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The wind stirred the leaves, and the animal turned, catching the scent of something unfamiliar. The night was dark, dark as pitch, yet the person waiting saw everything as clearly as if it were broad daylight. As the animal got scared, several things happened. The leaves crunched as someone approached. The person waiting pounced. And the animal turned and fled.
Sarah growled as the deer turned and fled out of sight. She turned towards the sound of a snapping twig, ready to teach whoever was there a lesson, human or vampire. Or even – no, there was no way a vampire hunter was in these woods. There was no point in even entertaining the idea, it was so impossible.
“Come on, Reem,” a boy laughed, “I thought you said you weren’t afraid of the woods.’
“I’m not, String.” the boy named Reem called, “But something wrong with the woods today. They’re too quiet. The animals are only like that when there’s a predator somewhere, and a big predator. If something that big is out there, we shouldn’t be here.”
Damn right you shouldn’t be here, Sarah thought. These are my woods, not some sniffle-toed teenage brats’. Now, what should I do with you? Wait, what did you just say?
“Reem, you don’t seriously believe all that crap, do you?” String asked with a smirk, “’Cause if you do, you’re a bigger scaredy-cat than I thought. You know the kids in high school just make up that stuff to keep us out of the woods, so we don’t catch them doing drugs or stuff.”
Sarah chose just that moment to stand, making no noise. Even if someone knew she was there, they wouldn’t have been able to know she’d moved.
“Wait, what was that?” Reem asked, whipping his head around and looking right at where Sarah had just been.
What the hell? Sarah thought, there is no way you could have heard me. But still, let’s give these little brats the scare of their lives. This should be fun.
As the two boys stared where Reem had thought he’d heard something, Sarah crept behind them and shrieked right in their ears. The boys turned and saw Sarah, with her hair wild, and ran from her like she was a demon. Sarah just stood and smirked after them.
Reem ran faster than he’d ever run before, away from the thing that was behind them. After about 10 minutes of running as fast as they could, String and Reem slowed down. Reem dared to ask a question.
“What was that?” Reem gasped as soon as he felt he could talk.
“I don’t know, but whatever it was, it was awesome!” String replied.
“What!” Reem stared at String as if he were nuts. “That thing was not awesome! It was scarier than a creature from the pits of hell! As far as we know, it could be a creature from the pits of hell!”
“Aw, Reem, you’re too superstitious. It was just a senior with a sense of humor. And whoever it was, they were hot. And what a body. Must be a cheerleader.”
Reem just stared as his best friend rambled on about the thing they saw, which according to him was just a hot girl. Finally he got up the courage to say something again.
“Well, if it was just a senior, then why don’t we check the high school tomorrow and see if we see her.”
“Man, you are a genius. Of course she’ll be at school. We should bring a camera and take a picture of her!”
Reem just shook his head and groaned quietly to himself. If String had a crush on someone, then the best thing to do was just to go along with it.
Sarah stared after the boys, fighting the bloodlust. No, she thought, I will not go after them. They are innocent humans, even if they were being loud and obnoxious. That’s what human teenage boys do. God, I need to feed. Maybe I should just go to Single Earth. They’ll find a human donor. No! The rational part of her thought. If you start taking human blood now, you’ll never be able to stop, and eventually you will lose your humanity and start killing, just like Adianna said. Sarah pushed Adianna out of her thoughts. She would never see her sister again, and she needed to accept that. Adia was a vampire hunter, and if she saw Sarah she would kill her without a second thought.
What to do, what to do. Sarah thought, I might have to go to Single Earth. There’s almost no way I can find something else within the hour. Okay, how’s this, she thought to herself, If you don’t find anything in one hour, you’ll go to Single Earth. She didn’t wait for the rest of her mind to reply, she just started hunting.
An hour later, she still hadn’t found anything. Okay, she thought, to Single Earth.
Caryn almost passed out from fright as an unusually strong vampire appeared next to her. The vampire had not had human blood, or Caryn would have been able to distinguish it in her aura. But whoever it was, they were still strong.
“Caryn?” The vampire asked, sounding week with bloodlust.
Caryn couldn’t help but notice how the vampire’s gaze lay on her throat.
“Can I help you?” Caryn inquired in her polite greeting voice.
“You don’t recognize me?” inquired the vampire.
“No, do I know you?” Caryn stared hard at the vampire, dropping her greeting voice and letting her worry show. This vampire needed to feed soon, or there would be bad consequences.
“It’s…Sarah.” Came the vampire, or Sarah’s, voice.
