I wasn’t supernaturally inclined to know when vampires were around, but I knew anyway. I was empathic and that meant that I could feel what others felt, I felt what was going on around me. And right now, as I was on top of the Heffler where I volunteered for a crisis hotline, I knew there were eight nearby. I’d been the unfortunate one to answer the call and now I stood there, teetering on the edge with a ‘jumper’ before me. I was keenly aware of the two vamps behind me and the six on the ground. Vampires didn’t usually care about death. I had no idea why they were there, but it didn’t matter at that moment.
“Okay…okay.” I took a deep breath and tried to inch forward.
The jumper was a frail looking girl with inflamed cheeks. Her red curls whisked around her from the wind, which didn’t help our situation at all. She turned, saw me, and her eyes widened. She was the deer in my headlights, but I hoped that I wasn’t the oncoming car to push her over the edge.
“Hi—hello—how are you? No—I mean…” I should have stopped then, but I was the only one from the hotline there. I’d been the last to leave and because of that, I was the only one that heard the phone, answered the phone, and figured out where the girl had called from.
I took another breath, and then said more calmly, “My name’s Davina, but you can call me Davy—if you want.” A part of me waited for the normal ‘Stay away from me or I’ll jump!’, but it didn’t come.
She didn’t say a thing. I saw the tears and that’s what made me pause. She’d been hysterical on the phone. I’d heard the words ‘a guy’, ‘kill myself’, and ‘love.’ My mind leapt to the natural clichéd conclusion. I thought she was going to kill herself over a guy and a part of me felt a little contempt for her. I know, I know — she’s suicidal. I should be sympathetic, but… really—a guy?!
That had been my first reaction, but now I thought differently. This girl wasn’t the suicidal virgin with a love gone reality. I looked into her hazel eyes and saw true agony in this girl. It was real and it blew my breath away for a moment. That was saying a lot.
“Okay.” I needed to settle myself. I needed to plant both feet on the ground and I needed—I looked at her again. The pain was crippling. I could feel it. There was a sense of contentment and resolve in her too. This girl was done. What she was done with, I had no idea, but I felt it. She’d fought a battle, she’d lost, and she was done with it all.
For a moment, I stood in awe of her. I’d had my fair share of trauma and struggle, but I still had hope. This girl had none.
I closed my eyes and opened every sense I had. Every empath I knew would scream against this, but I needed to know what this girl had gone through. Something told me that I needed to know. I lowered my bridge, and I felt myself slip inside of her.
Turmoil. Desolation. Agony.
Worst of all, I felt the surrender. It slammed against me like waves of sleet in a downpour. It actually hurt and I bit my tongue. I wanted to feel more. I wanted to understand so I pushed further. Empaths are advised against this for a reason. If we touch too deep inside a person sometimes a part of us doesn’t come back.
There was something inside of her, something that promised me that it’d be worth it. It was like… I needed to uncover it. Surging forward, I fought past the hopelessness and defeat. Then I reeled back when I touched the core.
There had been a guy. He had loved her. She had loved him… and then… I felt devastation, betrayal, and an end.
I gasped abruptly.
I don’t know what happened, but something had happened. She had loved this guy. She found something and then… It was her decision, which was important. She decided when she’d die… not… I couldn’t feel it anymore.
She gasped. My eyes flew open and I felt a wind propel me backwards. It was as if the universe didn’t want me near this girl. I couldn’t look away. Her eyes wanted to tell me something, something that she didn’t even realize she wanted to say, but she didn’t have the words or she didn’t have the will. Then a single tear rolled down to join the rest and she smiled. It was haunting. Then she let go of the railing. I watched, stricken, but already in expectation as she soared downwards.
Something was off, something reeled inside of me.
Something had not gone according to plan and I’m the kind of girl where I knew that plans should go according to plan! It was usually highly essential, but this—this wasn’t good. Not only for the fact that some part of me still felt connected to her, but there was a universe-world-future issue at stake. I had no idea why I felt that, how I felt it, but I did. I was panicked. The girl had jumped, and it was like the world was now going to end… I gulped.
“Mr. Moser is not happy.”
That was my greeting as I dropped my books on the library table and plopped down next to my roommate. She was the originator of my stupid hotline volunteer career. The career that was finito, done, and over with. I snuck inside that morning, slipped the envelope underneath the door, and bolted.
There are occasions where I’m very much a coward, and this was one of those times.
“I’m not surprised,” I muttered and bent to grab a pencil out of my bag. The location of the bag was just opportune. It was on the floor so I was able to turn and present my back to my roommate. I hoped she’d take the hint.
“What do you mean you’re not surprised? Why aren’t you surprised?” Emily hadn’t taken the hint. Then again, she never did.
She had been my roommate for the last three months. Her entire life plan was written in detail with bulleted expenditure costs, but it all revolved around her career choice in social work. She was the one to volunteer at the hotline. She was the one who dragged me there. She was even the one that pointed out Adam. Emily wasn’t the reason why I stayed. Adam was that reason.
I like boys. Most people would say that I’m boy-crazy, but the truth is I just find them entertaining. I would never ever kill myself over a guy. They’re not worth that much, but they are worth a fun activity or a cuddle during a movie. When I saw his rich chestnut hair and almond eyes, I knew that Adam would make a great movie-cuddler.
“Davina!” Emily called out sharply. She was being ignored. That made her pissy.
I sighed and fought the urge to bury my head in my book. No. Why fight it? I buried my head into my book and groaned dramatically. I knew one thing. It would make Emily shut up. If there was one thing that made her uncomfortable, it was when someone was in need of emotional reassurance. I once saw her spill a drink and use that as an excuse to leave a group when one of the girls started crying. I highly doubted Emily’s social work career would make it past the paper it was written on, but I wasn’t going to be the one to tell her.
On another note, I hated being called Davina. It’s Davy. It’ll always be Davy. It’ll never be Davina. Then I realized there was silence. Emily had quieted. I risked a look, and saw that her eyes were downcast on her own pile of books. I thanked my own quick wits for this reprieve.
I stiffened at the name, but when I looked over my shoulder I melted into a gooey feeling inside. Adam was approaching with an eager stride. His almond eyes sharpened with warmth, and I saw the earnest grin on his face. Tall, dark, and just pretty. That’s how I’d describe my perfect guy, and Adam easily fit the bill. Plus, he wore Abercrombie. What girl didn’t like that? Well, probably a lot, but it looked yummy on him.
“Hi, Adam.” I was warm. I was always warm around him.
He stood at the end of our table and seemed riveted by me. I wondered why and then let it go. Obviously, the guy had woken up and realized his love for me.
“I heard about the suicide last night. Are you okay? You were there, right? That’s what Shelly said.”
Shelly. All the gooeyness dried up. Shelly was my competition. I cheated on my empath rules and took a peek inside her once. The feeling was mutual. She hated me even more and I didn’t need to be psychic to know that she planned to murder me.
I was only joking…somewhat.
I was a short girl at five foot six inches with an average build, not slim, but not big either. I had brown curls on a good day, and a frizzy fray on a bad, but I knew my dark brown eyes and my full lips were my best features. Guys liked to stare at both of them, but Shelly was a tall willowy blonde with absolutely beautiful blue eyes. I always felt like I was swimming in a lake when I looked at them.
Shelly liked Adam. I liked Adam, but I wasn’t sure who Adam liked.
“What else did Shelly say?” I couldn’t hide my sarcasm.
Adam’s smile dimmed slightly, but he pressed, “Is it true? You answered the phone and she was on the roof?”
The boy was goal oriented. “Yes. I was there, but she jumped.”
Emily looked up with wide eyes. Adam shifted a little and his eyes skirted from me to Emily. “Are you… are you okay? Shelly said that you quit the hotline.”
“I can’t believe you quit.” Emily had to put her two cents in.
