When the second act started, I felt like my heart was in my throat. Everything was happening at once and it was out of my control. The media had practically attempted to break in during intermission, all too desperate to get shots of Liam again. Luckily, our security was good and held them back. However, it reconfirmed that I had made the right choice. I wasn’t ready for the world out there, not yet. If anything, I wanted to spend eternity curled up in my dorm room, going to the safety of classes and snuggling with Liam in the afternoons.
“I haven’t experienced night as a human like this in three years,” Liam said to me, as we waited in the wings for our final cue. His arms were around my waist, and he was warm, his chest rising and falling.
“Are shields common?” I asked, and he shook his head.
“No. After Porsche…I’ll be lucky if I ever meet another one again. They really don’t make themselves known, and half of them aren’t ever aware of their powers. Anyway, what do you want to do next year?”
“Next year?” I turned to him and gaped.
“Liam?” I asked, confused. “Why are you not concerned about everything that’s happening?”
“Because. Selene is just here to make sure I’m doing my part, which I am. After tonight, my best friend will be immortal and I no longer have to spend every spare moment wondering if she’s dead. And you’re staying with me. You aren’t going to leave and I don’t have to mourn what would have been.”
I supposed that did all sound good. I arched up to kiss him before breaking away.
“See you on stage,” I breathed, and he blew me one more kiss.
For everything that was happening around us, the show went off reasonably flawlessly. Of course, in such a big production, with such a huge cast, there would always be hitches. And I was glad that Liam was on stage with me, most of the time, showing me how to react in the moment when things went wrong.
Twice, I forgot my line and he scooped up the words into his own, as if it were natural, so none of the plot got missed. One of the actresses who played a servant tripped over the table cloth while setting the table and Liam caught her with a beast-like growl and scolding that made the crowd roar with laughter. He even managed to put out a fire when a candle stick burned too low, snuffing it so fast that I didn’t even notice anything had happened.
But what had me awed most of all was his talent. Liam was as spectacular as he had ever been in Hollywood, every line coming out smooth and clean. I had not thought of him as that Hollywood Superstar in a long time, but tonight, I felt like I should worship the ground he walked on. He was marvelous and brilliant, and I felt sad that the world he so loved had been ripped away from him one night.
Liam deserved every ounce of fame he had earned, and every chance he got. But instead, he was here, with me as his co-star. And as lucky as that made me, I hated Selene every second for doing this to him.
The show went by so fast that I barely noticed when we came to the end.
The final scene was the biggest of the show, of course. Everyone was gathering in the wings and trickling on stage to see the union of Beauty and her Prince. I was on top of the world. I had seen my father in the front row and he seemed entranced by the whole show, sitting unmoving with a bouquet of roses in his lap. And even though this first show was over, we still had three more weeks to play and I could rest in Liam’s arms on and off stage.
I almost didn’t see her in the wings as we went to take our first bows. Flowers and teddy bears were being thrown up on the stage, flying by us. The other actors were giggling and ducking. The children who were in the audience had smiles lighting up their faces and making their eyes twinkle. For two hours, they had forgotten their own troubles and illnesses, and had lived in the world of magic that we created. This was the reason I wanted to act for the rest of my life.
She must have been watching the whole time, because she would have had to time her arrival perfectly. Everyone after the final curtain call was to exit stage right and head to the lobby immediately, so that the audience would be greeted by what appeared to be the continuation of the ball when they exited the theater. I happened to turn my head at the right moment, and I saw the cloud of dark and red hair standing in the wings. And somehow, I knew Porsche standing peacefully in the wings with Selene wasn’t likely.
“Liam,” I breathed, trying not to attract attention as we took a second bow. He turned to me, a wide grin on his face.
I bobbed my head subtly towards the wings. He raised an eyebrow and the leaned back, and I saw his eyes widen. Turning his head towards the stagehand on the left, he indicated the curtain should fall after our third bow. I still heard endless amounts of applause, and the cast seemed disappointed to not be receiving it, but Liam took charge, immediately.
“All of you, to the lobby now. Go,” he boomed, and they went, without a word. Most of them were grinning and slapping each other on the back. “You should go too, Amy,” he said, and I shook my head, meeting his eyes. There was no way I was leaving him now, not when I had just gotten him back.
“No. This is no longer just your fight. I’m involved too, whether you like it or not.”
