Crave, p.16
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       Crave, p.16
 

         Part #1 of The Clann series by Melissa Darnell
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CHAPTER 15

 

  Tristan

  It was a long hour and a half before practice neared an end and I could go for ice. I stopped by the practice gym first, interrupting the varsity cheer squad as I waved their captain over.

  "This better be good," Emily said as she walked up to me.

  "It is. " I gave her a rundown of the problem and possible theories.

  "Well, they can't be like us," she said when I finished. "We'd both feel it if they were using power. "

  "Then who are they?"

  "You mean what. "

  A hundred childhood stories full of warnings against all kinds of scary things rushed through the back of my mind. "What are you thinking?"

  "Shape-shifters. Vampires. Ghosts. Demons. Any of those would be able to move fast like that. Though shape-shifters can't make themselves invisible at all, so cross them off the list. And most descendants would be able to sense ghosts and demons almost like a use of power. "

  Which left vampires. Vampires here at JHS. Unbelievable. "What do they want?"

  "Why don't you ask your girlfriend? Because I can guarantee the Clann would never have sent them. You know we don't mess around with vamps. They're magic leeches. Just because the Clann has a peace treaty with them doesn't make them any less dangerous to every descendant alive. "

  Our eyes widened in unison.

  "Sav. She's a. . . " I started to say. Fear on a level I'd never felt before exploded inside me. "Emily, she's completely untrained. She wouldn't know how to protect herself at all. "

  "Be careful," she yelled as I sprinted out of the gym and back to the practice field. And felt my frozen mind kick into gear again when I spotted Savannah calmly sitting at the side of the field with a dancer.

  "Hey. Where's the ice?" Savannah secured the dancer's bandage with a metal butterfly clip.

  I leaned over and whispered against her ear, "Don't go anywhere or let them leave you here alone. I'll be right back with the ice. Promise me. "

  She nodded, her dark blue eyes wide even as she tried to fake a smile at the dancer she was helping.

  I shot a warning glare toward the end of the field where I assumed the vampires were still lurking around. They'd better not even think about getting near Savannah while I was gone, or so help me, I'd stake every last one of them, and to hell with the peace treaty between our worlds.

  Then I ran across campus to the field house. These would be the fastest bags of ice I'd ever thrown together.

  I was on the last bag when Dylan strolled over to the locker-room doorway.

  "Missing football so much you had to start hanging out in the field house?" he said.

  Just what I needed right now. Normally I came here before football practice ended so I could avoid my old teammates. Talking with Emily and then running back to warn Savannah had thrown me behind tonight.

  "Just helping out the Charmers," I said, shoveling ice into the clear plastic bag faster. Through the field house's open front door, I could see the campus getting darker as the sun set behind the trees and houses in the nearby neighborhood, throwing long shadows over the practice field.

  "Rumor has it you're here every day now. That Colbert girl must be a pretty good-"

  There was no thought. One minute I was shoveling ice, the next I'd dropped the metal scoop in the ice machine and had a softball-size fireball fully formed and rolling around inside my hand just waiting to be thrown.

  A matching orb of energy slowly grew in Dylan's right hand. He growled, "Careful, Coleman. Wouldn't want you to lose your control again and get kicked off yet another team. "

  As ticked off as I was, part of me really didn't care what happened as long as I could shut him up once and for all about Savannah. But deep down inside, another part of me was yelling, Don't be stupid, Tristan! This is exactly what he wants!

  Footsteps at the locker-room door only gave us seconds to snuff out the magic before Ron Abernathy walked in. "Hey, guys, what's up? Oh, hey, Tristan. Haven't seen you around much lately. How've you been?"

  Still staring at Dylan, I muttered, "Okay, and you?"

  "Not bad. Heard you were helping out the Charmers now. You lucky dog, getting to work with all those girls wearing nothing but leotards all the time. They got any more openings for managers? Might have to join the team myself!"

  I forced a tight smile, though it felt like I was having to chip the expression out of stone to pull it off. "I'll let you know if any come up. "

  I was waiting for Ron to get lost so I could finally take care of an old problem here. But he showed no signs of leaving as he stood there watching us. Was he hoping to see us fight again, or trying to stop the fight before it began?

  As the seconds ticked by in silence, the anger eased back down to something I could control again. This wasn't over by a long shot. Dylan would have to be dealt with eventually. He was like a bulldog once he saw something, and obviously he wasn't ready to let our issues go. But tonight, I had bigger problems to deal with.

