A/N: This is something I wrote several years ago for a class. The theme I was going off of, was that of bad blood. This was written around the time the vampire craze was starting to pick up—although, I've had a particular fondness for vampires long before the most recent pop-culture craze for them. Anyway, this short story was meant to be a combination of elements of greek myth (only ever so slightly) and the seeming ridiculousness of 'love at first sight.' It's in short, kind of a Twilight meets Romeo and Juliet, while being neither.

Blood Ties

"What are the rules of a hunter?" the tom-boy, Cassandra, asked me for what must have been the fourteenth time that day.

"To track and eliminate the target," I recited while rolling my eyes.

My mentor continued to glower at me, her hazel eyes glinting with crimson for a moment. "And?" she pressed.

"And?" My face wore a blank expression as I pretended to honestly not know the second part of the code of the Hunters. I was bored, and seeing Cassandra worked up was my only form of entertainment.

"Never—ever—get personally involved with the target." This was a point Cassandra stressed, as she had known too many other Hunters who had fallen victim to their prey. Most notably, had been her mentor. In a moment of weakness, he had sympathized with his target who then took the opportunity to strike back.

I continued to watch her, beginning to realize that she hadn't been close with anyone since then. Maybe that's why she seemed more anxious than usual. Today would be my first day as a Hunter, and she didn't want to see me fail. She curled her fingers on the steering wheel of the silver mini cooper. "Noah, stop staring at me. It's a little unnerving."

"Sorry," I muttered and returned my gaze to the high school parking lot that we were surveying. "You know, you still haven't told me exactly what we are doing here." From what I could gather, our target was a human high school student. Why this person could possibly be a threat to vampires, I was a little unsure about.

Cassandra took a hand off the wheel to twirl a finger in her dark brown hair. Another strand had come loose from the messy bun that could hardly contain her long hair. "The target is a teenage boy, roughly eighteen years-"

"Oh good, someone our age," I grinned.

This time she rolled her eyes. "Hardly." Both of our pale white bodies appeared to be in their late teens, but I had been that age during the sixties, and Cassandra was only a few decades older than I; we were considered young my the majority of our community.

"So what did this kid do? Hunters are only supposed to target someone who is a definite threat to our society. This boy couldn't possibly-"

"He's a threat alright," she sighed and massaged her right temple, looking slightly pained as if she suddenly had a headache. "Unfortunately, I think he may be oblivious to the injury he's caused to our coven."

"Oh?" My attention drifted from the parking lot to Cassandra. This could be interesting. "What exactly did the boy do?"

She looked at me, her hazel eyes boring into my blue ones. "He's responsible for the deaths of three of our own." My mouth dropped open and she frowned. "Indirectly though. The team that went to pick up our monthly stock from the blood bank got greedy and, well, decided to share a sample of the product. Had there not been a fourth vampire there, we would never have known what the cause of those three's death was."

"A human boy?" I asked, incredulously.

"In a way. It was his blood they drank, blood that burned them from the inside and destroyed their bodies, so that in only a matter of moments they were nothing but ash. It was purely luck that right before the fourth vampire drank his share, the others began to wail in agony."

I involuntarily cringed, though I was somewhat awed. "His blood…it's a poison to us? How is that possible?"

Cassandra shrugged. "No one seems to be able to answer that question."

I graze a fang over my bottom lip, drawing blood. My tongue flicks over the cut before it heals. The school bell rings, bringing my attention back to the view outside my car window. "So, how did they find out this boy was the one whose blood they drank?"

Cassandra rolled her eyes. "The blood bags are labeled. Our contact at the clinic makes sure that everything delivered to the coven can be accounted for. You know, in case someone has a particular…flavor they like. We can keep track of it."

"That's mildly disturbing. It's a good thing the human population has virtually no idea we really exist. I'm sure that kind of information would be breaking several privacy laws."

She grinned slyly at me. "Oh, it is."

I raised an eyebrow, but dropped the subject. Getting into politics with her never seemed to end well for me. Instead, I returned our conversation to the job at hand. "Wouldn't it be easier to just tell the boy to never donate blood again? Do we really have to kill him?"

"That's not for us to decide. The coven leaders want justice. Besides, telling him would mean revealing our world, which is something we take very seriously. Here." She handed me an image of the boy, so that I too would be able to ID him.

The picture was clearly from a yearbook. There was a plain grey background that complimented the color of his eyes, which were a shade of blue similar to my own. His pale skin was also a familiar sight. The one physical difference between us, which I could ascertain from the photo, was his hair color. Though it fell in front of his eyes the way mine did, his hair was of a color that would be classified as 'dirty blond'. My own was dark brown, much darker than even Cassandra's, so that it often looked black in contrast. I pulled my eyes away from the picture, realizing that identifying similarities between myself and a target was probably not the best idea.

