“How is your throat?” Peter asked sadly, admiring my neck.

“It’s okay,” I lied. It felt like I had terrible whiplash, but I didn’t want him to feel bad about hurting me. I sat down on the couch, so very purposefully, he sat in the chair on the far side from me.

“I’m sorry.” He looked at me sadly, then dropped his eyes. “I shouldn’t have done that. But you should know that’s what I’m like.” When he spoke again, his voice was barely audible. “I’m not very nice.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“You should.” He met my eyes evenly. “You’d be so much better off with Jack. I’m…” He shook his head, unable or unwilling to say exactly what he was.

He knew how I felt about him, that I had no control over it, and yet he still tried to convince me that he was a bad. The choice had already been made, and whether he was good for me or not didn’t matter.

“But I want to be with you,” I insisted, and something about my voice startled him into softening a bit. But he quickly recovered, and his face hardened again.

“You don’t know who I am. I’m not like them. I’m not good.”

“How are you different?” I asked.

I hated that he was so far away from me, and it had finally gotten to be too much. I got up and walked over, kneeling directly in front of him.

He smiled at me, a rather sweet, sincere one, then reached out and touched my cheek gently, brushing back my hair. It sent shivers of pleasure through me, but I fought to keep my eyes open, to keep them locked on his.

“You should be so afraid of me, but you’re not,” he murmured, bemused. He studied my face, his hand resting wonderfully on cheek. “If you weren’t…” He licked his lip and sighed. “If I didn’t feel this way about you, I wouldn’t hesitate to kill you. Do you fully understand?”

I’m not sure if I would’ve told him that I did or not, but I had started trembling too much to speak. He leaned in closer to me, and his hand moved back, so he was burying his finger in the thickness of my hair.

“I am a real vampire. I’ve killed people.”

“You… you have?” I whispered. My heart, which still pounded desperately for him, twisted with fear and revulsion.

“Mmm.” He sighed again, this time more resignedly. “They didn’t tell you. I’m surprised Jack didn’t, but Ezra always tries to protect me. After…” Raw pain flashed over his eyes. “Elise died, I went on a rampage of sorts. Eventually, I got myself under control, but there’s still that thirst.”

“But that was a very long time ago,” I said softly.

“I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You won’t,” I promised him.

All of his resistance shattered, and his vulnerability made him look impossibly young. He stared at me for a minute, and unexpectedly, he kissed me.

His mouth pressed forcefully to mine, and his hand knotted in my hair. My body exploded with pleasure. I loved the insistent way he held me to him.

Just as abruptly as he started kissing me, he stopped. Peter moaned and jumped away from me. Before I could say anything, he left the room.

Every part of me wanted to follow him, but I just lay back on the hard wood floor and stared up at the ceiling. Even as my head reeled from the ecstasy of his kiss, I didn’t want to feel this way about him. Peter would just keep hurting me and pushing me away until there was nothing left.

Something in me had been chosen for him, but I started to wonder if it had been a mistake.

Mae came in a few minutes later to tell me supper was ready, looking distressed but not surprised that I was alone. She had made some kind of pasta that I recognized as Milo’s recipe, but hers didn’t do it justice.

After I ate, Mae cleaned up the kitchen, and I helped her as much as she would allow. Every now and again, I’d hear Peter upstairs, and I’d feel a sharp pain in my side. The fact that he was so close but refused to be with me was devastating.

In the living room, Mae put on the Beatles, claiming that they could heal any mood, and sat on the couch. I sat on the floor in front of her and let her play with my hair. Theoretically, it was meant to comfort me, but like the meal she had just made, it was done more as a way to get her mothering out.

When Ezra appeared in the living room sometime later, I was relieved. He kissed Mae warmly, and I found my chance to escape.

I slipped out from her and went to find Jack. He had crouched down on the dining room floor to rub Matilda’s belly, and I stood in front of him, wrapping my arms around myself.

“Did you have a nice drive?” I asked Jack.

He looked up at me, then glanced over at Mae and Ezra, who were busy in their world, murmuring things to one another. At that moment, I hated them for being so easily in love.

“Yeah. Did you have a nice time with Peter?” Jack raised an eyebrow at me, trying to seem playful, but I saw the hurt behind it. More than that, I felt it, like a burning regret in the back of my throat.

“I’ve had better,” I said.

His smile came more naturally after that, and I felt some of the tension ease up between us. Giving Matilda one last pat, he stood up and looked down at me.

“Do you want to give me a ride home?” I asked.

“I do…” Jack trailed off, and nodded up at the ceiling, towards Peter’s room, and then he shook his head. “I don’t think I should. At least not right now.”