I woke up to see Daniel shaking his head looking bowled over.
"Are you okay?" I asked concernedly.
Daniel shook his head. "Everything I thought before... All wrong... And that means, there's no hope. If people can belong to other people, what's the use in fighting oppression?"
"Oh, Daniel, don't be disheartened. You can still fight for vampire rights."
"Can I, though? With this knowledge, have I got the strength to carry on? I don't think so, Taylor."
"Come on, Daniel, there's always hope." I stood up and wandered over to sit in front of him. "I still think you're pretty cool for being a vampire rights activist."
Daniel looked up, straight into my eyes. "There's no hope, Tay. None at all. The will isn't as powerful as I thought it was and a person can be conquered like territory."
"But you can stop that, Daniel! You can take people away from oppressive owners until the decade of ownership is up. Darren, you said, didn't you? You won't own me after ten years."
Daniel looked hopeful. Darren frowned.
"I only said I'd hear your thoughts for 10 years, Tay. And although you don't avoid my gaze anymore, I get the feeling you still could."
I looked imploringly at him. "Daniel needs hope, Darren. Tell him there's hope."
"Tay, I can't lie."
Daniel looked disappointed. "So, my career in the VRS ends here."
"No, it doesn't!" I said. "The VRS needs you."
"The VRS needs people who believe they can make a change."
"You can make a change, Daniel. Please don't be like this."
"I'm sorry I didn't believe you, Taylor, but now my world's upside down, I don't think I could deal with a relationship. I hope you find happiness again."
Daniel stood up.
Daniel turned and wordlessly walked away.
"Daniel! Come on! Come back!"
"Bye, Taylor. It was nice knowing you."
Tears formed at the corners of my eyes.
I heard the door close. I broke down, sobbing.
I felt Darren rubbing my shoulder.
"Get off me," I said. "None of this would have happened if you hadn't got drunk."
"You're not forgiven! I hope you can deal with unrequited love for the next however many centuries you're going to live for."
Darren nodded. "Knowing what I did, I probably deserve to."
"You definitely deserve to. Now go away and leave me alone."
I somehow got myself onto the mattress before crying myself to sleep.
I woke up, disconsolate and inconsolable. I had a shower, got dressed and wandered out of the apartment without telling Darren.
I saw the teenager who'd unwittingly saved Darren's life the other day standing and gazing out across the rooftops.
"Hi," I said, walking up to her.
"Oh, hey," she said.
"I'm Taylor," I said.
"That's a nice name."
"Oh, thanks. So, you live with Darren do you?"
"You know him?" I asked, intrigued.
Charity blushed. "Oh, um, not really. I have a crush on him."
"Oh really?" I asked, laughing.
Charity nodded. "He's really handsome. I wish he'd notice me a bit more so I could get to know him better."
"Isn't he a bit old for you?" I asked.
Charity frowned slightly. "I suppose. He's in his twenties, isn't he?"
"I guess," I said, thinking of his real age.
"You guess? You mean you don't know?"
"He's sort of a family friend who I'm staying with. I don't know him too well," I lied.
"Oh, well, he looks about 20."
"How old are you?"
The girl blushed again. "15."
I smiled. "That's not too bad. I thought you were something like 13."
"Oh no, that really would be too young for Darren."
"Well, Darren's not that great. If you get the chance to go out with someone else, take it up. I certainly wouldn't go out with him."
I shook my head. "We haven't been the best of friends lately."
"Oh." Charity looked disappointed. "I thought he always seemed really friendly."
Suddenly, Darren appeared on the balcony. "Tay?" he called, before spotting me. He seemed relieved as he came up to me.
"Hey, I know you're mad at me but could you still tell me if you go somewhere?"
‘That's sweet. He doesn't seem too bad,' I heard Charity think.
"Hey, Darren," I said. "This is Charity."
"Oh, hi," he said, smiling and holding out a hand.
Charity took it and shook it, blushing brighter as she finally remembered to let go.
Darren didn't say anything. "So, Taylor, will you tell me next time? Where you're going?"
"Oh, sure," I said, feeling some contentment from talking with Charity.
"It's a beautiful day, isn't it?" Charity asked, staring openly at Darren.
Darren nodded. "Yeah. Lovely summer sun and cloudless skies. Couldn't be more perfect really."
"Like you," Charity murmured. She seemed to realise what she'd just said as she looked horrified. "I'm so sorry," she said quickly.
"No, don't worry," Darren said. "I'm flattered."
"Really?" Charity asked.
He nodded. "And if I wasn't currently interested in someone else, I'd definitely consider you."
"Really?" Charity looked as if she might faint any second.
