TO ANYONE THAT HAS ALREADY READ PART OF THIS AND IS GETTING THE UPDATED COPY- I changed two names

. First who
used to be Gabriel, Stephan’s partner, is now Cassius. AND Jonny is now Gabriel. There is no longer a Jonny in the story. Sorry for the confusion, but I decided that the names I had originally given these two characters didn’t fit them and so I switched before I got any further. Sorry for the confusion. Enjoy.

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ONE:
I sat on the bus, reading and waiting for it to leave, when a wave of chillness crept into my consciousness. It felt like something was wrong. Then the numbers 622 appeared in my mind and I looked up, just as the bus started to pull off I saw the numbers 622 posted in front of me. Damn, I was on the wrong bus. I jumped up and asked the bus driver if he wouldn’t mind giving me a transfer so that I didn’t have to pay for the second bus, briskly jumped over all the three stairs leading off the bus and hurried to catch the correct bus which was parked directly behind the one I had just gotten off. As I started to climb the 623 Lake City Way, I realized that I had left my jacket and computer bag sitting on the other bus and that it was pulling away. Great! I started to run after it. At the intersection the light, that just a moment ago was green, turned yellow then red. While it was yellow the 622 sped up instead of stopping. When the light turned red I had to wait, there was too much traffic for me to do otherwise. Why didn’t I bring my car today? Trying to decide it was worth it trying to catch up with it or not, I thought about my computer and jacket. My jacket was great, a Kenneth Cole leather, but that was not the most important thing, it could be replaced. My computer on the other hand, while also replaceable, contained my newest pitch tonight’s meeting. It had taken me all week to perfect and in the late nights and long lunchless mornings (and yes, lunch in the mornings, being a half breed I start my day at 12 am and end, at the office, at 9 amish) I had not backed up the files. I had to get it back. If I left it on there and waited until it reached the end of its route, not only would I not have it for my presentation tonight, it probably wouldn’t be there anyways. Most people are not very honest and a jackets one thing to turn in, but a computer. That’s valuable and can be used by anyone. It was password protected of course, but that’s easy for any thief to fix. The only way I could think of to catch up with it was to run through the Vanders Building and cut it off. But, that is not an easy feat. It’s only 20 stories and has entrances on the east side of the building that are on the 10th floor. There are also entrances on the west side of the building and they are on the 7th floor. The 1st through 6th floor are below ground and are used, I think for research, but I am not sure. They are private and not talked about very often. The 11th through 20th floor are above ground and are used for the various departments that Vanders Investing Corporation has. 2 | Page

That is not the problem though. The problem is the fact that each floor has a security check point. To move from one level to another, you have to put your belonging on the x-ray machine (which obviously wasn’t a problem for me since I was chasing my things right now), go through metal detectors and then show your ID. I didn’t have any ID on me, it was my bag (how stupid could I get), but I could show them my work access card, which has my picture on it and leave a finger print. That may take too long though. Damn. I had no choice but to try it. I couldn’t get around it to go down the two blocks it spanned without going backwards and out of my way. The bus turns on 2nd street in the middle of the building, so going around to the far end of the building, which is two blocks away and back tracking didn’t seem like a very good idea either. The traffic at the lights and the swarms of people on the sidewalks would make it slow going. “Whoa, little lady, aren’t we in a hurry?” The security guard at the first station whistled. Little Lady, what were we in a country western now? “Well yah. A huge hurry actually”. I flung at him quickly completely agitated and tapping my foot a million times a minute. “You know” deciding to change my approach. I stood still with one foot at a point tip toe like, to show more knee in the skirt I was wearing, and said in my sexiest most appealing vampire voice. “Maybe you could accompany me in the elevator to save me some time. It looks like you have plenty of guards on duty today.” For a normal girl, that would have probably not ever have worked. Stephan Vanders was very strict in regards to his security and while it certainly did look like there were extra guards on duty, I was sure there was a reason for it. Any guard of his had to know that accompanying a woman with no Vanders credentials was not okay, let alone a girl with no ID at all. But I was not a normal girl. I was a half breed. Half Vampire, Half Human. I had powers of persuasion on my side. My regular voice was more persuasive on a bad day than a human’s voice would be at their very best. Even though I normally try not to intentionally use it, it’s still the reason I am so good at advertising. I can sell to nearly anyone when I want to. So of course he said, “Alrighty little lady, we’lI just slip away while my super is on a fifteen”. Saying super like soup with an elongated “er” at the end. He grabbed his ID card and swiped it. The doors opened smoothly, opening to a very large comfortable looking elevator. I had been inside them once before but it was a while ago and they had obviously been updated since then. Much nicer than the ones I rode up to the 33rd floor of my building every day. It only took a moment to reach the 7th floor, I said thank you before the door even opened, giving the man a small peck on the cheek (which would probably keep him 3 | Page

excited until his soup-er found out what he’d done) and bolted into the extremely full lobby. I weaved through the people at a speed that would have made the humans uncomfortable if they’d have been paying attention, but luckily for me they weren’t. Through the revolving doors I could see my bus. It was parked at the stop right in front of the building. Okay, I thought, maybe I was going to be able to catch it after all. There was a woman in the revolving door and I had to walk at a normal human speed which I was really pretty irritated by. Normally I don’t use my vampire speed either, because I try to blend into the human society as well as possible, but this was my work we were talking about and I was in ‘no holds barred’ mode. Finally I got out of the stupid revolving door, next time I ran into Stephan (which was pronounced like stefan) I was going to say something to him about those doors (okay probably not since I have probably never said more than ten words to him in all the times we’d met, but whatever). I was just in time to watch as my bus pulled away. Damn, It was all for nothing. I was going to lose a week’s worth of work and we were going to have to go with Gabriel’s proposal after all. Normally Gabriel and I were on the same page with just about everything, it’s why we’ve worked so well together and had been promoted so quickly, together. We received the best clients and made the most money besides the partners. We weren’t partners, but we were almost there. This project though, we’d each had very different ideas for pitching so we decided to go ahead and each do our own individual campaign and then pitch it to the partners to see which they liked best. Gabriel was really upset that they had decided to go with my presentation. I of course did a shitty job of hiding my smile. And it didn’t make him feel at all better that they liked his as well as mine, they just thought that the feminine approach that mine had was better for this specific account. Oh well, now he’ll get his way and then he’ll go back to his normal self, which I like much better than this grumpy Gabriel who has been around lately. Now that I was the grumpy one, he’ll see how it feels to have the tables turned. I turned to sit down on a bench right in front of the building that was as secluded as it could be, for a busy downtown street, and surrounded by a small but very well taken care of garden to do some deep breathing exercises to try and relax myself. As I did I noticed Stephan. “Whoa… What are you doing out here? Shouldn’t you be up in your office bossing someone around? Chewing some ones head off?” Stephan, the Stephan Vanders of Vanders Investing, was sitting on the bench. A business tycoon who also happened to be full vampire. I had met him a few time in the past briefly, but I wasn’t impressed. Really he’d actually never done anything in front of me that suggested 4 | Page

anything more than a gentleman but I knew better, he had gotten to the top for a reason. So I decided to not feel bad about shoving my frustration onto him. “Yah well I wanted a break. Is that alright?” He didn’t sound offended, damn again. I guess it took a lot to make someone that powerful offended, he must be used to it, but I can’t figure how since I’ve never seen anyone do anything but suck up (eck). “What are you doing here? This at least is my building. Don’t you work over on Seneca at that big advertising firm?” “Yah, but I had a little problem with a bus.” I admitted grudgingly. “A little problem hu?” I could see a half-heartedly concealed smile, just like I’d had when the partners chose my presentation, on his oval shaped faced. After brief hesitation I decided that I would tell him about it, but as a started to open my mouth he motioned for me to use my telepathy to tell the story. I am not very good at telepathy even though half breeds are supposed to have it stronger than any of the other vampire races but since I don’t use it very often I guess I had gotten a little rusty. I wonder why he wanted me to use it in the first place, it’s not like my story was top secret or anything. Even so I went ahead. When I had finished my story he just stood up and mentally said ‘come with me’. ‘Back to being bossy?’ I replied sarcastically raising my eyebrows slightly at him. I wondered what we looked like to onlookers, not using verbal words, but still using normal conversation facial expressions. Probably pretty weird, like watching a program on tv with no sound. ‘Do you want your stuff back or not?’ Well of course I wanted my stuff back. ‘Are you going to help me?’ All of this seemed unreal, since I really never had spent any time with Stephan aside from the Vampire Community Council meetings. I couldn’t believe the first place that I’d even run into him and now he was going to help me? Well I wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the face. I followed him to the street and saw a black Mercedes parked in a reserved parking zone. The windows were tinted, well past the human’s legal limits, and there was a well built man sitting in the driver’s seat. It must be Stephan’s car. ‘Get in’ he motioned to me. I all of a sudden couldn’t believe it. I was about to get into the car of the richest, most eligible bachelor in Seattle (according to Vogue one of the most eligible bachelors in the whole country). I wasn’t sure if I felt elated or sick to my stomach. The elated part surely only came from the fact that he was really very handsome. Tall, but not too tall, just a bit taller than me, with dark hair, mahogany eyes and olive colored skin. Most vampires were extremely white around here, but if a person had dark skin to start with their skin 5 | Page

only lightened upon becoming a vampire. I don’t know how dark his skin was before the change, but it was perfect now. Then there was the sick feeling that came from the fact that I was elated. He was a Full Vampire and I normally tried to steer clear of Full Vampires or any other vampires for that matter. Plus, I remembered, being so powerful has to have gone to head. Again no proof, but it just had to be true. The inside of the back seat was a dark grey leather that gave it a sinister but luxurious feeling. It wasn’t a limo, so it wasn’t fully stocked with a mini fridge and tv like I would have thought someone with that much money would have. I got in first at his request and then he slid in after me. We weren’t sitting any closer together than we had on the bench, but here in the car it was dark and enclosed. I knew that no one on the street could see inside the dangerously dark windows and the partition between the back seat and the front was darkened as well. Although I wasn’t worried about the lack of light, since I could see just fine day or night, it felt different being so secluded with him. I could feel my palms start to feel like mushrooms that were left sitting in a plastic bag on the counter in the sun, slimy and gross. Breaking the silence in my mind he asked ‘Which bus was it?’ “Oh. It was the 622 it heads north over the bridge and gets off on the 45th street exit but I am not sure where it goes after getting off the freeway. Either the U-district or Wallingford. Something like that.” In Seattle, most all the little neighborhoods within the city had names for their community. I was pretty familiar with the communities in the north end, but not so much the bus system since when I wasn’t heading downtown I preferred to drive my pretty blue Passat. No need to remind myself why, busses suck, today had proved that. “That’s all right, Richard is on the phone with Metro right now, they are going to call the bus driver and have him pull over, look for your stuff and then wait. We just needed to know the bus number.” “Oh. Thanks.” More telepathy, no wonder he didn’t say anything when we first got in, he was communicating with his driver. Within minutes we were pulling up behind the bus. Politely Stephan had me send a mental picture of my stuff and where I’d been sitting to his driver Richard and he went to get my things. That was a relief. I didn’t want to get back on the wrong bus to get the things I’d forgotten, how embarrassing. After Richard returned with my bag, I turned to Stephan and with my best thanks for saving my ass smile said “thank you”. I had planned on getting out there, no reason for further embarrassment. Plus, the bus had actually been headed for the 6 | Page

U-district, which was my luck. That put us near a bus line that would take me the rest of the way home. Before I could take my leave I got a mental picture from him of a little restaurant that was in green lake not very far from where we were. I looked at him questioningly. It seemed like he was inviting me to go with him, but he didn’t say anything with the picture he’d sent so it was best to be sure, again no need for further embarrassment. “Is that where you will be eating dinner? I’ve eaten there before, they have very good calamari.” “Well” he said telepathically, “I was hoping that was where we would go to eat. That is if you’re hungry.” I was starving actually, but it was only 10 am, and while that is definitely past a vampires bedtime, I am sure that the restaurant couldn’t even be open yet. Plus, with the sun coming up, the very cute, but very open restaurant didn’t seem like a good idea, even for me and the sun doesn’t affect me nearly as strongly as it would him. I couldn’t imagine how much extra blood would be needed to keep him healthy for an hour or so while we ate in front of the large picture windows that the restaurant sported. “Is it even open?” and a little more quietly “and isn’t it a little sunny?” Normally Seattle was the absolute ideal city to live in for a vampire. Anyone who’d ever even visited could tell you that. It was grey and cloudy most of the year. While any kind of weather during the day was an energy drain, it was a definite improvement to cities such as say LA where it was bright and sunny year round. Some vampires chose to live in the mountains and away from civilization, where it was easier to stay inside during the day, but most of us, especially half breeds like me, chose to live it out in the city. Preferring the interaction and amenities in a city to roughing it in a rural area. “It is open for special patrons.” Oh. Of course he would be a special patron. “Plus, it is owned by a friend of mine and I have already had Richard call ahead and ask him to do something special for us. And as for the second question, my friend, the owner, is also a vampire. He was a chef when he was a human and just continued to do what he did best, even after the change. He has had the windows treated with a special sealant I provided for him, that diffuses quite a bit of the harmful rays of the sun and still allows light to enter. That way the human population can still come and enjoy their meals sitting in the sun, when there is any, and watch people across the street hanging around Green Lake which is so popular. And we can come in the day time without it affecting us much. There is even a special wine menu that is only offered to our kind.” I must have looked completely amazed because he added “I would say I am surprised you didn’t know, but I know that you don’t have much contact with your own kind aside from the council meetings.” 7 | Page

“I am half human, so spending my days with humans is with my own kind” “Yes but as indicated by your race’s name you are only half human, Alexa. Why do you try so hard to ignore the fact that you are more than that? It is a very special gift to have been born half vampire and half human. You get the best of both worlds, yet you only celebrate one.” Hum… Did I note a bit of jealousy in that voice? While a Full Vampire had a lot more power than a half breed or even a normal vampire, a half breed fits in better and like he said, we are not so closely tied to only the vampire world. We really do get best of both worlds. I had always liked having those special abilities but just never felt comfortable around other people who shared them. “Well,” I hesitated for a second “I do celebrate my vampire side, you should have seen me get through your security. I used every vampire gift I was given in order to use your elevator and I didn’t even have any ID.” Woops.. I was trying to lighten it up, not answer seriously and tell him how uncomfortable other vampires made me feel but I think maybe I shouldn’t have told him that I was able to slip easily through his security. That he took seriously. He didn’t answer me right away and I knew why, he was communicating with his driver. Oh that poor guy. When they figure out who it was and I am sure that it wouldn’t be hard once they knew what they were looking for, he would probably no longer have a job. All for helping me. Guilt hit me hard in the pit of my stomach. “Thank you for letting me know. So are we going to eat or not?” “I guess since we are already parked in front of the building we could probably go ahead and get something to eat.” Then added as the car door was opened for me “You know you really didn’t, well, don’t have to do all this.” Really I was not at all sure why he did any of this. He could have just said oh that sucks about your stuff or something like that and been on his way. “Contrary to your belief, I was raised in a time when men still had manners and while I might be a full vampire and not technically at all human, I haven’t forgotten everything. I am not the monster that you seem to think I am.” Ouch, apparently that is how you offend a powerful vampire, question their chivalry. Interesting. “I don’t think you are a monster. I just, well, we don’t know each other that well. Sure you’ve seen me at the meetings, but we’ve only talked once for a few minutes, so I guess I was just wondering why you are treating me like we’ve been good friends for a while?” “Well maybe talking to you that once was enough to make me want to talk to you again.”

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It was all I could do to not flush to an annoyingly bright pink in the face, which is hard to with my skin tone . Even though I had just insulted him, by accident, here he was complementing me. “You are very interesting you know.” I knew that human men found me interesting, not attractive, but interesting. It’s the alluring part of a vampire that helped us in the old days to get food that they find hard to resist, but I never spent much time around vampires before so I had never didn’t have enough experience to know whether I was interesting to a vampire or not. I had always considered not, especially with all those model type women vampires, who looked like they should be on the run way in Paris (many of them were actually). “Thank you.” Was all I could think to say before Stephan’s friend Phillipe came and ushered us to a spot next to the fire place. I was pretty sure that Stephan didn’t need the fireplace, since he was less sensitive to the cold as I was and the day was actually turning out to be really warm so far, so I wasn’t even cold. I figured that Phillipe gave us those seats because they were the coziest, for a couple, and faced outside with a nice view of the lake reflecting the sunshine. He left us two menus, gave a slight bow of the head and went back to the kitchen. I looked at the menu not sure what I wanted. I knew I wanted calamari. Maybe that and some garlic potatoes? It wasn’t really a combination that they offered, but I tended to want random things off the menus instead of their neatly packaged meals, which usually meant grumpy waiters trying to get me to be easy and fit into their mold. But I figure if they would open the restaurant for us then I could probably order any combination that I wanted. “You should try the Pinot Sangre Mojado to drink with your meal.” Phillipe having snuck up next to me, was holding out a bottle of a dark red wine. “It’s a blended wine. Nice and warm and fresh”. “What, warm?” “I told you that they had a special menu” Stephan noted telepathically. Oh my goodness, I had been to this restaurant many times before, but I had no idea that they offered a blood blended wine. I don’t know why that surprised me. I was with Stephan. “Where did it come from?” Hoping he would say the Vamp Mart. “If you mean was it given freely, then yes it was. I cannot however give you my sources, as that is a trade secret” He winked and filled my glass without me having said yes or not, I assume that Stephan did that for me, which I wasn’t sure if I liked or not. “What else can I bring for you?”

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We gave him our orders and he strided off to get started on our food. I was surprised that Stephan ordered a full course of steak and a salad, but vampires did need food too, just very very little. “Are you going to be at the tomorrow’s council meeting?” “I hadn’t heard there was one scheduled for tomorrow. How was the notice sent out? By email?” “Yes, to everyone who has an email on file, which you do.” Damn he knows everything. “Well, I have been so all consumed with this new proposal, that I only opened emails this week that were pertinent to what I was working on. But as long as my pitch goes well I will be there.” I took a sip of my blended wine, noting that it really did have nice warm and full flavor to it. As long as it was donated and not taken forcefully, I could really enjoy the flavor of blood, I was after all a vampire. I didn’t deny myself as much as Stephan seemed to think I did. “So what’s the big deal with the council meeting tomorrow, we’re not due for one for another month?” Now it was his turn to take a sip of the wine. While I waited for his response I noted how his full lips looked lightly laying along the crystal glass. Okay, I decided time to stop with the gazing. How unlike me. Why was I starting this weird gawky behavior now? “Alexa.” “Huh?” I said quietly setting my unusual thoughts aside. “You need to practice with your telepathy.” “What do you mean? I thought was doing okay actually” especially since I was really pretty rusty, I added to myself, not wanting to give him more reason to criticize my lack of vampire lifestyle. “Well yes” he turned slightly towards me and I could see the light from the fireplace playing across his face. “It’s just that you have forgotten to ‘close the door’ when you’re not communicating. And while I would love to listen to your appealing thoughts all day to uncover some of that mystery, I would rather do it the old fashioned way.” I don’t think at that moment my face could have turned anymore red. I must have closely resembled an overly ripe strawberry. I tried really hard to fight it, but my will was overpowered by my embarrassment and so I decided the best way to handle it was to close the door on my thoughts. After opening “the door” to allow mental communications, the door could, and should, be closed again to keep from 10 | P a g e

projecting all my thoughts. It was something I had learned to do very young and came easily to me, when I remembered to do it obviously. I was never fully unprotected, no one could dig in my unconsciousness without my permission, those walls were never down, but if I didn’t close my mind off when I wasn’t communicating then all of my conscious thoughts were public. I may as well have had a reader board hanging around my neck with everything I had thought since I had gotten into his car with him. If it wasn’t so hard to kill me I would say just do it right now and get this over with. Deciding to steer away from my humiliation and try return to our previous subject I acknowledged his comment by building my barriers and asking, out loud like a normal human would, “so about the council meeting?” “Well, you’ve heard about all the recent disappearances of vampires?” Of course, how could I have not? I might choose to not have vampire friends but I still ran into them and talked with them and the disappearances were top of every one’s gossip list. It had been a huge shock when, about a year ago, a secret government agency had started to hunt down the vampire population. No one would normally be worried if they were using normal measures to hunt us. There are very few ways a vampire can be killed and given the extra special hunting abilities we have, most people who hunt vampires didn’t make it very far, government or not. This was different though. They weren’t killing them, but sending them to top secret vampire prisons. No one who had been arrested was ever seen after that. No one at all. Rumor had it they were running tests on the vampires. Tests to figure out what they were made of, genetically, but that hadn’t been confirmed because like I said, no one was seen again. “Well, at first they were holding private hearings to give some kind of front to our American liberties” He’d put emphasis on the words private and front, stressing that those were the words he thought were most full of bullshit. “But now, now they are just taking people away. Though I am not sure why they started with the whole private hearing thing in the first place, it’s not like they would admit what we were to anyone else anyways. They don’t want that kind of mess on their hands. I supposed they are just used to having that façade.” He stopped to take another sip of wine. “The reason we are starting to get worried though is not because they denying us our liberties, that matters little, but because of how often it’s happening and how much information they seem to have about the vampires they take, in advance. Some of the vampires they have taken are really isolated. They have contact with select other vampires, but no human contact at all.” He paused “well unless you count their dinners”. 11 | P a g e

“Hum… Have they” I took a breath to organize my thoughts. I wasn’t sure what he was getting at “only taken people, vampires” I corrected, “ who are so… old fashioned”. I didn’t want to sound bigoted, but I still really had a hard time with those kinds of vampires, it just wasn’t right, it was murder to me no matter who did the killing. I just couldn’t understand how they could be so devoid of compassion or sense of right and wrong. “No, they don’t seem to be particular yet on what kinds of vampires they take, I only mention it because it seems weird that they would know how to find a vampire who has survived for ages without any kind of human detection.” Again I noticed an emphasis on the word yet, as he was pretty sure that it would eventually happen. “Sorry to interrupt”, interjected Phillipe as he set each of our plates down in front of us respectively. The plates were a classic white and the food was laid across the plate in a decorative fashion. Even my garlic potatoes and calamari, which didn’t really go well together as far as looking nice together, had an artistic flare to them. “I also took the liberty of bringing the lady a plate of our new salad.” He looked pointedly at me and said “It is from our human menu”. “Thanks you, it looks really great.” And I meant it, now that he mentioned it did sound good. Ooh and it had blue cheese dressing. Yummy, my favorite. After checking if there was anything else he could get for us he disappeared out of sight, leaving us alone is the cozy little restaurant. I looked up and saw a couple walking the most adorable little dog outside the window. It was the kind of dog I’d always liked, with curly light brown hair and long ears. Not too big and not too small. It was some sort of pure bred, but knowing nothing about dogs, I couldn’t say what kind. I liked it. I kept meaning to get a dog, but just never really made the time for it. Maybe I would. The dog and it’s owners had passed so I brought myself back to the restaurant. “How do you think they are getting their information then?” I asked him. Before today, I had heard about the abductions but never really gave it much thought past that. Now that I was getting a little more information I found that it was really intriguing and definitely bringing out my Nancy Drew. “I don’t know, they only logical explanation would be they have an inside source.” “Any clues on who that source could be?” “Not at all, that is why we are holding the meeting tomorrow. I want to see anyone on the council might know of someone who would want to bring other vampires down.” I took a bite of my salad- I was even more excited when I’d discovered that it had shrimp, shredded cheese and carrots and (to top it all off) avocado- and I wondered who in the world would benefit from something like that. I mean, it really could be 12 | P a g e

someone who was angry, but in my experience it was about what someone gained. I could admit though that many times vendettas came into play with that as well. I was sure that there were lots of vampires who openly disliked certain other vampires and there are ALWAYS humans who find out about vampires and go on crusades to try and kill them (which usually results in them either being killed themselves or admitted into a mental institution). But those really didn’t fit. They would be specific, not random, like Stephan made it sound like. “Are there any other patterns? You know that we could maybe follow to figure out who it is. Even a lack of patterns could sometimes be a pattern.” I’d read Anne Rule, I knew how these things work. Okay, I’d only read two Anne Rule books, but I definitely have spend the last five years watching CSI. “Not that we’ve found, but I have the all the information that I have uncovered so far in my office. And profiles on all the reported arrested vampires.” His notably changed and he added “You could come by sometime and take a look at what I’ve put together.” It was worded like a light invitation, but his voice was barely more than a whisper telling me that it was otherwise. I should get out, the rational part of my brain was telling me, but the rational part was easily overcome by intrigue, and not just for the details of the imprisonment, but over the man who was sitting a short breath away from me. Good thing my door was closed now. He’s got to be wondering if I am slow or something. I have been spending more time thinking than actually talking. “I’ll see.” I hoped that I sounded a lot more nonchalant than I’d felt. “I am kept pretty busy with my job, but if I can find some spare time, I’ll swing by. What kind of hours do you work? Or you could just let your secretary know where the files are, that way if you’re not there then I could just take a look at them anyways.” I got a smile that was not overly large, but not forced either. Warm. “I would love if you came by when I was there.” The smile got a tiny bit bigger, “so we could discuss your thoughts from the case. What about tomorrow after the council meeting?” “I told you I have a meeting tonight and I don’t know when it’ll end.” “Do your clients really meet with you in the middle of the night to hear your proposals?” “Yes.” I said simply. What else could I say? Damn right they do, I’m the best. “You must be really good then, any chance you want to come and work for me?” “No”. Again that was all I said I didn’t really want to offend him, and I’ve learned that in these kinds of situations less is more. I said it softly and gently, but firmly. I 13 | P a g e

looking into his face and noticed that he had on his business face which told me I wasn’t going to get away with a simple no, even if he let it ride today. Well then, I thought, I may as well get it out of the way, so I continued “It’s just, I am almost partner, and Gabriel and I work really well together. I’ve made a name for myself at Sears and Sears and I wouldn’t feel right switching up on a whim.” “You can think about it, no pressure.” Yah right, I knew business men, that is just a line. “Thank you.” I would like to say that I wouldn’t think about it, but I knew that was probably not true, Even if I had no intentions of switching, how could I not think about a job offer from Stephan Vanders? It probably paid really good and I would only work for his company. No I liked the variation of working for different companies, I wasn’t going to make a change. I set the matter aside and we finished up our meal quietly. It was nearly noon and I was so tired I could barely stand it. Even having drunk two more glasses of blended wine wasn’t enough to kick the fatigue. It was more than just being up during the day, it was being used to sleeping at this time and I had been up for a long time. It was like a human still being up at 4 in the morning. He took me home, we chatted along the way, and then he dropped my off in front of my dark green house. I said that I would talk to him later, maybe even see him at the council meeting if I was finished early enough, but gave no commitment to anything outside of that. I gave a quick wave good bye to Stephan as I walked up the sidewalk to where my gardener was working on pruning my purple azalea bushes. I chatted with him a moment about what a great job I thought he was doing. Which was absolutely true, he’d just finished this really cool pond area in my back yard off the deck and I thought it was amazing. He was a little surprised to see me so late, normally I was home when he arrived at 10 am 2 days a week and we would discuss how things were going and all that and then I would head off to bed. He’d been surprised when I wasn’t there this morning. Not that that had stopped him from getting right to work. He was hard working and no nonsense kind of guy which was part of the reason I liked him so much. We discussed some little projects that I had for him and then I went inside grabbed a bottle filled with what looked like fruit punch only it was my favorite O negative bottle of blood. I threw it in the microwave for thirty seconds and then gulped it down. After climbing the stairs to my second story loft style bedroom, I closed the super thick midnight blue curtains in my room, flopped down on the bed, and went to sleep on top of the blankets with my clothes on.

