"You have got to be kidding," Poppy said.
Phil just gaped.
"No. I'm perfectly serious. You're witches of thesecond kind. Remember what I told you?"
"There are the kind of witches that know theirheritage and get trained-and the kind that don't.Who just have powers. And humans call that kind-"
"Psychics!" James chorused with her. "Telepaths.Clairvoyants," he went on alone. There was something in his voice between laughing and crying."Poppy, that's what youare. That's why you picked up on telepathy so quickly. That's why you had clair voyant dreams."
"And that's why Phil heard me," Poppy said.
"Oh, no," Phil said. "Not me. Come on."
"Phil, you're twins," James said. "You have the same ancestors. Pace it, you're a witch. That's why I couldn't control your mind.""Oh, no,"Phil said. "No."He flopped back in his seat. "No,"he said again, but more weakly.
"But whose side do we get it from?" Poppy wondered.
"Dad's. Of course." The voice from the backseatwas very faint.
"Well, that would seemlogical, but-"
"It's the truth. Don't you remember how Dad wasalways talking about seeing weird things? Havingdreams about things before they happened? And,Poppy, he heard you yell in yourdream. When you were calling for James. James heard it, and I heardit, and Dad heard it, too."
"Then that settles it. Oh, and it explains otherthings about all of us-all those times we've had feelingsabout things-hunches, whatever. Even youhave hunches, Phil."
"I had one that James was creepy, and I wasright."
"And maybe a few others," Phil said fatalistically."I knew it was James driving up this afternoon. Ithought I just had a fine ear for car engines."
Poppy was shivering with delight and astonishment, but she couldn't quite understand James.James was absolutely beaming. Filled with unbelieving elation that she could feel like streamers andfireworks in the air. "What, James?"
"Poppy, don't you see?" James actually pounded
the steering wheel in joy. "It means that even before
you became a vampire, youwere a Night Person.Asecret witch. You have every right to know about the Night World. You belong there."
The world turned upside down and Poppy couldn't breathe. At last she whispered. "Oh . . ."
"And webelong together. Nobody can separate us.We don't have to hide."
"Oh..."Poppy whispered again. Then she said,"James, pull the car over. I want to kiss you."
When they were in motion once more, Phil said, "But where are you two going to go now? Poppycan't come home."
"I know," Poppy said softly. She had accepted that.There was no going back for her; the old life wasover. Nothing to do but build a new one.
"And you can't just wander around from place toplace," Phil said, doggedly persistent.
"We won't," Poppy said calmly. "We'll go to Dad."
It was perfect. Poppy could feel James think, Ofcourse.
They would go to her father, the always-late, always-impractical, always-affectionate parent. Herfather the witch who didn't know he was a witch.Who probably thought he was crazy when his powersacted up.
He'd give them a place to stay, and that was all they needed, really. That and each other. The whole Night World would be open to them, whenever theywanted to explore it. Maybe they could come back
and visit Thea sometime. Maybe they could dance atone of Thierry's parties.
"If we can findDad, that is," Poppy said, struck by sudden alarm.
"You can," Phil said. "He flew out last night, buthe left an address. For the first time."
"Maybe somehow he knew," James said.
They rode for a while, and then Phil cleared his throat and said, "You know, I just had a thought. I don't want any part of the Night World, you understand-I don't carewhat my heritage is. I just wantto live like a human-and I want everybody to bedear on that...."
"We're dear, Phil," James interrupted. "Believeme. Nobody in the Night World is going to force youin. You can live like a human all you want as long as you avoid Night People and keep your mouth shut."
"Okay. Good. But here's my thought. I still don'tapprove of vampires, but it occurs to me that maybethey're not as completely bad as they seem. I mean,vampires don't treat their food any worse than humans do. When you think of what we do to cows ...at least they don't breed humans in pens."
"I wouldn't bet on it," James said, suddenly grim."I've heard rumors about the olddays...."
"You always have to argue, don't you? But my other thought was that you're part of Nature, and Nature just is what it is. It's not always pretty, but ... well, it's Nature, and there it is." He wound upglumly, "Maybe that doesn't make any sense."
