai,” Spencer said, handing Father a piece of plastic.

“What is that?”

“It is the gas line. Someone also cut the brake line. This was deliberate. Someone was hoping that Prince Reese would crash.”

I went upstairs. Now someone wanted me dead. I picked up my acoustic guitar, and strummed a few chords. I stopped, briefly. I started forming a new song in my head. I wrote down what I’d thought so far, and then wrote down the lyrics.

I sang to myself. I was amazed at my own voice. I knew I was a good singer. I listened for my family’s reactions.

“Reese is singing,” said Louis.

“He’s pretty good,” added Toby. “What do you think, lover?”

“He’s great,” growled Spencer. “I like it when he sings.”

“You know, if he and Sarah did a duet…” Toby began.

“They’d be unstoppable,” said Louis.

I stopped singing momentarily, then started singing “Lonely No More” by Rob Thomas. Then I sang “Ice” by Sarah McLachlan. Slower and sadder, but still good. Then I sang my new song.

What does it take to say I’m sorry?

My vision is blurry

Please tell me you still want to marry

There’s no hurry

Let me take you a ride in my Ferrari

Your lips taste like berries

Please forgive me

I’m not myself

I love you more than anything

That was as far as I got before I paused. I thought and thought. I glanced outside, and noticed two ravens.

“Hello, Thought. Hello, Memory,” I said. She turned her head and looked at me. Thought fluffed his feathers, then cawed.

“Are you trying to tell me something?” I asked them. “Am I chosen for something?” I blinked when Memory nodded. “For what? Am I special? Is my girlfriend special? Well, I know she’s special. Am I supposed to know something or do something?”

I looked down and saw Shadowfang, in cat form, watching the birds, his tail twitching. He crouched, then bounded across the room. The birds took off.

“Nice going, cat,” I said.

“Don’t call me cat,” he snapped, frowning where the birds had been seconds ago.

“Why not? It’s what you are.”

“How would you feel if I called you vampire?”

“It’s what I am. It’s no different than calling Toby black, or Spencer fat.”

“Except calling someone fat is kind of an insult,” he said. “Your uncle can relate. Mordecai calls him fat on a daily basis.”

“My father and uncle don’t exactly get along,” I reminded him. “But if we’re being honest- “

“Don’t start with me, Reese Emerson. I’ve had a long morning. First I took a nap, then I ate breakfast, then I ate a spider, then I killed another snake, then I spotted a coyote who looked at me like I was lunch.”

“How did you shake him off?”

“I fluffed myself up to make myself look bigger, and then I growled and hissed and spat. Bloody coward ran away when I started barking like a filthy dog.” I smiled at that. “It’s not funny! I hated myself for pretending to be a disgusting canine! They’re vicious, filthy, and they hunt cats!”

“I’m sorry you were forced to pretend to be a dog, my dear Shadowfang.”

He huffed and twirled around, his tail high and haughty. I turned back to my book and read until bedtime.


The result was, Cella Kent was fired, and Principal Turner was suspended for the way he treated me. Duke said that if only I wasn’t a prince, the principal would have never gotten suspended. If it was him, it would have flown right over their heads.

“It’s not the world against you,” I told him. “It’s that you break all the rules.”

“Amara wears a tank top all the time and she never gets in trouble!”

“She’s not baring her boobs or her belly. She’s within the boundaries.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

The cheerleaders walked around like they owned the place. All of them were required to speak with the superintendent and a counselor to discuss the problems with Ms. Kent. Sarah, as co-captain, was the first to speak to a counselor. And then Trina Smith, and then so on.

Sarah was looking more radiant than ever before. She stood up straighter, her sternum was up, back straight, knees slightly bent. Just like she was in the choir. By now, everyone had heard about her amazing singing voice, and the choir teacher asked her to sing for him. She did, and he was blown away by her soprano. She exchanged one of her classes for Choir, which she took with pride. I was there when she was introduced to the class. I had snuck in.

“Class, I believe you all know Sarah,” said Mr. Roberts. “She’ll be joining us as head soprano.”

I was proud of her, especially during her first chorus by herself. The rest of the girls didn’t hold a candle to her voice. They all looked at her with jealousy, some whispering about her.

“She isn’t even that good.”

“Who does she think she is?”

“What does Mr. Roberts see in her?”

I was glad she could not hear them. Their words would have devastated her.

Her cheerleading continued with therapy and empowerment sessions. A life and cheer coach was brought in to help the girls with their self-confidence and individuality. Sarah liked her, so I liked her.

As we headed into March, I started practicing my own singing and piano more. I was talented. Everyone said so. My bass was smooth, the breaths coming in quietly. Of course, I didn’t need to breathe, but it looked better in front of other people if they saw me breathing. Shadowfang scoffed at me and said that I was useless otherwise. I stuck my tongue out at him and threatened to stop giving him treats for a week. He gave me a fake apology in a too-sweet voice while rolling on his back and stretching out.

Father said I could use my card again. Apparently, Bram had canceled them. Father spoke to the bank, giving them a good lecture, and the employee who authorized the cancelations was fired.

That was another thing on the list to ask the Council about.

I’m floating. I’m on a cloud. The cloud cannot hold my weight. I’m falling now. I’m hurtling toward the ocean. I land on my back in the water. I am pulled underwater by an unseen force. I look down and see a monster, with a hundred tentacles and several hundred eyes. I take in a mouthful of saltwater, my stomach and lungs filling with the disgusting stuff. The tentacles suddenly form several paths. I’m at a fork where they meet. One leads directly to Sarah. She’s huge with child, and next to her is a bunch of little kids. I see a little boy and two girls.

Another path leads to Evan. He’s smiling at me, but there are no kids around him, and the smile doesn’t reach his eyes. The third path leads to me laying on the ground. My chest and stomach are torn open, and I’m dead. The fourth path leads directly to my father, uncle, cousin, and grandfather. I start toward the obvious choice, to Sarah.

Something stops me. I try to move forward, but I can’t. Something is pulling me back. And then I see it. Another shadow behind her. A male. Yet another rival? I could take him. But to my shock, Sarah turns and kisses him.

I’m being pulled away.

Sarah!” I cry out. “Sarah!” Desperate, I look at the kids. They all look sadly at me.

Father was shaking me.

“Reese! Wake up!”

I fully wake up and grab Father’s hair.

“Sorry,” I said, letting go. “I had a nightmare.”

“I know, baby,” Father said. “Settle down. I’m here now.”

I fell back on the bed, tired. Father watched me, worried.

“Your hair’s getting long again,” he said, fingering a few strands. “Do you want to cut it?”

“No, I like it long.”

The next day was hell on earth. I dazedly went through my classes, exhausted. I sipped some blood from my water bottle. I sat at my usual table with my friends, with my head on the table.

“Reese, dude, don’t take this the wrong way, but I can’t eat when your hair’s in my corn,” Duke said.

“Sorry,” I lied, not moving.

“Is he okay?” he asked the others.

“Clearly not,” Noah replied. “Use what little brains you have, Duke.”

“I’m just tired,” I told them.

“What happened last night?” Mason asked.

“I had a nightmare, and then I couldn’t sleep.”

“Vampires get nightmares?” Duke said stupidly. “Dude, I am so sorry.”

“It’s okay. I’ll survive.”

“Where’s Amara?” I asked, moving my head slightly.

“She’s with Cole,” Noah answered, his voice filled with venom.

“It’s your own fault,” Mason told him. “She liked you, and you were with that redheaded bitch. Serves you right.”

“There’s nothing wrong with Cole, except his brains,” I said.

“Right,” Duke nodded.

“Exactly,” Mason said. “Oh, your girlfriend’s behind you.”

I sat up straight. Sarah laughed and used a napkin to wipe the melted cheese from my hair. People still gawked, despite the fact that we’d been going out over a year. I stood up and swept her up. She squealed as I held her bridal-style. She looked at me and wrapped her arms around my neck. She leaned forward and pecked my lips.

“What do you need?” I asked.

“I had some time before I have to get back to class, and I just wanted to say hi,” she said shyly. “Can you put me down? My back hurts.”

“Of course.” I put her down. Her shirt slid up, revealing her stomach. I noticed a glint of silver. “Did you get a belly button ring?”

“Well, if I’m going to be immortal, I might as well do all the human things now,” she huffed. She showed me her ears. She had a new stud in her left ear. She took her hair tie out and shook her thick curly locks.

“She has such pretty hair,” sighed a girl nearby.

“What does she see in him?”

“Are they still together?”

“Her jeans are way too tight.”

“She got a belly ring!”

Sarah’s wide eyes got even wider, and she looked around.

“It’s strange…I could hear everyone around us for a few seconds.”

Now my eyes widened. “Babe, it probably has something to do with your…transformation.”

“Transformation? You mean my fairy genes? I think I can understand that. But what’s going to happen next?”

“I don’t know, but if your back hurts again, come straight to me, or Mother, or Louis, or Selena. Promise?” I took her hands in mine.

“Promise.” She kissed my knuckles. “I’ve been making a lot of promises lately. I hope I can keep them all.”

And then she turned and left, her gold flats clapping on the linoleum.


As I walked back to class, I thought about what had just happened with Reese. My boyfriend was by far one of the best things in my life. I loved him deeply. My long brown hair swished as I walked back to Senior English Lit with Mrs. Caper. I hummed to myself as I took my seat in class. I’d gotten my research done, at least for my book report for Peter Pan by J.M. Barry.

I heard voices again.

“She took her hair down.”

“What took her so long?”

I shook my head and focused on my report. My thoughts turned back to my boyfriend. I opened the school laptop and typed up my resource list.

After school, I got my homework out of my locker and put my needed books and binder into my tote bag. I grabbed my purse and cell phone and touched up my lip gloss. I wrote a note to myself to finish and turn in my book report, then attached it to my locker mirror. I turned the dial. I didn’t have cheerleading tonight due to Coach’s need to see her daughter in the hospital, so I had some free time.

I had to drop off my sister at home, and then I’d have to finish homework.

Sabine was in a bad mood. Apparently, Jeremy, the vampire whom she’d dated, came by, and explained that Reese had scared him off. I’d have to have a talk with him. My sister’s dating life really was none of his business.

Home was vacant of males when we arrived. My sister and I lived with Marina and Alexander Nicolai, Reese’s mother and stepfather. We also lived with my son Cirino, Zie, the housekeeper, Kieran, Alexander’s son, and Kellan, Kieran’s weird albino friend.

Kellan actually lived in the house behind ours, but he stayed over so often, we might as well include him. He and Kieran were kind of a couple, but not really.

I went to my room, and Sabine to hers, and I called Reese.


“Hey, you. Why did you scare off Jeremy?”

“What? He was bad news! He was with Zeke’s clan!”

“That doesn’t mean they’re all bad. Just stay out of my sister’s dating life.” I hung up, a bit rudely. I could picture Reese glaring at his phone, possibly throwing it at the wall. His temper left much to be desired. I’d come close to breaking up with him a few times. I did break up with him once or twice, and he upset me enough when he said he wasn’t good enough for me and I thought he was breaking up with me.

He had to control his jealousy and his temper if he wanted to keep dating me. But lately, I’d been having strange dreams. I even took a pregnancy test, which was negative. I dreamed that I was pregnant again, this time with Reese’s babies. I smiled as I pictured them. A little black-haired boy with my eyes. A girl with dark hair and her father’s eyes. Another girl, with my curls and features and his coloring. I already picked out a few names. Caitlin Juniper for my first daughter, Joseph for my boy, and Cynthia for my other girl. Maybe Avarice or Love. Yes, I know what avarice means, but I don’t care.

My dad always said that if he and Mom had another girl, they’d name her Avarice. Tears pricked my eyes. I missed my parents. I cried for them every night. Sometimes Marina or Selena would come in and wrap her arms around me. I knew that they did the same for Sabine. I was in the family first, but my sister and I came as a package deal. Sabine would be sixteen this year, and she’d yet to have a bat mitzvah. I knew the real reason why she didn’t want one. She didn’t want to be reminded of Mom with all our relatives there.

I knew their deaths were not my fault, but it was hard not to feel guilty, especially when I passed our old house, which stood empty until we decided what to do with it. Until I decided what to do with it.

Coffee came up to me and jumped on my stomach. I scratched her behind the ears. She’d nearly died because of me. A crazed Fae named Marcus had attacked and nearly killed her because he wanted to get rid of me. He really seemed to hate me, and I had no idea why.

Coffee licked my eyes, as she always did when I cried. I grabbed my stuffed dog, Nina, and cried into her polyester fur. I cried for nearly an hour. I heard my sister crying as well. Coffee continuously licked my face, trying to comfort me. I finished my crying and turned on my iPod. I used to keep my music in my phone, but that drained the battery and the memory.

I turned and looked outside. I blinked when I saw a flash of red. And then another flash, like the glint of glasses.


I was embarrassed and humiliated. I should have never interfered with Sabine’s love life. I was already on my way to the house, hoping to speak to Sarah.

When I climbed up the trellis, she was watching WWE on her TV in her bedroom. She had been crying. I crawled through her window. She turned and looked at me.

“What are you doing here?” she asked rudely.

“I came to see you,” I said. “I’m sorry that I told Jeremy to stay away. But why are you crying?”

“Why do you think? Dad’s dead, Mom’s dead, and I had a baby at seventeen! And now my sister’s heartbroken because of you.”

I looked down, ashamed. Coffee was tentatively sniffing my boot. I looked at the TV. One of the McMahons was making a speech. Sarah leaned back against the wall.

“I got a new vanity,” she said. I looked at the turquoise-colored piece of furniture with drawers and crystal knobs.

“So I see. You’re going to keep your makeup on it?”

“Of course.”

I sat beside her and pulled her into my lap. She was wearing Spanish amber perfume today. I glanced outside, and saw a flash of red. I frowned, set my girlfriend down, and went to the window. It was Marcus, one the fairies. He had just gotten into a scuffle with a man with brown hair and glasses.

“Reese, what’s going on?”

“Sarah, stay there!”

She came over and looked out the window anyway. Her jaw dropped.


The two men quickly left, and Sarah blinked. “I must be seeing things.”

“Not necessarily,” I said cryptically. “Can I see a picture of Becket Cresley?”

She rummaged in her desk drawer and pulled out a photo album. There was a picture of a younger Becket Cresley and Alicia Abraham. And he wore the same glasses.

“He always wore the same glasses,” Sarah sighed. “His vision was terrible. He always got the same pair of frames and lenses whenever he had to get a new pair.”

My half-alive heart skipped a beat.

“Bye the way, if you’re going to send Toby to follow me…just don’t,” she said. I avoided looking at her and instead looked at her nightstand. She stood up and kissed me, then winced.

“My back hurts,” she complained.

“Your back has been hurting a lot lately,” I said. “Did you injure it?”

She frowned. “Not that I know of.”

I touched her shoulders, and she winced again.

“I’m sorry, baby, but I have to know. Tell me about Becket Cresley.”


It was more than an hour later, and I had some new information. Alicia and Becket had married shortly after Becket became an American citizen, an immigrant from France. He was six foot one, and had a thick French accent that he eventually softened over time and practice. He loved American country music and listened to a lot of old songs. Sarah got her looks from him. She said that he had a good singing voice, deep and clear and beautiful. She said that he often wore white button-up shirts and crisp khaki pants. He loved being clean and looking neat.

He worked in insurance for a time, eventually going to law school, though he never pursued the bar. He mostly raised the girls by himself, as Alicia was often drunk and selfishly spent most of the money she made on booze. It had been years since she’d bought anything for Sarah or Sabine. Then Becket developed stomach cancer, and died when Sarah was fifteen, a sophomore. He died in September of that year.

He had two sisters and three brothers, all them still living in France. Her grandparents, his parents, were heartbroken over his death and had lost contact. They still owned a large farm.



“I don’t know what to do,” I told Louis.

“About what, little buddy?” he asked, looking up from the cooking show he was watching. Frodo, one of the cats, jumped up and settled himself on Louis’ stomach.

“Reese is confused,” Frodo said. I blinked. I hadn’t heard him speak yet until then.

“My boy, confused?” Shadowfang wrapped himself around my legs. “Yeah, that’s his life. Confusion.” He smiled, at me, if a cat could smile, and slowly transformed into a man. It was very odd to watch. First he grew taller, fur shrinking into his skin. His ears became less pointed, more rounded, and his nose became a tanned human’s nose. His eyes remained the same color and pupil shape, though. He wore a plain black shirt, black jeans, and black boots. He wore a gold hoop earring in his left ear.

“Where did the clothes come from?” I asked.

“I can turn my fur into clothes if I want. It’s one of the fun things about being a shapeshifter.”

“I don’t understand,” I admitted. I looked at Louis, who shrugged, saying he didn’t know, either.

“I’ll explain how the familiar thing works later,” Shadowfang said. “Tell Louis your problem with Becket Cresley.”

“Sarah’s dad? I thought he was dead?” Louis replied, confused.

“I keep seeing him everywhere,” I said. “And Sarah’s seen him twice, but she thought she was hallucinating.”

“It’s not uncommon for ghosts to visit their loved ones after death,” Louis said. “A guardian, if you will. Was he opaque or transparent?”

“He looked opaque,” I admitted.

“He probably wanted to check in on the girls,” Louis said. “I wouldn’t worry about it too much. If he didn’t want to be seen, he should not have shown himself.”

“But what if he did?” I intoned.

“Then go find him and ask him what his deal is,” said Shadowfang.

“Uh, I wouldn’t do that,” Louis cautioned. “Spirits are volatile at the best of times. If he thinks you’ll get in the way, or you’ve hurt her, you’re done for.”

“I don’t know what to do,” I whined.

“I’ll go with you next time you go to her place,” Louis said. “Me or one of the guys will.”

“Thanks, Louis,” I breathed.

“No problem. You’re like a little brother to me. As your big brother, it’s my job to protect you.”

“We’re cousins,” I chuckled.

“Might as well be bros, bro.”

“Whatever. Shadowfang, care to explain the familiar thing?”

“Sure, boy-o. Only witches, warlocks, wizards, and vampires have familiars. Humans, can, too, but it’s very rare to have a true familiar bond with humans. Familiars can also be shapeshifters, but it takes a long time to perfect. For example, I am over four hundred years old, and I still only just shapeshifted. Familiars can also be ordinary animals. The most common ones are cats and dogs, but they can also be lizards, spiders, bats, frogs, birds, and so on.

“I was born in 1540, during the Tudor rule. I was born to a queen and a tom belonging to one of the noble ladies of the kingdom. I had an ordinary kittenhood, couldn’t speak a human language, couldn’t shift. I only realized I was different when Mama explained to me, in Feline, how unique our bloodline was. See, the noble lady was a confirmed witch, although she was never found out. Even her husband did not know. My brothers and sisters and I grew into strong, healthy cats that could defend ourselves from dogs and wolves and eagles and foxes.

“I could first talk when I was twenty-one years old. I was the third one to start talking in a human language. My brother and sister could both talk before I could. There were six of us, and I was the second biggest. My brother was the biggest, and my sister was the littlest. Mama almost gave up on her, but the noble lady wanted all of us to live, so she got another, ordinary mama cat to feed her. But anyway, they both talked before I could, and the rest of us followed suit. We heard Mama and Father talking to each other and the human female in a human language, so we knew the gist of it.

“Familiars are found all over the world, the shapeshifting ones have human intelligence, and we can converse about what happened yesterday or what’s going to happen tomorrow. Some of us have extra talents, like the ability to disappear or morph into something else, kind of like vampires and regular shapeshifters.”

“There’s literally hundreds of types of shapeshifters,” Louis continued. “Familiars are just one type. And then, like he said, there’s subtypes, like the ones with the ability to disappear or read minds. And they can be any animal. Familiars are animal shifters who can take the form of a human, but, as you know, there are also humans who can take the form of an animal or another creature, like a wendigo. There’s all kinds of legends about skinwalkers and the Thunderbird and dragons. Dragons can shapeshift, too, usually into humans or smaller lizards.”

“He’s right,” added Frodo. “Shadowfang’s my dad, and he says he’s met three wendigos so far.”

“I’m met several,” I told them. “Last time I saw one, I bumped into him by accident at the Night Market.”

“I’m amazed he didn’t kill you,” Shadowfang said.

“What were you doing at the Night Market?!” Louis cried.

“Your dad dragged me over there to get that stupid book of his. We got into a fight with two vampires both named Samuel and an albino chick with weird telekinesis powers.”

“Was her name Alana?” Louis said carefully.

“I think so.” I scratched my head, confused. “This was a while ago, though. During the Mathias issues.”

“Don’t say that name out loud!” Louis hissed.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Don’t you get it? Don’t be stupid, Reese. Don’t you see? Grandfather’s dying!”

“Dying?! From what?!”

“From a broken heart! His wife, his son, his brothers, almost everyone he knew, all dead! There’s just us and the Blond Bitch Brigade left. Elsa and Gudrun won’t talk to him anymore, and Elsa has expressly forbidden her daughters to!”

“I didn’t know…how long does he have?”

“He’s planning to commit suicide, so…we don’t know when. Dad didn’t want to tell you until later, but Mordecai and I think you should know now, so you’re prepared.”

I was in shock. Grandfather, dying?

I approached my uncle in the private library. He smiled at me until he saw my face.

“Grandfather, dying?” I squeaked.

He sighed and put A Tale of Two Cities in his lap. “Damn you, Louis. Yes, we are losing him to thoughts of suicide.”

I hugged myself. “It’s my fault.”

“What? No, it’s not. It’s been coming for a very long time. It began with the death of my mother, your grandmother.”

“Yes, but Mathias kidnapped me, thinking I was Louis.”

“If anyone’s to blame for the Mathias incident, I am, Reese. I locked him up. I made him lose his sanity. What happened with Mathias was my fault, Reese.”

I suddenly felt faint and sick. I sat against a bookshelf, clutching my stomach. I vomited on the carpet. Thick, glistening blood barreled out of me. Uncle Soren picked me up and carried me to the bathroom, where I continued to vomit in the toilet. Uncle Soren held my hair back. I felt pressure, and realized he was tying my hair into a bun so it would not get in the way.

“What’s wrong with him?” came my father’s anxious voice. “What did you do to him?!”

“Louis is the one with the big mouth. He knows about Grandfather.”


“It’s not my fault! He said the M word!” my cousin yelled back.

I breathed heavily, spitting stomach juice into the toilet.

“Reese, honey, can you hear me?” Father asked.

“My stomach hurts,” I complained.

“I’m sorry, son,” Uncle Soren said. I heard a loud thud, and then a smacking noise.


“I have to see Grandfather,” I panted.

“He’s in his room,” Father said gently.

I ran to his room. Grandfather was in bed, staring at the ceiling.

“Grandfather,” I said. He slowly turned his head toward me. “I’m sorry. Please don’t leave me.”

He smiled weakly. “Forgive me, Reese, for what I’ve done and for what I’m planning. I’m out of options. I’m tired of living. I want to die.”

“Please, don’t,” I begged. “I’m only eighteen. I need you. You helped to raise me and Louis.”

“I did, and I don’t regret it. Leave me now.”

Still feeling sick, I left him. I took a shower to get the blood out of my hair, and then got ready for bed early.

The next day was a school day. School would be weird under the circumstances. Scarlett had not spoken to me since Jordan’s death. Of course, I was glad that Jordan was dead. She was a real problem.

I headed to my first class heavily. I felt unclean, like I hadn’t showered in a while. I still smelled like blood, despite numerous washings and brushings. I was ready for a break. I took my usual seat, and heard snickering. I turned around. Several girls were whispering and giggling.

Did I remember to wear a belt? I checked myself. My ass wasn’t showing, thank the gods, and my hair looked decent. It was so long now that I could tie it back into a small bun, which I’d decided to do that day. I looked okay. My teeth were bright and white, my nose and eyes clean, ears clean, and so on.

Maybe they’re not laughing at me, I told myself. Indeed, they seemed to be laughing, not at me, but at Alex Marks, who was known for wearing the same clothes every day and never showered, wore deodorant, or brushed his teeth. He seemed to have reached a new level of grodyness, as his jacket was covered in white slime.

I rolled my eyes and turned back to my Psychology teacher, who was now starting a lecture on meeting strangers.

“All of you were strangers at one point,” he said. “Now some of you are best friends. Now you know each other, because you have this class and possibly other classes together.”

“We’re going to take an IQ test. Nothing major, just some simple questions, a typical IQ test. There are four levels of IQ. Genius, approaching genius, average, and low. I will grade them accordingly and give you your results later.”

“We all know who’s getting a low IQ,” said Scarlett Hart. She glanced at Alex Marks, who ignored her. I wondered if I should have said something. But I decided to keep quiet and focus on my work.

School dragged by, and at the end of the day, I was exhausted. I went straight to my Ferrari, which was being admired by several guys. I unlocked it and scooched in the front seat, much to their shock. As I drove off, I pondered my life. Was Grandfather really dying? I was still in shock over it.

I was not paying attention, and the other driver was on his cell phone. The resounding crash hurt my ears. I was dizzy, my eyes blurry. I heard voices.

“They just crashed!”

“Call the cops, I think he’s hurt!”

Damn, three crashes in two years. What are the odds? I thought. The other driver was unconscious. I heard sirens. I also heard my uncle’s motorcycle. I looked up, and saw a flash of blond hair. Father was on the motorcycle. He must have seen the crash happen.

“That’s my son!” he cried to the officers. My door opened and a cute bald guy pulled me out.

“Hello? Can you hear me?” he asked. He checked my pulse. “He’s still alive! What’s your name, son?”

“R-Reese,” I choked out.

“That’s my son!”

“He’s your son?”

“Reese, do you know where you are?”

“On the road, heading home from school,” I replied. “I was driving a blue Ferrari. I’m wearing black, and my father is here.”

“Son! Reese!”

“Father…my head hurts…”

“I know, I know. Can you fix him?”

“He needs to go to the emergency room to get stitches for his head.”

What was wrong with my head? I touched my skull, and red and clear fluid came away, My head was literally split open.

I passed out.

Hours later, I woke up in a daze.


“Quiet, Mordecai. Remember, concussion.”

“He’s my son, Soren. Not yours!”

“I know, I know.”

“My dad’s right, Uncle Mordecai. You should really keep your voice down.”

“Do not tell me what to do, Louis Soren Emerson.”

“Dad?” I squeaked. “Uncle Soren? Louis?”

“And Sarah, and Marina, and Alexander.”

I opened my eyes, then winced as my head split open again. I carefully opened them again, and saw my family, except Grandfather, around my bed. My girlfriend grabbed my hand and held it; her worried eyes full of tears.

“What time is it?”

“Midnight,” she said. “I’ve been here since twilight. I didn’t hear about it until then.”

“I believe you. Where am I?”

“In a hospital,” she answered.

“Have you eaten yet?”

“Don’t worry about me,” she snapped, although I could hear her stomach growling.

“I will get you both some food,” Mother said, looking relieved.

“I’ll go,” Louis offered. “I’ve been here longer.”

“Thank you, Louis.”

I sat up slowly and pulled Sarah into me.

“Ouch,” she said, wincing. “My back, Reese….”

“Still?” I could feel protrusions coming out of her back. “This…when did this happen?”

“Today. Overnight. Over time.”

“I am going to take her to a doctor,” Mother said. “No arguments.”

“See Ethan first,” I said. “He’d be able to tell you if it’s supernatural.”

“You’re more important right now,” Sarah said.

“I’ll be fine,” I said. “I’ve dealt with worse. You are what’s most important right now.”

“Reese, please,” she said, her eyes filling with tears again.

“Oh, baby, I’m sorry,” I said, kissing her tears away. “I love you.”

“I love you, too. Oh!” She grimaced as my fingers brushed one of the protrusions in her back.

“Get Ethan!” I snapped at Father.

“Hold your horses, son,” he said. “Ethan might be asleep. It’s very late- “

“I don’t give a damn! If you don’t get him here right now, I won’t speak to you for a month!”

“Reese Mordecai Emerson, you don’t tell me what to do!”

“It’s fine, really,” Sarah interjected.

“Shush, you,” I told her. “It most certainly is not fine. We need to have your back looked at!”

“Reese, your head- “

“Scratch my head! You’re what’s most important right now. If I have to get Louis to teach you to be selfish, I will!”

“She’s not wrong, though, little buddy,” Louis said, arriving with a container of blood and a Styrofoam box of food for Sarah containing a sandwich and chips. She took her food gratefully, while I took mine. “You got a nasty hit. Eighteen stitches. Pieces of your skull were wedged in your brain.”

“Reese, please,” Sarah begged.

“Baby, I swear I’ll be fine. I’m not concerned about me.”

“You’re both being stupid,” Alexander said, speaking up for the first time. “Reese, you’ve got a bad head, and Sarah, you’ve got a bad back. They’re equally important. Now, you both need to eat and rest. Sarah, I can take you home.”

“I’m not leaving him!”

Alexander snarled, and Sarah hid behind Mother.

“Be nice, Alexander,” Mother warned him. She glared at Father. “This is all your fault.”

“My fault, why is everything always my fault?”

“Because it is,” Mother hissed.

I felt cold all over. Was it really his fault, or was it my fault? Had I somehow begun a change in Sarah?

“What about the other driver?” Sarah asked.

At this, everyone became quiet.

“We’re not sure if he’ll live,” Father finally said. “He was shot while the accident was happening. Thirty-six pieces of glass in his chest, and a bullet in his belly.”

“He was on his cell phone,” I remembered.

“We think he was aiming for you, Reese,” Louis said. “The shooter.” Uncle Soren smacked him upside the head.

“Thanks a lot, big lips,” he sarcasted.

“Aiming for me?” I asked.

Louis nodded. “The guys scoured the scene, and they found an empty shell and traces of gunpowder. They sent it in to the police, but it may take weeks or even months to figure who the shooter is. Unless you know someone with long red hair.”

“Marcus,” I hissed.

“The fairy dude?”

“I saw him hanging out a few times, watching Sarah. He’s fallen in love with her.”

Sarah burst into tears.

“Oh, baby, I’m so sorry,” I said.

“I should just die right now,” she said, hugging herself.

“Don’t say that!” Mother cried.

“It would stop all this ridiculousness. Why do I keep attracting guys? There’s only one I’m interested in, and he’s laying in front of me.”

She began crying harder. She went into the bathroom to hide.

“I’m going to kill him,” threatened Alexander.

“Fowley,” I said.

“What about him?”

“He can control Marcus. Call him!”

“You need your rest,” Alexander told me. “You and the girl both. Give him a sedative.”

“He’s had enough sedatives,” Father argued.

“Call Ethan,” Uncle Soren said. “But first, call the nurse. He needs to sleep. And so does she.” His eyes wandered to the bathroom, where she still was. I growled in warning. He averted his eyes.


The next day, I woke up around eleven in the morning. Father was the only one still with me, watching me from the chair.

“Where is everyone?” I asked.

“Alexander took Sarah home around five this morning. There’s no point in either of you going to school today, not you with your concussion and late night, and not her with her bad night. Louis went to the school to get your homework. Soren is with Grandfather.”

“How is Grandfather?”

“Doing poorly. He’s worried about you. There are lines around his face that I haven’t seen in a while. Not since Mother died.”

“Where’s Mom?”

“Getting food for you. She’s sweet-talking the nurses into letting you have some more blood.”

“Do they know about my condition?”

“Of course. But it’s not against the law. Vampires are no longer a secret-there’s no point in trying to keep us a secret.”

I felt guilty. Grandfather was dying because of me, and Sarah was going through some sort of supernatural change that she could not control. Tears stung my eyes, a lump formed in my throat. I took a deep breath, and it came out serrated.

“Reese, what’s wrong?”

“Everything’s my fault. Grandfather dying, Sarah being affected.”

“No, hon, it’s not your fault. Hello, Marina.”

Mother came into the room, carrying a container of warm blood. I took it from her and drank it in seconds. Then I got the hiccups.

“How is she?” I asked.

“Sarah? Worried about you,” Mother replied. “She is home now. You will be allowed to go in a day or two.”


I was allowed to leave after four days. I was full of blood, upon the insistence of Mother and Father, and I had seen precious little of my true soulmate.

Louis was going to speak to Fowley about Marcus.

About a week after I arrived home, I decided to go to Rainbow Alley, which I hadn’t been to since I was sixteen. I drove my GT-R to the building.

A girl was standing on the wheelchair ramp. She pinched my butt as I walked by.

“Hey, cutie,” she quipped.

“Do you frequently touch strangers’ asses?” I asked her. She looked embarrassed.

I entered the room. A curly-haired woman approached me.

“Hello, my name is Cheryl, and I will be your adult support,” she said with a fake smile.

“I’m already legally an adult,” I said.

“Of course you are,” she muttered.

“Hey, Reese!” Ariella was waving at me from a spot on the floor.

“Hello,” I said.

“Reese, this is my girlfriend Cate,” she said, gesturing to the skinny girl with short blond hair next to her. “And this is Amber, Iris, and Lucy.”

“Nice to meet you,” said Amber, who had thick black hair.

“Oh my god,” said Iris, a pretty Asian girl with purple hair. “She’s gorgeous.”

I looked up, and saw Sarah. Girls and guys alike stared at her as she walked by. She sat beside me.

“Hello, Ari. Hi, Cate,” she said, smiling.

“Hi, Sarah,” Ari greeted. “This is Amber, Iris, and Lucy.”

“Hi, girls,” she greeted. They murmured greetings back. “I see you’ve met my boyfriend Reese already.”

“Boyfriend?” Iris looked stunned and hurt.

“Yeah, I know. What’s a straight girl doing here?” Sarah giggled. “I came to support my friend. I didn’t know you were going to be here tonight, Reese.”

“It was kind of an impulsive decision,” I said.

“I uploaded that video, Ari,” she said.

“What video?” I asked.

“It’s a video where I do her makeup,” Sarah replied. She tugged on her ear. “Damn, my earrings are bothering me today.”

“Take them out,” I said. “I did.”

“You had earrings?”

“A long time ago. I eventually took them out, and the piercings closed up.” I showed her the scar on my ear.

“Sarah’s amazing with makeup,” Ariella gushed. “Well, duh, I mean, look at her! Her makeup is amazing. She put this pink eyeshadow on me that brings out the brown flecks in my eyes.”

“You made Ari look good?” Cate said to Sarah. She nodded.

“Hey! I always look good.”

“It’s okay, babe,” Cate smiled at her. “I love you, anyway.” This brought on a fit of the giggles from all of my female company.

“What are you, anyway?” Amber asked me.

“Me? I’m bi.”

“Really? Me, too. Lucy and I just started dating.”

“That’s cool,” I said. “What’s your coming-out story?”

She shrugged. “It’s not that interesting, really. I knew I was bi since I was twelve. That’s when I started noticing the popular girls. My mom went through my laptop a few weeks ago, and she saw my search history. It wasn’t anything dirty, more along the lines of ‘how to come out to your family’ and shit like that. What about you?”

“I’ve known since I was thirteen, but I didn’t come out until I was sixteen. The first person I came out to was my father. He was always supportive and proud of me. It took a while for my uncle and grandfather to accept it, though. But my mom and stepdad and my sister are all accepting of it. My cousin doesn’t care either way; he just does not care. I actually dated a guy named Evan first.”

“Evan Byrd?”

“How did you know?”

“He’s my cousin! He talked about dating a goth guy named Reese, but I didn’t realize it was you!”

“Oh,” I said. “Well, it’s nice to meet you finally. I admit I wasn’t very nice to him, and I regret that.”

“He said you ignored him.”

“Not true. I liked another person. This person, in fact.” I put my arm around Sarah. “But I never ignored him.”

“You’re such an asshole, Reese,” Sarah told me.

“I know. I’m a huge jerk.”

“Wow, Reese,” Ariella said. “Why don’t you tell her your innermost secrets?”

“It’s not a secret,” I said. “It’s my life, and I’ll spill it as I see fit. If I’m going to be hanging around, I may as well be honest.”

“I like him,” said Lucy, speaking up for the first time. “He may be an asshole, but he’s brutally honest. That’s rare.”

I felt ashamed of myself. I hid my face, my hair acting as a curtain.

Sarah squeezed my hand, and I smiled weakly at her. She leaned forward and pecked my cheek.

“What are your plans for the weekend?” I asked her.

“Work,” she replied. “And study. Studying and working. I’m a waitress at a restaurant,” she explained to the other girls. “Reese, Ari, and I go to North Hampton.”

“Lucy and I go to Martin Luther King,” said Amber. “Iris is homeschooled.”

“It sucks,” Iris said. “I don’t get to see my friends every day, unlike you lucky ducks.”

“Yeah, but there’s cliques,” I told her. “That’s almost worse.”

“You’re just as guilty as the rest of us,” Sarah told me, patting me on the back. “You and your goth friends hang around that one center table.”

“You and your friends take up a whole table,” I reminded her. “Sarah here is Miss Popular. So is Ari.”

“Ari? Popular?” Cate was aghast. “After everything you said about fighting the regime?”

“Hey, there’s nothing wrong with a big group of friends. There’s nothing wrong with only having a few friends, or even just one friend. I’d rather have one or two legit friends that a bunch of people who secretly hate me.”

“But that’s not the case,” Sarah said. “You’re one of the most well-liked people in our school. She’s always buddying up to the lower classmen. She’s even more popular than I am.”

“That’s not true, and you know it, Sarah Harper. Trust me, you’ve got a bigger clique.”

“They all screwed me over a long time ago. They only recently apologized and asked for my forgiveness. The real problem was the Hart sisters.”

“They were not even really sisters; they were adopted sisters. And Jordan was the real problem.”

“Jordan Hart?” Iris spoke up. “She’s totally Scarlett Hart’s twin sister.”

“How do you know?” I asked her.

“I used to know Rouge, who knew the sisters. Jordan lied about being Michael Nales’ sister. I knew all this because I went to North Hampton Middle School before my parents pulled me out of school because it was too cliqueish.”

I looked at Sarah, who looked at Iris.

“Are you being honest right now, or are you pulling my leg?” Sarah asked.

“No, I’m serious. I used to go to school with you guys. You probably don’t remember me, because I was a wallflower. Sarah, you used to hang out with Mia Rayport. Reese, you were a loner, like me. You were also the tallest in our class. It looks like you still are.”

“She’s telling the truth,” I said. “Why didn’t you say something earlier?”

She shrugged. “How could I? You acted like there was no one else here.”

“Jordan told us that she was Michael Nales’ twin instead of Scarlett’s,” Sarah said. “Why would she lie about that?”

“Both she and Scarlett had a thing for Nales,” Ariella said. “I think that’s a question we need to ask Scarlett.”

“Jordan’s dead,” I said.

“No, she’s not,” Iris continued. “I saw her just the other day. She was buying a pack of cigarettes.”

I looked at Sarah, who turned pale. Jordan had tried to kill Sarah in the past by trying to force her off a bridge. She still had nightmares about it. I wrapped my arm around her and pulled her next to me. She wrapped her arms around me and shivered.

“Will you walk me to my car?” she asked.

“I’ll drive you home,” I told her. “I’d better talk to Mother anyway.”

When we left Rainbow Alley, I called Toby to pick up my car and left the keys in the front seat. I took over the driver’s seat of Sarah’s Honda, and drove her home.

Mother greeted me with a hug and a kiss and promised to bring me a package of blood.

“I have to tell you something,” I told her.

“Yes, son, what is it?”

I repeated what Iris had said. She gasped and looked at Sarah, who was still pale. She immediately embraced her in a maternal hug.

“My poor baby,” she cooed. “Don’t worry, Mommy will take care of it.”

Sarah looked slightly annoyed at the babying, but said nothing and hugged her back. Alexander appeared, holding Cirino.

“He heard Sarah’s voice,” he said. The baby himself reached out to Sarah, and she took him from Alexander.

He’s growing, I thought. His blond hair was thicker, his green eyes brighter.

“Mama,” he said. Sarah looked surprised, and so did Mother and Alexander. “Mama.” Then he pointed to me. “Ree.” Then he pointed to Alexander. “Fadder.”

Mother looked furious. She took the baby from Sarah. He grinned at her, revealing his two front teeth. “Mama.”

“Two mothers?” Alexander crooned.

“Technically, I am his mother,” Sarah said. “Biologically, he’s mine. And my waistline suffered from you,” she cooed to Cirino. He just smiled at her and babbled in baby language. “That’s right, I have stretch marks because of you.”

“You still look good,” I told her, ignoring Spunk, who was frantically licking my arm. She smiled and hugged me. I hugged back. When she tried to release me, I growled and held on tighter.

“Reese,” she gasped. “My back...ribs...can’t breathe….”

“Sorry, sorry!” I immediately let her go. She grimaced and rubbed her back. “Where does it hurt most?” I asked her.

“Mostly around my shoulder blades. That’s where it hurts the most.”

“I’m so sorry, my beautiful flower,” I said. She looked up at me

“Beautiful flower?”

“Well, you smell like flowers. Mostly gardenias. Plus there is your natural female scent. God, you smell good.”


“Sarah, you smell so good…” I could feel my eyes changing. The pupils were probably slits now. I wanted to bite her. Make her bleed. Take her for my own.

“Son?” A male voice. Another male? I turned and hissed at him. My insides twisted and churned, ready to defend my female at all costs. The other, taller female handed the human baby to the vampire male and hissed at me. I hissed back. She wrapped her arms around my female and squeezed her. Her perfume mingled with my female’s scent and I hissed again in frustration. I wanted to smell only her.

“Reese, look at me,” said the older female. “Control yourself. Control your emotions.”

“Mine,” I declared.

“Yes, she is yours. But she is also mine. My daughter.”

“She’s not your daughter,” Alexander said.

“She might as well be! I love her like my own. She’s the baby I never got to have as a human.”

“What about me?” squeaked another voice. Selena.

“You are my daughter, too. I have five wonderful children. I used to have four, which just included Taran, Viktor, Reese, and Selena. I’m sorry I was never there for you, Reese, but I was forced to stay away. I’m a bad mother.”

“No, you’re not,” said both Sarah and Selena at the same time. Mother buried her nose in Sarah’s hair and sniffed.

“You’re the best mother, better than my original one,” Sarah said. Mother hugged her more tightly until she stated that she couldn’t breathe again. “None of you will leave me, will you?”

“Of course not,” Alexander said. “We are responsible for you and your sister and the baby now. We brought you into our world. Cirino is legally mine and Marina’s. He’s a Nicolai now. And so are you. I...I know you’re legally an adult, but I would like to adopt your sister. And you, if you’ll consent.”

Sarah burst into tears. “Of course! I would love to be your daughter. But is that what you really want?”

“Yes. I know I am hard-hearted and have a temper, but I do care about you three as if you were my own. I must ask Sabine myself if she will consent to be my daughter. This also must be discussed with your other relatives, even the ones in France. Call your mother’s parents, ask them to come here, or I will go with you to France myself.”

“I can’t take off school,” she said. “There’s only a few months left. I really can’t justify taking time off, especially with the squad. I’m co-captain.”

“I’m going with her, wherever she goes,” I stated. She turned and smiled at me.

“I must stay with the other children,” Mother said.

“Then I will go to France myself, but I must have an advocate along. Reese?”

“I’ll go if I must. But I don’t know how endearing I’ll be.”


We landed in the airport in France. We had taken my family’s private jet. Sarah was sniffling on my arm; this would be the first time she’d seen her father’s side of the family in years.

When she had finally found their number and called them, it was as if a meteor that was about to hit the Earth had just been blown off course. They were relieved that she was alive, but feigned sadness over Alicia’s death. They were shocked to learn that she’d had a baby, and so we brought him along to meet his other aunts and uncles.

I wiped her tears away with a tissue; she thanked me and took it. I kissed her hair. We’d worked it out with the school. The other cheer captain would take over Sarah’s duties; the study group would be fine without her.

A short, white-haired woman with a bun and glasses wearing a prairie dress was waiting at our private airport along with a taller grey-haired man with glasses. Sarah walked to them and they threw their arms around her.

“Our baby girl,” said the woman in a thick French accent. “What has been going on? What is this baby I heard about? You weren’t pregnant, were you?”

“I was,” she said. “It’s a long story. I brought the baby with me. His name is Cirino. Oh, and this is Reese, my boyfriend.”

The man and woman both glared at me, even though I smiled politely and offered my hand, which they ignored. My smile wavered and I dropped my hand.

“Reese is not the father of Cirino,” Sarah quickly explained. They both lightened up and smiled at me, and Mr. Cresley took my hand in his. “He actually saved my life a few times.”

“And she’s saved mine once or twice,” I said.

“Bullhockey,” she said. “He’s being modest.”

“He’s a vampire,” whispered Mrs. Cresley. We all turned to look at her. She was still glaring at me.

“A vampire?” said Mr. Cresley. He looked at me.

“Look at his eyes. And his smell. I can smell the blood in his stomach.”

Sarah looked at me. She looked shocked, and she’d gone pale.

“My back is hurting,” she said. “Let’s go get the car.”

“Your back? How long has your back been hurting?” Mrs. Cresley asked.

“A while now. It comes and goes. Where did you park the car, Papa?”

Alexander finally approached with the suitcases, his signature frown on his face.

“Hello,” he said. “I am Reese’s stepfather, Ambrogio Nicolai.”

Mrs. Cresley’s hand went to her heart, and her eyes widened even more. “How many of you are there?” she asked.

“My wife is coming with the baby and Sabine,” he said. “And I heard what you said about vampires. I don’t know how you knew, but yes, I am one too, and so is my wife. Reese’s mother.”

“How long have you been dating a leech?” Mrs. Cresley demanded of Sarah.

“A couple of years, now, but they’ve never hurt me.”

“Not on purpose,” I said. “We all love her. That’s why we’re here. My parents want to ask something of you.”

“What, exactly?”

“Papa, let’s go get the car,” Sarah repeated, and they went off to find the car.

“My wife and I would like to adopt the girls,” Alexander said. Mrs. Cresley turned bright red.

“Absolutely not! My granddaughters will not live with ticks!”

Mother came along, then, carrying the baby and Sabine behind her.

“Toby and Chris are coming,” she said. “They’re flying in as soon as they can. Spencer was most reluctant to let Toby go without him, but Spencer needs to stay to watch the guys.”

Mrs. Cresley frowned.

It was a few minutes later when we were heading toward the farm. It wasn’t long before I smelled the stink of the animals. I plugged my nose and looked around. I saw cows, about fifty. I saw sheep, about a hundred. And a llama or three. I pulled in the driveway. A woman with reddish-blond hair was smiling, waving at us. She stopped smiling when she saw the look on Mrs. Cresley’s face.

They spoke in French, and Mrs. Cresley pointed to me. The woman’s hands flew up to her mouth in shock. Several dogs greeted me as I got out of the car. I was being jumped on and licked furiously by the canines, until Mr. Cresley said something in French, and the dogs all sat where they were. I saw even more dogs guarding the chicken coop and the cows and sheep.

I saw a pen full of pigs and goats.

“Do you milk the goats?” I asked.

“Oui, we do,” Mr. Cresley replied. “You’ll see tons of animals around, including dogs and cats.”

I had not yet seen a cat, but as I was getting my suitcase out, I noticed a skinny orange tom sitting on the fence. I gave him a fake salute, and he glared at me with his yellow eyes. I remembered a few movies and books I’d read about farm cats. Milo and Otis, Nero the Cat. Like any good cat lover, I was sensitive to animal movies and felt more for them than for my own kind. Did you know that humans feel more empathy for dogs than they do for other humans?

Sarah came out and smiled at the tom. “Is George still around?”

“Poor thing passed away last winter,” said the woman with the reddish-blond hair.

“Hello, Aunt Beatrice,” Sarah said. “That’s too bad about George. How old was he?”

“He lived to be twenty-three years old, dear soul. But how are you? And how did you come to have a baby? And who is he?” She pointed at me.

“Aunt Beatrice, this is my fiancé, Reese,” Sarah explained. “And the baby is a long story.”

“Fiancé?” I whispered to her.

“It’s just easier than saying boyfriend,” she said. “My aunts and uncles are very old-fashioned.”

“How old-fashioned?”

“My Aunt Juniper would think Toby was a predator if he was here with us.”

“She would not trust him because he’s black?”

“Yes, she would not trust him simply because he’s black.”

I took the bags into a spare room filled with green diamond wallpaper and a plaid quilt. Sarah immediately sat upon the bed and pulled out a book.

“Are you bedding together?” asked Mrs. Cresley.

“Yes. Is that all right?” Sarah replied.

“No, it is bloody not all right, but I can’t stop you,” she said. “Dinner is in two hours. We’re having onion soup.”

“Will I be required to attend?” I asked. Sarah flashed me a warning look.

“Oh, no, you need not attend. I must ask, though, that you don’t eat any of our animals or neighbors,” Mrs. Cresley said.

“I think I can control myself.”

“Do that.” Mrs. Cresley left with a flourish.

