The voice drifted slowly, distorted as if it had to fight through a thick fog.
Go away, she found herself thinking. She floated in semiconsciousness, blanketed in warmth and gentle light. It was nice to just lie here for once, not worrying about anything.
"Olivia." The voice was more insistent that time, and it caught Olivia's attention.
Oh, for the love of God, okay…
She peeled one eyelid open to find three figures standing over her, backlit by the harsh spotlights. She blinked and opened her other eye.
"Are you okay?" Mari stared down at her with concern in her eyes.
Olivia's heart jumped as everything came back to her in a rush. Oh my God, Troy! She sat up quickly, and her vision spun. She groaned and covered her eyes with her hands. Her legs felt weak, and a rock from the floor was digging into her thigh, but she otherwise seemed to be in one piece. "What happened?"
"We're not sure. Did you dump a bucket of water on Troy or something, Dorothy?" That was Gunther. Olivia dropped her hands and squinted against the light. Even kneeling next to her, Gunther towered above her.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," she breathed, shaking her head.
Mari grinned. "Whatever you did, it worked! Troy's gone. And his minions have scattered."
Olivia glanced around and realized people – humans, mostly – were cheering and hugging each other. They'd done it! She could see Tiffany and Carl talking over at one side of the room, apparently gathering together the shapeshifters.
"Silas?" she asked. Really, she wanted to ask about Lan, but Silas was more important at the moment. Besides, the longer she took to ask, the longer she could put off finding out if he was dead.
"Bastard got away in all the chaos," Gunther muttered.
"But don't worry. My father will find him." Standing next to Mari, Ashton held out a hand and helped Olivia to her feet. She had dirt smudged on her face and dust in her hair, but she still managed to look radiant when she smiled at Olivia. "I'm glad you made it."
"Me too." Olivia couldn't help but smile back. "Dying probably would have ruined my day."
To her surprise, Ashton swept her up in a hug. "Thank you."
"For what?" Olivia stepped back and stared at her.
Ashton's eyes gleamed. "Everything. For coming after us. Taking care of us. Saving us all."
"Oh, it wasn't just…"
Mari interrupted. "Yes, it was. It was you, Olivia. If you hadn't come after us – if you'd left us down here to die – you wouldn't have been here to kill Troy. And we'd all be dead now."
Heat rose to Olivia's cheeks. "But I don't even know what I did!"
"The prophecy never lies," Ashton murmured. Olivia chose to ignore that.
Mari wrapped her small arms around Olivia, and Olivia hugged her back tightly. "Thanks," she whispered. Then she swallowed, gathering the nerve to ask. "Lan. Is he...?"
But Ashton was smiling, and a voice spoke from behind Olivia. "I'm not that easy to get rid of."
Olivia whirled, her hands flying to her mouth in surprise. "Oh, thank God, you're alive!" Her face flushed, and she cleared her throat. "I'm sorry. I just thought ..."
Lan scoffed. "He missed my heart. Amateur."
Olivia turned back to the group, finding surprised looks on the other gang members' faces. Mari shared a glance with Michael, and Olivia sighed. Might as well get it over with.
"Look guys," she began, crossing her arms over her chest. "I know what you're thinking. They're vampires. But as of right now, I'm officially retired. I can't do it anymore. Lan and Ashton, they both saved my life. And I know there are probably other vampires out there like them." She sighed again. "I know I can't expect you to do the same, especially after all this, but I'd like you to at least consider it."
She allowed her gaze to linger on each of their faces: Mari, her round face bruised but determined; Gunther, looking slightly confused but not necessarily disagreeable; Raina nodding, somehow managing to look gorgeous despite nearly being turned into a vampire plaything; Michael, his face thoughtful.
In fact, Michael was the first to speak. "I saw him try to protect you," he said, his eyes on Lan. A small smile lingered on his lips. "And obviously Ashton is no threat." At that, he gave Ashton a penetrating gaze. Ashton looked away, her face tinting slightly red. "I don't know about these guys, but I'm okay with letting at least these two live."
"Like you could kill us anyway," Lan muttered, just loud enough for Olivia to hear. She ignored him.
