Vampireville (Vampire Kisses #3)

Vampireville (Vampire Kisses #3) - Page 2/19

The official welcome sign to my town should now read, "Welcome to Vampireville-- come for a bite, but stay for an eternity!"

The town that I'd grown up in and had always called Dullsville was no longer dull. Not only was I dating a vampire, but now two other teen Nosferatus were living among Dullsvillians, whose biggest concern was getting the best price on the newest Prada purses or the latest Big Bertha golf clubs.

I was the only mortal who knew about the secret identity of the new bloodsucking inhabitants and I was dying to spill my guts to the Dullsville Dispatch. The front-page headline would read: GOTH GIRL GETS THE GOODS! Raven Madison Wins Nobel Peace Prize for Unearthing the Undead. Below, a color photograph would feature me standing next to Luna, Jagger, and Alexander--and I'd be the only one reflected in the picture.

If I came forward with my discoveries, my outcast life would be broadcast nationwide. I might be picked up in a chauffeur-driven hearse and my awaiting publicist would whisk me away on my Gulfstream jet for a media blitz tour; I'd be booked on CNN, Oprah, and MTV to plug my memoir, Vampire Vixen. My personal assistant would be in charge of making sure I had a bowl of black gummy bats and total darkness in the greenrooms at every talk show. My personal stylist would follow closely behind me, reapplying body tattoos, attaching blue hair extensions, and outfitting me in the latest Drac Blac dresses.

But in lieu of blabbing my discoveries to the world, I would have to keep Jagger's and Luna's ghastly secret to myself--that the twins were really vampires.

It had not always been so. Alexander shared with me that when the Maxwell twins were born, it was quickly discovered that Luna was not a vampire like everyone else in her family but rather a human--a genetic link that went back generations to a great-great mortal grandmother. A promise was made between the Sterlings and the Maxwells that on Luna's eighteenth birthday, Alexander was to meet Luna on sacred ground for a covenant ceremony--turning Luna into a vampire and bonding each to the other for eternity. When the day came, however, Alexander decided that Luna and he should both spend eternity with someone they love. After Alexander broke the two families' promise, Jagger sought revenge on Alexander. Once Luna was turned into a vampire by another vampire on unsacred ground, she joined her brother in Dullsville to meet a mortal teen with whom Luna could spend eternity. I knew that if I revealed the twins' true identity, then I'd be giving away Alexander's as well. I'd be putting my boyfriend in danger and could lose him forever.

So instead of being on the cover of Gothic Girl, I was going undercover.

The irony was that I'd have to convince Trevor, who had started the rumor in the first place that the Sterlings were vampires, that he had been right all along and now was in line to be the newest victim of Jagger and Luna's deadly duo. Though no one on earth repulsed me as much as Trevor, there was a gnawing inside me to warn him about the impending danger. And more important, if someone as wicked as Trevor became a vampire, all of Dullsville would be unsafe after sunset.

At Dullsville's drive-in, during the showing of Kissing Coffins, Alexander and I had tricked Jagger into believing I'd been bitten and turned into a vampiress. But several days later, at Dullsville's carnival, when Alexander and I confronted Luna in the Fun House's Hall of Mirrors, I was the only one whose image reflected. Would Jagger believe his sister or what his own eyes had witnessed at the drive-in?

"I'm not concerned," Alexander said, gently reassuring me that night when he pulled his butler Jameson's Mercedes into my driveway. "Jagger is seeking revenge on us through Trevor now. We can easily explain the Hall of Mirrors. Besides, Jagger's ego is too big to admit he was double-crossed."

"So we should continue to keep up appearances that I am a vampire," I said. "It would be easier if we just go to the cemetery and you take my blood as your own."

Alexander turned off the engine.

I know he dreamed of being in my world as much as I dreamed of being in his. But when he turned to me, his shadowy eyes reflected the loneliness of living in a mysterious world that was filled with darkness and isolation.

