I turned to Connor, who was standing on my left and saw him wincing as his fangs receded straight away. I could almost see Sarah glowing, as if her power was manifesting off her and washing over Liam.
Arianna’s eyes had gone completely black, and I wasn’t sure if she could see or hear any of us as she chanted words in a rhythm that I didn’t understand, probably pulling out spells from thousands of years ago.
Liam grunted and doubled over, and I moved towards him. Connor’s hand came out, pulling me back.
“No, you must let the magic happen.”
This time, Liam full-out groaned, and I felt my heart wrench as I saw his hands tremble.
“But he’s getting hurt!” I cried, turning to Arianna. “Stop, something’s going wrong!”
She didn’t even acknowledge that she heard me, chanting over the flames that rose so high I thought they would engulf her. Liam bellowed in pain and I struggled against Connor as I saw blood trickle down his face.
“Liam!” But I was no use against a vampire, even one who was being kept half human.
Suddenly, there was a giant flash of light and what I felt like was a sonic boom. The force of it threw both Connor and me to the ground.
My head connected with the hard dirt and I saw stars in front of my eyes.
I took a deep breath, gritting my teeth and willing myself to gain control.
After a moment, the pain subsided and I was able to push myself up on shaky hands. It took another moment before my vision cleared.
Liam was lying, sprawled on the ground, a few feet from me. Immediately, I pulled myself towards him, reaching to grab his shoulder and roll him over.
“Liam,” I said, and then gasped, moving backwards with haste. I hadn’t expected him to still be in vampire form, and it startled me. Normally, I was a few feet away during his transformation.
His eyes met mine, disorientated, and then he snarled at me.
I leapt back with a little screech and felt Arianna’s arms around me.
“It’s ok, Amy. It just means the spell worked. Liam is no longer bound by the laws of Shields. Bound to Sarah, he is protected from them.”
Sarah was sitting up half a meter away, rolling her neck from side to side. Her brand new coat was dirty, spotted with mud, and she looked paler than normal, but otherwise, happy. She wore a wide grin on her face as her head swiveled from Liam to Connor.
“Are you still human?” she asked.
“This is permanent, right?” Liam spoke at last, standing up. He seemed taller than he normally did, and no longer in pain. “As long as Sarah’s close, I’m forever immune to anything?”
“Anything supernatural,” Arianna said, looking at her watch like she was ending a casual coffee date. “I really should go.”
“Thank you.” Liam nodded to her, looking down at his hands, and then up at the stars, as if taking the world in for the first time. “The money will be in your bank account within twenty four hours.”
“Good. Nice to meet you all,” Arianna said, and then headed off towards the school parking lot.
I guess for her, this was an everyday occurrence, changing people into toads and re-arranging the laws of nature. I knew that the binding spell was forbidden by witches who worked in a coven, but it was clear from her attitude that Arianna worked alone.
I looked to Liam, who was rooted to the spot.
He gave me a slight smile. “It’s ok, Amy. Your blood is just as tempting as ever.”
“Gee thanks,” I managed, but still didn’t move any closer.
This wasn’t the Liam I knew, full of compassion and kindness. This Liam was someone else, even if the one I knew was trapped inside.
But then he cocked his head in that familiar way that I found adorable, and gave me a wider grin, winking at me, and I found the man I had fallen in love with again.
I moved forward into his arms, feeling his body as a vampire for the first time. He felt more solid, built and I could feel the power in his muscles. He wrapped his arms around me and I knew that it was the safest place in the world to be: that nothing at all could harm me.
“So, we’ll see you tomorrow night, then,” Sarah said, also safe inside Connor’s arms. They were giving each other a look that told me they had other plans for the evening.
“Yes,” Liam replied, and I smiled, breathing in his familiar scent. Everything would be alright, I knew it.
Once the other two left, Liam reached down to take my hand.
“Do you want to take a walk?” he asked.
I looked up, surprised. “Is that… ok? Are you going to be ok?”
“As long as we stay around here and don’t head to the center of a crowded town.” He smirked. “Unless you want that kind of fun.”
“No thank you,” I replied, gulping slowly. There were still parts of this, even after a year, that frightened me.