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TWO:
In a large warehouse there were rows of long cement boxes. At least twenty in each row and five rows across. There were five or six old fashioned looking lights, the kind that looked as if they were run on gas on each of the four walls, a soft yellow glow emanating from each one, with not a single window to be found and only one solid looking door. The door was assembling of large dead bolts which only had key access and to the left of the door a computer identification pad. Fingerprint authorization was needed to get out. I wondered if it was needed to get in. Probably. And how did I get in anyways? I stood standing inside the cold unfriendly room looking around me. I didn’t see anyone at all. I wondered as well what was inside of those cement boxes. On closer examination I realized that they looked like cement planter boxes that might be found in a city park filled with flowers. These didn’t have any flowers, that’d have been a welcome sight in the solitude of this place. I caught movement to my right and swung around to see who it was. I could see instantly that what would have been a better word to use. It definitely wasn’t a who. But what was it? It was light a black light that wasn’t coming from anywhere, a jellyfish like patch of dark light. It was just hovering above one of the boxes. There was no sound. None at all. That’s weird I thought. Not just an eerie silence like a house that is secluded and empty, but a silence like when I would sometimes put earplugs in to drown out the sound of my neighbors kids in the summer time when they were out of school and I was trying to sleep through the day. I tried to take a step towards the light but found my feet unwilling to move. I looked down at them to see what the problem was and all I saw was the hard unfriendly cement floor. I didn’t have any feet. I wasn’t there in my body at all. I felt like me, as if I was whole and normal, but nothing on me was to be seen at all. I was a spirit and nothing more. Panic was starting to fill me (or at least the metaphoric me). My body wasn’t there to feel the panic but I still felt like it would consume me. I tried to move again, to see an exit or a way out of this crazy nightmare but I just spun in place, not moving a centimeter from where I was standing (or hovering). Trying to calm myself I took deep breathes that filled my stomach (again or not my stomach but something that felt like my stomach) working on the meditation that I had learned at camp so long ago. Closing my eyes, I tried to follow the steps to lead my mind to another more desirable place. I was beginning to see my back yard. My favorite and most relaxing place. The new pond with floating lily pads and large yellow and swimming white Chinese goldfish. I could nearly smell the lilac that had started to sprout along the edge of my deck. I started to feel peacefulness take the place of the panic, and it as if I was actually sitting there in the swing watching the creek make its way under my little bridge. 15 | P a g e

With calm now having claimed my body I opened my eyes. I was no longer in the Warehouse. I was actually sitting in my back yard. I could feel the cool Seattle breeze washing over me. I could hear the creek actually running through my back yard and smell the fresh cut grass wafting in the air. I could feel the afternoon sun setting behind me. Looking down I could see my feet, I was no longer a spirit with no substance- I was actually there. Thank God I breathed a few times to myself. Maybe I’d fallen asleep here? I don’t remember having come outside. I’d have sworn I’d made it to my room before going to sleep. Maybe I was sleep walking or woke up enough to make it all the way out here, without waking up enough to be aware of what I was doing. Okay that was what sleep walking was, but I had never walked in my sleep in my entire life, that I knew of. I got up and went into my kitchen and made myself an espresso, scooping the white chocolate into my cup before steaming the milk, trying to shake the weird feeling from the dream. I loved my espresso machine. It was my Christmas gift from Gabriel last year, the only one that I’d gotten, but it was better than a million little presents combined I thought. Every year he managed to get me something that was absolutely perfect. It was part of the wonderful gift he had for reading people. While my powers of persuasion make me good at my job, Gabriel’s ability to see through peoples tough exterior and see what really drives them is what makes him great and us the best team ever. I turned on my laptop to check my email and back up my files, after yesterdays little mess, and thought about when Gabriel and I first started to work together nearly 6 years ago. I was working as an assistant in the same company that I was at now. It wasn’t a bad job, it had good benefits and all, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to be creating. I wanted to be sitting my bosses office and putting together ideas to sell things like tv’s and telephones. And I knew I could do it much better than he could. Man he’d sucked. His team was the only reason that he still had a job. One in particular I thought was exceptional - Gabriel. He was his photographer at the time and his ability to capture the true spirit was the reason that the old man did so well. Gabriel and I would chat occasionally when the old man was off at one of his appointment (usually with his sexy young golf instructor). One day, out of the blue, he asked me what I was doing there. “What am I doing? I am working, what does it look like?” I snapped jokingly, still typing eighty words a minute. He just shrugged “I guess it seems like you are way too talented to be sitting out here typing memos and running for coffee”.

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“Hey running for coffee is the best part of my day” I smiled, still typing, but actually slowing a bit to turn and look at him. His eyes were staring at me intently. He wore his blond hair longer then. It was almost as long as mine, not quiet touching his shoulders but hanging shaggily past his ears. His mouth that was a naturally happy mouth, unlike mine that generally looked grumpy even when I wasn’t, was set in a seriously line. “You know what I mean. I’ve seen it. The Old Man doesn’t do anything without asking your opinion first.” I loved how he called him the old man. He was the only one who would. It was our private joke. Everyone else was so humorless, never calling him anything outside of Mr. Johnson. We obviously called in that too when he was around too, but when it was just Gabriel and me he was The Old Man. “I know. And I have so many ideas. I sometimes wish he would just ask me before he got started on the projects and not wait until they were finished so I share my ideas instead of trying to sort out his mess.” “Why don’t you apply for an advertising position?” “I don’t have any experience. And I have a business degree, not an arts degree and I’ve done nothing but secretarial work since college”. “So with your UW Business degree you’re telling me you like sitting here playing secretary?” I just shrugged. “Let’s go for a coffee”. He didn’t bring up me working as an advertiser again for a while. We talked business. He told me about a new account that The Old Man was trying to get. We started talking about what we would do, like we always did. He suggested that I pitch it to the Partners. He said it was way better than what The Old Man had come up with. I was a little nervous at first but we started working on it together after work. I still wasn’t sure about it but he got me an appointment with the Partners and that was it. They’d loved it and we got the account. We’d been a team ever since. I couldn’t imagine working with anyone else. The old man was a pissed, but retired a year later so it didn’t really matter anyways. That’s the reason I would never switch firms to work for Stephan. Well part of the reason anyways. I was pretty sure actually that if I had said I would switch as long as I could bring Gabriel along that it wouldn’t have been a problem. I just didn’t want to work with other vampires. The shear idea of it made me feel uneasy. It would make the whole working at night thing easier though. Hey Owl, Lets have dinner before the meeting? How about 9:30 at Daniels. Gabe

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Owl, was the nickname he’d come up with for me after I got everyone to switch to a night shift. He said that the owl was a very bright animal who could see best in the dark and slept during the day, just like me. The email had been sent this morning, my last night, right after I left the office. He would probably still be sleeping, since he was now on the same weird schedule as me. Normally I was still asleep at this time too if not for my strange dream. I replied saying that I would meet him there. I loved Daniels Steak House on Elliot Bay. When I was younger, I remember hearing about it, but I was never able to go there. It was expensive, at the very least fifty bucks a plate not including drinks, and I didn’t have that kind of money then. My mom had been single (Obviously since vampire males never stuck around to watch their off spring born of humans grow up) and she’d worked hard in a little office down town, but it was never enough to go out for more than dicks or Burgermaster if we were really lucky. Which was always fine with me- I loved going to Burgermaster, they had (and still have) the best grilled ham and cheese sandwiches ever and their French-fries dipped in tarter mixed with ketchup was enough to keep you drooling all the way home while unbuttoning your pants to breathe easier. But Daniels was classy. It sat on the waterfront with valet parking and a view of the city lights shining off the water was a whole different world. I almost never went there, I didn’t go out much at all, unless Gabriel took me, but he tried to take me as often as we could. With my coffee finished, my emails checked (well part of 86 that I had anyways) and files backed up I headed upstairs to take a shower and get ready to meet Gabriel for dinner.

THREE:
I didn’t have to meet him anywhere, as it turned out. At about a quarter to 8 I was just finishing up getting ready and heading downstairs when I heard a car pulling into my driveway. Looking out the window I saw him getting out of his shiny new BMW. I opened the door for him when he got there and he came inside, giving me a small kiss on the cheek as he did. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here.” I said to him as he was grabbing my hand gently to lead me out, through my house, to the patio - past the built in fish tank that divides the formal living room from the hallway, past the kitchen on the right and the den on the left into the night through the sliding glass doors. I didn’t really want to be out there after waking up out there and not knowing how it’d happened but he didn’t know that. It usually was our spot and my favorite spot in the house. 18 | P a g e

“The pond sure turned out nice. I love the lily pads and the granite stones around the edge sure give it a natural feel.” He took a seat on my lilac and silver swirl colored porch swing and motioned for me to sit down with him. I did, it was our spot within our spot. Another one of his o so perfect gifts, this one for my birthday the last April. “I’m sorry” he said taking my hand again. “I’ve been grumpy and I don’t know what my deal has been. But I shouldn’t have been so horrible to you the past couple of weeks. It’s like we are turning into an old married couple and are bickering over nothing.” “An old married couple. You’re the old one. I am still perfectly young.” Which wasn’t in the least bit true, but that’s how it looked at least, since I basically don’t age at all after turning 21. I looked barely 27, but in actuality I was in my (late) 40’s. He on the other hand was 35. “Why is that? Why don’t you look like your getting older?” He had never once brought up the fact that I never seemed to get any older, with no additions of lines around the eyes like most women who are heading into their thirty’s. Other people had joked about it, but in all the years that we’d been working together and been best friends he’d never once mentioned it. “Good genes I guess. Why jealous?” I gave him a joking nudge with my elbow. “Yes, actually. I keep finding these horrible gray hairs and when I go jogging I find myself not having as much energy as I used to, but you, you’re just as beautiful as you were when we went to coffee together 6 years ago. Six years ago today by the way. Happy anniversary.” If I didn’t know him better I would swear he was gay. An anniversary for the day we became a team, at work, was a little much (not to mention his knack for picking out the perfect gift). I had a hard time remembering his birthday let alone which day we went to coffee six years ago. “Happy Anniversary” I gave him another little kiss on the cheek, which was our little thing, we had a lot of little things after all this time. “You know that I had no idea right?” “Of course. But I have it all planned out. First we will go for dinner and then I already got us tickets after that. We’re going to have to eat fairly quickly though, in less than one hour, because I couldn’t get the tickets for any later.” “Tickets for what? What about the meeting tonight.” That was scheduled for 11 pm tonight. What could he possibly want to do after dinner that needed tickets and would be done in time to get back to the office and be ready before 11? “The meeting isn’t tonight.”

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“What? When is it?” Not tonight, I am sure that they partners said it would be tonight at 11 and that is what my calendar said. I may be horrible with dates (and names but that’s aside the point) but I am good at writing everything down and I am sure it said today. “It’s next week at 9 am. The clients had to go out of town and so they called and rescheduled. It’s going to be tough that it’s so late, or early, so we won’t be on our best, but I am glad.” He shifted a bit and stared out past my fence at what I wasn’t sure. “Sorry, again, that I lied about it. I just wanted to surprise you tonight. It’s Friday night you know. When was the last time you went out on a Friday night?” Honestly, who knows? I know that I am half vampire and that going out late on the weekends should really be my thing, but it just wasn’t. Gabriel did I knew. Not on Friday nights, because those are work nights, but Saturday nights definitely. I’d been a few times with him, but didn’t make it a usual thing. I was more likely to hit a Tuesday night Salsa club, just to dance before work, than party on the weekends with all those drunken people. I didn’t answer his question. He already knew the answer anyways, so instead I asked, “So what kind of tickets do we have?” It did kind of sound fun tonight. After my crazy night (well day) I could use some time to let loose. “You’ll see. We need to get going, but change first.” “What?” I had on my very cute dark blue pinstriped suit with a silver button up shirt under it. I had just gotten it last week at Saks and I had been saving it to wear for tonight’s meeting. But he was already heading back into the house. I followed him back into the house to see him heading out the front door. He may not have vampire powers like me, but he was quick from running 5 miles three or four days a week. Before I knew it he was coming back in the door with a solid blue gift bag in hand (he knew my favorite color by far was blue, just like the night). There was an abundance of silver (my other favorite color, just like the stars and moon) ribbon curled and streaming down on all sides with a note looped through one strand. I read the note. Owl. Thanks for putting up with me for all these year. I am so glad that you invited me to coffee that beautiful day six years ago. Where would I be without you? (Probably still taking stupid pictures for The Old Man. Ugg..) Happy Anniversary. Gabe. The words were printed neatly in his too perfect for a guy penmanship, in a – you guessed it- sparkly blue pen. He had drawn swirls around the edge of the paper in a sparkly silver pen to match the rest of the packaging. 20 | P a g e

Setting the note aside, on my desk not in the garbage, I opened the bag. It was a bit tough since there were ribbons tied through holes that had been punched in the top and I had to undo each of the knots that held the ribbon in place. I opened it and out came a magnificent dress. Just my color, a dark midnight blue, so dark that it almost looked black. The top of the dress was made of a nice crisp cotton with thick tank sleeves and a swoop cut neckline. The edge of the neckline was stitched in a cross cut pattern of thick silver thread. At the waist line (which from the look of it was at that perfect point where it would hide my little love handles) the material changed to a sheer flowing material that of course sparkled with silver above some more of the straight crisp cotton like the top. It was a just above my knee length skirt and it was definitely the most perfect, most wonderful dress that I had ever seen. “Oh my God” was all I managed to say before noticing the shoes that were tucked in the bottom of the bag. They had a heal that was thin where it began but then belled out (my favorite kind) and a criss crossed toe. The material was layered. They were the exact (and I mean exact) same material as the dress, it even had a top layer that looked like the flowing part of the skirt. “Where in the world did you find these” I gasped “They are like something that I would dream about but never find in a store.” “Your right.” He didn’t say anything else for a minute, drawing it out. Enjoying the excitement he had woven though the air. “I had them made especially for you. Remember Cynthia, who used to work for The Old Man? She is working in New York now with the Saks design team. I emailed her and told her what I wanted for you and she had them made. They should fit, I borrowed some of your clothes to get the correct sizes. Remember that sky blue dress you wore to the companies Summer Fling.” “That’s were that dress went.” I smiled at him. How could I be mad he’s snuck in my room and stole my favorite dress, if it was to have a dream dress made for me, with matching shoes? “How many times do I have to say sorry tonight?” “Not once more.” I reached up to give him another kiss on the cheek, and tell him how much I loved it, when he turned his head. I kissed him dead center on the lips. It was just a small peck, but wow they were soft lips. How had I never noticed that? I guess I could only have found out by kissing them. I lingered in the softness for a moment feeling comforted and then pulled away to look at him in the eyes. They filled me up, the emerald greens looking at me with such emotion that I didn’t know if I could stand anymore. I leaned against the wall that was just behind me 21 | P a g e

and he stepped forward to match me. He rested his hands on the wall at my waist level and leaned into me again finding my lips. My head was swimming with mixed emotions. My body was telling me to throw myself at him, it had been a while it told me condemningly. But my mind was telling me that this was someone that I worked with everyday, that he was my best friend. That I should stop before things got even more confusing. That there would be no turning back from this. It would either work or it wouldn’t. What did my heart tell me? I already knew that I loved him. I had known that for a long time. But what kind of love was it. Was it the best friend sharing everything kind of love or the lovers sharing all that and more kind of love? I didn’t know. I had honestly never thought about it. Maybe I should think about it first but I was past that thought in point two seconds and on to noticing how warm he felt up against me. I kissed him back softly almost involuntarily for a moment, but then pulled away gently, stepping back as far as I could, being as I was the one standing up against the wall. I could feel his breath on my neck and smell his subtle but sweet cologne that he wore. “I’m S-“ He started to say, but I cut him off. “I told you, you weren’t going to say that to me again tonight, and I was serious.” “I know Owl, you’re always serious. I just. I..” I put my finger to his lips and stopped him. I wasn’t sure what it was that I wanted to do about this yet, but I knew I didn’t want to talk about it just yet either. I needed a moment to think. I told him not to worry, that I’d be right back and went upstairs with my package. I sat down on my goosed down comforter (that I had purchased because I liked how weightless it felt when I slept and not because it was warm) and slowly pulled off the shoes that I’d had on. I pulled of the suit, hanging it back on its store hangers, and slipped into the beautiful dress he’d given to me. I decided that I didn’t want the nylons, that I would go bear legged, with my beautiful heals, so I took them off and stood on display in front of the mirror. Everything fit perfectly. The bustline was a bit wider than it would have been on a normal dress, which meant it fit me exactly the way it should, not too tight but also not to big in the armpits like many of the shirts I’ve tried on in the past. My breasts were a bit bigger than average for my frame and so I either ended up with shirts that were too tight in the bust or when I got a larger size (which put me into the plus sizes) then they were too big under the armpits, which I never understood. I was right about the waist line too. It was positioned precisely in the middle of my love handles tricking the eye into seeing a straight waist and not a waist with speed bumps on each side. 22 | P a g e

I turned around and looked at myself from the back. The dress poofed out a tiny bit at the butt, making it look a bit bigger than normal, which was very good in my book. The hem of the skirt landed right at the knee, showing the definition in my calf and not my ugly thighs. The dress showed all of my coveted features and hid all of my loathable ones. It was like I was in a fairy tale. I couldn’t have asked for something more perfect for me, even in my dreams. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Gabriel in a way other than as a best friend, and even though it might end badly, I was going to give him the consideration he deserved. “Gabriel” I whispered as I walked up behind him. He had been staring into my built in tropical fish tank when I walked up and I laid my hand on his shoulder. He turned to stare at me, his wide shoulders level with my chin and I felt like maybe I was making the right choice. How could it be wrong with someone that looked at you like that? With someone who knew you so completely and made you feel so comfortable? “I am a little nervous about this, I love what we have and would hate for anything to change, but that…...” I paused and gave a childlike wave of my hand to where we’d been standing when we kissed. “That was nice and I would like to see how things go.” I could hear him breathe again in relief and we headed out the front door hand in hand smiling.

FOUR:
It was late now so we skipped Daniels and got a sandwich from Subway down the street from my house. It felt weird to be in a fast food restaurant in my party dress. When the teenager, with his piercings and Emo (which always made me smile when I said it because it reminded me of Elmo) style clothes asked where we were headed I told him I wasn’t sure and Gabriel just winked at the kid. We ate in near silence just looking at each other and being comfortable. I took my time eating, and he just watched me while finishing up himself. After finishing we went back to the car and took the side streets through the U-District towards down town. I didn’t ask where we were going. I just sat singing along with the country music we were listening to. We were downtown just south of the market when we pulled into a parking garage and got out of the car. “Are you going to tell me now where we are going?” “Nah. You’ll see.” With that we walked towards the pier. After passing the aquarium we turned down one of the docks towards a small but nicely lit Argosy cruise ship. 23 | P a g e

“We’re going on a cruise?” I asked him when we reached the ship and he pulled out his tickets. “Not just any cruise, it’s a salsa cruise.” His face showed me a huge smile, like he had just won the lottery. I was sure that my face was showing my confusion. “But you don’t salsa dance. I remember you telling me years ago when I asked you to come with me that you would learn to salsa dance over your dead body. Are you going to sit and watch, that doesn’t sound like very much fun?” With one hand still around my waist he handed the ticket to the man at the door. I shifted as we started walking to get a better look at him. “No” he said. “I am going to dance. I have been taking lessons for 6 months. To surprise you.” “Oh my goodness you didn’t” but I could tell by the look on his face that in fact he had. “Okay then, let’s see if you’re any good.” We boarded and headed over to the dance floor. The music was already going, but of course there wasn’t anyone dancing yet, so we walked over to the bar and ordered, a Long Island Iced Tea for me and a Whiskey Sour for him. The same drinks we always ordered when we went out. I spotted a table and started to head for it, but before I knew it, he was pulling me out on the dance floor. I found a place for my drink and my mini siver purse (which I’d just happened to have in my closet) and let myself be led. There were a lot of people watching. Normally people who go out first like that, so early in the night, are professional dancers or people who are just really good and wanted to be in the spot light. I wasn’t bad, not smoking hot on the dance floor or anything, but definitely not bad. But I wondered how good Gabriel could be and really we were going to look only as good as he could lead. I found myself from the first beat sliding and swirling around the room into some pretty complex moves that I hadn’t at all expected. It was the most fun I’ve had in a single dance in a really long time. It was filled with surprise and that gave it an edge. When the song finished a few people off to the side clapped, though I couldn’t tell who they were and then some people took that as their queue to get started themselves. After a few more dances we went in search of our drinks giggling and laughing. “Wow” I told him after we got sat down. “You got really good. When did you manage that?” “I told you I took lessons.” Then he added. “for 6 months.” 6 months of lessons could really help, but for someone who was as challenged as he had been, it seemed like it wouldn’t have been enough to get as good as he’d gotten. “Private lessons, twice a week. And then I’ve gone out to salsa clubs every Saturday night for the last 3 months to practice. It’s fun.” 24 | P a g e

“But why didn’t you tell me before?” It just seemed weird to leave it a secret until know. “I wanted to surprise you Owl.” And with that we finished up our drink and headed back on the dance floor. Only stopping a few times an hour to get new drinks (and then in turn slam them down so we could get back out on the floor), we danced for three hours and I was already beginning to feel disappointed that there was only one hour left to go. We took another break to refuel (or refuel our glasses at least since alcohol has no beneficial fuel) and to use the bathroom. That of course was the problem with slamming full glasses of liquor, the time between bathroom breaks started to come even more frequently. I may be half vampire, but I am still half human too. That was one thing I wished was true about being a vampire- that we didn’t have to use the restroom as often. How much more convenient would that be? On the way back I wasn’t paying as close of attention as I would have to where I was walking earlier in the night and I ran right into someone spilling their drink down the front of what looked like a pretty expensive suit. I looked up to say sorry, but before I could even stutter a single word I heard a familiar voice saying my name. “Alexa?” he repeated. “Oh, my goodness Stephan, I am so sorry. Oh my.” That was all I could say, my more than partially inebriated mind was stumbling on any other kind of meaningful sentiments. Hell meaningful, something other than mumbling “oh” would have been an improvement. I found his hand on my chin turning my face so that I was looking at him. When I could see his cherry eyes (and I say cherry not because of how big they were, not that they weren’t, but because they were the color of the bark on a cherry tree, a deep brown, brown with a soft red glow) his hand lingered for less than a second and he dropped it to his side again. “Don’t even think about it Alexa. We are on a boat you know, it is to be expected that something get spilled at some point. Especially where there is dancing and drinking.” I stepped aside bumping into someone to let a woman, who looked possibly drunker than I was, pass by and he then he continued. “I saw you out there with your friend. You are a wonderful dancer.” “Thanks” I mumbled still not having gained much of my speaking ability back yet. “I really like Salsa.” “Would you like to dance with me?” “That would be nice.” We started for the dance floor as the song changed and found a spot where we could move. I let him lead me into the turns and crossovers, which by the way were a bit more difficult than they had been in the first dance to follow,