As I gazed back at him, I wondered if I really wanted to be a part of a world that Alexander didn't want to be in. Was I just going through a phase that would seemingly last forever? At this point, it was irrelevant, as we sat parked in the driveway, on unsacred ground. Alexander was making the decision for us both, by saying nothing.

"Then I'll start just by ditching school," I thought aloud. "I'll replace my bed with a coffin, sleep in all day with the shades pulled, wake up just in time for dinner. We can feast on bloody steaks and party among the tombstones. I'm going to love being a vampire!" He turned to me and placed his hand on my knee. "I've already caused you enough disruption by entering your life," he said softly. "First with Jagger, now with Luna. I'm not going to let this interfere with your family or school."

Frustrated, he pushed back his black hair, his earrings catching the moonlight.

"Don't say that--you've brought me a life I never knew existed. Adventure, belonging. True love."

His sullen eyes sparkled.

"Well, if you don't act normal, we'll have your parents, friends, and the whole town questioning your behavior," he argued.

I gnawed on my black fingernail. "But they already do."

A sweet smile came over his pale face. Then he furrowed his brow.

"Besides, you can do what I can't--attend school. That's where Trevor will be, if he's not already turned. Then you'll have a shot at convincing him to stay away from Luna."

I felt a sudden surge of pride. "You're entrusting me with a secret mission?"

"You'll be like a gothic Charlie's Angel."

"What if Jagger finds out I'm at school?" I asked. "He may wonder why I'm out in the daylight. I've never seen any vampires attending Dullsville High."

"That's the exact reason Jagger and Luna will never find out. Since they'll be hidden from the sun, they won't ever be able to see you," he reassured me.

"But what if Trevor or his soccer snob friends tell Jagger they saw me at school?" I pressed. "They won't have proof," Alexander said with certainty. "Jagger isn't likely to believe what he hasn't seen. And he did see me bite you, or pretend to bite you," he admitted, "at the drive-in."

Alexander walked me to the door. He leaned in to me and gave me a long good-night kiss. "While you're at school, I'll be fast asleep dreaming of you."

Alexander blew me a kiss, got in his car, and drove down the driveway. When I turned to wave, he had already vanished from view.

That night, as I lay in bed, I tried to calm my anxious nerves. I closed my eyes and imagined Alexander alone in his attic bedroom, skillfully painting a portrait of us at Dullsville's carnival, blasting Korn from his stereo.

I wasn't sure Alexander could remain so calm, knowing Luna and Jagger were in Dullsville. After the sun rose, I wouldn't be able to see my vampire-mate until nightfall. As Alexander slept the day away, I would return to school and find Trevor on my own.

The next morning, I awoke to the sun scorching through the cracks between my curtains like a burning torch. I pulled the drapes tightly closed, covered myself with a blanket, and tried to go back to sleep. But I kept thinking about my mission--to save my nemesis from a thirsty vampiress. I was in my bedroom scrounging for clothes for school when I heard the sound of a honking horn.

"Becky's here!" my mom called up to me from the kitchen.

"She's always ten minutes early!" I barked, pulling black-and- white tights over my legs. My best friend had always kept farm hours, but now that she was dating Matt, Trevor's former silent shadow, she insisted on arriving at school even earlier.

The sound of a horn blasted again. "You'll see him for the next six hours!" I murmured to myself.

"Raven," my mom called again. "I can't take you in today. I have a meeting--"

"I know! I'll be down in a minute!"

The truth was if Alexander was waiting by the bleachers for me at Dullsville High each day, I'd set my Nightmare Before Christmas alarm clock for five thirty, too. But as I put on a black miniskirt and a torn Donnie Darko T-shirt, all I could think of was handsome Alexander sleeping in his darkened bedroom. I would face the sunny day without him.

As Becky impatiently honked again, I covered my already blackened, tired eyes with charcoal eye shadow and eyeliner. Finally I grabbed my backpack and waved to my mom, and climbed into Becky's truck.

"I'm disconnecting that horn immediately," I said in a grumpy tone as I climbed into Becky's pickup.

"I'm sorry, Raven, it's just that--"

"I know, I know. 'I'm meeting Matt by the bleachers before school.'"

