“Do you think I made the right choice?”
“I think you made the only choice,” Jack told me solemnly. Then he smiled crookedly, trying to brighten my mood. “Come on. Let’s go pack your stuff so we can hurry up and have a sleepover.”
“You make it sound so much more fun than it really is,” I muttered and got out of the car.
“Hey, any time you spend with me is fun!” Jack said, following me out.
“Oh, yeah, last night was a total hoot.” I meant it at as some kind of joke, but the hurt look on Jack’s face meant I cut a lot deeper than I meant to. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Nah, you’re right,” he brushed me off and went into the apartment building in front of me.
The apartment looked the same as it always had, but it felt smaller somehow. Thankfully, my mother was at work, because I wasn’t ready for a conversation with her. It’d be too hard telling her Milo wasn’t coming home, even if I was just feeding her a lie a about staying in a vacation house.
Milo’s room was immaculate, making it easy to find the things that I needed to pack. He mostly needed clothes, and I picked out what I thought were his favorites.
Jack tagged along for moral support, and he ended up being a huge motivator. I tended to stand and stare until he prompted me to do something, like pick up a shirt.
Going through all Milo’s stuff was hard. It felt like an invasion of privacy and the kind of the thing I would do when he was dead.
After we got Milo’s stuff, I went in my room to grab my clothes. As long as Milo was turning, I didn’t plan to leave him, so I’d need things for myself.
Before we left, I wrote a note for my mother and kept it as simple as I could. I told her we were at a vacation house for the next few days, and I’d have my cell if she needed me.
The note didn’t sound very convincing, mostly because it was from me. Milo usually did that kind of thing.
“How long is this gonna take?” I asked on the car ride back.
“The car ride?” Jack was willfully playing dumb, and I didn’t appreciate it. “Like five more minutes.”
“How long will it take for Milo to turn?” I carefully enunciated all the words.
“I don’t know, Alice.”
“What do you know?” I snapped.
“I told you that you need to talk to Ezra about all of this,” Jack said. “I don’t know why you think I was kidding. We’re almost home now. You can run inside and interrogate him until your heart’s content.”
“I will.” I crossed my arms over my chest, as if I had won something.
“Yeah. I know you will.”
Jack carried the bags inside when we got to his house. Matilda waited by the door for his return, but even she seemed oddly subdued. The entire mood of the house had changed. Everybody waited on edge for Milo to be okay.
Jack went upstairs and I started following him. I wanted to check on Milo again, but Ezra appeared at the top of the steps. Something about the way he looked made me freeze, but Jack kept going, brushing past him with my luggage.
“Did something happen?” I asked Ezra.
“He’s fine,” Ezra reassured me and descended the stairs. “But I don’t think you should see him right now.”
“Why not?” I straightened up for a fight. Nobody could keep me from my brother, not even an all-powerful vampire. He placed his hand on my arm, and some of my anger relented.
“Let’s talk.” Moving his hand to the small of my back, he ushered me to the living room.
“Are you sure nothing happened?” I repeated.
“He woke up,” Ezra allowed carefully, and my heart sped up.
“He did? Is he okay? What did he say?” My excitement was overwhelming, but he gestured to couch.
“Please, sit. We need to talk.”
“What?” I collapsed back on the couch, feeling nauseous.
“He is turning, and rather rapidly at that.” Ezra sat next to me. “He’s young and strong, and the change should be completely over within a few days. He’s going to be alright.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful,” I breathed deeply. A weight lifted off my shoulders, and a surge of relief went through me. Then I noticed the grim expression on Ezra’s face. “So why do you still look like you have bad news?”
“I don’t. Not really,” he qualified, forcing a smile. “You just can’t see him for awhile.”
“What do you mean?” I narrowed my eyes at him.
“At least until the change is complete, and he can get a grip on his hunger,” he elaborated, and I remembered what Jack said in the car. “You can’t go near him until things are under control.”
“He’s going to try and bite me?” I shook my head, disbelieving. “He hasn’t fully turned yet. He just woke up.”
“He’s already eating, Alice.”
My chest tightened, and my head swam. I thought I still had time. I don’t know what I planned on doing with that time, but I thought he’d be human for just a little longer.
But he was drinking blood less than twenty-four hours after biting Jack. He was Milo the vampire, and he would kill me if I got too close to him.
“It will get better. I promise.” Ezra placed his hand on mine, trying to comfort me. “You can be around all of us without any problems, and it will be the same with Milo. It takes time to get a handle on things. At the rate he’s going, it shouldn’t be that long.”
“So…” My mouth felt dry, and I swallowed hard. “Do I need to go home?”
“No, of course not. We wouldn’t expect you to go home while all this is going on, and Milo is still fairly incapacitated. He shouldn’t leave the room for a day or two. By the time he does, he should be in control enough.” He smiled, as if that was reassuring in some way.
“Awesome,” I said wryly.
“I know the situation isn’t ideal, but he’s going to live, Alice. And he’s going to be better than he was before. You’re not going to have to worry about him anymore.”
“I know, I know.” I closed my eyes, letting it all sink in.
I knew I should be grateful to them. They saved Milo’s life and gave him an amazing gift, but it didn’t really feel like it then.
When it came to my little brother drinking blood and turning into something that would rip my head off, it felt a lot more like a curse.
“Did he say anything?” I asked.