Slowly, David drew away, leaving a moist, cool patch on my wrist, and smiled down at me. A stain of crimson love bled from his lips in rivulets, seeping out over his perfect smile.

My chest and shoulders lifted with each deep breath, guiding my soul back to the present.

“Are you okay, my love?”

I nodded. “I might actually have found Heaven on Earth.”

David studied my face for a second, then cupped the back of my head and rolled me up, slipping behind me, slowly looping his arms around my shoulders, like the wings of a mother swan. “I think you’re delusional.”

I giggled quietly, resting my feet beside his, our knees bent, committing the feel of his bare chest on my slippery, rain-soaked spine to memory. If I ignored the breeze making my wet bra cold, I could actually pretend we really were naked together. “Thank you, David.”

For letting me have my own way, for wanting it, too, for not denying that he wanted it, for being more than just an ordinary boy—for… “For being real.” I tucked my brow against his ear and slowly tickled the back of his wrist, imagining his blood in my mouth.

“You don’t have to imagine it, Ara,” he said, kissing the bone above my eye. “If you want it, you can have it.”

“Really?” I turned slightly at the shoulders to look back at him.

He lifted his wrist and shut his eyes tight for a second, and when I snuggled my spine against his chest again, saw red gush out over his skin. He tipped his arm, balancing the liquid there as he slowly offered it to my lips.

Without hesitation, I opened my mouth and scooped up the runaway drops with my tongue, wrapping my lips around his arm, the warmth of sweet orange-chocolate flooding my mouth like liquid made of satin ribbons.

“Describe it to me,” he whispered into my hair. “In your thoughts.”

I swirled the warm blood around on my tongue and let it slide down my throat, into my stomach—like the first hot cocoa of winter; smooth and rich, warm—like his voice. You taste

“Okay.” He slid his index finger against my lip then down my chin, gently pulling my face away from his wrist. “That’s enough, my love. I’m not sure what it’ll do to you.”

Through the whir of the world spinning around me, I turned my head and looked up into David’s eyes, filling with that amazing, almost transparent shade of green, but brighter than ever before—Dorothy’s Emerald City illustrated in the gaze of a vampire. “David, I think I can see your soul.”

He closed his eyes around a smile. “You are so damn sweet.”

I licked my teeth, tasting his blood again. “Mm, no, you are.”

“I am, huh?” He looked at my lips, moving slowly onto his knees in front of me. “Let me taste it.”

I opened my mouth to touch David’s, his tongue skimming across mine, pushing it away from the sharp edges of his fangs. Warm sweet butter and salty copper mixed in our kiss, and it almost felt like David and I were thinking the same thing—thinking how amazing it was to taste the essence of him and me; everything that made us exist broken down to flavour between our lips—tangible, real.

My body sung with ideas and desires too long refused.

“You know what?” I angled my face to the sky, laying back on my elbows as his lips travelled down my neck, over each and every one of the tiny scars there.

“I know how you feel.”

I moaned, my breath expelling in a half gasp as his lips circled my navel suddenly. “Mm. I don’t think you do.”

He laughed, my wet skin making the path of his breath obvious.

“David.” I parted my knees and let him kiss my inner thigh, feeling his wet hair drip against my undies. “What are you doing?”

“I want to know every inch of your body by only the memory of my lips.”

My eyes flung open as he kissed fabric, folding it down over my hips a little.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I won’t go there—today.”

Droplets of rain tickled my flesh, skimming silkily over my belly, staying on my skin until they reached my back, soaking away into the ground then. It was cold, I could tell, and I hoped the goosebumps over my skin, probably making my legs prickly, didn’t turn David off touching me.

“You’re not prickly, Ara,” David said, caressing the underside of my knee delicately, bringing my ankle up over his hip as he drank the rain from the curve of my waist.

I drove my fingers into his wet hair, following the movements of his head against my skin. “David?”

“I want to feel you against me.”

“I know you do,” he said, and when I hooked my fingers just under his elbows and tugged him upward, his bare chest and arms slipped across my body, stealing a quick gasp as I felt him on top of me for the first time. It was like a hunger finally fed; a wave finally meeting a rock, dissolving into spray. For everything else in the world that made me cry, in this moment I finally found life. I wanted to tear away the wet remains of fabric between us and feel him inside me.

He laughed breathily into the flesh just below my ear. “Ara, I can't think straight when you think that way.”

“Don’t then. When you think straight, you deny me what I want.”

He stopped and pushed up slowly on his elbows, elevating his chest from mine.

I stared him down, beads of water blinding me, the rain pouring into our quiet little world as if it had no care for the fact that our forever was limited. “I know what you’re doing,” I said. “I know you’re about to tell me we have to stop.”

“I have good reason for that.” He rose onto his knees, keeping his hands beside my shoulders, his body forming a shelter over mine.

David nodded to the now dark sky. “That rain’s gonna get heavier any minute.”

“No. This sucks! You never give me my own way.”

“That, my love, is because your own way involves me taking something from you I'm not willing to take.”

A cheeky grin spread across his face, golden under the grey sky. “Yes.”

“Oh, my holy, freakin’ God. You have got to be kidding me!”

With the cold conclusiveness of reason, the small split in my wrist started stinging. “Why? Is my virginity like kryptonite or something?”

“No. Even better.” He dropped a quick kiss on my mouth. “It’s sacred.”