I went to dinner anyway, my stomach growling, throat burning. I gulped some water, then took Sarah’s hand as Mr. Cresley led the house in prayer before the meal. In addition to the reddish-blond woman, who I came to realize was Aunt Juniper, there was also Aunt Caitlin and Uncle Brody. Mrs. Cresley’s first name was Birdie, and Mr. Cresley’s first name was also Becket. There were also several cousins, but they were at college or friends’ houses.

I ate the soup slowly, swallowing quickly to avoid tasting the onion. Halfway through the quiet dinner, a redheaded figure appeared in a leotard and tutu and combat boots.

“Really, Grandma?”

“Francine, sit down and eat dinner,” Mrs. Cresley snapped.

“Who are all these people?” Francine asked rudely.

“Francine, this is my boyfriend, Reese,” Sarah said. She blushed and ducked her head.

“Your boyfriend is a goth? How interesting,” Francine crooned. She sat down at the table after pulling up a chair.

“Nice to meet you,” I said. She nodded to me, then looked at my mother and stepfather. I heard dogs barking, and the doorbell rang. Mrs. Cresley went to answer it.

“Oh, no, thank you, we’re not interested,” she said.

“Mrs. Cresley, I’m Toby McCree. Reese’s bodyguard,” he explained.

“Well, come in, then. Take your shoes off. And keep your hands away from my granddaughters.”

“Ma’am, I’m taken. And gay.”

“A gay black man?”

Toby came in moments later. All of Sarah’s family stared at him.

“Hello, my name is Toby McCree, and like I told Mrs. Cresley, I am Reese’s bodyguard. I will mostly stay in the background and won’t interfere, unless I feel that someone’s going to be hurt, or someone’s life is in danger. Ignore me for now.”

They continued to stare at him.

“Will you come eat with us?” Mr. Cresley asked.

“No, thank you. I already ate.”

“Are you a vampire, too?”

“Yes, but I don’t kill humans. I drink donated blood.” His lie was smooth, but they still didn’t believe him. They were giving him apprehensive looks. I wondered if it was because he was a vampire or because of his race. I’d seen him be treated differently because of the color of his skin. I’d heard him insulted before because of the color of his skin. Mostly, though, I’ve heard comments about his hair, mostly that he needs a haircut.

With his waist-length straight black hair and slender figure, he could almost appear feminine from the back.

Dinner was finished, and I helped wash the dishes along with Mother, Alexander, and Toby.

“I could hire some people to help out with the farm,” I offered. Mrs. Cresley frowned as she scrubbed a pot.

“It would make life easier,” Alexander said. “My wife and I would be glad to pay.”

This is not going to be an easy week, I thought.

Sometime that night, I was woken up by singing. Male singing. I was in bed with my Sarah, and she was muttering in her sleep.

“Daddy…” she muttered. She opened her eyes. “Daddy?” Her eyes met mine. “Reese, what happened?”

“You were talking to yourself,” I said.

“I heard singing.”

“I was trying to calm you down.”

“I didn’t know you liked country music….”

“Can’t stand it. But I know that Becket liked country music when he was alive, so I chose to sing Ronnie Milsap.”

“Don’t lie to me, Reese Mordecai.”

“Okay, yes, I lied. It wasn’t me. I don’t know who it was. Sarah, I have something to tell you.” I tightened my hold on her. “I keep seeing Becket everywhere. I see his shadow, his ghost, his aura, his...something. I know it might seem impossible that he’s still alive, but I really think he might be. He came back for you and Sabine.”

“Reese, why are you saying this?” Her eyes filled with tears. “It isn’t funny.”

“Hon, I’m not making fun of you. I swear. It’s the truth. I’m sorry that I hurt you. I didn’t mean to.” And then I did something I later hated myself for. I used hypnosis to lull her to sleep. I’d never done it before, but I’d seen Father and Uncle Soren do it, and I’d had it done on me by Father whenever he wanted me to calm down or when I was restless.

“You will fall asleep. You will have a deep, dreamless sleep. You will fall asleep now.”

Her eyes fluttered shut, her long eyelashes touching her cheeks. I kissed her, then went to sleep myself, but my sleep was plagued with nightmares.

When I woke up, she was purring like a cat. She was still asleep, but was stirring. Her eyes opened and she yawned, then turned to face me. “Good morning.”

“Morning, beautiful.”

“A guy called me gorgeous on Facebook. I told him not to call me gorgeous again, and he called me a bitch.”

“Did you know him?”

“Yeah, it was my ex, Caden.”

“I will kill him.”


“I’m serious. No one is allowed to call you a bitch, not even your sister or my sister. Turner will probably take Caden’s side, though, when I pummel him to pulp at school.”

“Reese Emerson Nicolai, that is not funny.”


She grimaced. “Alexander told us that he would like to adopt Sabine. He would adopt me, too, but I’m already eighteen. He’s already formally adopted Cirino. So now his last name is Nicolai, and Sabine’s will be, too.”

“That is remarkable coming from him. I’m proud of him.”

“He’s like a second father to me. If Becket wasn’t my father, I would like to have Alexander as one.”

“I’m sure that would make him happy to hear you say that.”

“Alexander also said that technically, Emerson isn’t your last name. It’s Nicolai. He and Eilief are cousins through brothers.”

“He’s right, Nicolai should actually be my surname. I don’t know why my Grandfather chose Emerson as a last name.”

She leaned into my chest, then retracted. “Spider!”

I turned around and smashed it, then went to the bathroom to wash my hands and get ready for the day. I was welcomed by the hot water washing down me, then went back into the room to find her texting on her phone.

“Caden says he’s sorry. I told him where he could stuff it.” She suddenly doubled over. “Shit, shit shit! I hope I remembered pads!” She practically ran to the bathroom, and I took the sheets to the laundry room and smelled the spot. I could feel my eyes darken and turn red as my half-dead heart pounded, my stomach tightened, and I became excited. I shoved the spot under my nose and sniffed.

I could feel someone staring at me. I turned around and saw Sarah’s grandmother, Mrs. Cresley, and my mother, both staring at me. Mother looked amused, while Mrs. Cresley looked downright furious.

“Sarah got her period,” I squeaked. “I was pretreating the spot.”

“Monsters,” Mrs. Cresley said, taking the sheets from me. “I don’t want you sleeping with her again. You can sleep in the living room on the couch.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “There’s no excuse for acting like that. I should have better control.”

“Damn right.”

“I hope Sarah’s okay,” Mother said, looking worried.

“She told me that Alexander’s adopting Sabine?” I said.

Mother smiled and clapped her hands. “Oh, yes! I am, too. We would adopt Sarah, too, but she’s already legally an adult. But I told him I think we should try to adopt her, anyway, even if the courts won’t recognize us.”

“No!” Mrs. Cresley dabbed soap on the spot. “No way am I going to let a bunch of ticks adopt my granddaughters!”

Mother’s smile fell. “You will have to fight me, old woman, to get them. I won’t let them go without a fight.”

The two women glared at each other. Toby came in just then, carrying a basket of eggs.

“Good haul,” he said, smiling. “I think I remember how to cook eggs. And I milked two cows and a goat. It was fun. I remember the McCree farm. We had cows, too, and pigs. We had a lot less cats, though, but we did have some. We also had a lot less dogs. I saw two pregnant ones in the barn. One of them, a golden retriever I think, she's getting ready to have her pups. I can go help her if you want.”

Sarah came out then, wearing a fresh pair of jeans and cashmere cowl neck sweater. Her makeup was already applied, and she was in the middle of brushing her hair. She brushed it back, then tied it back into a loose bun. She smiled at all of us, until she saw her grandmother.

“Grandma, what’s wrong?” she asked.

“They say they want to adopt you and Sabine,” she said.


“I won’t allow it!”

“Grandma, what’s wrong? You knew what he was when you saw him, and…” Her eyes widened. “You’re a fairy.”

Mrs. Cresley’s eyes widened, then she shoved the sheets into the washing machine.”

“Yes, I am a fairy.” Wings burst out of her back, large purple ones with feathers. Her features changed. Her skin smoothed, her hair became light and blond, her eyes became brighter, and she took off her glasses.

When she finished the transformation, she was a beautiful, blue-eyed, blond sun fairy. “I am a fairy. A sun fairy, which means I use energy from the sun to survive. That’s why I ache on grey days. Your father is half-fairy, or he was. The first one I ever knew who needed glasses.”

Sarah’s eyes were wide now. Then she winced, grimaced, and took off her shirt and bra. BOOM!

Wings burst from her back. The same kind as her grandmother; purple, feathery, large. She cried out in pain, her eyes brimming with tears. She covered her chest with her sweater. Her wings flapped, then she started to lift from the ground. Mrs. Cresley and I both grabbed an ankle.

I pulled her down and into me. She was shivering, trembling in pain and cold. I touched her wing. It was soft, like a bird’s wing. Her back was bleeding, I noticed. Her skin was attached to the wings, making her bleed.

Mrs. Cresley and Mother had cleaned up Sarah, who was now hiding in her room. Mrs. Cresley still had not changed back into an old woman, and by now, everyone had seen her, including Sabine.

“Does this mean that Uncle Brody, Aunt Juniper, and Aunt Caitlin are half-fairy too?” she asked. Mr. Cresley nodded sagely. That also mean that Francine and their other cousins were a quarter fairy, and so was Sabine.

No one seemed surprised that Sarah was the first “kid” to get her wings.

“I always said she was the sweetest one,” said Aunt Juniper.

“I keep seeing Becket everywhere,” I said. “I see his ghost, or his spirit, or something.” I didn’t bother looking at anyone else. I was sure I was being looked at like I was crazy. I was embarrassed for myself and for Sarah. I wished I knew how to help her.

I got out my phone and called Father.

“Hello, son,” he answered.

“Hello, Dad. Um...I’m here with Birdie Cresley, and Mr. Cresley, and Sarah’s aunts and uncle. Um...Sarah has wings now. Mrs. Cresley is a sun fairy.”

“Oh? That’s interesting. Did she show herself?”

“She did. Now Sarah has wings just like hers.”

“Is she okay?”

“She’s embarrassed, and in a lot of pain. Her wings are beautiful, though.”

“If it causes her pain, maybe we should cut them off.”


“Your opinions are not welcome.”

“So I heard. Now my ear hurts. I will have to consult Ethan; maybe he knows a fairy doctor or healer.”

“Do that. I will keep you updated.”

“Thank you, son. Bye now.”

I hung up and looked at Mother.

“I don’t know what to do,” I admitted.

“Neither do I,” she replied. “But the one thing we don’t want to do is mope around the house. You need to talk to her.”

“Mrs. Cresley should.”

“We all will,” Mrs. Cresley said.

We went into her room. She was sitting on the bed, her wings touching the wall.

“Don’t squish your wings like that, dear,” Mrs. Cresley said.

“Why me?” Sarah asked.

“I have ointment,” Mrs. Cresley said. She produced a jar of green ointment and smeared it all over Sarah’s back. “You can retract them, you know.”

“I tried, but it hurts too much. It feels like giving birth.”

Mrs. Cresley’s eyes flashed, but she said nothing. “Lay on your stomach, then.”

Sarah turned and laid on her stomach. Mrs. Cresley smeared more green ointment on her back, then started instructing her.

“Focus on your wings. Focus on pulling them in. You don’t want them to be seen. There we go.”

Slowly, her wings turned flesh colored and started going into her back. She pulled them in fully, then smiled softly. I noticed that Mrs. Cresley had done the same. Her hair turned grey, her wrinkles reforming.

I sat down beside Sarah. She leaned into me, and I wrapped my arm around her.

“I want to go home,” she said.


“You are home,” Birdie Cresley said, looking hurt. “Please, stay the whole week. I promise you, it will be all right. I will explain.”

“Start explaining,” Sarah said.

“There’s really not much to explain. I fell in love with a human and married him. It’s not the first time this has happened, and it will not be the last. You can control your wings with focus. Eventually, the pain and bleeding will stop.”

“Will it elongate her life?” I asked.

“I do not know. It certainly didn’t help my son.”

“What would happen if I turned her?”

“Into a vampire?! Certainly not!”

“Grandma, it’s my decision,” she said. She looked at me. “I choose immortality.”

“Oh, baby,” I said, nuzzling her with my nose. “I promise, I’ll be the perfect husband. I’ll take care of our children.”


“I’ve seen them in my dreams. Two girls and at least one boy. I already have their names picked out.”

“Oh, Reese. I’m not sure that I want more children.”

She burst into tears again. Birdie rubbed her granddaughter’s shoulder, then looked hurt when Sarah shoved her off.

“I need sleep,” she said. “I’m so tired.”

“Of course,” I said. “Take a nap.”


She slept for a few hours, whimpering and whining in her sleep, until I snuggled in next to her and held her. Her wings burst out of her back again, hitting the wall, and I had to readjust her. She woke up briefly, mumbled something incoherent, then went back to sleep.

She woke up just after lunchtime. By then, Birdie had explained everything to Sabine and Mother and Alexander.

“We would like to leave,” Mother said.

“I want to go home, too,” Sabine said.

“My wife and I do not like being lied to,” Alexander said.

Birdie went into another room, and I heard her sobbing. Becket Senior went into the room with her.

Sarah came out, looking terrible. She had puffy eyes, her cheeks red, her hair tangled.

“Can we go home?” she asked Mother.

“I suppose,” Mother said. She leaned forward and kissed Sarah’s forehead. “But it would be a shame to leave now, and you must have some guidance for the control of your wings.”

“You’re right,” Sarah said. “Okay, let’s stay the whole week. I do need guidance.” She winced, tears pouring out of her eyes. Mother licked the tears away and kissed her.

“Come, let’s watch a movie or something together.”

“There’s a swimming pool,” Sarah said. “But the chlorine would probably sting my back. Yeah, let’s watch a movie.”

I sat beside my girlfriend as we watched The Lion King, then Phantom of the Opera, then Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Halfway through the last movie, Sarah seemed to calm down some. She’d cried during The Lion King, which was probably a bad choice anyway, given the plot. She loved Phantom of the Opera, which she’d never seen before. I’d read the book before and seen the movie.

Birdie came in after the last movie was over, saying it was lunchtime. Sarah and Sabine ate by themselves. The rest of the family ate in the dining room.

The rest of the week went well. Sarah practiced using her wings with the help of Birdie, who was proud of her. We used the pool, rode horses, went shopping, and Cirino came in on Wednesday. He was promptly cooed over and admired. He was thoroughly confused by all the attention, but it wasn’t as if he never got any back home. With his thick blond hair and green eyes, he was a beautiful baby.

I met the rest of Sarah and Sabine’s cousins. There was Jacqueline, who was a ballerina and never got dirty if she could avoid it, there was Kaz, who was a gorgeous seventeen-year old boy with curly red hair, there was Archimedes, a five-year-old, who hung around me like dust on carpet, there was Philip, who was ten years old and thought I was a superhero, there was Bow, who talked constantly about her cat and her new kittens, and there was Riley, who was genderfluid and preferred to be called she went I met her.

Despite myself being bi, someone being genderfluid didn’t make sense to me.

I also met Uncle Brody’s wife, who was also named Sarah. They were the parents of Francine and Kaz and Bow, who all had red hair. Aunt Caitlin and her wife, Eliza, were the parents of Archimedes and Philip, and Aunt Juniper was the mother of Riley.

Sarah explained that Riley was biologically female, but after she had cut her hair short, she realized one day that she wanted to be referred to as a he. I told Sarah that boys and girls can like the same things. She smacked my arm and said that was not the reason why Riley identified as genderfluid. She said she didn’t fully understand it, either, and doubted that even Riley did. Apparently, Riley’s father had left when Riley was just three years old and was never seen again.

Jacqueline, who preferred her full name to Jackie, was obsessed with being thin and having perfect skin and hair, and was probably the healthiest member of the family, physically. Kaz himself was bi, and was currently dating a famous soccer player. Did I mention that Kaz was gorgeous? I’ll say it again. He was drop-dead gorgeous. Full, pink lips, wide, anime blue eyes, high cheekbones, fit body, large biceps, thick legs. If I hadn’t met Sarah first, I’d have definitely gone for Kaz.

Bow’s real name was actually Beatrice, but she hated that name and preferred to be called Bow. Her cat had just given birth to thirteen kittens, and she was excited. I told her about my cats and showed her some pictures. She asked me If I wanted a kitten. I laughed and said that I had enough cats. She asked Sabine if she wanted a cat, but Sarah said that the dogs would probably try to eat it. And anyway, they couldn’t leave their mother yet, they were too young, and we were leaving on Sunday.

Archimedes and Philip were both into superheroes and comics. I told them about all the comics and graphic novels I owned, and introduced them to Saga. Sarah said they were too young to read it yet, and Philip told her that he knew how a vagina worked, that Aunt Caitlin had explained it to him the year before after he stumbled upon a book that badly described a woman’s reproductive organs.

“I swear, some adult men still don’t understand how women’s bodies work,” Sarah sighed, shaking her head.

“Yes, but that particular book was written by a woman,” Aunt Eliza told her. Sarah paused, then shuddered.

Archimedes was convinced I was Dracula in person.

“Is Dracula real?” he asked me. The entire family knew that I was a vampire.

“Yes and no,” I said. “He’s based off of a real person. Or people, rather. Vlad the Impaler and Countess Bathory.”

Sarah gave me a look that said I should stop talking.

“Do you really drink blood? Do you kill people? Do you turn into a bat?”

It was like having an extremely talkative shadow.

“Yes, I drink blood, no, I don’t kill people, and some vampires can turn into animals, but I can’t.”

“How do you drink blood?”

“I drink donated blood. People donate their blood to us.”

At the end of the week, I was packing up my suitcase. Sarah was cleaning out her purse. A knock sounded at the door, and Sarah said “Come in.”

The door opened, and Birdie was standing there, looking sheepish. She was in her true form.

“May I speak to Reese alone, Sarah?”

“If you want to talk to him, I want to be in the room.”

“That’s fair. I just wanted to say, Reese, that I’m glad it was you that my daughter chose, instead of a human or Fae boy.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Cresley. I’m glad she chose me, too.”



Going home felt good. Sarah played with an obsidian stone that she’d gotten at the plaza. She and Birdie went into several weird witchy stores and bought books, stones, gems, rings, necklaces, and charm kits. When Sarah told her all about her foray into witchcraft, Birdie laughed and said that she naturally had magic- the other girls didn’t, except for Scarlett and Jordan.

She gave her several books on how to wield fairy magic. Sarah put the obsidian stone in her purse, then got out one of the old books. I stared out the window at the passing clouds. If I looked down, I’d see the ocean. The subject of my recent nightmares. But I was safe in my family’s private jet. Soon, though, I fell asleep, and was no longer safe.

I saw a young boy. He was about fifteen years old, and had black straight hair styled like mine in a goth hairstyle. He wore a black jacket. His eyes were bright emeralds, shining in the night. He looked up at me and smiled.

Hi, Dad,” he said. Me? I was his father? “Can we talk?”

Sure,” I said, apprehension crawling in my chest. “What’s wrong?”

I...I saw….” He hesitated. I searched his mind. It involved his sister, Caitlin.

Is it about your sister?”

Dad! I told you not to do that!” But he blushed and ducked his head.

Tell me,” I ordered.

Okay, okay. I saw Caitlin kissing a werewolf.”

Is that it?”

Yeah. Please don’t tell her.”

Jojo, I have to talk to her. The wolf pack are our enemies.”

You said that Grandpa fell in love with a wolf named Faolan.”

He did, but Faolan became our enemy after I…”

Dad? After you what?”

I gulped. “I met a wolf girl named Sadie. I had...relations...with her. And then I got back with your mother. Sadie committed suicide.”

His eyes were wide. “I... I didn’t know.”

Now you do. I have to talk to Caitlin.”

The dream changed.

I was in my kitchen. Caitlin was here. She had light straight blond hair, the rare product of repressive genes. Of course, her mother also had blond in her light brown hair.

Caitlin, I have to talk to you,” I said. She looked up from her pink iPhone.

What’s up, Dad?”

Do you know why we are the enemies of the werewolf?”

She shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “No.”

We used to be friends with the local pack. Grandpa was in love with a wolf named Faolan, who was the leader of the pack. He had an adopted daughter named Sadie. While your mother and I were...taking a break, I had relations with Sadie, then went back to your mother, and Sadie killed herself. Faolan has hated us ever since, and it was passed down through the other leaders of the pack.”

Oh. Too much information, Dad.”

I know about the werewolf.”

She looked nervous now. “What werewolf?”

Don’t play dumb. I can’t say I approve, but I won’t stop you.”

Jojo squealed, didn’t he?”

That’s a moot point. Just be careful and use protection.”

Dad! We’re not doing that!”

I’m serious, Cait. Use condoms, take your birth control the right way. Of course, I’d rather you didn’t do it at all.”

Dad, I’m serious. Jack and I are not having sex. Mom explained how it all works.”

Okay, just making sure.”

The dream changed.

I was flying. No, not me. I was being carried by someone who was flying. I looked up, and saw her. Her wings were flapping, her eyes focused on our destination. My eyes strayed over her, and lingered on her belly. It was swollen. She was pregnant again.

I snorted as I jumped awake. I rubbed my eyes and yawned, then looked over at her. She was asleep, her hand closed over the obsidian stone. I kissed her, then saw bits of shore below. I took her hand in mine. I smiled, remembering our children. Our first two children. Caitlin and Joseph.

I slept some more, then woke up as the plane was landing. Sarah had a magazine open in her lap. She was still holding the obsidian stone.

“Do you know what would happen to a witch if she betrayed her coven?” she asked.

“They would kill her,” I answered. “How was your nap?”

“Reese...I saw our children. And I saw you. You were so handsome; I couldn’t believe it.”

“I saw two of our children. Caitlin and Joseph.”

“I saw our two younger girls. I saw a baby, and I saw Cirino as a teenager. He was so handsome, too. He was a bit older than Caitlin, though.”

“Well, of course. He was born, and she hasn’t even been conceived yet.”

“I can’t wait to meet her,” Sarah said, excited. “And Joseph, and Cynthia, and Enna.”

“Enna?” I asked. “Cynthia?”

She blushed. “I saw them. I heard their names. Cynthia said, ‘How is Enna?’ and I looked down…I was pregnant again.”

“I saw you pregnant and flying,” I said. I grimaced. “I wish you wouldn’t do that.”

“I’m sure the baby would be fine,” she said, her brows furrowing. “What do the names mean?”

“Well, Caitlin is your aunt’s name. Joseph is a Jewish and Christian name. Cynthia is a Greek name, the original name for the goddess Artemis, the goddess of hunting and animals.”

“And Enna means ‘light’ in Irish,” broke in Selena, making us jump. “Planning your future children subconsciously, brother?”

“I think they saw the future,” Mother said.

“Their minds are connected,” Alexander said.

I hadn’t realized they’d all been listening. Alexander continued.

“Their soulmate bond at this point is absolute, so their minds have connected, and they shared a dream. The gods told them what to name their children. And the name Caitlin also means ‘pure or clear’, and it’s French in origin.”

“What does my uncle Brody’s name mean?” Sarah asked.

“It means ‘ditch’ in Gaelic,” Selena said, typing away furiously on her phone.

“Attention, passengers, we are now approaching the airport. Please fasten your seatbelts and turn off all electronics.”

While Sarah and Selena discussed the names of her cousins, I pulled my phone out of my backpack and sent Father a text, telling him that I was home.

“Sarah means ‘princess’ in Hebrew,” Selena told her. “It fits you, because you are a princess, or you will be soon. I’m not sure what Sabine’s name means, though. Siri!”

Toby pulled in the limo. Mother buckled Cirino in, who was now frowning around at everybody. He’d cried a little on the plane, but he was quiet now. Mother gave him his teddy bear, and he smiled at the plush toy.

I slid into my seat, and Sarah slid into hers. Her phone dinged, and she looked at it. Her hand flew to her mouth, then she furiously replied to whomever had texted her.

“Who was that?” Selena asked.

“My friend Rachel. Elliot and Britt finally broke up. Good riddance; she’s too good for him.”

“Isn’t she your fat friend?”

“She’s a little heavy, yes. She has a thyroid condition.”

The drive home was quiet, occasionally punctuated by small noises from Cirino. It was nice to see home again. My father was standing out on the lawn, looking anxious and hopeful. Spencer was behind him, looking expectant.

Toby opened the doors, and I knew that Spencer was preventing himself from running up to Toby and embracing him. We all piled out, Mother and Cirino coming out last.

Spencer couldn’t contain himself. He ran up to Toby and kissed him.

“I missed you,” he said, nuzzling his neck.

“I missed you, too.”

“Reese, what all did you do?” Father asked.

“Let’s see…we met her cousins and aunts and uncle, and Birdie Cresley is a fairy, and we went shopping at the plaza- “

“Hold on,” Father said. “Who is Birdie Cresley?”

“Sarah’s grandmother. She’s the mother of Becket.”

“How interesting…what else did you do?”

“We studied fairy magic, and helped out on the farm, What else? Oh, we made dinner a few times. We promised to send them help with the farm.”

“That was nice of you. Who’s paying for it?”

“Alexander and Mother.”

“We promised to have the help arrive next week,” Mother said. Father stared at her. “What’s wrong with you, Mordecai?”

“What’s wrong with me? Nothing of import. I’ve been going over our records. Our financial records. The entire family is worth three hundred billion.”

“Billion?” Sarah squeaked. Her eyes widened, and she looked at me.

“Which means what, exactly?” I asked.

Father smiled. “Most of the Council has seen the error of their ways and saw what Bram has been doing, digging into our finances and our personal lives. They’re holding a hearing for him. To see if he really is worthy to stay on the Council as the Head. We have two weeks to prepare.”

“Sarah and I have school,” I protested.

“Oh, you won’t be involved. I promise. You’re staying home and going to school. You have exams coming up in about two months, anyway, and you must prepare for them. I will have to be present at the hearing, however, and so will Soren and Louis and Grandfather.”

“How is Grandfather?” I asked. “And what does the Council drama have to do with our money?”

“If we disband the Council, we earn another two billion,” Father said. “Louis and I have been crunching the numbers. Not that we need it, but the Council has been nothing but trouble lately, and we don’t like what they’ve done or what they’re doing.”

“Well, I’m getting bitten up,” Sarah said. Mother unlocked the Bugatti Veyron and strapped Cirino in, and Toby and Spencer helped put the bags in the trunk. Alexander appeared, looking ruffled. He glared at Father, who glared back.

Shadowfang came out in his cat form. He barreled forward and wound himself around my legs, purring.

“Welcome home, buddy boy,” he said.

I bent down and scratched his ears. “Hello, kitty cat.”



Going back to school after spring break was torture. I still had jet lag, but Father made me go to school anyway, telling me that I needed my education. I told him that he could always teach me at home. I’d learn more there, anyway. He said that yes, we could do that, but I needed to graduate properly and learn social skills with teens my own age.

He and Louis and Grandfather had left that morning to deal with the Council-Uncle Soren was left to babysit me. He was also staying behind because of his bad temper. He said that, if he’d had his way, he’d attack the Council by force openly.

I went through my classes, sat with my usual lunch group (Duke loudly complained about not being invited to Trina Smith’s party) described my vacation in France, and told the guys about Sarah’s wings. Amara was the first to respond.

“Well, it would have happened anyway. I mean, supernaturals can’t keep their powers hidden for long, right? They’d go mad, or injure themselves.”

“She’s right,” Noah agreed. “Just by looking at Sarah, I’d say she’s learned to keep her wings hidden.”

“She can retract them into her back,” I explained. “But it hurts like hell. You should have seen the blood come out of her when they burst out of her back. Actually, I’m glad you didn’t. It was gruesome.”

“What do her wings look like?” Amara prompted.

“They’re gorgeous. They’re purple, like lilac or lavender, but they get lighter towards the tips and become more flesh-colored closer to her back.”

“I bet that’s pretty. Can she fly?”

“Yes, but she needs to learn control first. She tried to fly over the house, and nearly broke her leg when she fell on the roof. Alexander had to rescue her.”

“Will her sister get her wings?” Mason asked, resting his fist on his chin.

“Possibly. I…oh my god. Cirino. This means that Cirino is part sun fairy.”

“The baby? But it’ll be years before he-“

“We don’t know that for sure. I’ve got to tell her.”

I turned and looked at her. She was biting into a slice of apple. I got up and went over to her. As usual, her lunch group gave me a disdainful look as I approached.

“We need to talk,” I told her. “It’s not urgent, but it needs to happen rather soonish.”

“I have cheer practice tonight. Text me at five,” she replied.

And I did.

Reese: Cirino is your son. That means he’s part fairy.

Sarah: Oh my gosh. You’re right. Mom says we should have him tested.

Reese: That was quick.

Sarah: She’s reading this over my shoulder.

Reese: Tell her to keep her eyes to herself.

Sarah: She says it’s her business when it involves her children.

Reese: Of course. Well, good luck with dinner and homework.

Sarah: I will. I just have to study for a math test. Goodbye, brain!

Reese: That’s NOT funny.

Sarah: I thought it was.

When I went over to her house later that week, I went straight to Cirino. He smiled at me in his bassinet. I ignored Spunk, who was frantically licking my hand.

I bent down to the baby’s level.

“You’re special, little buddy,” I said. He frowned, then smiled again.

“Dadadada,” he said.

“You want Daddy?”

Alexander leaned forward and lifted him out of the bassinet. He smoothed back Cirino’s hair.

“Da,” the baby said.

“That’s right, I’m Daddy,” Alexander praised him. I sat next to him, and Alexander gave a little growl. He set Cirino on his lap. The baby smiled at him, reaching for him. He grabbed a lock of Alexander’s hair and pulled.

“No pulling,” Alexander told him, taking the lock of hair from him. I heard a click and turned to see that Mother had taken a picture of us. She took more pictures.

“My boys,” she cooed. “Three of my boys together, enjoying each other’s company. Reese and Alexander and Cirino. I think I will add this to my Facebook page.”

“You joined Facebook?” I asked, impressed.

“Yes, I have. Sarah is teaching me how to use it. Speak of the devil.”

“Oh, you’re here, Reese,” she said, sounding almost bored. She took her hair out of its bun, and retied it into a ponytail. “Hi, boys.”

She sat next to me. Cirino turned to her and reached out to her.

“Mamamama,” he babbled.

“Hello, son,” she said, bouncing him on her leg. “I see you’ve been playing with Daddy and Reese.”

“Ree,” Cirino said carefully, pointing to me.

“That’s right,” she said. She looked up at Alexander. “Is he advanced for his age?”

“A little bit,” Alexander said. “He should be babbling more. And he wouldn’t be pointing until he was at least a year old.”

“He’s almost a year old,” Sarah said.

I noticed that Mother was focusing on her phone.

“Mother, do you know something about this?” I asked.

She seemed embarrassed, and if it was possible for a vampire to blush, she would have been blushing.

“I have sort of…been feeding him.”

“With what?” Alexander asked cautiously.

“You know that I bought a breast pump…”

“Oh Mom, you didn’t!” Sarah cried.

“I couldn’t resist! My instincts are at an all-time high! If you were my baby, I’d have fed you the same way. I did feed Reese and Selena the same way, until Eilief told me not to show my face again.”

“So you’ve been breast-feeding him?” I asked, amazed.

She bowed her head. “I wish I could say I’m ashamed, but it’s the mark of a good mother, at least it was in my time.”

I can’t say that I sympathized, given that I don’t have the maternal instinct. A part of me understood, though. I was going to be a father. I’d want my babies to have the best food possible.

When I got home, I was stunned. Uncle Soren was on the couch, shirtless, with Mitra Dearwood. They stared at me as I passed by them.

“Don’t mind me,” I said. “I’m just passing through.”


I scoured Amazon in my search of the new book Paperbacks From Hell, from the author Gary Hendrix, whose new book was about the horror novels of the eighties and nineties, of which my father, cousin, and I were fans of. When I purchased the book, I then scoured Sarah’s social media for…okay, I was lurking.

I’m a huge lurker when it comes to my lovers. I did it with Evan, too. Except he wasn’t as big on Facebook or Twitter and he wasn’t a YouTuber. Sarah’s latest video was a bookshelf tour, an overview and listing of her book collection.

“Some of my books are at my boyfriend’s house,” she said. Something caught my eye. I had to replay that scene, and I saw it in the screen of her television. I saw Beckett in the television. My stomach lurched, and I downloaded the video and increased the format. I focused on the one spot in the television.

It was Beckett, all right. My heart skipped several beats, then pounded. He was stalking her. In death, he was stalking his oldest daughter.

“Uncle Soren!” I leapt up from my spot on my bed. I ran to the living room, where Mitra was softly crying, and their shirts had been replaced.

“What is it, boy?” he responded grouchily.

“Look!” I pointed to the television.

“It’s from a picture,” he said.

“But he’s looking right at her!”

“Pictures have a tendency to do that.”



She had come over and looked at the picture. “That’s the guy who killed Ellis! The bastard’s alive! Who is he?! Where is he?!”

“Mitra!” Uncle Soren grabbed her by the shoulders. “I will go investigate. I know where she lives. I will speak with Alexander and have extra protection placed around the home and territory.”

“But, Soren…”

“Hush, my love. It’s all right. I promise, I will fix this. Reese, send that picture to my cell phone. My personal one, not the one I use for business.”

I sent it to him.

“Good, now, stay here, my love. Reese will watch over you.” He stood up and buckled his belt. “Damn it, I’ve gained weight again. Reese, text Toby and Spencer and tell them to come over here immediately. I know that they’re on a break right now, but do it anyway.”

I sent Toby a quick emergency text and told him to come down.

“What about you?” Mitra asked. “I want to kill the guy who killed Ellis!”

“I will bring him over and interrogate him,” he said. He bent down to her level and kissed her on the lips. “Trust me.”

He grabbed his cell phone and headed for the door. “Bye, love and nephew. I will see you soon.”

Half an hour later, Toby and Spencer still hadn’t shown up, and Mitra was pacing, biting her fingernails.

“It’s all my fault,” she said, sitting on the ottoman.

“Why do you say that?” I asked. I’d sent Sarah a text, asking how she was, but she had yet to respond.

“It just is. If I wasn’t such a lousy guardian, this wouldn’t have happened.”

“It could’ve happened to anybody. My stepfather is one of the oldest and most powerful vampires on earth, and there are forces even he can’t comprehend. He’s lost some fights, won most, had a son, married my mother, and adopted Sarah and Sabine.”

“You really love her, don’t you?” she asked.

“More than anything. She’s my universe. My reason for living. I’d give up everything to keep her safe.”

“I’m jealous. I’m two hundred years old, and I never had that. At least, in my vampire life.”

“What about when you were human?”

She smiled wryly. “When I was fourteen, I married a forty-year-old man. He asked specifically for my hand, because he liked my beauty and my spirit. We had a daughter, but the white men took her away.” She grimaced. “They would have taken me, too, but my husband, who was named Katonah, hid me in a secret bunker under the ground which he’d secretly dug for us.” Tears brimmed in her eyes. “I miss my daughter every day. We named her Cholena. Nana is technically my descendant through her.”

“Is it weird, living with your some-great-grandchildren?”

“Sometimes. Sometimes I wished I’d died a human death. Then I could have died in peace. But no, Katonah had to bite me after he was bitten because he couldn’t bear to live without me.”

“What was your name?”

She ducked her head. “I don’t remember.”

“Okay, I won’t push it. I don’t believe you, but I won’t push it.”

“I’m trying to hide from Katonah.”

“He’s still alive?”

“Of sorts. He’s basically a nut now, due to…” She looked at me uncertainly.

“Porphyria?” I asked. “It’s okay. I mean, I know it won’t happen now, but it might happen.”

“Are you afraid?”

“Terrified. What if I hurt someone I love? What if, when I eventually turn Sarah, I pass it along to her? I’d never be able to forgive myself.”

“But it’s not your fault that you have it.”

“Right, and this…mess…is not your fault, either, Mitra. I know that my uncle has probably said it, and you probably don’t believe him, but it’s the truth.”

“Who passed it to you?”

“We think my father, though we’re not sure where he picked it up.”

“How many relatives do you have?”

“Too many. Half of them don’t like me. The ones that do like me, I live with, or visit frequently.”

Mitra inhaled, then exhaled. “I have to go find him.”

“Uncle Soren? I’m sure he’s fine.”

“I know. But I still want to check on him.”

“All right, I’ll come with you.”

We ran to the Nicolai house, discovering too late that it was a bloodbath. My uncle had a piece of wood sticking out of his midsection, and Sarah was knelt next to him, tears running down her cheeks. I ran to Sarah and embraced her, Mitra running to Uncle Soren.

“What do I do?!”

“Nothing,” Uncle Soren grunted. “It’s Socotra wood.”

Sarah gasped, Mitra’s eyes filled with tears. I turned to find the source of my family’s distress. Alexander and Beckett Cresley were faced against each other, glaring. The shock of seeing him sent me over the edge.

“Who the fuck are you?” I asked.

He turned and glared at me. “The better question is, who the fuck are you, and are you holding my daughter hostage?”

“No, Daddy,” Sarah said. “He’s my boyfriend.”

Boyfriend? Your boyfriend is a bloodsucker?!”

“Did he stab Soren?” I asked.

“No,” Uncle Soren breathed. “I stabbed myself. Don’t cry, Mitra, I didn’t do it on purpose.”

“Well, Mr. Cresley, I’m Reese Emerson,” I said. “I am the youngest of the Four Princes of the Vampires. I met Sarah at school, and I’ve loved her for years.”

“I don’t give a damn at this point. Where is Alicia?”

“Mom’s dead,” Sarah explained, still crying. “Are you really my father?”

“I am, baby girl,” he said, his voice softening. “I’m sorry, but I had to pretend to be dead.”

“He’s lying,” Alexander growled. “He’s a zombie. I can smell his corpse.”

“So can I,” Soren said, ripping the piece of wood from his stomach. “Don’t worry about me, love. No fussing. I will survive.”

“Go back to Heaven, zombie,” Alexander said.

“As amazing as Heaven is, my girls come first,” he said. “An angel named Adriel knows where I am. He helped me do this.”

“I know Adriel,” Sarah said. “I didn’t realize he was an angel. Long blond hair, blue eyes, pale skin?”

“That’s the one. He said he knows you. He’s your guardian angel, in fact. He’s hiding from you right now, but he’s here. You can call him anytime you want.”

“Adriel? Are you here?”

A vision of beauty appeared from a copse of bushes. He had pale silky strands that brushed his shoulders, startlingly crystal-blue eyes, similar to my mother’s, and indeed, he had porcelain, almost golden skin. He was almost as beautiful as Sarah, and yes, I’m totally biased. If I wasn’t, I’d say he was just as beautiful.

“Why didn’t you say something? Did you…”

Her words trailed off.

“I’m sorry, Sarah, but I cannot help unless I am called into action by either you or God. I’ve never forgiven myself for not helping you that night. But your son is a precious gift, and you were meant to have him.”


“Raped?! By who?!” Beckett demanded.

“Michael Nales. Don’t worry, my father already killed him,” I responded.

“Good,” Beckett growled.

“Stop fussing, Mitra,” Uncle Soren insisted. “It’s already healing. No guts have been spilled.”

Mom finally arrived, covered in blood. She saw Beckett and gasped, then ran over to Sarah and embraced her.

“Beckett, my wife, Marina,” Alexander said. “My love, this is Sarah’s biological father. He’s now a zombie.”

Mother and Beckett sneered at each other. Beckett spoke up.

“Well, clearly, I’m not wanted. If you need to contact me, talk to Adriel.”

“Where are you going, Daddy?” Sarah asked.

“Back to Heaven, sweetheart. We wouldn’t want some religious group to see me and panic.”

Slowly, he fell down, and his body began to rapidly decay. Adriel picked up the body and sent it back his grave. It was odd, watching a rapidly-decaying human body floating seemingly by itself.

“He’s going to find Michael Nales’ spirit,” I said. “He’ll want revenge on Sarah’s behalf.”

“I think the boy is right,” Alexander replied. “Soren, are you all right?”

“It’s just a scar now,” he said, lifting up his shirt to reveal his heavily-scarred abdomen.

“I think Beckett was also embarrassed to be caught,” Mother broke in. She bent down and licked Sarah’s eyes. “Alexander, I want you to mark our territory.”

“As you wish, my love,” he said, then stalked off to the woods. I noticed that he walked with a slight limp.

“What’s wrong with his leg?” I asked.

“I asked him this morning,” Sarah said. “He told me to mind my own business.”

“Your stepfather is a very powerful man,” Mother said. “He has many enemies, many of whom would like to harm or kill him. One limp will not kill him.”

“One of whom is Apollo,” I said, thinking hard.

“Apollo does not want Ambrogio dead. He betrayed him, yes, but Apollo deserved it after he killed your stepfather’s mother. A stillborn is not the fault of the mother.”

Her eyes looked sad, and she blinked, her eyes shining with fresh tears.

“There’s also Kieran,” Sarah said. She looked at me. “You should have seen the fight they got into the other day. I thought my ears were going to explode from their shouting.”

“I had to remind them that we have a baby in the house,” Mother said. “I’m so glad Zie was at the grocery store. She suspects what we are. But Kieran does not want Alexander dead, either, despite his past actions and bad attitude today. You forget that Kieran recently lost his mate, Thomas.”

“There’s Kellan,” I said. “But I don’t know much about him.”

“Neither do we,” Mother admitted. “He is not around a lot. He is albino, that is all I know. Oh, and he is a friend of Kieran’s, and he clearly loves him.”

“Loves him?”

“You’d have to be blind not to see it,” Sarah said. She cocked her head. “Or male. Kellan is mad about Kieran. Or just plain crazy.”

“He is a bit mad, yes,” Mother said. “What was the point of saying he’s Soren’s son? Or was it Louis?”

“Speaking of Soren, where did he and Mitra go?” Sarah asked.

“They slipped away while we were talking,” Mother said. “She was worried about him.”

“A Socotra stake was in his belly,” I reminded her. “I’m amazed he survived.”

“Your uncle is the strongest vampire I know,” Mother said. “Both in mind and in body. The day has been long, and my Sarah is tired.”

“I’m not tired,” Sarah argued.

“Still, I think it would be best if you ate something and went to bed. You are in shock from your father’s abrupt arrival back from the dead.”

“In shock, yes,” Sarah agreed. “Come with me, Reese?” she asked.

“Of course,” I said.

A few minutes later, we were in her room, which had been painted pink. She raved about the new bubblegum color and the perky rainbow decorations. Her bedspread was now a pastel green, reminding me of her favorite mint-chip ice cream. The desk had been sprayed black and held her laptop and other supplies. Her bookshelves had also been spray-painted black and held her vast collection of books, CDs, and art books. She’d been gifted a bigger TV, which took up half of the wall. Next to it was a gigantic DVD rack full of DVDs.

I noticed a few touches that looked like something I’d do. For example, she had all of the Halloween DVDs, along with the Leprechaun, Chucky, Wrong Turn DVDs. I pointed them out to her and she blushed.

“I thought we could have a movie night sometime. I tried to watch one of the Wrong Turn movies, but I lost my appetite when a guy blew up.”

“Really, you didn’t throw up during the scene where a girl gets her arm ripped off, or during a cannibalism scene, or when the mother gave birth to the mutated inbred baby?”

She turned green.

“Sorry, babe,” I said, grinning a little. “I know that’s not your scene. Your scene is even more disgusting. Kissing and confused virgins and twenty-year-old lost love. It’s revolting.”

“I had another dream about our kids,” she said. “Our future kids, I mean. I saw Jojo. He’s gorgeous. He looks so much like you, except his eyes. They were green. But he had your hair and nose and chin.”

“He sounds ugly as sin,” I joked. She punched my arm lightly, then winced and shook her hand.

“You’re not ugly, silly. You’re actually quite handsome. It’s a wonder more girls don’t crush on you!”

“It’s the way I look and dress,” I said. “And the vibe I give off. No one likes the sulky Goth guy who is quite possibly a vampire.”

“But you are a vampire.”

“And you’re a fairy/human hybrid.”

“You make me sound like a dog.”

“I didn’t mean to.”

“Right, a poodle/collie mix.”

“What a strange mix.”

“Fact is stranger than fiction, lover. And we’re definitely a strange couple.” She leaned forward and pecked my lips. Then my pants vibrated, and I answered the call.


“Hello, Reese?”

“Toby? What’s up?”

“Where are you?” he demanded.

“I’m with Sarah at her house. Is something wrong?”

“I can’t find Spencer anywhere!”

“Isn’t he always with you?”

“Not today! I’m worried.”

“Spencer’s tough; I’m sure he’s fine. Where were you when I needed you earlier? I gave you a call.”

“You did? I didn’t hear it.”

“You’re starting to lag, Toby,” I warned cautiously.

“I will do my best to remedy that. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to find my soulmate.” Then he slammed the phone down on me.

I looked at the phone, amazed at his attitude and tone. He’d never spoken to me that way before.

“Babe, I’m sorry, but I have to deal with something,” I said. She pouted. “I know, but I’ll be back later. I promise.” I kissed her, then started the run home, almost tripping over Spunk, who was laying in the middle of the hallway.

When I got home, though, I was shocked by a sight. Toby was laying on the ground, blood spurting from his chest. His heart, by the looks of it.

“That wasn’t me on the phone,” he coughed.

“Don’t speak just now,” I said.

“Reese,” he grabbed my hands, “You’ve got to go back to Sarah. She’s in danger!”

“Where’s Spencer?”

“I don’t know…” Toby trailed off. I picked him up and carried him into the garage, where it was safer for him than the warm sun. I took my jacket off and pressed it against Toby’s heart. The blood flow ceased almost immediately.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I should have been here, I should have been more suspicious…who did it?”

But just then, his eyes closed, and he did not respond.

Uncle Soren came back less than a minute later, with Mitra, and was stunned to see me still with my jacket against Toby’s heart.

“Nice to see you again,” I crooned.

“Cut the sarcasm, kid. What the hell happened?”

“I don’t know, he was attacked; he didn’t say who did it, and Spencer’s missing.”

“I’ll take over from here,” Mitra said. She placed her hands where mine had been, causing the wound to gush, then lie still. “How the fuck did you survive a Socotra attack, when he most likely won’t?” she asked.

“A Socotra stake did that?” I asked, licking the blood off my hands. It was very rich, but very cold.

Uncle Soren leaned against the garage door, denting it. “It’s all my fault,” he muttered. “I shouldn’t have left.”

“Damn it, worst time ever not to have guards,” I said. Uncle Soren looked torn. “We’ll be fine,” I told him. “Go find Spencer.”

“You and her are what is most important to me right now. And Toby, of course. Damn it, damn it, damn it! Some creator I am!”

“Creator?” I hedged. “Toby told me that he changed himself.”

“He lied. I actually changed him. Did you never wonder why he and I have been together so long? He’s my fledgling…I taught him to read, how to work a computer, how to fix a damn car. I love him like a son.”

“What about Spencer?”

“What about him?” he asked, coldly. “I don’t care for Spencer, truth be told. He’s way too old for Toby.”

I stared at him pointedly and pointed at Mitra. He ignored me.

“Well, the blood flow is contained,” she said. “But it must be dressed immediately, and he needs rest.”

“No…what I need is Spencer,” Toby whispered, so low that I almost couldn’t hear him. He slowly looked over at my uncle. “Please, find him. He’s my soulmate. I can’t live without him. There’s no point in saving me if he’s not around.”

Uncle Soren huffed, but didn’t respond. “Siri,” he said, “Text Ethan Potter.”

Within a few minutes, Ethan was there, and he took over for Mitra.

“I am going to find the son of a bitch who did this,” Uncle Soren raged.

“I’ll go with you,” I said.

“Fuck no. Stay here; you’ll be safer here.”

“He’s my friend, too,” I argued, and my uncle frowned at me, but relented.

Using our noses, we headed out.

“Spencer’s scent is kind of musky,” I said. “Almost like pine.” I received a grunt in return.

We reached a bloodbath about a mile in. I gasped, and I heard my uncle suck in an unneeded breath of air.

Spencer was laying in the middle of the forest floor, a stake sticking out of his stomach. Isaiah, the teen vampire in Bartimaeus’ clan, was applying pressure. I noticed that his leg was broken.

“You little whelp,” Bartimaeus himself said. “Clan traitor!”

“This is wrong,” Isaiah said.

“Bartimaeus!” My uncle shouted. Bartimaeus jerked his head up and glared at us. Then he reached forward, grabbed Isaiah’s head, and started to tear it off. I ran forward, much to my uncle’s protests, and kicked Bartimaeus in the groin. He dropped like a hot potato, and then I went to Spencer and took my shirt off. I put it around the wound.