"Am I getting annoying?" she asked. "I'd be the same way if Alexander was waiting for me at school, instead of Trevor Mitchell."

"Thanks for understanding."

Becky passed a yellow bus loaded with preteen students heading for Dullsville Middle. Several students gathered at their windows. Some gawked at me, while the others pointed and laughed. I would have been surprised and perturbed, except that they did that every day.

"Well, speaking of Trevor...I have some major dirt on him."

"What's the buzz factor?"

"On a scale of one to ten, it's a nine and a half."

"Bring it on," I said, checking my ghoulish makeup in her broken visor mirror.

"Trevor has a girlfriend."

"You mean Luna?" I said, slamming the visor back.

"Luna?" she asked, confused.

"I mean, luna...tic. She's got to be a lunatic to date him. Anyway, who told you?"

"Matt said Trevor was seen with a goth at the carnival. I thought he meant you until he said she had ghost white hair."

"Goth? That's what people are saying about her?"

She nodded her head. "Yes. And that she's a major hottie. Matt didn't say that, of course, but he said that's what the soccer snobs are saying. You know how guys are, checking out the new girl."

"But Trevor despises anyone not sporting school colors." "Yeah, but she dotes on him like he's a prince. She and her brother worship him. So it's like he's captain of the soccer snobs and the goths. His head is going to explode.

"He probably likes her," she went on, "but it's you he really loves. It's obvious he's had a crush on you since you were kids. He can't have you, so he's trying to get second best."

I rolled my eyes and pretended to gag. "Thanks for the compliment," I said sarcastically.

"The good news is maybe Trevor will stop torturing you."

If Trevor became a vampire, his bite would be worse than his bark.

"Apparently she showed up at their soccer practice last night, cheering for Trevor," Becky continued.

"She did? I was afraid this would happen."

"Afraid of what?"

"Uh...," I began, stalling. "That Trevor would be popular again. After we've worked so hard to expose his inner monster."

"Without Matt by his side, no one cares what he says or does anymore."

"But who knows what..."

"We have our own lives now," Becky said proudly. "So who cares if he has one too."

I looked out the window and reflected on the rivalry Trevor and I had had since childhood. Deep down, I knew Becky was right, but I felt torn. Even though I detested Trevor and I was in love with Alexander, there was still a teeny competitive part of me that didn't want Trevor to be popular and have a girlfriend--vampire or not. Becky and I arrived late at the soccer field and spotted Matt walking down the bleachers, listening to his iPod. Becky raced over to him as if he had just disembarked off a military vessel.

I reached the slobbering pair. "Eh hem!" I said, coughing, and tapped Becky on the shoulder.

They broke apart their superglued embrace.

"Becky tells me Trevor has a girlfriend," I blurted out.

"I didn't say that," Matt said, looking strangely at Becky.

"But Becky said a girl was at practice rooting for Trevor."

"I guess. I thought you were done with him."

"I am, but gossip is gossip. Did Trevor leave with her?" I asked.

"She was with a creepy guy in a black knit hat. I think you'd like him. Pale with a lot of tattoos. When the team came out of the locker room, they had already gone."

Matt adjusted his backpack, grabbed Becky's hand, and started heading for school.

"Wait--did Trevor look different?" I interrogated.

"He wasn't wearing any tattoos," Matt said with a laugh.

"No, I mean unusually pale. Really thirsty. Redder eyes."

He thought for a moment. "He said he wasn't feeling well," he remembered. "Why all this interest in Trevor?"

The smitten couple looked at me curiously, waiting for an answer.

Suddenly the bell rang.

"I'd love to stay and chat, but you know how I like to be punctual," I lied, and took off. During my first three classes I was preoccupied with confronting Trevor, so to distract myself I daydreamed about Alexander. I wrote our names in my journal--Raven Madison x Alexander Sterling, TRUE LOVE ALWAYS--surrounded by black roses.

When the lunch bell finally rang, I skipped meeting Becky and Matt at the bleachers. Instead I combed the campus searching for Trevor.

