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Inflaming the Heart by Keya

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Visions of pouring blood filled Cassandra's dreams and waking thoughts. The pull of something, a need to find a place, the cave in her dreams, nagged at her sanity, and made her wonder if she truly was becoming a lunatic. Her mother was worried, afraid that her daughter would break at any moment, and so Cassandra was sent to Santa Carla to stay with her Aunt Lucy for the summer. At first Cassandra had misgivings, but seeing the glory of the moon, shining down at the crowds of people seeking fun, and laughter, Cassandra had to confess that things might not be as bad as she thought.

Finally, Cassandra and her mother reached Grandpa's house. Grandpa, Cassandra's favorite person to tease and hang around with when she was little, and looking at the rusted building in front of them, nothing had changed since then.

"We're here," Jo said, glancing at her daughter to see her reaction. Cassandra just nodded, and opened the car door.

Immediately, Cassandra was engulfed in a huge bear hug. Fighting off the need to breathe, Cassandra smiled at her grandpa, and gave him an equally tightening embrace in response.

"Cass, you're here!" Sam came running down the stairs, his mutt trailing behind him.

"Yeah, I'm here," Cassandra whispered, making her way to the front door. Whiling walking, Sam talked about the latest comic books Cassandra had sent him for his birthday, but suddenly stopped when Cassandra was just about to open the door.

"What's wrong, kid?" Cassandra asked, seeing the fear in his eyes.

"You go on ahead, I'm going to help Aunt Jo and Grandpa unload the car."

Before Cassandra could respond, he was gone.

Taking a deep breath, Cassandra shook her head, and walked in. Sounds of laugher filled the air, and Cassandra smiled when she saw Michael joking around with some boys about his age. Ever since the divorcee, Michael had been closed off towards Cassandra, and seeing him relaxed a bit was wonder to her eyes. Noticing the two girls with them, especially the one hanging on Michael's arm, Cassandra couldn't help, but laugh along with them.

Unexpectedly, everyone stopped, and turned to stare at her. Her smile turned into a frown. Cassandra glanced at Michael for help, but what she saw took her breath away. His eyes, a deep sea of hunger clearly shining through brought fear crawling up and down Cassandra's spine. He had changed. He was not the same.

Once again, the sight of blood appeared before her, but instead of covering her like it usually did, it covered Michael, his face, his hands, and even his clothes. Swallowing a scream, Cassandra backed away, feeling the walls closing in on top of her, and darkening her every move. Tripping over Sam's dog, Cassandra let out a shriek, and started to fall.

Anna saw the girl falling, and quickly hopped off Dwayne's lap to catch her. The girl weighed little more than a feather, and her skin was milky white. Eyes shadowed, and lips creaked.

Staring up at Anna, the girl whimpered, and passed out. Dazed, Anna pushed off the worried grandfather, and mother, and said simply that Marco would carry her up the stairs.

Marco looked confused, but did as he was told. Settling the young girl in his arms, Marco allowed David to lead the way towards the bedrooms.

"Put her in Michael's room," Anna directed, wondering why she felt such a need to protect the girl. Marco set the girl down gently on the bed, but when Cassandra's mother came running up the stairs, both Marco, and Anna stared her down.

"We'll take care of her," David stated, amused at the other vampires' reactions.

"But she needs a doctor!"

"What she needs is rest," Anna replied, her voice the coldest of steel.

"No doctor!" Cassandra whispered, her body shaking in fright.

Marco held her down gently, whispering words of comfort, and Cassandra once again fell back to sleep.

"Out, now!" David yelled, and the mother went down, afraid of what the blond haired boy would do if she stayed.

"What's going on, Anna?" Dwayne asked, pulling her in his arms.

Anna looked down at the girl, and felt once again the connection between them.

"She's like me, I don't know how to explain it, and I do know we need to get her away from here, and from Michael."

"Why Michael?" Marco asked, still on the bed beside the girl.

"She seemed to blank out when she looked at Michael. I have a feeling she sensed something was wrong with him, like she knew he was a vampire."

All of them looked at each other, wondering how Cassandra could have known.