"Now remember," Cassandra's voice broke through my thoughts. "We are only to observe for now, and find out whether or not he has any other sort of abilities or if he is remotely aware of the power his blood holds."

"I highly doubt he does."

Cassandra pursed her lips. "I agree, but it still isn't our job to theorize. We just need to report back to the council our findings."

"So they haven't yet decided if we are to take him out?"

"There are those who are hesitant because they too believe this was just an accident that could be easily remedied. We should know by the end of the week."

"Hmm, so there's a chance we won't have to kill him."

"You chose the wrong line of work if you're worried about killing." Her voice was cold and sharp and she once again gripped the steering wheel with tense hands.

"It's not that," I shook my head. "I just think killing him may be unnecessary."

Cassandra cast her eyes away from the crowds of students that were now filling up the parking lot. "Noah, over-thinking things in our line of work is never a good thing. We follow the Hunter council's orders, and that's it. Okay?"

"Yeah, I know."

Neither one of us spoke for a while after that exchange. Instead, we focused on surveying the students to see if we could locate our target. I would be the one to find him first, but it wasn't his figure that caught my attention. It was his scent: an indescribable fragrance that almost overpowered me. I was sitting, but my knees felt weak and I took in a ragged breath, feeling the need to fill my useless lungs with air.

"What are you doing?" Cassandra hissed as I pushed the car door open and flung myself into the midst of the high school students. "Noah!" With the sun beating down on us, it took her longer than usual to be once more by my side. "What?" she glared at me.

I pointed a slender finger in the direction I was staring. The boy from the photo came into view, a book bag slung over his shoulder, and his eyes concentrating on the ground. He made his way towards a parked car with a woman, presumably his mother, sitting in the driver's seat. And for some reason I felt a pang in my chest, where my heart used to beat. "Do you smell that?"

"Smell what?" Cassandra glanced away from him, trying to see if there was anything unusual that she hadn't picked up on. "All I smell are humans. Why?"

So it was just me then. Why couldn't she pick up on this scent that was making my blood boil? And why did it have to be coming from our target? When I leapt from the car, I had no idea what I was going to find. Now I was starting to regret it.

"Come on, let's get back to the car and follow them."

"Oh right." Maybe if we got closer to him, I'd be able to understand what it was about his scent that had a pull on me.

The two of us got back in the mini cooper and buckled up. Cassandra backed out of the parking spot and got in line behind the car we planned to tail. As we slowly inched our way towards the school entrance, she turned to me with a quizzical look. "So you saw him from where we were?"

"Yeah," I shrugged, trying to look casual. "I guess my eyesight is just better than yours during the day."

"Hmph, maybe."

"Cassandra, you never told me what the boy's name is."

"It's written on the picture I gave you." She raised an eyebrow at me. "I guess I'm the one with the better eyesight now."

I rolled my eyes as I grabbed the photo from the dashboard, where I had left it. Sure enough under the image, in a small typed font, was his name: Seth Winters. "Seth, huh?"

"Noah?" I looked over at my mentor. Her eyes were on the road, as she had just pulled out onto the highway behind the car he was in. "It's best to refer to him as the target."

"Right, distance."

Cassandra parked almost directly in front of the Winters' house, which was located in a fairly safe-looking neighborhood. The two of us just sitting in the only car on the street would probably have been suspicious to passersby. We had planned to lay low until nightfall, merely watching his house; until about an hour after we arrived there, Seth appeared outside his home. I whipped my head in the direction of the front door before he had even walked out of the house. Cassandra noticed my movement and looked curiously at the spot I was watching. "How'd you know he was-"

"I didn't." I had no idea how to explain it to her, let alone myself. But it was there—like a string tugging at my chest pointing me in his direction. And that scent. I felt dizzy when he passed by our car, and I involuntarily slumped into my seat.

It wasn't until Seth was several yards down the sidewalk from us that I realized Cassandra had been trying to get my attention. "Noah!"

"Hn?"

"Quit spacing out. Now don't you think it would be a good idea to follow our target?"

"Yes, of course!" I should have known that my eagerness to get close to this mysterious boy was going to be my undoing. But I couldn't help myself—I was fascinated. I wanted to understand why this human whom I had never met had such a powerful, and sudden, hold on me.

"Why don't you pursue him by foot? I'm going to stay here and check in with the council." Cassandra pulled out her cell phone. "Maybe by now they've come up with a verdict."

I frowned. "But we haven't even reported back to them. We should at least observe him for a few days and make the decision based on our findings."

She sighed. "Noah, I agree with what you're saying, but it's not up to me. We obey our orders. And if I'm not mistaken, I just gave you one. So go catch up with the boy."

"Right." I nearly threw myself out of the car, and was about to sprint in the direction our target was headed.

