Star sat, watching the sun play across the ocean, watching as the light danced off the waves, turning their tips to glowing embers. For so long she had been forced to sleep during the day, denied the pleasure of the sun, forgetting the way it painted the world with a golden haze. But now, thanks to Michael, she was free. Free of the ache inside, the demand for blood. Free from the taste of immortality. Free from the Lost Boys. Her Lost Boys.
She missed them. Despite the pain they'd caused, the anger, and the fear, she missed them. It was a new ache inside her body, eating away at her heart at odd moments when her emotional control was low. As happy as she was with Michael, walking in the sun with him, laughing with him, with no fear of being torn apart, still she missed them.
There were times, when she sat, watching the sun play off of the ocean as she so often did, that she could see David's smirk in the clouds, or a flash of Dwayne's dark hair in the depths of the ocean, or hear Paul's laughing voice in the wind, or see Marco's dancing eyes in the spray where the waves threw themselves upon the rocks.
Lately Star had begun to wonder what it would be like, to join the water beating itself on the rocks. There were instances when she could almost see it, see herself falling through the air, hear the thud and crunch when she hit, feel the water washing over her, taking everything away.
She would never know. She wasn't afraid that she might kill herself. The thoughts were just passing ones, never taking root. But she did miss them, her boys.
The sun began to sink below the horizon. Still Star sat, watching as the sky turned orange, pink, purple, and that deep dark shade of blue. The last rays of the sun disappeared in a burst of light. The sky was dark, save a single star shining brightly.
Star, gazing up at it, was reminded of her childhood. "Star light, star bright," she murmured, hearing whispers of the past in her head. "First star I see tonight. I wish I may. I wish I might. Have this wish I wish tonight. I wish…" her voice trailed off. Finally she spoke again, voice soft and childlike. "I wish they could have had a second chance."
"Done." A new voice filled the air, startling Star, causing her to leap to her feet, looking about her anxiously.
"Who, who's there?" she gasped out.
Laughter filled the night air, gentle laughter. "Doesn't matter my child," the voice said. "I've come to grant your wish."
"But I didn't…" Star's voice stopped when she realized that she did mean it. She wanted them to have a second chance, no matter that they were vampires, killers. They had done little to harm innocents; had, in fact, chosen their meals from those who preyed on the youngsters crowding the Boardwalk every night.
"But you did mean it," the voice confirmed. "Or I wouldn't be here."
"Wishes don't come true. It's just a lie parents tell their children," Star whispered, unable to wrap her mind around the situation at hand, though she'd taken to believing in vampires easily enough.
Laughter filled the air again, soft laughter, so quiet Star had to strain her ears to hear it. "Really?" the voice queried, the slightest tilt of the words giving away its teasing.
Star sighed. "How are you going to grant this wish?" she asked, almost afraid of the answer. For the Lost Boys to have another chance, in her mind at least, there could be no Emersons in Santa Carla--and that meant her precious Michael would not be here. "Please don't take Michael away."
"Time will replay itself. They will be given a Protector. If they act correctly, they will live. If they do not, the Protector will fail."
"A Protector? Act correctly how?" Star asked, voice shaking. Though she had decided, without even realizing it, to believe this disembodied voice, she still didn't understand what exactly it was asking of her.
"That will be known when the time is right."
"Is that it?" Star asked softly. "They just have to behave, and this Protector will save them?" It sounded too easy, without enough suffering, and as she'd learned throughout her life, everything came with pain and loss. Even her beloved Michael.
"The Protector will save them, if everything happens like it should."
"Ok, that sounds easy enough," Star said, letting her lips twist into a small smile. "When does it start?"
"One final thing," the voice said, its words dripping into Star's ears with a pause between each one, as if her mysterious benefactor was reluctant to share this latest information. "You will remember that things are happening for a second time, up until you meet the Protector. Once you meet the Protector, you will know they are the Protector, but then you will forget everything. And know this. The Protector will be risking their soul for your wish. If the Protector fails--the Protector's soul will be forever lost, payment for the failure."
"But…" Star couldn't finish her protest, for the world began to spin, dragging her up away from the ground and into the dark sky. The stars above her head rushed down to greet her, seeming close enough to touch; when she reached for them, only empty air met her fingertips. Slick lights flashed before her tightly closed eyes and then her world grew dark.
Star found herself on the Boardwalk, alone though people pressed against her as they walked by. She was surrounded by partiers, their screaming voices thudding within her ears and almost lost beneath the blast of music as the band on the outdoor stage warmed up. The Giant Dipper rose above her head, casting shadows over her, and she could almost taste the exhilaration of those riding the roller coaster. The lights and smells of the Boardwalk invaded her senses, leaving her helpless for long moments as she adjusted to the sudden change.
Just as she was ready to step forward and seek out her Boys, a solid body smacked into her, slamming her to the earth with enough force to knock the breath out of her. Pain rippled through her body and she gazed up through a red haze to see two large, hairy men continue past her without a backward glance.
Suddenly the one in front was thrown into a wall hard enough that the cracks of his bones breaking were strangely audible. The second man lunged forward, groping for an unseen attacker. Star watched in amazement as he was flung against a light pole.
The fight was over as quickly as it had begun. A laughing voice filled the air. It would have been lovely to listen to, had a dark vein not run underneath the laughter.
"Twice you've upset me," the voice said. "First, the way you acted towards me. Second, you knocked this lovely lady down. Cross me a third time, and you won't be given another chance."
The second man slowly stood, then helped his companion stand. Both men were groaning and limping, both had broken bones. Both disappeared into the night.
Star found herself gazing at a pale hand. The fighter was offering to help her up. Star's gaze finally cleared. The fighter was a young girl, no more than nineteen at the oldest. Her hair was a thick mass of white blonde curls, long and wild. Her eyes were a deep blue, dancing with amusement. Her full lips were turned up into a smile.
"Are you ok?" the girl asked softly, still offering her hand to Star. "I'm sorry about that. They were chasing me, and knocked you down. I apologize. I should have kept an eye out for bystanders." A small frown marred her features for a moment, then disappeared. "I'm Anna."
Star blinked once just to make sure she wasn't imagining things. She remembered her wish and the voice, and knew that time was replaying itself, but she didn't remember ever meeting an Anna. Slowly she lifted her hand and placed it in Anna's pale one.
Her body stiffened, as she was overwhelmed with images. Scenes of her Lost Boys, images of Michael, blood, fighting, life, death, wishes, dreams. She saw this girl, covered in blood, facing the boys. Star began to shake and opened her eyes. The girl was gazing down at her worriedly.
"Are you ok?" Anna asked softly, not wanting to scare the girl further.
"Protector," Star whispered, then lost consciousness.
Star awoke in a dark room, a cool washcloth laid gently across her forehead. She murmured softly, turning her head, trying to see anything.
A light flickered on in the corner, dimly lighting the room. She turned her gaze that direction, and found herself looking at the girl from the boardwalk.
"Anna?" she said softly, making the word a question.
"Are you feeling better?" Anna asked, voice gentle. She crossed the room and sat down on the edge of the bed, one hand lifting the washcloth, the other running soft fingers through Star's hair.
"What happened?" Star asked, frowning.
