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    CHAPTER 1

    The steam curled around him, fogging the frosted glass shower enclosure. The hot water poured over Mitchell, soothing his taut muscles and washing away the tension and stress from earlier that evening. He let out a deep sigh before he turned the taps again, letting the water run even hotter. He knew Amelia liked it to be blistering, and he wanted to make sure it was perfect. She needed perfect. Deserved it.

    Amelia. Just the sound of her name floating through his head made him smile and his skin buzz with anticipation. He couldn’t believe how amazing she had been tonight. How strong. The way she had fought. The way she had confronted that skeleton freak hunter. It was a little mind-blowing. Wasn’t it just yesterday that she had found out he was a vampire and accidently locked herself in her bedroom?

    Mitchell let his mind wander; counting the days since she had arrived. Eight months? No, that couldn’t be right. He counted again, and then again, just to be sure.

    Mitchell reached for the bottle of shampoo. He had already shampooed his hair three times while he waited for Amelia, but he figured that if he stalled long enough, she would come in. He lathered up, rinsed, and waited. And waited. And waited.

    His stomach was in knots, his nerves shot. And as he waited, all the what ifs began to eat away at him. What if she had a change of heart? What if she didn’t find him appealing anymore? What if she wanted to move on?

    Mitchell was just about to search through the bond when he heard the bathroom door squeak open. His heart jumped around in his chest like a rabbit running a marathon, and he flung the glass door open so quickly that he was close to ripping it off the hinges.

    “Dude,” Eric yelled. “Cover up, would you?” He shielded his eyes and turned his head away.

    “Get out, Eric,” Mitchell said. He tried to sound annoyed, but he failed miserably, as an awkward laugh fell out. He flushed, and grabbed the shower stall door, pulling it closed.

    Through the frosted glass, Mitchell saw Eric’s shuffling form facing the bathroom door, his hands still shielding his eyes. “I’m just looking for Meg,” he said, his voice squeaking over the words.

    Mitchell glanced at the waterfall that sprang from the showerhead, and sighed before turning it off. He reached for a towel, and wrapped it snuggly around his waist. “In my bathroom?” he asked.

    “Are you decent yet?” Eric asked, shuffling back and forth uncomfortably.

    Mitchell laughed, and he felt his skin flush again, red with embarrassment. “Yeah,” he replied, his voice a little strained.

    Eric turned around slowly, his hands still covering his eyes. He spread his fingers to peek, as if he wasn’t entirely sure if he should look or not, and then sighed in relief when he saw the towel and dropped his hands. “I thought maybe she was in here with Millie.”

    Mitchell wanted to point out how ridiculous that sounded, but he held back. Instead, he said, “Did you try looking for her?”

    “Isn’t that obvious?” Eric said. He waved his arms around and rolled his eyes. He fiddled anxiously, wringing his hands together and shifting his weight from one foot to the other.

    “I meant through the bond.” Mitchell eyed Eric, taking in his gray jogging pants and hoodie, which was on backwards, the hood pushing against his chin. There was a pinprick of red flaring in the center of his panicked green eyes, and his hair wasn’t in its usual perfect mess—it was just plain messy. Mitchell’s stomach sank.

    The pinprick of red grew to the size of a darning needle. “Oh, uh, yeah,” Eric said, and scrubbed at his face. He couldn’t seem to stand still, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, and the dot of red in his eyes kept spreading, washing the normal vibrant green with crimson. “It’s like she’s sleeping. I can’t pinpoint a location.” He looked Mitchell full in the face. “Where’s Millie?”

    “She’s supposed to be here,” Mitchell replied, his voice cracking on the words. He searched the bond frantically, and his stomach sank further. The hum of an unconscious brain was the only trace of Amelia he could find. His chest tightened, caving in, and all the air rushed from his lungs.

    “You don’t think that they left us, do you?” Eric asked. The panic he had been trying to cover showed itself with a slight tremor in his voice, and he rang his hands together again.

    All the what ifs came back with a vengeance, and suddenly Mitchell couldn’t breathe. He felt cold; a chill rushed over his skin, and his heart felt as if it had exploded within his chest. “Go get Luke,” he whispered, gripping at the pain in his chest.

    “Dad.” Eric took a step towards him. He looked so lost, so scared. His blazing eyes were wide as saucers and glistening with tears. Mitchell wanted to comfort him, tell him everything was okay—the girls were okay—but he couldn’t. The words were there, he could taste them in his mouth, and they tasted like dirty lies. Mitchell knew Amelia might leave, but Megan, not a chance. He was certain of it. She was love struck, totally smitten for Eric. And knowing that made his stomach twist into painfully tight knots, because if Megan was gone, he was certain that it was not by choice.