But Cassandra gave me a few last words before I set off. "Remember, no contact whatsoever with the target. Do you understand?"

"Yes." And as I set out to stalk the boy, it honestly wasn't my intention to disobey that rule.

Seth led me to a park not far from his neighborhood. He sat down in one of the swings, seemingly oblivious to the young children frolicking around him. He just sat there, eyes glued to a notebook in his lap. Nothing would distract him from his writings. After a while, the park cleared of the excitable kids and their nervous parents, so that it was just Seth and I who inhabited the vicinity. I was sitting at a worn picnic table in the grassy area behind him. If Cassandra had been here, she would have scoffed at my being in plain sight. But I wasn't worried about my cover, besides he had his back to me. I originally tried to keep my distance from him, it just became unbearable. So I moved closer until the need to be near him lessened a little. I was transfixed by his mere presence, and I couldn't take my eyes off of him. The expression 'I'd like to sink my teeth into it,' came to mind. I inwardly chuckled at that thought.

An hour passed before he moved from the swing. He shut his notebook with a snap and stood up. I leaned forward and pressed my forearms against the picnic table, trying to anticipate where he was going to head next. But to my surprise, he did a one-eighty and began to walk in my direction. I dropped my gaze to the wood surface my hands were now gripping tensely. With each step he took towards me, the more light-headed I became. It got to the point where I felt as if I was drowning. I kept trying to calm myself with reminders that in a moment this would all lift, once he passed by me. That I would be able to breathe again, in a sense.

But I soon noticed that the feeling wasn't going away, and the string that seemed to be tied around my chest was being tugged at. Slowly, I inhaled, the air stabbing at my lungs as it entered my body. My eyes lifted from the table and rested on those of an actual eighteen year old. I exhaled in jagged breaths, feeling every inch of my body turn to ice—I had been caught. I'd failed my first assignment as a Hunter because I couldn't withstand the lure of this boy.

And just when the panic began to take me over, he spoke. "I had a feeling someone was following me on my way over here. I thought I was just being paranoid. But then I continued to sense eyes staring at me the entire time I've been here. And then something, like a magnetic force, pulled me towards you." He ran a hand through his hair, not breaking our eye contact for a second, and sat down opposite of me. "So I've got to ask: why are you watching me?"

I couldn't think of a reasonable explanation for him, so I said the only thing that came to mind: "You wouldn't believe it."

He continued to stare me down, completely unaffected by the aura that surrounds all vampires and generally makes humans wary of us. "Try me."

I opened my mouth slightly, unable to reply at first because I had been distracted by the unintentional double meaning in his words. When I was finally able to think another coherent thought, I again said the only thing that came to mind: "If I tell you, I'll have to kill you."

Seth snorted, breaking eye contact with me when he rolled his eyes. "You know, I've never found that joke to be particularly funny."

"Who said I was joking?"

"Oh, please." The tone in his voice suddenly shifted from serious to casual. As if I was just someone he knew, and talking with me was a normal occurrence.

My sense of self was slowly returning, like a fog that had been obscuring my vision was now lifting. Maybe it was our proximity that caused the drowning sensation to ebb, or maybe it was because the sun had begun to set. Either way, now I was able to process what had happened. I had two choices: leave now and let Cassandra finish out our mission alone, or come clean to Seth. "Okay, the truth?" I chose the latter, obviously. And I did so because I remembered he had mentioned feeling a pull from me. For some reason we were connected, and I had to figure out why.

"Yeah," Seth nodded, "the truth."

Instantly, sadness washed over me. The truth was that I'd probably have to kill him, and the thought pained me. But I couldn't bring myself to lie to him. "I just told you."

Seth pouted. "You just told me what? That you'd have to kill me?"

"Exactly," I looked away when I said it.

"I…don't understand."

I was going to have to tell him everything. Starting with me, and what I was. "Seth-"

"How do you know my name?" He sounded more curious than scared when he asked.

"What I'm about to tell you, you might not believe at first. But once the sun sets, I'll be able to prove it."

"Okay."

I folded my hands on the tabletop and sat up straight, looking business-like. "I'm a vampire."

Seth blinked at me for a moment, not saying a word. Then he began to frown. "I thought you were going to tell me the truth."

"I am," I deadpanned.

"You're a vampire…like the whole coffins and crosses deal?"

"Well…no. Common misconception. Personally, I blame Hollywood for that."

"You can't possibly be serious."

"I am, and like I said, I'll be able to prove it soon, so just listen. Okay?" He nodded. "Alright, so as I mentioned, I'm a vampire. Recently I joined the Hunters. They're a group governed by my coven's Council of Elders, and it is their job to basically keep the peace. Anyone who poses a threat to our society is taken out by the Hunters, regardless of if they're a human, demon, or even another vampire. In short, we kill those the council deems as our enemies. And you might be on that list."