"You were knocked over by two men who were chasing me. I got rid of them, and then moved to help you up. You started shaking then passed out," Anna explained.
"I must have hit my head really hard," Star said, whimpering a little when Anna's hand found a sore spot.
"You did. I've found a bump or two. I gave you some medicine that should help you heal," Anna said, voice soft. "What's your name?"
"Star," she replied, carefully sitting up. "I should go. They will be worried, he'll be mad."
Anna nodded, not stopping her. "I'll walk you, until you can find them," she said.
Star started to protest, not wanting to risk this girl out in the night.
"You don't have a choice here. It's my fault you were hurt, the least I can do is help you find your friends," Anna said, already standing and slipping on a well-worn leather jacket.
Star sighed, then nodded. "Fine," she said.
Soon the two girls were walking slowly along the Boardwalk. It would be closing in the near future, but the crowds were still thick. They weren't having any luck finding Star's friends, and Star was getting reluctant to keep Anna out much longer.
They turned down a dark alley, planning on cutting across it to another part of the Boardwalk, where the crowds looked thinner. Suddenly bright lights filled the other end. Star stepped away from Anna, worried that her presence with the girl had endangered her.
Engines roared and laughter filled the air as the bikes raced down the alley. Star pressed herself against the wall, screaming for Anna to move, but the girl stood still.
She faced the bikes, chin high, a statue, as they raced towards her, a game of chicken that could end with disastrous results.
The bikes bore down on Anna and Star screamed again.
At the last possible second the bikes swerved, sliding by on either side of her, close enough that the wind from their passing whipped at her hair. As the last bike passed her, she whirled, sliding into a fighting pose, weight on her back leg, ready to attack or defend. The bikes turned, pulling to a stop in a semi-circle before her.
"Where ya been, Star?" the white haired biker asked, voice amused.
"I was on the boardwalk, and these guys knocked me down. She kicked their ass, then when I passed out, took me off the street and back to her room. She helped me David," Star said, voice anxious.
"Did she now," David said, turning his gaze to the girl standing before them. She was still calm, as if she wasn't facing down a group of bikers.
"She did," Star repeated, moving forward to stand next to David's bike. "So leave her be."
David laughed, the sound teasing and comforting all at once. "I'll leave her be," he stated softly. Star breathed a sigh of relief, which broke off when he continued. "I don't think I'm the one you have to worry about though." He nodded towards the boys. Paul and Marko were gazing at the newcomer with half-interested half-uncaring looks, but Dwayne's eyes were dark, hungry as he watched her, not for her blood.
"If she helped you, then we owe her a great deal, don't we?" David said, voice still that mix between teasing and serious. Laddie slid off of Dwayne's bike and wrapped his arms around Star's legs.
"I was scared," he whispered.
Star sighed. "Let her go," she asked sadly, knowing what the answer would be.
"Come with us?" David asked Anna, the smirk firmly in place. "If you're brave enough."
Anna lifted a single eyebrow, but did not rise to the bait. "Where?" she asked, voice uninterested.
"Come and see," David said. Star sighed and slid onto the bike behind him, one arm tight around his throat for a moment.
"I don't have a bike," Anna said.
"Ride with one of my boys," David said, already shifting in preparation of taking off. "Come with us."
Laddie moved to climb back onto Dwayne's bike, but the dark-haired vampire shook his head, nodding to Marko's bike. Marko didn't say a word, just helped Laddie slip on.
Dwayne held one hand out to Anna. She looked at him for a long moment, eyes cold. Something flashed behind the walls and she took his hand, letting him pull her to the bike, easily sliding on behind him. Her hands found his waist for balance, and both froze, eyes darkening. Anna shook the moment off first, shaking her head.
Star sighed, eyes closing for a moment. David laughed, the sound filling the air. "We ride boys," he commanded, tearing from the alley, Dwayne's bike behind his, Paul and Marko behind.
Anna's hands tightened reflexively on Dwayne's waist as the wind bit into her skin. "What the hell have I done?" she questioned herself.
They rode, hard and fast, down the beach and through the trees, heading for the bluff. The boys' howls rang out into the night. On the beach, people dove out of the way, none saying a word of complaint, all fearing the group too much, fearing what they did not know. Dwayne was silent, the feel of Anna at his back overwhelming his other senses.
They spun to a stop as one, wind whipping at them. Anna sat, breath coming faster, gazing over the edge of the bluff. She turned eyes hard and cold as stone to David.
"This is what you wanted me to see?" she asked, voice disinterested.
David laughed, the sound harsh. He turned his head to look at her, smirk firmly in place. "No. Not this."
Taking Star's arm, he stepped onto the first wooden step, letting Star descend before him. He spoke without looking back.
"Bring her down," he commanded.
Paul turned, stepping forward as if to obey the command. He glanced at Dwayne and stopped, stepping away from them and turning with a laugh, disappearing down the stairs. Marko just shook his head, following Paul down, Laddie a step behind.
Anna sighed, running both hands through her wild hair. She didn't like any of this, least of all being suddenly alone with the biker she had ridden with. "What is this place?" she asked, feeling an intense need to break the silence.
Dwayne simply looked at her for a long moment, the wind playing with his long dark hair. Anna had to clench her hands into fists to stop them from joining the wind, to stop herself from sliding her hands into his hair, to see if it felt as soft as it looked. Her nails bit into her skin, just this side of drawing blood.
"Home," he finally answered, once again holding one hand out to her. She looked at his hand, then out to the sea, then to the wooden steps, then finally to his face. There she lost her inner battle, gently placing her hand in his, letting him lead her down the steps and into the cave.
Once inside the cave, Anna was noticeably impressed. "Nice," she said, tone only half-sarcastic. Her gaze slid over everything, finally coming to rest on David. "Very nice."
He smiled--no, smirked--at her. "Glad you like it," he said, lips twitching. His smirk actually slid to a grin. Nudging Star gently, he caught her eyes. "Told you you wouldn't have to worry about me," he said, voice low, then motioned to what he saw. Star turned, then sighed when she saw Anna's hand still holding Dwayne's.
"Leave her alone, please," Star said. "She helped me. She doesn't need this."
"I think this is exactly what she needs," David argued. "Marko. My wine."
Marko quickly moved to fetch the ornate bottle. David made a motion, and Dwayne walked towards his leader, not exactly leading Anna, but not giving her the option of staying where she was, either. Marko brought the bottle to David, who opened it reverently. He gently took a sip, eyes closed, head back, then held it out to Anna.
"Drink," he commanded, eyes still closed.
Anna snorted. "Not likely," she said.
David's eyes slowly opened. "What?" he said, voice almost shocked.
"No," Anna stated.
"You don't drink?" he asked, staring at her with a frown on his face.
"In certain situations, no," Anna replied, pulling her hand away from Dwayne's.
"This situation?" Paul asked, laughter in his voice.
"One drink," David said, "won't hurt."
"I don't know where I am, I don't know how to get back, and I don't know who you all are. One drink could very well hurt," Anna said, crossing her arms over her chest. "No."
David laughed then, bitter. "Touché," he said with another smirk, gently corking the bottle and setting it on the table. "Not tonight."
Anna nodded. "Not tonight," she said, a very small smile on her lips.
