A transplant from Russia, Drago was our fight director. He had an explosive career, having worked with some of the top names. He was incredibly young and moving up the ranks. But a shattered leg from a car accident had left Drago unable to perform on demand anymore. Luckily, by then he already had quite a name for himself, and so people hired him as a stunt coordinator, ignoring his limp.

We had hit it off immediately when I told him my father was a chef and that was my backup career. A foodie himself, our game was to get each other to try the strangest food in town. Our bond became closer when he revealed he was also leaving the Gatsby Tour, two weeks after me, to work on a production that was staged not two miles from Leopard Academy. I was excited to find someone who shared my feelings of excitement, and sadness at leaving.

“Goat’s tongue wrapped in duck and fried in olive oil.”

“Oh,” I said, holding open the door to let him in. This was a normal conversation between us. “Ok.”

He burst in, heading straight to the table which contained small tea saucers. Deeming then good enough for his purpose, he opened the bag, pulled out a plastic knife and container, and divided up the food.

“Found it in a little back alley place. They were called ‘Waste not.’ They claimed to eat every part of the goat and not waste anything.”

“Uh…” I was adventurous when it came to food, but I could think of several parts of the goat that I did not want to eat. “Is that what you spent the night doing? Thinking up ways to give me food poisoning?”

“Well, now that your replacement is a day away, I thought we’d be safe.” He grinned at me, sitting on the bed, his injured leg extended out in front of him. I gingerly picked up the plate that he had left and bit in.

“Isn’t it weird?” he asked, changing the subject. “Going back to school after doing a professional show? It’s kind of… counterproductive…”

I shrugged. “I don’t know what weird is because I don’t have a normal life either. A year ago, I was a homeschooled sheltered kid whose acting experience consisted of performing for her stuffed animals that were probably bored out of their minds too. And then all of a sudden, I’m the scholarship winner, and I get this part, which most people can’t even dream of, and now I’m going into graduate studies at the school I spent my whole life drooling over.”

He smirked at me. “It’s so weird. You’re leaving today, but everyone is acting like it’s a normal day.”

“Well, it is a normal day for everyone else. No one is going to notice that the chorus girl is leaving, really.”

I shrugged. “Yeah, but I’ll see you soon.”

“My only salvation…” He finished his food and put the plate on the table for the maid to clean up. “…in between then and now is that I have to redo the choreography.”

“Because the next 3 theaters we are going to are smaller, so we can’t fit five backflips in a row for the Gatsby dancers.” He stretched his leg, wincing. “I’m getting too old for this.”

“You are,” I agreed, even though he was only in his mid-twenties. He gave me a smack on the shoulder as I went to get my purse. “I assume you want to go somewhere and you aren’t going to leave me in peace?”

“I don’t know, we could just watch TV,” he said, looking at his watch.

“No,” I groaned, shaking my head. “I’ve had enough of daytime TV to last me a lifetime.”

“Everyone keeps saying that,” I muttered, holding the door open for him as we went out. “Every time I complain about anything, it’s always due to being an actor. I miss Liam, I have jetlag. The show is boring after three months…”

“And daytime TV sucks. Maybe you should get into film and make better TV?”

I snorted as we walked down the hall.

“I auditioned for film once. It was terrible and awkward. He looked right through me, and then told me he’d call me and he never did. And I could tell. Why don’t they just tell the truth?”

“Actors can get violent,” Drago said, as we paused in front of a door and he knocked.

The lead ballerina, Natasha, should be inside. At first, I was hesitant to be friends with Natasha, who had stepped into Porsche’s place. But she was a sweet girl with an adorable Southern accent and huge eyes. The three of us made a great team exploring the cities during the day. Both single, I had tried without success to get Drago to ask her out, but he claimed his heart was reserved elsewhere.

Natasha answered, a grin on her face like she had been waiting for us.

“Guys, I just Googled the best place for us to go,” she said, slipping on her shoes and shutting the door.

The three of us headed down to the lobby. I had expected to feel sadder on my last day, but perhaps I was comforted by the fact that Liam was only a day away, and Sarah was going to be my best friend in real life. Soon, everything would be back to normal; or as close to normal as it could be.

