“She will be okay,” the young vampire tells his sire as the father passes his swaddled newborn daughter over.
He looks over at the mother, who is barely holding on to what little life she has left. The mother holds her weak hand out.
“I need to see her,” she chokes out.
The young vampire nods and walks over to where the mother lies. He sets the baby in her arms and watches as she places a kiss on her newborn’s forehead.
“You have a wonderful path ahead of you.” She looks adoringly at her daughter with tears streaming down her pale face.
“I love you, my sweet baby girl, but I can’t be with you right now. When the time comes, we will meet again. For now, I want you to be happy and live your life to the fullest.”
She lays one more kiss on her forehead and places her infant back in the younger vampire’s embrace. He turns to walk out, but she calls out to him.
“You need to understand something. Her life will not be an easy one. Things will happen that will be out of our control. The most important thing is to protect her and keep her away from the Elders.
“Don’t let them find out about her. They will do everything to destroy her because of how special and rare she is.”
The mother’s dark chocolate eyes are filled with trust but also grieve when she casts her gaze upon him holding her baby girl.
A sense of peace comes over her, seeing her infant daughter snuggled against his chest.
“I will protect her with my life,” he reassures while glancing down at the beautiful baby and feels something stir in his chest.
He can’t pinpoint the feelings but knows he won’t leave this innocent girl helpless in a world full of so much evil, hate, and despair.
He doesn’t want such vileness to touch her pure soul; he will do anything in his power to keep her innocent and pure.
“She will never know fear with me,” he tells her parents, then they both look up with solemn faces as they are unsure of their daughter’s fate.
However, they know the promises made are true. They have chosen wisely for their child’s guardian.
He will protect this little girl, his little girl, not only from the Elders but from all the evil of the world. He will save her.
“You cannot stay with her. Being seen with you puts her in danger,” his sire replied with a sigh. “It’s the only way to keep her safe.”
The young man knows better than to argue with his sire, so he bows his head in submission. He sees the final tears fall from the grieving mother’s eyes and feels her sorrow.
He remembers the time he watched his own mother cry at his funeral. He remembers the pain in her eyes. It was all too real.
“I know she is in good hands with you; it’s time to take her now.” His sire hands him a manila envelope that has two names written upon it, the name of her adoptive family.
“These are all the documents the family will need for her. They are also expecting you.” He nods and presses the baby girl closer to his chest. He will keep her safe if it is the last thing he does.
“Tessa, I don’t want to go,” I say, groaning. My best friend and younger sister, by a year, is trying her best to convince me to go to a party, but in truth, I’m not sure I’m ready.
“But it will be the perfect opportunity for you to get back out there,” she says with a shimmy and a wink.” You know what they say about getting over someone, right?”
I know where she is going with this, but I choose to play along. “No, but I’m sure you’re going to enlighten me.”
Tessa shimmies her hips. “They say the way to get over someone is to get under someone else.” She giggles.
“Um, there is no way that’s going to happen in the next decade,” I answer. My recent breakup with my boyfriend of six years, Rick, is still a little blurry in details, but it needed to happen.
The relationship turned toxic in our senior year of high school. He became controlling, never liked me wearing makeup or dressing in anything that revealed any skin.
On top of being controlling, when I told him I wasn’t ready for sex, he found it elsewhere, cheating on me I don’t know how many times. I was done. I had enough.
Now that I’m twenty and a junior in college, I have refocused. I know Rick is never going to change his ways, and I have set my sights on someone new.
Rick and I were together so long that I never had the chance to truly experience dating. Yes, I’m still leery and not so trustful of men.
Even though Kierran McAllister is new to our school and still a mystery to me, for some strange reason, I feel he can be trusted.
The guy’s drop-dead gorgeous, and his emerald eyes are so intense they draw me in.
I think back a month when he walked into my English class. His eyes fixated on me, and I couldn’t forget how my body came alive under his gaze.
Tessa snapped me from my thoughts.
“What are you thinking about? Your face is all flushed.”
She isn’t wrong. Suddenly aware of the heat in my cheeks, I walk over to the mirror.
“Oh, um… It’s nothing,” I lie. “ What are you wearing to the party?”
I should know I can’t distract Tessa. She usually has a one-track mind and a keen sense of when something is bothering me.
“Oh no, you don’t, Annabeth!” she scolds. “You were thinking about Rick again, weren’t you? Sweets, it’s been over two months! You need to get over him. It was you who ended it, remember?”
Laughter spills out of me. I can’t believe she thought my blush was caused by thoughts of Rick.
“Anna, you okay?”
Seeing the concern in her eyes, I calm myself.
“Yes, Tess, I am fine. I wasn’t thinking about Rick, well, not in that way.” I roll my eyes. “If you really want to know, I was thinking about Kierran McAllister.”
Tessa starts fanning her face at the mention of his name.
Walking over to my closet, I say, “If I go tonight, I need an outfit that is different from what I normally wear.”
“Oh my gosh, really?” She starts jumping up and down and clapping. “It’s finally happened. My girl has finally moved on and, of course, with someone so sinfully hot.
“Oh, Anna, I’m so happy for you because he wants you to too.”
I roll my eyes at how absurd she is being and scoff. “Don’t be ridiculous, Tessa. There is no way a guy who looks like that would want me. He can have any girl he wants.
“Besides, look at me. I’m scarred and definitely not worthy of being loved by someone like him, let alone anyone.”
I look down at the ground and think about the scar on my right breast. I have come to accept this hideous scar as a part of my body and a daily reminder that no guy would want a scarred and damaged girl.
It’s also the sad truth that I either go back to Rick or I spend my life alone and become a spinster with a hundred cats to keep me company.
