Chapter 11: The House

In 1939, or around that time, humans were still the highest species on the food chain and I was pretty sure they had a war. A world war—the second—to be exact. I was a bit shaky on the details since the academy sort of skimmed over human history but I did know that a German man named Hitler had more or less done to Jewish people what the vampires had done to our dead.

Stick them in a large pile and burn them. I could only watch, mesmerized in a disgusted fashion, as Star and Patch emerged from the trees hoarding lumps of gore and flesh that could loosely be called bodies, over their shoulders. Patch threw the twisted, painful looking corpse onto the pile, which was already beginning to smell, and brushed his hands against his pants. I was grateful for the taller students around me. They hid me from his view.

Alexander slunk out of the trees with an orange jug complete with a nozzle in his hands. He started dousing the bodies with the liquid contained in the jug. Even from my position at the back of the group of dhampirs, which was considerably smaller than it had been earlier, I could smell the sharp scent of gasoline.

"Congratulations!" Patch bellowed to us, spreading his hands wide. "You all managed to survive, and Bob's going to be full for a while so we won't have to do this anytime soon. Not that it wasn't fun."

I didn't see who lit the match but I did see the resulting fire. It was colossal and high enough to singe the leaves of the trees that surrounded us. I felt a hand clamp over mine to the point of pain. Looking to my left, I saw Bunny's blond curls. Like the animal she was named after, she had a sort of fear of fire.

"Come on," I murmured once everyone started to walk back towards the camp in a quiet daze. "Let's head back."

She refused to move and tilted her head up to reveal two wide, wet eyes. When she spoke, her voice was barely more than a whisper. "Why are they doing that?"

I hesitated, then gave her the only reasonable explanation I could think of.

"Mass grave," I replied, thinking of Hitler once again. "I guess they don't want the smell to attract animals and it's quicker to burn then to bury."

I could tell by the look in her eyes that she didn't understand. If it had been up to her, each body would have had its own funeral, complete with a laurel of flowers around their head and kind words. If it had been up to her, no one would be dying in the first place.

I prodded her towards the camp once again but she didn't want to budge, her eyes still trained on the blazing bodies. I looked around at Xavier, who was quietly standing at my side, also staring at the fire. I didn't want to look at it. I didn't want to see the sizzling skin that I could hear. I didn't want to smell the burning flesh, or feel the radiating heat. Dropping Bunny's hand, I very nearly fled the clearing and didn't slow down until the trees were behind me and I was back at the camp. Inhaling gulps of clean, fresh air, I heard footsteps behind me and knew that Bunny and Xavier had followed.

Bunny mumbled something about a shower and left. Xavier walked up to me and positioned himself directly in my line of sight. I couldn't look at him without being reminded of Julianne. It irritated me that the thought of her with him irritated me. I diverted my eyes but could only see Bob, screaming faces, and burning bodies. There was no escape from the images. Not even when I closed my eyes. I could almost feel Xavier hesitate to step closer. His uncertainty was palpable. When he neared yet again my eyes flashed open and he promptly dropped his arms, which he was about to wrap around me.

"Are you alright?" He asked softly. I wondered if he meant physically or mentally. Physically, I was bruised and battered but his blood, although unwillingly given, had helped. It had healed my ribs, in the very least. Mentally, I felt...I didn't know how I felt. It was as if I was in a dream. One of those dreams where you know you're dreaming, but you also knew that it wasn't real.

"I'm fine!" I snapped, channeling my confusion into an emotion that I knew so well. "Go check on your girlfriend. Find out if she's dead or not."

With that, I brushed past him, shoved my hands in my pocket, and marched over to my cabin. Our cabin. Bunny's idea of a shower seemed pretty good.