  Gritting my teeth, I turned away and finished filling the last ice bag, then closed it up with a metal twist tie. As I headed for the door, my arms filled with ice bags that did nothing to cool the blood still boiling beneath my skin, I told Ron over my shoulder, "See you later. " He raised a hand in answer.

  "See you later," Dylan said, his tone making it a promise.

  "Looking forward to it. " I smiled, and this time I didn't bother to try and make it look nice.

  Once outside the field house, I took off at a jog through the fading light across campus to the practice field. By the time I got there, the team was still wrapping up practice. But now the sun had fully set. The field and surrounding track were lit by several stadium lights. But the wood-lined walk between the field and sports and art building had no lights at all. And after we got through that section, I would still have to get Savannah out of the building and across the dark campus to the front parking lot and her truck.

  Once practice ended and she and I were headed toward the practice-field gate, I tried a different plan. "Listen, I think I should lock up the dance rooms for you tonight. Then you can go straight from here to your truck and home. "

  She glanced at me, then kept walking toward the campus road and the shadowed section by the woods. Hardheaded woman. "I can't. It's my job to make sure the sound system's secured and the dance floor's locked up. Our equipment costs way too much. We couldn't afford to replace it if it got stolen or damaged. "

  "I'll make sure everything is locked up properly. "

  "That's really sweet of you, but you have no idea how mad Mrs. Daniels would get if she found out I dumped my job off on you. Come on, let's get this done so we can go home. "

  Frustrated, I tucked the MegaVox under my right arm and carried the jam box using my right hand. I'd at least have my left hand free. I clenched it into a loose fist and willed a tiny flame to life inside. If anything came at us, I was as ready as I'd ever be.

  Savannah rubbed her arm through her coat. "Hey, are you using. . . "

  "Just keep walking please. I'll show you later, I promise. "

  Catching the worry in my tone, she nodded and walked faster.

  As we drew closer to the dark section of the road, I put myself between Savannah and the woods at our left. For added measure, I guided her to the opposite side of the street, using the brick backside of the math building to help protect her. I also kept her moving at a near jog.

  "Where are they?" I muttered.

  She glanced behind us and whispered, "Still back at the practice field. "

  My ears strained for any little noise from the woods or behind us. The gravel crunched beneath our feet, seeming extra loud in the silence. In the distance, a girl shrieked then laughed in the front parking lot, making my muscles twitch.

  Time stretched. The walk took only minutes, but it seemed like hours before we made it past the woods to the cement ramp and then into the foyer
. We were both breathing hard as we hurried inside. Now I just had to get her home safely.

  On the way up the stairs, I showed her the flame inside my fist before I put it out. Then I told her what Emily had said.

  Savannah turned pale. "But. . . they can't be. "

  "Trust me, Sav, vampires really exist. " At Mrs. Daniels's office now, I stowed the equipment in the closet.

  She frowned. "I know. But why would they be here?"

  "You're still a descendant by birth. That means you can reach out and pull the earth's energy into yourself if you need to. That makes you like a big, limitless generator for vampires. They need energy. We've got it. Most of us know how to protect ourselves. But you were never trained. So the temptation must be irresistible to them. "

  Hands free at last, I walked over to hold hers. They were cold and shaking. Oh, good job making her feel protected, Cole man. "Hey, listen, you're going to be fine. Between your family's magic and mine, we'll have you covered 24/7. No vamp would try to attack you here with so many descendants around to witness it. And for the times when we can't be with you, your family can get you set up with some vamp wards for protection. "

  "No, they can't. " Her eyes widened, as if she'd given away some secret.

  "Why not? Don't they know how to make them?"

  "No, it's not that. It's. . . we're. . . forbidden to do magic. " She nibbled the inner corner of her lips, and I was a little distracted by the movement.

  After a few seconds, I blinked and remembered what we had been talking about. "Okay, I guess that makes sense. No big deal, Emily should know how to make them by now. And until then, I can teach you how to make fire. " I reached for her hand.

  She jerked it away. "No, I can't!"

  Huh? "Sure you can. It's one of the first things we learn how to do when our abilities start showing up at puberty. Just hold out your hand. . . "

  She shook her head, her eyes wild and panicky.

  A short laugh escaped me. "Come on, Sav. There's no reason to be afraid. The fire is a part of you, like a natural extension of your willpower. You just will it to life, like this. " I held out my hand, willed the fire to life, and blue flame popped up from my palm.

  She froze.

  "Seriously, I promise you it doesn't hurt. And the Clann won't find out. I swear. "

  She stared off into the distance. After a long hesitation, she licked her lips and held out her hand palm up.

