Book Two of the Gray Area Series


Stefanie Ellis

Text Copyright © 2009 by Stefanie Ellis All rights reserved, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form. The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author. Illusions: a novel by Stefanie Ellis ISBN 144210032X

First Paperback Edition: March 2009

Printed in the United States of America

Picture on cover: copyright © Gustavo Naharro Heart stamp on spine: copyright © Obsidian Dawn Smoke brushes on back cover: copyright © Li Vincent


Also by the Author:



You‟ll never know how much your emails mean to me as well as inspire me to push through the writer‟s block that often obscures my vision. All those people who cheer me on and keep me going. and I‟ll say it again: Without you. I‟m just a girl with an overactive imagination and no one to share it with. 5 .Dedication: Illusions is dedicated to my readers. I‟ve said it before.

6 .

The Gray Area Series Ashes ~ Illusions ~ Ruins The Gray Area (Definition): An undefined situation or subject that does not seem to conform to known categories or rules. 7 . an intermediate area or topic that is not clearly defined.

the rain started to fall maddeningly from the sky. just to be sure. Carrying them like briefcases. 8 . and about to part and release gallons of downpour on my freshly painted bumper cars. Lately it seemed he had a vendetta against me. Once inside. I took off toward the storage shed. I would be pretty pissed off right about now. The clouds were as gray as Rick the weatherman‟s hair. if it weren‟t for the fact that I could easily pick them up and store them away.Chapter 1: A New Spin on an Old Cliché A soft drizzle danced across my face. sounding like angry tap dancers on the aluminum roof. then quickly grabbed the two bright blue cars by their rubber padding. I took one more quick glance at the sky. Looking up at the sky I was reminded why I should never take the advice of the seemingly innocent weatherman.

You keep saying that. He was a master at repairing the broken down rides and I happily took on the task of adding a crisp layer of fresh paint to the sad.” “Yeah. as if a part of her always knew. It was just too awkward and confusing to be around my “parents” since they took it upon themselves to share the news with Kylie and me that we weren‟t their biological children. “I swear…” Cael said. 9 . I know. I‟d taken up residence with Cael.” “Well there‟s the perfectly literal answer I was expecting. my obsession and completely immersed myself into the refurbishing.” “We‟ve got all the time in the world Sid. “That weatherman never wants us to finish. while I lived blissfully ignorant for seventeen years.“That was close. “Sid?” I tried to shake off my dazed thoughts. my destiny. “What‟s wrong?” he asked and turned me to face him. I‟d made it my main goal. sun-beaten machines. For whatever reason. “Right here. that‟s how long it‟s going to take!” Cael was the proud owner of an abandoned fairground formerly known as Fun World. I would just like to be able to finish at least one task. “Let‟s get home.” I groaned.” “My thoughts exactly. entering the shed. I have something to show you. Which left me no time to dwell on recent events. “Nothing.” Shortly after our return to California. showcasing our surroundings. without the weather getting in the way. my mind busy. Kylie wasn‟t angry with them. and.” He smiled. “Yeah?” “Where have you been lately?” I looked around the shed and spread my arms out. more importantly. but at this rate.” I sighed as I found a dry place to set the cars. Painting kept my hands.

but I enjoy knowing what‟s going on. “No. “I‟m a horrible girlfriend.” I‟ve never been a fan of surprises.” He laughed. I entered the apartment. some may consider it a control issue.” I tried to count back how much time had gone by and realized Valentine‟s Day had come and gone long ago. Little did she know it had absolutely nothing to do with my “fairy” heritage. hoping I had something hidden in a magic compartment that I could pass off as a present for him.” 10 . “Why‟s that?” “I forgot Valentine‟s Day. I don‟t age anymore. The scent of burning candles wafted into the hallway and I could hear the sluggish dribbling of melting wax.” I sighed. “Just go in. Instead. wait. My hand came back empty. “Honey. like stage a family intervention.Cynthia Fox. for quite some time. it‟s your Birthday.” “What‟s the harm in one last hoorah? Besides you need something to get your mind off your distraction. His beloved dining room table (that he would defend with his life) was filled with rose petals and burning candles and the ceiling was covered with red and white balloons. it was my transformation into a vampire that changed my appearance. Assuming the man I love wouldn‟t do anything stupid. Cael held the apartment door open. “What‟s going on?” I asked. Was it Valentine‟s Day already? Had I been distracted for that long? Panicked. I checked my pockets. (my former mother) probably wouldn‟t have told us at all if I wouldn‟t have come home looking so drastically different.

but were streaked in grease instead of paint. Even buried in distractions. Noticing his apparel made me feel slightly less guilty. You think I haven‟t noticed?” “That‟s not a distraction. as vast and deep as the ocean. and hadn‟t overlooked a single detail. troubles and cares. Cael gracefully entered the dining room holding a glass tray. but hoping I was wrong. placing the tray on the table. and the end of my worries. shall we?” “I guess. the thought and effort he put into it was hard to ignore. My eyes couldn‟t tear themselves away as I studied his every move. and unlike me.” Even though the whole thing didn‟t make sense. I‟d been out of it for so long. Every last detail was thought out. wrapping his hand around mine and leading me to the table. as refreshing as ice water in the dead of summer. His jeans and shirt were also covered. I could only imagine how long it took to inflate all those balloons. knowing what I‟d see. The grease just added to the drop-dead gorgeousness that is Cael. There‟s a difference. “Let‟s celebrate your eighteenth birthday.” he exhaled. it‟s a priority.“Which would be?” “The amusement park. My jeans and t-shirt were splattered with every color of the spectrum. (Bright blue. that is. I was able to realize that I was one lucky girl. breathing Jackson Pollock painting. he was more than able to pull off the look. He must have felt my stare because he slowly turned his head to meet my eyes. Cael had gone all out. He bent down beside me. Apparently. as endless as the sky. except me. I looked down at my clothes. that I‟d forgotten how much I adore gawking at him.) Cael‟s eyes could seduce a viper and send a 11 .” “If you say so. Even the television was a participant as it smoldered with the image of a crackling fire. I resembled a living.

” “A lot of trial-and-error my dear. If you don‟t. white box with a red bow on top and slid it across the table.” “Thwere‟s mwore?” I asked with my mouth still full.” he urged. just the appetizer. I knew he liked to experiment.” Cael sat down and began pushing the glass tray closer to me. “Of course!” He pulled out a small. your every thought controlled by him. “You‟re a genius!” I exclaimed after taking a bite. I unwillingly tore myself from him and huffed as I looked down. you can take it back and my feelings won‟t be hurt at all. He‟d made me a custom fix for my sweet-tooth. Just by locking a gaze with him you run the risk of having your every move.” I groaned. I reached up to touch his face and my finger found a stray curl. Hesitantly. chocolate and blood. “Actually. it actually worked!” The huge smile on his face told me he was thrilled by his new discovery. and instantly a wonderful fragrance hit me. Six delicate chocolate truffles stared up at me in a taunting manner. pressed it to his lips and whispered. but he told me that mixing blood and beverages was as far as he was able to take the combination. The same rule 12 . I picked one up and placed it to my mouth. it‟s not. “This is the best gift I could ask for!” I said. Once I got the ratios right. Take a bite. All that effort to make me look at something I couldn‟t eat. I twisted the golden lock and watched it shimmer with every rotation as the light caught it.grizzly into a trance. “I didn‟t think it was possible. “Well this is cruel. “I love you. Finally. He pulled my finger away from its twirling. “That‟s not your gift. shoving the rest in my mouth. “I‟m giving you this one first because I‟m not sure if you‟ll like it or not.

“Okay…” Confused. I was reminded how much I loved Cael and everything we‟d been through together in such a short time. “Thank you. Neon lights circled the edges. “What does it mean?” I asked. “You can‟t name it after me. with a side of bread.” He smiled. and I knew exactly what it was: The giant sign that would someday stand at the entrance of the park. Besides Walt Disney named his empire after himself. “It‟s amazing. Think of this one as the salad in a three course meal. you knew I‟d love it. left the room and returned with a poster board. and right smack in the middle was the name of the park: Sidney‟s Magic Kingdom. of course.” A grin crossed his face.” “Sure I can. “Love. it was twisted and tied in knots.” He jumped out of his chair. you‟re my inspiration. dangling at the bottom was a Celtic symbol. Like most things Celtic.” He flipped the board to face me.” “You are most welcome. “You‟ve put as much work into that place as I have.doesn‟t apply for the other gifts though. with a splattering of glitter in the background. we both know that isn‟t true.” He said. I took the lid off and pulled out a thick silver chain. “This is just the artist‟s rendering of what it will look like when it‟s done. but really if you don‟t like it…” “Would you stop that.” I said softly.” I smiled.” I held the charm in my hands and while examining it. “Now. “Maybe. “On to the next one! Let‟s call it the soup. why can‟t I name mine after you?” “Are you planning on freezing your body like him too?” I asked with a smirk.” 13 .

that is my main goal in life.” As I tore at the corner of the envelope I tried to imagine the contents.” he whispered into my hair.” he reminded me. I don‟t remember mentioning it. and even as an adolescent. remind me to read the fine print next time. But it‟s too much.” “Remember my rule? You can take back the first gift. “You make it easy. His hand emerged from his back pocket holding a long slender envelope.“Sidney. “Ah. the best I could come up with was a card. Maybe a hand 14 .” I said. You have been mine. and stood up to take a closer look at the sketch.” “Wow.” Cael laid the poster against the back of the couch and wrapped his arms around me. but this one is non-refundable. “I never agreed to those terms. “It‟s really going to look great when it‟s done. “Not quite.” I said through a laugh. Inspiration. but I‟ll be sure and remember that for next year. I am. if you will?” “Did I say that? Hmmm. His excitement was contagious. perhaps overusing the word “magical” for lack of a better description.” “You give romance a whole new meaning. By accepting the first gift you pretty much signed your name in blood.” “It was a silent agreement. “Did you say you were ready for the finale? The entrée. “I‟m honored.” “Everything looks better when you‟re part of it. “What?” He cupped his hand to his ear.” I beamed. well. odd. I really did adore Fun World as a child. How many times did you tell me how wonderful and magical that place used to be for you as a kid?” I guess I had said that quite a bit. “Cash?” I guessed.

most of these questions you have. But if vampires and fairies exist. Nicole and Vince.” “You know. now it seems I‟m being buried beneath a pile of fairytales.” much less forget all those years they lied to me. “The flight is booked for next week. It‟s all too much for one person to handle. after all. “Sidney? I lost you again. I thought about our friends. There was no way. “I‟m back now.” “How did I know you‟d suggest that?” He had been relentlessly trying to convince me to talk to Cynthia.” As soon as Kylie‟s summer vacation starts. your mom would probably be able to answer. “Oh my God!” I nearly screamed. the three of us plan to follow the map that was left to us by our mother. the reason I‟ve chosen not to handle it. Do you want to talk about it?” “There‟s not much to talk about. I thought sooner would be better. 15 . “Thank you so much!” I leapt into his arms and covered his face in kisses. griffins. “When?” I gasped. a vampire. flying monkeys? Where does it end? How is it possible that people live their entire lives without seeing these mythical figures that roam among them? I‟m no longer part of an Anne Rice novel.written poem? Instead of guessing any further. or think about it for that matter. since I am. what else is out there? Unicorns. I‟m just confused. didn‟t I?” Cael asked. and who could forget Taran? The thought of seeing them again filled me with an overwhelming happiness. or rather family in Romania. Liam and Rayna. I guess it‟s not too far of a stretch. I couldn‟t even bring myself to call her “mom. I ripped it open to find two first-class tickets to Romania. myths and legends.” “You‟ve been doing that a lot lately. Phasing out. Hence. I was still skeptical over the whole fairy thing. since we need to get back before summer.

now add in the fact that we‟re both vampires with special abilities and the talent to feel each other‟s pasts and it‟s a whole new spin on an old cliché. Trying to have a normal relationship is not easy anyway.” I said crossing my arms stubbornly. but don‟t let it happen again.” “Hey! We agreed not to do that!” Among other things. I‟m sorry. and for the right reasons. “Am I forgiven?” he asked as he moved closer. crossing his heart. 16 . A rule he had just broken.” “The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Since everything had been so chaotic. Cael and I vowed to take things slow between us. How happy you were. “I know.” “I shall try my very best. It was just a quick peek. we promised each other that we would try to conduct our relationship as normally as possible.” “Your mom says that doesn‟t she?” “Shut up.“You just have to remember back to your childhood. which included delving into each other‟s pasts.” He said. “I‟ll let it slide this time.

A recognizable scent: Vanilla. She was never one to hide her displeasure either. it was her goal to make it known to everyone that she had better things to do. not surprised—to find Kylie on the other side—but delighted. my sister‟s favorite fragrance. I must have looked like a deer caught in a bright set of high-beams when I saw her clutching a bag. I smelled them. For as long as I can remember she was either absent for my birthday or visibly displeased that she was forced to make an appearance. Standing on the threshold.Chapter 2: Sugarloaf B efore the person on the other side of the door was able to knock. decorated with flowers. A 17 . I bound to the door and opened it. tissue paper fanning out of the top.

“You two were in on this together?” “Well. “Of course.” “Did you find one that fits yet?” Kylie asked only Cael. Kylie.” She waved. 18 . I wonder what it is that‟s keeping her from admitting it though.” My death-glare rotated between to the two of them. and I‟m starting to have trouble finding new ones. “Hey Cael. sounding a bit smug. putting the bloody truffles away.” “He picked them out.” “Don‟t let her fool you. I mean. I knew we had grown as friends recently. “You gonna let me in?” Kylie asked. “I can‟t believe you‟d gang up on me like this. “Well. I cleared my throat. “She had a great time. come in!” I said. I think it went great. “She set up all the decorations. as he had a tendency to do. I would like to thank you guys. I thought we were all in a really good place.” He replied.” “Wait. bought them. “If we can all stop talking about me like I‟m not here. “How‟d it go?” He lingered in the kitchen. shaking off the shock. “Not yet.” “Don‟t listen to her. not really.” Cael said. “No thanks needed Angel.” Kylie put her finger to the side of her mouth to emphasize the fact that she truly was pondering. “I just helped him set up.present.” Cael materialized at my side.” Kylie shuffled her feet. but I had no idea we were at this level. I just followed instructions.” I said. a little more loudly than I had planned. Such a thing was unheard of. and told me exactly where to put everything. reclaiming the shock.” Cael chimed in.” “I knew she would.

the face dangled off a small chain like a pendent. sending me the mental picture of an old-fashioned thermometer about to boil to the top and explode. Now open it.” I said taking it from her. 19 . Inside I found a silver watch. Finally. reminding everyone that I was still in the room. and a dainty winged fairy. seeing which one fits you the best. I couldn‟t help but laugh. Cael shook his head and my frustration level rose. like an offering. “Sure I did.” I began pulling out the never-ending stream of tissue paper. “Anyway. and along the sides hung an array of tiny silver charms: A peace sign. She‟d included every part of who I am. “I‟m glad you like it.” She smiled. a big silver “S”. it‟s my sister‟s birthday. The sad part was that I hadn‟t even noticed the test driving of various names. a set of fangs.” She held it out in front of her. “You really didn‟t have to. I looked over at Cael. the Pisces sign (two fish held together by a cord). right down to fangs and a fairy. sitting at the bottom of the bag in a hot pink and black box. thinking she must have bought a whole roll of it and not wanted to waste any.I threw my arms in the air and waved them around. “He‟s been trying out pet names. I saw the gift. “What are you talking about?” “She doesn‟t know?” Kylie asked.” Kylie interrupted. It was definitely time to start paying more attention. “I just came by to drop off your present. helping me fasten the latch. It was like they had their own secret society. who was staring at me with big blue puppy dog eyes and my heart melted. using far too many hand gestures.” Kylie illuminated.

” She grabbed a throw pillow and hugged it to her. though. What about Jamie?” “Oh you know. “I‟m sorry I‟ve been so out of it lately. she‟s a blank slate you could tell her anything.” “Wow you‟re a little like a vault aren‟t you? I can‟t believe she didn‟t pry more out of you.” I said. “Kyle. I don‟t know what to tell her. I don‟t deserve you guys. “But what do I tell her?” “So far. Of course she‟s worried about you.” Cael put his arm around me and lifted my chin with his fingertip. it means a lot to me.” “Sid. This is the best birthday I‟ve ever had. There will be too much I can‟t answer.” “We‟ll see. and I can‟t hold her off much longer. the jury‟s still out on whether or not I deserve you. come in. the passing out of the brochures and the long speeches she‟s forced to give everyone she meets.” “I guess you‟re right” I sighed. leading her to the couch. but she‟s got a lot going on with the flier hangings. but it keeps getting harder.” “You need to give her a call at least.” I whispered. I‟ve been trying to distract her. I guess I‟ll figure something out. “What‟s new at school?” “Yeah. Come on Sid.” “Thank you Kyle. have a seat. she‟s your best friend. I told you I won‟t ever tell your secret and I mean that. “What‟s up?” “It‟s Moon.” I joked. She knows your back and wants to see you. All she knows is that you were gone and you‟ve been back for a while. “Of course you do Shortbread. she doesn‟t know much.” 20 .” “I can‟t see her. You can‟t just leave her in the dark forever and hope she forgets about you. that‟s something I want to talk to you about.“I do! Thank you so much. Jamie will be Jamie.

remember?” I looked at her. what if I decide to stay? So much is up in the air right now. “Oh my god. of course. knowing deep down inside I didn‟t believe in the whole otherworldly fairy thing.” I heard the uncertainty in my voice. the vampire. Jamie was one strong willed young political figure always trying to “better” the people around her.” “Why? What has she got you doing now?” I cringed at the thought.” “Why? What‟s changed? I thought you were excited about the prospect of going to a good college. “That shouldn‟t change anything. disappointed. and I‟m talking endless applications and after school programs. so I shrugged. “She has just made it her goal to get me into a good college. my sister. A lot has changed.” “You and me both! That girl is a quite the pusher.” “Kylie.” “What if I like it there Sid. would believe. I was always able to shoo her away when she‟d suggest insane weekend activities for us to do—such as picket the state capital building or form a human chain to help lower taxes—with a little help from Moon.” She said like I should already know the answer. it‟s nothing outrageous. half of you might be something else.” 21 . But I didn‟t. “No.“You know. I would think that you. “you don‟t believe it. “Fairy. do you? Out of everyone in the world.” “Um. hi. We‟re going during your summer break so you don‟t have to miss anything.” She said softly. I can‟t commit to anything. but we don‟t even know that for sure.” Kylie stated calmly. “I can‟t say I miss that. don‟t stake too much in this trip. probably seeing the worry on my face. I‟m just not sure about college anymore.” I smiled.

“Happy birthday.” he said. Was it because Cael just re-said my quote from my mother? Because Kylie wanted so much to believe in fairies? Or because I shared that need with her. I couldn‟t put my finger on the reason. but couldn‟t admit it? 22 . it‟s just…have you thought of the possibilities? Maybe our real mother is some nut job who really.” “I know. She‟s really excited about this. “That went well. Just wait.” I could almost hear her eyes rolling as she said it. the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” This time it was my eyes that were doing the rolling. “but as a very beautiful woman once told me. “Sweetie. you‟ll see.” I said shaking my head. truly believes she‟s a fairy and that map will either lead us into some weird cave deep in the woods somewhere or to an asylum. “I‟d better get home. I‟m just trying to look at it realistically. Although.“It‟s not that I don‟t believe. “I just don‟t want her to expect the world and end up with nothing.” Kylie stood up dramatically. you can‟t be so skeptical around her. She wouldn‟t lead us on a wild goose chase.” “Well I hope it does turn the way you want it to.” as she closed the door behind her.” “She‟s our mother. I heard her grumble. sitting beside me. “I can‟t believe what you‟re saying!” She stormed toward the door.” Cael consoled.

Cael must have been cooking something in the other I 23 . I owed her a going away speech.Chapter 3: Poetic Justice t didn‟t take me long to realize that Kylie was right. Moon and I had been through so much together. Letting her go wasn‟t something I wanted to confront. Still as clueless as ever about what I planned to tell her. she‟d been my best friend for as long as I could remember. After Kylie left I had called Moon and we decided to meet that afternoon at our favorite coffee shop. we had so many shared memories. the Snap Shack. I ran the straightener through my hair trying to sort out my thoughts and come up with a believable story. at least. The air around me suddenly filled with the stench of burning. it was my obligation to talk to Moon. At the same time I never meant to make her feel like I‟d abandoned her.

out of the cooked auburn mess. it shot out like microscopic rockets. like the scorching had never taken place. my hair was exactly as it had been. my concern grew. I‟d absentmindedly left the straightener attached to a huge chunk of my hair.” I said coyly. Hair that was now smoking and breaking away. In the short time since I moved in with him. not a thing. It wasn‟t until I tried the kitchen that Cael caught me. The only proof I was left with was the mess on the floor and that horrible smell that still lingered. something amazing happened. When my hair was presentable I began the hunt for my car As it got stronger. 24 . trailing new strands behind. He made a point to hang them in the same place every time he walked through the door. examining the burnt. “Nothing. I‟d lost my set of keys more times than I could count. “Did you know our hair regenerates?” I hoped that would throw him off. I had a momentary flash of how I would look in a bob cut and immediately discarded the image. every single incident was proceeded by him showing me the key rack and explaining that the keys really enjoy hanging there and it gives the rack a sense of purpose. Before I knew it. “What are you looking for me amore?” he asked. new hair began to sprout. Sure. I realized the burning was coming from me. I couldn‟t let him know I‟d lost them again. that was not a route I was willing to take. As I tried to remember how hair extensions work. charred edges. searching under couch cushions. and failing miserably. Just one of the perks of being a vampire. falling rapidly down my shoulder in clumps. I threw the hot metal contraption to the floor and cradled my still-splitting hair. inside pillow cases and scouring the floor. why would he be cooking anyway? Just as I went to get up and check on him. his keys were accessible.

but the excitement faded when my fingers realized it just a stray spoon. I had no eyebrows for about a minute and a half.” He whispered through a smile.” He handed me a small vial of blood. redirecting his lips to my mouth. “Damn it. Control was difficult to maintain when I thought of all the horsepower waiting to be unleashed. I pulled into a parking space. I had to force myself to drive delicately. by moving slyly along the cabinets while facing him. Not much can compare to being an eighteen-year-old vampire behind the wheel of a Jag. ah ha! I‟d found them! I quickly snatched the keys and darted my hand in my jacket pocket before he knew what happened.” And I couldn‟t hold back laughter.” “Oh…” I felt something metal.” I said.“Isn‟t it amazing?” he said excitedly. I mean. I was lucky to find one right in front of The Shack. Carefully. “I learned it once when I was testing the effects of fire. “I…was straightening my hair…” Jagged edges.” I tried to comb the countertops without him noticing. my arms contorted behind me feverishly searching. which was unusual. Don‟t forget this. “How did you find out? About the hair. distracted. I heard him say.” Just as I was out the door. “I love you too. Probably 25 . Thinking about the value of the car made the task easier.” I mumbled. just a toe-tap away. “You know. small round tips.” He leaned in and pressed his lips to my jaw. “Now get going. “I love you.” “Alright have fun with Moon.” I said. “I‟m glad you found your keys. “Well I better get going. you shouldn‟t play with fire. “It gives the rack purpose.

That was the amazing thing about the royal blood. I quickly ordered our regular beverages and found our favorite table. Once he turned his back. but because it was always good for a laugh or two. and the buzz of too many cups of coffee. adding the spectacular things to the bloodline. If it weren‟t for that. The chatter quickly faded into a distant hum. finding vampires with special gifts and drinking just a drop from them. there‟s not a doubt in my mind I would have drained every person in this place long ago.because school hadn‟t gotten out yet so the rhyme-spewing crowd hadn‟t had time to pour in. Stepping foot inside the Shack submerged me in memories. the black-clothing-clad teens started rolling in. For me. laughter. right now the task was a difficult one. That‟s the 26 . Lucky for me. The only occupants were myself and the aging man behind the counter. Since the beginning of time they‟ve been perfecting it. it was one of those indy coffee houses. The kind that always has a set of bongo drums waiting in the wings for those special instances when someone might feel the urge to spontaneously recite some poetry in need of some thrumming background bongo drum fodder. Moon and I held a special place in our hearts for the Snap Shack. pressed my fingers to my temples and focused on clearing my mind. I thought about how fortunate I was to have the royal blood flowing though my veins. being in large crowds meant a constant headache. I took the opportunity to pull out the vial and empty its contents into my coffee. Concentrating on the door. the place was dead. I closed my eyes. While I had been dedicating a lot of time practicing the art of blocking out other people‟s thoughts. not because we were get-on-stage-and-yell type people. Before long. We loved the atmosphere. my head was swimming in a babbling herd of teenage angst.

the Sultan of Sweeping isn‟t your mom. “Bet me. someone slid in the chair across from me. that‟s insane…wait. we‟re nearly invincible. While I was busy pondering how one would go about injecting blood into an Aspirin. “I found out I‟m adopted. The half truth? Maybe. “Moon!” I said excitedly and without thinking.” she picked up her coffee and took a sip. She also added a new piercing. if the roles were reversed.” I smiled.” “What?” Moon cleared her throat after nearly choking on the drink she had been in the middle of.” She snapped. She‟d changed her hair since I last saw her. I‟d be furious. “Come on.” “Damn.” 27 . did you make that up? Because I wasn‟t serious. It‟s crazy right? Makes sense though. Too bad the blood lacks the ability to remove a migraine. Make one up. “Couldn‟t hurt.” “Alright. “I got your favorite. “I like your hair. folding her arms. “Uh huh. You can‟t really stay mad at me can you?” I didn‟t blame her. I‟m sorry. I made a gesture. not to mention.reason Cael and I are able to go out in the sunlight and be around humans.” “And what? That‟s supposed to make it all better?” I vaguely heard an angry poet take the stage and begin ejecting the pain of his childhood into the microphone.” She grumbled. The truth? No.” I said. “You better have the best excuse anyone has ever had in the history of time. if you think about it I‟m nothing like them.” I had to think fast. displaying her coffee. “and if you don‟t. “I know. a small violet flower stud in her nose. now it was bright purple with black streaks.

” “This is a lot to take in. It happened out of nowhere. but my mom told me I was adopted after she saw the change.” “You still take the cake when it comes to gifts. “and I moved out. we laughed and snapped.” I drew my lips into a convincing smile.” Under the table. “Apparently it has something to do with my real heritage. “Even though they aren‟t my biological parents at least they got me real presents. It just goes to show. it was just like it used to be and much easier to fall back into than I could have imagined. Moon and I spent hours catching up and listening to disgruntled kids. I crossed my ankles together as well as my fingers. utilizing any bit of luck I could find to make her believe my gibberish. You have no idea how freaked out I was. 28 . honest to god.” I wrapped my hands around my cup. Maybe I didn‟t have to end the friendship after all. but what‟s with the face?” She showcased me with a question written all over her face. a true friend transcends mortality.” “Damn bonds!” We were back! She bought it. I woke up one morning and looked like this. I‟m not sure. “And I thought my life was screwed up. This was going to be tricky.“Nope. pretending to warm them.

Cael and I never needed to sleep. but lately it had been filling the void in my life left by macaroni and cheese. It was difficult and nothing less than a struggle. There was no excuse for waiting until the last minute to pack. I was still loaded with free time. but completely worth it to never have to miss an experimental pet name. but also with my inner urge to keep busy and run on auto pilot. Sleeping was my new comfort food and being wrapped up in Cael‟s arms sure didn‟t hurt matters. I‟d been tangled in a constant battle with not only the rain. Even adding into account the times we had spent sleeping.Chapter 4: Procrastination T he remainder of the week dragged along slower than trying to drink a frozen-solid milkshake through a straw. As I folded a pair of my 29 . and equally as difficult.

” Cael offered. I‟ll pull each item out individually swearing up and down that I packed it. until you realize what it is you‟ve forgotten. natural-born procrastinator.favorite jeans and placed them neatly in my suitcase I wondered why I‟d been putting off the task.” I had always hated the feeling of forgetting something. “What? This old thing?” I flung the handle over my pointer finger and flexed it up and down like it weighed no more than a piece of paper. “Need any help?” Cael asked as he grabbed his small. and it never turns out to be just a feeling. it‟s still disheartening. closing the heavy metal latches and effortlessly toting what was essentially my entire closet jammed into a very small enclosure. leather duffle bag. “Let me get that for you. holding out his hand. “Why is it that men can travel so lightly?” “I don‟t know.” He nodded. After shooting my eyes back and forth between his duffle bag and my economy-sized suitcase that probably already weighed fifty pounds. it‟s not like there‟s a lot of thought involved in the process. “Are you sure you have everything?” “No. even 30 . Pumpkin.” He shrugged. I‟m always the person who fights with myself about it. I gave him one of those anything-you-can-do-I-can-dobetter looks followed by rapidly shoving a few more pairs of socks in (just to be on the safe side). “Point taken. but we better go anyway. I asked. Upon discovering the toothbrush is absent. Even if it‟s something small that isn‟t really an integral part of your everyday life. “Maybe girls don‟t understand the concept of washing machines.” A smile crossed his lips. You get there and everything is fine. I suppose.

it was great to be in a nice cushy first class seat. How I made such a long flight before with such a horrible fear. If it wouldn‟t have been for Cael. Airlines can be so 1 specist sometimes. placing his hand on top of mine. “I‟m so glad heights are your friend now. and I was so glad my fear of heights was no longer an issue. I was relieved when we were finally seated on the plane. we‟d filled up before getting on the plane.remembering how and when. you set the toothbrush down by the sink and went to get a zip lock baggy to put it in and then got sidetracked. however if we were to crash in the middle of nowhere I can‟t make any guarantees. there was no way we would have been able to sneak blood onboard. (I brushed my teeth and as soon as I was done. I probably would have jumped out the emergency door. I‟ll never know. 1 Specist: Discrimination based on species. so we were forced to starve until we landed. my stomach didn‟t feel like it was going to jump out of my throat. the plane left the tarmac. Then it occurs to you. That little pocket in the side) then you search that specific pocket repetitively. waiting isn‟t a strong suit of mine. Good thing for the other passengers we were responsible vampires. The only thing saddening to me was the sight of beverages being handed out. 31 . it went directly into the suitcase. Presently my ears weren‟t popping. Well that‟s how it happens for me anyway.” Cael said. and there wasn‟t even the slightest hint of hyperventilation. possibly accusing someone of stealing said item. Finally. After spending two and half hours in those uncomfortable chairs that lean too far back. No takes into consideration that vampires need to eat too.