Uncle Soren picked Spencer up and started heading home. I was knocked down by someone jumping on my back. I rolled over and punched Bartimaeus. He wrapped his hands around my throat, squeezing hard. Isaiah jumped on Bartimaeus back, and the evil vampire rolled around and kicked him hard in the chest. I heard ribs breaking.

“All right, I’ve had enough,” Uncle Soren said. He set Spencer down and reached around and tore off Bartimaeus’ head as smoothly as he’d ever torn off a head. Bartimaeus opened his mouth, but no noise or words came out. Isaiah was already digging a hole with his sharp nails.

We buried his head and I tore off the rest of his limbs. We buried them about six feet apart from each other. Any information, we could get out of Isaiah.

Uncle Soren put Spencer over his shoulder again. I grabbed my bloody shirt.

“I’m taking him to the hospital,” Uncle Soren said. “Reese, go home. Take Isaiah. Question him.”

I grabbed Isaiah by the shirt and dragged him home, where Mitra informed me that Ethan had taken Toby to the hospital. She looked around me.

“Where’s Soren?”

“Hospital,” I answered. She gasped. “Not for him. For Spencer. I’m supposed to take this trash into the dungeon and question him.”

“Mind if I tag along?”

“Not at all.”

I had Isaiah tied up in a chair, and Mitra was holding the button that would shock him if I didn’t like his answers. I’d even installed a cat flap in the dungeon door so that the cats could watch if they wanted to. Shadowfang was kicking himself for not helping, but I told him that everyone was fine. Or would be.

Isaiah was nervous, looking afraid.

“What were you planning to do today?” I asked, trying to look fierce. Isaiah burst into tears.

“I tried to stop it,” he said. “Bram said that if we took your two most important guards out, that he’d have a clear field. The clan is run by Bram, not Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus is his second-in-command. He said he’d do anything for him; they’re brothers.”

“You mean good friends?”

“No, they’re literally brothers. Bram is older than Bartimaeus by ten minutes. Twins, actually. Bartimaeus made some kind of mistake years ago, and he’s trying to redeem himself by helping Bram destroy your coven so he can rule the vampire race.”

“That was fast,” Mitra said.

“Hang on,” I said, “How do you know all this?”

“I’m Bartimaeus’ fledgling. He came to Arizona, found me, and changed me. He knew where your house in America was. Spencer and Toby sort of knew what was going on, so they came to stop us. But Bartimaeus attacked Toby, then Spencer. He forced me to watch, trying to teach me to become a killer. I’m so sorry.”

“Did Spencer follow him after Toby was attacked?”

“Yes. He wanted to lead Spencer away, so he could hide his body easier in the forest.”

“More easily.”


“The correct grammatical term is “more easily.””

“Does it matter, Reese?” Mitra reminded me.

“Everything matters. I almost lost one of my best friends today, and his mate. Not to mention a fantastic bodyguard. Okay, let him go.”

Mitra untied Isaiah, getting a brief shock herself. She rubbed her hand, and we released Isaiah. I gave him Ambrose’s contact, and gave him some money for a plane trip to Germany.

Uncle Soren came back a few hours later, looking grave.

“Toby’s asleep, now. He’s going to survive, but it doesn’t look so good for Spencer. I didn’t get to him in time. What did you find out?”

I told him what I’d found out and what I’d done.

“Better call Ambrose,” he reminded me.

I did. Ambrose said he’d be delighted to have Isaiah, and promised to call me as soon as he found him. I told him what Isaiah looked like and his age.

“He’s a new fledgling, so be nice,” I told him.

“Aren’t I always?” he teased. “I’ll watch over him and teach him as best I can.”

“Thank you. Where do you live now?”

“In a house out in the country. I still own the castle, but it’s far too large for me now. I even have a car and several jobs. I work from home.”

“That’s good. I have to thank you for taking him in. We just can’t right now.”

“I need the company. Lord knows I like my boys.”

“Ambrose, control yourself,” I warned.

“Nothing will ever compare to you, Reese. But I know you’re in love with that girl. The one with the round breasts and the wide, round hips and the curly hair and the bright green eyes. What’s her name? Samantha?”

“It’s Sarah,” I reminded him, realizing that he was purposely trying to aggravate me. “Goodbye, Ambrose.”

“Goodbye, my beautiful boy.”

Now I had to call Father. I shot him a text.

Father: Soren already told me everything. I can’t leave, and neither can Father, but we’re sending guards over there.

I took a long shower, threw my bloody clothes into the wash, then went to bed. I sank into the sheets, exhausted. I knew that Uncle Soren was, too, and probably Mitra. Uncle Soren locked up the house, leaving the cat flap open, and I heard him groaning in the bedroom next to mine. He’d

“Stay with me tonight, my love,” he said.

“I want to, but I have to get back to the reservation.”

“Nonsense. Stay with me. The reservation will be fine. I promise.”

“I neglected it once, and lost my best friend. Don’t ask me again.”

“Please, Mitra. I can’t follow you; someone has to stay here with Reese.”

“Oh, all right. Do you have an old shirt that I can sleep in?”

I stopped listening at that point.

I awoke late the next day, which was a Sunday. It was almost noon when I woke up. I had a headache, my brain still fuzzy from the previous day. I felt both hungry and nauseous, and I ran to the bathroom and threw up.

When my stomach was empty, I brushed my teeth for five minutes and took another warm shower. I went downstairs in some clean boxers, before I remembered that a girl was staying here, and rushed back up to put on a pair of basketball shorts.

The blood felt rough going down my throat, and I coughed, spraying blood everywhere, before I was able to regain control and it went down smoothly after that. Mitra was already sitting in front of the television, watching The Golden Girls.

“I remember when this show came on,” she said. “Nana said it was one of the funniest shows she’d ever seen. These women are middle-aged, and they act like teenagers sometimes.”

“I know of at least two grown vampires who act like teenagers,” I said, thinking of Louis and Kieran. She grinned, then switched it to YouTube, and started watching Ed Edd n’ Eddy.

“What about the reservation?” I asked.

“I called. Everyone’s fine. Except for my pseudo-sister, she got dumped by her boyfriend for the fifth time. I keep telling her he’s a loser to and to forget about him, but I know that’s hard. By the way, your girlfriend called your cell phone earlier. She freaked out when you didn’t answer and called the home phone. She was worried when I answered, but I told her that you were just sleeping, and you’d talk to her when you got a chance.”

I went up and checked my cell phone. Sure enough, three missed calls, two from Sarah, one from Selena. I checked my voice mails, and was amused when Selena threatened to slice my “manhood” off if I didn’t call Sarah back within the hour.

I dialed Sarah’s number.

“Oh, thank God!” she screeched when I answered.

“Relax, I was just sleeping. Sorry I had to rush off, but we had an emergency. Both Toby and Spencer were attacked.”

“Attacked? By who?”

I ran her through the previous day’s events.

“Oh, geez,” she said. “I hope they’re okay.”

“Toby will recover physically, but Spencer might not. We didn’t get to him in time. If he dies, Toby will be devastated.”

“I would be, too, if it was you or my sister or someone I cared about. I’ll be praying for them.”

“Thank you, sugar. You’re too kind for your own good.”

“Thanks-SPUNK! NO PEEING MY ROOM! Sorry, Spunk’s been doing his business in my room lately. My best shoes were ruined the other day when I stepped in his poop on my carpet. I think Zie hates Spunk now.”

“I’ll be praying for him,” I told her. “How old is he now?”

“Six, I think. Dad actually got him for Sabine five years ago, but he likes me better. Coffee’s technically my dog, but she won’t hang around if Spunk is around, because he picks on her.”

“What a jerkface. Why does he pick on her?”

“It’s the hunting instinct. It would be like if a cat lived here. Spunk wants a Coffee-sandwich. Oh, that sounds good.”

“Spunk’s not a hunting dog, though. He’s a golden retriever.”

“I know, but dogs and wolves share the same DNA and all that good stuff. When can I see you again?”

“I can come over as soon as I’m dressed.”

“Just come over. Don’t bother getting dressed.”

“Sounds tempting, but I’m not running the risk of having either of our sisters seeing me in my boxers.”

I told a groggy Uncle Soren where I was going. He told me to be back by ten, and I quickly got dressed.

“I looked it up,” Sarah said. “Golden retrievers are actually hunting dogs. They hunt birds, mostly, and small animals.”

She was sitting on her bed.

“That is interesting,” I said. Spunk himself came into the room and jumped up on me. He proceeded to lick me.

“I’m still in shock,” she said. “Daddy’s dead. Why would he need to come back as a zombie?”

“Lots of people who have passed on check on their loved ones who are still living.”

I thought of my grandmother, whose ghost I had seen once before. I had never known her, but Louis had, briefly. Her ghost was beautiful, with long blonde hair and dark blue eyes. She’d been a great love of Grandfather. His true soulmate. Life without her was hard for him.

I thought about my own true love, and sidled next to her on the bed. I wrapped my arms around her, then noticed something.

“What happened to your chest?” I asked.

She turned away from me. “I don’t know what you mean?”

I looked down her shirt and took part of her bra off. “Oh, Sarah. Did you do this?”

She had marks, wounds, on her breasts.

“Okay, yes. I cut myself. My breasts, specifically.”

“Honey, these look infected. How do you know something won’t go wrong, and you lose both of them?”

She blushed. “I didn’t think about that.”

“I want you to stop right now. And tell Mother. Or I’ll tell her myself, if I need to.”

“Please don’t. You know how she worries.”

“She should at least look at them. Or have Louis look at them.”

“I’ve applied hydrogen peroxide to them.”

“That’s a start, but I think we should get some ointment or cream for them. Mother!”

“Reese, don’t.”

“Sorry, but I have to,” I said.

“What is it?” Mother asked, coming into the room.

“Mom, you need to see these.”

I pulled Sarah’s bra down, and Mother gasped.

“Oh, honey….”

“They look infected,” I continued.

“What did you use?” Mother asked Sarah.

“Sewing needles, mostly. Tweezers.”

“Oh, darling.” Mother burst into tears. “I’ve failed you as a mother!”

“No, you haven’t. I did this to myself, not you.”

“We should see Dr. Julia.”


“Sarah, Reese is right. These do look and smell infected. I can smell the infection from here. I will pick up some antibiotic ointment, and I want you to apply it to your breasts every day and night. Am I clear?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Very good. Thank you for informing me, Reese. You are now my favorite child.”

“Yeah, right. We all know she’s your favorite.”

Mother said nothing and straightened up the pillows on the bed.

Sarah hid her face behind a book.

“What’s that book about?”

“It’s about an angel who falls in love with a human.”

“That’s taboo.”

“To angels, it is. To humans like me, it’s kind of hot.”

“Do you wish I was an angel?”

“No, I like you the way you are. I don’t want to be the reason for your damnation.”

“No, you can blame my parents for that.”

“You’re not damned, Reese.”

“Not because I’m a vampire, but because I am a product of rape. Remember, my father practically raped my mother.”

“Does that mean Cirino is damned?”

“No, he’s just a baby.”

“I hope none of my babies are damned. I had another dream about the kids. Caitlin this time. She was so beautiful, Reese. She’s going to have your eyes and my hair. And Cynthia, she’s going to be beautiful as well. She will have blonde hair and green eyes, and Enna will have your black hair and my eyes. Joe’s going to look like you.”

“I can’t wait to meet them, especially Jojo. My only son.”

“Who knows? We might have more.” She shuddered. “They’ll be worth it, though.”


“The labor pains.”

“I’ll be there the whole time to ease your pains. I don’t care if you break my hand, even.”

“Like I could.”

“As a vampire, you could.”

We got word a week later of our guards. Toby survived, but Spencer was hanging on by a thread. Toby spent all his time with Spencer, not even eating or sleeping. When I went to the hospital room to check on him, Toby was holding Spencer’s hand and staring at him.

“I don’t know what I’d do if he died,” he said. “Spencer, please live. I’m sorry I’m such a bad guard.”

“It’s not your fault, Toby,” Uncle Soren said, replacing the dead flowers in the vase with live ones. “It’s mine. I should not have left. I should have had more guards present.”

I noticed tears glistening on Toby’s cheeks. Clear tears with a slight red coloration. Sarah entered the room, sipping her Starbucks coffee.

“I made this,” she said, handing Toby a homemade get-well card.

“Thank you, Sarah,” he said, opening it up. “Spencer, Sarah made us a card. Do you want to thank her?”

Spencer stirred, his mouth opening slightly. Then it closed, and his eyes did not open.

“She’s here, and so is Reese and Prince Soren,” Toby said. “They came to see you, and to replace the flowers. They love and care about you, Spence. As do I. I’m sorry I didn’t realize it before, but we are soulmates. You’re mine, and I’m yours. Please wake up.”

Spencer’s head moved. His mouth opened again, then closed. His eyes remained shut.

“I love you, Spence,” Toby continued. “I’m glad you refused to take no for an answer.” He winced and glanced at Sarah, who was playing with the label on her coffee cup.

When we got home, we saw a horrid sight. Louis and a female vampire, staring each other across the yard. At first I thought it was Chris, because of the blonde hair and leather jacket, then I saw that it wasn’t Chris at all; it was a new vampire with short blonde hair in a pixie cut and bright blue eyes. Scars dotted her face and neck, her skin was pale porcelain.

Louis was clearly smitten. He was smiling in that dopey way that he does whenever he meets a pretty girl.

“Hello, cousin, Father, Sarah,” he said. “This is…um…”

“My name is Samantha,” she said, offering her hand. “Samantha Sanderson. I’m Chris’ younger sister. I was sent here as extra protection.”

“May I see some ID?” Uncle Soren asked. She flipped open a billfold. “That seems to be in order. I’m glad you’re here at last; the boy needs protection. Both boys do, actually. Chris has charge of Sarah.”

“My sister speaks highly of you,” she told Sarah. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”

“You, too. Chris talks about her sisters all the time.”

“Good things, I hope?”

“Of course.”

“She’s lying,” Louis teased. “Chris tells me you’re single. I need someone to keep me warm.” He gave her a roguish wink, and she glared at him.

“I am here for the sole protection of you and your family,” she said. “I have no time for other entertainment.”

“Other entertainment?” I said aloud. Uncle Soren smacked me upside the head.

“Quiet, Reese. Welcome to our home, Samantha. Your accommodations are upstairs, to the south wing. My other guards also have bedrooms in that wing. One of them is taken, but you are welcome to choose another.”

“Thank you,” she said. She grabbed a couple of suitcases which I had not seen earlier, slung a crossbody purse over her shoulder, and went into the mansion.

“Just one bedroom is taken?” I asked.

“Yes, didn’t you hear? Toby moved into Spencer’s room.”

“Not much space in that room.”

“Yes, but they’ll manage. If need be, they can move into the guest house.”

“Do you trust her?” I asked.

“I trust no one at the start,” Uncle Soren replied. “Except Mitra.”

“He eats a hearty bowl of suspicious for breakfast,” Louis teased. “Seriously, though, Dad, why didn’t you stop me?”

“Hush, you. She will be given a one-month probation period. If she has proven trustworthy and fulfilled all her duties, then we will keep her, my knuckleheaded offspring.”

Louis frowned at him, then went back into the mansion.

“I will mark our territory,” Uncle Soren said, unzipping his pants. He sniffed the air. “Vampires have been here recently, and I don’t just mean Bartimaeus and Isaiah. Want to help, Reese?”

“Sure,” I said. “A mixture of our scents could scare them off more efficiently.”

I unzipped my pants. I went into the edge of the woods and marked the territory. I went around the territory, going as far as the cemetery, but it felt wrong to urinate in a cemetery, so I just urinated around the borders.

Vampires don’t normally urinate or have bowel movements-we don’t eat solid food, so we can’t. But we can “urinate” our own mixture of blood and DNA to mark our territory. It’s generally more effective than simply spreading around our scents outward from our skin and hair.

Sarah came around later in the afternoon, flanked by Chris, who greeted Samantha with a hug. Samantha and Sarah were introduced, and they talked about drawing, which Sarah was good at and Samantha apparently enjoyed doing. Sarah showed her a few pictures she’d drawn- of Sabine, Selena, Cirino, Kieran, Spunk, Coffee, flowers, a deer skull, which Sarah said she and Selena had found while on a walk one day.

They seemed to like each other. I found out that Samantha was in fact bisexual, as well, and we had a lively discussion about things we wished people would understand about bisexuality.

“I actually hate shopping,” I told Samantha. “Even if I’m just shopping for myself, I really hate shopping. Mostly, I buy books and music.”

“I buy clothes and makeup,” Sarah said cheerfully. “Speaking of which, how do you like these new skinny jeans, Reese?”

“They look good on you,” I said. “But the point is, when Ariella first found out I’m bi, she wanted to take me shopping. She actually managed to drag me to the mall, and we spent two hours going in women’s stores. The only store we both liked was Hot Topic. Ari bought some Pokémon shirts, and I bought a bottle of black nail polish.”

“You used to wear nail polish?!”

“And eyeliner. I still have a MAC eyeliner that’s probably no good anymore. You can have it. I probably still have the nail polish, too.”

“Where’s my vampire goth prince?” she teased.

“Oh, he’s here. He’s just matured.”

“Do they always banter like this?” Samantha asked Chris.

Chris chuckled. “You should hear them talk about books and music. He’s really into heavy metal and goth rock, and she prefers pop and soft rock. Even their bookshelves are a mix-horror books next to chick-lit. They’re total opposites, but they do have some things in common, and that makes them all the more perfect for each other.”

“How did your father react when you told him you’re bi?” Samantha asked me.

“He was totally supportive. He’s bi, too, but whatever you do, don’t mention his love life. Faolan hates him right now, because I made a mistake involving his adopted daughter, Sadie, and she killed herself after I got back with Sarah.”

Sarah stood on her toes and kissed my cheek. “I’ve already forgiven him, and her, for it. He is pretty darn gorgeous.”

“I’m technically half-werewolf,” I said. “I was bitten by one months ago, but I take a potion for it.”

“And you’ve never been able to get rid of the infection?”

“It’s funny-the first time I was bitten, one of my uncle’s witch friends was able to get rid of the infection, but I haven’t seen her since I was bitten again.”

“You saw a witch?” Sarah’s eyes narrowed.

“Well, yeah, babe, I kind of had to. She was supposedly the best. And she was able to get rid of the infection.”

“What about Mason?”

“What about him?” I asked darkly.

“Go see him, or Krauvas. Get rid of the infection once and for all.”

“I don’t trust him.”

“Reese, please.” I leaned on the table, and she stood behind me, her hands on my back. “Baby, please. Go see Krauvas. Make up with Mason.”

“He likes you.”

“He also liked Scarlett, and look how that turned out. Please, baby.”

“Oh, all right. I’ll call him. But I don’t trust him.”

“Reese Mordecai Emerson, he’s your friend!”

Just then, as if he was summoned, my father entered the room.

“Father, you’re back already!”

“Yes,” he said happily. “Oh, hello, Sarah. Hello, Samantha. I see you’ve met my son.”

“Yes, we were just having a discussion about bisexuality,” she said. “Mostly complaining about the stigmas and myths attached to it.”

“I see. Well, everything went well. Soren told me about what happened with Bartimaeus. That was enough to seal it. The Council has decided to retire Bram, and Cecilia Flam is taking over as Head.”

“I know her,” I said. “She said I looked like my mother once.”

“Yes, she and your mother are friends. It was a majority, eleven to one. The only one who disagreed was Bram himself. They’ve decided to abolish his suggested laws, and come up with new, better laws. Soon, hunting will become a thing of the past. Blood from bloodbanks will become a worldwide thing. And guess who owns all the vampire bloodbanks? Me! And your uncle, of course, and Louis, and yourself.”

“That’s a good thing, right?” Sarah said.

“Sarah, it’s a wonderful thing! Alexander will get a portion of the profits, and so will Marina, which in turn will get you more profits.”

“More money for shopping?” she brightened.

“Whatever you want. But personally, I’d invest a few thousand dollars, buy some stocks. Amazon and Facebook are doing well right now.”

“Even richer?” Her eyes widened. She looked at me. “Reese, how much did you say your family earns in a year?”

“About a hundred billion. This new investment will double, no, triple that.”

“That is nice, but I still want to work.” She looked at my father.

“You’re always welcome to work at Emerson’s Electronics. I’ll give Richard a call if you want me to.”

“Nah, Richard likes me. I’ll call him myself. But I like working for Lucy.” Her brow furrowed.

“You could work two jobs,” I said.

“I could, but I have so many other activities, including cheerleading and the study group. And Sabine wants me to teach her how to play piano.”

“I could do that,” I said.

She grimaced. “No, offense, Reese, but you kind of scare her.”

“She didn’t seem scared when I first met her.”

“Yes, but that was before she knew you’re a vampire.”

“Well, this is the perfect opportunity to get to know me.”

“I’ll ask her, but I doubt she’ll say yes. And, you know, Coffee doesn’t like you much. I mean, not just you, but men in general.”

“Spunk likes me, though. And they’re dogs. Her teeth would break if she tried to bite me, even if she is a demon in disguise.”

“A tiny demon in disguise with short brown fur and four paws? Sounds more like one of your cats.”

“Hey, my cats are familiars, not demons.”

“You have a familiar?” Samantha asked. I jumped; I’d forgotten she and Chris were there.

“Yes, his name is Shadowfang, and he’s a big black cat.”

Speak of the devil, and he shall appear.


“I thought I heard your dulcet tones, Mordecai,” he said, rolling around on his back. “My litterbox is getting full. Care to assist?”

“I’ll have someone clean it out, Shadowfang,” he said.

“I’ll do it,” I offered. “He’s my cat.”

“Thank you, Reese. Of course, you could use the toilet,” Father suggested to Shadowfang.

“And risk falling into the water?! Not likely!”

“You’re big enough that you probably wouldn’t fall in, and you could teach the other cats to do it. You could even flush.”

“Flush? Risk getting splashed by the filthy clean water?! You jest!”

“No, I’m serious. Learn to use the toilet, or you clean your own litterbox. Your choice.”

Shadowfang gave Father a look of deep disgust. Then he walked out of the room, fluffy tail high in the air, as haughty as a cat could be.

Father sighed, then he looked over at me.

“Well, that’s that. I’m going to take a nap now. I’m still suffering from jetlag. Good night, everyone.”

Sarah looked back at me.

“Sarah, want to come upstairs?”


A minute later, we were in my room. Sarah kicked off her shoes and sat on my large bed.

“Did you get a new bed?” she asked.

“Well, yes. My old mattress was getting, well, old. So I bought a new one and donated the old one.”

“I got a new bed, too. Mom bought it for me.”


“Your mom. I call her Mom now, and so does Sabine. It just feels right. She’s acted more like a mother to me than Alicia ever did. All our debts are paid, and Mom’s life insurance just came through. We divided it up between me and Sabine. I can access it, since I’m eighteen, but Sabine has to wait until she’s eighteen. I’m going to invest my half. Make millions by the time I’m fifty.”

“When do you want to become a vampire?”

“After we’re married. I want the human experience. I’ve never wanted anyone as much as I want you.”

She leaned over and kissed me. I grabbed two water bottles from the new minifridge, and handed one to her.

“When did you get a minifridge?”

“It’s for you. To keep drinks and snacks, and of course, my snacks.”

“Reese, you’re amazing.”


He leaned toward me and kissed me. I felt his cool lips on mine. His muscles bulging under his black shirt. His long black hair, touching my curly brown locks. I moved my hand under his shirt, and he growled. This was a sex growl, though. I’ve learned to recognize the different hisses and growls he makes. Right now, he was making a sex growl and pushing me onto the new bedcovers.

He was always careful. He often stressed how fragile I was, and how careful he had to be. He took his shirt off, and I admired his Adonis body. A perfect V around his abdomen, a bulging six-pack, pectorals to die for. He was both hard and soft; his muscles hard, but his skin was surprisingly soft.

He took his belt off, then undid his button and zipper. His yellow eyes were hungry; needy. He needed me, even more than I needed him. I thought about our future children. Life would not be complete without them. I couldn’t wait to meet them. Little Joseph, the first boy and second-born child. Caitlin, who would be a natural leader in all she did. Little Enna, who would be the cutest baby ever. Cynthia, named after Artemis. Little Beckett, named after my father. Juniper, after my second aunt. And another baby, although we had yet to name him.

So many babies. So much joy. Before I saw them in my dreams, I didn’t care if I couldn’t give birth to them. Now without them, life would not be complete. I already had Cirino.

“What are you thinking about?” Reese asked.

“The babies.”

“Our babies? I can think of one who will be conceived tonight.”

My eyes widened, and I almost jumped off the bed, but he was restraining me by the wrists.

“Reese, no. Not tonight. We’re not ready for them, and they’re not ready for us. I need to be a vampire and married to you first.”

He pouted, but he knew I was right. Then he smiled.

“I can’t wait to meet my sons.”

“Or my daughters. All of them. They’ll be perfect.”

“Yes, sugarplum, they will be.”


“Because you’re so sweet. I’m so hard.”

“Hush, you.”

“Oh, all right. I can’t wait to be a father. I’m going to be a father. Me. The ugly one. The screw-up.”

“Don’t be silly; you’re beyond gorgeous. You’re like Adonis.”

“That’s funny, because I was thinking that you’re like Aphrodite. More beautiful, actually.”


I kissed her softly. And then I ravished her for some time. And then she left.


School was nearing to a close, but I still had two months to go before I graduated. It was only April, after all. I’d already taken all the tests, the SAT and ACT.

That morning dawned chilly and foggy. Clouds surrounded the parking lot as I got out of my GT-R and started walking up to the school. I heard a screeching noise. I turned to see the source of the commotion-heading straight for Sarah. She looked up, panicked…before I could think, I was rushing toward her, holding my hands out.

The metal crunched under my hands, the palms making two perfect handprints in the astonishingly dirty car. And then a girl screamed.

I wiped my hands on my jeans and turned back to Sarah. She just stared at me, mouth open.

“I got it on video!”

“Did you see that?”

“How did he do that?”

“Is Sarah okay?”

I went around to the driver’s side of the car and wrenched the door open. Ariella was sitting there, unconscious. Shocked, I pulled her out of the car as two police cars and an ambulance appeared.

The EMTs took Ariella from me, I was also checked for injuries. My hands were bruised and cut from the sharp metal from the car. Sarah, of course, was okay, just shocked. One of the cafeteria ladies came out with three bottles of water.

Sarah was softly crying. One of the EMTs, a woman, gave her a tissue and held her.

“My babies!”

I looked up at the sound of my mother’s voice. She hugged me, then Sarah, and gave Ariella, who was still unconscious, an extremely dirty look.

“Mom,” Sarah whimpered.

“I’m here, baby. Mommy’s here.” She looked at me. “Reese, your hands.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“He saved my life,” Sarah said. “He stopped the car from hitting me.”

Mother let go of Sarah and hugged me instead. “My brave boy. Thank you for saving her.”

“I couldn’t just let it squish her like a bug. I didn’t even think. I just reacted.”

“You saved her life.”

“Of course I did. I love her.”

“Without regard to your own.”

“Well, yes. It’s not a big deal, Mom-“


“Mom, stop shouting!”

“Sorry, but…I always knew you were brave, Reese.”

“Mom, stop. I’m fine. She’s fine. Ari will be fine.”

“I don’t care about that bitch; I just care about you!”

“Mom! She’s not a bitch!”

“She almost squashed Sarah!”

“I don’t think she did it on purpose, Mother. I think it was an accident.”

“You are so noble, my son. Chivalrous. You care about your friends.”

“Mom, I don’t think she almost ran over Sarah deliberately. She’s her friend, too.”

Mom seemed embarrassed after that.

“Ma’am?” The female EMT tapped Mother on the shoulder. “We’re ready to take your daughter to the hospital.”

“Yes…do that. I will follow along.”

I followed in my GT-R.

Sarah and Ari were taken to separate rooms. Ari had some skull damage, possibly with pieces of her skull in her brain. Sarah was taken to a recovery bay. A nun was next to her, separated by a thin pink curtain. When the nun saw me, she held her rosary and began praying

“Our Father, who Art in Heaven…”

Sarah complained loudly when they wanted to take her for an MRI.

“I didn’t even hit my head,” she said. “Reese is hurt worse than I am. Look at his hands.”

My hands were laced with antibiotic ointment and bandaged.

I saw Ari’s parents-Anna and Alan Spears. They were a clean-cut couple, with clear Christian values and rules for Ari to follow. They didn’t much like me-they thought I could be a bad influence because of the way I dress and look. They insisted that my yellow eyes must be contacts, and not the product of my father’s dominant traits.

I was sitting in the recovery bed, not looking at anyone.

“According to her, he saved her life,” said a nurse. “Two perfect handprints in the vehicle.”

I noticed a goth girl with space buns looking intrigued. The nun was looking at me nervously.

Ethan Potter appeared, looking frazzled.

“I came as soon as I could,” he told me. “What’s the damage?”

“Already been taken care of,” I said, holding up my hands. He looked astonished. “Like I told Mother, I couldn’t just let it squish her.”

“No, I understand that,” he said, running a hand over his short brown hair. “Your father’s not going to be happy with me.”

“Tell him it was all my fault.”

I noticed the goth girl inching closer to me.

Ethan sighed.

“How is Spencer?” I asked him.

“Still weak. The stake went through his stomach. Toby’s been by his side twenty-four-seven.”

“My father needs to give you a raise.”

“I asked for one, and he agreed to raise my pay. Let me see your hands.”

He took each hand and felt around.

“Shallow cuts,” he said. “I think you’ll survive.”

“Is that crazy half-Elf nurse still here?”

“Uriah? No, he left. He works for Fowley now.”

I looked up and noticed a dark-haired news reporter talking to one of the nurses.

“A reporter? Not just any reporter, Kate Un from North Hampton Local.”

“Shit,” Ethan swore. “She’s probably here about the accident.” He bit his bottom lip. “Does your father care if they know the truth?” he asked below human hearing.

“He’s wary, but it’s not illegal to tell humans we exist. After all, most of us still drink human blood. And I’ve hunted before.”

He paled, if that was possible, and turned to look at Kate Un, who was now talking to Sarah, the cameraman training his camera on her.

After a few minutes, she pointed me out, and Kate came to talk to me.

“You’re Reese Emerson? Do you mind if I ask a couple questions?”

“Not at all. Go ahead.”

Kate gestured for her cameraman to focus on me.

“First of all, why did you try to stop the car?”

“Because I love Sarah. I couldn’t just let it squash her.” I was saying that a lot lately.

“Are you and Sarah in a relationship?”

“Yes-we have been for over a year. She’s my world.”

“Did you sustain any injuries?”

I held up my hands. “Cuts and bruises on my hands and wrists. I’ll heal quickly and move on.”

“Did you know the person behind the wheel?”

“Yes-she’s my friend, too. Ariella Spears.”

“Do you think there was jealousy involved?”

“Oh no, nothing of the sort. It was an accident, plain and simple.”

“So there’s no hint of a rivalry between the victim and the driver?” She sounded disappointed. “Maybe a fight over you or another boy?”

“No. They’re friends. No fight, no rivalries, no bitterness.”


My mother’s voice cut through the building tension.

The cameraman turned to focus on Mother, and his jaw dropped. He’d probably never seen any woman so beautiful as my mother.

“I am the mother of Reese,” she said. “And the adopted mother of Sarah Cresley.”

“Adopted mother?” Kate Un was intrigued. “Do you mind if I ask a few questions?”

“Not at all, but leave my son alone.”

She followed Kate into a separate room.

“What a bitch,” I hissed.

Ethan chuckled. “It’s her job to ask hard questions, Reese. She needs to make the story interesting.”

I could go home after another hour. Father was waiting on the porch, chain-smoking cigarettes.

“Ethan called and told me everything,” he said. “You should have just bitten the reporter, son.”

“In front of a bunch of people?”

“You could have led her away,” he argued, stubbing out the cigarette. “It’s what I would have done.”

“You’re more experienced than I am. I don’t know diddly squat, at least, according to Uncle Soren.”

“Your uncle’s a fat pervert,” he said, kicking the dirt.

“Why do you insult him?”

“Because that’s what he is. But anyway, at least you survived. Ethan told me that your hands were injured?”

I held them up for the twelfth time that day. “They left perfect imprints in the dirty metal.”

“That’s my boy. Come inside, it’s cold.”

Around five o’clock, I turned on the news channel, North Hampton Local News

Kate Un was speaking. “Today could have been a tragic day for three students at North Hampton High School. But luckily, no one is dead, either to sheer dumb luck or the actions of one brave student. Ariella Spears, a popular senior, lost control of her white Toyota Corolla and almost crushed her friend Sarah Cresley, another popular student, to death. But thanks to the actions of Sarah’s boyfriend and Ariella’s friend, Reese Emerson, both girls are alive. Here is the spectacular footage, taken by a student who was already at the school’s front doors.”

It showed Ari losing control of her car, and me rushing over with my hands outstretched. You could hear the crunch as my hands hit the side of the car.

“How did he do that?” asked a girl. I recognized the voice as Mia Rayport.

Kate Un continued. “This morning, while at Mercy Hospital, I had the opportunity to speak to the brave student in question.”

Then they showed my interview, then Sarah’s.

“Could it be dumb luck, or is there something more going on? Reese Emerson, who is a straight A student and apparently hangs with the goth clique, could be a vampire. Do we have vampires among us? Is that how he did it? More information at ten.”

“I’m going to kill her,” Father said. Then he purred as I leaned against him and yawned. He pulled me onto his lap.

“Sorry, Father.”

“For what? You did what you had to do to save your mate. There’s nothing to be sorry for. But now I am going to get e-mails and phone calls from anxious parents and religious fanatics, wanting to know if you are a vampire and if I knew. It’s not like I haven’t gotten those before, though.”


“Your kindergarten teacher found out that you’re a vampire and I got numerous calls and e-mails from her, wanting to know what I feed you.”


“Yes. But it’s okay.”

He purred and nuzzled my head.

I was asleep when I got the wake-up call.

“Wakey wakey, sleeping prince,” cooed Louis. I reached up and tried to smack him, but he dodged out of the way. “I have some news, dear cousin. Sarah is missing.”

That woke me up.

“She’s what?”

“Missing, silly boy. This morning. Marina went in to check on her, and she was gone. She tried calling her cell phone about ten times, and texted her thirty-three times at last count. Her phone is off.”

I shot up, and Louis laughed. “Nice hairdo, Reese.”

“What about Sarah?” I asked.

“She’s gone, doofus. Missing.”

“How? Why?”

“That’s the mystery, isn’t it? She’s got Chris, and Zie, and Marina, and Alexander, and Selena watching over her.”

“What am I going to do? She’s my love, my soulmate.”

I jumped out of bed and threw my clothes on, then called her phone. No answer. I texted her. No response.

My thoughts were frantic. Where was she? Was she safe? How the hell did my loved ones keep disappearing with a trace?

I didn’t bother brushing my teeth or hair, I just grabbed my keys and my phone.

“Whoa, there, Garfunkel!” Louis grabbed me around the waist just as I reached the front door. “We have the guards on the case.”

“Don’t tell him what they found,” Uncle Soren growled.

“What did they find already?” I asked, desperately. “Tell me!” I grabbed Louis’ shirt.

“A pair of bloody panties,” he replied, sounding almost gleeful.

I moaned and put my face in my hands.

“Chillax, Garcon. They don’t know for sure that they’re hers. There’s also several human girls missing right now around this area.”

I wrenched back my fist as far as it could go. Before I could pound him, however, Uncle Soren grabbed my fist. I bared my teeth at him and hissed. He grabbed me, pinning my arms to my side.

“Reese, calm down. You know he’s only acting like this because its his way of dealing with worry,” Uncle Soren reminded me.

“So I can’t pound him?”

“I wholeheartedly approve of you pounding him, but at least wait until we’ve found her,” he said. “I’m sure she’s fine. She’s a survivor. She has courage. And she’s smart. She will survive.”

Toby came in the front door just then.

“What news?” Uncle Soren asked.

“I caught her scent near the Fae territory,” Toby said. “Chris is trying to find her as we speak.”

I reached back and flipped Uncle Soren, then ran out the door, accidentally stepping on his privates. He cursed me as I ran out.

I ran on all fours until I reached the highway, then I put my nose to the ground. Her scent was faint. I ran forward another two miles, then sniffed the air. Her scent was stronger. I thought about the babies we were going to have. I thought about Jojo, my future son. He was going to look like me, but he’d be shorter. As short as her, at least.

I made my way to the Fae territory, then sniffed around. Her scent was everywhere. I started digging under the ground. I felt a sharp pain in my back, and then I was sent tumbling down.

I turned and pulled the arrow out of my back. I sat up, only to get another arrow in my belly. I pulled that out, too, and growled loudly.

A red-haired Elf was in front of me, pointing another arrow at me. He looked familiar.

“Marcus!” I growled.

“Vampire,” he greeted me dryly.

“Where is she?!”

“Oh, she’s safe,” he muttered. “I would never hurt her.”

“Son of a bitch! She’s mine!”

He grimaced. “On the contrary, she’s mine now. I finally have her, after all these months of planning and waiting.”

He let out a gasp as I saw a glint of metal coming through his chest. Then he smiled and chuckled.

“Did you really hope to kill me, she-tick?”

My sister dodged him as he tried to tear her head off. She threw the knife at him again, this time plunging it into his belly. She twisted it. He grabbed her around the neck and squeezed, gasping again when a knife hit him in the back.

Mother had thrown that one. She grabbed his head.

“I’ll tear your head off,” she threatened. He let go of Selena’s head.

“Take us to her,” Selena said, rubbing her throat.

“Fine. I will take you to her.”

A door appeared in a tree, and he opened it and stepped through. I followed him, then Mother, then Selena. The inside of the tree was hollow, except for a small platform on which we were standing. The platform started descending.

We were descending under the earth, where the Fae ruled. My aching gut twisted nervously as we went down. I was claustrophobic.

Finally, we reached a…civilization, for lack of a better word.

People with different anomalies moved about. I saw people with hooves, people with horns, cat ears, and even a dog person, who cheerfully waved at us. I saw trolls, some huge and hulking, others small and skinny, with bent knees and webbed feet.

Marcus expertly wove in and out of the throng, many of whom stared at us, the vampires.

The dog person started following me, until an Elf called to her and she went back to him.

“New friends!” she whined, as she was forced to leave us.

“You’d like my cat,” I told her, and she wagged her fluffy tail.

“Did you forget our mission, Reese?” Selena hissed.

Marcus continued to lead us on.

He led us through a cavern, where I saw large bats hanging upside down.

“You’d better not trick us,” I growled. He smirked.

I followed him until we reached an underground palace. He led us to the front doors, which were guarded by orcs. One of them, an extremely ugly one with yellow fangs, growled at us, but Marcus held up his hand, said “They are with me” and continued through the doors.

I went through the doors behind him. He went to the throne room, where Fowley was seated. And next to him was…


“Reese!” She jumped off her seat and ran to me. She was wearing a white flowing dress made of some kind of material I didn’t recognize. She stood up and kissed me. Then she was promptly smothered in hugs and kisses from the female vampires.

“Where were you, young lady? And why are you wearing this dress?” Mother demanded.

“They made me change into this,” she said, her eyes shining. “They burned my clothes and said that since I’m a fairy, I belong here.”

“Which she does,” Fowley said, standing up from his throne. “Shame, I was looking forward to watching my men take you. Azur in particular was looking forward to having you.”

Sarah looked nervously at a lizard-like man in the corner. He grinned toothily, revealing venom-coated fangs. Sarah gulped. I wrapped my arm around her, ignoring a hiss from Selena.

“You must stay,” Fowley said. “You belong with us.”

“I belong with them,” Sarah said firmly, planting herself next to me. “I don’t need you. Or Marcus. Or Azur.”

Fowley growled, then smiled disturbingly. “Girl, you belong with us.” He stepped forward and grabbed her nose. He tweaked it hard. Blood started pouring out.

I was prepared to spring at him, but before I did, Mother attacked him first. She jumped on him, grabbed him around the neck and started choking him. Azur ran forward and grabbed Mother around the waist.

I jumped on his back and positioned my arms as if to twist his neck. He slowly let go of Mother, who was kicked hard by Fowley in the stomach. She flew back, and then something happened.

Seeing my mother hurt did something to me. I felt searing heat. It began in my chest, then went into my stomach, then into my legs. I felt fur grow. My canines became elongated and sharp. My ears grew large and pointed. My nose turned into a snout. Bones cracked as I grew taller, bigger.

My chest expanded, my stomach tightened. I was turning into a werewolf.

I saw fear in all their faces. Even Fowley, and Azur, who was backing away. My clothes ripped as I grew a tail and my legs became thick, bent trunks. My feet turned into paws, my hands became sharp and furry.

I whined as the transformation completed, and I turned away from Sarah, ashamed.


I could hear her voice behind me.

“A hybrid,” someone whispered.

“Reese?” she squeaked. I forced myself to relax and I started to deform.

Then Azur grabbed Sarah around the waist and held a knife against her throat.

“I’ll slit her throat!” he threatened in a nasally voice.

I roared, my howls carrying through the cavern. I heard an answering howl, probably from the dog person, but I ignored it. Mother bent down and her fingers reached toward her boot. I heard an arrow being pulled back.

“I’ll shoot him,” Marcus said. Mother froze.

I heard a crash, a resounding cry of “MORE FRIENDS!”

My guard was there, along with Chris, who swiftly broke Azur’s neck. He dropped to the ground like a statue, and I felt the arrow hit my ass. Toby kicked Marcus in the crotch, and then Mother snatched Sarah up and ran like hell.

I followed, another arrow hitting me in the shoulder, then the kidney. I ignored the dog person, who tried to chase us, but was held back by her master.

I didn’t stop running until I’d reached the house. By then, I was back to vampire, and naked, cold, covered in blood and dirt, and heaving with breath. I collapsed on the ground, exhausted. Mother set Sarah down first, then picked me up and carried me inside.

To my surprise, Father was there, along with Louis and Uncle Soren.

“Reese!” Father ran to me. Mother hissed as he tried to take me from her.

“I will bathe him,” she said.

“I’ll do that,” Father said. She growled at him.

“Because of you, I didn’t even meet him until he was seventeen. I think I deserve to have some more time with him.”

Father pouted, but knew she was right.

“Back, dog,” Mother commanded.

“Come here, Spunk,” said Sarah’s soprano voice.

I fell asleep sometime while I was being scrubbed down. I woke up about an hour later, resting on the couch in the living room. Mother was there, and so was Sarah, back in her old clothes. She looked like she’d been crying. A fire was roaring in the fireplace.

I tried to get up, but I was halted by Spunk, who was laying on me.

“I’ve been writing in my journal,” Sarah said. “I took some meds. Mom made me.”

“You needed them,” Mother said.

“Where’s Father?” I choked.

“I’m right here, Reese,” he said, bringing me a glass of water. I sat up and gulped it down.

“You both need rest,” Mother said. “Take the rest of the week off.”

“I have cheerleading,” Sarah protested. “And Ariella is staying over on Saturday.”

“No cheerleading,” Mother said. “You will exhaust yourself.”

“Mom, I want to be in shape. I can’t keep being the damsel in distress. I want to be able to defend myself, and cheerleading helps.”

“Oh, very well. You may have cheerleading and your sleepover. But you and Reese do need sleep.”

“I’ll take him home,” Father said.

“Leave him here, Mordecai. He can sleep in the guest room. Let him live here for a while.”


“Please, Mordecai. I spent so many years away from him, I need to spend more time with him. Let him at least spend the night.”

“Oh, fine. Have you clothes for him?”

“Alexander has some shirts he can loan him, and I will see if he has trousers for him as well.”

“I’ll bring over some clothes for him.”

“Dad, bring some books, too. I can’t take any chick-lit.”

“Hey!” Sarah squeaked.

I fell asleep and slept the rest of the day and night. I woke up the next morning, aching, stiff, and still groggy. I was laying in a bed, Sarah next to me. I purred and pulled her close.

“Reese,” she mumbled. “Give me five minutes, Jojo.”

“It’s me,” I whispered. “Jojo’s not here yet.”

“Reese?” she asked. She rubbed her eyes. “I’ll be right back. Bathroom break.” She got out of bed, pulling the sheets off my legs, and went into the adjacent bathroom. I heard dog whining, and realized Spunk was at the door.

Sarah finished and washed her hands, then came back into the bedroom and opened the door. The golden retriever nearly knocked her down, then he jumped onto the bed and started licking my face. Sarah got back into bed and sidled in next to me.

“You used to be able to pay for a zoo admission with a cat or a dog,” I said. “The cat or dog would be used to feed the lions.”

“That’s sick,” Sarah said.

“The practice was stopped after too many people protested that it was cruel and unusual.”

“Reese, I don’t want to hear it.”


She fell back asleep in seconds. I was awake, though. Sarah was softly snoring away, mumbling in her sleep. I rolled over onto my belly, and grabbed my phone. I went through my social media accounts. My latest update was noting that I was in a relationship with Sarah. I checked hers.

She had posted a few selfies, and then posted in an all-girl group. I leaned over her and grabbed her phone. I put in the password (her birthday) and went to her Facebook. I checked her phone for messages. Nothing of interest.

“What are you doing?”

I about jumped out of my skin at the sound of her voice. She was looking at me, her eyes still groggy. She snatched her phone out of my hands, and went through it. She sat up cross-legged, and went through her phone.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“No, you’re not. But anyway, there’s nothing you’d be interested in here. I stopped talking to Caden Cartwright and Elliot Marsters. The only thing you’d be remotely interested in is my music collection or my Amazon wishlist.”

“Babe, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. But geez, way to make me feel…well, like my privacy’s been violated.”

I felt guilty. I stared at the ceiling, not looking at her. She started playing music. She got out of bed and went into the bathroom, where I heard the shower running. I thought about what I’d seen. Nothing of interest. Not even a text or a call.

I sat up, only to get licked again by Spunk. I growled softly in warning. I’d always been more of a cat kind of guy. I heard a plunk in the bathroom, a small “Ouch”, and then a louder falling noise. I got up and rushed into the bathroom.

Sarah was frowning and clutching her breast.

“Are you hurt?” I asked.

“I banged my boob really hard. You don’t know pain until your boob has been banged or scratched. But yeah, I slipped and fell. I’m okay, though. I’ll survive. I’ll just writhe in pain for a few minutes.” She was holding a curling iron dangerously close to her other breast. I took it from her and wrapped it around her hair like I’d seen her do. I waited, and then released the contraption. A fresh new brown curl sprang into place.

She allowed me to do her whole mass of hair, and then she ran some mousse through it. Her hair was curlier than usual due to my styling and some other beauty routine that I couldn’t wrap my head around.

She flipped her head forward, gathered up all her hair, then flipped back and pulled her hair into a ponytail. I ran my fingers through the soft brown tumbling locks. I kissed her neck, unplugging the curling iron, then she applied deodorant and perfume that smelled like lilies and rain and freesias.

She applied lotion to her freshly-shaven legs. I could tell they were freshly-shaven because they were so smooth. She liked having shaved legs; she didn’t like her leg hair because it was so dark and made her look hairier than she actually was. I personally didn’t mind a little fuzz. I just did not care. She pulled on her pajama shorts and turned to me.

“I am so ready for a nap,” she said.

“You just got up.”

“And I’m tired as heck. I’m going back to bed.”

I was amazed as she crawled back into bed. She never ceased to amaze me. A few minutes later, she got up again, coming down to breakfast in the dining room. Zie put a plate of bacon and eggs in front of her, and she dug in. I was sitting in front of her, drinking blood from a bottle.

The baby, Cirino, was eating baby mush. I smelled carrots and sweet potatoes. He grabbed his spoon and dipped it into the mush, then brought it up to his mouth. Zie went over to him and began feeding him properly.

Kellan and Kieran appeared in the living room, whispering to each other. Sarah rolled her eyes at me and glanced over at them.

Kieran saw this and stared at her. I hissed at him. He looked at me and hissed back. Kellan hissed at me. I hissed at him. And then Mother hissed at all of us. I finished my breakfast and when went to clean my teeth. Blood stains teeth. And I wanted my teeth as white as possible for Sarah.

I heard Ariella arrive. I heard her voice, and Mom inviting her in. I heard her speaking to Sarah; the girls went up the stairs and into Sarah’s room.

When I went into Sarah’s room two minutes later, I grew excited. Ariella was kissing Sarah. She was on the bed with Ari’s arms wrapped around her.

“Reese!” Sarah exclaimed when she pulled away.

“Ariella,” I said, my eyes reddening. “Do me a favor. Kiss her again.”


“That was the hottest thing I’ve ever seen. Kiss her again.”

Ariella leaned forward and slowly kissed Sarah again. Then she pulled away.

“If I didn’t do that, I’d explode,” Ari said.

“What about Cate?” Sarah asked.