Raina spoke up, her voice low and her eyes on the ground. "Lan made sure they didn't treat me too badly. So I guess I wouldn't mind letting him live." She lifted her gaze to meet Olivia's eyes. "If you trust them, then so do I."
Surprise mixed with pleasure coursed through Olivia, and she smiled at Raina. People really could change.
The others were nodding their head in agreement.
"Okay, then," she said, her eyes sweeping around the room again. The other humans had gathered around their group, looking to them for direction. "Let's get the hell out of here!" she said a bit louder.
She was still feeling a little weak, so Mari let her lean on her as they wound their way as a group through the complex tunnel system. Somehow, they found their way back out, mostly by following the paths that angled upward.
Outside the decaying chapel, they paused, groaning and blinking against the sunlight. For some of them, it had been a week since they'd been outside. Mari breathed a sigh of relief.
"I never thought I'd be so happy to see the sky again."
"Hey, guys?" Gunther said, a perplexed expression on his face. "Where are we, and how do we get home?"
A voice spoke from behind them. "Have no fear, the cell phone's here." Carl and Tiffany emerged from the hole in the ground, Carl holding a phone in one hand. "I took this off one of the vamps. It's got GPS."
"Carl!" Mari cried, running to him and hugging him. There seemed to be a lot of that going around. "I thought you were dead."
Olivia hung back as the others crowded around Carl. Once they got their welcomes out, she gave him a stern look. "I think Carl has something to tell us."
Carl frowned, giving Tiffany a look that said, "Do I have to?" She shot him one back with a clear answer. He sighed. "I'm sorry guys, but I lied to you. I'm not human." He cringed as if he expected someone to pelt him with tomatoes or something even more unpleasant. But the others just stared at him in shock. His eyes widened in understanding. "Oh, but I'm not a vampire! Look..."
Before anyone could speak, he'd shifted to his lion shape, giving one long yowl before switching back.
"Oh my God," Raina said, and Olivia winced, bracing for a torrent of accusations. Instead, a huge smile broke across Raina's face, and she exclaimed, "That's so cool!"
They all began speaking at once, like a flood released, sharing their stories about their time below, who they'd killed in the big showdown and how. As a group, they started moving toward the entrance to the cemetery, beyond which Lan promised were the cars in which the vampires had arrived. Obviously, some of them would no longer be needing them.
Olivia smiled, for once having nothing to say. She wrapped her arms around herself and allowed herself to fall behind the talkative group, staring thoughtfully at the ground as she walked.
She felt strange, relieved that it was over, that they were all safe -- for now, at least -- and yet unease still creaked in her bones. What had happened to Troy? It certainly seemed as if biting her had caused his death. But why? She rubbed her fingers over her neck, the tips tracing the now-familiar shape of the pendant next to the bite marks. He'd bitten her before, and nothing had happened.
She sighed to herself. She'd probably never know the truth.
Lan fell into step beside her, and Olivia gave him a small smile, not sure what to say.
"Are you okay?" he finally asked.
She nodded. "Just tired. And confused."
She bit her lip, then gazed up at Lan thoughtfully. He didn't meet her eyes, instead keeping his face forward as they walked. But his expression was serious, his eyes an intense, stormy blue-violet.
"What happened back there? With Troy?" she asked.
His eyes flickered toward her, then forward again. He shook his head. "Honestly, I have no idea. Ashton would be the one to ask. She's the one that believes in all that prophecy mumbo-jumbo."
"The prophecy," Olivia muttered. "It's crazy."
Suddenly Lan stopped, reaching out to grab her wrist lightly. The look he gave her sent electricity through her veins. "You did it, though. Saved my family."
Her cheeks warmed, and she ducked her head. "I didn't do anything. I got bit, that's what happened. Troy was ... just a fluke or something."
Lan dropped her hand and began moving again. She hurried to catch him. "I'm not saying I believe in the prophecy, Olivia. I'm just saying that, intentional or not, you did exactly what it said you would."
She didn't know what to say to that, so she chose to say nothing. She couldn't bring herself to believe that Troy's death wasn't just some crazy accident. What else could it be?
"So, what now?" Lan asked after a moment of silence.
Olivia shrugged. "Well, I go back to my life, and you go back to yours."
