She got it. The other men stood up from their beds, the needles were yanked from their arms, blood spilling on the floor, as they stood. She hissed at them thinking they would attack but they all backed up, as if she frightened them. She knew she frightened herself. The deep angry sounds parting her lips were unlike any she'd ever made.
Moving backwards, she found the doorknob and made it outside the door, but loud ear-pinching noise filled her head. Alarms. She held the plastic bag of blood close to her chest and ducked between people-crowded tables. Heads turned and followed her every move. She realized that perhaps the others were like her and could probably smell the blood. But she still didn't care. She needed this. Had to have it.
Suddenly, she felt someone grab her arm and yank her across the room. She fought, but her attacker's strength matched her own. The alarms kept ringing, she heard people running away from her and some toward her. Whoever had her continued to pull her across the room. She glanced up and didn't see a door, no way to escape. Would she die here because she'd stolen blood? She tried to pull away, but couldn't. And then they crashed through a window, shards of glass fell around her, and in seconds they were flying.
"That was so stupid," Chan said. "You so could have gotten us killed."
She closed her eyes tight, preventing her weakness from showing, but on the inside, where it counted the most, the tears fell. What was happening to her? What kind of monster had she become?
In a matter of minutes, she and Chan stood outside her house. Normally, he landed on the roof and they crawled in her bedroom window. Not this time. She clutched the blood to her chest as if it were a precious stone.
"If you want it, you'd better drink now," he said, his frustration evident from his posture to his tone. "Your parents are up and pissed."
The bag of blood in her hand was still warm. Somehow its scent leaked out of the plastic and filled her nose. Della looked back at her house. "How do you know they're up?"
"Focus. Your sensitive hearing should already be working."
She looked up at her bedroom window. "I can't hear. . ." And suddenly she could. Her mom cried and her dad muttered about how he planned to find a good drug rehab. She stared back at Chan. "I'm not using drugs?"
"Yeah, but you're doing things you've never done, so they just assume. My parents did the same thing." He sighed. "But it doesn't matter what they think."
"It does to me," Della snapped back.
He shook his head. "Can't you see how impossible living here will be? It's not like you can keep your blood supply in the fridge. You're not going to fit into their lifestyle now."
She shook her head. "I can't . . . I can't walk away from . . . Lee. I can't leave my sister. She needs me." And whether she wanted to admit it or not, she loved her parents.
"Hard-headed Della," he muttered. "I should have known you'd have to find it out for yourself. So go . . . walk in there with your blood and see if you can explain it." He threw up his hands as if exasperated. "I'm leaving. Going back to Utah. How are you going to get blood tomorrow or the next day? You can't live with humans anymore. You can't."
"They're my family," she said.
"Not anymore. I'm your family. Other vampires are your family. You'll see. You don't belong here."
She looked down at the bag of blood. Her hands shook. Her chest hurt with emotion.
"Ah screw it," Chan said and the fury in his eyes faded. "Give me the blood. I'll bring it to you later. Go deal with your parents. But I'm telling you, I can't hang around here to supply you with blood forever. Sooner or later, you're going to have to leave them. You'll see. I don't care how hardheaded you are, sooner or later, you're going to have to accept my help."
* * *
Della refused to cry. No matter how harsh, how bitter her father's words were. She sat there on the sofa, her chin held high, talking the insults. Each one hurt a little bit more. But damn it to hell and back. She wouldn't cry. Her father continued, She was a disappointment to him and his family legacy. She'd brought shame down on her family name. He would never be able to stand proud in public again.
"Go to your room and think about what you have done!" he finally demanded.
She did go. She couldn't get away from him, or her mom, fast enough. Her mom had stood stone-faced and let him say those horrible things. All of it a lie. She wasn't taking drugs, or selling her body to different men to feed her obsession.
She'd given her body to one, Lee, who she loved, who loved her. When she got to her room and slammed the door, she tried to swallow the shame, the anger, the fury that filled her throat.
Then the sweet smell of roses filled her nose. Her gaze shot to the arrangement. Suddenly all she could think about was Lee. She needed him to hold her, to tell her it would all be okay. Rushing to the window, she flung it open and stared down at the grass two stories down. She stood on the edge for several seconds, unsure how she did this, but desperation made her jump.
Landing on her feet without feeling any of the impact of the jump, she took a deep breath and started to run. At first it was slow, then faster and faster still. Soon she wasn't even sure her feet touched the ground. As the wind whipped her hair around her face, Della formed a new plan.
She didn't have to go live with Chan in Utah; she and Lee could get their own place. They had talked about it already. They would work part time and go to school. They could do this.
In less than five minutes, she stood in front of Lee's house. She saw his window, it was dark. Of course it was dark, it was two in the morning, but she didn't care. She leapt up, grabbing a hold of his ledge and then she forced the window up. Thankfully, it wasn't locked.
When she climbed inside, Lee sat up. He blinked, stared at her with his dark brown eyes, and then he run a hand through his hair. "Della?"
