1. Chapter 1 by Pyro
2. Chapter 2 by Pyro
3. Chapter 3 by Pyro
4. Chapter 4 by Pyro
5. Chapter 5 by Pyro
6. Chapter 6 by Pyro
7. Chapter 7 by Pyro
8. Chapter 8 by Pyro
9. Chapter 9 by Pyro
10. Chapter 10 by Pyro
11. Chapter 11 by Pyro
12. Chapter 12 by Pyro
13. Chapter 13 by Pyro
"Hey David, that girl's lookin' at you."
David was hardly surprised. Firstly because this was coming from Paul, and second because it wasn't uncommon for girls to decide they wanted to be his girlfriend (he had learned to humor them, as it made hunting that much faster). But this wasn't like that.
She was standing just outside the arcade. She had hazy blond hair, wearing a ratty denim jacket, and she was looking at him with an expression so intense he was surprised his head hadn't caught fire. Their eyes met, and she slipped through the crowd toward him.
"Who is that?" Marko asked, slightly amused.
"I've never seen her before," David replied.
The strange girl reached where they were standing. All four boys stared at her, not quite sure why she had come over or why she looked like she was about to slap their leader. Then she spoke.
"That's my necklace," she told David.
He raised an eyebrow, glancing down at the gold chain and pendant hanging from his neck before turning back to her, a smirk on his face.
"Is it?" he asked leisurely, holding it up to the light and examining it. "No, I don't think it is."
"It has my name on the back."
"And what is your name?" he asked, idly checking the back and finding that there really was something engraved there.
Paul, where'd you get that locket? David asked silently.
Just some guy I killed, Paul replied, sounding sheepish.
David winced inwardly. Paul's victim must have stolen it from this girl. Oh well, they had come to the Boardwalk to hunt anyway. This just made it a lot easier.
He looked at Amber out of the corner of his eye and smiled. "All right, Amber. I'm willing to believe this was yours. But it's mine now, and if you want it back, you'll have to win it from me."
She looked uncertain and a little annoyed, but it must have meant a lot to her because she nodded. "Okay. What are we playing?"
David saw her glance back at the arcade, and shook his head slightly. "This game isn't on the Boardwalk," he informed her. "You'll have to come with us if you want to play."
The boys chuckled at the troubled expression that crossed her face, but to their surprise she nodded, and followed them to their bikes.
"So what do I have to do?" Amber asked.
"Do you have a bike?"
"Then you ride with Marko."
David nodded toward the other boy, and she walked over to where Marko was waiting. While he helped her get situated behind him, Star and Laddie appeared from the crowd.
Star looked troubled when she saw Amber with the boys, and as she slipped onto David's bike, she whispered into his ear, "Who is that?"
David just glanced back at her, smirking. "That's Amber."
Star looked surprised. "Is she...?"
David shook his head slightly. "Not yet."
He could feel how tense she was. It wouldn't have been hard for him to imagine that there was a rock sitting behind him instead of a girl. He looked past her to make sure Dwayne had Laddie situated.
"Man, I feel lonely," Paul complained.
"Don't worry, Paul, I'm sure David will get you a hamster," Marko replied.
Someone laughed, and David realized it was Amber. "Poor Paul, stuck with a rodent," she giggled.
Paul just muttered under his breath. As soon as everyone was situated, they tore away across the sand. Once they were passed the immediate area of the Boardwalk, David motioned for Marko to come up beside him. Glancing across, he met Amber's eyes.
"You want your locket?" he asked, shouting so that she could hear him over the engines.
He took the necklace in one hand, and saw her gaze lock on it.
"Go ahead, take it!"
Her eyes widened in surprise. She would have to lean pretty far out to reach his hand, and her chances of doing so without falling were very slim. Not that it mattered, because she would still have to pry it out of his fist, and even if he hadn't been a vampire, her chances of overpowering him were slim to none.
She hesitated for a moment, then turned and said something into Marko's ear. David overheard her request and chuckled under his breath--she had asked him to ride closer. Marko just smiled and shook his head, no. Amber turned back to look at David, a disappointed expression on her face. She wanted her locket back, but she wasn't going to risk her life to get it.
David could have let it end there, but he decided it would be funner to keep the game going. He pulled his bike a little closer to Marko's, tempting her. This time, Amber took the bait. She leaned over, keeping one hand firmly around Marko's waist as she reached out with the other. She could see her necklace dangling from David's hand, only inches away. She stretched out a little further, closing the distance to within an inch of the gold chain.
"Give it to her," Star whispered pleadingly into David's ear. "Just give it to her."
"Why?" he asked simply.
He let his bike drift a little closer to Marko's. Immediately, Amber's fingers found the end of the chain and tightened around it, but the locket itself was wedged between David's palm and his bike's handlebar. She tugged on the chain, but the locket didn't budge.
"Amber," he called, but she ignored him. "Amber, let go!"
Amber continued to twist and pull at the necklace until a concrete piling suddenly connected with the side of her hand. She let out an audible yelp and pulled away. They were under the bridge now, but between the pilings flying past David could still catch occasional glimpses of the other bike. Amber had her injured hand drawn up to her chest, and she was clearly in pain.
The rest of the ride was uneventful. They didn't hear another peep out of Amber, and somehow the boys didn't feel much like crowing. They made it back to the bluff in silence. Amber looked uneasy when they pulled up next to the cliff, especially as the group led her into a kind of cave. She took in the sight of the lobby with wide eyes.
"What is this place?"
"It was a resort, up until the quake hit," Paul explained, flopping down on a nearby couch. "Pretty fine one, too. We're the only ones who know it's here."
"Except for you," David added.
"I won't tell anyone," she replied seriously.
David smirked a little. "I know."
"How's your hand?" Marko asked quietly.
"It's okay now, thanks," she told him.
He just smiled slightly and sat down beside to Paul. David turned and headed back toward the entrance.
"Come on, boys--and Amber," he called. "The night's not over yet."
"We just got here," Amber pointed out, perplexed.
"And now it's time to go."
The other Lost Boys sprang to their feet and headed for the entrance. At first Amber was right behind them, but when they reached the entrance, David realized she was missing from the group. He turned to see her standing with Star.
"Go home!" Star whispered anxiously. "You don't know who they are! You don't know what--"
"Come on, Amber," David interrupted, pretending to not be able to hear what Star was saying. "You want your locket back, don't you?"
Amber looked at him uncertainly, then slowly nodded.
"Don't worry," she told Star. "I'll be careful."
She returned with the Lost Boys to the top of the cliff, where their bikes waited, and Amber automatically gravitated over to Marko.
"No," David told her. "You ride with me this time."
Amber gave Marko an apologetic look and climbed onto David's bike instead. Marko didn't seem concerned, which of course he wasn't. The five of them rode out to the edge of town, coming to a stop outside an old, dilapidated factory building.
"Now what?" Amber asked.
"You'll see," David replied mysteriously.
The boys parked their bikes, and David led the group inside. Amber looked wary, but followed.
Moonlight filtered in through the roof, illuminating the large, rusted machinery inside. The building had been abandoned for fifty or sixty years, and its purpose was long since forgotten, even to the Lost Boys.
For some reason, there was a giant mirror running the entire length of one wall. By chance Amber glanced into it, and her eyes widened in surprise when she realized that she was the only one reflected in its surface. She looked around, thinking for a moment that the boys had hidden themselves from sight as a trick, but they were still there, watching her curiously. She looked back at the mirror, and again at them, shocked.
"David?" she asked, wide-eyed. "You're--"
"A vampire?" David finished, and grinned.
Her eyes widened further when she saw his teeth. She turned to the others, only to see that they looked the same. She backed away a few steps, but they moved to block her path.
"What do you want?" she cried. "I played your game!"
"Yeah. You did pretty well," David agreed. "How about it, boys? Give her a hand."
The other three clapped and whooped. Someone shouted "Way to go!"
"But the game's over now." David's smirk vanished. "And you lost."
He lunged, claws extended. Amber flung herself out of the way, sending pieces of scrap metal flying everywhere. For a second, her shirt snagged on a rusted table, and in the time it took for her to free herself, he had her by the arm.
"Just give up," he whispered.
"No!" she yelled, trying to pull away.
"You can't get away from me, Amber."
He pulled her closer, teeth coming dangerously close to her neck. She felt his breath on her throat and instantly reacted, grabbing a handful of the longish hair on the back of his neck and yanking hard. He came away with a startled grunt, removing one hand from her shoulder as he tried to free himself, only to receive a bony knee in the stomach.
Amber sprang away, eyes darting frantically around the room. There was only one exit she could see, and that was the door they had come in through. It was all the way on the other side of the room, and she would have to get around both David and the other boys in order to reach it.
"What are you going to do, Amber?" David taunted, already recovered.
Amber grabbed a piece of scrap metal off the floor and flung it at him. He turned aside and let it fly past him, then stood there looking at her with a cold smile on his face. Without warning, he lunged, arms sliding around her as he bit into her neck. She struggled violently, even turned and tried to bite him back, although she couldn't reach him. David drank deeply, unconcerned. After a moment, he pulled away, blood running down his chin as he gave her a friendly smirk.
"Admit it. I win."
She glared back at him, although her eyes weren't completely focused anymore. He leaned in again, but hesitated when he heard footsteps outside.
"Who's in there?" a voice demanded. "This building is condemned!"
David gave a frustrated growl, licked the bite wound on Amber's neck a final time, and released her. She collapsed in a heap on the floor.
"See you around, Amber."
He casually tossed the necklace onto the ground beside her, and the four vampires vanished with a gust of wind, leaving her alone in the factory. A second later, a man stepped inside. He took a look around, then saw her lying on the floor.
"What happened here?" he asked, alarmed. "Are you okay?"
Amber couldn't keep her eyes open any longer. Weakly, she reached forward, resting one hand over her necklace. And then she passed out.
"You were very lucky," said Dr. Hafer. "Another minute or two and you wouldn't have made it."
You have no idea, Amber thought, but she just nodded silently.
"You're sure you don't know who attacked you?" he asked.
"Just some creep with plastic fangs," she lied. "I didn't get a very good look at him. It was dark, you know?"
Hafer nodded understandingly. "Well, if you see him again, be sure to let the police know. In the meantime, it would probably be best if you didn't go walking around condemned buildings."
"Oh, I won't," she assured him.
And I definitely won't be hanging around vampire bikers anymore, she added silently. It seemed so farfetched, so unreal; she would almost have thought it had all been just a very vivid dream--except for the bite mark on her neck.
Part of her wanted to tell the doctor the truth, but she was afraid the vampires would find out if she told anyone about them, and come back to finish the job. She was also afraid that Dr. Hafer would think she was crazy. After all, she could hardly believe it had happened, and she had been a part of it!
She was released from the hospital later that day, and took a cab back to the dilapidated one-room apartment where she lived. She had a little leftover chicken for lunch and flung herself down on the couch for a long nap.
The sun was already long set when she awoke, and the first stars were beginning to appear. She didn't dare leave her apartment, she was just sure that if she did she'd run into David and his boys again. So she stayed inside, had some buttered popcorn for dinner, and watched her now overdue copy of Back to the Future for the third time.
Amber was feeling a little bolder when she got off work the next evening. She could hardly remember what had happened with the gang she met on the Boardwalk, but she couldn't see any sign of there having been a bite mark on her neck at all, and she was starting to wonder if she hadn't just been mistaken about the whole vampire thing. She was glad she hadn't told Dr. Hafer she'd been attacked by vampires. He would definitely have thought she was delusional.
These thoughts, along with fact that she had a video overdue, encouraged her to venture out of her apartment. The sky was almost completely dark by the time she reached VideoMax, but the inside of the store was bright and welcoming. She walked inside, pausing for a moment to see what was playing on the overhead screen. She was just about to slip Back to the Future into the return slot when there was a jingle from the door, and in they came.
Amber felt the color drain from her face when she realized who it was. The only thing keeping her from bolting out the door right then was the fact that she'd have to get past them to do so, and even if she managed to do that, she would be more vulnerable outside, in the dark. So she remained standing beside the counter, watching them out of the corner of her eye.
David's trench coat disappeared from view, and she realized he was standing behind her. She turned around and found him right in front of her, staring into her face. There was a predatory gleam in his eyes, and a faint tinge of red around the edges, and it left no doubt in Amber's mind that he and the others really were vampires.
"Leave me alone," she told him. It was meant to be a command, but her voice came out thin and shaky.
"I'm not doing anything," he replied, smiling a little.
"Leave the young lady alone."
Amber felt the tension evaporate when she heard that voice. That was Max's voice, Max being the owner of the video store. Amber turned and saw him standing in the doorway to the back room, glaring at the vampires, mostly at David. His dog Thorn was at his side, hackles raised, teeth bared in a silent snarl.
"I'm not doing anything," David repeated.
