To my parents, Gary and Suzanne Schreiber, with love and vampire kisses
"I'm looking for someone to quench my thirst—for all eternity."
1 Bite Night
I was ready to become a vampire. I stood alone in the middle of Dullsville's cemetery, dressed in a black corset minidress, fishnet stockings, and my signature combat boots. I held a small bouquet of dead black roses in my black fingerless gloves. A vintage midnight-colored lace veil dripped down over my pale face, gracefully shrouding my black lipstick and eye shadow.
My vampire to be, Alexander Sterling, wearing a gray pallbearer's suit and hat, waited a few yards ahead of me by our gothic altar—a closed coffin adorned with a candelabra and a pewter goblet.
The scene was breathtaking. Fog floated through the graveyard like wayward ghosts. Candles flickered atop tombstones and were scattered alongside graves. A group of bats hovered over a cluster of lonely trees. Raindrops began to fall as the faint sound of screeching violins and a discordant harpsichord sent icy chills through my veins.
I had waited an eternity for this moment. My childhood fantasy was now coming true—I would be a dark angel of the night. I was as excited as a groupie who was about to marry a rock star.
Tiny torches lit my path, like a gothic runway. But as I took my first step toward Alexander, I began to wonder if I was making the right choice. My heart started to race as I proceeded forward. Images of the life I would be leaving behind flashed before me. My mom helping me sew a black velvet tote for my home ec. project. I took a step. Watching Dracula on DVD with my dad. Another step. Even my nerdy brother, Billy Boy, kindly helping me with my math homework. Step. My best friend, Becky, and I trying to climb the Mansion's gate. Step. My new kitty, Nightmare, gently purring in my arms. Step.
They all began to haunt me.
In one bite my life would change forever.
I was leaving a boring, safe, yet love-filled world of the living and committing an eternity to a dangerous, unknown, darkened world of the undead.
As I continued to walk down the cemetery aisle, I could see the back of Alexander who, now only a few feet away, lifted a goblet from the coffin.
I reminded myself I was making the right decision. I wouldn't have to spend morbidly long daylight hours in Dullsville High. I'd have the ability to fly. And most important, I would be bonding with my true love, for all eternity.
I finally reached the coffin and stood alongside Alexander. He slid his white-
gloved hand in mine, his plastic spider ring shining in the candlelight. He raised the pewter goblet to the moon and took a long drink. My heart raced as he passed it to me and I hesitantly lifted my veil from over my mouth. My hand was shaking, so the dark liquid wavered in the goblet.
"Maybe you aren't—," Alexander started, and put his hand over the glass.
"I am!" I argued defiantly. I pulled the goblet back and gulped the sweet, thick liquid.
I began to feel light-headed. The fog thickened around us. I could barely see Alexander's silhouette as he replaced the goblet on the coffin and then turned to me.
With his white gloves, he gently lifted the black veil away from my face.
Now I could see clearly. Only I wasn't sure of what I was seeing. Instead of Alexander's usual long black hair, I noticed light-colored hair poking out from underneath his pallbearer's hat.
I gasped. It couldn't be!
"Jagger—," I exclaimed, frozen.
But when I looked into his eyes, I didn't see Alexander's rival's blue and green eyes that had once hypnotized me by the Mansion's gazebo. And they weren't the dark soulful eyes I had fallen in love with. These hypnotic eyes were green, and I'd seen them all my life.
"Trevor!" I declared, the words barely escaping my lips.
My childhood nemesis flashed a wicked grin, two razor-sharp fangs hanging from his mouth.
I stepped back.
It was only last night at Dullsville's Spring Carnival that Alexander and I had tried to warn Trevor about Jagger's twin sister, Luna, who was looking to sink her newly formed fangs into the soccer snob's neck. Jagger had been seeking revenge on Alexander for not turning Luna into a vampire, and now that she'd been turned by another vampire, the nefarious teens were in Dullsville to find her a lifelong partner. But Trevor had failed to heed our warning. When Alexander and I arrived outside the Fun House and searched through the carnival, Trevor was gone.
