I woke up to a strange noise. I lay still for a moment, listening, trying to think where it had come from, and realized it must be Sampson at the balcony door. I’d let him out earlier in the day, and he must be wanting back in. I glanced toward the balcony and saw that the curtains were softly billowing as a gentle breeze blew in through the open window. I stood up and walked over to the french doors, but didn’t see Sampson anywhere. I placed my hand on the handle, then noticed a silhouette of someone next to the table in the shadows.
At first I thought it was Adrian and wondered why he would be coming in this direction. But rubbing my sleepy eyes and looking closer, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was Brad, my old college boyfriend. What was he doing there? It was dark and there wasn’t a lot of moonlight as he slowly walked toward the door. I stood staring, not understanding why he was there. The whole thing was strange and the hair stood up on my arms. Something isn’t right, I thought as he came closer to the door.
He was only a few feet away now. “Carmen,” I heard him saying, but it was smooth and monotone, not like his normal, laughing voice that I remembered. He looked into my eyes when he came into the light. His face was dreadful, his eyes were blood red, and his lips were drawn back into a snarl.
I screamed at the top of my lungs. This must be another dream. Wake up, I thought, as he reached for the handle to the french doors. I slowly backed away, unable to turn my eyes from his.
He smiled at me and pushed down on the knob. Suddenly he shifted and glanced behind him. He looked at me briefly, undecided. I could tell he wanted to come in, but instead he wheeled around and fled away from the house with incredible speed.
I stood there frozen in place, too afraid to move. Then the door to my room crashed open behind me and Adrian burst in. He looked relieved to see me and hastily came over to my side.
The room started spinning violently and I collapsed in his arms.
I woke up on the bed with a washcloth over my forehead and tried to sit up.
“Stay still,” Adrian said. He was sitting in the chair next to the bed, and there was a man standing beside him, holding my arm.
“This is Doctor Rhoades,” Adrian explained. “I was worried about you. He’s going to give you something to calm your nerves.”
I noticed the man was holding a needle in his hand that he was directing toward my arm.
“No,” I said, trying to pull my arm away. “I don’t need anything, I’m fine.”
“You’ve been out for hours, tossing and turning and talking hysterically. This will help you feel better,” Adrian said insistently, and held my arm in place.
I started to protest again, but it was too late and I felt the sharp stab at the inside of my elbow and the drug entered my vein. I was a wimp when it came to medicines, and immediately had problems even concentrating to talk.
“No, wait…where’s Brad?” I managed to say, trying to stay focused. Everything was getting fuzzy when I looked up at Adrian.
“We’ll talk about this later. Sleep now,” he said, and kissed my forehead. His eyes looked very serious as I drifted off to unconsciousness.
When I finally woke again Adrian was still sitting beside my bed. His eyes were very dark and he wasn’t smiling. I tried to sit up, but my head was still woozy from whatever it was they’d given me. He reached over and helped prop me up with pillows behind my head. His expression was concerned.
“You’ve been out for a very long time,” he said.
“Well, that’s what happens when I’m drugged,” I answered, a little irritated.
“Sorry for that,” he apologized. “But you were pretty hysterical.”
“Ugh,” I said, and put my face in my hands, trying to think, to clear my head. I looked over toward the french doors that led out to my balcony.
His gaze followed mine.
“Why was Brad here?” I finally asked, remembering what had happened. “He was so strange. I think he meant to harm me, the look on his face…and those eyes.” I shuddered.
“Who’s Brad?” he asked.
I looked at him and tried to focus a little better. “Um…he was my boyfriend in college.”
His expression grew decidedly harder and he said, “I thought you said you hadn’t had any serious relationships.”
“I haven’t, really,” I assured him. “We had a lot of art classes together. He was fun to be around, always laughing and joking, but never serious about anything. I got tired of trying to get him to grow up, to take things more seriously. He dropped out of school and I didn’t keep in touch. That was at least two years ago. He looked so different last night, scary. How can that be?”
“It must have been Catherine,” he stated somberly.
“What could she have to do with Brad?” I asked. “How can she be involved in this too?”
“She must have found out about him somehow,” he thought out loud. “You had something in your house about Brad,” he said to me. “When she was there, she found whatever it was.”
I shook my head. “No, I haven’t seen him in years.” Then, as I was trying to think more clearly, my eyes widened. “My journal! I used to keep one in college; she must’ve found it in my dresser drawer. I’m sure I wrote in there about Brad, and I think I even put his old picture in it.” I still didn’t quite understand what this had to do with Catherine. “Why would Catherine want Brad if she’s so stuck on you?”
“Well, she knows she can’t get near the house to get to you with me watching for her, so she must have found Brad and turned him into one of her followers.”
“What do you mean, followers?” I asked, not understanding.
