“Don’t be silly,” I said, taking his arm. “It is, and there’s no way out of it.”

Had we not had reserved seats in the theater, we never would have gotten in. Every seat and aisle was packed with people who knew Porsche and who would miss her terribly.

Taking Liam’s hand at the start of the service, I bit my lip, resolving not to cry. I wanted to be strong for him. However, when the Corps de Ballet came out onto the stage and performed a short piece behind a holographic video of my friend, I couldn’t stop the tears.

Liam, however, was looking straight ahead, his eyes almost unseeing as he watching. He had no tears, although his eyes were dark and his jaw was set. He held my hand throughout the entire service, and he spoke a eulogy that would break even the hardest of hearts. But it seemed he had resolved to let no one see what he was feeling.

Porsche was buried in a cemetery in the center of the city, “where everyone will see her all the time” Liam had said, with a half smile.

The service at the cemetery was smaller, and more private. I recognized almost everyone surrounding the grave from the funeral, except for a group off to the side. Most of them with flaming red hair as well, they kept to themselves, almost as if they were lurkers. They also didn’t cry, but looked on with stony faces, as the dirt covered her grave.

“Liam,” I said when they had finally disturbed me to the point where I had to say something. He looked up then, as if recovering from a coma.

“There. Them. Who are they?” I nodded in their direction and he followed my eye line. Finally, for the first time in hours, I saw him react.

“Hm, I was expecting they’d be here.” He said, watching. One of them looked up, and met his eyes, and then whispered to the group. “They’re Shields: the Camerons, the McIntoshes and the De Ritters. I don’t think any of them are the official Shields for their bloodlines, the ones with the most power, but they all carry it. They probably know who the next one is already.”

“And they want to talk to you,” I said, watching as the same one tried to catch Liam’s eye. He sighed, letting go of my hand. His beautiful eyes met mine. They glistened with deep sorrow, and a strange resolve that unnerved me.

“I want you to stay here, Amy.”

“Sure,” I replied, although I was thoroughly confused. He gave me a quick kiss on the cheek and then let go of my hand, heading off.

Watching, the Shields surrounded him immediately. I could see by his body posture he was in no danger, but curiosity was burning through me. What was it that they wanted? And what was Liam planning?

I approached the Shields cautiously. They were giving me looks that should have burned holes through my skin, and I had to force myself to smile as I approached, holding out my hand. Not to my great surprise, none of them took it.

“I’m Liam,” I said. “It’s good of you to come. I knew Porsche very well, and I’m very sorry for your loss.”

“Her body was defiled,” one of them growled at me, and it took every ounce of will I had to stand my ground. “Her throat was gouged out.”

I looked around to make sure no one was listening, and then lowered my voice.

“Yes, and I’m sorry for that. In return for her service, Porsche wanted immortality, a life with no pain. I realize this is against everything you stand for…but Porsche was friend, my best friend, and it was her choice. I didn’t…I didn’t know that it was an impossible promise, and neither did she. She died a hero, saving my life and the life of my…Amy.” I wasn’t sure what to say.

There was a long silence, and then at last, one of them, a man in his fifties, stepped forward, his hand extended.

“I am Thomas De Ritter,” he said. “Porsche was my daughter.”

“I’m so sorry for your loss, Sir,” I said, with as much respect as I could. Porsche had rarely spoken of her parents, having left home at a young age to pursue a career in dance that they didn’t believe in. On a few drunken nights, she had told me stories of them breaking her dreams and not believing in her talent; stories I could share. My own parents were across the ocean, still shaking their heads that their son played make believe for a living. I could only imagine their reaction if I explained to them I was also a vampire.

“We had our differences, but you made her dream come true. And I believe she was happy in the last years of her life, and for that I thank you.”

“She was very happy,” I said, in memory. “Dancing was all she ever wanted to do.”

“Well, then, I thank you for helping her,” he replied, and there was another pause, as I tried to gather the courage for what I wanted to say next.

“I was wondering, Sir… if you wanted to help me. Not as payback, by any means, but as assistance to living by your code.”

This attracted the attention of the whole group, who turned to me. I took a deep breath. I felt incredibly human, and I had no doubt that part of that came from being with them. My nerves felt like it was my first stage show and all eyes were on me.

“How?” he asked. His eyes that looked so much like Porsche’s were bearing into me.

“Well, Sir, what if I asked for your assistance in getting rid of two vampires?”

“Who?” Thomas shot back, clearly interested, but not dropping his guard any further. I bit my lip, looking around once more to check that Amy was still too far away to hear what I was about to say: