Lilith closed April’s bedroom door and tried to fight against the desire to lie on the floor; she was drained. Feeling her way along the banister, she descended the stairs. Faith and Melinda greeted her at the bottom.
“Did it work?” they asked, together.
“Yes, but it’ll take a day or two for her to fully—” Lilith didn’t finish her sentence, her eyes rolled back into her head and she dropped like a lead weight.
Melinda managed to reach her, just before her head hit the floor and the two girls carried the exhausted vampire to the sofa. Lilith blinked her eyes open, the room swaying. Two concerned faces swam back into view and she immediately sat up. “I’m OK,” she lied. “Don’t fuss. Do you have any plasma packs?”
Faith nodded and headed to the kitchen.
Melinda sat beside Lilith, took her hand. “Thanks, for saving her. It was such a selfless thing to do. I know she’s not exactly your favourite person.”
“It wasn’t selfless. I did it because she’s important to Caleb. To you.”
Melinda looked away. Only because I’m an idiot.
Lilith wasn’t sure if Melinda intended her to hear that, or not. So she pretended she hadn’t. “Your hair is different,” she said.
Melinda turned back, smiled. “Yeah.” Something to keep Faith’s hands busy while we waited. “Do you like it?”
“I do. Really pretty.”
Melinda felt the colour rush to her cheeks, but before she could respond, Faith had returned.
“I have no idea how long to heat this stuff for, so I’m sorry if it incinerates you,” she joked, then she realised what she’d said. “Not incinerates! I mean burns you. No! Ah, fuck.”
Lilith laughed and took the glass she was offered. It was rather on the hot side. “Thanks. I like what you did to Melinda’s hair. And April’s.”
“Yeah, think I’d have a good career as a stylist if it weren’t for, y’know, being undead and on the run and everything.” Faith looked awkwardly at Lilith. She remembered what Melinda had told her about Lilith being able to read minds and was trying not to think.
The more she tried, the more she was sure Lilith could hear her. She might as well just do an ‘April’ and blurt it out…
“Lilith,” Faith asked, “do you cut Caleb’s hair?”
Lilith stroked her fingers through her fringe. “I do. I do my own, too.”
“We don’t have a lot of choice. The last time I visited a salon was in 1951 and the hairdresser freaked out so much at my lack of reflection that I had to mesmerise her to stop her screaming. That pales in comparison to Caleb’s last experience at the barber. Only he could go for a haircut and end up causing an actual fire. I’m still not quite sure how he did it. I take it you don’t approve of my skills?”
“Your hair isn’t bad at all. It’s very smooth and soft looking…” Melinda said. Then she cleared her throat, trying to remember what it was she was going to say.
“Yeah, yours is sort of OK, but what the hell is his?” Faith laughed.
“He likes it that exact way, I really don’t know why. Good luck trying to change it. I once ‘accidentally’ cut his fringe short and he completely lost his mind; he talked to me even less than usual for almost a year,” Lilith sighed. “I’ll let you do mine, though.”
Faith rubbed her hands together in maniacal delight. “Next time you come over, bring your scissors and some rope. I’ll sort you both out.”
Lilith smiled and sipped her scalding hot plasma. She was imagining Faith pinning Caleb to the floor, scissors in hand, as was Melinda. Lilith spent a few moments enjoying Melinda’s stream of thought, trying not to listen to Faith’s.
Faith had someone else on her mind. A hundred questions that Lilith hoped Faith wouldn’t ask.
Damn it. Here they come.
“Lilith, who’s Seth?”
“Seth?” Lilith responded, nonchalantly.
“Yeah. I met him last night, after April vanished. Well, I say met him, more like he told me his name and then disappeared.”
Yes, that’s very Seth, Lilith thought to herself.
“I don’t know a Seth.” Lilith lied. “Likely a passing oddball. We get a lot of them around here, especially on that corner.”
“Really?” Faith asked, deflated. “I thought you might know him because I’m pretty sure he was a vampire. He didn’t have a pulse and the feeling I got in my head is sort of like the feeling I get when you’re around, but much more intense.”
Showing off. Also very Seth.
Lilith’s face might have started to betray her, but her voice was still icy. “If there was another vampire around here,” that I thought you should meet, “I would introduce you. Whoever he is, probably best to forget him.”
Faith whistled. “Forget him? You should’ve seen the guy! Talk about handsome stranger. I hope that’s not the last I see of him. I’d like to see very much more of him, in fact…”
The gorgeous bastard never changes.
Am I dreaming?
No, if I was dreaming there would be candlelight… rose petals… fewer clothes.
He’d be looking at me not staring at… whatever he’s staring at.
“Caleb? What are you doing in my room?”
He whipped round suddenly at the sound of her voice and was beside her in a flash.
“Holy hell, April.” He took her hand. “I thought I’d never hear your voice again. How are you feeling?”
April felt only slightly like she’d been through a blender. But she kept her face in the dazed expression she’d woken with and feigned floppiness. A performance Mother would’ve been proud of.
“I feel so awful. What happened? I remember lying in the forest, sunlight, that guy… How did I get here?”
“I brought you here,” he clenched his jaw, trying not to think of that guy.