I couldn't find my nemesis on the soccer field, the gym, or the steps where all the soccer snobs ate their filet mignon baguettes.

"Where's Trevor?" I asked a cheerleader who was tying her sneaker.

She eyeballed my outfit with contempt. She glared at me as if she were a queen and I were a serf who had dared to stumble upon her castle. She picked up her red and white pom-poms and turned away as if she had already wasted too much time.

"Have you seen Trevor?" I repeated.

"He's home," she snarled.

"You mean I could have stayed home too?" I mumbled. The only reason I came to school today was to find him.

She rolled her eyes at me.

I glared back, imagining what it would be like if I was a real vampire. I'd transform into a spooky bat, swoop around her as she let out a bloodcurdling scream, and tangle myself in her perfectly combed blond hair. "Duh. He's sick," she finally said, scrutinizing me as if I, too, were spreading contagions.

Sick? Matt said that last night Trevor was pale and wasn't feeling well. My mind raced. Sick from what? The sunlight? Garlic? Maybe Luna and Jagger had already managed to lure him to Dullsville's cemetery. Right now Trevor could be sleeping in a red and white coffin. I had to act fast.

I'd spent most of my life sneaking in and out of places--my house, the Mansion, Dullsville's elementary and middle schools. But since I was still a mere mortal and did not yet possess the powers of a shapeshifting bat, Dullsville High was getting harder to just walk, climb, or tunnel out of.

Principal Reed hired security guards to patrol both entrances of the campus, cutting down on kids leaving for lunch and not returning to school. Dullsville High was becoming like Alcatraz. All that remained was for the school board to encircle the campus with frigid water and killer sharks.

Instead of sneaking out, I'd have to make my exit known.

I opened Nurse William's office door to find three other kids wheezing, coughing, and sneezing in the waiting room, glaring at me as if I were the one who was ill.

I realized this might take longer than waiting until school let out.

I jotted down notes in my Olivia Outcast journal when Nurse William, the poster woman for health, bounced out. Exposed to seasonal colds, allergies, and excuses, Nurse William was impervious to dripping noses. Looking more like she stepped out of a gym than an examination room, she could probably snap off her own blood pressure band with a single bicep curl. "Teddy Lerner," she called, reading from a chart. "It's your turn," she said, flashing a Colgate smile.

"I need to see you immediately," I interjected, standing up and holding my stomach. "I don't think I can wait much longer."

Teddy stared at me, his nose as red as Rudolph's, and sneezed. I almost felt bad, but I knew all Teddy needed was a big Kleenex and a bowl of chicken soup. If I didn't get to Trevor Mitchell soon, there might not be any blood left to draw in town.

"All right, Raven."

Nurse William, like Principal Reed, knew me on a first-name basis, since I'd been to each of their offices on numerous occasions.

I followed her into her office--a small, sterile room with the usual jars of tongue depressors, Band-Aids, extra long Q-tips, and a blue cot.

I sat on a metal chair next to Nurse William's desk.

"I've had the chills since I woke up," I fibbed.

She examined my eyes with a small pen light.

"Uh-huh," she said.

She held up her stethoscope.

"Take a deep breath," she said, putting her instrument on my chest.

I slowly breathed in and then fake sneezed and coughed so wildly, I thought I'd pulled a lung.

She quickly drew back the stethoscope.

"Interesting." Nurse William opened her glass cabinet and pulled out an ear thermometer and sterile cover and took my temperature.

After a minute, she read the results.

"Just what I thought."

"I'm sick?"

"I think you have a case of either `testitis' or 'I Didn't Do My Homework Syndrome.' It's common in the spring."

"But I feel awful!"

"You probably just need a good night's rest."

"I think I need to go home," I choked out. "You are keeping me against my will. I have a stomachache and headache, and my throat hurts," I said, talking through my nose.

"We can't release you unless you have a fever," she said, returning the thermometer to the glass cabinet.

"Haven't you heard of preventive medicine?"

"You do look like you haven't slept. Well, you'll have to get approval from Principal Reed," she said with a sigh, exhausted.