While it was true that heights and I were on better terms. During the battle. Cael pulled the plastic tray out of the console between us and twisted it into a table. 32 . we were nowhere near friend status yet. Or at least hover. “So sorry.” His lips curved into a grin. Let‟s just say that was the only time I tested that ability. It seemed like a rather ironic talent to give to someone who sometimes gets dizzy when she realizes she‟s five a half feet tall. I didn‟t mean to overestimate the relationship you have with elevation. He rummaged through his bag until he found a deck of cards and then began shuffling.“I wouldn‟t go as far as to call us friends.” I smiled along with him. adoring the way he could make me laugh about the strangest things. We‟re just on slightly better terms. that‟s all. Joker‟s wild…” Cael said. “The game‟s five card poker. I discovered that I had the ability to fly. lacking nothing but a neon green visor.

Cael and I decided a change of clothes was in order. I ran the comb through my hair (even though my loose curls never seemed to move anymore. two layovers.Chapter 5: Should Have Called A fter countless hours. no sore legs and my hair was even in tact—for the most part. but not courtesy of some over-inflated 33 . I failed to see the upside of being human as I remembered making this same flight as a mortal and feeling like a zombie upon arrival. There. so we parted ways and entered our respective restrooms. one delay and numerous poker losses. I dug through my suitcase until I found my favorite pair of jeans. they were faded. they hung there perfectly. I stepped off the plane without a hint of jet lag. we finally touched down at our destination. then I touched up my eyeliner and made my way for the largest stall. inhumanly).

His. We trudged through the snow until we found our assigned rental car. Followed by a chorus line of large Romanian men. as I threw it over my head I thought about the weather.retail store. unlike mine were artificially faded). Satisfied. He looked like he‟d just stepped out of the catalogue. A snug black tank top surfaced. it still took him longer to get ready than any woman I‟d ever known.” I pointed to a tiny bright pink car shaped like a wedge of cheese. “We could have done just fine with that one. I had a bad habit of constantly stroking my cheek with the sleeve. It was a trend I was getting accustomed to. a dark green long sleeved shirt with a distressed logo printed on the front. by constant wear. black. “Isn‟t she pretty?” Cael said unlocking the doors by clicking the keypad attached to the key ring.” 34 . a silver Mercedes. waiting for him to get ready. knee-high Ugg boots. I rearranged clothes until I found my fuzzy. they were done the old-fashioned way. they added to that cozy disguise. I left the restroom and propped myself against the nearest wall while I waited for Cael. Cael emerged wearing his trademarked look—which was basically anything from Abercrombie and Fitch—jeans (Crisp and dark in the back and faded in the front. (yet again trying to make the clothes look aged) and a khaki colored suede jacket lined with faux fur. Even though he could hop out of the shower and look amazing. the internet had told us we would encounter snow and it‟s rule number one for us to blend in. “We aren‟t going to be driving that much. “Really?” I asked. To top it all off I threw on my black cashmere sweater hoodie that was so soft I could have sworn it was hand crafted by the angels themselves.

“pay a 35 . This song. a song I hadn‟t heard since I was a kid. I heard my language pouring through the speakers. bought the extra insurance. “I wanna push you around. being the careful one. He wouldn‟t be able to tolerate being behind the wheel of just any old hunk of metal. high-class hunk of metal. The Chief of Cascade used to get aggravated beyond repair when I‟d scan stations. She‟d end it by sternly removing my hand from the button and turning off the radio while feigning a migraine and ranting at me. for example took me back to a scorching summer afternoon when I was about nine. You‟d think the last thing a person suffering a migraine would want to do is rant. it had to be an expensive. so in reality. Matchbox 20 singing. it was one of those. we sail off a cliff. the car bounces down the side of the hill and immediately combusts into flames…then. I settled into the heated seats.” He smiled and I let it go. knowing how much he enjoyed riding in style. but in Cynthia‟s case you‟d be wrong. I spent the day at the swimming pool. there didn‟t appear to be any. (Pointless? Yes.” I began to sing along thinking how strange it‟s always been for me to tie certain songs with non-eventful times in my life. that woman could nag through anything. I glanced over at Cael looking for signs of annoyance. I mean what‟s the worst thing that could happen? Cael‟s vision gets obstructed. but a neat feature nonetheless) and prepared for the long drive ahead. I was never fond of people that got touchy about the seek button. we walk away unscathed. My finger sprang for the radio and must have pressed the seek button at least forty times. After coasting through every Romanian radio station more than a couple times.“You never know. worry would have been a wasted emotion. Cael. The constant flow of pelting snow flying at the windshield faster than the wipers could clear it away didn‟t bother me.

and then she dug through the glove box until she found the CD booklet. With the gothic style structures and cobblestone roads. it was a town like no other. ten minutes is equal to a lifetime). it was not unusual for her to bump into people and force boredom to consume me as they talked for three hundred years. We drove down the twisted roads until we reached the end of the city. stay for an hour. this time all the buildings were covered by a blanket of snow. Well. she‟d babysat me once. I wanna take you for granted. she was a nice enough lady. I will.quarter. She proceeded to recite the lyrics. I will. well. radio blaring…yep. 36 . I will. I wanna push you down. giving the town that much more of an old world feel. We started walking closer to Gina„s car where her girlfriend was sitting behind the wheel. I will. but in kid time. Gina commented that it was her lifepartner‟s new favorite song. smiling and saying. The Princess of Purell came to pick me up and ran into a friend of hers in the parking lot. Matchbox 20. “I wanna push you around. but it was still a good memory. The snow began to slow down and I was able to take in the surroundings as if seeing them for the first time. when it was finished it looked like someone gave a monkey a paintbrush and let him have at it. “You think she‟s trying to send me a subtle hint?” That‟s what runs through my mind everything I hear that song. windows down. We made a wooden heart and she let me paint it. well. Well.” deals.” Followed by pointing to her girlfriend. I looked out the side window and recognized the familiar scenery of Braşov. then we followed a small dirt road meant more for hikers than vehicles. (slight exaggeration. Cynthia‟s long lost friend‟s name was Gina.

I scoured the ocean of unfamiliar faces until I found one I recognized. “Any number of things! Parties. “Actually. Hesitantly.” Cael pointed to the small clearing in the forest. She was carrying a huge bouquet of red roses that nearly blocked out her tiny frame.” “Too late. when I felt jitters of excitement about seeing my friends again. What would the Cover Model for Good Housekeeping say if she knew I would soon be an unannounced guest? I‟d be deemed irresponsible on the spot. whether they called first or not. while I tried not to think of proper etiquette.” Because we all love unexpected visitors. I would be happy to see them. “They know we‟re coming right?” I asked. my excitement quickly shifted to panic. Cael strolled confidently down the dark tunnel.” Cael paused. 37 . “It‟ll be fine. I mean. I talked to Liam and told him. but he sounded really distracted. who knows. Nicole. “We‟re here.We were quickly approaching the underground kingdom. training soldiers. I hoped the feelings were mutual. I peeked through the opening. We quickly found the secret passageway in the ground and climbed in. “Sort of.” “Fan-freakin-tastic! Let‟s hope they‟re happy to see us. Maybe we should pull over and call before just popping in. wars. good and bad.” “Great. Walking through the brilliantly lit opening at the mouth of the tunnel I was flooded with memories. let‟s face it without the bad. the place was packed with people rushing back and forth. I don‟t want to interrupt anything. I‟m not sure he even heard me. what could they possibly have going on?” Cael tried to reassure me. the good memories wouldn‟t be nearly as good.” I cringed and got out of the car.

“A commitment ceremony!” Nicole shocked me again by her exuberance. what‟s going on?” I asked timidly. completely immersing himself in the cluttered room. what can we do?” 38 . “See those two over there?” She pointed in a general direction in a room full of hundreds of people. What are you doing over there?” She grabbed me by the arm and pulled me into the main room. “Sid. all but one. Nicole caught a glimpse of Cael and glided over.” “Oh is Sidney here?” She looked around until she spotted me. Nicole was much more extroverted than I remembered: With the running and the hugging and especially the squealing.” she squealed.Cael took a step forward. “Nicole!” he shouted. “Over here!” Heads turned and then turned back continuing with their tasks. I nodded. still creeped out by the new Nicole. “Cael. they came all the way from Alaska to get the sacred blessing from the Monarchs. It‟s really great that you guys could make it for such an occasion. We just thought we‟d stop by for a visit. gently placing her roses on the glistening marble floor and proceeding to lock my boyfriend in a huge hug. Cael nudged me.” I said. “But we‟d love to help. “His name is Vin and she‟s Eve. “So. I felt like I should morn her former self. “We…didn‟t intend to. Try as I might to follow her finger‟s direction I couldn‟t pick out two people clearly from the crowd. “it‟s so great to see you! I hope you‟re here on vacation. waving his arms trying to get her attention. So I did what anybody with any manners would do. come in.” Nicole explained. nothing‟s wrong is it?” “Everything is fine.

at least there it was quiet. but it was all very odd.” We made our way through the crowd of strangers.” I said in a concerned tone. “Cael! Sidney!” I turned to see who was shouting and found Rayna rushing toward us. it reminded me of a renaissance version of the opening credits of Baywatch.” I said. “A wedding is just what we need around here!” “Nicole. I shot Cael an evil look that said: See. her deep red dress trailing behind her as she ran. but there‟s so much to do. She held my face in her hands. we need to find Taran and find out what‟s going on with her.” “You can say that again. I turned to Cael. we should have called! “Yeah Ray. so I pulled away. Out of the corner of my eye. “You look hungry. slowly. “Of course. trying not to offend her. but made me feel very uncomfortable nonetheless. Rayna.“Oh it‟s going to be beautiful!” she continued as if we hadn‟t spoken at all. Is it a bad time?” “Of course not! This will always be your home too. “everything‟s fine. “Is everything okay?” She cocked her head. forced my head directly into her cleavage. I really must get back to work. I felt like a ghost. we just came for a visit.” 39 . “Well that was strange. being a tall elegant woman—much taller and more elegant than myself— by pulling me into a hug. no one seemed to notice our existence at all. “Is everything alright?” She asked. I‟m sure it was unintentional. all of them were carting wedding type decorations. She grabbed me and pulled me into a hug.” And with that she picked up her bouquet and vanished. I wanted to go back in the tunnel.” She said releasing my face and approaching Cael. a ghost with a terrible headache from all the background humming. examining me.

Everything led me to believe that was exactly what this room was. “I talked to Liam. It was all very shrinkish. The more people rushed past me. we‟re okay.” Rayna displayed the room. I pressed my fingers to my temples even though the action only provided me with a false sense of security. to the meaningless figurines of gods that no one knows about. grabbing my wrist with one hand and Cael‟s with the other. “What‟s the matter Sunshine?” Cael asked me. “I‟ll take you some place quiet.” a huge smile took over Rayna‟s face. “Headache.” Cael explained.” 40 . “They are the sweetest couple.” “Ah. The room resembled a psychiatrist‟s office. well it‟s been very busy around here. he must not have heard me though. “We ate before we left. they wanted our blessing and it‟s so rare nowadays for couple‟s to ask for the blessing of the Monarch‟s that we offered to have the ceremony here. I took a seat on the elongated leather couch.” Rayna said. serene room. something I‟m very familiar with. not sure if I‟d remembered correctly. “So what‟s going on out there?” I asked. “And told him we were coming.” I groaned.” She led us down the bright Victorian style hallway and into a room I‟d never been in before. “Come.“No. “Yes. I‟m sorry about all the chaos. “Nicole mentioned a commitment ceremony?” I questioned. we would have prepared better.” “Ha!” I jutted out my chin in a cocky told-ya-so way. which felt more like I was sitting on a rock.” he said. from the large oak desk. occupied by myself and two vampires whose mind‟s I couldn‟t read if I tried. the more my head ached.” “I wish we would have known you were coming. A peaceful.

“Whenever they‟re ready. “Hmm. of course.” “You bet.” He said at a hastened pace.” “Cael. “It‟s just so romantic and oldfashioned. “I‟ll go grab them. Channel Dr. “is sort of like asking the parent‟s permission. we don‟t do anything around here. it‟s a sacred thing to get a blessing from a Monarch.” His shoulders shrugged and he smiled that irresistible smile. already turning the knob on the door. 41 .” “Don‟t worry so much Sugar.“Asking for your blessing. Don‟t we?” I asked Cael. knowing his love of all things romantic and saw his translucent excitement. nothing more.” “You are aware that we aren‟t Monarch‟s right?” I asked Cael as we positioned two chairs behind the huge.” I reminded her. Liam and Rayna run this place. “Ray. we are just guests.” I pondered. Be right back. Joe.” Rayna exclaimed. “Well.” I looked over at Cael. “You heard Nicole.” “It just doesn‟t feel like it‟s our place. we kind of are. imagine getting a set of blessings.” He suggested. you really should meet with them as well.” “Exactly!” She exclaimed.” Rayna mumbled.” I groaned. official looking desk.” Cael couldn‟t hold back his enthusiasm. “Great.” I sort of felt like we were stealing their thunder by agreeing to meet with the couple. and we completely trust your judgment. “Oh yeah. “since you two are here. I folded like a tray table. “Besides you gave your blessing. “Although…it might be fun.

Either that or it would serve as practice for us being Monarchs. we were living a secluded life thousands of miles away from the epicenter. even though Cael was more than eager.“Really? I think that‟s the last thing you‟d want me to do. you‟re right.” He must have thought as far into it as I had. “Yeah. he was handpicked to run the vampire world but because of me.” I chose not to ask what it would be practice for. something I know will happen eventually. but still gives me an uneasy feeling since marriage was never anything I planned on. Being here reminded me of the feeling of holding him back from his destiny. not to mention psycho-analyzing everything and everyone. scratch that idea. it‟ll be good practice. 42 . Possibly practice for when we have a commitment ceremony of our own. “Just be yourself.” Channeling my father would include me guarding my cell phone like it‟s my best friend and running off to unknown locations when it rings. I knew it was one of two things that would send my stomach lurching. which was far more responsibility than I was ready to take on.

but that was to be expected. “Our pleasure. vampirism had a predisposition to turn an average human into a flawless specimen.” Both were beautiful.” the boy began. I just stared at him.” Cael said sympathetically. studying their body language and fighting the little voice in my head telling me to listen in on their thoughts. sure he‟d lost his mind.Chapter 6: A Life for a Life T wo young looking vampires entered the room and took a seat on the rock-hard couch opposite us. “I‟m Vin.” The dark haired boy said. “and this is my lovely fiancée Eve. I watched them very carefully. I‟m living proof. “We‟re very glad you agreed to meet with us. 43 .

“I just never felt like part of the human world. 44 . “I can‟t explain it. it sounded like. “I know it‟s not long.” she said hesitantly. “Well you see.” I was sure if I could still see auras. like I didn‟t belong. who nodded slowly. Who the hell was this girl? I wanted to ask if her mom was a fairy too. “She wasn‟t even scared of me. one I recognized. but it feels like we‟ve known each other forever. “I‟m sorry did I offend you?” Eve asked. and Vin…well he was hungry. in fact I asked him to change me.” “But why?” I asked and then immediately felt bad about the way I‟d said it. “She was so strong. it was guilt. “How long have you known each other?” Eve spoke up.” Those were my words.” she uttered.” “So you turned her instead.” Vin explained. “Did you want to be turned?” I asked Eve. Sadness? “How did you meet?” Cael asked. Vin‟s would have been dark gray.Cael leaned forward on the desk. he had a look. At the time I was just a random human to him. why on earth would you want to be a vampire?!? Not the way I intended for it to sound and there was no way to retract it after the fact. my thoughts.” I guessed.” I noticed something off about Vin‟s reaction to what she‟d just said. if you have a strange sense of humor. “Yes. I was wandering the streets alone at night.” That‟s when I was able to pin the look on his face. “Yeah. “Six months. “It‟s kind of a funny story. He was going to…” Eve paused and looked over at Vin. I couldn‟t take her life.

I spotted Rayna talking to the couple and called her over.” She chanted in the deep recesses of her mind. yes. “Is he wealthy?” 45 . “You just have to get through this. after all I was given the gift for a reason. I began pacing. “He won’t live to see Vegas. “No. I was left with no other option. I heard Cael ask a question but I couldn‟t get over the fact that Vin was so full of guilt over something that she was so clearly happy about. “Be convincing.” I went to the door and peeked out. not at all.” Cael shook his head.” “If something happened to Vin would everything go to Eve?” “Yes.” “What are you plans after the ceremony?” Cael asked.I tried to swallow my sudden burst of bitterness. then it’ll all be over. “We‟ll discuss it and get back to you.” She answered. While Vin was explaining their honeymoon plans.” Vin thanked us again and the second they left the room. I quickly closed the door. Privacy or not.” “Okay.” I kicked Cael under the desk as a signal that he should take over the questioning before I staked this girl. I heard a faint whisper from Eve. “I think she‟s going to kill him. “Vampire commitment ceremonies are like legal marriages right?” I asked. Pulling her in. it didn‟t add up. Concentrating only on Eve I listened closely to her thoughts as Cael continued asking questions. You can do it. “They‟re so happy.” I said sternly.” “Her thoughts say otherwise. “Pretty similar.” “That can‟t be right.

for me. that can‟t be. “Luckily not for long. she said „He won‟t live to see Vegas.‟ She‟s going to kill him. “I love him. I heard her thoughts. what are we going to do with all these flowers?” Rayna said more to herself than us.” “No. Why am I being drilled?” 46 .” “And Vin? I‟d like to know how you really feel about him. ha! It’s the only reason I’m with that bumbling idiot. the other ones didn’t ask this many questions. what are you feelings on the matter?” “Curse. “I‟m just wondering.” “Why don‟t you try to put it into words?” I prodded. annoyed.“He comes from a clan that‟s very well off. pretending to form an answer.” I resumed pacing. “Like I said.” Rayna stuttered. “It‟s hard to put into words. “Is something wrong?” she asked in a translucently innocent voice. Eve re-entered the room and took a seat. maybe to make it official. Or maybe it‟s her way of covering her tracks so it can look like an accident. but her thoughts began to fill with worry.” Her thoughts said. “She knows something. “Some of us see immortality as a curse.” “Rayna.” She touched her face.” I asked.” “Alright. “She‟s going to kill him and take everything. What is this about?” Rayna asked.” She said.” I asked. yes. or maybe it was his idea and she‟s just appeasing him. Pretend everything‟s fine and send her back in. concerned. “I want to make sure.” “But. “why would they go to all the trouble of coming here?” “I don‟t know. it was a blessing.

I don‟t know what you‟re trying to imply but…” “You can drop the act. “How would she know that? What’s going on? I need to get out of here!” Eve made a lunge for the door but Cael was able to block her. I can‟t believe such a travesty escaped us. I‟m not going to stay here and take this. unless they become a threat to your existence. “She‟ll be held there until we can arrange a trial. you saved a life.” “Sid.” She was too frazzled to answer. One of those laws being: Don‟t kill your own. I had to block out her thoughts. it was heartbreaking.” I told her.“Do you often kill those you love?” She shot up. they were starting to resurrect my former headache. Thank you Sidney. but was now used as a holding cell for vampires that broke the laws set up by the Monarch. I wanted to see a happy couple perform their vows in 47 .” “I‟m really sorry about the wedding. “Then why do I feel so horrible?” My head dropped.” Cael said. “Because you wanted to believe in love and this was just another example of it failing.” He was right. deep down I wanted to watch the wedding take place. I need to explain this to Vin. “What I don‟t understand is why you would come here to have a wedding if you just planned on murdering your new husband. brushing my hair out of my face.” I watched as Rayna pulled Vin aside in the hallway and told him that the love of his life planned to destroy him. “Listen. I called Rayna back in and two guards took Eve down to the dungeon that used to house humans. don‟t apologize. “You saved him. Now I must excuse myself. “What will happen to her now?” I asked Rayna. “What?” Her thoughts were everywhere.

“We‟re going to be fine. “Sid. to profess their deep and eternal love for one another. “I promise I‟ll never try to kill you.” 48 .” I half smiled. It was difficult to imagine my life without Cael in it. “Ditto.” he consoled. “We aren‟t them and we aren‟t your parents.” “I know. but I also knew of more failed attempts at love than not.front of a crowd. you worry too much.” In a way I knew and was able to understand that.” I hope so. I thought. Who succeeded anymore? I started to question whether or not Cael and I would truly make it.” He whispered as he placed a soft kiss on my cheek. “We won‟t fail.

pretty good. 49 . I‟ve basically become Taran‟s protégé. spotting the huge man lumbering toward us at an unnerving pace. “Vince! I thought I recognized that voice.” I said excitedly.Chapter 7: New Heights “W hat did I miss?” A male voice echoed from the hallway.” I said.”Cael took his hand to shake it.” “Speak of the devil. “Sid? Cael? What are you guys doing so far from home?” he teased. “Somebody has to check up on you. I grabbed Cael and stepped into the hall. Which is…interesting. “How is everything?” “All in all. but pulled him in for a man-hug instead.

“Everythun‟s alright.” “Uh. “Well ya look the same. I‟ll make him. right?” He asked. “I don‟t know.” I had forgotten the intensity that is Taran. the two of ya will be a mighty big help settin‟ up. “I‟ll have to talk to Liam.” “Well why not?” Taran asked. Sure does my heart good to see ya again. there has to be someone else who might want to…oh I don‟t know renew their vows?” I winked in Rayna‟s direction. “It‟s good to be back. If he doesn‟t agree to it. I didn‟t want to dwell on the situation. “I reckon it‟s probly good. concerned. but maybe. “Our little mind reader discovered Eve‟s real plans.” I wondered how many more times I would have to explain that and made a mental note to call next time.” 50 .” She contorted her lips as she imagined the possibilities. “Yes. “I‟m afraid there isn‟t going to be a ceremony. Taran set us back down and admired each of us from head to toe.” she explained. we sure have missed ya „round here. “We can‟t let all the decorations go to waste.” Rayna interjected. “Everything is fine.” I said convincingly.” I laughed softly and shook my head.” “What are you waiting for?” Cael prompted. “Well that‟s great. and the thickness of his Scottish accent. She saved Vin‟s life. making his words nearly undecipherable. “Might be fun. we‟re just visiting.” He scratched his furry red beard. I can‟t figure if that‟s a good thing or a bad „un.” I said. “Go talk to him.He grabbed Cael and me lifting us off the ground in a massive bear hug.

” Vince sighed.” Taran laughed that huge laugh that only he can do. Vince lunged down the hallway.” “God Sid. “Whoa there big guy.” Cael smiled. pointing at Vince.” I said holding out my hands and raising the right one.” Vince said. left 51 . “you can be such a downer.“Oh hell no!” I said shaking my head. I couldn‟t stop the memories from taking over.” Taran threw his big. “You heard the lady.” I grinned.” Taran said. so Liam can feed off him or her and turn into a normal vampire so you‟re able to control his mind and make him take part of a vow renewal. “in the middle of the forest. “Let‟s find out what we‟re doing with all these decorations. What‟s a little wild fire between friends?” I turned my head toward Taran. “Personally.” I clapped my hands together to emphasize my point. “But your idea‟s good too. “What do you say we lock the pyro up? You know. “raging fire…” then the left hand.” “I was thinking more along the lines of talking him into it. when we were both terrified for our lives. “off to the dungeon with ya!” He was kidding. once he got his attention. for his own safety. “probably not the best combination. palm facing up. I knew that. but the chills were unshakable. I‟m all for starting a bonfire.‟ I‟m tired just explaining it. remembering back to a time when Vince and I were both prisoners in the rock cells. patting Taran‟s huge shoulder. he pointed to his ear. trying to hold in the roaring laughter. Who‟s with me?” “Let‟s see. “We are not going through the whole „turn a mortal into a vamp.” Still walking he turned to face us. “extra sensitive hearing. it bounced off the walls like a lethal rubber ball. motioning us to follow him. meaty hand over his mouth.

and even better. but couldn‟t hear his words over the determined voices that seemed hell bent on sending me to a padded room. when it came to that particular haunting memory that is. I sealed my eyes closed and tried to think of anything but the voices.” I said. I fell to my knees cradling my head. there didn‟t seem to be a way to block out so many panicked thoughts. everything was silent. left the safety of the semi-quiet hallway and immersed myself into the crowded room. I slowly opened my eyes and looked up at Cael. in this instance Taran‟s teachings weren‟t successful. “Are you alright?” Cael asked putting his hand gently on my shoulder. I listened closely. or stand.” I breathed a sigh of relief. Suddenly. forget what just happened. trying to conceal the crack in my voice. Cael bent down beside me. “No. Immediately the thoughts swarming around the room hit me all at once like a cannonball to the head. He scooped me up into his arms and carried me through the crowd. I pulled the trigger on the proverbial gun. but couldn‟t hear anything. Vince was lucky to have no recollection of the events that took place before his change. I half-nodded. I pushed the memories back and replaced my sadness with a smile. Standing in the hall and looking out into the cathedral. in my head they sounded like an angry swarm of bees. hoping they would follow. “Can you still hear them?” he asked. “Let‟s go burn some decorations!” I exclaimed and walked ahead. “Yeah. so intensely that they drowned out my ability to think. 52 . I looked around to find everyone at a standstill and three sets of concerned eyes focused on me. I could see his lips moving. I saw the same unknown faces racing back and forth. I‟m fine.there to rot with no hope.

What was the correlation between having royal blood and feeling the obligation to own a table? They had no use for them. I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him in closer.” I held onto Cael‟s arms while I tested my legs. blood-drinking dinner. “Really? Anything?” “Anything.“What was different this time?” he questioned as he placed my feet on the ground.” He brushed his fingertip over my lips. His lips touched mine and the world around us disappeared. “What is it?” I asked. “were there more of them?” “Their thoughts were really loud and panicky. startled. It felt like we were floating. 53 .” He confirmed.” “Nicole was different. “Look down. “I don‟t know…Nicole. “Kiss me. “and the people…they‟re here to help right? Sidney. “but I wasn‟t. all the people that we‟ve never seen before. I turned around to face the room.” I smiled.” He pointed. “Like what?” He pulled me close to him and wrapped his arms around my waist.” “Yeah but at least I‟m not thinking about the fairy thing. but maybe she‟s just coming out of her shell. leaving only the two of us. The seemingly sixty-foot table indicated we were in the dining room.” “There‟s that smile. does any of this strike you as odd?” I asked him. once satisfied that they weren‟t going to give out me again. “You know. only to have him suddenly draw back. I‟d do anything for that smile. but seemed to have the ability to use any excuse to have a formal sitdown. well now I am.” His touch caused me to shiver.” I said tilting my head up. sweetheart. “Cael.” He explained. stop worrying.

“You‟ll be the most beautiful leader of doom the world has ever seen.” I told her. “I don‟t even know how I did it. plus it was pretty exhilarating!” “You think its fun? You learn to fly.” Before I could respond the massive wooden door creaked open and Rayna popped her head in. It wasn‟t just a feeling.” “I rallied the troops is it alright if they come in?” she shifted her head toward the door. I‟d become consumed with power and probably send the world head first into a flaming apocalypse with me as their leader. was the floor.” “Not a chance. “You did it!” Cael said proudly. “Yeah.” “Come on. “Everything okay?” she asked.” I batted my eyelashes. I concentrated on them until I felt the floor under my feet. mind control for flight.” He offered. Sign me up for the Armageddon. and then you can do it as often as you want. “How the hell did that happen?!?” He looked directly in my eyes. but I‟m going to have to pass.About three feet below us. I strayed from his face and thought about gravity. but how do we get down?” “How‟d you get down last time?” I thought back to the first and only time I‟d flown and remembered the imaginary weights tied to my ankles. “Kay. “Tempting. I want a good seat. “I just had to get away from all the thinking that‟s going on out there.” “I wish it was that easy. you have to hone in on your skills. I‟ll trade ya.” I muttered stubbornly. come in. 54 . we really were levitating. “Take us up again. “I guess I swept you off your feet.” He said with a seductive grin.

” “Really think. he waved and flashed me a brilliant smile as he ran to Cael and threw his arms around him. “Okay guys.” Vince stepped into their huddle. “No. Liam was the last one through the door. “How is everything in California?” 55 . Cael‟s mouth turned up into a smirk and his head shook back and forth.” Cael was insisting now.” Liam said nodding and pointing at Vince.” Liam began. “he has a point. with Liam perched firmly at the head of the huge oak monstrosity. “So. “shall we sit around the table and catch up?” How could I have seen that coming.“Of course!” I ran to the door and opened it wide enough to let them in. “the phone call isn‟t important. I would remember a phone call…” “Of course you would honey. “I don‟t know Liam. Liam appeared to be deep in thought for about three seconds. “Why didn‟t you tell me you were coming?” he asked as he released his arms.” Cael prodded. Each of them greeted me sympathetically as they entered the room.” Rayna consoled. as she said the words her head contradicted them by moving slowly from side to side. Although. I would remember that. vampire men and their damn tables! We all took a seat around the gigantic rectangle. Great. “Not ringing any bells. “Well now that that‟s settled.” “Really think about it. while being cautious to keep enough of a barrier between me and the crowd that lurked outside.” Liam turned around gracefully.” he chuckled. We‟re just glad you didn‟t forget about us. “do you even remember when I called?” “You called?” He asked with a tilt of his head. leading me to believe they all knew about my embarrassing meltdown.” “Yes.