“Yeah, I mean…” Adam took the seat next to mine and lowered his voice. It was soothing and seductive to my ears. “I mean…the place won’t be the same without you, you know?”
Of course I knew, but that was the point of it. I wanted to get as far away as possible. It would always remind me of the girl from last night. I wasn’t freaked out with agony and so forth, but the truth was that I was freaked out by the gut-wrenching feeling that something worldly awful had happened and that it was connected to me. “I just… it’s too much, you know? I can’t handle—she died in front of me. I can’t…it’s just too much for me.”
I saw the sympathy in Adam. He placed his hand on mine. “I know exactly what you mean. If you ever need anything, call me. Okay? I want to help you through this tough time.”
Emily fled the scene. I almost caught a back draft from her sprint. “I’d really like that, Adam.”
He squeezed my hand. “Any time. Remember that, Davina.”
I’d remind him another time not to call me that name.
Then the happily-ever-after feeling was gone as I felt a vampire walk past us. A cold wind slapped my insides and I looked up. Normally, vamps ignore me. They can’t feel me like I can feel them so they just believe that they’re not noticed.
Not this time.
I gasped when I saw a pair of coal-black eyes staring right back at me. The vamp was tall with jet black hair. He wore a white buttoned-down shirt over jeans. He kept going, but I still felt his eyes after he turned the corner.
“Davina,” Adam said sharply, confused.
“What…what were you saying?” His hand was gone. I wanted his hand back.
“I…” He frowned again and asked, “Are you okay? You pushed me away and I mean, that’s okay if that’s what you need right now. I just thought…” He trailed off and looked away.
I didn’t have to be empathic to see his insecurity. “It’s not that. That guy scared me just now. I’m sorry. I want your help, I really do.”
His eyes twinkled.
I sighed again. How could any girl not fall in love with how adorable he was?
“Can you two stop with the sappy moment?” Emily returned with a storm at her backside. She slumped in her seat. “I’m trying to study.”
“Oh, yeah,” Adam laughed, a little embarrassed. “I-uh—I’ll talk to you later, Davina?”
I nodded. Hell yeah, we’d talk.
“Good. See you later then.”
I glanced at Emily as he left and saw her sharp green eyes on me. She narrowed them in disgust.
“You make me sick.”
“What? Why?” I was innocent.
“You totally lied to him just now. I had to run to the bathroom to keep from barfing. Really?! You can’t handle it? She died in front of you? Mr. Moser told me that you need to get back to the hotline. You broke protocol and that’s why you quit, not because you’re ‘emotionally shaken.’ Seriously, Davina.”
Maybe my roommate knew me a little better than I realized.
“Can you blame me?! Adam is to die for.” I could not believe I just said those words.
“I can’t believe you said that.” Emily reiterated my thoughts.
I flushed, embarrassed, and leaned back in my chair. “What am I supposed to do? I didn’t quit because of protocol, okay? And I need any advantage with Adam. You know Shelly Whistworth has her claws in him.”
Emily was annoyed. “You have to go and talk to Mr. Moser. You did break the rules and he’s worried about a lawsuit. And Adam Darley is not worth your time to lie and lower yourself. If he’s a stand-up guy, he’ll recognize that you’re much more fun to be with than Shelly Witless. If he’s not and he goes to her, he’s not the guy that you’ll want anyway.”
“I’m not lowering myself,” I remarked, and crossed my arms. “I’m just being manipulative.”
Emily looked at me knowingly. “Well, stop. It’s annoying.”
Emily opened her mouth and started to say something, but I felt the blast of cold race through me. My heart slowed as the vamp walked towards me from the opposite direction. His eyes were on me again. He seemed to look right through me, but he didn’t slow his pace. He walked right past.
I hated vampires. I knew what they could do from personal experience. However, there were a lot of good vampires that liked to hang out on campus. Some of them even took classes and wanted to learn. This guy looked like a regular college student and he walked like one. Right to the computer lab, and back out again for a Mountain Dew. Typical college behavior, but I was betting he wasn’t one of the ‘good’ vampires.
“Do you know who that is?”
“You interrupted me. I was talking.”
I watched as he returned from the vending machines and sat back down at a computer. “That guy. Do you know him?”
“We’re at a school with six thousand students. Really?! We’re freshmen, Davina. How can you expect that I’d know him?”
I turned and regarded her. “Do you know him or not?”
She shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
“Who is he, Emily?” I leaned closer and hoped he couldn’t hear us. There were two glass walls between us and the computer lab always buzzed with conversations and printing papers. If he tuned in, he could hear us, but for once I hoped that I wasn’t a speck on this guy’s radar. Correction—make that this vampire’s radar.
“He’s in my social work class.”
“Yeah. He’s a junior and he’s fulfilling a requirement.” She sounded like she’d practiced that. Something felt off with her. She liked to share her opinions on people, but she didn’t with this guy.
“You like him.” I couldn’t fault her. Vamps had seductive appeal down to perfection. Emily was a girl. Even she would fall under their power whether they intended it or not. The only way you could fight against their pull is if you knew what they were.
“I do not!” Emily cried out. She started to gather her books back up, but I laid a hand on them.
“It’s okay. He’s dreamy. I understand.” I glanced back over, but sighed in disgust.
He just sat there at the computer. His hands didn’t move on the keyboard. “Who is he?” I asked again, still watching the back of his head.
He sat rigidly.
“Luke Roane,” Emily sighed. She’d be mortified at how dreamy it sounded.
“Roane?” I arched my eyebrows.
What kind of name was that? I’d heard of a Roane back home, but the name was only spoken about as a legend. Most of the vamps didn’t believe he existed. I didn’t like this new twist. My college life wasn’t supposed to deal with supernatural things like this. I wanted an Adam in my life, not a vampire named Roane.
“He’s really intelligent.” Emily had opened her floodgates. Now her opinions flew freely. “He cares about the world and he’s got some super insights into humanity.”
I bet he did.
“Even Professor Sulls asks his opinions on matters. Luke’s like no other guy that I know. I mean, I respect him. I have really high standards and I only respect two other guys,” she said, casually.
“I know.” I said dryly, “Jesus and Martin Luther King Jr.”
“Can you believe it?” Emily sighed again. She was on the fast track for her first college lovecrush. It was my little name for those crushes when a girl thinks she’s in love. They were annoying… to everybody.
Lovecrushes aside—or maybe front and center—I hadn’t moved my eyes off Roane’s back, but then my eyes slid past his shoulders to his black computer screen. I found myself staring smack head-on with him. I gasped in mortification. He’d been staring right at me the whole time. This was not good, not at all. He knew that I knew. I knew that he knew I knew. I could’ve pretended that I didn’t know he was listening to us, but now all bets were off.
I smiled smugly and whispered, “I know what you are.”
His face didn’t move. His eyes didn’t react, but I knew I’d made him angry.
I called my empath sponsor and planned to meet her for coffee. When I pushed through the glass doors of Coffee Java, I inhaled the freshly brewed aroma and felt like I’d just touched a piece of heaven.
Blue looked up and waved an arm from a back booth tucked into the corner with bookcases and empty tables surrounding it. I liked how private it was. Blue got her name for her graying hair that she dyed with blue highlights. She liked that it gave her an out-of-this-world quality although she was very much an earthly woman. Every one of the bracelets jangling on her wrist stood for a cause – pollution, cancer, save the forests, happiness from an orgasm.
I smiled widely as I weaved my way through the book cases. “Blue-cheese, how are you?”
She laughed with her raspy deep-throated voice. “That never gets old.” Nudging forward a coffee, she added, “Take it. You know it’s for you.”
I nabbed it and closed my eyes when the liquid touched my lips. It was so good, so yummy, and I knew I really was in heaven.
She closed the novel she’d been reading and pushed it to the side. She wasn’t one for idle talk. “Okay, girl. Out with it.”
“I have a problem.”
She arched a perfectly outlined eyebrow and rested her chin on her hand.
