Authors: Ellen Schreiber
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Love & Romance, #Fantasy & Magic
Many fangs to my brother Mark for your invaluable help, guidance, and generosity
“I know what you’re thinking…”
I awoke from a deadly slumber entombed in Alexander’s coffin.
Since arriving at the Mansion shortly before Sunday morning’s sunrise, I’d been lying next to my vampire boyfriend, Alexander Sterling, as he slept the weekend sunlit hours away, hidden in the closet of his attic room.
This was a dream come true. My first real taste—or in this case, bite—of the vampire lifestyle.
We nestled in my true love’s bed—a claustrophobic black wooden casket. I was as blind as any bat; we could have been buried in the deepest recesses of a long-forgotten cemetery.
Encased in our compacted quarters, I could easily touch the closed lid above me and brush my elbow against the side wall. The sweet scents of pine and cedar floated around me like incense. I couldn’t see anything, not even my own black-fingernailed hand. No sounds were audible from outside the coffin. Not a siren, a bird, or the howling wind. I even lost track of time. I felt like we were the only two people in the world—that nothing existed outside these confining coffin walls.
Blanketed by darkness and a soft-as-a-spider’s-web goose-feathered duvet, I was enveloped in Alexander’s arctic white arms, my head gently resting against his chest. I felt his warm breath against my cheek. I imagined his deadly pale lids covering his chocolate brown eyes. I playfully fingered his velvet lips and brushed my fingertips over his perfect teeth until I felt one as sharp as a knife.
I tasted my finger for blood. Unfortunately, there was none.
I was so close to being part of Alexander’s world— forever.
Or was I?
Though it was Sunday and I was exhausted from having spent the past few weeks protecting my nemesis, Trevor Mitchell, from the fangs of twin vampires, Jagger and Luna Maxwell, I was restless. I couldn’t change my sleeping pattern from night to day.
Cuddling close to Alexander and sharing his world, I wanted nothing more than to spend our time kissing, playing, and talking.
But as he slept tranquilly, I could only think of one thing: A preteen vampire had descended upon Dullsville. And his name was Valentine.
The younger brother of the nefarious Nosferatu twins had arisen from his own petite coffin a few days before from somewhere in the vampire world and had been spotted in Dullsville by my brother and his nerd-mate, Henry.
I could only presume what Valentine looked like based on my brother’s description: pale skin, pierced ears, black fingernails. I imagined a smaller version of Jagger—cryptic, gaunt, ghastly. How cruel it was that Jagger’s sibling was just like him, and mine the polar opposite of me. If only I had been blessed with a ghoulish little brother. We’d have spent our childhood chasing ghosts in Dullsville’s cemetery, searching Oakley Woods for creepy spiders, and playing hide-and-shriek in our basement. Instead, I grew up with a brother who’d prefer to dissect square roots alone rather than dissect gummi worms together.
I wondered why Valentine suddenly showed up in the conservative town of Dullsville, far away from his Romanian homeland. Now that Alexander and I were free from the older Maxwell siblings, I’d set forth on a new mission—finding out the eleven-year-old Valentine’s whereabouts and motives and keeping him from Billy Boy before it was too late. But during the sunlight hours, my brother and Dullsville were in no danger, so my mind strayed back to the only vampire I felt secure with.
As Alexander and I lay in the dark, entombed and entwined, I stroked his silky black hair.
There was no place for me in the daylight without him. I had accepted the dangers Alexander had so warned me about, but I couldn’t spend an eternity in the scorching sun minus my true love. Didn’t Alexander know how easily I could adapt to his world, sleeping together in our cozy casket, flying together in the night sky, living in the dusty old Mansion? I wondered what type of vampire I’d be: A gentle dreamer like Alexander or a bloodthirsty menace like Jagger? Either way, since Jagger and Luna had departed from Dullsville, Alexander and I finally had a chance to share our mortal and immortal worlds. However, there could be an obstacle in my way, now that Valentine was in town.
Alexander stirred. He, too, couldn’t sleep.
“You’re awake,” he whispered sweetly. “I’m sure it must be hard for you to adjust your sleep schedule.”
I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t be the perfect vampiress.
“I can’t rest with you so close to me. I feel more alive than ever,” I said.
My fingers felt around his smooth face and found his soft lips. I leaned in to kiss him, but my nose accidentally bumped into his.
“I’m sorry,” I said with a giggle.
“One of the drawbacks of dating a mortal,” he teased, a smile in his voice. “But it’s worth it.”
“What do you mean?”
Instead of answering, he lightly touched my cheek, sending tingles through my body.
Then he pressed his lips to mine and raced his fingers down my spine. I thought I was going to die. My hair flopped in my face, and he did something I couldn’t fathom doing in the dark.
He gently brushed it away.
“How did you know my hair was hanging in my eyes?”
Alexander didn’t answer.
“You can see!” I said blindly. “You can see me.”
“I’m very lucky,” he finally admitted. “You happen to be quite beautiful.”
There were so many mysteries to Alexander, I wondered how many more would be revealed to me—and how I could unlock them.
I buried my head in his chest as he gently caressed my back.
“The sun has set,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Already? How can you tell?” I asked. “You can see that, too?”
But he didn’t answer.
I could hear Alexander lift the coffin lid. He grabbed my hand and I reluctantly rose, standing in total darkness.