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and I found myself smiling at him. No not just smiling, I was beaming. He was a better dancer than Gabriel, maybe due to his graceful vampire nature. Wait Gabriel. What was I thinking? Did I not just start dating him tonight? Oh God. And here I am smiling and dancing with the area’s most eligible bachelor. I tried to stop grinning so that if Gabriel saw us he wouldn’t think anything of it. Too bad I hadn’t told him the story about my computer yet, then I could say I felt like it was the right thing to do. Because how could I deny a dance to someone who’d I’d just spilled a drink on and who had the day before really saved my ass? But I hadn’t told him, what is he going to think? I was going to hurt his feelings. And then, before I could continue on my internal scolding, I was falling. Damn it. How did that happened? I had never once fallen while dancing before, not once. And I have been dancing it for years. “Fucking Years” I nearly screamed out loud. I was in my forties (counting from when I was born anyways) and I was too damn old to falling on my ass in the middle of a dance floor. I was still berating myself when I could feel two sets of hands reach for me. They both reached me at the same time and I found myself being pulled up in two different directions which caused me to nearly fall again. With both Gabriel and Stephan standing with their hands still holding onto me tightly, in case I fell again I supposed, I found myself giggling. I really didn’t feel like giggling. I kind of felt like crying. For one, it fucking hurt and second, that was the second time I had embarrassed myself in just as many days in front of Stephan. Third, Gabriel didn’t look at all amused. I take it with the quick of a response I got from him when I fell that he must have been watching me dance. This sucked. “Uh..” There was that stupid word that I seemed to be using all too frequently lately. “Gabriel, this is Stephan, Stephan Gabriel.” I used my hand to point to each of them, as if they both didn’t know who I meant. I backed up a little to try and get them to let go of me, at least one of them to let go of me. I felt a little weird standing in the middle of a dance floor in my beautiful party dress with two sets of hands gripping onto me like they were going to be the ones to fall next. It might have looked normal at this stage of the cruise, to any onlookers, until you glimpsed their tense faces that was. It hadn’t worked as well as I was hoping, but at least they each dropped the one hand that was the furthest away from me. It was a start. I had better diffuse this quickly. Why were we so tense anyways? They were both my friends. Well, I reminded myself, one is just my friend and the other used to be my friend and is now… What is he? Okay, and one is, still yet to be defined more specifically, more than a friend. But still, I was just dancing (and falling). They needed to get over it. Maybe this was a mistake. Look how quickly this got complicated. Though, my mind thought slowly, having two totally sexy men looking at each other like that with me in the middle did send a little shiver of excitement through me. 26 | P a g e

This was defiantly a first. I hadn’t even dated anyone for a long time, and now here I am standing in the middle of two. How quickly things change. “Thank you Stephan for a wonderful dance, until I got clumsy and fell, I’m very sorry about that. I still don’t know what went wrong, but I’ll consider it a lesson learned. Maybe I should stick to the legal limit of two Long Island Ice Teas instead of..” Wow how many had I had, goodness at least 7, that’s a whole lot for a drink that has 5 shots of liquor. “Instead of more than two.” I smiled, deciding to just skip over how many I’d had. That’s the other thing about being a half vampire vs. a full vampire, a full vampire wasn’t really effected by alcohol, while I was subject to my human characteristics once again. Where were the good vampire genes when you needed them? “I think I will go take a seat until we dock, which I think will be shortly. I will see you soon.” Opps..I said too much in front of Gabriel about seeing him soon and Stephan seemed to recognize that too. He actually looked like that was fine with him. “Well anyways, I’ll see you later. You know, to look over…” Again I paused. They are going to think I was far more shitfaced than I really was. Okay I was pretty shitfaced, but that was not the reason for the pause. I wasn’t sure what I should say in front of Gabriel about the investigation. He obviously didn’t know anything about it and I couldn’t tell him if he asked. “The information on the research I am doing.” I finally finished. “Bye Alexa. As usual it was pleasurably interesting.” Then after turning to Gabriel and saying goodbye, he took his hand off me and not a moment before. The spot on my back where it had been suddenly felt a little bit colder. Then we docked and I thanked God. Gabriel didn’t say anything. Not a single word, the entire walk back to the car. Apparently I had already ruined things between us. Great. I knew that this was a bad idea. I should have listened to myself I though over and over again. After getting on the freeway (no more side road strolls for us, we were in the “get her the hell home now” pissed off mode) he finally asked. “I didn’t know that you knew Stephan Vanders?” Really it sounded more of an accusation than a question. “I do”. I replied quietly but firmly. He had never been weird about me talking to other people when we were just friends and just because we kissed once and he bought me a very amazing outfit, didn’t mean I was going to let him start now. “I have known him for years”. I didn’t mention the fact that while I had known him for years, we hadn’t really been friends until yesterday. He didn’t need that information at this exact moment. Again, not that it should matter. It was just one dance. Just then I realized that maybe it hadn’t been the dance that bothered him so much, maybe it was the smile that I was wearing while we were dancing. That was the

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reason that I had fallen in the first place, now that I think about it, because I knew that I was smiling too much for a friendly dance. Why was that? It must have been the Teas I decided. We pulled up in front of my house. It was so dark and starless that the neighbors probably couldn’t see his black beemer in my driveway. “Gabe, would you like to come in and have a coffee? I have Almond Rocha syrup.” “No Owl, I think that maybe it’s better if I just head home.” Coward I thought, then changed my mind about it. As a drunk person I was entitled that right. Part of me wanted to tell him not to leave. To ask him to come in and drink his Almond Rocha espresso and talk about this. Sit with me so familiarly on the swing and just be us. But I didn’t. I don’t really know why. I guess that part of me just didn’t really want to deal with it either. Not right now. Part of me really wanted nothing more than to go inside and have a nice warm vampiric drink, go to bed and sleep off this crappy night. So I gave him a small kiss on the cheek, which he didn’t respond to and went inside. I turned and looked at him for a half a second while I was walking through the door as he pulled out of my driveway, him having already made sure I was safely inside the house. How had I manage to mess this up already I wondered as I waited for the microwave. I thought about how really in 40 something years I had never dated anyone for more than a few weeks a few months at the most. Why was that? When the microwave beeped I grabbed my snack and headed upstairs to my room, put on my pjs and went to bed with thoughts of Gabriel and Stephan swimming around in my mind.

FIVE:
The room hadn’t changed at all since the last time I was there. It was still large and cold and unwelcoming. This time though I wasn’t caught by surprise and I didn’t plummet into terror like I had before. I stood, if you can stand without a body, near the only exit to the room, the large security door. Looking around I could see that nothing at all was different. Remembering the light that I had seen the last time I pivoted slightly to my right and sure enough there it was, the area of black light, hovering above one of the boxes. I noticed that the black light was shaped perfectly to fit into the box that it hovered over. I began to have a remarkably strong pull to the light and I speculated on how I could make a non-body walk, since I was unable to do it last time. I worked to calm my mind, deciding that maybe if I could create a stillness inside of me that the answers would come. I completely cleared my mind, something that 28 | P a g e

isn’t as hard for me as it would be for a human due to my training as a child in constructing boundaries and telepathy. I was used to being inside my own mind and rearranging things as I needed, so to completely clear out my mind was as easier than cleaning out my car. And I was right, the minute that I got my mind into a still place I could feel the voice whispering to me. “Remember that you are not going to walk” it chided me “you are simply going to move.” Okay, move without walking. So I closed my eyes again and visualized myself where I wanted to go. When I opened my eyes I was standing right in front of the box and within an arms length of the black light (if, that was, I had any arms in this place). Now that I was closer I could see inside the box. It didn’t have a lid, I could tell that even from a distance, but now that I was standing right next to one I could see that it was not empty like I had originally thought, though I couldn’t tell what it had in it. When looking inside the box it was like trying to see through a fogged bathroom window. The kind that were not meant to see though, only let light in. I could see that there was a shape there but I couldn’t make out any specific details. So I turned my attention back to the light. Why was this light here and what did it mean? There wasn’t a light over any of the other boxes, just this one. I struggled to identify what all of this meant. Why I was dreaming this in the first place. I knew at that moment that is was for sure a dream and that if I wanted to I could chose to leave at any moment. But I also knew at the same time, that this wasn’t a normal dream that I was supposed to be learning from this dream. Something about this was important. I just couldn’t tell what but I was going to try to figure it out. I decided to stay for a few more minutes and see if I could figure anything else out. I looked to the light and then scanned around the room. Who whispered to me earlier? Could I contact them again? Again I went back into the framework of my mind and away from the dead silent room. As if I were using telepathy I asked to no one in particular “What do I need to see here? What am I missing?” I waited for a moment without any response and just when I had begun to believe that I was not going to get one I heard the same whispering voice as before but this time I wondered if it was really a whisper or if it was just far away. As if it came from a great distance and was straining for the sound to reach me. “Stephan. Help us. Stephan….”There was a break jolting me back to the noiselessness and then “Help us please”. Stephan, how did he get into my dream? “But I am not Stephan.” I pointed out to the voice. There was no response. I made to ask more questions, how could I help if I didn’t know who or what I was supposed to be helping and how Stephan fit into it, but a terrible feeling arose in me and if I’d have had a body I would have fallen to the floor. My mind slipped into darkness and I dreamt no more. 29 | P a g e

When I awoke I was, just like after the last dream, sitting outside only this time I was laying on my side on my porch swing with nothing but a see through nighty on. The nighty was particularly low cut and my breast were all but hanging out of it. Thank God I have a very private back yard. My house was set at the end of a secluded cul-de-sac and so while I had neighbors on one side of me, from the backyard it looked as if I sat alone at the edge of a wooded area. It was the reason I had bought this house, for its secludedness. Today was the day that my gardener was supposed to come. I wondered what time it was. It must be late (or early depending on which side you look at it from) because the sun was high and hot in the sky. It figured that it would be a rare warm Seattle day on the day that I had a strange dream and woken up outside. I felt like the inside of my body was the Sahara desert. My throat was dry and parched. The sun exposure I’d sustained left me feeling like every ounce of blood in my body had been drained out. I wasn’t sure that I could even move. I just laid there, I couldn’t get up. I knew I was going to have to figure something out and soon. I may be half human, but that wouldn’t help me at this point, I’d been out here too long. My body was using my v cells (that only vampires have – hence the name v cell) to repair the damage from the sun. V cells were handy to have when curing injuries or stopping aging but they were not quite as handy when sitting in the sun unable to move. They would continue to deplete themselves and unless I got help I would continue to be unable to move. I would either be drained completely dry of my V cells (which would kill the vampire half of me and one cannot live without the other) or I would lay here until someone could give me more blood, whichever came first. If I made it until night then my body would stop utilizing the V cells as quickly, but I wouldn’t regain any new ones until after drinking some blood. There was nothing to do, I couldn’t move more than to sift my weight, and there was no one to call out to. What would I say if I could, Excuse me, can I drink you blood to replenish myself. In all my years I had never once drunk directly from the source. I had never “sucked blood” as they so crudely call it in the movies. I was still thinking about drinking from a human when the gate opened and in stepped Christian, my gardener. When his eyes found me his chin dropped to the grass covered ground. I was after all basically naked. He actually closed his eyes and then asked if I needed anything. Did I need anything? If I’d have had the energy I probably would have laughed, but I didn’t have the energy to do even so little of a thing as that. So what could I ask him for, I had been thinking of drinking a humans blood when he walked in. If I’d been thinking clearly I might have thought more constructively. I opened my mouth to tell 30 | P a g e

him that I needed some help, but no sound would come out. I swallowed trying to wet my mouth enough to speak. “come”. That was all I could manage to say loud enough for him to hear on the other side of the yard. He didn’t hesitate and ran across the yard with amazing speed. When he was an inch away from my face I realized that I either needed to bite him or call a vampire to come help me. If I had asked him to go into the fridge and bring me some blood he would freak out and leave. “Me. House.” I managed. He seemed to understand and so the next thing I knew I was being lifted and swept into the house. I felt like a log that had been sitting in the remains of a fire no longer ablaze but still hot. Still kindling and hot but not deteriorating at such a rapid speed. The damage had been done though. I didn’t think that I had the strength to use my “persuasion” to get him to bring me blood, so instead I asked for him to bring the phone. I wouldn’t be able to make the phone call myself so I would have him do it for me. When he returned I whispered “Stephan….Phonebook”. Again he seemed to understand my quizzical demands and started flipping through the digital phone book contained digitally within the phone. He clicked send and waited. It felt like forever. “Hello. Stephan. Oh, well may I please speak with him. Tell him that this is an emergency.” His voice rose to a shrill octave on the word emergency. It was the first detection I had heard in his voice of stress. “Stephan? You have to come help Alexa. I don’t know what’s wrong with her, I found her outside. She was…uh…” I could tell he didn’t want to say half naked, but I am positive that is what he was thinking “outside when I got here and she doesn’t look very good. She can barely speak. I brought her inside, but she looks” his eyes fell to me and they looked apologetic “she looks horrible, and that is not normal.” Not normal, I must have looked like a plant hasn’t had any water in a month and is shriveled up and hanging over the pot. Not normal was the understatement of the year. I could hear Stephan speaking to him in a low velvety, but manly, voice. Christian moved over to the fridge, without looking at me and tried to open it. It wouldn’t open of course because it needed a key. I kept it locked in case any humans decided to get something without asking me first. I didn’t want them seeing my blood. The key was right there in the drawer next to the fridge but when I tried to say something to him about it, I found that I just couldn’t. Christian told to Stephan it was locked and then headed to the other side of the kitchen. From the coach in the den that I was laying on I couldn’t see anything but Christians head over the granite counter top bar that sat at the end of the kitchen. I heard a drawer open, but not the one that held the key to the fridge and I wondered what he was doing.

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When he returned he thrust his wrist into my face still clinging to the phone with the other hand. I looked up into his face and I could see his eyes glazed over. He wouldn’t be remembering anything from today I would guess. My power of persuasion was out of order but from the looks of it Stephan’s was set to high power. “Drink” he finally said as I sat there and stared at him. I did. I didn’t even think about it further. My life was in danger and my body was overriding my consciousness. I didn’t think about how wrong it was to take from a human, or how it was even worse that he had not consented to it. I didn’t think about how he would feel groggy tomorrow and wake up probably not being able to remember any of today’s events. I just drank. I could feel the power of the blood filling me up. It started in my throat, like a glass of ice cold water would feel on a smoldering hot summer day and slowly spread from there. I could feel it in my stomach and then in my legs and I reveled in how warm and delicious this man’s blood was. The last place it seemed to reach was my head and the moment it did I pulled away. The moment it soothed my fried brain I came back to my senses. Guilt hit me like a professional baseball player’s bat would hit a ball. Hard and precise. I drank from a human. A human that I knew and saw on a regular and who had been controlled into allowing me to do it. I didn’t think I would ever be able to look in the mirror again. Realizing that my drinking of his blood had obviously taken a toll on Christian’s muscular body I got up, having had my vampiric medicine, I was now able to stand even if I wasn’t 100%, and helped him to sit down. I licked his wound, knowing that my saliva contained the V cells that would close the cut (and the bite marks from where I had later torn into him to keep his blood coming at a faster pace- my God it was monstrous, I was monstrous) and stop the bleeding. He was still clutching the phone to his ear as if his life depended on it. I soothingly guided the phone from his grip and told him to rest and that everything was going to be okay. Now I was the one using persuasion. “Stephan” My body was strong enough to speak normally but even so it came out low and weak. “Alexa! Are you okay? What happened?” He sounded out of breath, like he had just finished running a marathon. Using persuasion could take some energy, especially from a lower level vamp, but Stephan was a very strong Full Vampire, it shouldn’t have taken much energy from him at all. If it had been done in person it wouldn’t have affected him at all, but it was much harder over the phone. Still, I had a feeling that his breathlessness was not from the energy extracted while using persuasion but from worry. But as to why he would worry about me I wasn’t sure, it’s not like we were good friends or knew each other particularly well. We just seemed to be running into each other with an alarming frequency lately.

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“I’m okay” I reassured him adding “Now.” I couldn’t decide if I was angry that he had been the reason I had resorted to drinking from a human or if I was forever in his debt for saving my life. I was still thinking about how to proceed, with a thank you or a rant when I heard him say that he would talk to me in a minute and then hung up the phone. Before I could even start to wonder what that was about I heard a knock on the door. Even though I figured it must be him I looked though the peep hole to be sure, after confirmation I opened the door for him. He stepped in the door quickly and shut it, locking it behind him. He was gazing directly into my eyes, giving me the feeling that I was going to drown, which was quenching after being engulfed in flames just minutes before. When he removed his eyes from mine he got an unusual smile on his face. It was at that moment that I remember than I was wearing a nighty. A low cut, see through night and nothing else. And I meant nothing else. I turned, as quickly as my weakened boy would allow, to run up the 18 stairs to my loft. Before I could even take a step Stephan was on me. He had grabbed my arm and pulled me towards him. “No!” he huffed into my ear. And I mean into my ear, I could feel his breath run across the side of my face when he said it. I shivered. “I want to make sure you are okay”. Hadn’t I already said I was? With his face still an inch away from mine, I reminded him of that. “Stephan, I am fine now really. I think I nearly killed Christian though.” I had forgotten all about him until that moment. “Will you check him while I go get dressed? I won’t be long and when I get back I will tell you what happened. Okay?” He seemed reluctant to let me go, but he did. “Alright, but don’t be too long or I will come up there looking for you.” He went and checked on Christian and I climbed the mountain. It had been a joke of my mother’s before she died. She was in her sixties when I had purchased this home and we moved from our little apartment to this wonderful house. The house had only one true bedroom plus the loft that was nearly the entire upper floor. The loft had a huge bathroom, but no closets. I had told her that I would have an armoire built along one wall for her and that she could take the loft since it was biggest and nicest. She just gave me an amused smile and told me that she would under no circumstances choose to have to climb a mountain to go to bed at her age over a first floor bedroom. The bedroom may be smaller but that was where she would be sleeping. I didn’t argue with her, she was my mother after all and I had long learned not to argue with her. She would do whatever it was that she would do, I wasn’t going to change that. So I had the armoire built in the loft and moved my stuff up there, but after that it was forever dubbed “The Mountain”. Really there weren’t that many stairs, only eighteen, but they were fairly small and steep.

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Not that I had ever had a problem with them. I was half vampire after all and my mom had been only human, an older human at that. Today though it felt like a mountain. I was definitely going to need more blood to recover, and some sleep too or that matter. I remembered Stephan’s warning and hurried to the armoire, that I’d had built, to retrieve some clothes. I grabbed the most comfortable things that I could find, which were obviously jeans and a t-shirt. A really cute pair of Lucky jeans (which I had purchased solely because when they were unbuttoned it read “lucky you” - not that anyone but me ever saw them, but I had still thought they were really cute) and a simple light blue short sleeved polo style shirt. When I returned downstairs I could see Stephan sitting in my formal living room, which I only used when I had company (so basically never) or when I was reading and didn’t want to be in my room. I realized instantly that he was standing in the exact same spot that Gabriel had been standing in, just on the other side of the wall. Staring at my tropical fish, just like Gabriel had been. Admittedly my fish were pretty awesome, but I somehow didn’t think that was the reason for their interest. I had a funny feeling that the colorful fish were just a distraction. I had decided while I was changing that I would tell Stephan thank you. I still felt guilt weighing down on my consciousness but he had done the best he could with no information to work with. If it hadn’t been for him I would have probably been taken to the ER and then it would have been a problem or at least a huge inconvenience. They might have known that I needed blood (not because I was a vampire but figuring that I had lost blood somehow by checking my blood count) but they may not have, either way the problem would have come when they tested my blood. My blood is not the same as a human’s blood because, in general, I am not like a normal human. For one, my blood is laced with V-cells. The cell that vampire carries that makes then a vampire. It repairs the body from harm. A vampire needs blood to replenish the V-cells. Don’t ask me how it biologically works, I am not scientist, but the blood in the stomach is digested and the V-Cells in the body use it to create more V-Cells. The other noticeable problem is, that I don’t have only one blood type- I have a little of all of them, because I replenish myself with all the different types. I normally stuck to O negative which was my favorite, but they each had a distinct flavor (I could feel my mouth water with the thought of Mr. AB sitting in the den staring at the ceiling) so when they tested my blood their tests wouldn’t come out like they expected. They might just write it off, but they might try to test me further. If they had given me enough blood to be able to use persuasion I might have been able to influence them to discharge me and forget about all the peculiar things about me. Once I had been taken to the ER after being hit by a car in the school’s parking, it was totally unnecessary but I couldn’t convince the school principal of that. My mom had to track down a vampire to get me released, because the doctor (Dr. 34 | P a g e

Beaumont if I remember correctly) was in a huff about my test results, speaking to my mom rapidly about what it could mean. She was on the phone calling in a specialist about it, when the vampire she’d tracked down showed up. I had later learned had been my father, it was the first and only time I’d ever heard of him being around in my life, and I didn’t even get to see him. Anyways, I was released within 15 minutes. I had been fine, of course. My body had nearly healed itself completely by the time I had arrived at the hospital. I came out of my thoughts, to tell Stephan thank you, but he spoke first “Alexa what happened to you? How did you let yourself fall asleep outside and how did your body not wake up? I’ve just never heard of it. You should have known that the sun was burning you even in the deepest of sleeps with just the slightest amounts of sun.” I had thought about that too. Why hadn’t I woken up? I also wondered why, when I was sure I had gone to bed in my bed, had I woken up outside on my patio, again. It just didn’t make any sense. No sense what so ever. “I don’t know Stephan. Really. I can’t figure it out. I just woke up there. I went to bed in my bed, I am sure. I’d had that horrible ending to my night last night.” I internally winced at remembering the events the night before. “I came home, had a drink, a vampiric drink since I’d obviously had too many alcoholic drinks on the cruise, and then I went to bed in my bed.” I motioned to the living room and we sat down. I in my large reclining chair in the corner under the fish tank and next to the fireplace and him on the couch in across from me under the front window. I told him the story about my dream. When I had gotten to the part about his name being mentioned I couldn’t tell if he was intrigued, confused or amused. I wasn’t sure yet if he thought that I was just exaggerating or if it might mean something. For that matter, I wasn’t sure myself if I was having these dreams for a reason either. I continued to tell him about all of a sudden feeling tired in my dream, blacking out, and then waking up outside. “Thank God that Christian was here today, if not, who knows how long I’d have sat out there. That is the scariest part. The dream really wasn’t that bad, weird but not scary. But I am terrified thinking that it may happen again. Christian sure isn’t going to be coming back.” “Yes he will. I told him that he was going to go home tonight like he’d been here all day. He’ll remember coming here and working but nothing specific, then he will remember you waking up and telling him to go home and enjoy the sun shine with his family. He will not remember finding you outside, or that you were naked” he paused lifting his eye to me slightly for effect and then finished “or that you drank from him. So don’t worry.” Don’t worry I thought, how in the world could I not worry. “Thanks” I said “Though if it ever happens again” he gave me a sharp look “I said if. Anyways, IF it happens again, there is a key in the drawer next to the fridge to open 35 | P a g e

it and then I won’t have to drink from him again. This was the only time in my entire life that I have actually drunk from a human directly. I feel really bad about it.” “The only time hu?” He seemed to ponder over that, “How is that? There haven’t always been vamp marts.” “I know that, obviously. It’s just before Vamp marts my mom would pay people to donate her blood, she would drain it into bottles and feed it to me in a glass. She was worried that I would lose my humanity if I had to eat like other vampires and that I would become addicted. She feared a lot for my humanity and she did everything she could to protect it. It was much easier when Vamp Marts came into existence.” “So what did you think?” He now seemed amused out of his thoughtfulness. This was a very unique story for a vampire, even a half breed like me. “Did you like it?” I could remember the relief that had washed into me like the ocean washing up on the shore and then the guilt that replaced it as that euphoria washed away, but yes I can also remember thinking that I had really missed out, that it was much better when the blood was fresh. I hadn’t thought much about it then, I was occupied, but now that I think back on it along with the relief that the blood had brought me it also brought me pleasure. A pleasure that I had never experienced before- an intense sexual desire. I had been with men (human ones of course) a few times before, but while it was definitely not bad (most the time) this made that like getting your eye brows plucked and there had been no physical contact at all. Imagine if there had! “Yes, I can see why my mother worried so much about addition.” I all of a sudden felt extremely uncomfortable sitting there in front of him. I could smell his cologne, which was incredibly soft and subtly sweet. I could hear his heart beating even from across the room at a steady pace (all vampires had heart beats. That Vampires had no heart was a myth, since back in the days vampires were much crueler and abused the power and strength that the V-cells offered them, leading to the belief that they must not have a heart). I was delicately aware of how he looked sitting there on my couch in my living room lounging yet authoritative. Good enough to eat. Yum… His tall build and caramel colored skin, which told me that before he became a full vampire he must have been fairly dark skinned, his square-ish chin and high cheek bones and his eyes. As usually his eyes were his best feature to look at (above the waist, I smiled to myself thinking of that other spot on his body that was delightful to take in, perfectly round and soft-looking). Sitting together with him like this, even if we were plenty of feet apart, after him saving my life and after me having drunk directly from a human, recalling those feelings from that time, was like I was on drugs. It was dangerous.

