I sniffled. “You’re repulsed by the idea of doing it with me.”

“Repulsed?” His jaw jutted forward. “Not in the slightest. Sweetheart, sharing blood with the one you love is one of the most intimate exchanges of passion. Lust and desire mean nothing in comparison to blood sharing. God knows I want to do that with you. I just—”

My mouth filled with saliva. I swallowed it down. “I wish I knew what you tasted like.”

David released a short, breathy laugh. “Well, I’ve been told it’s a little like milk with too much sugar.”

“What do you mean by told?”

“I’m pretty old, Ara. I have been with other—”

“Wait!” I held my hand up. “Don’t go there.”

He laughed. “Okay, I won’t. If you promise to drop this blood sharing thing.”

I looked down at my hands. “Are you afraid you might kill me if we did it?”

I watched his eyes, so lost to thoughts I wished I could be a part of. “Why don’t we just try it, like, maybe a small cut at first—just to test?”

“Look. Stop it, okay?” He firmly planted his hand to my shoulder. “I’m not going to hurt you like that. I really love you too much to bear the thought of you being in pain—especially just to please me.”

“Then I’ll do it myself.” I jumped off the bed and ran to my desk.

“What are you doing?” David seized my arm as I grabbed the scissors.

“I’m gonna do it myself. Then you don’t have to hurt me.”

“Ara, you’ve lost it. You’ve actually gone crazy—give me those.” He snatched the scissors from my hand and threw them back in the drawer—slamming it shut.

“You’re right.” I sat down in my desk chair. “I have gone crazy.” Maybe all this had been too much for me. Maybe finding out about David was the last straw. Vicki warned me that trauma and grief could manifest themselves in unusual ways—ways you might not recognise. But she was talking about things like promiscuity and drug use, right?

“This isn’t manifested grief, Ara. It’s a collection of thoughts and cravings over a period of time that have grown into desire,” said the voice of reason from beside me. “There’s nothing wrong with you. But you have to drop this. All right?”

David ran his fingers through his hair and down the back of his neck, then held out his hand; I looked up at him. “Come on,” he said.

He grabbed his jacket off my desk and slipped it on. “We both need some fresh air.”

“And, where exactly are we going to get that from?” I asked in a shaky voice as he scooped me off the ground. “And how are you planning to get there?”

He squeezed me close, propping his chin on my forehead. “You may want to cover your eyes.”

“Holy shi—” I rolled my face into his chest as a jolt forced me to hold my breath.

“You okay?” he asked, his lips against my hair.

“I’m going to put you down now, okay?”

“Okay.” I clung to his shirt as he set my bare feet to a cold, slanted surface, and a dewy breeze circled my ankles, howling a warning. “Are we up high?”

The kidnapper wrapped his arm around my waist and whispered in my ear, “Open your eyes. See for yourself.”

“You’re not afraid of heights, are you, Ara?” He chuckled lightly.

“I’m going to kill you for this, David Knight. I ha—” A breath of awe escaped my lips as my eyes inched open and I saw the endless skyline, trailing off to a dark blue horizon, where the hills that were grey in the day looked invisible under the scattered stars. “David, it’s so beautiful up here.”

He shrugged. “I come here all the time.”

“Is this where you spent the summer? Spying on me?”

“Yes,” he said, with a cheeky grin, taking my shaking hand to help me sit with my legs dangling over the slant of my dad’s roof. “But you know that was only while I was worried about you.”

“So, you don’t do it anymore?”

“Ha! Ara, if I was going to be at your house, I’d be in your room, with you—awake, or I’d be at home, leaving you to rest.”

I snuggled my head into his shoulder. “So, if I was depressed again, you’d stay with me more often?”

“No,” he laughed the word out. “You’re a little suicidal for me right now.”

I slapped his chest with the back of my hand. “Wanting to share blood with you is not suicidal.”

“Oh boy.” He shook his head, still laughing. “If you only knew the truth of what you do to me with your thoughts, girl. You have no idea how close you’ve come to death, do you?”

A cold shiver raced down my spine and sent my heart back into my chest with a jump. But even after the eerie feeling subsided, the shaking remained and my teeth chattered together.

“You’re so human,” David remarked lightly, wrapping his jacket over my shoulders.

“And you’re so warm—like a human.” The heat within the leather felt like that warm spot in someone else’s bed after they get up, layered pleasantly with the scent of citrus and that woodsy smell his car had. I slipped my arms through the sleeves, then moved to sit between his legs, wrapping his arms tightly around my chest.

“Are you frightened up here?” he whispered against the back of my ear.

“The human in me is, but the girl in me, who knows how much you love her, isn’t.”

“You know I’d never let you fall, right?”

“Even if I do fall—” I yawned as I spoke, “—I know you’ll be there to catch me.” I smiled, and as I looked at the eastern horizon, a flicker of silver glittered across the night sky. “Did you see that?”

With my eyes closed, I crossed my heart and thought, I wish David would get the happy ending he longs for.

David held his breath, his whole body going stiff. “Why did you wish only for my happy ending?”