The information didn't seem to faze him, but that was probably because he still didn't believe me. "So, let's say for arguments sake that I believe you. Why would I be on some list?"

"Your blood…killed three vampires."

Seth began to laugh, "Really? Is that so? When did this happen?"

He noticed I wasn't smiling, and slowly his chuckling ceased. "Have you ever donated blood?"

"Um," he swallowed and raised a hand to his hair, brushing it behind an ear. "Yeah, once. There was a blood drive at the school." His brow creased and he focused his eyes on mine, as if he were searching for answers in them. "You're not joking are you?"

I shook my head. "No."

The boy leaned away from me. "I…I want to believe you, but…how can I? This stuff just doesn't exist. It can't. And even if it did, how could my blood be toxic to vampires? Last I checked I was very human. I've never even heard stories where something like that happened."

"None of us have either. You are," I stare at him while trying to think of a word to describe him, not noticing that I moved forward on the bench to make the distance between us lessen. "A mystery," I finally say.

"I'm a mystery?" He grins slightly. "Says the guy telling me he's a vampire. And what if I don't want to be a mystery?"

"Well, there's nothing I can do about that last bit, but as for what I am…" My voice trailed off as my eyes focused on the setting sun. In only moments the dark of night would officially take over. I inhaled deeply, taking in air mingled with Seth's scent and the cold of evening. My world began to shift, as if suddenly everything was coming into focus. I flexed my fingers, feeling the unnatural strength of my kind returning to my limbs. A dog barked in the distance, but the sound caught my ears as if it had been right next to me. This feeling of power, heightened senses, and better reflexes, this was why day envied the night. And why other creatures had reason to fear us.

Seth gasped, sending chills down my already cold spine. "Your eyes! One second they were blue, but now…now they look dark red…like blood."

"Do you believe me now?"

He pursed his lips, reminding me of Cassandra for a moment, and stood up. After walking several feet from the table, he turned his back on me and folded his arms. "Just a trick of the light, right?"

"More like a trick of the dark." I felt him shiver as I placed my hands on his shoulders.

"I didn't hear you move," he whispered.

"Well I'm quick," I grin.

I release my grip on him and he takes several steps away from me. Neither of us speaks, and I just watch him, listening to the rhythmic thump of hi heartbeat. Seth crosses his arms against his chest, and his shoulders begin to shake. "This," a dry sob escapes his lips, "this is real."

Hesitantly, I take slow steps towards him, reaching out a hand to gently place on his forearm. "Seth, you don't have to be afraid of me." I shift him, so he's facing me once more. He's staring at the ground, his hair falling in his tear-brimmed eyes. "I'm not going to hurt you." As if I could. This beautiful, strange boy—I could never let any harm befall him.

"I'm not scared of you," he wipes at his eyes and lifts them to lock with mine, "but I'm going to die, aren't I?"

Oh. Of course. I'd momentarily forgotten the Hunters and the fact that he was now the hunted. "I'll protect you, I swear, I won't let them take you. And there's still a chance they will let you live."

"There is?"

"Yeah, so don't worry."

A small smile forms on his lips. "That might be difficult." He took a deep breath. "Why do you want to help me? Aren't you a part of that group?"

But before I could answer, my phone began to vibrate in my pocket. "Oh, sorry, I have to take this. Hello?"

"What's the status of our target?"

"He's on his way home now. I'll be back soon."

"Anything to report?"

"No, just normal activity. Has the council rule yet?"

"Not yet. They've decided to wait a few days and take our observations into consideration."

"Good. See you in a few." I let out a sigh, there was still time to convince the council to let him live.

"Who was that?"

"My partner. She's waiting outside your house. You should probably head back now."

Seth nodded, "Okay. Will I see you again?"

"Yes. If I can get away." Just the thought of being separated from him was torture, but it was one I'd have to withstand.

"Please, tell me your name before I go."

"Noah." I place a hand on the side of his face, and he moves one of his to rest on top of mine. "I will do whatever I can to keep you safe." Whatever I could, to keep that heart of his beating.

"Noah…thank you."

Sunlight, masking us once more as humans, found Cassandra and I in the parking lot of the high school. The very spot that started it all.

"So nothing suspicious occurred last night?"

I feigned innocent. "Nope. He just sat and wrote for a good while."

Cassandra tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and pushed the power button on the car radio. Soon the pulsing bass of a pop song filled the air around us. "Maybe we should get our hands on his notebook then."

"Yeah, maybe." I was wistfully staring out the window, thinking about how I could get close to Seth again, and didn't notice Cassandra's narrowed eyes at my disinterest. If this assignment had turned out differently, I'd probably agree whole heartedly with her and be eager to plot how to get his notebook. But as it was, my heart was no longer in that game.

