“I don’t want this,” I whispered, reaching to cover her hand with mine.
She just shrugged. “I can’t be much use to you tonight, Liam, I know that. I’m not a Shield, or a vampire, I’m not strong or fast. But I can do this for you, so let me.”
Sarah must have cleared the building, because my fangs were receding as well. I sucked in a lung full of fresh air, and tried to smile at her.
We sat in silence for a few moments, simply enjoying each other’s company.
And then Amy spoke, “What’s the first thing you are going to do when the curse is broken?”
“Geez.” I had been so focused on getting the show off the ground and seeing Selene’s dead body in front of me that it hadn’t actually occurred to me to consider the after effects. But it was true. Tonight, if all went as planned, then I would draw breath until the end of my natural life and no longer fear the sunset or be a slave to the dawn. One thought darted into my brain like an arrow. “Spend the night with you. Hold you in my arms all night and never let you go. Is that what you had in mind?”
She gave me a sly smile. “I was thinking a prelude. Candlelit dinner, sunset walk along the beach. And then we could get to that stuff.”
I brought her hand to my mouth, kissing the now clotted wound. A prop ring that I had on my hand caught the light and I knew that this was as good as time as any. I wanted her to know that no matter what happened, human or vampire, I would always love her.
I slipped it off my hand and held it up to her.
“Amy.” A thousand thoughts slipped through my head. That she would say no, that she wasn’t that serious, that we were both too young. That I might ruin the show if she said no. That she didn’t want to do that to me because of her shortened life expectancy. But I didn’t really care. And I didn’t want to be fancy and elegant about it. I wanted to get straight to the point. “Amy, will you marry me?”
I thought something was wrong in the way her eyes bugged out and she started choking. I actually dropped the ring in my alarm, reaching to take her in my arms.
She choked a few times and then nodded, but she was trembling as she met my eyes.
“Amy.” I tried to steady her. “Don’t feel pressured. If you think this isn’t right, or you’re not ready or… whatever reason, you don’t have to explain yourself to me. If you say no now, it’s not going to change anything between us. I’m not going to stop loving you, and I’m certainly not going to stop asking. I love you, more than anything, more than I ever thought possible. I didn’t believe in love until I met you, Amy, and you changed everything. I thought my world had been turned upside down when I was made into this monster, but the day you walked into the audition room was the real day my life changed. And I wanted to do this now, before everything went down, because I wanted you to know that no matter what I am, I will always love you. Even if you walk away now. And I’m sorry I’m not prepared, and that this isn’t a diamond, but I’ll get you a diamond and…”
“Liam.” She brought a finger to my lips, hushing me. “I will.”
Now it was my turn to choke in shock. “You will?”
She threw her arms around me, and I could now feel her trembling from happiness. Keeping one arm around her, I reached to the ground to pick up the ring I had dropped. It wouldn’t make any sense for her character, but I really didn’t care. With my own hands shaking, I slipped it on her ring finger and squeezed so it tightened around her small finger.
She met my eyes and our lips locked, a slow passionate kiss that I never wanted to break away from.
“We don’t have to rush into it,” I told her. “We can do it when life is settled down, when you’re ready. When you know the outcome of tonight.”
“If you got a priest in here now, I’d do it,” she whispered. “You know none of that matters to me.”
I kissed her again, biting her lips and pressing her close. I wanted her as close to me as possible, to make us one and never be separate.
“Amy, if tonight doesn’t work… if I remain a vampire… you know, eventually, I’m going to have to disappear.”
“Liam, you always worry about what could happen, what might happen. Whether or not you’re a vampire or human won’t change the fact that I’ll be dead before our tenth wedding anniversary. If you’re prepared to deal with that, I’m sure I can deal with an eternally hot husband.” She squeezed my hand, trying to make light of the situation.
“I wish I could kill AIDS as easily as I could take down Selene,” I muttered into her hair.
She nodded. “One day, maybe. But let’s not worry about one day. Let’s just worry about today.”
“Right.” I took my strength from her once more, and then straightened up, glancing at the clock on the wall. “Show time.”
