I had to admit it, Dullsville was no longer dull.
Infact, for me, RavenMadison, the morbidlymonotonous townI'd grownup inhad finallybecome the most exciting place on earth.
Not onlywas Imadlyinlove withmyvampire boyfriend,Alexander Sterling, but I'd witnessed for the first time inmy vampire-obsessed existence anactual vampire bite. The onlyproblem was that it wasn't myneck being bitten.
This wouldn't have beensucha tragedyfor me if the recipient of the bite had beenOnyxor Scarlet, the superfabulous Underworldyfriends I'd met at the CoffinClub, but the bite was givento myownvampire adversary,a real vampire and gothic beauty, Luna Maxwell.
I'd beenwaiting almost a year to be bitten, since I'd metAlexander, not to mentionmyentire life of immortal dreaming, but for Luna it happened withinhours of meeting another vampire. That night, onAlexander's lawn,there had beenanamazing group of partygoers--a handful of vampires mixing withthe mortal local students. It was something I'd never thought would happen. While playing spinthe bloodybottle, Luna and Sebastian,Alexander's handsome and hapless best friend, had locked eyes and gone infor more thana juicylip-lock. His fangs pierced the soft flesh of her swanlike neck. Luna had stared up at me, her eyes dreamy, as if she were some hippie tripping at Woodstock. She glowed even more radiantly than she normally did as a morbid fairy girl fashionista. Most of the partyers missed the action, but those who saw the bite passed it off as a macabre prank.
Sebastian had since moved out of the Mansion, and the rest of the vampires were perhaps back in Romania, or haunting the CoffinClub several towns awayinHipsterville. We hadn't gottenword of their whereabouts, and I hadn't seenanysigns of them at Dullsville's cemetery.
For the week following the love bite, Itried mybest to getAlexander's mind off his disappointment. He was suffering because his best friend's impulsive behavior had put not onlyhimself and Luna but evenAlexander's secret in possible jeopardy. Happily, tonight Alexander was finally obliging.
We were lying in the grass on a hilltop that overlooked Dullsville. From there we were able to see the glamorous sites of Hipsterville, suchas the graveyard, but Ididn't notice them because Iwas lost inAlexander's lips.
Ihadn't broached the tender subject of receiving myownlove bite withAlexander ina while. But Isaw this evening,alone with him and without distractions, as my chance for another try.
Fiddling witha link chainhanging from his black leather belt, Iasked, "Do youthink it's easier for Sebastianto fall for a girl and to take her blood?"
Alexander furrowed his brow.
"Or was it easyto do what he did at the party," Icontinued, "because Luna is alreadya vampire?"
"Ican't speak for someone else."
"But Iwant to know what youthink."
Alexander paused. "Thenyes, Ithink it's easier for him. He is veryimpulsive." His tone was clear and matter-of-fact.
Alexander reached for me and guided myhair back from myface withhis fingers. "It means more to me thanthat,"he said directly.
"Me too," Isaid, touching his shoulder. "But what if I were alreadya vampire?" Iasked thoughtfully. "What if someone else turns me--not onsacred ground--so Iwon't be bonded to them forever. But--"
Alexander withdrew his arm. "That's what youwant?" he asked, his voice almost cracking. "To be turned--by anyone? Sebastian? Or Jagger?"
"Iwas just thinking out loud," Iquicklyrefuted. Ididn't realize I'd hurt him.
"It would be that easyto have someone turnyou? Just like that?"
WhenAlexander posed it to me like that, myfantastical solutiondidn't seem so romantic or practical inits reality.
"That's not what Imeant."
"Are youso sure? You'd have mybest friend bite you? Or worse, mylongtime enemy?"
"But now youare friends withJagger," Isaid, trying to lightenthe mood.
"That's not the point."
"Of course not--Ionlywant you. . . . Iwas just trying to take the pressure off of you. Iwas just thinking out loud."
Alexander didn't seem pleased withmyresponse and continued to stare off into the distance.
"Let's be clear," Isaid, turning his face toward me. "Iwant to be a vampire. But Iwant to be one withyou."
He barely broke a smile.
"I'm turning eighteensoonand you'll be seventeen," he finallysaid. "It's something Ithink about, Raven. You. Me.
Our future. Iwant youto know that. But this is something that is life changing--especiallyfor you."
"Iknow." Igazed up at mydreamyboyfriend's eyes. His face was so handsome inthe moonlight. "But will you reallybe eighteen? Or something else, invampire years?"
"Iwill reallybe eighteen," he said.
"And thenthe next year?"
"Uh. . . nineteen," he said as if Ishould have known.
"But youare immortal."
"The aging process will slow down. But that's many, manyyears from now. Is that what youare worried about? Us not being able to be together unless youare immortal, too?"
