The bonfire was a bright, swirling kaleidoscope of red, orange, yellow, and blue in the warm autumn night. Angel sat on a tombstone, watching me.
I clutched a rose in my fist. It had once been white, but Angel had painted it black because he knew I hated the purity of such things.
“Are you okay?” Angel asked in his lilting cockney accent.
I stared into the flames. “I don’t know,” I murmured, feeling numb.
“A dead rose to you is not ready to wilt because you’re deluded and tainted with guilt.”
I didn’t take my eyes off the fire, even at Angel’s cryptic whispered words. He was quoting some Gothic poem, so I ignored it. “I have nothing to be ashamed of.”
“Yet your heart is still filled with shame,” Angel said.
I hated that he could read me so easily. “I did what I had to.”
Angel was quiet.
“Michelle is in a better place now,” I said aloud. In my mind, I tried desperately to convince myself my words were true. She was sick. She was dying anyway. She was in so much pain. All that blood… I did her a favor. I ended her suffering.
I couldn’t shake the image of her in my head. My dagger in her chest, blood seeping through her torn and dirty white tank top, the words “thank you” falling weakly from her lips on her last breath, her once-lively blue eyes going flat and dull.
My baby sister…
Angel got up and took the dagger from my hand. I hadn’t even realized, lost in my thoughts, that I’d even removed it from my boot. “Michelle is no longer suffering, Rose. You set her free. Now it’s time to let go.”
I nodded and closed my eyes, trying to banish her from my thoughts. You’re safe now, Mickey.
Angel took my hand with one of his and wrapped his other arm around my shoulders. I tossed the rose into the flames and let Angel lead me from the cemetery.
Suddenly my knees felt weak and the image of a young man flashed into my mind. He looked barely eighteen, with ash-blond hair and clear blue eyes. He was smiling and holding a black rose.
“Rose?” Angel’s voice sounded worried, from above.
I glanced up, my vision clearing.
I realized I had collapsed into Angel’s chest. I straightened. “I’m fine.”
“You had another vision, didn’t you?”
“It’s just a dream, Angel.”
“It’s a prophecy,” Angel corrected.
He was right, but I didn’t want to admit it.
I shook myself. “Sorry.”
“We need to get you home.” Angel said. He swept me up into his arms and started walking, humming a rock song quietly to himself. It sounded suspiciously like Drag Me To The Grave.
My house was dark and empty. Michelle and I had lived by ourselves. Our parents, Molly and Richard Bishop, had died in a car crash when I was twelve and Michelle was eight. Michelle had died much too young, only fourteen. And I was much too young to have experienced this much loss, barely twenty years old.
Angel let himself in with the keys he’d dug out of an inside pocket of my leather jacket and flipped on a bunch of lights as he entered. He set me down on the sofa and went to the large kitchen to make me a comforting mug of hot cocoa with mini marshmallows and whipped cream.
I sipped my hot cocoa slowly, staring at the flames crackling in the fireplace that Angel had just lit.
“You don’t have to stay,” I told him.
He gave me an are-you-crazy look. “You’re insane if you think I’m leaving you alone right now.”
He looked me directly in the eyes. “I am not leaving, Rose, so don’t waste your breath.”
I sighed at my stubborn friend and gave in, as he’d known I would. “Alright.”
Angel looked as if he hadn’t slept in a week. He had dark, bruise-like marks under his hooded green eyes. He ran a hand through his short white-blond hair and sat down on the sofa next to me.
“When is the last time you fed, Angel?” I asked, concerned about the bruises under his eyes.
Angel shrugged and took my cocoa from me, placed it on the table beside the sofa, and pulled me to him. I curled my legs up in his lap and tucked my head under his chin. He wrapped his arms around me. “You’re shivering.”
“You’re in shock.”
“Stop saying that, Rose. Save it for someone who actually believes you.”
I was silent. You know me too well, Angel, I thought.
Angel handed me back my cocoa. “Drink. It’ll help warm you.”
I took another sip. “Why aren’t you repulsed by me?”
Angel went still. “What do you mean?”