Problem was, the boys had gotten there before me and had called dibs on the shower. So I had to wait. I was fine with waiting. Finer with it because, as I lay on my mattress and stared up into nothing, no one talked. Jacob and Damen, who were generally bickering about something or other, were positioned similarly to me. On their back, with their ankles crossed while they stared up at a ceiling that they weren't really looking at. It made me wonder if they'd lost someone they cared about. I didn't care about many people. That made it easier, I supposed, but because I had so few friends, losing the ones I did have would tear me apart.

I heard Taylor finish in the shower. I heard Xavier walk into the cabin and saw him, out of the corner of my eye, pause beside my bed. Our bunk bed. I didn't look at him and, after a while, he sighed and sat down. It wasn't any easier though, because I could still feel him there, below me, like a nagging presence. Taylor exited the bathroom fully clothed and smelling of the brittle soap we were supplied with. I sat up, prepared to take my turn, and saw that there was blood on my pillow. From the bite wound on my neck. I flipped it over so that I wouldn't have to see what soaked the grounds of the forest, slid to the floor, and locked myself in the bathroom.

It was under the spray of semi-warm water that I discovered the full extent of my injured. Xavier blood hadn't completely healed me, just relieved the pain and lessened the intensity of my wounds. My ribcage was bruised, battered, raw, and most likely still fractured somewhere. My skin was black and blue, and the water stung the sensitive skin on my throat.

But I didn't complain, not even mentally because I knew that any single one of those burned bodies would have taken fractured bones and bruises to still be alive.

I skipped dinner. I was hungry, but I skipped it anyways, not wanting to see the haunted faces of my fellow dhampirs when they realized that some of the people they'd eaten lunch with weren't there anymore. Damen and Jacob left to the dining hall first, then Taylor. It shouldn't have surprised me that Xavier stuck around, still lying down on his bed underneath mine.

"Go to dinner, Xavier."

The bed creaked as he stood up and, this time, I swivelled my head over and looked at him. His eyes were wide and dark. Doe-eyed. I wondered if Julianne also admired them.

"I don't understand why you're mad," he said softly. "At me, anyways."

I jumped off the bed and landed so close to him that our chests brushed against each others. He didn't move back, like I thought he would have. So I did, but then I found myself being pressed against the bunk bed with nowhere to look but at him.

"I'm not mad at you."

He sent me a doubtful look, then stepped closer. I made a small sound of protect in the back of my throat. A sound that he ignored. "Is it..."

He blushed to the very roots of his flaming hair and took a few seconds to work up the resolve to say what he was thinking. "Is it because of Julianne?"

Was I really that obvious? Shaking my head, I tried to side-step past him but he just mirrored my actions and prevented me from leaving.

"Why would you think I cared about what you did with her?" I snarled, injecting some harshness into my voice. He looked down. His hair fell into his eyes and my fingers itched to reach up and push it back. To see if it was really as soft as it looked.

"I just thought that...maybe—,"

"I what?" I demanded. "Spit it out."

His eyes hardened. They were the only sign on his otherwise relaxed face that I had gotten to him.

"Nothing," he hissed. Without another word, he spun away and stormed out of the cabin. Frowning, I jumped back onto my bed, sank under the blankets, and closed my eyes.

When I thrust my hand underneath the pillow, I felt the crustiness of dried blood.

I was able to avoid breakfast the next morning as well, and, since the vampires hadn't sprung any insane and deadly "game" on us, I was content to remain in bed until lunch rolled around. By then, my stomach was complaining so forcefully that I was nearly curled up in pain.

Xavier had come back from dinner last night. We hadn't talked. I didn't care. Really. I didn't.

When I got to the dining hall later than everyone else, I grabbed my food and took a seat as far away from Xavier as I could. It was quiet, save for the sound of chewing and cutlery scraping against bowls. I dared to raise my head and look around.

