"You're vampire," her grandfather said.
Kylie's first impulse was denial. She couldn't be vampire. But why would he lie? She touched her arm to check for the lack of heat. She didn't feel cold, but if her core temperature had changed, she wouldn't feel it. Then she remembered how hot the two of them had felt.
Then came another realization. She'd literally flown to the cemetery after casting a net onto Perry and Lucas.
Her next breath shuddered as it went into her lungs. What would Lucas say about her new pattern? He hadn't been exactly pleased when he thought she was a witch. If he thought she were a vampire ...
"Is something wrong, dear?" her aunt asked.
Kylie stood frozen, trying to come to terms with being vampire. Trying to imagine, or rather, trying not to imagine how Lucas would react. Then she wondered if she'd have to start drinking blood.
At just that thought, her mouth started watering. The tangy, ripe, sweet flavor was tattooed in her memory.
"Dear?" her aunt asked again. "Maybe you should sit down. You look pale."
"Am I?" Was that another sign of vampirism? Instantly, she ran her tongue across her teeth and nearly cut her tongue on her sharp canines. Oh, crap! She was vampire!
Even as the fear of change tumbled around inside her like tennis shoes in a dryer, she remembered how cool it had been to fly through the forest. She supposed that kind of power could be addictive. But what good was a power if you couldn't control it? It would be like her sensitive hearing-neat to have, but if you couldn't call upon it when you needed it, it was virtually useless.
She didn't want to be useless.
"How do I control this?" Kylie asked. "Explain it to me."
Her grandfather sighed. "It's not that easy. You have to train your mind. It isn't something I can tell you how to do; it's something that must be learned over time. It could take years. And until then, you could be a danger even to yourself."
"I will be okay at Shadow Falls."
A frown brightened his eyes. He lifted his head into the air as if to catch a scent. He made a sound, a low growl. The growl and even the way he sniffed at the air reminded her of Lucas.
"Someone came with you." He sounded disappointed in her.
"They tried to follow me. I lost them, but it's possible they've found me now."
His expression grew concerned. "Come with us. We'll help you understand everything. You need to learn who and what you are, Kylie. You can't do this alone."
She slowly shook her head. "I can't come with you."
"But you are one of us. We share the same blood. A chameleon alone will not survive. Look at your father. His death was so unnecessary. Do you think your father would not want you to come and know who you are?"
She inhaled. "I think my father would tell me to follow my heart. And right now, my heart says that Shadow Falls is the right place for me."
His frown deepened and he looked at her aunt. "We must go. Someone is coming." He turned to Kylie. "Do not speak of being a chameleon. Let them think what they may. The less we are talked about, the less we are persecuted."
"Wait," Kylie said. "How can I get in touch with you? I still have so many questions."
"I'll contact you," her great-aunt said, and joined hands with Malcolm.
"How?" Kylie asked. "How will you-?"
Her aunt never answered. It was like Perry had said the day he'd followed them. They just went poof.
Kylie stood there, in both frustration and in awe. How would her aunt contact her? How had they done the poof thing? Could she do that? She heard fast footfalls from behind, someone running toward her. She swung around, expecting to see Burnett. But it was even worse.
Lucas slowed down. He exhibited a tightness to his gait, a sense of anger, and an even greater sense of unease.
When he got closer she noticed his eyes shined bright orange. Of course he would be furious at her for tossing a net over him and Perry. She looked behind him, expecting to see Burnett appear. Expecting to get a tongue-lashing from the vamp.
Then she remembered she was also a vampire. She swung away from Lucas, afraid of what he might say, afraid to see distaste for her in his gaze.
"That was foolish," he ground out.
She knew what he meant. "Not so foolish." She kept her gaze away. "It was my grandfather."
"And?" he asked.
"And I got some of the answers I needed." She started walking. He moved beside her.
"Do you distrust me so much that you couldn't tell me you were coming here?" he asked.
She shrugged but didn't meet his gaze. "I trust that you'd have tried to stop me. And you proved me right."