Caryn’s jaw dropped. No wonder she hadn’t recognized her. While Sarah had been human, or at least alive, her hair had been blond and her eyes bright blue. Now they were both black, as all vampires’ eyes and hair turned, and Caryn felt herself drowning in the gaze.
Sarah took an uncertain step forward. “Caryn?” she questioned, “Are you okay? If Single Earth doesn’t want me here, I’ll leave.” She added hurriedly.
“No, no.” Caryn replied, pulling herself out of the vampires-Sarah’s gaze, as she had to remind herself. It took an enormous amount of willpower. More than she would have thought could be possible, especially as Sarah had never had human blood. Yet, she reminded herself, that’s probably what she’s here for. Now, who would be willing to put their life on the line to give blood to an unusually strong vampire, especially one that has such strong bloodlust she almost knocked me out unintentionally? Well, let’s just look and see who’s next on the list. Single Earth kept a list of willing donors so that no one ended up giving blood so much that it was bad for them.
“A good idea.” Sarah mused. She stepped forward, making Caryn jump. She had almost forgotten Sarah was there. It was even scarier to think that she had read her mind with ease, even while she was this weak.
“W-Why don’t you come inside?” Caryn asked, feeling terrified and hearing her voice tremble, giving away her worried inside and replacing her usual calm exterior. She examined Sarah carefully and judged how much of a threat she would be if for some reason she needed to be forcibly removed. Which, of course, she wouldn’t, Caryn reassured herself. Who could remove her, anyway? She wondered. Even if a vampire managed to do it, they would have made some powerful enemies. It’s not the best idea to mess with someone who knows Nikolas, even if she’s not the “best of friends” with him. But Nikolas would help his brother, Kristopher, who was in love with Sarah. And while she doesn’t appear to look it, Sarah definitely likes Kristopher back. Quite a bit. Why doesn’t she just tell him? It would be easier on both of them. Sarah could hang with Kristopher, and Kristopher wouldn’t have to worry as much about where Sarah was, or what she was doing.
“Caryn, my love affairs with Kristopher or anyone else are none of your business. Were you always this nosy? Even when I was still mortal?” Sarah looked and sounded just like she was joking, but Caryn saw the hint of a warning in her eyes. No matter how she sounded, she still liked people to stay out of her business. She wondered just how far Sarah was willing to take this.
“Far enough.” Came the reply. “Now, are you going to take me to some human or what? ‘Cause if you don’t, I’ll just go ask Kristopher or Nikolas.
“No, do not do that.” Caryn hurriedly replied, “I’ll go find someone.” Inside she was thinking No crapping way am I letting her go to them. They would insist that she…well, that she killed someone. And she would feel under even more pressure with all the vampires that are at a typical bash. At least if she has a willing donor who knows what is going on, she’s less likely to kill.
“Caryn. I know what Kristopher and Nikolas would want me to do. That doesn’t mean that I would do it. I have complete control over myself, and social pressure has never been a big deal for me. After moving for the fifth time, I gave up trying to make friends. And no ‘popular’ kid ever tried to pick a fight with me. There was a reason for that, and it was not magical influence. Now, could you please get on with it? I’m getting awfully thirsty here.”
Sarah was joking around and jesting about her thirst, but Caryn could tell that she really needed to feed. And Caryn would feel better when she was no longer around Sarah and her thoughts were private. Hastily she dug around in the folder and pulled out a few forms.
“You need to sign these so that we have proof that you agreed to feed without harming on Single Earth grounds.” Caryn watched as Sarah scanned the forms, then handed her a pen to sign them with. “These are just in case you kill someone so that we have proof that you had agreed not to beforehand and so that we can sic some vampire hunters on you if you do.”
Startled, Sarah looked up into Caryn’s eyes. “What? That’s not what the papers say.” She said with disbelief in her voice.
“I was joking.” Caryn shook her head at the sense of humor that Sarah seemed not to have. The chatting had been a light cover and for social reasons, but Caryn had just been watching so that all the papers were signed. “The papers just say that if you do kill someone we have the right to not permit you on Single Earth grounds again.”
Just then Sarah finished signing the last of the papers and Caryn almost grabbed them from her hand, relieved not to have to pretend to make conversation anymore. “Follow me.”Caryn said, leading the way inside the building.
