The sun was setting on the horizon and the clock said it was 19:24 as Robert pulled up outside Beth’s house. Beth looked towards the door. She didn’t want to go in, but she knew she had to. Her parents would get worried if she didn’t and the last thing she needed was them out looking for her.
She turned to Robert, who seemed to be thinking similar thoughts. She leant over to kiss him, neither of them wanting to part.
“Try not to kill Alex tonight,” Beth whispered.
“I’ll do my best.”
He smiled and watched as she got out of the car. Beth waved to him as she opened her front door. The car drove away silently.
“Where have you been?” her mother demanded as soon as she closed the door.
“I’m sorry, I was out and I lost track of time,” Beth said.
“But where were you?” It was obvious her mother had been fretting, getting all worked up about what could have happened to her.
“I was at a friend’s house.”
Beth automatically said, “You don’t know him.”
“‘Him’?” she exclaimed. “I do hope his parents were there.”
“Um, well, no.”
“He’s older than you, isn’t he?” Beth just looked at the ground, scuffing her shoe against the floor. “Beth, can you answer me please?”
“Yes,” she whispered. “Yes, he’s older.”
“How much older?” she asked apprehensively.
Beth paused. “Four years,” she lied. Well, she could hardly say he was two hundred and forty-three years older than her – and yes, she’d worked it out.
“Four years?” she asked, her voice sounding strangled.
“He’s Alex’s older half-brother.”
“Oh,” her mother said simply and calmly. “That’s okay then. Your dinner’s in the microwave to keep it warm.”
Then she walked away and into the living room, much calmer. Beth went into the kitchen and warmed up her dinner. She wasn’t particularly hungry but she wanted something to do while she thought of what she was going to say to Alex. What was she going to say? She could just tell him the truth, but that would break him completely. She wanted Robert to go with her, but he’d pointed out that his presence would make things harder. She just needed to tell Alex, as honestly as possible.
When she’d finished eating and had put the dishes in the dishwasher, Beth walked slowly up the stairs. As she passed Jack’s door, it opened.
“Beth, we need to talk,” her little brother said quietly.
“Can’t it wait?”
“Beth, I’ve been waiting to talk to you for two weeks.”
Beth stepped into his room and sat on the edge of his bed as he stood in front of her.
“This... mood swing, this depression, it’s about Robert, isn’t it?” he asked, sounding as if he already knew the answer.
“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” Beth lied.
“You know full well who I’m talking about. Roberto di Savoia, eighteenth century prince. Yes, Beth, I know about vampires.”