"And that's what you want?"
"What else would I want?" Her heart twanged as she looked up at him. The sunlight made his hair shine, and she fought the urge to run her fingers through it. Vampire, Olivia. No.
He stared at her. "You know what I'm talking about."
Her lips parted, and she gazed at him as her mind scrambled for what to say. She definitely couldn't say what she wanted to say. She had to be strong. Soon, she'd be back home, and she'd forget all about him. "What I want is to go home and get my old, vampire-free life back." After a moment, she conceded, "Without the killing, anyway."
Lan nodded, his eyelids dropping a fraction and his face smoothing. "If that's what you want," he muttered.
"Then I wish you luck and thank you for your help." He stuck out a hand, and she took it after staring at it a moment, feeling stung by the change in his tone. "The cars are that way. Keys should be in at least a few of them. Vampires aren't known for locking up."
"I ... Thanks."
And with that, Lan moved back up to the main group, looping an arm through Ashton's and pulling her off to the side. After a few words exchanged -- and Ashton glancing back at Olivia -- they were gone, vampire speed separating them from the others in an instant.
Olivia swallowed hard against the lump in her throat, knowing full well she would never get her old life back.
Epilogue - Six months later
"You want me to what?"
Ashton smiled serenely at Olivia. "It's a great idea, and you know it. You're strong, stubborn, and you believe in doing what's right. You'll keep this place in shape."
Olivia sat down hard on the black leather sofa behind her. It was hard to believe she was even here -- she glanced around the room while she let Ashton's words sink in. The room was, ironically, paneled in a dark wood, cherry maybe. One entire wall was glass, overlooking downtown Chicago. After all that looking for Vampire Central, and it turned out it was one of the tallest buildings in the city, not some underground lair.
Odd how things could change so quickly. One minute she was surviving her last few days of high school, wondering what she would do with the rest of her life now that her bloodlust was gone. And the next, there was Ashton, appearing for the first time since they'd escaped Troy, asking her and the rest of the gang to come to Chicago to discuss some things.
Olivia'd had no idea what the vampire wanted to discuss, but she was intrigued enough to come. The others were a little more leery -- Raina especially -- but in the end their curiosity got the best of them. At the moment, they were in the next room; Ashton had wanted to speak to Olivia alone first.
The weirdest part was telling Olivia's parents where she was going -- really. As it turned out, they'd known all along what she'd been doing. She'd thought she'd been so clever, sneaking in and out of the house on late nights after hunting. But, really, they were just looking the other way. They didn't necessarily approve, but they understood it was something she needed to do, for Paul. And when she'd reappeared after being gone so long, they were so glad to see her alive that they'd spilled everything. They'd been relieved to hear she was retiring, although she didn't tell them the real reason why.
She had yet to see Lan since arriving. She wasn't sure if she would -- or should. He probably wouldn't want to see her anyway, she thought sadly. She'd made sure of that. By now, he'd probably forgotten all about her, found some hot little vampire girlfriend.
Olivia sighed and leaned forward, rubbing her hand across her face. "Okay, let me see if I got this straight. You want me to come here and be a sort of human representative to the vampire court? Me. A vampire hunter."
"But not anymore." Ashton crossed to the window and stared out it, her slender fingers caressing her crest ring. She looked back at Olivia over her shoulder, and Olivia was struck, as usual, by how beautiful she was. The light coming in the window formed a sort of halo around her body, making her look more innocent than usual. "After Silas and Troy, my father has agreed that we can't remain neutral. We have to be willing to work with the humans. And to make sure we don't cross any lines, we need someone like you, who won't be afraid to stand up to us, tell us when we're ... thinking with our teeth."
Olivia drummed her fingers on her thigh, thinking. "Well, I'd been thinking about going to Loyola. I've been accepted, I just didn't sign the papers yet."
Another smile from Ashton. "About that. My father also said you'd be well compensated. We'll give you a place to live, and he'll pay for your schooling." Amusement flickered in her eyes. "I think he's disappointed Lan never wanted to go to college. He's more of a ... hands on guy."
Olivia snorted. "I don't know, Ashton. I guess I have to think about it." Then something occurred to her. "What about the others? Why are they here?"