” “You‟re sure there‟s not even the slightest chance that I could be one of them?” “I‟m sorry to be the one to tell ya.” he said.“Nothing‟s wrong.” I said defensively and out of impulse. appearing completely clueless. “Aye. “No. we‟re just visiting. “it sure would explain a lot. that kind a thing is rare. “Sidney found out she‟s half fairy and I was just wondering…” He was rapidly cut off by Taran.” So today I‟d basically just made one giant jackass of myself. Not to 56 . “There‟s something I wanted to ask.” Taran said in light-bulb-moment tone. and honestly. Like how yer transformation happened faster than I‟ve ever seen one go before and seein‟ as how you had a gift before you became a Monarch. part of me did as well. “Although. scatterbrained. I completely expected to see him raise his hand. pushed my annoyance back temporarily and shifted in my seat to face Taran.” he glanced at me briefly with a look that I quickly pegged as guilt and then swiftly turned back the others. “You‟ve actually met fairies?” All I could think about was the pain and betrayal Kylie would feel if Taran‟s words were true. Cael fidgeted a bit in his chair. “Rayna explained that when she told me you two had arrived. “How can you be so sure?” “They‟re wee little things. like he wanted to say something but wasn‟t sure if he should.” How was I going to break the news to Kylie? This would break her heart. I used to pay them visits. I‟ve met many a fairy in my day and you are not a Fairy. Amazin‟ little species. She wanted it to be true so badly. I‟m afraid not.” I glared at Cael. “Lass. and…you aren‟t.” Taran paused as if thinking over all possibilities. oh and let‟s not forget my bouts with emotional breakdowns.

lass you don‟t look like a vampire at all. that‟s for sure. Now I‟m not saying yer a fairy.mention your looks. Oh and yer memories. no vampire can. but maybe. yer half of somethin‟ else entirely. just maybe. none of us can recall our human lives.” 57 . not one I‟ve ever met.

When that baby grew up it fell in love with 58 . I was grateful to him for bringing up something I never would have been able to. but a benefit nonetheless. Actually. most likely starting with a fairy who fell in love with a different kind of small mythical creature (gnomes and nymphs were a few possibilities) then they had a half-breed baby. Taran‟s words were just an added bonus. It felt good to have my secret out in the open and it was nice to have knowledgeable people to discuss it with. a double-sided bonus. She constructed a fictitious family tree. stating that I could have come from any number of things. each one more outlandish than the first. Rayna‟s was the most thought out and the most obscure.Chapter 8: Perfect Confusion M y momentary lapse of anger toward Cael vanished as quickly as it had appeared. Everyone had their own theory.

I saw Nicole. Now all I had do was find her. but her eyes betrayed her as they flooded with sadness. She nodded and plastered on a fake smile.” she whispered. I stood there and watched them renew their vows to one another and in a way. “Are you okay?” I mouthed. “You may kiss yer bride. “It‟s just so…beautiful. like she‟d been possessed by a frighteningly cheery demon. part human. Nicole had been acting completely different since we‟d arrived.a slightly larger creature and so on and so forth until I came along. Gently. her head down and her body quivering. “I do. I left her thoughts to herself and ignored the devil sitting on my shoulder trying to convince me to listen in. and as worried as I was about her. The theories were both interesting and unnerving. I knew there was only one person alive who would be able to put an end to the questions that constantly tugged at my sleeve like a child that can‟t live without a particular toy. Looking at the chair to my left. I tapped her shoulder and she slowly lifted her head in my direction. part complete mixture of everything. 59 . they‟d had their rough patches (like when he almost killed her) but Liam and Rayna had been married for nearly a hundred years and their love was stronger now than it had ever been before.” Liam said. Now and always. answering “Reverend” Taran‟s question. Sure. it reaffirmed my faith in marriage. Definitely not the Nicole I once knew. Liam and Rayna had decided—after much prodding on my part—to take over the commitment ceremony as their own. As they kissed I felt the body next to me shake.” Taran granted.

It‟s not a big deal.” I watched him walk out of the room and close the massive double-doors behind him. I was slightly offended that she‟d think so little of me. No one should have to feel the pain of heartbreak. then I turned to Nicole.” I didn‟t have words to console her so I pulled her into a hug.” Her words were about as convincing as her eyes.” Her hands formed covers over her ears. “Vince and I…” she hesitated. that is.” “Oh Nicole. “I know something is bothering you.” I told Cael. If vampires were able to produce tears. but I‟m here now. “Go ahead. It‟s just seeing the ceremony…I guess I thought we‟d have that someday. I wouldn‟t wish it on my worst enemy. except Cael. hands clutched. not your unspoken ones. “We just weren‟t meant to be. Everyone followed shortly after—everyone. “There‟s nothing much to talk about.” She shook her head. “Do you want to talk about it?” I asked. I haven‟t.” she whispered and broke eye contact. I was someone you came to 60 . “I‟ll be right there. Nicole pulled out of the hug and held her face for a brief moment.” “I was fine. to listen to your words.Liam and Rayna trotted down the aisle.” I found myself—yet again—at a loss for words. trying to lift it out of her and place it inside me. I‟m so sorry to hear that. then turned to me. and the silently sobbing girl beside me. really. “we aren‟t together anymore.” “I guess you‟ll find out eventually anyway. instead there was just silence as I channeled the pain she felt. “You‟ve been listening haven‟t you?” She thought I‟d read her thoughts. I was never a go-to person for cheering people up. myself. “I‟m okay. “No Nicole. we would have been sobbing all over each other.

“Vince doesn‟t deserve you. sticking to my strong suit.” “Our relationship is far from perfect. “No.” Feeling slightly insulted. I stood up.” Well I‟d failed.” I said. “he deserves so much better. I asked.” She lifted her head and looked at me again. That would have been a bad move. “Do you believe in fate?” I asked.” her body shook again.when you wanted to hate someone. I was good at that. but it still took everything I had to keep from setting her straight. you have the perfect life. If you‟d like to continue this talk. Sidney. “And why is that?” “Because you and Cael have the perfect relationship. “You wouldn‟t understand. miserably. “Okay…how about true love?” “Not anymore. Just like anyone. 61 . “You‟re right. “There was a time when I thought I did. in hopes of recovering her spirits.” “Face it. “It‟s complicated. her dirty blonde hair creating a curtain between us as it cascaded over her face. I knew it wasn‟t coming from her. we have our ups and downs. and then left quickly before I would say anything I‟d regret. Picture it: Every patient leaving the office on the verge of suicide when all they‟d come in to discuss was a minor tiff they‟d gotten into with their spouse. Noting that our conversation had taken a turn for the worst. “I‟m going to join everyone for the reception.” There was that word again: Perfect. I‟m always available.” she answered flatly. I guess it‟s a good thing I never followed in Dr.” “Then you have to get him back!” I concluded. Joe‟s footsteps and became a psychiatrist. and that it was a redirection of her pain.” She mumbled while retaining her locked gaze with her feet.” I said.

but she never surfaced. “Yeah.I leaned against the entrance to the dining room. During the ceremony.” I sighed. “I think someone else should talk to her. “Do you know why?” “Not a clue. That was really sweet of you. “She and Vince broke up.” A half an hour later the door creaked open and Cael walked out with a look of shock on his face. “I think I hindered the situation more than anything. The room was brimming over with happiness.” I hushed my voice into a low whisper. Unfortunately.” “Did you find out what‟s going on with her at least?” “Yeah. I was able to hear over the quiet whines. it had been nice. Ha! Tried and made things worse.” Tried. Good luck. sit-down events. calm. “In terms of jealousy…how much are you affected by it?” 62 . You should take a stab at it. I watched the door waiting to see Nicole. like everything made sense now. it was too much happiness.” “Oh. She didn‟t want to go into details. “What happened?” I asked. at least you tried. “On a scale of one to ten…about a three. knowing I couldn‟t step foot inside. “Um…” Cael lifted his eyebrow. I guess I‟m restricted to nice. Cael spotted me and was at my side in an instant. “How did it go?” he asked. For all I knew Nicole was searching for a sharp piece of wood to plunge into her heart.” “I guess it couldn‟t hurt. I knew if I entered the packed room.” “Well.” He said nodding his head. the humming would become overwhelming. Is she still in there?” he asked pointing to the double-doors.

” I pried his hands away from my shoulders and took a step toward the room where she resided.” “Excuse me?” I gasped. “She and I need to have a friendly little chat.” Nicole. I love you.” “I think I handle it okay. “She said. that was all that mattered.” He placed his hands on my shoulders. and I didn‟t particularly care. Why?” I handled it well when our entire school wanted him. not because she wanted me. How could I have overlooked such a thing? “I have a few choice words I need to tell her.” I pointed. she wants you Cael! So tell me. “We just need to give her some time. “Sid. that‟s all.“Are you asking me if I‟m a jealous person?” “Yes.” He said with a half smile. “you lied about jealousy. calm down. only to be caught mid-step. she told me over and over that she knows how happy you and I are together. it‟s not her fault.” His cool breath along my neck grounded me and allowed me to hear his words. of all people. “left Vince because she wants you?!” I could hear the anger in my voice. “And secondly. because he wasn’t me. in love with Cael.” “Now you‟re just mincing words.” “Nicole? that Nicole in there. He was right. “She broke up with Vince because he wasn‟t… well… me. 63 . “First of all. and that‟s all that matters. My Cael. It was all very awkward.” he paused like he didn‟t know how to word his statement.” I said in the most innocent voice I could muster. when did she realize she was in love with you?” “Honey. She‟s just confused right now. my eyebrow cocked. He pulled me into him backwards and laid his head on my shoulder.

apologized for leaving so unexpectedly. joy. and promised to visit again soon—after calling first. pain and premeditated murder. hate. Leaving was bitter sweet. it was exactly the visit I expected. but I knew it had to be done. Our trip to Romania was filled with love. Overall. 64 .We said our goodbyes.

“It‟s Kylie.Chapter 9: Introduction to Magic he last two weeks we‟d been home. I had decided to spend dwelling on the events that haunted me. T I must not have been paying close enough attention.” 65 . because the faint knock on the door startled me and caused the mascara in my hand to soar across the bathroom floor wedging itself under the lip of the cabinet. “Can you get that?” I shouted at Cael. Just as I was on the verge of blossoming into a full-blown lunatic. Kylie‟s last day of school had finally come. the day arrived. and it was time for us to pack again and depart on our—possibly pointless— journey.

” “What do you mean?” I could clearly see her looking at the map.” He chuckled. “Just trying to be helpful. I packed only the necessities. I knew that. If she had been angry with me.“I know. “Well. “No. I didn‟t want to be burdened down. lugging a huge suitcase everywhere with me. This time. Kylie sat at the barstool. “Is everybody ready?” I asked. “I‟m not really sure where we‟re headed. “What does this mean?” 66 . Gingerbread. Once retrieved. contorting my head. I closed the zipper and made my way for the living room. frustrated.” I hovered over the map. trying to make it work. Right. “It‟s…well…it‟s blank. “Um…” she tapped the paper with a concerned look on her face. It was completely bare. Kylie continued tapping it with that worried look growing more frantic. Cael nodded.” Kylie stuttered. “You didn‟t think to look at the map before today?” I asked.” I huffed as I got down on my stomach and fished around for the wayward mascara. I hadn‟t spoken to her—aside from texting—since our little argument on my birthday. I took one final look in the backpack to make sure I had everything I would need for the trip. Once satisfied. there was no trace of it now. Nothing more than a ratty old piece of stained paper. I threw it in my make-up bag and hurried to my backpack. holding a piece of parchment paper. I have a super-human sense of smell too. her excitement level clearly brimming over as she smoothed out the map.” Her eyes filled up and began releasing tears down her cheeks.

the paper began drawing a box. but as soon as her fingers touched the edge.” I placed my fingertip on top of the line and followed it from the first “X” to the next. Hell. black lines appeared on it. Now you must trust it. 67 . breaking the silence. one way out of my league. and the second my fingers left the page it went completely blank. It remained just paper. “Maybe your mom knows how it works?” Cael suggested. I‟d seen enough magic to believe in something like that. filling the sheet. What the hell just happened? Mind control and flying are one thing.“We‟ll figure it out. Inside the box. I knew you would figure out the secret to the map. They read: Well done. We watched as a line materialized. “Did it just do what I think it did?” Cael asked. you must go to Georgia. She let go and it was blank again. I took a step away from the eerie piece of paper. it won’t lead you astray. our faces both said something along the lines of. I set it down in front of her and placed both of our hands on the aged parchment. I grabbed the map. “What about…” Kylie went to take the paper from my hands. Kylie‟s finger followed mine and as we came to the end. flipped it over and inspected every inch of it. First. I looked at Kylie and knew her expression mirrored mine perfectly.” I soothed. magical maps are a whole new ballpark. It showed an “X” with a single trail leading to another “X. one letter at a time. “That‟s it!” Maybe it had to be activated. calligraphy style words appeared.

” I couldn‟t tear my eyes away from the blank paper.” He confirmed that I hadn‟t imagined it. Well. If people knew how kind. here.” Kylie held out a wad of money. are you alright?” She hopped up from the stool. warm and loving vampires can be. “This trip is on me.‟” “Thanks Cael. “I guess you did. 68 .” I said handing it back to her. “Hold on to this. still not believing what had happened and noticed Kylie couldn‟t either. clutching the map and started waving it around.” “Oh. “Kyle.“That depends. we better book a flight to the peach state. It was his way.” Cael announced. “Did you just see the map magically create a path and then write us a letter?” “Yeah. “Mom wanted me to give this to you.” my voice cracked.” Kylie smiled. “My way of saying „thank you for letting me tag along. he was the most generous being I‟d ever met. “Then you saw right.” I smiled. “See! I told you!” “Yeah. everybody would want to date one.” I took the crumpled bills from her hand and concluded that it must have been a couple hundred dollars.

Most were local. A woman who had just exited walked past me looking half-dead. Just as I was getting a rhythm to my pacing. and the trips we would take. leaving us plenty of time to sit at our gate in the chairs that lean too far back. I took great pleasure in knowing I would never feel that kind of jet lag again. our plane docked and its occupants made their way neatly—and a little disheveled—off the giant metal brute.Chapter 10: Dead Space L AX was conveniently located forty-five minutes from the apartment. and wait. and all 69 . When we settled into our seats I was reminded of my childhood. Being impatient—as I tend to be—I spent most of that time pacing and feeling a little like a caged beast.

“Do you want some gum? I‟ve heard it helps. I‟m not really in the mood to kill a plane-full of people. you‟re impossible! Do you want me to change you? Because so help me I‟ll do it right now in front of all these people. The first time I flew to Romania with Cael was the first time I‟d ever been in a plane. Kylie. a look I could recognize and sympathize with.” “Uh. “God. I was reminded of all of this when I saw the anxious look on Kylie‟s face. “Dramamine?” “Nope. “Okay.” Cael presented her with an onslaught of questions trying to keep her mind busy and her mouth moving. bottom lip quivering.” she frowned. No. it‟s fine. “that probably wouldn‟t be the best idea. Kylie had always been the 70 . switch me seats. “Kyle.” Her face screamed. can you hear the waves? Feel the sun?” She shook her head violently and clutched the armrests like her life depended on them.” “No. still shaking her head.” He whispered the word “kill” so softly I could barely hear it. We‟re on the beach.we‟re within driving distance. I watched as she loosened her grip on the armrests and began putting her hands to better use—emphasizing her stories. Did you know more people die in car accidents than in plane crashes?” Her head turned toward me. Get me outta here! “Hard liquor?” “Not Helping!” she growled. and it probably helps if you‟re madly in love with them. Let me give it a try. building a sandcastle. let me try again. The beach scenario must only work if the person telling you about it is doing so in a sultry. soothing voice. eyebrows drawn in.” Cael interjected. “Precious.

Why couldn‟t I have thought of that? Cael listened diligently while Kylie yammered on about herself and he made sure to fill any dead space with another question—by the looks of it he was doing more formulating than listening. 71 . your mom wouldn‟t send us all over the county…would she?” “What‟s a mom if she doesn‟t make you walk over hot coals?” I had a feeling this wouldn‟t be the end of our journey by a long shot. don‟t mention it to her okay?” I said.kind of person that did most of her talking with her hands. She quickly passed out with her cheek pressed firmly against the cold plastic window. but decided not to risk it. “This will probably be the only flight we‟ll have to take right? I mean. but she didn‟t seem to mind. The flight continued this way until I noticed Kylie‟s eyes drooping. “You got it. I thought about wedging a pillow between her face and the plastic. nudging Cael. “If she wakes up and half of her face is terribly red and misshapen. Something deep inside told me this was only the beginning. and the yawns were starting to take over.” He whispered.

I could finally see the bright lights of Atlanta from twenty-thousand feet in the air. Georgia. 72 .Chapter 11: Navigational Error ollowing a brief layover in Phoenix. F The three of us stood outside the airport and took in our surroundings. The city lights from the previous night began to dim as the morning sun bathed the skyscrapers in a golden haze. but I could already feel the humidity. pretending Kylie‟s face looked completely normal—and not at all blotchy—and watching Cael attack Kylie with more questions until she finally fell asleep. The plane was still sealed up tighter than a new CD. A little after four in the morning we skidded to stop in Atlanta.

Startled. my eyes still studying the sun. there a box drew itself and started to write: 73 . while I pointed to a non-luxury car explaining how the Ford Taurus would have been more practical—it was quickly becoming a tradition.” She wiped the pooling slobber from the corner of her mouth and released a huge yawn.” He chuckled.” She patted her pockets absentmindedly.” Kylie muttered. blocking our line of vision. “Right. We followed the short line and stopped at the “X”. “The map. “On second thought. I noticed her bottom jaw open and a small trail of drool appeared at the corner. Okay?” I asked gently. When she became mildly coherent. She‟d only been unsupervised for five minutes and had already fallen asleep.” “Right. Upon further inspection her eyes were closed and her hands had stopped their search. “Your magic map might scare people. she‟d fallen asleep while standing up…like a horse! “Kylie!” I said. still half asleep. we just need to figure out where we‟re going first. she popped her eyes wide open and looked around confused.” Cael suggested. the map. a shorter one this time. tapping her on the shoulder. we placed our hands on the map and watched a new trail form. Cael‟s only reply was a gleam in his eye and a huge smile on his face before sliding behind the wheel.“What‟s the plan?” I asked. Kylie snuggled into the backseat of the Audi. “Yeah? What? I‟m up!” “You‟ll be able to sleep soon. It‟s in my bag. I had to shake Kylie again. and watching its slow rise into the sky. “The map would probably be a good place to start. Cael shifted his position and stood in front of Kylie and me. we should probably get the car first.

A fact I should have explained to Cael before he entrusted me with the Georgia state map. although we weren‟t about to risk it. It wasn‟t until Kylie complained for the thirteenth time that Cael questioned my navigational skills. “What‟s wrong?” I asked in a hushed tone. I turned to her and saw her eyelids fight to open and an agitated groan escape her lips. for fear we‟d wake the sleeping human. “I have to pee. Cael pulled out an area map and charted the best route. She grunted again. and cruised down the first available exit. That didn‟t stop me from confidently spouting out directions and getting us hopelessly lost though. who appeared so out of it we could have paraded a marching band in front of her and she wouldn‟t have woken up. For over an hour I sat silently still and watched the lush. There was no sound. Georgia landscape fly by. I wasn‟t even sure I was holding it correctly.” “I‟m on it!” Cael said as he twisted the steering wheel.” He said quietly for Kylie‟s consideration as she‟d already passed out again. To be completely honest. until Kylie started thrashing around in the backseat. We waited for more.Savannah That was all it said. forcing me to fess up that I 74 . I‟d never been very good at navigating. green. apart from the rubber tires gliding over the asphalt and the low hum of the engine. “We should be there in about three and half hours or so. but it never came. Cael and I tried not to speak.

he stepped closer to the booth and ran his hand over the wooden frame. Without responding.had no idea where we were or where we‟d end up if we continued on my made-up route. and basically everything you could imagine. he made his way inside the stall and stood behind the counter with the women.” I pointed to the sign. staring at the booth. where three older woman in sun hats were selling peach-related merchandise: Bright colorful T-shirts. visors. “Cael?” Like I hadn‟t said a word.” So much Peach Paraphernalia! I had no idea the number of things you could make out of peaches. He was in some kind of bizarre trance. wine glasses. everything from burgers to the frozen fruit on a stick. Cael pulled to the side of the road and we all looked around trying to find any indicator of where we were. socks. “Do you want a shirt?” I asked. 75 . “What can I get for you dear?” The old woman asked him. while Cael and I strolled around the festival pointing and gawking at the exhibits. “GA Peach Festival „Home of the World‟s Largest Peach Cobbler.” I told the ladies as I grabbed his arm and pulled him out of their personal bubble. I forced him to sit down at a nearby bench and snapped repeatedly trying to compel him out of his daydream. He stopped abruptly in front of a small stand. “they probably have a bathroom.‟” “Odds are. Kylie had taken off in a mad haste to find anything resembling a bathroom. He just stood there. “I‟m so sorry. and all the items were adorned with giant peaches. It was then that we saw the sign.

” “Since when do you question a vision?” It felt odd being the positive one. memories don‟t come back to us. “I think this is where they brought me…to heal people.” I concluded after listening briefly to their conversation. “Screw them. they thought Cael was insane or on drugs.He shook his head and widened his eyes. “Taran said you came from a Southern state. I remember it…from another life. Maybe no other vampire ever took the same steps in the same places they did as a human. like he‟d just been woken up.” “Cael got some of his memories back.” The way he said it sounded like he was as skeptical as me. It can‟t be real though. “That‟s great!” 76 .” I explained. or been brought to life. I saw myself. “What just happened?” I asked. “I remember…” he muttered.” “I should go apologize to them. “What are we happy about?” Kylie asked before taking another bite of her personal slice of “The World‟s Largest Peach Cobbler. it wasn‟t possible…Taran said there wasn‟t a vampire walking this earth— besides me—who had any recollection of their past.” He looked over at the three senior citizens to find them openly gawking in our direction. with my parents. they couldn‟t decide which. “I‟m so happy for you!” I squealed once we were inside the safety of the car. as a human.” “Human memories?” It couldn‟t be. “I think so. “What do you remember?” “That booth.

“It was kind of nice to have a glimpse. but that would be like asking someone in this day and age if they remember a particular infomercial.” I thought about doing it anyway. and were quickly looked over.” Cael smiled and pulled his sunglasses from his hair. Most healers were scammers.“Yeah. asking the old ladies if their mothers remembered a teenage healer. placing them securely on the bridge of his nose. 77 .” “It‟s too bad there‟s no one living who would remember when you were alive. I would have questioned every person there.

” “Don‟t be so dramatic!” she huffed. I do. that‟s all. “Because Kylie doesn‟t want to perspire. “You guys don‟t have to sweat.” Kylie whined.Chapter 12: Taste M heat. y face pressed against the glass as I watched the sun radiate off the searing pavement. which was stopped at the entrance of Forsyth Park. The map had directed us 78 .” “I guess we‟re going back home then. “I would just prefer if we stayed in the air conditioned car.” “We can‟t very well drive through the park.” I told her. Herds of people walked slowly past the car. I could see each individual particle taking part in creating the extreme “I don‟t want to get out.” I said to Cael.

I held out the map and we placed our hands on its rough surface. The arrow instructed us to take the one immediately in front of us. 79 . because Kylie didn‟t want to walk around the historic landmark. beads of sweat began forming on every inch of her body. and immediately. as we had grown so accustomed to. I looked up to find four brickladen paths. stagnant cloud. “You really have to love Southern hospitality. this journey needed to begin. Suddenly. There weren‟t many people in the park. that pointed straight ahead. staring straight ahead and trying desperately not to make eye-contact with any more strangers. but must have realized there was no turning back now. I laughed on the inside. slowed his pace to wave at us. releasing the cool air that was trapped inside and replacing it with a muggy. Abruptly. letting it guide us to the exact location—which for all we knew could have been thousands of miles away. the arrow morphed itself into a circle with an “X” in the middle. and the bushes that lined the narrow walkway spilled over their small brick enclosure.” I said. We climbed out of the car. Kylie yelped like a hurt puppy. One where people were friendly and took time out of their day to wave at everyone they passed.” Cael said. “It‟s just weird. and yet here we sat. It wasn‟t a line. A man walking a Dalmatian. It was more frightening than the first time I had met a Kylie and I held the map out in front of us. it was like we were in a different time era. nodding to himself. The stone beneath our feet was damp from the moist heat. but the few that passed us made sure to meet our eyes and offer a huge smile. I pushed my door open. I‟d had enough of sitting. but an arrow.

She turned to me. There were three tiers. The people that surrounded us moments ago were gone as well. just to make sure she wasn‟t an illusion. “What did we do?” I tried to formulate an intelligent answer. It felt like the end of the world was taking place before our eyes.We stopped to further examine this new symbol when the sun vanished. Cael formed a bullhorn with his hands and pressed it against his mouth.” I looked closer at the fountain. and turned away from us to talk to an invisible person. trying to find a deeper meaning. the map did!” She pointed an accusatory finger at the magic map. Every human had disappeared. at the bottom were four mermen with instrumental horns that spewed water. not even an echo. “Hello?” he yelled. 80 . just as confused as me. a man appeared. and at the top there stood. what looked like a goddess. except Kylie. He sat on the lip of a huge circular water fountain. talking about the fountain. waiting for something to change. There was only silence. But there was no reply. “What do we do now?” Before anyone could answer. the weeping willow hanging over our heads went from crisp green to a dull. I could see the street over the shrubbery. I patted her back. Everything around us had taken on a sepia tone. “I‟m pretty sure we broke the world. the middle tier was lined with cranes. rust color. “Isn‟t it beautiful?” He said. reminiscent of an aged photograph. “It looks like it‟s straight out of Paris. I continued looking around. I glanced to either side of me.” “We didn‟t do it. it was vacant as well. to find both Cael and Kylie shrugging their shoulders.

her dark.” The man that was partially inside Cael told the others. even the formerly invisible woman took shape. in the background I could hear the sizzle of hamburger meat on the grill and the trickle of droplets of grease colliding with the flames. “She‟s just dehydrated. “Cael!” I tried to scream. his hand went straight through her and met the pavement. What kind of alternate universe. He placed his hand on her shoulder. rust colored hair fanned out. looking like a pool of blood. 81 . The horde of people made it to the woman and one man bent down right through Cael. I couldn‟t hear the inner workings of a single person there. Terrified. the party went completely silent. who was face down on the cement. end of the world setting. Everything hit my ears. My jaw flew open as I watched them laugh and talk about current events. clear as a bell.The man with the invisible companion threw his arm up in the air and motioned for more of his friends to join him. everything but their thoughts. The body of a woman lay mere inches from Cael‟s foot. I took a few steps back and watched the crowd running toward us. yet we hadn‟t heard a thing. All of a sudden. but didn‟t make contact. I performed a quick head count and tallied thirty-two participants joining in on the festivities. They were all holograms. He was too busy trying to find a way to help the ghost to hear me. All of them ran in the same direction. it was quickly becoming the setting of some kind of sepia-toned party set in the 80‟s. perhaps haunted ones. were we trapped in? Astonishment washed over me as more people came into view. as well as a barbeque. Balloons appeared out of thin air. toward a crumpled body. but it came out as a broken whisper. Cael bent down to assist the fallen woman.

“Glad you like it. Sarah‟s got more clothes than she needs. She walked with a sway like a model on the catwalk. yet exactly the same. “I can‟t thank you enough. but she was polished. When she was finished.” One man said. she disappeared behind a huge. and sampled everything they had to offer. 82 . “This is amazing!” she gushed inbetween mouthfuls. Help yourself!” And that‟s exactly what she did. Cael stood up and the three of us huddled together. and wished there was more they could have done for her. handing the scarlet-haired woman a plate of food. like she‟d never tasted food before. black. As soon as every trace of them was gone.” After she spoke. She hadn‟t aged a day. Her eyes were huge and innocent. and resembled a highsociety woman. “If only she‟d stayed. oak tree. Once they were finished eating. “When was the last time you ate?” She looked up at him. floral dress. She wore a flowing. There‟s plenty. completely bewildered. and it won‟t go un-rewarded. The remaining people discussed the woman for the remainder of the day. they gathered their things and left the park in the same fashion they‟d arrived: By fading into thin air. and heels. she turned to the people who had saved her life. but I promise to tell this story to everyone I encounter. “You‟re skinny as a toothpick!” Another woman said. The woman drank enough water to fill an ocean.” She replied weakly. like a child. Her eyes widened with every bite. Ma‟am.They all helped her to her feet and hoisted her back to their gathering place. Everyone will know of the good deed you did today. “It‟s been a while. and I know they would‟ve fit her. She ate quickly. looking very different. “Ma‟am?” One of the men said to the woman. the red-haired woman reappeared.

looking for symbolism. waved and smiled. Her hand waved over it gently and the chain camouflaged into the statue. the three of us walked closer to the fountain. We unfastened the latch and together we held the chain. and I knew we were back. and reached up to meet her hand. vibrant. A woman pushing a stroller walked past us. she tried to pull it away but was unable. then at the chain. I thought of the map. except for one small detail: One of them was wearing a stone necklace. The four mermen were identical. her finger ran along the chain. and then she was gone. The woman had left it there for us to find—she had to have—there was no other explanation. I felt like I should be feeling some ethereal connection to it. and looked directly at us. the stone transformed into gold. Suddenly. Kylie reached for it first. She held the delicate chain that draped around her neck. the park took on color again: Rich. 83 . Could the crimson-haired woman be our mother? Unsure of what do next. She glanced back at us. we consulted the only thing we had to turn to: The map. Without exchanging a word. looking like it was chiseled out of stone. but I couldn‟t delve deep enough to find the meaning. admiring it. unimaginable colors. and then unfastened it and held it up. She took the gold chain and wrapped it around the neck of the granite merman. the moment both of our hands touched it.The woman stopped in front of the fountain.

bored to death for nearly six hours while we drove through the Carolinas unable to talk—for fear of waking Kylie. Cael clicked on the dim. of course. She. grabbed Kylie by the wrist and whacked her hand on the map. I traced the path with my finger and 84 . but I‟d forgotten how much sleep is required when you‟re a human. I was glad to share this somewhat strange experience with her. I was a little agitated when we came to the Virginia border and I reached back. Don‟t get me wrong. or me at least. was still asleep.” The map had written.Chapter 13: Smell “V irginia. overhead light and we watched as a line formed on the map. Rendering us. Admittedly.