Great. New rules to be broken.

I stepped into Principal Reed's office with a note from Nurse William.

I fake sneezed and coughed.

"You've used up all your school sick days," he said, perusing my file. "You've requested to leave school one hundred and thirty days out of the one hundred and forty days of school so far."

"So thirty-one might be the magic number?" "Well, you do look awful," he finally said, and signed my school release form.

"Thanks!" I said sarcastically.

I wasn't planning on appearing so convincing.

"I'm sorry, Raven," my mom said as she pulled our SUV into the driveway. "I feel terrible leaving you alone, but I have an off-site meeting that's been scheduled for months."

She walked me to the front door and gave me a quick hug as I stepped inside. "Funny," I began. "I'm feeling better already." I closed the door, and as soon as I saw my mom drive down the street, I grabbed my usual vampire detectors--garlic powder and a compact mirror belonging to Ruby White of Armstrong Travel--and headed straight for Trevor's.

No wonder vampires didn't venture out in daylight. I hungered for the safe haven of shade from trees and hovering clouds and thirsted for the warm blanket of nightfall. The hot sun began to bake my pale skin as I rode my bike up the Mitchells' driveway and passed a Ferguson and Son's Painting pickup parked in front of their four-car garage. I laid the bike against the side of the screened-in porch and rang the Mitchells' bell. Their dog began to bark from the backyard.

When no one answered, I rang the bell again.

Suddenly a small, elderly white-haired man carrying a ladder came out of the garage. "Hi, Mr. Ferguson," I said, running over to the familiar painter. "Is Trevor home?"

The elderly worker looked at me oddly.

"It's me, Raven," I said, pulling down my shades.

"Hi, Raven. Shouldn't you be at school?" he wondered.

"I'm on lunch break," I replied.

"I didn't think they let kids go home for lunch anymore. In my day, there was no such thing as school lunch," he began. "We had to--"

"Really, I'd love to hear all about it, but I don't have much time--"

"I just dispatched my sons for takeout. If I'd known you were coming...," he began politely.

"That's very sweet of you, but I just need to see Trevor."

"It's probably not a good day for a visit. He's been in his room since sunrise."

Sunrise? I wondered.

"Well, I'll just be a minute," I said, walking past him toward the garage.

Mr. Ferguson put down the ladder.

"Raven, I can't let you in."

"But why? It's only me--," I whined.

Didn't he know I was on a mission to save Dullsville?

"Not when I'm on a job. It could cost me my contract." More rules to be broken.

I plastered on my best puppy-dog face, the one I used with my dad when I wanted to stay out late. But the old man was steadfast. "The Mitchells should be home after five."

"I'll come back later then," I responded. "It was nice seeing you."

I walked over to my bike as Mr. Ferguson awkwardly carried the ladder to his truck. With his back to me, I knew I had only seconds. I dashed into the garage, snuck past a vintage Bentley, and opened the door to the laundry room. The smell of fresh paint wafted through the house as I raced over the plastic drop cloth, past the newly painted sunflower yellow kitchen. I would have complimented Mr. Ferguson on his paint job if it wouldn't have given away my dubious location.

I ran toward the front hall.

I'd been to Trevor's house only once, for his fifth birthday party, and that was only because he had invited everyone in our kindergarten class. My parents always told me that when they grew up and returned to their childhood homes, the houses looked smaller. Well, if Trevor's house seemed like a castle when I was in kindergarten, then as a sophomore, it had only downsized to a mansion. Mr. Mitchell owned half of Dullsville, and Mrs. Mitchell made her living by serial shopping. And it showed.

The entranceway alone seemed three stories high. A marble balcony was accentuated with two descending bleach white wooden staircases forming a semicircle around an indoor fountain. A grand dining room sat off to the left with a white diamond teardrop chandelier and a glass table with twelve beige linen-covered chairs. It was almost the same style as the living room at the Mansion--but without the cobwebs. On the right, a sitting room the size of my house was decorated in African art and adorned with enough fertility statues to impregnate an entire country. I remembered standing in this exact spot when I was five, just after my mom dropped me off. For what seemed like hours, my classmates were running past me, giggling as if I weren't even there.