"Get out of my store," Max ordered.
Amber was surprised to see the Lost Boys go. They left immediately, just climbed onto their bikes and rode away without so much as a glance backward.
"Are you all right?" Max asked her, concerned.
She realized her hands were trembling, and felt herself blush slightly.
"Oh... I'm okay."
"Those boys scared you, didn't they?"
She nodded, dropping her gaze to the cover of Back to the Future.
"I brought the movie back," she told him. "I'm sorry it's late. I had to go to the hospital."
"I'm so sorry to hear that," he responded, concerned. "I hope it was nothing serious."
"I'm okay. I'm just sorry I didn't get a chance to bring it back sooner."
"That's all right. We do have more than one copy."
Amber smiled a little. "Thanks."
The conversation should have ended there, but Amber remained standing beside the counter, and Max remained beside her.
"I guess I need to be going," she said finally.
"Business has been pretty slow tonight. I can drive you home, if you'd like," Max offered. "I can bring Thorn, too."
"Oh, that would be great," she replied, the relief evident in her eyes.
"Come on, Thorn," Max called.
Immediately, the white Shepherd bounded out from behind the counter, tail wagging. Amber petted his head and the three walked out the door together.
"Still worried about those boys?" Max asked, noticing the way she was looking around.
"Yeah," she admitted.
"Well, don't worry, they can't get you. Not when I'm around." He smiled.
Amber smiled back and watched as Thorn bounded into the back seat.
"Do you walk all the way here?" Max asked.
"Why not?" Amber shrugged, climbing into the passenger seat. "It's warm enough. Besides, I spend all day cooped up at work. By the time I get off, I need the fresh air."
"Where do you work?"
"One of the clothes stores on Pacific Avenue," she replied.
He nodded, smiling slightly.
They spent the rest of the ride in silence. Amber kept expecting to see the boys watching her from inside one of the buildings they passed on the way, but she didn't see any sign of them.
"Well, this is it," Max said at last.
She looked up and realized they had come to a stop in front of her apartment building.
"I guess it is. Thank you for the ride."
"Don't mention it."
Amber climbed out of the car and made her way up the steps to her apartment. She stepped inside, locked the door behind her, and sighed with relief.
Max pulled up outside the video store just as the boys were coming out the door. David gave him a purposeful look, as though he had something to say and this was his way of demanding Max's attention, and then all four boys slipped into the alley behind the store. Max pretended not to notice as he let Thorn out of the passenger's seat and they walked into the store. He let Thorn off his leash and said hello to Maria before coming out the back door, to the alley.
"You need to talk to me?" he asked.
"It's that girl who was in the store earlier, Amber," David told him.
"David--" Max began, in a warning tone.
David interrupted. "I know what you said about customers, but she knows about us."
Max stopped whatever he'd been about to say, looking surprised. "You're sure?"
Max sighed. No wonder she'd been so afraid of them.
"I'm not going to ask how she found out," he told David, "but how long has she known?"
"A couple days." David angled his head a little. "What do you want us to do?"
Max pursed his lips, looking thoughtful. "She can't have talked to the police yet, or we'd have noticed by now. Just keep an eye on her. Don't take action unless it's clear she plans on telling someone."
David nodded and turned to leave.
He stopped, looking back questioningly.
"Try not to frighten her so much. She may tell someone simply because she thinks you're out to get her."
David looked perplexed with this order. "Do you plan on turning her?"
David nodded again, expression thoughtful, and led his gang out onto the sidewalk. Max watched them go and sighed.
It was a shame Amber had gotten involved. He suspected that somehow it was the boys' fault, but there was nothing they could do about it now. Sooner or later they would have to turn her, for her safety as well as theirs. He just hoped she wouldn't fight them when the time came.
When Amber came home from work a few days later, she went straight to the kitchen, only to realize that she didn't have anything to eat. She glanced outside at the rapidly setting sun, mentally cursed her work schedule for putting her life in danger, and set to work making a grocery list. Hamburger, pasta, canned fruit. That should be enough until the weekend, when she could go out and buy groceries during the day.
She reached the store without incident and found the aisle with the canned fruit in record time. It was the pasta section where disaster struck.
"Whatcha doin'?" someone asked.
She jumped a little, accidentally dropping the box of pasta she'd been looking at. It fell out of her hand, by chance landing in her basket. Looking up, she found herself face to face with Paul. The others stood behind him, chuckling at her surprise.
Amber's head snapped back down and she was overcome by a sense of terror. Here they were, probably still out to get her, and no doubt just waiting for her to step out of the store so they could drag her off and murder her. But when she finally mustered the courage to meet Paul's eyes, she felt her fear begin to dissolve. Somehow, she felt that they weren't going to hurt her. Not now, anyway.
David angled his head to look into the basket. "Canned peaches and Tortellini?"
"Yeah," Amber muttered, not really sure what to make of the vampires' sudden interest in her diet.
Paul snatched the shopping list out of her pocket and held it up. Marko and Dwayne stepped up on either side of him and the three examined it closely.
"Ham-buh, pasta, fruit," Paul read out loud. "That's all?" He looked disappointed in her.
"Yeah," Amber repeated, unsure of how to react. How was one supposed to react to grocery list criticism from a vampire?
"Naw, man, you need some of this!"
He grabbed a bag of potato chips and tossed it into her basket.
"Don't," she protested.
"We're only trying to help you, Amber," David told her.
She opened her mouth to reply, then heard a low giggle behind her, and turned to see Marko and Dwayne carrying her basket off.
"Hey!" she yelped.
She took the handles in one hand, attempting to pull it away from them, only to find herself being pulled along. Marko and Dwayne barely seemed to notice the extra weight. And then Paul decided to join in, and before she knew it the three boys were racing down various aisles, throwing things into the basket while she still struggled to hold on. It was like some nightmarish parody of Supermarket Sweep.
"I think that ought to do it," Paul said at last.
He and Marko and Dwayne all looked immensely pleased with themselves. David chuckled. Amber just stared mournfully into her hand basket, which was now overflowing with various food items.
"I can't pay for all of this," she protested.
"We're paying," David replied.
She would have objected, but their eyes met for a brief second, and she felt the words die on her lips.
"Thank you," she mumbled instead, feeling slightly confused.
Dwayne and Paul worked together to lug the basket to the checkout stand, while David and Marko made sure Amber stayed with them. There was a small line waiting behind them by the time the cashier was done ringing everything up. She read the total off the cash register--it came to almost one-eighty in total--and David handed her a wad of bills. It took four bags to hold all the groceries, and even then they were full almost to bursting.
"You'll need help carrying it all home," David explained to Amber, as Marko, Paul and Dwayne took the bags.
She expected them to head for their bikes once they were out the door, but as they passed through the parking lot, she realized the bikes were nowhere to be seen. She couldn't say she was disappointed by that fact.
"No hard feelings about before?" David asked her.
She gave a slight shake of her head. She didn't understand why they were acting like this, but she was grateful that they weren't trying to kill her. She just wondered how long it would last.
It wasn't long before they reached her apartment, and the boys remained below as she climbed the stairs. She opened the door and turned back, only to find them all standing right behind her. She blinked in surprise and motioned mechanically inside.
"That's all right," David said quickly, before she could speak. "We need to get going. Nice seeing you again."
They turned to leave. Then there was a powerful blast of air, and they just... disappeared, leaving the bags at the top of the stairs.
"Bye," was all she could think to say.
It could have been her imagination, but she thought she heard a faint laugh in the distance.
Paul nudged Marko. "Look, it's Amber!"
The Lost Boys filed into the video store, giving what David hoped would look like friendly smiles. Amber looked surprised to see them, but not quite as tense as last time they'd met. At least she didn't give them a look of terror like she had last time.
"Hello, Amber," David purred.
"Hi," she replied timidly.
He smiled, staring into her eyes. That's right, relax. He casually rested one hand on her arm, using the physical contact as an anchor as he silently pulled at her thoughts. We're your friends, Amber.
Max chose that moment to come out of the back room with a stack of tapes, and David reluctantly released her.
"Oh, hello Amber," Max said, smiling.
"Hi," she replied.
"These boys bothering you?" he asked, giving David a warning look.
You're safe with us.
"No," she replied quietly.
She slipped her tape in the drop-off box, saying, "I'll see you later, Max."
She smiled at him and headed for the door.
"Goodbye," Max replied cheerfully.
David gave Max a friendlier than usual smirk before he slipped outside. She's ours. It's only a matter of time.
Amber stood re-arranging some jackets on a clothes rack. She paused once to look out the storefront windows, and winced a little at the darkening sky.
I can't believe it's already heading into fall, she thought. She used to get off work around sunset, but recently the store had switched over to the autumn schedule, and the sky would be completely dark by the time she got off work. She hoped the friendly image David and his friends conveyed was sincere, because if it wasn't, they would have plenty of chances to kill her on the evening walks home. Somehow, though, she found it increasingly hard to imagine that they might mean her harm.
She finished arranging the jackets and realized that someone was standing beside her, waiting patiently for her attention.
"Can I help... you?"
David smirked as Amber realized who she was talking to. The other boys laughed at her surprise, but their expressions were friendly, not mocking.
"I think you can," David replied.
He unbuttoned his coat and pulled it back just a little. Her eyes widened when she saw the gaping holes in the shirt underneath.
David's victim on the previous night had pulled a knife on him. David was already fully healed, but his shirt made it look like someone had used his chest as a cutting board.
"I think we have some like that over here," Amber said, leading them over to a table with piles of black shirts.
"This one looks good," Marko remarked as he held a shirt up to David's chin, demonstrating all the careful attention of a mother shopping for her child.
Amber discreetly left to attend to another customer. Dwayne thought he saw a smile on her face, but couldn't be sure.
"Can we just get this over with?" David asked, scowling.
It wasn't often that David ventured into a clothing store, but he couldn't walk around town looking like he'd been attacked by a wild animal, and as Paul had pointed out, it was too suspicious to keep his coat buttoned up in the middle of summer. At least it gave them some excuse to see where Amber worked.
"This one's good--oh, wait, what about that one?" Paul asked, picking up another.
"This one goes better with his jacket," Marko replied.
"They look exactly alike," David growled, but was ignored.
Marko's face brightened a little. "Okay, this one's good."
Out of the corner of his eye, David saw Amber walk into the back room with the dressing booths.
"Buy it," he told Marko. "I'll be back in a minute."
He re-buttoned his coat and slipped into the back room. Amber was standing in one of the dressing booths, collecting various articles of clothing customers had left inside. She jumped a little when she saw him looking in at her.
"Oh! Is there anything else?"
David didn't reply. He just slipped one hand around her arm and stared at her for a long time. Amber stared back, not quite sure what they were doing, although for some reason she felt very calm.
"Don't be afraid of us, Amber," he told her quietly. "We aren't going to hurt you."
She nodded slowly, too drowsy to put much effort into it. At last he pulled away.
"When do you get off work?" he asked.
Amber blinked once as she struggled to remember where she was, then glanced up at the clock on the wall.
"I should be leaving now, actually."
David smiled a little and joined the boys on the street outside.
"You have plans?" he asked as she came out the door.
"Not really," she replied. "Why?"
"We were thinking maybe you could hang out with us," Paul spoke up.
"No biting," David assured her. "Promise."
"All right," she replied. "What are we doing?"
Amber sat in the booth with her chin resting on her hand, watching with an amused look as Marko and Paul shot straw wrappers at one another. Dwayne was sitting in the corner, carefully folding a napkin into a paper crane. David sat beside Amber, watching the other boys play.
"Here's your pizza," the waitress announced, setting it on the table between them.
Paul and Marko immediately dove in, pushing and shoving as they each tried to find the Perfect Slice. Dwayne carefully set his crane aside before joining them, followed by Amber. David took his piece last, nipping off the strings of mozzarella almost artistically.
They sat at the booth and ate pizza like any normal group of friends, which was how Amber was beginning to think of them. She still knew that they were vampires, but she was beginning to forget her fear. The memory of the night in the warehouse seemed distant and unimportant, as though it was merely the memory a dream. Had she thought through it, she might even have wondered if it really had been the Lost Boys who took her there, and not some other group of vampires.
David watched his companions with interest. He could tell that Amber was more relaxed around them after the conversation they'd had in the clothes store, and the other boys were beginning to enjoy her company now that they knew her death wasn't imminent. As if on cue, Amber shot a straw wrapper at Paul and hit him between the eyes, and Marko and Dwayne broke out in laughter.
David gave a small, satisfied smile. She was theirs. She just didn't realize it yet.
A few nights later, David spotted Amber on the Boardwalk, standing at the entrance to the arcade. Before the Lost Boys could reach her, another gang, one they had never seen before, came up and began to hassle her.
Amber glared at them and said some harsh words that were lost over the noise of the crowd, but they just laughed. Their leader stepped up and put his arm around her, despite her attempts to push him away.
