I opened my eyes and carefully extracted my fangs from the girl's throat.
"Hey Dah-n," I said, finding my speech to be quite slurred. "Oh, look a' tha'. I can't say your name."
"You're drunk?! Oh, Taylor, no! How much did you drink?"
I giggled. "5 cocktails." I hiccupped. "Oops," I said, trying to fight a smile but failing.
"Taylor, that's so irresponsible. And you're underage."
"No one cares, Dah-n. It's like a party, just nothing in particular's being celebrated."
"Taylor, I care."
Anthony stopped drinking. "Are you Darren?" he asked.
Darren frowned slightly.
"Oh, you are. Thanks for changing her. She's really fun."
Darren's frown deepened.
"Let's get you out of here, Tay," he said.
"I don't wanna go," I protested. "I'm having fun."
"Taylor, you're drunk and you just drank from the same human as another vampire."
"What's wrong with that?"
Anthony seemed to realise something. "Oh, you're a serious guy," he said to Darren. "Let her have her release. Life can't be easy for her at the moment."
"I think you should stay out of this. Fancy giving her five cocktails."
"Well, she asked, actually, and I think if anyone has problems, they should be allowed to forget them."
"I don't think it's any of your business."
"Don't argue," I said. "Dah-n, Ant'ny's been really nice t'me."
"Tay, I don't want to discuss this here." I could see he was quietly simmering with anger, quite close to boiling point. "Just come out."
I stood up, reluctantly. "Bye, Ant'ny."
Anthony was frowning slightly. "Bye, Taylor."
"If you ever talk to her again, you'll be sorry," Darren said fiercely.
"That wasn't necessary," I muttered as we walked out.
Darren ignored me. Once outside, he turned to face me.
"That's a club! You're 17! What the hell were you thinking?"
"I'm never gonna be 18, am I? And like I said, no one cares."
"Like I said, I do."
"You worry too much."
"Someone needs to think."
I rolled my eyes. "Just drop it."
"No, I will not drop it. You're drunk. You couldn't even walk in a straight line. I bet your vision's blurring!"
"I'm not that drunk."
"But you could be."
"You really need t'let go."
"What, and encourage you to risk your mental and physical health?"
"No, you need to let go and let me do this." I leant up and kissed him. I put my arms around his neck and allowed myself to lose myself in the moment.
I was brought back to reality when Darren pushed me away.
"Don't kiss me when I'm angry at you."
"Don't be angry," I said, reaching up for him again. Once more, I was pushed away.
Darren looked disappointed. "You know, I chose you because you were sensible and mature, I chose you because I thought you wouldn't go out at night and get drunk."
"So, because I was boring, basically."
"Oh, you weren't boring. You had a slight gap in your social experiences but you were so much more than that." Darren looked wistful as he continued to describe me. "Taylor, the hard-worker, the clever girl at school who everyone came to her for help with homework, so generous with her time and kindness, and always so selfless. That's who you were. I was always awestruck by the size of your heart. But your responsibility was the factor which helped me make the decision. You asked Taylor Kensington to do something and she would do it efficiently and to the best of her ability, not afraid to make small sacrifices to make sure she put the most effort into the task in hand. Always gave 110%, you did."
Darren frowned and then quietly murmured, "You nearly killed someone tonight. That was a shock to the system."
"What?" I asked, startled.
Darren had been gazing into the distance but now he looked straight at me. "Taylor, the young adult, the grown-up teenager, you almost committed murder."
I was scared by his grave tone. There was no doubt he was truly telling me I'd almost killed someone.
"What are you talking about?"
"Oh come on, Taylor, you're not telling me the intelligence was a facade too, are you?"
"No, I just don't understand."
Darren raised an eyebrow. "Okay, think about your dinner."
"What about her? Stop playing games, Dah-n. I'm not in the mood."
"Tay, how safe do you think it is for two vampires to be drinking your blood at once?!"
"What...? Oh..." I felt a sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach which was quickly replaced by shock. "No! Oh no! What've I done! Oh my gosh, what've I done!!" I grabbed Darren's shoulders and shook them. "She's not dead, is she? Tell me she's not dead! Oh no!"
Darren gently pulled my hands off his shoulders. "Only if Anthony didn't drink anymore. From where I was standing, her heartbeat sounded faint."