“She and I broke up,” Ariella said. She fingered a white gold necklace, which had the initials CB on it. “It turns out she was only dating me to get back at her ex, Brianna.”

“Is that where you got that necklace?” I asked. She blushed.

“Yes, I stole this from her while we were at the gym. There’s another thing…Sarah, think something.”

There was a pause.

“You thought about Reese, and how you’ve always liked guys with long hair. You’re also remembering when he used to wear those snake bites and how you thought that was cute.”

Sarah blushed and grinned cheekily. “Wait a second,” she said, her face falling, “You heard what I thought?”

“Yeah. Reese, think something.”

I thought of something.

“You were thinking of Sarah, and how you like her hair. You like the color-it’s not mousy, or frizzy, or plain. It’s curly and got blonde highlights. You were thinking that she might have touched it up, because there’s more blond than usual.”

“Um…that’s right.”

“I did touch it up,” Sarah said, fluffing her hair. “I’m glad he likes it. So you can read our minds?”

“Yeah. It happened after the accident. During the MRI, I overheard the doc thinking that it was lucky that I was alive at all, I hit my head so badly. And then I heard my parents’ voices in my head, praying to God that I was all right and hoping that Jesus would make me, you know, better.”

She fluffed her dark grey metallic dress. “So that’s it. I’ve had a crush on Sarah for forever, even though I know she’s straight and she’s my friend’s girl, and I can read minds. Oh, and Chips died.”

“Your fish?” I asked.

“Yeah.” Her eyes reddened. “I had him for four years. He was a betta, so I couldn’t put him with any other fish, or he’d kill them. Have you ever had a pet die?”

“Years ago,” Sarah said. “I had an orange tabby cat named Marilyn. She was old when I got her, and she was old when she died. I had her for six years, from the time I was six until I was twelve.”

I was stunned. Not because the fish died-pets die all the time, especially fish. I was shocked because she now had the ability to read minds.

“You’ve been my friend for three years,” I said. “I never…well, I’ve never encountered a human with this ability.”

“Have you ever had a pet die, Reese?”

I frowned. “There was a fish in Denmark that I named Pearl. It lived in the koi pond. One day, it stopped showing up. Father told me that Pearl had probably died, and then Louis told me that the other fish had probably eaten him.”

Ariella bit her lip, and tears rolled down her cheeks. Okay, I probably should have kept that part to myself.

“What did you do with him? Flush him down the toilet?” Sarah asked.

“No…I buried him in the backyard. Dad made a little coffin for him and we buried him in the garden. At least he’ll be some use to Mom’s roses.”

“Are you going to get another pet?” I asked.

“Actually…I was thinking about getting a cat. You know…like one of your cats. I want to be able to know what they’re saying.”

I thought for a moment. “Frodo and Catniss have been looking around, seeing who all takes care of them. Maybe you could take one of them.”

“Which ones are they?”

“Frodo’s the black one, and Catniss is the calico. I could ask them.”

“Yeah, you do that. I’ll ask Mom and Dad if I can have a cat. Mom grew up on a farm with a zillion cats and Dad had two cats growing up. So that’s it. I can read minds, I’m bi, and my fish died.”

“Thanks for the update,” I said.

Ariella turned to Sarah. “I’m sorry, but can I…can you show me your belly ring?”

Sarah pulled up her shirt. I was amazed at the small piece of jewelry attached to her navel.

“I’m getting a nose ring next,” Sarah said. “I remember you wearing a nose ring, Reese.”

“Yeah, I had earrings, a nose ring, snake bites, and I wore eyeliner and sometimes I wore black lipstick and nail polish. The other guys called me a pussy. But who’s the real pussy who can’t even wear a nose ring?”

“Exactly!” both girls cheered in unison.

“They say that getting kicked in the balls hurts,” Sarah said. “I guarantee, giving birth is a hundred times worse. I know. I went through it.”

“You had a C-section,” I reminded her.

“Yes, but it still hurt. My whole body hurt for days.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, for the wrong assumption.

“Thank you, Reese. So what are you doing to do now, Ari? Find someone else?”

“No, I need to be single for a while. I need to figure things out on my own. Cate didn’t hurt me nearly as bad as Damon did, but it still hurt. Actually…Reese, is Soren single?”

“No,” I replied. “He’s dating a Native American vampire named Mitra Dearwood.”

“Oh. Well, it was worth a shot.”

I frowned. “What was worth a shot?”

“Seeing if Soren was single.”

“You know he still hasn’t forgiven you, right?”

“I don’t blame him,” she said. She sniffed. “Well, that’s all I really wanted to say. So I guess I’ll be going now. Are we still on for the study session, Sarah?”

“Of course. I’ll invite Britt and Hailey.”



After Ariella left, after being stared at by Kellan a great deal, Sarah went to her desk and booted up her laptop. She wrote in her diary, and then she opened a document on her computer and started writing.

When I went down to socialize, Mom was singing “The White Rose of Athens” in Greek, and bustling around the kitchen, Zie was in the laundry room, and the baby was in his bassinet, watched over by Alexander. Sabine was pouring herself a glass of milk. Kellan walked into the kitchen.

“You know milk won’t make your breasts grow, right?” he said to Sabine. She glared at him. The albino smirked and sat on the couch beside Alexander. Kieran walked into the room, looking worse for wear. He had dark shadows and lines under his eyes, and lines around his lips that looked like dimples.

“What is your problem?” I asked Kellan. He looked at me, his red irises gleaming. “Seriously, what is your deal? You say you’re Louis’ son, then Soren’s, you stare at everybody, and you’re staying here, even though no one likes you.”

“He’s my friend,” Kieran snapped. “My best friend. He was there for me when Thomas died.”

“You look terrible,” Alexander said to Kieran. Kieran frowned at him.

“I haven’t been sleeping well. I miss Thomas. My head hurts, and so does my heart. It feels like razor blades have cut my heart open. You can’t possibly know what that’s like.”

Alexander’s brows furrowed at the verbal cut. Of course he knew what that was like. He had lost the most lovers out of all of us. He almost lost my mother.

I purred when I saw Sarah come down in her booty shorts. I was not so happy when Kellan looked around at her and said “Ugh. Women.”

All the females in the room subtly glared at him. He didn’t get the hint.

“There’s too much estrogen in the world. In the universe, even. I’m sick of it.”

“At my house, there’s too much testosterone,” I said. “All the women are my house have always been guards or maids or servants. I’m glad to have so many women in my life now. I lost my mother once; I’m not losing her again. And I nearly lost Sarah too many times. Sabine comes with Sarah as a package deal, because she’s her sister. And Zie is helpful and kind, even to the animals. We recently hired a new guard named Samantha; she’s Chris’ sister. She’s always been nice to me, and so has our part-time maid, Augusta. Claudia is the cook in our castle in Denmark, and she’s very motherly.”

“I didn’t mean all women,” Kellan quickly tried to amend. “Just the whores. And the Jezebels. The whore of Babylon is already here in this country, and she-“

“Kellan,” Kieran spoke up, “Shut up. No one gives a damn. No one here is a whore or a Jezebel, and just because you’ve had nothing but bad experiences in the past-“

Kellan flipped him the bird and stormed out, slamming the door in the process.

“I wonder who he thinks is the whore of Babylon?” Sarah wondered. “Me? Or Mom, maybe?”

“No, no,” Kieran quickly came to the aid of his friend. “That’s just how he talks. He became mad after a stint in the electric chair fifty years ago. He survived, but he’s been crazy ever since. And he was never right in the head, anyway.”

“A stint in the electric chair for what?” I asked.

“Murder, of course. He was caught strangling a prominent member of society in London. The man died, and Kellan never tried to escape or claim innocence. They were shocked when he began laughing after he received the shock. I apologize for him, ladies. He has a vendetta against women in particular, though I don’t know why.”

“Is it because he’s gay?” Sabine asked.

“No, no, not because he’s gay. He’s never spoken of his life before he met me, or of his life as a human, if he ever was one.”

“Should he be around the girls?” I asked nervously.

“He would never harm a woman, believe it or not. He simply hates them.”

“I do not want him around my daughters or the baby,” Mother said firmly. “Get rid of him, or I will dispose of him myself.”


“I’m quite serious, Sarah. He’s a danger to this family, especially the girls and the little one. I want him gone.”

“He follows me around,” Kieran said. “I will move, if it comes to it.”

“No,” Alexander said firmly. “I don’t want to lose you again, Kieran. I nearly lost you more than enough times.”

“Then I will kill him,” Mother said.

“No,” Kieran exclaimed. “I told you before, I will take care of it. He’s my best friend. He’ll listen to me.”

But just then, Kellan returned. He entered the house, went straight to Kieran, and kissed him. I turned away, disgusted. Then a heard a sharp noise. Mother had dropped her spatula, Sarah just stared, and Sabine made a disgusted face. Alexander finally pulled Kieran away.

“I will leave tonight,” Kellan said. “Goodbye, whores and drunkards.”

Then he stomped up the stairs, and I heard a door slam. Kieran ran up the stairs, and started repeating Kellan’s name, asking him to come down and talk to him.

I decided to take a walk. A bit of fresh air would clear my head.

It was an overcast day, getting ready for rain. I walked a few miles before Shadowfang caught up with me in his cat form.

“Fun weather,” he shuddered.

“What are you doing? You hate water.”

“Looking out for you, of course. Your dad asked me to.”

“Don’t you have your own kittens to watch? A mate to bother?”

“Mishka’s in heat, and the rest of us are avoiding her. A queen in heat is a disaster waiting to happen.” He shuddered.

“How would feel about Frodo going to live with Ariella?”

“The one with the long brown hair? Okay. I think he’d like that. Every cat’s dream is to have their own human servant.”

“Haha, very funny.”

“Hang on,” he said, pausing. He sniffed the air. “I smell…death.”

“Death? Animals die all the time.”

“No, not an animal. Human. Warlock or witch, maybe.”

I sniffed the air. My nose was assaulted by a rancid stench of death.

“Holy shit, you’re right, Shadow. But where…?”

He started digging around in the bushes. Then he paused in front of an old oak tree.

I pulled the bushes aside, and was stunned by the sight.

A man was laying there, completely naked, a strange mark carved into his chest. A Satanic symbol carved into his stomach. He had messy blond hair, and his skin was pure milk white from blood loss. I pulled out my phone before Shadow could interfere and started calling Father.

“Hello? What’s wrong, Reese?”

“Father, there’s a dead man here. I didn’t kill him. He’s got a Satanic symbol on him, and another symbol that I don’t recognize.”

“I’ll be there soon.”

He was indeed there in less than ten minutes, along with Uncle Soren, Grandfather, Louis, and Mitra.

“Does anyone recognize him?” I asked.

They all shook their heads.

“Wait…” Louis broke in. “I did see him, the other day when I was getting gas for my Thunderbird. He was talking to Krauvas, of all people. No, not talking. Arguing. They were arguing about some sort of ritual. I don’t know, I only caught the tail end of it. Then this guy stormed off, and so did Krauvas.”

I was calling Mason before he finished.


“Hello, Mason, it’s me. Um, is your father there?”

“Yeah, why?”

“There’s a guy here, and um, he’s dead. We think your father might know him. He’s got some symbols carved into him.”

“Where is he?”

I gave him the location, and then hung up.

“So weird,” Mitra said. Uncle Soren wrapped his arm around her and pressed his lips against her hair.

Less than an hour later, Mason found me, along with Krauvas. When Krauvas saw the man, he looked stricken. His eyes widened.

“What’s with the pentacle?” Mason asked.

“It’s not a pentacle,” Krauvas said.

“Dad, it looks like one- “

“I know. Mason, you and Reese need to go home.”

“But Dad- “

“No arguments, boy. Go home. Go somewhere else, anywhere else.”

“Who are you going to call?”

“None of your business.”

“Are you going to call your old coven?”

Mason Salazar Godfrey, go home right now!”

Mason and his father glared at each other for a moment, then Mason stuck his tongue out at his father and stomped away. I followed him.

“I’m sick of him treating me like a kid,” Mason complained. “He acts like I’ll screw up.”

“He’s afraid for your safety,” I said. “Whatever that was scared him. Did you see the look in his eyes when he saw the man? Did you recognize the man?”

“Never seen him before in my life. But I would not be surprised if Dad knew him. He knows everybody. And how am I supposed to get home? I can’t take the truck, he needs it.”

“I can take you home.”

“No…” He looked thoughtful. “Don’t take me home. Take me to First Street.”

“To the library?”

“Not the public one. There’s an old woman who lives on First Street who is friends with my father. She has the largest private library I’ve ever seen. I mean, besides you.”

“Does Krauvas have an old coven?” I asked, remembering his earlier words.

“Yeah, but they hate his guts now. He’s never told me why. Can you take me to First Street?”

“Yeah, I just have to text my mother…and…done.”

A few minutes later, I was driving my Nissan GT-R to First Street.

“Why do you drive such nice cars?” Mason asked. “I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with it.”

“Habit,” I said. “Luxury. Satisfaction. All of us like to drive fast.”

“Is there anything else I should know?”

“My father and I can communicate telepathically. So can Uncle Soren and Louis. Once Sarah and I are fully connected, we will be able to, too.”

“Damn. If my father could read my mind, maybe he wouldn’t get on my case so much.”

“Instinct,” I said. “My father’s overprotectiveness is driven by instinct. He’s had so much loss already, and I’m his only biological child. He doesn’t want to risk losing me.”

“If something happened to me, I guarantee that my father wouldn’t care.”

“Mason, I think he loves you more than he lets on. Plus, you know, he’s going through a divorce.”

“I fucking hate him for that.” He stared out the window. “By the way, was that a Bugatti Veyron I saw?”

“Probably,” I replied. “Alexander bought it for Mother as a wedding present.”

“I hate being poor,” he complained.

“You’re not poor,” I reminded him. “You’re thoroughly middle-class.”

“Screw you, Reese.” Then he turned pink. “Sorry. It’s just that Dad let Mom have all the money, but he kept me. Turn right here. Now pull into the third driveway on the left.”

I pulled into a shabby-chic house covered in pink trim and white paint. The garden overflowed with yellow and pink roses, and an angel stood guard by the birdfeeder. When I stepped out, I was stunned to see her finger move to her lips. She looked up at us.

“Riddle first,” she said. “I relieve constipation in small doses, but I am fatal otherwise. I am a plant that is found all over the world, except Antarctica and certain countries. What am I?”

“Belladonna, otherwise known as deadly nightshade,” Mason told her.

She smiled and gestured to the door. “You may pass.”

“What would happen if he’d answered incorrectly?” I asked the angel. She only smiled at me gently.

“At worst, we would not have been able to get through,” Mason responded. “If I’d answered incorrectly three times, she would have sliced my leg open.”

“And she does this for everyone?”

“Yes, except certain people who have been pre-approved by Ruth.”

“Who’s Ruth?”

“You’ll see.”

A dark shadow lay over the property.

“Something’s not right,” Mason said, frowning. “I have a bad feeling in my gut about this.”

“Same here,” I said. “Maybe we should turn around.”

“No, I…I have to do this.”

He knocked on the door three times. Then seven times. Then twelve times.

Twenty minutes went by, and no answer.

“Let’s go,” I said.

“Wait,” he said. “Something’s definitely not right. She should have answered by now. Her car’s in the driveway.”

I looked over at the pink Volkswagen Beetle in in driveway. I blinked. It had not been there before.

“I don’t like this,” I said.

“Hello, Ruth? It’s me, Mason Godfrey. Krauvas’ son,” he said. He turned the doorknob, and it swung open.

Dust was in a thick layer everywhere. A stack of magazines lay on the floor. Paintings seemed to watch us, and I thought I saw a painting of a skeleton eyeing us.

“The paintings are alive,” Mason said. “That’s not good.”

So he saw it, too.

The flowered couch was shredded, fluff everywhere. The TV was blaring the 24/7 News.

“And in North Hampton,” the reporter said, her eyes turning red. She began grinning, showing sharp yellow teeth. “Two boys step into the house of the witch Ruth Mayhem, but they will not find her alive.”

Mason gulped.

“This was a mistake,” he said. We turned around, only for the door to slam shut and locked itself. I pulled on the locks, then kicked it. It didn’t even budge.

One of the skeletons in the painting over the piano reached out for us, then beckoned us with his finger.

Mason muttered a prayer. We heard a creaking sound.

I went into the kitchen, only to see an old brown rocking chair with the ghost of an old, decayed woman in it. She coughed and squinted at me.

“Who are you?”

“Um, ma’am, my name is Reese Emerson. I’m a friend of Mason’s.”

“Mason? Oh, Krauvas’ boy. Well, I’m afraid you’re too late. I’m deeeeeaaaaaaaddd.”

She floated toward me; her mouth wide open.

I turned to face Mason, who was paler than usual, his dark eyes wide and fearful.

“Oh gods,” he muttered. “This was such a bad idea. We should go.”

We ran to the front door.

Lockoroto motorono!” Mason cried. The locks didn’t budge.

I heard a groan and turned around. A skeletal corpse was standing there, eyes hollow, hair clinging to the pate, the skirt dirty. She pointed a finger at Mason, then dissolved into dust.

“This is all my fault,” he muttered. “She put a Nightmare Curse on the house.”

“A Nightmare Curse?”

“Yes. It’ll make you wish you were dead. But why she’s done this, I don’t know. At least, I hope it’s just a nightmare and not a- “He paled again.

I saw what had made him pale.

Our fathers, looking decayed and skeletal, walking toward us, arms outstretched. Then my father jumped on me and started strangling me. Mason tried to pull him off, only to be grabbed around the waist by the dead Krauvas, and his hands wrapped around his son’s throat.

Everything grew darker, and I slowly fell asleep.

I don’t know how much time passed, but I heard a large boom, and a flash of light, and I felt the grass under me.

I awoke to the cloudy day, except now I was being sprinkled on. My father was staring at me, my real one, looking worried.

I looked over and saw Mason, spread-eagled on his back, Krauvas standing over him, looking concerned.

“Two hours,” he muttered. “Two hours, and I have to rescue him. What am I going to do with the boy?”

“Just do what I do with mine,” Father answered. “Let him have more freedom. Reese, how are you?”

“I…” I clutched my throat. I was parched.

Father, sensing my thirst, bit into his wrist and I grabbed it and drank greedily.

“Hungry, are you?” he teased. He pulled his arm away, and I whined. “Later, son.”

I got up slowly, then turned around and puked.

“What happened?” Mason asked, slowly waking up. He looked up and saw his father. “How much trouble am I in?”

“A lot,” Krauvas said. “Like, grounded for the rest of your life.”

“Dad, I’m- “

“Don’t. I can’t even trust you not to get your friends in danger.”

He angrily spat into the grass and walked away. Mason sat up, tears in his eyes.

“It wasn’t his fault,” I said. “Father, say something!”

“Reese, I can’t interfere with how another parent disciplines their child unless they are extremely out of line. And I hate to say this, but I have to agree with Krauvas. That was a dangerous stunt you two pulled.”

“How were we supposed to know the place was cursed?”

“Krauvas says that Mason knew. And he pulled you into it to save his own skin.”

“I don’t believe that.”

“You can believe whatever you want. It’s the truth.”

I looked over and saw the house.

“Who destroyed the house?”

“Krauvas did. And if I hadn’t been connected to you, who knows what might have happened?”

He took me back to the house in my GT-R. I wanted him to take me back to Mother’s house, but he said he didn’t trust Mother or Alexander not to keep me safe. I reminded him that I was with him when I left with Mason, and he tweaked my nose and told me to be quiet.

He fed me blood and gave me a potion for a dreamless sleep.


I woke up the next day feeling refreshed. Then I remembered everything that had happened the day before. I felt sorry for Mason, who was probably wallowing in self-pity at the moment, blaming himself for what happened.

I called Sarah and checked on her. She was relieved to hear my voice; she had heard what happened and feared the worst.

I reassured her that I was fine, and hung up, then called Mother, who was also relieved to hear my voice. I told her that I was fine, and she threatened Mason’s life a few dozen times. I hear Sarah in the background, shouting “Mom! Not okay!”

I laughed and ended the conversation with her, then went downstairs to eat breakfast.

“Well, Ruth Mayhem is dead,” Louis said, coming into the room, his phone against his ear.


“Yeah. That’s why the Nightmare Curse activated. Someone didn’t want us to find her. They found her in the bedroom, all blue and bloated.”

“A dead witch and a dead warlock,” I said. “Interesting.”

“Yeah, your dad and Krauvas are investigating it now, along with Ethan. Ethan thinks that Ruth Mayhem died from asphyxiation. The warlock was strangled before they cut him open. Limited blood loss.”


“Yeah. Mitra wants to get involved, but my dad is insisting that she stay out of it. She says she’s the guardian of the Lenape tribe, and it’s her responsibility to know what happens around the reservation.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Me? Not a thing. I’m not going to get involved. Last time I did, I almost died.”


“Ha. Very funny, little buddy.”

He ruffled my hair.

I went back to Mother’s house, and I smelled spilled blood. I ran over to the backyard, and my heart skipped a beat.

Sarah was laying in the grass, covered in blood.


I ran over to her, and lifted her up. Her green eyes met my yellow ones, and I let out a sigh of relief. My heart pounded, and I clutched her to my chest. She gasped, and I let her go.

“Where are you hurt?” I demanded.

“What?” She looked down at herself. “Oh, this isn’t my blood, Reese.”

“Not yours…”

“I was carrying a box full of bloodbags to the garden. It helps the roses grow, according to Mother.”

“But you fell.”

“I stumbled over a fallen branch. I was just stunned, not truly hurt.”

I hissed at the ground. So I’d freaked out over nothing. At least she was okay.

I looked over at the fallen tub of bloodbags. Most of it had spilled out, seeped into the ground. Great, the worms could have it.

Sarah got up and brushed herself off. “Great, my new jeans have grass stains now. At least I’m wearing an old shirt and old boots.”

“Who cares about the jeans?” I asked.


Mother rushed over and embraced her. “Where are you hurt? Mommy will take care of you!”

“Mom, I’m fine,” she said. “I just fell and got stunned. The blood spilled out.”

“And it ruined your new designer jeans. Tut tut. Well, go inside and clean up. Mommy will take care of the mess. Reese, go help her.”

“Of course.”

I lifted her up, despite her protests and complaints (“I am not a damsel in distress!”), and carried her into the pool house, where she kicked off her muddy boots, then I carried her inside, where Zie and Selena immediately fell upon her, concerned.

“I’m fine, really,” she said, taking off her bloodied tank top. Selena and Zie gasped. So did I, a little bit. The sores on her breasts had gotten worse. Infected.

Blushing, she covered her breasts with her arms and half-ran up the stairs. I said nothing and followed after her. I found her in the bathroom. She took off her jeans and her undergarments, and stepped into the shower, which I could feel was still cold. She squeaked at the temperature, then tossed the hair elastic into the sink.

I sat on the toilet. I knew this looked odd; me on the fuzzy pink toilet seat, and my girlfriend in the shower. I dug out my phone and texted Mason, asking if he was all right. No response. Sarah took a long shower, then turned off the water and grabbed the hot pink towel. I peeked behind the curtain. She wrapped a towel around herself and stepped out.

I grabbed a brush and started brushing her hair. Astonishingly, she did not protest, and let me brush out the knots. Her curls sprang up immediately after I brushed through them. She wrapped a towel around her head.

My phone dinged.

Mason: I’m sorry I got you involved in that investigation. It won’t happen again. Any news?

Reese: No, except that Ruth Mayhem is dead. Our fathers are investigating it, along with my family doctor.

Mason: Interesting. That’s all you know?

Reese: Yes, that’s all I know.

I was amazed that Mason was allowed to keep his phone after his little stunt. Then again, he was legally an adult now, despite his attitude and his height, which was only slightly taller than Scarlett Hart.

Sarah redressed in jeans and a t-shirt. She had dried her hair with the hair dryer and was now braiding it into a side braid.

“What news?” I asked her.

“Um…Cirino let out the loudest burp ever the other night. I didn’t know babies could burp like that. Alexander is liking the role of adoptive father. Sabine is going to have her name changed to Cresley-Nicolai. I thought about doing mine, too.”

She reached into the minifridge and got out a Diet Coke.

“When did you get a minifridge?”

“The other day. I didn’t get any big birthday presents this year, so your mom asked me what I wanted, and I told her I wanted my own fridge. Alexander wanted to keep bloodbags in here, but I told him, no way. The blood will get out and stain my carpet. Um…Lucy is giving me a fifty percent raise. Britt started talking to me again. She finally dumped Elliott for good. I’m glad about that. He’s so immature. It’s not cool to date one girl, but crush on another one. That’s how love triangles are formed, and I don’t like love triangles, except in books and movies.”

She sipped her soda.

“Even though you were part of several.”

She clicked her tongue. “And I hated every minute of it. I mean, you’re the only one I want. You saved my life. You helped to heal me through thick and thin, for better or for worse. And we’ve had a lot of worse moments.”

I was contemplative.

When I got home, Father and Uncle Soren were on the floor, singing badly to Barry Manilow and drinking beer.

“Have a beer, nephew,” Uncle Soren said, handing me a Heineken.

“What’s with you two?” I asked.

“Heartbreak, son,” Father slurred. “I miss Faolan like shit. He’s my fucking soulmate, and he won’t talk to me anymore because he blames you for that girl’s death.”

“I had sex with Sadie once, and she threw it all out of proportion.”

“Nooooo. She liked you before….” He belched. “Anywho, I’m fucking drunk. Drink your beer.”

“Thanks, but I’m not going to make a fool of myself in front of people.” I set the beer on the floor.

“Who’s making a fool of who? There’s no one here but usss.”

“That’s “whom”,” Uncle Soren said, nudging Father.

“Yeah, whatever, fat one.”

“I am not fat! It’s huskiness.”

Father grabbed a piece of Uncle Soren’s stomach and squeezed it.

“I call that fat, brother. Anyway, what do you have to drink for?”

Uncle Soren belched so loudly it rattled the windows. I pulled my shirt up over my nose.

“Mitra’s husband is back. His name’s Katonah.” Then he started crying. “Why is it always me? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I keep a girl?”

“That’s the problem,” I said. “You go after girls when you should be going after women.”

“Pfft. Women. The only woman I ever loved broke my heart.”

“That’s not true,” Father argued. “You’ve dated women before. You loved a few of them, you’re just too much of a woman’s purse to accept their love. You’re a predator. A fucking sicko.”

“Fuck you, Mordecai. I don’t need to remind you how old Faolan is. And how old you are. There’s a two-thousand-year difference! You watched as Jesus Christ was led through the streets of Jerusalem with that cross on his back. You’re a fucking moron.”

Father punched Uncle Soren in the jaw. Uncle Soren smashed his beer bottle over my father’s head, and then they ran outside and started fighting.

I sighed and went outside to watch the spectacle. Father was throwing up in the grass, and then he and Uncle Soren looked at each other with the look that dogs give each other when they’re fighting over a bone. Father snapped his jaws at Uncle Soren, who reared back and punched Father in the gut. Father grabbed Uncle Soren’s leg and bit it.

My uncle kicked him in the throat, sending him flying back. He huffed and turned around, which was a mistake. My father ran at Uncle Soren and jumped on his back. I was so engrossed; I hadn’t noticed Grandfather arriving with Toby and Spencer and Samantha.

“Stop them,” he ordered.

Toby grabbed my father while Spencer, who was stronger, grabbed Uncle Soren and pulled them apart.

“Who started it?” Grandfather asked me.

“They both kind of did. I mean- “

“Who started it?”

“My father.”

“Force a sleeping potion down both their throats,” Grandfather told the guards. “And someone needs to clean up the mess in the foyer. Reese, tell me exactly what happened.”

I did. He was not happy when I finished.

“They both had good points,” Grandfather said. “But let’s face it, there isn’t a vampire alive today who is not related to us who was alive when Soren was born. Mordecai should have better luck finding a woman of his caliber.”

“Do you…Grandfather, do you…. are you homophobic?”

“I can’t say that I’m happy that Mordecai chose a male instead of a female, but I’m accepting it. I’m glad you, at least, saw sense.”

I knew better than to argue.

I went outside. It was afternoon now, and getting cloudy.

I walked until I realized I was almost to the reservation. And I began to hear footsteps behind me; vampire footsteps. I turned and braced myself for the attack. He jumped on me from behind, and then started to tear my head off. I kneed him in the stomach, and he rolled off. He was a Native American vampire.

He had copper skin, long black hair that was tied back into a ponytail, and he looked to be around forty years old when he was bitten. I could see the teeth marks around his throat. They were pale against his dark skin.

His brown eyes warned me to stay away. If I ran, he’d attack. If I attacked, he’d kill me.

“Stop it!” I heard a familiar female voice. It was Mitra. “Stop it, stop it! He’s a friend!” She ran between us and turned to him. “Katonah, this is Reese. Reese, this is Katonah, my husband.”

“How do you know him?” Katonah asked in a slightly accented voice.

“He’s my boyfriend’s nephew,” she replied.

“Boyfriend?!” He started shaking. His irises turned red, and tendons in his neck popped.

“Calm down,” she said. “You were gone for a long time. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see you again. So yes, I dated several people while you were gone.”

He took in a deep breath and counted to two hundred out loud. When he finished, his eyes were the color of rust, and he looked at Mitra and gathered her in his arms.

“I’m sorry, my doe,” he said. “Please forgive me. I had no excuse.”

I was disgusted. I wondered if she’d marry both of them, or if she’d dump one of them.

“Wait, Reese,” Mitra said. “Please don’t tell Soren.”

“He already knows,” I said, not promising anything.

Enjoying the deer-in-headlights look on her face, I walked back to the house.

I went back home, and Father was awake, holding an ice pack to his head and silently complaining.

“How are you?” I asked him.

“Sssshhhhh. My head is killing me. That’s what I get for being drunk and scrapping with Soren. But at the time, I wanted to rip his head off. What he said about Faolan…”

“You miss Faolan.”

“My heart feels like it’s being melted slowly the longer I go without touching him or seeing him. So yes, I miss him. I blame you.”

“Of course you do.”

I heard feline laughter, and looked down to see Shadowfang twirling around my legs.

“That was quite a show,” the Maine Coon said. “My daughters and I laid by the window and watched. Catniss could barely keep up!”

“Where’s Frodo?” I asked him. “I want to ask him something.”

“You want to know if he wants to go live with your friend. Sure, why not? There’s too many cats in this house, anyway.”

“Hush, both of you,” Father growled. “I’m falling apart.”

“Falling for Faolan, falling apart,” Shadowfang sang. Father glared at him.

I went up to my room, where Frodo was laying on my bed.

“Father said you wanted to talk to me?” he asked.

“Yes. How do you feel about going to live with my friend Ariella?”

“And be free of this crowded mansion? Absolutely not. I think you should ask Cat or Belle.”

“All right, it was just a suggestion.”

I sat at my computer and surfed the web for a while. I ordered a few books from several shopping sites, updated my Stephen King collection, pre-ordered his new releases. Sarah calls me the biggest Stephen King fan she’s ever met, and she’s not wrong. I’ve been reading Stephen King since I was twelve years old, when I first read Pet Sematary.

Then I saw Father reading Dolores Claiborne, and tried a second book, and so began my fandom. Then Louis introduced me to Anne Rice’s books, and I had a new favorite author for a while. It was amazing, the similarities and differences between her vampires and me. I don’t burn in the sun right away, but I do eventually burn.

You need to have a blood exchange with a vampire to be turned. Biting helps speed up the process. We do prefer the night for several reasons, the main one being the sun issue. Part of the reason why we drink blood is we do not produce vitamin D. The sun normally gives off vitamin D to humans, but it burns vampires.

Older vampires like my father can go into the sun for a long time without burning, but he eventually starts to feel nauseous and get a headache. That’s one of the reasons why I never signed up for sports or daytime activities, not that I needed to.

Another thing is sleep. We need sleep, just like any other being. Older vampires can go for longer periods of time without sleep, but younger vampires like me cannot. There’s a big reason why younger vampires cling to their sires and parents. The danger while asleep is prevalent. You never know what could come out in the dark. Another vampire, a werewolf, anything.

We can eat human food, but we cannot digest it. If we are forced to eat it, we will later find a private place to throw it up. We can gain or lose weight, (Father says to just ask Uncle Soren), and we have different body shapes.

Like my father, I am thin and muscular, while Uncle Soren is stocky and broad. I’ve seen female vampires with curves, and ones without curves. I’ve seen stick-thin vampires, and fat vampires.

I finished surfing and plopped onto my bed, scaring Frodo, who trilled.

“I’ve been thinking,” he said. “Maybe it would be nice to get away. And I can always come back, right?”

“Of course. You just need to say so. Ariella just needs to ask her parents first. If they say yes, I’ll bring you there.”

“I can’t wait.” He settled himself on my stomach, and I reached over onto my nightstand and pulled out the book I was reading. It was a book that Sarah had gushed about, and I wanted to see the appeal. It was chick-lit, and it would be painful, but I would survive. She read and even liked some of the horror that I liked. I could try something that she liked.

I found that I actually liked the book. It had a lot of information about women’s rights and I could relate to the love interest. He was dark and brooding, too.

Before long, I had fallen asleep. I woke up with the book on my chest and the cat still on my stomach. He was asleep. I moved him, getting up to take my shower. It was a school day.

I stood in the shower for a long time, just letting the water flow over me, not really washing, before I heard the general humdrum of a full house waking up for the day. I started washing my hair then, dragging a comb through it.

It had gotten longer, but still had the basic gothic shape. I felt my chin, and realized I needed a trim.

I did the rest of my morning ritual, then grabbed my backpack and headed outside.

It was a chilly April day. It was cloudy, of course.

The drive to school was uneventful. I drove by the Nicolai house, and saw Sarah arguing with Selena about something. Figuring it was just basic girl drama, I headed off to school.

The parking lot was almost empty when I pulled in. I sat in my car for a while, listening to Avenged Sevenfold. I closed my eyes for a minute. When I opened them, the lot was almost full. I checked the time and yelped. I had five minutes to get to class.

I grabbed my backpack and rushed out, not bothering to lock my car. As if I kept anything worth stealing. Granted, the GT-R was a very nice car, but it could be replaced. That was my first big mistake.

I zoned through my classes as usual. I turned in my homework and started this day’s homework. When it was lunchtime, I was starving. I could not be nourished by human food, and seniors were allowed off-campus during lunch, so I headed to my car, where I kept an extra stock of blood in the trunk.

When I got close, the scent hit me like a water balloon. Okay, bad analogy, but it did hit me full-force. I cautiously got closer, and took a big sniff. It smelled vampiric. Vampiric and something else I couldn’t place. I almost didn’t notice the note taped to my windshield.

Stop investigating, or the girl dies.

I gulped. Did they mean Sarah? Gods, I hoped not. Of course, I didn’t want it to mean any other girls, either. I hoped it was a fluke. Oh, who was I kidding?

Strange scents all over my car, cryptic notes, mentions of a girl? This was meant for me.

Father was not pleased. I’d called during break and told him what happened. He wanted to see the note for himself, and smell the scents. He wanted to rush over to the school, but Toby calmed him down and offered to investigate himself.

I had to get back to class, but I put the note back where I’d found it. By the time school ended, I could smell Toby’s scent. He’d been here. He’d also taken the note with him. I spotted Sarah with a group of her girlfriends, including Ari. She waved at me, smiling, and Ari came over to me.

“My parents said yes,” she said. “When can I meet him?”

“Come over anytime,” I said. “Also, there’s something I need to tell you.”

I told her about the note and the scent, and then about the bodies we’d found. Her smile disappeared slowly.

“Odd,” she said. “And it’s all connected?”

“My father thinks so. I hope Sarah’s not in danger.”

“I hope so, too. Don’t worry, Reese, I’ll watch her.”

“Thank you. You’re a good friend, Ariella Spears.”

“So are you, Reese Emerson. Well, I’ve gotta go now. We have study group tonight, and I want to end it early if I’m picking up a cat.”

Sure enough, right at seven, she arrived to meet Frodo.

“Which one’s him,” she asked, looking around.

“The smaller black and white one,” I said, pointing him out.

“Do you have treats?” Frodo asked. Ari did a double take.

“Sorry,” I said. “You’ll get used to it. He talks a lot.”

“It’s okay,” she said. “I mean, my parents know that I can read minds now. What’s one more big secret?”

“Oh, it’s not a secret,” Frodo said, twirling around her legs. “I can talk whenever I want. If your parents can’t accept that, then this isn’t going to work out.”

“I mean, I can…I think you should meet them,” she said.

“Sounds good to me. I’m ready for a break. Just let me say goodbye to my siblings and parents.”

There was a lot of cat tittering, trilling, and meowing, before he was ready to go.

“I’m going to miss you, little buddy,” Louis said, pretending to cry.

“Grow up,” Frodo snapped, and then Ariella picked him up and carried him to the car.

“Now you have to get rid of the rest of us,” Remy said.

“I know. I have a few friends who might like you. But it’s up to you.”

The rest of the cats were jealous.

“It’s not fair!” Remy whined.

“Sorry,” I lied.


I went back to Mother’s house one afternoon after school. Sarah was at the table, studying with Sabine. I wrapped my arms around her and my lips nuzzled her. She smacked me.

“Now is not the time, Reese, I’m helping Sabine with her history,” she said.

“You’ve got four vampires who live here,” I said. “Ask them.”

“Alexander,” Sabine said.

“Yes?” he replied, looking up from his book.

“How many wives did Henry the Eighth have?”

“Six. He divorced Catherine of Aragon, then married Anne Boleyn, whom he had executed for infidelity and witchcraft. He had one daughter with her, and then he married Jane Seymour, who died in childbirth. He then married Catherine Howard, whom he had executed for infidelity, and then he married Catherine Parr, whom he widowed when he passed away. He had children with Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, and Jane Seymour.”

“Wow, thanks. How do you spell Boleyn?”

Sarah glared at me. I smiled and shrugged.

“You’re forgetting Anne of Cleves,” I told Alexander.

“They never consummated the marriage. Apparently her stench was unbearable.”

“I will help,” Mother said, bustling in with Cirino on one arm, holding a bottle in the other hand. “Where is Zie? I need her to watch the baby.”

“You need a nanny,” I said. “You’re overworking Zie.”


“I will take care of him, my love,” Alexander said, getting up and moving into the dining room.

“Thank you, husband. He keeps spitting up his food.”

“I tell you, you must wean him.”

“Nonsense. Most babies drink formula until they are a year old, and he is not even eleven months yet.”

“He must have some cow’s milk, at least. He’s getting fat.”

“Poppycock. He’s as fit as a baby could be. All babies have a bit of a belly.”

While they argued over the state of the baby, he started fussing, so Alexander took him into the living room to feed him.

While Marina took over the helping of the homework, I leaned over Sarah’s shoulder and read the equations she’d written on the paper.

“This is wrong,” I said, pointing out an equation that had gone awry.

“Thanks a lot,” she said sarcastically, erasing the equation.

I snatched the paper from her and wrote down the correct equation before she could blink twice.

“I write in your hand almost as well as you do,” I said cheerfully. She brightened when she saw that I was correct.

“Can you look over the others?” she asked, fluttering her eyelashes at me. I melted and took the pencil up again. I looked over her paper. She only got two others wrong. I finished her math homework, then she took out a paper from her Astronomy class.

“How many moons are in our solar system?” she asked. I told her the answer. “Okay, now how many moons does Jupiter have, and what are they called?”

I told her the answer again.

With my help, she completed her homework in record-breaking time, and then Mother finished with Sabine. The girls put their work away, and I went up to Sarah’s room.

I flopped down on her new black-and-pink bedspread. I listened carefully. Okay, she was talking to Sabine. Good.

I went to her walk-in closet, and carefully reached down into her laundry hamper. I pulled out a silk olive green thong. I put it up to my nose and took a deep inhale. Gods, this always got me excited. Her scent was all over this pair. I licked the inner part. I growled as butterflies attacked my stomach. No, wasps, not butterflies.

Hearing her coming, I quickly stuffed the thong into my pocket and sat in her vanity chair. I pretended to be interested in her makeup brushes, before I noticed her favorite hairbrush. She liked this particular hairbrush, because it detangled her hair while being gentle on her head and still keeping the curls.

I tried to control myself. I really did. I remembered the time she’d caught me shoving my face into her pillow. But as I inhaled, I scented her hair, and then I started pulling the strands out of the plastic bristles. I shoved the hair into my other pocket.

“What are you doing?”

I closed my eyes and turned around, preparing for a storm, but to my surprise, she looked amused. Before I could say anything, however, my sister came rushing in.

“Oh, thank the gods you’re both okay,” Selena said. Her hair was wild and her face was shiny.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Oh my god, didn’t you hear? Kellan is dead!”

“The albino? The one who was in love with Kieran?”

“That would be the one. His body parts were found about six miles from here, spread out. His heart, brain, and stomach are missing, and we think they might have been burned. We just found his head and his torso and one of his arms and one leg.”

Sarah’s hands flew to her mouth.

“Poor Kieran, he must be devastated,” she said.

“He is.” Selena’s curly black hair bounced as she nodded her head. “Mom’s with him now. He won’t speak to Alexander; he thinks he killed him.”

“Like Celine?” Sarah asked.

“Yes,” I said. “Like Celine.”

The news certainly devastated Kieran. He stayed in Alexander’s guest house and wailed for days. He could be heard saying that it was all his fault, it was just like Thomas, and Kellan was his best friend.

Alexander and Mother were both concerned about Kieran. Mother especially. She’d taken it upon herself to watch over him twenty-four-seven. She installed security cameras herself so she could keep an eye on him. There wasn’t much point. He just laid in bed and moped.

Father was both amused and worried; I could see it in his eyes. He’d always been a helicopter parent, but now he was doing almost nothing else. He seemed to think the death of the witch and warlock and Kellan’s death were connected.

I wasn’t sure what to think. But I had an inkling.

No one had really liked Kellan, especially Mother and the girls. He’d called them whores and Jezebels, he insulted Selena on a daily basis, and he treated Mother like dirt.

Mother acted out her part-the concerned stepmother. But I had a feeling that she had something to do with it.

My suspicions began when I saw her carrying a bag out to the trash. I smelled blood, and asked her what it was. She had said it was Sarah and Sabine’s old clothes that they’d bled through during their monthly cycle. But the scent wasn’t feminine, it was masculine. I knew better than to ask the girls if they bled through their clothes, so I took a big whiff when no one was looking. It smelled like Kellan’s blood.

And then I saw Mother smoking a cigarette. Mother never smokes; she hates the smell. And then I heard her mumbling to herself about Kellan and what an asshole he’d been. What a woman-hater he’d been.

She acted surprised when I appeared and asked how the baby was. She’d been changing his diaper. She actually had a clothespin keeping her nose shut.

I shared my suspicions with Father.

“Don’t be silly, Reese,” he replied, and didn’t say anything more, but I saw lines of worry crease his forehead.

I didn’t get any other clues or deaths until three days after I’d shared my suspicions.

I was at a dress store with Sarah. She wanted to go to prom, so I promised I’d take her. I’d already ordered my tuxedo, but she could not decide which dress she wanted.

“What do you think about this one?” she asked, holding up a coral pink with a short hem.

“It’s nice,” I said.

“Yes, but it’s such a common color. I was thinking dark blue. It goes better with my skin tone, anyway. I know I’m still dark, but I’ve actually lost some of my summer tan already.”

“It’s April,” I reminded her. “You already lost your tan.”

She didn’t meet my eyes.

“You went to a tanning salon, didn’t you?”

“I mean, they had free passes. And they do a free session on your birthday. And I got coupons from a friend who works there.”

“Oh, Sarah.”

“What color is your tux?”

“It’s black, of course. With a white shirt. I’ll even wear a black tie if that will make you happy.”

“I was thinking you’d look cute in a bowtie.”

I blanched. I hated bowties; I thought they made me look goofy.

She eventually settled on a midnight-blue minidress with light blue trimming and sparkles. She picked out a gold necklace with a blue stone to go with it, and I whipped out my card, much to her protests. I told her to go find shoes to match. She came back with silver strappy heels.

While I paid, she investigated the cosmetics counter. I wasn’t paying attention, until I heard a crash. The salesgirl looked behind me, wide-eyed. Afraid of what I’d see, I turned around, and saw her sprawled on the floor, her eyes wide. I ran over her.

“Sarah?” I took off my jacket and put it under her head.

“Is she okay?” a woman asked.

“She fainted. I don’t-“

I watched, horrified, as she lifted her arm, then it fell back down.

“She’s having a seizure,” Chris said, stepping out into the shadows. I was stunned; I hadn’t known she was following us.

She tenderly took Sarah’s hand. “Sarah, can you hear me? It’s Chris. Reese is here, too. Do you want me to call your mom?”

But the other lady was already on the phone to 911.

A few minutes later, EMTs appeared. The female EMT leaned over her. I was surprised-She couldn’t have been much older than Sarah. (I know, I know, I’m not much older than Sarah.)

“What’s her name?” she asked.

“Her name is Sarah?”

“Sarah…okay, she’s waking up. Hello, Sarah? My name is Jodie. I’m an EMT. Do you know where you are?”

“JC Penney’s?”

“That’s right. You’re at JC Penney’s in the mall. Your boyfriend and mom are here. Do you remember their names?”

“Reese, and…Mom’s here?”

“I’m not her mom,” Chris corrected. “I’m just a friend. I’m Christine Sanderson.”

“Chris is here,” I told Sarah.

“Do you have her mom’s number?” the male EMT asked.

“I do. I’ll call her right now.”

“No,” Sarah breathed. “Don’t.”

“Sarah, she needs to know.”

I called her anyway.

“Hello? Reese?”

“Hello, Mom,” I said. I saw the EMTs give me a look. “Sarah had a seizure. They want to take her to the hospital.”

“Of course! How is she? Does she need me?”

“She’s fine, just confused.”

I was on the phone with Mom the whole ride to the hospital. I’d taken my car, and Chris followed in hers.

The hospital smelled like cleaners and medicine. I was on my phone for a long time, until Mother arrived. She found me and hugged me.

“Where is she?” she asked.

“She’s getting an MRI. She should be out soon.”

“I hope she’s okay.”

She sat down beside me. I opened my Kindle and started reading Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton. He wrote a lot of science fiction novels-it was interesting to see him write a book that he didn’t usually write. Mainly he wrote about technology gone wrong.

An hour later, Sarah was wheeled into the waiting room. She was sulking; they’d probably made her take the chair. She got up and was nearly squished when Mother rushed over and embraced her.

“Mom, I’m okay,” she said. “Just irritated. I’m fine.”


“The store manager sent this over,” Chris said, walking into the room with a bag from JC Penney. “He refunded your money, Reese, and sent over some matching jewelry.”

“Did you thank him?” Sarah asked.

“Of course I did. He said he hopes you’re all right and you’ll recover well, which you appear to have done.”

“Can we go home?” Sarah asked.

“I’ll drive her,” Mother insisted. “Come, Sarah. We can get some tea for you.”

“Mango flavored?”

“Of course. Whatever you want. I will see you later, Reese,” she said.


It turned out to be a stress seizure. She’d be okay. She went back home to rest, refusing to tell me what was wrong. I smelled another vampire around when I walked around the perimeter of the house. It was strongest near Sabine’s room.

I wondered if Sabine knew another vampire. She’d briefly dated Jeremy, a young vampire I’d met the year before. He saw her when she and Sarah came over unexpectedly. It could have been him.

I went back home, only to see Father arguing with a vampire I didn’t recognize. The other vampire was slightly taller and broader than Father, although not as broad as Uncle Soren. He had short dark hair, and when he turned around, I could see that his irises were red, the pupils slitted.

“Who are you?” he demanded. “Oh, I recognize you. You’re the human chaser.”

“Don’t call him that!” Father roared.

“Father, who-“My eyes widened. “You!” I leaped at him and grabbed him by the throat. I felt someone grab me around the waist and pull me off. I pointed at the vampire angrily. “He’s the one who wanted to eat Sarah at the first Holiday Ball!”

“I know, son,” Father said, his voice terse. “Reese, meet Xavier Engles. Xavier, you know my son, Reese.”

“Of course I know the boy,” Engles said, his eyes slowly going back to dark brown. “He attacked me.”

“You tried to eat my girlfriend!”

“As was my right. Humans are made to be eaten by us. They are prey, we are the predators. That’s nature, boy.”

I fought to get out of Toby’s grip, but his arms tightened around my stomach.

“You did not have a right to claim her,” Father said firmly. “She was already claimed by Reese as his paramour and mate.”


“I am your prince or you lord, Xavier, and you will address me as such.”

Xavier frowned. Father glared at him. “I’ve had enough of you. You assaulted my son, and tried to consume my future daughter-in-law. Technically, I should have killed you. We had every right to kill you then, but we didn’t. There are going to be future laws in place to prevent this from happening. We will fully reveal ourselves to humans, and we will be accepted. The President of the United States knows my father personally, as did his predecessor, and his predecessor, and so on, all the way back to the first unofficial president of the future United States. The queen of Denmark knows us, and she’s quite fond of Reese, actually.”