A sudden thought occurred to me, and I knew I'd be able to use Cassandra's idea in my ploy to have time alone with our target. "You know what, you're right." I turned away from the window and sat up higher in my seat. "His journal would probably give us a good insight on his character. If I were him, I'd keep something that private at home. One of us should go investigate his room."

She seemed a little perkier at my enthusiasm. "Good idea, Noah. I was beginning to wonder if you'd completely forgotten how to think as a Hunter."

I raised an eyebrow. "What, don't tell me you already thought of that?"

"Of course I did. You're the trainee, remember? We aren't equal partners; I'm the one evaluating how you do on your first assignment."

"So…I basically call the shots?"

"Well you're supposed to, technically, so I can see if you're cut out for this. But don't get cocky; I'm the one in control. And if I were the one running this operation, we wouldn't be playing stake-out in a high school parking lot. So get your head in gear, and start thinking like a Hunter. Now, if you don't mind, I'll be taking the car."

"So I should stay here and keep an eye out for him then."

"Yup. And don't forget, you need to be keeping one step ahead. I can't continue to drop hints on what you should be suggesting."

I nod, "Right," and hop out of the car. Waving slightly, I watch her drive off towards Seth's place. This gives me a decent amount of time to myself, since Cassandra will be breaking and entering without the advantages of the night on her side.

Flipping my phone open, I check the clock and see that it's just about time for the high school's lunch break. Without thinking, I walk out of the parking lot, allowing my feet to take over, and somehow knowing they will lead me straight to him.

Sure enough, as the bell tolls, I catch a waft of a familiar fragrance. "Seth!" I call his name when I see him exiting a classroom with a pack of students.

His eyes light up and he smiles. "Hey, it's good to see you. I thought you might show up today." Seth walked towards me and jerked his head in the direction of a bench near the parking lot. "Can we talk?"

"Yeah. I imagine you have questions."

He let out a laugh, "Yes, I have questions." We took seats on the bench and he shifted so he was facing me. "I think what I'd like to know the most is the difference between the vampire myths and, well, actuality."

"Ah, yes, that's quite a broad topic. So I guess I'll start with the obvious: the sun doesn't cause us to inexplicably combust."

"But you're different in the sun, so that idea came from somewhere."

"True. Sunlight weakens us. We're basically human during the day. We still heal rapidly and," I open my mouth slightly wider and bring my pointer finger up against the edge of a fang, "we still have these. Other than that, we pass as human."

"And what of immortality?"

I snort, "'Haven't aged a day for over forty years."

Seth's smile turned almost sad. "Doesn't that get lonely? Or boring? Who wants to live forever?"

"Well, it's not exactly like I signed up for it. I'm not complaining, it's been interesting so far."

"So how do you die?" Seth put up a hand, "Not that I'm asking because I want to take you down or anything."

I chuckled. "Don't worry about offending me, and anyway you couldn't take me even during the day. You're kind of scrawny." His face flushed at my remark. "So how to kill us? Well, anything involving decapitation or destroying our un-beating hearts."

"No crosses, holy water?"

"Nope. A stake through the heart would do it, but it doesn't have to be a stake."

Seth bit his lip. "And you really drink blood?"

"Yes. Blood is life. My coven mostly survives on animal blood, with the occasional human blood we take from the blood bank. Of course, there are those among us who will kill if they think the human is a despicable character who is better off dead."

"So no taking blood of the innocent. Except for murdering your innocent enemies." I caught the bitter sarcasm in his voice, but thought it best not to say anything on the subject. "Have you ever killed anyone?"

That question took me by surprise. Truthfully, I had—but that was when I had first become a member of the undead and couldn't control the thirst. Once again, I decide to be honest. "Yes, I have. Does that scare you?"

He shook his head. "No. I mean, I already know you won't harm me, and who am I to judge your past?"

"You're odd, you know that?"

Seth smiles sheepishly, "So I've been told."

"Was there anything else you wanted to know about vampires, or me?"

"Well, I'd like to-"

My phone begins to vibrate. "Hold that thought. Hello?"

"Noah, I've looked through all the notebooks, and I haven't found anything to be concerned about. Seen anything to report on your end?"

"No, nothing."

Cassandra audibly sighs on the other end. "Okay, I'm going to head back to the school then. See you in a bit."

"Okay, bye."

"Who was that?"

"My partner, Cassandra. She was just searching your house."

"What, why?"

"Because we're investigating you. And it got her away for a while."

"Oh," he tugs on the ends of his sleeve, looking away from me.

"Did you have a question you were going to ask?"

He brings his eyes back to mine. "It can wait."

Cassandra and I were back at the Hunter's mansion. It was located roughly fifteen minutes from town, in a secluded forest area. We were currently walking through said forest. I had told her we needed to discuss something important about our assignment. She seemed to take my returning focus on the mission as a good sign. It bothered me slightly to disappoint her.

