“I’m sorry I scared you, my love. But have no doubt that my lips, my teeth, or my touch would not have done anything you didn’t want me to.” He held back a cheeky grin. “Except maybe tear your clothes off.”

He pulled me into his chest, and the cool of his skin through the thin fabric of his shirt surprised me. “From now on, my love, if I’m in that state, use your thoughts to reach me—it’s clearer.”

He let out a breath, pressing each digit of his fingertips firmly over my face and neck. “I’m so, so sorry I scared you.”

“I’m okay.” I rolled my face upward to look at him. “Well, now I know you wouldn’t have bitten me, I’m okay.”

He clicked his tongue. “Look what I’ve done to you.”

“You were pretty rough.” I smiled, holding my hand to the mark.

“I won’t do that to you again. Ever.” He looked up from the bruising, the promise of his words filling out the green in his eyes again.

“What if I want you to?”

His jaw tightened, but his smile remained soft. “No. Not ever again.”

“But, I liked it.” I pulled my hand down from my neck and gasped, seeing a red smear.

“I know.” He caught my wrist, holding it away from him. “I was hoping you wouldn’t notice that.”

“No. It’s just from the er…sucking.” One corner of his lip quirked upward. “I drew your skin a little too…eagerly.”

“Can’t you smell it—the blood?” I held my hand up to him.

He shook his head. “It broke through as I pulled away. I was trying to ignore it.”

“Does it make you want to bite me?”

“It makes me want to taste you—to see if you taste the way you smell.”

Holding my hand near my nose, I sniffed. “I can’t smell anything.”

“Here.” I held my hand up in front of his lips. “Taste it.”

“David?” I frowned at the empty space in front of me, then spun around a few times until my eyes found him leaning against a stack of chairs across the room. “What’s wrong?”

He inched away from me as I approached. “I can’t do that. One taste could be enough to make me lose control.”

My nose crinkled and I looked down at the bloody smudge on my hand, then pressed my tongue to it. Erk! “Gross. How can you drink this stuff? I taste like a coin.”

David laughed softly. “You silly girl, of course you won’t like it.”

“Well, how do you know you would?”

With a deep, heavy sigh, he reached across and wiped his thumb over the bruise.

“David, what are you doing?”

“Tasting you.” His shoulders lifted once, dropping as he popped his thumb in his mouth and closed his eyes.

“David?” I said in a shaky voice, taking one step back.

His eyes flashed open; I jumped inside. “Just like I thought. Vanilla and honey. Kinda like a cupcake.”

“Are you…” I took another step away. “Are you okay?”

“Actually?” His lips turned down as thought washed across his face. “I’m fine. No sudden urge to kill you.”

“Strangely, the vampire is screaming for me to suck the life out of you—” He rolled his head to one side and studied me quizzically, “—But the human me wants to kiss you and tell you how much I love you.”

“Well, I always have liked the human you.” I wrapped myself in his arms.

“Then, the human me you shall have.”

“Yes,” he said distractedly, kissing my hairline.

“You were scary as a vampire, but only because I didn’t know what you were capable of. But now I’ve seen it—” I smiled at the memory of him losing control, “—I liked it.”

“You’re not serious, are you?” He whipped me out from his body and held my shoulders. “Ara, are you joking? Please? Because, I can’t take that kind of a joke.”

I frowned, shaking my head. “Why would I joke about that?”

“Oh, God.” His hand fell to his knees.

“Ara. You don’t know what that means to me.”

“It’s amazing, that’s what it is. You—” he held my face and dropped a quick kiss on my lips, “—are amazing. Do you have any idea how precious you are to me? I never knew such a creature could exist, and now I’ve found you…” His voice slowed. “I have no idea how I’m going to let you go.”

“Same way you stopped yourself from biting me, I guess,” I said, pulling his hand away from my face.

He nodded once. “This is a first for me, you know. I’ve never had to do that before—to control myself. It took everything in me not to rip your throat open and drink your blood, and even more to stop enticing you with the spell of lust.”

“Is that what made me want to…you know, die?”

“Yes.” He laughed. “It’s how we kill. We seduce you into trusting us.”

“No. I’ve never seduced a man. And I’ve not killed any girls since we met.” He brushed his curled fingers over my cheek. “I use an attack kill, now. It’s more brutal, more painful for the human, but I can’t bear the thought of killing girls since I found you.”

“Because I see your face—think how I would feel if that was you.” He looked up as, above us, the loud thunder of footsteps sent vibrations through the walls. “We better get back out there—lunch will be over soon.”

“Okay.” I breathed out. “But, what will we tell everyone?” They all saw us walk in here. I didn’t even wanna imagine what they’d think.

“Ara, what do you think they will think? We’re teenagers. Let them think what they want. They’ll never guess the truth.”

“Well, at least that part’s true.” No one would guess that I led a vampire under the stage and let him bite me. Or even more so—that I bit him. It didn’t matter what they thought, anyway. I was so damn hungry that if I didn’t go eat, David would become the next victim of the ogre. Then, he wouldn’t need to worry about me becoming a people-eater, because he’d be in my stomach.