David bristled. Stepping forward through the crowd, he took the other man by the shoulder and shoved him backward. The guy's feet left the floor, and when he came back down it was on his rear, three feet away.
"What do you think you're doing?" David demanded, voice low and cold as ice.
"Who're you?" the guy asked, a little startled by what had just happened.
"The Lost Boys. And this is our town, so I suggest you leave."
The guy's friends just laughed. Someone helped him up, and they turned and headed out onto the Boardwalk, making sure to jostle the Lost Boys as they passed.
Once they were out of sight, David turned back to Amber. "You okay?"
She only nodded, looking embarrassed.
"They didn't hurt you?"
"No, I'm fine," she replied, slightly surprised at the question.
David spotted the security guard scowling at them from the other end of the arcade, and motioned toward the door. "Come on."
They gathered around one of the tables in the reserved section, Amber and David seated, Paul and Dwayne on the railing beside them. Marko pulled up an extra chair to join them.
"Who were those guys, anyway?" Marko asked, looking around to see if the other gang was nearby.
"They're called the Surf Nazis," Amber replied. "I heard someone talking about them in the store earlier today. Apparently they came here from Monterey."
"They won't be here for long," Dwayne remarked.
Amber must have known what he meant, but she didn't seem particularly alarmed by the concept. David took it to be a good sign.
The next couple nights passed with no sign of the boys. They didn't show up at the clothing shop, or in the video store, or even on the one occasion that she visited the Boardwalk. Amber wasn't terribly disappointed by their absence, but life was rather quiet without them.
The stars had just begun to come out as she made her way home. She wasn't looking forward to spending another night just sitting around the apartment. Maybe she could stop by the video store a little later and rent something. And talk to Max while she was there. And maybe the boys would even show up.
She didn't notice the three figures standing in the nearby alley. Not until their leader dragged her into the shadows and pinned her against the wall. She struggled violently, then got a good look at his face, and her eyes widened in terror.
"Don't worry," he whispered to her, smiling just enough that she could see the tips of his fangs. "This'll only take a minute."
He leaned in to bite her, then glanced down at her neck, and his expression changed to one of surprise.
"Shoot, she's marked!"
He immediately released her, and he and his companions backed away as though she were carrying the plague. Then their heads snapped around and they stared at the entrance to the alley. Heart pounding, Amber turned and saw the Lost Boys standing there, looking annoyed.
"Hello, Luke," David greeted coldly.
"David! I didn't know she was yours," the one who had attacked her exclaimed.
"Well, you know now."
"We were just passing through. We... we're going now."
The three filed past the Lost Boys and onto the street, looking nervous. David watched them leave, then turned to Amber.
She nodded, still very shaken.
She followed them back out onto the sidewalk, and back down the street to the clothing shop, where their bikes were parked.
"Mind if we take the bikes?" David asked.
She shook her head, appreciating that he would ask. David climbed onto his bike while she waited beside him.
"You don't have to ride with me," he told her.
"I know, but... I'd like to anyway."
He nodded and helped her on, feeling pleased. Amber felt the tension leave her immediately, but the curiosity remained.
"Who were those other vampires?" she asked in David's ear.
"They're a gang from Santa Barbara. You shouldn't see them again."
"How many vampires are there? I've seen eight in just the past month, but wouldn't people notice if there were a lot?"
"You're right," David replied. "There aren't that many of us. There's less than forty in all of the US."
Amber winced a little in sympathy.
They rode out to a wooded hill overlooking the city. The boys slid off their bikes, and David tugged Amber's arm. She turned so she was sitting sideways on the seat.
"Do you know why Luke--the other vampire--didn't bite you?" David asked.
"I think he could tell that you'd bitten me. And he wasn't allowed to do anything because of it?" she guessed.
He nodded. "Vampires can see when someone's been marked, even if the mark looks healed to human eyes. So long as you're alive, and you have my mark, you're under our protection. But it comes at a price."
"Your friendship," he smirked. "And most of your spare time."
"Oh, then of course," she replied, smiling in amusement.
Then she noticed his eyes beginning to change color, from blue to fiery yellow.
"What are you doing?" she asked, slightly worried.
"Renewing your membership."
He slid his arms around her, and she tensed in anticipation of what was to come next. He heard her gasp in pain as he reopened the marks, but she made no move to stop him. He drank until she passed out in his arms, then turned away, letting Dwayne take her limp body.
"Take her back to her apartment," David instructed him.
Dwayne nodded and rose into the air, streaking off in the dark. David wiped the blood off his chin and smiled. Won't be much longer now.
Amber was unable to go to work the next morning, as the previous night had left her too weak from loss of blood. She was a bit surprised that David had taken so much from her, but at least she knew for certain now that she could trust them. She wouldn't be alive otherwise.
She slept on and off throughout the day, until a knock on the door finally roused her.
"Who is it?" she asked sleepily.
"Just us," came David's reply.
"Oh. Come on in, if you can."
She had been pretty sure that the door was locked, but to her surprise, it opened.
If she had been visited by anyone else, Amber would have been horrifically embarrassed at the state of her living quarters. Her furniture consisted of a beat-up couch on one side of the room, a television set, a metal folding chair, and a twin mattress lying slumped against a wall. But the Lost Boys lived in a cave, so she didn't think it would really matter to them.
As it turned out, she was right. The Lost Boys gathered inside, sitting on whatever surface was available, looking completely at home.
"Still tired?" David asked.
She nodded a little.
"You'll feel better by tomorrow."
The room was silent for a moment, except for Paul, who had made the mistake of sitting in the metal chair. It squeaked with his every movement.
"So how do you plan to spend my free time?" Amber asked finally.
"We could go to the Boardwalk and ride the rides some time," Marko suggested.
Amber looked a little disappointed. "Oh."
David raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"
She gave them an apologetic look. "Sorry, I'm not a big fan of carnival rides. I can only go on the slow ones."
"We wouldn't mind," David replied. "The carousel is our favorite."
She looked surprised, and a little amused. "That would be fun."
"Tomorrow night," David told her, and she nodded.
Amber carried a stack of sweaters out to the main room and set them on the shelf where they belonged. She didn't notice the young men approaching until their leader spoke.
"Well, look who it is."
Amber recognized the voice immediately and turned, fixing the skunk-haired Surf Nazi chief with an icy glare. His friends just laughed at her, like they always did.
"I need a new jacket," he told her. "This one's wearing out."
"Jackets are over there," she said, pointing.
The whole gang moved en masse to the aisle she indicated. They were back half a minute later, Skunk-hair carrying two different jackets.
"Gimme a woman's opinion," he said, grinning. "Which one looks better?"
Before Amber could think of something to say, a blond-haired girl stormed past her and threw herself at Skunk-hair, yelling and clawing. Amber backed away, alarmed.
"You jerk!" the girl screamed.
"Easy, Shelly!" Skunk-hair yelped. "I wasn't doing anything, honest!"
"You were flirting with her!"
"I wasn't, I swear!"
He leaned forward and kissed her. Passionately. Amber clapped a hand over her mouth, making an awkward sound halfway between laughing and gagging.
A kiss would only keep Skunk-hair's girlfriend distracted for a moment or two. Thinking quickly, he reached out and took hold of Amber's necklace, snapping the chain in the process. He put it around his girlfriend's neck, tying the broken ends together in a knot. Amber yelled and lunged toward him, only to have one of the other Surf Nazis grab her sleeve and pull her back. Wheeling around, she punched him instead.
Suddenly the air was pierced by an angry shout from the other side of the room. "What's going on here?"
The group turned to see the store manager, Maddie, storming toward them. She was a slim girl, and shorter than Amber, but the fire in her eyes made even the Surf Nazi leader take a step backward.
"Nothing, we're leaving," Skunk-hair muttered.
The group filed toward the door, leaving Amber standing alone with Maddie.
Maddie spoke without turning. "Next time you decide to start a fight, do it somewhere else."
"He took my necklace!"
"I don't care what he did, you're still the one who attacked him."
"I wasn't aware that being a pushover was part of the job requirement," Amber growled.
"Keep talking like that and you won't have a job."
Amber fumed, but she knew better than to say anything else. It was bad enough that she'd been out sick twice in one month, and now this. Getting into an argument with her manager was just asking to be fired. She waited for the other girl to leave before she went back to work.
Amber was just getting ready to leave when the bell over the door rang, accompanied by the sound of laughter and a metallic jingle. She turned to glare at whoever had just come in, but her expression softened when she realized it was the Lost Boys.
"What's up?" Dwayne asked.
"Nothing," she replied. "I was just about to leave."
"Ah. So are we," David remarked. "We should go to the Boardwalk."
Amber smiled a little. "Okay."
Amber rode with David, as she had before. They came to a stop outside the Boardwalk, and Marko went to buy tickets while David led the rest of the group on ahead.
Letting David lead the way, Amber dropped back so that she could walk next to Paul and Dwayne. Dwayne immediately noticed something was amiss, and nudged David, motioning toward Amber. David looked at her and frowned a little.
"Where's your locket?" he asked.
"Lost it," she said simply.
"Uh, David?" Paul ventured.
David followed his gaze and saw the Surf Nazis gathered on the carousel. Amber spotted them, too, and scowled.
Marko arrived, tickets in hand, looking solemnly toward his leader.
"They have it?" David asked, looking to Amber.
She nodded slightly, looking uncomfortable.
David's expression grew cold. "Stay here," he instructed her.
He touched her arm lightly and stood, and his brothers followed him. David suspected that the other gang was pestering Amber to get at the Lost Boys. Either way, it was going to stop.
Amber watched the four of them hand over their tickets and climb onto the still-moving carousel, much to the attendant's surprise. It was hard to make out what was going on with the carousel constantly turning. She caught sight of them standing next to the Surf Nazis. David had his hand on Shelly's chin, and Amber guessed that he was either about to kiss her or he had found Amber's locket. Skunk-hair seemed to think it was the former, and threw himself forward. The group was out of sight for a moment, and Amber could only guess at what was going on. Then they came back around, she could see David was winning...
Amber saw the security guard come up behind him, but there was nothing she could do from where she was standing. He seemed to catch David off guard--or was David just too caught up in the fight to care? He had to care now that he had the guard's nightstick jammed into his neck.
The security guard said something and let him go, and both gangs filed off the carousel. David met Amber's eyes before the Lost Boys disappeared down the nearest walkway. She followed suit, and they met up back at the parking lot.
"I'm sorry about that," Amber said sadly. "He kicked you off the Boardwalk, didn't he?"
David just smiled a little, slipping the unused tickets into his coat pocket.
"It wasn't your fault," Marko replied.
"It was my necklace."
"It was our fight," David pointed out. "This is our Boardwalk. We would have done the same even if you weren't here."
She nodded a little. "So what do you want to do now?"
"You've seen our place, why not show us yours?"
She nodded again. "Sure. You can help me eat some of the popcorn you bought."
Amber unlocked the door to her apartment, gesturing for them to enter.
"Come on in."
David noticed Paul gravitating over toward the metal chair, and gave him a sharp look. The blond-haired vampire flopped down on the end of the couch instead, while David took a seat at the other end. Marko and Dwayne remained standing, examining the black panther poster tacked to the far wall.
"So what's on TV?" Paul asked. He found the remote and turned it on, only to be confronted by the hiss of static.
"Nothing," Amber replied, as she fished a bag of popcorn out of a cupboard. "I only use it for watching movies."
She tossed the bag in the microwave and turned it on before returning to the main room and sitting on the mattress. Dwayne pulled the folding chair closer, and it let out a loud squeak when he sat on it.
Marko picked up a tape that was sitting next to the TV and read the title.
"Hey, she's got Ghost Busters," he announced.
"Well, let's see it," David replied.
Marko fed the tape into the VCR and sat down on the old mattress. Amber brought the popcorn out and joined him.
It was almost midnight by the time the movie ended, and the boys filed out the door, promising to see her again soon. Pleasantly exhausted, Amber flung herself down on the couch and slept.
"I can't believe you would do something so reckless."
Somehow, the older vampire had found out about the security guard's disappearance the previous evening, and he was furious. The Lost Boys lounged around Max's front porch, trying to tune out his nagging.
"No, wait, I take that back. I can believe you would do something that reckless."
"Max--" David began.
"No. You listen to me, David. If you boys continue to behave like this, someone is going to find out what's really going on around here. And after all the time I've spent gaining these peoples' trust..." He sighed. "I think it would be best if you boys didn't come into the video store anymore."
"What?" Paul gasped quietly.
Max held up a hand for silence. "You may be willing to risk drawing attention to yourselves, but that does not mean you can draw attention to me as well."
David nodded a little, looking slightly pained. "All right."
"Now go, all of you."
The boys began to leave, but David turned back at the last moment, giving Max an almost pleading expression. "Can we still park our bikes outside when we're in town?"