"So what is it you wanted to talk about?" Her long hair was down for once, falling over her shoulders and curling at the ends. She was smiling, something I usually never witnessed. This cheery mood of hers was making it more difficult for me to state my case.

I avoided eye contact when I started speaking, hoping that would be easier on me. "You have a powerful sway on the council, right?"

She nodded. "Yes, my mentor was a legendary Hunter. The association has given me more respect than I probably deserve."

I ran a hand through my dark locks. "So if you gave them your opinion about our current target, they most likely would vote your way?"

She frowned. "Well, theoretically you'd be right. There's such a thing as abusing one's power though. It's really up to them to decide his fate."

I sighed, in frustration. "But it shouldn't be! What do they know about him that we don't? We should be making the decisions! This whole system is flawed."

Cassandra stopped walking and gripped my arm to hold me back, as I hadn't noticed her movement. "Noah, where is this coming from?"

I shrugged off her hand. "He's innocent, Cassandra, what right do we have to toy with his life?"

She narrowed her eyes. "How about justice? Three of our best were taken, Noah. Quit over-sthinking ever thing and follow your orders. Don't forget, you were the one who signed on for this job."

"Maybe I'm not cut out for it then."

Cassandra turned her back on me. "Don't say that. Only days ago you were completely ready to take on that role. What happened to you, Noah?" She looked over her shoulder at me, her eyes brimming with tears.

"It's…it's Seth. He's what happened. Even before I saw him, I felt this…I can't even describe it accurately. But there's a definite connection between us, and when I was around him everything was just somehow better. His scent is also the most alluring aspect about him—it makes me feel lighter, and at first it was overwhelming, but now it makes me…it makes me want…to be there for him."

I had been so caught up in my thoughts of Seth that it didn't register that my words were increasingly upsetting Cassandra. She was facing me once more; the tears that at first refused to fall now wet her face. Before I knew what had happened, she drew back a hand and slapped me across the face with it. As the sun was still shining above us, the force behind her hit was minimal. But it did sting. "How dare you," she all but hissed at me. "You've betrayed the Hunters, and broken all the rules that I specifically told you. Don't get personally invested in the target, remember? Never make contact! Any of this ring a bell?"

I wrap my arms around me and stare at the ground. "I'm sorry."

"Sorry! That's all you can say?"

"He's my soul mate, I know it."

She sobbed, "How? How could you possibly know that? You've been alone with him only, what, twice? You don't even know him!"

My bright blue eyes find her stormy hazel orbs, and my hands clench into fists at my side. "I feel it! There's something about him-"

"Yeah, the way he smells to you," she said, bitterly, as she wiped the tears away. "That's all it is. If you didn't know his blood would kill you, you'd have taken his life the moment you caught his scent. He's not your soul mate, and even if he was, you wouldn't be able to turn him. You'll end up losing him, one way or another."

I shook my head, not wanting to hear her words, but knowing deep down that she was partially right. Even if I managed to keep him from the hands of the council, he would one day leave me—in death, or for someone he could actually be with. "I have to go."

"Off to rendezvous with your soul mate?"

I didn't even dignify her question with a response before fleeing the scene. All I wanted was to see Seth again, and I hoped he too was awaiting our meeting.

When Cassandra could no longer see me, she let her guard down and dropped to her knees at the forest's floor, tears once more streaking her face. "Why does everyone leave me?" She stayed in that position until after the sun set. Finally unable to cry more, she stood up. With eyes of red, mirroring the rage she now felt, Cassandra pulled out her cell phone. "Yes, I'd like to report some interesting findings about my current assignment…I believe the target, Seth Winters, has bewitched my partner, Noah…He's no longer in his right mind. Please inform the rest of the council that I'm suggesting the target be terminated."

The sun had set by the time I arrived at Seth's house. He was standing on the porch, waving goodbye to his parents as they drove off into the night. The boy had just turned to go back indoors when I appeared by his side. "Hey."

Seth jumped, startled at my voice. "Oh! It's you, Noah."

I grinned, revealing a pearly-white fang. "Didn't mean to scare you."

He shyly smiled. "That's okay. Did you want to come in, to talk? Um, do I have to invite you or something?"

"Nope, that's more folklore." I follow him into the dimly lit entranceway, glancing at the family photos on the wall. "You have a sister?" The family portrait had him sitting beside a tall blond who looked roughly his age.

"Mh-hm. She's a few years older than I am." We pass through the darkened living room and by a few closed doors before Seth shows me to his room. "Sorry it's a little messy." He flicks on a light and sits down on the edge of his bed.

I lean against the doorframe, trying to take in every aspect of his room. A twin bed, below a window, with a navy blue comforter is the first sight that greets my eyes. Bookshelves, overflowing with volumes, are on either side of the bed. The wall to my right has a plain wooden desk, covered in stacks of paper, with barely enough room for the laptop and printer. The wall to my left has another desk, but this one is displaying a complex looking stereo and speakers.

