“Yes,” He said, confirming every face. “But Porsche’s existence is not to end.”

“And how do you propose that, exactly?” Selene asked. “You can bind a shield to you so that she will serve you, and your powers won’t be as affected. In return, you can give her protection for her family, money, happiness in the bedroom, whatever it was she sought. But you cannot change the fact that her blood is supernaturally resistant. You cannot transform a Shield, Liam. They are doomed to be mortal, forever.”

I felt the world rumble at Selene’s statement. Porsche’s glazed eyes looked up to meet mine in horror, her jaw unclenching to scream. It must have happened fast, but it felt like slow motion. I was already trying to calculate what to do when Selene’s arm muscles tensed around Porsche’s neck, and in less than a second, my beautiful ballerina was lying limp on the floor.

“NOOOO!” I howled, and was struck by a bolt of pain, as I felt my transformation rush into me. It nearly crippled me and I half fell, half stumbled towards her body, grabbing for her neck. Her head bobbed around like a ragdoll, her eyes lifeless and looking skyward.

I sunk my fast growing fangs into her trachea, the spot of transformation. If you wanted to drink blood, you drank from the side of the neck and could leave the body half drained without fear. But if you wanted to sire someone, you bit the front, on either side of the trachea.

Porsche’s blood was rancid and I nearly gagged. My transformation was rushing through my body, trying to make up for lost time. It was disorientating and painful as my heart suddenly stopped and I found I couldn’t breathe.

But what was the most painful of all was that her body remained limp, despite the fact that my venom should have been seeping into her veins. She had been dead less than a minute, which was still well in the clear to transform. As long as the body was still warm, you had time.

But Porsche, my savior, my best friend, stayed dead.

I bit her again and again, nearly gouging out her broken throat.

“C’mon, baby,” I said, giving her a little shake. “C’mon. Wake up. Wake up. You’re stronger than this. There’s no more pain on this side, no more disease. I promised you immortality, Porsche, and it’s yours to have, you just have to take it. COME ON!”

Her body flopped around, her red hair flying across her face. She was so thin, and so clearly so sick, it must have been torture for her to last as long as she did. She had waited it out, given me that, and now, I had nothing to give her.

“Porsche,” my voice came out broken, and I felt Amy kneel down next to me, taking my hand.

“Liam. Liam,” she tried to pull me back. “She’s gone, Liam.”

“No!” I ripped away from Amy, biting into the ravaged throat once again. But it was no use, as I knew it wouldn’t be. Her body was lifeless and she wasn’t coming back.

I sank back onto my heels, my sobs coming in gasps. I didn’t realize I could feel this way, fully transformed. I had never cried as a vampire, and it was worse than being human. Everything felt more intense, more unmanageable. I felt like that pain would never stop, never let up. It was only Amy’s arms around me, warm and beating with life, that let me even think straight.

Amy was crying too, her face buried in my neck, but she was silent about it - the cry of one who had accepted fate.

And I guess she had to; this beautiful girl whom I loved more than anything. Amy had lost her mother and long since accepted that her own death would come sooner than others. She was in touch with both life and death; something I, in my three years as a vampire, had never been able to accept. There was a wisdom about her that was far superior to her years. Her eyes were full of understanding that I could never hope to gain.

“There’s another life, you know,” Amy said, through her tears. “It’s not just…human or vampire. There’s a whole other existence out there, a whole other place where there’s happiness and no pain. And that’s where she is now, Liam.”

“This is my fault,” I managed, unable to look at the body that lay just beyond us.

“It’s not,” Amy said, sitting up to meet my eyes. Her eyes were clear, despite the tears. “This is not your fault. You did not make the choice to do this, Liam. Your choice was to save her, and hers was to save you. It was Selene who interfered with all that, and the death is on her hands.” She was inches from my face, and this time, there was no recoiling or flinching at my appearance. I knew I must be in full vampire mode, but Amy didn’t seem to care. She was gazing upon me as if I was fully human.

“She ran,” Amy said. “Transformed as well. As soon as Porsche…” She reached up to wipe tears from her face.

“She’ll be back,” I said, shakily. “She always is. And she’ll pay, for what she did. For taking more than one life that was not hers to take. “

I wanted to get up, run, anywhere, do something. But I knew it was no use. Selene would be long gone by now. She was centuries old, and I had no hope of finding her if she did not want to be found. The smartest thing to do was wait, wait until she came back, which I knew she would.

