"You'd believe a bunch of soccer snobs? They spread more rumors than the National Enquirer."

"Well, then," he said, sizing me up with his mismatched eyes, "I have noticed their penchant for gossip."

I felt a sense of relief, but only for a moment.

"At the drive-in I distinctly remember Alexander bit you on the neck. Blood dripping down your neck like a wild river, the sweet smell permeating the air. But Luna said she didn't see a wound. Maybe I could take a peek."

"You can leave. Now."

He stepped closer, his ice blue and green eyes piercing my soul.

"Show me your fangs and I'll show you mine."

"I only show Alexander," I said, inching back.

"What a waste, really." He took another step, pinning me against my computer desk. "So how do you like living this lie?"

"Lie?"

"Yes, it is a lie," he said, staring straight into my eyes. As if he were going to read my soul. "Pretending to be something you're not."

I gasped and looked away. My heart stopped. I bit my black lip.

I reached behind me, stretching my fingers across my computer desk in hopes of grabbing something to use as a weapon. At any moment Jagger was going to look into my eyes and hypnotize me and drag me back to Dullsville's cemetery. I fingered Billy Boy's two-ton encyclopedia. "I think you enjoy being deceitful," he said, gently touching the vampire's kiss necklace. "Making believe to your family that you are still mortal."

I breathed again and released the book.

There was a knock at the door.

"I need my encyclopedia."

"Billy--go away."

"You borrowed it two months ago!"

"Billy. Billy--go away," I said sternly.

Jagger stepped back and I raced around him.

Billy Boy opened the door.

I turned around. The curtains were gently blowing. Jagger was gone.

"Is something wrong? You never call me Billy."

I closed the window, rushed over to my brother, and gave him a quick hug. "I never thought I needed to."

Chapter 13 Gothic Fairy

The next evening, as I turned the corner to walk up Benson Hill, I saw a shadowy figure standing by the gate. Never one to retreat, I crept up the broken sidewalk slowly. I didn't want to be startled by Trevor or Jagger.

As I got closer, I saw a gothic fairy girl with long white-and- pink-streaked hair leaning against a tree.

"Luna--what are you doing?"

"Raven," she said, bouncing over and giving me a huge squeeze. "I thought I'd find you here."

"But I'm meeting Alexander," I said, almost apologetically.

"I know, but I thought we could chat for a few."

"I don't want to keep him..."

I looked up toward the Mansion. The attic window was dark.

"Well...maybe just a sec."

We sat on a few rocks outside the Mansion's gate.

"Trevor has a history test. I won't see him until this weekend. Jagger told me he saw you last night," she confessed.

"Did he tell you where he saw me?" I charged.

"In your bedroom."

"He can't do that again. He could scare my family."

"You did that to Trevor. You snuck into his room."

Luna had a good point. "That was different. I have a reputation."

"Jagger is a tricky one," she said with a hint of pride. "He's been teaching me so many things since I've been turned."

"Well, I hope they are good tricks," I warned. "I love your purse," she said, touching the handle of my Corpse Bride clutch. "Can I see?"

"Sure." No one, not even Becky, ever got excited about my clothes or fashion accessories. I was proud to share it with her.

She placed it on her arm and modeled it. "So gloom! I love it."

"Thanks. I ordered it online. Maybe I can get you one."

"I'd kill for one," she said eagerly. "Got any candy? I gave my last piece to you yesterday."

"I should have some gum."

Luna unzipped the purse. "Be careful, it's a mess in there," I warned.

"Wouldn't be cool any other way," she said with a smile.

I leaned back and watched the stars twinkling overhead.

Luna pulled out a pack of Gabe's Grape Gross-Out Gum.

She removed two sticks and returned the pack to my purse.

I didn't mind her rooting around. I didn't have anything to hide in there. Or did I?

"What's this?" she asked, pulling out Ruby's compact.

My heart stopped.

"What do you need a compact for?" Luna asked skeptically, holding the white plastic compact and stroking the red ruby R.

"It's an heirloom," I said, trying to reach for it.

"An heirloom?" she wondered aloud. "It doesn't look that old." Just then a Mustang drove up the road and stopped in front of the Mansion.

I grabbed the compact and purse and ran to the car.

"Matt! Becky! How are you guys doing?"

"Hey, Raven, what's up?" Matt asked.

"Hi, Beck," I said, smiling.

Luna inched up next to me. "Hi, Beck," she said, also grinning.

Becky's smile was strained. My normally amiable best friend looked at me with disdain.

"I thought you were hanging out with Alexander," Becky said.

"I am; I'm just on my way in."

"We just had to have a girl chat before," Luna chimed in.

I was annoyed. There was no need for Luna to try to make Becky jealous.

"I better go see Alexander now," I finally said. "I'll see you tomorrow, Becky."

"Yeah," she said.

I stepped away from the car. Luna put her arm around me and waved at Becky.

Becky politely waved back.

The Mustang headed down the windy road. Alexander had warned me about the motives of Jagger and Luna.

"Bye, Luna," I said, heading for the Mansion as she waited by the street. This time I was the one to disappear.

Chapter 14 The Invitation

The next day the usually early-bird Becky was late. I had showered, eaten, dressed, redressed, and was sitting on the front steps, my hoodie tied around my waist, writing Alexander love notes. I was ready to call the school day off when she finally drove up my driveway.

I got into her pickup, and she barely said hello.

"Where were you?" I asked. "Did you oversleep? Or get halfway to school and realize you didn't pick me up?"

Becky didn't answer but continued to drive toward school.

After a polite conversation with her responses being "uh-huhs," "sures," and head nods, I'd had enough.

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