Apologies to all those who thought Charlotte actually died O_O You know me. I live for deus ex machina.

DAVID

"You have pressure on her neck?" I snapped, fingers clutching the steering wheel with a new-found strength. My foot was cramping from pressing the gas, but the hospital was still too far.

"Yes, I have pressure on her neck, you dickweed!" Jenna hissed from the backseat, her hands covered in blood. "I'm not fucking stupid! If you would drive any fucking faster, she might have a Goddamned chance!"

"It doesn't go any faster!" I roared, but still stepped harder on the gas. Thank God the majority of the snow was gone, otherwise we'd be sliding all over the road. My eyes kept flickering to Jenna in the backseat, cradling Charlotte against her chest, hand latched to the motionless girl's neck. There was blood coating the entire backseat, along with Jenna's clothes and even face.

Could people lose that much blood? I hadn't thought so, but Charlotte's heart was still beating and Jenna had refused comment. Charlotte's face was paler than even vampires, but somehow, her heart was still pumping the little blood she had left. Every time I blinked, I saw the pool of blood in that basement, Charlotte lying in the middle, eagle-spread, with her eyes staring up lifelessly.

I ran through a red light, nearly causing a VW to crash into us. Luckily, he was able to swerve and also avoid the light pole. The driver blared their horn from behind us, but I was already in the next intersection. The hospital was directly ahead, and I could see the staff waiting at the door for us. I ran over the curb to the parking lot, jostling Jenna and making her hiss insults at me. I ignored her and slammed the breaks, fishtailing us and swinging the back towards the front door, where a team of hospital staff was rushing out the door with a gurney.

I leapt out of the driver door and threw the back door open, where the doctors were trying to shift the pressure from Jenna's hand to theirs. Two EMTs removed Charlotte from the back gently, keeping her head from lolling to the side. They set her on the gurney, where a doctor was already at work. Her black hair was matted with blood, as well as her clothes coated. Two doctors wheeled her inside, and the third gestured impatiently for us to follow.

"Does she have any allergies?" the doctor snapped, walking at a pace I found difficult to keep up with.

"No," Jenna quickly replied. "Her blood is AB negative."

"What happened?" the female doctor asked, eyes raking our faces with desperation.

"Animal attack," Jenna and I said in unison, giving each other a nervous look. "We don't know what kind," I continued, jaw clenched.

The female doctor nodded quickly and disappeared down the hall, following the track Charlotte's gurney had taken.

I took a deep breath and ran my hands over my face, trying to reabsorb what had happened and was happening. I threw myself into an old chair in need of reupholstering. Jenna collapsed in the one next to me, her eyes fixed blankly ahead. Now that we could do nothing else, my mind refocused on everything, trying to figure them out, or at least make sense of them.

I swallowed, the pool of blood still flickering in my mind like strobe lights. There had just been so—so much. How could there be so much? Even with the amount in that basement and in the backseat, though, Jenna had insisted she would live. And when she'd called our dad, he wasted only a moment of panic before ordering us to get her to the hospital. I told him how much blood she lost—I told him it was impossible, that Charlotte was dead. Not that admitting it didn't come with my own choked disbelief, but I knew how much blood a person had, and that amount was probably more than Charlotte lost. My father told me she would live, regardless. Jenna, too. Jenna—who didn't like anything about Charlotte. Jenna—who'd gone to that house to confront and run her off. Yet, just then in the back seat, had been whispering desperate words in Charlotte's ear. Words of false hope.

Maybe they thought because she'd lived through so much already, she'd be alright. Or maybe they both knew something I didn't.

CHARLOTTE

Much to my dismay, I awoke again to the bland ceiling tiles of a hospital. The rough alabaster had been perpetually burned into my brain, and it seemed to go perfectly with the incessant beeping of my heart monitor. I found myself wondering if all hospitals had the same kind of ceiling tile. Did they get a discount for being a constant buyer? I wondered, and then suddenly realized, I'm in a hospital.

"Shit," I groaned, sitting up and taking in the hard-plastic chairs. I grimaced at the blood tubes running to my arm, hoping whatever wound I'd suffered hadn't healed too quickly because of it. "Not again."

"I'm afraid so," a voice from the doorway replied, and my eyes flickered over to see David. He was leaned casually against the doorway, a half-smirk donning his face. Something there, in his stance, made him seem beautiful. I mean, I guess David had always been attractive, but for some reason, his chestnut curls and brilliant eyes seemed to radiate beauty. Though he appeared shaggy—his face covered in stubble and hair greasy—I didn't think there was many men who pulled it off as well as he did. David made haggard appear rugged, and "You know," he said, snapping me from my thoughts and coming closer. "I actually thought you were going to die this time."