Finally we were called outside to the Mitchells' football-size backyard where a clown, a merry-go-round, and a pony were awaiting us. Watching my classmates dance, sing, and ride, I sat alone on the patio until Trevor opened one perfectly wrapped present after another containing Hot Wheels, LEGOs, or Nerf footballs. Then Mrs. Mitchell handed him a black box complete with a black bow, wrapped by yours truly.

Trevor ripped the package open and pulled out a brand-new mint-condition Dracula action figure. His eyes lit up and he exclaimed, "Wow!"

Mrs. Mitchell cued him to "show and share."

Wide-eyed, he proudly passed it to the pigtailed partygoer sitting next to him.

"That looks like Raven!" the girl shouted.

"Gross. It probably has cooties," another warned, returning it to him.

Trevor's gorgeous smile turned into a hideous frown. He glared at me and threw my gift back in the box.

I remained alone on the patio steps for the rest of the party while the other kids ate cake and ice cream.

My stomach turned as I remembered that day. I paused for a moment and wondered if instead of running up to Trevor's room and warning him about Luna's intentions, I should sneak back out the way I came in.

I heard the laundry room doorknob turn. I quietly raced up the pristine staircase and past more doors than were in the MGM Grand Hotel. After peeking in a million guest bedrooms and bathrooms down a hallway the length of an international runway, one final door awaited.

I'm not sure what I expected to find-- Trevor had been sleeping since sunrise. It had been confirmed by several sources that he was sick and pale. If Trevor had already been bitten, I was putting myself in danger.

I had no other choice. I double-checked the garlic stashed in my purse.

I knocked gently.

When I didn't get a response, I slowly twisted the handle and opened the door. I took off my glasses and my hood. I crept inside.

Light from the hallway shined softly through the bedroom. The dark curtains were drawn closed--one sign Trevor could already be turned.

The soccer snob must have had his own personal interior decorator. His bedroom could have graced the cover of Architectural Digest Teen.

Next to the curtains, a giant flat-screen computer sat on a white modular desk. On one side of the room was a wall-mounted gazillion- inch plasma TV. Underneath it was a teen's dream lounge--a red futon couch, a soccer-themed pinball machine, and a foosball table.

Lastly and most ghastly was his midnight blue king-size bed with a soccer-goal headboard.

I almost gagged. I could see Trevor's golden blond hair sticking out from underneath his comforter.

As much as I would have liked to short-sheet his bed or stick his hand in warm water, I decided to open his computer desk to search for any hidden clues. All I found were unsharpened pencils, a school lock, and loose batteries.

I opened two shutter doors, which led to something more like a sporting goods store than a teen's closet. A few feet away a glass bookshelf was adorned with a million soccer trophies and medals, and on the wall hung ribbons, a half dozen framed soccer pictures, and Dullsville High Chatterbox articles. I glided my finger across a dust- free gold trophy when I noticed something dust-filled hidden behind it--a decade-old Dracula action figure.

For a moment I almost felt a warming sensation filter through my icy veins. Then he stirred.

I quietly tiptoed over to him. I stood frozen. The normally sun- kissed soccer snob looked like one of the undead. But even when he was sick, Trevor was gorgeous. It almost made me ill that he had gotten so much by having a pretty face and a fast kick to midfield.

I wondered why this conservative snob was so attracted to the gothic Luna. Was it because she was pursuing him? Was it to get back at me? Or had my nemesis found the true love of his life? The major issue that perplexed me was why I cared.

I opened my purse and pulled out Ruby's compact. My fingers quavering, I angled it toward Trevor. All at once, he turned over and knocked it out of my hand. I scrambled on the floor to find it.

"What's going on?" he asked, his voice hoarse.

I curled up alongside his bed, breathing the shallowest of breaths.

"Jasper? Is that you?" he asked. I lifted up his blue duvet so I could squeeze underneath his bed. Instead of an open space to hide, I found a handle to a king-size trundle drawer--as if he didn't have enough closet space.