” It almost sounded like she snarled at me.” I smirked. Another angry groan escaped Kylie‟s lips. When we reached the end. “As far as I know. “When does it cross the line between her sleeping off jetlag and me being within my rights to kill her?” I asked.” I said. and threw the “key” behind him.controlled Kylie‟s dead hand with my other.” “Yeah. “No. “You have to get up sometime. 85 . you know. “We‟ll be there in an hour. So we‟re in the clear. “Salem?” I asked pointing feverishly to the city neighboring Roanoke. “I seem to recall someone else sleeping quite a bit…” he cocked his head in my direction. made the lip-zipping motion. annoyed. Kitten. Cael faced me.” Cael reassured. the map began to formulate its directions. “As in witch trials Salem?” This couldn‟t turn out well. but was quickly replaced by a new emotion when an obnoxious groan made its way to the front seat.” I begged. it was me. The concern of being hanged melted away. then rolled over and pulled the blanket over her head. “Can‟t we strap her to the roof? Please. placing it in the glove compartment. Roanoke I tossed Kylie‟s limp arm in the backseat—not particularly caring where. Those happened in Massachusetts.” He smiled and folded the map. they didn‟t have anything against vampires. yeah. or how it landed—and eyeballed the area map Cael held. “I can‟t remember who it was.

Just as I was getting a rhythm going on the second chorus of my made-up engine song. as well as the descriptions of surrounding building. minding his own business. I spiced it up a little. through the darkness. As we drove through the city.” “Is it pink?” She asked. One side of the narrow street was lined with a huge. 86 . “There‟s a colonial style house. there‟s a huge star on top of a mountain. lit-up town. you should see this. aged shops. After winding through the deserted roads. I made it a point to narrate every structure we passed. Cael pulled over and we all got out. and continued my verbal tour.” I pulled out the map and Kylie and I touched the edges.” He estimated. graffiti-filled brick wall. but wait! What‟s that? Kylie! There‟s an elephant in the front yard. I told her every detail of the large star. sarcastically and grumbled. even though they all looked pretty much the same. “Alright. It must be…how tall do you think that thing is Cael?” “Probably about a hundred feet or so. let‟s do this thing.What’s a little more silence? I thought.” I said loudly. It‟s amazing! He‟s just sitting there. as I reclaimed my position: Staring out the window and silently singing along with the gentle hums of the engine. It formed into an arrow and Cael followed its directions. the arrow transformed into an “X” inside a circle. “Kylie. “It‟s very cool Kylie. At least she was listening! “Would you like to wake up so we can figure out where we need to go next?” She performed a full-body stretch and rolled her neck back and forth. The other side held small. I saw the huge.

I checked the opposing wall that held the intense graffiti mural just moments ago. I couldn‟t tell which was real. It must have been the first rain they‟d seen in a while. 87 . The three of us leaned against the outside of the bar and waited for something magical to happen. His hair was long.each one looking identical to the last. to find it completely blank. I extended my hand and watched in amazement while the rain shot through it. jeans rolled up to display a cuff. a pack of cigarettes tucked away in their sleeve and all the while. thick. The only indicator it provided of its existence was an inset. We stood directly in front of a shabby looking bar. the rain or me. It didn‟t take long before the black night transformed and surrounded us with light browns and coppers. I couldn‟t tell where it stopped on his head and began on his face. There wasn‟t another soul in sight. waiting for a group of adolescent boys to march toward me. His clothing was tattered and torn and hung loosely off his frail body. I watched the street. They had to snap. The barred up window with the neon. Whatever time we‟d been taken to. The only things visible were his eyes. snapping. occurred before spray-paint and bored teenagers. A droplet of water bounced off the sidewalk in front of me and a small dust cloud whirled around the raindrop before settling back to the ground. gray and filthy. and they were barely open. My vision of the perfectly choreographed boys was smashed when an older man stumbled out of the bar. Did such a time exist? Sheets of rain began to fall harshly to the ground. and nearly fell into the pavement with every misguided step he attempted. “Budweiser” sign tipped me off as well. rusty door that read: “No Minors!” and was covered in a collage of alcohol-related stickers. The man was hunched over.

she was beautiful enough to rank with the goddesses. She looked like she belonged in the heavens. a kind word or even a smile. soaking her from head to toe and dripped frantically from the hem of her dress. meaningless street in the middle of Virginia. She stood with her back to us.He tumbled to his knees and vomited while clinging weakly to a fire hydrant. a woman stood. not this dingy. With one arm. Nothing can compare to the scents of rain pounding on dry pavement. smelling the air. I bathed in the unseen beauty as well. As the woman enjoyed it. though he didn‟t say a word. Everyone drove quickly trying to find shelter from the downpour. I mimicked her. She laughed and reached back to wring out her long hair. the same woman that left the necklace. I could almost hear him screaming out for help. shaking their heads in disgust. he wobbled back to his feet. after a few failed tries. The water splashed up at her. While swaying. A woman with fiery red hair. facing the street and taking long breaths through her nose. he wiped the residue from his mouth and. allowing the falling water to run down his face. not one of them offering him an umbrella. 88 . A large truck flew past the woman. It was a difficult thing to watch. and inhaled. Even drenched. releasing another couple of liters of alcohol onto the pavement. I couldn‟t tear my eyes away from this mystical ghost of a woman. The narrow street was full of vehicles rushing in both directions. its back tires colliding with the small puddle forming in the gutter. There. The man ran his shaking hands through his soaking hair and then fell to his knees again. I watched as people walked past him. so I shifted my gaze slightly down the street. he squinted at the sky.

The delivery-truck driver wasn‟t paying attention. The little cars were able to squeeze by him. So we watched. Like a flash of light. about twenty-five feet past where the man had been standing. 89 . the truck would have crushed him and towed his remains behind it. and angry drivers maneuvered around the drunken man while he stood in the middle of the street. If it weren‟t for the woman. The tires of the truck stopped spinning. When he glanced down at the road. looking for something. The squeal of skidding tires and blasting car horns filled the atmosphere. The second they were out of the way. to find that he was taking one unsteady step after the next. “Let‟s go get you some coffee. unable to touch. The man‟s foot left the lip of the sidewalk and landed on the asphalt street. he slammed on the brake. He pulled out and unfolded a piece of paper that resembled a map. I could see him fishing around in the passenger‟s seat.Something caught her attention. Knowing he didn‟t have any other options. grabbed him firmly by his mid-section and dragged him back to the safety of the sidewalk. feel or assist anyone. the truck came to a screeching halt. we were invisible in this world. and she shot her head in the direction of the drunken man. when I realized there was nothing I could do.” The woman said. I took a quick look back at him. looking up into the rain. but the vehicle continued racing toward the man as it slid along the soaked road. right into oncoming traffic. I lifted my foot. the red-haired woman ran to the side of the man. ready to rescue the faltering man. he saw the man standing in the middle of traffic. but the delivery-truck was massive. almost taking up the entire slim road as it was.

though I knew it was impossible. “Take good care of this. and a golden glint caught my attention. and his ratty clothes had been replaced with a pinstriped suit and tie. and. she held him up and walked him into a café. they vanished. beaming down upon the two as they walked.” She handed him something. The second the glass door swung open. talking about the weather. They faced each other and stood there silently for a moment. Noble. “It has been great catching up with you. My eyes were having trouble believing what they‟d just witnessed. as if following her lead. “Look!” I whispered. fidgeting like she couldn‟t make up her mind if she wanted to stand or run away. although she was completely dry now and wearing different clothes. the man stopped as well. his hair was short and tidy. “Maybe there‟s more. My heart felt like it was pounding.” As she said his name she looked directly at the three of us and stated it very clearly. the bushy beard was gone.” The woman said.” Cael added calmly. there wasn‟t even the slightest trace of rain. The drunken man and red-haired woman emerged from the café. “Why aren‟t the colors back?” Kylie asked. The woman looked exactly the same. pointing to the chrome-lined glass door of the café. The man was the one that caused my eyes to widen in disbelief. “Mr. 90 . He looked ten-years younger. it was concealed in her hand. which was now completely dry. but the sun caught a piece of it.With one hand around his waist and his arm draped around her neck. They walked down the street together. The woman stopped right in front of us. leaving my eyes feeling deceived. The pavement was waterless and the sun sparkled in the sky.

turning to face me. that‟s all.” Cael pointed to where the woman had been. He was laughing at me mockingly. “I have a feeling that‟s your mother. searching for any irregularity.” I said. and the only one that seemed to fit. “Wow. but as soon as I realized I was hugging a lamppost it all made sense. Opening his fingers. because when I was a new vampire I had the tendency to cling to every lamppost in sight. the street went dark.” I threw my arms up in frustration. Cael chuckled.” “Me too.” Kylie said.” Kylie said nodding. “We don‟t even know if we were in this realm. It had saved the life of an innocent old woman though. It was the only word I could assemble. 91 .“I will. he studied the object she‟d given him.” It took me a minute to put the pieces together. “What?” “Nothing. so I began scouring the ground and running my hands along the sides of a metal lamppost. “Yeah. They walked in separate directions and as they turned their respective corners. “How do we know he‟s still alive? We don‟t know what time era we were just in.” he smiled.” The man said as he held the small token in his palm. closed his hand and held it to his chest.” I supported myself against the wall of the bar and couldn‟t shake what I‟d just seen. like the necklace around the statue had been. Noble. “I think we have to find Mr. “I just had a flashback. “Ladies. My hands ran across the outside wall of the bar.” I looked around for something odd. Nothing seemed like it didn‟t belong. “Yeah. still nodding.” Cael suggested.

The map said: Find Noble We found a phonebook hanging in a booth across the street. just the first initial. and swung the door open. “Let‟s ask the map.” “I second that!” Kylie added from the backseat. they probably aren‟t up.” I put my hands on the dashboard trying to think of a reason to avoid the thick mist. J. I searched the white pages. The house looked ancient. until I came to the name: Noble.” Kylie said. and R. It was a rather large. but well kept. casting an eerie feeling over the house and sending a chill down my spine. 92 . “It‟s late.“I can‟t find anything. Their full names weren‟t printed.” I announced and let my arms fall to my sides. Every window was lined with a series of protective bars. There were only two male Noble‟s in Roanoke. Why hadn‟t I thought of that? We touched the paper to find out that Cael‟s original plan was the correct one. three-story home. We drove down Luck Avenue until we found the house matching the address. A thick cloud of fog drifted through the small front yard. “It‟s kind of creepy. somewhat like a prison cell. and they lived at the same address. “You aren‟t afraid of a little fog are you?” “Wait. perfectly illustrating my own thoughts. with a flat roof and a small balcony reaching out of the top floor. We should come back in the morning. Cael reached for the driver‟s side handle.” Kylie recommended.

I attributed it to the fog.” He said. He leaned his head forward until he was able to see Kylie and me.” The man behind the door. opened it wide. I couldn‟t help but feel like I belonged.” Cael said to the face. They were told to come to this address. I took another step back. “Hello. and stepped out.Cael looked down at the clock on the panel. “Please. “That a magic map brought us here?” “Have some faith. re-immersing myself into the dark night. please come in!” He held the door wide open and the three of us entered the house. “It‟s not even nine yet. and a sliver of a face peeked out from behind it. The fear I‟d felt outside washed away the moment I stepped foot inside the house and was replaced by a warm welcome. “It‟s such a pleasure to finally meet you!” He exclaimed as he made his way toward us. Besides. I‟m sure they‟ve been waiting for you. I‟d been through things much worse than standing on the front steps of a stranger‟s house.” “Damn you! Damn you and your clock!” I pushed my door open and hesitantly got out of the car. “My name is Cael Ash. Cael knocked on the door while Kylie and I lingered a few feet behind him. the wooden door creaked open. “What are we supposed to tell him Cael?” I asked. Sir. showing a spotlight on the three of us. looking around the porch. I couldn‟t figure out why I was scared. The porch light crackled as it came to life. Slowly. and I‟m here with Sidney and Kylie Fox. It was an overwhelming feeling of being watched. he was quite normal. The man was slightly older than me. not even the least bit 93 .

He led us into a small. Reggie walked to his side and gently shook the old man‟s shoulder. He blinked slightly as one aged hand searched the desk. “Sidney and Kylie Fox. and he put them on. It made contact with a pair of thick glasses. Then. caring eyes.” Reggie pointed to us. He was wearing netted basketball shorts and an over-sized (and a bit stained) T-shirt.” The little. Behind him were hundreds of books lining the massive wall.” He said as I took his hand and shook it. with a lean build and light. He stood a few inches taller than me. and was emanating snores that resembled a very upset animal. but you probably already know that. “My name is James Noble. “Dad?” Reggie almost whispered. wooden desk. old man braced himself on his desk and weakly lifted his body out of the chair. leaned his head forward to get a better look at the three of us. dimly lit room where a wrinkled.mystical or spooky looking—as I had expected while on his doorstep. and for a split second. “I‟m Reggie. He stood feebly and reached out his hand in our direction.” Pictures hung on both sides of the walls. and his journey to adulthood.” 94 . some appeared to have been painted long before the hostile takeover of the digital age. old man sat behind a large. he looked just as he had that lonely night in front of the bar. portraits from various eras. “It truly is a pleasure. The man had his head buried in his chest. “Dad. “We‟ve waited so long for you! My dad is going to be very excited to finally meet the Fox sisters. The white-haired man lifted his wobbly head.” He told us as we followed him down a dark oak hallway. Others were of Reggie.

we don‟t know much. “Please have a seat. It‟s a long story. We had never planned on having children. We didn‟t know at the time. “February 9. but he was born with a severe case of SCID or Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disorder.” I was glad she‟d said something.” James nodded. “This is Cael. but we aren‟t exactly sure why. Can Reggie get you something to drink?” “No. and stepped back. or is there somebody back there?” “Sorry dad. “I‟m happy to fill you in on everything I can.“Actually.” Kylie said. on the other hand. it wasn‟t something common enough for the doctors to routinely check for. and Cael and I made sure to shake our heads and echo her statement.” I smiled sheepishly. “Let‟s see.” Cael took a step toward James and offered his hand. breaking the silence. Reggie was home for a month before he 95 .” He smiled. my wife. Back then.” James said as he sat back down. but I don‟t think you could have found a set of happier parents if you tried. “We believe our mother wanted us to find you. “Of course. Noble. Dear. and trailed off. while Cael stood behind us. Kylie.” Kylie said. Victoria and I. and we were older when he was born. were blessed with our son Reginald. “Mr.” Kylie and I sat in the leather chairs that faced his desk. thank you. James adjusted his glasses and looked at Cael. was always the social butterfly. I had never been all that great at talking to strangers. We all just wanted to know why we were here. 1989 at ten o‟clock at night. “Always smart to travel with a little muscle.” Reggie chuckled.” James Noble looked at the ceiling and I feared he was on the verge of falling asleep again—as older people tend to do. “I‟m just accompanying. “Am I seeing things.

all my connections. to never give up. the blood in the umbilical cord is rich in hematopoietic stem cells. but I remembered he was doing some extensive work with cord blood. I thought I had used up all my resources. His nose didn‟t stop running. I almost lost my life in the middle of the street. Yet. I left my grieving wife and sick son. I didn‟t eat. That‟s the night your mother saved my life: Mine and Reggie‟s. One night. It ate at me until I finally lost it. She convinced me to keep trying. and the coughing was only interrupted by the intense wheezing caused by the mucus buildup in his lungs. I went home that night and found something I had overlooked. “You see. While right down the hall I could hear Reggie coughing and gurgling. You see. For Reggie. Everyone gave me the same horrifying realization. We quickly found a match and were able to save Reggie. I didn‟t sleep.” James paused to look over at his son with a tear in his eye. You see. I stumbled out of the bar and I looked up at the sky to beg God for help. your mother was my angel that night. Feeling like there was no hope. that he wouldn‟t survive. but somehow she knew to save me. when a healthy month-old infant gets a cold.” 96 . She listened to all my troubles and gave me hope again. She was the angel that saved our family. it was there all along. there was nothing I could do for my son. but I forgot one. I sat in this house. I gave up. We had lost touch over the last few years.caught a bug. and called in every favor I could. researching new methods of treating diseases. but it wasn‟t until your mother came along that I was able to stand back and look over all the options. I tried every avenue available to me. that the common cold would be the end for my son. That was my job. it was an entirely different story. He could barely breathe and there was nothing we could do for him. I was a medical researcher. racking my brain trying to come up with a solution. it‟s nothing more than a runny nose and maybe a cough here and there. and I tried to find solace at the bottom of a bottle. A dear friend I made in college.

she knew. I know her name is Serenity. red hair and the face of an angel. returning to his story. “I‟m positive that‟s what she told me. his forehead wrinkles creasing with thought. doctors said there would never be a solution to.” I whispered. In saving me. He has saved thousands of lives…more than that. he‟s brought hope back to the world. I looked at Reggie and watched him share a moment with his father. Around the age of twelve. he must have gotten confused.” James said. thanks to her. your mother must have been able to see the bigger picture. “Now. he wouldn‟t be alive…neither of them would be. for years. She had bright. and I‟m not sure what it would have been without him. “Reggie has dedicated his life to medical research.” James said. that can‟t be right. after all it was quite a few years ago.” Kylie told him. learning things that normal children couldn‟t comprehend on their best day. and I believe she was sent to us. he started visiting children‟s hospitals and donating bone marrow and blood.” “Um. He‟s been able to discover cures for diseases that. he wanted to help children just like him. Without my mother.I didn‟t know what to say. “No.” “You have no idea how wonderful that is to hear. She came back a few years after that fateful night and told me that she had given birth to twins…although you girls appear to have an age difference. “As far as who your mother is. among other things. I‟m afraid I don‟t have very much information for you. Twins? A universe didn‟t exist where Kylie and I were twins. And we‟re forever grateful to her. He started at such a young age. as are all those families that Reggie has been able to put back together. Reggie started working with me in the lab.” 97 .

was how many more steps were involved. piece of gold. “Whatever the case.” I said taking the token from him and admiring in my hand. It was just a flat. but I know she wanted you to have it. that‟s what she told me when she gave me this.” “You‟ve done more than enough. I would have done anything she asked me to.” James rubbed his nose and continued with his story. however miniscule it was. “I can‟t be sure what it means…or does. smooth. but not as thick.” He turned his chair around and pulled a small.” His eyes faltered as they studied the contents of his desk.” “Thank you so much Mr. I was absolutely positive that she was. What could it mean? Was it supposed to trigger some kind of memory from the past? Because I didn‟t feel anything as I held it in my hand. “I don‟t know what to tell you about that. Turning back around he slowly opened the box and reached in. “I just wish I could do more. Noble. about the size of a half-dollar.“I was one and half when Kylie was born. “I‟m honored that your mother trusted me with the task.” Kylie said with so much maturity it stunned me. 98 . The palm of his hand opened up to us.” I said remembering back to that day. We‟re one step closer to finding her. we said our goodbyes to James and Reggie Noble. The mystery that none of us seemed to know the answer to. they truly had brought us one step closer. It was like watching her grow up before my eyes. revealing a golden circle. wooden box from the bookshelf. without a doubt younger than me. Graciously. Although I didn‟t have a clear memory of it.

it‟s pretty ridiculous. What ever will we do?” He threw his arm out in front of me. jokingly concerned for the safety of his arm. “You never eat. “Look Cael. “now that you mention it. I could eat. never sleep. 99 . like he really wanted to know the answer. “What‟s that?” Cael peered over his shoulder. If you think about it. “You guys don‟t stop for anything. and never have to go to the bathroom.” “Ah. “Oh no!” I gasped.” Kylie formed a cross with her fingers and hissed at me. it‟s a finger cross.” I shrugged.” She sighed. “Is it burning?” He asked.Chapter 14: Blood Transfer “Y ou know what sucks about traveling with vampires?” Kylie asked.

I‟m hungry. Hungry.‟ “So. Need to pee. or 3. pulling the map back up to my face and pointing at it. “Nope. It was early afternoon. 100 . I wish I would have thought to ask for one. “Be careful with those deadly fingers of yours. then looked back at Kylie. a tiny man in a bed. “does that mean you‟re: A.” She chuckled slightly. B.I patted it. and some strange little triangle.” I said. like I‟d finally conquered my inability to navigate. he ritualistically picked up a state map…We had quite a collection.” Five minutes passed while I tried to comprehend the lines and determine which highway we were traveling on before I finally gave up and put in my lap. “I believe it‟s the next exit. But he was very rarely able to resist calling me out on my bullshit.” Cael smiled and lifted his sunglasses to look at me.” Cael said. “Harrisburg should be coming up soon.” I opened the map and tried to figure out where we were. so the sun provided more than enough light to see the signs along the road. A huge one read: „Harrisburg next exit.” I asked my sister. and handed me the Pennsylvania map (Every time we stopped to get gas. I was just stating the facts…but…Yeah.) “A GPS would have come in handy. “I‟m surprised this car didn‟t come with one. “You saw the sign too?” He could have just let me live my lie. in a way that said: „Yeah. Tired?” I used my fingers to illustrate her options. but not so funny that I‟m in gut-wrenching hysterics over it. putting out the imaginary flames.‟ It had pictures of a fork and knife. Can we make it one of those little truck stops?” “Sure. and feel slightly accomplished. a gas pump. it was kind of funny.

and Cael and I watched as Kylie devoured her food. 101 . I guess I tried not to think too much about it. I wanted to say.Winding through Harrisburg. I looked at Cael. The small restaurant was crowded inside so we opted for the outside seating.” “It‟s okay. even though I couldn‟t avoid dropping the occasional subtle hint. it was the only downside to my existence. not wanting to acknowledge how true it was. Kylie made an annoying throat sound. New York will be fun. Out of habit. The three of us agreed on a small stone table in the corner.” Kylie said. but Cael insisted on taking things slowly. “So?” She pushed. “We really should feed her more often. pulling it carefully away from the plastic. I couldn‟t help but remember what it was like to enjoy a big. we found a small burger shop that Kylie approved of. I caught myself before it was too late. “I read somewhere that means you‟re sexually frustrated.” As I watched her eat. trying to change the subject. She placed her order and we searched for a place to sit.” I grunted. huh?” I said. Luckily. and pretended I was just fiddling with it. Instead. I grabbed Kylie‟s bottle of water and started to unscrew the cap. greasy cheeseburger. pointing to my label-tearing. before popping a french fry in her mouth. “Are you?” Not for lack of trying.” Kylie said. There wasn‟t much of a view. I wanted to respect his request. feeling a little guilty for not considering Kylie‟s needs. My always-nervous fingers started to tear at the label. “I‟m good. I looked at her with a cocked eyebrow. but they made up for it by covering the small enclosure with foliage. “Uh huh. As far as I could figure. “So. It‟s not that I wasn‟t happy with the way things were.

“Yeah!” Cael exclaimed. He must have seen how badly I wanted the topic shift. “I wonder what surprises are in store for us there.” I looked over to find a sparkle in his eye, but I couldn‟t be sure what it meant. “I wonder what our mom experienced in New York. Do you think she ended world hunger, or cured cancer? Maybe a little of both, with some world peace thrown in the mix.” I still wasn‟t sure what to make of all this, it couldn‟t be true. She wasn‟t a fairy, but she was something magical, so magical, in fact, that she has the ability to leave behind her memories for us to see…I just wasn‟t sure if I could find it in myself to believe. “Would you stop it, Sidney.” Kylie scalded. “I still don‟t get how you can question any of it. Don‟t you think I should be the one all freaked out? My sister‟s a vampire, and my biological mother is…well something…right now I‟m going with angel. Mr. Noble sure used that word enough.” “Wow.” I said flatly. “Now you think we‟re decedents of angels? I have to ask, are these angels as in God‟s little helpers or more of like the metaphorical angel, like the good-deed-doer?” “How am I supposed to know?” “I just wanted to know what crazy-ass thing you were believing now.” Kylie looked at Cael, “It‟s like she hasn‟t been there for all of this. Like she hasn‟t seen everything. You have, haven‟t you?” She asked him. He nodded, but didn‟t say anything, probably trying to stay out of the sibling argument. “I‟ve seen it all, but that doesn‟t necessarily mean I believe it. Didn‟t you ever listen to Dr. Joe when he used to say: „Girls, only believe half of what you see, and none of what you hear.‟?” I guess I got caught up in the moment. When James Noble was telling us how wonderful this woman was, I couldn‟t help but

believe him, but after further contemplation…a woman saved him from getting hit by a truck, everything else that happened was based off his decisions. Not to mention that‟s only hearsay, with no proof involved. “Sidney, don‟t quote our father!” Kylie said sternly. “Math is power!” I yelled, throwing out another Dr. Joeism. I could see the anger building up. “What‟s wrong, you didn‟t like that one?” I prodded. “How about: „When I was younger, I juggled three jobs at once, so I could pay for college.‟” Her anger faded and was quickly replaced by a giggle. “We all know that‟s such a lie.” I laughed right along with her. We knew better than to believe the infamous three-job story, it was just one of those parental antidotes for immaturity.

After three hours of sitting in the car and casually arguing
with Kylie about the same thing, it began to get repetitive. To the point that I was having trouble defending my side, because I couldn‟t remember exactly what I was fighting for. “You‟ve been spending too much time with Jamie!” I finally pointed out. Jamie had always had the ability to make me forget my side of a discussion and she had some weird technique to make me change my perspective without my knowledge. “Hey, not cool!” she clearly didn‟t like the comparison, even though it fit. As we emerged from the Holland Tunnel, I was relieved Kylie and I had been so wrapped up in our debate. I hadn‟t even had a chance to notice that we had been traveling in a tunnel built under the water until we were already out. So the cause for concern vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

We‟d made it. We were in New York City, stuck right in the middle of rush hour traffic. I had seen my fair share of skyscrapers—they didn‟t do much for me—and as far as big cities are concerned, I had lived close to Los Angeles all of my life, so I wasn‟t too awe-struck by New York City. The traffic on the other hand, that was just insanity! I watched the lucky people who scurried down the sidewalks, they went faster on foot than we did on four rubber tires. If only the cavemen could see us now. “We made it.” Cael said, pointing out the obvious. “Is it time to consult the map?” In every other city we‟d gone to, the map had been our first priority, but after spending all afternoon going back and forth with Kylie, I considered her feelings. For the first time in a long time. “Why don‟t we find a place to stay for the night? We can deal with the map tomorrow.” I suggested. “Oh my god! A bed!” Kylie shrieked, and threw her hands up in the air thanking the heavens—even though they had nothing to do with it. “And how about a nice, sit-down meal?” I asked her. “A bed and real food? New York is my new favorite.” Again, she gave credit to all the wrong things.

We pulled in front of the Hampton Inn which seemed to be
right in the middle of all the world famous landmarks: Times Square, the Empire State Building, Saks Fifth Avenue, Radio City Music Hall and the ever-notable hotdog cart. Cael checked us in while Kylie and I sorted through the trunk-full of luggage—mostly hers. We followed the bellhop to our room, and to our surprise he opened two rooms. I looked at Cael with uncertainty. He displayed the open doors, “Adjoining rooms.”

Kylie‟s eyes widened and she lunged at Cael with her arms spread. She practically tackled him with a Taran-sized hug. “Thank you!” Once she‟d disappeared into her respective room, Cael and I entered ours. It was nice, although as I looked at the bed, I couldn‟t really see the need. That‟s when it hit me, this trip was making me bitter all over again. Just when I thought I‟d moved past all that in my life, and dedicated so much time to trying to find that elusive silver lining, somehow, I had ended up back at the starting line; taking things for granted and seeing everything through a half-empty glass. I walked over to the window and separated the soft, white drapes that stood between me and the view. Taking in New York City, I tried to find the beauty, but all I saw a busy, over-crowded city. So many people find it breathtaking, why couldn‟t I? If I didn‟t know better, I‟d think something inside me broke long ago, a piece that no one can fix. “Isn‟t it amazing?” Cael asked as he gently put both hands around my waist. To me there wasn‟t anything amazing about it… but the man standing behind me was a different story. He is the angel in my life that gives me hope for the future, hope for our future. Silently, I vowed to never take him for granted. I knew he was the only person who could have saved me from…me, he‟s the only person that ever made me want to better myself. I turned around and soundlessly thanked him. Though he couldn‟t hear my words, he knew. “I love you.” I said softly. “I love you too, forever.” He purred into my ear, as he brushed his lips down my neck. My body went limp, and my neck tilted. He traveled back up my neck and followed my jaw until he reached my mouth. I grabbed the back of his head and pulled him closer. Our lips

Once all the blood was gone. However. “I am so sorry. I entered his mouth and felt his tongue licking the tip of my finger. looking slightly ashamed.” My voice cracked. “Should I feel bad?” he asked. moments ago. he held mine and slowly pulled it out. I bit my bottom lip. still rubbing my fingers together. “Possibly?” I said. Trying to keep my hormones at bay. the majority of my body wanted him to hurl me on the bed that. Then with one bloody finger I gently traced his lips. I turned my head up the slightest bit. With both hands.” I sucked the remaining blood off my lips and felt the hole mend itself. It may have been intentional.crashed against each other. trying to find where the blood was coming from. and I was reminded to breathe. I thought was so unnecessary. But I was distracted by the taste of blood as it trickled down the back of my throat. He looked at me with an evil grin. 106 . showing Cael the trail of blood that was slowly making its way down my chin. then ran his tongue up my chin and pressed his lips to mine. and very seductively. stopping occasionally to suck on my bottom lip and purr—causing me to completely forget to breathe. “Did I bite you?” Cael said with horror. My stubborn side wanted nothing more than to push him away and throw his “taking it slow” bullshit right back in his face. I put my finger to my lip and found blood on my fingertips. replacing it with my thumb. He pulled away slowly. pushed down the vampire instincts and forced his mouth open. “Not even a little. he kissed my finger. I pulled away from Cael. his eyes rolled back a little. reopening the wound that hadn‟t fully healed yet. My fangs instantly tore through their protective covering. Instead. I found his fangs were out as well.

feathery kiss on my cheek. But. widened my eyes. She‟s got a TV and room service. I harnessed the bubbly feeling. “Want me to reopen it?” I asked suggestively. Why don‟t you and Kylie go shopping? Who knows when the two of you will be in New York again?” I guess I wasn‟t nearly angsty enough. It was a deep. I‟ll ask her if she‟s interested. I have to go make dinner reservations.” His smoldering eyes burned holes in my soul. “Sure. and pouted. you‟re killing me. I had to control the giddiness that wanted to jump out of me. “But…Kylie. years maybe. You have no idea how hard it was to pull away from you. 107 . “One for the road?” I settled.” He said running his tongue along his bottom lip.” He sighed.“And I thought the skyscrapers were amazing. I could take it or leave it.” “Then come back.” He put his hands on either side of my neck and traced circles behind my ears. He leaned closer and placed a soft. “You have no idea. “Trust me.” “When this is all over.” I smiled.” I shrugged in a way that said: „Ah. she‟s fine. I promise you. “I‟m going to make dinner reservations.” “Sid. he was more immovable than I could even hope to be. I knew once Cael set his mind to something. dark secret of mine. because at the mention of shopping. I don‟t want to leave either. “Wanna go shopping?” I asked.‟ I knocked on the door that joined our rooms together.” I stuck out my bottom lip. one that only Moon knew. although it kind of seemed like Cael had some inside information. “You‟re already dead. “Forget her. I noticed my lesion had healed. we aren‟t leaving the apartment for a long time.