  She stared at her palm. The seconds ticked by. Nothing happened.

  "Are you picturing the fire coming to life in your hand?"

  Her lips pressed together into a thin line as she gave a single, sharp nod. "It's not working. "

  Maybe the Clann had cast a spell on her family to somehow block their abilities. Sighing in frustration, I closed her hand. "Okay, don't worry about it. We'll just go with plan B and get some vamp wards from Emily. Until then, let's get you home. "

  She nodded, her eyes bleak. And she wouldn't really look at me. She was scared. And maybe embarrassed about the lack of magic abilities.

  "Do we have any fundraisers coming up?" I asked, trying to refocus her.

  "The Fall Ball on Saturday. After that, none for a while. "

  "And you'll be with me there. Okay, so we just need to worry about preventing alone time during team practices-"

  "Um, you know, I think it's going to be okay, Tristan. Let me lock up, and I'll go home and tell Nanna about this. I'm sure she'll know what to do. "

  She finished her locking-up routine, her movements jerky.

  As she locked the downstairs foyer doors after us, she murmured, "Maybe we'd better walk separately from here. "

  Was she crazy? "I don't think so. I'm not leaving you alone for those vamps to go after. "

  She frowned, her shoulders stiff as we hurried across the dark campus toward the front parking lot. At her truck, I leaned in through the open driver-side door, intending to kiss her cheek. She sucked in a fast breath and ducked back inside the truck. "Tristan. . . they might see us. "

  "Who?"

  "The. . . " She looked at me for a moment, her eyes unreadable. "Anyone still on campus. "

  Before I could argue that we were all alone except for the vamps, she shut the door and started the engine. With a quick wave, she was gone, driving fast like she thought she could somehow outrun the vampires.

  Savannah

  Vampires had come to Jacksonville.

  The thought pounded through my head the entire way home. On its heels came. . . Why?

  Obviously the council had sent them to watch me. Which was probably why the term watchers had come to me in the first place. My father had used that term to refer to council spies back when I'd first started changing. But why had the council sent watchers? Because they knew about Tristan and me?

  Well, if they hadn't before, they had to suspect now.

  But if they knew about us for sure, why hadn't they done anything about it, instead of just standing around all day watching me? Wouldn't they have done something to stop us from walking together, something to make me get away from Tristan?

  They must be there only to ensure that the peace treaty wasn't broken. Maybe they were waiting for me to lose control around him first, then they planned to step in if I attacked him or tried to drink his blood. If so, they were going to be disappointed, because I didn't have the slightest interest in his blood.

  It was his heart I craved.

  He had run all over the campus to get answers for me tonight, so confident that he could protect me from the vampires. And then he'd tried to help me learn how to create fire by magic, despite the rules forbidding it.

  If he'd known I might be in the process of becoming a vampire and that I'd only pretended to try to create fire, what would he have done?

  I had to tell him the truth. He deserved to know the risks. Especially since he was breaking the Clann's rules by dating me.

  But if I told him I was a dirty half-breed, he might not want to see me anymore.

  Although. . . we'd just started actually dating. Who bared their entire souls right after they started seeing each other?

  I should wait awhile, see how long we lasted before I started sharing more family secrets with him. Tristan was notoriously commitmentphobic. He'd probably get tired of me like he had all his previous girlfriends and break up with me after a few weeks.

  In the meantime, I would just have to be extra careful not to let the watchers see us doing anything romantic together. Like holding hands. Or kissing. No hugs, either. Public dates were even more out of the question now, of course. As long as the vampires or anyone else could see us, it would have to be strictly a working relationship, nothing more.

  Never mind how torturous that would be for me to endure.

  I pulled into the driveway, parked behind Nanna's car and rested my forehead on the steering wheel. No public dates. No public displays of affection. No eating together at lunch or walking together between classes. How long would Tristan want to keep seeing me in a relationship like that? Did that even count as a relationship?

  Tristan

  I overslept the next morning.

  "Mom's right, we should get you a doghouse. " Emily kicked my foot. "You'd better get up. You're going to be late for practice. "

  Groaning, I dragged myself upright. Wow, I was wiped out, which might explain why I'd failed to dream connect with Savannah last night. I hadn't had enough energy for it.

  "Do some energy drawing before you shower," she suggested. "And give you-know-who this to wear when you see her this morning. "

  A braided ribbon bracelet dropped into my lap. "Is this what we talked about last night?"

