“And I think you’re our last audition before lunch,” Drago said, standing up with the familiar unsteadiness of the limp I had gotten used to all summer. “I’ll walk you out, Amy.”

“Great, thanks.” I kept my face neutral until we were into the hallway. The rest of the panel were gathering their things. But as soon as I was alone with him, I couldn’t contain my curiosity. “Well?”

“It was super good,” he promised me as we ambled down the hallway.

I shook my head. “You’re just saying that.”

“Then so was the panel,” he replied. “They really liked you. We’ve been seeing terrible people all morning, and not one of them has been asked to read a second side. You did really good, Amy. But then, of course, you did.”

“Thanks.” I gave him a hug as we neared the front doors. “And thanks for making time to be here.”

“Anytime.” He squeezed me tightly. “I’ll text you when I’m done tonight and we can go out for food?”

“For sure.” I wiggled my eyebrows at him, as I pushed the door open. “I’ve got something special in mind.”

I had forgotten about the paparazzi outside, and Drago and I were nearly blinded by the camera flashes as we fully pushed the door open. I held up my hand to shield my eyes, not that it did any good.

“I should go,” I said, giving him a rueful smile.

He nodded. “See ya around. I’m sure you’ll be hearing from them soon.”

“Yep.” I headed out the door, lowering my head to keep my face covered.

I now understood why stars wore sunglasses all the time. I didn’t particularly want to go back to school and go to rehearsal. I wanted to stay glued to my phone, especially now that Drago had given me hope. But I highly doubted they would even be making a choice that day, when I knew they had auditions all afternoon. So instead, I grabbed a sandwich from the nearby deli for lunch and texted Liam that I was on my way back. Neither of them had responded to my invite for Sites, which annoyed me, but I assumed they would tell me when I got there.

When I got to school, however, it appeared the chaos had followed me. Under no circumstances had I wanted to go into the Red Theater alone again, the white mist still on my mind. As I approached the theater, I saw that there was no way I would be alone in there. The theater was bedlam, with actors, costume designers, tech people and department heads running to and fro. I managed to find Connor in the crowd and I poked his arm.

“What’s happening? I thought we were just doing a dress rehearsal for the leads?”

“Liam has decided he wants a full run-through.”

“Uh…” was the only word that would come out of my mouth. Liam never wanted a full run-through this early. Last year, he focused on individual scenes again and again. But this year, every opportunity we got seemed to be a full run-through. “Is he crazy?”

Connor managed a smirk at that. “He is the love of your life, Amy. You tell me.”

“Oh, I know the answer to that one,” I responded, leaving my book bag on a chair and going towards the stage.

The theater felt much different than when I was alone in it this morning. The energy was positive and busy, not dark and eerie. I decided not to mention what I saw until Sites aired tomorrow. I wanted to see what they had captured with their cameras.

“Why the run-through?” I asked Liam as he stood on the stage, waving his arms at the set people and directing them to various places.

“Amy.” His smile was tight and I assumed he wasn’t over our fight this morning. “Can you just get into costume?”

“I barely know which costume I need for what act yet, Liam,” I replied. “And my audition went great, thanks. Why are we running through so early?”

“I’ll tell you later.” He barely looked at me. “Please get into costume. We’ll be rehearsing until at least dusk.”

“Ok, ok.” I gave him a look that expressed how unimpressed I was, but he didn’t seem to react.

Just as I was about to ask another question, Nina appeared from nowhere, gently tugging on his arm. “Liam, can you help?”

I didn’t bother to stay to hear the rest of the conversation. I turned on my heel, going backstage to the costume room. I couldn’t even say hello to my boyfriend without her hanging around, and it was getting on my last nerve.

If there was one thing I would admit that Liam was right about, it was the length of rehearsal. We stumbled through two run-throughs and were nearing dinner time when Liam called for everyone in the party scene to meet him in the west wing.

“Finally,” I said to Sarah, as we went towards the wing. “An explanation.”

She didn’t say anything and her face was pale, contorted with pain. I took her arm as she stumbled slightly.

