“But like animal blood, right?” I asked hopefully, but Mae kept her eyes down, so I looked up over at Jack, who just shook his head.

“We can’t live on animal blood.” Jack kept his pale blue eyes on me, so I had to focus not to look even mildly revolted. “It’s the same reason a person can’t live on a blood transfusion from a dog or rat. Essentially, we require a weekly blood transfusion to survive. We just have to ingest it.”

“You… you kill people?” I know my voice was trembling, but then Mae’s eyes shot up and both her and Jack looked appalled.

“No! No, of course not!” Mae vehemently denied it. “People can lose huge amounts of blood before they die.”

“We just drink blood from people,” Jack elaborated. “It’s a painless process. Our saliva works as like an anesthetic and makes the wound heal crazy fast.”

“And Ezra’s so good at it that most people don’t even know they’ve been bitten,” Mae explained, somewhat proudly. “Jack and I live mostly on blood from the blood bank anyway. It’s not quite as good, but it’s much less complicated.”

“You get blood from the Red Cross?” I pictured Mae and Jack going down to a Red Cross and asking for a pint of blood for the ride home.

“No, not exactly.” Mae gently touched my knee and smiled at me. “There’s a vampire blood bank. People think they’re donating to some place like the Red Cross, but it’s for us. So we have a fridge in the basement full of blood.”

“Not that Peter or Ezra ever really get into it,” Jack muttered, and Mae shot a look at him.

“They lived too long in the times before blood banks,” Mae said, looking rather apologetic. “They’re purists.”

“So… they… what? How does that work? They just find some random person and bite them?” The thought of Peter biting anyone else made me feel vaguely nauseous.

“No, they have clubs where people willingly donate, and a lot of times, they can pick up girls, who think they’re going on a date and getting a long kiss on the neck, but really they’re just getting a snack,” Mae clarified.

“You’re okay with that?” I asked Mae. “Ezra’s out and about dating and drinking other women?”

“It’s not pleasant,” Mae admitted, with a pained expression. “But it’s the nature of who we are. And I’d rather have him seducing a woman than just attacking someone and killing them. It’s the price of eternity, love. I can be with him forever, but he has to kiss other women.” She smiled sadly at me, and I wondered if I’d ever be able to come to terms with it like she had.

“I drink almost entirely bag blood,” Jack interjected brightly, and I turned my attention back to him.

“The night you picked me up, were you going to bite me?” Then, remembering how suddenly drowsy I was and that I couldn’t remember how I’d gotten home, my eyes widened. “Did you bite me?”

“No!” Jack put his hands up defensively under the scrutinizing glares from Mae and me. “No! I didn’t! Honest!” Then he looked sheepish. “I’d actually just come from the club, and I’d … fed, right before I saw you.”

“You mean the clubs I was trying to get into?” I wondered if Jane had ever been picked up by a vampire without knowing it. She probably had, and that served her right.

“No, it’s a vampire one. Well, I guess I don’t know where you guys were trying to go, so you might’ve. Most people don’t know it’s a vampire club. That’s how I turned.”

“Peter picked you up at a club?” I raised my eyebrow skeptically.

“Nope,” Jack grinned. “I followed these two hot chicks in, and they turned out to be psychotic vampires. Peter was there, looking for something to eat. But the girls went crazy and left me for dead. Peter found me in the alley behind the club, and for some reason, he decided to save me.”

“Do you have to be dead to turn?” I asked.

“No, you can’t be dead,” Jack clarified. “Once you’re dead, you’re dead. That’s it. Vampires aren’t undead. We’re just a different form of people. Ezra explained it to me that vampirism is a virus, sorta like AIDS, except whereas AIDS makes you sick, this makes you better.”

“It’s a virus?” I looked skeptical.

“I guess.” Jack shrugged. “That’s what Ezra told me. It’s like an evolutionary mutation. His theory is that people have no predators. The only thing that really takes people down is weather and disease. The plagues actually helped keep the population in check. When cities were overflowing, a plague would come and knock the numbers down. A vampire is just another kind of plague.”

“Yeah, that’s great and everything, but a virus?” I shook my head in disbelief. “How can a virus do this to you?”

“Again, Ezra is more of an expert than I am,” Jack said. “But it just makes you more efficient. We get exactly what we need all the time. We don’t have to process anything. We live on pure, fresh nutrients. And it stops decay. When we die, we’re like Styrofoam. We’re here forever. When we get injured, we heal at an alarming rate, because we’re all blood.”

“You guys are really vampires?” They had been explaining stuff to me for a long time, but I still couldn’t wrap my head around it. Jack laughed and leaned on the counter.