“This is a bad idea,” I mumbled, low enough that no one would hear.
The cafeteria was packed with warm-blooded students, totally unaware of the living monster walking amongst them. They smelt so damn delicious. I thought of the opaque bottle filled with blood and hidden inside my locker, and groaned. Vanessa led the way to the buffet line. As we neared I almost sighed. The smells of hot and cold food muddied their human blood.
Once our trays were filled, I followed after Vanessa. The scent of food declined while the punch of their blood soared. My hands clung to the flimsy plastic for dear life. She headed for the back wall of the long hall, which was entirely made of glass panels. The transparent barrier offered a scenic view of the almost empty courtyard. Frosty wind brewed beyond the glass, billowing through the barrier of greenery. The space was decked out with just a few park benches. They were all unoccupied, except for one. Dorian sat in jeans and a hooded sweater. He was waiting for me after my pleas in Math that morning for a human-free lunch zone. But he wasn’t alone. Cindy—at least I think that was her name—from Math class was standing by the bench, tugging her cardigan tighter around her. She was smiling that I’m so into you, please ask me out, smile. Clearly Dorian hadn’t wasted any time.
Despite his company, I desperately wanted to go to him, or to at least motion him inside for backup. Except his head was turned to Cindy, resting against his hand with his fingers raked through his hair. Turn around, dammit! In a matter of seconds I’d be introduced to Vanessa’s friends and be expected to eat with them. I needed him here, not out there chatting up his first soon-to-be ex-girlfriend. With his quick reflexes, only he could restrain me if did turn from Jekyll to Hyde.
Dorian’s attention remained unwavering, and too soon we were closing in on a table where a lone boy in a black leather jacket waited. The boy’s head was dropped, satin-black hair obscuring his features. For a second, I almost felt relieved that I would only have to contend with one other human. Vanessa, though I didn’t understand it, wasn’t a temptation. So refraining from killing just one of them didn’t seem completely impossible.
As we neared the boy, my relief vanished, faster than a vacuum sucking up smoke. The potent smell of his blood hit me like a semi. The scent, so fiery, was one I could not ignore or confuse. My breath caught in my throat and my heart began beating wildly beneath my ribs.
Ty cocked his head to the side. His eyebrows rose as Vanessa dumped her tray beside him. “You brought company?” He didn’t sound impressed by any means, though he didn’t sound entirely displeased, either.
Vanessa flicked her red tresses over her shoulder and dropped into the seat beside him. “You’re welcome.” Without further word or gesture, she began digging into her risotto.
Ty’s eyes traveled from her to me, where I stood frozen in shock by the smell of his mouth-watering blood. “So,” he said, a calculated smile curving his full lips. “Are you going to sit, or do you prefer to eat…standing?”
His piercing gaze churned up butterflies within my stomach. I envisioned myself, hunched over my prey in the forest, fangs sunken into fur-covered flesh while I fed. Blood drained from my porcelain cheeks. Don’t just stand there, move!
Feeling as though my body was thawing from the inside out, I slowly lowered my tray to the table opposite Vanessa. Ty’s green and honey-glazed eyes were fixed on me with intense, gauging focus. My hands began to tremble. Was he trying to figure me out?
The tremble of my hands cascaded down to my legs as I slid the cushioned chair back. Its legs offered up a screech of iron across blue-checkered tiles. I cringed and rushed to sit, hairs across my arms lifting in anticipation of stares all around. But in my hasty movement, my foot connected with the leg of the chair, and then I was falling.
A clumsy vampire? Go figure.
Due to Caius’s concoction that held off our vampirism, my agility was still more human than vampire, and my new reflexes took a second to kick in. I caught myself, butt slamming into the seat and face burning with mortification. I had to pull myself together. A few deep breaths through my mouth aired some of Ty’s scent from my nostrils. The rate of my pounding heart began to decrease. Though nothing, it seemed, could cull the sickening butterflies that still churned up my stomach. When I finally dared to look up, I caught Ty’s gaze fixed on me. An amused smile lit his angular face.
“So, Amelia,” Vanessa interrupted, breaking the silent tension.
The sudden sound of her voice caused my body to jerk. I had been so consumed by Ty and the way he was watching me that I had completely forgotten she was sitting right in front of me. “Uh, yeah?”
Vanessa arched back in her seat, shrugging out of her red-leather jacket. “Ty mentioned that you’re in his psychology class. Though,” she added, looking like the cat that caught the canary. “He was quite disappointed when you shunned him.”
My jaw hit the ground and my eyes darted to Ty. In the same millisecond he jutted out an elbow to collect Vanessa’s side. The reflex was so fast it almost seemed to blur. “Damn, you’ve got a big mouth.”
Ty was disappointed? As my head spun, wondering if Vanessa was talking trash, or just trying to bait me, a figure sauntered up to our table.
“Thanks for the invite,” Dorian said in a tone more amused than annoyed. “I thought we were having lunch…outside.”
Instantly I felt terrible. I had been so consumed by Ty’s presence that I had totally forgotten about my brother waiting for me in the cold. “Sorry,” I said pulling out the chair beside me. “I meant to come out and get you, but you looked busy.”
“You do know it’s freezing out there,” Ty mocked, throwing a glance over his shoulder at the glass door to the courtyard.
“Thick skin,” Dorian replied, shrugging as he sat down. The way he seemed so calm, so normal and so in control irritated me. “When you’ve spent your life growing up in Alaska, I guess you become somewhat immune to the cold.” He glanced up at Ty, then across at Vanessa with a broadening smile. “By the way, I’m Dorian. Amelia’s brother.”
“We know,” Vanessa spoke up. “That’s Ty and I’m Vanessa. I’m pretty sure we have chem together.”
They got onto the topic of teachers after that. Ty occasionally threw in a comment or question here and there while I sat in complete silence. It was all I could do to ignore his scent that flooded my mouth with saliva. My eyes burned to make eye contact or check out those unusual scars, speculating how he’d gotten them. So I forced my gaze away, coasting over the yellow-walled cafeteria. White rectangular tables ran in rows, fully packed with bodies. For a second, I almost felt relieved. Among the groups of herding teens, the one boy who had threatened Dorian and me this morning was nowhere in sight. In the situation I had gotten us into, we didn’t need any more conflict. Dealing with Ty and Vanessa and my growing urges was enough.
Beside me, Dorian was still talking with animation. He appeared totally unaffected by Ty’s proximity. My irritation grew to resentment. Why was this so easy for him? As an extra precaution, I had my feet curved around the chair’s legs. Still the physical restraint was not enough to deter my thoughts. Not enough to stop my mind from wondering how I could taste Ty’s blood and get away with it. Feeling my gums prickle in anticipation, I tore the wrapper off my bought chocolate bar and took a bite. If anything could distract me, it was chocolate. Though even with my thirst ebbing, nothing could remove the pressing weight of Ty’s eyes bearing down on me.
Shifting my attention to Vanessa wasn’t any better. She appeared completely relaxed, now throwing questions like live grenades at Dorian. She wanted to know everything, a quest to discover our whole life story. I couldn’t control my growing suspicion. Just friendly, or maybe too friendly?
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Genre – YA Paranormal Romance
Rating – PG-13+
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