“I’m a monster. I murdered my baby sister.”
“To save her,” Angel pointed out. “She was being tortured by demons, Rose. That was the kindest thing you could have done. If she were here, she’d agree with me. Do you enjoy causing others pain?”
“No, of course not.”
“Then you’re not a monster.” Angel’s arms tightened around me.
“She was dying anyway, Rose. You just ended her suffering.” Angel kissed the top of my head. “Relax, Rose. It’s over. Giza’s soul is in a happier place now.”
I snuggled closer to Angel. “Alright.” I closed my eyes and pressed into his warmth.
Angel caught me against him, grabbing my hot cocoa from my hands before I spilled any, and carried me to my bed upstairs. “Sleep, now, Rose.”
I woke up in my bed, clutching my stuffed wolf to my chest.
I smiled when I saw Angel in my rocking chair in the corner of the room. “You stayed.”
“I told you I wasn’t going anywhere.”
“You must be exhausted.”
Angel shrugged. “I’m fine.”
Now it was my turn to call him out on that lie. “Angel, you look like you’re about to collapse. Lie down. Rest. Or go feed.”
Angel shook his head and rubbed his hands on his thighs. “I should go change. What would the neighbors say if I left in the same clothes I was wearing yesterday?”
I nodded and hopped out of the bed. “I’ll make some breakfast.”
“Rose, it’s almost one-o’-clock.”
“In the afternoon?”
Angel nodded. “You were exhausted.”
“Lunch, then,” I amended.
Angel left to change out of his faded jeans and black t-shirt of yesterday into a clean pair of clothes he kept in a drawer in the guest room. He came into the kitchen while I was stirring a pot of noodles and I tried not to stare. He was wearing ripped black skinny jeans with a studded belt and a dark blue form-fitting shirt that clung to his muscles. A silver chain hung from one belt loop in the front to one in the back. I glanced down at his combat boots then back at the stove, trying not to think of his all-too-sexy lip piercing.
“What’s on the menu? Smells delicious.” Angel asked, unaware of my lusty lustful thoughts.
“Mm, you know I love your cooking!”
I smiled. “Can you stir this while I go take a quick shower?”
Angel nodded and took the spoon from me.
I ran back upstairs to wash up and change out of my pajamas. I yanked my black hair back into a ponytail, but left my bangs untouched. I had recently dyed my bangs a pattern of blue, red, and purple.
I relieved Angel of his pasta-stirring duties and served the dish.
Angel instigated the conversation as we ate. “How are you feeling this afternoon?”
Angel reached across the table to feel my forehead. “You’re a little warm…”
“I have a headache.”
Angel got up to get me some water and pain medication. “I need to leave for a little while, but I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“Where are you going?”
“I need to feed,” he said. “Your pasta was delicious, but not the kind of sustenance I need.”
I nodded in understanding. “Happy hunting,” I wished him.
With Angel gone, I cleaned the kitchen and then settled by the fireplace to read a book.
Three hours later, when I had read a significant portion of my book, Angel returned.
He came up behind me and put his hands over my eyes. “Guess who.”
“Hey!” He came around the couch and took my book from my hands. “Ouch. You wound me with your words.”
“Harry is a talented, attractive musician. You should be flattered.”
Angel raised his eyebrows. “Harry? We’re on a first-name basis, are we?”
“Shut up.” I took my book back and stuck my bookmark in it.
“And you likening me to him has nothing to do with the face that we’re both British?”
“That has nothing to do with it.”
“Oh? Well how about the fact that we both make you… wet.”
Blushing deep red, I turned my focus to the floor. I concentrated hard on the patter of the carpet.
Angel chuckled softly. “Admit it— I turn you on.”
I glanced up at him, my face the color of a tomato no doubt. Trying to remember how to breathe, I forced a coy smile. “Wouldn’t you like that.”
“And what if I said I would?” Angel asked, catching and holding my eyes. Angel moved to perch on the other side of the couch.
I tried not to hyperventilate at being the subject of his scorching gaze.