Max nodded. "But that's all."
David nodded back, and turning, took to the air.
Business was rather slow the next evening, due mainly to the activity at the Boardwalk. Max stood behind the counter, gazing out the window, past the people drifting past his store, to where the lights from the Boardwalk played across the darkened waters. He could hear the concert clearly even from within the store--it wasn't the type of music he enjoyed listening to, but at least it prevented the lull in activity from becoming too much.
Max saw movement, a flash of purple, and found his gaze drawn to a woman standing outside his store. He was shocked for a moment--the woman looked almost exactly like Helen. But it couldn't be, she had died eight years ago. He saw her crouch beside a frightened looking boy, and realized now was an excellent chance to offer his assistance.
Max was about to leave the counter when he heard the bell over the door. He turned to see David enter with his boys, and glared at them. How dare they come into his store, after he had told them just last night...
Another jingle announced the entrance of the lady from outside. She took the little boy by the hand and led him up to the counter. Now that he could get a closer look at her, Max could see that she definitely wasn't his Helen. But the resemblance was still very striking. Perhaps they were related.
"This boy seems to be lost," she told Max, concern in her voice (she even sounded like Helen, he realized). "I thought maybe his parents might be in here?"
Momentarily forgetting about his own troublesome offspring, Max smiled brightly and opened his mouth to speak. But before he could say a word, a dark-haired woman rushed into the store.
"Oh, Terry, I was so worried!" she cried, scooping the boy up in her arms.
"Thank you so much!" she told the other woman.
Max handed the boy a lollipop and his mother carried him back outside. Then he turned back to the lady standing next to him.
"Well done," he told her, smiling as he offered her a lollipop.
"Oh, no, I couldn't," she said, then thought better, taking it from him and smiling.
Max caught motion out of the corner of his eye and glared past her at David and the other boys, but especially David.
"I told you not to come in here anymore," he warned.
David just smiled and led his brothers out the door. They climbed on their bikes and roared away.
Max rolled his eyes a little as he turned back to the woman standing beside him. "Wild kids."
David and the others came to a stop at the end of Walkway 3, the lights from the nearby carousel reflecting off the gleaming metal. Star and Laddie appeared out of the crowd immediately, and David noticed that Star especially looked relieved to see them.
"Everything all right?" he asked.
"Yes," she breathed, and climbed onto his bike without another word.
David spotted a young man watching them from the crowd. There was a certain hopeless expression on his face as he saw Star sitting on David's bike, and David suddenly realized why Star had been so eager to return to them. He gave the other boy a friendly, if slightly amused, smile. Perhaps they should get to know this stranger--but not right now. The Lost Boys already had plans for tonight. He gunned his engine, and they rode away, leaving the young man alone on the Boardwalk.
David gave a contented sigh and leaned back in the grass, picking bits of gore from his teeth with one talon. With the other hand, he lifted Amber's locket up to his face. He rubbed a few red flecks off with his thumb and examined it a little more closely.
It was oval-shaped, with a distinctive white ceramic inlay on the front that bore the image of a bird of some kind. David flipped it open, examining the pictures inside. They showed a man and a woman, both of whom resembled Amber a great deal.
Obviously her parents, he thought. No wonder she had wanted it back so badly; he had noticed when they were over at her house that she didn't have any pictures on her walls. This was probably the only thing she had to remember them by.
There was a rustling sound behind him, and he turned his head slightly to see Paul perched on the back of the driver's seat, messing with something in the car.
"What are you doing?" David asked.
"Lookin' at the stuff they got in here."
Paul eagerly wiped a few spots of blood off the cover of a Superman comic, tucked it under one arm, and looked around to see what other treasures he could find.
David turned his attention back to the necklace in his hand. He untangled the knot Greg had tied in it, and carefully bent the broken link until the ends met. There, good as new.
There was a slight gust of wind, and both vampires looked up to see Max walking toward them. David quickly tucked the necklace into his pocket, where the older vampire wouldn't see it. He didn't want Max getting the wrong impression.
Max looked distastefully toward the corpse lying a few feet away, then at his offspring, both of whom were covered in blood.
"What brings you out here?" David asked, smiling a little to hide his unease.
"I noticed you came into my store this evening, after I told you not to," Max replied.
David remained silent, gazing off down the hill. A cricket chirped.
"But that isn't why I came here," Max continued. "I'd like you to see what you can learn about the woman that was in my shop, Lucy."
"All right," David replied simply.
"I talked to her earlier. I'm not positive, but--I believe she's Helen's daughter."
David raised his eyebrows in surprise.
"Do you remember her scent from when you saw her in my store?" Max asked.
David shook his head slightly, and Max produced a lollipop stick from his pocket. David grimaced a little as he took the dry end between his fingers, raising it to his nose and inhaling. Immediately he was struck by a sense of familiarity. Not from when he had seen this woman--Lucy, he reminded himself--in the video store. In his mind's eye, he saw the young man on the Boardwalk.
"She has a son," he remarked, a little surprised.
"What makes you say that?" Max was perplexed as to how the younger vampire could determine that just from smelling the woman's lollipop.
"Because we saw him earlier, on the Boardwalk."
Max looked suddenly very interested. "How old is he?"
"He's got a bike," Paul added helpfully.
Max smiled widely. "Perfect. David, I'd like you to bring him into the family. That way, I can convince Lucy to join me."
David nodded silently, but his face was sullen. Max patted David's shoulder, then straightened and walked down the hill. There was a gust of wind, and he was gone, back to his video store. Paul sighed unhappily, echoing David's own emotions. Here we go again.
The next evening, the Lost Boys rode to the Boardwalk and sat back in the shadows of Walkway 2, where they could keep an eye out for Lucy's son, and have a quick smoke while they were at it. It was a Saturday night, and the crowd was particularly thick, making their task all the harder.
David was the first to see him, standing in front of a mirror as he tried on a leather jacket. David nudged Star to get her attention.
"Look over there," he said, nodding. "Is that the guy you saw the other night?"
"Yes," she replied quietly.
"Why don't you go talk to him? Get to know each other," he suggested.
Star looked a little surprised, but she slowly slid off his bike and wove her way through the crowd. David watched her approach the other boy. She said something to him. He said something back. They turned and began walking down the colonnade together. He climbed onto his bike, and turned to her expectantly. David decided he had seen enough, and started his bike.
The boy looked surprised when the Lost Boys appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. David pulled up alongside him, with Dwayne in front and Paul behind, effectively stopping him in his tracks.
"Where you going, Star?" David asked, pointedly ignoring her companion.
"For a ride," she replied. "This is Michael."
For a moment, no one moved. Star was hoping that David would let them go now that he had the information he wanted, but David wasn't about to let her run off with a stranger, even if he was a future relative.
"Let's go," Michael said, quietly.
"Star?" David called, a note of expectancy in his voice.
Star gave Michael an apologetic look, and slid onto David's bike. David turned his attention to Michael, silently enjoying his discomfort.
"You know where Hudson's Bluff is, overlooking the point?"
Michael grimaced a little. "I can't beat your bike."
David smirked. "You don't have to beat me, Michael. You just have to try and keep up."
When David stepped out of the cave the next evening, it was to find Star and Michael sitting on a rock nearby, kissing passionately. Laddie and the other three Lost Boys came up beside him, and they all stared. The two half vampires realized they were being watched and quickly pulled away from one another. Michael looked annoyed.
"Not interrupting anything, I hope?" David asked wryly.
Michael rose to his feet, glaring at David. David didn't care much for the look, but he hadn't come to start a fight. He had something far more interesting in mind.
"Look," Star said quietly, gesturing to Michael's earring.
"You're almost one of us now, Michael," David told him amiably.
"I'm my own man," Michael replied.
David just smiled. You'll see.
"Get your bike," he said. "We're going someplace."
Michael hesitated, gaze shifting back to Star.
"Don't worry," David told him. "She'll be here when you get back."
The Lost Boys headed toward their bikes, and after a moment Michael followed. He climbed onto his bike, and the five of them rode out into the forest.
They came to a stop on the edge of a deep gorge. The place was eerily quiet, and fog swirled in the emptiness below, obscuring whatever was at the bottom. On their left was a set of train tracks, which crossed the gorge by means of a weathered truss bridge.
"Perfect timing," David remarked, as he slid off his bike and began walking along the tracks.
The others followed him onto the bridge, the Lost Boys eager with anticipation.
"What's going on?" Michael asked.
David smiled. "Hear that, boys? Michael wants to know what's going on." They laughed. "What's goin' on, Marko?"
"I dunno," Marko replied. "What's goin' on, Paul?"
Paul laughed. "Wait a minute, who wants to know?"
"Michael wants to know!" Dwayne answered.
Michael smiled unsuspectingly.
"I think we should tell Michael what's going on," David said seriously, and turned expectantly to Marko.
"Good night, Michael," Marko smiled, and then turned and stepped off the edge of the bridge. Michael's jaw dropped open.
"So long," Paul giggled, waving to Michael. And then he dropped into the fog, followed shortly by Dwayne.
"Come with us, Michael," David coaxed, stepping past him.
Then he, too, dropped out of sight, leaving Michael alone on the bridge. Michael stepped up to the edge to stare down after them, probably thinking that they had all just committed suicide. He spotted them hanging from the scaffolding below, and the Lost Boys laughed.
"Michael Emerson!" David shouted. "Come on down!"
Michael hesitantly got down on his hands and knees and lowered himself onto the scaffolding. The other boys laughed again, pleased at his decision to join them, and he smiled a little. He peered down into the fog, wondering what lay below them. Then the scaffold they were hanging from began to vibrate.
The Lost Boys began to whoop and shout in excitement. A light appeared in the distance, and a horn sounded. Michael was overcome by a feeling of horror so intense that David almost choked on it. A train was about to cross the bridge!
The vibrations increased as it started across.
"Hang on!" David shouted.
The train was only a few feet above their heads. Michael grimaced. The other boys weren't laughing quite as much now. As the others watched, Paul's grip on the bar loosened, and he fell into the fog below. Michael's mouth dropped open.
"Don't be scared, Michael!" Marko shouted, then dropped with a yell.
Dwayne disappeared after him, leaving only David and Michael.
"Let go, Michael!" David shouted.
"What?" Michael gasped, staring at him in horror.
"You are one of us, Michael!" David insisted. "Let go!"
Then David released his grip, dropping noiselessly into the fog below them.
"David!" Michael shouted, horrified.
He continued to hang from the scaffolding as the train finally cleared the bridge and disappeared into the darkness. The sound persisted for a moment, echoing off the rock faces before it finally dissipated. In the sudden silence that followed, Michael heard the others whooping and laughing somewhere below him, their voices echoing off the sides of the gorge. They were calling for him. He just stared down into the fog, incredulous. And then he felt his fingers slipping.
Michael struggled to hold on, but first one hand slipped, then the other, and he was falling. Air rushed past him and he screamed, throwing his arms out. And then something amazing happened. He just... stopped. He wasn't falling anymore. He looked around in disbelief, seeing nothing around him but fog. Then whatever invisible force was holding him up seemed to break, and he plunged downward again. Michael passed out only moments before a pair of arms wrapped around him, halting his descent.
"Good thing you're out," David remarked. "'Cause this would look really sappy if you weren't."
David rose to the end of the bridge, dropping Michael in the grass beside his bike, then climbed onto his own. The other Lost Boys followed suit, and together they rode back into town.
"Why hello, David. I hope everything with Michael is going well."
Max sat on the front deck, holding a mug of coffee. At his side, Thorn stared intently at the younger vampire, but he didn't make a sound.
"Just fine," David replied.
Max took a sip of his coffee. "And the other two?"
"I see. And how are things going with Amber?"
"Haven't seen her in a few days, but she's fine."
Max nodded. "Does she trust you boys yet?"
"Enough to ride with us. She let me mark her the other night."
The older vampire smiled. "I'm glad to hear that. How long do you think before she joins us?"
David was slightly surprised. "I haven't asked her yet."
"Well ask her, then!" Max chuckled. "And get her out of that horrid apartment she's staying at."
David nodded. "I'll ask. Tomorrow."
The Lost Boys stopped by the laundromat a little later that evening, gathering around a table near the window, where Amber was working on a crossword puzzle.
"Hey guys," she greeted. "Where've you been?"
"Busy," David replied.
She nodded understandingly, although she would never have imagined that they had been hanging from the bottom of a bridge earlier.
A washer buzzed nearby, and she rose to her feet. They followed her as she collected her laundry and dumped it in a dryer.
"You up for going somewhere tomorrow night?" David asked.
"Sure," she replied, looking delighted.
"We'll meet at the clothes shop and go somewhere else from there."
With that, he turned and made his way toward the door, the others following silently behind him.
"See you later, Amber," Marko told her.
"Bye," Paul added.
