“Ara, please?” David said quietly. “What were you going to say?”

Come back? I looked up at him. When she’s gone to bed?

“Night.” My smiling eyes stayed locked to his as he backed away, kissing my hand.

“Goodnight, Mrs Thompson, and thank you for a lovely meal.” He smiled at Vicki with all the charm and sincerity of an eighteenth-century prince. She totally fell for it.

“Well, you’re welcome, David. Any time. Maybe next time I’ll cook something a little more interesting.”

“To be perfectly honest—” the prince bowed his head, “—I’ve not had a meal that delicious in a long time.”

Vicki’s chest puffed up, and the smile on her face spread so wide I pictured her as a big feathery chicken that just laid an egg.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” I linked arms with him and led him to the door.

“You will. Until then—” he bowed his head, “—tu es dans toutes mes pensées.”

But as the door closed, my heart fluttered and a pathetic girlie giggle shook my chest. I didn’t even know what he said, but I bet it was romantic. All I knew, from growing up with Mike saying stuff like that all the time, was that S’il vous plaît was please, respectfully, and S’il te plaît was for addressing a close friend, while mon amour was my love. Not that Mike ever said that to me, but I heard him groaning it to other girls when I slept over his house. He really used his French upbringing to his advantage when it came to girls. I wondered if David was doing that—trying to woo me, or if it was just a habit for him to speak French.

“Hm?” I looked away from the front door, shaking off that little shiver David left behind in me.

“Stop staring at nothing. Go to bed.”

As I took the first step, Vicki gently grabbed my hand and smiled up at me. “And by the way, David is a very lovely boy.”

“Thank you.” I smiled, gripping her hand for a second.

“And he’s more than welcome here anytime.”

“Cool.” I tugged my hand away and ran upstairs; I just wanted to be in his arms again. Having him in my room past nine at night was a real treat. I wasn’t going to waste even one second more talking to Vicki, even if she was actually being nice.

I flung my door open to a dark room, slamming it shut with my heel. “David?”

“Ara.” Dad waltzed in without even knocking, and flicked on the light.

“Just wanted to say goodnight.” He smiled warmly, resting his shoulder on the doorframe.

“Oh. Well, you should’ve knocked, Dad. I was just about to get changed.”

He looked at my clothes, his eyes going wider. “Oh, I’m sorry, honey. I forget you’re all grown up now.”

“It’s okay.” I walked over and gave him a quick hug.

He kissed the top of my head, patting my hair, then stood back. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Night,” he said again and closed the door.

I spun around a few times, but the quiet emptiness of my room remained the same. Maybe David was waiting until my parents actually went to sleep. So, I took a shower, washed my hair, and slipped into my nice pyjamas—the ones that actually matched—then jumped into bed to keep warm in the cooling air.

The cold turned to frost and my tired eyes felt sandy by the time Dad and Vicki finally shut their door. Then, with a stealthy silence that even the cat on the end of my bed didn’t pay attention to, David slipped through my window, lifted the covers and snuggled down beside me, pulling me onto his chest.

“Mmm.” I breathed him in deep; he smelled sweeter than he did before—a more concentrated version of his scent, kind of like a Terry’s Orange Chocolate treat. “What’ve you been doing? You’re all hot and you smell so nice.”

“Do you really want to know?”

“Would it bother you if I was?”

A minute’s silence passed in a second. “I’m not sure.”

“Just don’t think about it, sweetheart.” His long fingers swept my hair back over my forehead, leaving behind a warm sensation under the tingling cool.

“So, that smell—it’s the blood you just had?”

He laughed a little. “Kind of. It’s how my body interprets the blood, which is unique for every vampire.”

“That’s because you like me.”

“So, it’s also why you’re so warm all of a sudden, then?”

“Then, why are your hands cold when the rest of you is so warm?” I traced a line over his index finger.

“Because it’s cold outside. I’ve been waiting for your dad to go to bed.”

“Why? He wouldn’t have known you were in here.”

“I wouldn’t be so certain about that, my love.”

“Mm. I like it when you call me that.” I smiled and slipped my fingertips under David’s shirt, resting them on his belly. “I like it even more in French.”

“How do you know?” I’ve never let myself think that around you.

“Hm.” My eyes narrowed with a disapproving grin. “I’m not sure I like that.”

“Don’t fall in love with a vampire, then.” He kissed the top of my head.

“You had better,” he said, sounding a bit English. “Staying human to be with a human is one thing, but if I ever find you in the arms of another vampire, I’ll turn you myself.”

“Duly noted.” I kissed his chest, smiling to myself. “So, what did you say when you were leaving tonight—when you said ‘Until then,’ and added a whole string of words I doubt were in English?”

He laughed once, combing his fingertips gently through the front of my hair. “Until then, you are in all my thoughts.”

“And then you went hunting?”

“Do you think of me…when you hunt?”

