I touched the empty easel. I gazed at his bed, still creased from when he'd slept there days ago. I held his black knit sweater left behind on his beaten-up comfy chair.

I walked to the attic window and gazed out into the lonely moonlight. The heavy rain had ceased. I felt exhausted, abandoned, like a complete failure. Had I just stayed in Dullsville, Alexander would have returned for me. But my impatience had put me, and Alexander, in danger. He had been safely hiding in Dullsville from Jagger's thirsty revenge, and I'd pointed his nemesis right in his direction. As clever as I thought I was, I'd just been a pawn in Jagger's wicked game.

I heard a floorboard creak behind me. I slowly turned around but could barely make out the dark figure standing in the doorway.

"Jagger--" I said with a gasp.

The floorboard creaked again as the figure took a step toward me.

"Get out!" I yelled, backing up. I had nowhere to go. The figure was blocking the doorway, and my only escape was the narrow attic window ledge.

I stepped away, anxious about making a dangerous escape.

"I'll call the police!" I warned.

The figure drew closer. I decided I'd have to make a run for it by going around him. I took a breath and counted to myself. One. Two. Three.

I speedily darted around the figure, and was close to making my escape through the doorway when the figure grabbed my wrist. "Get off!" I cried, trying to wriggle away. But when the moonlight gleamed down on his hand, a black plastic spider ring shined back at me.

I gasped, ceasing my struggle. "Alexander?"

He stepped completely into the light.

There he was, like a dream, standing before me. He'd returned. Handsome and now weary looking.

"I thought I'd never see you again!" I exclaimed. My body, tense with fear, melted into him as I wrapped my arms around him. He squeezed me back, so hard I could almost feel his heart beat through my own chest.

"I'm not letting go," I said, squeezing him harder and smiling. "Not ever!"

"I shouldn't have...," he began, softly.

I looked up, as if I were seeing an apparition. "I just can't believe you're here!"

He took my hands and raised them to his mouth, kissing the back of them with his full lips, sending shivers through my veins. He gazed back into my eyes and smiled.

And then he did what I had so longed for him to do. He kissed me. His full lips pressed tenderly against mine, slowly, softly, seductively. It was as if we'd been separated for an eternity.

We continued to kiss, passionately, moving from our mouths to our cheeks to our ears as if drinking in each other's flesh. He gently stroked my hair, then nibbled my ear. I giggled as he sat on his comfy chair and pulled me onto his lap. I looked into his eyes, wondering how I could have breathed the last few days without him near me.

I ran my fingers through his messy, licorice-colored locks. He brushed my hair away from my neck and made his way up my shoulder with sexy kisses. I could feel his teeth, seductively sliding against the skin of my neck. Touching, toying, tingling, giving me playful nibbles. The nape of my neck hung tenderly in his mouth.

Suddenly Alexander pulled away, a look of terror in his eyes.

"I can't," he said shamefully, looking away.

"What's wrong?" I asked, surprised by his change in mood.

Alexander stood up, helping me to my feet. He anxiously drew his hand through his hair and paced the room.

"It's okay," I said, catching up to him by his easel.

"I thought I wasn't like Jagger," he said, and sat on the edge of his bed. "But...maybe I am."

"You are nothing like him," I said. "In fact, you are the opposite."

"I just want you to be safe. Always," he said, looking at me soulfully.

"I am, now that you are here," I said, stroking his hand.

"But don't you see?" he said seriously. "My world is not a safe one."

"Well, mine isn't either. Don't you watch the news?"

His sullen face turned bright, and he laughed. "I guess you're right."

"See? I'm more at risk going to school with Trevor than I am kissing a vampire."

"I've never met anyone like you," he said, turning toward me. "And I've never felt before the way I feel about you." "I'm so glad you came back for me." I hugged him around his waist.

"This won't happen again," he assured me.

"How can you be so sure? Jagger seems bent on getting even with you," I asked, sitting beside him.

"Because he couldn't get even."

"Wow, so you showed him who's boss? Like in a school yard brawl?"

"I guess...Only in our case it was a graveyard brawl."

"Is he gone?"

"His family is in Romania. There is nothing for him here now. He can go back and tell them he found me."

I fingered my necklace.

"What promise did you break?"

"I didn't break it. I never made it...But we don't have to worry about that anymore," he said wearily.

"What were all the candles in the cemetery for?" I asked.

"A vampire can take anyone at any time. But if he takes another at a cemetery or some other sacred ground, then she is his for eternity."

"Then I'm glad you showed up when you did!" I squeezed Alexander with all my might. "I'm sorry I led Jagger to you," I confessed.

"I should be the one apologizing to you. I couldn't imagine you'd come for me," he said, staring off into the moonlight. Then he turned back to me. "But I should have known. That's what I love about you." "Now tell me everything!" I exclaimed suddenly. "What's it like being a--?"

"What's it like being human?" he interrupted.

"Boring."

"How can you say that?" he asked, holding me close. "You can wake up in the daylight, go to school, and see your reflection."

"But I want to be like you."

"You already are," he said with a smile.

"Were you born a vampire?"

"Yes. Were you born a human?" he teased.

"Yes. Are there millions of vampires around?"

He nodded. "But we are a minority, so we like to stick together. Obviously there is safety in numbers. We can't reveal our identities or we'd be persecuted."

"It must be so hard to cover up who you really are inside."

"It's very lonely, feeling like an outcast. Like you are invited to a costume party, but you are the only one in a mask."

"Do you have a lot of vampire friends in Romania? I bet you miss them."

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