I sighed after hanging up the phone with Amy on Monday morning. I hadn’t slept at all last night, having gone out to enjoy my last night alone. Not that I wasn’t excited to have Amy come home, every second was agony without her, but there were things I couldn’t do when she was home. Amy had lived a sheltered life, and she wasn’t used to all-night partying, a lifestyle that I had grown accustomed to. When she returned, there would be dinners in her room, and early nights, turning off the TV while she slept. Tonight, she said she was planning to get on a train at noon, meaning she would be back in town by 5 pm. In an effort to avoid any attention, she was going to take a taxi from the station to the school. Tomorrow, we would be having lunch with her father, something she couldn’t wait to do. I couldn’t wait to have her home, but I knew when she arrived, life would change.

She was so human, my Amy. So fragile and young, and I was often afraid of overtaxing her – of breaking her. I didn’t want to do anything to affect her already shortened mortality. I knew that we were already living on borrowed time, and I didn’t want to affect that.

Life was so different, since Porsche died. I didn’t know what to do with myself at night, aside from chain myself up and sulk in my own misery. There was no refuge of being human with her Shield powers, no choosing when I transformed and when I didn’t. Porsche had been my best friend since she was a teenager, a fiery red-headed famous ballerina who worked hard and played harder. When she used a dirty needle at 14, infecting herself with HIV, it made her Shield powers stronger. The sicker she got, the more her powers grew, eventually making any supernatural creature within ten feet of her human and powerless. Although we had fallen into nights of lust a few times, it was a strong friendship that linked us for years. She was my salvation when I first became a vampire, exploring and educating ourselves with supernatural lore.

The other Shields were receptive to helping me kill Selene: the mother of all vampires, my sire, and Porsche’s murderer. However, they weren’t about to offer up their next Shield for my disposal. Porsche had been a rebel, associating with vampires, witches and werewolves whenever she chose. Most Shields wouldn’t come within ten feet of us, unless their objective was to be destructive. I would never have another shelter like I had with Porsche. And at the moment, it felt like I would never have a foolproof plan to kill Selene. So many people were afraid of her, as they rightfully should be. We had struggled all summer, but we were no closer to successfully luring her in than we had been last year.

I hadn’t revealed to them my secret – my motive for wanting her dead, beside revenge. If Selene was dead, the vampire curse was broken. Amy and I could live a normal life, grow old together. We could have children and watch them grow up.

Just thinking about it made my fists clench. Fists I wish were wringing Selene’s neck.

Sighing, I pushed myself back from my desk, putting my computer into hibernate, and left the office. I craved being anywhere but stuck between these four walls.

“I’m going out for a walk,” I said to my secretary, who gave me a look.

“Please have your cell phone on, Liam.”

It probably wasn’t a good time to be wandering around the school with it being orientation day for any new students. Those ranged from kindergarteners, entering our school at a young age, to transfer students from other art schools and full and partial scholarship winners, like Amy had been. Every single one of the students had to extensively audition to gain admission, and every one of them also had re-entry exams at the end of the year. To remain in Leopard Academy for more than a few years was truly a feat, and those who did almost certainly went on to fame and fortune. Our last full graduate, Deon, who had been here twelve years, was now a series regular on a TV show with a movie role in the works.

I was proud of him, I was, but I couldn’t help but also be a bit jealous. When I became a vampire, my life changed, and my career changed. I couldn’t continue to be the Hollywood superstar I was before, and so I accepted the headmaster position at the Academy. It was the only viable way I could continue acting. But still, every fiber of my body missed being a superstar. My gut wrenched as I watched the kids on stage.

I opened the door into the hallway and was met with high-pitched screams. Even though I had been away from Hollywood four years, it hadn’t affected my level of fame. In the hallway stood a gaggle of girls, gossiping. I could tell right away they were new students, or they wouldn’t have reacted the way they did. Most of the students in the school were used to me, and still, whenever I was out in places where there would be a big group of non-students, I usually went with an escort.