She moved closer. "I . . . I had to see you. I missed you."
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"You mom said the doctors didn't know what was wrong with you."
"They didn't, but I'm well now and I've been thinking . . . I want to be with you. I want to get our own apartment like we talked about."
He stared at her, his hair mussed. He wasn't wearing a shirt, and he looked good. Sexy. She moved to the edge of the bed. "How did you . . . get inside?" He looked back at the window.
"It was unlocked."
"But it's the second story window." He scratched his head.
She sat down beside him. "I love you, Lee. I want to be with you, always." She reached out to touch him. His skin was so hot, felt so good. She just wanted to lie down beside him, have him hold her.
He flinched and pulled away. "You're cold. Really cold."
His words brought back something Chan had said when she'd been half out of it. Something about her body temperature changing, about how she couldn't let her parents take her temperature anymore.
"What's wrong with you?" he said, scooting away. "You must still be sick."
"No," Della said. "I'm fine, I'm just . . . I mean . . ." What did she mean? Was she going to tell Lee the truth? "I'm not contagious," she said.
"What did you have?" He eased away, when all she wanted to do was to get closer. She wanted him to hold her, to kiss her and make her forget everything that happened these last few days. He raked a hand through his black hair. "You should probably go. If you get caught here, you know how it will look."
"It will look as if we're sleeping together. Which we are. And I don't care if people know anymore."
She put her hand on his shoulder.
"But I do care," he said. "Don't touch me." He pushed her hand away. "I . . . I'm sorry, but I don't like how you feel right now. Something feelsae off about you. It's hard to explain, but you just seem really weird right now. I think you should go home and talk to your parents, get the help you need."
It hit her then. Hit her like an eighteen wheeler without brakes. Lee would never like how she felt. If he was afraid of some kind of flu, how would he feel about her being vampire? About her drinking blood?
Tears filled her throat, but like the daughter her father had raised her to be, she didn't let a one tear fill her eyes. "I see." She stood up.
"See what?" he asked.
She moved to the window and swore she wouldn't look back, but she couldn't help it. She turned and met his eyes. For some reason, she suddenly saw something in Lee that she hadn't seen before. She saw her father. And yet . . . "I love you. I will always love you." And with that she jumped out of his upstairs window. She heard him call her name, and pull back the covers.
But she was gone before his feet touched the floor.
* * *
When she got back to her room, she sat on the edge of her bed. Her stomach growled, her mouth watered and she knew she needed . . . blood. Where was Chan? Had he taken her O negative pint for himself? Had he abandoned her? She jumped up and went to the mirror and stared at herself. Her eyes were no longer dark brown, but golden. Bright hot yellow as if something inside her burned. And yet she was cold. Too cold for Lee? She noticed her two canines were . . . sharp.
Her pulse raced and she heard Chan's words bounce around her head. "You can't live with humans anymore. You don't belong here."
Her chest ached and this time, she did cry. Tears crawled down her cheeks. Accepting what she had to do, she grabbed her suitcase and tossed in a few things. When Chan got here, she would be ready. Then realizing she couldn't leave without . . . without at least seeing her family one more time, she tiptoed out of her room and headed down the stairs. Her parents' door was closed, but she eased it open just a bit. Just enough to see them one last time. Her mother was asleep on her father's chest. Her mother might not like her father's pride, but she still loved him. She loved him because down deep she knew that her father had forsaken his pride to marry a white woman. In truth, he loved his mom more than his pride.
Her throat tightened as she silently closed the door. Then she moved back up the stairs, but instead of moving toward her room, she went to Joy's room. The door wasn't closed. She stepped inside and moved to the edge of the bed. Her sister rolled over and opened her eyes.
"You feeling better?" she asked.
"Yeah." Della tried to keep her voice from shaking.
Joy smiled that sleepy smile of hers that made her look younger than ten. "I told mom you wouldn't die, because you wouldn't leave me. You'd never leave me." She dropped back on her pillow and drifted back to sleep.
Tears filled Della's eyes and the pain of knowing she'd never see her sister again, made her heart break. She got up and walked out of the room. She closed the door and saw her packed bag. She'd left the window open, hoping Chan would see it and come back. A breeze entered. It felt . . . colder. Unnaturally cold. Chills tip-toed up her spine.
Something fluttering across the wood floor caught Della's eye. She looked down at the card. She picked it up and saw the name Holiday Brandon scribbled across the card. Below the name was a telephone number and the words, Shadows Falls Camp.
Vaguely, she remembered the doctor and nurse telling her she could call someone, someone who could help her decide the right thing to do. She couldn't call a stranger and ask for help. Or could she?
Her thoughts went to her sister and Della reached for her phone and dialed.
"Shadow Falls Camp," a woman answered. Della couldn't speak. "Is someone there?" asked the sleepy voice. "Who is this?"
Another stream of tears silently slipped down Della's cheek. "My name is Della Tsang and I need help."