It felt like a jellyfish sting.
Mary-Lynnette kept her eyes shut and her face turned away as Rowan bit into her neck. She was
thinking of the way the deer had screamed. But thepain wasn't so bad. It went away almost immediately.
She could feel warmth at her neck as the bloodflowed, and, after a minute, a slight dizziness. A
weakness. But the most Interesting thing was that allat once she seemed to have a new sense. She could
sense Rowan's mind.It was like seeing, but withouteyes-and using different wavelengths than visual light.
Rowan's mind-her presence-was warmred, like glowing embers in a campfire. It was alsofuzzy and
rounded like a ball of hot gas floatingIn space.
Is this what psychics mean when they talk aboutpeople having an aura?
Then Rowan pulled back, and it was over. The new sense disappeared.
Mary-Lynnette's fingers went automatically to herneck. She felt wetness there. A little tenderness.
"Don't fool with it," Rowan said, brushing at herlips with her thumb. "It'll go away in just a
Mary-Lynnette blinked, feeling languid. She lookedover at Mark, who was being released by Kestrel.
He looked okay, if a little dazed. She smiled at him'and he raised his eyebrows and shook his head
I wonder what his mind looks like, Mary-Lynnettethought. Then she said, startled, "What are you
Rowan had picked up a twig and was testing itsend for sharpness.
"Every species has some substance that's harmfulto it," she said. "Silver for werewolves, iron for
witches...and wood for vampires. It's the onlything out here that will cut our skin," she added.
"I didn't mean that. I meantwhy, " Mary-Lynnettesaid, but she knew why already. She watched
rednessbead in the wake of the twig as Rowan drew it across her wrist.
Exchange blood, Rowan had said.
Mary-Lynnette gulped. She didn't look at markand Kestrel.
I'll do it first and then he'll see it's not so bad, shetold herself. I can do this, I can do this.... It's so wecan
Rowan was looking at her, offering her wrist.
Copperbloodfear, Mary-Lynnette thought, feeling queasy.
She shut her eyes and put her mouth to Rowan'swrist.
Warmth. Well-being. And a taste not like copper, but like something rich and strange. Later, she'd al
ways grope for ways to describe it, but she could onlythink of things like: well, a little bit like the way
vanilla bean smells, and a little bit like the way silk feels, and a little bit like the way a waterfall looks. It
was faintly sweet.
Afterward, she felt as if she could run up mountains.
"Oh, boy," Mark said, sounding giddy. "If you could bottle that stuff, you'd make millions."
"It's been thought of before," Kestrel said coolly. "Humans hunting us for our blood."
"Talk later," Rowan said firmly. "Blood-tie now."
Kestrel's mind was gold. With brilliant knifelikeedges sending glitters in every direction.
"Okay, Jade," Rowan said. "Mark. Enough, you guys. Let go of each other now."
Mary-Lynnette saw that she was physically pullingMark and Jade apart. Mark was wearing a silly smile,
and Mary-Lynnette felt the tiniest stab of envy. What would it be like to see the mind of somebody you
were in love with?
Jade's mind was silver and lacy, an intricate filigreed sphere like a Christmas ornament. And by the time
Mary-Lynnette sat back from drinking Jade's blood, she felt light-headed and sparkling. As if she had a
mountain stream in her veins.
"All right," Rowan said. "Now we share the sameblood." She held out a hand, and Jade and
Kestrel did the same. Mary-Lynnette glanced at Mark, then they each reached out, all their hands
meeting like spokes in a wheel.
"We promise to be kin to you, to protect and defend you always," Rowan said. She nodded to
"We promise to be kin to you," Mary-Lynnetterepeated slowly. "To protect and defend you
"That's it," Rowan said simply. "We're family."
Jade said, "Let's go home."
They had to finish burying Aunt Opal first. MaryLynnette watched as Rowan scattered pine needles over
"You inherit our blood feuds, too," Kestrel told Mary-Lynnette pleasantly. "Meaning you have to
help us find out who killed her."
"I've been trying to do that all along."
They left the deer where it was. Rowan said,"There are already lots of scavengers around here. It won't
Yep, that's life, Mary-Lynnette thought as they leftthe clearing. She glanced behind her-and for justan
instant she thought she saw a shadow there anda glint of greenish-orange eyes at her own eye level. It
was much too big for a coyote.
She opened her mouth to tell the others ... and the shadow was gone.
Did I imagine that? I think my eyes are goingfunny. Everything seems too bright.
All her senses seemed changed-sharpened. Itmade it easier to get out of the woods than it had been
getting in. Mark and Jade didn't walk hand inhand-that would have been impractical-but Jade looked
back at him frequently. And when they got to rough spots, they helped each other.
"You're happy, aren't you?" Mary-Lynnette said softly when she found herself beside Mark.
He gave a startled, sheepish grin, white in the moonlight. "Yeah. I guess I am." After a minute hesaid,
"It's like-I don't know how to describe it, butit's like I belong with Jade. She reallysees me. I mean, not
the outside stuff. She sees me inside,andshe likes me. Nobody else has ever done that .. .except you."
"I'm happy for you."
"Listen," he said. "I think we should start looking around for you. There are lots of guys around
Mary-Lynnette snorted. "Mark. If I want to meeta guy, I'll meet a guy. I don't need any help."
He gave the sheepish grin again. "Sorry."
But Mary-Lynnette was thinking. Ofcourseshe'd like to find somebody who would accept her
completely, who would share everything with her. That was everybody's dream. But for how many
people did it come true?