Ashton moved back toward the couch. "I have my own offer for them, if they're willing."
"But, why did you need to talk to me alone first?"
Ashton sat next to her on the couch, her expression suddenly going serious. "Don't take this the wrong way, but we've been watching you."
"What? Who's we?" A flare of anger ignited inside her, and she quickly quashed it. It was something she'd been working on.
"Well, me, mostly. A little Lan. We just had to know."
"Know what?" Lan had been watching her?
Ashton pursed her lips, then stretched them into a nervous smile. "What you are."
Olivia blinked. "What I am? Ashton, you better start explaining before I get mad."
"The strength never left you, did it?"
"How did..." Olivia couldn't finish her sentence. How did Ashton know that? She hadn't told anyone, not even Mari. After escaping, Olivia had waited for her body to go back to normal, for the influence of Ashton's blood to fade. But it hadn't. She was still trying to get used to it. Earlier that day, in fact, she'd nearly ripped off the door of her car by accident.
But she wasn't a vampire, she knew that much. She didn't have to drink blood. She didn't have violent urges. Other than her usual ones, anyway.
She didn't know what it meant, and it frightened her that Ashton knew her secret.
She swallowed and leaned toward Ashton, staring at her intently. "What am I?" she whispered.
"I've been doing some research. Trying to figure out what happened with Troy. And I think I figured it out. There was more to the prophecy and it says ..."
Olivia groaned. "Oh God, not that again."
Ashton gave her a patient look. "The prophecy says the fire-blooded one will watch over my family as its protector."
"And what is this fire-blooded one?" Olivia stared at her blankly.
"It's you. I didn't understand what it meant before."
Olivia tried to give Ashton her best impatient scowl. "Okay, so what am I?"
"You're one of us. A McRae, I mean. Part of the family. Well, like, adopted."
"Ashton, I don't understand what you're saying."
Ashton's expression was one of barely bottled up excitement. "You're like a hybrid, with the body and needs of a human, but the strength of a vampire. And no vampire will ever drink from you."
Olivia played along. "And why wouldn't they? Does my blood taste gross or something?" Light reflected from Ashton's ring, and Olivia glanced down at it.
"Because your blood kills."
That got her attention. Her head snapped back toward Ashton. "What?"
"It's like this." Ashton held her hands in front of her. "Your blood merged with mine and Lan's." She clapped her hands together. "With most people, this fades away. But with you, because you're special, it bonded, to form some kind of ... super blood. And that is what killed Troy. It's like a poison."
Olivia stared at her, her mind whirling. "My blood ... poisoned him? But, why didn't it do that before? I wasn't toxic before!"
Ashton's smile was patient. "Because your blood hadn't bonded with ours yet. You'd only had Lan's. In a way, Troy brought this on himself, when he threw you in the cell with me."
"Whoa, wait a minute." Olivia jumped to her feet, holding a finger up in protest. "See, this is where this crazy theory falls apart. I never had Lan's blood. He tried to drink mine, but I didn't let him."
Ashton stood, taking Olivia's hands firmly between hers. "You did. When Lan rescued you from that gang of vampires, you were dead. Just barely," she added quickly, as Olivia's mouth fell open in protest. "He did the only thing he could think of to save you -- gave you his blood."
Olivia swallowed and sat down hard on the couch, blinking. It was as if someone had slapped her. "I was ... dead?"
"For just a second. He could have tried to turn you, but he knew that wasn't what you wanted. So he gave you his blood, then called your friends the shifters – though he didn't know that's who they were – and left so he wouldn't be tempted. Remember what I said about vampires not giving up their blood?"
Olivia stared up at Ashton and nodded slowly.
That smile again. "Lan made the ultimate sacrifice to keep you alive."
Oh God... Olivia's heart wrenched as she thought of Lan. All that time she'd thought he'd abandoned her, but he'd been protecting her. Of course, he'd told her that, sort of, but as usual she hadn't listened. "I didn't know," she whispered.
"I know." Ashton knelt down in front of her. "He didn't want you to know. You know how he is. He's a guy. Doesn't want anyone to know he cares."
