“No matter what I choose, you know I’ll love you for as long as I live, right?”

He drew a long breath, becoming so still the only sound around us was the gentle songs of birds along the soft breeze. “Then, I guess,” he said softly, releasing his breath, “I must hope that you will choose to live forever.”

I wrapped his arms tighter around my shoulders and sat back, imagining it, as a darkened summer glow trilled across the southern sky, lighting the dusk with a brilliant red. The treetops turned orange first, and then, as the shadow of the night descended into the forest, I could no longer see the lake beside us, but marvelled at the heavens—littered with thousands of brightly twinkling stars.

In that moment, there was no death, no immortality, and farewells were for the unlucky. There was only David and I, and the night—forever.

Leaning my shoulder against the window frame, I watched the sun rise over the hills to the east—the very same hills David ran to when he stole the blue rose. It’d been only four days since I was thrust into the world of the supernatural, but I still felt just as confused. No clarity had come with time passing. No decision had come waking me in the middle of the night, telling me if I should go with him or remain human. I was starting to wonder if it would.

The morning breeze brushed over the trees outside, forcing those below to hold onto their hats and papers a little tighter as they headed into the school. And I saw them all in a different kind of light now. Any one of them could be like David—there was no way of knowing. They all looked so normal, so human. Like he did, I guess.

I looked down at my soft, pale white hands and the little blue veins running under the skin, rising slightly over the bones. These were the hands of a mythological vampire, not David’s; his were warmer than mine, and pink and strong, and they shook a little when he held them out in front of him for too long. I wondered how much of that was well-rehearsed human behaviour, or really just the way his hands were, which made me wonder what he would have been like when he was human.

“Morning, beautiful.” He sprung up on my windowsill.

I stumbled back, hand over chest—trying to stop my heart from leaping out. “David. You have a habit of popping up when I’m thinking about you.”

“Mm, but I think you already know that.”

He grinned and placed a paper bag in my hand, kissing my cheek as he stepped into my room. “For the ogre.”

“Ooh. Yum.” The warm scent of vanilla and cinnamon wafted out in a moist puff from the bag. “Afraid I’ll bite you if the ogre gets tempestuous again?”

“Don’t joke—” He pointed at me as he flopped down on my bed. “Your bite is pretty sharp for a fangless wonder.”

“Says he whose bruises recovered in ten seconds.” I walked over to sit next to him. “You want some?”

“I missed you last night,” he said softly, pushing the curtain of hair away from my face, totally ignoring my question.

“Oh, what? You mean you didn’t sneak into my room?”

“Well, I came by to check on you, but I never stay if your dreams are peaceful.”

“How would you know they’re peaceful?”

“I can see them.” He grinned and laid back on my pillow. “Last night, you were dreaming about Mike.”

Dread spread through me, stiffening my arms.

“Ha!” His lips turned up sharply, showing his fangs. “So, you remember your dream, then?”

He scoffed, tucking his hands behind his head. “Looked pretty intense to me.”

“You’re reading into it wrong,” I said, trying my hand at dream analysis. “I wasn’t dreaming about Mike, specifically, just the friendship I had with him…that I now have with you—only that with you, I have so much more. His face was a representation of our relationship, but the body,” I scoffed, motioning to David’s fine chest, “was clearly you.”

David nodded, still smiling, with an edge of mockery in his eyes. “Should I be worried?”

“No,” I said with a mouthful of pastry. “Don’t be silly.”

He sat up, dropping his elbows to his knees, his hands clasped. “You sure?”

I sighed. “Look, I do love Mike, but it’s a different kind of love. Here.” I took his hand and placed it against my cheek. “You told me you can see the past if I let you—see for yourself. Read my mind.”

His emerald-green eyes darted over my face. “Really? You’ll let me read your mind?”

He closed his eyes, exhaling slowly. “Thank you, Ara.”

“No.” He pulled his hand down from my face. “If you say you don’t love him that way, then I believe you. I don’t need to see it in your memories. Just don’t break my heart, okay?”

“Okay. I promise. Now, can you stop hassling me and let me get ready for school? We’re gonna be late.” I popped the last bite of pastry into my mouth and kissed David on the lips. “Thanks for breaky, by the way. It was delicious.”

“I imagine it must’ve tasted the way you would,” he said thoughtfully.

“Well, you’ll never know.” I winked at him, then practically skipped into my wardrobe. After I pulled my shirt off and snapped the clasp of my bra behind me, a warm, honest chuckle filled my room. I peeked around the corner.

“How old were you in this photo?” David asked, without looking up from the small square sheet.

“The boy next to you is Mike?”

“Yup, and he’d just tipped a bucket of bathwater over my head.”

“Yeah, I kinda gathered that.” David nodded, smiling tenderly at the picture. “He picked on you a lot, didn’t he?”

“Yup. Not much has changed, really.”

David slipped the photo back into my nightstand where he’d been snooping. “You were a very cute baby.”

“I know. So, what about you?” I headed back to my wardrobe and shimmied into my jeans. “Do you have any baby pictures?” His pause of consideration turned into a long silence, so I stepped back into my room. “David?”

“There were some.” He nodded, his gaze distant. “My father was never one for portraits. As Jason and I grew older and would sit for long enough, my uncle had a few done. There may still be one in existence.”

