“Uh, thanks but no thanks.” I shook my head. “Liam would probably freak out even more. And I really can’t take any more freaking out from anyone.”

At the moment, the only person that I wasn’t worried about was Sarah, who was with Connor. Now that Isabelle was gone, they spent every waking moment with each other. Hopefully, they were using birth control. Connor didn’t seem to be grieving his wife too much, although whenever I asked Sarah about it, it was apparently a private point. Whatever it is, I made her pinky swear me she was safe, and that she wouldn’t ever hurt herself again, and she assured me she was alright.

The police investigation had drawn even more attention to the school, with paparazzi everywhere trying to figure Sarah’s connection to it. So far, though, no one could draw a connection besides the fact that she was an unfortunate victim. Which she was, they just didn’t know the part about her also being the mistress of a centuries old vampire with a very jealous wife, who moonlighted as a fourteen year old child. I highly doubted the media could come up with a more bizarre story than the truth.

“Did you practice that knock out?” Drago asked, changing the subject.

“I did. But are you sticking around to watch it on camera?”

“Yep, so make one mistake and I’ll knock you out,” he teased me.

I grinned, getting up as they called me. On set, things were as normal as they could get. The regular cast was great, and the crew was even nicer. It wasn’t like Gatsby where they yelled at me for every little thing, and then ignored me the rest of the time. I felt like I actually mattered here, people asked me what I wanted and how I wanted it. Drago and I had a million jokes from the summer show. Everything was relaxed, we could joke around and not wonder if one of our friends was having their life threatened. It had only been a week, but I was starting to enjoy set a lot more than rehearsal at school, which was a swap from last year.

The only thing I gave Liam credit for at the moment was his great idea for my independent study. Every night, for about an hour, I wrote a journal entry segregated into two parts Today and The Past where I recounted stories from the previous year. It was the easiest project I had ever done.

Of course, I couldn’t write how mad I was at Liam for not believing me, or the fact that I hated Phantom of the Opera and much preferred Ranger. My independent study would go in a display case at the front of the school, so a lot of my feelings had to be highly edited. I consoled myself by writing them and then deleting them after.

At least I had a lot of fuel to play Cassandra. She had a dark past and was so angry all the time. She was also judged for being a girl ranger in a male dominated field. It was every actor’s dream, and she always had great lines. She was also very different from the innocent, straightforward characters I had played before. I had gotten used to these innocent young characters, but I had to think about every single one of Cassandra’s steps, her words, and her expressions, and it felt great. I was obsessed with her already, and I hoped my episode arc would be extended.

I headed onto set to film a scene where she was about to knock someone out, surprising the regular ranger boys. My skirt and corset were incredibly restricting, but luckily, Drago was the master of adaptation when it came to stunts. He had taught me how to accommodate for both costume pieces, and how to move in a way that looked good on camera, but fake and easy off camera.

It had taken hours to choreograph a stunt that took less than 15 seconds to execute, and only half an hour to film. Anyone who said TV was glamorous was crazy, because they didn’t see how much work went into it behind the scenes.

“Alright, Amy, that’s it,” the director called. “Thank you and see you tomorrow!”

“Cool.” I gathered up my skirts and bid goodbye to the cast. Drago held his arm out, helping me back to the dressing room.

“So, you have rehearsal this evening? Or maybe we can wear masks and sneak around town and get some actual decent food?”

“I can probably sneak out and use the back alley to your place.” I grinned at him. “I’ll call you later? Anything is better than watching Sarah and Connor cuddle, or fighting with Liam.”

“Cool. I’ll await the phone ringing.” He kissed my hand, just like the boys on Ranger, and I giggled, and went to change.

I changed and took off most, but not all of my makeup. It was perfect; I could show up at rehearsal looking like something the cat dragged in every day.

Gathering up my backpack, I said goodbye to those in the area, and then headed out. My stomach rumbled but I didn’t have time to grab anything here. I preferred getting to rehearsal on time and getting food there. Liam and I didn’t need another reason to snap at each other.

I came through the front doors and then paused outside the basement door. This door, when you think about, changed my life. Had I chosen to never walk down it, perhaps I never would have known Liam’s secret, never would have been involved in this mess.