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It was all I could do at that moment to not get up and go to him. I didn’t say anything and neither did he. We just sat in the quiet for a while, my trying to calm myself down and him probably thinking about my dream. Then, after fifteen minutes or so of quiet contemplation, he stood. I stood too, out of courtesy and habit. When a guess rises, so should the host. He crossed the room to me, stopping only when he was close enough to touch, and took my hand. “Do you feel it?” Do I feel it? Yah, I feel it. How could I not feel this? This electricity that lights up the air between us. Even after having spent all that time talking myself calm, just acknowledging that he was still in the room with me made me quiver, in an exciting good way. “That friend who you were on the cruise with. Is he your boyfriend?” I hadn’t had time to wonder what he thought about everything that happened last night. It seemed like a long time ago, like water under the bridge. But in actuality I had only arrived home last night after 3am. Only fifteen hours ago. Unsure what Gabriel was anymore I tried to explain. “I don’t know. I am not sure if he was to start with. Just last night I had decided to try and date him and he seemed really happy about that.” “As would any sane man” he interrupted before I could go on as if it were a pertinent detail but then let me continue. “He kissed me last night and I decided to give it a try but he was furious when we left the cruise and I don’t really understand why. I mean I know I danced with you, and I was having a good time, but it just seems like he could have asked me about you instead of getting angry. He didn’t talk to me the entire way home and when I invited him into talk he said no.” Remembering it made me feel sad, angry and tired all over again, so I sat back down in my oversized white leather chair. Stephan didn’t return to his chair on the other side of the room, instead he just sat down on the carpeted floor in front of me with his hands setting in his lap. “I don’t know” I said again. “It’s just that him and I have been friends for a while and we work together. I knew when I told him that we could try to see if there was something more than that friendship that I would end up messing it up and then it would be trouble but I ignored myself and look what happened. Honestly though I didn’t think that I would mess it up so soon.” “Who said it was your fault? I don’t think it was. It was at least partly his fault, he shouldn’t have gotten so angry, and partly my fault. No, I don’t see how it was in anyway your fault.” Partly his fault, I couldn’t see how. “I shouldn’t have gone, but I was so disappointed that you hadn’t come to the meeting, so I called your office to see if you were out of your meeting yet. Your receptionist answered and said that the meeting had been postponed. So I talked her into telling me where you’d gone. 37 | P a g e

She hadn’t wanted to tell me, but I can be influential.” He smiled at me. I had forgotten all about the meeting. “I’m sorry I didn’t go to the meeting, I forgot all about it. I had been thinking about….” I hadn’t mentioned the first dream to him. I didn’t want him to worry too much and really it was just a shorter version of the second dream, so I stretched the truth a bit “my meeting and then Gabriel arrived. Then he gave me that dress and said that he had wanted to take me out for our anniversary.” Seeing his look I elaborated. “We had been working together for six years. Anyways, he said he had tickets to something and wanted to take me out to celebrate and I just…” I what, what had happened last night? “I just got carried away with it all.” “It’s okay. I should have left you alone, just left a message for you or something, but I thought I would surprise you so I took my boat and met the ship. I called the captain, mentally of course, when I got close enough to the ship, and he let Cassius and I on the ship. I watched you for a while. You are an amazing dancer by the way.” “Thanks.” I didn’t know what else to say. He had taking his boat at night out onto the sound to meet up with me? It seemed like a little much, but I guess if you’re used to doing whatever it is you want then not really. “You’re a good dancer too. I think that is why Gabriel was so angry. He took private lessons for six months to be able to take me out dancing that night. I should have been more considerate of his feelings.” “You are very considerate, Alexa. Here you sit worrying about him when I already told you it wasn’t your fault. You were right, he should have just asked you and you could have told him that there was nothing between us.” But was there? I wondered and thought that maybe he was thinking the same thing. “Maybe we should check on Christian. I think we should send him home now. It is starting to get late. He would normally leave around this time. I don’t want his wife to be worried about him.” Stephan shot me a look that said “see you are considerate”, but got up and reached his hand out to me to help me up- which was reverse since he was the one on the floor and I in an oversized chair, but I was the one who had almost died. Poor Christian was sitting in the exact spot as we’d left him. I told him that everything was fine my voice thick with glamour. That he had just come in for a drink of lemonade since it was such a hot day today. That he is ready to go home and be with his wife. That he won’t feel groggy anymore, but won’t remember anything between when he got there and this point. He worked hard, but can’t remember on what specifically. I know that Stephan had already gone through this with him, but I wanted to reinforce it, just to be sure.

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As I backed up a bit, he stood and smiled at me. “Thanks for the lemonade. I think I am going to get going now. Enjoy the sunshine with my family, you know. I’ll see you Tuesday”. I waved good bye and he left. “You want a drink? You know, our kind of drink. I know where the key is and while Christian was yummy, I think I am still thirsty.” I laughed out loud at myself, yummy was not a word that I would normally use out loud at least, I must really be feeling off after being out in the sun all day. “Sure”. I heated up drinks and we stood in the kitchen together. “I think that I will make myself some human food too. You want to hang around? If you don’t have something else to do.” It had just donned on me that I, well Christian in my place, had called him in the middle of the day. I wonder if he would normally be sleeping. “Or maybe you want to go home and get some sleep. “I know I bugged you in the middle of the day. You were probably sleeping.” “Nah, I had gone to sleep early last night after coming home from the cruise, I was sitting in my office at home working when I got your call. So I came straight over since I knew it was close.” “Where’s your house? It must have been close because you got here so fast. I didn’t think about that until now.” “Yup, just over near Matthew’s beach.” All the houses over near Matthew’s beach were nice but I would have expected him to live where all the other ubber rich people lived on the island or on the other side of the lake. “And I usually take a little nap around this time of day, when the normal day shift people who work for my company have gone home to rest up for the night.” “Now that you mention it I think a nap would be good. Right after I eat. Do you think that I could come by tonight after my nap and see that paperwork that you were telling me about?” Not knowing what to do about the dream had left me feeling helpless and so I was thinking that I would like to do something. Anything. “That would be fine, Alexa. Why don’t we get you some food, you can take a nap and then we’ll head over there.” I could see him thinking and wondered what he was thinking about. After a few moments he continued. “Do you think I could stay here and take a nap on your couch while you take your nap in your room? I won’t bug you, I promise. I just worry about you, after your dream last night.” I agreed, though I felt a little weird about it. In all my life I had never had a man stay at my home. I had always gone to theirs, if at all. My mom lived with me up until the last few years (when she died) and at that point it was just a habit. Not that there had been many boyfriends in the last few years. Unless you include work. I had spent the last few years pouring myself into work.

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My mom and I had always been poor. I went to the UW on scholarships, which were hard to get as a woman in those days. I worked really hard and was happy to have a good office job that paid the rent and bought groceries for my mom and me. She had worked hard to protect me growing up and I wanted to return the favor. We had only had each other. When I started in advertising we went from getting by to having extra. Being able to save money. It made me feel great. I worked even harder, but still made time for Mom. Then when she died it was just me and it felt lonely so instead of dating, I worked even harder. I felt a pang of guilt thinking about work, because it reminded me of Gabriel. I wished things hadn’t turned out the way they had. I knew that it could be fixed but then I looked up at Stephan sitting in my kitchen and wasn’t sure that I wanted to do that. My mom had always warned me about Vampires. Vampire men. She said to take a look at my dad. He was wonderful and wooing when they had first met and had swept her off her feet but then as soon as I was born he just left. He stayed in town I learned later, but never helped us out and never came to visit. I had been raised to fear vampires- to fear myself. But I really didn’t think that Stephan was the same man. I didn’t think that I needed to fear him. I was thinking at the moment I needed to fear myself. I could feel my control slipping away. I could feel Stephan watching me prepare my dinner but he didn’t say anything and neither did I. When my spaghetti that I was making was finished I sat down on the bar next to Stephan and ate. We talked quietly about what had happened last night at the Council meeting. Apparently no one knew much but they all thought something should be done. Just like any organization, they talk about action, but when it comes down to getting it done, it either just gets set on the back burner or passed on to someone else to do. Maybe Stephan and I could figure something out. Come up with a plan of action. What I didn’t know but something. When I finished up I took my plate to the sink and began washing it. I’d had a thought, something that I wanted to do, that I couldn’t seem to get out of the back of my head. While I washed, I was turning it over in my mind trying to decide what I should do about it. When my dishes were washed, I warmed up two more bottles of blood. I normally wouldn’t have drunk that much blood in one day, since I was a half breed and just didn’t need that much. Today I felt I could drain ten bottles instead of my normal three, on top of what I got from Christian. Thinking of drinking from Christian had left me desiring more all day. I didn’t like it but I couldn’t seem to shake it. The bottled blood really wasn’t doing anything for me, it all of a sudden it felt all wrong. I decided what I wanted to do and told Stephan about it before I could change my mind. “Stephan. I don’t think I want you to sleep on the couch.” He looked a little hurt but I figured he would get over it soon. I grabbed his hand and led him upstairs with me. He no longer looked hurt, just like I knew he wouldn’t. 40 | P a g e

Today was a day for breaking the mold. I had drunk from a human and now I was bring a man who I really didn’t know well to my bed. Using the excuse that I really didn’t know him well, while in a way true, wasn’t really the whole story. He may have saved my life today or at the very least saved me from an unknown amount of hassle, not to mention pain. Plus, while I didn’t know him really well, I had known him for a while. The big taboo, the one that I was trying not to let myself admit was not that we didn’t know each other well enough, was that he was a full vampire. I could hear all the warnings that my mom had given me going off in my head. I ignored them. I had almost died today and this man saved my life. He was smart, successful, sweet and incredibly handsome. I pushed the voice of my mother’s into the back of my head and kept walking. When we got to my room I told him that I didn’t want to sleep with him, as in not have sex, but I really wanted to sleep with him, as in with me, in my bed. He said that would be fine, but I could see the light in his eyes dim, not completely but just enough that I could tell he was at least a little disappointed. I saw it as kind of a test. If he could pass, by not pressuring me (and I had a feeling it wouldn’t have taken much pressuring), then maybe I could think about maybe working towards the next step. I put on a pair of pjs in my massive bathroom, a short set that was pink and cute but not too revealing, no point in adding to the temptation with a nighty like he’d found me in when he arrived, and brushed my teeth. I climbed in the bed, he had removed his blazer and his suit pants and was waiting for me in the bed in his underwear and dress shirt and it was the sexiest that I had ever seen a man look. The fact that my sheets were a light blue Egyptian cotton added to the effect, like he was waiting for me on a cloud. I climbed in with him and he slipped his arms around me. I felt more comfortable and safe than I had felt since my mom died. I laid myself down on my side and he snuggled in behind one hand under his head and one arm around me, spooning me, and I was asleep within a minute.

SIX:
When I woke I realized that I hadn’t had a single dream and I felt wonderful. I felt well rested and secure. Stephan was still lying beside me. He was no longer spooning me, probably because I had moved into my normal sleeping alone position, but he was still there and he was still sleeping. He looked so peaceful, and beautiful. I could tell it was early in the night by looking at my window. While covered heavily in curtains I could tell that there was no light working to make its 41 | P a g e

way through but that it also didn’t look to be a deep darkness outside. If I had to guess I would say about 8:30 pm. It wasn’t important enough to me to dig out my watch to check. I lay for a while without thinking, just relaxing and enjoying the feel of having another body next to mine. I rewarded Stephan for having restrained himself by waking him up with a kiss. Not a peck on the cheek kiss either, a full on luscious on the mouth kiss. He seemed to appreciate his gift and wrapped his arms around me and pulled me close. We kissed for a while sweet and passionately, I could feel firmness of his vampire body. Since I had never been this close to a vampire man, I hadn’t realized different their body would feel as opposed to a human man (who was normally soft and fluffy). Of course, I didn’t know if this was common with all vampire men or just Stephan. I leaned myself further into him, deepening the kiss as much as I possibly could. I felt like I couldn’t get close enough to him. But instead of him responding to me in turn, he suddenly pulled away. “Did you want to take a shower and then come with me to the office? My car is here, we could drive together.” The abruptness of the comment was puzzling. I was initiating this and he had the nerve to just pull away. That had never happened before. I was normally the one to take things extra slow and cautious. It made me feel humiliated and angry. “Sure I could use a shower.” A cold shower, I though grumpily. “I’ll see you in a minute”. I grabbed the outfit that I had thrown on for a bit earlier with some clean underclothes, went into the bathroom and closed the door. Taking deep breaths I struggled with myself to remain calm. I just couldn’t understand. It had seemed like he was sending me all the right messages, maybe I was just reading his messages wrong. How could I have been so stupid and him have been so rude. And he still wants me to go with him after this? Whatever. I am going to take a shower and tell him where he can go. I don’t want anything to do with him. I felt as if I were to look in the mirror that I would see smoke fuming out of my ears like a cartoon character. I turned on the shower, which I normally would have loved as hot as I could stand it, and set the temperature at a warm temperature. Not cold enough to be freezing, but still cool enough to put out the fire of anger that raged within me. Twice today I had been on fire, once from the sun and once from that man. I washed my hair using my Pez smelling shampoo and after applying the conditioner I sat myself down on the bottom of the shower and let it run over me. I tried not to think about how angry I was, to just let the water wash away the pain. It worked for the most part. I felt that I was actually able to make clear rational thoughts. I still 42 | P a g e

thought about telling him that I couldn’t go with him to look at the information, that there was somewhere much better he could take himself (like Hell), but remembered the dream that had racked me two nights in a row and decided it was a better idea to swallow my pride and go anyways. I got completely ready in the bathroom and when I came out of the bathroom he was fully dressed and setting on the end of my bed looking at his hands. “I’m ready” I told him. Without looking at him and without slowing I headed down the stairs. I didn’t ask him if he wanted anything to drink before we left or if he needed anything to freshen up after having slept for a few hours. I opened the door and walked briskly out of it. From the front porch I could see the car that was parked in my drive way. I assumed it must be his, but it wasn’t the one that he had given me a ride home in the other day. This one, a red Jetta, surprised me to say the least. It didn’t have tinted windows like I would have thought, but then figured it must have the same treatment as the windows in the restaurant had had. It was simple and cute and I liked it. I instantly liked him more for it, even though I was still mad at him. Even though he could have bought any car he wanted he still drove a Jetta. Jetta’s were good cars, not cheap and not super expensive, just a solid middle of the road. Very practical. I stood to the side and allowed him passage out of the house and then locked it behind us. Once in the car we didn’t say much. He said he wanted to stop by his house and pick up his lap top and some other work related things, I told him that was fine. When we got there he formally invited me to wait inside while he gathered his things, but I stayed in the car, and let him go in alone to get his stuff. It was fully dark by this time and I took advantage of the time alone to sit and think about things. I wondered what was happening to me. How could I live my life one way for so many years and then at the drop of a hat things change so dramatically. I felt like I didn’t know who I had been over these last few days. I had made decisions that had hurt me and other people and while I knew I was far from perfect, I usually did a pretty good job of keep the pain to a minimum. Normally I stayed away from romantic situations with friends, co-workers and vampires. Okay, normally I had stayed away from romantic situations altogether, but that was beside the point. The first three had been rules that I’d abided by for a very long time and I had violated all three of those rules in only two days. But, those rules were nothing compared to my rule #1. Rule #1 that I wouldn’t have thought I could have ever broken. Rule #1 that I’d been taught from the moment I opened my eyes. That even though I am a half breed, Humans were OFF LIMITS (as food). That rule I had broken too. I had let myself start to feel better about it, but now sitting out here in the dark riddled with humiliation and doubt, the guilt of 43 | P a g e

having done the unimaginable (and having had been excitedly pleased while doing it) was flooding into me once more. I couldn’t help to begin to think about my dreams as well. I would have never needed to drink from Christian if those dreams hadn’t done something strange to me. I had no proof that the dreams were anything more than just that, but some little part of my intuition kept nagging at me. Telling me not to forget about them. That there was something I wasn’t seeing about the dreams. Something that was probably so close to me that it would bite at any moment, but I just couldn’t put my finger on what it could be. Stephan came back to the car, hands full, looking tired and thoughtful as well. The anger was already starting to subside, even though I was trying really hard to fan the flames and remain angry. It just wasn’t working. He had been right, we had needed to stop. I was the one who wasn’t thinking clearly. I should be thanking him for keeping me from making a huge mistake. I should be, but not yet. While I no longer was fuming with anger, the shame of being refused like that was a huge hit to my pride and so I didn’t say thank you or show him in the least that I was less angry. I did chance a glance at him when I thought he wouldn’t notice and from what I could see he wasn’t sitting comfy either. I could see by the light of the moon and the passing traffic the lines of worry that lined his face. Though I couldn’t see his eyes well, I observed that his eyes weren’t alive like they had been on all the other occasions that I had met him. Earlier today when he was sitting in front of me on the floor, even in a relaxed conversation, it was like they had danced with energy bright and clear. They were the opposite now, sullen and clouded. I wondered what he was thinking about, wishing he’d been careless with his barriers as I had been that time we’d gone to dinner (or breakfast- whatever). Again I thought about telling him I wasn’t angry with him and asking him what was bothering him, but couldn’t swallow my pride enough to bring it to my mouth. We were parking the Jetta in his designated space I realized that I was hungry. My schedule had been all out of whack the last few days, sleeping and eating at abnormal times (If you could call having breakfast at 8 PM normal). I followed Stephan to the elevator and up to his office. There was no one else in the elevator, which was to be expected this time of night. It had a crisp clean smell, was brightly lit and lined with mirrors. I tried to watch him inconspicuously in the mirror but he saw me looking at him and so turned to look at me in return. “I’m really sorry” his face looked even more lined and pained than it had in the car, as if the weight of how he felt was getting harder to carry. “Don’t worry about it” I told him. What else was I going to say? Oh hey, no problem, happens all the time, I understand? 44 | P a g e

He looked like he wanted to talk about it further but the elevator door opened and so we walked out into a huge office. There was a fish tank on the wall directly in front of the elevators so that was the first thing that you see. I figured that this office must be the office of his secretaries. There were two large, highly organized mahogany desks, one on each side of the office. Each sat facing each other and away from the wall. They had large flat screen monitors in one corner and a plant on the other, both identical. Each work area also had a file cabinet and book shelve combo behind them but off to the side. The book shelves had three shelves, one had nick nacks and the other two had books, neatly lined at the edge of the shelves and the books positioned with the smallest one on the left and sized to the right. I could see the classic titles such as Sense and Sensibility, the adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Scarlett Letter. One desk, the one on my right, was occupied I noticed. “Good Morning” I said to her. I heard Stephan chuckle and but the secretary didn’t although she did have a small amused smile. Right as the secretary began to respond that I realized why Stephan thought it was funny. I had said good morning, since it really was my morning, but it was 10 pm, and wasn’t really appropriate. “My name is Indyria Neri. It’s very nice to meet you.” She stuck out her coffee with extra cream colored hand that was sporting a cute silver ring on her middle finger of her right hand. I could see that it had little dolphins cut into it, so that they looked like they were swimming around her finger. I shook her hand and she had a nice firm shake. Her hair was cut at her shoulders, like mine. But while mine was a really light brown, wild and flipped in a million funny directions at the ends, hers was a straight jet black and completely smooth. She had it half pulled back into a pony tail with the other half straighten down. Her face was round, but not from being overweight, it was just the natural shape of her face. She had on a soft pink suit with a cream colored shirt under it, which complemented well her perfect cream colored skin, and she had on pink eyes shadow to match the outfit. I thought the eye shadow was a little much, but other than that she was perfectly cute and very friendly looking. She spoke with a slight accent, but her English was very clear. I wondered how long she’d been in the United States. “Alexa May. Nice to meet you too.” She turned to Stephan to give him his stack of messages and give him a brief on what had happened earlier in the day while he was out. I didn’t pay much attention to what she was telling him about, trying not to be rude. When Indyria was looking pulling something out of a drawer I asked Stephan if there was a cafeteria here, since many business have one. “We have one, but it doesn’t have anything but an employee fridge and a vending machine with junk. It’s on the 5th floor. I could give you my key card if you’d like to head down there or if you would like, I could have Indyria here find you something to eat and have it brought up to us while we talk. Is there anything special you would like?” 45 | P a g e

“It doesn’t really matter. There’s not really anything open this time of night down town. I’ll just get something out of the machine.” “What about Pizza? Do you like Pizza? There’s a place in Capital Hill that will deliver to us. They have great pizza.” Indyria offered. “Sure that sounds great. What kind of pizza do they have?” “Whatever, I think.” I told her what I wanted and she immediately set off to order my garlic white sauce pizza with chicken, bacon and double olives. “Let’s go into my office” Stephan motioned and he laid he finger upon the security box to the left of the door. The green light flashed on and he unlocked the door with a key. Even with all the security that the building its self boasted, he also had an extreme security system to enter his office as well. As I walked into his office I wondered what he did that that would cause him to need so much security. His office was bright with artificial light and I could see indoor plants scattered all around the very large office. It was a corner office on the top floor of the building and the outside walls were all glass. At this time of night you could see the lights of the city, the space needle and Seattle Center and the sound in the back ground. It was an absolutely breath taking view on a clear Seattle night like tonight. I walked to the window to further take it in without paying attention to anything else in the room. Seattle had always been my home, though I’d traveled some. It was the prettiest city I’d ever seen and I never wanted to leave. The night, obviously, was my favorite, though getting to see it on a clear night with stars and all was a rare sight. Noticing what had drawn me in, Stephan turned off the lights in the office so I could appreciate the view better and stepped up beside me. He didn’t say anything for a while, he just let me stand there and enjoy it. “Alexa”, he slid his hand into mine. I took a deep breath, thinking that I couldn’t handle the back and forth, hot and cold behavior. I should have stayed at home. “Listen”. I spotted a chair nearby and took myself along with my hand away to sit in it. “Okay.” “I haven’t told you everything and I should have. I would like to tell you about it now. Would you hear me out?” Well shit. I knew I was missing something, why be all “do you feel that” into me and then the next moment look like a kid who had been scolded for sneaking into the cookie jar. “No promises that I will hear you out, but I will try. It depends on what you have to say.”

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“I have been asked to keep an eye on you. To watch over you and keep you safe.” I heard his words, but wouldn’t sink in, I just didn’t understand. “What do you mean, keep me safe? I’ve not been around as long as you, but I think that I have done a good job at taking care of myself. Why would it be your responsibility anyways? Who asked you this?” “Your father.” Okay this really wasn’t making any sense. “I didn’t even know my father. I’d never even met him, though he came to my rescue in the hospital once, but he didn’t even bother to come in and introduce himself to me. Why would he have even bothered? How do you know him- I don’t even know him.” I was furious. When I was young, I used to think about what it would be like to have a family like all my friends had. A Mom, A Dad and maybe a sister and a dog. Then as I grew older I would imagine my Dad one day riding in and begging to be part of our lives. But by the time I was out of High School, I had given up all hopes of that. He didn’t want to be part of our lives, though my mom had told me he still lived. If he didn’t want us, we didn’t need him. I stood and went back to the window, as far away from Stephan as I could manage. That is why he turned away from me in the morning- he was mixing business with pleasure. Stephan didn’t say anything to answer any of my questions and that suited me just fine for the moment. Minutes passed and then finally he explained. “I met you dad a really long time ago. I remember when you were born. I wasn’t living here then, but in Portland. I never met you, but he told me about it. He told me how much he wanted to stay and live a normal life with you guys but we both knew that a normal life wasn’t possible for a Vampire and humans. It was just too dangerous for you guys. It was too dangerous for you, being a Half Breed. He thought that if he stayed away from you, it would keep you off the radar. He told you mother that you could never be caught drinking from a human, because then you would be exposed. That you had to be a secret.” It fit with the way my mom had always acted about me, saying over and over again, that I had to be as human as possible. Never tell anyone that you were a vampire, even a half breed. I had always figured it was to keep the humans from finding out, though I knew that my mom was terrified of vampires. It had never made sense to me why she would be so terrified of vampires, after she had been in love with one, but I figured that he had hurt her in some way. “I was really shocked when you began coming to the vampire council meeting. It worried me, because then the vampires were aware of you.” “Why would that matter? I don’t bother anyone.” “You know that when a person is bitten and becomes a vampire that the vampire that it creates a link which gives the older vamp a certain amount of control over 47 | P a g e

the newbie. That link can be broken, but it’s hard and usually the baby vamp doesn’t even realize it can be done, let alone how. Really most just don’t care. The link makes the new vamp desire to do whatever its master says anyways.” “I didn’t really know the details of it, but I knew something about it”. What does it have to do with me? “The strongest vampires are Full Vampires. They are vampires that at one point in time were a half breed. There aren’t very many of us for that reason, since half breeds are rare in the first place. Though once we are made, it is so much harder to kill us that we live longer than normal vampires and due to potent abilities we are much more prosperous. Also, remember that when a Vampire gives the blood from themselves to create a new vampire, part of those vampires strengths are passed on to the new vampire, on top of what they already have. Think about it….” He had been looking out the window as he spoke but turned to look at me. “If a strong full vampire bites a half breed, one who’s father was a very strong Full Vampire like your father, then they would have an incredibly powerful vampire who was linked to them and was inclined to do whatever it was that they wanted.” “So you’re saying that I am an easy target to be turned, so that I could be used to do whatever another vampire wanted?” “It makes sense, and anyways that was what your father has been worried about. He was worried for you. I know you may not have ever seen him but he was watching you. He always stayed in the area and when the need arose and he did go off, he came back to check on you regularly or had someone he could trust keep an eye on you. You have never been unprotected in your entire life.” It was too much to take in. I didn’t want to hear anymore. I couldn’t take anymore. I turned around and stormed out of his office and towards the elevator. I pressed the button to call it and it opened immediately. When I stepped inside I pressed the 7 and waited for the door to close. “You need a security key card, mija.” It was Indyria. I stepped out of the elevator, exceedingly frustrated. “Where is the bathroom?” “There is one inside of Stephan’s office, or there is one to your right. It’s not as nice though, since it’s meant for us and not the Jefe.” I wondered why she was speaking to me with mixed in Spanish. I understood her since I had taken Spanish in school, but it didn’t seem very professional, and she hadn’t been speaking Spanish earlier when she introduced herself. I muttered 48 | P a g e

thanks and went into the small bathroom. I turned the lid down on the seat, sat myself down and cried into my hands. My stress level was higher than it’d ever been in my entire life. With Gabriel and Stephan and those stupid dreams. And now to know that my father had been watching me my whole life but never bothered to get to tell me. Left me to feel alone all those years. Left my mother and me to struggle. That he was afraid I would get made into a vampire warrior. It was just too much. My water proof makeup that I had put on was starting to smear, meaning that I had definitely sat and cried for too long. But it had been a really long time since I cried and I just couldn’t make myself stop. I stood and looked at myself in the mirror. The counter had a little basket of person products for use and so I began to get myself cleaned up. I still felt shattered, like my heart was bleeding, but I wasn’t streaming tears anymore. When I decided I looked as good as I was going to get given the circumstances I stepped out. Indyria looked up to me, but didn’t say anything. I wondered if it was normal for women to come running out of her boss’s office, unable to leave without a id card and then sit in the bathroom and cry for God only knows how long? I sniffled a tiny bit but that was enough to smell that the pizza had arrived. “Is the pizza here?” I asked her. “Yes, it’s in the office.” “Thanks.” I would feel much better after eating. In the office Stephan sat behind his desk looking at some papers, but his expression said that he wasn’t really seeing them. The pizza was sitting on a table that I hadn’t noticed before on one of the interior walls. There were real china plates sitting on the table with two glasses, two forks and a little stack of paper napkins. The china plates looked a little out of place setting next to a cardboard pizza box and paper napkins. I sat at a chair at the table pulled off two big slices of pizza and started to dig in. I’d heard girls say before when they were upset that they “just couldn’t eat”, I am not one of those girls. The more upset I am the more I eat. Today I was pretty damn upset and so I tore into the pizza like it was going to save my life. I didn’t look at Stephan, I focused single mindedly on the task at hand. I didn’t even hear anyone walk up behind me with a bottle of diet coke and a bottle of blood and set them on the table. I ignored who ever set them there, assuming it was either Stephan or Indyria since they were the only other people there at the moment. “Do you mind if I sit with you?” 49 | P a g e

I didn’t know why he was asking me, it was his office and I told him so through a mouthful of some of the best pizza I’d ever eaten. “Sit where ever you like, it’s your office.” With a sigh he sat down and began to work on a small piece of the pizza very slowly. He opened the bottle of blood and poured a glass and offered it to me and I grabbed it without acknowledging him and drank it down- The entire glass in one drink and set the glass down on the table. Normally I had impeccable manners, at the table and away, I had been raised with a focus on how important they were, but I was furious (and hurt and confused and tired, again) beyond any ability to use manners. Especially with him. When I had eaten five (yes five) pieces of pizza I decided that no matter how I felt, I would be sick if I ate one more bite. I pushed away from the table and went back to the window. He had turned on a lamp near on the far side of the room, I assumed for us to eat by, but the glare wasn’t so bad and I could still see clearly the night skyline. I focused on it and tried to let it calm me. “Would you like to know why I am telling you all of this now?” He was a soft as he could be, and I was as calm as I was going to get, so I figured what the hell, I may as well get it all out in the open at one time. I nodded for him to continue. “Your father asked me to watch over you if something ever happened to him. He said he wanted you to know the truth.” I had been looking out the window but now it was my turn to turn back and look at him. He looked tired and worn, probably the same as I did. “So something has happened to him.” I didn’t ask it as a question, since it was obvious. Stephan had stepped in and I had been told the truth. Something happened to my father. The father that I had never met. I still felt my smoldering anger, but now it was meshed together with sadness. My father had been around watching over me and while I was pretty f’ing pissed that I had never met him, I had never met him and now the chances are I never would. I wondered if he had been killed. “What happened?” “I don’t know.” “Then how do you know something is wrong?” “I had a dream.” I couldn’t have been more surprised if he had said he had killed him himself. He’d had a dream, just like me.