  "Yep. It should work even if she gets it wet. So tell her not to take it off for any reason. See you at lunchtime. "

  "Thanks, Emily. You're the best. "

  "I know. " Grinning, she went back inside the house.

  Hmm, sh
e was right as usual. I could use an energy boost. Quickly, I spread my hand out flat on the ground and drew up the energy into my body. But I pulled too hard, leaving a scorched hand shape on the grass. I winced, then shrugged it off. It would grow back. Eventually.

  I rushed through my shower, deciding to go to school with wet hair so I wouldn't be late for practice. I barely reached the sports and art building before Savannah arrived.

  From where I stood at the entrance doors, I could watch her every step of the way from the time she parked and got out of her truck until she reached the cement ramp. Watching her from here seemed a good compromise between keeping her safe and letting her have some freedom. Somehow, I didn't think she'd appreciate it if I gave in to the urge to hover over her every second of the day just to protect her from the vamps. Though denying that urge meant waiting for her with clenched teeth and a racing heart.

  As she headed up the cement ramp toward me, she glanced behind her at the woods and turned pale. She started walking faster.

  "Still there?" I murmured as she reached me and unlocked the doors with shaking hands.

  She nodded, frowning and rubbing her forehead. She was even more pale than usual, too. She must not have gotten much sleep last night.

  I waited by the hallway door upstairs until she finished her unlocking routine.

  "Emily sent you something that should help with our problem. " I walked toward her.

  She grabbed the office doorjamb behind her. "Oh. Wow. "

  "Yeah. You feel the magic in it, too? Emily's really good. I don't know why Dad doesn't just train her to be the next leader of the Clann instead of me. But he's being old-fashioned. And hardheaded. " Smiling, I held out the bracelet with both hands.

  "Uh. . . what is it?" She stared at the bracelet, licking her lips.

  "It's okay. " I chuckled. "Hold out your wrist. "

  She hesitated then slowly lifted her left wrist. I tied it on with a quick double knot.

  And she dropped to the floor with a loud smack. Son of a. . .

  "Savannah!" Hitting my knees, I pulled back her hair from her face. She was out cold. I tapped her cheek and called her name again. No response. Panicking now, I tried again, but her head just rolled away from my hand. I put my ear near her nose and mouth. She was breathing but barely.

  The bracelet. Something must have gone wrong with the spell. My fingers were suddenly too big, too clumsy as I fought the knot I'd created.

  Get it off her. Got to get it off her. Now!

  Finally the knot came loose. I threw the bracelet to the side, noticing a red welt around her wrist as if the bracelet had given her a chemical burn. She gasped like a drowning person resurfacing.

  I lifted her head. "Savannah? Can you hear me?"

  Her eyelids drifted open. "What. . . "

  "You passed out. Are you okay?"

  "I. . . Yeah. " She struggled to sit up, pressing the heel of a hand to her forehead. "Oh, ow, my head. "

  Had she hit it on the floor? I carefully checked her skull but didn't find any lumps. I held her against my chest for a minute until my heartbeat slowed down and my hands stopped shaking. "Oh, man, I'm sorry, Savannah. Something must have gone wrong with the spell. I'll get Emily to fix it at lunch. "

  "What was it supposed to do?"

  "It's just a basic vampire ward. The Clann parents give them to all the kids to wear until puberty. Then our power kicks in and we learn how to protect ourselves against vamps so we don't have to wear the wards anymore. I swear it shouldn't have done this to you. "

  She turned even whiter and didn't say anything as I helped her up. "Are you okay to walk?"

  She nodded. "But I might have to ask for some help with my trainer bag today. " She forced a smile, but her words came out a little slurred.

  "No problem. " Anything to make up for causing her to pass out like that. Just wait till I could get my hands on Emily. This better have been an accident. I pocketed the bracelet then loaded up for the trip out to the practice field.

  We started to skirt the watchers' post near the woods, but she said the vampires were still keeping their distance and had moved away again.

  I really hated not being able to see them for myself. Fighting an enemy blind sucked.

  Savannah wore a frown throughout practice, and I caught her rubbing her forehead several times. She massaged her temples again at the end of practice as I put away the sound system.

  "If that headache sticks around, promise me you'll take some aspirin," I told her.

  With a weak smile, she nodded.

  She winced as I kissed her cheek goodbye. Her head must really hurt.

  Second-period English had never seemed so long. I spent the entire hour and a half wondering if her headache had finally gone away, and what in the world Emily had done to that bracelet. When the lunch-period bell rang, I was the first one out the door.