” Cael said as he slid his credit card in the back pocket of my jeans. “Get something formal to wear to dinner. 108 .“Um…Yeah!” she said excitedly.

Kylie hadn‟t seemed to notice. “Can you believe this place?” Kylie asked as we made our way to the eveningwear section. It was the first time either of us had said a word since entering the massive. The voices in my head paled in comparison to the remnants left behind from passing by the perfume department. It was unbelievable. one by one being shot into the air at passerby‟s. The store was massive. The smells were all mingled together. The perfume felt like it was 109 . clothing and accessory-filled building. but the diverse. and a little piece of every girls fantasy. but I was having a few problems. I shook my head.Chapter 15: J K ylie and I went to none other than Saks Fifth Avenue. lingering scents made me nauseous.

but never in my life had I ever even tried on something worth as much as my new chocolate-colored best friend. gathered skirt flowed past my ankles. “She hasn‟t come out. “This is a really expensive store. I could see spending…maybe fifty dollars on a dress. I dug through the pile of clothes on the floor until I found my jeans. never display a clock so you won‟t realize how much time you‟ve spent. I knew that we were always meant to be together. Alright. I called Cael. The only problem was the price. and the silk. “Well. “Did you find anything?” He asked. but once I put it on and twirled in the dressing room mirror.” I heard the door to her dressing 110 . I imagined Saks to operate like a casino: Pump in oxygen so you‟re always happy. The gown was topped off with a trio of clear stones on the bodice. Kylie and I tried on a procession of dresses—all of which were in the triple-digit price range—until I found the one. It was long. brown and incredibly elegant. kind of. The spaghetti straps laid against my ivory skin delicately. In place of alcohol they supplied the ethanol fumes from the perfume.” I said. As hard as I tried.” “Give the phone to Kylie. I didn‟t think much of it. I could only hear her side of the conversation. I reached my hand over the stall and handed the phone to my sister. As we traveled up the escalator.” Confused. After locating my cell phone. and practically pour alcohol down your throat so you won‟t have a problem dropping huge wads of cash on a single pair of Marc Jacobs pumps. the air seemed to get more pure. We fit like long-lost friends. “I don‟t know. When the saleswoman handed it to me.lodged in my nose and had taken up residence. hang on. Probably as a result of oxygen being pushed through the air vents.” she said to the phone. in a roundabout way.

I‟m under direct orders to buy it. “Tough shit. you look great! Probably the most beautiful thing I‟ve ever seen. which was completely fitting to who she was.” 111 . Kyle. But it reflected her personality. bye. pleated dress that was far too short for my taste. and something I wouldn‟t have ever tried on. Now.” “This dress won‟t make or break my happiness. I think it‟s pretty cool that I have name-brand stuff. that‟s what I thought. I‟m not relaying that mush.” I explained. it looks really good. I opened the door slightly and peered out. and looked great on her. Kylie opened it all the way and talked to the phone again.” “I can‟t believe how much money we just spent. Uh huh…Okay…See you then. could you come here for a sec?” she asked. “Let‟s go find some shoes. so I took it upon myself to be a good sister. Thanks.” “Really?” I knew she just wanted her ego stroked a little. and I studied the dress she had picked out. Oh and we‟re meeting him at a restaurant called J. but your boyfriend insisted. Oh yeah and something about matching shoes. and there‟s no price tag on your happiness. too. what do you think?” She displayed herself again. satin. “What do you think?” She asked. “It fits you perfectly.” She smiled and twirled a final open and she knocked on mine.” She handed the phone back to me and twirled. “Sid. “I like it.” “Yeah. “I know.” I said as we walked down the sidewalk. at ten. “What just happened on the phone?” “Something about how he loves you. She wore a lilac-colored. “Yeah.

The more I thought about it. It wasn‟t too long before a cab pulled to the curb and picked us up. Large. Being around food reminded me how hungry I was getting.‟” I told him. they were the only shoes that matched my new dress. “Do you have a reservation this evening?” “It should be under „Ash. The inside was exquisite. “Ah.” The host addressed us. Even though we didn‟t need to. and the top two 112 . but the thing was. I hadn‟t eaten since we‟d left. red. He dragged his finger along his reservation sheet. but every time I heard my heel skid on the pavement.” We followed the man through the main dining area. where Cael stood facing the wall that was made up entirely of windows. brown. He turned when the host left. yes. He looked. Who ever thought I would own a pair of Jimmy Choos?” I had heard the name before. the hungrier I became. far beyond any place I‟d ever eaten. and cost almost as much as the actual gown. Cael and I usually drew our day to an end with a large glass of blood. where we ended up spending even more money. not only for wearing the clothes. evening-looking shoes. I felt guilty. They were the only pair of cute. My excitement was actually brimming over. double doors greeted us as we approached the entrance.“I know. I couldn‟t figure out why he went to all this trouble so we could watch Kylie eat a seven-course meal. Right this way. “Welcome to J. Cael and I were going to spend our night stalking the streets for a wrong-doer. closing the door behind him. it was the longest I‟d gone. Kylie had also insisted that we get makeovers. and into a private room. I needed a different pair of shoes to wear over these. dashing—for lack of a better word—wearing a black suit with the jacket open. to protect them.

they remained locked with mine. cutting me off. round table—the only one in the room. “Wow! Check out the view!” Kylie pointed out the window. then led me to my seat.buttons of the white shirt undone: Looking rugged and elegant at the same time. “I‟ll have the halibut. As soon as the waiter closed the door behind him. The plates were 113 .” He made finger quotes around the word special. “How did you manage a private room?” I asked.” Kylie huffed. “Please let the chef know that we‟ll be having the special. I hadn‟t even noticed that Kylie had her face buried in a menu. He changed the subject many times before the food arrived. he said.” A waiter opened the door and approached our table. His eyes moved to me next. He was so up to something.” His smooth hand touched the side of my neck. I glared at Cael. “We‟re eating? What the hell? I really don‟t feel like regurgitating a twenty-dollar shrimp. “Probably the most beautiful view I‟ve ever seen. “Let‟s just say I‟ve got connections. We sat around a small.” Looking in my eyes. “Just a glass…” Cael spoke up.” She told him. “You weren‟t talking about the city lights at all were you?” He turned and smiled at her.” A smile pulled at one corner of his mouth. Cael‟s eyes didn‟t falter. But he offered no indication as to what it was.” “You‟re just going to have to trust me. knowing exactly why he‟d done it (so I wouldn‟t be distracted by numerous thoughts) I just didn‟t know how. “Oh great. asking if we were ready to place our order. “It is an incredible view.

but somewhere along the line. fabulous aroma of blood. but I could have done without his cryptic ways.” He laughed. I‟m not sure how. and he kind of formed his life around it.laid out before us. “I think we‟re in a restaurant. Kylie sat behind a very pretty chunk of fish. 114 . “I told you.” “There. and there‟s blood on my steak. He knew how I despised having to unlock his puzzles. that wasn‟t so hard now was it?” That‟s all he had to say. Isn‟t that a health violation?” Probably worse than serving someone a rat sandwich. I looked at Cael. and before Cael and me sat diced up steak covered in red-sauce. “What do you think?” He asked. he discovered cooking was his passion.” “But he can‟t taste it. For the twelfth time today. I‟ve got connections. Carlos—that‟s his name—is very old. “Explain…” “I may have made a few phone calls.” I loved most things about Cael. and found the only restaurant in New York—maybe the world—that is lucky enough to have one of us as their head chef. “From what I was told. “Taran?” “Maybe.” “Maybe he knows something we don‟t. The smells of the sauce filtered up my nose and I recognized the undeniable.” “There‟s a vampire cooking for people? How is that even possible?” I questioned. not understanding. he could have started with it. It didn‟t make sense for so many reasons.” “How did you find out all of this information?” “The vampire directory.

“I‟ll be back. please I‟m just Cael.” I said. I can‟t thank you enough.” “Anything for you. but this is the best food I‟ve ever eaten. “This is Sidney.” As Kylie exited the door. “Sorry Kyle. “Carlos!” Cael stood up and shook his hand.” He placed his arm in front of his stomach and bowed.” I sat back in my chair.” Carlos gushed. “What would we have to do to get you to open up a restaurant in California?” I smiled.” “Ha ha.” Kylie mumbled. I mean.” “I‟ve heard so much about you. a man walked in.“How am I supposed to surprise you if you know all my secrets?” The inside of the steak was completely rare and injected with blood. Carlos. “How was your fish?” “It was good.” “Look on the bright side. he smelled like…us and I knew he must have been the chef. “Eating your cooking was the honor. “I completely agree.” I told him. I‟m glad I‟m not the kind of person that has a weak stomach or anything.” “No. at least we weren‟t forced to eat you. 115 .” He held his arm out and aimed it at me. I couldn‟t be sure why meeting me made him feel privileged. “The food was wonderful. Because of the blood. Sir. I have to be human for a minute.” “Freakin‟ vampires…blood on the dinner table.” She replied sarcastically. “Nothing against your truffles. “It‟s an honor. I was prepared to fly to New York on a daily basis to eat that meal again. more satisfied than I‟d been in a long time. The truffles don‟t even compare.

leaving out the reason why he never changed her.” Your Highness? That earned Cael another glare.” “She‟s right. there‟s no need for formalities.” I concluded with mixed emotions. “Did someone else call you by chance?” “Yes Sir. if you‟d like to hear it. I called her J. “how are you able to cook for humans if you can‟t taste the food?” “Your Highness.” I sat down and offered him a chair. “I would love to hear that story. your brother did. She loved cooking and testing new recipes.” Cael said. the states all start to look alike.” “Liam!” I huffed. 116 . When you‟ve seen as much as I have. Carlos looked at us. “Well. it‟s a bit complicated.” “The restaurant is named after her. I knew he‟d condensed the story. Her name was Jada.” “Carlos. Since I wasn‟t able to eat the food with her.” I said.” I explained.” Cael interjected. it was a story of that touched my heart. I have to ask. He had to have told this poor man that we were Monarchs and he should treat us as such. and how she died. Regardless. what had he told this man? “I‟m sorry Carlos.” Carlos began. “We aren‟t really royalty. “A very long time ago. I fell in love with a mortal woman. but I‟m more than happy to tell the story. she would describe each individual taste to me.“I‟ll have to consider that. still unsure whether or not we were playing mind games. “Just by blood. I guess I learned by watching and listening. It wasn‟t until after she passed away that I started trying to find a way I could taste them for myself. wondering if it was some kind of hierarchy test.

” Kylie came back in the room.” “Okay mom. I knew I had to be careful not to sound like a parent. It was a nice way to break up the monotony. Cael could tell his intentions from the second he walked in the room. “Have fun. but without a distraction. “Are you sure this is a good idea? You just met this guy. It wasn‟t my place to tell her what she could or couldn‟t do. Even I could see how outrageous that sounded. 117 . still smiling.” Kylie introduced her newly-made friend. calm down.” I said. but I have to go now. Kylie grabbed her new boy-toy and dashed out the door.“Yes.” She said defensively. Carlos caught wind of them and excused himself. I‟m not stupid. I didn‟t need to read his thoughts. Watching over the kitchen and guiding me. they‟re all going to see some show and they invited me. with a boy in tow. she deserved the night out. but please call me if anything seems out of the ordinary. One of which was of a family of mass-murderers preying on young girls in high-end restaurants. In the kitchen he was focused on the food. We understood and thanked him again. that way she‟s always here with me.” “Can I speak to you for a second?” I asked softly.” So many images conjured in my head. Now he was simply warning the poor kid—just to be on the safe side. pulling her to the corner and leaving Cael to deal with this Troy.” “I will. “He‟s having dinner with his parents. But I had to say something. but didn‟t like to test it too much. “Alright. Explaining very quietly that he had a pretty decent tolerance for people. it was harder to control. before your boyfriend scares him away!” I smiled when I saw the intimidation on the boys face. “He invited me to hang out with him. “This is Troy.

” Cael reassured. “I know. “I‟m not sure there‟s such a thing as a harmless teenage boy. it seemed like it happened in a different life. in actuality.“She‟ll be fine. it had.” I shook off the bad memories I had with the opposite sex. we should be able to get a pretty good reading on a teenage boy. But can you blame me for worrying?” “Between the two of us. 118 .” He smirked. I guess. He‟s harmless.

“I just got word the rivers are drying up. I didn‟t have the heart to tell him what had the Kingdom so somber. Things „r gettin‟ pretty bad.Chapter 16: Fading Existence Told by: Liam “D id ya tell him?” Taran asked as I hung up the phone. But a time is gonna come when we‟re gonna need their help.” Cael had sounded so happy. and confused. we weren‟t sure what to think. and it doesn‟t look like it‟s too far away. When we first received the news that there was a disturbance in the balance. That could only mean one thing. Someone—or something— 119 . “I guess I‟m just as guilty as you are.” “Melusine.” “What now?” I asked. I couldn‟t tell him either. “No. although it made no sense.” I concluded. I couldn‟t.

had destroyed all the wraiths. it caused the very delicate balance between good and evil to shift the slightest bit. It just didn‟t add up. 120 . trapped souls that roam the earth gravitating towards evil. Their only purpose is to watch over the fresh. small bodies of water. Unlike the wraiths. The only good part of their disappearance was that—for now at least— the natural order was restored.” There had to be something I wasn‟t seeing. I couldn‟t help but feel like the unexplained occurrences were far from over. it causes a drastic change. They are nothing more than tortured. “I can‟t imagine why someone would wannna dry up all the rivers. but the humans are affected as well. “Why the melusine?” I asked.” Taran sighed. “I‟m afraid I have no idea. When they disappeared. The melusine never bothered anyone. and trying their best to corrupt the innocent. not only amongst us. melusine never leave the sanctity of their watery homes. We‟ve all co-existed since the beginning of time and we all serve our purpose in the great scheme of things. When an entire species gets wiped out.

and one of the windows opened up. Might have been fun to try anyway. to me it sounded like velcro being dragged against silk. I concentrated and listened closely for the jingle of coins clinking together. A rough fabric rubbing against and catching on a smooth fabric. I stepped out onto a narrow balcony. 121 . our own private Empire State Building. “Do you think someone would die if I dropped a penny?” I asked. “Honey. He slid it into a lock. I felt like we were on top of the world. leaning my ear slightly closer to his jacket pocket I heard something strange. resembling a door. I wondered if Cael had any spare change in his pockets. definitely not change.Chapter 17: Naked Vulnerability C ael led me to the glass covered wall and pulled a key from his pocket. Even I had to admit the view was like none other. encased in a high fence. we‟re only four stories up.” He smiled.

“What‟s going on down there?” Cael asked, looking down at me. I‟d been so caught up in identifying the unfamiliar sound that I hadn‟t realized how close my face had gravitated toward his waist. If someone were to see us right now, from just the right angle, suspicions may arise. Taking note of the awkward position, I straightened myself and tried my best diversion tactics. “I wonder what show Kylie went to see.” But I couldn‟t put my curiosity aside, I had to know what lingered in his pocket. Without giving him a chance to acknowledge my former question, I pressed on. “What are you hiding in there?” I asked, pointing to the offending pocket. I had an idea or two, but he confirmed one I had pushed aside when he lowered himself to one knee. I watched it in slow motion. I knew this day was pending, but he had caught me off guard, I wasn‟t prepared. I‟m sure my face demonstrated the surprise that lay beneath the surface. So many emotions swam inside me: Surprise, fear, joy, dismay, love. Each one canceling out the last, until I didn‟t know what to feel. “Sidney Noel Fox,” Cael began. He tucked his hand into his pocket and pulled out a black, velvet box. He admired the small package for a moment, then curled his fingers around it and looked up at me. “Before you, my life was empty. I didn‟t realize it at the time, then I thought it was the best life I would ever be able to have. I never imagined that one day, I would meet you. Sidney, you‟ve changed my very existence. You‟ve given me meaning and purpose. I can‟t even remember a day when you weren‟t a part of my life, and I don‟t want to. Words can‟t properly express what you mean to me, “everything” is an understatement. There‟s no length I wouldn‟t go to for you, and that rings true forever. No matter what.” He stood back up and opened the small, black box. I

couldn‟t look down at it though, I was barely able to remain standing. My legs felt like they were going to give out beneath me. “Sidney,” he continued. “Will you marry me?” He presented the box, displaying, not only the ring, but his vulnerability as well. I hadn‟t thought much about this moment, I had tried not to. Occasionally, stereotypical proposal images would scurry through my head, but I had no idea how intense it would actually be. My insides were tied in knots, and swarms of butterflies flapped wildly, but all I could see, and all that mattered was the man standing in front of me: The man who had changed my life more than I could have changed his. My feelings for him were an exact replica of the speech he‟d just given. Nothing had ever felt more right than this moment, and I knew there was only one answer I could give him. “Yes.” I whispered, and threw my arms around his neck. “Of course I will!” He grabbed me around the waist and lifted me off the ground. It took all I had to push down the adrenaline flow in order to keep us grounded. Cael put me down, and bore his eyes into my soul. “No one has ever been as happy as I am right now.” A thrilling electric current tore through me. I never imagined thinking such a thing was possible, but his words—yet again—expressed my feelings exactly. “Let‟s go back to the hotel.” I suggested with a wink.

I was more than ready to make excellent use of the bed. I‟d
thought about nothing else during the excruciatingly long cab ride. He had used “taking things slowly,” as an excuse for far too long. Now we were engaged. Aside from a few random encounters—that I never wanted to know the details of, for fear I‟d be forced to hunt those bitches down and stake them—Cael was slightly less “pure”

than I was, but that was to be expected; he was a lot older than me. His human life was unaccounted for, he could have been a manwhore in that life for all we knew, but that didn‟t seem to matter to either of us, because he had no recollection of it. The second Cael closed the door behind him, he pulled me into him, my body shaping around his. Our gaze locked, and I could see the unbridled lust that consumed him; he wanted this just as badly as I did. I bit my lip, not intending to draw blood again, but instead trying to hold back the intensity that wanted to unleash itself. His finger touched my inward lip and released it from the grasp of my teeth. “If anyone‟s going to be biting that lip, it‟s gonna be me.” His voice was raspy, and oh, so sexy. Our lips molded together as my hands wandered up his jaw. I buried my fingers in his soft hair, pulling him closer until our faces were pressed together. One of his hands rested on my neck, kneading into my hair, while the other tilted my head. His mouth moved feverishly down my throat, his cool breath was abnormally scorching hot. It was crazy how very human I felt: The way my body was reacting so sensitively to his touch—nothing like that of an undead, indestructible vampire. His lips pressed firmly against my neck, and his razor sharp fangs dragged lightly across my flesh. A ragged moan escaped my mouth. Cael took it as a cue, and pierced the skin of my neck. He groaned, as he savored the outpour, and I repositioned my hands to the back of his neck, drawing him in. The exchange of blood was by far the most erotic experience I‟d ever been a part of—and that‟s including the first time I ever saw Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic, which, until Cael came along was as close as I‟d ever come.

My resolve was quickly abandoning me as I started to get light headed. I didn‟t want him to stop, but I knew I would probably have to deal with passing out if I didn‟t do something. I released my firm hold of his neck and pressed my palm against his forehead. Utilizing all my strength and forcing it into my hand. He unclamped his bite and took a few steps back. I could see the shame that was quickly enveloping him. “Why are you all the way over there?” I said in my best seductive voice. If I knew he was going to retreat I never would have pushed him away. He lifted his head a bit and looked at me through guiltridden eyes.


Chapter 18: Can You Handle It?
Told by: Cael


on‟t look so disappointed.” She grinned devilishly. “I gotta tell you, I really like Dark Cael.” Well that successfully caught me off-guard. It was not the reaction I expected after nearly causing her to faint, and not having enough willpower to stop. It was just the most amazing taste; so rich and decadent, like a fine dessert. I wasn‟t able to tear myself away. But now she looked at me, with that gorgeous stare that I would do anything for. Without breaking eye-contact, she walked over to me, reached out and grabbed my forearm. She twisted it slightly and watched the veins in my wrist. Without hesitation, she

All too soon. red curls draped over my arm and any trace of guilt I had before. She looked like a goddess: They should dedicate statues. pouty lips wrapped around my wrist. “I‟m not sure you can. She nuzzled her head into my neck and whispered into my ear.” Her lips turned up into a wicked grin. showing me the dark red remnants of blood that must have been left there. Dark Sidney was commanding. sucking the blood off. She was incredible. and I took another mental snapshot to add to the collection. She paused at my chest and leaned down. “I really like Dark Sidney. she pushed me onto the bed. I could have watched her drain every last drop of blood from me. 127 . Grabbing me by the shoulders.” I said confidently.dug into my flesh. she removed her fangs. I anticipated an unpleasant feeling. paintings. and I would have died happy. I tried to tell her how beautiful she looked. licking off the residual blood that still lingered. swift motion. and again I was paralyzed by her searing eyes and red curls that fanned out over my chest. and was so amazed to find out just how wrong I was that I found myself unable to control my breathing. and lock it away forever in my memory. “You don‟t want to meet Dark Sidney. her soft. no. her long. She stuck her finger in her mouth. but it came out as a fractured groan. “Oh.” “I‟m sure I could handle her. She ran her tongue over her lips. pressing her mouth against my exposed skin.” Then she ran her finger across my lips and held it up. This is regular Sidney. was long gone. sorry for the misunderstanding. Then she ran her fingertips gently up my stomach. and museums around this woman. She straddled me and ripped off my shirt in one. and I wanted nothing more than to capture the image. She looked up at me.” I said.

I think I’m going crazy. and for that. I unzipped ever so slowly. lonely years and reached down. annoyed. every second of every day that we were together. her eyebrows were drawn together in horror. I kissed her with the passion of a hundred. “It could be Kylie. I watched as she read the text. Rotating my head on the pillow. trying not to overlook any detail. Sid. I picked her up and laid her on her back. Take things slowly. but I held it at bay. I was ashamed. Then I ventured up her creamy thigh and settled on the zipper on the back of her dress. taking off her heels with the flick of my finger. I‟d allowed desire to take over tonight.” She exhaled and read the screen of the phone. knowing I should take the phone incident as a sign. Sidney groaned. She was the one who said she liked the darker side of me. I’m hearing voices. and reached for it. “I like Sweet Cael too. Are you OK? I’m scared! I looked back into her eyes. I don’t know what’s going on. and basked in her blissful sighs. It was from Moon. it was excruciating. I drew small circles on the bare skin of her back. Voices could mean she was on the 128 . I rolled to my back. With our lips still locked.” She whispered. and I didn‟t blame her. My hand ran up her calf. Taking my time. I positioned both hands on either one of her hips. My world came crashing down when the phone rattled from the nightstand. who was I kidding? Every part of me wanted her. she was worried about her friend. She held the phone out for me to read what it said. They talk about you all the time. mostly listening to her purr. nuzzling my neck.She crushed my lips to hers and I couldn‟t take it anymore.

She nodded and locked herself in the bathroom. I ran my fingers through her silky curls until I heard the faintest snore. 129 . Something really weird.” I said.” Sidney said while silently hoping this journey would end so she could comfort her friend. of all kinds. “Something weird is going on Cael. she sat on the edge o the bed.” She said without looking up. they‟re telling her things about me. Pulling the blanket over us. She said they never let up. But was there magic involved. I scooted next to her and put my hand on her arm. I trusted his expertise.” I explained honestly. Although I‟d never seen proof of them. I cradled her in my arms and held her close. trying to take her worries away. and I joined her in dreamless sleep. still staring at the phone in her hand. “She‟s hearing voices. “What did she say?” I hadn‟t seen her this freaked out since the fateful fairy incident. Moments later. “You need to call her. According to Taran there were mystical creatures everywhere. That I‟m lying to her about what I am. I always thought it was adorable how she couldn‟t stand talking on the phone in front of people.brink of a psychotic breakdown—among other things. What could be doing this?” “I have no idea. “Is everything okay?” I asked. I tried not to listen. or did Moon just enjoy an extra bowl of crazy that morning? “I told her we‟d be back soon. but I couldn‟t help overhearing the fright in her voice as she consoled her best friend. The soothing sound hit my ears acting like the bell to Pavlov‟s dog. They‟re questioning her about me.

Until the arrow finally turned into the “X” I‟d been waiting so impatiently to see. I wanted to get this whole magical scenario over with so we could get back and do whatever was necessary to make the voices stop.Chapter 19: Touch Told by: Sidney knew Moon better than anyone else. over bridges and small. past one tree after another. completely. green grass of Central Park. Moon was the only thing on my mind. Last night I could hear the fear in her voice which was so unfamiliar. Walking through the lush. I 130 . waterless streams. she wasn‟t the type of person who ever got overly dramatic. or made something out of nothing. that it freaked me out. hearing from her. It seemed like we‟d been walking forever: Blindly following the map‟s paranormal arrow over small mounds of grass.

Her face lit up as she read the plaque that was carved into the stone in front of the sled dog. The hand that I‟d placed through the snow started to get cold. all the while fighting the blizzard. black coat that hung to her knees 131 . Never having experienced it before. She wore a large. each flake whizzing around in the breeze before touching down. I was transported to the moment. but it was like it didn‟t exist…of course it didn‟t. untouched snow. I saw it go straight through my shoe and rest below my feet. Before my eyes. It was a pretty off-putting coincidence. and while Cael and Kylie investigated our surroundings—and talking about the night she‟d spent with Troy—I shrugged and plopped down on a nearby bench. that movie just so happened to be Balto. and the dark-green grass was buried beneath a veil of fresh. unable to allow my mind to wander. I put my hand in the snow. Watching a single snowflake dance in front of me and make its final decent. I had an overwhelming urge to scoop up a ball of it and chuck it at one or both of my companions. “Look. The joggers disappeared. I tried to fight the smile that unwillingly took over my face as I was flooded with memories.” Kylie pointed. and untouched. the tale of the canine hero who delivered the cure for diphtheria. it didn‟t matter how much I tried—or where I sank my hand in—it remained pure. Too bad.We all stopped moving. the bronze statue took on a new set of hues. “It‟s Balto!” Of course it had to be the statue of Balto. tightly-knit. That‟s when the woman showed up—our alleged mother. what was I expecting? But then a bizarre thing started to happen. Every kid has that special movie that they watch thirty times a day and can‟t ever seem to get enough of. For Kylie. so it could be over. really cold! It was the kind of cold that I had always imagined snow to be. smooth. The snow fell gracefully from the sky. waiting for it to happen.

He looked over his shoulder and smiled then ran to her and lifted her up in an embrace. I simply 132 . She sashayed into the distance and was gone.with a brilliantly bright scarf wrapped around her neck. I didn‟t even bother trying to feel anything this time. she bent down and molded a ball out of snow. Just like the other instances. casting a spotlight on the woman as she reappeared. The snow quickly vanished. We both touched the stone band and the small circle fell into my palm. but in different clothes and she looked at us almost making me believe she could see us. she looked the same. not prepared to trudge through the snow. almost like it was melting in extreme fast forward. It splattered on the shoulder of a man who had his back to her. He twirled her in the air. and the woman placed the circle delicately on the collar. In that moment we were sent back to the world of colors. there was a pattern forming. Underneath the large coat and scarf. Kylie and I knew by now what we had to do. and an open-toed pair of heels provided little warmth. As the snow evaporated. it was replaced by the bright haze from the sun. She hurled her arm back and catapulted the loosely packed weapon. From her knees to her ankles there was no covering protecting her from the elements. As if I were living vicariously through her. She waved her hand over it and the gold piece turned to bronze and became part of the statue. and held it up next to the statue of Balto. she must have been dressed for a different setting. all the while beaming with happiness. In one rapid motion. similar to the one we received from the Noble‟s. She revealed a small circle. he hoisted her legs over his arm and carried her out of sight. He wore a faded bronze harness around his neck.

‟?” I knew it was crazy. 133 .handed it Kylie so she could store it away with the rest of the trinkets.” I succumbed. She tucked the piece into her pocket. They probably would have followed it.” I said sternly. For Moon. I laughed inwardly at the thought of them drilling a massive hole through the world in search of hell. “Hell” instead of California. what if the next step is right around the corner? Let‟s just see. if it wrote.” “I know. „insanity. California What the hell? Since when did the map read my mind? “Can anyone say. and put my hands on the map. they would have trusted that map. but it didn‟t seem to faze the others. I can just imagine Cael and Kylie wielding one of those huge earth-digging machines with the spiral teeth. “I have to get home. and pulled out the magic map. too. so we‟re prepared.” “Fine. But. “Kylie.

that my inner-clock paid the price. smoggy haze that softened the rays of the sun. chock-full of hyperventilation and mini panic attacks. I never thought I‟d be so happy to feel the ground under my feet—or see it under hers. even one who has no use for time. We had spent so much time touring the East Coast. It‟s funny how cross-country travel can do that to a person. I was even happy to see the thick. It was seven in the morning. but it felt like the middle of the night. It was a long flight.Chapter 20: Moonward Bound T he recognizable smells of home were comforting. I could only imagine how screwed up Kylie was. courtesy of Kylie. she would be doing so sedated. I spent the flight being annoyed and willing the plane to go faster. 134 . If we ever flew together again. “Are you coming to see Moon?” I asked Kylie.

