“Except that the lion doesn’t look like the antelope, or live among its kind.”

“True, but still, like the lion, I blend into my natural surroundings; he has the advantage of a certain colouring, and I have the ability to emulate the human form.”

“Yeah, but if you’re so natural, how come your species isn’t born—you’re, I don’t know, like, created, aren’t you?”

“You’re unbelievable, girl.” He shook his head. “You’re sitting beside a vampire, and wrought with scepticism. Is it so hard to believe I might be one of God’s creatures—just because I kill?”

I thrust my shoulders back and sat up straight. “Yes.”

“Look—” He exhaled frustration. “What I am is a natural occurrence. I wasn’t created by witchcraft or magic. And yes, some do say it started as a curse, but it was actually passed on by those of an ancient bloodline.”

“No. I was human once. You see, it takes a genetic polarity in a human which, when converged with vampire venom, triggers the change in their genetic makeup. They become less human and more of what is commonly called a vampire.”

“A genetic polarity?” I frowned, thinking over his words. I took genetic sciences in school—I wasn’t any good at it. “So, are you saying you have to have the right gene to become a vampire?”

“Yup, so, even though I’m a supernatural being, I’m actually mostly natural—just also very super.” He grinned warmly, straightening one leg out in front of him, hugging his other knee.

“So, if you’re not magic, how did you do that thing with the butterflies?”

He shrugged. “They’re just affected by humidity. Vampires? We can manipulate the elements—water and temperature for example.” He scratched the back of his neck. “I can get really scientific about it if you like, but most people fall asleep after about ten minutes.”

He had an explanation for everything. Always. I hated that. “Well, it was the most beautiful moment of my life, so far.” I’d dreamed about those flutters of blue and yellow, surrounding us like we were in some private, mystical bubble, nearly every night since that day. Pity he had to ruin it by combining it with the memory of my first kiss—to a guy who kills people with his teeth.

“You know—” David hesitated. “There’s a reason I did that, Ara, and it’s not what you think.”

I hugged my knees, not bothering to tuck my dress under my legs. “I’m listening.”

“I never imagined you would one day find me repulsive, and I knew then that I would be leaving you.” He leaned a little closer and lowered his voice. “But I love you, and I just wanted to be your first kiss.”

“That’s a little selfish, don’t you think? You should have asked me if I wanted my first kiss to be with a murderer.”

He shook his head, pressing his lips into a flat smile. “I don’t care if you’re mad at me. It was worth it.”

I smiled, because he was right. I could try to be mad at him for that kiss but, in truth, it wouldn’t have mattered if he’d just eaten, I’d still have wanted my first kiss to be with him. I just wouldn’t tell him that. I turned my nose up with a flick of my chin. “You’d be more interesting if you were magic.”

He smiled so lovingly at me. “Well, there is an element of magic, by human definition.”

“Guess there’d have to be with all that speed and healing fast stuff.” I stopped and turned the pages of myth in my mind. “Hang on. You did say you heal fast, right?”

My mind was getting lost in information. “How?”

“Rapid cell regeneration. It’s responsible for immortality as well,” he answered with a hint of humour in his voice.

“Okay, Mr I-Have-An-Answer-For-Everything. And what about the whole vampires are demons thing?” I looked at him, my own tone light, quizzical.

“Good thing you’re not, I suppose. I would’ve had a hard time explaining to Nathan’s mom why you suddenly just burst into flames today.”

“So, is that why you smiled like that—when we walked into the church?”

“It was. The whole demon thing’s kind of a private joke among my kind.”

“Why? Is there some truth to the myth?”

“But, then…why do people think holy water can burn you and stuff?”

“Yes. Powerful things, those gossip circles.” He grinned mischievously. “The whole story started out, originally, when a vampire was found sleeping in his bed. The townspeople believed the man to be dead.” David tapped his chest. “No heartbeat, you see. So, they buried him—alive, and when he finally woke and dug his way out of the grave, he retaliated with murder.”

“Retaliated? But, they didn’t know he was alive, did they? It wasn’t deliberate, right?”

“Then why did he want revenge?”

“Same reason any claustrophobic, which woke to find themselves buried alive, would.”

“Claustrophobic?” I touched my neck. “How can a vampire be claustrophobic?”

David laughed. “We carry over many human traits when we change. We can be moody, thoughtful, arachnophobic, afraid of heights—many things. We’re still mostly human in so many ways.”

“And this guy was afraid of enclosed spaces?”

“Right. And even if he wasn’t, imagine, for a second, being trapped in darkness, compounded by a force you cannot see—not knowing which way is up or down.” He studied me thoughtfully. “I told you a vampire’s emotions are stronger?”

“This claustrophobic vampire woke in darkness, terrified. As he clawed at the soil for three days, his fear became anger and his anger became fury. When he finally took a breath, he vowed revenge on all who ever laid eyes on him. Then, he stumbled into town and obliterated every soul.”