"It makes sense to me," James said, entirely serious. "And-thanks." He paused to look back at Philinacknowledgment. Poppy felt a sting behind hereyes. If he admits we're part of Nature, she thought,then he doesn't believe we're unnatural anymore.
It meant a lot.
She said, "Well, you know, I'vebeen thinking, too.And it occurs to me that maybe there are otherchoices for feeding besides just jumping on humans when they don't expect it. Like ' animals. I mean, isthere any reason their blood won't work?"
"It's not the same as human blood," James said."But it's a possibility. I've fed on animals. Deer aregood. Rabbits are okay. Possums stink."
"And then there must be somepeople who'd bewilling donors. Thea was a donor for me. We could ask other witches."
"Maybe," James said. He grinned suddenly. "Iknew a witch back home who was verywilling. Nameof Gisele. But you couldn't ask them to do it everyday, you know. You'd have to give them time to recover."
"I know, but maybe we could alternate. Animals one day and witches the next. Hey, maybe even werewolves on weekends!"
"I'd rather bite a possum," James said.
Poppy socked him in the arm. "The point is, maybewe don't have to be horrible bloodsucking monsters.Maybe we can be decentbloodsucking monsters."
"Maybe," James said quietly, almost wistfully.
"Hear, hear," Phil said very seriously from theback.
"And we can do it together," Poppy said to James.
He took his eyes off the road to smile at her. Andthere was nothing wistful about his gaze. Nothingcool or mysterious or secretive, either.
"Together," he said out loud. And mentally headded, Ican't wait. With that telepathy of yoursyourealize what we can do, don't you?
Poppy stared, then felt an effervescent rush that almost shot her out of the car. Oh, James-do youthink?
I'm certain. The only thing that makes exchanging blood so special is that it enhances telepathy. But you don't needany enhancementyou little dreamer.
Poppy sat back to try and still her heart.
They would be able to join their minds again. Anytime they wanted. She could imagine it, being sweptinto James's mind, feeling him surrender histhoughts to hers.
Merging like two drops of water. Together in a waythat humans could never know.
I can't wait, either,she told him. Ithink I'm going tolike being a witch.
Phil cleared his throat. "If you guys want someprivacy.. ."
"We can't have any," James said. "Not with youaround. Obviously."
"I can't help it," Phil said through his teeth."You're the ones who're yelling."
"We're not yelling. You're snooping."
"Both of you give it a rest," Poppy said. But she felt warm and glowing all over. She couldn't resistadding to Phil, "So, if you're willing to give us someprivacy, that means you trust James alone withyour sister...."
"I didn't saythat."
"You didn't have to," Poppy said.
She was happy.
It was very late the next day. Almost midnight, infact. The witching hour. Poppy was standing in a place she'd thought she'd never see again, her mother's bedroom.
James was waiting outside with a carload of stuff,including one large suitcase of Poppy's CDs, smuggledfor them by Phil. In a few minutes James and Poppywould be heading for the East Coast and Poppy'sfather.
But first, there was something Poppy had to do.
She glided quietly toward the king-size bed, making no more noise than a shadow, not disturbing either of the sleepers. She stopped by her mother'sstill form.
She stood looking down, and then she spoke withher mind.
I know you think this is a dream, Mom. I know youdon't believe in spirits. But I had to tell you that I'm allright. I'm all right, and I'm happy, and even if you don'tunderstand, please try to believe. Just this once, be!ieve in what you can't see.
She paused, then added, Ilove you, Mom. I alwayswill.
When she left the room, her mother was stillasleep---andsmiling.
Outside, Phil was standing by the Integra. Poppyhugged him and he hugged back, hard.
"Goodbye," she whispered. She got into the car.James stuck his hand out the window toward Phil.
Phil took it without hesitation.
"Thank you," James said. "For everything."
"No, thank you."Phil said. His smile and his voicewere both shaky. "Take care of her. . . and of yourself." He stepped back, blinking.
Poppy blew him a kiss. Then she and James droveoff together into the night.