SEVEN:

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“Was it like mine? What did you see?” My emotions were on a roller coaster today, because now I had almost forgotten about being angry (though the sadness still hung around my edges) and was totally curious. I wasn’t the only one. That had to mean something. “It was just like yours, except it was a little clearer, since I am a more focused telepath that you are. My master was a very strong telepath, even though he wasn’t a full vampire, and he trained me well.” I had forgotten that normal vampires didn’t always have telepathic ability. Then I remembered the man from the restaurant, he was a telepath, but he was a human to begin with, I wondered who had brought him over. “What did you see that I didn’t?” “Well, remember how you told me that you could tell that there was something in the ‘cement box’ but you couldn’t tell what it was, which was a casket by the way, well I could see in it clearly.” “A casket hu? Who or what was in it?” I knew that the whole previous conversation about my father having sent Stephan to “watch over” me and the casket comment should have led me to what how he would answer this question, but it didn’t. “Your father.” My mouth opened like I was trying to catch flies with it. I didn’t see that coming at all. “So he’s dead.” I said absolutely sure that I was right. I wasn’t ever going to get to see him. Even if I only wanted to yell at him now, I had already subconsciously imagined a big father/daughter reunion. “No. Well yes technically, he’s a full vampire and we’re scientifically dead,” he made finger quotes when he said scientifically and gave me a look that lead me to believe that he didn’t go for that theory “but no, he is still as alive as a vampire can be. He’s being kept in a coffin because that’s how society believes we still sleep. So that is how they are keeping the vampires out of the sun, at the vampire jail.” The average person didn’t know about us, but we’ve had many encounters with the governments throughout the world. About five years ago, a world convention of Vampiric Leaders was held and they decided to let the government leaders know about us. It was negotiated that in exchange for rights as citizens in that country and secrecy, one vampiric volunteer from each country would be examined by a government scientist. Of course scientist in general have a hard time thinking outside of the scientific box and so they all went along with the Dracula version of vampires, living dead, woken monsters and all that. Completely ignoring the fact that vampires have a pulse, a heartbeat and breath. Most, but not all (just like normal humans by the way), feel the same emotions as a human- love, desire, fear and hurt- and have a conscience. 51 | P a g e

We didn’t tell them about the V Cell and they weren’t told about half breeds and they didn’t figure it out, of course. That might have changed their opinion about us, but it was decided that it was too big of a risk and I was glad that they kept my secret. I was having a hard time digesting all that I was hearing from Stephan, but my mind was rolling out questions like a conveyor belt so I decided to just go with it and store the information away to think about later. I had so many questions it was hard to decide which to ask next but tried to stick the most important ones. “Did you hear anything else? What did he say to you?” “He said the same thing he said to you. Except he told me to look for you.” I wondered why he had wanted us to find each other. I wondered what it was that we could do together to help. While I was wondering these things Stephan sat without moving in his chair, looking at me. When I say without moving I mean no moving what-so-ever. Not a twitch of the eye or a casual replacement of weight. Stephan was dead still. When that thought passed through my overloaded brain I giggled. Not an appropriate response to the situation, but what the hell. Stephan raised his eye brow questioningly, but didn’t ask or comment on my behavior. “Do you think that he wants us to help bust him out?” Or that he just wanted to make sure that I was taken care of? I added the last part to myself, it just sounded too weird to commit to words just yet. “I don’t know. Or it could have just been a warning for us to find each other, so that you could keep safe.” He said it for me. “Either way, I think it’s important that we stick together and in the mean time, maybe we could look though my case files and see if we can snoop anything out.” “Alright. I guess.” I wasn’t sure about this partnership, especially after what had happened earlier. Plus, now that I had more information it seemed like Stephan was less interested in me for me and was only interested in fulfilling his promise to be my guardian. It hurt a little, but after all that I had been through, it was just one sting in midst of a whole bee hives worth of stings. He worked on getting all the papers and files that he had put together out of the (doubly) locked safe in his office. He didn’t seem to mind that I saw its secret hiding place under the file cabinet in the floor and I was grateful of his trust. I took that free time to go back over in my mind some of the things I had learned today. “Do you think you could teach me improve my telepathy? I know that most of its just plain born ability that I don’t have, but maybe there could be something learned from it. At the very least practice since I haven’t used it much as an adult.”

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“You have plenty of born ability, you were only taught the basics, that is why I am a better telepath than you. Did you ever wonder how strong your father must have been to reach us in our dreams like that?” I hadn’t thought about it, but it must have been true, I had never heard of such a thing and I must have meant that he was a powerful telepath. I wondered how they caught someone who was so powerful, but decided I didn’t want to think on that just yet. He brought the files over to me, and though there weren’t very many it took a good few hours just to skim over all the different profiles and eye witness accounts (if there were any). Usually there weren’t any eye witnesses. Just missing person’s reports from other vampires to their council. Stephan had managed to gather all the missing persons report’s from the entire United States. I didn’t want to know how he’d done it since each Council is very guarded about their area’s individual vampires. We are all registered with our council but that information is not shared. Vampires covet their privacy above almost anything else. For Stephan to have gotten this much information from other councils is saying a lot about the pull that he has. Pull referring to the money and the “friends” that he has. As I went gone through them I’d made a list on Stephan’s laptop in an Excel Spreadsheet (I’d always been freakishly organized). I listed their name, their age, their creator (the person who turned them, if there was one listed), their status (vampire or full vampire), where their last known location was, last date sighted (or known arrested date, since some of them had been publicly arrested), and the person who reported them missing. There seemed to be no pattern to them at all, no MO, which just didn’t make any sense. The only theme seemed to be that there were two a month, from the very beginning, like they a bi-monthly payment schedule. “Look at the dates here, February 2nd and 19th, March 4th and 30th, April 3rd and 20th. May is the same, one in the beginning of the month and one towards the end. What do you think that means?” “I don’t know.” He was thinking about it. “Maybe they have a two a month contract with an informant.” I couldn’t tell if he was joking with me or if he really thought that was an amusing possibility. “Or maybe they are trying to spread them out so they aren’t as noticeable.” Either one was a possibility I guessed, though now that I thought about it, probably the second one. But even if the weird schedule didn’t have anything to do with the snitch, I knew that there was one. So far there was no proof, but something internal telling me it was so. My head was feeling really heavy and my eyes strained. I looked at my watch to discover that hours had passed and it was now nearly sunrise. Stephan hadn’t 53 | P a g e

gotten any work done all night. I wondered if he would stay into the morning and get caught up. “I think I want to go home now. It’s been a long night and I have lots to think about. Plus, I am really tired again.” I don’t think that I’d ever felt so tired so many days in a row before. “I’ll take you home. Would you like a drink before we go? I could ask Indyria to bring us something.” I nodded instead of saying anything. “What flavor would you like, I usually keep both O’s here, since those are my favorite, but I’ll check”. “No, O negative sounds good.” He called Indyria on his speaker phone and asked her to brink in two glasses of blood. “Indyria’s a vampire?” I more stated than asked. It would explain the firm grip and the perfect beauty. “Do you have a lot of vampires that work for you?” “No actually, most of my employees are humans. The only other vampire is Cassius. I believe you saw him at the Salsa Cruise. He was standing with me.” Looking back at it I do remember having seen someone standing with him, but I hadn’t paid a whole lot of attention to anyone but Stephan (that was until I remembered Gabriel, I thought with another twist of guilt). He was less tall than Stephan, more like my height, and had blond hair. His skin was ice berg white his nose pointed and all his facial features hard sculpted, further suggesting an ice berg resemblance. He was not strikingly beautiful or dangerously attractive like Stephan (and Gabriel) but was good-looking at the least. “What about the other receptionist? There are two desks out there.” “That would be Cecilia. She’s Cassius’ receptionist. She only works during the day, like Cassius. I told him he should find a vampire for a receptionist, but he said he wanted a human. It didn’t matter to me, I just have to be more careful during the day about the things that I say.” Indyria brought our drinks and we worked on them silently. I had learned so many new things today that had changed my life forever and I had so many things to think about that I didn’t even know where to begin. I figured when I got home I could think about them further. I would never be able to sleep. Thinking of sleep added a whole new layer of things to think about, since I was still more than a little afraid to go to sleep alone, and Inviting Stephan back didn’t seem like a very good thing to do either. I had been sitting in his luxurious, over stuffed very comfortable office chair and was facing the window looking out at the beginnings of a gradually brightening sky when I felt a pair of hands give my shoulders a gentle squeeze and then linger there. “Alexa, I really want to talk about this morning.”

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Great. Just what I needed was to live through that again (though having noticed that he had called the evening morning too brought a temporary smile to my face, even if it didn’t last long). “I don’t know. I think I’d rather not.” “Just give me a minute please.” He turned my chair around so that I could face him and he squatted so that he was eye level with me. “I am sorry that I let things get out of hand. I shouldn’t have kissed you at all.” I knew what the problem was, why did he have to talk about it? “I really didn’t want to start something with you without you knowing the truth first. You had to know the truth. I didn’t want you to think I was using you. I am really sorry.” I just stared at him. I didn’t know what to say. What he trying to tell me that he wanted to kiss me, but that he should have waited or was he saying that he shouldn’t have kissed me at all? I was skeptical about his affections before our little incident (as I had started to think of it) and now I thought that no matter what he did, I would always be skeptical. Why would he be interested in me anyways when he could have a woman like Indyria, perfectly proportioned and beautiful? As if I needed more confusion. A girl could only handle so much turmoil at one time. “I know that I have messed that up, but I will do my best to fix it, if you’ll let me.” “You don’t have to fix anything. You don’t have to pretend. It’s not that big of a deal. I am not made of crystal- I won’t break that easily.” I did have a very fragile, very sensitive inside, but I had spent years working on the tough coating that protected it. I had let that guard down, but I’d resolved to put it right back up. “I will let you follow my father’s wishes and watch over me. I would like to see if we can’t figure something out about what going on and I think it would be best to work together on that. But you don’t have to pretend to like me to get those things.” There I said it. I told him straight out not to worry about it. It was better to be upfront sometimes, I could stop worrying about it and so could he. But he didn’t seem to agree with my line of thinking, he almost looked angry. Well he could just be angry with me. He wouldn’t be the first man to be angry with me. Not even the first this week (and again I thought of Gabriel). “Alexa.” He started seemly trying to control to tone of anger in his voice and the rest of his words came out staggered. “I. am not. pretending.” He took a deep breath and face relaxed a tiny bit. His voice sounded to be under a considerable amount more control. “I like you. I do not have to pretend anything. I just didn’t want to mess things up, which I ended up doing anyways. I had planned on telling you after the council meeting, but then you didn’t show, and I couldn’t tell you on the boat. I figured I would call you and invite you here for this, to look over these files”, he wept his hand out to point at the table cluttered with papers, “but then with your emergency, I just didn’t get the chance.”

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His hands were setting on my knees, his big cherry brown eyes looking intently in mine. I wanted to believe him, I wanted to throw myself on him and make love right there on the hard wood floors that lined his office while the sun came up over the Seattle skyline. But I knew that I would not. I needed to play it cool and protect myself. “Fine. Whatever.” I know it sounded hard and bitter, but I couldn’t think of anything better at the moment to say to him. Or at least anything that I could say to him that would show my resolve and help me to remain distant. I stood up and asked if he was ready, again I was trying to walk away out of frustration. I felt kind of bad about it, but there was nothing to be done now. I had wanted to take a copy of my excel spread sheet home with me to look at, but Stephan said he didn’t think it would be safe anywhere else, so I didn’t and we left. As we were leaving Cassius was just heading in. It seemed weird that he would be working the day shift on a Sunday, but didn’t say anything. I shook his hand politely when I was more formally introduced and waved goodbye to Indyria, who was also on her way out, telling her sincerely that I hoped to see her again soon. On the way down the elevator Stephan asked me what my plans were for the next few days. “I don’t know. I figure I will just go back to my normal schedule. I will definitely go home and go to sleep and then tomorrow probably hang around the house, since its Sunday. I have some programs recorded from the last few weeks. I’ll probably check them out or maybe read some. I don’t know I might go over my proposal again. You got any plans?” “No. I was hoping to spend the time with you.” “Oh.” What do I say to that? I bit the inside of my lip. Deep inside I knew I didn’t mind the company, especially his, but I had resolved to not let him have whatever he wanted (yet) no ever I corrected, like he was used to. I was set on keeping distant. “I don’t know. I think that I would like to spend some time alone.” “You want to spend some time alone, or you don’t want to spend your time with me?” He was good. I had tried to word it so his feeling didn’t get hurt and he caught that. We hopped in the car, which looked like it might have been cleaned while we were upstairs, and started to head back to my house. “I guess I just don’t want to spend too much time with you yet. Sorry.” So much for not hurting his feeling. Oh well it couldn’t be helped. If he didn’t want to know the answer he shouldn’t have asked the question. “Don’t be sorry, it’s my fault you feel that way, but I have to be able to watch over you. What if you have another dream?” I had been thinking of that, trust me, but I didn’t want to give in. When I didn’t answer he said “What if Indyria came and stayed with you? You have an extra room right? She wouldn’t bug you, just be there if you need her.” 56 | P a g e

“I’m sure that she doesn’t want to stay with me, I wouldn’t even think of letting you ask her to inconvenience herself like that.” “I already asked her, and you might be able to tell me you don’t want to see me, but you can’t control what I ask other people. Plus, Indyria doesn’t have any women friends, so it would be a treat for her to have a girlfriend.” “I don’t know.” “I don’t worry about her. I worry about you. She is fine.” “What did you tell her?” Please don’t let him have told her about my dreams. That would just be too embarrassing. “Nothing. I just told her that I needed her to hang out at your house so you weren’t alone. That she didn’t have to come back into the office until I called her back. She could go home to her house when you are at work, but that she needed to be available at all times and be back to your house before you are.” Well, it sounded like I had just acquired a body guard. A small sweet Spanish speaking body guard. I wondered what little Indyria could do if a vampire came to my house to try and turn me? Not that I thought that would happen, but if it did? Oh well, It might be nice to have a girlfriend, I had never really had one before either. I had always kind of stuck to myself. Even in high school I had very few and the friends I did have were always guy friends (not boyfriends). “Alright I guess, but I want to make sure it’s okay with her before. I don’t want her to stay just because you told her to. You are her boss not her father.” “Your right, I’m not her father. I am her brother.” What, that didn’t seem right at all. They looked nothing alike. I’d have never guessed that. “You don’t look anything alike.” “I know. We don’t have the same biological family, she is my vampiric sister. She has lived with me here for the last ten years.” Interesting. I had never heard of a vampire considering another vampire as family. I wondered what had happened to them to make them close like that. I didn’t ask, as usual I just speculated. I figured I didn’t want to know just yet. That would be an information overload. We drove for a bit without talking, I looked out the window at the few people we passed. There wasn’t much traffic since it was a Sunday morning at sunrise. When we were getting off of the freeway at my exit I asked Stephan when Indyria would be there, since she had left the office at the same time as us.

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“In an hour or so, she is stopping by the house to get some things and then she will be over. Do you mind if I stay with you until then? So you’re not alone. We could have some breakfast.” I didn’t really feel like going out to eat, but thought that it might be dangerous for me to go back to my place alone with him. I wasn’t feeling nearly as mad as I was and I might give in to myself. I was having a hard controlling my thoughts about him just sitting in the car with him. “Let’s go for breakfast. It’s Sunday morning so we can go to the breakfast club. It should be opening soon.” The restaurant had just opened when we arrived and we were the only customers. Stephan didn’t eat this time. He just sat and watched me. I thought about how glad I was that I wasn’t a full vampire, because I really loved sausage and hash browns. I would hate to not enjoy eating them as much anymore. We made small talk for a bit, not bringing up any of the heavy subjects that we had discussed throughout the night which was nice, because at the moment I was tired of them. He paid the bill, even though I tried to, and we left. When we arrived at my house a few minutes later there was some sort of small SUV in my drive way, so I assumed that Indyria must have already arrived. The windows were tinted on the black car, so I couldn’t see into the car to tell if it was her or not, but as I got out of the car did Indyria. She was wearing jeans that were tight fitting all the way to the ankle, with cute little flat shoes and a fuzzy white sweater. Her hair was down and flipped out at the shoulders instead of half up like it’s been earlier and she carried with her a little light pink suit case. Nothing big, more like a carry on size over night case. “Hola” she hollered over to me. I realized that Stephan must have known that I was going to say no to his offer to stay with me since I hadn’t seen him call Indyria to confirm. I wondered why he asked in the first place. Maybe he thought it would be better than pawning her off on me, if he’d have started with that I might have said no. Maybe he thought it was worth a try? “Uh. Hola. Como estas?” I fumbled trying to ask how she was. I was never good with speaking Spanish. I had taken it forever ago in school, and could understand it when it was spoken to me, but never quite got the hang of actually speaking it. Lack of practice I guess. “Muy bien, Muy bien. Very happy to be here. Are you ready for a girl’s night? I am so excited. I brought over a ton of movies.” Any ideas that I’d had about her coming begrudgingly were thrown out the window. It was obvious that she was glad to be there, either that or a really good actress.

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“Yah, Sure.” I looked at Stephan and he gave me an I told you so look. “That sounds fun. I have some popcorn, but maybe I could go to the store and get some ice cream.” “Sure, let’s go. Stephan, you get out of here. We’ll talk to you later. Girls only from now on.” She just dismissed him point blank. We were going to be best friends, I could tell already. I had been kind of mad at Stephan about pushing her on me and not giving me some time to think about everything, but not anymore. “Hop up! I’ll drive, since your car looks like it’s in the garage.” I waved goodbye to Stephan and we were headed down the street before he even got turned around. I thought maybe he would have looked angry about his dismissal, but instead he looked amused. We went and got our ice cream, two big containers of it since we couldn’t decide between mint chocolate chip and rocky road. When we arrived back at my place I shut my sun resistant blinds and we each plopped down on one of my black leather sofas to settle in for our girl’s night. She was right when she’d said she’d brought a ton of movies. I think she had more movies in her bag than she had clothes. “We can always go for more clothes” she’d said when I asked her about it. We decided on August Rush, one of my newer favorites and just sat and ate ice cream straight out of the container. I ate more than she did. Since she was a vampire and I a half breed, she obviously didn’t need to eat much in the first place (not that I needed it either thinking about the love handles that protruded from my sides). I had wanted to ask her if she was a full vampire or just a normal vampire, but didn’t want to be rude so I decided to save it for another time (or maybe I’d just ask Stephan). By the time the movie was finished it was nearly noon and I was exhausted. I’d had a wonderful time and felt content unlike I had felt since my mom had passed away. She had been my best friend for as long as I can remember. The only real friend I’d ever had besides her has been Gabriel. I’d have to fix things with him. I set myself to do that- added it to my mental to do list. When I woke up. I would call him and we could go out somewhere and talk, but first I’d sleep. Indyria would be staying in my mom’s old room, which now served as a guest room. It still had her bed and lavender bedding that I’d bought for her after we moved into the house. Lavender was to my mom as blue was to me. She absolutely adored it. It made me sad when I showed Indyria where she’d be staying. Even though I had cleaned it out and set it up as a guest room, no one but my mom had actually slept there. It was weird, like seeing an ex-boyfriend that you hadn’t wanted to break up

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with, snuggled up with a new girlfriend. It felt wrong but you knew it was the way things were. I said goodnight to Indyria, grabbed a bottle of blood and climbed up the mountain to go to sleep. My room was much more messy than normal, since I’d had a crazy weekend and hadn’t had a chance to do anything with it. The bed was made, because Stephan had made it while I was in the shower this morning, but I had clothes on the floor and my makeup and stuff was spread out all across the bathroom counter and I decided that no matter how tired I was, I had to clean it up some. When it was cleaned to my satisfaction, I got into my pj’s and then my bed. I instantly slipped into a deep sleep.

EIGHT:
I knew that I had been summoned again, because my consciousness awoke in the same grey room as the two times before. It was like being stuck in a bad nick-atnight marathon. Stuck on a show that was fundamentally the same only with slightly different dialog for each episode. This time I was aware that it wasn’t a dream, that I was being summoned. More, I was being summoned by my father. My father whom I had thought I would never see. I hadn’t heard anything yet in my telepathic conference call, but I was sure it was on its way. I couldn’t tell if I was anxious because I was excited to talk to my father for the first time or if I was angry that it was the first time in my life I would get to do so. I figured, probably a healthy combination of both. The room hadn’t changed at all since my last visit and the black light was right where I remembered it being. Without waiting to be beckoned I propelled my spirit towards it. When I got closer I tried to look into what I recently discover was a casket. A crude harsh imitation of a casket. The last time I tried to look into the casket I was unable to see anything, like looking through binoculars that were horribly out of focus. Now, the binoculars had been adjusted some. It still wasn’t clear, like it would be if I was standing in the room in the flesh, but my mind was getting stronger and more accustomed to seeing through telepathic eyes. The body in the casket was all bones. Not all bones, as in no flesh, but all bones as in skinny as could be. No meat. It was obvious that he was not receiving the nourishment needed to sustain his physical self. I was surprised he was able to call me at all. He must be absolutely starving. Even with my anger at him for not being a part of my life, I still felt horribly enraged that someone would be treating him so dreadfully.

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I tried to focus on his face, to get a glimpse of what he might have looked like. I wondered if maybe I’d seen him at some point and just not noticed that it was him. Passing down an aisle at the supermarket or sitting in a restaurant. It was hard to tell. I still wasn’t able to see him clearly. I could tell that his nose looked just like mine. I had always known it would. My mom had a nose that was small and stuck up into the air. It made her look to at first glance like a snob, but anyone who had gotten to know her knew that was the farthest from the truth it could get. My nose on the other hand was wider and more predominant. On some people my nose might have looked big, but it seemed to fit my face well. “Daughter.” I swung around, out of habit maybe, to see the person who was talking to me. There was no one there to look at of course, so I closed my eyes again to focus. How did he know that I knew about him? He hadn’t called me by that the last time I was there. “Daughter” he said again. “It’s good to call you that.” “Hi” I whispered. I didn’t know what to say. I was in completely uncharted waters. “You spoke with Stephan. He told you about me.” Not a question. “I am sorry that I didn’t tell you sooner, I hope you can understand.” “I’m working on it. It’s kind of unbelievable though.” “Yes, I knew it would be, but it was time. Time for you to know.” I thought about telling him, it was time for me to know a long time ago. It seemed a bit over due now, but knew that it wasn’t the right time to say so. Hopefully later there would be time. “What is happening here?” “Were being drugged. We aren’t able to come out of our slumber. I don’t know what else is happening in the real world, I live in a dream world. I need you to help me.” “I don’t know what to do. Who is involved in this? How can I help you get out?” There were so many questions. Why was I the one who he called? I couldn’t help with anything, I don’t know anything. I have no connections or special talents. I was in advertising? How was I supposed to help him? “I don’t know. I have no answers for you. You have to figure them out for yourself. I am so sorry.” It was silent for a few minutes. If we’d have been sitting together somewhere I would have been tapping my foot anxiously on the floor, but we weren’t sitting somewhere together, we were here in a dream so I was completely still.