She waved a little, then watched as the Lost Boys climbed on their bikes and rode away. Then she sat back down to finish her crossword puzzle.
When Amber left the clothing shop the next evening, it was to find David waiting for her alone. He nodded to her in greeting, she climbed onto his bike and they took off. Soon they reached their destination, and she realized he had brought her to the same hilltop where he had marked her. They sat on a low branch and watched the lights of the city below.
"We've had a lot of fun together, right, Amber?" David asked.
"And you trust us?"
She nodded again, a little slower. The way David was looking at her was starting to make her nervous.
"What are you going to do?"
"Depends," he said quietly. Lowering his voice, he asked, "Have you ever wanted to live forever?"
The shock was plain on her face. "You want me to join you?"
"We want you to join us. What do you think of that, Amber?"
Amber was shocked. She had never been "in to" vampires, even before finding out that they were real. It had never even occurred to her that they might some day ask her this. But to be one of the Lost Boys, part of their gang... that was a very alluring prospect.
"I would like that," she answered finally.
There was a hint of uncertainty in her expression, and he frowned slightly. "But?"
She blushed a little. "Nothing. I just... I don't know anything about vampires."
"Neither did any of us," he replied. "But we'll teach you. You trust us, right?"
"More than I probably should," she admitted.
He just smiled.
"So when do you want to...?"
"We'll wait until the others can be here. But soon."
She nodded again. They sat in silence for a moment, looking out at the lights. Finally she ventured to speak.
He turned toward her expectantly.
"If I become a vampire, am I going to have to kill people?"
"Yes," he replied. "Every three or four nights." He saw her troubled expression and shrugged. "It doesn't matter. Look at the people living here: alcoholics, serial killers, drug dealers--they're either killing themselves or they're killing each other. We keep Santa Carla safe with what we do."
She nodded silently before speaking. "I still want to."
He smiled. "Glad to hear it."
They stayed on the hilltop for a long time, just sitting in silence together, and then he took her back to her apartment.
"I'll bring the others over tomorrow night," he told her.
She nodded in response as she unlocked the door.
"We'll be here come nightfall."
"Okay," she said, smiling a little, and turned the knob.
She turned back, and he placed something cold in her hand. It slid onto her palm like ice water, and she suppressed a shiver. She looked down and realized it was a gold chain--and hanging from it was her locket.
She turned back to David, only to realize he was no longer there. She looked to the street and saw him already back on his bike. She waved to him, beaming. He nodded in response, then tore off down the street. Still smiling widely, she stepped into her apartment and closed the door.
By the next morning, most of the previous day was just a blur in Amber's memory, but the conversation she'd had with David remained vivid in her mind. And by the time she got off work, her mind was full of questions. What would it be like to be a vampire? Would she look like David had in the factory? If she didn't have a reflection, would she really care how she looked? Would they care how she looked? How could David style his hair if he couldn't see his reflection?
It was about an hour after nightfall when the Lost Boys finally appeared on Amber's doorstep. She let them in, and David led her over to the couch while Marko, Paul and Dwayne disappeared into the kitchen.
"You still want to do this?" David asked.
Amber nodded, trying to ignore the knot that was forming in her stomach. She was nervous at the thought of becoming a vampire, but not enough to back out on them.
David smiled, eyes glittering brightly. Then he rolled up his sleeve, bit into his arm, and offered her the bleeding wound.
Hesitantly, she took his wrist, lowering her head to drink. She swallowed a mouthful, trying not to wince. There was nothing recognizably different about the taste of his blood, it was just like regular blood, except that drinking it didn't seem to make her nauseous.
The other boys returned from the kitchen, cheering wildly. David slid his free arm around her shoulders, whispering into her ear.
"Good," he murmured. "Soon you'll be one of us."
Amber let her eyes slide closed. She could recognize his persuasion now, but made no attempt to resist it, instead continuing to drink from his wrist. She was already starting to get used to the taste of his blood. It didn't seem as sharp as it had at first, and the usual sanguine tang seemed milder. She kind of liked it.
David withdrew his arm after a couple minutes and the others came forward. Marko handed her a glass full of their blood, and again she drank to the sound of their cheering. She licked the last of the blood off her lips and smiled, feeling lightheaded.
The rest of the night passed in a haze. There was eating, and they had a movie playing, but she found it difficult to focus. She remembered afterward that David gave her more blood to drink out of a thermos, which left her dazed and bordering on unconsciousness.
The next thing she knew, the boys were gathering at the door to leave.
"The sun'll be up soon," David told her. "We'll be back for you tomorrow evening."
Amber nodded slightly before letting her head fall back on the armrest, and almost immediately she was asleep.
David stood over her for a moment and listened to her heart struggling, sometimes stronger and sometimes weaker, as her body was slowly overcome by their blood. Smiling, he turned toward the door, and the four boys quietly let themselves out.
Amber woke with a start, heart pounding, the screams and cries from her dream replaced by the insistent beep of her alarm clock. She glanced over at the display and winced slightly. Was it really time for work already? It felt too early.
Amber staggered into the bathroom and managed to get dressed, but she felt unusually drowsy. She paused to rest a moment on the edge of the tub, and might have sat there all day if the sound of a car horn hadn't brought her out of her stupor. She peeked out the window to see Jackie, one of her coworkers, waiting below.
Amber opened the door and trudged down the stairs to her friend's car. She was having a hard time just making her arms and legs work, but she had to make sure the boys were okay. Just for her own peace of mind. And then she'd go back to sleep.
"Are you all right, Amber?" Jackie asked. "You look like crud. Maybe you should stay home."
"No," Amber replied hoarsely. "I need you to take me to Hudson's Bluff."
Jackie looked at her doubtfully. "I really don't think you should be going anywhere, Amber. Seriously, you don't look good."
"Please," Amber insisted. "It's important."
Jackie sighed. "How long will this take? I don't want to be late for work."
Amber climbed into the back seat. "You can just drop me off on the side of the road."
The car pulled away from the curb, and Amber immediately nodded off.
She sat up sharply, almost banging her head on the roof of the car. "What?"
Amber stared hard out the window, struggling to see through the blackness creeping in from the edges of her vision, and just barely made out the lighthouse standing out on the point. Sighing a little, she pushed open the car door and stumbled out into the sunlight. A gleam of metal caught her eye, and she noticed a strange car parked near the top of the stairs.
"What time do you want me to pick you up?" Jackie asked.
"Don't," Amber replied simply, closing the door and staggering over to the cliff.
Jackie drove off, and Amber started down the stairs. At the cave entrance, she almost ran into a young man carrying a bundle. The two stopped and stared at each other, and Amber realized the bundle was actually Laddie. A sense of foreboding gripped her, and Amber pushed past him into the cave. She turned toward a back passage, picking up the distant sound of voices. And they didn't belong to the Lost Boys. Scowling a little, she climbed inside, feeling her way to the other end.
The passage ended at a small cavern, where three teen boys spun around to face her. Amber glanced up in the direction they'd been looking a second ago, and her jaw dropped open as she saw the Lost Boys hanging from the rafters like a flock of giant bats.
Amber turned back to the kids, noticing the wooden stakes peeking out of their backpacks, and bristled.
"Get out," she ordered.
"She must be one of them," one of the boys whispered to his fellows. "Get her!"
David awoke to the smell of blood, and opened his eyes to see Amber backed into a corner, bleeding from a long gash on her arm. Michael's little brother and the kids from the comic shop stood over her, the latter brandishing wooden stakes.
Snarling, he dropped to the ground, lunging at them with fangs bared. Their confident expressions immediately changed to horror, and they turned and fled back through the tunnel, with David hot in pursuit. David took Michael's brother by the foot and began to drag him back. The brothers from the comic shop grabbed the boy's jacket and attempted to pull him to safety.
"Quick, get him into the light!" someone shouted.
The four moved into a shaft of light coming from a crack in the ceiling, and David's exposed hand began to burn. He yelped sharply and yanked it back, releasing Michael's brother and allowing the three to escape.
"Lucky break," David muttered, blinking moisture from his eyes. Darn that ocean air, it was always stinging them...
Rubbing the back of his hand on his jacket, he returned to the sleeping chamber, where Amber was still huddled against the far wall. The boys had taken their flashlights with them, leaving the sleeping chamber in pitch blackness. Amber couldn't see in the dark the way he could, and she tensed upon hearing his approach, not knowing who he was.
"You all right?" he asked her.
"I'm okay," she breathed, relaxing slightly as she recognized his voice.
"Let me see your arm."
She held it out, and he examined the cut. He pulled out a few splinters, then bent, tongue flicking out as he licked up her blood.
"Better?" he asked, and smiled a little when she nodded.
"David, who was that guy outside?"
His smile vanished. "That's Michael."
"I saw him taking Laddie out of the cave."
"I know," David replied sullenly. "They've taken Star as well."
"What are you going to do?"
"Right now, sleep."
He stretched a little before flipping upward, feet catching hold of the metal bar above. He folded his arms over his chest and closed his eyes. Amber settled back in the sand to doze, but it was a while before she was able to fall asleep.
Amber awoke in the pitch blackness of the sleeping chamber, and felt her way out to the main part of the cave. The only light was a faint orange glow coming from the entrance, and even that was rapidly vanishing. She sat down on the couch and dozed until the light disappeared completely. Soon she heard the boys come out. She sat back up, feeling suddenly wide awake.
"You're going to go get Star and Laddie back?" she asked.
David nodded and held out his hand to her. "Why don't you come along?"
Her face brightened, and she walked over to where they waited, her vampire blood singing from the proximity to her new brothers. The five of them walked outside, David put his arms around her, and they took to the air. Amber tensed, eyes widening as the ground flew past beneath them. Slowly, she became aware of the fact that she was crushing David's ribcage, and forced herself to relax a little.
They flew inland until they came to a log house in the woods. The sound of barking reached their ears, and Amber saw a dog tied up below. One of the boys from the cave came running out of the house and crouched beside the dog, struggling to untie the leash. Dwayne and Paul swooped down on him. Michael appeared from inside and rushed to help. The two boys reached the house and slammed the door closed, and the vampires broke off.
The Lost Boys and Amber landed in the driveway, staring up at the house.
"Invite us in, Amber," David urged her.
Amber looked perplexed. "I don't even live here," she pointed out.
"Doesn't matter," David replied. "Do it."
"All right... come on in."
David patted her shoulder and turned to Paul.
"Take her with you," David whispered, and Paul nodded.
The fireplace erupted in a shower of rock and dust. Dwayne swung off the chandelier, catching Michael in the jaw before the chain gave out and sent his ride crashing to the floor. Dwayne retreated to the rafters for a moment, blinking in the sudden light as Lucy's younger son turned on a nearby lamp. Once he was sure Michael wasn't going to wake, Dwayne dropped from his perch in silence, catching the younger boy by the throat and lifting him into the air.
Gasping in terror as he was confronted by the vampire's razor sharp teeth, the kid drew his water gun, discharging into Dwayne's face. Dwayne ignored the small spray of liquid, plunging his teeth into the boy's neck as he screamed and fought. Dwayne drew him up onto a rafter, placing his hands on the boy's face. All at once the boy relaxed, leaning heavily into the vampire's arms.
Roused by the smell of blood, Michael looked up in time to see Dwayne slice his own wrist open, and his little brother drinking from the wound.
"Sammy!"Michael lunged forward, only to be intercepted by David and Marko. The three rose into the rafters, kicking and shoving at one another, as Dwayne looked on, and Sam continued to drink.
"Garlic don't work, boys!"
Paul managed to shove the two wannabe hunters off him, and they stumbled over to the tub.
"Try holy water, death breath!" one of them shouted, splashing the tub's contents down the vampire's front.
Paul just laughed as the water rolled harmlessly off. The two boys exchanged horrified expressions, realizing that something was terribly wrong.
"What happened?" the dark-haired boy cried, as Paul lifted him by his collar. "Why isn't it working?"
"Somebody must have invited him inside," the other replied, charging at the vampire.
Paul just took him by the sleeve, holding him at arm's length as he bit into his brother's throat. Sam's dog sat just outside the doorway, licking himself quietly, unfazed by the boy's screams.
"Look at me, Michael. Look at me."
David took Michael's head in his hands, forcing the half to look him in the eyes. Michael struggled, but he was no match for David and Marko together. His shoulders sagged, and the vampires released him. Michael suddenly slid to the floor, doubling over as his body was wracked with hunger pangs.
"You have to feed, Michael," David told him.
"Never," he choked, but he could barely raise his head to look David in the eye.
Paul dropped from the top of the stairs, one of Sam's friends slung limply over his shoulder. He dropped the unconscious boy in front of Michael, rolling him onto his back. Michael tried to look away, fighting the change that was coming over him, but David put a hand on the back of his neck to hold him still. As David forced him to watch, Marko came forward and tore into the boy's neck, spraying blood everywhere.