Blank. Everyone looked blank, aside from the vampires, of course. My eyes darted over to Patch who, thankfully, wasn't looking at me. Because he was looking at Xavier, who was looking at me. I frowned under his scrutiny, scarfed down my bowl of brown mush, and didn't finish it. As per usual. I passed it over to Taylor, who still called me Blue. Also as per usual. Then I left, but not before searching for Bunny and feeling content when she was curled up against Sin's side. Sin, who somehow, hadn't died. I watched the rest of her table, spotted a girl with ridiculously large breasts that was either named Tammy or Sammy, and three other boys. I recognized their faces but couldn't put names to them. I wondered which of them had been picking on Bunny. Would I have to beat someone up before this was over?

Rolling my eyes at the prospect, I left the cafeteria and retreated to my usual spot near the woods. Only problem was that someone was already there. Not Jer, thankfully, since seeing him would undoubtedly drive me insane, but Zeke. Almost, but not quite, as unbearable. I knew that many girls, like with Jer, found him to be attractive. Even Bunny. I looked at him and just saw dark, wavy hair and wide, grey eyes. Nice looking enough, I supposed, but I just couldn't associate someone that I disliked with someone that I would, potentially, drool over.

Zeke was seated on the ground with his back against a tree and his elbow propped up on his knee. I stepped back, prepared to leave, but he tilted his head to the side and swept his eyes over me.

"Indigo Jones," he acknowledged in a voice that implied we hadn't seen each other in years. I crossed my arms over my chest and stepped back again.

"I'll just leave you to your—,"

He patted the grass beside him. The moonlight turned his skin silver. "Sit."

"No, thanks."

He looked away from me and up at the moon. "He's dead."

I asked him "who", when a more appropriate question might have been "who isn't?"


His voice broke a bit on the last syllable. I pretended not to notice. A mean thought flitted through my head. The thought was that I'd never really liked Kevin anyways. In fact, I'd probably fantasized about strangling him. Multiple times in fact, so I'd always assumed that his death would leave me filled with a sense of satisfaction. It didn't.

"I'm sorry." What else was I supposed to say? That I was sorry for his death but secretly glad that it wasn't me?

His big, grey eyes regarded me skeptically. "Liar. I know you don't like us."

"I wonder why?" I snapped. "For someone whose best friend just died, you don't seem that upset."

He flinched. I knew that my words had been hurtful. That had been the point but, when he turned his face away, I felt unreasonably guilty. I'd never seen Zeke, stuck-up, confident to the point of arrogant Zeke, wipe a stray tear off his face. Letting out a long breath, I steeled myself and prepared to apologize. Again.

"I'm sorry."

He cleared his throat and faced me again. There was a forced smile on his face, but he patted the grass beside him again. After a small mental debate I sat down quietly beside him and basked in the glory of the full moon. Zeke cleared his throat. I looked over at him. At his falsely naïve looking eyes. Eyes that were shining with unshed tears. It was too intimate. I wanted to move away and started to do just that, but Zeke slid his hand behind my neck and shook his head.

"Don't move," he ordered softly, wrapping his other arm around my waist so that he was essentially embracing me. Me, the girl who didn't like to be touched or held was letting someone that I didn't even particularly like closer to me than anyone had been since I was fifteen. Zeke paused, testing my resistance, and gently slid me over until I was sitting atop his lap. He buried his nose in my hair and plastered me to his chest. I didn't know what to do so I opted for nothing and remained tense while he found some form of comfort out of my body. It was strange, but his touch didn't make me want to run the way Xavier's did. Maybe that was the trick. Maybe only people I disliked could hold me the way Zeke was. Because Zeke's embrace was nothing more and nothing less than what it appeared to be on the surface. It was just a hug and, when it was done, we would both walk away without a glance back. There would be no confusion. No hurt feelings. No bouncy brunettes with wide blue eyes and pouty lips.

I noticed that Zeke was moving. Shuffling my hair aside, to be precise. I didn't understand why at first, but then I felt his bare lips against my neck and understood that my hair had been in the way of my throat. I shook my head as I felt his fangs graze over my pulse but he completely ignored me, and bit me.