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For a minute I thought I could hear another voice, far away, but I couldn’t tell what it was saying. I listened for a moment more, but then my dad interrupted to say something and I forgot all about the voice. “I have to go now. I want to tell you not to look at what the disappearances have in common, but what they don’t. I love you.” As instantly as I’d fallen asleep, I was awake. I was sitting upright on a stool at the bar in my kitchen of all places. It was sunset. There was no beautiful display of colors like you might see at sunset in some parts of the world, just a gradual darkening of the sky. I looked around me and saw that Indyria was walking into the room with a pair of beige silk pajamas on and matching slippers. “You were walking and talking in your sleep. I didn’t want to wake you though, so I was just keeping an eye on you. Are you thirsty?” “Oh, yah. I am actually.” I watched her go to the fridge (I had left the lock of last night, not point in having it locked when it was just us) and pull out two bottles. They were the last two bottles. “I will get dressed and go downtown to the Vamp Mart and stock up. I am not used to having anyone but me here and I seem to have had a lot of company this weekend.” The only Vamp Mart in Seattle is downtown in Soto, a centralized area, since it’s the only one in the area. It looks like a normal specialty shop that sells Vampire paraphernalia. Little Vampire bobble heads, “bite me” bumper stickers, shirts and even boxers. They sell red soda that is marketed as bottled blood (but not the real thing) and Blood Chocolate that are really just juicy chocolate covered cherries. But that is just its human face, they also sell all flavors of blood. For a vampire to buy blood there they need to be registered with the local council. You can even just ask for it, “A bottle of blood please”, if you don’t have your ID out, they will give you the red soda, if you had them your ID then you will be processed and you can purchase the real stuff. It looks just like the soda, but has a different label. “Nah, No te preocupes (Don’t worry). We have it delivered to the house, so we have plenty. Stephan is going to bring some by in a bit. I already called him about it.” “Oh, alright. Hey, I have some things to do tonight, so I may not be here. Are you going to hang around?” I didn’t know when Stephan was going to be here, but I hoped to be gone before he was. Since she called him already I doubted that. It’s not that I didn’t want to see him, I just needed to take care of the Gabriel situation and I think he might distract me from that. When I am around him, I find myself easily distracted. “Yah, I will probably be around. I may run home for a few minutes and pick some stuff up, but then I’ll be back. If you don’t mind.”

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“No not at all. Feel free to make yourself at home.” I drank a little bit of my blood before picking up the phone. “I am going to make some phone calls and check my emails up in my room. If you want to shower you can use the shower in the bathroom by your room. It doesn’t have any towelletries though, did you bring some?” “Sure did. I’ll be fine. Just do your thing.” She smiled brightly at me while picking up her bottle and headed back into the spare room. I liked her more and more. She was completely comfortable. There were no weird moments, at least not yet. It was like we were sisters- sisters that got along. I again made my way upstairs to my room. I debated about calling Gabriel first or checking my emails first. I wanted to call him, but I found myself dragging my feet. Maybe he sent me an email. He does that often, so I checked my emails first. There was no email from him. A few from clients and a ton of junk mail. I don’t know how they got my email address, it is a company email address, but someone got it and apparently sold it to every other junk mail company under the sun. Out of 55 emails, about 30 of them were junk and none of them came from Gabriel. After I scanned the emails to make sure none of them were urgent I got into the shower. I knew that I should have called Gabriel first, but I was putting it off. I told myself that I would feel better when I was cleaned up and dressed. I took my time getting showered, shaved and dressed, still delaying my phone call. I was standing in front of the mirror blow drying my shoulder length hair when I felt someone enter the doorway. I don’t know if I saw movement out of the corner of my eye or if I heard a sound over the blow dryer, but I knew someone was there. It startled me. That went away as soon as I saw who it was. Stephan. I should have been mad, I know, but I wasn’t. I decided to play like I was mad anyways. “What are you doing in my room? In my bathroom. I could have been naked!” “I rang the door bell. Indy let me in. I hollered as I came up the stairs.” I could see his body move into his authoritative stance that must be second nature after all these years of being in charge creep over him- then just as suddenly I could see him working to remove it. He was struggling with it though. “Did you get a response?” Sticking to my guns, which was harder than it normally would have been, but damn it, he should have waited down stairs. “No, but Indy said that she heard you get out of the shower a while ago, so I figured I was alright. I’m sorry. You are right I should have waited for you downstairs. I just wanted to see how you were after your dream. I’ll go. We can talk when you’re done.” He started to turn away but I stopped him. He knew I’d had another dream. How? “How did you know I’d had another dream?” 63 | P a g e

“I had two indications. One, I had one too and second, Indy called me when you wandered into the kitchen with your eyes closed mumbling. She said she tried to say hey, but you didn’t even see her. What did you see?” I told him about how he’d called me daughter and how weird that felt. I had been my mom’s daughter obviously, but I’d never had a man call me that before. I talked to him about how hard I was finding it to accept that I had a dad. Well I’d always known I’d had a dad, everyone has a father, but I was in contact with him. That he was part of my life, albeit in a strange way, but still part of my life. He held my hand when I told him about it. It felt good. It wasn’t a let’s get touchy feely type of jester, even though were sitting on my bed, but an I’m here for you jester. It was nice and comforting. “He told me that I should be looking for things that the people didn’t have in common, not what they did. To look for patterns that weren’t there. I tried to ask him what I should do, but he didn’t know. Just that I needed to help him. How am I supposed to help? I don’t know anything about this kind of stuff. It was fine when I was just looking thought the stuff out of curiosity, but now I feel like there is pressure on me. I don’t want this responsibility.” I just lost it. I rambled on about what was I supposed to do, and why did he ask me and all that. I said the same thing over and over again, just changing around the wording of it. He didn’t try to interrupt me or calm me down. He just let me sit and ramble on and on. I was on overload. I was tired, I felt like my weekend had been three weeks long not just three days. I had so many questions, so many things I needed to think through and digest, but wasn’t able to. They just kept coming. After I stopped ranting I started to cry. Stephan pulled me close and I cried into his shoulder. He rubbed my hair and whispered into my ear. I don’t know what he said, but it was soothing. After a while I stopped crying, but I didn’t move away. I just stayed snuggled up to Stephan’s hard chest. It wasn’t soft and it wasn’t warm, but it was cozy. I felt like I belonged right there. Like I could just melt into him at that moment and let it all dissolve away. He continued to rub his fingers though my hair and I started to feel like all those questions, all the things that had happened over this weekend were organizing themselves back into my mental closet, stored for later, but no longer taking over my mind. As my mind started to clear I began to wonder if I should maybe pull away. I could still remember what had happened yesterday and I didn’t think I could take anymore. I didn’t need any rejection. I needed comfort. I was getting that now, but I didn’t want him to pull away because I’d crossed the line again, so I sat up to put some space between us. I looked at him, just taking him in. I’d been angry (on a scale ranging from cross to infuriated) with him so many times in the last few days, but that anger didn’t last 64 | P a g e

long. It was hard to stay mad at him. He’d been there for me when I needed him. He’d told me about my dad, something that no one else had bothered to do, even my mom. All those things, in such a short amount of time had created a bond that felt so solid it was a little scary. Even more so since I knew I how I felt about it but not how he felt about it. “Indy went back to the house for while. She said she’d see you later.” “Oh, alright.” I wondered at her timing. She was going to take a shower, maybe she decided to do that at home, I’d bet though, that it had more to do with Stephan showing up than her really wanting to be at home. Before I could finish pondering it, he was on me. Kissing me. Hard. I collapsed back onto the bed with the sheer force of it. It wasn’t rough, it was needy. Hard and tender at the same time. His body was against mine and that awareness made me tingly in specific places. I realized that I hadn’t wanted anything this bad in a very long time. He was leaning on his elbow with one hand under my shoulder and the other working its way up my side. At first he rubbed my thigh then worked his way to my hip and waist slowly as if he wasn’t sure that they were real. He slid his soft warm hand under my shirt, caressing my love handles. Giving them a little squeeze. Any other man would have made me feel self conscience with that jester, but this didn’t seem reproachful, it felt playful. We made out, like teenagers in the back of a car, except for the fumbling inexperienced part, at least on his part. He was definitely not fumbling. Every move he made was deliberate and precise. His hands spirited up and down my thighs, occasionally reaching my most sensitive parts making me tremble. When his hands reached me there it was like a breeze in the night swiftly bringing me a cool pleasure. It had been so long since I’d felt so sweet, I tried to respond to his velvet touch by reaching up and caressing him back, but he took my both my wrists in one hand and placed them softly above my head on the bed. “You relax” he smoothly whispered into my ear. So I relaxed and let him discover me. I wanted him. A want that I could feel in every inch of my physical being. But want, especially physical want, isn’t always enough. I had rushed with Stephan already, in this very place, and had ended up hurt. I didn’t need any more pain in my life. I didn’t need any more confusion. This would cause confusion. How wonderful would it be if I could make love to him now and not have any consequences! To not have to worry about tomorrow. But I knew that wasn’t the way things work, so I sat up as he started to unbutton my shirt, before I let myself go past the point of caring of the possible cost. “Stephan” my voice sounded hoarse and ruffled. I reached one hand up to my head and smoothed out my hair without a thought. “I want to wait. I mean I want to” I 65 | P a g e

took a deep breath as my hand fell back down to my side “trust me, I want to. But I want to wait too. It’s just too soon.” It was a whisper, a plea. “Yah, Okay…. Yah. Sorry”. I think it was the first time I’d heard him use the word yah. His English was normally smooth and articulate. It must have been hard for him to stop and not push me when he was clearly used to not being told to stop. I could see him trying to sit still, his hands fidgeting slightly on his knees. It looked as if it took every ounce of his patience he had not to take me anyways. Maybe now he was the one who needed a cold shower, but I was too polite to suggest it. Maybe together. No I was definitely not going to suggest that. Changing the subject. “Don’t worry. Really. Just let’s go slow. Is that okay?” “Of course. I don’t want to scare you or hurt you. Slow is fine. I just…” He paused and straightened out his shirt. I didn’t think he was going to continue, which was fine, because I’d gotten the idea, but he did. “You know, I got caught up. You smell really good you know. I can smell you blood running thought your veins. When I am close to you I can feel its rhythm. It’s kind of intoxicating.” His eyes were focused at my neck. I could feel them pressing into me like a flood light would a thief in the night. So it was about my blood. “If you’re thirsty I can bring you something. Would that help?” “It’s not about me being thirsty. It’s just, I like you. You’re beautiful and smart and I find myself thinking about you when I am not with you. Then you were close to me and I could feel you and smell you and it just took over. I will be more careful, I promise.” He reached his hand out and took mine. “Can I stay here with you? Or would you rather I go?” “No, I want you to stay.” I kissed him a short easy kiss to let him know that I wasn’t angry and to experience his lips one more time briefly. He sat completely still while I kissed him. When I pulled away he was gazing at me with determination. Determination to do what I didn’t know. “But, I need to do some things- Alonetonight. You could stay here or could you come back later?” “Are you sure? Where are you going to go?” I wondered what was behind his questions, curiosity or something else. That something else worried me, I hoped it was curiosity. I had lived a long time with no one to answer to besides myself and before she died, my mother. I really didn’t think that I would be alright with being asked where I was going and with whom for the rest of my life. Oh God did I just think that. With luck the rest of my life was going to be a long time and I just attached it to Stephan who I’d only really gotten to know a few days ago. Not good. I had to stop. Maybe he shouldn’t spend the night? Maybe I should put a little bit more space between us? 66 | P a g e

But the dreams. No he could stay. I needed him to stay. I don’t know why they didn’t come when I was with him, but I’d not had any dreams when we were together. I wanted to figure out what’s going on, but I was tired and I didn’t want to dream, or communicate- whatever you call it- anymore. At least not just yet. I realized I must have looked like a dork, sitting there, after having been asked a question raging an internal debate, I wouldn’t have been surprised if my mouth gaped open. “Yes I am sure. Why don’t I call you when I get home? Then you can come back over. Indyria will probably be here, we can play cards or something.” “But where are you going?” I could see the air of authority in his voice that he was struggling to keep under wraps. He was doing a lousy job and it was irritating me. “It doesn’t matter where I am going.” “I just want to make sure you’ll be safe. You know that.” “Like I said don’t worry. I will be fine.” I was done arguing about it. I stood up and began to collect myself. I went into the bathroom, washed my face removing and then re-applied my makeup. I took my time not letting myself feel rushed with agitation. Why did I allow him to get under my skin? I gathered my things, my purse, my cell phone and my black wool jacket. I stopped in front of Stephan who was still setting on my bed, talking quietly into his fancy phone. “I’m ready to go now. I will call you when I get back. Alright.” Not a question. “Okay.” He looked angry. He would just have to be angry. I had to step in right now and show him there wouldn’t be any of this bossing me around.

NINE:
I walked him to the front door, said good bye and I told him I’d call him as soon as I got home. After he turned to walk to his car I locked the door from the inside and opened the door to my garage. I hadn’t been in there in more than a handful of days. I had taken the bus or gotten a ride everywhere I’d gone for the past few days. The light switch was near the door leading to the side of the house on the opposite side of the garage so the only light was the light coming from the open door I was standing in. Everything looked as I had left it, but I got a creepy feeling as I stepped in. I continued to walk but had the feeling that I was being watched and I didn’t care for it at all. I needed to get a switch near the door to the house. With the over head light on I felt much better and I took a moment to look around.

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The boxes on the shelves, marked Christmas, Halloween and extra clothes were all still the same as they had been, dusty but in their spot. My tools were hanging along the wall in a neat fashion. When I was a teenager I’d spent the night at a friend’s house and her dad had an awesome garage. All his tools were organized, in tool boxes and hanging on the wall. Since I’d never had a dad or a garage for that matter, I’d never seen anything like it. I had told myself then that someday I would have a garage with an organized display of tools in it. It had taken me a bit after I bought the house, I wanted to research tools and figure out which ones I needed. I hadn’t added to it for over a year, but I didn’t think I would probably ever need to do anything except for replace anything that got broken or add new technologies. I didn’t need to replace the tools often, since I only used them to do basic things around the house, they were more for looks than anything. Who I was trying to impress I didn’t know. I continued my scan only to find everything just as I’d remembered it being left. I turned off the light on the inside of the house, locked that door and started my car. I turned the music up, while I let me car warm up a bit from not having been driven and started to sing. Singing in the car was like singing in the shower to most people. I always sang when I drove. It made driving pleasant and since I was normally by myself I didn’t have to feel self conscious. I backed out of my drive way, closing the garage door behind me and started towards gabriel’s house. I hadn’t been there in a while, but I knew exactly where it was. I had been there the day he purchased it. It was an upgrade from the condo he’d had when I met him. The new house was small, but handsome. I had started to call it cute when we looked at it, but he said that he couldn’t live in a cute house so from then on it’d been a handsome house. The handsome house was about 15 minutes from my house, in Lynnwood, a suburb of Seattle. It was on a street with equally charming houses, none of them big, but they were all well cared for. That is part of what he liked about it, he’d told me one day. “Your house is only as nice as the other houses on the street”. I could see how that could be, but I’d never thought about it before that day. Of course I’d then considered that when I purchase my first house of my own. I tried calling him on my way but he didn’t answer. I left him a message, telling him that I needed to talk to him. When I pulled up in front of his tan with white trim house it was all the way dark. Not a single light. I knew he wasn’t there, but I decided to go ahead and knock anyways. Not to my surprise, no one answered, though I stood there for a moment wishing him to arrive. I really didn’t want to talk to him for the first time tomorrow at work. If it’d been daytime I’d have asked his neighbors if they’d seen him, but it was late and I knew they wouldn’t appreciated being bothered, so I got back into my car. 68 | P a g e

Instead of going home I decided to go back to where I’d first gone to breakfast with Stephan. It was a little bit out of the way, but I wanted to go for a walk and Greenlake was right there. I’d grab a salad or something and then go for a walk. Greenlake was my favorite place to walk. During the day, when it’s wasn’t raining, it was filled with people on their bikes or rollers skates. Walking their dogs or pushing a stroller in front of them. At night though it was calm and quiet. You would still see people occasionally earlier in the night, but not too many and almost none between about two or four thirty am. I walked into the restaurant and saw Phillipe behind the bar, so I sat in one of the bar stools and nodded to say hello. “Hi dear. How are you tonight?” “I’m good. You?” “Much better now that you’re here.” He smiled widely as if to prove that were true. “What can I get for you?” I ordered the same salad and he had brought me the last time and a glass of wine. Regular red wine. I was sitting on the side of the bar that looked over the front part of the restaurant and so while I waited I watched the other people while they ate their dinner and spoke in hushed conversation. There weren’t many people there, since it was so late on a Sunday night, but of those that were I was the only person there who was alone, everyone else sat in groups of two or three people. When I was younger it would have normally made me feel lonely, but not anymore. I was used to being on my own. I liked to watch other people though. Just observe them, especially couples. There was one here tonight, sitting at the same table Stephan and I had sat at when we were here. It was night, so the fireplace had a more romantic feel than it had when we were here during the day. They were holding hands and gazing at each other. The woman who was young, maybe 22 had a grin on her face that radiated pleasure all the way over to me across the room. “Where’s Stephan? You didn’t come together.” Phillipe had snuck up on me. He was pretty good at that. I of course wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention so it wasn’t hard. “I don’t know where he is. He’s not my boyfriend. I don’t keep tabs on him.” “Sorry. I assumed that you were. I supposed that is what I get for making assumptions.” He smiled even more brightly and he didn’t look sorry about it at all. “His loss though.” “Yup. Sure is.” I didn’t need to elaborate, but just kind of felt like innocent flirting, where I didn’t have to worry about crossing any lines. “He wishes actually, but I’m not interested.”

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He raised what I could see of his bushy eyebrows in mocked disbelief. “He sure isn’t used to that” he bent down to lean on the counter bringing his face a little closer to me. I could smell his cologne. It wasn’t a subtle and sweet smell like I was so used to with Gabriel and even now with Stephan. It was more abrasive, more distinctly manly. I liked it too, the difference was refreshing. I looked into his brown eyes. They were simple but friendly and were partially blocked by stay hairs falling across his olive colored forehead. “I gathered that. He seemed at a loss as to what to do about it.” I let out a girlish giggle, which was so clearly unlike me, but he didn’t notice. “You obviously aren’t having the same problem.” “No. I’m not.” Not 100% true, but I was flirting, not building a relationship. I didn’t have to tell the whole truth in this situation. I hadn’t intentionally flirted in a long time, it felt really nice. A bit awkward but nice. He chuckled a little “Good.” He set another glass of wine on the counter for me and headed off to help two guys in business suites who had just sat down at the other end of the bar. Taking a drink of the wine, I realized he had served me the blended wine that I’d had before and not the human wine. It was refreshing and I was glad he’d brought it for me. My salad was finished so I asked a nearby waiter for my bill and headed out the door leaving cash on the counter. I waved to Phillipe on my way out and he looked disappointed that I was rushing out, but smiled vibrantly to let me know that I was welcomed back whenever I wanted. After I crossed the street, I directed myself to the walking (running, skating, biking) trail and headed a little bit around the lake. I passed only two other people, one who was walking and one who was sitting on a bench along the trail, but I didn’t pay them any attention. I kept walking until I saw the familiar patch of trees which marked the place I’d been looking for. My favorite little nook. It was an area that wasn’t noticeable from the main trail. On the other side of the trees there was a little bench that couldn’t be seen unless you were looking for it. I sat on it and looked out over the lake. The lake was small, especially in comparison to the large Lake Washington that stretched the length of the city. At night it was glorious. The lights from the surrounding residential areas skipping across the water and the trees looming around the circumference. That was my favorite part about the lake- at night, from this spot, you actually felt like you were in the mountains somewhere and not nestled in the heart of the city. I was completely relaxed, enjoying the time alone, when I got that same feeling that I’d have in the garage, the feeling that someone was on glairing fixedly on me. I 70 | P a g e

swung around to figure out what was going on. I nearly fell off the bench when I saw a figure of a man step out of the shadows. When he was close enough to see, I was stunned to see Cassius standing there. “I didn’t mean to startle you. I was sitting a bit back on the trail when I saw you pass by. I tried to catch your attention, but you didn’t notice me. If you’d prefer to be alone I’ll leave you to it.” I could see his stone lined face and his mouth pressed into a serious line with the little bit of light that was available. Really I would have loved to have been alone. It was the reason that I had come here. The last few days had been full to the brim and I was tired and hadn’t had two seconds to think, but I didn’t want to be rude either. I would just tell him I needed to head home soon. “No, it’s not a big deal, you just startled me.” I turned back around on the bench and resumed my inspection of the lake. I felt him sit down next to me. Even his body temperature resembled ice, I could feel the cold radiating from his body. “Do you live near here?” “I live in a condo downtown, but I like to come here at night sometimes. How about you?” “I live in Lake City. I came by for dinner nearby and a walk. I like to relax here.” “Yah, I heard you life’s been a bit busy lately. How is the investigation going?” So he knew. I supposed that made sense since he was Stephan’s partner. “I don’t know. It’s going, I guess.” I didn’t know how much he knew about what was going, how much Stephan had told him. I didn’t want to say more than I needed to, that and there wasn’t much to tell. I really hadn’t figured anything out. “It’s still a big mystery to me.” “If you need any help let me know. Stephan’s really secretive about it. I guess he’s just worried the information will get into the wrong hands. He doesn’t need to worry about that from me. You don’t either.” He look was somber and I saw him clasp his boney white hands together in his lap. He looked more like a story book vampire than any other vampire I’d ever met. I wondered what he’d looked like before he became a vampire. “What kind of vampire are you?” I’d never asked anyone that before. They either told me upfront or I just didn’t find out. “A very old one.” I wondered what very old was to a vampire, since I hadn’t known many and none over 100, but if he didn’t want to elaborate then I wasn’t going to push it. “I am going to get going now. Maybe I’ll see you again soon. Take care.” “I will, you too” 71 | P a g e

“Oh I will. And remember if you want another view on the investigation let me know, maybe I can help.” “Alright. I will. Thanks.” And he walked away without a wave or any other kind of good bye and I was left sitting by myself thinking of how weird that was. After an hour or so of sitting there I got up and continued my walk around the lake. I spent the time thinking on everything going on lately, giving a great deal of thought to Stephan and Gabriel. I’d pretty much decided that being just friends with Gabriel was best. I really liked him, but I really like him as a friend- I thought. Our kiss we’d shared was nice, but it wasn’t explosive like with Stephan, I should have realized that before. I should have known when we kissed and it was merely comfortable and warm and that wasn’t right. We’d been friends for all the time and I’d never thought of him as more than a friend- That was another sign that I’d missed. Now I would be lucky if I could mend that friendship. What was I going to do about Stephan? Should I let myself go, like my body was telling me or wait until I was surer? Being with him, sitting next to him, talking to him- Those things just felt right. Right as Rain my mom would say when I was little. It was no mystery what she would say to do. She would say to cut it off right now. He was a vampire and in her eyes nothing good could come from that. I came from a vampire. I was a vampire. I knew she hadn’t felt that way about me, but sometimes I wondered how she could have so much hate for something that was such a part of me. I knew the answer to that too, she was angry. She must have loved my father a lot and then when he left her she became angry. I would do the same in her shoes and that was why she’d always cautioned on picking out the right pair of shoes (metaphorically). When I was home I sat in the garage that now felt completely normal. I debated about calling Stephan. Was he the right pair of shoes? Was he going to be comfortable and go with everything in my life? I was sure that in bed he was definitely the right size (metaphorically and literally), but what about the rest of my life? Was he a good fit there? I picked up the phone and called him. He was at his office working. Indyria would be over shortly and he would see me before I went to bed he’d said. I was disappointed and relieved at the same time. I had some more time to sit and think. Great. I should sit and think about the investigation. If I could figure that out I could get my life back to normal. I started back into the house and called him again. I asked him to email the excel spreadsheet to me. I had wanted him to scan the other documents to but he refused, he said that the internet just wasn’t safe enough for them. I supposed it was just like a vampire who was born long before internet come out to be hesitant of its security. I supposed he was right. 72 | P a g e

I made a white chocolate mocha and sat down at my computer. While I was waiting for his email to come through I scanned my other emails. The meeting at work was rescheduled for Wednesday at 9 AM. That was good, at least it wasn’t Tuesday morning, it’d give me a little time to refresh myself with the account. It seemed like it had been a year since I’d looked at it. When the message came in, I opened it up and saved it on my hard drive and setting up password protection. Normally I used BeccaA04 which stood for my mother’s name, my first initial and my birth month, but for this to add extra security I decided it should be something I didn’t normally use. I typed in 04MayVampire. My birth month, my middle name and what I was. I was coming more used to the idea of it. When the password was set I started to scroll the spreadsheet again, remembering what my father had said about looking for what wasn’t there. I looked at it and looked at it and but couldn’t see what wasn’t there. I finished my coffee and made myself another one. I almost never drank two in a row, but I did this time, I was beginning to feel frustrated. I sat back in front of my computer and closed my eyes. “Don’t look so hard” I told myself. Just look it over like you were looking at the movie section in the paper. I opened my eyes and tried again. Full vampires and regular vampires, two a month from a variety of areas. Spokane, Portland, Olympia, Brookings, Bellingham, Aberdeen, Othello, Port Angeles and Astoria. No Seattle. Seattle has the largest vampire population in the entire Northwest and not a single one had been taken from there? Aberdeen was actually on there twice, what was wrong there? There had to only be three or four vampires in the little tiny town of Aberdeen where the stop lights turned off after nine pm and two of them had been taken? That had to mean something. What I didn’t know yet, but something. I was thinking about that when I heard a car pull up and a knock on the door. I checked the peep hole and saw it was Indyria. I opened the door for her greeting her with a large smile. She didn’t have the same kind of smile for me. “Hi” I said and stepped aside for her to pass. My smile had faded a little with the realization that she wasn’t exactly happy, but I tried to still keep it friendly. “Hey.” She swept past me and headed to the guest room where she was staying. That was weird she had been so friendly, I wondered what could cause a transformation like that so quickly. I walked back to her room and knocked lightly on the door. When she opened it she just looked at me. She didn’t look angry, just bothered. “Are you alright?” “I am fine.” She started to turn away from me, but then swung around exasperatedly and added “You should ask Stephan how he is doing.”