"Drink, Michael," David whispered, crouching beside the half vampire.
Michael licked up some of the blood that had sprayed on his face and shivered. Marko backed off, and at the sight of the bleeding wound, Michael's instincts took over. He lowered his head and drank.
When he finally pulled away, gasping slightly for breath, all the remorse, all the guilt was gone, replaced by the exhilaration of a good feed. Why hadn't he done this sooner?
"Well done, Michael," David applauded.
Marko slapped him on the back good-naturedly, and Michael smiled a little in reply. Already he was forgetting why he had resisted killing on that first night. Soon he wouldn't even remember what his life had been like before he met the Lost Boys.
Lucy returned home that evening to see Michael covered in blood, Sam out cold on the couch, one of the boys from dinner the previous night lying dead on the floor, and the bikers from Max's store lounging around her living room.
"What happened here?" she demanded, horrified.
The bikers watched her with indifferent expressions, but Michael looked frightened.
"Mom--" he began.
"And why are you covered in blood?" she continued.
"I can explain, Lucy," Max told her calmly.
She turned to him, surprised. "Max? What's going on?"
"I believe Michael has become one of my boys."
A sudden look of horror crossed Michael's face, but Lucy was looking at Max and didn't notice.
"What are you saying? You mean these are your boys?" she asked, now very confused.
Max nodded, smiling slightly.
"Get away from him, mom," Michael said suddenly. "He's a vampire."
"Ooh, Mikey figured it out," Paul joked, and the other Lost Boys laughed.
"What?" Lucy asked incredulously, but paled when she saw the change that had come over the four.
"Silence, Michael. Boys," Max warned. He slid his arm around Lucy. "Don't worry, they won't hurt you."
"And you?" Lucy pulled away from him. "You're..."
Max just nodded, smiling at her kindly.
"And my boys..." She looked between Michael and Sam, tears welling in her eyes.
"They're a part of my family now, Lucy," Max told her softly. "You can be, too, if you want. We can all be one big, happy family." He offered her his hand.
Lucy hesitated, but it seemed that this was the only way she could stay with her sons. She gingerly accepted his hand, cringing as he drew her to himself.
"No, mom!" Michael jumped up from the chair he'd been sitting in, only to have the Lost Boys pile on top of him, holding him down.
Max encircled Lucy in his arms, kissing her neck before he gently slipped his teeth in. Lucy stiffened, but he lifted one hand to her face, stroking her cheek with his thumb as he calmed her mind, and she slowly melted into his arms.
After drinking his fill, Max carefully cleaned the wound with his tongue, then lowered her onto one of the couches and tore his wrist. Lucy swallowed obediently, as Max stroked her hair and whispered soothing words in her ear. Inwardly, his heart was singing in triumph. His family was finally complete.
Amber sat on the foot of the bed, fiddling nervously with the edge of the blanket. Paul had locked her in with Star and Laddie before leaving to confront the boys who had attacked her at the cave. Amber was worried for him and the others, but she also felt uneasy around the other two half vampires. She hadn't seen Star or Laddie since the night David tried to kill her, and didn't really know how they would react to her being a half. Or to seeing her there at all.
"I'm sorry," Star said suddenly.
Amber looked up, a little surprised. "What?"
"I'm sorry," Star repeated. "I'm sorry you ended up like us."
"I'm not," Amber shrugged. "They didn't force me or anything."
Star looked shocked. "But you still drank his blood?"
"But you'll have to kill people now..."
"That's not necessarily a bad thing," Amber argued.
"You've never seen them kill," Star replied darkly.
Amber hesitated, a little alarmed by the look in the other girl's eyes. What did she know that Amber didn't?
"So are you going to stay with us now?" Laddie asked.
Amber forced a smile. "I don't know what David's plans are. I'd like to, though."
Just then there was a rattle of the door being unlocked. It opened part way, and Marko stuck his head in.
"It's time to go," he told them.
The four of them came downstairs to see the Lost Boys gathered around the living room. Lucy was passed out on the couch, and Max of all people was sitting beside her.
"Max?" Amber asked, surprised.
"Hello, Amber," he greeted, smiling at her.
Amber didn't need to ask why he was there. She instinctively sensed that he was a master vampire, and the blood they shared in common.
"Come on, boys and girls," David called, and nodded to Max before he led the group out onto the front porch.
"Okay, who's taking who back?" Marko asked, as he looked at everyone there.
"Star's with me," David replied. "Dwayne takes Laddie. Sam can go with Paul, he's been feeling left out lately."
Amber walked over to where Marko was waiting. Michael glanced around, finding that he was now the only one left on his own. Then the nine of them rose into the air, headed back to the cave.
"Max asked me to look after Lucy tonight."
David dropped into his wheelchair and pulled at the fingers of his gloves, glancing across at the other occupants of the cave. Michael looked uneasy at the thought, Sam a little less so.
"But tonight is Michael's first real hunt," David continued, turning to Marko, "so I'd like you to go instead."
Marko just nodded.
"He's expecting me at nine. That's in... just enough time if you leave now."
Marko nodded again and headed outside, walking his bike up to the road before climbing on. Then he turned to see Amber standing beside him.
"Mind if I come?" she asked.
She climbed on behind him, and they took off, keeping relatively close to the coast and finally turning on to a long gravel driveway. They climbed off the bike, and Amber followed Marko across a narrow bridge.
They were greeted on the other side by a very nice-looking yard, with a cheerful white house at the other end. Marko stepped onto the porch and knocked on the door.
Max looked surprised when he opened the door and found them standing there. He glanced past them for a second, looking perplexed.
"Oh, hello. Where's David?" he asked, sounding slightly concerned.
"He sent me in his place," Marko explained. "He wanted to take Michael hunting himself."
"Oh, all right. Hello, Amber. Come on in."
Max turned and began speaking to Marko again, so Amber slipped inside. She gazed around the room, taking in the jukebox, the giant toothbrush and the squiggly yellow thing that leaned against the wall. She smiled in amusement. This definitely seemed like Max's house.
She heard a noise from the next room over and peeked inside. She realized she was looking in on the kitchen, and the woman she'd seen the previous night--Lucy, she guessed--was sitting at the kitchen table with a mug of something. Amber thought it looked like coffee, but she wasn't really sure.
"Hi," she greeted, smiling. "I'm Amber."
Lucy looked up from her mug, glancing momentarily at the doorway before she forced a troubled smile.
"Lucy?" Max poked his head in, smiling at her. "I have to leave now. I'll be back in a little bit. Marko and Amber will be here if you need anything."
Lucy nodded a little and took another sip of her drink.
Amber stood near the doorway, smiling at Max as he ducked out the door, and she heard him take off. Lucy heard the sound, too, and she shuddered.
"You okay?" Amber asked.
Lucy just nodded, putting a hand over her cup and resting her chin on her other hand. She jumped a little as Marko walked through.
"I'm gonna watch some TV," he said.
"'Kay," Amber replied, then frowned a little as she saw Lucy's frightened expression. "You sure you're okay?"
The older woman pursed her lips and nodded.
"Amber, did you say your name was?" she asked, and Amber nodded. "Could you tell me... just let me know, for a mother's peace of mind... are my boys all right?"
Amber nodded again. "Yeah. Michael's fine..."
"Better than Michael. He's got some sort of bond with Dwayne, and he and Paul and Marko are getting along real well, since they all like comic books."
Lucy looked relieved.
"What about you?" she asked. "How did you get to be involved in all this?"
Amber thought for a moment. "I dunno, we hung out together and stuff. I knew they were vampires, but I knew they wouldn't hurt me or anything. Then one night they asked me to join them, so I did. So now I'm staying with them."
"What about your family? Your parents must be so worried--"
"No, I don't have anyone else," Amber replied quietly, gazing down at the linoleum.
Lucy gave her an apologetic expression. "Oh, I'm sorry."
"No, it's okay."
Lucy pushed one of the chairs out with her foot, and Amber accepted the invitation and sat down. She could smell Lucy's drink now, coffee with a trace of blood. Lucy caught her gaze and pushed the drink to the side, looking queasy.
"I can't drink that," she protested.
"It's just blood," Amber replied softly, gazing at it for one final moment before finally pulling her eyes away.
Lucy gave her a pitying look.
A sudden thought crossed Amber's mind. "You don't like Max, do you?"
"Oh, I don't know... I like him, it's just... this whole thing... vampires..." Lucy shook her head, bewildered. "Do you know much about him?" she asked finally.
"I've known him since I moved here," Amber replied. "So, I guess that's a year and a half. I didn't know he was a vampire, but I've always liked him. He's always been nice to me. Drove me home once, when I was..." Amber frowned a little, her voice trailing off.
"When I was afraid of the boys," Amber finished slowly, looking almost perplexed by the concept. "It was right after I found out about them. I went to return this video, and they were there. I was too scared to walk home, so Max offered to drive me."
Lucy looked sympathetic. She took her coffee mug back, taking another sip, then sighed.
"What about you?" Amber asked curiously. "How'd you meet Max?"
"He gave me a job at the video store," Lucy explained. "We had dinner a few times... I guess you could call them dates... What?"
Amber looked amused. "Nothing. Max has been looking for a wife for a while, though. Is that why he turned you?"
Lucy nodded, but she didn't look very happy.
"I thought that was it. When we were at your house I saw him, and... I..." Amber grimaced suddenly, clutching her stomach with one hand as she rested her head in the other.
"Are you all right?" Lucy asked, alarmed.
Amber gasped slightly and raised her head. "I'm all right."
"You don't look all right. You think we should take you to a doctor?"
"Amber?" Marko asked, hurrying into the kitchen.
"Ugh," Amber replied.
Marko pulled her out of her chair, letting her sit on the cool linoleum floor. She leaned back against the wall, gazing up at him with glassy eyes.
"What's goin' on?" she asked hoarsely.
"You're hungry," Marko explained. "We just need to get some blood in you."
He went to the fridge, took out a plastic milk jug full of blood and poured her a glass. She took it from him and drank, almost choking in her eagerness. She paused to brush a stray drop off her chin, and Marko poured her another glass.
Amber didn't mind the fact that she was drinking blood. She enjoyed the taste. She just wished it were a little warmer.
Marko, Lucy and Amber were in the living room when Max came home. His eyes widened slightly when he saw the empty milk jug lying on the floor, and Amber dozing on the couch. Lucy looked a little tense, but for the moment at least she was distracted by the movie that was playing.
Marko saw him and rose to his feet, turning to wake Amber. Max stopped him with a shake of his head.
"Leave her here," Max told him. "I'll drop her off at the Boardwalk tomorrow evening."
Marko nodded and waved goodbye to Lucy before heading out the door. Max walked over and sat down beside Lucy.
"Did everything go all right?" he asked.
Lucy nodded a little, gaze drifting over to at Amber.
"She seems like a nice girl," she remarked.
Max smiled. "Did the two of you get to talk at all?"
"Oh, we did. She told me Sam's getting along well with your boys."
"Max, when am I going to be able to see my sons?"
"Soon," Max promised, putting his arms around her. "You'll see them again soon."
Lucy laid her head on his shoulder and sighed.
"I told Marko I'd drop you off here. The boys should be around someplace."
Amber waved slightly as Max's car pulled away from the curb, leaving her standing at the entrance to the Boardwalk. She glanced around, then heard someone call her name and turned to see Paul sitting on his bike a few yards away. He waved her over.
"Where's David and the others?" she asked.
"They're waiting for us," he replied. "C'mon."
She climbed on behind him and they rode up to what was by now a very familiar wooded hill. David, Marko and Dwayne were standing there waiting for them, and with them was a rather frightened-looking girl. David was holding her from behind, keeping her arms pinned at her sides.
"Come on, Amber," David coaxed. "You know what to do."
Amber could hear the other girl's heart racing, and she felt herself drawn forward, felt her teeth begin to ache.
"I hope you go to Hell for this," the girl sobbed.
Amber heard this, but it didn't really register. All she was really aware of was the pulsing green vein in the side of the girl's neck, and she was overwhelmed by a sudden longing to feel its contents sliding down her throat. Carefully pulling the other girl's head aside, Amber bit into her exposed neck, eagerly swallowing the blood that poured into her mouth. David took both the girl's wrists in one hand and put the other over her mouth, muffling her screams.
For Amber, everything sang. The blood in her mouth, her bond with the others, the evening breeze touching her skin. She closed her eyes and bit deeper, ignoring the fact that her entire front was now soaked in blood. After a few minutes, she pulled away. With the hunger satisfied, Amber was left feeling tired and disoriented. Marko and Dwayne came up on either side, leading her off a little ways as David left to dispose of the body.
"I don't feel good," Amber mumbled.
She was rather shocked from what she'd just done, and now her insides were beginning to hurt, and she felt totally exhausted.
"You're going to need to sleep now, okay?" Marko asked, sitting down beside her in the grass.