“Didn’t your mother ever have one done?” I asked, and David’s eyes darkened instantly. I covered my mouth with both hands. “I’m sorry—that just slipped out. I forgot she passed away.”

“No, no, Ara, it’s fine. Please—” he took my hand, “—don’t be sorry.”

“But I am. I feel really bad. I should’ve remembered that.” I slumped down on the bed beside him, sucking my gut in a little since I had no shirt to cover it.

“Make you a deal.” He ran his thumb over my bra strap. “You can say whatever you want to me, if you do it dressed like this.”

“Will you tell me about her—your mother?”

His gaze drifted to distant places. “I mentioned once that she died when I was a baby?”

He shook his head. “It was common for those times, especially with Jason and I being a multiple birth. She simply gave birth, then fell asleep—never woke up again.”

“Did she ever get to see you?”

“She named me before she died—since I was first born. Jason came shortly after, but, she simply had nothing left to fight with. Before the midwife even cut the cord—she was gone.”

“So, did your father ever talk about her?”

He shook his head. “I’m told she was beautiful and loved by many. But, my aunt was the only woman I ever considered my mother.”

His eyes narrowed, but the corners of his lips indented his cheek with a slight dimple.

“What?” I said. “Do I have breakfast on my face?”

He stood beside me, taking my hand. “Thank you.”

“Well, thank you for letting me into your past.”

“Anytime.” He nodded, but his tone suggested this might be the last.

School could not have been more boring this week. David was only in three of my classes, which meant that pretty much every second of my day sucked. After spending Monday and Tuesday in misery land, I got tired of my own moping, so, to entertain myself, started answering every question the teachers asked, even when I didn’t know the answer. At least it was good for a laugh—everyone else’s. In fact, the new nickname of ‘class clown’ was beginning to stick. In Home Economics, I got scolded for laughing out loud while the teacher was talking, and it wasn’t even my fault. It was David’s—despite him not being in that class. See, earlier, he’d told me that vampires rarely fall in love with humans—much the same as we don’t fall in love with cows, since we eat them. Then, I saw Josh Granger ogling Mrs Tacony. But she’s the biggest cow ever. It completely disproved David’s theory…and then I laughed. Humiliation followed when the whole class looked at me, and the teacher demanded I share the comedy. I said I was sure I heard a fart.

Suffice to say, the punch David wore afterward barely indented his flesh and totally did not defuse my mood. But he took my moods well, laughed them off, mostly—which was good, I guess, because, like David’s murderous streak, my moods weren’t something I could change. But, murder aside, I found one positive to his vampirism; we’d definitely spent more time together. We were inseparable at school, and he spent every night in my room until, kissing me sweetly, he’d say “Goodnight, my love,” then leave through my window before I could convince him to go further. The downside to all the extra time together was that I really felt it when we were apart. I really missed him.

In History class, I at least had Emily to keep me distracted. Well, when she wasn’t turning around to giggle at her new crush, that is.

“So, you and David seem to be okay now?” she whispered.

“Oh, and hey, I never got to thank you for hooking me up with Spence.” She smiled, tilting her head into her shoulder.

“Yeah, no worries. Did he ask you out on a real date yet?”

“What?” I said, grinning in exaggeration of her expression.

“He asked me to the Masquerade Ball.”

And there was the squeak. One of the things I loved about Emily was the way she could display excitement so easily. She was just so…normal. “Awesome. Got a dress yet?” My enthusiasm needed some practice, though.

“I’m going shopping with my mom, tonight.”

“Cool. Yeah, I’m not looking forward to being dragged from shop to shop with Vicki, forced to try on everything with fluff.” I laughed, but Emily frowned at me.

“Oh, right. Duh.” She slapped her brow. “So, you don’t like her? I mean, ‘cause you call her Vicki?”

“Yeah, um—old habit, I guess.” I shrugged and turned around to talk to Spencer. “So, Spence, you gonna save me a dance at the ball?”

His cheeks turned bright pink. “Ah, yeah. If that’s okay with Emily.”

“Of course it is. As long as Ara doesn’t mind if I dance with David.”

“Nope. Cool with me,” I said, practically digging my nails through my own palm.

“You three!” Dad barked from the front of the class.

Everyone turned and looked at us. I shrunk to about the size of a quarter. Conversation. Over.

When the bell rang at the end of class, everyone broke formation and dispersed quickly. “Ara, come up and see me before you leave, please,” Dad said, not looking at me.

“Yikes. That sounded like an order,” I said to Em.

“Sorry, Ara.” Her shoulders lifted a little. “Will you be in trouble?”

“Em, don’t worry about it—he’s my dad. What’s the worst he can do? Ground me?”

“Yes. That’s worse than he can do to me.”

I laughed, slinging my bag over my shoulder as I walked away and stepped up in front of Dad’s desk. “Sorry for talking in class, Mr Thompson. It won’t happen again.”

“Ara.” He exhaled, leaning back in his chair. “I appreciate that you’ve had a hard time adjusting to a new school and, don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy you’ve made new friends, but there’s a time for work and a time for play. I don’t want to catch you gossiping in class again or I will move you to Mr Adams’ class. Do I make myself clear?”