    Heat rushed over his body and his muscles tensed. “Go!” Mitchell bellowed, and just like that, Eric was gone.

    Mitchell ran to the closet, and quickly began searching for his clothes, which was no easy task. Where did she put my stuff? he thought, as he spun around inside the huge walk-in closet. With every beat of his heart, it shattered again, like shards of glass pulsing under his skin. Tears snaked down his cheeks and burned at his eyes. He dug through the racks upon racks of dresses, blouses, skirts, women’s jeans… before finally stumbling upon a shelf of his clothes at the back of the closet. He grabbed the first things that touched his fingers, shed his towel, and began pulling on a t-shirt.

    “What’s going on?” Luke asked groggily from behind him, just as Mitchell buttoned up his jeans. He wore a pair of red and green-checkered pajama pants and no shirt, and he looked dazed, as if Eric had woken him from a deep sleep.

    “We can’t find the girls,” Mitchell said. He spun around and emerged from the closet.

    Luke narrowed his hazel eyes, looking him over, and the color slowly drained from his face. “Did you check the media room?” he asked after a moment, looking towards the ceiling. “The television’s on.”

    “That was me,” Eric said. “Meg and I were going to watch a movie. She said she needed Advil and went to the kitchen but never came back.”

    “Amelia needed Advil,” Mitchell murmured. His chest squeezed. He tried to tell himself it was just a coincidence. The girls probably got a few bruises during the fight. But his subconscious wouldn’t have it. She left, he thought. And somehow, she had convinced Megan to go with her. He knew it was only a matter of time before she would. He had never believed for a second that she would stay with him, but he’d be lying if he said he hadn’t hoped she would.

    “They wouldn’t leave, so stop thinking it,” Luke said firmly, but Mitchell didn’t miss the doubt in his voice. Luke had never believed that Amelia would stick around, and he had never kept his thoughts a secret, at least not from Mitchell.

    Mitchell closed his eyes. Amelia? he called desperately through the bond. Amelia, love, please talk to me. Tell me you’re okay.

    The only response was the buzz of a sleeping brain. But that didn’t make an ounce of sense. It was in that moment that a new, gut wrenching fear rushed through him, and for a split second, his brain actually started to work. If Amelia had left, she wouldn’t have stopped to sleep. Not this soon. She’d be running, putting as much distance between them as possible.

    Mitchell’s eyes snapped open, and he stretched his senses to their outer limits, listening for anything out of the ordinary. He took in a lungful of air and caught a scent. His fangs extended, sharp as knives. “Do you smell that?”

    Luke cleared his throat, and Mitchell cut him a look. Luke paled under his gaze. “Um, Lola and I …” Luke said, wiping at his mouth and looking uncomfortable, “Err …We had um … company.”

    “You what?” Mitchell growled, and then physically shook himself, trying to get rid of the disgust that was flooding over him. He scrubbed at his burning eyes, wiped his dampened cheeks, and focused on the scent again. Floral with an underlying sweetness. “It’s Amelia’s.”

    Mitchell and Eric took off running, taking different routes, searching for the source of the smell, before the words completely left Mitchell’s mouth. He couldn’t think. The only thing that ran through his mind was the scent of blood—her blood—and if he thought about it … He pushed the idea out of his mind as quickly as he could, but it wasn’t fast enough. Before he could banish it away, an image of Amelia lying motionless on the ground flooded his vision.

    He ran through the house, trying to find the source of the scent. It became stronger as he reached the foyer. He stopped, spun around in circles, and breathed it in.

    His heart was racing. A cold sweat beaded along his forehead, and his back became damper by the second.

    The motion light at the front door flicked on. “Out here,” Eric called, and Mitchell bolted out the door, with Luke right on his heels.

    The blood drop was the size of a penny, just a tiny drop. The three of them hovered over it, staring down at the glistening scarlet droplet as if they were hypnotized, not able to look away.

    Luke was the first to speak, asking the question that shouldn’t have needed to be asked. “Did the girls put the protective shield back up?”

    Mitchell and Eric locked crimson eyes and in unison replied, “No.”

    CHAPTER 2

    The first thing that Amelia saw when she opened her eyes was her body lying in a crumpled heap below her. “Crap,” she breathed, as she scrutinized herself. “No, no, no,” she whispered, shaking her head violently from side to side. “I can’t be dead. I just can’t be.” And if I’m dead, then Mitchell… she couldn’t finish that thought, just couldn’t.

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