He looked deeply into my eyes for a long moment and then said slowly, “Carmen, I don’t think you’re ready for this, but I don’t feel I have a choice. I have to tell you what’s going on. You’re in danger and need to know the whole truth.”
His voice was so grave and his eyes almost pitch-black, I knew this wasn’t going to be good. That after everything I’d said, and with all of my insistence about wanting to know the truth, I really didn’t want to hear what he was about to tell me. I braced myself as his expression became flat and emotionless.
Adrian sighed and his eyes narrowed and darkened. Then he said, “Catherine is what you would probably call a vampire.” He raised his hand to stop me when I almost laughed. “She’s deadly dangerous and is bent on destroying you, thinking that you are what’s keeping me from wanting her. She must have decided that Brad would be a way to get to you, so she found him and changed him to help her. He will be totally devoted to her. That’s the way it is, especially in the beginning when someone is first changed. He would do anything for Catherine, even die for her at this point.”
I looked on disbelievingly, but remembered Brad standing outside of my doors, the crazed, wild look in his glowing red eyes and his lips pulled back over his long, pointed teeth. He had wanted to kill me, I could tell. I shivered as what Adrian was saying sank in. If it were true, that would be why he couldn’t go to the police about Catherine burning my house, and now this. They would surely think we were crazy.
Adrian looked at me and his eyes were dark, black pools. “Carmen,” he said very slowly and deliberately. “I’m the one who changed Catherine.”
It sank in slowly as I sat there trying to comprehend what Adrian had just said to me. That he was the one who changed Catherine…that he was a vampire. Even as I shook my head vehemently no, I knew it was true. It all made sense. He was never around when it was sunny out. Even on cloudy days he was extremely pale and wore dark sunglasses, and his Audi had darkly tinted windows. I never saw him eat at all…he’d said he had an unusual diet. Then I remembered the sudden changes in his whole disposition that night at the resort when his lips turned icy cold as he held them against my throat. I shivered, remembering how helpless I’d felt. I suddenly recalled the words of the police officer on the beach that morning, talking about the murder. “It looks like something ripped his throat out.”
I looked in horror at Adrian while he watched me with no expression in his eyes at all. I felt like I was going to be sick, realizing how close I’d been to becoming that someone on the beach.
“I don’t feel very good,” I said, and got up and raced for the bathroom.
I sat numbly with my head over the toilet and gagged. Eventually I was finished and sat on the bathroom floor, trying to think. This wasn’t real, it couldn’t be, but it was and I knew it. In some horrible way it was the only thing that fit all of the pieces together. I knew Adrian was waiting for me in the other room. What was he going to do now that I knew the truth? My heart was as cold as ice as I slowly walked out of the bathroom and back into the bedroom, where he was sitting in the chair next to the bed. I sat down at the end of the bed, as far away from him as possible. My heart was pounding uncontrollably in my chest, but for a different reason. I was terrified. but I tried not to show it, to look calm.
His eyes were gentle when he looked at me. “Carmen,” he said softly, and reached out for my hand.
“Don’t touch me,” I said and shrank away from him.
He quickly pulled his hand back and stared at me flatly. “What are you thinking?” he asked in his velvet tone.
“This can’t be real.” I shook my head, trying to think, “I can’t do this, Adrian. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it sure wasn’t this.” I laughed a little shakily. “I can’t stay here. I…I have to leave.”
“I can’t let you do that,” he said, looking intently into my face. “It’s not safe out there for you…you wouldn’t last a week.”
“You can’t keep me here against my will,” I retorted defiantly.
“I can and I will,” he replied categorically. “Catherine wants you dead and she won’t ever give up. I will have to kill her to stop her.”
His statement sent shivers down my spine. “So what…I’m a prisoner here?” I asked angrily.
“I would prefer it if you didn’t look at it quite like that,” he said quietly. “It’s for your own protection.”
All of the emotions I was feeling welled up inside of me. This man, or whatever, sitting across from me, who moments ago I had been madly in love with, was evil. Worse than that probably, and I couldn’t get my mind around it. This was a nightmare. My subconscious had been trying to warn me, through all those dreams I was having. Now here I sat, trying to let it sink in. I knew I was on the verge of crying again, of screaming hysterically, of utterly losing it, but I had to keep my poise somehow.
“I guess I don’t have a choice,” I said quietly.
“No, you don’t,” he answered, then got up and left the room.
I sat on my bed for a long time trying to digest everything that had happened in the last couple of hours. All of the dreams of Adrian and me seemed to be crashing in on me. I thought he was wonderful…perfect. “Some things are worse than you could imagine” he’d said when I asked him about his secret. He was right, Amanda was right…how could I have been so stupid? He had more than skeletons in his closet…he was a vampire. The whole thing was like a bad dream I just couldn’t wake from.
What was I going to do?