"NO! Oh, Dah-n, no! I didn't mean to... I wasn't thinking!"
"I gathered that."
"Oh, Dah-n, I'm so sorry." Tears were beginning to roll down my cheek. "I wasn't thinking at all. I was just alone and miserable. All I wanted was some fun."
"Are you trying to justify your actions?"
I was horrified. "No! Of course not! I was merely saying what made me go to that club. Oh, how I wish I hadn't. I hope she doesn't die, oh gosh I couldn't live if she died."
"Well, just hope she doesn't have any sort of accident tonight and that she wasn't planning to donate blood."
"Oh, Dah-n, what if she does? I'll be a murderer! Dah-n, I can't be a murderer! I really am a danger to the public. I'm just so stupid! Where's the nearest slayer?"
"What?!" Darren sounded alarmed. "Tay, it's not that bad. I'm sure she won't die. I don't want you dead! I was just trying to make you see..."
"No, you were right. We just need to find a slayer. I don't want to make you do it."
"Tay, please, stop! You're scaring me."
"Oh, I hate being a vampire! I'd be better off dead! I'm so terribly scared of myself, Dah-n. Please let's find a slayer."
"No! I can't! Tay, I love you!"
"How can you love a monster?!"
"You're not! I'm sorry for being so harsh. Of course you weren't thinking properly. All this is my fault."
Darren reached out to hug me but I shoved him away.
"Don't get tainted by my monstrous character," I said.
"You're not a monster." Darren sounded desperate. "Please, Tay, don't say those things. I love you. I'm sorry!"
"Why are you sorry? If you hadn't told me, I would have done it again. I'm glad you told me."
"I'm sorry 'cause I was so harsh about it. You've been a vampire for barely three days and here I am, telling you that you almost killed someone. How bad is that?"
"It's not bad at all, it's right. I need to be punished, need to acknowledge the potential consequences of my actions. Oh gosh, I'm so horrifically bad. And I enjoyed it! I enjoyed sucking that poor girl's life out of her. Oh, what if she dies?"
"She will not die," Darren growled. "I will not let you suffer that guilt! And it's not your fault - that Anthony was to blame. I can't believe him!"
"Don't take the blame off me! No! I can't bear it if someone else gets all the blame when I played a part in it too."
"Tay, you're too good. And look at how decent you are: you can't think yourself a monster, you can't."
"I can, though," I sobbed. "Oh, why aren't we going to the nearest slayer?"
"Tay, look at me!"
I shook my head. "I'm not good enough for anything. What good have I done as a vampire? None at all. The story of my existence is a story of pain, misery and unforgivable crime."
"Taylor Kensington, look at me!"
I reluctantly lifted my gaze to meet his. To my surprise, his eyes were strangely comforting. They were a lovely golden brown and I could see the caramel flecks I'd noticed the night this whole thing had begun. His irises seemed to be made of a thick liquid which flowed around, simultaneously melting my thoughts and captivating me. I felt no negativity looking into those wonderful eyes.
"I love you, Taylor," he murmured as I was comforted by his warm, soft gaze.
He seemed to stare more intently. Every thought in my head dissolved to be replaced by this calm he was filling my mind with. I was drowning in his affectionate, tender eyes which held me suspended in their depths as the last of my worries disappeared.
"Sleep," he murmured lovingly.
I woke up in unimaginable comfort ... and then pain exploded in my head. I blacked out.
I woke up again. This time, I was forced to endure the agony as I remained conscious. I got up and staggered to the kitchen. Darren jumped out of his seat, looking concerned.
"Are you okay, Tay?"
"I ... think I'm having ... a hangover," I said in between gasps of pain.
"Oh dear, don't drink water."
"Are you crazy?!" I said, almost screaming. "I'm severely dehydrated and you tell me not to drink water?"
"Believe me; you do not want to drink water. It messes up the vampire blood and ... yeah, just stay away from it."
"What... do you ... suggest ... I do ... then?"
"Um..., try blood."
He quickly bit his arm and offered it to me. I drank, slowly and deeply. The pain crept away but it took a lot of blood to make me feel 100% again.
"Thanks," I murmured as I stopped drinking.
Darren looked as if he was swaying slightly. "Whoa, you needed a lot."