“She sent me a wooden pistol for my sixth birthday,” I said.

“There you go. You will respect us. You have no grounds for a complaint. And attacking me on my own territory, one that so few beings know about? I have cameras and guards, you know. And attacking us over a year later? That’s asinine. You were angry because we defended our own. You will stay away from Sarah, and you will stay away from Reese. Do I make myself clear?”

Xavier Engles glared at him. If looks could kill, my father would be dead. Then he stormed away, got into his car, and drove away, nearly mowing down me and Toby. Toby let me go, and I glared at Father, who glared back.

“You should have killed him,” I said.

“He did not physically attack me. And he’s powerful. Of course, we are more powerful, so of course we will win if he takes this further.” He paused, his vision glazing over. I watched, stunned. How long had it been since he’d had a vision?

My father doesn’t see the future, he sees the present. But he’s got amazing control over it and only uses it if necessary. It’s rare for him to lose control.

His eyes came back into focus, and then he started laughing.

“What’s so funny?” I growled.

“Your girl is afraid you’ll discover something,” he said.

“She what?”

“Reese, don’t go barging off. You’ll only frighten her.”

“But she’s hiding something from me!”

“Do you want to scare her off?”

I sighed. “No, I don’t.”

“There you go. She will tell you when she’s ready. For now, give her some space.”

I was soaring through the air. No, she was. Her wings were out, and she was holding onto me. We were flying. The ocean below us was clear; I could see fish and dolphins and jellyfish. Then suddenly, the ocean turned red. She shrieked.

My babies!”

Babies?! The babies were down there?!

We reached shore, and I saw two teens, a boy and a girl. Both of them had my yellow eyes, but the girl had brown curly hair and the boy had straight black hair in a razor-cut style.

Mom! Dad!” they cried. The ocean was pulling them in.

Sarah swooped down and snatched up the girl while I snatched up the boy.

What about Shadowfang?” he asked. I looked back. Shadow was in his cat form, meowing and howling against the powerful waves. I threw the boy as far as I could to safety, and then ran back for the feline. I picked him up, and he whined about his paws, which were bloody.

What about Mishka?” the girl asked. I gave Shadowfang to her, and went back to save Mishka, which was being pulled in the same way as her mate. I picked her up and checked for more, then I realized that the kittens were trapped. I rescued them, two at a time, and threw all of them to safety, where my daughter watched over them and started healing their paws. Then I noticed her hands were bloody, and my son’s, too. Then I looked down and realized that my hands were bloody.

A big black tentacle grabbed my leg and started pulling me out to sea.

Dad! The boy ran to me.

No! Go back, Joseph!” I called out.

Dad!” He grabbed my hands with his. The blood made them slippery, and I was slipping away. I was going to die.

Joseph started crying. His tears broke my heart.

It’s all right,” I assured him. “I’ll either be in Heaven or Hell, or even Valhalla.”

I don’t want to lose you!”

It’s not your fault, Joseph. Tqke care of your mother and your siblings.”

No! Dad!”

And then blackness.

I awoke with tears in my eyes. Father had crawled in next to me and was purring softly to me.

“I saw him,” I breathed. “My son. I saw him. And my daughter. But I only touched him. I touched him…”

“Hush, now,” Father soothed. “You were having a nightmare. It’s over now. He’s not conceived yet. Neither is she. Calm down.”


I jumped as Mr. Chesney slammed the book down on the table. I was startled from my sleep.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Emerson,” he said.

“Sorry,” I said, running my hand over my hair.

“Apology accepted. Now, who is the Marquis de Sade?”

“A gay revolutionary.”

“Very good.”

He went to the front of the room.

“Mr. Chesney,” said a voice over the intercom, “Please send Reese Emerson to the office.”

Laughter rang in my ears as Mr. Chesney nodded to me and I grabbed my book and my backpack.

I went to the front office, and was surprised to see Mom and Selena.

“There’s been another death,” Selena said below human hearing. “A vampire this time. She was found with a stake in her heart. Two miles south of here.”

“I didn’t know there was another vampire here,” I said.

“Neither did I,” Mother said. “But they’re doing an investigation now, and it appears that she was pregnant. Her name was Verity Slaughterman.”

My thoughts went back two years, to an eighteen-year-old prostitute named Vanessa Slaughterman. My heart fell into my stomach. Was Vanessa a vampire? Was she related to Verity?

I was in the apartment, looking down at Verity. She’d been very beautiful. She had shoulder-length dark brown hair, open blue eyes, and she’d been big-breasted. She wore a light gray tank top and blue jeans. She was barefoot.

Father was going through her desk, and Ethan was flittering around, scouring the apartment for specimens. She’d kept her apartment clean and had feminine furniture and decorations. On one wall was a set of butterfly mirrors, and on one table was a vase of yellow daisies.

Whoever had done this, his sole goal was to kill her.

“So that makes a dead warlock, a dead witch, and now a dead vampire,” Louis said, counting them on his fingers.

“Two dead warlocks,” Father corrected. “I just got off the phone with Soren. He found another warlock. He’s calling Krauvas now, to see if he recognizes him. Meanwhile, does anyone recognize her?”

We all answered negative.

“I didn’t even know there was another vampire in North Hampton,” I said.

“Neither did I, but she’s still a fledgling,” Father said. “Louis, did you go through her purse?”

Louis nodded. “The girl’s got money. I counted four hundred dollars in cash, and three debit cards, and four credit cards. I called the numbers on all of them and checked the balances. She’s got over a million dollars in all.”

“I found this,” Ethan said, holding up a white stick.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Pregnancy test. It’s positive.”

I put my hand on the table, then felt a piece of paper. It was a pamphlet about donating human eggs.

“Look at this,” I said, holding up the pamphlet.

“That settles it,” Louis said. “She had a boyfriend slash sire that got her pregnant, and she got into a fight with him and he killed her in a fit of rage.”

“I did not,” said a male voice. We all spun over to the entryway. There was a male vampire standing there. He had short blond hair, blue eyes, and was looking grim in a leather jacket and boots. “I’d never kill Verity.”

“Max, what are you doing here?” Father asked, stepping forward.

The vampire nodded toward the dead female. “I’m her sire slash boyfriend. She was my soulmate.”

“I’m so sorry,” Father said. “Are you the one who found her?”

“Yes, and I called Ethan. I moved her here because I thought she’d be safe. I was wrong.”

“It’s not your fault, Max,” Louis said.

“Oh, but it is. My last words to her were unforgivable. Now she’s gone, and so is our baby.” He looked at me. “I know who you are. You’re Reese. I haven’t seen you since you were a baby. You’ve grown up well.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“You’re welcome.” He looked at the dead girl. “Verity. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. I’ll be with you soon enough.”

“Don’t say that, Max,” Louis said. “Can you tell us who her family is?”

“Of course. Their name is Slaughterman, which you’ve already gathered. The youngest daughter, Vanessa, is a stripper and a prostitute. The two parents, Sophia and Arthur, own an art gallery and Arthur is an insurance lawyer. The oldest brother, Christopher, investigates insurance fraud in his father’s practice.”

“We’ll have to contact them,” Father said. “Come with me, Reese.”


The house was in an upper-middle-class section of town. Close to Roth High School, a small school smack dab in the middle of North Hampton High and Martin Luther King. I had dressed in a blazer and my father made himself look like a cool cop in a leather jacket and heavy leather boots.

He rang the doorbell, and immediately, a dog started barking.

A woman opened the door. She was tall, with long brown hair and blue eyes. She wore a professional business suit that was pressed and gold jewelry that matched.

“Hello, is your name Sophia Slaughterman?” Father asked. “My name is Mordecai Emerson. I’m afraid I have some bad news.”

“What bad news?” The woman looked and sounded worried.

“Do you have a daughter named Verity? I’m afraid she’s dead.”

Sophia stared at us in shock, and then burst into tears.

“I knew it,” she said. “I knew that she was gone. How long has she been dead?”

“Just a few hours,” I replied. “My name is Reese, by the way.”

“Was it him?” she asked. “Was it her boyfriend?”

“No, it wasn’t him,” Father assured her. “He’s the one who found her, and he called us right away. We’re friends of his.”

“What’s going on?” A tall, grey-haired man who wore thin glasses came into the room and eyed us. “Who are these people?” he asked.

“Art, these are police. Verity’s dead.”

“Oh, we’re not police, just friends,” Father said.

“Verity’s dead?” Art looked stricken. “I knew it. I knew she’d wind up dead. It’s all my fault.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“She and I…we got into a fight. Words were said. I slapped her.”

“You what?” Apparently, this was news to Sophia. “I knew it. I knew you had hurt her! Did you rape her, too?”

“No, Sophia, I didn’t-“

“When Verity was fifteen years old, she was raped,” Sophia told us. “It was by someone we thought was our friend. His name was Nales.”

There was a shocked pause. Then I reacted.


Father grabbed me around the waist, pinning my arms in place.

“Was his name Brian?” he asked.

Sophia shook her head. “No, it was Puck, I think.”

I groaned, going limp in my father’s arms.

“That’s Cartwright’s dad’s name,” I said.

“Maybe it was Cartwright,” Sophia said. “I don’t know anymore. She said both of those names often after it happened.”

“Reese, calm down,” Father said. He looked at the Slaughtermans. “Brian Nales’ son Michael was responsible for raping Reese’s girlfriend and getting her pregnant.”

Sophia and Arthur groaned, both of them sinking to the floor.

Father carried me out to the car. He set me in the passenger seat and buckled me up.

“Stay calm, son,” he said. “I’ll finish the interview.”

I took several deep breaths. My heart was in my stomach. I had to call Sarah, make sure she was okay. Oh, but school wasn’t over yet. She’d still be in class. She’d hate me if I got her in trouble for having a cell phone in class.

I closed my eyes and before I knew it, Father was getting back in the car, and I was being roused from sleep. I’d accidentally taken a short nap. School was now over, and my father didn’t look happy.

“Father?” I asked.

“Son,” he replied. “Are you hungry?”

“I’m stressed,” I said. “I’m angry. Why didn’t I see it before?”

“No one could have known, son.”

Sarah was now working two jobs, one as a waitress, the other one as a barista at the bookstore café called Pon’s. I got her schedule from Mom and went over to Pon’s.

She had put in hoop earrings and applied dark red lipstick which went well with her dark skin tone. She wore a blue apron and was being spoken to like an underling by a man in a business suit. I growled, but she still smiled and remained cheerful. She handed the man his coffee, and he put a dollar in her tip jar.

“What was his problem?” I asked.

“Bad investments,” she replied. “What would you like, Reese?”

“I need to ask you a few questions. When’s your next break?”

“I just started. Can it wait?”

“No, it can’t. There’s been another death. A female vampire this time. The family knows the Cartwrights and Nales families.”

Her smile disappeared. Then she turned to the back. “Lucy, when’s my break?” she called.

“In one hour,” came an answering feminine voice.

“I get off in an hour,” she said. “You can read a book or something. We just got a shipment of the latest Stephen King novel.”

Instead, I explored the mall, stopping at the food court, played on my phone, tried on boots at the shoe store, and went into Hot Topic where I bought a Supernatural Castiel figurine and a few band shirts.

I went back and Sarah was chatting away to a pretty Asian woman while she untied her apron. The Asian woman took over, and Sarah met me at a table by a large young adult fantasy section.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“Ten years ago, the girl was raped by either Brian Nales or Puck Cartwright,” I said. She looked down at her hands, and I knew she was remembering her own experience. “And since Michael Nales is dead, we can’t ask him. And his parents hate us for keeping the baby.”

“They hate me,” she corrected. Her eyes filled with tears.

“Baby, I’m sorry,” I said, taking her small hands in my large ones. “This is a bad time, but..,” I gave the signal to Duke, who was hiding in the corner, and then I pulled out a small black box and got on one knee. “Will you marry me?”

Her tears spilled over. “Yes, yes, yes! I will marry you!”

Surprisingly there was some clapping. Apparently I hadn’t been as subtle as I’d hoped. I slipped the gold diamond ring on her left ring finger. When I stood up, she wrapped her arms around my waist.

“I’m so glad you did this,” she said.

“I’m sorry there’s not a big crowd…”

“That doesn’t matter! We can do a bigger one later. Yes, I will marry you.”

I kissed her, then. She got into it, and I had to slowly break apart from her. She looked disappointed, but she smiled and looked back at Lucy.

“Congratulations,” Lucy said, smiling. “You can go ahead and take the rest of the day off if you want.”

“Thanks, Lucy,” Sarah said. She turned and looked at me. “Ready?”


I grabbed her hand and we left the bookstore. I nodded to Duke, who turned the camera off.

Sarah spotted him and grinned at me.

“What do you want for dinner?” I asked.

“I think Zie’s making steak tonight. Steak and peas and mashed potatoes.”

“What else is going on?”

“Um…what else?” She was avoiding my eyes.

“Sarah, tell me.”

“Okay, okay. I think…I think Mom killed Kellan.”

I was not expecting that. “I agree,” I replied. “She’d do anything for her children, even her stepchildren.”

“Even me and Sabine. I think…I think she also killed my mom. Mom didn’t die from alcohol poisoning. Her blood was drained. I read the autopsy. Don’t ask me how I got it.” She looked at me.

“I’m sorry, Sarah.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“Yeah, but she’s my mother. Her mistakes are a reflection of me.”

“No, her mistakes are a reflection of her. I know why she did it. She did it out of love. She’s acted more like a mother to me and Sabine than our real mother ever has.” Tears pricked her eyes. She grabbed a tissue out of her purse and dabbed at her eyes. I felt responsible, even though I knew I wasn’t.

She got into her car, and I got into mine. We drove to the Nicolai house.

Mother was sitting on the couch reading a women’s magazine when Sarah and I appeared in front of her.

“Hello, children,” she greeted with a smile. Then she noticed Sarah. “Baby, what’s wrong?”

“Did you kill my mother?” Sarah broke in. Mother’s eyes filled with tears.

“I had to. She would have killed you! She hit you! She abused you! She stole your money, and you were helpless! I had to do it. I’m so sorry, Sarah.”

She hugged Sarah, who tensed, then relaxed in my mother’s arms. She kissed Sarah’s head, then ran her fingers through the curls.

“I love you, baby,” she said. “You needed me, and I could see that. My instincts said to keep you safe, so I did.” She looked over at me. “And I love you as well, Reese.”

“You killed Kellan,” I said. Her eyes hardened.

“He called the girls whores and Jezebels! He was toxic to Kieran! I did it to keep my children safe!”

“Mom…can’t…breathe,” Sarah puffed. Mom slowly released her grip, but held on to Sarah.


Sarah jumped, and Mother turned and hissed at Kieran. His face was red, his hands were shaking, and he was huffing.


He leaped toward Mother, who shoved Sarah into me. Kieran pounced on Mother, and began pounding the shit out of her. Alexander rushed into the room and grabbed Kieran around the waist, pulling him off his stepmother.

“She killed him! She killed him, Father!”

“I know! I know!”


Kieran turned and headbutted Alexander, who dropped Kieran. Kieran scrambled over us, and then he paused and looked at me and Sarah.

“On second thought,” he said, pulling out a knife, “I’ll just kill one of you. Or both of you. I’m not picky.”

He grabbed Sarah’s arm and squeezed it. I saw red and I bit Kieran’s hand. He screeched in pain, then his incisors grew. He leapt on me, and started squeezing my throat. Alexander peeled Kieran’s fingers off my throat, and then carried him to the front door and threw him bodily out the door.

“I’ll send your things to your new address, wherever it is,” Alexander said. “Stay away from this family!”

Kieran cursed and spat blood into the grass.

Sarah’s arm was bruised, but thankfully not broken. She stayed up in her room, and I heard her crying. Mother herself was crying on the couch, Alexander’s arm around her.

I went for a drive around town. I went to my favorite bookstore and looked among the shelves. I picked out some horror and took it to the counter. The owner, who knew me by name, asked me how I was. I told her that I was all right. She knew I was lying, but didn’t press it.

“Who’s that?” asked a voice. I turned and noticed a goth girl looking at me.

“That’s Reese,” said the owner. “He’s a good boy.”

“You look familiar,” I said, twisting the plastic bag around my arm.

“I’m Chanel,” she said, holding out her hand for me to shake. “We saw each other at the hospital that one day. I think your girlfriend was there? She was almost hit by that other girl.”

“That’s right,” I said, my memory coming back. “How are you?”

“I’m good. How are you?”

“I’m all right. Sarah’s fine, too.”

“Would you like to grab a coffee with me?”

“Sure,” I said.

Minutes later, we sat out a café, Chanel with a hot tea, and me with a water. I thought, Chanel’s cute. She had long black hair that she’d braided Princess Leia-style, red lipstick, and intricate blue eye makeup. She wore a black ruffled skirt and fishnet tights, and a Rammstein t-shirt. Her boots were black, leather, and had chains and studs. Her skin was snow white; her eyes were hazel.

“How is your girlfriend?” Chanel asked me.

“She’s all right,” I replied. “Working two jobs and head cheerleader.”

“You’re dating a cheerleader?” Her nose wrinkled.

“Yeah, she’s a cheerleader. She has practice all the time, and goes to all the games. What about you? Do you have a boyfriend?”

“No,” she replied. “But I’m hoping.” She gave me an odd look. It was longing, full of love. I frowned and looked down at my hands.

“Well, good luck,” I muttered. That was awkward. I decided to end it right then and there. “Well, I should go. They’ll be missing me.”

“One moment, Reese,” she said. I looked up at her, and then she took her hair off. It was a wig.

Sadie?” I was aghast. “You’re alive? How?”

“I faked my death,” she said. “I couldn’t take it anymore. The fighting with the pack was too much, and you…you’re with her.”

“I knew her long before I knew you,” I snapped. “I love her more than life itself. I was attracted to you, briefly, during a break. We had sex once. It was nice, but it will never happen again.”

“But I could give you so much more!”

“Can you give me children?”

She got quiet.

“I’ve seen my future with Sarah. It will be pure joy. I will have kids with her. I will be a good father, and a loving husband. I can’t be your lover. I don’t even think I can be your friend.”

Sadie’s eyes were shining with tears.

I got up and left.

I went to my Nissan GT-R, and revved the engine. I wanted speed. I drove fast, all the way back home.

My father was sitting on the porch, looking furious.

“Sadie’s still alive,” I told him.

“I know,” he said. “I saw.” He sighed. “I have to talk to Faolan. Make him see sense.”

“Do you still love him?” I asked.

Father’s brows furrowed. “Yes, I do. More than anything, except you.”

I imagined what he felt. To be away from one’s mate is painful. When Sarah and I broke up, I was torn apart. I was glad to be back with her. Our breakup hadn’t lasted long. I’d learned from my mistakes. I was learning to control my jealousy.

I knew she wouldn’t tolerate possessiveness, despite how I felt. I thought for a minute about the few healthy relationships I’d seen. I thought about Mother and Alexander. Just the other day, I’d seen him kiss the tip of her nose without warning, but he was gentle about it. I needed to learn to be gentler.

Father suddenly turned and punched the side of the house, creating a hole.

“Damn!” I exclaimed, jumping a mile in the air.

“Sorry, Reese,” he said, rubbing his fist. “Stay here. I’ll go talk to Faolan.”


The next school day started out badly. First of all, Mother insisted on driving me, Sarah, and Sabine to school herself, and she drove the Bugatti. People stared as I got out, followed by Sarah and Sabine. Sarah met up with her friends, while Sabine met up with hers, and I went to my locker and prepared for the day.

“Emerson,” said a voice beside me. I turned and glared at Ryan Arthur. I didn’t like him. He squeezed Sarah’s boob once, right in front of me. I gave him a good pummeling, but not good enough. “Is that lady your mom? Is she a MILF? ‘Cause she’s really, really hot.”

“She’s taken,” I snapped. “And she’s better than you deserve. Talk about my mother like that again, and you’ll wish you’d never been born.”

“Ooh, a threat,” he taunted. He turned back to his buddies and grinned at them like a fool. “So what, is she into younger guys?”

“Older, actually.”

“So, she’s a gold-digger?”

“Shut up, Ryan.”

“Well, what is it? Is she a gold-digger or a MILF? Or is she a cougar? ‘Cause I’ve got no problem with that. I’d like to bang her.”

I slammed him into the ground. My arm pushed on his throat, and I saw blood on the floor.


I turned and groaned. It was my old nemesis, Principal Turner, who for some reason had a grudge against me.

“Come with me,” he said, roughly grabbing my arm and dragging me to his office.

A few minutes later, Father arrived, along with Mother.

“What is the problem, Principal Turner?” Mother asked, sitting beside me.

“Your son was seen assaulting another student. I suggest that he be expelled.”

“And what is your side, Reese?” Father asked.

“He assaulted another student! There is no reason for-“

“Is your name Reese, Principal Turner?” Father asked, his eyes flashing. He looked at me. “Go on, son.”

“He called Mom a gold-digger and a MILF! He said he wanted to have sex with her!”

“Did you hear that, Principal Turner?” Mother asked, her voice full of sugar.

“Yes, I did. And I think it’s a cock-and-bull story.”

“Check the cameras,” I said. “They record audio, don’t they?”

“That is none of your concern, Emerson!”

“Turner, you’d better watch it,” Father warned. “I’ll be writing to the school board about this. I don’t appreciate you singling out and threatening my son. You’ve done this before, and you’ll do it again. Now, you have two options: Forget this whole thing ever happened, or let my son go and suspend the other boy. Pick.”

Principal Turner gulped. He was starting to sweat. His glasses slid down his nose, and he pushed them back up again. Braver men than him had cowered under my father.

“Choose an option, you gray-haired bastard,” Mother snapped. “Or I will choose for you.”

Principal Turner gulped. He was quaking under my parents’ icy looks.

“I will forget this ever happened,” he finally said.

“Very good,” Father said. “Expect a letter very shortly. Now, do you have anything to say to Reese?”

“I’m sorry.”

“Good. Now, let Reese go back to class. He’s already missed ten minutes. And go with him, and explain to the teacher that he was with you. Now Reese, do you need anything from your locker?”

“Yes. My books.”

“Go to his locker first. And if I hear of you singling out my son again, you will wish you hadn’t. My son’s achievements are one of the few things worthwhile in this pathetic school. I could have sent him elsewhere. I could have sent him to a rich private school somewhere else. But I decided to send him here, because I thought he’d get more out of a public school. You are a pathetic excuse for a man, Arnold Turner. I don’t know why you target him, but I will find out why, and I will find out if you do anything else to him. He’ll be out of your hair in two months. Until then, control your temper, and I, in return, will not kill you.”

Principal Turner was bright red and looked like he was about to cry. My father’s words had done the trick.

“Now, I believe we are finished here. Coming, Mordecai?” Mother said.

“Yes, Marina. I’m coming.”

When they were gone, Principal Turner rounded on me.

“You are either very lucky or very unlucky. I know what you are, Reese Emerson. You are an evil, sick boy. I will not have anymore in my school. I know what your friends are. I will have you all out before the year is over.”

“Excuse me,” said my mother’s voice. “Did you just threaten my son?”

Principal Turner became pale.

“I came back for my purse,” Mother explained, grabbing it. “Imagine my surprise to find the principal of my son’s school threatening him. Come, Reese.”

I followed her out the door.


Mother took me home, and Father called the school board. He write a nice, long letter about how I’d been treated by Principal Turner. The video from the hallway was taken, and it showed Principal Turner grabbing and dragging me. Ryan Arthur was also suspended for his remarks about my mother.

Louis hacked into the school cameras, and sent the video to the local news station. Arnold Turner would be forced to resign.

“Damn, these kids are fucking brats,” Louis said. “There’s a group of girls trying to push another girl into the boys’ restroom. And this guy reached into a girl’s pocket and took her cell phone. This school has a lot of problems.”

“There’s a lot of student-on-student crime,” I told him.

“Apparently,” he replied.

The pain started slowly. It was in my stomach. I thought nothing of it. I sat watching the nightly news with Father. The video of Principal Turner’s assault had been shown, my face blocked out, but I would be recognizable to anyone who knew me, by my hair and height.

Father laughed when the reporter tried to get a comment from Turner. He had slammed the door in her face.

“Son, I would like to applaud you,” he said. “I’m amazed you went this long without killing him.”

“I know, I’m amazing.”

But something still was off to me. Turner’s comments about who and what I was. When I shared these thoughts with Father, he too, looked concerned.

“I brought you here to keep you safe,” he said. “I didn’t want you involved in my world. But you’re involved, anyway. That worries me.”

Louis walked into the room, furiously texting on his cell phone.

“I have some news,” he said. “There’s been another body found. Mermaid this time. Her body washed up on the beach of Lake Misty.”

He showed us the photos. Green hair covered her face, but there were slashes across her chest and stomach. The same strange symbol found on the first victim was also on her abdomen.

“So that makes a warlock, a witch, a vampire, and a mermaid,” I counted them off. “Three of them are female, and they’re all supernatural beings. Someone is targeting supernaturals.”

“No shit, Sherlock,” Louis jeered. “I wonder if his main target is women, or if it’s just a coincidence.” He rubbed his chin. “You better keep a sharp eye on your girl, Reese. She could be in danger. And your sister.”

“Do the human authorities know?” Father asked.

“They’re catching on. They’re not stupid. At least, they know about the old woman. Her house has already been torn down. Krauvas took the Nightmare Curse off.”

“What was the mermaid’s name?”


“Great, just great. He’s a serial killer, and he’s targeting supernaturals. He has to have some power. Or some idea of how to kill us.”

“Proper stakes are rare,” Father said, rubbing his chin. “They need to be from the Socotra tree to kill a vampire. The Socotra tree is extremely rare. Hunters are required to plant new ones if they cut a tree down or even just a branch or a limb.”

“Is Sarah in danger?” I asked.

“Yes, but you are in more danger than she is,” Father told me. “I wouldn’t worry about her, Reese.” He leaned forward and yanked the hair tie out of my hair.

“Ow!” My hand flew to my head. I glared at him, and he simply flicked the hair tie at me. I snatched it out of the air and tied my hair back into a man bun. “That was mean.”

He shrugged. “Sorry, but I couldn’t resist.”

“You’re acting like Louis,” I told him.

“Hey! I’m right here,” Louis cut in.

I got out my phone from my pocket and scoured Facebook. Sarah had uploaded a video of her singing. I wondered how she had the time, with her cheerleading, her study group, her obligations to her sister, her relationship with me, and her obligations to her friends. Not to mention her two jobs.

I clicked on the video. Her high soprano voice was beautiful, full, and rich. She was singing “Angel’s Song” from the movie Rock and Rule. I’d introduced her to the movie a few weeks before, and she’d become fascinated by Angel and Omar’s relationship.

Already, she was getting all sorts of comments, mostly compliments on her voice and asking who sang the original. Some of them were comments on her looks, and to my relief, most of them were from girls who complimented her makeup or her eyes or her hair.

I scrolled around, and then I noticed Mason’s status. I called him.


“Hey, it’s me. What’s up?”

“What do you mean?”

Someone help me. What the fuck does that mean?”

“It’s nothing.”

“Don’t lie to me.”

“Fine. My dad’s been acting weird. He’s been getting up at night when he thinks I’m asleep, and then he leaves for hours. He usually comes back just before I wake up, and then he comes into my room and sits on my bed. I can feel him looking at me. Would you be scared?”

“My father’s a predator and overprotective. A helicopter parent.”

“Hey, I’m right here,” Father cut in.

I put my finger to his lips. He licked me, and I wiped my finger on Louis’ shirt.


“My father’s never acted this way,” Mason continued. “I mean, when I was little he’d be gone for days at a time, but that was before, when he had a coven. Now he’s single and alone, and he’s taking his anger out on me. I thought he was going to hit me more than once. Our fights have gotten out of control. I’m ready to cut him out of my life.”

“Don’t do that. You’ll regret it.”

“Speak of the devil. I have to go.”

“Be nice, Mason.”

“I will if he will.”

He hung up.

“It’s nice that you check in on your friends,” Father said. “Louis, no one wants to see your belly. Put your shirt back on.”

I looked over. My cousin was in the middle of taking his shirt off. Scowling, he put it back on.

“Drama queen,” I said. He flicked my ear.

“I like the fact that you two act more like brothers than cousins,” Father said. “Especially since, as we know, Louis is seeing a girl again.”

“No, I’m not,” Louis denied, looking embarrassed.

“Fibber,” Father teased.

“What’s this?” Uncle Soren asked, coming in through the front door. He smelled like gasoline.

“You stink, brother,” Father said, holding his shirt over his nose.

“I know; I’m going to take a shower. Louis, just tell us her name.”

“No, no. Last thing that I want,” he replied. “You guys will tease and torture my…my paramour.”

“Come on, cousin,” I teased, grinning. “I’m sure she’s not that bad.”

“It’s not a she,” he said after a pause. “It’s a he.”

Surprise flittered across my uncle’s and father’s faces.

“Your new paramour is male?” Uncle Soren asked, sounding both surprised and unsure.

“Yes. I didn’t tell you, because you’re a pain in my ass. His name is Blaine. He’s a shapeshifter who usually takes the form of a wolf.”

“Louis, I…”

“I know, Dad. You’re always disappointed in me, what’s one more disappointment going to do?”

“Louis, that is not true. I will support this endeavor, if I approve of him. Mordecai, what should my rule be?”

“The same as if he was dating a girl,” Father said. “The rule didn’t change much when Reese switched to a female love interest.”

“Rules, schmules,” Louis snapped. “I’ve been an adult for over three hundred years. I’ll date whoever I want.”

“Young vampire, I am still your father, and you’ll do as I say.”

“Watch me,” my cousin said, giving his father the finger and walking out the door.

“Nice going, Soren,” Father said. “That’s one way to get your child to hate you. I know, I have a child.” He put his hand on top of my head.

“Screw you, Mordecai. I’m going to take a shower. I was on my motorcycle when I ran out of gas on the highway. I had to carry it half a mile up to the nearest gas station. You should have seen the clerk’s face. He looked impressed.”

I looked over at Father. He glared at his older brother. Uncle Soren clomped up the stairs, and minutes later, I heard the water running. I glanced outside, and saw Thought and Memory. They stared at me with their little black bird eyes. Father noticed them, too. He stared at them, and Memory hopped over to the window and clicked her beak on the glass.

I went over and opened the window, and she hopped in. Then she flapped her wings and flew away, seconds before Shadowfang grabbed her.

“Shadow! Bad cat!”

“It was a bird! A tasty snack!”

“It was Memory! One of Odin’s ravens! You probably scared her away.”

Ignoring me, he stared at the birds, his tail swishing, a deep purr coming from his throat. Memory and Thought glared at him. Then Thought flew in and landed on the mantel. Shadowfang’s eyes flew from him to Memory and back. He licked his lips, and the birds flapped their wings at him.

“We’re all familiars here,” Shadowfang said. “I simply happen to be a cat.”

The birds continued to glare at him. Then Memory flew in, and she began changing. Thought stood beside her, and he began changing as well. Before long, instead of ravens, there stood two people in front of us. Father and I gaped.

Memory’s human form was a beautiful, black-haired, black-eyed woman, and Thought’s human form was a black-haired man with a triangular beard. Both of them wore black clothing.

“Hello, sons of Eilief,” said Memory. She gave us an odd three-fingered salute. “Followers of my master, Odin, and believers in the old gods.”

“We have been trying to tell you,” said Thought, “Something that will affect your future. Things are not going well in the world of the Gods. The Christian God Himself is not thrilled with the human race.”

I stared. I wondered if I was dreaming. Odin was watching out for us, or at least, Thought and Memory were.

“What’s going on?” Father asked, leaning forward.

“Your family is in great danger,” said Memory. “You need to watch over your nestling, Mordecai.”

“I already watch over him,” he said. “He’s my only child.”

“Rosales is back,” said Thought. Father paled, if that was possible, at the name.

“And Soren,” said Memory. “Nice towel, by the way.”

I glanced back. My uncle was behind me on the stairs, a towel wrapped around his waist.

“The book is in danger,” she continued. “You must destroy it, or risk it being stolen.”

“I planned to send it on to the Vatican,” Uncle Soren said.

“The Vatican is a good choice,” said Thought. “You need to watch over your nestling, as well. Both of your nestlings are in danger.”

“Is this a message from Odin?” I asked.

“It’s a message from us,” said Memory. “My brother and I are looking out for the Chosen.”

“Chosen?” Uncle Soren snorted. “What is this, a crappy teen novel?”

“No, this is so much more,” Memory replied. “Your father is slowly losing himself, Soren and Mordecai. You will lose him before long.”

“Why are you giving us cryptic messages?” I asked. “Don’t you know the whole story?”

“Of course we do, but it’s not for us to tell, young Seer.”


“You have been having dreams of your future with the girl, have you not?”

I thought about all the dreams I’d had, the ones I’d shared with her.

“Are…are you saying…I have a gift?”

“My son has a gift?” Father was aghast.

“I’ve been seeing the future?” I asked. “I saw…well, I never thought about it…but I saw my two oldest children. Caitlin and Joseph. I even know their names. Sarah’s already chosen their names, hasn’t she?”

“You would let her choose their names?” Thought asked.

“Of course. She’s their mother. I’d let her choose whatever she wants.”

“That’s all we can tell you,” Thought said, looking at Memory. “We’ve already told them too much, sister. We must go now.”

The two familiars turned back into ravens, then flew out the window. Shadowfang jumped onto the coffee table and watched them fly away sulkily. Father went over and shut the window, wincing as sunlight hit him. He pulled the drapes.

I thought about what I’d learned. I had a gift. I could see the future. I was gifted. I was a seer. Psychic. I had psychic abilities, like my father. He could only see the present. I could see the future. I made a noise in my throat as he put his hand on top of my head.

“Who’s Rosales?” I asked.

“No one,” he quickly answered.

“He has to be someone,” I argued.

“Tell him, Mordecai,” Uncle Soren said, putting his hands on the couch. “Or I will.”

Father reached back and twisted one of Uncle Soren’s nipples. Uncle Soren squeaked and covered the sensitive area with his large hand. He glared at my father, who glared back.

“Rosales was a fledgling I had,” Father said.

“That’s it?” I knew Father had fledglings; I’d met a few. Some of them were jealous, as they saw him as a sort of father figure. Others thought he could be their mate. There were a few who hated him for turning them-some of them had never forgiven him for that.

“Rosales was more than a fledgling,” Father continued. “He was like a son to me. Like Toby and Uncle Soren.”

“Toby and Uncle Soren? Toby told me he changed himself?”

“He lied,” Uncle Soren said. “It was true that the couple who bought him were sexually abusing him, but I was occasionally a part of their games. When they introduced him to me, I knew it wasn’t right, so I turned him.”

“Rosales was like a son to you?” I asked. “Have you had children other than me?”

“Well, no, you’re my only biological child. Other children I’ve had were fledglings.”

“Were? Is Rosales dead?”

“Yes, or so I thought. I’d heard he was dead back in the forties, just after I met Faolan.”

“What’s he like?”

“Rosales? A lot like you, I suppose, only a bit more conceited. Like I said, he was like a son to me.”

To my shock, I was jealous. Father smiled and kissed my hair.

“No need to be jealous, baby. He could never compare to you. No one can, not even Faolan.”

“How sentimental,” Uncle Soren teased.

“Go put a shirt on before I give you another purple nurple,” Father warned him.


I hadn’t been to Rainbow Alley in a while. I parked my GT-R. A girl with a shaved head called out “Nice car!”

I smiled and nodded to her and edged my way inside. In the room, it was stuffy. A guy with a green mohawk was smoking a cigarette. He saw me and flicked it away. It hit a girl’s arm, and she squealed and glared at him. The girl looked familiar. I knew I’d seen her somewhere, but where? Here, maybe.

She looked over at me. “Oh, hey. You’re Reese, right, Ariella’s friend?”

“Yeah. Iris, right?” I replied.

“Got it in one.” She smiled. “Ignore Todd. He’s just…stupid.”

“I will fucking cut your throat,” Todd threatened her.

“That’s your second and third warning,” she said, crossing her fingers.

“So? I don’t see no chaperones around.”

“What was your first warning for?” I asked.

“He called an Asian girl ‘ching-chong’,” Iris said.

“Was it you?” I asked.

“Nah, it was another girl. And for the last time, I’m not Chinese,” she said, as he made a crude gesture. “I’m Japanese.”

“Same thing,” Todd said, then spit on the carpet. Iris gave him a disgusted look and took my hand.

“Come on, I’ll show you where the real action is,” she encouraged. She dragged me over to the center of the room, where a guy with a blond surfer haircut was strumming a guitar.

“Do you play?” I asked him.

“Yeah,” he replied, “But I’m not very good yet. You play?”

“Yes, I do. I also play piano.”

“I never got the hang of piano,” he said. “My dad wanted me to play, but I kept screwing up. It disappointed him when I quit.”

“I’m Reese,” I said, offering my hand.

“Randy,” he replied, taking my hand. “I’ve been going here for two years.”

“Two weeks,” I told him. “I’m eighteen and my first time here was two weeks ago.”

“When did you realize you were…you know…”

“When did I realize that I was bi? When I was thirteen, but I didn’t tell my father until I was fifteen.”

“Did he support it?”

“Oh, yeah. He’s bi, too.”

“Lucky,” Iris broke in, chuckling. “My mom thought it was a phase. She was all like ‘When are you going to stop dating girls?’ And I’m like ‘Mom, I’m never going to stop dating girls.’”

“My dad thinks it’s his fault,” Randy said. “He divorced my mom three years ago. And then she died. Today is the anniversary of her death.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“Don’t be. She wanted to die. She couldn’t live without him. But she could live without me,” he muttered darkly.

“Still, it’s not easy. When my parents got divorced, I went years without seeing my mother. My father…he has some influence, and he kept her away.”

“At least your mother’s alive,” Randy said. I didn’t know what to say to that.

“They’re about to start the movie marathon,” Iris cut in, brightly. “Tonight’s theme is gay movies. Interested?”

“I am,” I said.

“Me, too,” said Randy. “I think they’re showing E-Cupid first. It’s about this guy who downloads a dating app, and everything goes to shit after that.”

“I think I’ve seen that before,” I said, scratching my head. “My girlfriend likes that movie.”

“He has a girlfriend,” Iris joked to Randy, who scowled.

“Does she at least give head?” he asked.

“Our sex life is better than your sex life,” I snapped. Iris laughed, and Randy turned bright red.

The movie marathon turned out to be a hit. Bad movie after bad movie was shown, with a couple of good ones thrown in for variety.

It was midnight when the showings stopped, and a lot of people had already gone home. I decided to go home, myself. I said a goodbye to Iris and Randy, then drove home.

When I got back, it was the opposite of peace and quiet. Father and Uncle Soren were arguing, very loudly.

“What are they fighting about this time?” I asked Louis.

“Grandfather,” he said. “You know how Grandfather wants to kill himself? Your dad says we should let him go, but my dad says otherwise. Plus, you know, Mitra and Katonah showed up this afternoon with some animal skins as a peace offering. My dad tore them up and told Mitra he would never let her go, would never forgive her, not if he lived to be a million years old.”

“I bet that upset her,” I said.

“It devastated her. She started crying, which pissed off Katonah, so he and my dad got into a fight. Would have killed each other, too, if Spencer and Toby hadn’t been there.”

“Where’s Samantha?” I asked.

“Chris asked for her help with something. She’s at the Nicolai house.”

“We need more guards,” I said.

“I agree. Did you have fun tonight?”

“Are you seriously trying to change the subject?”

“No, I genuinely want to know if you enjoyed yourself at Alliance Alley.”

“It’s Rainbow Alley, and we watched a bunch of bad movies. I made a new acquaintance, and possibly a new enemy.”

“That’s my boy! Show him what for.”

“He’s human,” I said.

The arguing got louder.


Grandfather came running down the stairs. “I’ve heard enough! It’s going to happen, whether you like it or not! I just need to put my affairs in order, and then I will die.”

“What about your great-grandkids?” I asked.

He smiled gently at me. “I’m sure they’ll be wonderful, Reese, but I must do this. I need to be with my Amalia again.”

“Father, I’m sorry,” Father began, “But we will all miss you terribly. And Reese’s life has only just begun.” He gestured to me. “He will soon marry Sarah and have babies of their own. Lots of babies, according to him.”

Grandfather’s eyes reddened. “I know, and I will be sad to see them go.”

“Grandfather, please,” I said. “I wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for you.”

“And Amalia,” he said. “Oh, very well. I will live, but only long enough to meet my great-grandchildren.”

I hugged him. “Thank you, Grandfather!”

“And who knows,” Louis said. “There may be another woman out there for you.”

“Maybe,” Grandfather said, rubbing his chin.


School was difficult over the next few days. The superintendent of our district stepped in as a temporary principal. The first thing she did was give both me and Ryan Arthur a warning. Since Ryan had provoked me, he got detention, while I got leniency. I used a bit of hypnotism on her to get that.

Arnold Turner was forced to resign and was blacklisted from working in education. Sarah avoided me at school and at home. She still wore her engagement ring, though. Ari said that what I did was like cheating to Sarah, which was the last thing she wanted to do, due to her past law-breaking.

I called Sarah and left an apology message, but she didn’t respond. I called Mother, but she didn’t know what was wrong with Sarah.

Finally, Sarah called me, in tears.

“I’m sorry I was such a bitch the other day,” she said.

“I’m just glad you’re okay,” I said

“Actually, I’m not. I should tell you something. Turner tried to blackmail me.”

“He what?”

“He said that if I didn’t get dirt on you, he’d screw up my chances of getting into a good school. He’d take all my money.”

She needed me.

I was there within minutes.

She was sitting on the porch, still crying.

“I’ll kill him,” I said, holding her. She covered her tear-soaked eyes.

She cried for a long time. I just held her, letting her know that I was there.

“I’m sorry,” she repeated.

“It’s not your fault, baby,” I said.

She sniffled and smiled a little. “Not to be cheesy or anything, but I like it when you call me baby.”

“Well, you’re my baby. Mine, mine, mine.”

“You sound like those seagulls in Finding Nemo.

I smiled at the reference. She loved that movie. I picked her up and carried her inside, whereupon the tiny dog known as a Chihuahua started barking.

“Shut up, Coffee,” Sarah said. Coffee snarled at me from a safe distance. Spunk just licked my pant leg. I put her down, and then she led me upstairs to her room. There was a new silver and turquoise duvet on the bed, and matching pillows.

She sat in her comfy floor chair from PB Teen and started taking her clothes off. First, her jacket, then her shoes and socks. And then she started taking her shirt off.

“I think I’ll skip work tonight,” she said, yawning. “I’d rather sleep.”

“I’ll text them for you. Who are you working for tonight?”

“Plant’s. You know, the restaurant named after Robert Plant?”

“New job?”

“Transferred. The restaurant where I worked before was toxic.”

“You need to slow down, or you work yourself into a grave.” I shuddered at the thought.

“I know, but….” Her eyes widened, and she clutched her chest. She fell over.

“Sarah! What’s wrong?”

She didn’t answer. She couldn’t. I delved into her mind. Her first thought was a heart attack. But she was too young for a heart attack.

I picked her up as she started seizing. I put her on the bed.

“Mom! Alexander!” I called.

Mom came rushing in, and her eyes widened as she took in Sarah.

“Mom, I think she’s having a heart attack!”

She shook her head. “No, no, no! She’s too young! I thought those were over! ALEXANDER! GET YOUR ASS UP HERE!”

Alexander came rushing in, and he allowed himself to look panicked when he saw his foster daughter. Mother went over to Sarah and picked her up. She ran out the door at human speed and went to the car.

“A car’s not fast enough,” I said.

“The chill will kill her,” she replied. “The speed will make it worse.” She put her in the backseat. I hopped in the front seat, and Alexander got into the back with Sarah. He kept her propped up, her head in his lap.

We reached the hospital in record time and Alexander carried Sarah in.

Mother talked to the staff while I sat on a chair. I felt like there was a rock in my stomach. I loved her. I always would. I thought back to that night, the night when she first said the most words she’d ever said to me. She had barely noticed me before, although I worshipped her from afar.

She stood out to me out of all the other girls in that clique. I knew she had a good soul. She was kind, intelligent, sweet. She was brave and funny, beautiful and slightly vain. She was perfect. I’d had to accept that fact that she wasn’t perfect when we became friends and then when we started dating. She was the only one of those girls who would accept me for me.

Mother was filling out paperwork, Alexander was pacing, and I was nervousness twiddling my thumbs. And then I heard a scream.

I jumped up and started to run, but Alexander caught me around the waist and held me prone.

“It may not have been her,” he said.

“It was her,” I argued. “I know her scream. It was definitely her.”

A blond nurse came by, and I flagged her down.

“How is she?” I asked.

“She had another seizure right after the first one. We’re taking her in for a CAT scan. She’s a bit too thin, too. Do you know if she had any eating disorders?”

“She used to be bulimic.”

“That explains it. I have a theory. I’ll be right back,” she said pointedly, then left. I sat on the chair again, practically on my stepfather’s lap. He purred to calm me down. It was odd. I’d never heard him purr. Real tenderness from him was rare.

“She’ll live,” he said.

“What if it’s my fault? What if I did something, or didn’t do enough?”

“Nonsense,” Mother said, scratching my head. “She’s strong. She can’t die. She’s the prettiest girl I ever fostered. And the sweetest. We all love her, Reese. We all could have done things to make her life easier.”

“For example: no more work,” Alexander suggested.

“Exactly,” Mother said. “She has paid all her mother’s debts and more.”

At the mention of Alicia, Mother squeezed a pen so hard that ink spurted out.

“She’s overworking herself because she’s proud,” Alexander pointed out. “Our girl is literally working herself into the ground. A week off to rest and sleep, I say.”

“I agree. And more food. She’s much too thin.”

And then I heard a high-pitched noise that hurt my ears.

“Code blue! Patient’s heart rate has flatlined!” someone shouted. “The girl in the next ward!”

“Sarah!” Mother clutched her heart and stood up, but Alexander grabbed her hand.

“Control yourself, my love. They are professionals. They will save her.”

It was hours later, or it seemed like hours later, that the blond nurse came in and told us we could go see her.

She looked frail and weak in the hospital bed. Her cheeks were sunken, her skin white as a sheet. Someone had taken the tie out of her hair, so it hung loose around her shoulders. I noticed then how tangled it was.

“Mom?” she whispered, as fragile as a kitten.

“Baby, I’m here,” Mother said.

“Mom…can I have water?”

“Of course, my love. I will be back momentarily.”

“You almost worked yourself into the ground, sweetheart,” Alexander said gently. “You need to slow down, or you’ll die.”

Mom came back with a paper cup full of water. I hit the button to make her bed sit up, and Mom administered the water.

“I died,” Sarah told us, when she’d finished.

“I know, love,” Mother said. “Don’t ever do that to me again.”

“It’s all my fault,” I said.

“It’s not your fault, son,” Alexander said, putting his hand on my shoulder. “This would have happened with or without your intervention. Honey, you have to slow down, or you’ll be gone forever.”

The last sentence was directed at Sarah, who wiped at her watery eyes. Her mint-green orbs looked at me. She slowly lifted a hand and touched my chin.

“I like the stubble,” she joked. I smiled, tears coming into my eyes.

“Sweetheart, I’m…” I hugged her, gently. After a moment, she hugged me back.

“What about Turner?” Sarah asked.

“What about him?” Mom asked.

I looked at Sarah. She nodded. Then I told Mother what Turner had done. She stood, shock-still for a moment, then began raging.


Alexander clutched her shoulders and spoke to her in rapid Greek, trying to look concerned. I knew he was furious, though, by the look in his eyes. He switched to English.

“Gently, my love. Lower the volume.”

“Of course, of course. Sarah is what is most important right now.” I noticed that her Greek accent became more pronounced when she was angry. Sometimes she even spoke in Greek without realizing it.

Arnold Turner’s fate was sealed, the moment the truth had been revealed. But we would take care of him later. Sarah was important now.

She gave me permission to brush her hair, which I did carefully and gently, using strong detangler. When I finished, her hair was less curly. She complained that she wanted a mocha, but she was under strict no-caffeine orders. Mom had to help her bathe. She wouldn’t let me do it, on account of the fact that I was male. When I brought up that I’d already seen everything, Mother conked me on the head and told me to keep my eyes to myself.

I spent hours talking with Alexander. He told me of his life in the past, how he became what he was, how he became the richest man in the world, how he regretted driving Kieran away, how much he missed him, and how many lovers he’d had, male, female, and intersex.

I was surprised to learn that he potentially had more children, not just Kieran. It was a possibility with all older vampires, including my uncle and my father.