I arched an eyebrow at him, slowly lying back down. "You know I love exceeding expectation," I replied, fiddling with the pulse monitor on my finger.

A brief smile flickered over his face. "I'm starting to wonder if you can even die," he said, still smiling. "Someone up there really likes you, Char. I mean really likes you."

I grinned. "I have that effect on people," I said, then wished I could snatch the words from the air and eat them. David's casual demeanor faltered when he heard that, making me shy away. "Sorry," I muttered, running a hand through my clean hair. "I—I didn't mean it like that." Why would you say that, Charlotte? I berated myself. You know how he feels about you.

"I know," he said softly, but still avoided my eyes. "I just wish…" David's words faded and he shook his head, muttering something to himself. "Never mind." An awkward silence elapsed for a long moment, then the door to my room was mercifully thrown open by Luke. Upon seeing my consciousness, a wide grin split his face.

"Charlotte!" he bellowed, taking two, long strides to my bedside. Once he was there, though, Luke's joy deflated and anger flashed in his eyes. "What the hell were you doing at your old house? We told you not to go there! And you didn't even tell anyone! Damn, girl, you'll be the death of me!"
I frowned at the truth of that, but because I knew Luke didn't, quickly covered it. "I know. It was stupid. Thought maybe…" I shook my head. "No, I wasn't thinking. Can I ask why I'm in a hospital, though?"

Luke's brows furrowed. "You think we keep blood on supply at our house? We kill vampires; we don't feed them."

"Oh," I muttered, realizing this. "Still don't like the hospital."

David snorted. "Then maybe you should quit getting hurt."

I opened my mouth to reply, then decided better of it and went silent. After a moment, I asked, "What was the thing that attacked me?" David looked away from me, so I turned my gaze to Luke. "It wasn't… rational."

He nodded, scratching the back of his neck. "We call them Profane"—he quickly glanced down the hall to make sure no one was coming, then shut the door and looked back at me—"and they are very nasty things. Incredibly strong—much stronger than ordinary vampires—and kept from blood until the point of insanity. When that hits, Profane are their strongest, and vampires release them like rabid attack dogs on anything with a pulse."

I grimaced. "You mean they make them on purpose?"

Luke shrugged. "Generally after a vampire has become useless to them, or threatened to leave their coven. Dead Orini is dead Orini, and if we win, it's not like they'll miss Profane."

"What if they get blood?" I asked quickly, ignoring David's frown. "Do they regain sanity?"

Luke shrugged. "As sane as they were before, yes."

I was thinking hard about this when David cut in, saying, "The amount of blood needed is generally all, Charlotte." His eyes met mine, looking unusually dark. "Saving them is pointless."

My eyes hardened, and I tried to look intimidating from my hospital bed. "Not if they're willing to change."

"Change?" David replied, arching a skeptical eyebrow. "What, pray tell, kind of change are you talking about?" Luke was looking more concerned by the second, his blue eyes flickering anxiously between David and I.

I shrugged. "Stop killing."

David laughed, humorlessly. "Humans who kill deserve to die, even if they 'stop killing.'"

I narrowed my eyes. "It's called 'redemption,' David."

He scoffed, rolling his eyes. "It's called, 'then you turn your back and they rip your throat out,' Charlotte. You can't trust vampires."

I let out a bleat of laughter. "Have you ever tried?"

David clenched his jaw and uncrossed his arms. "Okay, you clearly don't understand," he spat, jabbing his finger in my direction. "I saw them kill my mother, Charlotte—"

"And I saw them kill my parents, David!" I screamed, leaping from the bed, causing Luke to jump in-between us, but it did no good. He couldn't hid my glare. "You haven't met every one of them on the planet, David! You don't know what they're like, and you sure as hell can't say they're all evil because all the ones you've met so far were bad!"

David's face was contorted in anger, turning slightly red and making his eyes seem violently bright. "But they are, Charlotte! All of them kill! All!"

"David!" snapped Luke, his arms separating us. "Charlotte!"

I ignored him, my pulse sporadic on the monitor. "The only ones you find are bad! And that's because you only look for the bad trails! There have to be good ones out there, and you don't see them because they don't leave any bodies behind!"