I crawled forward a few paces. Even in death, Porsche was beautiful. I closed her eyes and it had the effect that she was sleeping. As if my redheaded beauty would wake at any moment. But she would not; not from her eternal slumber.

The grief struck me hard, and had it not been for Amy’s steadying grip, I would have joined her.

“I love you,” I turned to Amy, whose eyes widened in shock. It wasn’t the best moment, but I had to say it. “I love you, and I have pretty much since the first day I met you. And I don’t think I can live without you, Amy, so please say you’re not going anywhere.”

“I already told you I’m not,” she said, softly. “I’m not. Ever. I love you too, Liam. I’m sorry I ran from you. I shouldn’t have.”

“No,” I shook my head. “You had every right too. This love, Amy, this love is not easy. It’s probably going to be the hardest thing in the world. And it’s dangerous. Selene knows that you know now, and she’s right, you shouldn’t. But I promise, I will do everything in my power to protect you. Because I don’t think I can do this alone, my love. I can’t be alone any longer.”

“You never were,” she placed a hand over mine. We sat in silence for a long moment, each lost in our own thoughts. Finally, she spoke. “Should I call 9-1-1? I mean…I know there’s nothing…but…”

“Yes,” I nodded, running a hand over my face. “One of her pet peeves was theater shows getting delayed. She’d probably kill me if she knew we were sitting here right now, instead of going to accept our audience. They’ll be waiting for us.”

“We can,” I took one last look at her before standing up. “Porsche’s part in this tale is done, although I will never forget her. Call 9-1-1, Amy, and tell them we found her dead. I will not have her name buried under a murder investigation. ”

“They’ll know,” Amy wiped her eyes. “They’ll know something is wrong. Look at her throat.”

“They’ll know,” I agreed. “But the world doesn’t have to. Porsche De Ritter will remain a beautiful ballerina who slipped away.”

Amy nodded, already dialing the number on her cell phone. I closed my eyes, trying to regain control of all my limbs. None of this seemed real. The underlying feeling was anger. I wanted to go mad, to find Selene and rip her apart and make sure she suffered in her last moments as Porsche did. Had Amy not been in my life, I would have wanted to go on a rampage - hunt down the French vampire and her kind until nothing remained. And then likely, I would have thrown myself off a bridge into a watery grave.

But Amy made all the difference. She stood, her shoulders tensed with courage as she spoke to the 9-1-1 operator, and she looked up at me, offering me the tiniest smile. Without her, I would be nothing more than a monster. But with her in my life, her heart beat strong and fierce, I had a chance to live again.

“It’s done,” she said, hanging up the phone. “They’ll be here soon.”

“Can you make me look presentable?” I asked her, angling my head so there was light on it. “The world should know that she’s gone. Let’s make tonight for her.”

“I uh…I can try,” she replied, eyeing my makeup.

“Wait,” I turned back to Porsche, taking a deep breath that I didn’t need to steel myself. Leaning down, I planted a kiss on her cheek, which was now cold. “Dance in heaven, princess,” I whispered, trying not to let the tears fall again. “Thank you, for everything. I’ll be alright. Amy will help me be alright. No more pain now.”

I closed my eyes, trying to accept the reality that lay before me. After a moment, I rose as well, taking Amy’s hand to steady myself.

“Let’s go give her a final curtain call,” I said, and Amy nodded.

Her makeup job wasn’t perfect, but between the two of us, we managed to make me look human. I felt sick inside, and craved no blood, which I supposed could only help me. Any lingering vampire appearance could be explained away by the fact that my Beast makeup hadn’t been properly removed.

On shaking legs, and with Amy’s help, we climbed the staircase in the lobby, taking our place on the balcony. As soon as we appeared, the audience waiting below burst into applause. Camera flashes went off, and cheers went up. I closed my eyes, taking Amy’s hand. She squeezed it tight, nodding to me with encouragement.

“Thank you,” I spoke into the microphone that had been carefully placed. “But your applause is not just for me tonight, but for the hundreds of people who helped make this production happen. I could not have done it alone. None of us want to do anything alone,” I swallowed, careful not to let my eyes shine with tears. Amy squeezed my hand again and I waited until the crowd was completely silent. “Without Amy…my Beauty, I could not have felt what the Beast felt on stage. Amy, from our first meeting, had a very special place in my heart, and she will continue to do so as we continue both our professional…and personal relationship next year.”