I asked him if he knew Rosales; he said he barely knew him but thought he was an arrogant little bat. He was amused to learn that I was jealous of Rosales. Like I said before, I knew my father had fledglings, but none of them had been a problem to me, as far as I knew.

The same helpful blond nurse had informed us of something else. Sarah had had a stress-induced heart attack, which added to the stress, which triggered the seizure. It was a miracle she was alive.

Mom called Lucy, who was disappointed to learn that Sarah would no longer be working for her, but allowed her to quit peacefully. She also called Sarah’s other jobs, who were a bit rougher. The woman she spoke to at Plant was a total bitch, and the guy at her second restaurant job was barely better.

Zie welcomed Sarah home with a steaming cup of tea with honey and lemon and spoke rapidly to Mother in Mandarin. Mother chattered back, also in Mandarin. Spunk tried to jump on Sarah, but I yelled for him to get down. Coffee, wagging her tail, sniffed Sarah's shoes and licked her face when she sat on the couch, removing her eye makeup in seconds. Then she growled at me when I sat beside Sarah. I ignored the little beast and pressed a soft kiss to Sarah's jaw, avoiding her head.

"Can I have some chocolate?" she asked.

"Of course, dear," Mother said. She reached into a plastic grocery bag and pulled out a dark chocolate bar that had seventy-seven percent cacao. I eyed it suspiciously. I'd heard that chocolate could make headaches worse, and I knew dogs and cats weren't supposed to have it.

"Are you sure that's safe?" I asked. Mother paused and bit her lip.

"You may be right, son," Alexander said. "Save the chocolate for later, sweetheart."

Sarah pouted, but didn't fight it. A small furrow appeared between her perfectly arched eyebrows, a furrow that could mean several things.

"What's wrong, honey?" Mother asked, sitting on her other side.

"My head hurts."

"Ah, the doctor said it might. He gave me these pills for headaches."

She pulled out a gigantic pill bottle and tapped out one massive pill. Sarah looked sick.

"Looks more like a suppository," Alexander said.

"Don't be stupid," Mother snapped. "It's for her head."

She handed the pill to Sarah, who looked even sicker.

"On second thought, I can handle headaches," she finally said, handing the pill back to Mother.

"Don't be stubborn. It won't make you sick unless you insist on being sick. And I'm tired of you being sick. Take it, daughter."

Sarah stared at it for a moment, then snatched it and threw it down her throat, washing it down with a big gulp of tea. She immediately ran to the trash can and puked. Mother sighed and Alexander rolled his eyes.

"Poor baby," Mother said. "She's been through so much, and she'd be dead if it weren't for us, especially you, Reese."

"I love her," I said.

"I know, son. We do, too. Have you considered changing her?"

"I've asked her about it. She doesn't want to be changed yet. She wants to enjoy the sun as much as possible before I absolutely have to change her."

"Silly girl," Alexander said. "She will have speed, strength, power. The ability to hypnotize. She will have babies with you anyway, so why not make them full vampire?"

"They won't be full vampire," I reminded him. "She's part fairy."

Just then, Zie led Sarah back into the room, glaring at us.

"Why you make her swallow pill?" she demanded. Both Mother and Alexander looked ashamed, and they didn't answer.

My cell phone rang, blaring the ringtone for Father.

"Yes?" I answered.

"There has been another death. Leave Sarah and Sabine home. The death is at The Star Temple."

"The Star Temple?" I asked. Sarah looked up.

"That's the temple we used to go to," she said. "What happened?"

"There's been another death," I said.

"Take me," she said, her eyes wide. "Just let me brush my teeth first."

"Fine, but be quick," I said.

"Reese, did you just tell Sarah she could come?" Father asked.

"So kill me," I told him.

"I'd be an abomination if I did that. Fine, fine. Just get here."

I arrived at the temple with Sarah and myself in one car, and Mother, Alexander, and Sabine in the other.

Father stood on the ramp, talking to the rabbi. He was an old man with a long white beard and thin glasses.

"A sad day, indeed," the rabbi was saying. He looked at me, then around at the others.

"Are Louis and Uncle Soren already inside?" I asked.

"Of course. I told you not to bring Sabine."

I ignored him and went into the temple. Along the aisle, at the front, was James, from Zeke's clan. He was lying with his eyes wide open, mouth slightly open, a massive hole in his chest. And on top of pulpit, I was surprised to find, was a dead cat. A black cat. Heart clenching, I half-ran up to the pulpit, and was relieved to find that it wasn't Shadowfang.

Speak of the devil, I said, as I felt a hand on my shoulder, and turned to find him in human form.

"Do you know this cat?" I asked.

He nodded. "He's a stray. I met him a couple times while chasing rats. We fought once over a particularly fat one."

Stomach coiling at the thought of eating a rat, I turned back to the victims. Louis was going around, taking pictures, while Uncle Soren was staring at James and shaking his head.

I heard a gasp. I glanced back and saw Sabine, her hands over her mouth, staring at James. I knew they'd had a relationship, and I'd interfered. Sarah was holding Sabine, as if she was afraid she'd fall.

"Sabine, let's go," Sarah said.

"No! I need to stay. I need to..." Sabine did fall to her knees, was soon sobbing. I knew she'd loved James.

"Dad, either help or get out of the way," Louis told Uncle Soren. He took some more pictures.

I looked up at the ceiling....and saw a face peering back at me.

"There's someone on the roof!" I cried. Uncle Soren jumped up and ran up the wall, climbing the tapestry, and broke through the skylight. I heard him say a word that made Mother go "Soren!" and jumped back down, landing heavily on his feet.

"He got away," he informed us. "And, damn it, I didn't see his face. But I did see dark curly hair."

"The killer?" I surmised.

"Possibly, or maybe just a curious vampire," Louis said. "How many vampires do we know with dark curly hair?"

"There's Johnny," I said.

"But Johnny's fat, and this vampire was thin," Uncle Soren said. "There's Samuel Jr."

"You killed him, remember?" I reminded him.

"Oh, right."

"There's Adam, but what would he be doing back here?" Louis asked.

I rolled my eyes.

"What color was his skin?" Alexander asked.

"Pale, alabaster," Uncle Soren told him.

"Well then, it couldn't be Zulu, could it?"

"Zulu's in Africa," I reminded him.

"Are you sure it was male?" Mother asked. "Was the hair long or short?"

"Short, in a man's style," Uncle Soren replied.

We stood there, thinking hard. My head began to hurt, so I went back outside. I picked up a piece of literature on the next Jewish holiday. Sarah came out shortly after, minus her sister.

She leaned against me, and we both sat on the steps. I kissed her hair. I sensed danger. A threat to our mate-bond. Another male was nearby, one who loved Sarah. I looked up, and saw a flash of red in the trees.

Marcus jumped down, Fowley beside him. Sarah stood up, and I followed her example. She was the shortest of us at only five-foot-three, but she was muscular and could defend herself if need be. But she was also weak. She'd just had a heart attack and another seizure.

"Sarah, Reese," Marcus said. He looked at her. "I must speak with you."

"Anything you have to say to me, you can say in front of him," she said, gesturing to me.

Marcus snarled. "You listen to me, woman-"

"Calm yourself, Marcus," Fowley said. "What's this about a serial murderer?"

"He's killed a warlock, a witch, a mermaid, and two vampires, and a cat," I said. "We'd appreciate anything you can give us or help us with."

"Alas, I have none. But the mermaid was one of mine. She was in my jurisdiction, under my protection. I am responsible for her death. What can you tell us?"

"Nothing," I said. "We've literally got nothing. No evidence, no fingerprints, not even hair or skin cells. Nothing. Nada. Zilch."

Marcus glared at me, while Fowley looked thoughtful. He turned to Sarah.

"Girl, do you have any thoughts?"

"He's obviously targeting non-humans," she said. "Maybe he considers himself a vigilante. I read a book about a group of people who considered themselves that, and they targeted supernatural creatures. Except the cat. It was just an ordinary cat."

"Maybe a demonic ritual?" I mused. "Cats are God's favorite creatures, other than humans, I mean. They have all sorts of symbolism in religion. I know that the Vikings kept them to hunt rodents and considered them to be great animals and companions."

"They are seen as more feminine animals," Sarah said, "Because it used to be believed that women generally preferred cats, because of their personalities."

"Catwomen," I said dryly. Then something struck me. "Catwomen. Catwomen!"

Sarah looked at me, stunned. "What are you saying, Reese?"

"Maybe the real target is a catwoman!" I cried. "Or maybe it's a witch or warlock. Or even a vampire. They all have cat familiars."

Her eyes stayed wide, and she turned around and strutted over to my father. She tugged on his shirt and spoke to him softly. He looked at me, eyes wide, and I saw him nodding to Sarah. Both of them came over to me.

"Son, you're a genius!" Father shouted. Then he saw Marcus and Fowley. "And what are they doing here?"

"The dead mermaid was under my protection, Mordecai," said Fowley. "Tell me what you know."

"And why should I do that?"

Fowley raised a thin eyebrow. "Remember the last time I bailed you out, Mordecai?"

Father grimaced, but told Fowley what we knew, which was exactly what I'd told him.

"And we're no closer to figuring out who it is," he finalized.

Fowley tilted his head, and then suddenly, white wings burst out of his back. Shocked, Sarah jumped and stepped on my foot. A mistake, as it was her foot that was now injured.

Fowley took off into the air, and then I saw him look around at the surrounding areas. We were secluded, but still in a public area, and I saw a little girl point him out to her mother. Fowley also noticed, and he landed back on his feet on the ground.

"How do you do that without feeling pain?" Sarah asked.

"Practice," he replied, looking at her. I noticed a sadness in his eyes when he looked at her, a longing of some kind. Oh, hell, no.

I was ready to pounce on him, but my control overpowered my instincts, and I stayed put.

I noticed a police car arriving. A beautiful woman stepped out first, and then a not-so-beautiful woman followed her, a dog following close by.

"We got reports of...something," said the beautiful blonde-haired officer. "What's going on here?"

She didn't want to say fairies or angels.

"A murder," Father said. "We are investigating."

"A murder?" That got her interest. "Can I take a look?"

"Yes, we were just finishing up, anyway."

Both officers and the German shepherd went into the temple, where they encountered the rabbi first. He led them into the temple.

"We have to tell the whole community," I said.

"I agree, Reese," Father said. "Have you got your cell phone? Good. Take Sarah home, and then-"

"I need to be with my sister," Sarah argued.

"Your sister is grieving the loss of her mate. Nothing will heal that completely."

"I will take Sarah," Marcus said.

"No, I will," Fowley said. "The children can stay with me while this blows over."

"Not happening," I said, and led Sarah to the car.


That night, I was stunned into submission. Father made an announcement, not just to vampires, but to humans as well.

"I am Prince Mordecai," he said on the local news. "I live here in North Hampton with my son, Reese, and my brother Soren, my nephew Louis, and my father, Eilief. For years I have stayed under the radar, but that is no longer possible. My brother and father and I have discussed, and agreed, that now is the time to reveal ourselves. We are vampires. Vampire royalty, in fact. We came from Denmark, and I moved to North Hampton eighteen years ago to protect my son.

"We do not kill humans, nor do we bite without permission. We drink only donated blood, whether it be cold or fresh. I know that many of you will not believe me, and that is your choice. However, we are real, just as extraterrestrials are real, and I am announcing this for a purpose.

"There have been a series of attacks on members of the supernatural community. A warlock and witch were both found dead, along with a mermaid and two vampires. A street cat was also killed, we believe, as a symbol. If you have any information, please contact the police at the number on your screen. I have informed them of what has happened, and I hope for peace and harmony soon. Thank you and good night."

Sarah stared at the screen before she burst into laughter.

"It's not funny," I growled.

"Sorry!" she shouted, wiping her eyes. "But Mordecai is the last person I expected to hear this from."

"Well, hopefully it helps," I said. My cell phone rang, and then Sarah's buzzed.

"Wow, ten messages," she said, opening the first one.

"Dude, what the hell?" It was Mason. "Your dad just blurted out the news to everyone."

"He had no choice, Mason. It was either that or let him carry on."

"The killer? I know we have to catch him, but really, my dad's pissed that Mordecai said that the first victim was a warlock."

"He was. What was he supposed to do, lie?"

"I don't know, but my dad's furious. Seriously, you do not want to be around him right now. I took off for the library after the announcement. I'm in the car now, as we speak, heading away from my father."

"I'll meet you at the library in ten minutes."

I let Sarah know where I was going, and asked her if she wanted to come with me. She agreed, since we were technically supposed to go together.

We arrived at the library ten minutes after we left, and I saw Mason's car in the parking lot.

I found him in the fantasy section, looking at a Diana Wynne Jones book.

"Diana Wynne Jones is a thousand times better than-"

"Wait, you're not going to say Twilight, are you?" Sarah asked, eyes wide.

"Of course not," I lied.

"Hi, Reese. Hi, Sarah," Mason greeted.

"Hi, Mason," Sarah replied.

She started looking around, and I sat beside Mason.

"My father felt like he had no choice," I said.

"Yeah, well, my father's pissed," Mason repeated. "So there's that. How is she?" he asked, gesturing to Sarah.

"Better. She still has a weak stomach, and gets headaches, though."

He stared at her. "You're so damn lucky," he growled. "She would have been my second choice if Scarlett and I didn't work out."

I snarled at him, baring my teeth.

"Cool it," he commanded. "I know I was wrong about Scarlett and I know Sarah is yours now. But damn it, it should have worked out. It would have worked out, if she hadn't been so damned evil."

"Screw you," I said, getting up. He gave me the finger and went back to his book. I went to find Sarah, and then I heard giggling. Two girls, a redhead and a brunette, were standing near the Grady Hendrix section and looking at me and Mason. One of them, the redhead, said, "He's so cute."

The brunette giggled and looked at me. Sarah came back, her arms full of books, and she gave me a peck on the cheek, and the brunette's smile vanished.

"What did you find?" I asked.

"I found this awesome new memoir about a girl who dabbled in the occult," she said, holding up the first book. "I also found a book about a girl who dies and becomes a ghost. Boy, I'd hate for that to happen."

While she showed me her books, the redheaded girl went over to Mason. He looked up in surprise.

"Hi, I'm Elsa," the girl said.

"Mason," he said, standing up, and offering his hand. Elsa took it and shook it, running her fingers over his.

"I haven't seen you around," she said.

"I don't come to the library much anymore. I have all the books I need at home."

"What about the computers?"

"I have a laptop. I also don't really read magazines, either, or the newspaper."

That was a bold-faced lie, I'd seen him read magazines and the newspaper before.

By now, Sarah was watching, too, looking interested.

"Have you tried the new coffee spot?" Elsa asked.

"No, I haven't," Mason said. "Would you like to go there with me now?"

"Sure," Elsa said, smiling. Mason smiled, too, and he led her to the library cafe.

"What about you?" I asked Sarah.

"I'm supposed to cut down on caffeine," she said, "But some decaf would be nice."

She checked out her books, and I carried them while we found the cafe. Sarah ordered a skinny decaf mocha for herself and some water for me. I started reading one of the books, and Sarah played on her phone.

As Mason and Elsa talked, I finished two books, and Sarah bought a sweet tea.

"Attention patrons: the library will be closing in fifteen minutes. Please check out your items and finish any business you have still."

"Ready to go?" I asked my girl.

"One second," she said, holding up a finger. "This guy on YouTube is trying to go through a muddy riverbed with an old red truck, but the truck got stuck. Now they're trying to pull it out with a big silver truck."

"Here's my number," Elsa said, handing Mason a slip of paper. "Text me."

"Okay," Mason replied, programming her number into his phone.

I said nothing, and neither did Sarah, but we did wave at Mason before we left. When we got in the car, Sarah rummaged in her purse and pulled out a red lipstick, a dark burgundy shade, my favorite color on her. She applied the lipstick first, then applied a clear lip gloss with her index finger.

She looked at me. "You look surprised."

"I...I'm not, I mean...I like that color on you."

"Thanks," she said. "So do I." She leaned over and placed a sloppy kiss on my jaw. "Feel like going and getting mozzarella sticks?" she asked.

"I won't eat them, but I'm sure you will," I reminded her. She smiled and kissed my neck this time.

I started to drive, but then something hard hit my car. Sarah gasped, and I got out and looked toward the front. A ragged man, clearly homeless, was clutching at his chest, and that's when I saw the knife. I got back into the car.

"Call nine-one-one!" I cried. Sarah whipped out her phone and started dialing.

"Nine-one-one, what's your emergency?"

"Hello, my name is Sarah Cresley, and this guy just ran out in front of my boyfriend's car. He's hurt really badly."

"He's been stabbed," I said.

"My boyfriend says he's been stabbed. The guy, I mean, not my boyfriend. We're at the public library on Seventh. Yes, ma'am. Yes. No, we didn't see who stabbed him. We're in my boyfriend's car now. It's a black Nissan GT-R. Thank you. Yes, we'll wait."

Five minutes later, a police car showed up and a police officer got out. He gestured for me to lower my window, so I did.

"Are you the ones who called?" he asked.

"Yes," I said. "He's in front of my car."

The officer went to the front and looked. "He's not there!" he shouted. He turned to us. "Is this some kind of joke?"

"No, check the security cameras," I said. He went into the library, and an ambulance showed up. I explained that the man had disappeared to the paramedics, and they searched the area for him.

Five minutes after that, the officer came back, just as another police car was pulling up. His face was as white as a sheet.

He put on hand on the hood on my car, and doubled over, clutching his chest.

"Officer Willard! What's the problem?"

"Big problem," Officer Willard said. He looked at the other officer. "La Ronda, do you believe in ghosts?"


"I swear, on the camera...the guard said he'd never seen anything like it....these kids phoned it in...a dead guy...."

Instead of a homeless guy being taken to the hospital, Officer Willard was taken to the hospital instead. La Ronda watched the clip, and she came back out, also as white as a sheet.

"Go home," she told us. "The guy, he definitely went in front of your car, but then he disappeared into thin air. I can't explain it. Go home and get some rest, we'll take care of this."

"Um, okay," I said, and drove home with Sarah shaking like an aspen leaf.

"I don't like ghosts," she whispered.

"I know, baby," I said, taking her small brown hand in my huge white one. Her experience with ghosts had not been fun. Michael Nales, even though he was dead, had once scared her so much that she almost swallowed a fork.

When we got back to the house, Louis was with a short man with dark blond hair. I recognized him as one of Louis' friends. Then, to my surprise, Louis leaned forward, and kissed him. On the lips. I stared, then I looked over at Sarah. Her eyes were wide, and she stared at the unusual sight. I had never seen Louis kiss a man before.

He pulled away, then he saw us and walked out of the way, the man following close behind. I parked in my usual spot and stared at Louis. I got out, Sarah following me.

"Something weird happened to us, Louis," I said.

"What happened?" he asked.

I told him what had occurred with the ghost. He looked at the short blond man.

"Any thoughts, Paul?"

The short man shook his head.

"By the way," Louis began, "This is Paul. Paul, this is my cousin, Reese. He's more like a little brother to me. Reese, I met Paul at Club Shade. It's an underground club for supernaturals. Paul here is just a human, but so what? You have a human girlfriend."

"I didn't say anything about it," I said. "Nice to meet you, Paul."

The short man nodded to me, and I looked at Louis.

"Paul is also a mute," he explained. He looked at Paul. "Reese isn't normally so rude. He's usually disgustingly polite. At least Sarah is always polite. Thank you, Sarah."

"You're welcome, Louis," she said. "It's nice to meet you, Paul."

Paul started signing in American Sign Language.

"He says it's nice to meet you, too, Sarah. Well, I'd love to stay, but Paul and I have other plans that involve a bed and lots of-"

Paul smacked Louis upside the head before he could finish.

"Fine, fine, I won't finish the sentence. But Paul and I do have plans, and I'll get back to you on the ghost thing, Reesie Reese. I think it was just bad luck, but you never know. My dad might have some ideas. Toodles!"

With that, he lifted Paul up, bridal-style. Paul gave an audible yelp and Louis looked at him in surprise before running up into the house and up the stairs into his bedroom.

I sat on the porch, Sarah sat beside me, and I dug around in my pocket for a cigarette. I lit one up and took a deep drag. Sarah wrinkled her nose, but didn't say anything about it.

"My dad was a smoker," she finally said after a few minutes. "He smoked to deal with my mom's drinking. When he died, his lungs were black from all the poison."

"Smoking doesn't affect vampires the same way," I said. "It's more like a brief high to us. Our lungs are nearly indestructible, and our blood kills the poison in the nicotine. I can smoke for a thousand years and still be okay. But you're right; it does stink. I suppose I started back when I was fourteen or fifteen because my father smokes. I even stole a carton of cigarettes from him and lied about it. I don't think he believed me, though."

"I used to smoke," Sarah said. "Back when the Beautifuls were a thing. Dad would let me have a cigarette every now and then, and then I had a fake ID made when he died. I bought it from some guy named Cocoa. I think Cocoa's dead now, he got caught up in a neighborhood shoot-out."

"The one last year on Apple Drive? That was national news."

Sarah sighed and got out her phone, which had buzzed. She frowned, then showed me a text message from Mia Rayport.

"Rumor has it that Elliot tried to kill himself," she said.

"Your friend Elliott? The fat one who was in love with you?" I asked. She smacked my arm, then winced, shaking her hand.

"Be nice."

"Hey, guys."

I looked up and saw Mitra.

"Hello, Mitra," Sarah said politely. Mitra looked behind us.

"Is Soren home?"

"What's it to you?" I snapped. Mitra winced, and her eyes filled with tears.

"Reese!" Sarah punched my arm. "Don't be a jerk!"

"No, Sarah, he's right," Mitra said. She crossed her arms over her stomach. "I don't have any right to ask about Soren. The way I treated him..."

"But Katonah was your husband!" Sarah reminded her.

"Yes, that's true, but technically I knew I was still married to Katonah when I dated Soren. That was a crappy thing for me to do."

"But you're dead, aren't you? Until death do we part-"

"Undead is not the same thing as dead, Sarah. And Native American marriages are different from English Christian marriages."

Just then, a bright light blinded all of us. Mitra fell over, covering her eyes, and I covered Sarah, prepared for an enemy attack. The light became brighter, and it began to actually burn. Mitra started screaming, and so did Sarah. I heard male voice approach.

"Reese! Sarah! Mitra!"

Since Mitra was getting the worst of it, I started crawling to her, but then something like a force field stopped me. It felt like a psychic energetic field of pure power. Mitra continued screaming, and I opened my eyes long enough to see that her clothes were being burned away, and so was her flesh. My uncle was there, and he looked extremely panicked.

Finally, finally, the light stopped blinding us, and the supernatural force left just as suddenly as it had appeared.

I heard Mitra whimpering. Uncle Soren immediately went over to her, pulling her into his lap. She screamed when he touched the burns, and then whimpered again. She finally opened her eyes, and we were shocked. They were pure white. She had been blinded.


"So first a ghost attacks Reese and Sarah at the library, then some sort of...avenging angel, attacks a female vampire on my property," Father said. I'd explained to him what had happened earlier with the ghost.

"It's my fault," Uncle Soren muttered. "It's all my fault."

Mother was gently dabbing at Mitra's burns with a white cream while Ethan applied a minty green paste.

"Can you do anything about her sight?" Uncle Soren asked Ethan. Ethan shook his head.

"The thing that took her sight is beyond medical science. Only magickal arts can fix her eyes."

Katonah was there, too, but he was sitting, staring at nothing. I'd called him myself, and at first he was furious, then devastated when he learned what had happened to his wife.

"It's all my fault," Uncle Soren repeated, leaning against the wall, which cracked under his weight.

"Cholena? Is that you?" Mitra asked, sitting up and trying to look around.

"No, sweetheart," Katonah said. "Our daughter is dead, remember? She died two hundred years ago."

"Dead? How can she be dead? It was a white man, wasn't it?"

Uncle Soren took her tiny hand in his huge one, kissing it. Katonah glared at him, but Uncle Soren ignored him.

"I love you, Mitra," Uncle Soren said. "I'm so sorry that I wasn't kind to you before. I'm sorry."

"Soren? Get away from me!" she pulled back, and Uncle Soren's eyes filled with tears and he bit his lip.

"Why is she acting like this?" he asked the general crowd.

"She's angry," Mother said. "She blames you for what happened. She thinks it was Alga's spirit, taking revenge on her."

"Alga hated me," Uncle Soren argued. "Mitra, please, talk to me. What can I do to help you?"

"Stay away," she growled. Then she began to choke. Mother patted her on the back, but Mitra still choked. And then blood began to run out of her nose, ears, eyes, and mouth. Sarah gasped and I heard Father take in a sharp intake of breath.

Mitra threw up blood on the rug, and then gasped for unneeded air. "I think I'm..."

But before she could finish the sentence, she fell over, and didn't move.

"No," Uncle Soren, shaking his head, "No, no, no, no, no. This cannot be happening. She can't be dead!"

"She is," Ethan said, closing Mitra's white eyes. Katonah stood up and yelled out, then he ran out, bursting through the window, running away as fast as he could.

"No, no, no, no, no, no. She's not. She's just resting! She's only resting! Mitra, wake up!" Uncle Soren grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her, but her head lolled to the side. Uncle Soren held her and rocked her, sobbing.

"Let's go," I said quickly. I took Sarah upstairs to my room, where I started playing music on my stereo and she started looking at books.

Naturally, Mitra's family was distraught. Father had to tell them, as Uncle Soren was beside himself with grief. They decided to cremate her, and it was a short cremation. Her ashes were spread all around the reservation that she loved so much.

Katonah still hadn't returned after a week, and by then, her ashes had been spread and she'd been prayed over extensively. Uncle Soren refused to accept the fact that she was dead. He was just as distraught as her family. Her friend Ellis, also a vampire, was also there, although he stayed a good distance away from Uncle Soren.

All of us were dressed in all black, Uncle Soren especially. Sarah looked beautiful in a black flowered strapless dress and black stilettos. She took them off before she stepped into the mud though, and slipped on some old flat shoes instead.

Uncle Soren sat in a chair, which creaked under him, and Louis sat beside him, my father on his other side. I saw a couple of teenage girls dabbing at their eyes, and an older woman, which I heard was called Nana, and some little kids running around. The little kids gave us a wide berth, except for Sarah, who they liked. One little boy kept running up to her and tugging on her dress, then running away, giggling.

Overall, it was a good celebration of life/funeral/cremation, but it was also extremely sad for us as well. Sarah and Mother both shed a few tears, and Uncle Soren either cried or looked completely blank.

I was glad when it was over.

Uncle Soren paused just outside the front door to Father's house. The busted window had been repaired, and so did the cracked wall.

"I...I need to be alone for a while," he said, then he went up the stairs and shut the door hard. I heard him sobbing seconds later.

Grandfather put his hand on my shoulder, then said. "Let him be. It is always terrible when one loses a love. I am still grieving for Amalia, and she has been dead for a while now."

I hugged Sarah, letting a few tears escape. I didn't know what I would do if I lost her. Heck, I didn't know what I would do if Evan died, and he was not even my rightful soulmate. Then I realized Sarah was crying, and I pulled away from her.

"Baby, what's wrong?" I asked.

"Everything," she said. "My parents are dead, so many people are dead, I don't know who I am anymore, and my sister ran away this morning."

"Sabine ran away? You didn't tell me that, and neither did Mom," I said.

"We were hoping she would be back by now, but I guess...James' death was the last straw for her. So she packed her backpack full of clothes and food, and took off. She didn't even bring her phone so we could track her."

"I'm sorry, sweetheart," I said, kissing her forehead. "You have to calm down, though. Where's your Xanax?"

She took out a pill bottle from a pocket inside her dress, then tapped out two pills and forced herself to swallow them.

"Can I have some water?" she asked.

"Absolutely," I said. "You don't need to ask."

I fetched her a glass of cold water with lots of ice, just the way she likes her water. I kissed her as she gulped down some water.


I felt like my heart was going to fall out of my chest and land on the floor. Reese looked concerned. I knew he was concerned. His big yellow eyes were full of love. I love his eyes. They're so interesting and different. Some of my friends say they're creepy, but I disagree. Some of my friends want me to stop dating him, but I know him well enough to know that he would never hurt me on purpose.

Yes, he's hurt me in the past, but it was when we were broken up or because he thought he was doing the right thing. He leans forward and kisses both my eyes, then licks his lips, and I realized he was tasting my tears.

"I'm going home," I said. He nodded and leaned forward. I stood up to kiss him on the jaw but he tilted my chin up and caught my lips instead.

"Call me later," he says in my ear. I grabbed my shoes and purse and went out to my car. I got in, and he waved at me as I turned the ignition and put it in reverse. I waved back at him, and he blew me kisses.

I wiped at my eyes, and then started to drive down the gravel road...until I saw the blinding light.

I slammed on the brakes and immediately covered my eyes. Then the burning started. I'd seen what had happened to Mitra before she died. This was how she died. Then I heard a gunshot, and scream, and my door was yanked open and I was suddenly swept into Reese's arms. He covered me with kisses and sniffed me all over. I knew he was checking for injuries.

"Is she hurt?" Marina's voice rang out, and she ran to me. She took me into her arms, and did the same thing as Reese, checked me for injuries and then smothered me with motherly love.


Soren's yelling scared me, and I burrowed myself into my adopted mother's arms.

"It's all right, my little one," she cooed. She hissed, and I realized she and Reese were hissing at each other. They'd had this argument before. The one over who got to hold me.

"Who shot at it?" I asked.

"I don't know," Reese answered. "I was focused on you."

"I love you, Reese."

"I love you more than you'll ever imagine, Sarah Harper."

I looked up, and saw a frightening sight. Soren was searching around, foaming at the mouth, sniffing and putting his ear to the ground to look for the...being, that tried to kill me and killed Mitra. Soren is the bravest being I know, and to see him devastated over Mitra had broken my heart.

I really needed to eat something. Some chocolate, with nuts mixed in. Marina carried me back inside the house and placed me on the couch. Mordecai had bought a new couch after Mitra died. I liked this couch better. It was the color of concrete, but it was stylish and comfortable.

Reese started fixing some tea for me, and he offered me exactly what I wanted-a big Hershey's bar with ground almonds.

"You read my mind," I said, taking the chocolate bar and the tea.

"Anything for you," he replied. He moved my feet off the couch and sat beside me. One of the cats, Belle I think, sat on my lap and curled up. I opened the chocolate wrapper and set the tea on the coffee table in front of me. I stroked her grey fur and bit into the chocolate.

When I was little, I was the type of girl who loved going places like Justice and read girly magazines and loved shopping. Of course, I still read magazines and love shopping. Now that my mother's debt has been paid off, I feel no constraints. I do feel guilty that I couldn't pay it off myself-I had to have Marina and Alexander's help-but I am glad it's over with.

But I'd give up the freedom to have Daddy back at least. He understood me. He supported and loved me. When I was raped by Michael Nales, my mother wanted to brush it under the rug, so to speak. Daddy would have beaten the shit out of Nales, possibly even killed him.

Reese actually did kill Nales-actually, Mordecai killed Michael after Reese asked him to. I've been let down by the people in my life. My dad died, my mother was an alcoholic, I was raped by a boy I liked, Reese didn't tell me he was a vampire, Marina killed my mother, and now my sister's run away.

It was all too much for me. I broke down. Lately, I'd been crying a lot. I used to never cry, not even when it mattered. I was so overwhelmed by all the recent drama and death and destruction, I would break down at any time. I was really craving one of Grandma's famous blintzes, but not even she would talk to me anymore, as she was furious with me for choosing the "man-eating bloodsuckers".

Sometimes I wanted to curl up and fall into a dreamless sleep, and never wake up. But if I did that, I would never see Reese, or Sabine, or my new parents.

Reese pulled me into his chest, and I buried my face in his stomach, and let the tears fall. I suddenly knew what I needed. I needed my other grandmother, the one who gave me my wings. Literally, it was her that made me a quarter fairy. I wanted to go to France, to see my cousins and Grandpa and my aunts and uncles and the farm.

"I want to go to France," I said.

"You just went two months ago," Reese said.

"She needs a break, space," Marina explained. She got down on her knees to my level. "Is that what you want, my baby? To see your family?"

I nodded. She sighed.

"Fine. But you mustn't go yet, you must finish your senior year. I think the best time to go would be in June. What do you think, Alexander?"

"Hold on-" Reese started, but Alexander held his hand up.

"I have a suggestion," he said. "She goes to France for the summer, along with Sabine, if we can find her. What are your thoughts, Sarah?"

"I like that idea," I told him.


I didn't like it. I didn't like it one bit. Go to France without me? Where she could be mugged, assaulted, or even murdered? Of course, she'd have her family, and the farm. I took a deep breath.

"Fine," I said. "You can go."

"Was there ever any doubt?" she quipped.

"Yes," I said, grinding my teeth together. "I don't like it. What if you meet some Parisian male with long wavy hair and a cocky demeanor?"

"Don't be stereotypical," she said, smacking my arm.

Louis came over then, looking very pale.

"Reese," he said. "There's been another death. This one is...well...I don't know how to put it..."

"Spit it out, boy," Alexander snapped. Louis glared at Alexander, who glared back, and then he finally said what was on his mind.

"Evan is...he's dead."

Stunned...shocked...disbelief, all coursed through me.

"Are you sure?" I asked.

He nodded. "Reid Lockhart called me personally. Apparently, he found Evan with his head cut off and his heart torn from his chest." He winced, realizing he'd revealed too much information.

"Oh, Reese," Sarah said, her eyes shining. "I can't imagine...."

"Son of a bitch," I cursed. Then I stood up and punched the wall, breaking through the plaster and wood. Sarah yelped and ran to Mother, who hissed at me. I hissed back. I sat down and clutched my head. He was dead. He was really dead.

I spent the night curled up, clutching my chest, which now had a gaping hole in it. I was in shock, and when the shock slowly wore off, I was just depressed. I'd done this. I'd set him up with Reid, which was a mistake in of itself, because their relationship was toxic. I stayed curled up where I'd fallen to the floor in a heap of agony inside my stepfather's house.

The way I'd treated him, both while and after we he was gone, and I couldn't fix it.

I dreamed. I dreamed about Evan.

I opened my eyes. I was standing on a cloud, staring around at the multiple clouds and the blue sky. Then I saw him. Evan. He was looking at me with a sort of sad half-smile.

"Hello, Reese," he said.

"Gods," I said. "Evan, I'm so sorry. This is my fault. I'm-"

He put a finger to my lips.

"Don't be sorry," he said. "I'm glad my life is over. It was filled with pain. My parents didn't like me because I'm gay, you didn't like me because you liked Sarah, and Reid enjoyed insulting and belittling me. I'm glad it's all over."

I started crying. "Evan, we're all devastated. I'm so sorry. I should have treated you better. If I'd known about any of it, I wouldn't have....I'm sorry..."

"At least I have news," he said. "I saw my killer."

"Who?" I demanded.

He smiled evilly. "You'll have to find out for yourself. That's part of the deal. It's how I will be able to move on."

"Damn it, tell me!"

"I can't!" His eyes filled with tears. "I still love you, Reese, I always will, but you didn't love me. I can't deal with it anymore. Goodbye, and I hope you have a good life."

The dream ended. I burst into tears first, and then I screamed. I punched the wall again, then grabbed a piece of art and threw it across the room. Then I felt someone's arms around my waist. I kicked and shouted, wanting to be let go.

"It's all right, boy," Alexander said soothingly. I fell limp in his arms.

"It's all my fault," I said.

"Don't be ridiculous. Your father got the news, and he said you can stay the rest of the night here. I will make a potion for dreamless sleep. But first, you must calm down."

He took me to my bedroom in their house, and he told me to stay there, he'd be right back. He came back a few minutes later with a spicy-smelling brown drink. I forced it down, and then fell asleep in seconds.

I awoke to Mother sponging my forehead, and Sarah holding my hand.

I shifted, and then realized someone had undressed me, probably Alexander. I groaned and shifted again.

"He's awake," Mother said. Selena came in with a glass full of freshly warmed blood. Type A positive.

"It's my fault," I repeated.

"No," all three women protested.

"School's going to be a nightmare," I said.

"Anyone who knows you will know it wasn't your fault," Sarah said. "Everyone else doesn't matter. Your friends: Amara, Ari, Mason, Duke, and Noah, they will all know what happened between you and Evan."

"Only Ari does," I corrected her. I sighed audibly. "It's my fault."

"Reese, it is not your fault," Selena argued. "Whoever killed Evan is to blame. My guess is he's the same guy who killed all those other people."


The day of prom was a nightmare for me. Sarah was gone most of the day, getting her hair, nails, and makeup done by professionals. She had chosen a midnight-blue dress with gold and silver stars all over it. It was a beautiful dress, with rouching on the side and a filmy fabric. She had also chosen scarily high gold stilettos that, if I were female, I would not have been able to walk in.

When she finally emerged from her room half an hour before we were supposed to leave, she looked beautiful in her dress and makeup. Her hair was curled elaborately and pinned in a high updo that left her neck bare. She wore gold and silver chains around her neck, and the ring I'd given her. She wore the stilettos and a thin gold bracelet.

Her tiny waist and succulent hips and breasts were accentuated with the tailoring of the dress. I wished she'd shown more leg-I loved her muscular legs. My stomach flipped as she smiled weakly at me. Her lips had been painted a cherry red and her eyes were surrounded by blue eyeshadow and black eyeliner and mascara. The inner corners of her eyes had been brightened with white highlighter.

All the blue looked amazing with her dark skin and hair, and the blue brightened and brought out the green of her eyes. Honestly, they looked more blue tonight than green. Sparkly stuff had been brushed along her shoulders and chest.

She took my arm.

"You look handsome," she said.

"Yeah, right," I scoffed. She punched my arm, then winced. Although I did look better than I usually did. My black hair had been combed and tied back into a short ponytail. I wore a black tuxedo and with a black bowtie and a white shirt and black jacket and pants. I was even wearing cologne and eyeliner.

"Is it true that you used to wear earrings?" Sarah asked.

"One earring," I corrected. "I stopped wearing it a couple years ago." I showed her the faint piercing. "I wore a diamond stud."

The limo driver was waiting outside. He opened the door for Sarah, and even tipped his hat to her. He tipped his hat to me, too. I eyed him suspiciously until Sarah nibbled my ear.

I growled and pulled her onto my lap.

"Seatbelts, please," the driver said in a French accent.

I hissed and bared my teeth, and he went pale and swallowed. He drove us to the designated ballroom at the Ritz.

Sarah got out first, and cameras flashed as I followed her, taking her arm and leading her to the ballroom. Mom and Selena were there, too, along with Father, Grandfather, Uncle Soren, and Louis.

"You already got pictures," I hissed. Mom and Father ignored me and continued to take pictures.

Sarah had to close her eyes, because the flashing lights were making her dizzy.

"Sarah, over here!"

"Look over here, Sarah!"

"Sarah, I love you!"

Before we entered, I was randomly screened for drugs or alcohol, getting irritated when the dog shoved his nose into my crotch.

"Sorry, but we have to know," said the female officer.

She looked familiar. I was trying to figure out where I'd seen her, when Sarah figured it out, first.

"Detective Greene?" she hedged.

"Sarah, right?" the detective said, smiling at her. "I remember your case. I'm sorry about how everything turned out."

"Everything's all right," Sarah assured her. The two women smiled at each other, and then Sarah took my arm and led me into the ballroom, where we were greeted by loud music and cheers.

Sarah immediately went to a group of her friends, and I followed, jealousy twisting my gut. Especially when I saw all the attractive males. Dante even planted a kiss on her cheek. I snarled, and he paled.

“What is he doing here?”

“Did Sarah bring him?”

“Sarah, did you know your boyfriend’s a vampire?”

“Ssshh! He can hear you!”

“I don’t care!”

I ignored them. They didn’t know what we had. What I had with Sarah was special-beyond special. What we had was eternal. It would last forever, even if both of us died. I shuddered at the thought of her death, then wrapped my arm around her. I kissed her hair, and then she said,

“Oh! Come on Reese, let’s dance! This song kicks ass!”

We slow-danced to “Earth Angel”, then a fast song came on that I didn’t recognize.

I saw Elliott there, along with Britt, and I gave him a dirty look. He didn’t deserve to live, with the way he’d treated the girls. But Britt had abandoned him to dance with someone else, and he was looking sour.

I walked over to him. He looked afraid and turned as white as a sheet as I approached.

“Donovan,” I growled.

“Emerson,” he growled back.

Possibly sensing a brewing fight, Sarah came between us and tried to direct me away, whispering so that only I could hear her. She was singing a song I recognized as “A Thousand Years” from the movie Twilight. Blech.

“Actually, it’s from Breaking Dawn,” she corrected.

“What?” I asked.

“Sorry, I couldn’t help myself,” she said.

“No, I mean…Sarah, did you just read my mind?”

“Huh? Did I? I don’t even know anymore. Have you met my friend Robbie?”

Robbie was a heavyset Italian dude with hoop earrings and a thick accent like Woody Allen. I didn’t like him, but that was nothing new. I didn’t like any of her male friends. Which possibly made me a hypocrite, because I had female friends and she got along with them just fine-she and Ariella were even best friends now.

I grit my teeth and tried to be nice to him, though. It irritated me when he gave her a wink and a peck on the cheek, though. I didn’t kiss my female friends, not even a peck on the cheek.

“You’re lucky,” Robbie told me. “You’ve got the most gorgeous girl this side of the Mason-Dixon line.”

“She’s my girl,” I hissed.

“That’s what I’m saying, man.” He slapped me on the back. I was tempted to turn around and punch him, but public dignity and the thought of Sarah dumping me over my jealousy convinced me to stay humble and just accept it. I would kill Robbie later.

“Have you read his newest book?” Sarah was asking her friend Trina. “I had Reese read part of it to me the other night, but I fell asleep halfway through.”

“That boring?” Trina laughed.

“No, I was just tired. You know I’m not allowed to drink coffee anymore? Too much caffeine.”

“I never liked coffee, anyway. Besides, it’s not good for you.”

“Says the girl who smokes a joint every two days.”

“Bitch, I have more taste than you do! Especially in guys.”

“Watch it, Porter. I’ll bet Reese has a bigger dick than any of your guys do! How many did you sleep with last Saturday?”

Were girls always this catty to each other? I’d never seen Ariella or Amara speak that way to Sarah. But maybe Trina wasn’t a true friend. I knew she was on the cheerleading squad, though. Maybe all cheerleaders had an inherent rivalry with each other, like all males do with each other.

The next few songs were slow, so Sarah and I danced. As the night wore on, more and more people arrived, until I saw almost everyone in our class, including my group of friends. Amara was there with Cole Powers, and Duke and Noah had arrived together, and Mason had Elsa on his arm, the redhead whom we’d met at the library.

Noah was looking sour, and Mason and Elsa went off by themselves.

“You Give Love A Bad Name” by Bon Jovi began playing, and Sarah walked to the center of the dance floor, where she shook her shoulders and flipped her hair and moved her legs in ways I’d never seen before. A crowd formed around her, and I fought through the crowd and took her in my arms and started dancing with her.

We danced for a few songs, then she went back to her friends, and I found Duke and Noah. Noah was sourly watching Amara and Cole, who was smoking a cigarette while Amara tried to drag him onto the dance floor. Her hair was back to its original platinum blond color.

Cole kept shoving her off, and finally she just threw her hands up and turned away. She walked over to us instead.

“Some dance, huh, guys?” she said.

“Yeah,” I said, looking over to where Sarah was now dancing with Mia Rayport. “I brought her here to make her happy. This isn’t my usual scene.”

“Come on, it’s your senior year!” she said. “Come on, Reese, dance with me!”

I reluctantly obliged. I twirled her around like I would with Sarah. After a few songs, she went off to get a cup of punch.

I went back to the guys, and Noah glared at me. I glared back. Sarah came back to me, and dragged me onto the dance floor again, where we danced to a fast song that talked about kings

and queens.

Next was an Avril Lavigne song, and Sarah also went to get some punch. Some girls from the dance team cornered her and started talking to her, and I slowly edged my way over in case I needed to interfere. At our school, the cheerleaders and the dance team generally didn’t get along.

They left before I could say anything. Mia Rayport also made her way over.

“What did they want?” we asked at the same time.

“They asked if I knew you were a psycho,” she said. “They don’t really believe you’re a vampire; they think you’re in a cult that claims to be vampires.”

“Fascinating, but not true,” I said. “And what did you tell Brownie?”

“I told her to keep her fat mouth shut,” she replied. “The last thing I need is girls who think they know my boyfriend better than I do. It’s blasphemy!”

“Whatever. Come on, Sarah, let’s dance.”

We danced some more, and I looked around at all the other couples. Some of them looked happy. Others, not so much.

The night ended all too quickly, and I called the limo back and led Sarah to the car.


I woke up the next day still smelling her perfume. And then I realized she was still next to me. She had taken off her dress, shoes, and jewelry, and had climbed into bed next to me in only her underwear and bra. Her hair was splayed about, tangled and messy. I smiled and kissed her, and she stirred.

“Morning, Reese,” she muttered. Then she turned onto her side and went right back to sleep. Shadowfang jumped up and sniffed her hair, then he came over to me.

“Did you become a father?” he asked.

“Shut up.”

He gave me a reproachful look and then flicked his tail at me. True, I’d fucked her, hard. I was sure I’d used a condom. And she was on birth control, wasn’t she? My stomach took a dive as I saw the offending culprit on the floor. It had ripped.

Apprehensive, I threw it into the wastebasket. I bit my upper lip and climbed over Sarah to pull on a clean pair of shorts and t-shirt. Had I conceived? Had we conceived? Was I going to become a father?

If I was…wow.

I’d always wanted to be a father, especially after I met Sarah and became her boyfriend. I had already met my children, sort of. I’d met Caitlin and Jojo and Cynthia.

I turned to my love and carefully unhooked her bra. I put an old t-shirt over her. She was stealing all my clothes, whether she knew it or not. At least my shirts and hoodies.

I laid next to her on my stomach, admiring her form. She was more beautiful than Venus. I admired her small feet and hands, her perky breasts, her small waist, her pert bottom. I admired her brown hair with blond highlights, the natural curls. I kissed her cute button nose, stared hungrily at her full, pink lips. She still had a little makeup on from the night before.

I rolled her onto her back. She stirred-her arms wrapped around my neck and she grabbed some of my hair. I gently pulled her away and kissed her hand. I admired the short nails painted a pale pink, making her tan stand out more.

“What do you see in me?” I quietly asked her. “You’re amazing. You’re beautiful. I’m ugly and insecure.”

“Shut up,” she murmured. I smiled as she slowly wrapped her arms around me without opening her eyes. “You’re a handsome man, Reese. I know you don’t see it, but I do. You’re beautiful on the inside, too, which is way more important than outer beauty.”

I felt her eyelashes flutter against my cheek.

“God, I need some coffee,” she said. “Go get me a vanilla latte and I’ll fulfill your greatest desire.”

I laughed, my bass mixing with her soprano giggles.

“Honey, my greatest desire is to be your husband. To have you as my wife. I love you, Sarah.”

“I love you, too, Reese.”

I left to get her coffee. When I came back with an iced vanilla latte from Starbucks, she was playing with my stereo.

“Do you have anything other than hard rock and heavy metal?” she scoffed.

“Hey, don’t insult Halestorm,” I warned her playfully. “Seriously, though, why do you hate my music?”

“I don’t hate it,” she corrected. “I just want to know. I grew up on country and soft rock. I prefer pop and alternative, myself. Some people listen to Texas music. I can’t say I like it, but as my dad used to say, everyone should go to hell in their own way.”

“Why hell?” I asked. “You are certainly going to Heaven.” I shuddered at the thought of her death.

“None of us know how we will die, Reese, or when,” she said. “That fact became unmistakably crystal clear when my parents died.”

She turned away from me then, her eyes full of tears. I hesitated.

“I didn’t mean to upset you, Sarah. I’m sorry.”

“No, no, that was my own fault. I’m sorry I’m such an emotional wreck.”

“Sweetheart, I love you, emotional wreck or not. Selena loves you. Cirino loves you. My mother adores you. Alexander, despite what he tries to tell us, loves you. My father loves you, and so does Louis, Uncle Soren, and my grandfather. Sabine loves you, too.”

“Reese, she’s been missing for almost two weeks now. I’m worried, especially with all the deaths.”

“We’ll find her, don’t worry about that. My mother called the police, and they’re searching for her now. My father has several dozen vampires looking for her, some of whom I’ve never met. We’ll find her.”

I set her coffee down on the stereo in front of her. She turned around and wrapped her arms around my waist. I hugged her around the shoulders and kissed her.

“You are loved, my lovely lover. You are so loved it isn’t even funny.”

I heard a knock at the door, and I snarled. Whoever is at the door had better have something important to say.