He breathed out through his nose, closing his lips into a thin smile. “Yes, my love. You will always remember your first. If you choose not to come with me, one day you will fall in love with someone else, and you’ll want to be pure—untainted—for him. If I take you now, you can never go back. I would hate for you to regret any of our interactions one day.”

“David. This is the new world. It doesn’t work like that now.”

“That may be so, but it still works that way for me.” His wide, sincere eyes looked right into mine, his voice intense with conviction. “In my society, virginity is a virtue to be praised and cherished, not something girls give away without reflection or care.”

“Ara, please? It’s what I want for you.” His harsh tone forced me into silence. “Sometimes you can think too much with your heart and not enough with your head. I have to be the adult here. I have to protect you from yourself—from your human nature.”

“But, David, I can take care of myself. I’m a big—”

“It’s my job to protect you,” he scolded then softened. “Even if it means I’m falling apart.”

“I said it’s fine.” I looked to the side, tears coating my eyes.

“Come on then—” He pulled away a little, helping me to my feet, standing closer while I closed my eyes, waiting for the world to stop dancing. “You okay?”

I nodded, rolling my undies back to the correct position.

“Okay, let’s get you home before you catch a cold.”

“No.” I threw my arms around his ribs and cupped my wrist, forming a chain of unyielding force. “We’re staying a little longer today.”

“Is that so? And…” He tried to lift my chin; I held fast, refusing to even look at him. He gave in. “What exactly are you going to do if I decide to force you?”

“Hm, you’re so sure of yourself,” he said, but I heard the smile in his tone, and the fact that he did nothing else except tangle his fingertips in the hair at the nape of my neck and hold me, proved I was right.

My bones turned to rubber inside my flesh, loving the closeness of skin on skin, with my vampire. And though the summer rain continued, I felt only warmth. His blood had awakened me, like a powerful drug, and mine had filled his veins—giving him life, fuelling his movements. There was no fear—no weight to the truth right now that, one day, he'd be gone, and my arms would fall empty to my sides—the feel of his embrace gone, his body gone, his smile just a memory fading, and his lips, never more a kiss that belonged to me.

But I owned it now.

Despite everything that waited, despite everything I knew would happen, it felt like I could exist eternally, living forever in this one breath of closeness with my everlasting knight. For today, there was no tomorrow.

“Yeah?” I answered quickly so she wouldn't come up and spot my vampire pillow.

“Emily’s on the phone,” she said.

“Ergh! Why’d she call the home line?” I said to myself. “I have a mobile.”

“She was probably hoping your dad would answer,” David said, his voice a gentle hum against my ear through his bare chest.

“If that’s the case, she needs therapy.”

“Good, then you could go together.”

I slapped his arm; he pretended to be hurt, rolling up a little.

David grabbed my hand as I fell away from his arms. “Don’t go? Emily can call back later.”

“No—I’m up now. I won’t be long, okay?”

He groaned, then rolled over, snuggling into the pillow where my body had just been. “Be quick. It’s cold here without you.”

Since David closed my curtains when he came through my window earlier, I didn’t notice the grey day until I stepped into the fresh, cool air of the hallway. The windows all around the house were open, same as every weekend, and the soft lemon scent of Vicki’s bathroom cleaner mixed with the moist weight of freshly cut grass, drying the back of my throat as I drew a deep breath. I tucked my hands under my arms, wishing I’d put on a sweater to come down. “Morning, Dad.”

He smiled over his newspaper. “Morning, honey.”

“Any good news?” I hurried past him to the phone on the wall.

“You know what I always say,” he moaned, lowering his nose into the paper again.

“Yes, I do. No need to say it, Dad.” I took the phone from Vicki. “Hey, Em.”

“Hey, Ara. What are you two doing today?”

By ‘you two’, I assumed she was referring to David and I. “Lazing around. Why?”

“Um—” Bowling versus bed with David. I leaned against the wall. “Maybe. What time?”

“Oh, okay, well, yeah. I’d say we will, but I’ll have to check with David.”

“Okay. When will you see him?”

“When I hang up the phone.” I grinned, watching Vicki. She had no clue what I was talking about, thank God.

“Oh my gosh, Ara. You rebel. Did he stay last night?”

“No, no. Nothing like that. Just...early,” I hinted, hoping she’d catch my drift—and couldn’t help smiling suggestively.

“Oh. Okay. So, like, sneak through the window sort of thing?”

“You got it.” I giggled; Vicki looked at me with a raised brow. “So, six then?”

The phone clinked, and suddenly I was back in the kitchen with my parents.

“Yeah, so far. I’ll have to check if he wants to—but I’d say we probably will.” I shrugged.

He’s already here. “Don’t know. But I’m going to get some more sleep before he does.”

“Sleep? It’s nine in the morning, Ara,” Vicki stated.

The only other sound Vicki made as I walked away was a loud sigh. What could she say, really? This is what she wanted; a normal teenage girl.

The soft strumming of guitar filled the hallway with an easygoing air as I stomped back up to my room. When I pushed my door open, expecting to see the outline of a vampire, my smile dropped as the bright yellow light of morning shone through my open curtains—onto my empty bed. My eyes darted quickly to the iPod, in its dock, with a song playing at a volume my dad would approve of. And as I watched the rain spatter on the glass of my window, blurring my vision of the outside world, I listened to the words, gathering that my vampire meant them as a musical sticky-note saying, My love, I shall return soon.