Seth notices where I'm looking. "Yeah, I listen to CDs, none of that mp3 stuff for me. I must be the only teenager at my high school that isn't constantly hooked into their iPod."

I step into the room, chuckling. "You're so retro."

"Oh I know."

Only now do I see the contents of the wall next to the door. "Oh wow." It's completely covered from floor to ceiling with posters, newspaper clippings, and printed pictures. "This is impressive."

Seth stands and moves to my side. "Just things I thought looked interesting, you know? And it's not like I collected them all over night."

"It looks nice though. Organized." I sit down in the chair at his work desk and he resumes his earlier position on his bed. "So, where'd your parents go?"

"Off to spend the weekend with my grandparents on my Dad's side. They do that every now and then."

"They don't mind leaving you on your own?"

He shrugs. "No, not really. They trust me to not burn down the house or whatever."

"Or throw some wild party and trash the place?"

Seth snorts, "That would be kind of out of character for me. I like having the house to myself. I can blare my music, and just write without interruption."

"You're okay with solitude?"

He shrugs. "Sure. I mean, I get out on occasion, but I just don't particularly care for the whole party scene." Seth catches my eyes, noticing I haven't looked away from him since I sat down. A blush slowly creeps onto his cheeks. "What?"

"Nothing, I just…you intrigue me." I can't help it that he draws me in, making it almost impossible to tear my eyes off of him.

He breaks our gaze to stare fixedly on his hands, trying to hide his flushed face behind his hair. "I intrigue you? You're the vampire, and completely awing in comparison to me."

"Oh, I don't think so. I'm not all that special." I move to sit next to him, placing a hand on his shoulder. He looks up at me from beneath his lashes. "You're the one with blood that inexplicably kills my kind."

His breath catches in his chest. "I keep forgetting that. And aren't you supposed to be my executor?"

My grip on his shoulder tightens, making him gasp. "Sorry!" I withdraw my hand and clench it on his comforter. "Just thinking about that pains me. I could never kill you. The thought of you dead by my hands sickens me."

He brushes his hair behind his ears and tilts his head to the side, looking at me curiously. "Why? Isn't it your job to kill whoever you're told to take out?"

"Well, it was supposed to be. But then you were my first assignment. And even if I had been doing this for centuries, I couldn't kill you."

Seth frowns slightly. "But why? What's so different about me?"

"Your scent…it's—how should I say it—enticing to me. I've never come across anything like it before. And when I saw you, I felt this connection. Like I somehow knew you."

"So," he swallowed, "if you didn't know my blood would kill you, would you have…would I not be here right now?"

I hesitate, not sure how to answer. Was it that knowledge that kept me from taking his life? No, it couldn't just be that. This pull I feel towards him, that is what tells me to protect him. "I think your scent only brought me to you. The repulsion I get at the idea of you dying has nothing to do with your toxic blood."

"Well, that's good to know." Seth took a deep breath, stood up, and walked a few feet away from me. "I feel it too," he whispered.

"You…?"

He crosses his arms and his shoulders hunch slightly, giving him a self-conscious aura. "The connection you mentioned, I've noticed it ever since you followed me to the park. When I think of you, I feel…something. I'm not sure what or why, but it's there."

He thinks about me? "I'm glad it's not just me." I lift my arm, extending a hand towards him. Seth drops an arm to his side and hesitantly places a hand in mine. I twine our fingers and gently pull him towards me. My free arm wraps around his waist, pressing him to me. I incline my head so that I have an ear against his chest. My eyelids flutter shut, hypnotized by his now racing heartbeat.

He slowly brings a hand to the back of my head, twisting fingers into my hair. His voice is soft when he speaks, "What about your…partner?"

I lift my head, so that I'm able to look into his eyes once more. "Who, Cassandra? She doesn't exactly approve-"

"Sure, I'd probably be upset if I were her. She probably doesn't like the thought of me coming between the two of you, especially since we only just met."

I stare at him quizzically, not quite understanding what he means. "Wait, you don't think I meant partner as in someone I'm with, like romantically, do you?"

"Um, aren't you?"

Laughing, I shake my head. "No, definitely not. She was my mentor during my training before I became a Hunter. Cassandra's my partner on assignment, we work together. I guess you could say we are close, but not like that."

"Oh. Well, that's good then."

I release his hand, wanting to touch his soft-looking brownish-blond hair. But before I moved my hand, my phone began to vibrate, interrupting my time with Seth once again. The caller ID tells me it's Cassandra on the other line. I sigh, remembering how we fought, and not wanting to pick up. I answer it though, against my better judgment. "Cassandra." I glance at Seth and get up, putting a little distance between us. He silently watches me, not moving a muscle.

