As I went upstairs to get ready for my night with Ian, I stumbled upon my clan members seated around a large cherrywood table in the formal dining room. I stepped inside to see if any of them wanted to join me for a night out on the town. I opened my mouth to speak and caught the awkward glances that Nicholas, Crystal, and Drew were giving me. Silence enveloped the room, as if my presence were unwanted.
“Did I miss dinner?” I asked, hoping to break the awkwardness of the moment with a little humor, but none of them laughed at my bad joke.
Nicholas folded his hands in front of him on the table. He shook his head and clenched his jaw as if he wanted to say something but was holding back. Drew looked down at the dining table, pretending to be intensely studying the grain of the wood, while Crystal sat back in her chair, picking at her long, manicured fingernails. If I wasn’t mistaken, they seemed to be avoiding eye contact with me. This was one of those many times I wished I were an older vampire and had developed the ability to read thoughts. Being a newbie, as I was, I had almost none of the nifty abilities that the more experienced vampires had. I could sense emotions, but that wouldn’t do me much good here. I did, however, have the sneaking suspicion they’d all been talking about me.
“Okay then,” I said to break the silence. “Lysander’s crystal is in the coffin if anyone is looking for it. I noticed something different about it today. Possibly a good thing. Fingers crossed. When Ariana gets here we need to have her take a look at it. Maybe the spell is reversing itself. Wouldn’t that be great?”
Crystal glanced up for a brief second and smiled awkwardly at me.
Drew cleared his throat and it sounded like he said, “Okay,” but didn’t bother to turn and look in my direction.
I found it odd that none of them bothered to comment on what I had said about Lysander or the crystal. Come to think of it, they’d been acting funny for the last few evenings; avoiding me, ignoring me, and spending a lot of time in their own little group. Did they know something I didn’t? And if they did, why weren’t they telling me? I wanted to blurt these questions out but knew better. If they were trying to hide something from me, the direct approach wasn’t going to get me any answers. I’d have to keep a close watch on them to find out myself.
“Anyway… Ian is dragging me out of the house. We’re going to hit the bar. If anyone else wants to join us, I’d love to have you. Please come.”
Crystal shook her head and folded her arms across the table, but maintained her silence.
“Drew, Nicholas, either of you guys want to tag along? Don’t make me go out with Ian all by myself.” I figured that would at least get a rise out of one of them. They’d been like overprotective brothers, and Ian was just the kind of guy that brothers kept away from their little sisters.
“Actually, that might be best.” Drew said in his usually chipper tone. “You get along well with the Boston crowd. I feel you should go out with them more often. It would do you good.”
“I’m sorry… what?” To say I was startled would be an understatement. “Remember we’re talking about Ian here. Mr. Wannabe Casanova. You want me to go out with him tonight?”
“You can handle him,” Drew responded.
“What I think Drew is trying to say,” Crystal said softly, “is that we want to see you going out and having fun. We’re worried for you. The Boston crowd is younger, and you can relate to them better. Maybe that’s what you need to move on.”
“Move on!” I said a bit louder than I wanted to. “Nicholas, back me up here. Have you moved on from Rozaline?”
I realized about two seconds too late that I probably shouldn’t have reopened that wound. And I was right. Nicholas’s face tensed. His jaw clenched. His eyes zeroed in on mine, and without needing to hear the sound I knew he was still screaming in pain on the inside.
Rozaline, Nicholas’s mate, had died days before Lysander had been charred and trapped in the crystal. We’d all watched her decapitated and drained at the ghostly hands of Aniketos. Her death had been gruesome and very final, and I doubt even the coldest heart out there could have gotten over that pain so quickly.
“Sorry, that was wrong of me. I didn’t mean it to come out like that. All I’m trying to say is, she died and he is allowed to mourn. Lysander isn’t dead, and you all seem to want to act like he is. There is nothing for me to move on from.”
Crystal stood and walked purposefully toward me. “We just feel like you might be holding false hope. We don’t want you to hurt more if things don’t work out.”
“At least I have hope.” I couldn’t hold back the raw emotion in my voice. “At least I want things to be better. What are you all doing? Have you lost your humanity completely? This is no different than if he were in a coma in a hospital. If we were human, I’d be by his side every day, because I love him. That’s what you do when you love someone.”
She put her arm around me. “You’re not wrong to care. And we do want things to be better. Even if that means letting go.”
I jerked away from her.
“Not of your hope,” she added. “Let go of some of the pain. Don’t forget you have to live too. Transfer that energy into something productive, so you’re not constantly dwelling on the uncertainty of his situation.”
“And what if I’m not ready to let go of the pain? What if all I have is my pain?”
“You know that’s a lie.” She pulled me back into her arms. “You have us. We care… in our own way.”
Drew stood and joined us. His massive height dwarfed both Crystal and me. “So go out tonight. Have fun with Ian and Zuri and anyone else you can drag along with you. Get out of this house. That’s all we want.”
“Then I want you all to come too.” If I was to be forced into going out and having fun, they should have to go too. It was only fair.
“We’ve already hunted,” Drew said with an obviously fake smile. “And I don’t really care much for the dance clubs here.”
“There is nothing you can say that will get me to go to another bar,” Nicholas said with a note of finality.
I knew better than to push him. We shared a common pain, though not exactly the same, and I wouldn’t blame him at all for locking himself away to mourn. Losing a mate with whom you have shared eternity is not something you can just walk away from. He’d been ready to join her, offering himself as a sacrifice, but that too had been stolen from him when Lysander took his place.
“Well, I know Crystal will go with me.” I gave her my best you’re-not-getting-out-of-this look. Crystal liked to go to parties and clubs. She’d been the first to take me out dancing after I’d been turned. “No excuses. If you don’t go, I don’t go.”
She sighed and for a brief moment, I almost believed she was angry at me for giving her an ultimatum; but then a smile blossomed from her tight lips. “Oh, all right. I’ll go out tonight.”
Drew cleared his throat. “I thought we had our own plans for tonight.” He put his arm around his mate. “Remember, just the two of us?”
She stammered for a moment and looked up at her mate with confusion in her eyes. “Oh… yes… I completely forgot. Alyssa, let’s have a girls’ night some other time.”
I couldn’t put my finger on it, but they were all acting very suspicious. I sighed in disappointment. “Fine. I’ll see you all later. Will someone call me if Ariana gets here before I return?”
“If we’re home.” Drew said with a cocky tone that didn’t suit him.
Something was definitely up.
“Yeah, okay. If you’re around, give me a call,” I said, and then turned and headed toward my room to get ready.