Patch had bitten me the other day. It was a painful experience that I wasn't in a hurry to repeat it. Zeke's bite was different. The only word I could use to describe it was ecstasy. Pure, undiluted lust. Heat slammed through me, starting in my neck and extending to the tips of my toes and fingers. My hands found Zeke's hair. I grabbed fistfuls of it and pressed him closer, urging him to deepen his bite. To drink more. I heard a few twigs snap but I ignored it. I didn't care enough to bother breaking away and checking to see what, or who, was there.

Zeke pulled away, leaving me dizzy and wanting. He grabbed my face and kissed me. Hard. It was a kiss of desperation and lust. Just that. There were no emotional ties between us. That made it easier. Less complicated.

"Let her go!"

Zeke and I both jumped, our lips flying apart. We both looked over my shoulder and there, shrouded in the shadows, was Xavier Childs. A very angry Xavier Childs, although I couldn't really explain his anger. Maybe he had thought that Zeke was kissing me against my will.

"Xavier, it's fine," I assured him. My voice sounded sleepy. Dreamy. I tasted my blood on my lips. Xavier ignored me completely. He only had eyes for Zeke, who was trailing his fingers up and down my back.

"I said let her go!"

"Relax, man," Zeke said smoothly. "We're just having fun."

Xavier was in front of us so quickly that I flinched into Zeke's side. Xavier bent down, grabbed my arm, and yanked me to my feet so forcefully that I felt my shoulder momentarily dislocate itself. Xavier practically threw me behind him and bared his fangs at Zeke, who had risen to his feet.

"Have fun with someone else," Xavier growled, backing away and forcing me to do so with him. Zeke looked over him, at me, and raised his eyebrow before returning his gaze to Xavier.

"Now, that's not really your decision, is it?" He asked softly. Dangerously. "Maybe Indigo wants to stay. With me."

"She doesn't."

To justify his response, Xavier whirled around and stared me down. "Right?"

He looked so determined and furious that I was almost wary to say no. In fact, I probably would have just admitted defeat and let him drag me away from Zeke if a girly, high voice hadn't called out his name. He looked past me, at Julianne, who was waving, smiling, and jogging towards us. Towards him. When she reached Xavier, she wrapped an arm around her waist and smiled up at him adoringly. The private conversation they'd had a few days ago suddenly made sense, and I knew without asking that what they'd discussed.

I stepped back. There wasn't enough room for Julianne, Xavier, and I in that small clearing. Hell, there wasn't enough room for all three of us in the world.

"What's going on?' Julianne purred, burrowing herself against Xavier's. I took another step back. Away from them and closer to Zeke. Julianne seemed to notice my presence for the first time, and trained her bright, scornful eyes on me. She looked at me the way I imagined a vegetarian would look at a hunk of bloody meat. With utter disgust. Then she smirked, pulled Xavier's chin down, and kissed him. She just...kissed him. And he kissed her, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. He kissed her, and, unlike with Zeke and I, that kiss meant something.

I suddenly couldn't breathe. Turning around so that I wouldn't have to see them anymore, I marched over to Zeke, grabbed his hand, and pulled him away from Xavier and his girlfriend. I didn't stop walking until I could no longer hear their voices and, even then, I walked further still. Only when I was completely certain that I was alone did I stop. Turning to Zeke, I pushed him against the nearest tree harder that I should have and yanked his head back by his hair. Again, harder than I should have.

This time, I bit him.

I had to sneak back into my cabin later, to clean up before dinner. I didn't want anyone seeing me. My neck was bloody, my lips were bloody and Zeke, who would probably proudly flash the evidence of what we'd been doing, was also bloody. I wanted it to remain a secret. Not that Zeke was known for keeping secrets. The entire school had known about every girl that he'd kissed since grade six.

