He held my hand with a strength I'd never felt before. I looked around for anything else to help my escape.

Jagger led me to the front of the coffin. He picked up the goblet and raised it to the moon, spoke a few words in a language I didn't understand, and then took a long drink.

"Now you," he said with a wicked grin, offering me the goblet.

"Forget it!" I said, pushing the goblet away with my free hand.

"But isn't this what you wanted all along? Why else would you follow Alexander?" he asked.

"Because I love him!" I said, trying to wriggle free. "And I will never love you!"

"But you don't have to," he said, and forced the goblet to my mouth.

Drops of thick, sweet liquid spilled against my lips.

I spit the liquid from my mouth. "I will never become like you, whoever or whatever you are!"

Jagger's face grew strange, as if my words had been a silver stake driven through his heart.

"And I say you will!" His blue and green eyes gazed into mine as if trying to cast a spell. "With this kiss, I take thee for all eternity."

Jagger flashed his smile, and his white fangs glistened in the moonlight. He leaned into me.

"I bite back!" I yelled defensively, gritting my teeth.

Suddenly a burst of lightning struck, illuminating the sky and all of the graveyard. I plunged my teeth into Jagger's arm as hard as I could and dug my nails into his bony hand. He quickly released his death grip. I turned to run but slammed hard into something--or, rather, someone.

"Old Jim?" I cried, confused.

But when I looked up and stared into two midnight eyes, I realized it wasn't the caretaker I'd run into.

Instead, standing before me was my Gothic Guy, like a knight of the night. His dark, shoulder-length hair was hanging in his face. His white, moonlit skin was covered by a black T-shirt and jeans. The plastic spider ring I'd given him was resting on his finger. His eyes were deep, lonely, adoringly intelligent, just as they were the first time I'd seen them.

"Alexander!" I exclaimed, and fell into his arms.

"Just as I thought!" Jagger proclaimed, as if he'd won a contest. "I knew she'd bring me to you!"

Alexander embraced me hard as if he would never release me. Then he pushed me away. "You must go," he commanded.

"Are you crazy? I can't leave you!" I held his hand tightly. "I thought I'd never see you again!"

He stared into my eyes and warned me. "You have to go."

"But I--"

"You shouldn't have brought her into this!" Alexander told Jagger, with an anger I'd never seen before.

"She found me. Besides, I'm surprised to see that you're letting her go so soon, after she came all the way to the Coffin Club to find you..."

"Leave Raven out of this!" Alexander exclaimed. "I couldn't have planned my revenge any better than this. I could destroy you and gain an eternal partner with just one bite."

"You wouldn't dare--" Alexander warned.

"I knew she'd bring you to me, Sterling. You think you're not like one of us, but the truth is you are," Jagger argued.

"What is he talking about?" I asked.

"Not now," Alexander answered.

"Why do you think Sterling left Romania?" Jagger asked me. "Do you think it was an accident he came to a small town in America where there weren't any vampires?"

I didn't really know, after all.

"But I found you, Sterling," Jagger bragged. "And I found Raven."

"She has nothing to do with this," Alexander said, stepping in between Jagger and me.

"I have nothing to do with what?" I asked curiously.

"Don't worry, Raven, he breaks promises all the time. Right, Sterling?" Jagger said.

Alexander clenched his fist.

"What promise? Why revenge? What does he mean?" I asked, confused, wondering what kind of agreement Alexander had made but couldn't keep.

"Well, I'm not going to leave her! I'm going to hold on to her for all of eternity!" Jagger proclaimed.

He flashed his teeth with a wickedly gnarled grin and leaned in to sink his fangs into my neck.

Chapter 11 Frightening Farewell

I found myself flat on my back again, wet grass underneath me. Raindrops hit my face. I anxiously felt my neck for any wound.

Alexander leaned over me, his eyes filled with worry.

"Are you okay?" he asked sorrowfully. "You got in the way."

"Am I a...?" I didn't even want to finish my thought.

He shook his head and helped me to my feet. "You have to go!" he commanded again. "You shouldn't be here--you're in danger."

I turned to look around for Jagger. But all I saw were grave markers. "But I may never see you," I pleaded.

"You must leave now," he persisted.

Alexander was breaking my heart again. If I left, it could be for the last time. How could I be sure Jagger wouldn't harm him? Alexander could disappear into the night forever. But if I didn't listen to his instructions, I might actually be doing Alexander more harm by getting in his way.

I saw Jagger stumbling by the baroness's monument and wiping his mouth. His green and blue eyes had turned fiery red. His lean muscles tensed. He grinned at me and licked his lips like a rabid animal ready to rip into its prey.

I didn't even have time to kiss my Gothic Mate good-bye. I ran without looking back, tears and raindrops dripping down my face, the graveyard mud splashing against my boots, my heart pulsing. Thunder clapped against the trees and seemed to echo against the tombstones.

I raced to the entrance of the cemetery and climbed over the fence.

When I turned around, Jagger and Alexander were gone.

Chapter 12 Risky Reunion

I sobbed as I ran as fast as I could from the cemetery. I could barely see the pavement through my watery eyes. I headed through downtown Dullsville in the pouring rain where drivers in their Saabs, Mercedeses, and Jeeps looked strangely at the sight of a miserable, soaking wet goth girl.

I ran down the main street and tore through shoppers with umbrellas, knocked into couples coming out of the movie theater, and barreled past patrons escaping from the rain into restaurants. With every flap of a bird's wing or sound of a honking horn, I was startled, thinking it was Jagger following me. I raced on.

I didn't want to go home. I needed to be alone, away from my family. I didn't want to talk--no one, not even Becky, would understand this unearthly experience. I had to hide out and seek comfort in the only place I had ever really felt at home.

I hurried through the open Mansion gates, my legs numb and my feet tingly inside my boots. I rushed up the long, windy driveway and around to the back of the Mansion. I glanced toward the gazebo to see if any two-colored eyeballs were staring back at me. When I found the gazebo empty, I climbed through the open basement window and made my way through the deserted Mansion. My tears dropped onto the creaky wooden floors beneath my squeaky boots. I wiped my eyes as I ascended the grand staircase and made my way into Alexander's attic room.

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