“Do you feel that?” I asked Cael.” She replied with a yawn. I looked at him like he should already know the answer. I don‟t know why she had even made such a silly suggestion. 135 . I tapped on her shoulder.” If she had some new ghostly friend. First.“I just need to…close my eyes for a minute. she didn‟t mess around. Either way. “Yeah. after shaking her a few times. Nothing was going to wake her. I wasn‟t prepared to face that alone. When Kylie slept. My knuckles touched the wooden door and I couldn‟t shake the feeling of being watched: Being stalked. this time there wasn‟t any looming fog to cast an accusatory finger at. Wake me up when we get there. I had to appreciate the dedication. “Are you sure I should come?” His head tilted in question. I screamed her name.” I said to Cael. “Looks like it‟s just us. Only. it wasn‟t good. He shook his head. and I was reminded of the night I stood on the doorstep of the Noble residence. Chills ran through my body. in a barely audible whisper. I was either hyperaware or manically paranoid. Then.

hugging my knees to my chest. but it was something I had to do. and now she wanted to kill me and infect my body. Maybe a 136 . but when the time came would I be able? They weren‟t voices. It was more like an inner-voice. telling me something I already knew. it just took a while for me to put all the pieces together. The sharp piece of olive wood dangled from my grip. I knew how hard it was going to be. the fate of humans everywhere depended on it. I knew Sidney was hiding something from me. that was just the best way to describe them. an inner-feeling. I knew what I had to do.Chapter 21: Hero Complex Told by: Moon I sat in the corner of my dark bedroom. Of course she was evil.

“She’s here.long time ago she was my best friend. We can do this! Now get up and go to the door. I knew what she was. concentrating. trying to feel their presence. as I tucked the wood behind my back and walked confidently to the door. but I knew better now. I could still feel what they had taught me. and why.” The voice growled angrily. “You’re going to be a hero.” I said aloud.” The inner voice told me. How could they abandon me when I needed them the most? I pressed my fingers to my temples. I waited for a response. “Are you ready to do what you need to? Remember who you’re doing this for. Nothing. “You have to do it. Sometimes it knew things I didn‟t. but it didn‟t come.” “I don‟t know. “How am I supposed to do this alone?” I yelled. there’s no one else. Though they were gone.” The voice said. My body rocked when I heard the knock at the door. “But what if she fights back?” I asked. but that‟s why I needed it. 137 . I chanted what I had to do.

138 . now it was like she was possessed. she hadn‟t been sleeping. She looked like she‟d given up on…everything. and would be better suited in a soft. The only thing out of the ordinary was Moon as she stood there. Her eyes were surrounded by massive dark circles. she hadn‟t been doing much of anything in the terms of self-preservation. By the looks of it. Her body shivered and quaked as she held the door open. The look in her eyes was blank and emotionless. blank eyes. Just yesterday. I entered her dark. her voice was full of fear. empty house and the ominous feeling was gone.Chapter 22: Zombie Told by: Sidney M oon was almost unrecognizable. Her violetcolored hair was tangled and knotted in a way I‟d never seen it before. staring at me with those big. padded room.

because he got behind her and went to pull her frail body away from me. it was pretty obvious she wasn‟t coming in for a hug. I shot Cael a disturbed look. except her arms were down. concerned. How could she possibly know that? I was too stunned to move out of the way and she plunged the dagger into my chest. Moon was an inch away from my face and I couldn‟t hear inside her head. I gasped when I recognized the spiral markings of olive wood. Out of the corner of my eye. as if a wall had been built to keep out intruders. All I could force myself to do was look at her.I reached out to touch her arm. I yanked out the wood and watched my blood drip from the tip and plummet to the plush carpet. so she‟d feel satisfied. she walked toward me. It stung a little. At the sound of my voice. To put it mildly: I was scared shitless. Cael took a stance beside me. Dude?What the hell? 139 . My expression said.” She just stared at me with that same look of determination consuming her being. That‟s when she raised her hand. her eyes dramatically changed from blank to determined. “What‟s going on?” I asked. and I wondered if I should pretend to die. Slowly. “Moon? Talk to me. and she jumped back like I was contagious and she was an extreme germaphobe. So I did what I had to do: I channeled into her inner thoughts. I was worried where this was going. Instead. like a zombie. displaying a crudely-made piece of wood with a sharp point. with his best protective face painted on. but there was nothing. He had to have been experiencing the same technical difficulties. Neither of us knew what her next move would be.

purple bruises that covered her arms. what is going on?” She started to sob big.” “Why would they target Moon?” 140 .” She cried. “Rayna‟s catching the next flight here. the only people we knew who may have the answers we needed. I grabbed her fists and held them tightly. I kept my eyes on the weeping figure before me and tried to listen to his side of the call. That they‟re ghosts. It was worse than I‟d thought. “Moon.” one. That‟s when I noticed the deep. as if reading my mind. It wasn‟t her shattered appearance that tipped me off. “okays.” “What was their idea?” I asked. That was the moment I knew things were serious. “no. heaping sobs. She‟s going to look after her and try to figure out what it is. and then he listened to the other side of the phone. “They said something about wraiths. Following a couple. “are you sure?” he hung up and turned to me. I knew who he was calling. pulled out his cell phone and began dialing. Not her irrational behavior. Cael. and their main goal is to corrupt humans. Although. they have a pretty good idea. He told them everything that happened. She made two fists and started pounding them against her head. by the sound of it. we really can‟t.Moon fell to the ground with defeat. how supernatural it felt. not even when she tried to kill me.” and. Moon never used expletives (the exceptions being: Damn and hell) and she‟d just released the granddaddy of them all. forcing her to look at me. “I don‟t fucking know. not the bruises. I didn‟t know whether they were self-inflicted or if someone had beaten her.

Yeah. If they got to Moon. and started walking away. I‟ll go. it was becoming increasingly harder to justify. I turned my head to face her. time travel or people possessed by lord knows what. he just didn‟t want to say it. I was still bitter with her. but my feet continued towards the car. “My parents!” I gasped. I turned. “but if I get stabbed in the heart. do you want to run in and check on them?” I asked. She‟s not 141 . “How is Kylie?” Again. who was to say they wouldn‟t be after them too. “Kyle. she wants to ask you how you are or something. I swung the car door open. Nothing fazed her. we filled Kylie in on what had taken place and she proceeded to cradle Moon in her arms.” But I knew. not vampires. and I had every right to be. “Kyle. magic maps. “Sidney!” Cynthia squealed when she opened the door. I guess. Though.” I flung the car door open and marched up the walkway.” She hesitated. Satisfied that they were fine. “Not yet. He probably knew too. But I don‟t see why they‟d have reason to stab you. There was no sign of bruising or inner torment. They attacked her to get to me. On the way. there‟s a good chance I‟ll die!” “Fine. Do you want to talk to her?” I didn‟t wait for her response. They wanted her—for whatever reason—to kill me. her voice was somber. “She‟s fine. “Did you find your mother?” She asked in a forlorn voice.” I muttered. The thing I couldn‟t figure out was why. “I have to check on them!” Cael scraped Moon‟s crumpled body off the floor and we all packed into the Jag. “Um.“I don‟t know.

you‟ll be fine.” “How could she know?” I asked skeptically. but I refrained from reading their lips.” situation had brought them closer? “Alright. It was hard. she knows things we couldn‟t even comprehend. We‟re going to 142 . “We have to find her. “It‟s just slightly varied from the original plan. you should know that she understands there‟s more in the world than just humans.” Kylie continued. I was curious what they were talking about. Serenity. „what were you thinking?!‟ on me. it seemed to be taking a long time.” Kylie examined my reaction. That‟s verbatim by the way. but it was a hard thing to shake. she knew she wasn‟t from here. with his very distinctive leadership voice. She‟s going to take Moon back to Romania where they can protect her. Is it possible that this whole “I‟m not really your mom.” Cael said.” “Okay. She knew our biological mom. so we have a new plan. We are going to pick up Rayna from the airport.” Kylie announced as she climbed into the backseat. But wait. “From what I was just told. so confession time. “I may or may not have told mom about the Moon situation. bodylanguage and minds. which was a mixture of betrayal and guilt—the former was left over from walking away from my mom. before you get all. they hugged each other and then parted ways. that I‟d only heard him use a few times before.” I didn‟t mean to transfer the bitterness to Kylie. My gaze shifted between Moon—who had fallen asleep— and the exchange that was taking place between my sister and “mother”. “She told me what we have to do. She‟ll know how to help Moon.possessed. In a sickeningly sweet moment.

it tended to have the same effects as his mind control. If what your…other mother said is true.find your mother. then we‟ll be able to come back and help Moon. 143 .” It was difficult to do anything other than agree completely and nod like a fool when Cael put on his in-charge voice.

and fast. 144 . we knew we‟d have to make the rest of the trip on foot. Cael drove in the direction of the pointing arrow. and it drew the same agitating arrow we‟d seen so many times before. We placed our hands on the map.” I said as I hugged Moon. From there. Kylie and I knew what we had to do. Together we purchased two tickets back to Romania. and followed it until it brought us to the parking lot of The St. so the hug was mostly me wrapping my arms around her while she stood there in a petrified state. Augustine Clinic. She was still half-dead and didn‟t want to talk to any of us. Reluctantly. and told her the new plan. “Take good care of her.Chapter 23: Love I met Rayna at the airport.

leaving us time to formulate a well-thought-out. But I‟m sure. “We don‟t perform deliveries here. and I wondered how she planned on making her grand entrance once we‟d walked all her steps. She hadn‟t looked up from her computer monitor since we‟d walked in. uncaringly. volunteer basis kind of places. But I spotted the nurse with her desk positioned at the opening. It was the kind of facility that treats people with no medical insurance. “You‟ll have to go to the Emergency Room. pointing to it and 145 . I hobbled over to the nurse‟s desk. though I‟d never been there before. if given the choice between surly me and auto-pilot me.All I could think about was how ready I was for this whole parade through the past to be over with. The map pointed down a small hallway. wildly original plan. All the drama was making me that person again. and the hospital was almost empty. the one thing she lacked seemed to be money. “I‟m about to pop!” I panted and rubbed the basketball that was conveniently lodged under my jacket. there was no way we would be able to casually sneak past her. “Oh god!” I screamed out as I burst in the front door of the hospital.” The nurse said. It was late. So it only made sense that Serenity would have come here. Would she shimmer down from the heavens in a beam of light? Maybe she‟d sprout magical wings and flutter around us just out of reach. I remembered hearing about this place. everyone would have chosen surly. because while she may have been a god in nearly every way. one of those pro-bono. howling all the way. Do you know where it is?” Crap! In all the intricate planning—which included finding a basketball rolling through the parking lot.

The door opened gently. she looked up at the doctor. It pointed directly at exam room four. he‟ll take great care of you. The map sketched the recognizable “X”. With the nurse on our heels. She was alone. and we all stood still against the pale yellow wall. The red-haired woman—our mother—sat on the tissue paper-covered bed. the colors changed. it was something we didn‟t even think to consider. Like so many times before. A friend of mine. Nearly glowing. clung to the basketball. “You‟re sure?” she asked. Never actually being pregnant ourselves. Regardless. expecting to see shock. Although now it made since.” He replied. man wore thick glasses that were aimed at the clipboard he held. “It looks like you‟re pregnant. or horror. she beamed. “Now. and he looked up at her. Mid-way down. Instead. “Well. and the angry banging outside the door was silenced.” 146 . lanky. I‟m going to write you a referral to a great gynecologist.” I waited patiently for her reaction. Miss…Smith. His finger readjusted the metal brim. we piled in the room and locked the door behind us. The tall. I had to get down that hallway.” He said. and swept past the woman hoping she wouldn‟t be able to catch me. I heard the nurse‟s pattering steps behind us. “Positive. I turned to Kylie and we quickly placed our hands on the map. so I screamed loudly. Kylie and Cael followed with haste. and dangling her feet off the side of the bed. and her head perked up at the sight of the doctor. wearing a white hospital gown. people didn‟t give birth in clinics.shoving it under a jacket—not one of us had thought of that.

Her hands gently touched her stomach. who quickly showed up. She walked out of the clinic.” After her words were spoken. Just in case. the three of us were transported to the parking lot of the clinic. as per her usual. “No. and with her hands. she vanished right before our eyes.“Thank you. anticipating her theatrical entrance. It was getting sickeningly predictable. mystery and suspense. Instead. “But that won‟t be necessary. There. It‟s time for me to go back home. I looked at the sepia toned building. and congratulations. she arched her arm back and tossed something small into the air. she directed it. you aren‟t from around here?” He looked down at her information sheet. But it didn‟t take her long to return. She pulled something from her pocket and glided to the front of the clinic. I looked around the rusted-over parking lot and said.” She said in a way that I couldn‟t be angry at.” “Oh. She looked the same. I watched the sky. using flight attendant like gestures. I‟ll have the nurse give you that referral on the way out. If you change your mind. and yet.” she smiled. it was just another part of the show. wondering if it was finally over. The object levitated above her.” “Have a safe trip. I was just about done with the magic. “Enough with the magic!” The statement was directed at Serenity. “We‟re going home. different. This time was no different than every other time.” She walked past us and. However she didn‟t make an appearance in response to my outburst. stopping once outside the door. “My girls.” “Thank you so much. but it has been an experience I will never forget. 147 .

causing it to turn white and blend in flawlessly with the building. but the only thing I could think about was how we were supposed to get the triangle bauble down from the sign. and that was incentive enough. then faded and was gone. who are apparently twins. “I think it‟s broken. when she pushed her hand toward the building. trying to ignite the flame and will myself to lift off the ground. Augustine‟s Clinic sign. I put my arms tightly around my sister and thought about feathers. maybe in some different universe. the tiny trinket moved with her. air…There was still pavement under my feet. The small triangle fit perfectly in the opening of the “A” that made up the St. but had she even thought to consider how we might go about getting it down? “Sid. Serenity had used some kind of magic to get it up there. she stared directly at us.” I said. So what. It slid into the triangular gap with ease. “I think there‟s only one way to get it down. Until it was at its final resting place. and the woman waved her hand.” For the smallest moment I looked at him not knowing what he was referring to. I wasn‟t even the slightest bit affected by this trip down Memory Lane. Moon needed me. Because I tried to constantly forget that I could fly. I scoffed to myself. and tried to visualize myself as one of them.She pushed the air with the palm of her hand and the object rose higher. I thought about hot air balloons. ever.” Cael‟s silky voice interrupted my sour attitude. it was something I didn‟t want to have to use. perhaps the one with the trees made of cotton candy and gingerbread men skipping around. The colors came back. Just to be sure she wasn‟t varying at all from the predictable routine. pillows. she was pregnant with Kylie and me. Yeah. It wasn‟t working. 148 . not all that disappointed.

I inspected the ruby-colored jewel. and for the fourth time. think about last night…” As he started to tell me about some of the key points. Getting down wasn‟t too difficult. Heavy thoughts were something I could depend on. They hadn‟t failed me yet. Holding Kylie firmly with one arm. we reached out and touched the hole in the “A. It knows the way. no flashbacks or lost memories. I sighed as I placed my hands on it. “Sugar. Kylie tucked it away and pulled out the map.“Clear your mind. I felt nothing. Levitation by romanticism. I popped my eyes open—a little disappointed that the daydream had to end—and saw the sign right in front of us. wondering how many more times we were going to have to go through this. red.” Cael stood behind me and whispered. Instead of a line. who could have known? “Okay stop.” A small. an arrow. “Where are all the pieces?” 149 .” He turned to Kylie. “Amulet?” I shouted at the map. and close your eyes. I‟m sure there‟s something we‟re overlooking. “All we have are random ass pieces of an amulet. seemingly a little afraid of my unexpected outburst. jeweled triangle fell into our hands.” Kylie reminded me. Safely on the ground.” the map started to write a message: Follow the amulet. it was just a random piece of jewelry. I felt myself floating. No strong ties to the object. “Now. or that infuriating “X. Are we supposed to become jewelers now too?” Cael placed his hand on my shoulder.

which we drove down until we were directed down a remote road I‟d never been before. Together they formed a very ancient looking. and when her hand reemerged. I suggested that Kylie get some sleep and promised I‟d do whatever necessary to wake her up as soon as the necklace decided we had arrived. Looking at the clock. “What the…” I couldn‟t finish my sentence. We followed Highway 15 until it turned into Highway 10. They must have done it while unsupervised in Kylie‟s pocket. When it finally stopped it pointed to the East. Right on schedule. I couldn‟t believe my eyes. The amulet expertly wove us from one road to the next. Using the aid of the streaming rays.She dug into the pocket she‟d been storing all the bits in. cutting through the darkness. The pieces of the “amulet” had formed together. to tiny 150 . the sun peeked over the flat road. all I could see through the darkness was rippled. The smaller circle sat on top of the big one and the pyramid shaped gem laid on top. They ranged from thirtyfoot giants with arms that unwaveringly aimed at the sky. rigid desert. I was too busy trying to figure out what kind of crazy shit we were tangled in. Before our eyes the ruby started spinning. resembling a hyper-active compass. not even casting the slightest breeze. Route 62 took us through the San Bernardino Mountains. We were completely alone on the road. Standing proudly beside the roadway were many different varieties of cacti. clunky necklace. The air outside seemed stagnant. The gold chain was tightly fastened to the large gold oval. We had no idea how long we‟d be going in that direction so we opted to drive. For hours. I was able to see more of the desolate setting.

it kind of pissed me off.little spikes that stuck out of the ground. So instead. but I couldn‟t look 151 . Cael pressed the gas pedal. so she could tell me how to help Moon. but lost interest once I got to twelve. She just assumed we‟d care. but now I just wanted to get this over with and resume my normal life. I guess I did initially. I held the annoyingly persistent necklace in my hand and watched it as it steadfastly pointed down the never-ending highway. I thought it may have gotten lost. the compass started spinning like it had in front of St. but it just wasn‟t worth it. The only thing I wanted was to be out of this car. and I was jealous. What was the point? It‟s not like it would have dramatically changed my life to determine whether or not there actually were twenty-nine of them. We drove through a small desert town. I started counting the palm trees that bordered the road. I took it out of my lap and held it out over the dashboard so it was able to see out the windows. I guess I could have written them a letter about false advertisement. but found I wasn‟t able to sleep unless I had those comforting arms wrapped around me. None of the other stuff mattered. in fact.” Determined. the sign read: “Twentynine Palms. just waiting to impale someone misfortunate enough to stumble across one. I closed my eyes in an effort to avoid the forsaken scenery. He got out to see what had happened. I looked straight ahead. The Jag started to chug and sputter. Following the momentous occasions in her life didn‟t make me want to meet her anymore. and that‟s when smoke began to pour out from under the hood. and with Serenity. Just outside the town. Kylie slept. and watched the road spread out twenty-miles in front of me. Augustine‟s.

and pull Cael away from the smoking car. but I was finally able to wake Kylie. the question at the tip of everyone‟s tongues was whether or not we would. it was pointing North. Toward the wide open desert. It took a massive amount of effort. but we didn‟t have a lot of options.away from the amulet. 152 . our phones weren‟t picking up service. His car would survive. I reassured him promising that someone would stumble across it and tow it back to town. I could tell he didn‟t want to leave his car stranded in the middle of an empty road.

My mind refused to stop going over our survival options. you‟d think she would have programmed the damned magic map to recommend we pack some food and water. every tumbleweed we crossed was just another unpleasant reminder of that yearning. A scorpion scurried along the sand. It was 153 . If she planned on sending us on a journey through the desert on foot. Now. I could tell Kylie was losing steam. and wondered how long it would be before I would have to carry her. and I was reminded of an hour ago when I wished we were out of the car. finding shelter under a rock. and changing Kylie in order to keep her alive. but it didn‟t. and how long it would be after that when I would find myself sucking the blood out of a scorpion. and the inner-conflict regarding our mother‟s concern for our safety.Chapter 24: Earthly Fracture T he sun beat down and blistered everything in its path.

I trust her. I don‟t know if you can see it or not. or just blindly trust her. stopping and propping myself against a large boulder. she wouldn‟t let us die in the middle of the desert. There‟s no end in sight. “Not a chance. I vowed to give it a little longer—a mile at most—and if nothing magical happened.” She said stubbornly. “I think we should go back to the town.” “I‟m fine. For every one step I took I counted it as three feet.” More than anything I wanted to snatch Kylie up and drag her back to the town kicking and screaming. You‟re already getting dehydrated. 154 . but if I look in the direction this thing is pointing. we were going with plan B. Since I hadn‟t thought to bring a measuring tape with me. It seemed the most effective way to measure a mile. and stopped walking after realizing that I had no idea how many feet were in a mile. I shook my head at Cael and caught up with my ever-trusting sister.” I said. I started counting my steps. but she‟s right. I mentally counted nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine feet.” Kylie used her sleeve to wipe beads of sweat away from her forehead. and miles. Instead. as she took the necklace from my hands and continued walking.” “Kyle. “We‟ve got to be close. whether she liked it or not. which is what we had been doing up to this point. “I can see desert for she expected us to know her plans. After losing track more than a few times.” Cael took a step forward and looked in the direction the compass was aimed. It would be safer if we came back when we‟re better prepared. “Besides.” I shook the necklace in my hand. and miles. “I hate to say it Kylie.

“Uh.” It was pointing straight ahead. “It stopped spinning. But she was nowhere to be found.” Kylie said. The three of us were standing on the edge of a cliff…in the middle of the desert. As my foot landed firmly on nothingness. but it was turned around. death trap. about a two-hundred foot drop taunted it‟s dusty. grabbed Cael by the arm and walked off the side of the cliff.“Did you lose count again?” Cael asked. I could 155 . as well as not forget how many feet we‟d already covered.” Without another word. so she was a bit further ahead (about 30 feet—I considered myself an expert at estimating feet at this point). I tried to justify to myself. scouring the bottom of the canyon. and looked down. “But. “Not exactly. Surely there couldn’t be more than a thousand. We rushed to her side. crevasse to find the land was separated as far as I could see. My eyes followed the length of the deep. She hadn‟t fallen. she‟d just vanished. I called out for her. I found myself staring at the cliff I‟d just walked off of. It always caught me off guard when he knew what I was doing without me explaining. slight problem. but she was gone. and I couldn‟t believe what I saw. “There‟s no way across. “Catch me if I fall. Below us. So I pushed my sense of reason aside.” I reasoned. This world of magic was far too complex for me to comprehend. It was the exact same setting I had just been looking at.” Kylie pointed wildly at the necklace. Kylie stepped off the ledge. I reached for her.” I said as I tried to remember a class that taught us conversions. She hadn‟t stopped walking when we had. look.

I jumped and put some distance between us. green forest. I squeezed Cael‟s hand tightly. The desert was completely gone. That‟s when the statues began to creak. and snaked around. they were alive. It was like a different dimension had opened up over the top of the canyon. but not a dream. The forest. stone gargoyles that flanked the entrance. my feet were firmly nestled in a carpet of grass.see the desert we had just trudged through. dark grass. Their bat-like features were as clear as if they‟d been carved just moments ago. whoever had carved such a life-like statue had to have talent. lush. The ground was hidden by a layer of thick. The gargoyles creaked and flexed. This was not a place of happiness! I grabbed Kylie by the arm and ran. right down to the five-foot. He squeezed back confirming he was here as well. and if I looked really closely I could almost make out the car we‟d left behind us. however. But when I looked down. it twisted. The sound was that of stone being rubbed harshly together. But who was I kidding? This world was made of magic. and the sky was nowhere to be found. Everything around me seemed to glisten with a dreamlike haze. Emerald-colored moss trailed up each one of the trees that formed a covering over it. wasn‟t having any of that. “Over here guys!” I heard Kylie‟s voice and turned around. for all I knew. Marble muscles ripped through their bodies. and their massive wings were tucked at their sides. as fast as I could. Instead. forcing me to run in a circle. 156 . in a straight line. I admired the craftsmanship. their squinty eyes taking on a red glow. then broke free from their platforms. and this wasn‟t a dream—a hallucination perhaps. and we were surrounded by a deep. I found that I wasn‟t standing on air.

” He prodded. When they failed. I could feel the vibrations of the gargoyle‟s crashing steps 157 .” There was no way I would be allowed to stand still and focus.I weaved through the trees trying to throw them off. Cael ran beside me. “You two keep running. and tried to think of all the things that made me weightless. He let go—always trying to be the hero—and I lost my concentration and crashed to the ground. but the forest seemed to shape around me. I tried to think about that night with Cael. “Okay. the details got jumbled when I heard the snarling quickly approaching from behind. “I‟ll try again.” I had Kylie tucked under my arm like a piece of luggage. I tried: The feather. and bird routes. I grabbed him by the hand.” “No!” I reached down and grabbed his hand back so he couldn‟t do anything stupid. Kylie and I laid there side by side. letting go of my hand. but I tried to push that image out of my mind and think only of light things. we would be eaten—or whatever they had in store for us—long before we could leave the ground. “Just try. In that moment I felt like a balloon at the Macy‟s Thanksgiving Day Parade while Cael held my hand and I floated along. leaf. only allowing me to go where it wanted me to go: A circle. and the froth on top of a latté. until my feet left the ground. and don‟t look back. I thought about the buoyant feeling you get underwater.” he concluded. “I can‟t do it!” I shrieked. “You have to fly!” “I can‟t! That takes concentration. still running. I tried to muster an image of every wispy thing I could imagine. I thought about bubbles.

Cael leapt in front of us and crouched low to the ground. their teeth bared and ready to rip our throats out. “We were just leaving. He huffed agitatedly at me. Apparently. hoping they spoke English and could understand that we didn‟t mean to intrude. Cael snarled again—which in a different setting would. and it seemed we were out of options. but that was just uncalled for. I wasn‟t going to let him do it alone. and walked a few feet in front of Cael. though. 158 . however. have been unbelievably sexy—and I stood up. To crouch in the middle of the forest in our warrior positions and send growls and snarls back and forth. stone gargoyles. They. Their roars got louder. not enough to deter the opposition. they sounded pretty intimidating. Vampires versus Gargoyles. motioning for Kylie to stay on the ground. sending a warning growl to them. So I guess that was the plan. I understand he was caught up in the moment and hell bent on protecting me. “Get back there with Kylie!” He snarled. If he was going up against two. They slowed down. People would not pay to see this they closed in on us. then turned to bare his fangs at the gargoyles. echoing through the forest and shaking the trunks of the trees. I took a stance next to Cael and tried out my growling skills. This seemed to upset them more. ready to bound. There they stood. I wasn‟t sure if they were challenging him or warning him. Petrified. didn‟t seem to care. with their mouths wide open roaring in anger.” I told them. “What‟s the plan?” I asked between angry growls. what a sight. “No!” I barked.

I shot my glare between him and the stone monsters determined to kill us. “Sit!” He commanded. and kneeled down in front of him. “How did you do that?” I asked. annoyed that he would ask so casually. The little man put his thumb and pointer finger in his mouth and whistled. I glanced over to see a small. “Oh them?” He said pointing a chubby finger toward the gargoyles. He didn‟t answer.“Hey! Did you come to help?” a small male voice asked from within the gathering of trees. one of them turning its head back once to send us a farewell show of teeth. The massive beasts turned around and walked away. It took everything I had to remember how this tiny man had just saved our lives. “Are you here to help?” He finally asked. The statues sat on command like a set of well-trained Doberman. and wore a pointy red hat.” He shrugged.” I hissed. Cael approached the little guy. “So?” I looked at him closely trying to figure out what he was indirectly asking about. “We‟re a little busy. and taking his would be wrong. “Go home!” The little man ordered. He was about two-feet tall. He looked like an oversized garden gnome. so he was on the same level. “Help with what?” 159 . and nodded. “It‟s nothin‟. just stood there with his chest pushed out and a question written all over his face. plump man standing next to Kylie.

he puffed out his chest smugly. that? Well my parents call me Frankie. but they‟re the only ones allowed to call me that. I looked at him and wanted to reply by saying: „A little tiny man with a pointy hat.“The fairies are gone. And I was sent on a top secret mission to find out why.” I remembered what it was like in the desert: The blistering hot sun. stocky “guns. “My friends call me F-bomb. baffled. “What name were you born with?” “Oh.” I giggled inwardly about the „F-bomb‟ connotation. “What do you mean they stopped?” “I‟m a gnome. “Why were you sent on this mission alone?” 160 . “I‟ve got loads of names.” Again. and the cracked earth. something happened to them. because of the guns.” The little man said.” “Fairies?” I asked. “What on earth did you think I was?” With a tilted eyebrow. It seemed like summer to me. We know that kind of thing.” He said with a stern face. If you won‟t use the nickname.” He flexed his arms displaying his pale. Frank. “What‟s your name?” I asked. “Of course I am. call me Frank.” “Okay.” He explained.‟ It was starting to crawl under my skin the way he automatically expected us to know all these things. “You‟re a gnome?” Kylie spoke up in an overly-excited tone.” Cael examined the little man. “Yeah. probably wondering why he was wearing such a tough mask. “We noticed when the seasons stopped.

and small creatures. I‟m the toughest one there is. Terrible species. “I‟ve heard stories about humans. “You mean you can‟t tell? You must not know gnomes. You just think everything takes care of itself. hanging on his every word. Frank patted her on the shoulder and gave her a look of pity like she was a lesser being for not knowing the duties of his people. rich history of taking care of small forest life.” Cael shook his head. “But if you insist on helping. “What does a gnome do exactly?” Kylie asked. “First. You guys are a horrible species. “so blissfully ignorant. you ruin everything we work so hard to maintain.” He had assumed that Cael and I were humans. You couldn‟t care less that we spend our lives slaving to keep everything nice. We work hand-in-hand with the fairies and nymphs. “I‟m afraid I‟ve never had the pleasure. The three of us sat in a circle around 161 . puffing his chest out so much I thought he might be on the dangerous side of exploding.Frank the gnome glared at Cael.” He said. we need to know a few things. still shaking his head. Together. plant-life. and I wasn‟t about to correct him. “Gnomes have a long. Feeling out of place being the only one left standing.” He smirked.” He shook his head from side to side. I won‟t deny you. “Well. I took a seat as well. don‟t you?” he asked Kylie. Could you tell us where we are exactly?” He shifted uncomfortably. “Ah.” Frank said. we manage the seasons. humans. still patting her on the arm. “You mean you don‟t know?” Cael had already sat down on the plush-grass carpeting along with Kylie.” he said with a sigh.