On the way in, Caryn stopped at a door. “Can you wait here for a second?” She asked Sarah. As Sarah nodded her consent, Caryn shouldered open the door. The room was filled with large filing cabinets. Caryn stepped up to the third one from the left of the door and opened the second drawer from the top. She then proceeded to carefully file the papers Sarah had just signed. After closing and carefully relocking the filing cabinet, Caryn left the room and closed the door, then started up a staircase with Sarah trailing just behind her.
Sarah looked around in interest as they reached the upstairs main room. It was divided into about 30 or so cubicles, and there were people (humans, she reminded herself as she read their aura’s) in about 15 of them.
“Janine Cohen,” Caryn called out. A girl about 17 with black hair and black eyes (almost like a vampire, Sarah subconsciously thought) looked up. She looked around the table inside the cubicle, grabbed a paperclip and stuck it inside the book she was reading. Then she looked expectantly up at Caryn, then past her to Sarah. The look on her face changed from one of expectancy to a startled, almost fearful look.
Sarah stared at Caryn, asking her quietly in her mind “Whats wrong?”
Caryn whispered back (in her mind, of course) “Your hair looks like a rat’s nest, you’re pale from thirst, and your eyes are a bright, bright black, if you can decipher that. We’ve taught the feeders here that people (Sarah noticed that Caryn did not seem to want to say the word ‘vampires’) with eyes as bright as yours are usually very strong for even your kind. All together, you look like crap. Or rather, you look like a strong, thirsty vampire (Finally! She said the word!) who feels like crap. Not the best combination. Actually, it’s probably one of the worst combinations. If you listen into her mind, she’s probably wondering why I would expose a feeder to a vampire of your strength. She’s also probably more than a little scared of you. Get used to it, if you start coming here more often.
Sure enough, as Sarah listened into the girl’s (Janine Cohen, she reminded herself) mind, she could here multiple frenzied thoughts. You would never have guessed from her face Sarah thought. After the initial shock had worn off, her face had morphed into a mask-like expression that did not reveal any of her thoughts. However, inside her head Sarah was hearing:
I can’t believe they let a vampire this strong into SingleEarth!
I wonder how they would react if I said I didn’t want to do this. Well, they wouldn’t force me, but they would be disappointed in me.
OH MY GOD, Oh My God, oh my God! What the crap do I do?
Oh crap, I bet the vampire is reading my thoughts.
GET OUT OF MY HEAD, VAMPIRE!
With that last thought, Sarah pulled herself out of Janine’s thoughts and grimaced at the girl. “You think too much,” Sarah told Janine in a lofty voice.
“Well, if you weren’t invading my privacy, entrenching yourself in my mind, and listening in on my thoughts, I doubt you would think so!” Janine replied, her voice steadily rising in the silence. It was then that they both noticed at the same time all the humans standing up in their cubicles and looking to see what was causing the commotion. Sarah glared at them, while Janine did the same. Two death stares at the same time weren’t very nice, and the humans all looked down sheepishly and sat down.
“Nice stare,” Janine said, grinning at Sarah. Then she remembered she was mad, scared, and a little pissed off at the vampire, and the smile faded quickly off her face. “But anyways, hasn’t anyone ever told you that listening to someone else’s thoughts is rude?”
“As a matter of fact, no.”
“Well then let me be the first, and hopefully the last, to tell you. Listening in on other people’s thoughts is rude!” Janine added under her breath, “I guess everyone else was too scared to tell her. Funny, I’d thought another vampire would take the liberty.”
Considering Sarah’s raptor-like hearing (another special talent all vampires had), and the fact that Janine knew Sarah could hear her, Sarah realized that this was probably an insult.
“Oh, just shut up!” Sarah said, pissed at the fact that this human girl for being willing and able to insult her to her face. Still, this kid had some serious courage to be able to talk to her like that. She probably also had suicidal impulse problems, too. “Now, are you gonna do this or what?”
Janine sighed and sat back down in the chair in her section. She pulled out another chair and gestured that Sarah should sit down in it. Caryn sighed with relief, pleased that she wouldn’t have to diffuse the awkward situation that would have come out of Janine refusing to let Sarah feed off her.
Tilting back her head, Janine let her long hair fall off her face. Sarah noted without surprise the cut and black eye. She’d suspected that someone this argumentative got into a lot of fights. Though she hadn’t escaped unscathed, Sarah bet whoever else that had been in this fight hadn’t got off easily. Though skinny, Janine’s thin build displayed serious muscle. In fact, Sarah suspected her off working out in the gym during much of her free time.
“Last chance to back out?” She offered Janine.