Star sighed, moving forward to stand next to the girl. "Thank you again for helping me," she said. "But you'd be safer if you didn't help anymore."
Anna nodded. "I know. But I still will."
Star shook her head. "You don't know what you're getting into," she spoke softly, fear in her voice. "Just leave."
"So tell me what I'm getting into," Anna replied, frowning at her. "Why are you so scared?"
"You don't know what we are," Star murmured.
"Tell me," Anna said, tilting her head as she watched the female.
David broke in then. "We are simply a group of friends," he stated, walking towards them slowly. "Nothing more, nothing less."
Star sighed, moving away to her corner, slipping behind the soft curtains covering her bed. "Take her back, David, please," she begged.
David lowered his head once. "All right," he said, lips twitching. "Take her back, Dwayne."
Dwayne looked like he was going to protest, then stopped. He turned and left the cave, heading back towards his bike.
"Go on," David told Anna. "You're free to leave."
She frowned, turning towards Star. "You'll be ok?" she asked, worried.
Star nodded. "Just go. Please," she begged, voice scared.
Anna shook her head, started to say something, then left, hurrying after Dwayne.
The ride back to the Boardwalk was strange, to be riding, but not surrounded by the rest of the bikes. Unable to help herself, Anna rested her head against Dwayne's shoulder, arms tight around his waist.
Once they arrived, she pulled away from him, sliding off the bike as soon as he stopped.
She stood before him, feeling as if things were unfinished, unsure of what to do. "Tell Star," she started to say, then stopped, not finding the right words. "Just tell her I'll check up on her."
Dwayne nodded, watching her carefully.
Suddenly unsure, for one of the first times in her life, Anna bit her lower lip gently. "Well, good-bye," she said softly, turning away.
He caught her arm and pulled her back, pulled her against him, looking down into her eyes. By some trick of the light he was in shadows and she bathed in light. He watched her, eyes dark jewels in the night. Finally, at the point where Anna could take no more of the silence and the watching, he lowered his head, brushed the softest kiss across her lips, and was gone.
Anna lifted a single finger to her lips, touching them gently, an interesting look on her face. After a moment she turned, heading back towards her place. "Well. This was an interesting night," she said, out lout but to herself. "Exactly what I needed."
Two shiny eyes watched as she walked away. As soon as she disappeared from sight, soft laughter filled the air. The Boys were at it again.
A week, or two perhaps, passed quickly. Anna saw no sign of the others, and they saw little of her, just a glance now and again. Not for lack of trying. They all, Dwayne especially, kept an eye out for the intriguing female. She was good at staying out of sight though. And her lack of a need to hunt humans helped this talent of hers a lot.
Unfortunately she didn't have a talent for directing her dreams. And they were filled with the others, especially Dwayne, until she couldn't tell what was real and what was only a dream. They were so life like, so realistic. So she avoided them.
Until one night. The boys were on the carousel, causing trouble as usual. The guard had just jerked David back, away from the man who had attacked Dwayne, when a soft voice broke into the conversation.
"Officer, I'm sure my boys didn't mean to cause trouble," Anna said, slipping up in front of the officer, an innocent smile brushing across her lips.
The officer looked taken aback, startled that this young girl was claiming the four troublemakers. "Your boys?" he repeated, voice shocked.
"My boys," she confirmed with another innocent smile. She slid past David, moving towards Dwayne, who was still being held back. She caught his eye, and he stopped struggling, almost relaxing.
"Ok boys, let's go," David said, pulling away from the officer. The others frowned, then nodded. Anna turned, smiling once more at the officer, her face everything it should be, polite, sweet, innocent. But as she turned her head away, she caught the gaze of the male who had attacked the boys. Her eyes hardened, threatening, promising his punishment. The look, from eyes set in such an innocent face, sent fear through the man.
As soon as Anna stepped from the carousel, Dwayne wrapped his arms around her waist. She pressed against him for a moment, then pulled back. He wouldn't let her leave his arms, but did leave her room to turn so she could look at David.
"Where's Star?" she asked.
David shrugged. "Around," he said. "I knew you'd come back."
She glared at him for a long moment, but the effect was lost when Dwayne nuzzled at her neck. "Stop that," she hissed. "You're ruining the look."
Paul laughed at that, a small smirk on his face. After a moment, Anna laughed too, shaking her head.
"So what are we doing?" she asked, unconsciously including herself in the group. "Besides causing trouble, of course."
David hid his grin. She was theirs. It was just a matter of time. He shrugged again. "Who knows?"
Anna spent the rest of the night with them, just exploring the Boardwalk, causing trouble and intimidating people. She left them with a smile, a kiss for Dwayne, and these words of advice, an hour or so before sunrise.
"That couple, back at the boardwalk, they're trouble. We need to get back at them for getting you noticed by the cops." David nodded, smirked at her once, and they were gone.
Anna flung herself onto her bed, rolling to her back and staring at the ceiling. "I've got to get myself a bike," she whispered before falling asleep.
And the next day she did just that. Stopping at a gas station to grab a couple of sodas to help her pass the time before sunset, she almost ran into a tall dark haired boy. She looked him up and down for a moment, then turned and walked away, barely hearing him ask the attendant if there were any jobs around. She shook her head. Silly boy.
The next night Star was with the boys when they came to pick Anna up. Star wanted to head to the concert, and asked Anna to go with her, but after careful consideration, and Dwayne's lips against her neck, she decided to stay with the boys. Star had laughed at her, which caused a water fight right there in the center of her room, but soon the group split up.
The boys took Anna around the Boardwalk, revealing each nook and cranny that was hidden to most humans. They ended up at the video store, swaggering inside. David led them, smirk in place, eyes laughing. Dwayne kept Anna in front of him, one hand possessively on her hip. Paul followed, eyes dancing, and Marko came last, smiling and silent.
Thorn snarled at them.
"Bad doggy," Anna said, coming close to kicking him to shut him up, but when the dog quieted, she kept the action to herself.
They paused at the counter, Marko and Paul flashing wicked grins to the girl behind the counter. She smiled back sweetly, casting a quick glance to Anna and Dwayne, who didn't notice. They were a bit preoccupied.
Their preoccupation, of course, led to Paul and Marko making some teasing remarks, which led to Anna pushing Dwayne back until her hands could rest on either side of him on the counter, her lips firmly pressed to his own. After a few more remarks from Paul and Marko, and some interesting hand gestures from Anna, David broke up their fun.
David led them on around the room, stopping at the doorway again, smirking balefully at the owner, a tall, harmless looking man who was talking to a motherly looking woman.
"I told you not to come in here anymore," the man said.
David smirked at him some more, then led the group out. Anna tossed a small smile and a wink to the man, before walking out the door. She slid on her recently purchased bike, and roared off with the boys.
Max watched the group go, a frown on his face. A new girl. He didn't like this at all. Not only did he not like the idea of someone new in the group whom he hadn't chosen, there was something about the girl that bothered him. She felt wrong, almost like she didn't fit, like she wasn't supposed to be there. His frown deepened. It almost felt like she would ruin his plans. He shrugged the thought off, the frown leaving. He turned back to the lady before him.