Olivia's mind processed this slowly, electric jolts zinging through her body. "So... The blood turned me into some kind of superhuman freak?"
"Not a freak." Ashton rested her hand on Olivia's shoulder. "Olivia, we gave you space, time to think and finish school before we came to you with our offer. Your ... unique situation makes you especially suited to stand in our court. Nobody would be dumb enough to dare bite you. Not after what happened to Troy."
Olivia exhaled slowly, then turned toward Ashton. "This is a lot to think about."
Ashton nodded. "I hope you'll consider it." She stood. "I'll go bring your friends in now, and you can think while I talk to them." She started moving toward the door, then turned back, a knowing smile on her face. "And, for the record," she said in a softer voice. "He's miserable without you."
* * *
As it turned out, Ashton wanted to offer the gang positions as well, partly so Olivia wouldn't be the only human -- if she accepted -- and partly because of their skills.
"You want us to be enforcers?" Mari asked in disbelief.
They were huddled on the couch, Olivia in the middle, Mari and Michael on either side. Raina and Gunther sat on another couch to the side. All wore the same expression of disbelief. Olivia had been trying to pay attention, but all she could think about was Lan -- how much she missed him and hadn't been willing to admit it, and how crazy that was.
"Something like that." Ashton was leaning against a desk by the window. "If we're going to be serious about working with humans, we need to show we're serious. And that means punishing the vampires who disobey us. Of course, we'll have vampire enforcers as well," she added. "And I'm in the middle of talks with the shifters; they should be in on this too. But it seems to me you guys would be perfect for the job."
"Would we have to ... live here?" Michael asked that, and Olivia raised her head to look at him. The wave of longing she'd felt whenever she looked at him was gone; it had been ever since they'd escaped, and she knew exactly why. She didn't miss it, really. Michael had never wanted her. He'd cared about her, but not in the way she wanted.
And now, looking at him objectively, she realized something else. He wasn't just looking at Ashton; he was gazing at her. It was much the way Olivia had used to look at him.
Oh my God, she thought, then hid a smile behind a hand.
Ashton gave Michael a benevolent smile, clearly oblivious. Good luck with that, Michael. "Well, no, you wouldn't have to," Ashton said. "We can just call you in whenever we need you. Whenever Olivia needs you, if she agrees."
Raina sighed, loudly. All eyes turned to her, and she stood, bracing her hands against her hips. "Well, I don't know about you guys, but I've been damn bored since the gang fell apart. I would love a chance to beat the crap out of some bloodsuck... uh, vampires, without starting a war."
Behind her, Gunther was nodding his head. "If it means we can stop the bad ones, I'll do it."
"I'm in." That was Michael, a broad smile stretching across his face. "You'll, uh, be helping, right, Ashton?"
She nodded. "I'll be around, yes." She turned her azure eyes on Mari.
Mari turned to Olivia, her eyes pleading. "I'll do it, but only if Olivia agrees."
Suddenly, all eyes were on Olivia, and she felt her face heating up. Her brain scrambled. Work with the vampires! Could she do that?
She didn't really have to think about it, she suddenly realized. She'd spent the past few months wondering what to do with her life, and now here was an answer.
She felt she was taking a big step forward as she smiled. "I'll do it."
* * *
Ashton gave Olivia a tour of the massive apartments the McRaes lived in. It was astonishing, really, that all this luxury could be found so high up in a skyscraper -- and be owned by vampires, no less. But it seemed fitting for the royal family. Ashton briefly showed her the rooms Olivia would be staying in if she chose to stay here -- yes, rooms as in plural. Olivia stared, her mouth agape, at the plush queen-sized bed covered in comforters, the sitting room with a giant mirror, even a small balcony.
It was good to be the king, apparently.
Then Ashton stopped in front of a door, not too far from Olivia's rooms. "This is Lan's. I think he's in there if you'd like to see him before you go." That knowing smile again.
"Oh..." Olivia stared at the door, her eyes wide and her cheeks flaming. Lan had said he couldn't stop thinking about her, and she knew exactly how that felt. Now was a chance to try to make things right, if she could. She nodded slowly. "Yes, I'd like to talk to him."
