“Right. So Miss Nailer isn’t here today. She’s got a touch of a stomach bug, so I’m taking over. We’ll keep this relatively short and sweet.” I looked out over the students as they gathered around the projector. “This is going to be the Act 1 finale for Phantom of the Opera, which, for those of you living under a rock, is the year end show. It’s Masquerade, and you’re at a grand ball. You’re all going to be in it, presumably, even if you are cast as a lead, so there’s no reason not to learn it. I’m going to play it for you twice and then we’ll start going over it.”
I pressed play and let them watch, while I floated to the back of the class, trying to stop my fangs from twitching. One of the advantages of being immortal was that I didn’t have to take time to warm up and stretch. My muscles were always taut and ready to go.
I quite liked the choreography actually. I was a big fan of theater, but also a fan of modernity, and Miss Nailer had incorporated hip-hop and dance moves into it. It might make a few old people uncomfortable in their seats, but theater wasn’t for rich old fogies anymore.
Watching myself in the mirror, I moved through the steps that I remembered, my muscles snapping in perfect rhythm. Doing West End shows were some of the greatest memories I had of my career. When Amy had left to tour with Gatsby, I was almost jealous. It was a part of my life I would likely never have again, at least not for one hundred years, when everyone forgot my name and face. But she, she was just beginning, just starting to find out the real thrills of theater.
Dancing too, reminded me of Porsche, and I stopped before the memories got too intense. My beautiful ballerina, who would have probably stepped in to sub this dance class herself, was gone, and I had to stop thinking about her. A Shield would be so useful on a grey overcast day like this.
The class finished the video and clustered behind me, expecting me to lead them through the steps now. I could see Amy on my right side, her hair pulled up. She truly was the most stunning person in the room, her cheek bones angular and her eyes wide and full of emotions. I saw beautiful people on a regular basis, but the more I got to know Amy, the more I was attracted to her.
“Are we ready? One, two, three, four…” I counted them off and then we began.
For a group of non-dancers, they picked it up pretty fast. Mind you, it wasn’t complicated. It was meant to be taught to almost everybody. They ran into problems, however, during an eight step process when they had to partner up with each other and spin. After 3 failed attempts, I stopped them. Not wanting to play favorites, I called upon Sarah to join me at the front.
“Pay attention, because this is all we have time for. It’s like this. One, two, three…” The second my hand connected with Sarah’s waist, I felt it again, the jolt that I had noticed in my office. A rush of calm washed over me, and I took a step back, shocked. What the hell was going on with this girl?
I shook myself. “Sorry, stumbled. Let’s try it again.”
There was certainly something happening with Sarah, although I couldn’t figure out what it is. Perhaps the thoughts of that distracted me, because by the end of the class, despite the fact that darkness was drawing close, I felt better.
I ended the class, congratulating them on their effort, and released them. I glanced at my watch. If I was right, I had about 20 minutes to get to the cellar. I could stay out another hour, technically, before anything got bad, but I didn’t want to take any chances.
“You alright?” Amy asked me, as she walked me to the door.
I nodded. “Sure. Just days like this are always bad. Will you be alright tonight?”
She grabbed my hand as we walked the short distance down the hallway.
“Yeah. Sarah hasn’t fully unpacked yet, because she’s lazy, so I’m probably just going to hang out with her. I’ll text you later.”
“Do you want to have breakfast in the morning?” I asked, not so eager to be parted from her. “We haven’t had much time together and there are things we need to… discuss.”
“Right.” She nodded, sharing my thoughts of Selene. “8am?”
“I’ll see you then.” I kissed her full on the mouth, unable to hold back.
She relaxed into my grasp, moaning a bit. “I can’t wait,” she whispered in my ear, and then turned, heading back to the studio to change.
I watched her until she disappeared from sight. Forcing myself to turn around and head down to the basement, I glanced at my watch and counted the hours until I would see her again.