Going back to that cheating, abusive asshole is not even an option.
Tessa turns her dark-blue eyes on me. “Annabeth, you are beautiful and worthy of anyone who treats you right.
“Rick was a creep, and yes, he did some horrible things to you, but you cannot let him define who you are. You are Annabeth St. James, my sister, my best friend, and so freaking amazing!
“Kierran would be a fool not to want you. I was watching the way he was looking at you in class. It’s the way he looks at you every day. See, Anna? I notice these things.
“When you are around, it seems the only thing that has his attention is you. The boy has it bad for you. However, if he doesn’t, that’s okay. You need to take time for yourself.
“Rushing into another relationship so soon after the breakup might not be such a good idea.”
Tess did have a point, and it wasn’t like I wanted a relationship with Kierran, but maybe I could have him pay a little attention to me, the kind of attention a girl deserves.
“You’re right, Tessa, but I can promise you. Nothing will happen between Kierran and me. Rick would see to that. Even if he did like me.”
Tessa’s lips curve into a wicked grin, and I can’t help but let a little giggle escape.
“Something tells me that Kierran wouldn’t let “Limpy Dicky” stop him from getting what he wants and that, my darling friend, is you.”
Laughter erupts from me. “Limpy Dickey? Where on earth did that come from?”
She grins again. “Oh, I hear things,” she answers.
“Andrea told me she overheard Porsche telling the girls on the cheer squad that the star quarterback couldn’t get it up. She said it took her over two hours to get him off, and it wasn’t great.”
“I want to feel bad for Porsche, but she deserves it since she knew he was still with me.” I screw up my face in disgust.
“It’s also very disturbing, and now I’m going to have nightmares about that tonight, so thanks, Sis.”
“I also heard—”
I cut her off. “Please stop, Tess. I don’t need to hear any more about Rick’s sex life. I’m disgusted by him already.”
“Okay, you’re right. I got sidetracked. I only brought that up because I wanted you to know that you aren’t missing out on anything. Now, Kierran looks like he could be a sex god.”
“Tessa! Weren’t you the one just seconds ago telling me to take things slow?”
She shakes her head of her thoughts and looks at me. “Yes, I did say that, and I mean it. Move at your pace, not his, and don’t let him pressure you as Rick did.
“You can’t keep everything from me, Anna. The walls in the house aren’t soundproof.”
Shit, she wasn’t supposed to be home during those times.
I glance over at my bestie and wait for her to say more about what she heard in my room, but she just says, “I love you, Annabeth, and it broke my heart to hear what he would say to you.
“It took everything I had in me not to come in here and pummel the jerk-off’s face and just comfort you.” Tessa was fighting back her emotions.
“I needed to step up and take you away from him. Remember what we used to do to ease our pain when we were younger?”
I nod my head. We would build forts and hide. We would hold each other’s hands and tell stories of what our future would be like.
“I felt like I was losing my sister and best friend these past few years. You would tell me everything, and then you just stopped talking and hanging out with me.
“I wasn’t sure how to bring you back and was just about to stage an intervention with Mom, Dad, and a few friends you’ve shut out too.”
She wipes the tears from her face, and I’m stunned that she felt like this, and I kick myself for being so selfish. How could I do that to my sister and my best friend?
Tessa has always been the only one I can truly talk to. No wonder I am so stuck in myself and my own world. I have shut everyone out without even realizing I have done it.
“Tess, I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize what happened. I promise, from now on, I will be here for you, okay? Tomorrow we will have a girl’s night like we used to.”
She lights up, and she smiles. “I would love that. I get to pick the movie. That last movie you picked kept me up for a few nights.”
I laugh when I remember the movie. “Oh, come on, Underworld wasn’t that bad! If you remember, you kept talking about how you wanted to have vampire babies with Theo James.”
Tessa’s ocean-blue eyes take on a glassy look, and I assume she is imagining having those babies.
“Well, do you blame me? Theo is one fine specimen of a man. Anyone would be crazy not to want his babies.”
“Oh, Tess, what am I going to do with you?”
She giggles, and my heart swells with happiness for her. I haven’t heard her do that in such a long time.
“For starters, you are going to come with me to the party and are going to have a great time. It’s time to let go of the past, Annabeth, and look forward to the future.
“You’ve been holed up in this room for the past two months, and it’s starting to stink.” She curls her nose as if to prove her point.
“It does not stink!” I shriek. My room is the cleanest room in the house since I can’t stand messes and anything out of place.
Yes, she gives me shit for it, but I don’t care. It works for me. “If anyone’s room stinks, it’s yours, miss.” I point a finger at Tessa.
She grabs my finger and drags me into her room. “Okay, it doesn’t, but I need you to come with me. I really want to see you put on a cute outfit and get all sexified so you can feel good.
“It’s time to ditch those god-awful clothes Rick made you wear. We’ll just say this: you are shedding a layer of dirt.”
“Sexified? I’m pretty sure that’s not a word.” I giggle.
“I made it up.” She smirks. “Now sit your ass down so I can do your hair and makeup.”
“Yes, ma’am!” I mock salute and sit on her vanity bench.
“Be careful with Kierran and, most importantly, your heart. I don’t want to see you hurt because I don’t know if you or your heart can handle it again. I’m not saying you’re weak.
“It’s just Rick screwed with your head so badly.”
“I know he did, and I will be careful. I promise.”
“Good. Now on that note, you are almost ready, and you look hot. If Kierran doesn’t notice you, then he is blind and crazy.”
“In that case, I need the perfect outfit, one that screams here I am, so come and get me.”
Tessa’s face lights up; she takes my hand and pulls me toward her closet. “I have the perfect one!”
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