"Okay, just go on in. I'll meet you back in the conference room when you're ready." Ashton patted Olivia's shoulder. "Good luck."
Olivia swallowed hard, waiting until Ashton disappeared around a corner before knocking softly. When no answer came, she slowly turned the knob, knowing if she walked away now she'd lose her nerve.
The room was similar to the one Olivia was supposed to get, with a sitting area that led into the bedroom. Olivia stepped inside, her stomach roiling with nerves. She could hear a grunting sound from the bedroom, and her eyes widened.
Oh God, this was a horrible idea. He was probably in there with some girl, doing ... something she didn't want to think about. I shouldn't have done this.
In a panic, she whirled around, reaching for the doorknob.
She cringed, closing her eyes for a second, then turned around again, planting a fake smile on her face. "Hi, Lan."
He stared at her, astonishment on his face. He was shirtless and sweaty, his hair sticking up in spikes, and Olivia tried hard to keep her eyes from his muscular chest. "What are you doing here?" He sounded almost angry.
"I'm sorry. This is a bad time. I shouldn't have come," she blurted, then turned again toward the door.
He was next to her in an instant, his hand on hers to stop her from leaving. He leaned over her, his face close, and she held her breath, trying not to pass out from the rush of emotions competing inside her. "No, it's not a bad time," he said softly. "I was just working out. Vampires have to exercise, too, you know, if they want to be stronger."
"You were..." She burst into nervous laughter, relief crashing through her. "I thought..." She shook her head. "You don't want to know."
"What are you doing here?" he asked again. She couldn't speak for a moment. His eyes trailed across her face, as if he were memorizing every speck of it. It made her knees feel weak. She became intently aware of his hand still resting on top of hers on the doorknob, and she gently pulled it back.
"I ... Ashton was showing me around, and I thought I'd say hi." It sounded lame, but she wasn't sure what to say that wouldn't sound even lamer.
He nodded, looking as if he wanted to say something but closing his mouth. He stepped back, and she sighed in relief.
"Well, I'm glad you're here," he said as he crossed the room, grabbing a shirt and pulling it on as he walked. Olivia pointedly ignored the disappointment she felt at that. "I have something for you."
"Oh?" she called after him, staying near the door.
He came back, holding something small in his hand. "I wanted you to have this." His smile was almost shy, and she stepped forward to take the item from his outstretched palm.
She gasped when she realized what it was, her eyes shooting to his face. "Your mother's pendant! But why?"
Lan shoved his hands in his pockets, looking embarrassed. "You deserve it. You never gave up, on anyone, even when I kept trying to talk you out of it. Because of you, my family is still in one piece." He shrugged. "I think she'd want you to have it."
Her face felt hot as she stared down at the ornate M, the chain dangling from her fingers. "I ... But don't you need it?"
"Nah. I could always wear Silas' if I wanted. He gave it up willingly ... after my father told him to do it or die." A hint of anger made his lips tighten. "I wanted to kill him, but Ashton wouldn't let me."
"I can't..." She tried to hand the pendant back to him, but he grabbed her hand in his, closing her fingers gently over the pendant.
"You can," he breathed, letting go of her hand.
"Olivia, just do it." A familiar look flickered in his eyes. Annoyance.
That snapped her back to reality, and she smiled. "Well, thanks." She reached up and fastened it around her neck. The pendant felt cool and heavy against her chest, but it didn't burn her or light up. Whatever magic had made it do that was gone. She touched it gently. "So, I guess I'll let you get back to your exercising."
He nodded slightly but didn't move, his expression tight.
She turned toward the door, then stopped, exhaling slowly. She thought of how mad she'd been when she found out he'd betrayed her, how much it had hurt her. And the disappointed look in his eyes when she'd told him she wanted a life without him. An unexpected flare of anger flickered to life inside her.
Still facing the door, she said. "No, actually, I have something I want to say to you." She narrowed her eyes at the floor and turned back to Lan.
His eyes widened slightly, and he took a step closer to her. "What?"
She stared at him a moment, mulling things over, then swung out her hand, laying it across his cheek in a sharp slap.
He stumbled backwards, his eyes flickering silver. "Olivia!" he yelped, his hand flying to his cheek. "Jesus! What the hell was that for?"