I don‟t exactly know where we are. Without a doubt I know something happened to them. your mom must be something amazing in order to have that much power. We garden. as far as the fairies are concerned. gnomes. watching his wiggling feet. we do our jobs and don‟t question anything. and how she‟d led us here by means of a magic map and necklace that acted as a compass. weathered boots. How did you get here if you don‟t know where you are?” Assuming we didn‟t have much to lose. he may even know how to fix Moon. Now.” Frank pointed out. He stood there for a while.” His eyebrows raised in indecision. fine!” His head shot up. we told him the story of our mother. “Alright.” “How many different species do you know of?” I asked curiously. We aren‟t exactly risk-takers. fairies and small. “I don‟t know a lot. “How so?” Cael asked tensely. granddad said it was the portal that would lead me to help. “I‟ve never heard a story quite as far-fetched as that one.” He sighed and stared at his brown. that. We‟re more like ants.Frank like we were first-graders patiently awaiting a reading of The Pokey Little Puppy. I was instructed to come here. “You have no idea. don‟t leave our homes. “By the looks of it. I do know about. We work together in the middle of the seasons. I don‟t know of anything that can project that kind of power. If your story is true. This little guy could have all the answers we searched for. gather and protect the animals. Collectively. That‟s it. Frank‟s head remained down. “Uh…well…it‟s complicated. “We. furry mammals. his jaw was agape and he looked bewildered. So to answer your questions: The only other species I‟ve ever met are nymphs. we 162 .

Knowing your species. humans will panic. Fairies are very punctual. they have to be. it‟s their job. We waited for them. but they never came. They‟ve never not come.prepare for the change. it will remain summer. you‟ll probably destroy the earth with your mass hysteria. And without the season change.” 163 . If they‟re gone forever.

but he‟d been very informative. Kylie sought out her heart. Cael was on the journey to satisfy his piece of mind: Brain. As we walked through the tall. After opening up like that I felt like I could trust him. Leaving me with the only available option: There‟s no place like home. F 164 . she wanted nothing more than to fill the void in her life and find that missing part of her. I imagined it was a mustard-colored road made of brick. he needed enough to fight for the fairies. and we were skipping forth to meet the all-powerful. all-knowing wizard. thick grass. Together we decided to trek through the forest and follow the enchanted necklace. he was curious about what else existed. each of us with our own agendas. Following the same analogy. I suppose Frank was searching for courage.Chapter 25: Technical Difficulty rank wasn‟t aware.

We had only been walking a few minutes. as it resembled more of an endless. gracefully out of our path. I pulled at his arm and ripped through the forest trying to find shelter. Then it began to lift. Cael and I trailed cautiously behind them. Instead. Kylie held the amulet in front of her. they shifted as if there was a giant in the sky moving them around like chess pieces. They didn‟t uproot themselves and walk around—even though I fully expected them to. As it rippled like the ocean in the midst of a storm. jerking my body. Every direction we ran. I couldn‟t be sure it was a sky. and causing me to tumble. but I couldn‟t shake the familiar feeling of being watched. pitch-black void. Unexpectedly. the trees had rearranged to let us through. He was transfixed on the sky. They sizzled and cracked so loudly that the ground shook beneath my feet. blue bolts of lightning rolled through the darkness. The sky was visible for the first time. I tore my eyes away from the bolts and looked over at Cael. the covering of branches that formed an umbrella. Bright. it was dark and menacing. a crashing wave would send me soaring. forming a small hill and propping me up. parted. the ground tossed me into the air. keeping it near to the ground so Frank could see it. Each time I fell back into the grass. 165 . They never left the comfort of the soil. The plush grass softened my fall and held me in its warm embrace. With Frank leading the way. the trees anticipated. They slid out of our path and parted to reveal the open sky. nonetheless they slid. but I still couldn‟t get used to the mystical forest. and the limbs didn‟t move around like arms. The ground trembled. They didn‟t seem out of place at all.

hoping I‟d be able to see a way out. Clinging to a grass-shaped tree. they stood thirty-feet tall and waved as gusts of wind ripped through them. Leaves covered my face. my body refused my commands and my eyes closed. The lights of the amusement park filled my thoughts with happiness. Around me.As I defiantly flew through the air. My body was punctured where the tree had stabbed me. My mangled body wanted to shut down and give up. my feet lifted from the ground and blew in the breeze. 166 . I fell from the clutches of the maple tree and sunk down the trunk. The tree hugged me tighter and the sound of cracking echoed in my ears. they spiraled around madly. Instead. A brilliant. I tried to stand. Immediately. leaving me feeling broken. Looking over my shoulder. The tree held me in its branches. Suddenly. I saw the open void. I clung to instinct and blew the leaf out of my face. I was with Cael. I could feel my flesh tearing as the branches splintered into me. and chunks of wood burrowed into my skin. cuddling under the stars at Fun World. neon-tinted lightning bolt shot out of the sky and rocked my core as it crashed into me. taking me momentarily to my happy place. I saw the realization of a nightmare. they wrapped around my entire body. chocolate browns. the lights began to twist and contort. the world was different. but couldn‟t gain my footing. Lying on the ground. forming a matrix around me. I felt the complete opposite of indestructible. Fighting the urge. I was caught by a set of rough. But the trees resembled blades of grass. The colors were the same: Dark. My body cried out in pain. mossy green and rich. bony arms. until I was left with no option but to pry my eyes open.

Either way I was horrified as I grasped at the air trying to avoid colliding with the ground. I couldn‟t be worried with my own safety when Kylie‟s life was in jeopardy. I had. In a last ditch effort. toward the ground. and didn‟t travel very far. Looking for them was useless as well. and sent me plummeting. The breeze caught me before I landed. The air pounded against me. It bucked me off and sent me flying through the air. tossing me in conflicting directions. as I twisted and sailed along with the wind. I realized either everything had been tremendously inflated or I was as small as an insect. She was so fragile. and I felt gravity take hold. at least compared to the boulder that sat just inches from my face. My attempts failed. My body met the soil at a crashing speed. but my voice was small. That‟s when I realized that the trees hadn‟t transformed. I just hoped my body would be able to handle the fall. It pulled me down. but I knew I had to get up: For Kylie. My ribs ached from the impact. the wind whipped me around leaving me unable to focus my gaze in any direction. I tried to concentrate.As the wind picked up. I put all my fears and worries aside. once again. dirt was soft. The damp. 167 . and thought of nothing but the feeling of weightlessness. hard and fast. I tried to call out for Cael and Kylie. I straightened my sore legs and put all my strength behind a kick. Soaring through the air. it whirled me around like I was a speck of dust. I found it more difficult to retain my hold of the massive tower of grass. and there was nothing for me to grab on to. It was almost soothing in a strange way. It freed me from the wind-tunnel. My body was resilient.

was far more powerful than me. and filled my mind with pleasant thoughts of him. and began to tear strips off of my shirt. As I lay there. Hesitantly. I could feel the full effects of the fall I‟d taken. Droplets of sweat stung into my eyes. There were gashes and holes covering my stomach. The sight of it nearly caused me to faint. I released the blade of grass. I watched the wounds. Looking at my hand. I held my stomach. I took an uneasy breath and wiped the sweat from my head. I pledged my undying love to Cael. What I would have given to be with her at that moment. I never should have walked away from her like I did. clinging to the grass. I crumbled to the ground once more. I struggled back to my feet. Unable to handle the pressure on my lungs. But I continued on. I lay against the dirt and watched the grass sway. I lifted my shirt to find the source of the blood. Still hugging the grass. I took in a short. What was happening to me? My lungs throbbed and begged for oxygen. I apologized to Moon. It was useless. I tried to hold my breath so I didn‟t have to smell the nauseating crimson liquid. labored breath and fell to my knees. knowing this was going to be the last thing I saw before I died. struggling for breath. After securing them tightly around the more serious injuries. blood oozed from the tears. I hoped that Kylie would be okay. and to my mother. Once I was standing. I couldn‟t believe what I saw: It was blood. trying to block out the splintering pain within. But before closing my eyes for the final time. 168 . Every step was excruciating. Every breath was sharp and agonizing. Whatever this place possessed. and my jeans were ripped. trying to make them heal.I hobbled along the ground.

“I was small. feeling a little achy. and I forced my eyes fully open. “Sidney?” The voice grew hands and shook my shoulders. “I am?” My voice cracked. trying to convince myself that I hadn‟t imagined the entire thing. I told you. “No. afraid of what they‟d see. What aren’t you telling us?” he demanded. I saw Kylie and Frank standing around me. “We bled. I don‟t really know this place.” I said. “There‟s something wrong with this place. confused.” I sat up. We aren‟t supposed to bleed. Nothing works. “I was so worried! I couldn‟t find you.” He lulled. “Did you heal me?” I asked.Everything went black. he took a step back. “What do you mean you aren‟t supposed to bleed?” Cael ignored the question and turned me to face him.” Looking around. Everyone looked fine.” Cael pulled me to my feet. I found you almost dead. and there weren‟t any traces left of my previous injuries. but his worry surpassed the border of my sight. Cael kneeled over me. and then turned to Frank. My ribs didn‟t feel broken anymore. “Sid?” I heard a muffled voice. “You‟re okay now. My eyes crept open. but couldn‟t be sure if it was real. “What? Nothing. I tried. normal. but besides that.” 169 .” As if replaying what Cael had just said. I couldn‟t see him clearly. “I was too. then the lightning struck us again and we were back to normal. Frank looked at Cael.

“But it doesn‟t make sense. “Did you shrink?” She shook her head softly.” A few minutes? I clearly remember having plenty of time to knock on death‟s door. “Yes.” “Do they always talk like this?” Frank asked Kylie. If you were small. “Something worked in the beginning.” I said.I understood his code. he meant that none of his abilities were functioning. 170 . I focused on Frank‟s inner thoughts. Trying one of my own. you were only that way for a few minutes.” I snapped and turned to Kylie. “We were just walking when Cael yelled for us. remembering when we first got here and I had been able to lift off the ground. looking at me like I‟d lost my mind. “Come on.” Kylie demanded. Nothing. we have to keep moving.

171 . “What‟s yer name?” Taran asked her. It was the same look the humans used to give me when I would drain their blood but leave them just enough to stay alive. but what I saw was far worse than anything I could have imagined. It was a look that wordlessly screamed: „Just do it and get it over with. This girl had been tortured.‟ Guilt wracked my core when I saw the familiar plea. It was a look I knew all too well. I stood behind Taran as he inspected the crazed human girl. both mentally and physically.Chapter 26: Clipped Wings Told by: Liam H orrified. I didn‟t know exactly what to expect when Rayna came back with Sidney‟s mortal friend. She looked at him with horror.

it seemed like all I could do. She didn‟t trust us. “Liam. I slowly approached the girl. “We‟re here to help.Trying to make up for so many wrong-doings. I wished for a hint. just the slightest indictor of what we were up against. there you are. Rayna and I ran down the corridor to the 172 . They had either been destroyed or were in hiding. Pacing up and down the corridor.” She estimated.” She replied with a look of distrust. I couldn‟t imagine why they would come out of seclusion to target this girl. “I guess it didn‟t go well. “I could use some assistance in here!” It was Vince‟s voice ricocheting off the walls. Perhaps after a few days with us she‟d realize we mean her no harm.” She didn‟t say a word.” I mourned.” “What are we going to do?” I closed my eyes and hoped a solution would magically appear. She didn‟t say as much as a word to me during the flight. It just didn‟t make sense. My mind ached from too many marathon pacing‟s filling my life lately.” I calmly explained. I instructed Taran to take her to a spare room and make her comfortable. “We aren‟t going to hurt you. “You have to tell us what happened. “She wouldn‟t even talk to us. and as far as I could imagine there wasn‟t much that an underground world full of vampires could do to earn that trust. “Lass.” Taran tried the softest tone he could manage. “I didn‟t think she would. and she didn‟t look into either of our eyes. I tried to go over all the options. Everything about her situation pointed to wraiths.” Rayna should have known exactly where to find me.

Autumn. a fairy.main room. “what happened?” I was surprised that he knew her. Taran burst into the room and ran to the tiny creature. Her scorched wings signified what she was. I explored the vast room.” We placed her fragile body on the soft. Looking at them together was like seeing the perfect depiction of black and white. Vince kneeled near the opening. but from where I stood. Rayna raced to his side and peered in his hands. “Taran!” She shouted in a high-pitched ragged voice. Vince looked up at me. but other than that. “She wants Taran. is that you?” He asked. there‟s no denying vampires fall more on the evil side of the chart. didn‟t seem too battered. I saw a tiny. Not only in size and fragility. but couldn‟t find anything out of the ordinary. velvet throne and watched with anxiety as she caught her breath and scanned her wounds. and her paper-thin wings were burned at the tips. he turned to us with his hands cupped delicately. With great curiosity I gazed in the bowl created by Vince‟s pressed together hands. I hoped to find the sign I was searching so hard for. Making it all the more strange that this purely good. She was completely covered in ash. Though we try to stay neutral. There. To other mythical creatures we‟re looked at as nothing more than the top of the food chain. Taran often told stories of the other 173 . predators. Slowly. “Why. as if he held the Shroud of Turin. fairy would come to us. but more so with the fact that he knew her name. I couldn‟t see what he was shielding. but also in allegiance. “You have to see this. Inside. charred woman.” She said to me.

but her family as well. “We need to lock this place down. I stepped away.” He and Sidney were out there. Huge nets fell from the sky. 174 . We need to find Cael.” Autumn began. She‟d lost not only her home. unguarded.” A shimmering tear fell down her ashen cheek. “So we all gathered. “Gather the guards and station at least a dozen at every entrance. and signaled for Vince.creatures he‟d met along his travels. I tried to help.” With a sob in her voice she added. “They burned our forest Taran! They were ensnared in the flames.” I commanded. And thanks to me. but I wasn‟t strong enough. We waited to hear what was so important. so I perched myself in a tree. mentioning fairies as one of those. “I can only hope that some of them made it out alive. But I had no idea he had a personal connection with them. They were all trapped. but I was hesitant. they had no idea that they were in danger. “The elders sounded the alarm. knowing I never wanted to feel such loss.” In her violet eyes I could see the immense pain.

On the surface. and coming to the realization that there was nothing I could do to save her. would be the end of me. my hearing subpar. 175 . It was difficult to be without the ability to read intentions. I knew what it was like to be without it. and the sight and smell of blood made me want to vomit. Losing her. This situation was getting more and more difficult. and on edge. I felt defenseless. I was powerless in this world. My other senses were dulled as well. There was no upside to being human. my vision was left blurry. left me hardened.Chapter 27: Family Portrait Told by: Cael I prided myself on my ability to find the good in things. I had relied on it for so long. mortal. I didn‟t trust Frank. I could only hope it wasn‟t permanent. Seeing Sidney nearly dead. and for the first time.

They quickly settled on a large canvas. The nameless man from the painting. a bright light shot out of the painting and sucked me in with a force I wasn‟t able to fight. Feeling disconnected from my body. I had always wanted to know my parents. I got closer until my blurry vision was able to see all the details. a man and a boy. human version of myself. she wore her hair tightly pulled back and dressed modestly. I traced the face of the woman who could only be my mother and couldn‟t help but fill my mind with questions. As my finger transferred to my father. I took a few steps closer to get a better look. I realized I was nothing more than a ghost in this world. trying to catch the attention of anyone who walked past her. I recognized the boy…he was me. My mother was a slim woman. I went on high alert and stood completely still as my eyes searched for the source. It was propped up against two trees and nearly as tall as me. but stopped dead in my tracks when I realized where I had been transported. No one should have to live their life wondering “what if. trying to blend in with the people walking by. the painting held a woman. When a woman cradling her baby ran through me. Before me. My father 176 . I took a few steps. I saw a younger. white vortex and shot out the other side. and that‟s the only reason I pressed on. He stood behind the booth I‟d seen at the Peach Festival. I got closer. She waved her hands around in the air. I stood near the booth and watched myself as the younger version of me appeared to be preparing for the day. Inside the frame was an oil painting.I knew that Sidney would never have closure if she didn‟t finish this journey.” A crackling sound broke my thoughts. chatted with a boy beside the booth. Shockingly. I was pulled through a hazy. my father.

and handed it to my mother.” The boy reached out his hand and the younger me shook it. in a dramatic gesture. “What‟s ailing you?” Mother asked. put his hands on the woman. and the boy shook like he‟d just been electrocuted. under his arms. he held two wooden crutches.” An old woman approached my mother. she began to tell them about the wonders that I possessed. “My bones are gettin‟ old.” Younger Me nodded and smirked. “I‟d like to give it a try. My mother was busy gathering an audience. “But nothing has worked yet.” Younger Me placed his hands on Tim. or birth defects. Like the time before. Once she had a good sized crowd. Then. She didn‟t shake. he threw the crutches to the ground and skipped around the crowd. “He‟s the plant today. and introduced him to the boy he had been talking to. “He can heal anything! From broken bones.” She said. this is Tim. The old lady rubbed her arm. “Cael. without missing a 177 .” The old lady dug through the pockets on her ragged skirt.” He said.approached the younger me. “I‟d be willing to try. that sure is an improvement. “it‟s not…” Before she could finish. pulled out a small sack. to a common cold! Any volunteers?” Tim hobbled forward. Everyone cheered. my mother yanked her off behind the booth and handed her off to my father. Then. and then flexed it around. Younger Me. “Well. but I could see the faintest light coming from his hands.

and hopeful spouses. and then looked up at me.step. trusting mothers.” The scene continued like that through the day. But Sidney was gone. Instead. She blinked a few times. I found a white gaping hole. I watched in disgust as my human family set up a small wooden table behind the booth. “Where did it take you?” I asked. Kylie and Frank were in the same place. I could tell as I watched that these people weren‟t truly getting healed. How could I have ever been a part of that? Feeling ashamed. I saw the portrait turn into particles and blow away with the breeze.” She 178 . I was nothing more than a glorified scammer. trying to refocus my emotions on her and away from my own self-pity. Before I could open my mouth to call her name. I was spit out harshly onto the grass. “Another miraculous healing folks! Don‟t miss out on this one time opportunity. I heard that familiar crackle and saw her propel out of a fissure between two trees. but I knew she‟d been sent to a moment in her life just as I had. Turning around. The three of them laughed as they scraped the coins off the table and into their greedy hands. and with my head down. I thought I was going to be sick at the sight. There. Behind her. but I never had the ability to completely heal. they emptied the contents of pouches and began counting the money they‟d conned from poor old ladies. It took me back in time…with my parents. a swindling degenerate. Their aches and pains may have been slightly relieved. “I went through a tunnel. still walking ahead of us. there was no trace of an oil painting. I tried to find the portrait that had led me here. she told the crowd. I walked into the vortex.

“It‟s okay.sighed.” The sadness began overflowing from her eyes. to apologize to them. 179 . “I was so awful to them!” she sobbed.” I comforted. “I tried to talk to them. I bent down and pulled her into an embrace. I couldn‟t be sure if she was referring to the past or present. but I knew the feeling of regret all too well.

My hearing wasn‟t up to par so I couldn‟t listen in to their conversation. I wasn‟t ready for anymore magical happenings.Chapter 28: The Land of Blood and Ice Told by: Sidney P aranoid. There was still no explanation for the weird trials and I couldn‟t even form a theory 180 . Kylie and her smug little traveling companion lead the way. I darted my head around at every faint sound. Cael wouldn‟t tell me exactly what happened during his trip. or sent on painful trips into the past. never taking my eyes off my surroundings. just that he found out who he was as a person. I couldn‟t figure out why we had been the only ones that had been trapped in miniature bodies. Every step I took was a cautious one. and never wished to know any more. but I‟m sure it involved a certain amount of how crazy Cael and I were.

the trees stood. As far as vision was concerned. pressed together. As the trees had a habit of doing. Chills crawled up my spine and my body temperature dropped. Together. they started to rearrange themselves. I got low to the ground and searched for a way through. but it was useless. “I guess we don‟t have much of a choice. or simply to let us know our place? The horrifying feeling of being stalked came and went. it was nonexistent. but an opening started to form. The feeling left as soon as it had arrived. they started sliding in a different direction. The trees created an impenetrable circle around Cael and me. forming a wall behind Kylie and Frank. There was no hint of life. because I got the feeling we were standing in the middle of an open auditorium.” My voice was trembling. Near the end. and no way around. I called out to my sister. I could see only darkness. Holding my hand in front of my face proved my 181 . panicked breaths were the only things I could hear as they echoed in the open area. Was it to make us stronger. The circle began to close in on us like an iron maiden. at times. we walked watchfully down the only path the trees would allow us. Suddenly. it hit me hard. leaving us no way to escape. but there was no response. My short. feeling like there was an evil spirit looming over me. I turned to Cael. not even the slightest sound hit my ears. I knew we‟d reached the end. but I tried to conceal it by speaking quickly and not giving him a chance to answer. This was one of those times. Yet another death scenario ran through my head. The circle remained tight around us. creating a tunnel.explaining why we had to endure them.

I heard his hand breaking through the air. I wasn‟t able to see even the slightest outline. Instead. and released a latch. White fog began to fill the emptiness. I could see a figure. and I could only hope the dog-man couldn‟t hear it as loudly as I could. He had the body of a huge man. though I knew it was there. I recognized the dog as an Anubis. before I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. almost like it was his only mission in life. But. back and forth. Looking closer through the fog. spotlighting him. The grizzly man paced across a black.” He answered. Gradually. wrought-iron fence that was tipped with sharp. he faced the iron gate. It rolled in quickly and acted as a faint light source. because he abruptly stopped his pacing. in ancient Egypt they were used as protectors of the dead—thank god for that project I had done on Egypt in fourth grade. “Cael?” I whispered. and turned to face us. and the head of an oversized dog. He seemed caught up in what he was doing. . For a brief moment. “What do we do now?” Gently. “I‟m here. he pulled me by the hand and we ventured into the unknown. deadly points. 182 . hoping beyond reason that he wouldn‟t see us and he would return to his guard. until it finally rested on mine. he disappeared into the shadows behind him. My breathing hitched and I stood completely still. it was moving…pacing. a mind-shattering howl vibrated through me. Just past the fog. a misty light poured over the figure. it rang in my ears.theory to be true. I wondered what this particular lesson was supposed to teach us. He must have noticed something was wrong though. I constricted Cael‟s hand in mine. and could feel my heart pounding.

and tried to run back down the tunnel. I fell to the ground and slid into the wall of bark. and I knew I had to act fast. I snaked behind the enemy. That‟s when I noticed that he wasn‟t alone. He thrashed his weapon madly through the air. and with all my strength. army-style. but in the blackness. I wasn‟t in the mood to argue with him. but I certainly wasn‟t going to stand by while he died alone. They were armed as well.” He hissed. hard steel. all my hands could find was a solid wall of trees. I stood up behind the skeleton that was straggling behind the others. I pulled and twisted at it until it splintered and broke free from the rest of his arm.The Anubis-man was armed with a huge stick that glistened at the top with cold. and out of sight. I threw one arm around his neck and held him in a sleeper hold. Panic filled my thoughts as I watched our impending doom storm toward us. Cael let go of my hand and pushed me behind him. Following behind him were half-a-dozen skeletons. but I was able to stay out of range. With my free hand. The large man jogged toward us with his weapon aimed. each one flashing a sword. My eyes scoured the ground. I crawled along the ground. remnants of skin clung to their bones. Jumping to my feet. I couldn‟t see a thing below waist level. The Zombie Army closed in on us and I knew I had to find a weapon. Silently. I grasped his wrist. white fog continued to glint off their metal weapons. “Stay there. They were closing in on Cael. I turned. I moved my body with quickness and utilized the cat-like agility I‟d learned when I was a vampire. That‟s when it hit me. but it was too murky. 183 . The faint light caused by the puffy. I tried to steady my heart and formulate a plan.

slicing him brutally with their swords. this time it rested in the eyes of a man-dog hybrid. though he was still working on his first zombie. He stood there. I saw my death. his black snout materialized. The second one was as easy to take down as the first. With vampire-like reflexes. There was no sign of the Anubis-headed brute.With my newly acquired weapon. From the darkness. and his only clothing was a robe made of chainmail. as they were fragile and broke easily. Cael was using the same techniques I had been. Again. I could see how massive this man was. He looked as if he had the girth of all the zombies we‟d just slain combined. though there was little hope of that. and I wondered if he‟d acknowledged our skills and retreated. and the others were beginning to crowd around him. I ran to his side. and tossed one of them at him. In such close proximity. Armed with two weapons. I removed the brittle hand that was still attached to the sword and threw it on top of my first victim. We stood victoriously over the conquered pile of bones and dead flesh and waited for the leader. Keeping a steady eye on Cael. they didn‟t seem to be much suited for battle. His body appeared to be chiseled out of unbreakable stone. Our combined efforts made an easy job of destroying the decayed creatures. his dog eyes flashed with a sinister glare. Then I went after the next. I repeated my performance on the next undead warrior. he caught it mid-air and swung it with precision. The zombie‟s head flew off and his body fell to the ground with a thud. I cut through the air and sent it sailing across his boney neck. Both of us slashed and decapitated until they had all crumbled at our feet. 184 . and my confidence depleted.

Looking up. I held my stance. and glanced over at Cael who was crouched and ready. I tried to run to his 185 . I could feel my heart slow with every strenuous beat. but I couldn‟t stop my eyes from wandering. The sweat that soaked my clothes immediately turned into ice. either that or hope to god he had an Achilles Heel. A crashing sound pulled me away from my gawking. his breath looked like smoke as it rose from his nostrils. I knew it was some kind of method of diversion. My body didn‟t want to move. Sparks flew in every direction from the metal collision. The room filled with bone-chilling cold. The Anubis dug his weapon into the icy ground as he bowed his body and let a burst of warm air out of his nose. I couldn‟t fight the shiver as it shook my body.I knew our only hope would be to find the weak link in his armor. Cael was losing his footing on the slick snow as he began to slide backwards. I was distracted when the cave lit up. Looking like an angry bull. Pale blue ice ran up the walls and pure white snow covered the ground. A cave. Cael and the massive man had locked blades. Mixed with the freezing atmosphere. Forcing my focus on the creature. their jagged points anxious to rip through my flesh. I told myself. I aimed my sword and gathered my courage. I felt like I was being frozen from the inside out. We were trapped in a cave. and my lungs began to sting with every bitterly cold breath I took. it was like someone had just turned on the stadium lighting. I saw hundreds of icicles dangling. Deep down. Mind over matter. I thought about fire and how much I would have welcomed the offer to be baked alive. he charged toward us as if we were the sought after red blanket.

At one point. my blade went completely through his calf and emerged on the other side. He twisted his body. Finally. I trudged through the deep snow and. and I heaved forward as my life force poured out of me.side. Instead of formulating a proper plan. and leaving behind a cut that was as straight as a surgeon would make. I tried to duck out of the way. but ended up losing my footing and plummeted to the ground. The cold steel of my blade bounced back having made impact with his armor. The Anubis‟ blood trickled down his legs. Once I was out of harm‟s way. turning the snow red. tainting the snow beneath my feet. Razor-sharp metal flew through the air violently. I began stabbing my sword into any piece of exposed flesh I could find. leaning back—Matrix-style—just enough to avoid being chopped in half. and was able to roll out of the way just in time. with my weapon aimed. allowing Cael to beat relentlessly at his torso. but my clothes were frozen over. Cael whistled and the Anubis turned to him. I saw the thick blade shooting down at me. He swung his sharp edged blade at me. still. I was nothing but a mild irritation to him. he didn‟t flinch. he didn‟t seem affected by the gashes. I was free. slicing my shirt as if it were paper. I watched it happen in slow motion. Cael‟s sword made a plinking sound each time it hit the beast‟s metal robe. and swung his crescent-shaped razor at me. ready to fight. However. It trailed horizontally across my chest. 186 . The creature loomed over me with his weapon aimed at my chest. Blood began gushing from my chest. Banging the butt of the sword against my pants. I carved through the rigid cold and plunged the sword into the huge man. I watched as the ice slowly chipped away. “Sid!” Cael yelled in a panicked scream.

they‟re all the same. and I knew it was up to me to think of something. I fell forward. I pulled myself to my feet. They were destroyed by decapitation. 187 . Cael was still bent over. I only had one shot at this. theirs are fire and wood. The blood that was falling from it. The Anubis guarded the undead. I looked up to see exactly how out of reach his neck was. we were eye-to-eye. It seemed we were being tortured. I used Cael‟s back as a platform. and I looked up to find that he had been sliced as well. and started running. Before the Anubis could read my plan. and the Anubis stood over him with authority. With as much strength as I had left. He once said. the blood ceased to flow.That redirected the Anubis. There had to be some way to defeat this monster.” His words helped me realize what was there the whole time. I thought back to Taran‟s teachings and tried to utilize everything I‟d learned. If he had wanted us dead. I jumped from it like an Olympic diver and soared upward. Cael cried out in agony. held my sword high. Thinking fast. Immediately. holding my wound. he could have done it many times over. His wound ran from his belly button. and his body followed quickly after. With a few exceptions. stopping just short of his throat. I started packing snow on the slash. so the same should apply to him. Cael fell to the ground. He left me alone and returned to Cael. I curved my arm and sent the blade through his stone neck. The huge dog head fell backwards imprinting the snow. “Everybody‟s got a weakness. Like vampires. quickly turned into the consistency of slush.