It was Louis. He opened the door, saw my face, and grimaced before speaking his part.

“Reese, we found Sabine. Chris has her now. Hello, Sarah. We found your sister. She’s home now.”

Sarah let out a sigh of relief and tightened her embrace around me.

Louis left us alone then, and I loaned Sarah a pair of black basketball shorts and she gathered up her things in a bag. I kissed her again, and she pulled away. Slightly hurt, I let her pull her heels on and sip her coffee. She looked a little bit silly with my clothes and a pair of stilettos.

She kissed me on the cheek, before she gathered her bag and coffee and went downstairs to her car.

I went into the kitchen and warmed a glass of B negative. I forced myself to down the blood, and then I swallowed some ibuprofen for my splitting headache. I checked Facebook. Tons of pictures of Prom Night, including a bunch of Sarah and her friends, and even a couple of me and my group of friends. There was even one of Mason and Elsa kissing, with Scarlett Hart looking furious in the background. I scoffed.

I looked through a bunch of the pictures, admiring them. The night really was a night to remember. Sarah had looked gorgeous. I hissed a bit when I saw a picture of Sarah’s friend Dante pecking her cheek. But then again, her gay friend Patrick was on the other side, pecking her other cheek.

I checked my e-mails next.

You shouldn’t have told the world about us.

I blinked. This was unusual. I didn’t tell the world anything. I thought back. What had I talked about? And then I remembered: Father had formally revealed the presence of vampires. This was a veiled threat because of that. I scoffed and deleted the e-mail.

I put on some music, checked YouTube for new bands, and played with a guitar app.

The doorbell rang. I quickly ran up and put some shorts and a shirt on before I went to answer it. A grey-haired woman was there. She wore a black business suit, and had pearl jewelry and thick glasses. Her eyes were silver, and she was as wrinkled as a raisin.

“Is this the home of Prince Mordecai Emerson?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said cautiously.

“My name is Mildred Whitehead. I am a member of God’s Friendship Evangelical Church,” she said, brandishing a business card. “I’m also a devout Christian. I want you to know that your lifestyle is against God’s Laws and that you should leave our town.”

I slammed the door in her face.

She rang the doorbell thrice more, and I answered it again.

“Lady, we don’t drink directly from humans,” I lied. “We drink donated blood.”

“It’s still a sin, and-is that a cat?!”

I looked around and saw Mishka sitting there.

“Um, yeah. It’s the most popular pet in America for a good reason. Cats are amazing.”

“Cats are messengers from the devil!”

“Mrs. Whitehead, I don’t know how you found our house, but you’d better leave now. Trust me.”

She gave me a disgusted look and left, her black pumps clopping on the cigarette-strewn porch.

Louis was in the kitchen now, staring at the odd woman with an annoyed look on his face.

“I really hate those religious types,” he said. I looked at the Thor’s hammer around his throat and sighed.

I quickly ran a brush through my hair and cleaned my teeth before settling down in front of the TV.

I watched some morning cartoons for a while and Louis worked on his laptop.

“I created a new website,” he said. “It’s called Real Vampires. I’ve already put up a video of myself cracking some really lame jokes.”

“You’re so stupid,” I told him. He flipped me off and continued to work on the website.

“And…there. There, I just added a video of you playing guitar.”

I looked at the computer screen. It was me, practicing Sarah’s Song.

“Thanks, Louis,” I said sarcastically.

“No problem, stretch.”

An hour later, as I watched Tom chase Jerry around the room and get his tail stuck in an electrical outlet, Louis whistled loudly.

“Seventeen views already,” he said. “You’re popular, little buddy. People like your guitar playing. Two comments. ‘Wow, he’s really talented. I didn’t know he could play.’ And this other one is random gibberish. I’ll add another one.”

He added another video of me playing “Evermore” from the 2017 version of Beauty and The Beast.

I texted Sarah and asked her how she was. She didn’t respond as rapidly as she normally does.

Sarah: Busy. Will talk to you later.

I sighed and played Candy Crush on my phone for an hour before I heard Uncle Soren’s motorcycle pull up. Louis looked out the window.

“He’s not wearing his helmet,” he noted. And then he called his own father a name that would have gotten him smacked if Uncle Soren had been in the same room. As it turned out, he did hear it, and it did get Louis smacked upside the head when my uncle came into the living room, smelling of gasoline and nicotine.

“Been doing some interviews, boys,” he said. “I spoke to Max and the Slaughterman family. The girl Verity had no known enemies, but of course, Max does. Evan had no known enemies, although he wasn’t particularly liked by Lockhart’s family. Apparently, Lockhart was emotionally and mentally abusive to Evan Byrd.”

I groaned. Uncle Soren looked at me.

“Reese, what Evan went through was not your fault. You tried to make his life better. Lockhart’s the one to blame for his abuse and his death.”

“I knew Reid was an asshole, I didn’t know he was abusive,” Louis said, rubbing his chin. “His last relationship was back in 1937 and it was with a woman who worked at a circus as an acrobat. She dressed like a cat and walked on the high wire.”

“What’s the point, dingbat?” Uncle Soren asked.

“No point,” Louis replied, shrugging. “Just an interesting tidbit of information. Reid came out as gay two years after he broke up with her.”

“Shut up, Louis,” I snapped. He tweaked my nose, hard.

“I also spoke to Rabbi Weinstein,” Uncle Soren said. “He says he found that vampire boy early in the morning. It was around eleven when we arrived to check out the scene. And Shadowfang says the cat that was killed was an ordinary street cat. Any thoughts, boys?”

“It’s my fault,” I muttered. “Evan’s dead and it’s all my fault.”

“Shut up, Reese,” Louis said. I yanked on his ponytail, and he grabbed my wrist and started using my own hand to hit me.

“Enough, boys,” Uncle Soren said firmly. Louis let me go, and I stuck my tongue out at him.

“That’s it,” Louis said, slamming the computer lid shut. “I challenge you to a wrestling match. Loser has to give the winner five hundred dollars.”

“Shut up, Louis,” Uncle Soren griped.

“If you tell me to shut up one more time- “

“Shut up, Louis,” I repeated. He glared at me. If I’d been anyone else, he would have beaten me to a pulp by now.

“Dad, did you see the crazy lady who came by?” Louis finally asked his father.

“I saw it on the security camera,” Uncle Soren answered him. “What’s it called? Ring? Quite a clever invention. Extra safety for our little one.” He ruffled my hair.

“What about me?” Louis whined.

“You’re a big boy. You can take care of yourself.”

Louis frowned and opened his computer back up.

“Did you save your work?” I teased.

“Hush, Reese.”

He ignored me and started typing again on his laptop when I noticed something.

“Hey, your camera light is on,” I said.

“It is?” He looked up and saw the green light. “Shit. Someone’s watching us.”

He reached into a drawer and pulled out some duct tape. He put some tape over the camera, and did something that made a bunch of data appear on the screen.

“I got you, you son of a bitch,” Louis teased. “Shit, he’s not on anymore. I can’t track him.”

“Or her,” I corrected. He grabbed me around the neck and gave me a noogie. I shoved him off of me and gave him a purple nurple. He laughed out loud and grabbed me around the neck.

“Take it outside, boys,” Father said, coming into the room with a lit cigarette in his hand.

“You too, Mordecai,” Uncle Soren said. “When you smoke in here, it stinks for days.”

Louis dragged me out to the front lawn, where we proceeded to have a truly short wrestling match in which he won. He pinned me to the grass, laughing evilly. I turned and saw an ant watching us. I blew it, and it flew several yards back.

Louis’ fangs extended, and he nipped my cheek. I bared my teeth at him, and I rolled him around. I heard laughing, and someone saying, “They’re not fighting, they’re playing!”

I looked up and saw my friends Mason and Ariella, the former of whom looked concerned.

“Are you here to pick up Frodo?” I asked, briefly relaxing and getting kicked off.

“Yeah,” she said. “Is he ready?”

“He’s excited,” I told her. “He’s sick of us.”

I went back inside and told the cat his new owner was ready for him. He flicked his tail, and if cats could smile, he would have been smiling. He greeted her as she entered the room, followed closely by Mason. My goth friend still looked worried, as if he had a stomachache.

Frodo jumped into Ariella’s arms, and I gathered his toys and some food into a large baggie and gave it to her.

“Why did you park on the road?” I asked. “My driveway’s open.”

“No reason,” she said, shrugging. “Do you need to say goodbye, Frodo?”

“Goodbye, losers,” Frodo said to the general room. His siblings and parents looked miffed, and Louis and Uncle Soren laughed. Uncle Soren and Ariella made eye contact, and she blushed. I knew she felt bad for how she’d treated him. Despite the fact that he looked like he was in his late thirties or early forties, they’d had a real relationship and had fallen in love.

There was an awkward silence for a few moments. Uncle Soren turned and started petting Catniss. Her rear end shot up, and she started purring. Louis played with his belly button. Father stared at the TV. Ariella just stared at my uncle with a heartbroken look on her face, and then she turned around and walked out the front door, slamming it in the process.

“Why are you here, Mason?” I asked.

“I’m sorry I didn’t call first, but I don’t know what to do, and Noah’s acting like an ass,” he admitted.

“What’s going on?” I asked, gesturing for him to take a seat in the living room. Immediately, Anakin jumped up and started rubbing against Mason.

“I feel so guilty,” he said. “Something is happening to me. I don’t know what to do,” he repeated. He put his face in his hands.

“Are you going to beat around the bush?” Louis interrupted. I glared at him, and he shrugged.

“Do you mind?” I snapped.

“Let’s go, Louis,” Uncle Soren said.

“No, stay. I need advice, and my father is no help,” Mason said.

“What’s going on? Does it involve Elsa?” I asked.

He nodded. “It also involves Scarlett.”


“Do we know any other Scarlett?”

“I’ve known plenty of Scarletts,” Louis said. Uncle Soren pinched him.

“Mason, she’s bad news,” I said, ignoring Louis. “Remember, she drove the other girls to do some weird shit. She’s a dark one. She even drove the other girls to attack Sarah, including her best friend.”

“I know, but…oh, geez, I’m so pathetic.”

“You’re not pathetic. You’re confused. We’ve all been in your shoes. I used to love both Evan and Sarah. Louis has made a career out of loving multiple people at once.”


I looked at my father and uncle. “Anything to add?”

“Dangerous women are addictive,” Father said. “So are dangerous men.”

“Not for me,” Uncle Soren said. “Unlike the rest of you, I know what I want.”

“Soren, you are the last person who should give the boy advice.”

“I know more about loving women than you do, Mordecai.”

“Oh, sure, you’re many failed relationships are proof of that,” Father said sarcastically.

“If you want to talk about failed relationships, there’s proof right here.” Uncle Soren gestured to me.

“Hey, I know about failed relationships,” Mason interrupted. “My parents are divorced, remember? I know my relationship with Scarlett is over. I loved her, but she turned out to be the world’s biggest bitch. Elsa is a good girl, but she’s too good. She won’t even try cigarettes!”

“Smoking isn’t good for you, son,” Father said.

Mason ignored him. “I want to have sex, but she’s still a virgin and wants to wait for marriage. I lost mine when I was fifteen!”

“Sex is sacred to some, not to others,” I said, glancing at Louis.

“Are you referring to me, cousin?”

“Do you guys bicker like this all the time?” Mason asked. “It’s giving me a headache.”

“Hey, try being his brother for two thousand years,” Uncle Soren said, pointing at Father. “And this knucklehead-” he grabbed Louis around the neck, “-is both the greatest love of my life, and the bane of my existence. Surely you’ve fought with Krauvas.”

Mason frowned. “Yeah, we had a big fight last night. He was mad at me because I let the lily petals stew too long, and he blew up. Called me irresponsible and worthless, said I was no good at being a warlock. He even said he’d mace me if I did it again.”

“Like pepper spray?” I asked.

“Like the ball on a handle with the spikes, Reese. The one that hurts when it goes into your brain.”

“He threatened to kill you?”

“Basically, yes. I’m lost, guys. I know he’s angry right now. He’s angry at himself for not seeing this coming, he’s angry at himself for breaking up with my mom, he’s angry at my mom for wanting full custody of me, and he’s angry at me because I keep screwing up.”

“Mostly, he’s angry at himself,” Father said. “Trust me, Mason. When my son screws up, I blame myself.”


He ignored me and continued. “I know it may not seem like it, but he loves you. He’d die if anything were to happen to you. A good father is only as happy as his child.”

“That is not true,” I argued. “I’ve been depressed, and you were fine. When you were depressed, I was fine.”

“Reese thinks he knows everything,” Father told my friend. “Sadly, he’s mistaken on that count. What I said is true. A good parent is only as happy as their least happiest child.”

“What about parents who suffer from natural depression, but their kids don’t?”

“I’m not talking about mental illness, mouth.”

I cringed as he leaned forward and pinched my ear.

“See what he does?” I said to Mason. “He either tweaks my nose or pinches my ear when I defend a point.”

“It’s not defending a point, it’s back-talking,” Father corrected me. “Sass.”

Mason smiled, but his dark eyes filled with tears.

“I love both Scarlett and Elsa,” he said. “I know I can’t have them both, they’d never go for that, but there should be a balance.”

“When it comes to girls like Scarlett, there is no balance,” Louis said. I looked at him in shock; Father and Uncle Soren were also surprised by his insight. He typed something in his phone, then looked up and around at us. “Why is everybody looking at me?”

“He’s right, for once,” Uncle Soren said.

“What’s that supposed to mean? That I’m never right?”

“You have to decide if you want a healthy relationship, or constant pain,” Father said. “I had to make a similar decision fifty years ago. I finally just let Faolan go, because I decided I wanted to be healthy.”

“That was Faolan?” I asked.

“Did I say Faolan? I mean John Smith,” Father rapidly corrected.

“Don’t listen to him, Reese,” Uncle Soren said. “When he and Faolan first met, they became head over heels, but Faolan was a problematic choice. Soon our father took Mordecai aside and said ‘Mordecai, do you want to keep your family, or do you want constant pain?’”

“It was the biggest mistake of my life. I should have never let him go.” Father sighed. “But I also knew and loved Marina at the time, and before long, your mother became my new obsession.”

I suddenly had an idea.

“Mason, you like Sarah, yes?”

“Of course. She’s always been nice to me, even if I haven’t been nice to her.”

“I wonder what she would say.”

Mason turned bright red. “Reese, please don’t tell her!”

“Be nice, Reese,” Father warned.

I continued, anyway. “I wonder what she would think about you, her new friend, consorting with her nemesis.”

“I couldn’t! I love Sarah!”

We both paused, and then he went as white as a ghost.

“So you love three chicks?” Louis chuckled. “That’s hardcore, man.”

“Sarah had some problems recently with her friend Britt and Britt’s boyfriend Elliot,” I said. “Elliot was with Britt, but he made no secret of his love for Sarah. He hurt both girls in the process, and wound up with neither of them. I also warned him to stay away from Sarah, or I’d rip his throat out. I’ve had multiple rivals vying for my girlfriend’s attention. Some have been harassing her for years. I’ve threatened to kill all of them at least twice. But I don’t want to threaten you, because you’re one of my best friends. Don’t make me hurt you, Mason. Besides, she’s said over and over again that she only has eyes for me. That should be enough.”

“Reese, calm down,” Father said, sounding concerned.

“I-I should g-go,” Mason stuttered.


He stood up, paused to scratch Remy’s ears, and went out the front door.

“That was classic,” Louis giggled.

Uncle Soren glared at him. “It’s not funny. If Reese can’t get his possessiveness and jealousy under control, he could snap at any time. Mates are sacred, especially soulmates, something you know nothing about.”

Louis stuck his tongue out at him, and Uncle Soren grabbed it and twisted it, causing Louis to cry out in pain.


Sarah and I were walking through the park on a rainy Sunday, both of us quiet for once and unsure. Sarah looked amazing. She wore her black studded boots, black ripped jeans with fishnets underneath, and a Ghost concert shirt that I’d given her.

She wasn’t wearing any makeup, and her normally tanned skin was paler than usual. Although her hair was braided in a fishtail braid, it was clearly dirty. She had wanted to bring Spunk, but he refused to step outside for fear of getting wet.

She wore a black Harley-Davidson jacket, which she kept zipped up with the hood over her head to keep the rain off. We reached a tornado shelter and sat at one of the tables. I killed a spider on the seat beside me, and Sarah studied her fingernails for a few minutes.

Finally, the rain let up, and we could speak.

“Did you hear from your mom?” she asked.

I blinked. “I spoke to her just a few minutes ago. She wanted every detail of my life that is currently in procession.”

“No, I mean…” She bit her lip. “I can’t say it, she wants to tell you herself. Ah, well. Alexander bought a yacht.”

“Of course he did.”

“He bought it in case we ever need to escape the mainland and go somewhere else,” she joked dryly. “I think he bought it just to show off.”

“He bought a Bugatti for his and my mom’s wedding,” I said. “Does he still have that?”

“Yes, but he’s made us promise not to touch it, or, I quote ‘your fingers will get meet their doom.’ He’s always been one for the dramatic, hasn’t he? I mean, he tried to kidnap me to get to you.”

“I haven’t forgotten,” I growled. “Can we talk about something else? How’s Sabine?”

She frowned. “Let’s not talk about Sabine. She hates me right now. She thinks you’re responsible for James’ death and she thinks Mom and Alexander prefer me over her. Plus, she still doesn’t know the truth about how our mother died.”

I winced. Her mother had been killed by my mother in an act of revenge for the girls. Sarah had already forgiven my mother, but it still stung her.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, taking her small, soft manicured hand in my large ones. “You’ve been Gloomy Gabby for days.”

“Let’s see: my sister hates me, both my parents are dead, my mom was an alcoholic, my grandparents, the human ones, now want nothing to do with me or Sabine, I just found out I’m part fairy, Coffee has a hernia on her tummy, I’m losing my friends due to graduation and the fact that half of them are in love with me, I lost Caden Cartwright as a friend, I was raped, you have been distant, and my friends attacked me, and my mother left me and my sister in debt, and I had to rely on your family to bail us out. Need I say more?”

She burst into tears and buried her head in her arms on the table.

I didn’t know what to say.

“How have I been distant?” I asked, coming up with the first thing that stuck to me. “And when did you find out Coffee has a hernia? Will she need surgery?”

“I’m being a bitch,” Sarah whined, wiping a tear away from her eye.

“You’re not a bitch,” I said. “You’re a sweet, lovable, trusting girl who has been abused and mistreated her whole life, and you’re sick of it. I don’t claim to understand most of it, but I know the feeling of being without your mother your whole life.”

“Your mother had no choice,” Sarah said. “Mine had a choice. And yours came back, didn’t she?”

“She did, she did.”

“You’ve been distant ever since you found out that Evan died.”

“I’m sorry if I’ve upset you, Sarah. But Evan was my other soulmate, and I didn’t exactly treat him well.”

“But you treated me well.”

“I hope I have.”

“It doesn’t make sense.”

“Soulmates are complicated. A person or being has two potential soulmates, but only one true soulmate. That’s how it was explained to me, at least. Some beings can have more than two potential soulmates, but it’s rare. Some people are married several times without ever meeting their true soulmate, or mistreating and thereby losing them forever. I blame myself for Evan’s death. He will always be a part of me, but he’s in the past, and you are the present and the future, a gift from the gods.”

“He hated me.”

“No, he didn’t, sweetheart. I promise he didn’t. He was jealous for a time, but he got over it.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m positive.”

I went around the table and sat beside her. I hugged her.

“I love you, Sarah. Nothing can change that.”

She buried her face in my jacket and wept. I held her and rocked her a little, hissing at a bird who came too close. I may have also frightened a human couple walking their pit bull.

“I apologize if I’ve upset you, Sarah. I didn’t mean to. I would never hurt you on purpose, I swear.”

She giggled, despite her tears. “This sounds cliché, but I love it when you call me baby or sweetheart or lover.”

“Well, that’s because you’re mine. Mine and no one else’s.”

“I know I’ve told you this before, but my dad used to call me Belle. His French Belle.”

“You are a belle. You’re beautiful and smart, and you love books and music as much as I do. I brought that book along by Jamie Williams if you want to continue reading it.”

“I would love that.”

I pulled the book out of my pocket, and realized the cover had been chewed on a bit. I sighed. I would have to talk to the cats about personal property and touching something that isn’t yours.

I kept reading.

I stared at my young rival, and then I laughed. ‘It’s not funny,’ he snarled.

It is funny, because you are what one would describe as a nincompoop. There is a reason why I am here, but it’s none of your business, fool. I do as I please, and I enjoy what I do. So get over it.’ He bared his teeth, and leaped at me. I clotheslined him, and then I grabbed his head. ‘I could snap your neck if I so chose. But I won’t, because I care about Carissa too much. So here’s your warning: don’t test me.”

I continued reading until two more chapters in, and then I marked the spot with a receipt from my favorite record store and closed it.

She was leaning against me, and I kissed the top of her head. She was unbraiding her fishtail braid, and then rebraiding it in a French braid. I kissed her again, and soon we were kissing. I nibbled on her lip a bit-she bit mine in response. I turned her and nibbled on her earlobe, careful to keep her earring out of my mouth. Then I noticed something.

“Where did you get these earrings?” I asked.

“They came to me through a relative on my dad’s side. Do you like them?”

No, I really didn’t. Because these earrings, these ruby-red earrings with werewolves in the center, were a pair I knew for a fact were cursed.


I didn’t know how to tell her. I knew I’d have to, or she would die. We were coming home, to the Nicolai house, and when we walked in, Selena was holding Cirino, who smiled and reached out his hands for Sarah.

“Ba,” he said, giggling. “Ma.”

She picked him up, and he reached for her braid. She pecked his forehead, and then he looked at me and his smile disappeared. I wasn’t sure he liked me too well. Maybe babies, like animals, can sense tension.

Sarah brushed his small blond hairs, which were growing rapidly. He had her green eyes, and they stared at me relentlessly. She kissed him again, and he signaled that he wanted to be put down. She set him in his playpen, where he promptly started pulling at the carpet.

“Don’t do that, sweetie,” she said, moving his hands away, waving a mirror in front of him. He grabbed the mirror instead, giggling at his own reflection. Something hit me.

“Hey, Sarah, you would do anything for him, right?” I asked.

“Of course,” she replied sweetly. “Most parents would do anything for their kids. Even this little stinker.”

“Hey, Alexander,” I said to my stepfather, “Would you do anything for Kieran?”

“Reese, there are a lot of things I would do for Kieran,” he gruffed. “Anything is a bit of a stretch.”

“But, like, if someone murdered Kieran, what would you do?”

He looked at me in astonishment. “If you must know, ask your father what he did when Rosales was killed,” he said. “Ask your uncle what he would do if one of his fledglings was killed, or even Louis. Ask your mother what she would do if you or one of the girls was killed.”

I knew the answer. She’d get revenge, any way she could. So would Uncle Soren, and so would Father and Alexander. Something tickled in the back of my mind. But what? I thought back to the last two years. What all had happened?

I’d started dating Sarah, met an uncle I never knew I had, met an evil version of myself, became a brother, met my girlfriend’s relatives, found a book called The Book of Transformation and Death….

Something was definitely ticking in my mind. But what? Something to do with death. There was the Book, my uncle’s death, my girlfriend’s parents’ deaths, and all the human deaths I’d been at least partly responsible for.

Deciding to put it out of my mind for now, I instead watched my girlfriend play with her son, who found her as endlessly fascinating as I did. She was a good girl, although she had her flaws. That was okay, though-I was much more flawed than she was.

No one is perfect, not even her, except for Jesus, according to her Christian side of the family.

She dangled a rattle in front of him, and he reached for it. Then I noticed something.

“Where’s Spunk?” I asked. The male golden retriever was usually jumping all over me and trying to lick my face.

“He’s at the vet with Coffee,” Sarah explained. “He ate a toy rope, silly head.”

Something deep and ugly grew in the pit of my gut. Something was wrong. Very wrong.

“Are you sure he’s okay?” I asked.

A small crease formed between her perfect eyebrows, then she said, “I’m sure he’s fine.”

“You are so paranoid, brother,” Selena said, looking at me. “I know we haven’t known each other long, but I can already tell you’re a worrier. Simmer down and relax for a few minutes.”

Sarah huffed out a laugh. “Reese hasn’t relaxed once since I’ve known him,” she said. “Especially when we started dating, he was always so tense and worried. He was even afraid another guy would “steal” me away from him!” She added air quotes.

She continued. “As if that’s possible. Reese, you are my first and only love. I will stay with you until you no longer want me or until one of us dies.”

“Why wouldn’t I want you?” I asked, ignoring the second half of her sentence. “You are fantastic, and smart, and funny, and you watch wrestling, read manga, enjoy movies, you are kind and sweet as hell, and you’re a good mother to the little man in the playpen there.”

“Alexander,” I said, below human hearing, “Those earrings on Sarah’s ears. Where did they come from?”

“I don’t know, Reese,” he growled. “I know, they’re cursed. She only said they came from a relative on her mother’s side.”

“You know they’re cursed?” I asked at normal volume in Spanish.

“Aye, I know every product that the old man ever sold,” he replied, also in Spanish.

“You’re talking about those ugly things on her ears?” Selena asked in Greek. “I knew there was a reason I didn’t like them. All right, I’ll take them when she’s asleep tonight and hide them.”

“Thank you, Selena,” I said in English. I turned to Alexander. “How did you know the old man, anyway?”

“The same way your father did. I bought some of the objects he sold,” he said, with a disturbing grin creeping onto his face.

“What are you guys talking about?” Sarah chirped.

“Your earrings, the ones on your ears,” I said truthfully. “They look like a pair that my father’s friend, Radcliffe, sold in his shop. Radcliffe sold a lot of cursed items.”

“Cursed?” she squeaked. She carefully took the earrings off and handed them to Selena.

“Thank you, dear,” my sister said. “I’d hate for these to fall into the wrong hands, or worse, kill you or your sister.”

Sarah stared at her socked feet. “Why would she want to curse me? What’s going on with my mother’s side of the family? They knew what you were, Reese. They were angry with me for deciding to live here. They stopped talking to me over it. But why would they want me dead?”

“You’re not going to start crying again, are you?” Alexander scoffed, causing both me and Selena to glare at him in warning.

Sarah bit her lip and stared at the floor, her eyes filling with wetness, but she didn’t start sobbing, thank the gods. She went upstairs instead. I followed her.

She was sitting at her vanity, taking the elastic out of her hair and grabbing a boar-bristle brush.

“May I?” I asked, pulling her desk chair over. She nodded, and I started running the brush over her hair. I noticed that it lost some of its curl when I did that. Her hair was wavy from the braid, and I slowly brushed the waves out, admiring the softness and shine. Her hair smelled like coconut today.

I’ve never understood the need for girls to smell like fruit, until I started noticing them. Especially her. I’d had crushes before her, but not as intense or extreme. I truly loved her. At first it was just lust, then infatuation, then love. I felt all of those things for her now.

I brushed her hair back, and she set out a hair straightener, pushed a button, and it started warming up. Meanwhile, she started getting out different makeup and serums and potions. First, she rubbed her face with her dry hands, to stimulate the blood flow. Then she pumped two squirts of face moisturizer into her fingers and rubbed them together.

I sat and stared, amazed at all the different products that usually went into her routine. I’m not the type to wear a ton of makeup, and I usually don’t anymore, and growing up in a royal household, it is expected of me to look my best at all times in the company of others. Other than my family, I mean.

I won’t lie and say I don’t care about my appearance. I brush my hair, I keep it tied up when it’s long, I wear clean clothes and try to keep my boots and sneakers clean.

A vision hit me.

I am writhing on the ground. My arm is sliced open, and half my leg is missing. I am laying on my side, crying and shaking.

I blinked, then shook my head. My new futuristic visions were incredibly random and strange. Couldn’t they bring me something more cheerful? I would have loved to see my son or one of my daughters again.

Sarah went to her dresser and pulled out a pair of athletic shorts and a tank top. She slowly took off her clothes, while I watched. And then I found myself looking at her stomach. Was Shadowfang right? Had I become a father already, and didn’t know it?

It takes two weeks, doofus, I reminded myself. It’s only been a couple of days.

Sarah pulled on the shorts and the top, then spun around in a circle.

“How do I look?”

“Lovely, as always.”

She laughed, a sprinkling of rain soothing the dryness of my undead heart. She turned out the bedroom lights and crawled into bed, turning the heat blanket up to a high setting.

“All I want to do is go to sleep and never wake up,” she said.

“Don’t say that,” I said, horrified. “I’d be alone if that were to happen.”

“Too many people either want me dead or want me as a sex slave,” she groaned.

I kicked off my boots and settled in next to her. She buried her face in my chest and closed her eyes.


When I woke up, I had twenty texts from Father, and thirty calls.

“Shit,” I said. He was going to kill me. I’d fallen asleep next to her, and now, as I slowly moved away, she grabbed at me and whispered:

“No, don’t go.”

“I have to, lover. My father will kill me if I’m not home in one second.”

She groaned and let me go, all while muttering nonsensically, still half-asleep. I kissed her, pulled my boots on, and crept down the stairs.

Mother waved to me from the kitchen, and I waved back. We both knew we had to be quiet so as to not wake the other vampires in the house.

I left out the front door, and started the short run home. My mother’s house was less than a mile from Father’s house, and both were on the outskirts of town, so to be away from prying humans or other beings.

Halfway there, a light suddenly blinded me. I stopped, shield my face with my arms, and the next thing I knew, someone hit me in the gut, sending me flying back twenty feet. The being, wraith, whatever, it started tearing at my clothes. I reached for my cell phone, but the being stepped on my hand, breaking the small bones.

I cried out in pain, and then the wraith threw my cell phone into a puddle of water.

“Fuck,” I cursed. “Get off of me!”

The wraith exposed my neck, then bit down hard. I screamed in response. The wraith started to tear my head off, and then sliced my left arm open with its black claw.

Tears streamed down my face, and then the second being moved onto me. The being bit into my right thigh, tearing through the flesh easily. I screamed and cried out, but I didn’t see or hear anyone coming. I was going to die. I was really going to die.

Sarah. She’d be alone, possibly without our kids, for the rest of her life. She was so young…she’d been born six months after me. I had been born in October, and then she was born in February the next year. If she was pregnant, she’d have to raise Caitlin or Joseph alone.

The fact that I already knew their names meant so much to me.

The beings began tearing at me, ripping my stomach open, and then slashing my chest. I closed my eyes for the second time that night and prepared for death.

But death didn’t come. In fact, I felt better, although I was still in a lot of pain. I opened my eyes, then closed them again, sure that the light being was back. Then I heard voices.

“It’s all my fault.”

“No, Mordecai-“

“I told him to come home right away. I didn’t consider the danger. I was angry at him. I should have let him stay where he was.”

“Mordecai, this isn’t your fault.”

“How is it not my fault, Father? I left him thirty voicemails and twenty text messages. I should have let him stay where he was. He almost died.”

“It’s all right. We got to him in time. He was halfway between the homes, and both sides heard his screams and shouts. You and your brother rushed there, along with Selena and Alexander. We scared those strange entities away.”

“Marina will never forgive me.”

“Probably not. She has been giving you the silent treatment, has she not?”

“She hates my guts.”

“A lot of people hate your guts, son, Alexander and Marina included. As long as you’ve lived, you should know by now that you can’t please everyone, and not everyone is going to like you.”

“Father?” I croaked. My throat was dry and sore.

“Reese!” I heard him rushing toward me; I hissed at the sudden movement.

“Slower, son. Move slower for now.”

“Right. Forgive me, Reese. Son, I am so, so, so sorry. It’s my fault you’re hurt. Please, open your eyes.”

“The light hurts.”

“Turn off the lights, Ethan.”

Ethan was there, too?

He turned off the lights and I finally opened my eyes. My father and grandfather both gasped.

“His eyes…”

“I know, Mordecai. Ethan, please explain.”

“I-I can’t…” For once, the vampire nurse was at a loss for words.

“What’s wrong? I can see fine,” I said.

Ethan handed me a small mirror. I gasped when I saw my own reflection in the mirror. My eyes were stark white. The yellow of the irises and black of the pupil was gone, replaced by pure whiteness. I started panicking.

“How long am I going to be like this?! I can’t let Sarah see me like this!”

“If you can see, I’d honestly be worried about your leg,” Ethan broke in.

“My leg?”

“It was torn in half. I almost didn’t get to you in time.”

“But my eyes-“

“Forget about your eyes, Reese,” Grandfather said grouchily. “Your arm was sliced open, and so was your belly and chest.”

“I don’t care about that! I look hideous! Of course, I always knew I was ugly, but this…this is unforgivable!”

“Reese, calm down!” Father shouted, grabbing my shoulders. I flinched and hissed responsively. He quickly backed off, hands held up, proving he wasn’t a threat.

Suddenly, I went blind. I couldn’t see-it was pure darkness.

“I can’t see now! I can’t see at all!”

“Reese, calm down! Ethan, fix him!”

“I would if I could, but I can’t! This is beyond my capabilities. Reese, you’ve been asleep for three days. Try to remember if you saw anything.”

“First, I need blood.”

“Ethan, get him some blood.”

“I will get it, Mordecai,” Grandfather said, and I heard him leave the room.

“Reese, close your eyes. Good boy. Now, Ethan, do you have some bandages that we can put over his eyes?”

“I have some eyepatches that might work. Let me go get them.”

I heard the door open and close, and his footsteps walking away. Then Father spoke up again.

“I’m so sorry Reese. This is all my fault. Please forgive me.”

“Shut up.”

“Boy, I am your father, and you will…oh, forget it. I can’t get angry at you right now. I’ve already messed up so badly, and I almost paid the ultimate price.”

Grandfather and Ethan returned at the same time. First, Ethan put the eyepatches over my eyes, and then Grandfather tipped my head up and forced me to sip A positive through a straw. When the glass was empty, I had a question.

“Where are we?”

“We’re at Mercy Hospital, son. Where Ethan used to work.”

“Don’t remind me,” Ethan growled.

Stomach rumbling, I settled back into the bed.

“Try to sleep, boy.”


“It’s the middle of the night, you’re injured and exhausted, and so are we. I will stay with you, Reese.”

“Okay, Father.”

“Good boy. Now sleep. Sleep….”

I slept for another twelve hours before waking up.

Mother had a bowl of ice chips ready for me. I could smell them.

“My poor baby,” she cooed, holding one to my lips. I took it out of her fingers and ate it.

“Can we remove the patches?” Sarah asked.

“Sarah? Father, I told you I didn’t want her to see me!”

“Sorry, son, but she insisted. She said she didn’t care how you looked.”

“I don’t,” Sarah said. “And you look awful. How bad was it?”

“It was bad,” Louis told her. “Half his leg was missing, and his arm was sliced open. There was blood everywhere.”

She gasped, and I pictured her hands going over her mouth.

“It was my fault, Sarah,” Father said. “I told him to come back.”

“Shut up, Father,” I snapped.

He chuckled dryly. “As you wish.”

I felt Sarah’s hands take my hand. “I don’t care how you look, you’re still beautiful to me,” she said.

“You’re sweet. You’re wrong, but sweet. I know I look like a pile of pig shit.”

“I’d hug you, but I don’t want to hurt you,” she lamented.

“A gentle hug will be okay.”

She indeed gave me a gentle hug.

I pulled her close and gave her a big kiss. I immediately regretted it, as pain echoed through my body. I hissed, and I felt her pull back.

“How long will he have to wear these eyepatches?” Sarah asked.

“For at least a week,” Ethan told her. I could feel her eyes on me again.

“My poor child,” Mother cooed.

“My sweet baby,” Sarah purred, grabbing my hand.

I felt content, with my girl with me, along with my parents.

I stayed in the hospital for a week, in which Ethan, Mother, or Father constantly applied ointment to my burns and wounds. Ethan took the eyepatches off on Saturday, but he told me not to open my eyes yet.

I kept them closed begrudgingly. He kept the curtains and the lights shut off.

Finally, one day, I was able to open my eyes.

The lights were still off, and I carefully opened them slowly. Father let out a sigh of relief.

“Back to normal,” he said gratefully. He turned to Sarah. “When we first saw his eyes after the attack, they were completely white. No yellow or black at all.”

She looked at me, and I noticed bags under her beautiful eyes. Her eyelashes seemed longer, and I realized she was wearing false eyelashes. She seemed small and weak, fragile.

“Come here,” I said. She wrapped her arms around me. I growled a bit at the pain, but pulled her into me. I squeezed her until she said my name.


The end of my high school career was approaching, and we still had not figured out who the murderers were. I got out of the hospital, ready to keep going to school until it was over. I looked like shit, but I tolerated the stares, gasps, and classmates asking what had happened. I told them the truth- I’d been attacked by a wild animal.

“What kind of animal?” Mia Rayport asked.

“Bear,” I fibbed. I shared a significant look with Sarah. She’d probably tell Mia the truth later. Mia looked from her to me, curiosity in her eyes.

“How did you get attacked by a bear?” Patrick asked snootily.

“I was walking home, minding my own business, when the son of a bitch charged me,” I snapped. “How does anyone get attacked by a wild animal? I mean, unless you’re taunting it or you’re way too close to their young or whatever.”

Patrick looked at me as if I had two heads, and I glared at him. He quaked under my look, and Sarah said, “Be nice, Reese.”

“Your friends think I’m a loser,” I told her, ignoring their ferocious looks. “My friends think you’re amazing, and yours are just dicks.”

Sarah grinned guiltily at her group. “Sorry, guys, but he’s not wrong.”

“Does being a vampire automatically mean you’re a douchebag?” Dante quipped.

“Oh, you don’t believe I’m royalty?” I teased.

“I think you’re a fucking weirdo,” he told me.

“You’re making a big mistake, Dante Tyler,” I said. Sarah punched my arm, then winced and shook her hand at the bone-hard muscle under my skin. I laughed evilly, and her friends just stared at me.

Then Amara came over. Several of the girls gave her dirty looks, and several boys had hearts in their eyes. Amara was a beautiful, interesting girl, and none of the preppy girls had anything on her. She and Sarah greeted each other like sisters, and Amara showed off her hair, which was lavender again. Sarah complimented her shirt, which had a Nirvana album cover on it, and Amara complained that her ankle boots were hurting her feet.

“I rode my motorcycle today,” Amara said.

“Dyke,” said one of the blond preps, and the girls giggled. Sarah shot her a dirty look, and the girls shut up immediately.

“At least I didn’t kiss my cousin, Trisha,” Amara came back, making the girl’s ears go red.

Sarah and I looked at each other, and she burst out laughing, making Trisha’s ears go even redder. Then she started choking, because we were seeing the same thing. Jordan Hart. She was alive.

Now, I’d watched Jordan die, and I couldn’t understand what she was doing here. She was a twisted, evil girl, even more evil than Scarlett, who we had thought to be her sister. It turned out that she was actually Michael Nales’ sister…the whole thing didn’t make much sense to me.

But now, everyone was staring, and several people gasped. She was heading straight for us, her denim miniskirt barely covering her ass. She wore a hot pink halter top with silk fabric, which I found incredible in this heat.

“Hello, girls,” she purred. “Miss me?”

Sarah had gone pale. When Sarah was still pregnant with Cirino, Jordan had tried to force her to jump off a bridge. She had almost died. Sarah took refuge behind me, and I growled at the blond-haired witch.

“Hello, Reese,” she cooed. “I see you’ve filled out a bit since I last saw you. And your hair’s grown. You could put it in a ponytail now!” She laughed as if she’d said something funny. “Good morning, Sarah. I know you had the baby. How is he? Is he well?”

“Don’t touch him,” Sarah growled, her mothering instincts shining through. Jordan gave her an icy stare, and Sarah hid behind me again.

“Watch your tongue, bitch,” I hissed.

“Such language!” she cried, putting her hand over her chest. “Of course, there’s one more person you need to see.”

Sarah went even paler, and I looked up.

Michael Nales. He was alive.


Sarah went home early, and I felt sick to my stomach. I went to the nurse’s office halfway through Senior English, and emptied my stomach in the bathroom.

Michael had caused even more of a stir, and he said nothing as he stopped and glared at me, then Sarah, before the bell rang for class.

As I drove home, I decided to stop by Mother’s house first to check on Sarah.

When I entered through the front door, my sister was rubbing my girlfriend’s back, shushing her and saying, “It’s all right, baby. It’s all right.”

Mother was furious. “So Nales is back, is he?”

“Yes,” I said. “I…gods, I don’t know what to think. This is not my area of expertise.”

“No, yours is music, isn’t it?” Alexander growled from where he was situated on the settee. “Damn it, this is all your stupid uncle’s fault, Reese.”

“My uncle? Uncle Soren, you mean?” I asked, confused. “I don’t understand.”

“I have a theory. What’s the most important book in his possession?”

“The Book of Transformation and Death?”

“Exactly. And…” he gulped. “Your father called me personally. He wanted me to make sure you came here first. Mathias is back.”

“Mathias? That’s impossible! He’s dead!”

“But he wasn’t burned, only buried,” Alexander said. “A vampire can put himself together again if he is not burned by fire.”

I felt faint. I fell on my ass on the hard floor. Mother came over to me and felt my forehead.

“You’re cold, dear,” she said. “Do you need some warm milk?”

“I need a bed,” I said. She picked me up and took me to my room in the house, and set me on the bed. She handed me the remote control and took my boots off.

“I’ll send Sarah up here,” she said.

I fainted.

When I woke up, I was under the covers, still fully clothed, and Sarah was laying beside me, watching Totally Spies! She had undressed and was now wearing a nightgown that covered her tiny feet. Her hair was loose, and makeup was smeared on her face, like the night I’d found her crying in the bathroom after Nales had assaulted her.

I sat up, groaning at the crick in my hip, and licked her makeup off. I licked her face until it was clean, and she wrapped her arms around me.

“I’m scared, Reese,” she said.

“I know, lover. I am, too. I’m scared as hell. Three people who are supposed to be dead in one day come back to life? It’s like a bad daytime drama.”

I pulled her into my lap, and then we heard scratching at the door.

“Spunk and Coffee are back,” she said. “Spunk wants to join us.”

“Bad dog!” I shouted, and then I heard whining. Sarah smacked my chest.

“Don’t be rude.”

She got up and let him in, and he responded to the invitation by licking her feet, then jumping on the bed and licking my face.

“I’m more of a cat person,” I said, pushing him away. He ignored the slight and laid down behind me. Sarah came back, closing the door only slightly, and coming back to crawl into my lap.

I licked her cheek, and she smiled.

“Does it not bother you that I’m licking you like a dog?” I asked.

“Alexander told me that vampire venom makes your saliva sterile, so….”

“He’s right, it does.” I kissed her nose. I positioned her so her legs were over mine, and we were facing each other.

I admired her eyes, her button nose, her full lips. She leaned forward and kissed me. I kissed her back, my heart aching for her touch. And then she pounced on me, straddling my legs, pushing me into the bed. She ignored the dog, who licked both our faces, and she undid my jeans.

We both needed a release, and she’d get one. Just then, I had a thought.

“Sarah,” I said, “Stop for a minute. If whoever’s bringing the dead back to life has reached Nales, maybe they’ve reached your mother.”

She groaned and put her face in her hands.

“I can’t handle this,” she said. “I-I need to go.”

She got off the bed and went across the hall to her room. Admiring her soft curves in the white silk she wore, she shut the door and I heard ruffling around. When she came back out, she was fully dressed and wearing Toms. She went into my room and grabbed her phone. I grabbed her by the shoulders.

“Baby, stop,” I said. “Where are you going?”

“Somewhere else,” she said.

“Don’t. It’s too dangerous. At least three people who hate us are alive again, and if anything happened to you…at least let me drive.”

“Fine. You can drive. Be quick.”

I rushed putting my boots on again, and I joined her in the living room.

“Children, where are you going?” Mother asked, standing in our way.

“Get out of the way!” Sarah shouted, pushing Mother aside. Mother grabbed her shoulders and pulled her around to face her.

“What happened?” she asked.

“My mother’s alive again,” Sarah said. “I have to know for sure if it was you who killed her.”

Mother’s face hardened. “You merely need to ask, dear. Yes, I killed her. She was toxic. She was destroying your life. She had to be eliminated. I am your mother now, and you need to listen to me.”

Sarah burst into tears. Mother pulled Sarah into her, and Sarah fought to get away. Mother’s grip hardened, and I heard a crack. Sarah cried out in pain, and Alexander came up behind Mother.

“Let her go, dear,” he said. “She needs to find her mother.”

“NO! I am her mother now! I am her soulmother! I can’t let that bitch take her from me!”

“Mom, let go,” I pleaded, trying to pry her fingers from Sarah’s wrist. Finally, finally, she let Sarah go, and Sarah rushed out the door, stumbling on the front steps, before rushing to her car and driving away before I could follow.

I sighed loudly.

“I need to go find her,” I said.

“She is my daughter! I need to find her!” Mother said, grabbing my shoulders and spinning me around.

“She’s my fiancée!” I shouted.


“Yes. I asked her to marry me. She said yes.”

Mother stood stock still, and I could see a range of emotions run across her face. Joy, anger, sorrow, happiness, irritation, frustration, aggravation, hope, and more hope.

“I’ll go after her,” I said.

“I’ll go with you,” Selena said. “It won’t be safe with her gone and Sabine missing.”

My sister and I both got into my Nissan, my nose working overtime, I tracked her scent to the nearest McDonald’s, and I asked the cashier if she’d seen a brown-haired girl in a Victoria’s Secret hoodie driving a gold Honda. She said she had, and I asked what she’d ordered.

A large caramel macchiato, a large chocolate shake, a Big Mac with extra bacon, two large fries, and a chicken sandwich.

“No way she can eat all that,” Selena said.

“You’d be surprised what she can fit into her mouth,” I replied, following the trail to a bookstore, where she had idled for a few minutes and then took off again. I followed her scent to her old neighborhood. Her old house still had a For Sale sign. Apparently, death was a big factor in choosing where to live.

I continued to follow her trail to a Walmart, then a shoe store, then the mall, where her scent ended. I spotted her car in the parking lot, food wrappers in the passenger seat and a half-melted chocolate shake. I got out and Selena followed. We walked into the pet store entrance, where puppies barked, birds chirped and talked, and cats meowed.

A smiling salesgirl said “Hi, welcome to North Hampton pet store, the only pet store in town whose puppies don’t have kennel cough.”

We ignored her and continued to follow Sarah’s scent to several fashion stores, an accessories store, a store that sold glasses, an electronics store, and finally, the food court.

We spotted her in line at the Chinese place, carrying several shopping bags. When she saw us, she turned and walked toward the bathrooms.

“Should I catch her?” Selena asked.

“Go at a human pace, and don’t frighten her,” I warned, and she took off after Sarah.

My girl ducked into the ladies’ room, where I heard sounds of retching. Selena followed her, and I stood right outside. The retching went on for a while, and then I heard soft crying. This was all my fault; I should have kept my mouth shut.

I heard water running and splashing, a paper towel being used. I heard bags being grabbed, and then Selena and Sarah came out. Sarah was wearing a new pair of pants and hoodie. I sniffed-her old underwear was in the trash can in the stall that was used for feminine products. I let out an exasperated breath, I would have to shift through all the other women’s used tampons and pads to get to her underwear. That was a thought I did not like to entertain.

She looked terrible- there were bags under her eyes and remnants of black mascara and eyeliner and bits of brown eyeshadow still in her eyes. Selena grabbed her shopping bags and her purse and I scooped her up bridal-style and carried her outside. Selena grabbed the keys to the Honda out of Sarah’s purse and took the Honda while I took the Nissan.

She buried her face in my chest and I put her in the passenger seat of my Nissan and buckled her in, then shut the door after making sure she was all in. I got into the driver’s seat, and looked over at her. Tears were running down her face, and she was staring out the window.

I drove to my father’s house, and carried her inside, where I was immediately greeted by Father.

“Selena called me,” he said. “Alicia, too?”

I glared at him as Sarah burst into fresh tears. I licked her eyes, and then carried her up to my room and placed her on the bed. I grabbed some water and sleeping pills for her, and she took them quickly.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, as she fell asleep. “This is my fault. I love you, sweet girl.” I took her shoes off and put one of my old hoodies over the one she was wearing. I covered her head with both hoods and climbed under the covers with her. I fell asleep as quickly as she did.



I was standing on the water, then I fell through. I tasted salt water and coughed, my belly filling with the disgusting stuff. I started running, until I saw Sarah falling through the water next. I swam up to her and caught her, then carried her to the shore, and suddenly, the ocean had no water. I started running, but the sand had caught around my ankles.

I cried out as we both sank. I contemplated throwing Sarah, but then realized she would only die faster. Then an angel swooped down and grabbed my hand, but I dropped Sarah. I screamed as she sank into the sand, looked up, and realized the angel’s feathers were black, and she had the face and body of my mother.