  In the cafeteria, I grabbed Emily's elbow before she could take her seat at our table. "We need to talk. " I steered her outside toward my grounding tree.

  "What did you put in that bracelet?" I demanded once we were out of hearing range of the students at the picnic tables.

  "Just the traditional vamp ward. Why?" Emily replied, her eyes wide with innocent confusion.

  "It nearly killed her. "

  The color drained from her face. In a different situation, I would have enjoyed my know-it-all sister's look of shock. Right now, I just wanted to choke her.

  "Tristan, that's impossible. I used the same spell every Clann parent uses on their kids for vamp protection. If it's safe enough to use on a toddler, it should be more than safe enough-"

  "Well, it's not. As soon as I put it on her wrist, Savannah passed clean out and was barely breathing. I couldn't get her to wake up until I took the bracelet off her again. You must've screwed up the spell somehow. "

  Her eyes narrowed. "I never screw up spells. That's your department, little brother. Are you sure she didn't have an allergic reaction to the materials in the ribbons or something?"

  I snorted. No one had an allergic reaction like that to freaking cotton. "Don't blame this on the damn ribbons. It was your spell work, and you know it. She didn't seem to want to put it on at first, either, like she knew something was wrong with it before it ever touched her. " But Savannah had put it on anyway because she trusted me. Fury bubbled up inside me again, along with a slightly sick feeling. "She's an easy target for the vamps until we get her protected. You've got to fix this. Now. "

  "All right, pushy. " She took the bracelet from me, frowning down at the ribbons. "Hey, did you get this thing anywhere near fire?"

  "No. Why?"

  She flipped it over so I could see the blackened side of the ribbons.

  I swore again. "Savannah had what looked like a burn line around her wrist after she tried it on. Did you use any chemicals or-"

  "No, it was straight energy and words, nothing else. " She kept frowning, and she had that thoughtful look.

  "What?"

  "Come on, little brother. Time for research. You can help. "

  I followed her over to the tech building and into a partially full computer lab. Emily talked to the teacher for a minute then led me to two computers in an empty corner in the back.

  "Grab a computer, pull up the internet and look up this word. " She wrote the name Lillith on a slip of paper.

  "Who's she?"

  "The mother of all vampires. Now quit asking questions and look her up already. "

  Frowning, I pulled up the internet browser, waited for the Google search page to finish loading, then typed in the name. "What are we looking for exactly?"

  "I'll tell you what to click on. " Muttering about stupid, slow school computers, she followed her own directions.

  We spent the rest of lunch period researching. When I didn't click on a link fast enough, she growled and took my mouse away from me so she could work both computers h
erself.

  "We're going to be late for third period," I said after the bell rang, signaling the end of lunch.

  "No biggie. The teacher here will give us passes. "

  An hour and twenty minutes later, just when I began to think we'd end up missing fourth period, too, she sighed. It wasn't a happy sound, though. "Found it. Read this. "

  I leaned over toward her computer monitor to read.

  While the King James version of the Bible refers to Eve as Adam's first wife, ancient Hebrew texts state that Eve was Adam's second wife, created from his rib. Adam's first wife, named Lillith, was created by God from the clay of the earth just as Adam was. Because she was created in the same way as Adam, Lillith believed that she was Adam's equal. However, Adam believed he was superior to her, and this led to much arguing.

  Lillith shouted out God's secret name, which gave her the power to fly away. Adam complained to God, so God sent three angels to bring her back. But she refused to return with them and threatened to become a plague upon mankind. So God punished her by killing one hundred of her children every day and creating a new wife, Eve, for Adam. In revenge, Lillith upheld her threat and became a demoness, seducing men in their dreams, harming pregnant women and babies, and drinking humans' blood. To replace the human children she could no longer create, Lillith also shared her blood with chosen human victims from time to time, thus creating the first vampires on earth. It is believed that these incubus vampires continue to exist in secret to this day.

  When I was done reading, I was still confused. "Okay, what's your point?"

  "Here's your answer. Savannah had it right the first time. Those vampires aren't here to leech off her. They're here to watch her. She's one of them. " Emily looked at me, waiting for me to piece it all together.

  "What? No, she's not. I've seen her mother and grandmother. They're both human. They're descendants, remember?"

  "So she could be a dhampir instead. "

  I stared at her, one eyebrow raised. She realized she was talking to someone who didn't spend all his time reading old spellbooks, right?