Alexander scooped me up in his arms and carried me out of the casket like Dracula holding his mortal bride. He gently lowered me and I hung close to
him, unaware of our exact location. The doorknob squeaked and the closet door creaked open. I squinted as my eyes tried to adjust to the beam of moonlight that pierced the room.
We pulled on our combat boots as I sat on his beat-up comfy chair and Alexander knelt on the uneven hardwood floor.
“So, will you teach me to fly?” I asked, half teasing.
“Valentine is not the kind of boy Billy should be hanging out with. We must get to your brother before Valentine does.”
With that, Alexander locked the closet door, grabbed my hand, and, for now, closed the portal to the Underworld.
Now that darkness had fallen over Dullsville, it was imperative that Alexander and I find Billy Boy; but I was torn. Today had been my first time really experiencing life as a vampiress. I never actually thought I’d get to spend the daylight hours in a coffin with a vampire. I didn’t want it to end. As we reached Alexander’s attic-room door, I paused.
“We need to leave,” he said.
I imagined my life with Alexander, his easel in one corner, my dresser adorned with Hello Batty figures in another. At night we’d wander the cemetery, hand in hand. We’d watch
on his big-screen TV and follow specters in the hallways of his horribly desolate creaky Mansion.
Alexander extended his hand. I reluctantly let him lead me away from my dream world.
We walked through the candlelit Mansion, past the huge rooms with sky-high ceilings, the wind whispering through the corridor.
At the foot of the red-carpeted grand staircase we greeted Alexander’s butler, Jameson, who looked especially creepy today in his vintage black suit. He must have been staying out with his new girlfriend, my former boss Ruby White. His eyes were extra buggy, but his ghost white face blushed red when he spoke.
“Good evening, Miss Raven,” he said softly in his Romanian accent.
“I’ll have dinner for you in a few moments,” the creepy man said.
“I appreciate it, Jameson, but we don’t have time for that now,” Alexander commented, like Batman to his butler, Alfred.
I felt a pang of loneliness for Jameson—he would have to eat alone in the Mansion.
Jameson looked relieved, though, and as we gathered our jackets, I could hear him on the telephone. “Miss Ruby? I’m available for dinner earlier than I thought…Wonderful. Yes, I would be grateful if you could pick me up here. I love a woman in charge,” he teased.
I felt like we were traveling cross-country as Alexander drove us in Jameson’s Mercedes down the twisty, winding, desolate roads away from Benson Hill to the immaculately manicured streets of my suburban neighborhood.
Anxious to find Billy Boy, I raced up the front steps and fumbled with my collection of keys—a house key, one front and one back door, a file drawer key, a diary key, and a few that I couldn’t recall what they unlocked. All were attached to several key chains—an Olivia Outcast figure, a Hello Batty stuffie, and a plastic
My hands shook as I tried to find the right one.
Alexander calmly placed his hand on mine, his black plastic spider ring catching the moonlight, and took the faux barbed-wire key ring from me.
He quickly picked out my house key and put it in the lock.
Within a moment, we were inside.
“Billy Boy?” I called from the bottom of the stairs.
There was no answer. Not even a “Go away.”
I turned to Alexander. He looked worried.
I flew up the beige-carpeted stairs and headed toward Billy Boy’s room. A haphazardly painted sign with red-and-black letters hung on his closed door. “NO GHOULS ALLOWED.
THAT MEANS YOU, RAVEN!”
I snarled and threw open the door.
“We need to talk,” I warned.
Everything—desk, computer, computer games, sports posters, unmade bed—was in place in my brother’s bedroom. Except him.
I searched the bathroom and the neatly kept guest room, but no pesky sibling.
I bounced down the stairs to find the front door opening.
“Billy Boy?” I asked.
Instead, it was my mother, wearing a mauve Ralph Lauren sweater and gray pants, coming into the hallway.
“Well, hello, Alexander,” she said, her eyes twinkling. “It’s great to see you.”
Alexander was always shy around my parents. “Hello, Mrs. Madison,” Alexander replied, flipping his hair back nervously.
“I’ve told you, you can call me Sarah,” she said with an almost schoolgirl giggle.
I rolled my black-eye-shadowed eyes. I wasn’t sure if my mother was happy that someone in Dullsville, much less the world, would accept me or if it was Alexander’s mesmerizing chocolate eyes that were making her giddy. Or maybe she was having vivid flashbacks from her hippie days.
There wasn’t enough time or therapy to figure it out.
“I’m so glad you both are here,” she said sweetly. “I just called you at Alexander’s—”
“Is Billy coming home soon?” I interrupted.
“No, that’s why I thought it would be a great opportunity for us to have dinner together.
Just the four of us.”
I sighed. Finally, after all these years of nagging me about the way I dressed, my mother was treating me like a young adult. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t revel in my chance to be indoctrinated into the circle of parental acceptance. I had other things on my mind.
“I have to talk to Billy Boy.”
“He’s at Math Club,” she said, grabbing a gray vest from the hall closet. “They rented out the library for the year-end party.”
“I have to tell him something,” I said.
“We have reservations at Francois’ Bistro. Your father had to stop by the office and is meeting us there.”
“Francois’?” Even though conservative Dullsville was as small as a golf hole, Francois’
was on the opposite side of town, miles away from the library.
“How about the Cricket Club?” I recommended, suggesting a restaurant closer to Billy’s location.