The night wore on. Anna was sitting on her bike, teasing the boys about this and that when Star came bouncing up, leading Laddie behind her. Watching the boy slide onto Dwayne's bike brought a smile to Anna's face. As they started to pull away, Anna recognized the boy from the gas station watching Star with a dazed look on his face. A blast of fear slid through her, causing her to tighten her hands on the handlebars. He was trouble; she could feel it in her very bones.
They all pulled away with a roar. They was pleasantly surprised when, instead of pulling away to return to her place, Anna stayed with them, riding with them to the cave.
"You aren't going home?" Star asked her when the arrived.
"I've got a bad feeling," Anna explained. "I'd better stay here."
"You sure you're 'bad feeling' isn't just wanting to feel more of Dwayne?" Paul laughed, and tossed her his pack of cigarettes. "You'll probably need these after, then."
Anna flipped him off, but Star ignored him. "I can sleep with Laddie, if you want the bed."
"Thanks." Anna smiled at her, and was glad she hadn't pushed; she didn't know how to explain to herself why she wanted to stay, much less anyone else.
Anna's dreams were filled with blood and death and that boy from the gas station. She woke up, a silent scream on her lips, eyes wide. She was scared.
Quietly leaving her bed, she began to explore the cave, smiling as she watched Laddie and Star sleep. Not finding the boys, she headed farther and farther back.
She came to a dead end, and frowned. They had to be around there somewhere. Suddenly a cold chill slid over her and she looked up. A whimper escaped her lips at what she saw.
She rushed away, leaving the cave, but didn't head for her bike. Instead she sat, watching the sun play off of the water, thinking. She was angry, hurt, and surprisingly, she felt betrayed.
Even more surprisingly, she wasn't afraid. Not in the slightest.
Starting with this chapter, quite a bit of dialog is drawn from the film when it comes to Michael Emerson.
Anna was still sitting on the edge of the bluff when the sun set. Her thoughts were dark, and there was a fine trembling running through her body, matching her anger.
"What are you doing all the way out here?" Star asked, coming up behind her, a small smile on her face. Anna just shrugged.
"I needed some air," she said, keeping her gaze on the water as she slowly stood.
The boys came out, laughing and jostling each other, teasing and bickering, a family. Dwayne grinned when he saw Anna and moved to wrap his arms around her waist. She stiffened and drew away. He frowned, watching her go.
"What's wrong?" David asked bluntly, grasping her arm and turning her to face him.
She glared up at him for long moments, then looked away. "Bad dreams," she said softly, bitterly. He tightened his grip on her arm as she tried to pull away. She turned her head back, eyes blazing.
"Let me go," she snarled, tugging against his grip. This only caused him to squeeze her arm harder. She had to bite her lip to keep from crying out, but continued to pull away from him.
Her skin was at the point of tearing when Dwayne's hands came down hard, one of David's shoulder, one on David's hand where it held Anna's arm.
"Let go," he said, voice hard. David glared at him.
"I am the leader here," he snarled. "You aren't."
"You're hurting her, let go," Dwayne said, eyes darkening.
Star pleaded with David from next to Marko. "Please," she said softly. "Don't hurt her."
"Come on, David, it's not worth it," Paul said, laughter in his voice, but his eyes were serious. "Just let her go."
David, after looking carefully at each of his Lost Boys, did so.
Anna stumbled back, her other hand moving to cradle her arm. Blood slid from the bite marks on her lips and her eyes were shiny with pain.
Dwayne moved to stand before her, purposefully turning his back on David. He checked her arm carefully, making sure it wasn't injured badly, then cupped her cheek with one hand, a question in his eyes.
Anna forced her eyes away from his, looking at the ground angrily.
He sighed, then leaned down and gently kissed her, putting his sudden burst of fear into it. He meant for it to be a sweet kiss, but when he tasted her blood in his mouth, he almost changed. He slid one hand to the small of her back, pressing her against his body tightly, his other hand sliding up to tangle in her hair. His tongue flicked out, gently cleaning the blood from her lips. It slid down his throat like silk, bringing a rush of power and lust.
Anna kissed him back, pressing hard against him, ignoring the pain in her arm, which was trapped between their bodies.
Finally she had to pull away to breathe, gasping for air. She glared up at him, then pulled away with a jerk, heading for her bike.
"Are we going to town or what?" she asked, voice hard.
Dwayne watched her walk away again, eyes dark. He stalked to his bike, flinging himself upon it, pulling Laddie after him.
Star watched, frowning, then slid onto David's bike. "Just go," she whispered to him. "I'll talk to her later."
He nodded tersely, leading the group to the Boardwalk as usual.
Star tried to get Anna to talk, but the girl remained stubborn, refusing to speak. Star gave up quickly, looking preoccupied. She hurried off, saying she would be back.
David, looking between Anna and the rest of the group, decided Dwayne would have the best chance of getting the answer from her. He led Marko and Paul away, to go terrorize some unsuspecting tourists.
Anna watched the retreating boys with a deep frown. Glancing at Dwayne, she turned and started to walk away.
Dwayne easily caught up with her and caught her hand in his. Anna sighed, but didn't pull away. They walked in silence for a long time, her anger filling the air between them.
Finally he spoke, going against his very nature, but feeling the necessity. "What's wrong?" he asked, thumb rubbing against the top of her hand gently.
"Dreams, I already told David that," she practically snarled.
His silence was question enough.
"About death. And blood. And you," she whispered. "You wouldn't lie to me, would you?"
Taken aback by her question, he stopped, turning to stare at her. He shook his head no, a frown marring his features.
She sighed, and continued walking. "Sure," she said, disbelief coloring the word.
"I wouldn't," he said softly, walking next to her again.
"Fine," Anna said, still not believing him. There was a shadow of doubt in her voice. She shook the doubt off. Not telling her something was just like lying.
Dwayne stopped her again, pulling her from the crowded Boardwalk into a dark, fairly deserted side street.
"What's going on?" he demanded, voice frustrated.
"Nothing," she muttered, gaze firmly on the ground.
He slid one finger under her chin, lifting it gently, forcing her to look at him. The anger in his eyes scared her, but the hurt look made her chest ache.
She sighed, pulling her chin away from his hand, then stepping forward, wrapping her arms around his waist, and laying her head against his shoulder. He paused for a moment, startled, then slid his arms around her.
"I'll explain later," she whispered. Her body was a warm line against his, her breath barely brushing against his throat.
He nodded, running one hand up and down her back slowly, gently, the other hand caressing her hair. "Promise?" he asked quietly.
"Promise," Anna replied.
They stood there like that for a long time, Anna still angry and hurt, but getting more and more mad at herself, and afraid that soon it wasn't going to matter that he'd lied to her, Dwayne worried about the fragile human in his arms. She acted so tough, but there were moments, like these, that he was reminded with a sudden smack that she was still human. And easily broken. Well, maybe not easily broken, but breakable.
And then all thoughts flew from his mind when Anna pressed her lips against his throat.
It had the same effect on Anna. She hadn't meant to do it. Well, not really. Fine, she had wanted to, but didn't think she actually would.
But it had just gotten to be too much. Her anger and pain were being overwhelmed by the feeling of rightness she got from being in his arms. Then the anger and pain would lash back up, overwhelming the feeling of rightness. But then he'd tighten his arms, or run his fingers through her hair, and the feeling of rightness would come bursting back up.