The girl rolled her eyes and said “Do you think I’d be sitting here like this otherwise? Now could you hurry up, I’m getting a crick in my neck.”
Sarah leaned in close and delicately placed her lips on Janine’s throat. She located the point of the pulse and bit in, feeling rather than hearing the slight gasp of pain before the anesthetic kicked in. Sarah made sure to load it on heavy, hoping to knock out the girl before she could say anything else in her head to annoy her. Janine muttered one sentence that faded out before the anesthetic caused her to pass out. “I will kill you later if you do anything.”
Mentally, Sarah smirked. The idea of a mortal (especially one that was not a vampire hunter) hurting or killing a vampire, especially one as strong as her, was absolutely hilarious. Then she started feeling the barrage of memories that came from feeding. Animals thoughts were just murky and basic survival thoughts-run, hide, eat, and protect the young. The one other time Sarah had fed off a human (well he was actually a vampire), she had done her best to push the thoughts and memories away from her. This time she dove into the memories, looking for what made Janine tick. The first memory looked promising.
A young lady in a gray suit, wearing a government badge and holding a black briefcase knocks on the door. A younger Janine can see all this through the peephole. She opens the door. “What do you want?” she demands. The woman is cool and confident.
“I’m from the childcare services. We’ve received information that your mother, your last living relative, died. I’m here to take you to a foster home.”
Janine tries to close the door on the woman, but she’s faster and sticks her foot in the crack, forcing it open. “Well, I won’t go!”
“Then, unfortunately, I’ll have to use force.” Even though she says ‘unfortunately’, Janine can tell that she looks forward to, even hopes that she’ll be able to. Janine backs slowly away from the door, then dashes for her room. The woman opens the door and grabs her by the arm. She squeezes hard. Janine’s screams go unheard…
“I told you to mop the floor!” A tall woman with gray hair screams at Janine. Then she slaps her in the face. Janine doesn’t even wince. She’s used to it by now. Then the woman (Ms. Burkley) shoves her down the stairs. Janine trips and falls, rolling. She feels her elbow break and her knee splinter. She just lets out a soft whimper.
The woman realizes what she’s done. She rushes down the stairs and picks up Janine. She carries her to the car. When she laid her down in the car Janine passed out…
She woke up in a bright white room. Her arm and leg pounded. Her leg was above her head in some type of sling. She hears a soft, steady beeping. Then she hears Ms. Burkley just outside the door talking quietly to a nurse.
“-she’s very clumsy that way. This is the first time she’s fallen down the stairs before, though. I hope it’s the last.”
“Haven’t we seen her here a lot before?” says the nurse.
“Like I said, she’s very clumsy.”
“That bruise across her face doesn’t look like something that would result from falling down stairs. It looks almost like someone slapped her.” There was an accusatory tone in the nurse’s voice.
“Are you trying to say I hit her?!” Ms. Burkley gasps.
“No, of course not!” The nurse hurries to say, “It’s just-“
That was the last thing Janine heard before she passed out again…
She’s creeping out of her room, clutching the knapsack with her few possessions in it. Enough was enough. This was the fifth foster home, and the fifth one where she’d been hit and slapped and pushed around. She was 16 now. She could support herself. She was going to leave.
Walking downstairs she hit the creaky one accidentally. Janine heard her stepfather roll around in bed. Then get up. She ran the rest of the way to the door. He, realizing she wasn’t in her room, dashed downstairs just in time to see her disappearing into the woods behind the house…
She’s sitting in a back corner of the library by herself during study hall. She hears people whispering as they approach.
“Well, if it isn’t the freak.” Derk, the biggest bully in the school, walks around the corner with a group of his friends, all as big as he is.
“What do you want?” Janine snaps.
“It looks like the freak has a little attitude problem.” Derk laughs with his friends, “Maybe we should fix it.”
Janine ducks, but not in time, as his fist comes flying towards her face…
“Sarah! Sarah!” Sarah hears a voice worriedly shouting her name. Carefully she pulls herself out of the thoughts she’d entrenched herself in and opened her eyes.
Caryn was looking at her with worried eyes. “You’ve been feeding for a good hour! What if you took too much blood? What if you hurt her?”
Sarah mentally checked over Janine’s body. She was fine, minus a pint or two of blood. At least, fine other than the black eye and cut, and a couple of other injuries.
“She’s fine Caryn,” Sarah says, laying Janine on the tiny bed located in the cubicle for just that purpose.
