"Cool. So how do you survive? Connections with the butcher?" I joked, referring to my conversation with Trevor.

"How did you know?" he asked, surprised. "We also have family who have ties to blood banks."

"Uh...I just guessed," I replied. "My parents were hippies, too. They wouldn't eat anything with eyeballs. But they traded their hippie threads and beaded satchels for Armani suits and briefcases, and they drive their BMWs past PETA protesters on their way to work."

"Sounds like our parents would make great friends."

"Just like us."

Alexander squeezed my hand.

"I sometimes wonder what it would be like if you changed me. We could stay up all night long, fly into the night, and be bonded for eternity." "I've imagined what it would be like if I were born like you. We could go to the same school, lie out in the sun, have picnics in the park. I'd be able to see us reflected together in a mirror. I'd fill my walls with pictures of us at the beach."

"We share similar dreams."

"You're a human who wants to be a vampire, and I'm a vampire who wants to be human."

I gazed up at Alexander with empathy. I hadn't realized he felt as alone in his own world as I did in mine.

"It's just over there," he said, pointing to an abandoned barn across the train tracks.

The red barn had seen better days. Boards from the gray roof and side were missing, like teeth on a smiling kindergartner.

We stepped through the door frame. The door was missing, but the wooden beams that held the barn together still remained intact. Vacant stalls stood on one side, an empty hayloft on the other. Alexander grabbed a gas lantern that hung from a hook on the wall and turned it on. He took my hand and led me toward a darkened corner.

"Are we going up into the hayloft?" I asked coyly.

"Follow me," he said. "Don't be afraid. They won't bite," he said with a laugh.

"Who's they?" I wondered. I imagined a family of vampires, hiding out in the stable. Maybe long-lost relatives of his.

I held his hand hard as he pulled me into the corner of the abandoned barn. I could see two slanted eyes staring back at me from the corner. I stepped into the moonlight to discover a powder white mama cat with a litter of snowball white baby kittens--and there in the mix by herself was one teeny black cat. "She's just like me!" I exclaimed.

"I thought you'd like her."

"She's the cutest thing I've ever seen! I want her to come home with me," I said wishfully, kneeling down and staring at the kitten.

"I found them last night."

"You want me to keep her?"

"She's finished nursing. And the mother can't care for them all."

Alexander and I sat off to the side and watched as the kittens purred and the mama fell asleep.

"I'm surprised she isn't hissing at us," I said.

"She understands we're not here to hurt her, but to help her."

"So, you're like Dr. Dolittle with a bite."

He grimaced at my joke. "Do you want the cat or not?"

I nodded my head eagerly.

Alexander picked up the tiny black kitten, who looked like a small ball of yarn in his handsome hands.

"It's okay," he said, handing her to me.

I held the tiniest black baby kitten I'd ever seen. She licked her mouth and looked up at me as if she were smiling.

"I can keep her?"

"I wanted you to have something to remember me by."

"Remember you?"

"To keep you company during the day." "That is the sweetest thing!" I stared down at my Gothic Gift gazing up at me with teeny lime green eyes. "I'll call her Nightmare."

Chapter 16 Vampire Visitor

Where did you get that?" Billy Boy asked when I brought Nightmare into the house.

"Alexander gave her to me."

"She's so cute. But you'll have to hide her from Dad. You know how he feels about pets."

"I know, but I'm not bringing a lizard home this time. It's just a kitty."

"Where'd you get that?" my dad asked, coming down the stairs.

"Alexander gave her to me."

"I don't care if the president gave it to you. It has to go."

"Paul, she is really cute," my mom commented, petting Nightmare's head. "And Raven is certainly old enough to be responsible for a cat."

"Her age is not what I'm concerned about," he warned.

"Dad, didn't I prove enough to you by working at Armstrong Travel? I'm not a little girl anymore."

He paused as I held my Nightmare up to his face. "Fine. But she stays in your room. I don't want her running all around the kitchen countertops or scratching on my couch."

"Thanks, Dad." I gave him a huge hug and kiss on his cheek.

"Now I'll show you your new home," I said to Nightmare as I took her to my bedroom.

I looked around my room. I didn't know where to put her.

"I have an old box in the garage filled with clothes from college that would be a perfect bed for her," Mom said, peeking in. "It's above the tools. Bring me the box and I'll repack the clothes."

"Thanks."

I started to close my bedroom door when Nightmare began to follow me.

"I'll be right back, sweetie," I said, putting her in the middle of the floor. "I'm going to make you a bed."

Nightmare's ears perked up, and she looked at the window. She darted up onto my computer chair and then onto my desk. She stared out the window, hissing. I picked her up and placed her on my bed.

"I'll be right back. Sleep here for now."

When I reached my bedroom door, Nightmare was back at my feet, her lime green eyes squinting at me. She hissed at me and pawed at my boots.

I picked her up. "Mommy will be right back." I kissed my new kitty on the nose, placed her back on the floor, and quickly closed the door. I could hear her scratching against the wood as I ran down the hall.

I walked to our garage at the end of our driveway. I stood on my dad's toolbox as I searched for the box. I could hear the crickets. There was a lot of rustling in the tree by my bedroom window. I froze.

More rustling. It could be a squirrel. Or having just seen Trevor last night, I thought he could be toilet papering my window.

I turned off the garage light and tiptoed over to the tree. But now the leaves were still. Not a bird. Not a squirrel. Not a soccer snob.

I headed back to the garage, and then I saw Jagger.

I gasped.

"What are you doing here?"

"I just wanted to see you."

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