And so it went, back and forth, one side winning then the other.
Until she kissed his neck.
Then both were lost in a haze of color and a sharp flash of lust.
She was mad at him. She was quite hurt by what he'd done. She was quickly falling for him.
She also wanted him.
No question about that one.
He was why she'd finally hunted them down the other night. Not because of her dreams or because of that strong feeling that they needed her.
Because she'd missed him.
Dwayne was frozen, unable to move, unable to think. Her lips were still against his throat.
The sun could rise and he would have been fine with it.
And then she pulled away; looking up at him with darkened eyes, filled with so many emotions he couldn't name. Didn't want to name.
Didn't want to know if those same emotions flashed in his own eyes.
He kissed her then, not sweet, not gentle, harshly, lips against hers, tongue slipping into the warmth of her mouth to subdue her own.
Because she terrified him.
This female, this human, a MORTAL, affected him like no other had. Ever. He couldn't stop reacting, couldn't stop and think; it was as if something forced him into it, but made it feel so good he couldn't complain.
So he kissed her, in some attempt to regain his balance, his hold on the darkness that was his life.
It didn't work, but it was fun trying.
Instead he was sucked deeper into her light, his hands sliding under her shirt to caress bare skin, rubbing small circles on her back, then forward, fingers dancing across her ribs, causing her to arch away. He filed her ticklishness in his mind, for later use.
His hands dropped to her hips, pulling her against him, reveling in the quiet moan the movement produced, glad his own moan had remained inaudible.
He left her mouth, trailing kisses along her jaw, then down the side of her throat, down to her collarbone, where his kisses turned to light nips.
And then moved back up, to where her blood beat in her throat, pulse racing. His lips hovered over her pulse, tongue brushing out to taste the skin there, to feel the blood flowing beneath her skin.
Anna jerked away then, terror overcoming everything else. She pulled away from his arms, to the other side of the alley, staring at him, breathing hard.
Dwayne could only stare back, overwhelmed by the look of fear in her eyes. Where had it come from? What had he done?
Her gaze dropped to the floor at the flash of pain and blame that filled Dwayne's eyes. Her breathing finally slowed, but her pulse did not.
Now she was mad at herself, and at him. At them. At herself. At fate. At herself.
She was furious at herself. Or was that obvious already?
She looked at him one more time, then nodded. "We've got to meet the others," she said softly, turning, leaving the alley for the loud sounds of the Boardwalk. Despite her anger, she paused, waiting for him to join her, then slid her hand into his. He was addicting. They walked back in complete silence, Anna still fuming, Dwayne trying to figure out what was wrong.
The rest of the boys were waiting at the bikes, but there was no sign of Star. Dwayne slid onto his bike, pulling Laddie after him, watching Anna with hooded eyes.
Anna slid onto her own bike, carefully ignoring Dwayne's gaze. She looked up to see Star walking nearby with the boy from the gas station. She drew in a hissing breath, starting her bike with a roar, pulling over to stop in front of them. Dwayne drew up with Laddie on one side, the rest spreading out, David closest to Star.
"Where ya going, Star?" David asked, voice interesting, and an odd echo of how he'd sounded when Anna first met him. She realized it was a script, an act.
Star turned to face them, a sheepish expression on her face. "For a ride. This is Michael," she said.
"Let's go," Michael said, trying to get Star's attention.
Anna growled deep in her throat, well, as close to a growl as a human could get. Dwayne was the only one who heard it, and he glanced over at her, a questioning look in his eyes. Her attention was all for Michael and Star though, and she missed the look.
"Star," David said, with a lift of his eyebrows. Star started to turn back to Michael, then slid onto David's bike instead, and slipped into the jacket. Paul's laughter filled the air, and even Anna had to grin.
"You know where Hudson's Bluff is, overlooking the point?" David asked, a twitch to his lips.
"I can't beat your bike," Michael said, already defeated.
"You don't have to beat me Michael," David said with that smirk again. "You just have to keep up."
"We're going for a ride, man," Dwayne murmured to Laddie, who tightened his grip on the back of Dwayne's jacket. Anna caught the soft words and had to laugh again, already revving her engine, body aching for the rush of riding.
And they took off, flying across the Boardwalk, sailing down the stairs. Michael paused at the top of the wooden stairs, but quickly followed.
Once again they led a newcomer on the wild ride to the bluff. This time Anna rode as one of them, her bike thrumming, heart pounding with the excitement.
At the top, Michael crashed, bike sliding away from him, moments before going off the cliff. He moved then, lunging at David, landing a punch.
"Just you," he yelled into the night. "Just you." Leaning back for another blow, he was knocked to the ground. Anna stood above him, eyes flashing, riding the waves of protectiveness that she didn't understand. She was mad at them, all of them. So why protect them? No answer came to her.
David turned then, eyes shining. "How far are you willing to go, Michael?" he asked, a new smirk on his lips. Anna heard the words echo in her brain, her name substituted. How far was she willing to go?
The group entered the cave. Dwayne led them, lighting the way, silent as usual. Paul strutted around the center fountain, smirking down at Michael. Anna walked farther into the cave, hanging back and watching Star, who stayed next to Michael. Neither girl was happy with the situation, for completely different reasons.
Dwayne finished lighting the metal canisters while David explained the history of the place to Michael. Michael was duly impressed.
Anna scowled. Michael shouldn't be here. He was trouble; she could feel it deep inside. Her survival instincts were kicking in, and they were screaming that Michael meant death.
Dwayne noticed her unease. He threw the branch he'd been lighting things with into one of the canisters, and walked over to her, pulling her against him and then over to the couch in the corner.
Sitting and tugging her into his lap, he turned her so she was facing him and ran his fingers through her hair soothingly.
Anna sighed and let him hold her, finally moving to a position where she could drop her head and kiss him. It was a replay of the alley earlier, yet gentler, more about comfort.
"Ooh, guess she likes them tall, dark, and silent," Marko teased from where he stood.
"Marko," David said. "Food."
Marko instantly left the cave.
Paul kept up the teasing, which finally tapered off as Dwayne and Anna ignored him.
Dwayne could feel Anna shaking, but he knew that it wasn't from his kisses, not this time. She was scared.
The thought bothered him, but he knew she wouldn't explain why, not here, not now.
So he kissed her instead, trying to calm her.
It worked, to a certain extent.
When Marko returned with the food, Anna was curled up next to Dwayne, Laddie sitting beside her. Dwayne was playing with her hair absently, and Anna was once again glaring at Michael.
The games they played with Michael's food scared her and exhilarated her. They scared her most because she enjoyed them.
But when Marko brought David his wine, she froze, eyes locked on the bottle. Dwayne didn't notice her freezing up next to him.
And when he started the chant of Michael's name, and Laddie hurried to Star, Anna started scooting away from Dwayne. He stopped her by tightening his arm around her shoulders. She stiffened even more, eyes flashing with fear.
When Michael drank, she jerked away from Dwayne and bolted. He moved to grab her, but barely missed. And she was gone.
Dwayne was torn between following her and going with the others to the bridge. His mind was made up with one look at David. His Pack came first. They needed him. This was ritual.
