"I can think of a few things. Shall we stay in here?" I teased coyly. "Or take our party to the gazebo?"
But Alexander didn't smile. "I'm serious," he said.
I missed Alexander so desperately during the day, I felt grateful to be with him now. Though I was excited by the adventures of the town I now called "Vampireville," I also resented that Jagger and Luna took romantic time away from Alexander and me. "But now that we're together, it's hard for me to think of anything but you. I've been waiting all day to see you," I said.
"I know, me too," he said with a sigh. "But until Jagger and Luna are gone, we can't sit around. Did you see Trevor?"
"Yes," I began, sitting in his beat-up comfy chair. "He was sick today and stayed home from school."
"Sick?" he asked, worried. "Is it already too late?"
"No," I said. "Fortunately Luna hasn't sunk her fangs into him yet. He just has the flu."
"Great!" he said, relieved, and leaned on the arm of the chair. Then he turned serious. "If he was home sick, how did you see him?"
"Uh...," I stammered, turning away.
"You didn't," he said in a scornful voice.
"You went to his house? Alone?" he asked, glaring down at me.
"No, the painter was there," I said, fiddling with a loose string from the fabric of the chair.
Alexander knelt down and took my hand. "Raven--I don't want you to be alone with him. If Trevor isn't a vampire, he is still a vulture."
"I know. You are right," I replied, his dark eyes melting me.
When my mom and dad were protective of me, it was annoying; when it came from Alexander, it was sexy.
"I promise," I said. "Well, if they didn't get to Trevor already, then they must be waiting for the right moment."
"That would be ironic. Trevor, who hates anything goth, gets to be a vampire, and I, who would love nothing more, don't."
"It is important to be whoever you are, for the right reason," he said, stroking my hand reassuringly.
"Besides," he began, rising and returning to the attic window, "Trevor has no idea what Luna has in store for him."
I followed him and nestled in the dusty window seat. "What do we do?" I asked.
"Somehow we have to force them to go back to Romania."
"With an iron stake?" I wondered. "Or a fiery torch?"
Alexander shook his head, still thinking.
"Maybe I could swing a discounted fare from Ruby at Armstrong Travel," I suggested, pulling at a tear on my black leather boot. "We could convince Jagger and Luna that their parents miss them and demand their immediate return."
"But at this point we don't even know where they are," he said, frustrated. "They're hiding somewhere in the shadows."
"If we can take away the shadows, then we take away their defense," I said.
"You're right," he agreed suddenly.
"I am?" I asked, excited by my unlikely genius. "How do we take away a shadow?" "Not a shadow...," he said, scooching next to me. "We have to take away the one thing that makes Jagger safe, no matter where he is."
I looked at Alexander curiously.
"The one thing that protects him from humans, other vampires, and the sun," he continued.
"Yes?" I asked eagerly.
"We have to find Jagger's coffin."
"Wow. That's perfect. Then he won't have anywhere to hide."
Alexander smiled, exhilarated that we finally had a plan.
"But wait," I said. "Can't Jagger just sleep in a bed like you, with the shades drawn? Or hide in the loft of a barn? You don't sleep in a coffin."
Alexander looked at me with deep, almost shameful eyes.
Then he rose and pushed aside his beat-up comfy chair, revealing a small attic door. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a skeleton key.
"I do," he whispered.
He unlocked the bolt and slowly opened the door, and we stepped inside a dark, dusty ancient hideaway.
There, sitting in the shadows, was a secret in the shape of a casket--a simple black coffin, with dirt haphazardly sprinkled around it. Next to it was a wooden table with an unlit half-melted candle and a small, softly painted portrait of me.
"I had no idea--," I said with barely any breath.
"You weren't supposed to." "But your bed--it's always unmade."
"It's where I rest and try to dream that I am like you."
I grabbed his hand and held it close. "You never had to hide anything in your world from me," I said, looking up into his lonely eyes.
"I know," he said. "I was hiding it from myself."
Alexander closed and locked the small attic door, once again concealing his conflicted true identity.
Chapter 3 The Hunt
"To find a vampire, you have to think like a vampire," Alexander said, grabbing his backpack. "I won't be gone more than an hour." He gave me a quick kiss.
"Gone?" I asked, following him toward his bedroom door.
"You'll have to stay here. I'm going to sacred ground."
"I'm going with you. If Jagger thinks I'm a vampire, then I'll be safe," I argued.
"And if he doesn't?"
"Then I have this." I pulled out my container of garlic powder from my purse.
Alexander quickly retreated. "It's tightly sealed," I said, referring to the time it spilled out in my purse, causing Alexander to have an allergic reaction and forcing me to inject him with an antidote. "I'll wait outside," I pleaded.
Alexander paused. He wiped his flopping rock-star hair away from his gorgeous face and slung his backpack on his shoulder. He glanced at the door, then back at me. Finally he held his pale hand out. While it was hard enough to be separated during the daylight, it was unbearable during the moonlight. As Alexander and I walked down the windy streets and toward the cemetery, I realized it was a dream come true--to be walking with one vampire and searching for another.
I'd never seen anyone in the moonlight as handsome as Alexander, vampire or not. His pale face seemed to glow, and his smile seemed to illuminate what the moon and the stars couldn't.
"Where are we going?" I finally asked.
"Your favorite place."
"My favorite place is here--by your side."
"Mine too," he said, squeezing my hand.
"Will Jagger know I'm still mortal?"