“Because, then I know that, even if our happy ending isn’t together, you’ll still be happy.”

He swallowed and looked away. “I thought you said you were a selfish girl.”

He snickered softly. “My darling, there are more than enough people in the world to wish for that. But it requires sacrifice and tolerance—not hopes and prayers.”

“I mean, happiness is a possibility for us—we can be together. It just means a sacrifice on one side.”

“You can’t ask a human to tolerate the death of another human. That isn’t fair.”

“But, your species kill each other all the time.”

“Okay, well, you tolerate the death of animals for your nutrition.”

“Spoken like a vampire.” I smiled ruefully, keeping my eyes on the night sky.

“Well, my love, I am a vampire. Get used to it.” He kissed my temple.

“Don’t tempt me, young lady—your death wish may just become a reality.”

I rolled my eyes. “So…if you drank my blood and we made love after—I could get pregnant?”

“What?” The word burst from his lips.

“You said, when you were washing the dishes tonight, that it isn’t entirely true about not being able to have children with a vampire?”

“Oh.” He wiped his hand across his jaw, shaking his head. “Well, it’s rare. You would’ve heard of it in your much-loved mythology. The incubus and the succubus?”

“In a way. It’s not like the horror stories, though. Supposedly, the babies are mostly human—not immortal. They can survive on less blood than vampires, but still require food. I’m not sure how it works for female vampires. None of the girls I’ve ever known have fallen pregnant, but for males, we can still—you know—” he shrugged, “—we can still give life. There’s a rumour among my Set that my uncle has a son, born by a human girl.”

“Why wouldn’t you tell me about this, David?” I asked softly. “You know my desire to have children is one of the reasons I can’t promise you eternity.”

“Yes, but it’s not the only reason.” He stroked his soft cheek down mine. “I didn’t think it necessary to tell you.”

“Like so many things.” I ground my back teeth together.

“Yes. But, if you don’t ever want immortal life, then what good would it be to have a child, and have maybe five years together before you grow too old to be with a teenager?”

“It would still be better than having only a few weeks.”

“True, but after those five years, I would lose you and my children—not to mention they would one day out-age their father.”

David? Father? Of my children? I really liked the way that sounded.

“Besides, even if I was selfish enough to take those five years from you, I’d be away for the first two. I have to return to duty, and what then? You’ll be a single, teenage mother, and you may have missed your chance at love—at a normal, happy life. No.” He shook his head, tightening his hold around me. “I want you to have a good life, Amara-Rose. I want you to be mine, for all time, and I could convince you to come with me—and eventually you would. But I will not let you give up the things you want. Not while they still mean everything to you.”

“I know. I guess. It was just a shock…to find out that you can still…” I rested my hand in my lap. “I don’t know. I’m really confused.”

“About what I should do. I want to be with you always. Not just until the winter comes. It’s not fair.”

“Life’s not fair, Ara. Haven’t you learned that by now?”

I shook my head, turning around to face him. “No, David. I refuse to believe that. Life is what you make it. Sometimes things happen that suck, but it doesn’t mean your whole life is unfair.” I shrugged and looked at the stars. “Life is just life, and sometimes you just get played a different hand to what you wanted.”

“Situations can seem unfair, but all things considering, David, we’re still alive, still breathing—not ill or starving or dying of disease. In that sense, I think we’re kinda lucky, right?”

“I suppose.” I reached out and brushed my chin with his thumb. “After all, we did find each other against all odds.”

“Right. And I wouldn’t be here—alive—if you hadn’t come along.”

“Really? So you think you would’ve acted on those, what did you call them—fleeting thoughts?”

“You scare me, Ara-Rose.” He grabbed my shoulder and spun me back into him, forcing me to hold my breath under his bear grip. “What’s going to happen to you when I leave?”

I didn’t answer; I didn’t feel it needed an answer. And I wasn’t sure I had one to give, anyway.

The silence hovered over us for a while then as the dark blue horizon turned almost pale white and the sweet smell of morning dew mixed with the perfumed air from the dying summer rose. David and I both took a long breath.

“Are you okay, David?” I asked, sensing a shift in his spirit.

“Every day I wake,” he started hesitantly, “And I tell myself that I’ll let you go; that it’s the right thing to do. And then you say things like that to me—tell me that you’re not sure about living—and I wonder if I should just convince you to come with me; if I should just wish for you to suddenly lose your desire to live life, wish for you to throw your arms around me and beg me to change you.

“And then I look at you and I see you for the sweet, young, human girl, who has never lived a day in her life, and I just can’t do it—I just can’t take your life from you. I have to bite my tongue every time I’m about to say something that would convince you.” He pressed his face firmly against mine for a second, breathing me in. “I’m just a guy, Ara. I’m not perfect. In fact, I’m more perfectly imperfect than a human. I have this evil side in me that is screaming for me to steal you. It’s only the angel on my shoulder that makes me wish a better life for you.”

“I know, and sometimes I wish you’d just force me to do it, too. But I’d hate you for it. It’s just so dumb.” I slammed my hands down by my sides. “All of it. I wish it were different.”