Groggily Janine opens her eyes. She seems to guess what the situation is immediately. “I’m fine, Caryn. Just a little dizzy. But that’s to be expected.” She sat up.She sat up, and then stood, up. She swayed. Sarah grabbed her so that she didn’t topple over. As soon as she regained her sense of balance, Sarah let go of her as if she were a hot coal.
Then she shook her head, as if to clear it. “Ach. I need to go brush my teeth. Later, vamp girl.” Janine grinned, showing all her teeth, at Sarah. Then she walked out of the cubicle and out of the room.
Sarah stared after her for a minute, her eyes not really seeing. Then Caryn tapped her on the shoulder, obviously trying to get her attention.
“Time to go. Even though you’re hair’s calmed down, you’re still scaring the rest of the humans.”
Sarah just looked at Caryn. Then she asked her, “Who is she?”
“An orphan. She’s 17 and staying here at SingleEarth. She goes to school at Haven High. She’s always been that way, before you even ask. She’s known about vampires since she was 14. That’s all she’ll tell us. But then again, SingleEarth is a place where people who want to keep their pasts hidden can keep their pasts hidden. But that doesn’t mean we don’t try, and it doesn’t mean the other people her age won’t stop teasing her and guessing about her past.
“I’ve done my best to stop them. After all, one of my best friends had a hidden past. But teenagers will be teenagers. Whether they are vampire, human, witch or shape shifter.”
Sarah looked at Caryn with interest instead of disdain for the first time in her life. “Had?”
“She died several months ago.” Caryn’s voice was flat, no emotion showing through. When Sarah tried to look into her mind, it was shielded solidly, with no chance of her getting in.
“Don’t be,” Caryn said, wiping her eyes. “She was a vampire when you were a witch. You wouldn’t have liked her. But then again, maybe you would. After all, you both like to fight and pick fights with people stronger than you. And with more resources.”
Sarah smoldered in silence for a minute before giving into her natural questioning instinct. “Why do the kids at Haven beat up on her? Even if she treats them the way she treats me, she’s still obviously strong enough to hurt them.”
“Who knows why teens do anything? All I know is that she normally comes out looking worse then they do. But that happens when groups gang up on one kid.
“Now, I’m serious when I say you got to go. I don’t have time to deal with your questions. I’m in charge tonight, I have a mountain of homework, and my biology midterm is tomorrow. Plus, you’re scaring the humans! If you want to talk, come by some other time. Preferably after you’ve cleaned up. And learned to hide your aura, so that the witches who run this place don’t freak about why I’ve let you in. And I have the feeling they’re about to.”
Sure enough, Sarah could hear yelling and people running up the stairs. “Fine, fine. I’ll go.” Sarah attempted to disappear. She couldn’t do. She looked in alarm at Caryn, who seemed to realize the problem.
“No one can do that here. There’s this barrier running 24/7 to stop vampires being able to just appear inside. Running and jumping’s your best bet.”
“Carrrrryyyyyyyyyynnnnnnnnnn! Just cause I’m a vampire does not mean that I’m invincible. I can’t survive a three story fall! Well, maybe I could, but it would be painful and take time to heal, and I obviously don’t have that that time to spare.”
“Well, then. Prepare yourself for a long night of giving reports, questioning, and a ton of other crap!”
Sarah glared daggers at Caryn, than glanced at the stairs. A black head appeared, and then the first person was on the floor. Sarah didn’t hesitate. She ran straight at a window, jumped through it (breaking the glass) and threw herself as far into open air as she could.
About 5 feet away from the building, Sarah felt something give way in the air, like a barrier made of jello. The second she passed that point, she tried to disappear again. This time it worked. A blink of an eye later she was back in the woods.
Caryn stretched her arms. She had been sitting in a hard-backed plastic chair for the past 4 hours, being interrogated by the witches in charge at the SingleEarth here. It was 1 in the morning, she was tired and had homework, and the witch in front of her was pissed that she had yet to tell her anything important about the vampire that had been there.
“Can you tell me the vampire’s name?”
“It’s on the forms she filled out. I didn’t look to see what it was.”
“On the forms it says Cara Line. We think that’s a false name. Are you sure you don’t know the vampire’s real name?”
“I already told you everything I know about the vampire. There is nothing more to say.”
“Can you tell us the feeder used?
“For the millionth time, Janine Cohen. She doesn’t know anything either.”
The women looked at the mirror on one side of the room and nodded. Caryn had already figured out it was a window on the other side.
The door opened, and Janine walked in with two burly security vampires on either side of her.
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