David laughed again. “Well, he did leave one alive—a small boy. Does that make him more likeable?”

“Depends,” I said. “Why did he leave him alive?”

“The boy, who reminded him of his own son, attacked the vampire with the jagged edge of a broken branch. Amused by the fearless bravery of the boy, the vampire took the spike and jammed it through his own heart, faking his death to satisfy the boy’s hunger for revenge.”

David smirked. “Anyway, from then on,” he continued, “the human race decided, since the wood the child used originated from a tree on consecrated ground, that these Demons of the Night could be taken down by all things holy. Word spread and, like a disease, the rumours grew into the myths you still hear today.”

“And do you know what the name of that small boy was?”

“I’m sure you’re going to tell me.”

“Well…if that’s true, why wouldn’t you just correct them—the humans, I mean—tell them the truth about the whole demon rumour thing?”

“Because, the lies assist with our cover.” He shrugged. “Those who can walk in the day, go to church or wear a cross, can’t possibly be one of these demonic creatures, and so, we can remain secret—live in peace.”

“Yeah. You’ll find most of the myths about my kind were started in much the same manner.” He smiled nostalgically and looked away. “We do love our grapevines, we who walk in the night.”

“Ha! Yeah. Borrowed that one from your dad.”

“That was so not cool that you would’ve been better off saying we do love a bit of intrigue.”

David paused and studied me with soft eyes. “You would have fit well in my time, girl.”

“I fit in fine here, thank you.” I folded my arms. “So, why didn’t he wake up?”

“The vampire. When they buried him—why didn’t he wake up?”

“You can get drunk?” My words burst out in a gust.

“Of course we can—” He laughed. “We can use drugs, too.”

“Really? Do you get addicted, like humans do?”

He shrugged dismissively. “Don’t know. Never met a vampire who used drugs. But I’ll be sure to ask if ever I do.”

“Any time.” His sarcastic smile spread the corners of his lips widely.

“Okay, so, on with the interrogation.”

“Be my guest.” He motioned a forward hand to me, as if ushering me through a door.

“I hope not.” David reached into the collar of his shirt and pulled out a heavy gold chain with a cross on the end of it. “I wear it whenever I go to church.”

“A little.” He smiled and dropped the cross to his chest.

“Very.” He smiled malevolently; a shudder crept up my spine.

I didn’t want to think of those who’d come to learn that as their last lesson. Slowly, I started my questions again. “How can you believe in God—and then go out and murder?”

“No, it’s not. It’s nourishment—necessary for survival. Does a farmer murder a cow?”

“Because a cow…” I bit my lip. “Because they…well…” I threw my hands up. “I don’t know. What do I look like, a priest?”

David laughed. “I love it when you know I’m right.”

“You’re not right!” Anger forced pulsing blood into my cheeks. “You believe in the Ten Commandments, pray at church, read the Bible—but you can kill the man sitting next to you without so much as—”

“Uh-uh, hold it right there, missy.” He held up a finger; I snapped my gob closed. “I said I believe in God, not the Bible, not the ways of the church. They are not the same thing.”

“How are they not the same thing?”

“Live as long as I, and you will see. Now—” he folded his arms, “—we’re not having a religious debate. There are more important things to discuss at this moment.”

“Fine.” But I didn’t want to talk. I was too mad.

“Can you remember anything I’ve told you so far?”

“Yes, you can.” He smiled, rolling his head a little to one side. “Recite it for me or I’ll read your mind just to check you were listening.”

I looked up at him, fury turning to rage in my eyes. “Fine.” I took a deep breath. “You’re…a…a God-fearing variation of normal human makeup, caused by a hidden polarity in the genes that’s activated when vampire venom mixes with your blood after being bitten?”

“You’re a very fast learner, Ara-Rose.” His face lit with surprise.

No, I’m not—I just hang off your every word.

“There aren’t many of us, you know. If that makes you feel better.”

“As it stands, fewer and fewer humans over the years have been known to have this gene. It seems to be breeding out. We’ve not had a successful turning in decades. Consequently, my kind has been forbidden to create vampires without approval.”

“We have a society. Just like you,” he said. “We live in peace, mostly, but there are laws we must follow, and consequences. We can’t just walk around doing whatever we please—or killing whomever we please.”

“Oh…” I unfolded my arms. Civility among murderers? “What other laws do you have?”

“Well—” He looked over at the window for a second, then took a short breath. “We’re not allowed to occupy positions of power or fame, in order to maintain cover. And, if we’re in a situation or accident which would be fatal to a human, we absolutely must be reborn.”

“Oh, is that why you can’t be famous or anything, ‘cause it would be hard to hide after you ‘die’?”

“Exactly. Especially these days with things like television and photographs. It makes disappearing really problematic.”

“So, what else? I mean…can you fly, do you still grow hair, do you sleep upside down in a cave?”

David scoffed lightly, pressing the back of his wrist to his upper lip. “You really love your myths, don’t you?”