“I have vamp problems,” I said further.
Understanding dawned in her grey eyes. All empaths understood that statement. Sometimes we felt too much, but when we felt a vampire our senses went haywire from what they felt. “Are you still practicing your blocks?”
I nodded. I’d upped my level since I joined the hotline.
“That’s good. Keep at it. Now, tell me about the vamp problem.”
What could I say? “It’s nothing really, but a feeling. He saw me in the library today with my roommate. I asked her about him and he heard the whole thing.”
Blue frowned. Her purple lips rubbed together. “What’s the problem? Vamps are used to that.”
“I was watching him when I asked her about him. I didn’t realize that he’d been watching the entire time.”
“What do you mean ‘watching’?” She narrowed her eyes.
“He knew that I knew what he was. It was like a challenge or something. I didn’t like it.”
“Oh, girl.” Blue frowned deeply this time. “What’d you do?”
I took a sip of my coffee, but the flavor didn’t taste heavenly anymore.
“I might’ve said something like ‘I know what you are’ …or something.”
She pursed those purple lips together and reached for her coffee. I felt her disapproval coming at me in waves. “You did what?”
“I couldn’t help it, alright? It was like he was challenging me or something.”
Blue sat her coffee down and leaned forward in a matronly way. “You know better, Davina. You have issues with vampires. We all do, but you’ve got more. You gotta fight that. Now what’s gonna happen? You know vampires. They love challenges. He’s going to be all over you now. Then what? How are you going to get away?”
In a small voice, I murmured, “I could always do what I did before.”
Blue let out a disgusted sound and rolled her eyes. “I would not recommend lighting a vampire on fire. It didn’t help you back home. It won’t help you this time. Learn from your mistakes, child.”
My back stiffened at that. I hated being called Davina and I really hated being called ‘child’. “You know, maybe moving here and having you so close isn’t all that great.”
“I’m being your sponsor. You know the steps. If you’ve got vamp problems, you’ve done step one. You’ve told me. Good job, but you need to be held accountable for the next step. Which is?”
She knew I knew it, but I cringed when I had to say it. “I have to attend an empath meeting.”
“And...,” This was so freaking hard. “…I have to tell the group.”
I growled deep in my throat. “I have to tell them about Craig and how I lit him on fire because he was stalking me.”
Pride gleamed from Blue and she smiled blindingly. “That’s my girl. You know the deal. Vampires have their twisted thing for us. The good ones avoid us out of respect and the bad ones—you know more than most.”
I swallowed tightly. Craig had reveled in my torment. He’d become obsessed with me. He stalked me and he loved that I couldn’t block him. Vampires were overpowering, much more so than humans. An empath could easily block humans at a level four, but it wasn’t until level six that we could easily block vampires. Craig met me when I was on level five. Luckily, the night that I’d snapped and lit him on fire was the night that I broke to level six. I remembered that night. I saw him on fire and I remembered the pain that engulfed him while I stood back to watch.
“Girl.” Blue’s calming voice brought me back. She had opened herself up and I could feel some of the pain taken from me.
“Don’t do that,” I murmured huskily. I didn’t want her to feel my pain. No one should be burdened with that.
She reached over and placed a hand on mine. It instantly calmed me and I turned my palm upwards to link our fingers. Blue smiled gently. “There’s a reason why we’re empaths, Davy. You know that. I like to help a little bit, every now and then.”
‘Every now and then’ was the empath community’s motto. We all learned that we could help every now and then, but not too much to kill ourselves. Too many had died because they tried to help too much.
“Now,” Blue squeezed my hand. “What are you going to do with your current vampire?”
“Oh…” I took a deep breath. “I don’t know. I’ll have to see what kind of vampire he is. He might be one of the good ones.”
Blue twisted her lips in disbelief.
“I mean, he seems to be one of the student vampires.” The chances were fifty-fifty. The bad ones pretended to be college students to hunt.
“There’s a meeting next week. You should go.”
I’d have to go — it’d be good for me.
“So, tell me about your crazy uptight roommate.” Blue’s eyes rekindled with gentleness. She knew I needed a lighter topic. The ‘Craig topic’ was deep enough for me. So I sat back and entertained her with Emily stories. By the end of our meeting, I hadn’t said a word about the suicidal girl. I knew I should have, but I was still uneasy thinking about it. Some things were too hard or too scary to put into words.
When I returned to campus that evening, I faltered as I got out of my car. The air was chilled, but there was something else, something supernatural in it. Looking over my shoulder I only saw a parking lot full of cars. There was a clump of trees at the north end of the lot, but I’d go south to my dorm. I held my breath as I walked underneath two tall oaks and an arched overhang that led into the quad of my dorm.
Throwing my bag over my shoulder, I marched forward. No shadows moved and none seemed to watch me in return. I breathed easier when I neared the main doors. Once inside, excited voices came from the television room.
We were allowed boy visitors, but a lot of girls used the lounges for their study groups. It wasn’t unusual to look inside to see books and papers sprawled across the beige carpeting right alongside sleeping students. This is what I saw as I peeked inside, but I wasn’t ready for the sight of my roommate in a corner chair with a wistful smile on her face. She glowed.
I was floored. There was no Roane. There was no professor. There were no school books and yet, Emily glowed. Her straight blonde hair fell freely over her shoulders and she even had a tint of lip gloss on.
Had we all gone to hell and I missed the bus?
Then I felt the cold flare inside again. I felt him behind me before I looked, but when I did I found myself staring into the blackest coal eyes that I’d ever seen. Craig had looked at me with those same eyes the night he died. I shivered at the memory.
Luke Roane saw the tremor. His eyes raked me up and down and it was like we were caught in a heated debate, but there were no words. It wasn’t my first vampire face-off, but this was different than the others.
I should’ve been able to easily block this vamp, but I felt the curtain slowly lift and I couldn’t do anything about it. I always felt their cold, but usually it was just a tickle. This time I felt the full blast of his darkness. It worked its way up my feet to my legs, past my knees, and over my waist. I fought it off, but it kept coming. The evil started to wrap itself around me. I felt its tentacles grasp my arms and start to squeeze me tight.
All the while, he watched me with no emotion.
Not me. I couldn’t hide my struggle. My teeth started chattering. When I felt the first poke in my chest, I shoved past him and hurried to my room. After I burst through the door to my room, the spell lessened immediately, but I was panting to catch my breath.
I heard my phone start to ring and knew it was Blue. She’d be the first to feel my panic. At that moment, I hated the lack of privacy with empaths.
I ignored the phone and slid down the door to breathe in and out.
I’d felt evil before. I’d felt it from Craig many times, but not to this extent. I’d never felt like it wanted to squeeze the life out of me, have it wrapped around my heart. It felt like it wanted my soul.
I shuddered again. I needed warmth. I needed a distraction. Hell, I could use this to my advantage.
I pulled out my phone and dialed Adam’s number since I’d programmed it in the first day when we’d gotten the Hotline Volunteer Directory.
Adam picked up on the second ring. “Hello?”
I purposely didn’t fight the slight tremor in my voice. “Adam?”
“Davina? Are you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah, I mean—I think—”
“What’s wrong? Did something happen? Do you need to talk?”
“I…” I sighed to myself. I needed to be honest. It was Blue’s motto. I was about to use this boy, but I liked him. He was normal. He was human. My hands tightened around the phone. “Can you come over?”
His answer was swift. “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
“Thanks, Adam.” I hung up and fell back against the door. And the strange thing, I really was thankful.
When I heard a knock at the door, I screamed and shot to my feet. I knew who was on the other side, although I couldn’t feel him. “Go away.” I flinched when I heard my voice. It was raw and vulnerable. I was raw and vulnerable.
He knocked again, but slower this time. I snorted. Really?! Did he think it would be more dramatic that way?
“Go away!” I yelled this time. I wasn’t scared of vamps. I was just scared of this vamp. The door seemed large and luminous. I watched as it seemed to grow before me. It was like it was just waiting for me to answer it.