"You could have reasoned with me, instead of casting a stupid net." His words came out with a light growl.
"I didn't have time to reason."
"Which is why you should have told me earlier. The idea that you didn't trust me infuriates me."
Like he didn't trust her. "I know exactly how you feel," she said, letting him figure out what she meant.
"It's different," he answered, his figuring-things-out ability right on target.
"No, it isn't." A knot rose in her throat. She still refused to look at him, afraid he'd check her pattern and be repulsed by what he found. And God help her, but she didn't think she could deal with that.
"You told me you understood. You said you overreacted yesterday when you were mad, or not mad, or maybe a little mad. Aw, hell, you confuse me!"
"I did tell you that," she admitted. "And I do understand, or I'm trying to, but when you can't seem to offer me the same courtesy, I'm reconsidering my understanding."
"So we're back to you being a woman and having the right to change your mind," he bit out.
"Yeah!" Tears stung her eyes and she moved faster.
They passed a couple of dilapidated statues with missing arms. She saw Lucas glance at them. How much had it cost him to come into the cemetery? He, like ninety percent of all supernaturals, hated cemeteries. Was that why her grandfather had asked to meet her here? He knew very few supernaturals would enter this place.
But Lucas had. He cared about her more than he cared about his fear of spirits. Would he have entered if he knew that she was vampire? Would he still care about her if she turned to him right now and let him see her pattern?
The question, or rather the fear of his answer, drove her to move faster. She wanted to be alone. Alone to contemplate every word her grandfather had said.
Alone to revel in the knowledge that she'd finally gotten the truth.
Alone to figure out what it all meant.
She was a chameleon. However, for now, she was vampire. But for how long? How long before she could control this crazy thing that was happening to her?
The spirits waited for her at the front gate. Lucas grew tenser, as if he sensed them. Slowing down only long enough to push open the creaky gate, she offered the dead reaching out for her one promise: I'll be back.
As soon as the icy wind blew the gate closed behind her, she picked up her pace, running. One foot hit the earth and then the other. She moved with purpose. She wanted to be home. She wanted to be at Shadow Falls.
You are one of us. We share the same blood. A chameleon alone will not survive. She heard her grandfather's warning ring in her ears, but she refused to believe it. The mere thought of leaving Shadow Falls sent a wave of pain shooting across her heart. She couldn't leave.
Yet even as she ran to the one place in her life that felt right, the place she felt the safest, she knew that the answers she sought were not at Shadow Falls, but with her grandfather.
The knowledge caused a sharp pain in the very center of her heart. Tears welled up in her eyes and slipped from her lashes. She felt them hot against her cold vampire skin. Air shuddered in her chest from the emotion when she realized that before she could retreat to her cabin, she'd probably have to face Burnett's fury.
"Slow down," Lucas demanded.
She ran faster. Burnett's wrath was nothing compared to facing Lucas. His prejudice against vampires right now would hurt more than she could stand.
The gate to Shadow Falls loomed just ahead. Her heart thumped in her chest. She prayed Burnett's tongue-lashing wouldn't take too long. While her body didn't feel the least bit tired, her heart did.
"Damn it, Kylie," Lucas muttered again. Everything from his breathless tone to the stomp of his feet hitting the earth told her he was pushing himself to his limits.
"I said stop!" He sounded closer this time.
Just when she was about to take the leap over the fence, she felt him grab her around her waist. They went down. Hard. He wrapped his arms around her to protect her from the fall and they rolled several times.
"What's wrong with you?" he asked.
She ended up on top of him, his hot body reminding her that she was vampire. He stared up at her face. She tried to get up.
He caught her.
"What's the matter?" he asked again.
He rolled her over and landed on top of her. Afraid he'd see her brain pattern, she turned her head and stared at the underbrush. Tears stung her eyes again.
"Hey." His voice came out more tender this time. He'd obviously noticed her tears. "Look at me."
She didn't. She couldn't. "I just want to get this over with," she snapped.
"Get what over with?" His chest moved up and down on top of her as he breathed.