The boy dug his nails into his head, looking ready to explode. Without saying anything else, he stormed out of my room. I let out a short, frustrated growl and threw my hands in the air, almost ripping the tubes out of my arm in the process. Yelping and caressing the sore spots, I sat back down on my bed and listened to my heart monitor slowly lower its pace. Then I realized Luke was still here.

Guiltily, my eyes flickered up to him. "Sorry," I murmured. "That's the last thing we need right now is to fight."

Luke sighed and sat next to me. "No, the last thing we need right now is for an army of zombies to rise up and take over the world. Arguing over vampire morality isn't so bad, I just didn't want you to faint."

I chuckled, shaking my head. "I just don't get it," I muttered, looking up at him. "You don't think all vampires are bad, do you?"

Luke inhaled deeply, his eyes drifting towards the door. "Most certainly are, but not all. Some fight the bloodlust."

I remained silent for a long minute, trying to work up the words. The heart monitor wasn't helping hide the dilemma, but I don't think Luke noticed. His eyes were far off. Then, ever so softly, I whispered, "Do you think my dad fought it?"

Slowly, he turned to face me, but I kept my eyes focused on my intertwined fingers. Luke watched me for what seemed like ten minutes, but I knew it was only a few seconds. Then his eyes turned back to the door.

"I think he did."

A long breath escaped my lips, and I let myself collapse on Luke. The breath became a ragged sniffle, then I started to cry. Luke wrapped his arm around, murmuring, "It's okay, Charlotte."

That lasted for a few minutes, then I finally cut off the stream of salty tears. I sat back up straight and dried my face off. "When did you find out?"

"When did you find out?" Luke countered with a sad smile. "You couldn't have known before you came here. I suspected it a week after David stabbed you."

My eyebrows flew up. "You knew for that long? And you didn't say anything?"

He chuckled, then shrugged. "I figured you were an alright kid." We both grinned for a moment, then the silence returned. It didn't last long, because suddenly Luke said, "Before you leave, Charlotte, will you come and tell me goodbye?"

My brow furrowed and I looked at him, slightly hurt. "You're making me leave?"

His eyes went large, and he quickly protested with, "No! Heaven's no! I…" Luke pinched his lips together, and he got out, "I found your backpack in the cellar, Charlotte." The heart monitor went crazy. "I also saw it was filled with fake I.D.'s and money." I fidgeted as Luke gave me a sad look. "I just figured… or was that not your backpack?"

I swallowed, but it felt more like a boulder. "It was mine."

He nodded. "I thought so."

My jaw clenched, and I quickly blurted, "I'm sorry, Luke! It's not that I don't like staying here—I do, I really do!—but it's just not me. I can't linger places. I haven't stayed in one place for over a couple weeks in seven years, and I can't just settle down and go back to school! I hardly know my times tables, let alone the quadrastic formula!"

Luke chuckled. "It's the quadratic formula."

"See!" I croaked. "I can't even—"

"Charlotte," he cut in, eyes serious, "it's fine. I know."

"I'm sorry if I insulted you, or seem ungrateful—I'll pay you back! I will!" I continued rambling. "Maybe not now… or next year, but I will return everything you've—"

"Charlotte," Luke stressed, placing his hand on my shoulder and forcing me to meet is kind eyes. "It's okay. I understand. You're not my child, and I can't keep you, no matter what papers I forge. Just know that when you go, I want a goodbye and permission to be your emergency contact, okay?"

My grey eyes were like planets as I started back at him. "You're… letting me go?"

He smiled. "Of course, Charlotte. I put the papers in that emergency-run bag you have by your bed." After a moment, he added, "Besides, I'd rather not have a heart attack every time I open your grades in the mail. I'm getting old, you know. We have to start worrying about these things."

I snickered, shaking my head. "Thank you, Luke. For everything."

Luke's eyes narrowed, but they were filled with humor. "Just don't forget my goodbye, girl. No matter what terms you're on with my children."

I didn't know whether to smile or frown at that, so I stayed silent.

"There is one matter, though," Luke said, making my heart pick up.

I looked up, both curious and worried. "Yeah?"

His brows were furrowed in confusion. "What happened to the Profane you killed?"

My head jerked back in bewilderment. "What do you mean? I stabbed him in the head, Luke. I think he's dead."

"No," Luke said, shaking his head. "When I got there, the body was gone. It couldn't have been more than ten minutes after David and Jenna took you to the hospital, and that body was gone."