Anna ran, leaving the cave, grabbing her bike, and leaving the area. She didn't stop moving until she reached her shabby apartment. Once there she locked herself inside, and collapsed against the door.
"Vampires don't exist," she spoke out loud, as she often did when debating with herself.
"Apparently they do," she continued, the other side of her thoughts taking over.
"They can't. It's just a campfire tale," the logical part stated.
"They do. And you were running with them," the other side said, almost snidely.
"No," she whimpered. This was too much. They couldn't be. They just couldn't be.
"And you lo--" she broke the sentence off before she even knew what it was. Or, to be more precise, before she allowed herself to think about what it was.
The tears started slowly, a drop here, a drop there, until salty rivers slid down her cheeks, leaving them glistening.
Finally she dragged herself to her feet, stumbled to the bed and collapsed, still crying.
For the second time in her life, she cried herself to sleep.
She stayed inside the next day, only leaving the bed to change clothes. She ate nothing, drank nothing, simply lay there.
The tears had stopped, but the fear, the anger, and the feelings of betrayal hadn't.
And that night. She stayed inside that night. But the bikes came anyway. She could hear them, circling her building. She shivered, huddled in the center of her bed.
The voices started, calling out her name. Sobs were torn from her throat and she buried her face in her pillow, body wracked with tremors.
Then they were at her door. She could almost feel Dwayne standing outside of it, hands resting on the doorframe, eyes dark, listening for her.
And he could hear her, the labored breathing, the accelerated heart beat. He could smell her fear on the air.
It terrified him.
They called to her to open the door, asking, then ordering.
She continued to sit, shaking.
And the door flew open with a crash. David stormed in, furious with the girl. His boys didn't get hurt, not by mortals. And here, this female, was not only undermining his power over them, but also hurting Dwayne.
He wouldn't stand for it.
But didn't get a chance to reach her.
Dwayne beat him to it. The vampire was livid. He wanted to yell, to shake the truth out of her. When she left, and then never returned, he'd been scared. Worried. Hurting. And, besides wanting to get the truth out of her, he wanted to make her hurt the way he had been.
For all of a moment. Then he registered what he was seeing and all the anger and desire to hurt her disappeared. He looked at her, really looked at her, and was once again terrified.
Anna huddled in the center of the bed, both of her pale hands clutching her pillow, body curling in on itself in protection. She wore a white button down shirt sizes too big and a pair of black flannel boxers, both of which made her skin seem even paler. And when she looked up at him, his heart ached.
Her face was streaked with tearstains and her eyes were dark with fear and anger and something else. Dark shadows covered the pale skin beneath her eyes.
"Go away," she whispered, voice harsh.
He shook his head, sitting on the edge of the bed. When he reached for her, she jerked away. His hand hovered in the air for a moment, then fell to rest on the bed, defeated.
"What's wrong?" Marko asked from where he leaned against the wall.
She remained stubbornly silent.
Paul just stared at her, unable to believe this was the same girl who had just days before ridden with them, stood up to their leader. She looked so young and hurt. It wasn't possible.
"You don't have a choice here Anna," David said, his voice angry. "You tell us, or you tell us."
She glared up at him, his tone bringing out more of her anger. "Who the hell are you to tell me what to do?" she snarled.
"I am Pack Leader," he snarled back.
"I am not Pack." The declaration was firm, and cut into each of them. They'd been hoping she'd join them.
Dwayne watched her, his own eyes growing darker.
"You were fine with us until the other night. What happened Anna?" David demanded. "Explain it."
"You have no right to order me around," she yelled, but her voice was getting weaker.
"The hell I don't," David returned, storming across the room.
Anna moved then, off of the bed and into David's face.
"You don't," her voice was firm, but her body was shaking. "I'm not one of your damn vampires."
That stopped him. "You know?" he asked, anger still in the air, but curiosity overriding it.
"No thanks to you. When were you going to tell me?" she demanded. "When you turned me? When I was growing old and you were still young and beautiful?" Her eyes flicked to Dwayne involuntarily. "Never? Were you just going to disappear one day? Why didn't you tell me?"
She collapsed then, lack of food and water, mixed with the intense emotions running through her, finally taking its toll. "Why didn't you tell me?" she asked again, voice cracking. This time her question was directed to Dwayne.
He had to turn away from the look of betrayal in her eyes.
"I don't. . ." his voice trailed off. None of the reasons made sense anymore. "You would have hated us. You do hate us."
"You lied to me," she forced the words out. "No wonder I hate you."
His eyes closed, trying to hide the flash of pain the words sent through him.
"Anna," David said, voice dangerous. "If we would have told you, we would either have to turn you or kill you. Would you have preferred that? Preferred your death?"
"You wouldn't have killed me," she whispered, voice soft.
"And why not?" Paul asked from closer to the door. "You're special, but it's a rule."
"I would have had a choice. You wouldn't have killed me," her voice was growing weaker, but the words were still firm.
David looked down at her. "You're saying you would have become a vampire?"
She looked up, not at David, but at Dwayne, who was watching her carefully. She opened her mouth to speak, and darkness fell over her.
Anna woke up comfortable. A cool cloth was resting on her forehead, and she was tucked into bed. She sat up, groaning when the world spun around her for a moment, then stilled.
She was alone.
Glancing towards the tiny window, she realized why.
It was daylight. In fact, it was late afternoon.
A half-empty glass of water sat next to her on the nightstand, a bowl of fruit next to it. A folded piece of paper caught her eye.
The single word actually brought a smile to her face, she wasn't sure why. So she ate. After a few pieces of fruit, she stretched back out, dozing off again, her thoughts on the confrontation with the vampires.
Her dreams were bad.
When she woke again, it was night. She lay there for a while, thinking, then suddenly stood. She had made up her mind.
After slipping on a pair of jeans and a black tank top, she was ready. When she grabbed her leather jacket, another note fell out, this time with a delicate lily attached.
She lifted the flower, carefully tucking it into her hair next to her ear and folded the note, slipping it into her pocket.
A smile touched her lips.
She was making the right decision.
She couldn't find the boys. She'd thought she'd seen a glimpse of them at the boardwalk, up a level, looking down, but by the time she'd made it through the crowds, they were gone.
Which was probably for the best. Decision made or not, she wasn't quite ready to face them. Not yet. Later.
But later found her in the cave. Alone. The boys weren't there, Star and Laddie weren't there. Anna paced. She was nervous, and scared. She twirled a single rose between her fingers, then looked down at it, suddenly unsure.
Did vampires even like flowers?
So she paced some more.
She wanted this. Anna knew she was making the right decision. Of course she was. Eternity to figure out how to make her life right, why did she question herself?
Why did her heart leap into her throat when the Boys' laughter filled the air?
She didn't know.
Anna almost broke the rose, clutching it tightly in her right hand, not noticing the thorn embedding itself in her finger, drawing blood.
A sudden fear, sharp and painful slammed into her.
She didn't know why.
And there was no time to question it, for they were just as suddenly there, laughter and voices filling the air. Their power washed over her, and it was all Anna could do to stay on her feet.
They came bounding down the stairs, then stopped upon noticing her.