I had nowhere to escape. I'd have to switch to plan B.

"Hi, Trevor," I said, popping up.

Startled, the soccer snob let out a scraggly yell. "What the hell are you doing here?" he shouted, sitting up.

"I just--," I stammered, fumbling with the compact and trying to shove it back into my purse.

"How did you get in?"

"Your nanny let me in," I teased. "I'm not surprised you still have one."

"What are you doing in my room?" Trevor wondered, fingering his tousled blond hair.

"I heard you were sick."

"So?"

"I wanted to know if you needed anything."

"Are you insane?"

"I'm fulfilling my health class assignment: Help someone in need."

"But I'm not in need, especially from you."

"I'll be the judge of that. I think you should start with some sunshine," I said, like a gothic Mary Poppins. "I'm the only one who likes it this gloomy." I went to his window and pulled back the heavy drapes.

"Stop!" he said, shielding his eyes. But I continued to draw the curtains as far as they could go.

"Get out of here, freak!" he hollered, squinting.

I waited to see if there was any reaction. He could recoil. Maybe he'd melt.

I got a reaction from Trevor all right, but it wasn't what I expected. He got up, his pale face now flushed with anger.

"Get out already," he ordered. "Go back to the troll hole you live in. You've contaminated my house enough already."

I grabbed the garlic container from my purse and held it out to him.

"What's that?" he asked.

"Garlic. It helps clear out the system. Why don't you breathe it in," I said, stepping closer.

"Get that away from me, you freak."

Trevor didn't recoil like Alexander had when I accidentally exposed him to garlic powder. Instead, Trevor got madder.

I pulled out a pen and a Hello Batty paper pad. "Now," I said like a nurse filling out a patient's records, "have you kissed anyone in the past forty-eight hours?"

"What's it your business?"

"I have to fill out a communicable diseases questionnaire. You don't want your new girlfriend, Luna, to get your diseases, do you?"

"Why, are you jealous?"

"Of course not," I replied with a laugh. "That's what this is really about," he said, his raspy tone suddenly brightening. "Why you are here, in my house. In my room-- ," he said, stepping closer.

"Don't flatter yourself--"

"You couldn't handle seeing me with Luna--," he said with a smile.

"Frankly, I can't handle seeing you at all."

"I knew it. I saw it in your eyes at the carnival," he said, taking another step toward me.

"That's not what you saw in my eyes."

I tried to get a quick glance at both sides of his neck. But he mistook the reason for my gaze. He stepped toward me and leaned in to kiss me.

I held him at bay with my pad of paper.

"Get off!"

"But I thought that's why you came--"

I rolled my eyes. "I need to know--have you been bitten by anything or anyone?"

"Of course not. But I won't tell if you don't tell," he said with a clever grin.

"Then my work is complete," I said, racing for the door. "Now take two dog biscuits and don't call me in the morning."

Trevor stood still, weary and confused.

"And most important," I offered as I opened the door, "stay away from the cemetery."

"I'm sick," he said. "Not dead." I hopped on my bike. Coasting back home, I was relieved that Trevor wasn't a vampire--for the town's sake and for mine.

As the sun set, I lay in bed under the covers.

"I hate to leave you again," my mom said, "but they are honoring your father at the country club. It's been such a busy day, I feel like I'm neglecting you."

"I feel tons better. I took a nap and I'm totally recovered."

"Well, Billy is over at Henry's. We'll pick him up after the ceremony."

As soon as I heard my dad's BMW pull out of the driveway, I jumped out of bed, fully dressed, and headed over to the Mansion.

I found Alexander in his attic room. He was staring pensively out the window. When I tapped at his door, his mood quickly changed. He gave me a long hello kiss, and for a moment I forgot all about my childhood nemesis and a lurking vampiress named Luna.

"We have to do something," Alexander said suddenly. I was quickly pulled from a heavenly cloud nine and back into the threat of the Underworld.