“You saved me?” she answered weakly, her eyes glittering at the thought. “My hero.”
He looked at her for a moment, before tentatively speaking, “No. Lilith did.”
April sat up, shrugging off her ill act. “Lilith? How?”
“She gave you some of… her.”
“Some of her what?”
“Herself. The black fluid that replaced our mortal ones.”
“I drank her blood?!”
“No. You weren’t conscious. She had to inject you with it.”
“And you let her?! Why didn’t you give me yours?”
“I’m afraid of needles,” he said.
“Are you kidding me?!”
“Yes, I am. I like needles. I would have needed to give you almost all of mine. I would have, of course, if I’d had to. Melinda offered, too. But then Lilith arrived and she took over. She’s a lot more potent than we are.”
“Yuck! I have your potent sister inside of me? I mean, I am grateful but… that’s just… nasty. Will I turn into her?”
“No. I didn’t when she had to do this for me. Although she probably wishes I did turn into her; would have solved a lot. You’re currently in your dark form and it looks nothing like Lilith’s, for example, which is a huge relief because you’d probably send me screaming from the room if it did.”
“I read about dark forms. What does mine look like?”
“You have silver hair.”
“Like an old lady?”
“Like an angel. Your eyes and skin are just like how Lilith describes mine. Pale, fine fractures, light irises.”
“Can you show me yours?”
He hesitated. “I can. I probably shouldn’t.”
He sighed and let go of her hand. “Alright, for you. Watch closely because it must be brief.” She watched as his eyes glazed over; a sombre expression crossed his features and his face changed before her. Fine cracks appeared across the surface of his skin, chasing themselves towards his eyes that were glowing the palest blue.
She was momentarily stunned at how striking he was. He shook his head, his appearance reverting, his expression briefly remained. “I don’t like doing that,” he murmured.
Then why did you? She paused. A heavy new feeling washing over her. The one she’d had as she lay in the sun. Guilt. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I shouldn’t have…”
Is it OK?
“I like your new hairstyle,” he said.
“Yes. Much easier access to that elegant neck than those long tresses you used to have,” he said, grazing his fingertips lightly along her collar bone, up her throat until he reached her chin. He tilted her head up towards him, gazing at her intensely with those pale blue eyes. “You’re so beautiful, April.”
He chuckled. “OK, you’ve perhaps looked better. But you’re ridiculous, you know that? How can you not believe me? You’re enchanting.”
“Prove it,” she whispered, wondering how she’d made any noise at all with how restricted her throat suddenly felt. “Kiss me.”
If she’d had a functioning heart, this would have been the precise moment it would have stopped beating.
The exasperated noise she made was far from elegant. “What the hell was that?! Did you just kiss my nose?!”
He pulled back. “Too much?”
“Too much?! Are you serious?”
“Oh my gosh! Aren’t you ever going to kiss me?!” she blurted out.
“I did kiss you.”
“On the lips, Caleb!”
He sighed. “Of course I will, one day.”
“Why not now? Don’t you want to?”
“I do. You’re just…”
“I’m what? I’m ugly, aren’t I? I’m stupid? You don’t even like me?”
“No. Holy hell, no. April, is this really the right time to be making out? We’ve been through a lot today, you’re not well, you’re emotional—”
“Because you won’t fucking kiss me!”
He ran his hand through his hair and got to his feet. “Look, you should rest and I really, really need a drink.” He crossed the room, turned off the light and paused in the doorway, not looking at her. “I’m going to stay here tonight so I’ll be downstairs, if you need me.”
“But I need you now,” she whimpered. He ignored her, closing the door softly behind him.
She thumped her fist into the bedding and heard her mother’s voice in her head.
You’re pathetic, April.
Relieved at the news that April was awake, Faith and Melinda headed upstairs to see her.
Caleb placed himself on to the sofa next to his sister and stared straight ahead at the fireplace. Something was wrong. It wasn’t that her face bore the slightly twitchy expression it always did when she was trying to restrain her anger, it was more that the room was full of static. Even he didn’t usually get her that angry. He didn’t look at her just in case she changed.
Although thinking of Lilith in dark form was certainly helping him to not think about April. In her slip of a nightdress. Wanting to kiss him.
Maybe he should go back upstairs…
“Faith met Seth last night.” Lilith’s voice had that sharp, glacial edge that went straight through him and instantly killed any urges he might have had.
“At Hook Corner?” he asked, still staring at the fireplace.
“Where else?” she said, bitterly. “Easy prey.”
He forced himself to look at her. Phew; still mostly human-looking. “Did he say anything to her? About… us?”
“No, I don’t think so. Ugh! I’m going to have to go and see him, aren’t I? Last thing I want is him thinking I’m introducing new vampires on to ‘his turf’ and it seems he’s taken a liking to Faith, if he’s let her remember him.”
“I’ll go, Lil.”
Lilith looked at her brother, surprised. He’d never volunteered to do anything for her. “Goodness. You really are changing, aren’t you? Thanks for offering, but no. You should stay here with the girls. I’m not having him picking through your brain, not now you finally seem to be getting somewhere.”
“He’ll mess with you, Lil.”
“Yes, he probably will, the swine. But I can’t avoid him forever, however much I’d like to.”