I don’t know how long I stood there.
“Davina? It’s me.” I jumped when I heard another abrupt knock, but relaxed instantly. It was Adam. A whole host of relief, warm fuzzies, and other feelings rushed through me at the sound of his voice. Nice and normal.
Flinging open the door, I launched myself at him. He even smelled normal. If I knew I wouldn’t scare him away, I would’ve wrapped my legs around his waist. “I am so glad you’re here,” I jumbled out with my nose pressed into his masculine-smelling sweater.
Adam laughed, caught off guard, and held me up. “I’m glad that you’re glad.”
Right. Human. I needed to act human. I unglued myself and pulled back. “Sorry. I…uh…sorry. I’m just…” I felt stupid.
“Emotional,” Adam offered.
He was awesome.
“That’s okay. Mr. Moser said it’s good to let yourself feel. Let it flow naturally, Davina. Really. That’s the only way you can start healing.” Adam enfolded me tighter and tucked his chin in the crook of my neck. “Let it out, Davina. Let it out.”
His blue sweater felt warm against my skin. He smelled of pine trees and musk. I inhaled deeper and smelled a little vanilla in there too. This is what it would be like if we were boyfriend and girlfriend. I might need him. He’d come to hug me and the world would melt away.
We turned to see Emily glaring at us with her arms crossed and annoyed.
“What?” I was having a moment.
She rolled her eyes. “You have a visitor downstairs.”
Emily shrugged impatiently and pushed past us to her closet. She flung open the door and grabbed a brush. As she combed her hair and reached for some lipstick, she remarked, “Some girl who looks like a stripper.”
That could have been anyone according to Emily’s standards. “She didn’t give a name?”
“What am I–your receptionist?” Emily gave me a disgusted look, slammed her closet door shut, and stormed past me. Adam whistled underneath his breath.
I didn’t know why Emily was so pissed, and at that moment I didn’t care. She’d go back down, make crooning noises with the vampire, and be her oddly gushing self in a moment. I had three things on my mind: visitor, vampire, and Adam.
“I guess the news got out, huh?” Adam stuffed his hands into his front pockets, which made him look leaner and taller. The soft shadow from our poorly lit dorm room seemed to soften his features and his blue eyes looked adorable. My tongue might’ve just fallen out.
Then I heard what he said. “Wait. What news?”
“The girl that jumped – it’s all over the news.”
That didn’t bode well with me. “Uh…” I ran a hand through my hair and cringed. My hair must’ve looked like a bird’s nest.
“You look fine,” Adam reassured me.
“Thanks.” I still turned and found a mirror. Not bad. My normally frizzy hair actually looked shiny and healthy. Wonders never ceased.
“So I guess…your visitor, huh?”
“Want to walk down with me? Make sure it’s not someone creepy?”
Adam looked relieved and concerned at the same time. I chose to think he was concerned for my benefit. When we reached the stairway, I was surprised when I felt Adam grab my hand. He looked embarrassed. “Just in case it’s someone you don’t want around.”
“You’re going to play my protective boyfriend?” I teased.
His cheeks turned pink. Adorable. I squeezed his hand and said in all honesty,
“Thanks, Adam. It means a lot.”
When we moved through the bottom doorway, I stopped dead in my tracks. My focus zoomed in on the petite blonde who had wrapped herself around Emily’s vampire. One of her leather clad legs rubbed up and down against his calf and her cleavage was barely hidden underneath a tight black lace tank top poised perfectly for his viewing pleasure. Her crystal blue eyes snapped up and latched onto mine.
I knew why Emily was so furious.
Kates Heath, a childhood nostalge— another one of my words that I used to describe childhood friends that you remained friends with because of nostalgic memories and nothing else — was the epitome of every man and boy’s fantasy of a bad girl. Vampires ate girls like her for breakfast or they would if they could.
“Heya, celebrity,” Kates drawled in her husky voice and whipped her dusky blonde hair around.
“Kates.” I refused to look the vampire in the eyes.
Slowly, with hypnotizing grace, Kates unwrapped herself from him and stood to cross the room towards me. I felt the tension in the air. The entire room had been watching and now everyone held their breaths at our next move.
I flicked my gaze to Emily. She looked like a bomb ready to explode so I latched onto Kates’ arm and yanked her behind me. Dragging her outside, we circled around the corner and through an alcove of trees in the far corner before I whirled and snapped, “What are you doing here?”
Kates looked taken aback, but her smoky laugh rang out. “I can’t believe you. Look at you. You’re all…College Barbie.”
“What are you doing here, Kates? You’re not supposed to be here.”
Kates chuckled. “You’re too much sometimes, Davy. Get over it. You know exactly why I’m here.”
“No. I don’t.”
She groaned and placed her hands on her hips. “Steven saw you on the news. He called me and I headed here. You’re on the freaking news, Davy. You know how bad that is…for you.”
“Nine o’clock news. That was a half hour ago. There is no way that you drove from home in thirty minutes.” We lived five hours away.
“It was on the five o’clock news, Barbie Doll.”
Did it even matter? “You can’t be here,” I hissed.
Kates smiled smugly and shifted comfortably back on her heels. “You’ve got me, whether you want me or not. Who’s the hottie vampire, by the way? He’s delicious.”
I grimaced, but warned, “Stay away from him.”
“What do you mean ‘why’? He’s a vampire.”
Kates shrugged. “He’s hot. I caught a peek at his marking. He’s a Hunter.”
“Kates.” I shook my head, and sighed. Nothing was going how it was supposed to… I didn’t even know what to think about him being a Hunter.
“What?” Kates piped up, dumbfounded. “Look. I’m just here to watch your back. When I think you’re covered, I’ll head out. Promise.”
“I don’t need this. I can’t… ”
“You were on the news. They talked about that suicidal girl and that someone from the hotline was there. They didn’t say your name, but it won’t matter. They’re going to get calls from people wanting their five minutes of fame. It’s only a matter of time before you’re hunted down. Let’s hope that no one finds out about your special gifts.”
Kates was right. Things were going to get bad, really bad. Here I was, concerned about Emily’s vampire and Shelly Witless. This reminded me— “Adam is mine.”
“None of your business.” I was adamant.
“It might become my business. I’m bunking with you until it all blows over.”
The next morning, I opened my eyes and instantly groaned. When Kates and I had returned to the dorm last night, I’d been ecstatic to find the vampire gone, but disappointed to find Adam gone too However, Emily had not been happy to meet our newest roommate. Kates ate it up. She loved causing drama and I could see that Emily was her newest target.
I woke Kates up and made her promise to play nice, which she did with a gleam in her eyes.
Later, when I let myself in my dorm room, I knew Kates had found a loophole. Emily jumped on me and crowded me against the door. “She has to go! Now.”
“What? I don’t—” Although, I could guess.
Emily shot up a hand. “Or I’m calling the cops on her.”
Sadly, I wasn’t surprised. This was just how Kates got her jollies. “What’d she do?”
“What’d she do? What didn’t she do?!” Emily laughed in outrage. She crossed her arms and I almost saw a cloud of smoke puff out of her ears.
Kates sauntered in with a towel and a thong dangling from her hand. A coy smile was outlined by ruby red lips. “Heya, you’re back.”
I moved Emily aside and hung up my bag. “I’m tired. I’m hungry. And,” I looked at Emily. “I’ll deal with Kates later.”
A look of disgust flashed over her face before she harrumphed once and left.
“So… how many vamps did you see? I’ve seen fourteen and I haven’t left this building.”
“Uh huh.” When I sat down, I didn’t want to deal with vamps, my roommate, or my nostalge.
Kates dropped into Emily’s chair beside me. “I want to know what’s going on with the vampire population. I’ve been to colleges before. I’ve been to this college before and I remember seeing four, not fourteen.”