When I got to dinner, I was tired from blood loss, annoyed at the world in general, and craving a steak, mashed potatoes, and corn. I got none of those foods. In fact, no one was even sitting at the tables when I arrived. They were all crowded around something in the far corner. I had no idea what it was so I made my way over there and elbowed people aside until I could see what the hell they were all looking at. It was a list. Then I remembered what Patch had said:

...Everyone will be awarded a certain amount of points by their group member for each test they do. At the end of the week, the top ten dhampirs with the highest amount of points will be treated to a sort of weekend getaway. They'll get to live in a large house, eat good food, and automatically begin the new week with the highest point score. That may not seem like much now but, trust me, after a few weeks of living in a dingy cabin eating nothing but stale bread...

This was it. The list of ten dhampirs who got the honour of living in that wonderful, large house that bordered the forest for the weekend. I'd only passed by it a couple times but I could tell that it easily doubled the house that the vampires lived in, in terms of size. My eyes eagerly took in the list.

If your name is on this list, make your way to the house by the east woods. Don't eat dinner.

Xavier Childs

Damen Roth

Ania Livingston

Jerome Hastings

Zeke Gladstone

Tracy Lii

Dimitri Valovski

Indigo Jones

Julianne Price

Taylor Stone

I saw Xavier's name. And Julianne's. And Zeke's, as well as Jer's. Suddenly, the prospect of spending a weekend in one house didn't seem that exciting. Even if we did get normal food. Still, I wasn't one to turn down free gifts so I turned on my heel, prepared to walk to the house, and bumped into Taylor.

"Sweet," he enthused. "We get actual food!"

Of course, to the teenage boy, actual food made their world. I couldn't judge him too much, though. The food thing had been one of my first thoughts as well. I still rolled my eyes though, and didn't show how grateful I was that he was there, so that I would have someone to walk with. Someone to arrive with.

That thought made me frown as Taylor and I ventured to the house. Since when did I need people around me to feel secure? Sighing at how I'd grown soft, I fell silent and half-heartedly listened to Taylor's rambling. I sensed the others behind us, but I ignored them. Mainly because, somewhere back there, Xavier was walking with Julianne and Zeke was talking to Jer.

When we reached the house, I decided that house wasn't a very good word for it. Mansion seemed better. The steps leading up to the door were white marble, and columns made of the same stone were connected from the porch to the overhand above the wooden door, which had a large, stained glass mirror on it. Taylor and I were second in, behind an Asian girl named Tracy and a Russian boy named Dimitri. The inside of the house just...stunned me. I'd never seen something to large. Or beautiful. The floors were shinning, beige tile with lines of gold running through them. A wide, winding staircase lead to a second level where I could see more marble columns going from the floor to the ceiling.

We all ventured down the hall and found ourselves in a positively ginormous dining room. There was a crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling, a silk, red carpet adorning the floor, and a table large enough to seat thirty or more people. Better yet, the table was loaded with food. I think I even saw steak. And what I thought was French onion soup, which I'd only had once before, and had hated. Bunny had loved it though. She would have loved this entire house. Maybe I could work with her. Train her a bit so that, by next week, her name made it onto the list.

I immediately disregarded the thought. Bunny didn't like to train.

Taylor, who had started salivating, sat down on one of the shiny, mahogany chairs and started pilling food on the plate in front of him. He seemed to become aware that everyone else was just staring at him as he raised a forkful of chicken to his mouth.

"What?" He demanded. "This food is here for a reason. I'm not going to sit around and stare at it."

After that, everyone sat down, and chaos ensued until we'd all filled our plates to their maximum and were happily stuffing our faces. I got my steak. And my corn and potatoes. I also got Zeke's hand on my knee because he'd so fortunately decided to sit beside me. I'd planned on ignoring him but that was hard to do when he was tickling my thigh. So I shot him a glare and brushed his hand away. "Quit it."

He pouted, then leaned across me to reach a plat of chicken wings. His lips brushed against my ear as he did so, and I rolled my eyes. Geez. Did I really have to explain to him that what had happened earlier had been a one time thing? I'd figured he would have arrived at the same conclusion, and no awkward conversation would be necessary.