I was pacing the basement, fighting bloodlust and the chains when I heard the door creak open above me. After four years of being a vampire, I had learned how to control my nightly cravings to the point where I could think rationally. I could even do a little bit of work. The pain was still terrible, especially at the start and the end, and some nights I cried so much I felt like I would melt. Some nights, I couldn’t deal with this tragedy that had befallen me. But since being with Amy, the world seemed like a brighter place. I still locked myself up, mostly on my own now, not trusting myself to be out and about with humans at night. But Peter, my grandfather and the former headmaster of the school, often came to visit at night, and he was safe to do so.
“Peter?” I called up the stairs, thinking it was him. My vampire ears picked up not one but two sets of footsteps. I tensed.
“It’s me. Or... us,” Amy said, appearing at the top of the stairs, her hand in Sarah’s. She stopped, waiting for me to tell them to approach. Amy’s blood didn’t tempt me, and she knew she was safe, but I guessed she was worried for Sarah’s sake.
“What are you doing here?” I asked. Even if Sarah knew of my existence as this monster, it didn’t mean that she needed to see it.
“I’m sorry. It was my idea,” Sarah spoke up. “It’s just… we were unpacking my luggage and I found something weird in it. Something I didn’t put in it myself. And I thought, with all the strange stuff that happens in this school, you should know about it.”
“What?” I nodded for them to approach.
Sarah clearly had no regard for her own safety and moved ahead of Amy, holding out a scrap of paper to my chained hands. I drew back, instantly, and looked to Amy.
“Sarah, stay back,” Amy said, reaching for her friend.
Sarah apparently had the ears of a brick wall and shoved the paper into my hand. I jolted and my fangs moved back in my mouth half a centimeter, causing me to wince in pain. Sarah jumped back, looking from me to Amy in alarm.
She didn’t look afraid of me, but I suppose when you modified yourself to look like a creature of the night, as Sarah did, a real one didn’t bother her.
I turned the paper over in my hand. On it was a round three dimensional circle, drawn in red marker, with two lines vertically down it and a hand etched in between them. My eyebrows shot up as things began to make sense, even with my muddled brain.
“Sarah, did you leave your luggage alone at any time?”
“Uh, yeah. When Amy and I left it outside my room to come get the key from you.”
“Oh my God,” I shook my head, regarding the paper in my hand. “This is bizarre. Or impossible.”
“What?” Now Amy was on edge, looking from me to Sarah. “What’s happening?”
I looked up, reaching out to Sarah. “Take my hand.”
“Liam!” Amy cried, knowing that I couldn’t often control myself around humans.
Sarah looked at my contorted face without fear, and put her palm firmly in mine. I hissed in pain, but held her gaze, baring my fangs. I could feel them slowly, receding. Amy gasped.
“Oh my God. Is she… are you?”
“This is the Shield symbol,” I said, looking right into Sarah’s eyes. “Did you know anything about this?”
Her response told me she was as completely baffled by the possibility as I was.
“Yes, like Porsche. The Shields must know of your existence, although they don’t often make themselves known until it needs to happen. Like now, because you’re hanging out with a vampire.”
“How?” Amy demanded. “How can she be a Shield? Is she related to Porsche?”
I shrugged. Aside from being tall, the two girls didn’t have anything in common.
“It’s possible. The Camerons and the McIntoshes have identified their active Shield. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be an inactive one, one who’s not really powerful, but just has it in their blood. There’s no… rhyme or reason for the universe choosing a new Shield in the bloodline. They can be sisters, daughter or forth cousins once removed. There’s just only one in a bloodline. And as far as I know, the De Ritters have not yet identified their active shield.”
“You’d think they’d tell us,” Amy said, “seeing as they are supposed to be helping us kill Selene. Cooperating and all.”
I shrugged. “If you can call it that. They want Selene dead and then they never want to talk to me again, even if our interests align. Porsche working with me so closely was a blasphemy, remember? She was excommunicated by her community. Even if we are working for a common goal, they wouldn’t want Sarah actually befriending us.”
I could tell she thought this was the greatest thing to ever happen to her. It wasn’t in my heart to tell her that it was going to likely be a terrible thing.
“What do we do now?” Sarah asked.
“I don’t think you’re the active De Ritter Shield. I know what that blood felt like and it was… more powerful.” Amy gave me a sympathetic smile as I spoke. “But I do think you should be looking into your history, your genealogy.”