  "Half human, or in this case half descendant, and half vampire. "

  Huh? "There's no such thing. Everybody knows vampires can't have kids. "

  "How do we know for sure? What if everyone just thinks that because most vampires can't stand to be around humans for long without draining them? What if Savannah's father is a vamp and he found some way to resist draining her mother?"

  "Have you ever seen her father?"

  Emily nodded. "I saw him once with Savannah at Chez Corvet's. He totally looked like a vampire. " Chez Corvet's was the local Italian restaurant.

  But I still couldn't believe it. Savannah, half vampire? I'd known her for years. Sure, she was pale and tended to sun burn every year instead of tanning. But that could be from her Irish roots instead. "We're talking about something that the Clann doesn't think is possible. And even if we go way out on a crazy limb here and pretend dhampirs do exist, that still doesn't mean she would have any vampire abilities. I've never seen her show any fangs or want to drink my blood or whatever. "

  "But you did say you felt tired after every time you see her. "

  I gave a half shrug. "Well, yeah. We kiss when we say hello and goodbye. . . . "

  Aw, hell. Vampires could take human energy through a bite or a kiss. Every descendant was taught that from day one.

  Emily nodded, seeing the understanding on my face. "Like I said, she's draining you every time you two make out. You'll be dead in a week!"

  Dragging a hand through my hair, I slumped back in my seat. "I'm not that stupid. I know how to draw energy afterward, remember?" And Savannah's kisses were worth it.

  She sighed. "Tristan, be smart about this. You've got to stop seeing her. It's the only safe thing to do. Otherwise-"

  "No. " I didn't even need to think about it. I didn't care what we'd been taught to believe as kids. Savannah wasn't a monster. She couldn't help what her dad was. She might not even know.

  "Don't be stupid! Mom and Dad must know about this already. It's probably why her family was cast out. Our parents, the entire council, will kill you if they find out you two are involved. This isn't about some simple disagreement between our families anymore. She's one of them. "

  "I don't care. It's too late. "

  She stared at me then groaned. "You fell in love with her?"

  Why bother saying anything? She already knew how I'd answer.

  "I've said it before, and I'll say it again. " She closed both our internet browsers, her shoulders slumping. "You, little brother, are an idiot. "

  In this case, I had to agree with her. I was definitely an idiot. I'd fallen in love with the so-called enemy. But knowing that still didn't change my feelings. "What do I tell her? There's no way she knows about this. "

  "Tell her the truth. "

  "Are you crazy? I am not going to be the one to tell her something like this. How would you feel if someone told you this kind of stuff?"

  "I'd think you were nuts. And if I did believe you. . . " She sighed. "I guess I'd freak out big-time. "

  "Exactly. " Not to mention Savannah would probably want to break up with me.

  Scowling, Emily held the bracelet between her palms, closed her eyes and whispered a few words to remove the spell. I felt her power flare up over my skin, stabbing me with a thousand tiny needles over my arms and the back of my neck. Judging by the level of pain she was causing across my skin, I had to wonder again why Dad didn't just make her the next Clann leader. She obviously had the power for the job.

  After a couple minutes, the energy died down and she handed me the bracelet. "Have her try it again. "

  "And tell her what?"

  "That I fixed it. "

  I felt like I was holding a bomb. "Will it hurt her again?"

  "No more than any other bracelet might. Though let me know if she still has a reaction to it. "

  "And if she does?"

  She stood up and gave me a look of pity. "It would make things a lot easier for you two if she were just allergic to cotton ribbon. "

  "Emily said to tell you she fixed it," I said later that afternoon outside Mrs. Daniels's office as I held out the innocent-looking bracelet. "Want to try it on one more time?"

  "Um. . . " Savannah chewed on her lower lip. "Are you sure your sister isn't trying to get rid of me?"

  "Yeah, I'm sure. "

  She took a deep, shaky breath. "Okay, I trust you. Go for it. But if I conk out again, can you try to catch me this time? My right arm is already bruising up from the last try. " She smiled and held out her trembling left wrist.

  Her arm was bruised? I winced.

  And yet I actually wanted her to pass out this time, messed up as that wish might be. Because if she did, then Emily and I were wrong about her being a half vampire. I would just have to be sure to catch her.

  But when I tied the bracelet around her wrist, nothing happened. The knots tightened in my stomach.

  "Whew! Okay, let's go to practice," she said, grinning with the relief I wished I felt as she unlocked the office closet and grabbed the equipment.

  I followed her downstairs, guilt making me want to puke. I could only hope she would understand when she learned the truth someday. And forgive me.

 
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