"He doesn't know, but if you leap over the fence right now, he will."
She looked back him. "He doesn't know?"
"No. I got out without being detected. And if you'll listen to me, I think I can get you in without him knowing, too. Or you can jump over the fence and go head-on with his wrath."
Realizing she was facing Lucas again, she turned her head. The underbrush against her back felt like soft moss, but the emotion in her chest was scratchy.
"Is that what this is all about? Damn it, Kylie. I already know."
She looked back at him, unsure what he meant. "Know what?"
He scowled. "That you're vampire. I ... smelled you when I first walked into the cemetery."
His insult hit hard. Emotion had her lips trembling. "If I smelled that bad, then why did you bother to come in?"
His expression darkened. "I came in because I thought you were in danger." He exhaled loudly. "I'm not going to lie. I don't like it, and it's going to complicate things with my pack even more, but..." He looked into her eyes. "But what's important to me isn't what's up here." He touched her forehead. "It's what's in here." He rested his hand on her chest, on the upper swell of her right breast.
She felt her heart race. His touch hadn't been meant to be intimate, but it felt that way.
"You mesmerized me from the moment I first saw you when we were kids. I didn't know what you were, and yes, I hoped you were werewolf, but it didn't matter. You ensnared me."
The dampness of her tears spilled out on her cheeks. Suddenly, the soft verdant scent filled her nose. She knew it was both Lucas's natural scent and that of the woods.
"I'm still ensnared." He wiped a tear from her cheek. "I don't care if you're part witch and part vampire."
"I'm not just that," she said.
He looked a bit confused. "Okay. Then what are you?"
She smiled through her tears. "I'm a chameleon. Which means I have a little of everything in me." She recalled what her grandfather had told her about not telling anyone. But Lucas wasn't just anyone.
"Even werewolf?" he asked.
She nodded. "I just don't yet know how to control the shifts from one thing to another." She sighed. "Does that make me even more of a freak?"
"It makes you freaking amazing," he said. "Even when you're a vampire." He leaned down and pressed his lips against hers. The kiss tasted of innocence. And odd as it was, she suddenly remembered him kissing her like this before, but way before. Like before she'd ever come to Shadow Falls. She touched his cheek, and when he pulled back, she asked, "Did you ever ... climb into my window when you lived beside me?"
He looked guilty, but not much. "Just once. I swear, you left the window open. And I didn't ... I just-"
"Kissed me?" she asked. The idea didn't make her angry; it made her feel cherished.
"You were ... my first kiss," he said.
She grinned, and then his mouth lowered to hers again. She barely felt the warmth from his lips when he pulled back. "But I'm still pissed at you for throwing that net on me." He exhaled. "Not that I can stay mad at you."
He kissed her again. Only this kiss wasn't so innocent. Not that she complained. He tasted like passion, like raw, sweet passion. His weight came against her in all the right places and she felt differences in what made him male and her female. His vibration, his humming seduction, entered her every place his hard body now touched hers.
She met his kiss with desperation, wanting to feel it, wanting to savor how he made her feel. His hand resting at her waist, warm against her naked skin, slipped farther under her shirt, and his palm cupped her breast. She moaned with the sweetness of his touch and ached for more.
His kiss moved from her lips to her neck. The feel of his warm kisses made her feel liquid inside. Need, want, desire, she felt it all.
When his hand moved to her back to unhook her bra, she rose up to make it easier. When his hand came back around to her bare breast, she trembled with the pleasure.
He slipped the tank top over her head, discarding the bra at the same time, and his eyes shifted downward to what he'd uncovered. She'd thought she'd feel embarrassed. But it wasn't embarrassment stirring inside her. She felt ...
"You're so beautiful," he said hoarsely.
That was it. That's how he made her feel. Beautiful. Cherished.
He inhaled sharply. "We probably shouldn't-"
She pressed a finger to his lips. "I want this." She moved her hand behind his neck, threaded her fingers in his thick black hair, and brought his mouth back to hers. And in seconds, they were both lost in each other.