She nodded, her jaw tightening and I wondered if she was about to be sick again. Dusk was nearing and I assumed we would be continuing on with just the supernatural creatures. In my opinion, Liam was obsessing over the scene. It was perfect now and the show was still months away. I expressed those thoughts in Sarah’s ear, but she merely shrugged. Dropping her elbow, I moved farther into the crowd. Fine, if Sarah didn’t want to talk to me, I might as well bury myself away.

“Alright, everyone, listen up,” Liam said, dropping his voice as we all gathered around. “We’re moving the show up.”

“What?” I knew I wasn’t the only one who was shocked at this.

All around me, others were shifting and whispering, “Why?”

“Because last night, Nina and I met with the De Ritter Shields,” he said. “I was concerned for Nina’s heath and I wanted some human relief. They informed me she is ill because we are so close to her date of siring.” He met my eyes, but I looked away. He could have told me that, rather than let me yell at him all day. “Selene was created as a vampire in December. December 31st to be exact. So she will be at her weakest then. On the anniversary of their siring, apparently vampires experience weakness, human emotions, all sorts of strange things.”

“How have we never known this before?” Connor asked, his arms around Isabelle.

I glanced to Sarah, who was making a point of keeping her eyes straight ahead.

“Because it’s a secret the Shields like to keep, an advantage they have while hunting us. The only reason they told me is to avenge Porsche, and if any of us disclose it outside this room, there’ll be hell to pay. So forget it,” Liam replied. “But I have decided that it’s our best chance to take Selene down. So December 31st will be our closing night.”

“Closing night. The show will open on the 27th, and close on the 31st.”

“But you can’t do that,” I blurted out.

Liam gave me a glare. “I’m the headmaster, Amy. I can direct the school as I please. I will come up with some excuse for moving the show and inform the rest of the cast tomorrow. But for now, be aware that’s the reason. Everything that we are working towards will hopefully come to a close before the new year.”

Sarah made a noise and Liam turned to her.

And then she screamed.

I hadn’t realized how late it had gotten. The sun was already almost set and the scent of blood was so strong, I felt my jaw unhinge. Sarah was doubled over screaming, her arms wrapped around her midsection. With blood in the air, I could feel my transformation heighten, even in the presence of a Shield. Something was horribly, terribly wrong.

The other vampires lurched and groaned, fighting their instincts as blood began to spill from between Sarah’s legs. Even Nina moved forward and it was only due to my lightning quick reflexes that I was able to grab her.

“AMY!” I yelled, trying to get her attention in the crowd. “Do something!”

I didn’t know what I wanted Amy to do, I couldn’t even think clearly.

“Get out, get out!” I howled at the others. Their fangs were growing, and their eyes darkening and while I was strong, I certainly wasn’t strong enough to fight them all off and resist the smell of blood myself. But suddenly, relief filled the air. I whipped my head around to Sarah, who was now on the ground, Amy covering her. Amy’s arm was slashed from her elbow to her armpit, a pair of sewing scissors in her hand. It horrified me that she had to do it, but it was a good move. Her infected blood neutralized the cravings, and together with Sarah being a Shield, the fog in my mind began to clear. However, Amy had her arm held out, the blood dripping on the floor. I needed to keep it far away from Sarah or anyone else who could possibly be affected. My heart went out to her, as she crouched half on Sarah and half to the side. The war that she had to go through on a daily basis was enough, and I wished that I didn’t have to put her through any more. I hated myself for involving her in all of this.

“Call an ambulance,” Amy yelled at me.

I reached to pull out my cell phone. “Get out, the rest of you! Out, NOW! Connor, dismiss the cast!” I barked at them as I dialed 9-1-1 and let it ring through.

I could feel my heart beating hard, the transformation now half set. Connor met my eyes, and tried to head towards Sarah, but I pushed him back, glaring at him.

“If you do not do as I say right now, I will make sure that you and your wife are never free from Selene’s terror.”

He glared at me with intensity, but finally broke away, never saying a word as he pulled the others out. The ringing in the phone stopped.

“9-1-1, what is your emergency?”

I gave the information to the operator as everyone scattered and I hung up.

“Go,” Amy said to me. “Go. You look like a corpse.”

“Amy…” I didn’t want to leave her here to deal with this.

Sarah was conscious, but clearly in pain, and Amy was speaking soothing words to her, her injured arm held out to her side. These girls were so young, no one should have to deal with death. But Amy’s gaze was strong.