And there weren'tlots of guys around here....She found herself thinking of Jeremy Lovett again. His dear
brown eyes ...
But she couldn't hold the picture. It kept dissolving--.to her horror-into eyes that flashed blue andgold
and gray, depending on the way they caught the light.
Oh, God,no. Ash was the last person who would understand her. And she didn't want to share a bus
seat with him, much less her life.
"What I want to know is who madeyou guys vam pires," Mark said. They were sitting on oversize,
overstuffed Victorian furniture in the living room at Burdock Farm. Rowan had a fire going in the
fireplace. "Was it the old lady? Your aunt?"
"It wasn't anybody," Jade said, looking affronted."We're not made vampires. We're the lamia."
She pronounced it LAY-mee-uh.
Mark looked at her sideways. "Uh-huh. Andwhat's that?"
"It's us. It's vampires that can have babies, and eat,and drink, and get old if we let ourselves, and
livein families.Thebest kind of vampires."
"It's a race of vampires, basically," Kestrel said."Look, there are two different kinds of vampires,
okay? The kind who start out as humans and are changed when a vampire bites them, and the kindthat
are bornvampires. That's the kind we are. Our line goes back-well, let's say a long way."
"The longest," Jade broke in again. "We're Redferns; we go back to prehistoric times."
Mary-Lynnette blinked. "But you three don't go back that far, do you?" she said nervously.
Rowan stifled a laugh. "I'm nineteen; Kestrel's seventeen; Jade is sixteen. We haven't stopped aging
Kestrel was looking at Mary-Lynnette. "How olddid our aunt look to you?""Um, around seventy,
seventy-five, I guess."
"When we last saw her she looked maybe forty," Kestrel said. "That was ten years ago, when
she left our island."
"But she'd actually been alive for seventy-four years at that point," Rowan said. "That's what
happens to us-if we stop holding off the aging process, it all catches up at once."
"Which if you've been alive for five or six hundredyears can be quite interesting," Kestrel said
Mary-Lynnette said, "So this island where youcome from-is that the Night World?"
Rowan looked startled. "Oh, no, it's just a safe town. You know, a place where our people all live
without any humans. Hunter Redfern founded itback in the sixteenth century so we'd have some where
safe to live."
"The only problem," Kestrel said, golden eyesglinting, "is that people there are still doing thingsthe
way they did in the sixteenth century. Andthey made a rule that nobody couldleave-exceptfor some of the
men and boys that they trusted completely."
Like Ash, I guess, Mary-Lynnette thought. Shewas about to say this, but Rowan was speakingagain.
"So that's why we ran away. We didn't want tohave to get married when our father told us to.
Wewanted to see the human world. We wanted-"
"To eat junk food," Jade caroled. "And read magazines and wear pants and watch TV."
"When Aunt Opal left the island, she didn't tell anybody where she was going-except me,"
Rowan said. "She told me she was going to this little town called Briar Creek where her husband's family
had built a house a hundred and fifty years ago.,,,
Mary-Lynnette ran her fingers through the silky tassels of a forest-green pillow. "Okay, but-whereis the
Night World, then?"
"Oh... it's not a place...." Rowan looked uncertain. "This is-it's kind of hard to tell you, actually,"
she said. "You're not even supposed to know it exists. The two very first laws of the Night World are
that you never let a human find out about it ...and that you never fall in love with a human."
"And Jade's breaking both this minute," Kestrel murmured.
Jade just looked pleased.
"And the penalty for both is death-for everybody involved," Rowan said. "But . . . you're family.
Here goes." She took a steadying breath. "The Night World is a sort of secret society. Not just of
vampires. Of witches and werewolves and shape shifters, too. All the different kinds of Night People.
Everywhere?Mary-Lynnette thought. It was an unnerving idea-but an interesting one. So therewas a
whole world out there she'd never knownabout-a place to explore, as alien as the Androm eda galaxy.
Mark didn't seem too disturbed by the thought of vampires everywhere. He was grinning at Jade, leaning
with one elbow on the arm of the dark green couch. "So, can you read minds? Can you read my mind
cats who have heard something theirhumanscan't. An instant later, though. Mary-Lynnette heard it, too.
The sound of feet on the front porch--tap, tap,tap-asquick as that. And then a thud.
"Hey, somebody'sout there," Jade said, and before Mark could stop her, she was up and
heading for the door.
"Soulmates can read each other's minds without even trying," Jade told Mark firmly.
Soulmates ... Mary-Lynnette wanted to get on toa different subject. She felt uncomfortable, tingly.
"I wish you'd stop saying that. What you have ismuch better than being soulmates," Rowan was tell
ing Jade. "With love you get to find out about aperson first. Being soulmates is involuntary-youdon't even
have tolikethe person when you meetthem. They may be completely wrong for you inevery way-wrong
species, wrong temperament, wrong age. But you know you'll never be completely happy again without
More and more tingly. Mary-Lynnette had to say something. "And what if thathappenedto you-if you
found somebody and you were soulmates with them and you didn't want to be?" she asked Rowan. She
realized that her voice was strange--thick. "Isn'tthere any way you could-get rid of it?"
There was a pause. Mary-Lynnette saw everyoneturn to look at her.
"I've never heard of one," Rowan said slowly. Her brown eyes were searching Mary-Lynnette's.
"But I guess you could ask a witch ... if you had that problem."
Mary-Lynnette swallowed. Rowan's eyes weregentle and friendly-and Mary-Lynnette felt a very strong
need to talk to someone, someone who would understand.
She didn't get any further. Rowan, Kestrel, and Jade all looked suddenly toward the front door-like.