"Zeke, stop," I objected quietly. Everyone was too captured in the throes of a food-induced ecstasy to pay much attention to Zeke and I. Aside from Xavier. He was watching me. Watching Zeke and I, with dark, wide eyes. They looked almost pleading. I didn't know what he was trying to tell me. He looked like he was about to speak but Julianne, who had been sitting beside him and conversing with Tracy, suddenly realized that he wasn't focusing one-hundred percent of his attention on her. Of course, that couldn't be allowed so she cuddled up against his side and whispered something into his ear that made him blush.

I averted my eyes and refocused on Zeke.

"Why?" He challenged. "I thought this was fine now."

I moved his hand, which had crept back onto my thigh. "Well, it's not. What happened earlier was just a one-time thing, so get over it and find some other warm bloodied female to play around with."

He jutted out his lower lip and mock frowned. I could tell that he wasn't taking me seriously. Did he really think that he was that irresistible? Shaking my head, I glanced past him at Jer, expecting a witty quip when he raised his eyes and met mine. I got none. Instead, he dropped his gaze and returned to prodding at his food. Prodding at it. Jer, who'd once inhaled twenty-three hot dogs with room for dessert, wasn't hungry.

I remembered then, that Kevin and Jer had been friends for nearly twice as long as Zeke and Kevin had. Zeke hadn't really joined Jer's group of cronies until he turned fifteen and grew into his body. Strange, wasn't it, that even those you disliked still loved others the same way. I'd kind of assumed that Jer, rude, egotistical Jer, didn't really posses the ability to love or be loved.

That wasn't true. Everyone loved. We just couldn't help it. I loved Bunny, didn't I? Against my better judgement, I'd come to care for Xavier as well. I may not have liked him at that moment, when Julianne's arm was wrapped around his waist and he did nothing to move her away, but I still cared for him, albeit unwillingly.

Zeke, sensing my mood, left me alone to eat the rest of my dinner in a contemplative silence. Afterwards, we all sort of...scattered, really. It was during this scattering that I discovered the rooms at the top of the winding, mahogany staircase. There was a single, wide hallway with dim lights and artful paintings on the wall. Circular, ridged columns were placed around in a pleasing fashion.

The rooms were labelled. Mine was near the end of the hallway, in-between Damen's and Ania's. Ania was nice. Quiet, but dedicated and a quick learner. In grade ten we'd been paired together in health class for CPR. I still had no idea how to do it but she probably did.

Curiously, I pushed open the door to my room—and paused. It was blue. Not a soft, calming blue but a BAM! look at me type of blue. Not that the room was ugly, what with its dark hardwood floor, it's king sized bed covered with an azure bed sheet cover, and the large, circular window with a small bench underneath it. If one were to take away the bright, indigo walls—ha, indigo—it would probably be a very lovely room. I just couldn't get past the blue. Whoever had chosen the room had clearly had a sense of humour, what with my name and all.

I explored my room a bit further. I passed my hand over the soft bed cover. I touched the walls. I pressed my nose into the pillows. They were softer than any I'd ever slept on. Then I found the bathroom. And it was heaven. The washroom alone was larger than my room at Freightway had been, and it had a claw-footed tub as well as a large, luxurious shower with tiled floors and glass doors. There was a large cabinet underneath the wide, porcelain sink, and when I opened it I found various bottles of different scented bubbles for a bath, soaps, shampoos, and conditioners.

Then I found the towels. Fluffy, soft towels. And a floor length bathrobe. On principal, I wasn't a girly person but I was suddenly overcome with the urge to pamper myself. I deserved it, didn't I?

Filling the bath, I decided on unscented bubbles because perfume wasn't really my thing, and undressed. When it was full, I stepped in, wincing slightly at the too-hot temperature, and sighed as I sank in.

` I couldn't remember the last time I'd taken a bath. In fact, I don't think I'd ever taken a bath. At Freightway, we'd only had shower stalls with no tub. I'd always wondered about taking baths though. If they were as relaxing as they appeared to be in books and movies.