Angel scooted closer to me on the couch and I felt my heart beating frantically. Irritated, I told myself to knock it off. Body, calm down. He’s just a guy. An incredibly hot guy, but an ordinary guy.
Okay, so Angel wasn’t ordinary. He wasn’t even a guy, really. He was so much more. Not to mention dead.
Angel moved closer and my heart stopped before restarting at warp speed.
I hated that Angel could hear my heart, hated that he knew how nervous I was. Butterflies turned into killer bees in my stomach and I felt sick.
Angel reached out and brushed my hair off my face. “I’m going to try something— don’t pass out on me, okay?”
I nodded mutely.
Angel moved closer. Leaning forward, he parted his lips.
My neck tingled in anticipation. Would it hurt?
Angel tilted my chin up, but surprised me by capturing my lips with his mouth.
I gasped, then melted in his embrace. He pulled me to him, pressing our bodies together.
We lay, entwined, until the full moon was high in the sky and our clothes were on a pile on the floor.
“Can I ask you something?” Angel asked me.
“Of course. Anything.”
“Last night, when I kissed you…”
“Yeah?” My whole body felt electric, tingly as I thought of what had happened between us. What we’d shared.
“What were you expecting?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you seemed surprised when I kissed you.”
“Oh. Um…” I blushed. “Nothing. I was expecting that kiss.”
Angel gave me a funny look. “Really? You seemed kinda shocked.”
“No, no. I thought you were going to kiss me.” I blushed.
Angel raised his eyebrows. “You thought I was going to bite you, didn’t you?”
“Okay, yeah, little bit,” I admitted, wincing. “Are you mad?”
Angel shook his head and pulled me to him. “Do you want me to bite you?” he asked against my mouth as he nibbled my lower lip and jawline.
I felt electrified at his touch. I had thought about it, once or twice. Or a few times. But I didn’t want to tell him that. I had fantasized what it would be like, to become like him. “I’ll admit, it has a certain… kinky appeal.”
Angel laughed and kissed my neck, then sobered. “It’s not fun,” he said solemnly.
“The transformation. It hurts like hell.”
“Being immortal must be fun, though, right?”
Angel shrugged. “Honestly, I could live without it. I mean, the whole watching all your loved ones die is kinda old.”
“You need friends like you, who you can grow old with together.”
Angel shrugged. “See, the thing is, I kind of like being your friend.”
“I meant other friends. I’ll still be around.”
Angel sighed. He looked sad. “Not forever,” he said so quietly I wasn’t sure I’d heard him.
I smiled. “You’ll make other friends.”
Angel took my chin and kissed me softly.
I ran my hands through his silky blond hair.
The kiss continued gently until suddenly something changed. Last night’s events had been equally gentle and tender, Angel’s attempts at making me feel comfortable during my first time. But suddenly Angel grabbed me and kissed me roughly. His kiss deepened and his hands tangled in my hair.
“Angel?” I mumbled against his lips.
“I want you to do it.”
Angel pulled back and raised his eyebrows, smirking. “Again?”
I blushed. Yes, I wanted to say. I cleared my throat. “That’s not what I meant.”
“Bite me,” I said. I held my breath, not sure how he’d respond.
Angel pulled back and studied my face. “Are you serious?”
I nodded. My heart beat nervously in my chest.
“You… want me to turn you?”
“I mentioned it hurts like all fucking hell, right?”
“And you know that if I’d had the choice, I wouldn’t have been turned into this… monster?”
“And you still want this?”
“Because I don’t want you to have to watch me die and I don’t want to grow old while you remain young and beautiful forever.”
Angel smiled at being called beautiful. “You’ll have to make a bunch of sacrifices…”
“I can live with that.”
“Please, Ang, don’t try to make me change my mind.”
Angel studied me quietly. He seemed to come to a conclusion, because he shut his eyes and grabbed my hand, leading me upstairs.
“Where are we going?”
Angel led me into the guest room at the end of the hall and shut the door.
“What are we doing in here?”
“If we’re going to do this, it’s better if you have a comfortable place to lie during the transformation… not that you’re going to be able to feel much outside of the pain.”