” He flinched.Chapter 29: Withered Optimism W e watched as the Anubis melted along with the snow and ice.” I forced a smile. the trees opened up revealing Kylie and Frank who still walked along as if nothing had happened. In appreciation. “Yeah. “What about you?” I inspected his cut. but they were going to hurt like a bitch. and my chest burned like someone had poured acid into it. are you okay?” Cael asked through a hoarse voice. “Being mortal sucks!” 188 . “I‟m alright. I looked down at my once white shirt to find it was soaked with blood. it was in about the same shape as mine. I‟m okay. They left behind a warm carpet of grass. The wounds wouldn‟t kill us. and my gash—although it had stopped bleeding—was wide open. “Sid. My entire body ached.

are you still dwelling on the fact that I wouldn‟t allow you to die by yourself?” “What the hell was that thing?” he asked. “And how did you know how to kill it?” “It was an Anubis—guardian of the dead. proud of my extensive knowledge on the matter. “Oh my god! What happened?” She screamed. “And. 189 .” I smiled. it was only thanks to Taran that it‟s dead. nothing to concern yourself over. holding each other up and breathing heavily. “but we should probably catch up with the others.“I couldn‟t agree more. “I want you to go home. we walked.” If it weren‟t for Moon. Weakly. “Cael. and together we managed to get to our feet.” I tried to let the sorrow in my voice go unheard. and her eyes widened. Remember when he told us vampires have a common weakness? I applied that premise to the Anubis.” He perked up and looked at me like he was offended. you never listen to me.” I said. “Just another attack. Are you okay to walk?” He nodded.” “Ah. “Do you honestly believe that‟s a possibility? Besides.” She explained.” “You really are a genius. running to my side and helping to keep me vertical. I think it‟s time to repay the favor. “How long were we gone?” “I looked back just a minute ago and you were there with that paranoid look on your face. then his expression changed to a smile. I would have suggested we leave at that moment. you know that right?” “Not that I don‟t love to have my ego stroked.” I muttered bitterly. Kylie must have heard us. because she turned. and never dignify this place with another thought.

seeming unfazed. This place was quickly becoming the very personification of hell.” I rolled my eyes and tried to sigh.” He defended. holding his palms up trying to keep us at bay. Kylie stopped walking and turned to face me. “no one is going to eat you.” 190 . “We aren‟t evil. but the action took too much effort. “I have no idea. You‟d eat better off of a rat. look at me. he may know how to avoid this kind of torture. “Do you think it‟s because…you know…of what you are?” “What is she?” Frank questioned. “I‟m sorry if I ever did anything to offend you. Plus.” She sighed.” “Look. like he saw this kind of thing on a daily basis. hoping that maybe if he knew the truth. We can work this out. “And look it doesn‟t even matter anymore. He gasped and with his mouth wide open. “What the hell is he yammering on about?” I was in too much pain to deal with this. we aren‟t vampires. I don‟t take care of myself. “Well now. what happened to the two of you?” Frank asked.” Frank said. because like Cael said. so my blood would probably taste just awful!” “Frank!” I sputtered.” I told him.” I turned to Kylie and asked. he backed away until he banged into a tree.It was like time stopped when we were locked in our trials. “Well. not anymore. “Really. “I‟m not big enough to provide any kind of nutritional value.” Frank shuddered.” Cael clarified. We‟re as human as Kylie. I‟m tiny. “You…you‟re…evil. “We‟re vampires.

Again. It was a wasteland. but she 191 . if you let me live. just the pale brown of withered death. Then. and regardless of taste I would have enjoyed shutting him up. and smacked him across the face. each one adorned with dozens of thorns. If I were still a vampire.“I lied. “Kylie?” I questioned. My best friend is a raccoon I named Loraine. I live a humble life. I‟ll never leave my forest again. There was no way over or around it. huh?” After several minutes of pleading and promising we weren‟t going to eat him. The four of us came to a sudden halt when we saw the field spread out before us. but she didn‟t turn around or even acknowledge that I had said anything. I‟ll never leave my tree. “There has to be another way. Kylie finally pulled him out of the hole he‟d squeezed himself into. she took off through the thorny field.” He confessed. there were jagged barbs shooting up. please. “Loraine. It almost looked like a cornfield.” “Stop!” Cael demanded though I could hear the humor in his tone.” I told her. I tried to reach out to stop her. there was no green in sight. without hesitation. with one drastic difference: Instead of corn. I would have drained him. This time they didn‟t lead the way. We walked together as a group. Kylie took away the arm that was helping me stand and with a look of sheer contentment she took a step toward the wasteland. In fact. I‟ll never bother you. as if I hadn‟t said a word she took another step forward like she was in a trance. the whole time Frank babbled on making attempts to preserve his life. Once he pulled himself semi-together we continued on our journey. the only way was directly through the middle. If you want. “I‟m not the toughest gnome.

It was a strange sight. My strength was drained and hope of survival was a thing of fiction. each time. This time it had my leg. Every inch of my body burned and oozed. and his face had the same expression that mine must have had: Disbelief. Half-way through the field. that I would never complain about another thing—or I would at least try to make an effort. I tried to block out the pain as I continued on. I howled out in agony. Frank followed quickly after her. they skipped and frolicked. we slowly approached the danger zone. I wasn‟t even fully immersed when the first thorn reached out to me. I reached out and found two large. Cael and I supported ourselves on one another. I couldn‟t make myself look back.had already gone. I watched as the spikes grazed over their flesh. and we limped into the unknown. My voice was unable to scream anymore. I supported myself and tried to remember why I was enduring this. Wrapping my bloody hands around them. but never appeared to penetrate. I took a sharp breath and then kicked my leg forward. forcing me to lunge forward. I was already stuck in another one. too afraid of what I might see hanging off the thorn. I looked at him. but felt like it had taken sinews from my calf along with it. it dug into my upper arm and—like a fishing hook—it stuck there. We looked at each other. I closed my eyes and with a sudden motion. Together. I vowed that if I could be lucky enough to make it through the field unscathed. I jerked my arm forward. leaving pieces of me behind. I felt like there wasn‟t much of me left. each step I took caught me. weathered sticks that shot out of the ground. I pictured the way 192 . They ran through the field as if it were a bed of clover. Cael let go of me. and with an agreed nod. The barb released its grasp. but it was pointless.

” I sealed my tired eyes closed and saw only what Cael described. He let out a painful groan as he made his way to my side.” “We have to try. they simply shifted and grouped together again out of my path. and gladly moved out of my way. his eyes were locked shut. “Go somewhere else…in your mind. I couldn‟t stop myself from lunging into a raw. It‟s something I both loved and hated about Cael. “We aren‟t going to make it. knowing he was probably in worse shape than I was. The particles never put up a fight.” He said. The thorns cleared a path for him. I watched Cael. and he was brushing through the “clouds” just as I had. I coaxed them. struggling for breath. painful hug. they were only half as bad as they could have been. Soon. He refused to back down. “What‟s the point. there weren‟t any clouds left. “Don‟t see thorns.Kylie had skipped through this very place like it was an open meadow. I could see the tiny particles grouped together. Clouds. I could see them as a vampire would. I brushed them aside. Once he was out.” I said wearily.” His voice was feeble. “See…clouds…just vapor. yet he couldn‟t let hope die. Step after step.” I couldn‟t look at him. I opened my eyes to find that I had made it completely through. and though my battle wounds were severe. they floated around happily. not one even skidding across his skin. “We have to keep moving. With my hand. 193 .” Cael rasped.

and I knew no harm would come to either one of them. We sat on the soft grass. I could only hope the character assessments were over. We had to be close to the end. In the midst of our discussion. ignoring our screaming bodies and discussed our next move. They seemed fine in this place.Chapter 30: Demon in Disguise I knew that after an experience like that. you couldn‟t have found two people more happy to be alive. but Cael and I didn‟t much care. 194 . all the while. maybe that meant I was slowly defeating it. I never had a right to complain…about anything. It wasn‟t as strong as it had been before. “I‟m starting to get the feeling this place doesn‟t want us here.” I smirked. Kylie and the unreasonable gnome were nowhere in sight. the ominous feeling crept over me.

That was his plan all along. I was proud of myself. He snarled at me.” I couldn‟t find it in me to believe what was happening. it couldn‟t be. “You’ve become a monster because of him. In the blood-red pools there was no sign of the man I thought I loved. that’s why you couldn’t see him for what he truly is. but still finding humor in the situation. His beautiful face turned hard and gritty.“Yeah. “Do you want to see the real Cael?” it offered.” The creature‟s eyes turned red and overflowed with hatred. I looked deeply into Cael‟s ice-blue eyes. “He’s going to kill you. We were broken. “Cael?” I asked timidly. but I pushed it aside.” Cael said. For the first time. smiling back at me. How 195 . It startled me. Cael started to change. this was leaps and bounds above the person I was before entering this godforsaken place. as always. I kind of started thinking that when it shrunk us. he looked evil. There’s still hope for you. “He’s a demon. a source of hope and happiness. I looked closely. You were brainwashed. The creature opened his mouth displaying his razor-sharp teeth and roared. knowing just how misinformed it was. his teeth were ground down into sharp points. “He tricked you into loving him. bloodied and bruised.” A faint voice whispered to me.” This wasn‟t real. they remained. and spikes shot out from his forehead like horns. his tight lips were pulled back exposing the yellowed daggers. trying to find Cael. And he turned you into one too. Before I could answer the voice in my head.

and the room was filled with an intense sadness.” I had no other choice. Watching myself heal. he touched the chunk of wood that protruded from her chest. Liam‟s face was somber. and raw. Saving myself was the most important thing. Cael had killed Rayna! How 196 . but now it was brighter and more vivid. much less win. she layed there lifeless. I could picture it perfectly.could I have been so naïve? I wasn‟t nearly as angry with him for manipulating me as I was with myself. I was reminded of the ability Cael had. “You can save yourself. I remembered how I always considered him my angel. And delving through my memories I couldn‟t remember him ever being wicked. open wounds.” The voice prompted. and the gash across my chest healed before my eyes. And you can save others from having to endure what you did. you’ll see. Paying special attention to my blood-soaked clothes.” The blood that covered my body began to evaporate. I did as it asked. “You have to kill him. Cael leaned over Rayna. I knew I was no shape to fight. he leaned over Rayna‟s fallen body…the memory got a little hazy and then quickly reappeared. and with a jolt. The night Liam had accidently stabbed her.” I tore my eyes away from the snarling beast and looked down at my lap. Without indecision I asked the voice what I had to do to validate myself. “Let me take care of those. The rips in my clothes mended themselves. Cael rushed to the front of the room. I remembered when Rayna‟s life had been at stake. he plunged it deep inside her heart. that way he can’t hurt anyone else. “Think harder. How could someone so evil have the gift to heal? It didn‟t make sense.

“You aren‟t scared of a little girl are you?” He leapt to his feet and kicked me in the gut. “What‟s wrong hell spawn? You don‟t want to play?” I taunted. He just snarled again. I wanted to do more than break his face though. The fiend just sat there. come and get me!” He looked up at me with an angry crease in his eyebrows. “Get up you ugly son of a bitch!” I yelled. Trying to catch my breath. Finally he made his way to Taran. I wanted him to feel the pain he caused me. How could he do such a thing? I shook myself out of my thoughts and stared directly in his murderous eyes. “Kill him!” 197 . Victorious. Cael pulled the chunk of wood from Rayna‟s smoking body and stuck it into Liam‟s chest. and Nicole. “How could you?” I said with more anger than I‟d ever felt before.could I have forgotten that? I watched the memory progress. “Is that all you got?” I heaved. Score one for me! I thought. It made impact. I wanted to shred away at his pride. “It‟s hard to be intimidating when you‟re missing your front teeth. I stood up and looked at his disgusting face. “Come on. baring his hideous. he held the bloodied dagger in the air as all of our friends charred in an ocean of blue flames. producing a crunching noise—I could only hope his nose was shattered under my boot—and the demon spat out a tooth.” I said mockingly. “What? You can‟t even speak now?” “He’s a monster. I flew backwards and doubled over. filthy teeth. Monster’s don’t speak. then Vince. snarling at me.” I jumped to my feet and sent my foot barreling into his repulsive face.

I didn‟t need coaching. I knew what I had to do, but I wanted him to die an agonizing death. Quick was far more than he deserved. I positioned myself like a sprinter, and then dashed toward him. I pummeled the beast, knocking him to the ground. There I reigned blow after blow across his face until my knuckles were bathed in a mixture of both his blood and mine. He didn‟t fight back, he just laid there while I straddled him and thrashed my fist against his face until his evil red eyes couldn‟t open. “Why won‟t you fight back!” I asked angrily. “You‟re making it too easy!” His mouth opened and a mind-numbing roar escaped his twisted lips. Livid, I jumped up, and stood over him. “So you aren‟t even going to try? Fine, I guess I‟ll just get it over with then!” I barked. I put my foot across his throat and pressed all my weight against his trachea. He coughed and sputtered, it was music to my ears. He deserved every second of suffering. That‟s why I removed my foot, just long enough for him to fall into a false sense of security and then I slammed it back across his throat. Each time, he just laid there; he could have at least tried to fight me. Why didn‟t he care? He had so ruthlessly killed the others, and manipulated me. He should care. Life should mean more to him. I looked into his swollen eyes and listened closely as he gasped for air. The closer I listened, the less they sounded like gasps. I removed my foot from his throat, and bent down beside him. “It‟s me.” He wheezed. “Can you see me?”


His face immediately transformed, it became soft and smooth again. He was no longer a demon, but My Cael. “They tricked us Sid.” He panted. I watched his face and filled with guilt. “I‟m so sorry!” “It‟s all an illusion. Everything. The shrinking, the Anubis.” He sputtered, “The thorns…all of it.” “But the pain was real.” How could it have been fake if it felt so genuine? “Only because we believed it was. Watch…” He closed his eyes, and in seconds, his face was completely healed. The blood dried up faster than I had caused it to appear. “The power of suggestion.” “You have got to be kidding me! You mean we could have avoided all the pain, and all the struggle?” I wanted to rip the magical trees out of the ground, I wanted to tear the sky to shreds. “Look on the bright side. Think of all the future struggle we‟re saving ourselves by coming to the realization now.” “Fuck this place!” After all of the mind games it had played on me. I had every right to hate this twisted excuse for a “portal” to the core. “You hear that enchanted forest? Fuck you!” I yelled and turned in circles aiming both middle fingers at my surroundings. “I‟m sorry I kicked you.” Cael said. “I just got temporarily caught up in with the voices.” Brought back to reality, I turned to him. “Right. I‟m sorry too. You know, for beating your face in.”


Chapter 31: Kindred Spirit


eeling slightly vindicated, Cael and I walked slowly through the forest. I knew I should have felt a sense of urgency, but I couldn‟t help feeling victorious, and I wanting to revel in it for a while. This forest couldn‟t hurt me anymore; it gave me a new lease on life and left me feeling lighter than air, or better yet, like a person who has just overcome a great obstacle in their life. I had a second chance, and no time or use for bitterness. Okay, maybe there was a little time for bitterness. My surroundings were so crisp and clear that I could see my sister in the distance, I could see every detail. Every leaf that swayed in the breeze or plummeted, crinkling to the ground, rang sharply in my ears. I was a vampire again; a bloodthirsty creature of the night, and upon the rediscovery, I couldn‟t have been happier.

“Do you see them?” I asked Cael and pointed to the small figures in the distance. “I do!” he smiled excitedly. “It‟s good to be me again. I don‟t know how humans are able to function with such a lack of senses. It‟s surprising that they run the world.” He pondered. He asked an incredibly valid question. Why are humans the most powerful species, yet all these creatures with astounding abilities live only in the shadows? It would be so easy for any one of them to overturn the world. I wondered what was stopping them. We quickly caught up with the other two, who didn‟t seem too shocked to see us. “Kylie, I have a question.” I asked. “Hey! Your injuries, they‟re gone.” “Yeah.” I shrugged, pretending to be as surprised as she was at the realization. “Anyway, I was just wondering. How long have we been here?” “You mean the forest?” I nodded. She tilted her head in thought, “Maybe, a half an hour.” Shock wanted to involuntarily take over, but it was the answer I had expected to hear. While it had felt like days, or multiple lifetimes to me. To her, it wasn‟t even a full hour. Leaving me to wonder why the forest had only been targeting us. “Why?” Kylie asked. “I think I know.” Frank interjected, shooting his hand into the air. “Granddad told me I‟d be safe here, because the portal won‟t allow evil to cross through.” “Frank.” Cael said in a scalding tone. “You didn‟t think to mention this fun fact until now?”

It would be a beautiful time.” I answered unable to wipe the grin from my face. so white that looking directly at it may result in cornea damage.” The unicorn threw its head back and looked over at us. But no. “Am I seeing things again?” His finger was aimed at an open field. “Um. “Is it real?” I thought aloud. suspending my happiness. “Do you realize how rare this is?” Frank asked without looking away. “Nothing. pearly horn shot proudly from the horse‟s head.“Well…” Frank replied defensively. My eyes joined Caels in disbelief. but I never thought I‟d live long enough to see one.” If I so desired.” Cael stuttered. “I‟ve heard stories about them. whirled him around my head and catapulted him into another world. I considered telling him.” Frank gasped.” The four of us stood in awe as we admired the great beauty that radiated from the creature. “What‟s so funny?” he asked. “You coulda told me you were evil. I thought about him winding up in the evil portal—if such a thing existed. For a moment. Maybe I would have remembered. we would be welcomed. A dazzling. With a swish of his tail he 202 . In the distance I could see the perfect outline of a horse. you just let me think you were humans. “A unicorn. I thought he was making it all up. The only pure. His nostrils widened as he sniffed the air. The image made me smile. I could have picked the tiny man up by his finger. Granddad used to tell me stories about them when I was little. “They‟re things of legend. Not even Loraine would be able to save him. but Frank the annoying gnome would be transported from one painful experience to the next. incorruptible good there is.

and then pranced in front of us like he was dancing. there.” The magnificent creature allowed his snout to wander and sniff Frank‟s hand. I was unsure how to speak to the glorious creature. I ran my fingers up his forehead and his eyes began to close. “There. The unicorn continued to sniff the air around him almost as if he were trying to determine a specific scent. he jerked away. His ever-curious nostrils continued to twitch as he stepped closer to me. he was an amazing sight. “Do they talk?” I asked. Swiftly. “That‟s the closest anyone has ever gotten. two feathery wings shot out from his sides. Standing only on his back hooves. Frank put his hand out and took a careful step forward. Gently. Frank‟s hand was still extended and he turned his head to face us. He looked at me for a moment. It‟s okay. “He likes you. 203 .” Frank the unicorn expert informed us.” He whispered triumphantly. It was a breathtaking scene. something any little girl would die to witness. the unicorn took a step backwards and eyed the rest of us. they stretched out and began to flap lightly. it sent a vibration through the earth. he seemed to have a circle of light around him that wasn‟t visible until he got closer. Suddenly. With another snort he lifted his front hooves off the ground and threw them up toward the sky. His soft muzzle grazed my arm and then he nudged his nose under my hand. His head shook and the white tendrils of his mane danced through the air before settling on his velvet neck. With an unpleasant snort. When his front hoof landed against the ground.trotted towards us. and was repeated when the second one hit.

beautiful plumes as they brushed along the ground. Holding tightly to a fistful of shimmering. “I‟m Sidney. When no one moved. It was strange that we couldn‟t see the wings 204 . I began to relax. As we soared above the tree-covered forest.” Cael whispered. Kylie and Frank became smaller. he bowed and let me off.” I said with a question. Frank—being small to begin with—was nothing more than a tiny red dot. I closed my eyes and let my head roll back. “I think he wants you to get on. Without hesitation or fear. white hair. just that he had. I approached the unicorn. The sound of hooves meeting with ground snapped me out of my tranquil trance.” I felt ridiculous. still unsure if he was able to speak or understand.” Frank said. We flew through the air. “Thank you. I watched as Cael. It didn‟t matter why he‟d chosen me. lowering the front half of his body and head to the ground.“No one‟s ever been close enough to find out. All too soon. he tilted his head and looked up at me. Who could have guessed I would be chatting up a unicorn? Instead of words. The soft wind coursed through my hair and showered me in gentle kisses. “Unicorn‟s don‟t have wings.” “Hi. he bowed. he pushed me onto his back. steady pace. “That isn‟t a unicorn.” I glanced at the long. Once we were back to where we‟d started. the unicorn‟s wings flapping at a calm. Running my hand along his neck I asked. Allowing my hands to fall to my side. “Are you sure?” With his huge head. the ride was over.” I said with a smile.

though I couldn‟t explain it.” Frank said in his know-it-all voice. I felt a deep connection to. 205 . they just keep them hidden.” “Of course!” I gasped. “Pegasus have wings. we were both hybrids. because we were one in the same.until he decided to show them to us. That‟s why he‟d chosen me. “Maybe all unicorns have wings. kindred spirits. He responded with a soft nuzzle and I began plotting ways I could sneak him into the apartment. “How could you know?” I asked the unicorn who.” “No dear.

He needed a masculine name to make up for the feminine wings and delicate horn. our movements were mimicked by the giant white creature. Cael. he looks like a…” I bit my lip and squinted my eyes trying to figure out what he looked like. on the other hand. and we knew our group had just been increased by one. “What are you going to call him?” Cael asked with a smile. But I‟d never excelled at 206 . he didn‟t even seem to mind the fact that the unicorn-pegasus was trying to bump him out of the picture.” Though it seemed he‟d never be able to share it with me. He liked to position himself between Cael and me. “On second thought. and he didn‟t take to kindly to me rearranging the lineup. “I‟m sure he already has a name.Chapter 32: Nothingness A s we began to walk. thought it was absolutely adorable that I‟d made a new friend.

207 . Suddenly. because that‟s the brand of cat food he ate. “Well I don‟t see any cliffs. he danced in circles around us and nayed with elation.naming things. Straining my brain. So. but I‟m calling him Merlin.” There was no power strong enough to force me off another cliff. Duke. “Guys. There was no name suitable for such an undeniably amazing creature. It was such a diluted and overused name. I can‟t give him a name.” I justified. I seemed to lack creativity. I was past the point of being amazed by the necklace coming to life. In fact. We all watched the necklace wondering where it would direct us next. “What‟s it doing now?” I asked.” Cael took a step toward Kylie. it jumped out of Kylie‟s palm. It fell in the grass and the chain started to stretch itself. “Just for now. “I can‟t do it. The four of us were unable to hold back the laughter caused by the prancing personification of a fable. I searched for the most manly names I could think of: Brutus. looking around the forest.” Showing his support for the chosen name. that‟s a good sign. I half way expected it happen at some point. Roger. “Fine. She had locked gaze with the amulet and was staring intently. “It‟s spinning again. and with force. as a kid I found a kitten and named him Frisky. Frank says his horn is magical. Though technically. Harry.” Kylie stopped walking and turned to face us. we all had a little fable in us. “Until we can think of something more suiting.” Kylie said sternly.” “Really? Merlin?” I shook my head and cocked my eyebrow. so it fits. Richard…none of them fit. But it surpassed anything I was able to concoct.

” While it was definitely tempting. and then at Cael. “Three down. “Maybe it‟s a sign that we shouldn‟t go through there. Then he started backing away slowly. Instead. one big enough for Merlin to fit in. and I couldn‟t just abandon her. It crackled louder than dusk on the fourth of July. The amulet stopped its mad spinning and came to an abrupt halt. The feeling intensified as I stared down the swirly 208 . The grass in the middle of the circle turned into a white vortex reminiscent of the one I was taken through during my journey through the past. she spread her arms out and allowed it to suck her in.” Cael said. I thought he was planning to turn and run away deeming us highly insane.” I trembled. “Ladies first. seemingly without a single thought.The gold chain stretched like it was made of elastic. it formed a huge circle on the ground.” Horrible. They sent a freezing cold through my being. her hair whipped across her face from the force. and left me feeling like I‟d just been kicked in the stomach. it‟s back. Without a word. Kylie edged onto the chain. unshakable shivers enveloped me. “Merlin?” I questioned displaying the gaping hole with my arm. he tossed his head back and with thunderous hooves pounding against the ground. He looked at me. Frank followed quickly after and. Kylie was in there. “What‟s wrong?” “The feeling. he ran and hurled himself into the hole. pointing directly to the sizzling vortex. I snatched Cael‟s hand and inched toward the hole.

ripping my shoe off. The opening closed and we spiraled with the current. It grabbed the chain and pulled against me. but the shadowy figure had a piece as well. and I silently counted backwards from three. bony hand appeared. Slowly. but besides them. hard marble. All the while. the spinning insanity stopped and spit us out. what was that thing and how long had it been following me? Was the vortex the cause of the chills or could they have been courtesy of the dark shadowy figure? Before I was able to dwell too long. I don‟t 209 . My heart wanted to jump from my chest when a black. We landed against—what felt like—cold. pleading me not to jump.white unknown. I knew I had to do this now before I thought too hard about it. Tugging at Cael‟s hand. leaving me with most of it. my mind raced. only evil lurked on the other side. my foot left the safety of solid ground. I pulled the chain and it came to me without a fight. The gold cracked. Cael reached up and assisted me. My hand reached up and held the chain of the necklace. but I could see the bony fingers grasping the chain on the other side. and hovered over the opening. we began to fall. The hole began to close and slowly. The vacuum pulled at my foot. Unfazed. I looked up and saw the others who had jumped in before us. my stomach lurched. but also because it wasn‟t responsible to leave a gaping vortex in the middle of the enchanted forest. there was nothing. My head involuntarily shook. my body screamed at me. we stepped off the ground and began to fall. Surely. partially out of fear. The hole was the size of a diner plate. “Are you sure about this?” Cael asked.

Of all the intimidating things we‟d seen thus far. and then dramatically. Then it happened. as if they‟d reached their limit. “What is this place?” I whispered. something new hit my ears. The five of us stood in an incomprehensible place where nothing surrounded us but the presence of light: white. There were no walls. no ground. they stopped. and even the soft sighs echoed loudly. Maybe. overgrown weeds didn‟t do much in terms of providing a threat. I glared at the little gnome whose granddad may have warned him about the blank area. but. the crackle of flames. I mean very literally: There was nothing. They grew quickly and formed a wall around us that reached as high as the eye could see.mean that it was a deserted area. Although. The room remained white. any sign of life. No. black consumed the room within seconds. white. Unexpectedly. The stalks continued to crack and hiss as deep jade-colored flames exploded from the base of each 210 . I watched the weeds as they continue to shoot upward. I still couldn‟t figure out why I was still hearing a crackling sound. but my voice carried. with no sign of fire. everywhere. Carefully. no one made a move. their steady breaths were the only thing I could hear. Frank shrugged his shoulders. like so many times before. I listened closely for anything. just blank. and no end. It flew through the air bouncing off non-existent surfaces and echoing in every direction. for the first time I was able to see this world as Kylie and Frank had seen it the entire time. Waiting patiently. The plant wall sputtered and began hissing and spitting out small green embers. and green sprouts shot up from the ground. but there was nothing. he decided not to share.

With an agreed nod. Cael and I followed the others. Kylie and Frank walked through the blazing fire. Keeping with tradition. my feet planted. The air was thick. Once through the wall. and my eyes widened. The entire island glistened. we submerged ourselves in the massive fire. The small homes in the village appeared to be carved from diamonds. A warm. but I thought we were past all that. This time. Before me was the most beautiful utopia I could ever dream. I knew we‟d finally made it. All the struggles and hardships were worth it. Merlin shuffled toward it. It was a small island surrounded by water that shimmered like it was made of crystals. it was more like walking through a warm. and I couldn‟t feel anything but happiness. calming feeling flowed through me. but there was no pain.plant. just to catch a glance at this place. The flames didn‟t burn. but looked back at me. I didn‟t fear death. and I had to push my legs through it. I looked over at Cael and beamed. Slowly. 211 . green cloud. The emerald fire enveloped the wall and our small enclosure began to fill with a thick cloud of smoke. somehow I knew we‟d make it. He jerked his head in a way that said: „You comin‟?” It had to have been another illusion.

StefanieEllis. She likes to think she has a great sense of For extras visit the website: www. a lovely singing voice and a flare for being awesome. there are some that would debate these claims.Stefanie lives in a small town in California and shares her life with her husband 212 . son Riley. Stef would love to hear your thoughts on the book please contact her at: Stefanie@StefanieEllis. Of course. but such is life. three cats and her Standard Poodle Fawkes.

Acknowledgments Alright. and for that I will always be grateful. your assistance is what kept me writing and made me look forward to you input and hearts. You‟ll never know how much it means to me. but also. To avoid order. I‟m so lucky to have you (and your overly creative brain) and I love you forver! 213 . and I didn’t want to leave anyone out. Thank you so much for all your help and the time you dedicated to editing. Brainstorming is my new favorite spousal pastime. I‟d like to thank you for not just telling me which parts needed to be fixed. so to all my loved ones: I know acknowledgements are important. Witty (Jay): Wow! You have been such an encouragement! I can‟t thank you enough for your input. Mom (Noreen Atkins): Thank you as always for taking such a huge interest in my writing. You also pick up the phone at four in the morning when I need location assistance. I have listed you alphabetically by the name I call you. I can‟t believe you read through this entire book over the course of that terrible throat sickness and a new tongue piercing. I can‟t express words that could explain how indebted I am to you. suggestions. I looked forward to it every night. for telling me the parts that you enjoyed. you‟re my confidant. so I’ve decided to move them to the back of the book where we can take all the space we need. and ideas. Grandma (Jan Lundberg): Even though you never fail to tell me how “Satanic” vampires are (which makes me laugh until my gut hurts). More than anything else. So I‟ll just say the only thing that fits: Thank you and I love you! Sister (Jess Ellis): Oh my wonderfully talented and massively beautiful sister. you still support and cheer me on. You have always been the best support system I could ever hope for. You are so much more than just my mom.

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