"I've always wanted to be a vampire, since Iwas born," Isaid to him urgently. "But thenwhenImet you, I wanted to be one--to be turned byyou. To have the covenant ceremonythat youdidn't have withLuna inRomania.A beautiful wrought-ironlace trellis witha coffinand two goblets, onsacred ground. I'd be dressed ina black corset dress and hold black roses. You'd be wearing a black suit and have a black rose inyour jacket lapel. We'd say a few Romanianwords and drink from eachother's glasses. Then, you'd turnme."
"Wow!" he said witha laugh. "Iguess youhave thought about it, too."
"But it's not about me living forever. It's about me being romanticallybonded withyouand experiencing the world as a vampire." Istared up at him, the stars shining above him.
I waited for him to laugh, to think my ideas were childish and naive.
Instead he leaned into me and stared straight into myeyes, his chocolate ones dreamyand seductive. "There is a yearning that Ihave for you--that goes deeper thanlove," he said. "It's a desire that is palpable." He took myhand and raised it, exposing the inside of mywrist. "This desire courses throughmyveins," he said. He traced a prominent veinwithhis fingertip. "And yours. But I'd never put youbefore myownneeds. What Istruggle withisn't something that youshould have to as well. It's a complicated life--more so thanyourealize."
"Iknow it's complicated. If youdon't want to talk about it . . ." Ifigured it was best to drop the subject. Ididn't want to be a nagging girlfriend, andAlexander had beenthroughso muchalreadywithSebastian's antics. Whycouldn't I be more patient and not spoil our pure quality time alone together?
"Well, youalreadyknow it's complicated,"Alexander commented. "I'm not sure how Icankeep convincing you."
Ismiled. "Ilike it whenyoutry," Iteased. "But sometimes Iworrythat you'll leave the Mansionand returnto Romania.And I'll be stuck here, alone for the rest of mylife."
"Well, Iam not planning onleaving."
"But youweren't planning oncoming here, were you?"
"No . . ."
"But Ididn't have the same reasons to staythere as Ido here," he said. "Is the only way I can convince you how much I care to . . ."
I waited. Maybe this was my chance to demand my need to be a vampire. But it had to be a decision he was ready for as much as I was.
"It isn't something we need to decide tonight, is it?" he asked.
If Isaid yes and his answer was that he wasn't going to turnme, what was Ito do then? NormallyIwas daring.
Adventure ranthroughmyblood just as muchas oxygendid. But this kind of risk--the emotional kind--was far different than sneaking into rumored haunted houses or cemeteries. This was my love life.
I gave him a puppy-dog face. "Of course not. But Iwonder if it is something youwant," Isaid withtrepidation, "or is it only my fantasy?"
I waited. I knew Alexander had thought about it. We'd discussed it before. But as he said, he was going to be eighteen and me seventeen--and, most important, I was now being faced with watching other vampires bite. It wasn't something we could put off forever.
"I can guarantee you it's not just your fantasy," he re-assured me. Then he glanced away, looking in the direction of the Mansionsitting a top BensonHill. "You are so much like my grandmother . . ."
"But wasn't she lonely? For the rest of your family? Is that the fate you'd wishfor me?"
Alexander faced me and stroked mycheek. "The onlyfate I'd wishfor youis for us to be together."
My heart skipped a beat.
Slowly and seductively he leaned me back on the blanket. I gazed up at Alexander, the starlight filling my eyes. He began tickling me.
WhenI'd wrestled withBillygrowing up, I'd learned to relaxmymuscles, whichresulted inmyno longer being ticklish. Mylittle brother would runoff, disgruntled, and I'd claim victory. ButAlexander was no BillyBoy. Isquirmed inmyvampire boyfriend's powerful clutches and giggled like a little girl.
My head whipped side to side and my face hit something jagged on the ground.
Alexander released his grip. "Are youokay? Ididn't meanto hurt you."
He helped me sit up. Ifelt onlya slight bit of pain. But it wasAlexander's reactionthat disturbed me.
He was staring at my mouth.
"What's wrong?" Iasked.
Alexander didn't speak. Instead his gazed was fixed.
I touched the corner of my lip.
A mixture of lavender lipstick and dark red liquid stained my ultrawhite fingertips. Oozing blood. To Alexander it was like an exotic perfume. Tantalizing and irresistible. Fresh blood to a hungry vampire.
I'd only been in this situation with Alexander once before, when he had come to myhouse to take me to the Snow Ball. I'd nicked my finger tip on the corsage pin. He'd had that same intense expression as he did now, only then I hadn't known he was a vampire, and I'd just quickly wiped the blood away.
But tonight was different. I knew that Alexander was a vampire. And the way he stared at me, so transfixed and intense, slightly frightened me but also made me feel wanted and alive.
Thought his blood was mylife line,Alexander needed myblood--or anyone else's--for his ownexistence. Others'blood was his life line.
Alexander wasn't repulsed bythe sight and scent but intentlyattracted to it. I'd never witnessed it as muchas I did today. It was apparent he was fighting his impulses. I wasn't sure if I wanted him to.
He shut his eyes and turned away from me.
"What would it be like?" I asked.