“So what?” I sighed as I glanced at the message machine. Twenty-three messages. Apparently, the word got out that I’d been on that roof. “What am I supposed to do?”
Kates threw a toned leg on the desk. “It’s weird that you’re famous. I would love to be famous, but not you. We all know your deal—”
“Emily doesn’t,” I intervened quickly.
“Really? She doesn’t know? No wonder she’s pissy at me. I know something she doesn’t and she knows it. Anyways, let’s hope the reporters don’t find out you think of yourself as an empath.”
“They won’t think that.” She waved it off. “They’ll paint you as some psycho and you’ll be blamed for that girl jumping. So the question is how long can you avoid them? Or is that going to make them hungrier?”
Everyone in the psychic community had grown up with strict guidelines on how to handle possible exposure. Some followed and some didn’t. The ones that the media reported on, they either didn’t care or they wanted their moment of fame. I could handle the media.
“Why so many vampires?” I wondered out loud instead. I didn’t want to discuss my current celebrity status.
Kates shrugged and stood up. She dropped the towel and bent over to look through my closet. I was relieved to see that she wasn’t naked. “I know you’re all demure when you’re around me, but you have some rocking clothes. Like this one!” She produced a pair of black leather pants.
“That’s for a Halloween costume.” Not really. They were for Adam… the when and where was still up to debate.
Kates snorted and slipped the pants on. She chose a near-see-through cream colored shirt. “I think we should go and ‘interview’ that hottie from last night.”
“No, we won’t.”
Kates heard the emotion and whipped around. Her crystal blue eyes pierced straight through me. “Out with it. Now.”
“I don’t like him. That’s all you need to know.”
“Right, because the last time you slammed this wall between us things were just peachy then too.”
I glowered. “There was a reason I wasn’t feeling so friendly towards you. You were dating the guy that I was daydreaming about. I’d be stupid to have trusted you back then.”
She flipped her blonde hair over her shoulder. “I only dated him because that bitch told me you were into Chris. I thought you were the backstabbing whore.” That bitch would never be named. She’d driven a wedge between two best friends and she’d paid for her crimes, but we were still bitter.
I stood slowly. “We both know that I wasn’t into Chris.”
“I know… now.”
“Yes… you do.”
Kates snorted in disgust. “I really hate her for what she did.”
Warily, I looked at the blinking voice messages. “Food? Or drink?”
Kates snorted again. “Do you have to ask?”
Kates and I always had fun on our night outs. Sometimes that was the only time we had fun. A flood of memories rushed through me and I turned to snatch my fake license. For that night I’d be Silvia Dellawoy, a ripe twenty-two year old from Hillsfield, Illinois. I just hoped that I wouldn’t meet a bouncer from Hillsfield, Illinois. “Let’s go, Tammy.”
Kates laughed huskily as she reached for the door. “Oh honey. You might not like that vampire, but I know a place where the werewolves hang out. You’ll love them.”
Did Kates know me or what? I loved werewolves. They worked so hard at suppressing their own urges I didn’t have to block them. They blocked themselves.
“But you’re changing clothes,” Kate announced and scoured my closet to pull out a pair of blue jean tights with a sparkly low cut v-neck top. I eyed the clothes, but knew it was a lost battle. Kates always had her way and it had been a long time since I’d let my hair down, not literally though.
When we left the dorm, I made sure we took the back stairway. It was easier and no one needed to stare from the front television lounge, no one that we wanted. Kates reached for the exit door, but paused when the bottom door opened. I heard a familiar tap of heels on the stairs and cringed. That’s when Emily rounded the stairs and blinked in surprise at the sight of us. She carried a steaming bowl of oatmeal in her hands. I saw her stiffen.
We were dressed for a nightclub, a top notch nightclub, and Emily was dressed for oatmeal. She wore a pair of flannel pajama pants with a baggy sweatshirt and rabbit slippers. The white ears drooped over and touched the floor.
“We’re going out.” Kates smiled and looped her elbow through mine.
I felt like we were the popular beautiful girls as we stared down one of the unpopular, dowdy girls. I hated it.
Removing my elbow, I smiled nervously. “You want to come with us?” I didn’t want to be one of those girls. I liked oatmeal too. Kates gasped. Emily was floored. I insisted, “You must. Kates will even do your hair!”
Kates snorted abruptly.
“Okay…” Emily didn’t sound too sure.
As all three of us slowly traipsed back to the room, I only hoped that Emily wouldn’t realize we were going to a werewolf bar. If she did… holy crap.
When we got out of the car, much later, outside the local werewolf bar, I glanced at Emily as she smoothed her pressed shirt down and nervously checked the rest of her clothes. She looked uncomfortable. Kates had wound Emily’s hair into a braid that wove around her head. With the make-up job Kates provided, Emily looked a little hip hop, but she held strong with the clothes. We wanted her to wear a pair of tattered tight blue jeans and a loose-fitting pink and silver tank top, but Emily was adamant. She wore khaki pants with a buttoned-down pressed pink shirt. She looked like a librarian with costume make-up.
She would stick out like blood to sharks. Luckily, we weren’t going to a vampire bar. They would’ve been all over her. Werewolves stuck to their own kind and they looked human. It was only when their fur started to grow that a human would freak out. I hoped our night would not end with a freaking Emily.
“Okay. Let’s go!” Kates yanked me forward. Emily followed at a sedate pace, but when I looked over my shoulder I saw she was biting her lip. She was warily eyeing the bar’s sign and I felt her nervousness. It pounded me like hail.
Once inside, Kates dragged us to get drinks, but Emily hung back. Three shots were ordered and when Kates tried to give one to Emily, it was declined. Then I saw the evil delight turn my way. She pushed the shot at me and I downed two right away. I wasn’t even going to fight Kates. I needed to save my energy for Emily. Someone would have to make sure she didn’t end up dead. Not Kates, she laughed in delight and turned to order another four shots.
We were in for a rough night.
Then I looked over Emily’s shoulder and gulped when I saw a muscular guy with blonde dreadlocks lick his lips as he eyed Emily’s backside. Blood to sharks. He nudged his buddy and both of them turned to lap her up. Then their eyes slid to mine and I sucked in my breath horrified. We weren’t at a werewolf bar. Bud’s was a vampire bar.
I grabbed Kates.
“Hey! Watch the beer!” I saw the brimming pitcher and felt the cool liquid splash on my arm, but I was infuriated. I could give a damn about beer and I don’t normally think blasphemous thoughts like that.
Beer was holy.
“I have to talk to you. Alone.”
Kates saw my fury. I realized that she’d known the whole time.
“What’s going on?” Emily spoke up.
“Nothing. I just… I have to go to the bathroom.”
“Oh. I have to go too,” Emily gushed out, relieved.
“No!” I barked. I saw that Emily was taken aback so I gentled my tone, “I meant… alone.”
“We’ll be back,” I hurried out and yanked Kates behind me.
Storming off and dragging Kates with me, I roughly pushed our way through the crowd. I felt each of them when my arms or shoulders made contact, but I just gritted my teeth against the pain. Vampires felt too much hatred for me. I should’ve been able to automatically block them, but I was angry. Plus, I hadn’t been prepared.
An entire bar of vampires was not my night of fun.
When I pushed into the bathroom, I saw two vamp girls at the mirror. “Get out! Now.”
They turned, annoyed, and stopped short. One of them gasped, but the other looked like she was going to argue before the other dragged her outside. I knew that I should’ve cared about what I’d just seen since vamps don’t follow orders unless there was a reason, but I didn’t.
Flipping the lock, I rounded on Kates. “How could you?!”
She rolled her eyes and approached the mirror. As she primped her hair, she shrugged. “You have to get over this hang-up with vamps, Davy.”
“Hey,” I pointed a finger at her. “You should have just as much of a hang-up with them. I mean—”
Kates rounded and stared at me. I saw the warning, but I didn’t heed it. “Your mother used to kill vampires. We all know what they did to her.”
