Midnight on Highway 70 between Kansas City and Odessa

Present Day

The dark stretch of dusty highway was deserted, except for a beat-up used BMW speeding down the road. Shadowy cornfields and solitary chipped barns whizzed past the windows. The driver was staring determinedly ahead with furrowed brow, ignoring the passenger and avoiding her eyes.

"Well, that mission was a complete disaster," the passenger muttered, rolling her eyes.

"Shut up, Cassie," the driver snapped. "We did what we came to do."

The passenger, a lanky seventeen-year-old, stopped examining her chipped black fingernails and glared at her older sister.

"Oh, so long as we stamp out vampire infestations, everything's great," Cassie said with biting sarcasm, "but if you happen to get captured and bitten, that's no big deal, right?"

Cassandra's glare was made all the more impressive and ominous by her spiked black hair sticking out at all ends, her dark purple t-shirt with some unknown metal band's name in spidery letters, the silver stud in one nostril, and her dark burgundy lipstick. She was the archetype of the teenager that adults instantly marked as "rebellious" simply for their fashion choices.

Her nineteen-year-old sister Elle, on the other hand, was in stark contrast. She had always been the beauty of the family, with a naturally pearly complexion, soft red hair past her shoulders, and a pretty heart-shaped face. She always wore virtuous pastels—today, a gentle pink argyle sweater and light blue jeans. She refused to look at her sister; she just clamped her hands tighter onto the steering wheel.

"I thought we weren't going to talk about this right now," she said through gritted teeth.

"No, you decided that, Elle," Cassie said. "But since my sister's just turned bloodsucker, I think we have a right to talk about it."

"You knew going into this crusade that the job was a hazardous one," Elle said evenly. "We both discussed the possibility of...accidents. Nothing really needs to change."

Cassie scowled. "Look, Elle...I'm starting to wonder—is this really worth it?"

"What do you mean?" Elle said sharply.

Cassandra bit her lip and stared out the windshield nervously. "It's just that...I don't know..." she mumbled. "Mom and Dad are gone, Elle. Hell, I'm just as mad about it as you are. But no matter how many monsters we kill, that's not going to bring them back."

Elle's frown deepened. "This isn't about revenge," she retorted. "We've been through this a million times. This is about saving people's lives. Don't you think this is what Mom and Dad would have wanted? Now that we know how to kill vampires and werewolves who refuse to stop slaughtering innocent people, don't you think it's our duty?"

Cassie looked intently at her hands. "I guess so."

"And now that we both have...advantages," Elle continued, "that'll give us an edge, you know?"

"Oh, is that why you decided to get turned?" Cassie demanded, suddenly shouting. The angry words sounded louder in the confined space of the car. "What an excellent idea, trade your life and mortality for some extra strength and speed so you can kill more vampires!"

Elle was shouting now too. "I love how it's okay for you to be a supernatural creature, Cass, but when it comes to me—"

"So what, you were jealous or something?"

"Jealous?" she repeated scathingly. "What the hell would I be jealous of?"

"Oh, I don't know, Elle," she snarled, "maybe the fact that now I can stamp out more bloodsuckers and monsters than you ever could, and you don't like being less powerful than your baby sister?"

Her sister cursed under her breath—she had sworn more tonight than Cassie could remember. As she spoke, she began to lecture—Cassandra rolled her eyes; here we go again—and sounded uncannily like their mother had when they had left dirty dishes in the sink.

"You think I went and asked a vamp to turn me because I wanted power? Glad to know you think so much of me! What happened, happened; it was all an accident like the night you got turned into a werewolf, okay? We both knew that there were risks like this involved with our mission. We knew that either one of us, or both, could well be bitten by God knows what and turned into the very things we hunt. That does not mean that we stop—it means we keep fighting even harder. Yeah, now we have to fight against our very selves too, which makes it more complicated, but...Cass, I think we can do it. I've researched all about the small group of vampires that choose an ethical life—there are all kinds of options that don't involve murder, remember?"

"I've got a clean record, anyway," Cassandra muttered.

"And now I can make sure that it stays that way," Elle replied calmly.

Cassie froze.

"Stop the car," she said suddenly in a tight voice.

"Excuse me?"

"Stop the frickin car, Elle," her sister ordered, her eyes suddenly blazing with a frightening fire.

Gritting her teeth, Elle pulled over and screeched to a halt on the side of the highway.

"Let me get this straight, Elle," Cassandra demanded, her voice quivering with barely suppressed rage. "You got yourself purposely turned into a bloodsucker to keep me in line?"

Elle's anger took on a soft whisper that was just as dangerous. "Yes, Cassandra, I did what was necessary to make sure you wouldn't go massacring a whole town, if that's what you mean."

Both the sisters narrowed their eyes at one another with livid expressions.

"Since when we you so legally obligated to babysit me?" Cassie fumed.

"Oh, I don't know, Cass, maybe since humans are too weak to control a werewolf at the full moon, and somebody has to keep an eye on you during your little time-of-the-month," Elle snapped derisively. "Becoming the one thing that's stronger than you, yet always in control of their faculties, was the only way to do that."

"It's not your job to take care of me!"

"Damn it, yes it is!" Elle burst out, throwing her hands up in frustration, reaching a record volume for her. "Mom and Dad are dead, Cassie! They're not around to look after you. I'm the oldest; that is my responsibility. You are my responsibility. I have to be the parent now."

After her outburst, Elle just sat in her seat, staring at Cassie and breathing heavily as if her anger had physically exhausted her. Cassie stared back, the angry lines on her face slowly smoothing out into an expression of shock. She blinked many times. Elle eventually turned back around to face the windshield and pulled the car back into the road.

"You...you care about me that much?" Cassie stammered.

Elle took a deep, shuddering breath and twisted her hands on the steering wheel.

"Yeah," she whispered, glancing sidelong at Cassie with a half-smile.

And slowly, Cassandra began to grin back. They were still sisters—damaged and undead, grieving and bickering, but they were still family after all. Nothing was changed, really.

The rusty BMW sped on towards Odessa, Kansas, the two sisters arguing good-naturedly over whether they would listen to a '80s rock CD or a '50s folk band until the next rest stop. Abandoned gas stations and lit-up neon café signs whizzed past them; the crescent moon and speckled stars were becoming cloaked with both clouds and pollution as they drew nearer to town. The sisters chattered about their upcoming mission, about the rumors of zombies haunting the graveyard—a creature they had not yet encountered, though researched thoroughly—and about the possibility of running into any attractive male immortals there.

For a moment, all seemed right with the world.