Amber nodded, although her eyes were already closing. The pain in her middle was beginning to spread outward, but it seemed distant and faint, overpowered by the peace of a deep, dreamless sleep.
Amber didn't wake until late the following evening. She found herself lying in an old four-poster bed, in a strange room she assumed was part of the cave. David was sitting in a chair nearby, reading a book. Amber realized with some surprise that she could make out the title on its spine, even though she was halfway across the room and the only light was a flickering candle.
She stood, rocking slightly as her heightened sense of balance momentarily overwhelmed her. She felt a hand on her arm and looked up to see David standing beside her.
"Careful," he said quietly.
For a second she just stared at him, noticing all the little details of his face that had eluded her until that moment. She was amazed at how little she had actually known about him, even just of his appearance.
She could hear things, too. She could hear both their pulses, low and secretive and quiet. She could hear movement somewhere outside the room they were in, and even farther out, the wind whistling over the rocks, and the waves crashing against the bluff.
David saw her expression and smiled, putting an arm around her shoulders and leading her to the door. They came out into the lobby. Paul saw them from his perch on the old fountain and grinned.
"Amber's awake!" he announced.
Marko and Dwayne appeared from somewhere farther back in the cave.
"Hey, Amber," Marko called.
"Hi," she replied, smiling a little.
The five of them walked over to the couch. David pulled the old wheelchair over, and they all sat.
"Pizza?" Paul offered, holding up a box.
He set it on a low crate between them, and lifted the top. There were a few pieces already missing, but it was still very fresh, judging by the steam rolling off it. Everyone took a piece, and they sat and ate in silence.
"So," David said at last. "This is your first night as a vampire. Tonight you hunt with us."
The other Lost Boys cheered. David rose to his feet, and the others followed him toward the entrance, Michael appearing from the far side of the cave to join them.
Wait, you mean right now? Amber thought, a little alarmed. But she didn't want to say anything. After all, they had probably been waiting for her to wake up so that they could hunt. And she'd done this once before. There was nothing to worry about.
Perhaps sensing her unease, Dwayne fell back until he was beside her and matched pace with her. She gave him an appreciative look as they climbed the steps together.
David and Amber stood in the shadows of the alley, eyes fixed on an approaching trio of girls. The other boys were elsewhere, Dwayne and Paul together, and Marko with Michael. There weren't any parties to crash tonight, so they would have to hunt as a family some other time.
"See one of them you like?" David asked quietly.
"Get ready to grab the one you want. All right?"
She nodded again, silently, and watched as her intended victim came closer. Just as the girl reached the mouth of the alley where David and Amber were waiting, she turned to speak to one of her friends. Amber caught a glimpse of the demon on the girl's T-shirt and hesitated. And then her would-be meal was gone, oblivious to the fact that she had escaped death only because of the outfit she had picked out that evening.
"What happened?" David asked, concerned.
Amber shook her head and retreated into the back of the alley.
Eventually she replied, "I should go to Hell for what I did."
"What do you mean?" David asked, silently alarmed by her question.
Amber swallowed nervously. "I killed someone. So I should go to Hell for it, right?"
He shook his head slightly. "What makes you think that?"
He smiled a little, looking amused. "Is that what the Bible says, Amber? That vampires aren't supposed to kill people?" He stepped closer. "Where does it say that? Where does it mention vampires at all?"
She hesitated. The last time she'd been to church was as a little kid, back when her parents were still alive and they took her there on Sundays.
"It says people aren't supposed to drink blood," she said at last. I think.
David had the advantage in this situation. His aunt had been a devoted Catholic, and he still remembered some of what he had learned in church. And he clearly remembered the conversation he had had with Max shortly after his own turning, when he was feeling similar concerns.
"It says humans aren't," he pointed out. "We aren't humans, Amber. We need blood to survive. We need to kill to survive. We don't have a choice."
"But I drank blood to become a vampire. I already made a choice. The fact that I have less of a choice now doesn't mean a whole lot when I'm the one who put myself in this situation."
Max hadn't exactly given him a choice when he was turned, and for a moment David wasn't sure how to argue with Amber's logic. He decided to try a different approach.
"God created the world, right?"
"And he created all the animals?"
"So all the predators, he created them, too?"
Again she nodded.
"So at some point, God let those animals start eating the others."
Amber looked perplexed. She obviously hadn't thought of that before.
"So he must have let vampires start eating people, too."
She looked shocked. "But--"
"But God told every living thing to multiply, even the animals that were tearing the other animals to bits." She was starting to look confused, so he switched tactics. "The Bible says this was all man's fault, right?"
"Did God send man straight to Hell for it?"
"No. He gave him another chance."
David tilted his head. "If God gave man another chance, shouldn't we get one, too? We can't help what we are or what we do any more than the lion, or the wolf, or the eagle. We drink blood, we kill, we make more of our kind, because it's our nature. And if it's okay for animals to do what they do, it must be okay for us to be vampires."
"But humans weren't just automatically pardoned for what they did, so vampires must not be, either."
"Makes sense. But look." He pulled a wallet from his pocket and held up the driver's license for her to see. "You know who this guy is?"
She shook her head.
"Last year he killed his two-year-old son. But the police couldn't do anything to him, ‘cause they never found any evidence."
She winced a little. "How does this answer my question?"
He grinned. "Doesn't the Bible say that murderers should be put to death?"
She nodded slightly.
"Then I haven't done anything wrong by killing him."
Amber looked surprised. "So that's it? It's the same as what you told me on the hill."
He nodded. "Like I told you, most of the time we take drug dealers, child molesters, rapists--Santa Carla has basically the biggest population of runaways on the west coast, so it attracts a lot of them. And there's always the partiers, who are basically killing themselves anyway."
"You going to be okay now?"
"I think so."
"Oh. Do you think you'd be willing get a bite to eat?"
She nodded. "Okay."
Amber looked around the little cove with wide eyes. David was already sitting on the shore a short distance away, and the blood on his clothes was making the sand stick to him.
"I guess I know now why you wear so much black," she laughed softly. "No one can see the blood stains."
He smiled and shrugged off his trench coat, followed by the jacket underneath. Amber stared at him for a moment, then realized what he was doing and turned away so fast she almost gave herself whiplash.
"What are you doing?" she asked tensely.
"I don't want the salt to ruin my clothes."
"So why did you take us to the beach?"
"Because vampires can't touch freshwater."
That came as a surprise. "What? I thought..."
"That we couldn't touch holy water?" He shrugged, although she didn't see since her back was to him. "Doesn't matter if it's been blessed. All freshwater is the same. It'll take the flesh right off your bones."
Amber shuddered a little involuntarily. She heard him pad across the sand barefoot and slide into the water.
"You can look now," he told her.
She turned warily back around, and saw his clothes lying in a pile on the sand, and David up to his neck in the water. She was thankful that the blue-green water hid everything below his chest; she didn't doubt that he probably had a very attractive body, but she had been raised by very modest parents, and felt it would be best if she didn't see him naked.
"Are you going to come in?" he asked.
Her eyes widened. "What for?"
"Do you want to spend the rest of the night covered in blood? You have to wash it off some time."
She winced a little, looking down at herself. "Well, my clothes are as good as ruined. No point in saving them from the salt now."
"I'll get you some new clothes," David told her.
She took her shoes and socks off and waded into the water. She ducked her head under, trying to get the blood out of her hair.
Wiping the water out of her eyes as she came back up, she called out, "David?"
"How do you plan on getting your clothes clean? You don't plan on getting back into them after you've bathed? They're all bloody and sandy."
He shook his head. "There's an old box on the beach. Do you see it?"
She glanced up at the shore and spotted a beat-up wooden crate just above the tide line.
"We keep a couple changes of clothing in them," David continued. "Just give me a minute."
Amber nodded and turned, giving him his privacy as he waded back to shore and found something to wear.
"Now for you."
She looked up and caught a brief glimpse of him in a black T-shirt and jeans, before he rose into the air and rocketed away.
Amber quickly finished bathing and climbed back out onto the sand, flicking the water off her hands and trying to wring it out of her hair. She wanted to be relatively dry by the time David came back. She wondered what he'd bring back with him.
It wasn't long before he returned, landing on the sand with a soft crunch and offering her a bundle of clothes. She took them, and he walked a little ways a way, keeping his eyes on the line of trees.
"Go ahead, I won't look."
She hesitated for a moment, then looked through what he'd brought her. Then, smiling shyly toward his back, she peeled off her wet, bloodstained clothing and put on her new outfit.
"Okay, I'm done."
He turned back around, took a careful look at her, and smiled.
"Now all you need is to learn how to fly," he told her.
"Fly?" she repeated, looking surprised.
He shrugged nonchalantly. "We don't have to. But you already have the instincts to do it, and you will fly eventually. So you can learn the hard way, or I can show you how."
"All right," she replied.
He smiled, then turned and walked over to an old pine nearby. It was a large, impressive-looking tree, and the needles gleamed in the faint light from the moon.
"Do you see the bare branch near the top?" he asked.
She squinted upward, trying to see through the branches. "The one that's hanging down?"
"The one above it."
She nodded. "Yes, I see it."
"Can you reach it?"
David's voice sounded slightly fainter for some reason, and when Amber looked back for him, she realized he was no longer standing next to the trunk. Glancing upward, she realized he was now sitting on the branch he'd pointed out. Her jaw dropped open.
"Well?" he called down.
"How do I get up there?"
"I was hoping you'd fly," he replied, smiling wryly.
"I don't know how."
"You don't need to. It's instinctive. You just have to try."
She approached the base of the tree and hesitated.
"Come on up, Amber," David called pleasantly.
Fly. The thought came without warning from somewhere in the back of her mind. Fly. Now. Do it.
Before she could really grasp what was happening, Amber found herself floating up through the branches. She grabbed some of the nearer ones to steady herself, and to help direct herself so she wouldn't bump into the ones above her. She reached the branch where David was sitting, and sank gently back onto it.
It was pretty tame for a first flight, but all the same, Amber kept her nails buried in the bark.
Nanook trotted into the cave, pausing to sniff Marko and Paul before wandering off to explore. Sam and Dwayne came in a moment later, each carrying a box full of comic books. They set them down in the middle of the room, and Marko and Paul peered curiously inside.
"Are all these your comics?" Marko asked, and Sam nodded. "How long have you been collecting them?"
"About as long as I can remember," Sam replied, and turned as he saw Michael approaching. "Hey Mike, we brought the rest of the comics back from Grandpa's."
Michael didn't say anything, just clapped his younger brother on the back in a friendly manner and kept walking. Sam shrugged a little and went back to rearranging his comics.
Michael made his way outside, gazing out at the rock where Star was seated.
"Star?" he called softly.
She looked up quickly, alarmed. "Michael?"
"I... haven't seen much of you."
He swallowed, a little nervously. "I killed, Star. That night at my grandfather's house, I killed one of Sam's friends. I'm really one of them now."
Her voice grew sad. "I know."
He turned and gazed out at the water. "I'm sorry I couldn't save you. Or Laddie."
"But it's all right," he continued. "It's really not as bad as I thought it would be. Laddie and you, you'll be okay. Killing... it's okay."
Star looked away, not wanting him to see the tears running down her face.
"It's not okay," she replied softly.
A human wouldn't have heard her, especially with the crashing waves behind them. But Michael did, and his heart sank a little.
"I just want you to be one of us," Michael mumbled.
"I'm sorry, Michael. I can't--"
There was a sudden gust of wind from the top of the stairs, and they both looked up to see that David and Amber had returned. David gave them a friendly smile and motioned for Michael to join them inside. Michael took one last look at Star before he followed them.
Star gazed after them, sighing softly.
"I can't stay," she finished sadly.
"Come on, Amber."
"You can do it, Amber!"
Amber smiled a little, mostly at Paul, who had been the last to speak. She stood on the floor of the sleeping chamber, looking up at the five boys, who were hanging on the metal scaffolding above. There were no lights, but she could see them clearly enough.
Although "see" may not have been the right word, exactly. She could sense changes of distance in her surroundings, and the outlines of objects nearer to her appeared to shine faintly, like light glinting off a spider's web. But she could get used to her new senses later, right now it was time to sleep.
Narrowing her eyes a little, Amber sprang into the air. She caught the metal bar in her hands and swung herself up, latching on with her clawed toes. She frowned a little when she looked up and found herself confronted by David's bare feet, but then she released the bar between her hands and allowed her body to swing downward. Immediately she was overcome by an extreme sense of contentment. She couldn't remember having ever felt so comfortable, or so tired.
Amber looked around, seeing that everyone else was already sound asleep, and smiled a little as she drifted off.
The sun was almost up, but Star was not asleep.
This would be the first time she'd been awake during the day since she joined the boys, and it was only possible thanks to the massive amounts of caffeine in her bloodstream. She was surprised that none of the boys seemed to have suspected anything--surely she must reek of coffee.