Olivia gasped and shoved him. "You're such a jerk!"
"I'm a jerk? I give you a gift, and you slap me?"
"I'll do more than that!" She swung a fist at him, and this time he caught it.
"You really need to work on your aggression issues," he growled. "What, pray tell, did I do to deserve this?" He wrenched her fist down, pulling her closer to him in the process. She didn't move, standing inches from him and glaring up at him.
Unexpected tears blurred her vision, and she blinked them away. "You've done nothing but fight with me since I met you. So why didn't you fight me about this?" Her voice cracked.
His eyes blazed at her as he leaned over her, but confusion clouded his expression. "About what?"
"This." She reached up and grabbed his head on either side of his face, pulling him down to her. She pressed her lips against his, pouring all of her frustrations into it. Why did you just let me go?
She could feel his surprise -- he stood stiffly at first, but then his arms snaked around her waist, and he pulled her to him. She wrapped her fingers in his hair at the back of his head, a moan starting low in her throat. One of his hands slid up her back to rest at the nape of her neck, and hot shivers raced down her spine.
She was lying to herself if she said he wasn't all she had thought about for the past six months, regretting ever pushing him away. She'd dreamed about this moment, when she'd finally get to see him again, to touch him again, and now it was finally here. She'd been so scared he'd be mad at her for her rejection, or have moved on. After all, he hadn't come to see her since they'd escaped, hadn't tried to change her mind.
But here they were, and he definitely wasn't objecting. Her relief was palpable.
Feeling suddenly exhausted, she pulled away slightly, sliding her head down to rest on his chest as she caught her breath. He stroked her hair and rested his chin on the top of her head.
It felt right, like they were meant to fit together perfectly like this.
"I'm so stupid," Olivia sighed. "I kept telling myself there was no way I could be with you, just because you're a vampire. I was a ... fangist." He snorted. "But I've done nothing but wish I could be with you. I'm an idiot." She pulled back so she could look up at him. She finally voiced the question she'd been asking for the past six months. "Why didn't you try to change my mind?"
He stared down at her, his expression unreadable, but his eyes nearly consumed by violet. "Olivia." His voice sounded thick, and he ran a hand gently down the side of her face. "I didn't mean... I didn't want to ruin your life if you didn't want to be with me. I wanted to do the right thing. For once."
She bit her lip. "So you... still want me?"
He groaned. "I've done nothing but want you since the first time I saw you."
Nervous laughter erupted from her throat. "That's the best news I've gotten in ... ever."
He grinned at her, and she almost thought he was blushing. It was probably just the light. Probably. "Olivia, I've been a vampire my whole life. Technically dead." He dropped his head, resting his forehead against hers. "But when I'm with you, I feel alive."
She stared at him for a moment, unsure what to say as her heart raced. Then she shook her head, giving him a sly grin. When in doubt, she'd do what she did best: talk smack. "Did you rehearse that?"
Lan snorted. "A little bit. It was pretty dumb, wasn't it?"
Her smile widened. "No, it was perfect. It gives you unexpected depth. Proves you can think with more than your fangs."
"It's really too bad, since you only think with your fists."
She opened her mouth to object, then closed it again and shrugged sheepishly. "I'm so sorry I hit you."
"I wouldn't expect anything less from you." Lan gave her a wolfish grin. "You can make it up to me." He pulled her to him, kissing her forehead softly, then trailing his lips down her nose until he found her lips.
Olivia closed her eyes, realizing suddenly that her life would never be the same. The anger and rage had fled from her core, and now it radiated heat and comfort.
For the first time in a long time, she was happy.
A/N: And that's it! Thank you sooo much to the people who have commented. I hope you like the end! I'm pleased, myself, with the way this major, major rewrite turned out, and much happier with it than the original. Of course, it's always a work in progress, so if you feel I left out anything that needed resolved, or you're unhappy with something, please let me know. I can always change it. :-)
Either way, please let me know what you think of the story as a whole. And yes, a sequel is entirely in the realm of possibility (I did it that way on purpose). I even have an idea for one. But for now I'm moving on to something else. I may at some point in the future do a sequel.
Again, thank you so much for reading!