Someone was licking my face. I hissed and snapped at the intruder with my teeth, then realized it was only Father.

“You were whimpering,” he said, seemingly abashed.

“I had another nightmare. This time, the villain was my own mother.”

“I’m sorry, Reese.”

He leaned forward and licked my ear. I growled and pushed him away. He snarled and nipped my ear in warning.

“She’s still asleep,” I said, tightening my hold on Sarah.

“Good for her,” Father said sarcastically. “Humans are so predictable. Sleep, eat, shit, and piss, that’s all they do.”

“They got to the moon,” I said.

Father cocked his head. “One of those astronauts was a vampire. Did you not know that? And we helped with the math and science shit.”



The meeting with Sarah’s family on her mother’s side did not go well. It was organized by Mother and Sarah’s grandmother, the old Italian bitch called Gianna. Benjamin Abraham was also there, and so was Alexander. I was also there. Neither Sarah nor Sabine knew about this, to our knowledge.

The first thing Mother said when she sat down was, “What exactly are you people?”

Gianna spoke first. “First, where are our granddaughters?”

“Answer my question first, old lady.”

She frowned. “We are among the Chosen. We are a race as old as angels, older than humans, but younger than God.”

“All beings are younger than God.”

“We are the descendants of Atlantis, the original humans.”

“Like the Giants?”

“The Giants are not humans, they are abominations. We were from Pangea, the original continent. Mesopotamia.”

“That doesn’t explain anything. Why are you trying to kill the girls?”

“Not kill them,” Benjamin corrected. “But they must be punished for their disobedience. That is why Emilia gave her the belladonna, to make Sarah see the light. We hoped she would think it came from you. Our intention was not to harm her.”

“You are morons,” I snapped, and my stepfather placed a warning hand on my shoulder.

“We are descendants of Noah, of Abraham and Isaac. You are against all we stand for, and all we believe in and know.”

“Sarah has an angel friend, and he’s met me before,” I said. “I can’t say that he liked me too well, but he hasn’t tried to kill me so far.”

“Then it is long overdue.” Gianna stood up, revealing that she had a stake. She aimed it for my heart, and if Alexander hadn’t pushed me out of the way, I’d probably be dead by now. He shoved both me and Mother to the ground.


Benjamin had shouted the word, and he tried to wrestle the stake out of Gianna’s hand.

“Don’t kill them, dear,” he said. “Sarah is in love with him, and she loves Marina like a mother, and Alexander like a father.”

Mother and I beamed, and Alexander grunted, although I saw joy in his eyes.

“This bitch murdered Alicia!” Gianna shouted. “And Sarah knows it!”

“Shut up, bitch,” I said. “She didn’t know until very recently. And what do you expect her to do, move out into the streets?”

“Yes! Anything would be better than living with you demons of the night!”

“Lady, we don’t even kill humans anymore,” Alexander growled. “We drink donated blood.”

“But you still drink directly from humans, do you not? And he has killed humans before!” She pointed at me. I snapped my teeth at her hand, and she drew back with horror in her eyes.

“I’ve seen shit you can only imagine came from the mind of a twisted being,” I said. “And yes, I’ve killed humans before, but only murderers and rapists. Don’t forget, I also killed the boy who raped Sarah.”

“And then brought him back to life!”

“That wasn’t me! That was our enemy, the one who is killing all these people!”

Suddenly, Alexander and Mother both looked astonished, and Mother smiled at me.

“Excellent deduction, Reese. Can you tell us why someone would want to bring our enemies back to life?”

“I don’t know…revenge, maybe?”

“Boy, you’re brilliant,” Alexander said, still nonsmiling. He looked at the Abrahams. “I hereby place you under arrest for attempted murder. Chris, if you will.”

Chris appeared with a pair of real handcuffs and placed them on Gianna. I hadn’t even known she was there. When I asked Mother about it later, she said that Chris had been told to reveal herself only when she or Alexander said her name.

Chris took Gianna away, reading her the Miranda rights.

Benjamin looked shocked, and began protesting to non-listening ears.

I needed some caffeine, so I stopped at a coffee shop and ordered a large vanilla latte. When I took it from the smiling cashier and paid her, I drank half of it in one gulp. I parked in a Walmart parking lot and thought about Sarah. She’d been living at my house for the past five days. I drove her to and from school, and her therapy appointments, which had increased. I had even gone twice with her to therapy.

I could tell Caroline didn’t like me, she thought I was dangerous, and she even asked me if I thought I was dangerous.

Yes, I was, but because I am dangerous, I am also the safest port in a storm of violence surrounding Sarah.

I love Sarah. I’ve said that many times. I’ve said it many times, because it’s the truth. When we first began dating, I had been infatuated with her, which quickly grew into true love. I adored her, worshipped the ground she walked on. I loved our future together, whatever it held. If she was pregnant now, I’d be thrilled. I would love to be the father of her children.

One of my biggest dreams was to become a father myself. Ever since I began having visions of my children, my desire only grew, until I was becoming obsessed with them. But I knew I wasn’t ready yet. We were not yet married, for one, and for another, I didn’t have a steady source of income, other than my monthly allowance and royalties.

But I considered the things I could do now. I could work at one of my father’s stores or another store in town. I knew that my favorite record store was hiring, and so was Barnes & Noble and a couple local independent stores.

I thought about publishing my own music. I could do that. Everyone said I was good. Maybe more people would like it. Other than vampires, I mean. I took a deep breath and got out my acoustic guitar. I strummed and hummed, then added a few random lyrics, and then I started creating Evan’s Song.

Oh, oh,oh,oh

What could it take

If I wanted to apologize to you

I’m holding the rake

I know you miss me too

I needed you

I loved you

This is your song

Oh, yeah

This is Evan’s song

I heard clapping and looked up to see Louis grinning like a fool. The short blond man I’d seen with him before was there too, looking amused.

“What do you want, Dungbrains?” I snapped.

“Manners, Reese, or I’ll have Paul here show you exactly what he does to me when we-“

“Too much information. What do you want?”

“Condoms. Got any?”

“Of course.” I tossed him a pack, and then he looked at them, then looked at me strangely.

“Reese, these are expired. Like, a year ago.”

“What?” I looked at the pack, then felt cold all over. “Shit. Shit, shit, shit.”

I thought about the broken condom and Shadowfang’s comment about me becoming a father soon. I doubled over, suddenly feeling sick.

“You okay, little buddy?” Louis asked, sitting beside me and putting an arm around me.

“I think I need to buy a pregnancy test.”

Louis started laughing. “I think you need to take that up with your parents, because you are definitely not pregnant.”

“Not for me, you idiot! For Sarah!”

“Oh, that’s a different story. Reese, I have bought plenty of pregnancy tests for girls I don’t give a shit about, and I’ve been in your position. Just stay calm, avoid eye contact with her parents, and tell the cashier it’s for your sister.”

“You don’t have a sister.”

“No, but you do. Trust me, girls find it hot when guys take care of their siblings, especially their sisters. Of course, you can also tell by smell. I don’t know if Sarah’s pregnant; it might be too early for her, but I do know someone else in our family who is pregnant.”

“You do? Who?”

“Ah, that would be telling, and I promised her I wouldn’t say a word. She’ll probably kick my ass, anyway, because I already opened my mouth. Let’s go, Paulie. I want to see that new movie with the lesbian vampires.”

“You just want to see that redhead take off her bra,” Paul said in a surprisingly high-pitched voice, and I realized that was the first time I’d heard him speak.

But my new knowledge about the sound of Louis’ boyfriend’s voice was nothing compared to the shock of finding out that someone in our family was pregnant.

I went to the bathroom and vomited. I was either going to be a brother or an uncle again. I felt a cool hand on my back, and my father’s voice, but what he said barely registered. He was asking me what was wrong, if I was sick, and if he could do anything.

I got up and cleaned my mouth, using half the toothpaste in the tube, and went back to my room, Father following me the whole time.

“Ask Louis,” I growled.

“Ask Louis? Our Louis? What has he done now?”

“It’s not what he’s done, it’s what he knows. Plus, I think Sarah might be pregnant.”

“You’d better figure that out quickly if you even suspect she’s pregnant. And what does Louis know?”

“He said that someone else in our family was pregnant, but he wouldn’t say whom.”

“Of course he did. He’s had experience, but then, so have I. I can smell a pregnancy a mile away, And I haven’t been around anyone lately who’s pregnant, let me tell you that right now.”

“But the female members of the family live at the other house.”

“True, true. So, what’s the plan?”


“You need to have a plan to find out who’s pregnant, and especially if Sarah’s pregnant.”

“I’m going to start by throwing these out.” I took a handful of condoms and threw them in the trash.

“Uh, those are supposed to prevent pregnancy-“

“But Louis said they’re expired. And one broke the other day. And Shadowfang said something about me becoming a father.”

“You had just had sex with her.”

Just then, my phone rang, blaring Sarah’s number.

“Hello, Reese?”

“What’s up, green eyes?”

“Well, yellow eyes, it’s like this…my mother did come back from the dead, and she’s at the house right now. I…I don’t think she’s human anymore. Can you come here? I can’t get ahold of anyone else. Chris is keeping her away as long as she can, but she won’t be able to much longer.”

“I’ll be there.”

When Father and I arrived at the house, Alicia and Sarah were shouting at each other through Sarah’s window.

“Sarah Harper, I am your mother!”

“You’re not my mother! A mother doesn’t choose alcohol over her family! A mother doesn’t hit her daughters, leave them in crippling debt, sweep trauma under the rug, or leave them with no clues!”

“You’re right, a mother doesn’t do those things, but mothers are not perfect, especially not me. And especially not her. She is not your mother! She’s his mother!”

“I know she’s his mother, and she’s treated me more like a daughter than you ever have in the short time I’ve known her. I love her. I wish she’d given birth to me instead of you!”

Alicia growled, and slashed at the screen with her new claws. Claws? I jumped up and started climbing the ivy. I grabbed Alicia around the waist and pulled her back down. I saw that her eyes were bright red, the pupils slitted. She had been turned into a vampire!

Alicia turned around and pinned me. She raised her hand to slash me, before something hit her hard. The sound of my mother hitting Sarah’s mother was like the sound of two boulders smashing together. The women scratched, bit, clawed, slashed, snarled, nipped, roared, and hissed.

“She’s mine!” Mother shouted, pinning Alicia to the ground. “They’re both mine!”

“You fat bitch, they’re my daughters! I gave birth to them! Twelve and a half hours of labor, just to lose them to you? No way!”

Was that both of the girls combined, or just one of them?

Sarah came out the front door, and both women stopped fighting briefly to look at her.

“Choose one of us, Sarah,” Mother said.

“I can’t,” she breathed. “I love you both, just like I love both Daddy and Alexander. Or both Sabine and Selena.”

“Don’t put any pressure on her,” I warned. “Remember, any excessive stress could trigger a seizure.”

“Seizure? What have I missed?” Alicia asked.

“I wish I’d torn your head off,” Mother told Alicia.

“You didn’t kill me like you thought you did,” Alicia said, smirking. “There was a vampire who worked at the rehab center. He found me and turned me. These last few months I have been planning and planning how to get my kids back. But now I’d rather just kill you.”

Chris appeared then, and I realized she had a massive wound in her side. She pulled out a gun and aimed it at Alicia. Father went around to Alicia’s other side, and I stood beside Mother.

“You kill her, you’ll be shot,” Chris warned. “You’re surrounded, Alicia. Leave, now.”

“We must discuss the girls’ futures,” Alicia said.

“They’ve already been decided,” I said. “Sarah will be turned into a vampire and marry me. We will have lots of babies and lots of cats.”

“And dogs,” Sarah added.

Alicia looked betrayed. “Fine. I will leave today, but I warn you, I won’t give up until the girls are with me again. And this time they’ll stay with me.”

Alicia turned to leave, and then her eyes widened. “Beckett?”

All our eyes turned to where she was looking, and I saw Beckett Cresley. I’d briefly met him in zombie form, but now…well, he was truly alive again.

“Hello, Alicia,” he said dryly. “I’m here to check on the girls.”

“I’m okay, Daddy,” Sarah said. “But Sabine ran away, and we can’t find her.”

Beckett sighed and rubbed his face. “I die for two years, and one of my girls gets pregnant, and the other one runs away, and both of them have vampire boyfriends. What next?”

Sarah ran to him and wrapped her arms around him. He squeezed her back, kissing the top of her head.

“I missed you, my French belle.”

“I missed you too, Daddy. A lot’s happened, and I don’t really know how to handle it.”

Beckett looked up at me. “If it’s any consolation, I approve of your boyfriend. He seems to make you happy, and he would never hurt you on purpose. I’ve been watching.”

“What’s Heaven like, Daddy?”

“It’s amazing, but that’s beside the point.”

“I just realized…your glasses. You’re not wearing them!”

“I don’t need them anymore, baby. My vision is perfect. Thanks to the vampire who created me.”


“Goes by the name of Samuel. Gave me a weird feeling, but he showed me how to be a vampire.”

“Samuel?” My eyes widened. “Dad, Dad, I know who’s behind all this!”

“So do I, Reese,” Father growled. “Beckett, you’ve given us an unexpected source of information that we needed. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to have a talk with my daughter.”

“She’s my daughter!” Mother roared.

“She’s mine, too,” Alicia snarked. “I’m the one who carried her in my body my whole life!”

“Daddy, don’t let Mom take me!” Sarah begged, holding him.

“I won’t, honey, I promise. Alicia, you and I need to talk.”

“I know what you’re going to say, and no, I won’t marry you again.”

“That’s not what I was going to say at all, you witch! I needed to tell you that I’m taking the girls with me to France.”

“You can’t take them from me! You’re legally dead!”

“So are you!”

“Actually, my husband and I have custody of the girls,” Mother said. “Legal custody. And we already said they can go to France this summer to see their family. We already went and met them a few months ago, and we get along fine. Meanwhile, Alicia, your niece nearly killed Sarah when she put belladonna in her drink!”


“Deadly nightshade. And they say they are from an ancient race of humans as old as vampires. That was interesting to learn.”

“It’s a fact, Marina.”

“Daddy, I got my wings,” Sarah interrupted.

“Baby, that’s wonderful! Did it hurt?”

“On a scale of one to ten…eleven. But I’m glad I’m not ordinary.”

“Sarah, you never were ordinary.”

“I’m learning to pull them in and push them out. Grandma said she’d teach me how to use them this summer.”

“That’s great, hon. How did Grandma react when she saw them?”

“She was thrilled. She thought none of her grandchildren would have them, and I’m not even the oldest!”

“It’s because you deserve them, dear, not because of your age.”

“Enough about the Cresley curse!” Alicia shouted. “God, I hate you, Beckett.”

“Ditto, Alicia. Sarah, why don’t you go inside, while your mother and I talk?”

“Okay, Daddy.”

She went inside, and I followed her. I followed her past the living room, where Zie was listening to the drama outside and watching Cirino, past Spunk and Coffee, who both barked and jumped on us, and I grabbed her and carried her upstairs and placed her on the bed, where I closed the blinds and covered her body with my own.

We started kissing. We made out for nearly ten minutes, until Coffee started licking Sarah’s face.

“Hey, girl,” she said. The little brown Chihuahua ran back and forth, as if she couldn’t decide what she wanted to do. I knew why-Sarah had told me before that Coffee hates all men, but she particularly doesn’t like me. She licked Sarah’s face, then growled at me from a safe distance.

“She likes the taste of your lipstick,” I teased. “As do I.”

“It’s the shade Apple Butter, but it tastes more like cement than apple.”

“If you didn’t insist on wearing red lipstick-“

“Hush, you. Or I’ll tell Mordecai to take your stereo away.”

I gave her a look of mock horror. “No, not my stereo! Although he did threaten to do that one time, because the music was so loud.”

I bent down and tried to kiss her, but Coffee bit my nose.

I recoiled and held my nose, which was smarting.

“Coffee! Bad girl!” Sarah scolded. Coffee’s tail went between her legs, and she rolled onto her back, trying to look cute.

“Fucking bitch,” I cursed.

“She didn’t mean to hurt you, Reese!”

“Give it up, Sarah, she totally meant to hurt me. I’d smack her myself, but I’m afraid I’ll kill her by accident, and you won’t like me anymore.”

“That’s probably true. Did you know dogs can sense pregnancy? They can smell it, and so can cats. Coffee was super protective of me when I was pregnant with Cirino.”

“She’s still protective of you, apparently.”

“And him as well.”

Sarah put Coffee on the floor, and Coffee left the room, tail wagging nervously. I bent down to kiss Sarah again. I moved down to her neck, then her chest, before I heard a cough behind me.

Embarrassed, Sarah and I broke apart, to see all five of our parents standing in the room.

“I’m glad you two are getting along better, but needs must and such,” Mother said.

“Meaning?” I probed.

Alexander sighed. “We’ve decided to let Sarah decide what she wants to do. Would you rather go with your biological parents or stay with us? The same applies to you, Reese. Do you want to go with Blondie here or do you choose us?”

“I mean, there’s not really a house anymore,” Sarah said.

“I suspended escrow,” Alicia. “The house is still ours.”

“And I mean, Bubbe and Zayde haven’t exactly been treating me and Sabine well lately.”

Beckett sighed. “Is that your decision?”

“Yes, it’s my decision.”

“Very well, then. You do seem happier here, especially with him. When you’re around each other, the whole room brightens. Anyone can see how much you two love and adore each other.”

“We belong together,” I insisted.

“Yes, well, good for you. We’ll see you later, Sarah.”

“Bye, Daddy. Oh, wait! What about your beds and stuff?”

“Alexander gave us the key to the storage unit with our things in it. Don’t worry about that.”

He came into the room and kissed her on the top of the head before Alicia came forward with her arms outstretched. Sarah looked away and pointedly ignored her. Alicia gave her a betrayed look and went out with Beckett.

Sarah and I started kissing again, and Father cleared his throat.

“Reese, you still need to make a decision.”

“I mean, I’m already spending half my time here and the other half there. There’s no reason for anything else to change.”

“If you insist,” Alexander said.

They finally left, closing the door behind them, and I kept up the kissing with Sarah. We kissed for a few more minutes before she ended it and suggested we watch a movie.

We looked through her selection and chose Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a good choice because it had comedy and cartoons and Jessica Rabbit.


The first day of exams was a big deal. I’d been studying my butt off for weeks, along with doing everything else. My first class, Psychology, was, surprisingly, a simple genius test. The teacher said he wouldn’t grade these, he just wanted to test our test-taking skills.

In Senior English, I had to write an essay about all the books and stories we’d read this year, starting with The Crucible. I took my sweet time writing about the girls who accused the townsfolk of witchcraft. I knew what real witchcraft looked like.

The last exam of the day was in Advanced Physics. I wrote down everything I remembered about whatever we’d studied, and then the bell ran to set the students free.

“How’d you do?” I asked Mason as he came out of the next science room.

“I know I sucked,” he sighed. “My dad’s not going to be happy.”

“Have you given any more thought to your girl problem?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I have-you’re right, Reese. Scarlett is poison. Elsa is the better choice. I could use some water in my fire.”

I chuckled, and then grew silent. “What about Sarah?”

“She’s your girl. I will always like her to an extent, but you’re what she needs. Besides, I’m not her type.”

“Her type?”

“You know, vampire. I’m a lowly warlock.”

I chuckled again, and we met Noah and Amara at the front doors.

“How’d you guys do?” I asked.

“I know I failed Senior English,” Amara sighed.

“How is that possible? You speak it every day.”

“Yeah, but still...”


“I failed. Happy?”

“No. What did you fail?”

“Everything. I just know I failed. I screwed up. I’m not going to graduate. I’m going to stay here forever.” He sighed.

Just then, a vision hit me.

I was running. I was out of breath. Out of breath? I didn’t need to breathe. My stomach pumping with the exertion, my long black hair smacking my face. I realized that I wasn’t Reese anymore. I was Mason. And then I saw a vampire with short blond hair, and everything went black.

“Yo, Reese?”

“Is he broken?”

“He must be. He’s not responding.”

“I had a vision.” My words surprised even me.

“A vision? Like fire and brimstone?” Duke laughed. I hadn’t realized he’d arrived.

“No, you idiot, a vision of the future.”

“Whoa! You get those?”

“I’ve been getting them off and on for a while. This time, I saw through the eyes of someone else.”


“I won’t say who, but it was one of you.”

They all looked at each other, then up at me.

“Is it about me?” Mason croaked. I stayed silent.

“Did you see a dark, mysterious girl in white?” Amara teased.

“No. I won’t say what I saw, but it affects you, Mason.”

“Now I want to know!”

“Dude, you are rude,” Duke laughed.

“Shut up, Duke,” Noah snapped. “I’m sure he’s got a good reason for not telling us. You do, don’t you?”

“Of course I do. Humans are not supposed to know the future.”

“I’m not human, though, I’m a warlock.”

“You’re closer to a human than I am. What I saw was truly scary. I don’t want to affect the future.”

“Tell me!”

“Okay, fine. I saw your death.”

Silence, then Duke started laughing.

“That is too funny!” he shouted, wiping at his eyes.

“It’s because I’m trying to save someone, isn’t it?” Mason asked dryly. “You know, Reese, you can be a real asshole sometimes.”

My eyes narrowed and I growled lowly. “First of all, you wanted to know. You pressured me into telling you. Secondly, I could kill you at any time just because I can. I haven’t eaten since yesterday, and I’m feeling peckish. Especially for a rival’s blood.”

Mason turned white and practically ran to his car. Noah gave me a dirty look, Duke burst out laughing again, and Amara shook her head.

“Real nice, Reese,” she said, before following after Mason.

Feeling huffy, I went to my Nissan and waited for Sarah, who was still talking to her friends. Soon enough, I heard shouting that sounded like Amara and Noah.

Yeah, I could see them three cars away, yelling in each other’s faces.

“If you don’t like it, don’t be such a little bitch about it!” Amara shouted.

“You would know about being a bitch!”

“It’s simple, isn’t it? Ask me out when I’m single, and not when I’m dating somebody else!”

Sarah came by just then and gave me a questioning look. I waved my hand and said, “It’s their business. He wants to be an asshole; he’s going to lose friends. That’s his prerogative.”

“Somehow I’m guessing you’re involved,” Sarah said.

I sighed and told her about the vision and the ensuing fight. I even told her about Mason’s girl problems, though I didn’t tell her how he felt about her. No reason to stress her further. And it was between me and him.

“You’re right in that case, Reese. Scarlett is as toxic as pig crap.”

I smiled. “She’d love to hear you compare her to pig shit.”

“Well, she is. She practically ruined my life. The only good thing to come out of it is you and your family.”

“Thanks, babe.”

I drove in silence and when I stopped at the Nicolai house, I sensed that something was wrong. I couldn’t hear any vampires within, not even Chris or Selena. I heard Zie puttering around, and Cirino was sleeping, but that was it.

“Hold on,” I said, before Sarah could open her door. “Something’s not right.”

“What’s wrong?” Her eyes went wide with worry. “Is everyone okay?”

“Everyone’s gone. It’s just Zie and Cirino here.”

“How is that weird?”

“Because at least one vampire should always stay in their territory to protect it. Besides, what if other vampires smell the humans and realize no one’s home? It’s snack time.”

Sarah went pale. Before I could stop her, she ran to the house and stopped at the front door. She pulled a note off the door and walked back to my car. She handed me the note.

The servant and baby are not in danger, but you are. Go to the cabin in the woods.

It was followed by a set of coordinates. Stomach roiling, I told Sarah to get in, and sped away to my father’s house. I ran up the steps, and spotted a note on the door.

Go to the cabin in the woods. Your father is there as well.

Feeling ice cold, I went back to the car, staring at the coordinates. The same coordinates on Sarah’s piece of paper.

She was staring at her paper as well.

“Well, you know these woods better than I do,” she said.

“Oh, no, you’re not going.”

“I have to, Reese. They’re my family, too.”

“It’s what he wants.”

“So? I can handle it.”

I shook my head. “You don’t know this guy. I do. His daughter has magic beyond belief. She’s the one who burned me and Mitra and tried to burn you.”

“Then I’ll take her on myself.”

She stormed out of the car and headed straight toward the woods.

“Sarah, wait. At least let me carry you.”

“I’m not a damsel in distress, Reese. I can always fly there.”

“Fly…you’re not serious!”

“I’m totally serious. I’ll use my wings if I have to.”

She took off her jacket, then her designer top, revealing a tight white tank top underneath. She unhooked her bra, then lifted the back of her shirt. Her wings slowly grew out of her back. They began as flesh-colored nodes, then began to change color and turn lavender with white tips.

Soon, they were as big as her, and she spread them out and flapped once, shooting up to the sky. I was a bit worried, since she was braless and topless, but she didn’t seem to care. She flew back down and grabbed her clothes before taking a pair of scissors out of her jacket pocket and cutting slits for her wings.

She put her clothes back on, and they now housed her wings as well.

Feeling an icy depth in the pit of my stomach, I programmed the coordinates into my phone and turned on Directions.


With Sarah flying and me running, we found the cabin within the hour. I could smell several vampires within, including my family, a few uncomfortably familiar smells, including Jordan and Nales, a werewolf, a rotten egg smell, and few scents I didn’t recognize, one of which was the smell of jasmine and gardenias.

I opened the cabin door, and Sarah slowly slid her wings back into her back, before following me into the cabin. In the center of the room was a long table, surrounded by family. I even saw Mason and Krauvas.

“Ah, we’re all here now,” Samuel said, smiling. I recognized him by his expensive suit and thinning blond hair. Alana sat beside him, wrapped in a black cloak, her red eyes cast down.

I chose a seat between my Uncle Soren and Mother, and Sarah sat inbetween her two mothers.

“Now, I suppose you’re all wondering why you’re here. It’s because this man,” he pointed at Uncle Soren, “-took something from me, and he would not share it. He wound up killing my son in the process. So I’ve been trying to come up with a way to get my revenge. He is an extremely powerful vampire, after all. And then it hit me: I could destroy his kingdom. I started simply with the dead warlock. I was not aware that Krauvas knew the man, or I would not have chosen him.

“And then I killed the old witch and spilled some Nightmare Potion in the house, which scared these two boys. Odin, do you have anything to say?”

My eyes shot up, and they landed on a man with long white hair and white beard and an eyepatch, wrapped in furs. He shrugged and said nothing.

“I also killed Verity Slaughterman, which I knew would affect the Emerson men, because she was the lover of their friend Max. Actually, Alana killed Verity.”

He patted Alana on the back, but she stayed silent. He looked around. “Aphrodite, don’t you want to meet your mortal descendants? Sarah and Sabine Cresley.”

Again, my eyes shot up, and they landed on a beautiful woman who wore a purple silk dress and had long straight blond hair and the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. Her lips were bow-shaped, her skin was smooth and golden, and she wore gold jewelry. She was the one who smelled like jasmine and gardenias.

Aphrodite pursed her lips and looked across the table at Sarah, who was looking on Alicia’s other side, where Sabine sat. Sabine and Sarah stared at each other, then Sabine looked down, looking ashamed.

“You never met two sisters with a more complicated relationship. At least they’re not competing for the same guy,” Samuel teased. “Sarah’s guy was there with Soren when he killed my son. Reese, you’re a smart boy, but you’re too young for the Night Market. Why did Soren bring you?”

“How am I supposed to know?” I snapped. Father took in a deep breath.

“Manners, boy, or you’re first. The reason why Soren brought you is simple. He needed protection, and he knew Mordecai would never go with him if he knew what he was planning to do. Neither would Louis. He brought you, Reese, as a distraction. Your uncle is so self-centered that he was willing to put your life at risk for a dumb book.”

I looked at Uncle Soren, sure Samuel was lying, but my uncle stared at the table and didn’t say anything.

“The book in question.”

Alana reached into her cloak and pulled out a thick, old book.

“Bound in the skin of an unwilling virgin saint and a thousand years old. The Librum Autem Mortis et Transformatio, or The Book of Transformation and Death. The only way I can bring back both my dead wife and my dead sons.”

“Sons?” Alexander quipped.

“Yes. There was a boy that made friends with your boy. He was a lot like Alana. His name was Kellan.”

Mother suddenly gripped my hand. I knew why she was worried. She’d killed Kellan because of how toxic he was.

“He was there when Marina killed him, and he was there when Mordecai asked Sarah if she’d be willing to sing, and she said yes. Only, it wasn’t Sarah talking. It was Jordan.”

Father paled and put his head in his hands.

We all looked across the table at the blond witch whom I’d so desperately tried to ignore. Michael Nales was there too, along with his parents, Brian and Claire.

“Jordan is secretly the twin of Mr. Nales,” Samuel continued. “Only, when they were born, Brian and Claire couldn’t afford to keep them both, so in comes Gwen and Simon Hart.”

I looked over at Scarlett’s black-haired, black-eyed parents.

“The Harts agreed to raise Jordan as their own until either she found out about the switch or she came of age. That happened sooner than later, and not to everyone’s happiness. For there was one other thing Jordan was capable of. And that is murder. You tried to kill Sarah, did you not, Jordan? She’s alive now, but you frightened her and tried to make her jump off a bridge when she still had the baby in her. But it would not have been your first murder. Oh, no. There was another child, wasn’t there, Mr. and Mrs. Nales?”

Claire was weeping now, and Brian looked pale and tired.

“There was a little girl. She was a pretty little thing, she had hair just like her sister’s, and eyes as brown as chocolate. But you killed her, Jordan, when you were eight years old. You smothered her with a pillow and suffocated her. Then Gwen and Simon said a strange man got in and killed her and shipped you off to a mental institution. How was it there?”

Brian and Claire were openly sobbing now. Although it was news to me, it was like reopening old wounds for them.

“You corrupted Scarlett and had her show you her best magic. Then you both began a ruling clique and ruled for two years and three months, until you attacked one of your own.”

Samuel grinned at Sarah, who was weeping softly. I longed to reach out and touch her, but I couldn’t. Not with Alana there.

“You both came from magical families. You used the dark arts to become beautiful and popular. But it corrupted you. Powerful magic always has a price, especially spells to be admired as openly as you two were. Do you know how I know all this? Why, one of your own told me. I won’t say who, but let’s just say she’s not as she appears.”

“Mia,” Sarah said.

Samuel looked at her in surprise, but said nothing else. Then he looked at Mother.

“Marina, as much as I admire you, I do have to punish you for killing Kellen. Your punishment will be the death of one of your children.”


“I’m sorry, love, but it’s the way the world works. An eye for an eye. A child for a child. So, pick one. Reese, Selena, Sarah, or Sabine?”

Mother shook her head. “No, no, no, no, no!”

“Choose, or I’ll choose for you. How about…your son?”

He reached across the table and grabbed my arms, but Uncle Soren grabbed me around the waist.

“Let him go, Samuel,” he said. “If anyone is going to be destroyed today, let it be me. I’m the one who killed Samuel Jr.”

“Fine,” Samuel grumbled, letting me go. I plopped back into my seat and sighed loudly. Mother still sobbed and was now clutching me like a vise. “I think I can do better than that. What do you think, Alana?”

Alana stayed quiet.

“My thoughts exactly,” Samuel said. “Let’s start with another. How about…Louis?” He reached across the table for Louis, who was prepared. He socked Samuel so hard I heard the bones crack, and Samuel fell back, holding his nose.

“Nice punch, son,” Uncle Soren grumbled. Louis looked at him in surprise, stretching his fingers.

“This is ridiculous,” Grandfather said, who had been so quiet I hadn’t even noticed him. “If anyone is going to die today, let it be me.”


“No! Grandpa!”

“Sorry, boys. I’m old, I’ve lived for thousands of years, and my time is drawing near. I’m going to die soon, and you are going to have to deal with it.”

I felt tears prick my eyes, and I saw tears in Louis’ eyes, too.

“No, old man, you’re not going to die today,” Samuel said, sitting up. “What about Faolan? Alana, release him.”

A door opened in the wall, and a cage slid out, a cage containing Faolan in werewolf form. The mouth on his stomach was gone, but he was still terrifying. He snapped, roared, howled, and snarled, until he saw Father and his ears went back.

“Let him go!” Father shouted.

The lock on the cage door slid open, and a strange force pulled Faolan onto the table and bound him with chains. Father cried out and leaped forward, but Alana put chains around Father as well.

The book flipped open to a page scrawled in Latin. I recognized the words as a spell for bringing back the dead.

“Hold on,” I said, standing up. “This isn’t right-“

Chains wrapped around me next. I fell backwards, then my chair righted itself.

“Wait!” I shouted. “How did you bring Sarah’s parents and Nales back to life?”

“Yes, I want to know that as well,” said Aphrodite, speaking up for the first time. Her voice was beautiful, it had a musical quality.

Samuel sighed, but didn’t close the book. “I knew about Nales and Sarah’s parents from my source,” he said. “I knew about Mathias because I had known him for years. And his family.”

I turned and realized I didn’t see Mathias anywhere.

“Where is Mathias?”

“At this moment, he is carrying out a task for me, one that will ensure the future of all vampires.”

“Samuel, what is he doing?” Uncle Soren growled.

“He is planning to destroy the humans of North Hampton.”

This was not good. I struggled to get out of my chains.

“Don’t bother, boy, they’re titanium,” Samuel said.

“He can’t break them, but I can,” Odin said. His voice was deep and gruff. He stood up and walked over to Father first, grabbing the chains and pulling, breaking them in seconds. Then he walked over to me.

I’m being touched by Odin!

He pulled, and they broke. Then he walked around to his seat. Father stood up, and started pulling at the chains around Faolan.

Samuel looked at Alana, but she didn’t react. He produced a knife, and then my father leaped at him and they started fighting.

Alana began surging, pulling in power from all over the room. Odin got up and left, but Aphrodite stayed. Suddenly, the cabin blew up.

Alicia and Beckett grabbed Sarah and Sabine and ran like hell, and I noticed that the Nales had also slipped away. A pair of pale pink wings sprouted from Aphrodite’s back and she flew away.

Samuel and Father were fighting so fast, I couldn’t see what they were doing. But then, Faolan was free. He roared, and then swiped at Louis, who was sent back twenty feet and landed hard. I winced as I heard his neck snap.

Uncle Soren roared and pounced on Faolan’s back. Faolan tried to swipe at him, but missed him every time. I leapt out of the way and ran over to Louis, who was now being checked by Grandfather. It had gotten chaotic in seconds. Mother snatched me up and started to run, but I shouted for her to stop, and she stopped.

I ran over to Faolan and shouted for him to recognize me.

“Come on, Faolan, control yourself!”

“Reese! You stupid boy!” Father yelled.

Alana hit a surge of power at Faolan, who fell over, unconscious.

And then Samuel and Uncle Soren made eye contact, and glared at each other before circling like two male lions. Uncle Soren reacted first. He pounced on Samuel, who bit into his neck, causing blood to squirt out. Uncle Soren’s fangs retracted, and he bit down on Samuel’s carotid artery.

Samuel grabbed the knife he’d dropped and plunged it into my uncle’s side. Uncle Soren roared in pain and tore the knife out of Samuel’s hand, cutting both their palms.

Father was leaning over Faolan, and Grandfather was still distracted by Louis’ distress, so I found my chance. I moved through the crowd and found Alana. She was floating two inches off the ground, and she turned to glare at me.

“Why are you doing this? You know it’s wrong,” I said.

“He killed my brother,” she said in her dry, unusually childlike tones.

“Yes, but still…you killed innocent people. Verity didn’t deserve to die. Neither did the mermaid, or the old woman. The cat didn’t deserve death, and neither did James.”

If it was possible, her face would have turned whiter than possible, but she didn’t say anything. She landed on the floor and took off the hood of her cloak. I noticed that patches of her hair were missing, as if she’d pulled them out. She undid the clasp on her cloak, and it fell away to reveal a white minidress and white knee-high boots.

“Alana! Destroy them!” Samuel shouted.

Alana froze.

“Now, Alana!”


We all froze, even Uncle Soren, and stared at her.

“I’m not killing more people to fulfill your self-centered desires, Father.”

“Insolent witch! Woman was made to serve man!”

“You have been using my powers for evil means. I no longer want to live!”

“What…Alana, no!”

Alana picked up the knife, and plunged it into her chest. She froze, then fell down to the ground.

“Not my daughter!”

Samuel ran to her and cradled her, muttering softly. “Forgive me, Alana, forgive me.”

Mason came up to me. I hadn’t realized he and Krauvas had been watching from a distance.

“It looks like you were wrong, Reese,” he said. “I take my apologies in writing.”

“I’m not apologizing, though,” I said. “Go shit in a ditch, Godfrey.”

“Thanks, Emerson,” he said sarcastically.

A low whistling caught my attention. Something was happening to Samuel. He had his mouth over Alana’s, and it looked like he was absorbing her magic. It had a blueish color, and smelled like electricity and rotten eggs.

Mason cursed, and Krauvas approached cautiously. A crackling filled the air, and Samuel rose into the air. Gulping, I stood still, and Samuel aimed the first bolt at me. I jumped out of the way just in time, and it landed centimeters from where I’d been standing seconds before. He aimed the next bolt at Mason, who also jumped, but his foot had been shot. He screamed, and then crawled on his belly over to me.

Samuel prepared another bolt. He gathered up a ball of magic that crackled and sizzled, and then he tossed it at both of us.

Krauvas jumped in front of us, and then he held up his hands and mutterd something in Latin. The bolt hit an invisible force field, and Krauvas turned to us.

“Go, Mason! Leave!”

Mason stood up and started running. My vision!

I yelled for him to stop, but he ignored me, and seconds later, a bolt hit him.

Mason fell over, dead.

No. No, no, no, no, no, no! He couldn’t be dead!

“My son! My son! You killed him!”

Krauvas lifted himself into the air and magic grew between his fingers. He clapped his hands together once, and pulled them apart, creating a line of yellow energy. He rolled it into a ball, and then threw it at Samuel, who was hit full force, but quickly recovered and they both flew even higher into the air.

I ran over to my friend, and put my ear against his chest. Nothing. I pressed down hard on his chest and breathed into his mouth.

“There’s nothing you can do, Reese,” Father said, trying to pull me away. “He’s gone.”

“There’s one thing.”

“What are you-Reese, don’t!”

I ignored him and bit into Mason’s wrist, and then bit into my own. I’ve only turned one vampire, and that was Evan. I had reacted out of fear for Evan’s life, and now I was reacting out of love for my friend.

I mixed our blood together, then licked Mason’s cheek. I licked the wound on his wrist, and then I bit into my arm. I dripped blood into his mouth. I tipped his head and throat so the blood would flow into his stomach, starting the change.

Krauvas and Samuel continued to throw bolts at each other. One of Samuel’s bolts hit a tree, setting it on fire.

“Mordecai! We need to put the fire out!” Uncle Soren shouted. Krauvas turned around and shot water out of his palms, putting the fire out in seconds. Samuel took the opportunity to throw a bolt at Uncle Soren, who flew back about fifty feet. I heard a sickening crack as he landed against a tree, toppling it.

Krauvas turned around and got a bolt straight to the gut, and he landed beside his son. He sat up, groaning, and looked down at Mason. He looked almost ashamed. Then he got up and faced Samuel.

“You killed my son. You got your revenge,” Krauvas said.

“My fight is not with you, Krauvas. My fight is with the Emersons,” Samuel said. “The boy was merely in the way. His life means nothing to me.”

Krauvas fell to his knees, and he pulled Mason into his lap. He nuzzled Mason, muttering words I didn’t understand.

But we were suddenly distracted by a forlorn figure. Faolan was standing in the copse of trees, fully human and completely naked. He was covered in blood and dirt.

Father let out a cry and embraced Faolan. When Faolan didn’t hug him back, Father gave him a hurt look and pulled away.

“My love?”

Faolan grabbed Father by the throat, and then threw him. Father crashed into Uncle Soren, and Faolan turned toward me.


Terrified, I turned to run, but Faolan still reached me in seconds, spun me around, and slashed at my face. I dodged, and he hit my chest instead. I noticed that his claws were now a foot long, and razor-sharp. He aimed for my gut next, and I jumped back again, and he slashed my private area.

I doubled over and hissed, clutching myself, and then I saw that Father was on Faolan now, trying to control him.

“Calm down! Calm down!”

Faolan turned and slashed at Father, who jumped back. Uncle Soren ran over to me and picked me up.

“Can you walk?” he asked.

I shook my head.

And then a bolt of magic hit Faolan, and he fell over.

“Samuel, you asshole!” Father said, tears running down his face. “Oh, gods, Faolan! Baby, please! Please, look at me!”

Faolan’s eyes were open, but they were still and glassy. He was dead.

“Maybe I can-“

“No, Reese. Faolan had to die. He was out of control.”

Father glared at my uncle. “This is all your fault!”

“My fault, my fault, why is everything always my fault?” Uncle Soren whined like a teenager.

Uncle Soren jumped up and leapt onto Samuel. He grabbed his head and pulled.

Samuel slowly floated to the ground. Then he hit Uncle Soren with a bolt of magic and scooped up Alana, then ran off into the woods. Uncle Soren chased after him.


Grandfather carried both me and Louis home by carrying us over his shoulders. Father carried Faolan, and Krauvas carried Mason.

When we reached the house, Shadowfang was outside, sniffing at the lavender plants in our garden.

When he saw us, his pupils widened. “What happened? You’ve been gone for hours! And why do I smell dog?”

Father glared at him, and Shadowfang quickly turned tail and ran back into the house through the cat door.

Grandfather set me on my bed, and Louis in his bedroom. We were both given O positive, a great injury reducer.

Krauvas set Mason down in an extra bedroom that our housekeeper, Augusta, sometimes used, and kissed him.

“It’s my fault you’re dead,” he muttered. “I’m so sorry, Mason. I’ve been a terrible father. I don’t deserve a son as great as you. Please, please survive the change.”

I knew my penis would heal faster than either Louis’ broken neck or Mason’s complete change into a vampire, but damn, was it painful.

After some sleep and some more blood, I felt refreshed. It was the middle of the night, and Mason was getting ready to finish the change. His heart slowly began to harden and constrict, his lungs stopped moving, and his hair became shinier and healthier, and so did his skin, teeth, nails, and everything else. He became stronger, faster, smarter.

He was turning into a vampire.

His eyes shot open. He groaned as he slowly sat up. He saw me, and he stared for a second before jumping up into a crouch and hissing.

“Mason, I’m your sire,” I said.

He cocked his head. “Sire?” His new voice had a slight hissing quality. He shook his head. “I don’t know who you are, or where I am. Or even who I am. But I’m not going to be anything for you.”

“You have to let me teach you,” I said. “You’re my fledgling. Your name is Mason Salazar Godfrey, and I turned you into a vampire because you died.”

“I died?”

“Yes. I was born a vampire, but you had to be turned.”

“I was turned? Did I have parents? Did I have pets? How old am I? Did I have a lover?”

“Yes, I turned you, yes, you have parents. Your father is here, actually. You didn’t have any pets, but your mother has a bunch. You’re eighteen, and about to graduate high school. You did have a lover, and her name is Elsa.”

He shook his head. “That’s not right. Not about the lover part. I don’t feel the need to be near anyone. Except you, but you’re my sire. So what does that mean?”

“I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out, I promise.”

Just then, he noticed Krauvas in the corner, sleeping. “Who is he?”

“That’s your father. Krauvas, wake up!”

Krauvas’ head shot up and he blinked, looking at Mason. “My god, you’re different. I knew you would be, but this…Reese, why is he different?”

“Because he’s designed to pull in human prey,” I said. Krauvas nodded and looked at Mason.

“I’m sorry I missed the moment you woke up, but I won’t miss anything else, I promise.”

Mason licked his lips and eyed his father’s throat.

“So hungry…”

“Uh, Reese? Do you want to go get some blood?”

“You’d better do it, Krauvas. He’ll be safer with me than with you.”

Krauvas ran downstairs and returned with ten bags of warm blood, that Mason snatched up and drank from in seconds. He was so fast I barely noticed his fangs, which were long, pointy, and white, like all vampires.

Mason gorged himself on twenty-one packs of blood, and then he yawned and stretched out.

“Sleepy?” I asked. He nodded, and I pulled out the bed underneath and set it up.

The next day was a school day, and I didn’t know what we were going to do. Mason couldn’t miss any exams, and neither could I. Finishing high school was too important.

Mason drank thirty more bags of blood, and then I loaned him my shower and some extra clothes. He was still shorter than me, so the clothes looked baggy on him.

I helped him clean his teeth and comb his hair, and then I asked Sarah to come over for a test run.

When he smelled her, he froze, and then sniffed the air again and again.

“What is that incredible smell?” he asked. “Is it a female?”

“Yes, it’s a female. My female, actually. Mine and mine alone. You are not allowed to touch, let alone bite, her without permission.”

“She smells delicious.”

“I know, but she’s mine. If you hurt her, I will kill you without hesitation. Am I clear?”

Mason whined and lowered his head. “Yes.”

“Good. Now, come in, Sarah.”

She entered through the front door. She had clearly been crying last night-her eyes were still red, despite the makeup, and her cheeks were flushed.

“Bad night?” I asked her.

She sobbed and wrapped her arms around me.

“Bad news, kids,” Louis said, looking serious.

“You’re healed,” I said, surprised.

He rubbed his neck. “Yeah. Grandpa healed it. Anyway, there’s been a threat made to the high school. A bomb threat. So there’s no school for the next week or so.”

“A bomb threat?” Sarah squeaked.

“What about exams?” I asked.

“What about them?” Louis asked dryly. “You’ll either have them or you won’t. But the point is, it’s a serious threat. Check it out. Oh, and I see your buddy is awake. Good job, Reesie Peesie.”

“You know I hate that nickname.”

“I do; that’s why I love calling you that.”

Louis turned on the news. Kate Un, who sometimes fucked my uncle, was reporting.

“A mysterious large box the size of a person has been mailed to North Hampton High School,” the beautiful dark-haired woman reported. “No one has been able to tell us what the box contains, but it’s also wrapped in twine. I’m here in front of the school now, and the bomb squad should arrive at any moment.”

The bomb squad did arrive, and they surrounded the box. The camera was trained on it as a police officer slowly approached it. Then a claw ripped through the box.

It was Mathias!

He ripped through the rest of the box and then started attacking the nearest officer with his teeth and claws.

“It’s a vampire!”

“Shit,” I said. I turned Sarah toward me. “I have to take care of this. Stay here. Don’t open the door for anyone. Louis, guard her with your life.”

Louis was staring at the TV, open-mouthed.

I ran outside, and then I heard a loud hiss. I’d forgotten about Mason. I sighed and picked him up, then ran to the high school as fast as I could.

It was terror. Absolute terror. The cameraman was dead, and so were several officers. Mathias was causing pure devastation. He turned and saw me, then grinned.

“So it’s you,” he chuckled. “You came to stop me. You are the weakest member of my ex-family. You are pathetic. You are-“

But he didn’t get a chance to answer, as Father and Uncle Soren grabbed each of Mathias’ arms.

“Please, Mathias, don’t make me do this,” Father begged.

“It’s too late for apologies, little brother,” Mathias hissed. “This is your fault and Soren’s. You are both unbelievable.”

I grabbed the camera, pointedly said, “There’s nothing to see here; we’ll take care of it.” And then I turned the camera off.

But then I noticed a lot of people filming across the street.


I turned back, and Uncle Soren and Father used titanium chains to secure Mathias and ran off with him. I turned to Mason, and saw him laying on the ground.

“Mason?” I asked. Oh, no! The sun!

But then I realized he was drinking from a half-dead man, and I sighed and pulled him away. There were burns on his face and scalp, but he was more interested in the blood.

I restrained him and carried him back to the house.

Grandfather and Louis were shouting at each other, and so was Father and Uncle Soren.

Father was holding Faolan, while Uncle Soren was holding Mathias.

I sighed and went upstairs, where I put Mason back into the spare bedroom and sat with him a while, cleaning his face.

Next door, Father was singing softly, and I realized he was singing “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx, which was his and Faolan’s song. I sighed.

I blacked out all the windows in the house with some old tarp we had, shut off the lights, and then sat with Mason while he recovered. I gave him some more blood. Father had bought a warming machine, so we didn’t have to microwave it all the time. Besides, the odor lingered when we did that.

Sarah had left to go back to her new home, so I read a book while Mason slept and sometimes ate. I finished the first book around eight at night, and I heard Father and Uncle Soren scolding each other again.

“Everything you do is for you and you alone,” Father was saying. “Now, look. Faolan is dead, Mason is a vampire, Mathias is back, and Samuel got away.”

“I did my best to follow him, Mordecai. I even walked into the ocean and swam for miles. I killed a shark. But still no luck. I cannot apologize enough for Faolan’s unfortunate demise.”




Tag der Veröffentlichung: 28.04.2020

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