David shook his head, laughing softly. “I can think of a few ways I could be in your stomach, Ara, without being eaten. Of course, you’d still have to put a part of me in your mouth.”

My lips gaped, a giant huff expelling between them.

His eyes widened. “Oh, no, I didn’t mean it that way. I meant blood—drinking my blood.” He held his wrist up.

I dropped the insult and giggled into my hand.

“I’m so sorry, Ara. That came out sounding…incredibly wrong.”

“Yes, but, it was also funny to watch you react that way.”

He lowered his head and shook it, a sharp intake of air whistling through his teeth.

“I love you, David,” I said, still laughing at his fallibility.

“Come on.” He reached for my hand. “Shall we head back out and face the music?”

“Yes.” The reality simmered over me then and I shook my head at myself. “I can’t believe I just provoked a vampire into biting me.” Therapy, anyone?

David cleared his throat. “You said it first.”

“Hey!” I dropped my hands to my hips. “I’ll give you therapy in a minute, if you don’t stop reading my mind.”

He chuckled, wandering across the room to grab his jacket. I loved it when he laughed. It made him seem so normal—so human.

“Except, there is nothing human about what we just did,” he joked.

“Stay out of my mind!” I headed for the door in a stormy huff.

“Wait.” He grabbed my arm and held up his jacket. “You might want to put this on.”

I frowned at him; he pointed to my neck. Oh crap! The bite! If it looked as bad as it burned, people would think David did something really horrible to me.

“I did.” He held his jacket out, pulled it closed around my chest once my arms were in, and kissed my brow.

“I’ll be healed by the time I cross the room. But you—” he laughed, running his finger over my bruise again, “—you may take a little longer.”

“If you heal fast—a week, maybe. If not—a month.”

“Ara, he’ll freak if word gets back to him that we were even in this closet—alone.”

Damn. Didn’t think of that. I wrapped my hand over the bite. The rough denim of David’s jacket rubbed against it, making it sting more. But, since he’d been wearing the coat all day, the strong smell of him was all over me like a warm breath, so I didn’t mind one bit.

“Oh, and one more thing.” He grabbed my arm again. “The history paper?”

He kissed my temple quickly. “Don’t do vampires.”

“I don’t have to—you should just trust me.”

“No way. What do you think this is? The eighteen-hundreds?”

“No. I think you are a human, and I’m a vampire—and I have my reasons.” He turned away with a sly smile, and the room filled with light as he opened the door, severing any further discussion.

Hmph! I’m still doing vampires. You can’t stop me.

A group of David’s friends, only at rehearsal for their stupid comedy skit, burst into a Mexican wave as we walked out, sending me spinning back toward the closet.

David grabbed me by the coat. “Keep walking, Ara.”

“Hey, Dave? Man, your jeans are wet,” one of the jock’s pointed to the soda spill.

“Funny. Real funny.” David nodded and took my hand.

“Now I wish you had eaten me in there,” I said.

He laughed as we wandered back to our table. “Don’t worry about it. No one will pass any further comment on it. I’ll personally see to that.”

“Do I need to ask what you two were up to in there?” Ryan’s brows rose and fell a few times.

“We were just talking,” David said casually and pushed my chair in for me as I sat down.

“Right, ‘cause everyone goes to the make-out room to ‘talk’,” Spencer said.

“As a matter of fact, that’s exactly why we were in there,” David said, then winked at me. “I would never be so inappropriate as to display my affections for the girl I love, in a closet space.”

Everyone looked into their laps. Conversation. Over.

“So. Subject change,” Emily chimed in, motioning around the table. “The memorial concert? The whole reason we’re here?”

“Let’s start the rehearsal, then.” I grinned, biting into my nachos, but they tasted boring in comparison to David.

From the corner of my eye, I saw him grin, and while conversations went on around us, David reached into my lap and took my hand, winding his leg under my ankle. And it felt nice—like the way things should be; sitting at lunch with friends, talking about normal things, concealing the burning desire to run away with the boy you love, and never let him go.

Thursday passed with a rhythmic pace; note-passing with David when we were in the same classes—only I didn’t need to pass them to him, since he just read my mind; talking with Emily in History, trying to get kicked into Mr Adams’ class, and lunch times with my group of friends in the auditorium, rehearsing for the memorial concert. When the day ended, I said my goodbyes and wandered across the field toward my dad’s house, stealing the quiet for my own private thoughts—for once. The sun warmed my upturned face and the wind caressed the crevices around my nose and under my chin. I closed my eyes, entrusting the safety of the widespread field of grass as I bounced along, smiling to myself, for no other reason than that I was happy.

“Haven’t you learned not to walk with your eyes closed?”

So much for private thoughts. “Well, I’m happy. If you want me to get across the road safely, you’ll just have to walk me home.” I opened my eyes to look at David. He looked so normal with a schoolbag on his back—just a boy, just as everyone else saw him. His dark side was a secret. No one could ever imagine he was a vampire, and no one would ever know. Except me.

“So, I was thinking?” He glided along beside me, at my pace, with his hands behind his back and that cheeky grin slipping into place.