“Sometimes.” He let the word hang for a minute then added, “But not in the way you might think.”

“I imagine you with me, enjoying the uh…the life of a vampire.” He paused and lifted his head off the pillow a little to look at me. “Does that bother you?”

Hm, does it? “Not in the way you might think.”

“I’m not sure.” Maybe it bothered me that I couldn’t really picture him when he was gone. I mean, if he were human, doing human things, I could picture him at home, on the couch, watching TV or eating dinner with his uncle. But no, my boyfriend had to go into dark alleyways and stalk my species. I didn’t want to picture myself beside him, enjoying the…kill. I had tried a few times before, but it never felt right. My mind would always go back, standing on the sidelines, seeing his victim; the way he’d hold her, pinning her down like he did to me when I tried to scream that day, seeing how he’d bring his lips close to her flesh, and my blood would run hot, watching, but not because I wanted her to die, because I wanted…

“I can see that. I can see what you’re thinking.”

The blankets rustled under me as I sat up to look at David, blinking to focus in the dim moonlight shining through my window. “Does it bother you? I mean, is it because I can picture it, or is it because I picture it wrong?”

“Neither of the above.” He grinned.

“It’s because you were picturing the victim—as you.”

I meshed my lips together. “Oh. I was, wasn’t I?”

“That’s it, isn’t it? What you were trying to tell me in the kitchen tonight?” David sat up and grabbed my arm, squeezing it gently.

“Ara? Is that what you were trying to say—you want me to drink your blood?” His eyes narrowed on the inner corners, his lip lifting over his teeth on one side.

Without a word, I lowered my head and nodded, letting my drumbeat heart fill the empty silence that surrounded my awkwardness.

“I’ll never do it.” He dropped my arm and sat back.

“I’m sorry.” My eyes stayed on my knees. “Is it…is it bad of me to think that way?”

Oh. The awkward silence grew fatter and shrunk in around me. “It’s just that—” How could I explain this? “It’s just that there’s this strange pull…urging me toward you in a different kind of way. I—I want to feel your teeth against my flesh, I—”

It’s not fair. You never let me finish my sentences. I knew it was wrong, and I felt really ashamed of myself, but at the same time…it excited me—the thought, the idea of giving him what was mine—to know it’d warm him and make him smell sweet, to know I’d truly be a part of him.

“You can’t think like that around me, Ara, it’s dangerous.” He leaned against my dresser with his arms folded. “I will never do that with you, so get the idea out of your head.”

Humiliation and rejection tightened my chest muscles, spreading heat through my limbs until it spilled out over my cheeks.

“Ara, don’t cry.” He appeared on the bed, wrapping me in his arms. “Please, I’m sorry. I just—”

“What’s wrong with me? Why wouldn’t you want to do that with me?”

He took a deep breath and smoothed my tears from my cheeks. “It’s not that I don’t want to, mon amour. There are just so many reasons not to.”

“Well, I’d have to cut you, for one, and I can’t use my venom to numb the flesh first.”

I stopped blubbering and looked up from his shoulder. “We could cut where no one would see?”

“How will that be any different? I still have to cut you.”

“I don’t care. Something’s happened inside me, David. I feel confused about it all, like, it’s really gross when I think about it—the idea of drinking blood—but when I feel it—” I placed my hand in the centre of my chest. “It just feels so right.”

“I know. And, believe it or not, it’s only human to feel that way,” he said, and his breath brushed my cheek. “You’re instinctually drawn to me—to my bite.”

He shrugged. “Surely you’ve watched documentaries on animals and insects that kill by luring their prey?”

“Well, that’s why you feel the desire to be bitten. It isn’t real, Ara, which is another reason I will never share blood with you.”

“But…you’re not using lust as a spell now, are you?”

“Then…why do I still want you to drink my blood?”

Beneath his smile, his white teeth gleamed; my eyes traced the sharp edges of his fangs and the straight lines of the front teeth. “Maybe you’re more like my species than you care to admit.”

“I mean—” He sat up a little. “Okay, look, it’s a very intimate act—blood sharing. It—”

“As in, like, I can drink yours?”

“But I tried to…I mean…I actually tried to cut you open when I bit you. You didn’t break.”

“You…” His eyes widened, his head rolling forward into the cloud of disbelief. “You tried to cut me?”

He coughed out the shock with a smile. “It won’t work. If I were to share blood with a human, I’d have to make a cut myself—for them to drink from.”

“Oh, okay.” I looked at his neck more carefully.

“Stop thinking about it, Ara. We can never do that.”

“Because it…it leads to other things, okay? Not to mention, it’s seen as a bit bizarre to do it with a human you don’t plan to kill.”

“Because it just is. I’m not going into detail, Ara. You don’t need to know anything else about my world. Now just drop it.” After a long pause, David took a deep breath through his nose and let it out. “I’m sorry, Ara. Okay. I just don’t want to taint you any further than I already have.”