There was a loud bang from below, which confused me. It was the middle of the day, no one had a reason to be down there.

Then I did something that I usually yell at characters in horror movies for: I descended down the stairs alone, my backpack over my shoulder.

There was silence down there, as if I had been imagining things. I wanted to call out, in case it was Liam’s grandfather, Peter, down there, since I didn’t want to scare him. But something at the last minute told me to stay quiet.

I peered around the corner as I came down the winding steps, but could see nothing until I went a few feet further.

It was Nina, slumped down against the post that Liam was normally tied to. I didn’t particularly want to talk to Nina, not when she was constantly hanging off his every word, and his arm, but something about her body posture made me go a little further.

The chains were on her tiny wrists, and I could see they were all cut up. I found that strange, that the wounds were open, and not healing. Vampires, even in the middle of the day in human form, were quick healers. There shouldn’t be wide open wounds on her arms.

“Nina?” I called again, but she didn’t move. “Hey, Nina!” I reached out to poke her arm and her body shifted, slumping over in reaction to me touching her. “Oh, no, not again.”

Her arm fell forward and a glass bottle rolled out. I picked it up, examining it, but there was nothing to indicate what it was. Nina’s eyes were open, staring forward but she was seeing nothing. None of this made sense.

“Nina?” I touched her again, but got no response.

Alarmed, I put my backpack down, turned and hurried up the stairs. I had a bad feeling in my stomach, but in my heart I knew it was alright. If Nina wanted to starve herself, I would tell someone, but I wasn’t going to run all over the school. She had caused us nothing but issues since she had gotten here and I was getting a little annoyed at it.

“Sarah, where’s Liam?” I asked, as I went into the Red Theater.

She pointed towards the stage, and I hopped up, finding him, as usual, in a gaggle of female students, talking and laughing. I didn’t think he was playing kissing booth with any of them, but I really didn’t see how he could be so jealous of one photograph when he was doing so much worse in front of me.

“Liam.” I held out the bottle, and the girls scattered. “Something is wrong with Nina again. You better come, she’s probably starved herself.”

My stomach growled. I was starving myself, not on purpose, but I was hungry nonetheless. I hadn’t gotten a chance to eat, but you didn’t see me being ridiculously irresponsible about it.

Instead of reacting with the same amount of concern I had, his eyes widened, and he snatched the bottle from me.

“Where did you get this?”

“Nina,” I replied. “It was in her hand.”

“Was she conscious?” His voice rose about an octave and his eyes looked like they were about to bug out of his head.

“No,” I started and was about to tell him the rest when he panicked.

“Steve!” he called to one of the bigger vampires, and then twisted to find Sarah.

He didn’t even ask her to come with him. He simply grabbed her wrist and pulled her along, running out the theater like it was burning down. The little parade of us attracted quite a lot of attention as we followed him, and I wondered what all the fuss about it. When Nina had fainted in rehearsal, they didn’t go running like her life was in danger.

I followed at a slower pace, but tried to keep them in sight. Liam led the way, practically shoving Sarah down the steps, Connor and Steve in tow. I nearly slipped down the stairs myself, my footing lost as Steve startled me by jumping the rest of the way over them to the ground. The rest skidded to the ground, and went around the post.

“Here!” Liam said, nearly pulling Sarah’s arms out of her sockets and placing them on Nina.

I finally joined them, crouching down beside them.

“Steve, Connor, get those chains off of her,” Liam said, as he reached out.

Nina’s eyes still stared dead ahead, and he tipped her head back so her mouth fell open.

“No, no, no, damn it!” he cried.

Nina was released from the chains and fell limp into Sarah’s arms.

“Here, do this.” He guided Sarah’s arms over her small body.

“Liam, what the hell is going on?” I interrupted at last.

Connor answered me, “The bottle you found in Nina’s hand is holy water. It burns if thrown into our faces, human or not. But ingested, it’s a slow agonizing death as it burns every single internal organ out. And because it’s not something that affects a normal human, we don’t heal from it. Perhaps Sarah can draw out the effects of it.”

My head swiveled to Sarah, who met my eyes. Nina remained motionless and slack jawed in her arms. Liam covered his face with his hands and Connor placed a hand on his shoulder.