"I thought you should know that they've reached a decision regarding your beloved Seth," her icy voice stings me with foreboding.

"And?" I can barely bring myself to ask, as I'm somewhat afraid of the answer.

"They've ruled to have him killed."

And in that instant, I felt my metaphorical heart break. "No. How could they?" I suddenly felt dizzy and sat down on the bed, unsure that my legs would be able to support me.

"They think he's dangerous," she said vaguely. "I'm sorry."

I took in a shaky breath. "No you're not. But it doesn't matter. I'll keep him safe. Somehow."

"And what, get yourself killed in the process? They will take you out to get to him; you won't be able to protect him."

"Then I'll die trying."

"Noah," she pleaded, "don't do this."

I closed my eyes. "I take it they won't be sending you to finish the job."

"No…I couldn't bring myself to kill you."

"I'm glad it won't be you."

"Noah, you still have time to change your mind."

I open my eyes and look over at Seth. "I've made up my mind already. I'm sorry."

"So am I," she whispered.

"Goodbye, Cassandra."

"…Goodbye, Noah." The line went dead after that.

"What's happened?"

"The verdict's in."

He turned away from me, his eyes filling with tears, knowing the answer but still asking, "And?"

"Your time is up."

Seth shut his eyes tightly, sending tears to streak the sides of his face. He wiped the wetness off with his sleeve and opened his eyes. "What now?"

"We can stay and fight, but they'll overpower us. Or we can run, but-"

"No matter where we go, they'll track us and kill us?"

I nod, "Yes."

"Or they could just kill me; if you don't fight for me you can still live." He rubbed at his eyes and turned back to me. "Don't throw your life away for me. What's the point? I'm doomed, but you don't have to be."

I take his hand and squeeze it lightly. "Now that I've met you, I can't live forever without you. Sure, it would be life, but it'd have no purpose. Knowing that I had lost you…how could I live with that? I'd rather die."

"We're both going to die then." He looked oddly calm saying it. But there's hardly a right way to act when you know you're about to be killed. In fact, I felt weirdly resigned to my fate and really, what was the point in fighting it or getting overtly upset? None of that would do us any good. "How much time do you think we have?" he asked, breaking me out of my thoughts.

"I don't know. They could show up at any moment."

Seth looked down at our twined fingers. "Noah…just because we are going to die doesn't mean we can't choose how to die." He caught my eyes in a burning gaze. "So if I have to go, I'd rather you be the one to take me out of this world."

My mouth dropped open, stunned. "No! I can't kill you! You know I don't want to live without you."

Seth smiled sadly, "I know. Then are you willing to die with me?"

"Haven't I said as much already?"

"Then let's die together. Would you have enough time to drain all my blood before it killed you?"

I gasped, "Oh!" He wanted to literally die together, and take our lives in our own hands before others did it for us. "Yes, I think so." At this point I was mostly hoping, but as I recalled, Cassandra mentioned that his blood didn't kill instantly. Seth was watching me earnestly, wanting my opinion on his idea, unsure if I would prefer it to the alternative. "Okay."

He closed his eyes, holding tears back. "Thank you."

"You hardly have to thank me."

"I know." Seth released my hand and scooted back on the bed. He let his head fall back against the pillows and took a deep breath. "I'm ready."

I lie down next to him. "Is anyone ever ready for death?"

"I feel pretty ready…well, almost."

"Almost?"

"I just have one favor."

"Anything."

He reached a hand out and traced his fingers over my features. "Kiss me. And then kill me."

A ghost of a smile formed on my lips. "As you wish." I slowly leaned forward, my eyes closing, and brushed my lips against his. It lasted for only a moment, as we both knew we had little time left.

Seth took a few deep breaths before shifting slightly, so as to give me better access to the veins in his neck. Butterflies began to beat their wings furiously in my stomach. I did the best I could to ignore my nerves though. I kissed the side of his neck, hesitated for a moment, and then bit down. He gasped as my fangs easily pierced his skin, and began to draw blood. The first taste was ecstasy, and I drank deeply. It was only when he began to shudder that I felt the effects of his blood in my system. Seth was weakening and growing cold, and in contrast my body began to burn. At first it started as warmth in my chest, but suddenly that warmth spread and as it did, the heat grew. It became like a fire under my skin, burning me from the inside. The pain was unlike anything I could have imagined; it was utter agony. All I wanted was to scream and claw the fiery sensation out of me.

But I didn't. I held onto Seth as he called my name one last time, "No…ah," and lost consciousness. And finally, his heart beat no more. I knew it wouldn't be long before I followed. Luckily for me, I too lost consciousness before my life was extinguished.

The Hunters arrived a half an hour later to find Seth's dead body, cold as ice, and covered in ashes.