I was instantly anxious. "Are you okay? Do you want some of mine?"
"What good will that do? I'll just go and get myself some food."
He started to head out of the kitchen but collapsed in the doorway. I was alarmed.
"Careful!" I said, running up to help him up.
"I'm fine," he said, gritting his teeth.
"No, you are not. I'll get you some food. First we'll get you to the living room."
I helped him to the couch, admiring his willingness to sacrifice himself for my needs.
"Now you just sit tight," I said sternly.
"Yes, nurse," he said, smiling faintly.
I ran out of the apartment, and quickly scanned the surroundings for food. I ran up to a pretty blonde-haired girl who looked about thirteen who was sitting reading a book.
"Hey," I said quickly.
She looked up and frowned. "Are you okay?"
"Um yeah, I'm fine." What was I doing?! "Sleep," I said quickly.
To my relief, she immediately went into a trance. I picked her up, not noticing how surprisingly light she was and swiftly carried her into Darren's apartment.
I was alarmed to find Darren unconscious. I put the girl down next to him, and set about trying to wake him up. I sincerely hoped he wasn't dead.
I tried slapping his face, to no yield, biting him, also without success, and finally, I ran to the kitchen, grabbed a tea towel, soaked it and ran back to mop his forehead with icy tap water.
He grimaced as he awoke.
"Oh, thank goodness! I thought you were..." I didn't finish my sentence. I was throwing my arms around him and kissing him. I felt him gently push me away.
"Um, I appreciate your concern, but I really need a drink now," Darren murmured.
"Oh of course. How stupid of me! She's right next to you."
Darren turned and looked back to me, looking slightly embarrassed."Er, could you... bite her for me? I really don't feel up to much."
"Of course; I'd do anything."
He watched as I bit the girl's wrist. His expression seemed to have changed slightly before I smiled at him but I hadn't caught the previous one so I was left to wonder how he had been looking.
I put the girl's wrist in his mouth. I had to hold it there a few moments before he could take hold of it himself. I felt strangely important for being the one to help him even though I'd caused this.
Once he'd finished, we sat there a while.
This time, Darren didn't hide the change in his expression. He looked respectful and grateful and more in love with me.
"Er ..." I started. "About the kiss..."
"Don't worry. I don't think you're in love with me or anything."
"I was just so worried..."
"I don't think I hate you."
"No, me neither."
I sighed. "That was scary."
"Anytime. And I mean that. I'd do that for you any day. After what you did for me. You nearly... died so I wouldn't have a hangover anymore. That's just ridiculous. You should just tell me to stop next time."
"I wasn't paying attention. Sorry."
"That's all right. I should be the one who's sorry."
"You know it's odd... I didn't think that vampires lost consciousness, at least not naturally."
"Oh, really? You know, I fainted when I woke up the first time. The pain was just so bad."
"Now you know not to get drunk," Darren said, grinning.
"It's not funny."
"That's okay. Sorry about last night."
"You don't need to apologise. Let's just put the past behind us."
"And that kiss. I seem to be kissing you a lot."
"You should be glad I'm psychic, else I'd have definitely got the wrong end of the stick by now."
"Yeah, somehow I'm glad I haven't learnt to block out my thoughts, the way you have."
"Ah, but I'll always hear yours."
"Really? Why's that?"
"It's the ownership thing."
"Oh, well, I'm grateful for that at this moment in time. Doubtless it'll get on my nerves one day."
"It only lasts a decade."
"How d'you know? I'm sure you didn't three nights ago."
"I didn't. I went to the office while you were having your five cocktails. That's how I was nearby."
"How did you find me?"
"I felt your thoughts lose their inhibition. It was quite alarming, actually. I thought you were in danger."
"But no, I was just having fun," I said grinning.
"With totally the wrong person."
"Sorry about that."
"It's in the past now."
"I guess I've lost my right to independence," I mused.
Darren shook his head. "I wouldn't take it away from you again. That would just be cruel. Maybe a little tiresome too. Constantly having to look after you."
"Hey, I'm not hard to look after," I said. "All you'd have to do is keep me company."
"Such a chore," Darren teased.
I rolled my eyes. "Says the person who needs his food bitten for him."
Darren chuckled and I smiled.