“You don’t talk about that. Ever!” Kates seethed.
“They branded you—”
“I know your mom was a slayer, but they slaughtered her, Kates. How can you be okay coming here?”
Kates slapped me. I fell against the wall and tasted blood on the inside of my cheek, but I rounded back and exclaimed, “You had no right bringing me here. You really had no right bringing Emily.”
Oh god. I gulped. Emily had been left alone. Throwing open the door, I hurled myself through the crowd. I know that I jarred a bunch of them, but I didn’t care. I just needed to find my roommate and get out of there. We were like sitting ducks in Dodge.
Then I stopped in my tracks and my mouth fell to the floor. Emily sat, squashed in a booth, with three vampires around her and at the end sat her Luke Roane vampire. He looked relaxed, lounging back in the booth, but I saw the way his eyes darted over his men and Emily. He didn’t share in the conversation, but he was in control of it. They glanced at him occasionally, like they were waiting for a signal from him to change the subject.
He didn’t. He looked content and yet, he still looked like the predator he was even though he dressed like a normal college student with tight-fitting shirts and trendy blue jeans. He wore a black shirt that molded to his lean form.
I could tell Emily was miffed that she didn’t sit beside him, but she was still all smiles. Vomit came up in the back of my throat, but I swallowed it back down. He didn’t deserve her gushy fuzzies.
“That’s why I brought you here.” Kates paused behind me. “He’s a Hunter, Davy. You know what they do. You want to know why all those vampires are on campus, ask him.”
I watched how the vampires instinctually felt Kates’ approach. They all looked up with eager eyes, but not him. He turned and looked straight at me. I met his gaze without a flinch, even though I felt my insides snap. I had to hold it in, he couldn’t know. Then I glanced to his collarbone where a corner of his shirt had fallen to the side and saw the beginning of his mark.
I didn’t need to see all of it because I’d seen it before. It was the mark that all Hunters were branded with once they’d gotten their first kill. It was a symbol of interlocking crosses with the Hebrew inscription for remembrance in the middle. Craig told me once that the symbol stood for their humanity. They were branded to remember what it was like to be human, so they could keep a reverence for the humans that they’d sworn to protect. The Hunters were an elite league and a vampire had to be invited by the Elders. Only a handful roamed and guarded each state.
As I watched Emily’s smile slip at Kates’ arrival, I knew that they were both safe. Hunters guarded against the Craigs of the vampire world. They hunted their own, the ones that refused to accept the new decree not to harm humans. Two Hunters had arrived and ripped Craig to shreds with no jury or bargain when I’d lit him on fire. They were judges in themselves and those two Hunters had made their judgment on Craig.
Suddenly feeling nauseous, I pushed through the crowd to a side door and found myself in a back alley.
The door hadn’t closed behind me before I heard him. “You’re running away.”
He leaned against the door, relaxed and primed for attack. His fangs didn’t show, but I wondered if he’d had them ready for me. Something told me this vampire wouldn’t mind violating his decree with me.
“You’re using my friend.” I thought I caught a flash of amusement, but it disappeared just as quick.
He remarked, emotionless, “They’re using me.”
Kates was. Emily wasn’t.
‘You’re not good with your own shield.’ I heard him in my mind and gasped before I shoved him out. I was more irritated he’d gotten in without me realizing because I was better than that. He smiled and I bared my teeth. “You don’t get to read my mind.”
“Not anymore. You just blocked me,” he spoke, bored, and had the nerve to stretch in front of me.
“You’re an asshole.” He was getting harder to block, not from my mind but from feeling him. Though, it wasn’t like the last time. I didn’t feel the evil reach inside of me.
He laughed, but his eyes were so cold. “You’ve never spoken to me and this is our first exchange? Oh wait, you taunted me, right? ‘I know what you are.’ Isn’t that what you said or did I get it wrong? You think I’m some animal.”
I lashed out, “Been taking trips in my mind?”
“I haven’t needed to,” he shot back. His eyes sparked a bit. “You read loud and clear. I’m surprised you’ve gotten away with it for so long.”
I frowned. “What are you talking about?”
“Lying. All you do is lie. I’ve known about you for a couple of days, but I could tell right away.”
“I don’t lie.” I reacted, tersely, and my hands formed tight fists.
He looked down at them, but he smirked. “Yes, you do. That’s all you do. You lie to that boy you’ve got dancing to your tune. You lie to your roommate. She doesn’t know who we are. You’re lying to yourself when you think you don’t want Kates here.”
I stiffened at his proclamations. He had no idea… “Get away from me and stay away from my friends.”
Something went flat in his eyes. The look had been there, but I hadn’t seen it till it was gone. It vanished completely now and I knew he was furious. “Your friends won’t stay away from me.”
“How do you know Kates?” I asked. He’d mentioned her by name, which meant something. I remembered the two vampire females in the bathroom. They’d either known me or they’d known Kates. I needed to know why…
I suddenly felt sick. I felt actual vomit surge up in my throat, but I clamped a hand over my mouth and whirled to a corner. It spewed out before I could stop it. He was quiet behind me. I expected some taunting, but there were none.
“What?” I asked weakly as I wiped at my mouth. “No words to insult me with? Maybe I’m just drunk.”
“You could be. You drank what? Four shots?”
So he’d been watching from the beginning…
“I highly doubt it.” Something was off in his tone, like he knew something that I didn’t. I wasn’t pleased with it. I felt that he wasn’t pleased either. That’s when I gasped further and wretched again.
I had been feeling him. Somehow, I’d slipped inside without the evil lashing at me. As I glanced at him through watery eyes, I saw that his mind was elsewhere. He didn’t know I felt inside of him. I took a small breath and stilled, concentrating to explore what else was in him. Duty. It blared at me. I was startled by that, but then I surged further and tentatively touched what was beneath it, pain. It was blistering. It reminded me of the girl on the roof. She’d felt the same pain, but unlike her surrender this vampire was firmly and completely devoted to… something. He defied death or maybe death retreated from him. I’d never felt what I felt from him.
“Stop that!” He hurled me out of him.
I gasped and fell against the bricked wall. My arm scraped against the roughness and I watched, frozen, as his coal eyes took on a keen alarmed look. The air was charged around him. I sucked in a breath and smelled what he did. My skin had torn from the wall and even I could smell the blood in the alley.
“Are you an animal?” I whispered my challenge and waited for his response. It was like something inside of me had uttered those words, something that wasn’t from me—and he knew it.
He blocked me. I shielded him. And yet—there was something else, some entity, that felt the other between us. Suddenly, it was too much and I gutted out, “Get away from me!” The connection was destroyed and I felt it reel inside of me.
“Gladly.” Acid dripped from him and he was gone in the next second.
The door slammed behind him and I was left to gasp for breath at his abrupt exit. It was too much. His presence had been too much. Too many things swirled around inside of me, but I closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing. I remained there until I felt my feet beneath me, until I was able to stand and breathe at the same moment.
Then I remembered my question. He’d known about Kates, but I didn’t know how. I needed to know for her safety.
I went back inside, but the moment I approached their booth Roane jerked his head towards the door. The other vampires stood and followed him. Kates frowned at the abrupt exit, but Emily gushed with a glazed look over her face.
She smiled at me with stars in her eyes. “Did you see him, Davy?”
I had more than seen him, but I wasn’t about to share that with her. I asked Kates, “What happened to her? She looks drunk.” There were no empty glasses in front of Emily.
“What do you think?”
Kates was still annoyed with me, but my stomach rumbled and I pressed a hand over it. I had worse things on my mind. With a closer look at Emily, I saw the glazed eyes, flushed lips, pink cheeks, and then I saw her neck. There was a small red mark over her artery. “What did they do?”
“What do you think?” Kates asked flatly, bored. Hell, she probably watched the whole time.
