“Additionally, all Census sites will be equipped with these.” The mayor held up a small band in his hand. “They are bracelets issued by the city, programmed with your identification information. All officers will be issued band scanners to verify your identity.”

The rumble turned into a roar. It was enough that everyone had an ID card, but it definitely wasn’t mandatory. And now they were taking it a step forward with these mandatory ID bands. What else would the government force on them?

“These must be worn at all times as proof that you are registered with the State and have passed your blood test. Anyone caught after the deadline for the Census without an ID band will be arrested and fined. We hope these new identifiers will help check crime in the city. After all, our mission is to make your city and the city where your family and friends live a safer place.”

Reyna realized she was shaking. How dare they do this? Who the hell did they think they were that they could pass sweeping legislation like this without hearing what the citizens thought? She wasn’t a prisoner to the system. She believed in change, but she didn’t believe that they were going about it the right way at all.

The mayor continued despite the growing unease. “Finally, we are enforcing a mandatory curfew within the city limits.”

“What?” she cried along with everyone else. “Curfew.”

“Reyna,” Beckham growled, pulling her closer. “We need to get out of here. This doesn’t look good.”

“We can’t leave! We have to voice our opinion. We have to tell them that this is wrong! They can’t do this.”

“They can and they are. We don’t need to get caught in the middle of it.”

“Maybe if more people were willing to get caught in the middle, something would have been done long before these stupid rules.”

“I agree,” he said. “But right now my thought is for getting you out of here before everyone gets crushed under a stampede.”

“Fine.” She knew she couldn’t change his mind, and even less so the government’s mind. But she wanted to. She desperately wanted to.

The mayor droned on as Beckham clutched her hand and tried to veer through the crowd pressing in on all sides.

“Only night workers will be able to go out after curfew, and they must have a permit that allows it. I hate the thought of shutting down our city after midnight, but we feel at this time it’s necessary for peace.”

“Freedom. Freedom. Freedom!”

The chant started up in the crowd. The people heaved forward toward the podium and Reyna’s hand was wrenched from Beckham’s.

“Beckham!” she screamed over the crowd.

Chapter 32

Reyna searched for Beckham in the crowd, but she was carried away by the mob. He was gone. He was lost. She couldn’t believe this. She should have listened to him. They should have gotten out earlier.

“This is further proof that these measures are necessary!” the mayor called.

Gunshots rang out in the crowd, and everything seemed to happen at once. People were yelling and running and crushing together. Some were trying to storm the stage, but the police were holding everyone back. All were quickly ushered offstage at the sound of the gunshots.

In the middle of the madness, the only thing she could think about was Beckham. She searched frantically for him. He was so tall that he should have been visible. But she couldn’t find him. She looked over her shoulder as she was pushed in the opposite direction.

Her feet couldn’t keep up with her, and she tripped, landing heavy on her hands and knees. Several people stepped on her as they rushed forward to fill her vacated spot. Someone kicked her face and she saw stars. She cried out and tried to stand, but kept being shoved back down to the ground. Finally, she just lay there in a ball, trying to stay as small as possible as chaos erupted all around her.

Tears leaked out of her eyes as she lay on the dirty ground, her head throbbing. She couldn’t believe this was happening. She had no means of contacting Beckham without her cellphone, and she didn’t even know if she would ever get out of this crowd. It was an endless barrage of people running into her. She couldn’t seem to escape.

An arm reached down out of the abyss and hauled her up by her shoulder. Reyna grunted as her shoulder popped with strain. She stared up into the eyes of a female vampire.

“You smell amazing,” she growled. She reached out with her finger and touched it to Reyna’s forehead. Reyna cringed away from the pain as she realized she was bleeding.

“Let go of me,” Reyna cried, trying to pull free.

The woman ignored her plea and placed her finger in her mouth. She sucked on it and her eyes grew ravenous. The female vampire flashed her fangs at Reyna.

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