Angel’s continued warning of the pain were making me apprehensive. I had made up my mind— this is what I wanted. But I had a low pain threshold and Angel had more experience living as he was than I did from just reading books.
“I still want this,” I said, not sure if I was saying it to convince him or myself.
Angel nodded and moved us toward the bed. He took my chin, tilted it up, and touched my exposed throat gently with his cool fingertips.
“Now’s as good as ever.” Angel pulled back, releasing my head. “Are you having second thoughts?”
“No, no.” I shook my head, but my mind was in chaos. “I want this.”
Angel pushed me down until I was flat on the bed. He braced one hand on the pillow, the other under my neck, arching it up for easier access.
I angled my head away to expose more of the skin. I squeezed my eyes closed, tensing in expectation.
“Relax, Rose. It’s easier if you’re not so tense.”
I couldn’t help it, but I did my best to relax against the mattress. I felt Angel’s cold breath on my skin as he bared his teeth. I shivered and drew my breath in sharply as his fangs pierced my carotid artery.
I ground my teeth as Angel’s mouth moved against my neck. Fire ran through my veins, igniting every nerve in my body. I screamed out in agony. Angel had been right— this hurt like hell.
I felt warm liquid running into my mouth, but all I could see was black. Darkness seemed to cloak me, wrapped in a haze of red. It felt like an eternity passed. I wasn’t sure how much time had actually passed, but every second was torture.
Then, blissfully, nothing.
I blinked open my eyes. My veins felt empty and cold.
“How are you feeling?”
“Hungry,” I said, surprised. “Thirsty.” My throat was burning. I felt parched, like a woman lost in the dessert who hadn’t had a drink of water in months.
“I can teach you how to hunt,” Angel said. “And cope.”
I bit my lip, uncertain. I was saddened by his pessimistic outlook on his life, or his afterlife. “We can help each other through this.”
“Can I admit something?”
“I have never felt more alone.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, insulted. “You have me.”
“When I met you, I felt so alone. Because I realized that one day you’d be gone and I’d be a broken mess.”
“What?” I was stunned at his confession.
Angel silenced me by grabbing me and kissing me.
My thoughts scattered. With my newly heightened senses, the kiss was real and so much more than before. Before, it had been enjoyable, but this felt… heavenly. Otherworldly.
Angel pulled back to smile at me.
My senses reeling, all I could whisper was, “Wow.”
Angel caressed my cheek with his fingertips. “I know,” he agreed.
“I’ve never… Does it always feel like that?”
Angel shrugged. “I’ve never experienced that before.”
“Amazing,” Angel finished for me and kissed me again, pushing us back against the headboard.
I instinctively wrapped my arms around his neck, breathing in his scent. He smelled delicious, of vanilla and cologne.
“Are you still thirsty?”
During the make-out session, the burning sensation had become a dull ache. But at the mention of my thirst, it came roaring back with a vengeance.
“Oh,” I said, surprised by its intensity.
Angel held out his wrist to me.
I just stared at it, not sure what to do.
“Here.” Angel brought his wrist to his lips. There was the soft, wet tearing of flesh, then blood bloomed on his pale skin. The smell of fresh blood wafted to me and I immediately went into predator mode.
My fangs instinctively elongated and I grabbed his wrist, yanking it to my mouth. The warm, sweet blood flooded my mouth. Moaning in ecstasy, I drank deeply.
I heard Angel’s chuckle.
Releasing his arm, I looked at him, licking the blood from my lips. “What?”
Angel reached out to wipe the rest of the blood off my mouth. “Nothing. You just look really cute, when you feed. You make little whimpering noises.” He smiled. “Not to mention the look on your face turned me on.”
I smiled shyly. “Teach me how to hunt. For real.”
“No hurry— we’ve got eternity.”
“But I want to hunt with you.”
Angel grinned and took my hand, jumping off the bed and pulling me with him. Pressing a chaste kiss to the tip of my nose, he led me downstairs. “Fine. Let’s hunt.”