Vampires weren’t supposed to feed off humans, but I knew a few of them used lovebites to sneak a taste. It was frowned upon by the Elders, but not strictly prohibited—especially when it happened in a bar. It was considered the same as making out to them.
“I’m bored,” Kates announced.
Emily smiled, drunkenly. “Did you see him, Daveeena? He was here and then he was… out there and now… he’s… he went that way.” She swung her hand towards the door and smiled sleepily.
“Maybe we should go.”
Emily protested, “But… he’s…”
“Not coming back, wino.” Kates snorted and stood. She stretched and pretended to heave a big yawn—her boobs arched in the air.
I rolled my eyes. “Come on, Emily. I’ll get you home.”
Kates dropped her arms abruptly. “You had four shots. You can’t drive anywhere.”
“I’m fine. Really.” I could’ve told her about the nausea, but she was mad. I wasn’t feeling all friendly and soul-confessing.
“Well…” Kates raked us up and down and then glanced over her shoulder. “I think I might stay. I’ll give you a call.”
Emily stumbled, but I caught her. Then I frowned even more when I saw her cheeks pale abruptly. Lovebites are just that—they’re little nips. They don’t take too much blood, but she was reacting as if they drank her empty.
“Did you drink?” It would explain a little…
“She had some beer. She’ll be fine. Take her home, get her in bed. She’ll be the same tomorrow.”
I didn’t bother to ask Kates how she’d get back. I knew she’d be fine or sleep somewhere else. She was still branded and a lot of vampires held a grudge. “Just… be safe.”
“Seriously, Kates. Safe, not stupid, remember?”
“Yeah. I know,” she grumbled and shoved through the crowd. I watched as she disappeared into the bathroom until Emily stumbled in the opposite direction. Someone caught her and pushed her ahead. I tried to grab her, but someone else bumped her further ahead. Pretty soon, I watched helplessly as Emily managed to fall out the front door backwards.
Talk about exits.
I darted through the crowd and found Emily on the wet sidewalk, ashen, and with mud on her khakis. If the girl could see herself, she’d be mortified. She looked like every other drunkard.
“Come on. Let’s go.”
I bent forward to help her stand. Fishing the keys out of her pocket, I guided her to the car and in the backseat. My inner empath alarm was going off when we drove off. There were an inappropriate number of vampires. My home town had a population of 2,000. Southdale wasn’t big, but it wasn’t a three hundred bump in the road. We averaged five or six vamps. Benshire was at least 12,000. That meant there should be around 200 hundred vamps around. I knew the vampire population would be significantly more compared to home, but as I drove past Bud’s, I saw more than I should’ve trolling the streets and alleys.
Emily puffed out a snore and there was a speck of drool at the corner of her mouth. Of course. She’d be one of those slobbering drunks when she drank. Then I remembered the red mark. The vampire drank from her. That meant some of him was in her. It was a small bit, but it was something. My stomach rolled over on itself as I considered the possibilities.
Too many vampires. That girl had jumped from my building and eight vamps had been there. A Hunter was here and he looked like he was permanently staying. Something was going on.
No—forget it! I did not want to get involved with the local vampire political crap. They had their own community. As long as they stayed away from me…, but they hadn’t stayed away from Emily. I was worried they wouldn’t stay away from Kates. She’d been branded as a slayer’s daughter. It was known that a vampire slayer’s strength passes to her daughter at the slayer’s death. The vamps hadn’t hurt Kates then, but if they saw the burned mark in her skin they’d know that Kates had the strength of a slayer. She could handle her own, I knew that, but I knew that a lot of them still held resentment towards slayers of all kinds—the good and bad. If there was an overabundance of vampires in the area, which I was pretty sure there was, chances were good that some of those with chips on their fangs would be in town. If they ran into Kates… who knew what would happen.
I had to know. It was for Kates’ safety.
Suddenly, I felt like I would vomit again. I pressed my arm over my stomach, but it didn’t help. I felt the first gag and veered the car over to the edge. Bursting through the door, I upchucked my entire stomach contents on the side of the road. When I leaned back on my knees, I warily eyed three vamps in the alley. I waited, since I didn’t know what they would do. If it came to it, I could probably obliterate a vampire just from my breath. It was rank.
“Yeah?” I wiped my mouth and moved back to the seat.
Emily peered at me through foggy eyes, haphazard hair, and pasty white cheeks. Talking about vampires…
“Where’d you go?” She frowned, confused.
I held the steering wheel in my hands, but I needed a breath to settle my stomach. “Nowhere. You fell asleep.”
She giggled. “Did you see him? He was there. He didn’t talk to me, not really, but he was there. Am I pathetic? I think I need to do something. Maybe I could—what kind of girls do you think he likes? I bet he likes girls like your friend. She’s a little skanky, sorry. I’m not able to stop what I’m saying before I say it. But she is.”
“Don’t worry, Ems. I know what you think about Kates, but… there’s more to her. Trust me. She’s a good friend.”
“Not to you.” Emily poked the air with her thumb. Not her hand, her thumb. It was comical to watch.
Then I heard what she said. “What?”
Emily heaved a deep sigh and pressed her cheek against the window. “Yeah, yeah. You were somewhere and she wasn’t saying nice things about you tonight. Said you were crazy, obsessive, and there were other words. I know there were other words.”
“I wasn’t really nice to her when we went to the bathroom.”
“Don’t matter.” Emily was firm. She shook her head in a circle. “A friend is a friend, no matter what’s been done between you. I know that much. I have some good friends. Of course, they’d never go to Buds, but they’re good friends. I don’t like ‘em sometimes, but still… I don’t say bad things about ‘em.”
There was some merit in what she was saying, but… “What about when you just have to vent about something?”
“She ain’t vented. Or… no. She didn’t vent. That’s it. She’s seen me at my ugliest times. She’s still around. Bethany Ann saw me one time with a green foliage mask on. That wasn’t pretty.”
“See.” I flashed a grin. “You know exactly how I feel.” Except what she had to say wasn’t sitting well with me. It didn’t feel good. None of it.
“Yep… yep…” And she was back to sleep.
I heaved a sigh of relief. Emily drunk was almost as annoying as Emily sober. Turning back to the steering wheel, I pulled onto the road and it didn’t take long before I saw the campus. When I parked the car, I considered how heavy my roommate was. She was a little taller than me, but my weight.
I could handle her.
Hefting her up the stairs a few minutes later, I regretted my decision. Her head hit not one, but two doorways. Then she hit our doorway. When I caught sight of the couch, I knew I’d never be so glad to see that paisley thing in my life. Grunting one last time, I dropped Emily on the couch. Then I shut the door and sat watching Emily sleep, weighing what I needed to do. There was no real question, though. Deep down, I knew Kates was in danger.
I rubbed my hands together and knelt on the ground by Emily. Then I closed my eyes and I reached out… I broke through Emily’s first layer. It was sluggish, but that was no surprise. It was the booze, but immediately underneath was a swirl of emotion. Adrenaline. I felt excitement, passion, rigidity, and a firmness inside of her. All of it was jumbled together. Then I went further and I gasped silently.
I’d always known she had a black and white perspective on life, but she was harder on herself. I felt like I was being suffocated inside of her, but I pushed further down. That’s when I was hit with a wall of pain. It was masked with jealousy and insecurity. A blast of emotions hurled at me and I could almost hear the snarl. They hit me like a downpour of sleet. When I caught onto them, the hatred was physically painful. I knew I sobbed, but I just held on. I couldn’t do anything else.
Hatred. Evil. Turmoil.
The adrenaline was mixed with eagerness. I knew the feeling would haunt me, but I’d found what I was looking for. The vampire was in her. Taking my time, I waded through each strand. They were all entangled together. This vampire might’ve spent time with a Hunter, but he was cruel. I felt how much he loved to be cruel, but then again, a Hunter was sometimes the cruelest of them all. It made sense what company he’d keep.