Cassandra twisted and turned, dreading what she would see. Already she felt drained, and exposed. In her dreams she had been running, trying to save the person she loved more than anything, but before she could reach him, a man clothed in black leather, and eyes burning red stopped her. He pushed her against him as if she belonged to him, and in the background, Cassandra heard the cries of her brothers. They needed her, most of all, the man she loved needed her. Pushing the attacker off, Cassandra ran, but when she got to the mouth of the cave, the scene that greeted her was death. Pure, simple death and the price it took, the lives of her family, and loved ones.

"No!" Cassandra screamed, and fell into a tight embrace, much like the comforting arms of her grandfather. Shaking, Cassandra opened her eyes, and met the face of an angel, a boy with long blond hair, and earrings dangling down. His eyes, pure blue, twinkled, and his lips were curved in a shocking, but shy smile.

"Are you okay?"

Turning, but not leaving the boy's embrace, Cassandra saw the girl that had been hanging on Michael's arm. She had long, brown hair that already had Cassandra jealous, and eyes filled with worry.

"Yeah, I think so," Cassandra said, feeling confused. "Where am I?"

"You're in our humble home, welcome," another beautiful boy said, but this one had authority written on his walk, and every move.

"Thanks, I guess," Cassandra replied, easing carefully away from the boy's arms. Frowning slightly, Cassandra looked around, wondering what kind of home this was.

Noticing the rocky walls, the girl tried hard not to scream. The cave, she was in the same cave in her dreams!

"Who are you?"

Another girl asked this question, her eyes curious. This was the girl who had caught Cassandra during her fall, and boy, was she lovely, wearing simple jeans, and a black T-shirt.

"Cassandra, Michael's cousin."

Smiling, the girl introduced each of them, four boys, and the two girls.

Paul stood by the bed, wearing a wicked grin that said he was enjoying Cassandra's discomfort, but he was friendly, and a teasing sort of person, much like herself.

Dwayne was silent, his hair flowing down his back, eyes deep, and meaningful. Both his arms were wrapped around what was obviously his girlfriend, Anna.

There was something about Anna that made Cassandra pause. She wondered what it was. A feeling, like she knew her from somewhere, but couldn't place it. It was weird, and judging from the other girl's expression, she felt the same way.

Star was everything Cassandra always wanted for her cousin, and it was clear she was deeply in love with him. David, the boy beside her, was imposing, and straightforward. He was clearly the leader of the gang, and not quite sure what to make of Cassandra, and then there was Marco, the boy who had been holding her.

Trying not to look at him, and feeling her cheeks blush remembering how his arms felt around her, Cassandra thought of Michael. The Michael she knew would not have fit in with this group, but the boy she had seen a couple of hours ago did.

Taking a deep breath, Cassandra began making friends with the group, wondering in the back of her mind why her mother and grandfather had allowed them to take her away.

It seemed like only a couple of seconds when the sun started to come up, and the boys began to grow tried. Looking over at Marco, she could see his eyes slipping, and a huge yawn unfolding.

Taking David's clue, as one the boys started up to whatever the place they slept. Anna and Star stayed with her, but it was clear Anna was fading.

All three got into the bed, but Cassandra couldn't sleep. The dreams would come, and she didn't want that. Never did she want to see what she saw before. Hours passed staring up at the rocky ceiling, but when she heard the whimpers coming from Anna, Cassandra turned over towards her.

Her hair half shadowed her face, but from the way Anna's body jerked as if she had been slapped, Cassandra could see she was having nightmares.

"Anna?" Cassandra spoke softly, shaking her. Anna woke up, a silent scream upon her lips.

"It's okay, it's okay," Cassandra said.

Anna blinked, unable to focus clearly, but when she did, a cold surge of dread overcame her.

"Must have been one hell of a dream."

"It was," Anna replied, her voice soft. She pulled the blankets tighter to her, and looked at Cassandra strangely. "Promise me, promise me you won't let anything happen to Dwayne, and the others"

"What?"

"Please, just promise me," Anna insisted, her voice feverish.

"I promise."

Anna nodded and settled herself back to sleep, but not before whispering a silent thank you to the girl she had dreamed about.

A couple of miles off, a shadowy figure smiled, and said simply, "I'm coming for you, protector, and not even your blood family can save you. It's been foretold."
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