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What the hell was that supposed to mean? Why should I ask him how he was doing? “What do you mean? Last time I talked to him he seemed fine.” “I guess he wouldn’t say anything to you. I will though.” She walked out of her room and into the den and I followed her.

TEN:

“Do you realize that Stephan hasn’t made an effort for a girl in more than 10 years, after Itzel died?” Her voice was lasted with her Spanish accent as she ranted and paced back and forth. I wondered who Itzel was. “He has been chased. Nenas are constantly following him around. Sometimes he goes out with them for a bit, but he hasn’t gone out of his way for anyone. And then you come along and he is running around town for you and not coming into the office and talking about you all day and what do you do, you just brush him off like dust on the mantel. No big deal- to you. But I say, he deserves better than that.” When she was done she stopped to look at me. “I wasn’t trying to blow him off. Really, I’ve only known him a few days. Am I supposed to just let him move in or go to live with him? Should I start giving him my schedule so he knows where I am every second of the day? I have a life and I am not used to having to tell anyone where I go and when I will be back, that kind of thing is going to take some time. I need it and honestly, he has to earn that right.” I was angry at the accusations but was trying to keep my voice steady. “I’ve never dated anyone seriously, ever. I am not ready to rush into something serious. I need to work my way into that.” “But you like him? You’re not just dragging him along?” “Why would I do that? I do like him. I’ve never met anyone like him. I think he’s great, a bit bossy which isn’t going to work with me, but great. We just need to get to know each other better. Do you really think that is too much to ask for? Some time.” I could see by looking at her that she wasn’t as angry any more. That anger had been subdued. “No, I suppose not, but you really should talk to him about it.” “Sure. I can do that. I just hadn’t realized that I should.” We both stood there, unsure what to do now. I didn’t know what else to say to her. I figured that I had done all the defending on my behavior that I needed to. “I’ll talk to him tonight when he gets here.” “Thank you.” 74 | P a g e

“He really means a lot to you doesn’t he?” Again I wondered how they had become so close over the years. “Yes. He does. He has always been there for me. He and Itzel are the only family I’ve ever had.” She sat on the couch and I followed her lead. “I was twenty four when I was turned. I had grown up in orphanages and even spent some time living on the street. When I turned eighteen I had to find a way on my own and it was tough. When I was bitten obviously my life changed. I was kind of left for my own. Most vampires keep their offspring close at hand but not me. I think I was changed less for what I could offer him and more out of pity.” She stared off out the sliding glass door lost in her memories. I didn’t try to ask questions or rush her I just waited. When she finally continued she did so with a big breath. “Anyways, my life had always been tough and then when I became a vampire I was tough. I roamed around, taking what I wanted, using my persuasion in the worst ways, not caring about anyone else but myself. I killed when I wanted, which was often for a while. I was often running from the policias and trying to stay out of trouble. Then, about 15 years ago, I met Itzel. She was a vampire on the roam like me. She took me under her wing and showed me how to be more subtle. She taught me the ropes. “It was the first time anyone had taken time with me. To show me about the world. I’d always done my best to figure everything out on my own, but I’d had a lot to learn. After a year we ended up in Portland and met Stephan. He was working running a blood bank, that we’d stopped in at to get blood from. That was one of the things that Itzel had taught me. She taught me that I could persuade humans into giving me donated blood. It was less appetizing, but it was a much easier that way to stay below radar. “He was there, in the back experimenting with the blood. I don’t know what he was experimenting about, but he’d said that is why he’d opened a private blood bank, so he could have access and not look suspicious. “Itzel thought he was God’s gift to the world, which I have come to agree with- at least the vampire world- so she decided to stop moving around. We got an apartment there and got jobs with Stephan at the blood bank. We ran the night crew of course, it was 24 horas and it was easier for him to not have to hide his experiments from human employees. “Itzel and him were inseparable from the very beginning. It was true love at first sight or as close to it as it comes. Sometimes it was hard to be the third wheel, but I liked to see them both so happy. A few years later he opened the company he owns now, doing all types of investing, though he still ran it from Portland. It was still small then. Everything was great. Those five years were the best years I’d ever had. I’d a familia, la verdad.” She paused, again lost in those happy memories from her life. 75 | P a g e

“So what happened?” I had meant to just let her talk. Not ask any questions, but I was really curious now. I felt like I just had to know what had happened to Itzel. That would help me understand Stephan. She didn’t answer right away and I began to feel guilty for rushing her. Maybe what happened next was hard on her too. She’d said that Itzel had died. That would be painful for her to relive too. “You don’t have to talk about it, if you don’t want. It’s okay.” “No, it’s nice to tell the story sometimes. I have so few people I can trust with it. I actually don’t think I’ve talked about it outside of with Stephan ever.” Her hair was still as perfect as ever curved around her smooth face but she sat patting it into place as she began to speak again. “There was this vampire named Shawn who resided in the same neighborhood as we had and he was always bothering me. I didn’t want anything to do with him. He was pale skinned and skinny. He reminded me of a crack head. Maybe he was before he was turned. Who ever’d turned hombre must have been really careless. “Anytime I was out without one of the others. He would stop me when I was walking to the store or on my way home from work. It was like he waited for me to be alone. Bugging me, trying to get me to sleep with him. Forcing kisses on me. I normally just pushed him away and he would leave me alone. “One night Itzel had stayed behind for a few minutes to talk to Stephan after we got off work. Really I think they just wanted to do their thing without worrying about me, which was fine with me. I stopped at the 7-11 and got a banana Slurpy since it was summer time and I’d always love the way a cold drink felt on my throat. When I turned on to my street I could see Shawn standing on the porch to our house, we’d moved into a house by then. “I walked up to him and told him he’d better leave me the fuck alone that I didn’t want anything to do with him, but he was in a mood that night. He yanked me off to the side of the street, in between two houses. We could still be seen from the street but not as noticeably. He pushed me down on the ground and he pulled out a knife. I was strong, but he was stronger. He made a big gash in my stomach a deep one and it hurt really badly. “Then out of nowhere two other vampires showed up and started to help him. I was terrified. I was pretty sure if it was just Shawn, I could have figured out a way to handle them but three on one? And I wasn’t as strong as other vampires then. I was still really young and I wasn’t very strong as a human either. “I had been cut open in numerous places on my legs and my stomach before I blacked out. I had given up. I had lost too much blood. When I came to, I was at home. I opened my eyes and looked around the room. Stephan….” She choked on 76 | P a g e

his name a few times before she could continue. “Stephan was sitting on a chair on the other side of the room crying. It is the only time I’d ever seen him cry, before or after. “I asked him what was wrong. What had happened? Apparently, Itzel had found me and tried to fight them off. She managed to kill two but the third, we don’t know if it was Shawn or one of the others, ran a thin piece of broken board through her chest, immobilizing her. After she went down, we assume, he cut her to pieces and left us. “It was a few hours before Stephan came by, unaware that something was wrong. He smelled the blood, that’s how he knew we were there in the darkened corner. He said that when he got there it was too late for Itzel, she had been hurt worse than me and was completely drained of blood. Who’d ever left her made sure of that. Maybe they thought they had drained me dry too, who knows why they left me. “He gave me some of his blood and brought me home. He called the police and anonymously reported the accident, but otherwise left her there, just walked away. There wasn’t anything else to do. But I’m sure it was hard on him to do that. “A few days later we packed up only the things that we couldn’t leave behind, less than a back pack full of stuff each and left for Seattle. Stephan and I have lived here since. The first year was really difficult for me. I blamed myself. I wouldn’t get up at night. Stephan had to force me to eat. I couldn’t forgive myself- but he forgave me and helped to put me back together. I think he felt like, since he couldn’t save Itzel, he had to make sure to save me. “We began pouring ourselves into work. That helped a lot, but we are okay today because we have each other.” I felt like I was sinking into the sofa where I sat, my heart torn apart inside of me. I didn’t know what to say. I’m sorry didn’t really seem to cover it. When she sat to tell me the story of how her and Stephan had become so close I would have never even imagined that it would have ended that way. I don’t know if I had known what kind of story it would have been if I’d have wanted to hear it. I wanted to understand Stephan more, but what he’d gone through was horrible. How could anyone be so hateful? How could he ever love again after a loss like that? I don’t think I would. I have a hard enough time loving with it with the life that I’ve had. “I know Stephan’s bossy. He’s used to being in charge. It comes part from running such a large and successful company and from the era he grew up in but mostly, it protection. He’s trying to protect his heart from being hurt again. So be careful.” “All I was trying to do was be careful.” Which was, of course, the truth. I just wasn’t thinking of protection for anyone but myself. I figured he wouldn’t need it. 77 | P a g e

Apparently I was wrong. “Do you think he’d mind if I talked to him about Itzel or just waited until he mentioned it to me?” “Let me talk to him first. I’ll tell him I told you. That way he has some time to think about it first.” “Alright. I can do that.” “He’ll be here in about an hour. I’m going to read.” She stood, her lips that were normally drawn into a warm smile were drawn into a taut line and I knew that her confession must have taken a lot out of her. She turned to walk back into the room that I had begun to think of as hers and not my mothers, but stopped before she passed under the doorway. “By the way. Why don’t we go out on Saturday? Karaoke. You like to sing, verdad?” “That sounds great. I love to sing.” “Saturday then.” She took two lengthy steps and the door closed behind her.

Eleven:
I was in my room, lying on the top of my covers looking intently at the ceiling, thinking about everything – Stephan, Indyria, Itzel and My Father- when I heard the front door open and Indyria talking to Stephan. There was an itch in my legs to run down to him. It was like after hearing his story I’d subconsciously given myself permission to get close to him. I knew now that we were both being guarded of ourselves, that my affection wasn’t one sided and that he was just as likely to get hurt as I was. We were even. Somehow that made me feel better. I wished he’d have told it to me sooner, but knew the reason why he hadn’t. If the tables had been turned, I wouldn’t have told him, not yet. I couldn’t believe it’d only been four days since we’d ran into each other in front of his building. So much had happened. My life had been flipped upside down in more ways than I could count. All the things that I’d thought to be true, about the world and myself, had changed somehow. I knew I’d never be the same. I could hear Stephan climbing the stairs. He knocked on the wall on the way up but didn’t slow. I let out weakly “come on up”. I wasn’t even sure that he’d heard me. It didn’t seem to matter though because he didn’t slow. I pushed myself up onto an elbow and looked at him. He looked tired and worn. The normally cocky aura that he held tightly around him was replaced by a jaded matureness that wasn’t fitting at all.

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“Did you find any other clues when you looked at the spread sheet again?” He ignored the topic I wanted so badly to discuss, but I let him. If he didn’t want to talk about it yet, fine. I’d be patient. “Yes, actually. I don’t know if it means anything, but there are vampires from all the surrounding areas, but none in the greater Seattle area. Seattle, Everett, Tacoma, Bellevue… nothing and we have the largest vampire population in the area. That can’t be a coincidence.” He sat on the chair that I had sitting in front of my vanity across the room and the look on his face told me he was figuring something out in his head, but he didn’t explain, he just said “interesting”, and walked back down stairs. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to follow him or not. It was my house, I should be the one to come or go as I pleased, not him. But I didn’t want to look like a neglected puppy either. It was almost 9 am and I usually didn’t go to sleep until about 11 am, but I decided to get my PJ’s on. I would read a book and then go to sleep a bit early. It’d been a long weekend and I had to be back at work tonight. I would need to confront Gabriel tonight too. He’d be there, he always was. I don’t think he’d missed a single day in all the years we’d been working together. With my pj’s on, I went down stairs to get myself a night cap from the fridge. I wasn’t at all tired and needed something to wind down, especially after all those cups of coffee. Stephan was sitting at the bar, staring out the window. My backyard had been the focal point of quiet a bit of preoccupied staring lately. I didn’t see Indyria and figured she was in her own little faraway world, within her room. I got my bottle of blood and headed outside with my phone in hand. I sat down on the porch swing that now held many fresh memories of its own and dialed Gabriel’s number. I still got no answer, so I left another message telling him to call me anytime. As I passed Stephan on my way back up stairs I thought about asking him where he planned on sleeping, but then decided against it. If he didn’t want to talk, I wouldn’t force it. He could do whatever he wanted, tonight. We still had time to be close. I slept intermittently though out the night, despite my lack of sleep over the weekend. The dreams I had weren’t summons- I didn’t go back to that chilly room or speak to my father- but they were weird and winding. I first dreamt that I was walking downtown in a more southern area than I normally visited. I could see the two stadiums looming in my distant eye site and a bright full moon looming over head. The streets and sidewalks were deserted of people or cars. Only the sound of my own footsteps were to be heard. In my dream I wasn’t me, walking down the street, I was someone else standing and watching me walk.

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There was determination lined across my creamy white skin and my eyes were set and filled with a fiery gaze. Before I could wonder where I was headed with such grit in my step I was distracted by two shadows sitting at a bus stop bench. The two men were looking at a paper of some sort and talking animatedly about it. I squinted to see, in the darkness that surrounded them, who they were. I recognized Gabriel, not because I could see more clearly his face but because I knew the mannerisms. I could tell by the way his hands jerked around that it was him. The second face was familiar but I couldn’t place it. I heard me ask them, “what in the world are you two doing here? Together?” The two men sitting at the bench turned to look at me like a bolt of lightning had just touched down where I’d been standing. I repeated myself, but they still didn’t answer. Instead they turned to continue their wild discussion as if they couldn’t hear me. I could see the confusion and angry that riddled my face. The me I was watching, put my hand on Gabriel’s shoulder to grab his attention, but he didn’t turn around. He shivered and involuntarily wiggled that shoulder, as if a fly had landed there and not a hand. I was awake and the moon was high outside my window. I could see its cool light laminating my dark curtains. It sent peace to me through its serene luminosity. I let the dream slide off of me like a drop of water from the rain and snuggled back into my pillow. I wondered where Stephan was. I kind of missed his presence. We’d only slept in the same bed together a couple of times, but it had been comfortable and now I felt like I was missing something. Like I had gone to sleep without my pillow or a blanket. I thought about looking for him but while I was laying thinking about it trying to make up my mind I must have slipped back into sleep. The same as last time, I wasn’t me, I was apart from me looking on at the scene. My dream me was standing in the middle of a row that was at the front of many rows. It was dark again, probably about midnight judging from the position of the moon. We were standing in a completely open field, so I knew we must not be in Seattle. In Seattle, even when you were in a large open space there were still trees, hills, water or houses somewhere in the distance. In this felt like the world went on forever, empty and inhabitable. There were lines and lines of people formed like an old-fashioned arming formed to march. No one moved. No one spoke. It was completely quiet. To one side of the dream me stood Stephan. Tall and looming, looking forward seriously. On the other side of me stood Gabriel. Nearly as towering as Stephan but his look was nothing like the cool and calm on the man to my left.

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Gabriel looked uneasy and I could see him fidgeting with something in his hand. I couldn’t see his eyes clearly, but I could tell they were different. They weren’t that well-known jewel green that had been looking at me pleasantly for all these years. They were a well of blistering green. Dark and foreboding. I was startled by the change in him. Not just in his eyes, but in his entire stance. He was normally proud and fearless. He was rarely known to fiddle or idly move out of agitation. Here you could almost see the anxiety seeping out of his body. What had gotten into him? And the dream me was paying him no attention what so ever. She’d been enveloped into thoughts of her own. She raised her hand in a general like manner and everyone started to march. Where were they going? Why was I in charge? Surely Stephan was a much likelier candidate for leadership in an army setting. He was leader. I was the loner, wandering thought my life with determination but on a set solitary path. “Alexa. Alexa.” I shook my head to clear my mind and tried to focus my eyes. Stephan’s solid shoulders were at eye level and leaning towards me. I shifted to look at him. “Hu?” He smiled. Not bright or beaming like the smile I’d received the night before from Philippe but authentic and pleasant. “What time do you need to be at work? It’s after 10.” “Oh, wow, I normally get there before 12 but it takes me an hour on the bus to get there this time of night.” “I’ll take you. I need to go into the office too.” “Thanks.” I was painfully aware of how close he was to me and the fact that he didn’t seem to be sulking anymore. Butterflies were buzzing around in my belly. “I should probably start getting dressed.” And brush my teeth. “Would you like to eat something before you go?” “Normally I would, but normally I wake up around 7, so I won’t have time. I’ll be okay. I grab something in the morning when stuff starts to open.” “Indy is making some fettuccini. It’ll be ready when you get out the shower.” “Ummm. I love fettuccini. Does it have chicken?” I don’t know why it mattered, but I just had to ask. “I’m not sure. Usually she just makes it with mushrooms. If there is chicken in the fridge I’ll have her make it.”

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“No, don’t worry. It’s not that big of a deal.” Self-consciously I got out of bed and made my way to the closet to pick out a suit for work. “Tell her I said thanks.” “I will. I’ll see you down there.” He turned and walked away. I couldn’t help but to think about him, though my shower and as I got dressed. I wondered if he was still upset about Indyria telling me his story or if he was relieved to not have had to do it himself. I wondered if he wasn’t upset, what that meant for us. I continued to wonder, but like always, wondering just left more questions and no answers. “Thanks for the breakfast.” I commented to Indyria after I had finished eating. “It was really delish.” Delish was a word that my mom used to say when she liked a food. It wasn’t something that I used regularly, but sometimes. She told me once that her sister used to say it a ton when they were growing up. “Ohhh….. Becca. Isn’t that guy just delish!” was my mom’s favorite phrase of her sisters. My mom never talked to me of men. As far as I knew she never dated after I was born, so she didn’t use that phrase, but would joke about her sister saying it when we talked about her family whom I’d never met. I always wondered what it would be like to have a sister. Growing up just me and my mom, no other family at all I would sit on my bed and imagine what kind of sister I would have. It wouldn’t be one of those annoying ones that some of my friends had, no I thought she’d be more like a TV sister. Sometimes we would argue, but all in all, we’d be best friends. We’d do everything together. That everything changed depending on the age I was when I was doing the dreaming, but the best friend part never changed. I wondered if Indyria and I could become friends like that. I had long given up on a real blood sister obviously, but I can see now after hearing Stephan and Indyria’s story that a person could become like a sister. I had never had a girl best friend. Not a real one. That would be really nice. I felt a nudge in my side and looked up to see Indyria standing there. “Hey sleepy head. You’d think you’d gotten enough sleep. You slept like what, 12 hours last night?’ “I’m not tired, I’m just…” What? Daydreaming. Thinking randomly about my childhood. That sounded silly even to me and even if she didn’t think it was it would lead to questions. I looked at the microwave clock. I needed to go. “I’m fine. Really I was just thinking of work that’s all. And speaking of, I really need to get going. Stephan, are you ready?” “I am.” He was already standing up at the entrance to the hallway. “I’ll see you in the car. I’ll get it warmed up.” “Okay.” I stood and put my dish in the sink. I almost never just left dirty dishes in the sink, but today had no choice. It was late. “Thanks again Indyria.” 82 | P a g e

“Hey, I said no problem. By the way, call me Indy. That is what Stephan calls me.” She walked to the sink and started to wash the dishes. “Okay. I will.” I turned to leave and was standing at the same place Stephan had been when I called back to her “Oh and Indy, Don’t worry about the dishes. I’ll get them when I get home.” Out of the corner of my eye I saw her hand make a sweeping motion brushing my comment off. I laughed. She really was great to have around. Not because she makes good food and then does the dishes, those are pluses too, but she is lighthearted and fun and that makes me feel a little bit more lighthearted and fun. I was always serious and her playfulness was becoming contagious. I’ll always be serious, I think, but maybe a bit of casualness couldn’t hurt either. Stephan dropped me off in front of my towering office building in the heart of downtown and then, I assume, headed to his only a few blocks away. It’s weird that I had known him all this time- At least 3 years now, since right after my mom diedand he has worked only a few blocks away all that time too and we’d never gotten to know each other before. It took an act of extreme air-headedness on my part and luck that he would be sitting outside, on a sunny day at that, for us to get to know each other. I thought about that, on my trip up the elevator. It was better to think about that than to think about Gabriel. I had tried really hard to get a hold of him. I even tried him again today when I’d gotten out of the shower but to no avail, I still got his machine. I didn’t leave a message this time. Why? I’d left at least five. If he didn’t want to call me then fine. “Jill, Is Gabriel in?” “No. I haven’t seen him.” Jill was my very young receptionist / assistant. She has the job that I had when I first started in this company though I’d like to think I let her take a larger role in shaping the work that we do, so she can gain experiance. She is actually going to school right now at the UW. She is taking a double major, business and graphic design. She is going to be really good someday. “Tell him I would like to see him in my office as soon as he is in.” “Will do Ms. Saunders.” Sometimes when they call me that, Ms. Saunders, it made me think of the old man and wonder if they had a mean nickname for me too. If they did, I hope it was a nicer than the one we’d had for our boss. My office, which was just like I left it- what felt like an eternity ago- was not large, but it has all the space I need. I have a drawing table, a bookshelf and a desk. My desk has two plants on it, one short and one tall (for a desk plant) palm, a phone 83 | P a g e

with a built-in intercom, a picture of my mom and a cup- that I had made with Gabriel at one of those pottery shops where you could paint non glazed potterythat was filled with pencils. I sat down at my desk to get started. “Jill” I called through the intercom on my desk. “Yes ma’am” “When was my pitch rescheduled for again? “Wednesday morning at 9 AM.” “Thanks”. Okay so I had to plenty of time to review and to get started on the two other accounts that were sitting on my desk. After an hour or so passed, I found myself just staring out the window. Where was Gabriel? He was always on time. I wished that I hadn’t eaten anything this morning, because it was turning in my stomach with the worry was sitting there with it. I called Jill again. “Jill, will you see if you can’t get Gabriel on the phone. I need to talk to him right away.” “Just a moment ma’am.” A minute later I saw the light on the phone begin to blink and I picked it up. “No answer ma’am, I left a message for him.” Something had to be wrong. What could have happened to him? This just wasn’t like him. I wondered if he was still mad at me. It seemed unlikely that he would not show up over it, he wasn’t a coward, but why else would he not come? The night passed by at a snail’s pace and I wasn’t getting much done, but I was trying. At about 7 AM I called Stephan on his cell. “Hey Alexa.” He answered instead of hello. “Hey. What’s up?” I was trying to keep the worry from lacing through my voice. “Nothing much. How are you?” “Okay.” “What’s wrong?” So he could tell. I wasn’t even sure why I was calling him. I just needed to hear a comforting voice. I hadn’t really planned on talking to him about Gabriel, but I couldn’t help it. I needed to talk to someone about it. “Nothing, well maybe it’s nothing. It’s just Gabriel didn’t show up for work today and I have been calling him all weekend. I thought at first when he didn’t answer my calls that he was just mad at me. I even went by his house that night I went out, but he wasn’t there. Every light in the house was off. I’m worried. It’s not like him 84 | P a g e

not to show up. Even when we weren’t getting along. Though we’ve never really fought before.” “What do you think could be the problem? Let’s look at this logically. Maybe he went out of town to relax and his car broke down or something.” “He’d have called me. Or the office at least to let us know.” “And he never misses work? Most everyone misses a few times.” “He’s been sick like twice in all the time we’ve been working together and then he still came in before leaving early. He’s just never not shown up. He’s just not like that. He’s big on attendance and punctuality. All of our assistants know that, it’s the only thing that they really could get in trouble over here. Otherwise were pretty lax with them as long as they get their job done.” “Would you like me have someone call around to the hospitals and see if he’s been checked in?” I didn’t even want to think about him being in the hospital, but it seemed like a good idea. “Sure. I can do it though. You don’t need to take anyone away from their job for this. It’s my problem.” “Oh come on Alexa. You know it’s not a problem. What’s his full name?” “Gabriel Salintino.” “I’ll have them double check with his description in case he went in without any ID. I will call you if they find anything, if you don’t hear from me in an hour I’ll be there to pick you up. I’ll be right where I dropped you off.” “Okay.” I was now twice as anxious as I was before I called him, but at least I could feel a little better knowing that something was at least being done. “Alexa?” “Yah.” “You all right? I could come and get you now.” “No, I am I’ll be fine. I need to wrap up some things anyways.” I probably wouldn’t do anything but I didn’t want him to see me any weaker than he already had. I didn’t like anyone to see me like that. “Okay. Call me if you need something. I will call you if I hear anything.” “Okay. Bye.” I hung up and looked at the papers I had sprawled across my desk. I couldn’t focus. I started to pick them up but abandoned that a few minutes later. I never left my desk a mess when I left for the day, but today was going to be 85 | P a g e

different. I grabbed my purse, told Jill that I would see her tomorrow and pressed the button for the elevator. I just needed to walk. The streets were busy now. Filled with people from all over the city and its surrounding areas on their way to their offices, unaware of the turmoil that I was feeling. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but decided to stop in one of the million coffee shops that were splatter across one of the biggest coffee cities in the world. I ordered an iced macchiato and headed back out into the sea of people. I just walked. I turned up and down the streets, going whichever way the light was green when I got to the corner. At one point I passed the famous Pike Place market, which was one of my favorite places to go walking when I wasn’t headed anywhere in particular. Today I didn’t feel like being near the familiar sights of the vendors that I had walked passed a million times with Gabriel, so I turned back up towards the more central streets. I didn’t stop for the bums that were sitting with their cups or the business men and women who were crowding the sidewalks. Without thinking about it, I was standing in front of Stephan’s building. I looked at my watch. 10 to 9. I called him up to tell him that there was no reason to meet me at my office; that I would meet out front of his building. I didn’t feel like going through security. I needed to get an identification card that would allow me access to the elevators without stopping at the check points. Two minutes later the same security officer that had led me through the elevators when I was running for the bus was standing in front of me. “Ms. Alexa.” I looked at his name badge. Garth. “Hello Garth.” “Mr. Vanders would like to see yah.” He said through his thick country accent. I wondered where he was from and how long he’d been here. It must not have been long, because his accent was still strong and thick and people normally lost some of their accent over time here in one of the states with no accent at all. “I thought he was going to meet me down here.” “I’m not quite sure. A change of plans I guess ma’am”. “Alright.” I followed him through the revolving doors that had caused me so much trouble and into the elevator that Garth himself had accompanied me through.