I managed to search through each strand. Sometimes I just got a feeling. Sometimes I got a name. Other times, I got a place or a memory. Certain emotions centered on a specific time or memory with him. Then I got an image of his cruelty, a little girl. When I heard her defeated whimper, I shed some tears. The pictures, feelings, thoughts, memories—everything swirled together and then out of the middle the word ‘slayer’ lashed at me.
I bolted upright and jerked away from the couch. I was hurled out of Emily. Curling into a fetal position on the floor, I was helpless to stop the tears. They just trickled down. Some of it came from the vampire. Some from the little girl, but I knew the majority were from my own wounds.
I was bleeding and raw, but I needed to find Kates.
I tried to call Kates, but there was no answer. Then I thought about calling Blue, but before I could, my own phone rang. I slapped it against my ear and heard, “It is about time you called me!”
Blue sounded like she was at her wits’ end.
“Girl, you need to tell me that I’m off-racket. Tell me that my senses are going sky-rocket into nomad’s land. Tell me… tell me that I’m high and I’ve got a debt to the peyote drug lord. Please.”
Blue knew better.
I sighed softly and murmured, “You should’ve blocked me.”
“Oh… hell…” Blue groaned. “How am I supposed to block you? You’re my… you’re mine.”
She was my sponsor. It was a bond that we weren’t supposed to impede, but… situations could run amok and who knew where both of us would be. A person always hears how the ‘team’ is there for them, how it’s all for one and one for all—it’s literally true when you’re empathic.
“I know,” I sighed.
I could hear those wheels in Blue’s head and I knew she was turning them rapidly… She asked, “You said you were going to call me. What were you calling me for?”
“Can you feel someone for me? My old friend, Kates.” I didn’t need any other introduction. Kates was well known, by my sponsor and the rest of the empaths. When a vampire slayer is slaughtered, empaths feel and remember it for years.
“Oh girl,” Blue whispered, brokenly. “Are you sure?”
“Yes.” I sat up straighter. “I can’t. I’m really weak right now.”
“I will, but you have to promise me.”
Oh God. I waited in dread because I already knew what she was going to say. She always harped about it.
“You have to go to the next Empath meeting with me.”
“Fine.” I’d figure a way out of it later.
Emily grunted a snore behind me. It sounded like a train warning of its arrival, but she flipped on her stomach and the snore was muffled by the couch. I groaned and sat up straight to stretch a little, but was distracted when I heard Blue humming. I cracked a grin. I’d forgotten she did that when she needed to search for her person.
Some empaths, the really skillful ones, could close their eyes and have the person immediately. Those were the best of the best. The rest of the upper middle class could do it, but much more slowly. Blue had told me that when she first trained for this skill, she learned by feeling every person, in every room, every building, down every street before she found her target. It sounded exhausting to me and completely ludicrous. For some reason, most of the empaths liked to have this skill. They liked working on their gift (curse—as I say) and expanding it. The curse can drive a person crazy if you’re unable to shield and block others.
“Oh… oh… oh… OH….. oh…”
Blue was not having an orgasm.
“Oh….. uhhuh…. uhhuh…” This was followed by some grunts. “Ummmmm…..” Blue went back to her humming. “Oh, child. You’re in some trouble, aren’t you?” Then she said, “Davy, you need to help that girl.”
“What’d you feel?” I felt a knot in my throat.
“You know that I can’t tell you. What I felt within Kates is private and she chooses when to tell her friends, if she does. But I will tell you who you can call to help. She trusts him. I felt that and I already felt that she’s told you.”
I groaned. I already knew who she was going to say and then I heard my worst fear. “There’s a Hunter in town. She trusts him. He can help you. He can help her.”
“Why did I ask in the first place?” Holy man, I really hated that vampire.
Blue chuckled gravely. “The most gifted always search. It’s an automatic radar, Davy. It continually scans without causing you the normal pain. But only the most gifted are able to do that.”
I didn’t need to hear that. I did not want to be one of the ‘most gifted.’ I couldn’t keep the disbelief out of my voice. “Right.”
“It’s true. I haven’t said anything because I’m aware of how you feel, but it’s true. You are very gifted. What you can do… takes my breath away sometimes.”
It took my breath away too—and not in the good way.
Emily moaned in her sleep, which was followed by another train arriving at the station. Okay, I needed to face facts. I couldn’t do anything about my most cursed gift, but I could do something about Kates. “The Hunter, huh?”
“He’s who you need to contact. Do you know how?”
Do I know how? I scoffed at that thought. There’s always a few venues to search out a Hunter, but lucky for me—I had my roommate.
“Yeah. I’ll be fine,” I reassured her.
“Alright…,” I could sense her unease now. “…just, I’ll lower my shield to you so you can reach me if you get in trouble. I’ll alert the community immediately.”
That was not what we needed. If she alerted our community, the empathic community, then it might be war between the empaths and vampires.
“No, no. I’ll be fine. I’ll find the Hunter. We’ll be fine.”
“Okay. Well…. I’ll be feeling you.” And Blue hung up with her slightly eerie parting.
After that, I needed to wake Emily. The idea was not appealing, but I reached forward and gently patted her shoulder. “Emily. Em.”
“Hey!” I shoved her this time.
“What? Huh?” She blinked, dazed, and struggled to focus. “Davy?”
“Do you have Roane’s phone number?” She just looked at me. I snapped my fingers in front of her face and I saw the fog separate.
“Luke? Is he here?” She started to sit up, but I pushed her back down.
“He’s not, but I have to call him. Do you have his number?”
I saw the wheels turn slowly, but I knew she was starting to wonder why I’d need his number… and why I needed to call him. “Where’s his number? I wanted to warn him about Kates. I think she might like him.”
“It’s in my cell phone.” Her answer was predictably instant.
“And where’s that?”
“My purse.” She lifted her arm weakly and it dropped back down with a plop.
I saw that her arm was still through the pink purse straps. I hadn’t even noticed when I carried her inside, but then again, I was a little distracted by carrying her entire body. After I snagged her phone from inside, I thumbed through the contacts and found him. It took four rings before I heard his abrupt greeting, “Who is this?”
My mouth was dry. “Emily’s roommate.”
He didn’t remember my roommate? “You know, the one that your buddy bit tonight.”
There was silence on the other end, long tense silence. “What do you mean?”
“I need your help. I think my friend is in danger.”
“Who is this?”
Good God. “The empath!”
“Oh.” He understood now. He was quiet for a moment, a long moment, and then he asked, “Your friend is in danger?”
“Yeah. I need your help.”
“The slayer.” He seemed to choose his words carefully.
“Kates. She’s not the slayer.”
“She has the powers of a slayer.”
“There’s a difference. She’s not a slayer,” I defended, heatedly. I shouldn’t care this much, but being a slayer according to the new decree was illegal and it warranted instant death as punishment. The Hunters replaced the slayers. The slayer elders had agreed with the decree and so it was born.
Roane didn’t respond to my argument. “Where are you?”
“At my dorm.”
“With your roommate?”
“Yes.” Why was this so confounding to him? “I got your number from her.”
“Nevermind. Where do I meet you?”
There was silence again on his end.
“I can come to you,” I cried impatiently into the phone. Why did he need to consider this? He was a Hunter. He had to help, didn’t he? Although, truthfully, I wasn’t sure what their job requirements were. I mostly just knew they hunted the bad vampires. I waited for a long breath and then he said abruptly, “I’ll come to you. Don’t leave your dorm.”
He hung up immediately and Emily snored from the couch. Ignoring her, I programmed the vampire’s phone number into my phone before I stood up—then I felt awkward. I didn’t know what I was waiting for, but I sat at my desk and waited… and waited …and waited some more. It’d been an hour before I growled to myself. I couldn’t stay in the room any longer so I left and went downstairs to the lobby. Of course, when I got there I noticed two things. It was two in the morning and Shelly was wrapped around Adam in the television lounge.
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