"I can think of a few things. Shall we stay in here?" I teased coyly. "Or take our party to the gazebo?"

But Alexander didn't smile. "I'm serious," he said.

I missed Alexander so desperately during the day, I felt grateful to be with him now. Though I was excited by the adventures of the town I now called "Vampireville," I also resented that Jagger and Luna took romantic time away from Alexander and me. "But now that we're together, it's hard for me to think of anything but you. I've been waiting all day to see you," I said.

"I know, me too," he said with a sigh. "But until Jagger and Luna are gone, we can't sit around. Did you see Trevor?"

"Yes," I began, sitting in his beat-up comfy chair. "He was sick today and stayed home from school."

"Sick?" he asked, worried. "Is it already too late?"

"No," I said. "Fortunately Luna hasn't sunk her fangs into him yet. He just has the flu."

"Great!" he said, relieved, and leaned on the arm of the chair. Then he turned serious. "If he was home sick, how did you see him?"

"Uh...," I stammered, turning away.

"You didn't," he said in a scornful voice.

"Well--"

"You went to his house? Alone?" he asked, glaring down at me.

"No, the painter was there," I said, fiddling with a loose string from the fabric of the chair.

Alexander knelt down and took my hand. "Raven--I don't want you to be alone with him. If Trevor isn't a vampire, he is still a vulture."

"I know. You are right," I replied, his dark eyes melting me.

When my mom and dad were protective of me, it was annoying; when it came from Alexander, it was sexy.

"Promise me--"

"I promise," I said. "Well, if they didn't get to Trevor already, then they must be waiting for the right moment."

"That would be ironic. Trevor, who hates anything goth, gets to be a vampire, and I, who would love nothing more, don't."

"It is important to be whoever you are, for the right reason," he said, stroking my hand reassuringly.

"I know."

"Besides," he began, rising and returning to the attic window, "Trevor has no idea what Luna has in store for him."

I followed him and nestled in the dusty window seat. "What do we do?" I asked.

"Somehow we have to force them to go back to Romania."

"With an iron stake?" I wondered. "Or a fiery torch?"

Alexander shook his head, still thinking.

"Maybe I could swing a discounted fare from Ruby at Armstrong Travel," I suggested, pulling at a tear on my black leather boot. "We could convince Jagger and Luna that their parents miss them and demand their immediate return."

"But at this point we don't even know where they are," he said, frustrated. "They're hiding somewhere in the shadows."

"If we can take away the shadows, then we take away their defense," I said.

"You're right," he agreed suddenly.

"I am?" I asked, excited by my unlikely genius. "How do we take away a shadow?" "Not a shadow...," he said, scooching next to me. "We have to take away the one thing that makes Jagger safe, no matter where he is."

I looked at Alexander curiously.

"The one thing that protects him from humans, other vampires, and the sun," he continued.

"Yes?" I asked eagerly.

"We have to find Jagger's coffin."

"Wow. That's perfect. Then he won't have anywhere to hide."

Alexander smiled, exhilarated that we finally had a plan.

"But wait," I said. "Can't Jagger just sleep in a bed like you, with the shades drawn? Or hide in the loft of a barn? You don't sleep in a coffin."

Alexander looked at me with deep, almost shameful eyes.

Then he rose and pushed aside his beat-up comfy chair, revealing a small attic door. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a skeleton key.

"I do," he whispered.

He unlocked the bolt and slowly opened the door, and we stepped inside a dark, dusty ancient hideaway.

There, sitting in the shadows, was a secret in the shape of a casket--a simple black coffin, with dirt haphazardly sprinkled around it. Next to it was a wooden table with an unlit half-melted candle and a small, softly painted portrait of me.

"I had no idea--," I said with barely any breath.

"You weren't supposed to." "But your bed--it's always unmade."

"It's where I rest and try to dream that I am like you."

I grabbed his hand and held it close. "You never had to hide anything in your world from me," I said, looking up into his lonely eyes.

"I know," he said. "I was hiding it from myself."

Alexander closed and locked the small attic door, once again concealing his conflicted true identity.