“Fine,” he narrowed his eyes, taking my hand. “But, at the first sign of trouble, you bolt. Run. You understand me?”
“Yes,” I nodded and took his hand. If he was to face Selene, then I was going to be standing by his side.
When we were finally alone on the stage, Liam turned casually towards the wings, as if we were just wandering in the wrong direction.
As we got closer, I tensed up. Selene was standing behind Porsche, who looked rigid and uncomfortable, her jaw set. Her eyes were wide and she was trying to warn us off, I could see it. But Liam, my brave Liam, was having none of it.
“Ah, my beautiful Liam. What a performance.” Selene’s French accent was thick, but it only added to her beauty. She truly was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life. But the evil that lay behind her eyes brought the reality home for me. This was a woman to be feared, to be hated.
“Porsche, are you alright?” Liam asked, ignoring Selene. Porsche shrugged, although I could see she was petrified.
“Sure,” she managed. Liam took a step closer and Selene growled at him.
“What is it I can do for you?” Liam asked her, calmly, as if this were a normal conversation. “You came to check on me, Selene, same as last year. And so here I am. Operating the school, flying under the radar, acting human and sucking blood bags. So what is it you want? Let go of Porsche before I rip you limb from limb,” he said it mildly, as if they were talking about the weather. But I could see his eyes darken, and I knew he meant it.
“But you aren’t.” Selene replied, and her eyes darted to me. “You aren’t exactly keeping what you are a secret, are you, Liam?”
“Amy, get behind me,” he growled, not giving me a choice in the matter. His arm pulled me back, but I fought to face Selene.
“Are you talking about me?” I asked, with more courage in my voice than I ever had in my life. “Yes, Liam told me what he was. But I would never ever tell anyone. I didn’t even want to believe it myself. ”
“Ah, little one, your integrity does not factor into the vampire code. Liam’s job was to keep everything quiet, and yet I see two humans here who know what we are,” she replied, and Liam smirked.
“Except you seem to be breathing right now, Selene, so may I remind you that I could snap your neck like a twig in one move. Let go of Porsche, now, or I’ll make sure you are human for the rest of your miserable life.” I could see he meant it too, his fist clenching at his side. Never in my whole life had I ever wanted anyone to die, until tonight. Anger burned up inside me until I was seeing red. I wanted nothing more than to see Selene running for her life, and then lifeless on the floor.
“Kill me, Liam, and you know what happens,” her voice was ominous, and my mind was spinning.
“But I’m dying too!” I blurted out, and everyone turned to me. “I mean…I will. Sooner than a normal person. Like Porsche, I’m also HIV positive. So even though I know Liam’s secret…it’s not like I’m going to know it for 100 years.”
“Amy,” Liam’s face softened as he turned to me. “Don’t talk like that.”
Porsche whimpered and squirmed and we both turned back. Selene had her arm twisted behind her back and I could see she was hurting her. Liam met Porsche’s eyes and raised an eyebrow. Very slowly, Porsche gave the tiniest nod.
I felt my stomach plummet. Here, it was going to happen here and now, and I was going to be witness to it. Porsche would accept the death sentence Liam gave her and transform into a vampire. My eyes were darting around the theater, trying to think of an exit plan to get Porsche and I out, when all of sudden, Selene laughed.
“Liam, such a pretty face, but you aren’t very smart, are you? But then, I guess that’s always been the case, failing to do your research. That’s what you were famous for, wasn’t it? Showing up on set having no idea what the movie was even about?”
“Selene…” Liam’s grip on my arm tightened. “Let. Her. Go.”
“Why?” she asked. “It’s not going to make a difference.”
She twisted, and Porsche doubled over. She gagged twice and then threw up, her legs trembling. My heart went out for her and I closed my eyes, leaning against Liam.
“Liam, make her better,” I whispered. “Let it end for her, please.”
Selene threw her head back and laughed, seemingly unaffected by Porsche’s pain.
“I can grant that wish. Let me be exceptionally clear for you, Liam, because you and your little performer friends have always been stupid. This lovely beautiful ballerina here is a shield, as you know. A shield blocks all supernatural powers. All of them. And she is a very powerful shield indeed, probably one of the most powerful I’ve ever seen. It’s a shame, really.” She jerked Porsche upwards, an arm around her neck tightly. Liam tensed, ready to pounce.