“That’s ok, I’m not really hungry.” He gave me a devilish smile and we began to stroll toward the gardens at the very back of the school property.
I had never really spent much time there, preferring indoors and climate-controlled theaters. It was cold, and I couldn’t feel my fingertips, but I didn’t want my time with Liam to end. More than ever, I wanted to understand what was going on when he was like this; how he felt and what he thought.
I hadn’t yet retracted my plan to pull out of school after the show was over, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.
I loved Ranger, and I loved performing every single day, a different script within the same character. I knew Cassandra Winters almost better than I knew myself by now. If they told me to improv all the scenes from here on out, I was pretty sure I could.
But at the same time, I felt frustrated with the set. I hated the long breaks we took, sitting around waiting for the lighting to be moved or the director to argue with the writers. I hated being in character with a strong emotional backing and then having to be told to go back and do it again, or wait an hour for lunch to be over so we could film it from a different angle. As I expressed these thoughts to Liam, a wide grin stretched over his face.
“It’s like we’re the same person,” he said, stopping to pick up a flower and hand it to me.
“Every time I was on a film set, I felt like bashing my head against a wall. You don’t know how many times I wanted to scream at them to just get going.”
“But you spent most of your career in film,” I protested.
He laughed. “You don’t have to tell me twice, I know. Every day I was itching to get back to the stage.”
“So what you’re saying is even full-time actors have it hard?”
“Oh yeah, limos and parties are terrible,” he snorted.
I giggled. “Did you talk to Charlie by any chance?”
“Hard to talk to someone who has no voice,” he replied.
I looked up in horror. “Does that mean you’re playing the Phantom?”
“At least for opening night. I feel a terrible sense of déjà vu.” He swung my arm a bit, making me laugh. “You and I, together on stage again. It’ll be a show that the media will never forget.”
“At least you’ll be wearing a mask,” I realized. “So you can transform away and no one will know. What do you think Selene is planning?”
“She probably thinks we are stupid enough to fall for the same thing twice. She’ll be waiting in the wings at intermission, per usual.”
“Except she’ll be dead long before intermission,” I said with certainty.
I had never hated anyone in my life. I remembered reading about death penalty laws, and never believing that death was the answer. People can be redeemed, and death was more of a punishment for the families than the criminal. There was never a time I thought death was the answer, and there was never anything that made me wish death on a person. For me, with my mother’s image haunting us everywhere we turned, death was the worst thing possible.
Until now, with Selene. I wished her a thousand painful deaths; that her gift of immortality was ripped away from her hands and the pain of her every victim would come down upon her. And that was just for what she had done to us.
“Hopefully,” Liam replied and then laughed. “I hope Connor remembers that he isn’t supposed to kill an audience member every night.”
“Seriously?” I looked up at him
He shook his head. “I’m sure it’ll be fine. He’s smart, and Sarah’s got him wrapped around her little finger.”
“I think they are actually in love,” I replied. “Which is surprising.”
“Why?’ Liam asked, as we rounded one corner of the field and headed towards the other. I was shivering now, but I didn’t want him to know. This was a perfect moment with Liam, vampire or not, under the moonlight and alone. “She was the big squealing fan girl of our relationship. Sarah never… believed in love, for herself. There was sex and lust, and there were relationships, but she never believed in full-out love or happily ever after. She didn’t think herself capable of it. She thought it was all fairy tale stories of times gone by.”
“And now… I don’t know. She sings his praises every second, she tells me everything he says and does and swears she never wants to be without him.”
“Kind of the way I feel about you,” Liam said, nuzzling my neck.
I blushed, pulling away but he persisted. “Stop,” I cried, pulling away but he pulled me in closer. “Leggo!”
“Never!” He laughed, hugging me. “I will never let you go!”
There was a serious note in his voice, and I could tell he meant it.
When Sarah expressed her feelings of happily ever after not existing, I had stayed silent. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but when I was alone in the house all day long, it was hard to imagine that there was an actual Prince Charming a few miles away to sweep me off my feet. But I held out hope anyway, indulging in the romance movies which made me believe that I would have a fairy tale wedding with a dress that went on for miles.