Dwayne watched her, but didn't move closer. His eyes flashed when he saw the lily tucked in her hair. It was all he could do to keep the smile from his lips, but the time wasn't right for smiling, not yet.
David stepped forward. Anna was staring at the ground, so she missed the smirk on his face.
"No longer mad?" he asked, voice sarcastic.
"Furious," she stated. "You lied to me. Broke my trust. I should hate all of you."
Dwayne scowled at her words. But Anna was still looking at her feet and missed that too.
"Well?" David asked, voice odd. He was trying not to show how much he hated this. She had potential. He wanted her as a part of his Pack. And she was hurting Dwayne right now. But he wouldn't push.
"I can't," Anna said, so soft the vampires almost missed her words. "And I'm sorry for running."
That stopped David's sarcastic tone and his smirk.
"Good," he said. Then nodded to Dwayne, finally letting the other vampire go to the trembling human. He also motioned for Paul and Marko to disappear with him back into the shadows.
Anna looked up then, seeing the four for the first time since they had entered the cave.
They were covered in blood. Blood stains marred their skin; blood was soaked into their clothes, splattered in their hair.
And she was scared.
Because it didn't bother her. In fact, the first thought that entered her mind was that she wanted to lick it off of Dwayne.
And then she closed her eyes, trying to block the thoughts. Because it was blood.
Dwayne was before her then, silent, just watching as her inner struggle played across her face. Finally he lifted his hand and brushed his fingers over the flower in her hair.
"I am sorry," he said quietly, voice low. His fingers trailed from the flower to her cheek, rubbing it softly.
At his touch her thoughts cleared. So it was blood. So what? She had better get used to it.
"Me too," she whispered, rubbing her cheek against his hand then opening her eyes. "Me too."
He smiled down at her then, a slow smile, a dangerous smile, full of promises. Anna drew in a soft breath at it, her eyes dancing.
She lifted her right hand to touch his face, then remembered the rose. Holding it out to him, she flushed and whispered shyly, "For you."
He took it, then caught her hand carefully. He lifted her right hand, showing her the mark where the thorn had entered her skin. Blood still oozed from the hole, a perfect drop forming.
Anna looked at the blood, then up at Dwayne. Her eyes held uncertainty, then resolution.
Very gently she pressed her finger to his lips, the blood smearing a little.
Dwayne's eyes darkened at her brash action. He flicked his tongue out, cleaning the wound, catching each drop of blood. Finally her hand fell away from his mouth, no longer bleeding.
Anna's eyes were dark. From nowhere, a burst of courage fell over her, and she stepped closer to the vampire, pulling his head down to hers.
Dwayne thought she would kiss him.
What she did instead almost caused him to lose control right there.
Slowly, delicately, Anna brought her mouth to a smear of blood across his cheek. Very carefully she placed her lips over it, then ran her tongue across the still wet blood, tasting it. Enjoying it.
She repeated the move on a spot farther down, then another, until she reached his neck, tongue flicking out to taste his skin.
He grabbed her then, arms tight around the girl, one hand at the small of her back drawing her closer, the other buried in her hair, dragging her head up until he could press his lips against hers.
Anna could taste her blood on his lips, along with the blood she had just been cleaning off of him.
She liked it.
Thrusting her tongue into his warm mouth, she moaned, almost falling against him.
Dwayne was overwhelmed then. Nothing was going to stop this. Lifting Anna carefully, never removing his mouth from hers, he stumbled to the couch, laying her down gently.
He gazed down at her for a moment, overcome by his emotions. He didn't know what to say; he didn't understand what he was feeling, so he just watched her for a long moment.
Anna looked up at him, eyes dark with need and trust and other emotions that weren't nameable yet. She saw the flash in his eyes and her heart leapt, understanding even what her mind did not.
She held her hands out to him, and when he took them, she tugged him down to her, his body covering hers.
Dwayne sighed while he watched her, then grinned when she held her hands out to him.
And then found himself on top of her, her body tight against his own.
He let out a low growl of satisfaction and bent to kiss her again, hands catching the bottom of her shirt. In one swift move he lifted himself up, lifted her up, pulled her shirt off, flung it away and then was against her again, fingers playing over bare skin.
His shirt was the next to go. He had to laugh, when she tugged at it, growling up at him. Or at least as close to a growl as a human could get. But the feel of her hands and lips against his bare skin cut the laughter off short.
David smirked, back in the shadows, then walked away, towards the back passage. "Come boys, leave them be," he said, voice low.
Marko and Paul grumbled but followed their leader, darting glances back towards the couple on the couch.
David laughed at them, his lips slipping into a smirk. "She's ours, boys. It's just a matter of blood now."
A bit before sunrise Dwayne finally stirred again. With a groan he stood, reaching for his clothing. Anna rolled to follow him with her eyes.
He handed her her own clothes, then started getting dressed. With a muttered curse, Anna did too, then collapsed back onto the couch.
Dwayne didn't even try to hide his laughter. Anna glared up at him. "Don't worry," he said with a smile. "I feel the same way."
It was her turn to laugh, softly, but the sound ended in a yawn.
Dwayne shook his head, grabbing a blanket and covering her gently. "Sleep now. I have to go with the boys," he said, then smiled down at her again. "As much as I don't want to."
He kissed her forehead, tucking the blanket around her carefully, then caressed her cheek. "Tonight," he said softly, eyes shining.
Anna nodded, then caught his hand when he started to walk away. She pressed a gentle kiss to it. He sighed, turned and kissed her firmly, then drew away, eyes dark.
She smiled. "Go on. I know you have to. I'll see you at sunset." She leaned over then, lifting the rose from where it had fallen to the ground, next to the lily. Anna handed him the rose, then lifted the lily, placing it where she would see it when she woke up.
Dwayne sighed, wanting to stay, but feeling his eyes close. He brushed another kiss across her forehead and headed to the back of the cave, where David, Marko, and Paul already hanged.
Marko and Paul commented on his lethargy, which almost resulted in a fight then and there, which David broke up.
"Tease them tonight," he said. "Sleep now."
Dwayne joined them in their hanging, placing the rose on a rock below, where it would greet his eyes when he woke up.
Anna heard Star come slamming into the cave. The human was a little surprised by the other female's anger, but was too tired and comfortable to move.
Just before she fell asleep, Anna slid her hand to one of her knives, caressing the handle. Her bad feelings were back in full force.
Her dreams were bad.
Sam, Michael, and the Frog brothers entered the cave. The Frogs headed for Star, but were stopped by Michael.
It was Michael's yelling at them to leave her alone that woke Anna. Her knives were immediately bare in her hands, and her temper flared. It was suddenly as if she could see her Destiny lying before her. She knew exactly what to do.
As Michael lifted Laddie, and the Frogs and Sam headed for the back of the cave, Anna moved forward slowly, like a panther hunting its next meal.
"Michael," she said quietly, startling the boy. He jumped, almost dropping Laddie, then regained his composer.
"Don't try and stop me Anna," he said, voice firm. "You don't know what they are."
"Vampires," she said calmly. "Like you." The last part was said very pointedly.
"How did you know?" he asked, voice shocked. She just looked at him. "It doesn't matter," he continued. "I'm getting them out of here, and they will destroy the others."