Hands trembling slightly, she roused Laddie from where he slept. He blinked up at her, shoving a fist in his eye to clear his vision.
"Star?" he asked sleepily.
"Shh, get your bear," she whispered.
Laddie grabbed his teddy, and Star half carried, half dragged him to the entrance of the cave. She hesitated for a moment, eyes drifting over to the hammock where Sam slept. Should she wake him?
No, she decided. He's too loyal to the boys. He'd only slow us down, or try to stop us.
She lifted Laddie up the steps to the mouth of the cave, holding onto him tightly as they crossed the bridge.
David opened his eyes, blinking in the pitch blackness of the sleeping chamber. He could sense that Star and Laddie were leaving the cave, although the fact that they had managed to stay awake for this long was a complete surprise.
Unfortunately the sun was already rising, and there was nothing he could do to prevent them from leaving. He gave a frustrated growl at the thought, but quieted when Michael stirred slightly in his sleep, looking uncomfortable.
David scowled instead, letting his eyes close again. He could wait. Star couldn't get that far away between now and nightfall.
"Need a ride?"
Star squinted into the car that had come up beside her. The driver was a young man about Michael's age, with messy brown hair and friendly, grayish-colored eyes.
"Yes," she whispered hoarsely.
"Where you trying to get to?"
He smiled a little. "Funny, that's just where I was headed. Hop in."
He was a total stranger, but he was headed toward the edge of town, and that was all Star needed to know. She lifted Laddie into the passenger's seat, then collapsed in the back. Her rescuer buckled Laddie in, then began to drive.
"So what's your name?" he asked curiously.
"Star," she whispered.
"Oh, that's a nice name. I'm Chris."
Star didn't reply, and when he glanced back at her he realized why: she was asleep! He grinned slightly and shook his head.
"You hungry?" he asked. Receiving no reply, he continued, "I'm hungry. There's a place to eat about a mile up ahead. You can wait in the car if you don't want anything, I'll only take a minute."
They soon pulled up outside a diner, and Chris climbed out of the car, leaving the keys in the ignition. There was almost no one else there, and he was only going to be gone for a minute or two.
Caffeine was no match for vampiric instinct. Before she realized what was happening, Star found herself drifting off to sleep. Half dreaming, she felt as though she were floating along on a fluffy cloud. She sensed that she was somewhere dark and cool... She could hear water dripping somewhere, seemingly a long ways off. She smelled... She smelled the cave.
She opened her eyes and was startled to find that she was no longer in the back of Chris's car, but rather in the cave she had just escaped from. She heard a soft rustling sound, and turned her head. Soft brown eyes were met by fiery yellow, and a familiar voice whispered, "Star."
Gasping sharply, Star bolted upright. It took a second for her to realize where she was, back in the car, with Laddie asleep in the front seat. He was murmuring softly in his sleep; probably dreaming of Dwayne. Shuddering from the shock of what had just happened, Star climbed into the front seat. The coffee hadn't helped as much as she'd hoped, but that little scare had Star wide awake--or nearly so.
Chris didn't even know what happened: one minute he was standing in the diner, ordering a chicken sandwich, and the next he was staring openmouthed as his car roared off into the distance.
The adrenaline kept Star going for the next few minutes, but ever so slowly, sleep crept back up on her, and the car began to drift off the road.
The Lost Boys were out of the sleeping chamber the moment the orange had faded from the evening sky. Only Amber remained behind, both because she was less experienced with flying and because someone needed to stay and keep Sam company. The two sat together near Sam's hammock, a few comics spread out before them. Amber could feel the sense of urgency that permeated the air, and fidgeted uneasily.
It was easy for the vampires to track their half-siblings down. Star and Laddie hadn't even reached the city limits when the car crashed. The boys reached the wreck in less than a minute, and landed beside what was left of the car.
David and Marko ripped the roof off while Dwayne and Paul checked its occupants. Laddie and Star were both unconscious, and both badly injured. David carefully extracted Star from the driver's seat, lifted her into his arms, and turned to face the others. Dwayne already had Laddie free and was holding on to him protectively, as though he might fend off the Grim Reaper himself.
"Shouldn't we take them to the hospital?" Michael asked.
"We can't, we'd all be found out," Marko replied quietly.
"Once they make their first kills they'll be fine," David said. "We'll take them back to the cave. You find them someone."
Immediately the vampires rose into the air. David and Dwayne returned home with Star and Laddie while the others headed into town.
"So what happened?" Sam asked, idly flipping through one of his comics.
"I think Star and Laddie tried to escape," Amber replied. "The others went to go get them."
Sam's face fell a little. "Why didn't they take me?"
She looked at him, perplexed. "Who?"
"Star and Laddie."
Amber shrugged. "I think Star took Laddie because she feels like she's responsible for him. She probably left you here because she knew how loyal you are to your brother."
Sam nodded, seeing the reasoning in that conclusion. Then they heard footsteps from the top of the stairs, and froze. David and Dwayne appeared in the entrance, each carrying one of the unconscious half-vampires.
"What happened?" Sam gasped.
"They were in a car crash," David replied. "Can you get that out of the way?"
Sam jumped up to move an old crate out of his path, and David laid Star out on her bed.
"Are they gonna be okay?" Amber asked, concerned.
"Just fine," David replied. "The others'll be here in a little while."
The four of them waited in silence until the rest of the group returned. Michael and Paul had brought along two young women, both unconscious, which they set down at the foot of Star's bed.
Dwayne had already woken Laddie, and was now drinking from the half vampire's soon-to-be first victim. He took enough blood from her that Laddie would be able to drain her completely. Once finished, he handed her over, and Laddie put his small arms around her, lowering his mouth to the pre-made bite mark on her neck.
David was having a little more difficulty.
"Star?" he called softly.
Star turned her head to look at him, unhappiness plain on her face.
"You need the blood, Star."
"I won't do it."
"You're going to die if you don't."
"Then I'll die."
The others in the room winced at the seriousness in her voice. It was clear she meant it.
"I don't want to force you--"
Star just looked away, silently ending the conversation. David bowed his head for a moment and then stood, silently stalking off.
"At least take some from one of us," Marko pleaded.
"No," she responded simply.
The vampires remained at her side until the threat of sunlight finally forced them away. Dwayne took Laddie into the same bedroom Amber awoke in after her own first kill, and stayed there with him for the rest of the day. The others took up their usual positions in the back chamber, but for once, their sleep wasn't at all peaceful. One of their group was badly injured, and to those of them who had known her longest, her chances for survival seemed slim.
No one left the cave the next night. Paul retrieved the remaining girl from the bottom of the elevator shaft, where they had left her during the day, and David and the others tried again to reason with Star.
"I can't," she protested.
"Star, you have to," David insisted.
"I won't kill someone."
"If you don't kill her, someone else will. She knows what we are."
Whatever internal injuries Star had sustained from the crash were beginning to take their toll. Her breathing was labored, and every now and then her hands would clench in pain. But still she refused to kill.
David glanced at the other vampires gathered around them, realizing that having a small crowd gathered around her couldn't be helping any.
"Go on," he said, motioning for them to leave.
They backed off, only to regroup on the other side of the room, unwilling to leave the cave. David shrugged inwardly and turned back to the girl lying beside him.
"Star," he whispered.
"Don't make me," she pleaded. "Please don't make me."
"I won't," he promised, although it was against his better judgement.
He sat on the edge of the bed. There he waited, hoping that she would change her mind, and listening as her breath grew shallower, her pulse weaker.
"I'm sorry," Star whispered.
"No, I am," he replied.
She reached out with one hand, and he took it silently, feeling a trace of her warmth through his glove. And then her breathing stopped, and her heart ceased to beat. He stared at her for a long while, until it was clear that she was really gone.
David gave a shuddering sigh and forced himself to look away, whereupon he found that the others had gathered silently around. For a moment, no one moved. The same look of shock was mirrored on each of the vampires' faces. It was David who finally broke the silence.
"Come on," he whispered.
There was a moment's hesitation, and then the others turned and slowly filed out of the cave: Dwayne and Laddie, then Marko and Amber, then Paul. David turned to where Michael still stood, staring at Star's body. David put a hand on his shoulder, and Michael turned slightly.
"There was nothing you could have done," David told him.
"I tried to tell her," Michael whispered. "The other night. I tried to tell her, but she wouldn't listen..."
"So did we, since the day she first joined us. There was nothing that could have been done."
Michael nodded a little, then headed for the door. David took one last look at the figure lying on the bed before turning to follow him out. The vampires had lost one of their own. There would be no hunt tonight.
David ran into something hard, and looked up to realize Michael had stopped. He caught a glimpse of hesitation in the younger vampire's eyes, and then Michael was running back to Star's side.
"What are you doing?"
While David watched, Michael tore into his own arm, pressing the bleeding wound to Star's mouth. David put a hand on his shoulder, but Michael shrugged him off.
"I can save her," Michael argued, putting his free arm around her protectively.
"Just give me one minute!"
David sighed, sliding into the nearby chair. Let Michael bleed himself half to death, if it made him feel that he'd done all he could. Once he was weakened from the blood loss, then David would remove him from Star's side.
Minutes ticked by, and Michael's eyelids began to droop slightly.
"That's enough," David said, rising.
"Just a little more," Michael whispered. "Just a little..."
"No, Michael. You aren't going to bring her back. You need to stop--"
Then a sound caught his ear, and both vampires turned to stare at Star, incredulous.
Her heart was beating.
"You're aware of what you've done?"
"I am," Michael replied.
The vampires were gathered at the top of the bluff. Max stood in the middle of the group, along with Michael and Star. Star was alive only because of the blood Michael had given her, and in the two days that had passed since then, that blood had formed a strong bond between them.
Max turned to Star. "And this arrangement is acceptable to you?"
"It is," she replied quietly.
Max nodded, smiling at them both. "Well then, congratulations."
Michael and Star turned to each other and embraced.Behind them, Lucy beamed silently. When she first accepted Max's offer, she had assumed that her normal life had ended, that she would not get to do human things anymore, and that her human hopes and dreams would never be fulfilled. But now her son Michael had proved her wrong, and taken a wife.
Mate, she corrected herself silently. But it was the same, really, except that it was virtually guaranteed that there would be no fighting between them, and no divorce. They were bound to one another by blood, and would remain so for as long as they both were alive. And that, at least, was better than anything she could have hoped for while they were still human. Perhaps Max truly had given them a gift.
The night air was fresh and cool, but none of the vampires gathered in Max's yard had the peace of mind to notice.
Max, Lucy and Sam, along with Thorn, were going to go live in a house just outside San Francisco. It was Max's intention to remain there until Lucy had made her first kill, and Max had made her his mate.
Sam was perhaps the worst off. Marko and Paul had tried to soften the blow with an exchange of comic books. David doubted they would be able to tell whose comics were whose by the time Sam came back, but it did seem to help. Sam had also opted to leave Nanook in Dwayne's care. He would miss the Malamute, but felt better knowing that the Lost Boys would have their own daytime guardian.
David glanced across to where Michael and Star were standing. They had decided, after some consideration, to follow Max and Michael's mother and brother to San Francisco. Laddie was upset at the prospect of losing both Sam and Star, but everyone knew it would be safer for the vampires to spread out a little, especially with winter approaching.
Max shut the trunk of his car and turned to the group crowded around his yard. "That's the last of it," he announced. "We're ready to go."
It took a good fifteen minutes for everyone to say their goodbyes, and there were more than a few tears, mostly from Laddie and Star. Eventually, Max, Lucy and Sam climbed into the car and started down the driveway, with Michael and Star following along behind them on Michael's bike. Those left standing at the gate watched until they were out of sight, then sat around the deck until the sound of Michael's bike could no longer be heard.
"I guess that's that," David said at last.
"Now what should we do?" Paul asked.
"Let's go to the Boardwalk," Laddie suggested.
Giving one final look to Max's house, the Lost Boys crossed the bridge to where their bikes stood waiting. David noticed someone missing from the group, and turned to see Amber still staring forlornly down the driveway.
He realized now that he hadn't given much thought to how she might react to this whole situation. His main concerns had been how the boys would react to being split up, and what they would be able to get away with now that Max wasn't there to see. But Max had been Amber's friend since she first moved there, and it was only natural that she would miss him.
"They'll be back," he assured her.
She looked up at him sadly.
"You know they'll come back. Max won't even be gone a month before he'll start sending postcards, or leaving phone calls, or dropping in to check up on us, or something."
He gave her an exasperated expression, looking every bit the rebellious teen who resented having his father constantly checking up on him. Amber smiled a little in amusement, accepted the hand he offered to her, and they turned and rejoined the others. After all, they needed to get moving. They had things to do, fun to be had, kills to be made. And they would see Max again, even sooner than they expected.