“See you later.” She hopped off the table, straightening her costume, ever the professional. I had no doubt that if I got a priest to marry us right there and then, Amy would still make sure that the show went off without a hitch.
A knock came at the door, just as she was leaving, and Connor stood there.
“Selene has taken her seat.”
“We should have put dynamite in it,” I replied, trying to keep the mood light. “Connor, get on a radio and bring Sarah back. It’s time to close the curtain.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I said, not wanting to explain why I had sent his girlfriend off in a huff.
Connor let it go, heading off to follow my instructions. I signaled the rest of the cast to get in place, and then climbed up to the very top balcony, which was roped off. It was where the Phantom started the show, and also where a script was kept hidden, in case I needed a last minute line check. I fitted the earpiece inside my mask, so that I could keep in communication with the rest of the cast and crew. I hated that I still didn’t know this part well, and I now had to accept that I never would.
There she was, sitting in the front row, just as we had predicted she would be. She was wearing a black trench coat over a red dress, her hair a sleek mane down her back, and her makeup flawless. Even after all these years and all she’d done, she was still one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen.
She craned her neck and looked right up at the balcony, meeting my eyes and winking at me as the lights went down completely.
This was it, now or never. One of us would be lying dead within an hour.
I committed the biggest theater faux pas I could that night. As soon as the lights came up on the ballerinas, I drew Sarah in close. Our characters were supposed to be whispering and giggling to each other, and every other night, we had done it in character. But tonight, I was bursting at the seams.
“He proposed to me!” I hissed, discreetly showing her my hand.
“Liam. Liam did. Sarah this is real!”
“Oh my God!” She turned her back to the audience slightly, and leaned her mouth near my ear. “Are you serious? When’s the wedding?”
“I don’t know. As soon as possible.”
“Tell me everything!” she cried, and I was honestly about to, when Davina, who played Madame Giry, the ballet Mistress and my on-stage mother appeared, and I immediately snapped back into character.
I knew the show was a mess tonight from the get-go. The vampires, stuck in human form, and us three leads, only had our mind on one thing. Even Liam missed a few lines, hurrying to get to the party scene. It was like we were on super speed, and the other actors were giving us dirty looks the whole time. I felt bad, especially when I looked down and saw poor Charlie in the audience, watching with a look of jealousy. We were destroying the play he worked so hard on for our own purposes.
Finally, it was upon us. Sarah and I stood on opposite sides of the stage, hidden in the wings and locked eyes.
I jumped, turning to my father behind me.
“Dad! I’m fine!” I had never snapped at him like that before, but suddenly I realized he was on the wrong side. Looking just beyond him, I thought my heart would stop as I saw my mother, hovering nearby. “You’re on the wrong side!”
Confusion crossed his face. “Stage notes say the wine enters from here.”
“It changed! Get to the other side! Now!” I practically shoved him into a curtain, giving my mother time to get out of the way, and then heard my musical cue. I entered the stage, and locked eyes with Selene.
It happened so fast I felt like I was on drugs. How could everything be crawling up until now and then suddenly, it was upon us. Connor was in the audience, acting like a drunken lout, and not doing too bad of job, and bringing up people for the party. The minute his hands closed around Selene’s, all hell broke loose.
She was too close to the stage not to be dragged up on it, too weak as a human to resist. If our audience saw that something was wrong, they didn’t let on, which is what I was counting on. You can convince an audience that almost anything is part of the show.
The second Selene crossed the threshold of the stage, we surrounded her, the music reaching a fevered pitch. It was so loud I couldn’t even hear myself think. The others were human, the Shields keeping them in check. Selene, the mother of the vampires, was of course, not as affected, but I could still see a half inch of fangs, despite her weakened body.
And then Sarah’s hand closed around hers and she howled, jerking around. It was almost like Sarah was hurting her.
“O’Malley!” she hissed, and Sarah simply grinned, the innocent character of Christine crossed with the devilish grin Sarah put on.
“That’s right. You and I have a personal thing, don’t we?” Sarah whispered. “Because I did my research and I’m pretty damn sure you’re the reason that I’m the last of their bloodline. You set us up all those years ago, didn’t you?”