Did you see the picture of that Mansion guy? the captain asked.

Hes totally hot, her assistant said, fixing her headband.

Hes really funny, another said.

Did you see how he was ribbing the reporter? He must be really confident to do that.

And talented. My parents bought one of his pictures at the Art Auction a few months ago, the captain boasted.

Hot, talented, and funny.

How did she ever land him? her assistant said.

They all glared at me. Just then I received a text.

Funny article.

Picture of a vampire?

Impossible.

It was pitch-black when I went to Beckys house to meet her. Her parents werent home and her house was unlocked. I called her name throughout each room, but she didnt answer. I knew she was afraid to go to the barn alone, but perhaps she needed to replace the rake. I found the flashlight resting on the back-porch railing.

Becky? Where are you?

When I finally reached the barn, the metal door was ajar.

Becky? Are you in there?

I heard some whispering voices and a giggle.

Becky? Is that you? Are you okay?

I shined the light on a few bales of hay. On an empty ladder. Then the tractor. It caught Becky, who quickly covered her face.

Becky, what are you doing in here? You hate the dark.

Her hair was messy and she bore a menacing smirk on her face. I helped her up when I noticed two fresh wounds on her neck.

No! What has Sebastian done to you?

What are you and Alexander waiting for?

NoBecky! What about Matt?

Hes not a vampire!

Just then I heard a beeping sound. I awoke to find Mrs. Hathaway and a classroom full of students staring at me.

Miss Madison, she said with a stern voice. Is that a cell phone I heard?

Noit was my alarm clock.

The class laughed.

I have the authority to confiscate anything that is electronic, other than a calculatorwhich, I might add, you dont need in history class.

Mrs. Hathaway returned to her lesson, and I quickly checked my message.

Lets make history together.

I glanced up and saw Trevor peering back at me.

I shook off my dream, and Mrs. Hathaway stepped out of class.

What are you doing this weekend, Becky asked, besides sleeping?

Alexanders party was fast approaching. I didnt have much time to decorate. I only had one day to gather some gothic and groovy items. Id been so distracted with keeping Sebastian away from Becky that I hadnt had much time to be excited about Onyx and Scarlets arrival or figure out something to wear.

Uhnot sure, I finally answered.

Why dont we all get together?

I think Alexander has plans, I said truthfully.

Doing what?

Im not sure. I just think I heard him say he was doing something. Nothing bigjust hanging in.

We can stay in, toounless you dont want us over.

Ohits not that. I just hate for you to cancel something dreamy like a movie night when all we are doing is hanging out playing video games.

Matt loves gaming. Besides, hes never been inside the Mansion. And I havent either, for that matter. We were only outside for Alexanders Welcome to the Neighborhood party.

How about I get back to you?

I waited for Beckys response.

Okay. Text me when you know, she finally said.

I felt awful keeping Becky in the dark about Alexanders party. She was my best friendI included her in everything. For that matter, she was the only one Id ever included. If it wasnt for Becky, Id have been totally alone all of my life. This was the thanks she gotbeing excluded from an intimate gathering hosted at the Mansion. But I had to remind myself of the reason I was having the party in the first placeto keep her safe and mortal.

I was really shaken by my dream. Imagining Becky as a vampireand how much she enjoyed itjolted me. I liked my best friend just the way she was.

But the dream felt so real. The fact that my best friend became a vampire before I became one haunted me. I was struckby jealousy. No one in this town wanted to be a vampire more than I did. Not Becky, or a Pradabee, or an unsuspecting soccer snob. If anyone was going to be bitten in this town, it was going to be me.

When the final bell rang, marking my freedom from the doldrums of Dullsville High, I met Becky at our lockers. Do you mind dropping me off at Annies Antiques? I asked.

Ill go, too, she said as she loaded her books in her backpack and I unloaded mine into my locker. I have nothing to do this afternoon.

I was planning on buying goodies for the party. How could I do that in front of her?

Are you sure? I asked. You know how I can dawdle forever. I dont want you to miss doing your homework.

Ive already finished it during study hall, she said proudly.

Then why are you taking home all your books?

The real question is why didnt you take any of yours?

Becky was as good a student as she was a friend.

I have things on my mind, I said. I planned on doing my homework in the morning.

She shook her head, as my mother had done a thousand times.

We exited the building, got into her truck, and drove the few miles to Annies.

Annies Antiques was one of my favorite haunts. A Victorian-style home was turned into an antiques store, each room filled with knickknacks, furniture, and artwork.

Annie greeted me with a warm hello. She was one of the few store owners who didnt judge me by the way I was dressed, assuming I was going to vandalize or shoplift. The antiques store was also one of the few stops in Dullsville where I regularly bought merchandise.

She wore an oversized leopard-print shirt with a black faux-fur collar and black rayon pants. Two golden retrievers roamed throughout the rooms and slept by Annies stool. What are you looking for today? she asked.

Nothing in particular. Just browsing.

I got some new things in that might interest you, she said, pointing to a nearby doorway.

I strode across the Victorian homes hardwood floors, which were weathered by all the foot traffic and furniture being moved in and out. On a small table covered with black lace fabric were items from Halloweens past.

Coveting all the goodies, I gathered as many things as I could hold, as if at any moment there could be a swarm of competitive shoppers.

You could use a shopping cart, Becky said, helping me place the various decorations on the counter.

Look at these! Becky presented me with three fake tombstones. You can put them in your room.

Absolutely!

I found a box of skeleton lights perfect for hanging by the gazebo.

Im not sure that all the bulbs work, Annie confessed when I brought them to my already rising pile of merchandise.

It doesnt matter, I said, unfazed. They are a must-have.

I found some lace place mats, dragon-headed candlesticks, and a ceramic raven.

Are you having a party? Annie asked. You could decorate a mansion with all this stuff.

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