TWELVE:
Garth led me as far as the elevator opening at the top floor. When the door opened to the top floor he motioned for me to step out without him with the flick of the

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hand. “Until next time ma’am.” For a moment I thought he might tip his hat at me. If he’d been wearing a hat he probably would have. “Thank you Garth.” There was a woman sitting at the desk across from where Indyria had been sitting the last time I was in the office. I introduced myself and told her that apparently Stephan was waiting for me. She said he’d be out in a moment. I had barely sat down when he came for me. He looked at me seriously and I knew what I had been telling myself I didn’t know in the elevator. They had found something out about Gabriel. “What is it?” “Come here Alexa.” He put his hand out for me and I took it. He led me to his comfortable chair and sat me down. Here I was, to receive more bad news. His office was going to be filled with bad news days before long. Though honestly I hoped there weren’t many more to come. “We didn’t find anything by calling the hospitals but…” “But what. What did you find?” “Have you read today’s paper?” “No.” I almost never read the news paper. I didn’t like hearing about all the bad in the world when I already knew it was out there. I rather look for the good instead. He handed me the paper open to the front page. There was a large picture of a hospital room with an empty bed. The caption read “Hospital missing one of the strangest John Doe cases Seattle has ever seen”. I already doubted it was one of the strangest it’d ever seen, Seattle has seen its share of strange. Three nights ago Harbor View hospital admitted an unidentified man who had suffered from knife wounds to the neck but otherwise looked to have no other injuries. The knife wounds were what was particular. They had been formed from the point of a knife, two perfectly matching circular slashes on the right side of victim’s neck. Even stranger still was how much blood the victim had lost while remaining to live. Unconfirmed reports say that the victim had nearly no blood in his body, a normal person would have died from lack of blood with much more blood in their body than the victim had at the point of admittance. Then last night, to make a strange case even stranger, the victim who had been in the hospital’s intensive care ward in a coma, disappeared. Sources say that the man cannot be found at all on the hospital’s hallway surveillance system leaving the hospital. The nurse on duty swears that she 87 | P a g e

had checked on him less than twenty minutes before finding him missing and had sat at her station across the hall from the room that entire time. “You think that it’s him?” “I don’t know. It’s possible. You haven’t heard from him since the night they say he was admitted. You say that it’s unlike him to act like this.” “So what do you think we can do?” “I think we should try to get more information from the hospital. First you should fill out a missing persons report with the police department. Then we’ll go to the hospital, you can tell them you’re fiancé is missing and that you wanted to make sure it wasn’t their John Doe. “Then I think you should take a photo of him, or if you have one of you two together even better, to the hospital and ask them if it looks like the man who was missing. They’d probably tell you.” “Okay. I have some pictures of me and him loaded onto Snapfish online. I could send one to Walgreens in Capital Hill. It’d be ready in an hour and I wouldn’t have to go home for one.” Stephan came up behind me and put his arms around me. I could feel his smooth skin and his chilly breath up against my neck. I felt a few solitary tears running down my face. I seemed to by crying a lot in front of Stephan. Me, who almost never cried, but I just couldn’t help it. This week has been really tough. I tried not to think about that unidentified man missing from the hospital being my best friend. I tried not to think about what would have caused two rounded "cut” marks on the neck. I tried not to think about where he could be now, how he had gotten out of the hospital without anyone knowing. If he’d done it alone or if someone else had taken him. If it was him that was. “Do you have anything to drink?” “Sure just a second.” He left the room momentarily. While he was gone I went online and sent the photo to be printed. It would be ready in an hour of less. Stephan returned with two wine glasses filled with red wine, or more likely blood, but the human receptionist was out front so they had to keep up appearances. If it wasn’t for his grim face he would have looked like he was hosting a romantic lunching not a crying half breed vampire. He handed me a glass and we both took a sip. It was another blended wine, which was exactly what I thought I needed. The blood to make me stronger and the wine to take the edge off. 88 | P a g e

A half an hour later we were in his Jetta headed towards Capital Hill. The photos were ready when we got there. I grabbed some more Extra Strength Advil and an iced tea and we were back out on the road headed to the police station just down the road. I’d never been inside of a police station. This one wasn’t like I had imagined it to be from watching TV but not that different either. There was a fat woman with white hair and reading glasses sitting at the front desk. I told her that I needed to fill out a missing person’s report. She gave me some paperwork to fill out telling me to take a seat and an officer would be with me in a bit. About a half an hour after I’d had it all filled out an older looking man came out and introduced himself. “Hello. My name is Officer O’Conner. How are you?” “I’ve been better” I told him. “I’m sorry to hear that. Let’s see what we can do to help. If you’ll come with me.” He led us into a small office that had only a small window, a table and four chairs. “Have a seat please. Okay, let me see?” He put his hand out suggesting that he wanted the forms that I had filled out. I handed them to him quickly and he looked them over as we sat down. Stephan and I sat on one side of the table and Officer O’Conner on the other. He folded his hands in front of him on the table and laying in front of him the papers that I’d handed him. “Tell me, what is your relationship to Mr. Salintino?” “We are recently engaged, but have been working together for over six years.” I threw in the recently part at the last minute in case they started to ask around at work and found out that we weren’t really engaged. If I said recently then when no one else knew about it I could say we hadn’t told anyone yet. I felt less comfortable telling a police officer a lie like that then I would have been telling it to a hospital employee. “And when was the last time you saw him?” “Saturday morning, really early about 3:00 am.” “Tell me about that night. Was it just you two, did anyone else see you?” Until he asked that question I hadn’t thought about me possibly being viewed as a suspect. I was beginning to think that maybe this was a bad idea. Not that I was guilty, but would they think so? “It was just us. He came over to my house to celebrate our 6 year anniversary. We’d worked together as advertising partners for six years.” I felt like I needed to explain. “We went out for a sandwich at the Subway by my house and then we went 89 | P a g e

downtown for the Salsa cruise. Afterwards, he drove me home. We’d had a disagreement right before leaving the salsa cruise so he didn’t come in, he just watched me enter my house and I saw him drive off. That was the last time I saw him.” “Okay, and have you had any contact with him since?” “No. I have called him numerous times. I even showed up at his house, Sunday night I think, hoping that he was there and I could get him to talk to me. But he wasn’t there and he hasn’t returned my calls.” “And what was your argument over?” This was the part I was dreading, especially now that it dawned on me that they might think I hurt him. Though I don’t know why they’d think I was big enough and strong enough to hurt a strong man. “It wasn’t an argument really. We had been dancing and then we took a break and I took a dance with a friend of mine.” “And he was jealous about that one dance?” What did this have to do with him being missing? I didn’t want to go into this stuff again. I was feeling incredible impatient. “No, I think it was more along the lines that I had been drinking and so my dance might have been a bit” I paused looking for a good word, “friendlier than he liked. It was salsa you know and sometimes that can look well, ah…friendly. He didn’t say anything about it, but he didn’t say much of anything which is what tells me he was upset about it. Then he didn’t want to come in for coffee like he normally would when I got home. I just figured I’d give him the night to think about it and then we’d talk the next day. I’d tell him that it wasn’t anything and then we’d be okay. But I never got that chance.” “And what makes you think he isn’t just taking some space. That he just doesn’t want to talk to you.” “I’d thought about that. That is why I’m here today and not yesterday. But, it’s not like him to run away from things, he normally would just talk about it even if he needs a little time. And then he didn’t show up to work last night. He’s never late and he always shows up. So when the entire night passed and he didn’t arrive and wouldn’t answer my calls or calls from our assistant then I got pretty worried. So I came here.” “I thought you were in advertising, why do you say the when the entire night passed? “We work at night, we work better when no one else it around. It’s more relaxing.” I leaned forward on the table resting my head in one palm, I was tired and he going

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to pick at everything I said. Like I was on trial here. I just wanted to file a report and find out where Gabriel was. “And you?” He shifted his attention to Stephan, who so far he’d completely ignored. “I’m Stephan, a friend of theirs. Alexa called me this morning and asked me to accompany her.” “When was the last time you saw Gabriel?” “On the salsa cruise.” Shifting the gaze back to me. “I thought you’d gone alone.” “We had, but he happened to be there.” “Is he who you were dancing with when your fiancé, Mr. Salintino, became jealous?” I wondered how he even connected the two. I was torn about lying and telling the truth. “Yes sir.” I looked over at Stephan and his eyes met mine. He seemed to think we might be getting ourselves into trouble as well. “Okay. Do you have a photo of him?” He made notes on a bright yellow note pad that he’d pulled out earlier in the interview. “Yes sir.” I pulled it out of my purse and pushed it across the table to him. It was from about a year ago when Gabriel and I had taken the ferry across to Whidby Island and spent the day on the beach. We’d had an elderly couple who was out for a walk with their dog take a picture of us. It was a partly cloudy day. I had on a light weight black windbreaker, khakis and a pair of pink converse. Gabriel was wearing one of his usual combinations; a crisp pair of dark blue jeans and a tan sweater with a pair of black dress shoes that, he said, were as comfortable as tennis. The water was a gleaming blue background with us in the dead center of the picture, Gabriel’s arm around my shoulders- him looking directly at the camera and me looking up at him. Right before the picture was taken he’d whispered something to me (I can’t remember what now) but I looked up at him right as the picture was snapped. Mr. “playing it cool” O’Conner gasped when he saw the picture. My stomach dropped to my knees. Would he have made a startled sound like that if it wasn’t Gabriel who was missing from the hospital? I couldn’t tell if his eyes looked like they were more suspicious or if they were more compassionate. They were the kind of eyes that didn’t show emotion well. Probably from years of practice. They had definitely changed from a general interrogation mode to something else. “Have you seen the news today?” No, No, No my mind was chanting. “Yes.” I said barely audibly. 91 | P a g e

“So you know of the John Doe from Harbor View?” “Yes” I replied again biting the inside of my lips. “I can’t say for sure, but if I’m not mistaken, we now have a name for him.” So it was him, even until he said that, though in my heart I knew, I had tried to tell myself it wasn’t him. That I was just making connections that weren’t there. I just sat staring, I didn’t see anything. I didn’t know what to do. I had already cried today, quite a bit. I didn’t know if I could cry any more. I wanted to lay down on the floor and go to sleep. Just forget about it. Maybe when I woke up it’d be different. I almost put my head onto Stephan’s shoulder, were I would feel safe and comforted, but thought against it. It might have looked bad, the victim’s fiancé taking comfort in another man’s arms, a man whom was noted to have been the reason for the last argument the couple would ever have. “Ms. Saunders. I think I should take this photo over to the hospital, may I keep it?” I nodded. “Also, I would like for you to leave me your name and number as well as yours Mr…?” “Vanders.” Officer O’Conner’s eyes got a bit wider. He’d made the connection. I bet it wasn’t often that he got to “Interrogate” someone like Stephan. It wasn’t like he was Bill Gates or anything, but his was definitely a well known name. It made me feel better knowing that he was there. If his name meant something to them, then I wouldn’t be treated like just another face. “Stephan Vanders?” “Yes sir.” “Eum, alright, Mr. Vanders please leave your contact information as well. Someone from here will get hold of you if we find anything.” Points to him for recovering so quickly after discovering who he was talking with. I’d bet he would always ask for full names in the beginning from here on out. “Is there someone who we can call if we have any questions?” I wasn’t guilty and I expected not to be treated that way. I was the worried fiancé (well best friend but still). He handed me his card and said I could call anytime. If he didn’t answer I could leave a message or there was a second number there for general information. He also said that he would call when, if he corrected, he confirmed the identity to that of the missing John Doe. Stephan and I wrote down our information for the officer and were headed out the door when we heard Officer O’Conner call after us. “Oh, one more thing….” Here it comes I thought. “Are you guys going to be around town?” “Yah, we’ll be around.” 92 | P a g e

“Okay Good.”

THIRTEEN:
We headed outside into the cloudy Seattle day. My spirits were in the gutter. I wanted to grab Stephan’s hand for reassurement but I was afraid of someone seeing us after I just told them I was engaged to Gabriel. Once in the car I turned to Stephan. “Now what?” “I don’t know. I think we just have to wait. I know that isn’t what you want to do, but I think it’s all we can do.” I found my head in my hands. I was tired and felt like I had ice cubes running through my veins. I needed to rest. “Let’s go then.” The drive home was quick. We were going against traffic. We got off on my exit but instead of turning left down my street we kept going straight. I didn’t ask where we were going. I didn’t care. About five minutes later we were turning down the same private road that we had driven down the other night. We were going to Stephan’s house. “Do you think you can call your company and tell them what’s happening or would you like me to do it? They need to know.” “You do it.” I wasn’t going to do anything right now. In my life, before Stephan and after my mom, I had only Gabriel. My best friend, my business partner. They only person in the world that I could depend on. Now he was gone. Missing- After being found nearly dead. We were in the driveway but I didn’t move. Stephan came around to my side of the car, opened the door and helped me up. Still holding onto me he opened the front door to his house and led me in. I was vaguely aware as he handed me a cup of something to drink and then led me further into the house. I woke up in the late afternoon to the chiming of a grandfather clock somewhere out in the distance. I looked up and saw a small wind up clock on a nightstand next to me telling me it was 7:00 pm. I wasn’t sure where I was or how I got there. Never a good sign. I tried to clear my mind and figure out what had happened. We were at the police station. Then we drove home, no wait not my house, Stephan’s house. That is where I was. It started to come back a bit. The room I was in was another place I’d have called handsome. Dark and Handsome. It had wood paneled walls and hard wood floors in a matching mahogany color. The windows had tan curtains and the bed was a large four post 93 | P a g e

king sized bed. The sheets were satin and the comforter was a tan color that matched the curtains. On the long wall there was a country side painting. A splash of light, bright colors in a dark manly room. The painting showed a hill covered in purple flowers and a weeping willow towering over a small winding river. The sky in the background was captured at dusk. Dark blue intermixed with light blue and dusty pink. It was absolutely amazing. I got up to look at it closer, noticing at the same time that I was still wearing the sweater I had on yesterday but that my dress pants were folded neatly on a wing backed chair in the corner. The painting was even better up close, oil, with matriculate brush strokes. It had a small rabbit playing in the flowers on the hillside. “Hey.” Stephan poked his head through the door. “Sorry, I was just checking on you.” “Oh, hey.” I was partially aware that I didn’t have any pants on but I ignored that and returned my attention to the painting. “This is beautiful.” “It’s one of my favorites. I’ve had it a long time.” “How long is a long time?” I was curious how old he was, but didn’t want to be rude and ask outright. Someday we’d talk about it and while I hoped it wasn’t this day, I was none the less a bit curious. “A while. It’s older than you and I am its original owner.” He looked at it thoughtfully. “It was painted for me.” “Who painted it?” “A friend of mine. He used to come and stay with me. He had a bit of an alcohol problem and I’d let him stay with me to cool down sometimes. He painted it on one of his ‘vacations’.” “Hum.” I thought about asking more questions, it seemed like a good opening to the how old are you, where are you from bit, but I just didn’t have it in me today. I felt my stomach growl a bit. “So, what’s for breakfast?” “I don’t know. What would you like? I don’t usually do the cooking.” He didn’t look apologetic about that, he was just stating the facts, and the fact was he didn’t cook. That was fine. Lots of men didn’t, though I couldn’t figure out how they could get so far in life without acquiring that skill. Especially someone like Stephan who’d been around a while and had spent a lot of time alone (at least I thought that was the case). “Let’s go take a look see what you’ve got and I’ll cook.”

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“Sounds good.” I grabbed my pants and He led me out of the handsome room and into a long hallway. It was wide and had the same hard wood floors. There was a rug measuring the length of the hallway. The rug must have been special ordered, or at least hard to find, because it was long. We were on the far end of the hallway and before we reached the old Victorian style stairwell we passed 4 more doors, two on each side of the hallway. That made 6 rooms up here on the top floor. I was curious, if I didn’t think it’d be rude, I have stopped to check them out. “Is one of these doors yours, to your room I mean?” We were at the top of the stairs and he paused, one hand on the banister. “Yes, this one.” He walked over to the first door on my right. He cracked it open. It was much larger than the room that I had been in, but had the same wood paneling. His bed was large and fluffier than I’d have thought for a man’s bed. All the furniture matched and had an antique feel to it, though aside from watching the antique road show sometimes I had no idea how to tell if it really was or not. I’d bet Stephan could. He stepped in a bit and I followed, looking back at the soft bed. I tore my eyes away from it and checked out the part of the room I couldn’t see from the door way. Off to the right there was only half a wall and opened to what I assumed was the room that the next door in the hallway led to. “It’s my bathroom and a walk-in closet.” He mentioned noticing where I was looking. “Nice.” I turned to walk out and got caught at the window. The curtains were only partially drawn so I hadn’t noticed them before. The view was of Lake Washington, one of many of Seattle’s natural beauties. It was just beginning to get dark and the sky was a clear dusk blue with only wisps of clouds in the sky. The moon was bright and low in the sky and the surface of the water looked like a reflection of the sky, sparkling with stars. Only there weren’t any stars in the sky, it was the lights from the houses that made it sparkle. “You sure have beautiful views everywhere you are.” “I have to have something to look forward to in my long life. Right?” “Yah, and this is definitely something to look forward to. I don’t think I’d ever get tired of it.” “You would, everything gets old after enough time. I haven’t gotten tired of this one yet.” “That’s good. Now let’s go get something to eat.” I grabbed his arm and pulled him out of the room. Instead of letting go, I kept hold of his hand as we headed downstairs.

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He had pork chops in the freezer so I sent him to the store for some potatoes and I made pork chops with mash potatoes and gravy. We ate together at in his glass enclosed patio. It was like something I’d only ever seen on TV. It felt kind of weird, to be sitting in such a nice house on the water, and feel comfortable there. As we were finished I looked at my watch and saw it was after eight, I needed to go home and change for work. “Are you going to work tonight, maybe I could catch a ride with you again?” I wasn’t a big fan of the city bus system, but I was less of a fan of paying for gas and parking. “You really don’t remember do you? I knew you were tired, but I thought you’d remember.” “Remember what?” That is never anything you want to hear, that you don’t remember something from the night before. Especially when you know you were alone with a man for the night. I doubted this was something quite like that though. Was I disappointed about that? No. I told myself sternly. It would be better if we remembered it anyways. I smiled a bit to myself. “I called your company last night and told them about Gabriel. You’re not going back to work until you figure out what is going on with him. They said not to worry about your job to take as much time as you needed.” “But my proposal! It’s at 9:00 I can’t miss that. It’s all ready. I’ve been working long hours on it for weeks.” “The partners are going to pitch your proposal.” “They’re going to steal my account. No, I have to go.” I stood up, my chair nearly falling over as I did and started towards the door. I was going to work. “I don’t think that was the case. I also don’t think it was optional.” His hand met my arm and I turned back to him. “Why don’t you just sit down and give them a call? “No, they won’t be there, not until the morning. Then it’ll be too late.” I just stood in place torn about going to work anyways, whether they were trying to force it on me or not. Maybe I should take the time off. I sat back down, feeling defeated. “I’ll call them in the morning before I go to sleep and straighten this out.” “Sounds like a plan. In the mean time” Then he switched to speaking to me through telepathy. “Let’s practice?” “Okay, how are we going to practice, just by talking to each other?” I replied also sending my question through telepathy. I also reminded myself, privately, to keep my gates up- to not send messages that I didn’t want to share, again. “No, I have some exercises for you work on. Let’s go downstairs.” 96 | P a g e

I insisted on cleaning up the mess from dinner, even though he said that he had a maid who would be there in the morning, before getting started. I just didn’t like to leave a mess. After we were finished he led me down a dark stairwell and closed the door behinds us.

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I know that typically I should wait until I have actually finished the book to put notes and thanks and stuff (notice all my fancy words?) in, but I am the author and I just felt like doing it now. So bear with me (or if you really wantjust close the file after reading the note to you-either way ). I think that most people usually skip over this part, that is many times at the front of the book anyways, but I usually read it and enjoy it (maybe that make me a dork, oh well). At least I put it at the end. ~THIS FAR~ (because at least I made it this far) NOTE TO THE READER about where this far is Please remember that this is a work in progress. Not all of my typos and stuff have been fixed yet. I have to finish it and print it to be able to go back to those things. That’s just the way I work- sorry. I try to go back occasionally and look for big things, but I know I miss things. At least I know where my weaknesses lye. If you notice anything that is seriously wrong, such as a paragraph not making sense in its place in the story then please send me a note and let me know. Those kinds of things I really appreciate. Also, if you have any suggestions, comments about anything in particular or constructive criticism, I am always open to feedback. AND last but not least- Please, if you liked it, check back for more. I am continually writing and as I get a chapter or two done I will update it. THANKS for helping me get this far – Thank you to my husband and my kids for allowing me to sit every afternoon on the couch and click away at my computer. Thank you for not getting (too) annoyed when you talk to me and I ignore you while I finish a sentence (or paragraph). More specifically to my husband who (almost) never complains that I regularly slide into bed hours after him, with eyes so tired I couldn’t keep them open if you paid me. Love you “stinky”. Thanks to my Mom who was the first person I told that I was attempting to write a book and for being enthusiastic about it. You rock. Thanks to my Dad Paul, who always encouraged me to write, I miss you. Thank you to those super cool teachers, especially Mr. Biggalow, who taught me to learn all I could, even outside of the classroom. And thank you to the teachers who weren’t super cool and just gave me a forced smile when I said I was going
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to write a book- giving me that extra encouraged I need(ed)to prove them they were (are) wrong. Thanks to the author of “The House On Mango Street”, by Sandra Cisneros. I read it when I was 14 and afterwards I knew I wanted to write a book. It also was the first book that I read and thought Wow, what style. From then on I always paid attention to the style of a book when I was reading it. Also, thanks to Jennifer Weiner (www.jenniferweiner.com) and Jennifer Crusie (www.jennycrusie.com) for their information on writing that they have posted on their website. Thanks to the people on Scribd who have read my story so far, and even more to those who keep asking for more. You guys are great and while I will probably never get published (I am a bit on the pessimistic side- for my own good), I am ecstatic that people are getting to read my story. Jennifer Wiener said “If a writer writes poems and short stories and novels, but nobody ever reads them, is she really a writer? Nope.”. Thank you for reading my story and making me a writer! ANOTHER NOTE (to no one in particular) about what they’ve read so far: This book is a work of fiction and therefore contains no real people. But since I have 28 year experience in watching people, all my characters are based on a myriad of people I’ve met or seen though out my life. As you have found, the characters are from the Seattle area. I tried to stick as close to the real thing as possible, but with that said, there are places that I have written in that don’t exist. Sorry to those Seattle fans out there (and I include myself in that category, by the way), I tried to stick to it closely, since it’s damn great to start with. Just consider it creative necessity please. AND LASTLY about the rights to my work so far: I am reserving all my rights. People please remember: I’ve worked hard on this- and while I would secretly be excited about the compliment it would pay me- I would sincerely appreciate if my story wasn’t copied or duplicated in anyways without asking me first. Share it with your friends, by all means, just make sure I get the credit for it. (My husband more than anything made me write this, by the way. He’s probably asked me a million times- okay a bit of exaggeration on my part, but you’ve got the idea- if I was sure it was safe to post my story online. “Couldn’t they steal it?” he asks over and over again. “Yes Dear”, I tell him in my mocking voice, because we never call each other by those “lovey-dovey” names except mockingly, “but I doubt they would”).
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OKAY, LASTLY-LASTLY about further down the road: Anyone who read an older version of this, did you notice I changed me pen name? What is your opinion? Which one do you like better? Do you have any suggestions of your own? My real name (here comes the big secret) is Kara Rae Lazcano-Huff. I am playing with pen names such as………. … K.Rae Huff.
… LaRae Huff (LaRae by the way is my sisters middle name, but is also

part of my last name with my middle name). … K.R. Huff. Any other suggestions? Comment them to me. And yes- I am well aware of the fact that I really don’t need to worry about it yet, since I probably won’t ever publish it anyways, but a girl can dream right? Plus it’s kind of fun trying to pick one out. It reminds me of picking out the first screen name I ever had, back when chat rooms and all that first became popular, except for now it’s a pen name instead of a screen name.

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