Maybe I'd just wornhim down.

Itook his hand and lifted mysleeve to wipe the dripping blood away. "Youdon't have to. . . ." Ifinallysaid.

Alexander gentlyblocked myhand withhis free one. "Iwant to," he said intensely.

The moment seemed surreal, and I felt as if I were in a dream. My body flooded with warmth.

Alexander stared at the dewy blood droplets now trickling down the side of his ghost white palm. It was as if he was making the decisionof a lifetime. This wasn't just anyblood to him. It was myblood.

Alexander glanced at me and smiled. His sharp fangs caught the moonlight and glistened like icicles. Then Alexander drew his hand to his mouth. I watched, my mouth agape, as he took his bloody hand to his lips, pressed his hand to his mouth, and the red droplets disappeared. He inhaled a huge audible breath, as if he were breathing the life of me into him.

I gazed at Alexander. He appeared transformed. For a moment it seemed as if his pale complexion was almost alive. Alexander whipped toward me with unbridled intensity. He leaned into me, his hair flopping over his forehead, and kissed me with such force my knees shook and my flesh quivered. I thought I might die of heavenly bliss.

Alexander held me, limp in his arms, and I felt bonded to him ina deeper waythanI'd ever experienced. He'd let me into his world, further than ever before.

Alexander squeezed me so tightly, it was as if we were one person. He picked me up and swung me around, the twinkling lights of Dullsville swirling by me.

When he let me down, we both were giddy and dizzy. When I regained my vision I could see my school, the country club, and the vacant Sinclair Mill off in the distance. It was then I noticed something unusual.

Alexander found me lost in thought.

"What is it?" he said. "Ihope youaren't--"

"No--everything is fine," Ireassured him. "It's nothing." Ididn't want anything to break our perfect moment.

"What's wrong?" he insisted.

Ihad to squint to make out the object. It was thenIcould see clearlya familiar car--or, rather, hearse.

Itried to blockAlexander's view byattempting to pull him away, but he didn't budge.

Alexander was already staring at the barren factory.

His blissful expressionsharpened slightly, and Icould tell it registered to him that it was Jagger's car.

Iremained inhis comforting clutches, bound to mylove ina wayIhadn't beenbefore. We clung to eachother, both reluctant to break our euphoric encounter and face the situation that we now overlooked.

So Jagger hadn't gone back to Romania or Hipsterville whenAlexander's partywas over. There had to be a reasonwhyhe didn't returnand was apparentlystaying inthe factory.

Alexander and I shared one last kiss before giving over to the distraction that lay at the bottom of the hill.

Chapter 2 - Dead End

Not wanting to draw attention to us, Alexander parked the Mercedes in a grassy area more than fifty yards away from the mill. I was still beaming over Alexander taking my blood as his own. We tiptoed over the gravel road that led to the factorywitha connectionthat couldn't be broken.As we neared the entrance, the dreamy look in Alexander's eyes continued and was onlyslightlymarred byhis concernover the discoveryof Jagger's presence.

We walked quietly through the shadows, and Alexander squeezed my hand extra tight.

The two antique smokestacks pointed toward the heavens like giant grave markers. The desolate and dilapidated factory was riddled with graffiti, broken and missing windows, rusted doors, and overgrown weeds and grass.

Discarded boxes, trash, and beer cans were scattered around the grounds.

We turned a corner and came upona vintage black mustang--Sebastian's ride.

Alexander stopped in his tracks. He sighed and slumped, let down by the discovery that his best friend was in the company of his former nemesis.

"Maybe Sebastianfelt he had nowhere else to go," Ioffered encouragingly.

"Now that he's fallenfor Luna,"Alexander said, "he's probablyunder Jagger's spell, too."

Alexander took a deep breathand started for a white woodendoor withthe words "GETOUT" spray-painted in black.

"Well, thenIguess we're going in," Isaid.

But instead of charging in, Alexander stopped.

"Maybe we should wait," he said, pausing at the doorway. "Theyobviouslydidn't want us to know that they're still here. Maybe we shouldn't let them know we found them."

"But how are we going to find out what's going onwiththem?"

"I could go in myself--undetected," he said, alluding to his nocturnal powers.

"That hardlyseems fair," Isaid withthe disappointment of a child who is told she is too short to go on an amusement park ride. "If Icould change into a bat, I'd do it, too."

Alexander realized my limitations were upsetting me.

"Besides," Isaid, "it might be dangerous to leave me here alone inthis dark, desolate place."

He nodded inagreement. "We'll see what we canfind out from here."Alexander cupped his pale and once bloodstained palm. I stuck my combat-booted foot in his cradled hands and he lifted me up. I struggled at first but managed to grab on to a ledge and pulled my head slightly above it so I could peer in through a broken windowpane. My black fingernails were in stark contrast with the gray cement.

Breathless, I peered in. At first it was hard to see. My vision had to adjust to the dim lighting. A flickering candelabra sat on a wooden table, and then I spotted a flash of white hair.

"Over there," Iwhispered toAlexander.

He adjusted his stance a few feet to our left to where I could now see clearly. Jagger was sitting with his back to me, his red-flamed Doc Martens boots resting up on a crate and his fingers woven together, supporting his white-haired head. He was the king of this crumbling castle. Sebastian, however, was fidgety.Alexander's best friend repeatedlypushed his dreadlocks awayfrom his face, his manyrings catching the candlelight. He didn't see me;perhaps the glare from the light above them hid me or he was so deep inthought he wasn't focused onanything else. He tapped his leg repeatedly, like a junkie waiting for a fix. I'd never seenhim this frazzled.

"We'll need to start tomorrow," Jagger declared, "to get this thing up and running."

"So soon?" Sebastianasked.

"What are we waiting for?" Jagger countered.

Sebastian drummed his black-painted fingers on the table.

But Jagger andAlexander now had a truce, and Jagger wouldn't do anything to jeopardize that--or would he?

"The CoffinClub is a success," Jagger said. "So there's no reasonnot to start one here, too."