Anna gently but firmly pulled Laddie out of Michael's arms, and set him on the ground.
Then backhanded Michael, catching his cheek with her knife, slicing him open. Blood welled from the cut, and his hand lifted to touch it carefully, eyes flashing with anger and pain.
He lunged at her, intent on ripping her throat out.
Then stopped, breathing hard, unwilling to go farther.
Meanwhile the Frogs and Sam were making their way farther back through the tunnel, almost to where the vampires hung, still asleep.
Back in the front of the cave, Anna swung at Michael again, this time cutting through his shirt, tearing open his skin, blood pouring forth.
He let out a cry of anger and pain, face changing into his vampire state.
That caused Anna to pause for a second, as she had never seen that happen. Then she swung again and he caught her arm, pulling her against him, set on killing her.
Still he stopped himself, but couldn't force himself to let her go.
Then her neck was presented to him, blood already coming from a thin cut she had just sliced there. The sight and scent of the blood drove him crazy, and he tried to turn away, but could not. She pressed closer, offering her throat to him.
Michael finally lost control, tearing into her throat, the blood sliding into his mouth, filling it, then pouring down his throat, easing the hunger there.
As her blood entered him, and her life slipped away, they could all see with perfect clarity just exactly what she had done for them. The knowledge of how the game would end had she not been there hit each and every one of them like a boulder.
Star leapt out of the bed, crying, tears pouring down her cheeks. "No," she sobbed, staring as the girl collapsed, limp and lifeless in Michael's arms as he still drank. "No. I caused this."
The vampires roared back in their part of the cave, snarling, dropping from the rocks and surging forward, running over Sam and the Frogs. They burst into the main room, avoiding the edges of the room where sunlight could barely be seen and could only stare as Michael pulled away from Anna's lifeless body. Her blood stained his lips and his eyes were dark with sadness.
Then he doubled over; hitting the ground as the transformation was complete. "I killed her," he whispered, tears filling his eyes. "I killed." He turned to Star, eyes begging for forgiveness. She dropped to the floor next to him, pulling him into his arms, holding him tightly.
Laddie pushed away from them, sitting with his back against the bed, eyes wide.
Dwayne couldn't move for a long moment, eyes locked to the girl on the floor, her throat literally torn open at the side. Slowly he crossed to her, and even more slowly sank to his knees next to her still form. He gently lifted her body, cradling her to his chest, bending over her, his hair falling across them both like a dark curtain.
His body began to shake. Still he was silent, simply holding her, not moving. Marko, worried, crossed to him and gently touched his shoulder.
Dwayne lifted his head, and everyone who could see him felt their hearts break. His eyes were dark with pain and filled with tears, which slid silently down his cheeks, leaving silver trails behind. His body shook with silent sobs. But it was the defeat in his eyes that tore at everyone present. The lack of life, the lack of desire for a life.
He turned dark eyes to his leader, pleading with David silently to save her. David just shook his head; his own eyes bright with what could have been unshed tears. He didn't know how to save her.
And so the scene was set, Laddie pressing back against the bed, eyes huge with fear. Star holding Michael as tears ran down her cheeks, who clung to the female, eyes filled with hatred for himself. Paul, for once silent, beside David, eyes devoid of any humor. Marko, his hand still on Dwayne's shoulder, his own eyes filled with tears. And Dwayne, gently holding the empty shell of Anna, tears streaking his face, eyes empty of any spark, save his begging David to save her.
That soft voice that Star finally remembered spoke.
"She has completed her purpose. Her soul is safe, on its way back," the voice said.
"Her life was the price of their second chance," Star whispered, tightening her arms around Michael. "Her life was the price of my wish."
The voice was sad, sympathetic. "I know. But she died saving you, isn't that any help?"
"No," Dwayne's voice was rough, empty. "Her life was worth more than that." He gently ran a finger down her face. "She was worth more than that."
"You would have died. You. Marko. Paul. David. Even Max. You all would have died, bitterly, painfully, if she hadn't been here, if she had not fulfilled her Destiny. She was sent here to be your Protector, and she succeeded grandly."
"I would rather be dead." The sincerity in Dwayne's voice scared them all. David started towards the vampire, then stopped, seeing the void in his dark eyes.
"You do not appreciate what she gave for you?" The voice was curious, angry.
"I don't appreciate her having to die."
The voice sniffed. "It was her destiny."
"Destiny?" Dwayne's voice almost cracked at that. "Her destiny?"
"Yes," the voice said sadly. "Her Destiny. To die, so young. To never belong. To never be loved. . ." the voice trailed off, waiting for their reaction.
"She did belong," David snarled. "She was ours. And you know this. She belongs to us. Damn you for taking her."
"She was loved," the words were barely a whisper. Dwayne gazed down at the body in his arms, the empty shell of Anna. Memories flashed through his mind, the first time he had ever seen her, facing down the bikes. Their first kiss, after seeing her bathed in light. That dark alley. Her tear-stained face. And finally, the night before. "I loved her."
Long long moments of silence.
No one even breathed for fear of missing whatever hung in the air.
And then. . . "The bottle. Your blood. Mix it and feed it to her."
David stood still, shocked, then darted across, the bottle suddenly in his hands. He bled each member of his Pack, saving Dwayne for last. Cutting into the vampire's skin, he let the blood slide into the bottle, then hesitated.
"Hold it to her lips. Pour it down her throat." The voice was getting frantic. "You don't have much time. Mere seconds before the chance is lost."
Dwayne jerked the bottle from David's hands and pressed it to Anna's lips, tilting her head so that it would slip into her mouth.
Long seconds past, each feeling like an eternity. Even the cave itself seemed to hold its breath, waiting, watching.
"It's too late," the voice whispered sadly. "I couldn't give you enough time. I'm sor--"
The voice broke off when Anna coughed. Her eyes fluttered open. Dwayne slowly lowered the bottle, gazing down at her. Her tongue slowly extended to taste the drops of blood still clinging to her lips.
The room was silent, waiting for her to speak. She lay there, looking up at Dwayne silently, still cleaning her lips of the blood.
She opened her mouth to speak.
Everyone took a breath, waiting to hear her explode in anger.
"Love you too," she whispered.
Not exactly what anyone had been expecting.
But enough for Dwayne.
He kissed her then, gently, clinging to her, murmuring words of love and thankfulness against her skin and lips.
Anna pulled away.
Once again they waited to hear her anger, her frustration, her fury at being dead.
This sent peals of laughter through the group as their tension was finally released. The laughter rang out into the air, leaving them gasping.
"For now, here," David said, lifting the discarded bottle and handing it to her. "Tonight we will hunt."
"Good," Anna purred, the sound much more realistic from her now non-human throat. She took gulping drinks from the bottle, then handed it back to David.
"Michael?" she said.
"Yes?" he whispered, worried at her reaction to his killing of her.
"It's ok, this time. But the next time you kill me, I'll have to hurt you," Anna said, laughter in her voice. Michael sighed in relief, hugging Star tightly, and smiling at the latest vampire.
Sam and the Frogs huddled in the shadows, searching for an escape that would not bring them to the attention of the pack of vampires.
"Tonight," David whispered, eyes dancing.
"Tonight," the vampires echoed their leader, their bloodlust filling the cave.