"Don't . . ."Alexander's appearance was scornful. Then his eyes softened. "I want to help you. Take care of your cut. But I can't. Don't you see how hard it is for me? I can't even help the one person I love. I can't come near you or Imight--"
Alexander was fighting his natural impulse, and I was fighting mine. He rose up, his hands balled up in fists. He was biting his own lip. But I followed him.
I held my bloodstained fingers out to him.
I wanted Alexander to crave me more than he already did. Like Sebastian had craved Becky. But was that possible? Alexander was so intense and passionate as it was--was there anything deeper that he could feel or show me?And didn't he alreadycrave me and myblood without me tempting him inthis way?
I wondered if Alexander was right--that I might not like the vampire lifestyle after all, or that mylife long dream of hiding from the sun and rising by the moonlight might not be as romantic as it seemed. Ultimately, becoming a vampire would be a decision I couldn't change.A test I couldn't retake.Anill-fitting dress I couldn't exchange. It would be for life. Forever. For eternity. But this wasn't about being turned.Alexander and I weren't onsacred ground. This was about something different.
My boyfriend stared at me, consumed by the scent of blood and the irresistible desire to devour it. "This is what you want? Me to be like the others--Jagger and Sebastian? Impulsive, needy?"
"No. I want you to be you. This was never about being anyone else," I said.
I could see Alexander was in turmoil. I was tempting him with something that was bigger than a fantasy to him.
This was his everyday reality--a basic desire he had to fight against.
"It's okay," I said. I moved back and glanced away from him.
But instead of retreating, too, he stood still. I could feel his gaze fixed on me with a power that was hypnotic.
"No," he said. "Don't go."
I was surprised by Alexander's response and he eded his plea. I wasn't sure what he would do next. I almost gasped. Instead of leaving me, he stepped closer and took my face in his hands.
Alexander was so close to me, his alluring presence took my breath away. He slowly reached his hand to my cheek. I froze as if the events were happening in slow motion. As his firm hand slid seductively along my face, I melted with it. Then he tenderly wiped the blood from my mouth. It was as if he had touched my soul. My blood was now staining his fingers just as it had stained mine.
I waited with bated breath as the biggest moment of mylife unfolded. I didn't think anything could have been dreamier than the first time we kissed or I slept in his coffin. Alexander was moments from taking my blood as his own.
I was suddenly filled with guilt and sadness as I thought maybe Alexander was doing this for the wrong reasons.
Maybe I'd just wornhim down.
Itook his hand and lifted mysleeve to wipe the dripping blood away. "Youdon't have to. . . ." Ifinallysaid.
Alexander gentlyblocked myhand withhis free one. "Iwant to," he said intensely.
The moment seemed surreal, and I felt as if I were in a dream. My body flooded with warmth.
Alexander stared at the dewy blood droplets now trickling down the side of his ghost white palm. It was as if he was making the decisionof a lifetime. This wasn't just anyblood to him. It was myblood.
Alexander glanced at me and smiled. His sharp fangs caught the moonlight and glistened like icicles. Then Alexander drew his hand to his mouth. I watched, my mouth agape, as he took his bloody hand to his lips, pressed his hand to his mouth, and the red droplets disappeared. He inhaled a huge audible breath, as if he were breathing the life of me into him.
I gazed at Alexander. He appeared transformed. For a moment it seemed as if his pale complexion was almost alive. Alexander whipped toward me with unbridled intensity. He leaned into me, his hair flopping over his forehead, and kissed me with such force my knees shook and my flesh quivered. I thought I might die of heavenly bliss.
Alexander held me, limp in his arms, and I felt bonded to him ina deeper waythanI'd ever experienced. He'd let me into his world, further than ever before.
Alexander squeezed me so tightly, it was as if we were one person. He picked me up and swung me around, the twinkling lights of Dullsville swirling by me.
When he let me down, we both were giddy and dizzy. When I regained my vision I could see my school, the country club, and the vacant Sinclair Mill off in the distance. It was then I noticed something unusual.
Alexander found me lost in thought.
"What is it?" he said. "Ihope youaren't--"
"No--everything is fine," Ireassured him. "It's nothing." Ididn't want anything to break our perfect moment.
"What's wrong?" he insisted.
Ihad to squint to make out the object. It was thenIcould see clearlya familiar car--or, rather, hearse.
Itried to blockAlexander's view byattempting to pull him away, but he didn't budge.
Alexander was already staring at the barren factory.
His blissful expressionsharpened slightly, and Icould tell it registered to him that it was Jagger's car.
Iremained inhis comforting clutches, bound to mylove ina wayIhadn't beenbefore. We clung to eachother, both reluctant to break our euphoric encounter and face the situation that we now overlooked.
So Jagger hadn't gone back to Romania or Hipsterville whenAlexander's partywas over. There had to be a reasonwhyhe didn't returnand was apparentlystaying inthe factory.
Alexander and I shared one last kiss before giving over to the distraction that lay at the bottom of the hill.