Only now my nemesis had found me.
I tried to run, but Trevor grabbed my hand as I pulled away. "I've got you now, Monster Girl. Forever." He licked his lips and leaned into my neck.
I looked around for anything to help my escape. But when I reached out for the candelabra, I felt dizzy. Suddenly Trevor's mouth was on my neck.
"Get off!" I cried. "Let go of me!"
He pulled me into him with the force of a whole soccer team. I wedged my boot between us, and, with all my strength, I managed to push him away.
Trevor stumbled back and grabbed my arm. He tried to pull me close, but I bit his hand. I broke free as he stood up confidently and grinned a wicked smile. Blood began to drip from the corner of his mouth.
I reached for my neck. My palm felt warm and wet. I gasped. When I held my hand before me, it was covered in blood.
"No!" I cried.
Just then I saw a confused Alexander, also sporting a gray pallbearer's uniform, running up the cemetery aisle. I turned to Trevor, who just stood and smiled.
"Not you! Not for an eternity!" I yelled.
I sat up, screaming so hard my throat hurt.
I opened my eyes to darkness. I could hardly breathe. Where was I? In a coffin? A tomb? An empty grave?
Soft material covered my legs, but my eyes couldn't adjust to my surroundings. I figured I must be wrapped in a burial shroud.
My heart was throbbing. My skin perspiring. My mouth dry.
Flashing, bloodred numbers caught my eye: Two fifteen A.M.
I breathed a sigh of relief. I wasn't lying in an unknown coffin in Dullsville's cemetery but rather in my own bed.
Was I as safe as I thought? Maybe this was all part of my nightmare. My fingers shaking, I switched on my Edward Scissorhands lamp and ran to my dresser mirror. I closed my eyes, anticipating what I might not see. When I opened them, my ghostlike reflection stared back. I pulled my bed-head hair away from my shoulders and examined my neck.
My bedroom door flung open and my dad appeared in the doorway, sporting flannel boxers, a Lakers T-shirt, and messy hair. "What's wrong?" he asked, more annoyed than worried.
"Uh, nothing," I replied, startled. I dropped my hair and stepped away from the mirror.
"What happened?" my mom asked, barging in.
"I heard a scream," Billy Boy said, nosing his way behind them, his tired eyes heavy.
"I'm sorry I woke you guys. I just had a bad dream," I confessed.
"You?" my father asked, raising his eyebrow. "I thought you loved bad dreams."
"I know. Can you believe it?" I asked, my heart still racing. "Who knew?"
"What was it about? You ran out of black lipstick?" Billy Boy teased.
"Yes. And I found a new one in your dresser drawer."
"Dad!" Billy Boy hollered, ready to pummel me.
"Now I know I'm not dreaming," I said, and playfully tousled my brother's hair.
"All right. Enough excitement for tonight. Let's all go back to sleep," my dad ordered, putting his arm around my brother as they left the room.
I settled back into bed.
"So what were you really dreaming about?" my mom asked curiously.
"It was nothing."
"Nothing woke up the whole house?" she asked.
She shook her head and started for the door.
"Mom…," I said, my words stopping her. "Does my neck look okay to you?" I whispered, pulling my hair back.
She returned to my bedside. "Looks like a regular neck to me," she said, examining it. "What were you expecting—a vampire bite?"
I gave her a quick smile. She pulled the covers over me as if I were still a child.
"I remember when you were a little girl and you stayed up all night with your father watching Dracula movies on our black-and-white TV," she reminisced fondly.
She handed me my Mickey Malice plush that had fallen beside my bed. "You never had nightmares then. It was as if you were comforted by vampires the way other kids are comforted by lullabies."
She kissed me on top of the head and reached for my lamp.
"Maybe you should leave it on," I said. "Just for tonight."
"Now you are scaring me," she said, and left my room.
2 The Almost Great Escape
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?"
"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.