They were. I sank lower in the water, until it touched my chin, and blew a few bright pink bubbles out of the way. I stayed in until the water turned cold and my fingers turned to prunes, then I wrapped myself in the thick bathrobe and passed a brush through my hair. When I finally stepped back into my room, it was light outside, which meant bedtime for me. I drew down the long, light-blocking curtain, then searched through the dark, wooden dresser—which was fully equipped with clothing of various styles and sizes—until I came across an oversized t-shirt and cotton shorts. I slipped those on, slid under the thick cover on my bed, and fell asleep with the faint gnawing of hunger in my stomach. I hoped that Patch would let us hunt again. This time, if he did, I wouldn't be able to let the human live. It was too much trouble.

The following evening, as I was lazily savoring eggs benedict, a mushroom and pepper omelet, and thick, buttery toast, Julianne plopped down in front of me, effectively ruining my appetite. I'd woken up earlier than anyone else, for whatever reason, so the food hadn't been on the table yet but, after some more exploring, I'd found a kitchen complete with workers who had, at my persistence, made me food before the others.

I was determined to ignore Julianne but, when someone is giving you the death glare while you're just trying to eat your eggs, it's hard to pretend they aren't there. Setting down my fork, I took a sip of my milk and regarded her over the rim of my cup. She waspretty. I had to admit that. Pretty in a sort of foreign way, what with her widely curly hair, her golden skin, and smoky, blue eyes.

"Is there something you'd like to say?" I asked abruptly. The brunette shrugged and picked at her nails.

"Nothing, really. I just wanted to tell you to stay away from Xavier because, you know, he isn't interested."

"Neither am I. Now that that's all cleared up, feel free to go and ruin someone else's meal."

Her eyes danced gleefully. "Jealous much?"

I glanced down at my fork and contemplated stabbing her with it. Or throwing my plate at her face. Or pouring my milk over her stupid head. Were we really having this damn conversation? Was she really that insecure? "Obviously, you're the only one jealous here if you're dating him andstill worried that he wants me more than you."

A slow clapping ensued from the doorway of the dining room. Julianne and I both looked over simultaneously and there, with a sly grin on his face, stood Zeke in all his bed-ridden glory. Jer, who appeared to be wondering why he wasn't still asleep, was at his side.

"And the score is: Julianne, zero, Indigo, one," Zeke proclaimed, walking over to the back of my chair. "Why don't you get lost and play with your hair or something?"

Julianne's face flushed pink, partly from anger and partly from embarrassment. Wordlessly, she stood up so quickly that he chair toppled over and, without bothering to pick it up, stormed out of the room. I wanted to return my attention to my breakfast but Zeke draped his arms over my shoulders and, as if we were a couple, kissed the side of my neck. I growled at him and probably would have said something impolite if the kitchen staff hadn't chosen that moment to walk in with trays loaded with food. Zeke happily sat down beside me, his eyes now focused on the waffles instead of me, and Jer sat on his other side. Jer, who still looked unhappy.

Not even five minutes later the rest of the dhampirs, awoken by the scent of food, drifted into the dining room. Ania sat beside me and offered me a tentative smile. Tentative, because I wasn't known for my friendliness.

I smiled tentatively back. Tentatively, because I was more used to smirking and genuine smiles felt awkward as they spread across my mouth.

She smelt like bubble gum. That led me to believe that she, too, had taken advantage of the bath and its many scented bubbles and oils. We ate in silence, but a comfortable one. Dimitri and Tracy held hands under the table. At least, I hoped they were only holding hands because whatever else they may have been doing with their hands under the table would have surely spoiled my appetite more than Julianne already had.

Xavier walked in as I was leaving. We both stopped, we both looked at the other. I made the first move by brushing past him when it appeared that he was just going to stand there. He caught my wrist as I passed him and, as per usual, I jerked myself out of his grip because his hand seemed to leave a burning imprint against my skin that I still felt even when he wasn't touching me.

