“He didn’t mean to,” I insisted, and that was only half a lie.
Peter never really wanted to hurt me, but he didn’t know what to do about anything. When I asked him to end my life, he refused, so I bit my lip hard enough to draw blood, and I knew that he wouldn’t be able to reject biting me then. I had forced him into it, and Jack rushed in to stop him from finishing the job.
“But he did, Alice! All he ever did was push you away and treat you like crap and almost kill you! What about that is so endearing to you?”
“He didn’t ask for any of this, Jack! He didn’t ask to feel the way he did about me, and he just wanted it to stop! And now he’s alone and suicidal somewhere because of me! I can’t just let him die!”
My intensity only hurt and bewildered Jack more. He leaned back, resting against a row of shelves filled with his Converse. His face had gone lax, and I knew he had resigned himself to me going, but that didn’t mean he felt okay about it.
“Jack, listen to me.” I took his hand, and his sad, blue eyes met mine. “Ezra’s not going to let anything bad happen to me. And I love you, okay?”
“I don’t want you to go, Alice,” Jack said simply. “Please, if you love me, don’t go.”
Seeing him like that, so desperate for me to stay, broke my heart. I never wanted to hurt him. If Ezra shot me down, I wouldn’t have fought to go, but he agreed, so he thought that I could help. If causing Jack a few moments of misery would save Peter’s life, then so be it.
“I’m sorry, Jack.”
Downstairs, Ezra called my name and said we had to get going. I pursed my lips, watching Jack. Part of me expected him to yell and demand that I stay, but that was never his style. He lowered his eyes and rubbed his thumb along the back of my hand, making my skin tremble.
“I’ll drive you,” Jack whispered and got to his feet.
“What?” Milo asked incredulously. “You’re just letting her go?”
Jack still held my hand, so he helped me to my feet. He leaned over and picked up my bag so he could carry it downstairs.
“What am I supposed to do?” Jack gave Milo a helpless shrug as we walked past him.
“I told you! Forbid her from going!” Milo grew nervous and fidgety, traits that were increasingly uncommon with his new-found vampire confidence.
“Yeah, you try forbidding her,” Jack muttered.
He held my hand as we went downstairs where Mae and Ezra waited with his luggage. On the table, a small duffel bag was full of special containers.
We survived mostly on blood donations, thanks to a set of clinics they ran similar to the Red Cross. People donated blood thinking it was for blood transfusions in humans, but really, they were sustaining almost the entire species of vampires.
When traveling with blood, we used special equipment. Airport security would find it suspect if Ezra boarded the plane with bags of blood. He used metal cans that looked like shaving cream, lined to make it impossible for dogs to sniff out. We could each only take one can with us, but it just had to be enough to last me the flight. We’d get more when we landed.
Ezra stood next to Mae, sifting through the papers to make sure they were all in order. As soon as I had turned, he got all the documentation set up so I could live my life with them without any suspicion.
That had been a source of contention since I had insisted on keeping my last name Bonham instead of changing it to Townsend, like the rest of them. Nobody had actually cared except for Jack, but he didn’t understand why I wouldn’t want his last name, especially since that was Milo’s last name too.
Someday, I’m sure it would change, but for now, I wanted to hang onto every part of myself that I could, even if it was just my name.
On the plus side, Ezra changed my age to eighteen, so it’d be easier for me to do things if I wasn’t a minor. They did the same thing with Milo, even though he was only sixteen, but he looked closer to nineteen.
All of Ezra’s information said that he was twenty-nine, even though he had actually been twenty-six when he turned, but it was that way with all of them. Jack was really twenty-four, but his license said he was twenty-seven, and Mae’s said that she was thirty-one, even though she was three years younger than that when she turned.
They’d lived this life, this name in this house, for four years already. They wouldn’t be able to pull off their ages for much longer, though, which meant that they were going to have to move very soon. As it was, Jack didn’t really pass for twenty-seven, and he would never make it as thirty.
“When was the last time you ate?” Ezra asked me but didn’t look up from my passport. It was brand new, and he inspected it for any mistakes. As soon as I’d turned, Ezra had gotten me all the paperwork I might need, including a driver’s license, birth certificate, and passport.
“Um, yesterday,” I said.
There was a constant thirst with me, but it wasn’t the same as being thirsty when I was human. My mouth wasn’t parched, and my stomach didn’t feel empty like I was hungry, either. I just felt this need inside me, coming from everywhere and nowhere all at once.
The closest feeling I could recall is when I ran too fast in gym, and my muscles would start to ache from the oxygen depilation. It would be this slow, swelling cramp that permeated through me. Except now the relief came from blood, accompanied by frantic lust.
I managed to have reasonable control over my bloodlust. Both Milo and I had a stronger grasp of that than most vampires, something that bewildered Ezra and Mae. Our relationship to vampires constantly surprised them, and Ezra thought there was something deeper going on than merely my bond with Peter and Jack.
“Hmm.” Ezra eyed me over. “I don’t want you to get tired just yet. We’ll have to wait until you’re on the flight. Do you think you can handle being around people that much on an empty stomach?”
“I think so,” I nodded, but I wasn’t as certain as I tried to sound.
Since I was so newly turned, blood had a very strong effect on me. Eating felt amazing, but after, I’d be very drowsy and out of it. Usually, I’d just pass out and sleep it off for awhile. Eventually, drinking blood should give me more energy instead of knocking me out, but that was awhile off yet.
On top of that, I had very little experience being around people. I found myself attracted to Jack’s blood, and his pulse is significantly weaker than humans. Their blood smelled stronger, pounded harder, and would be far more enticing. I had shown a lot of self-control so far, but in all honesty, I’d had very little temptation.