"What do you want?" I asked calmly, in the type of voice I reserved for those who meant absolutely nothing to me.

He hesitated, then bit his lip. A nervous habit, I guessed. An adorable habit. Shaking my head ever so slightly, I forced myself to look away from his lips and cleared my throat.


"Do you think we could go somewhere? And talk?"

I crossed my arms over my chest. I reminded myself that I really had no right to be mad at him because it wasn't liked he'd signed a contract stating that he wouldn't date anyone. Ever. But I was. And it confused me. Why should I have cared that he was dating Julianne? "If memory serves me correctly, Xavier, we tried talking already and it didn't go so well."

"We'll try again."

I agreed to go for a walk with him, but only because we were awkwardly standing in plain view of the other dhampirs, since the doorway had no actual door. We stepped out through the back door, and walked through the trees. We didn't go far out, though. Patch's words about the creatures they'd created by mixing the DNA of different animals kept us close to the camp. Neither of us spoke for a while, until I raised my hand to tuck a strand of hair behind my ear and he noticed the ring I wore on my middle finger. The ring my father had given me. The poisonous one that I had yet to use. I usually kept it under my pillow but, that morning, something had prompted me to wear it.

"I didn't know you wore jewellery."

I squinted up at the trees, trying to decipher the moon behind all the branches and leaves. I could see it, but barely. "I don't usually."

He nodded. We walked for a bit longer, but came across a fallen tree that provided as a convenient bench. He sat it on. So did I, but at a distance from him.

"I don't understand why you're mad at me," he finally said. I did what all people with dignity would do in a similar situation. I lied.

"I'm not."

He scowled at me and started peeling bark off the tree trunk. "This talking thing isn't going to work if you aren't being honest."

"What reason could I possibly have for being mad at you?"

I winced a bit at the level of sarcasm in my voice. Xavier, apparently, heard it as well because he raised an eyebrow. And shifted closer to me.


I almost growled, but caught myself before I did. "I don't like her. That's not a secret."

His eyes narrowed. "I don't like Zeke."

"I'm not dating Zeke!" I snapped, crossing my arms over my chest.

"I'm not dating Julianne. She's just kind of...there."

"Oh, really?" I growled, leaning closer to him in my anger. "Are you sure she knows that?"

His chin jutted out stubbornly. "Just like how Zeke knows that you two aren't dating?"

I shot up from the fallen tree and jabbed a finger at his face. "Don't turn this on me, Xavier Childs."

Spinning around, I stormed back towards the house. I heard him come after me and, when he grabbed my shoulder and whirled me around to face him, I prepared myself to yell at him or hit him or a mixture of the two.

Then he fisted his hands in the color of my shirt, slammed me against the nearest tree, and kissed me. Hard, and unexpectedly. All rational thought flew out of my ears and hovered somewhere above my head while his lips forced a response out of mine. My hands flew up of their own accord and twined themselves in his hair. He groaned low in his throat and, using his body, pressed me harder against the tree. I could feel every inch of him on me, but it wasn't nearly enough. I wanted all of him.

That was when I reached up, figuratively, and reclaimed my rationality. My hands tightened in his hair. He groaned again, probably thinking that I was doing it out of passion. I yanked his head back, hard, and pushed him away. While he was attempting to regain his footing, I turned on my heel, and ran.

"Indigo, wait!" He shouted after me. I could hear him chasing after me. But I was faster and darted into the house before he could catch up to me. I flitted up the stairs, ignoring the looks of the other dhampirs as I shoved past them, and bombarded into my room just before Xavier could grab me. My door had a lock on it, so he would either have to give up or break the door down. I wasn't entirely convinced that he was beyond breaking and entering though so, while he pounded on my door and pleaded, then commanded, me to open it, I slid open the large window and jumped out.

Then I went to find Bunny.