He nodded, smiling.
I tried to talk to him with my mind. ‘Darren, don't do say no because of me,' I thought. ‘I don't like you. I told you I never will.'
To my surprise, he replied with his own thoughts. ‘I am not doing something that will make the ruination of your life pointless.'
‘I don't care!'
‘Tay, you'll have died for nothing if I say yes.'
‘I don't care!'
‘You should. Your life was great, remember?'
‘Just ask her out!'
"So, are you going out with this person you're interested in?" Charity asked.
Darren shook his head. "She doesn't actually feel the same way. I couldn't love anyone else, though."
"Aw, that's so sweet. I think I love you more now."
"Ah well, don't rule out other possibilities."
"I'll try not to."
"Darren, I really think you should go out with Charity," I said aloud, feeling cross.
Charity looked shocked by my outburst. "Taylor, it's nothing to do with us!"
I ignored her. "I don't care how much you love me; I'm never ever going to love you back, so you might as well go out with someone who does!"
Darren looked appalled. "Tay, I couldn't."
Charity was frowning. "You're in love with Taylor?" she asked.
Darren nodded. "Although she'd rather I wasn't."
"But you're so decent! Who couldn't love you?"
"Well, her obviously."
Charity looked at me with something like desperate pleading in her eyes. "Don't break his heart," she said to me.
"He'll be fine," I said dismissively.
"You can't pass up on an opportunity to go out with this guy! Don't you fancy him just a little bit?"
"No, of course I don't. That's why I'm not in a relationship with him."
Charity looked at me as if I was crazy.
"Look, if I convince him to get over me, he'll go out with you," I said gently.
"You honestly don't want him?"
"No, he holds no attraction for me."
"I think it's his choice, really," Charity murmured. "And I think he's really honourable for remaining loyal to his heart, even if you don't think so. He deserves the kindest girlfriend in the world because he'd sure be the most tender boyfriend."
The way she regarded Darren was maddening. Like he was some kind of angel who blessed the lives of everyone he approached and befriended. If only she knew what he really was.
"Um thanks, Charity," Darren said, looking flattered.
I looked straight into Darren's eyes. "Go out with her," I said fiercely before striding back to the apartment. After all, I'd come out here to escape him.
Charity looked sympathetic as I stomped inside. I almost screamed when I found someone very unwelcome sitting in the living room.
"What are you doing here?" I whispered.
Matt stood up. "We have unfinished business, Taylor. I really didn't think you'd be so immature as to try and run away from me. I was hoping I wouldn't have to subdue you, especially when you thought that this outcome was inevitable, but now it seems I've no other choice."
"Don't," I said, backing away. "Da-" I started to shout, but Matt's hand was quickly over my mouth.
"Hush now, Taylor. You already belong to me. You just need a little more blood to complete the transition from being Darren's to mine. Anyway, you hate Darren. Who needs him?"
I do, I thought. Right here, right now, I definitely do. No matter how much I hate him, I won't stand any chance of even mild satisfaction without him around.
"Ah, the girl who fancies him has softened you up to him. How sweet," Matt said sarcastically. "Why are you trying to resist me, Taylor? Just let go of your hatred for me. You even kissed me yesterday. Let yourself be mine."
His voice was gentle, soft like velvet and (I hated to admit it but) ... downright irresistible. I felt my will bow over, become his to manipulate. I couldn't meet his gaze anymore.
"Sorry," I mumbled, feeling shameful and as if I'd not only been disloyal to Matt, but myself too.
"That's okay. Everyone makes mistakes."
I felt a tear come to my eye. Why was I crying? I didn't feel that bad, though I probably should have done.
I allowed him to put his bleeding wrist in my mouth and drank, while curiously, tears flowed down my cheeks as if trying to remind me that this was somehow wrong. But how could it be wrong? I was Matt's. I was his to command. It was simple and it was fact and I accepted that. So why was some deeper part of me crying out as if this was a crime against nature?
Footsteps in the hallway and then a gasp.
"Taylor!" Darren shouted and ran to shove Matt out the way. I swallowed the remaining blood in my mouth and gazed at Darren with sad eyes. It was time to say farewell.
"I'm Matt's now," I said, my voice strangely calm as it contrasted with my emotions. "I guess this is goodbye."
"Oh, Taylor, no! Not after so much time spent resisting him! You're stronger than that."
"That's what Daniel thought," I said quietly, revealing some of the pain I was feeling.
"You can't just give in!"
"I have. I can feel it. Even if I didn't want to, the forces beneath my will surrendered."
Darren stared into my eyes. "Oh, Tay, I put you in such danger. Right from the start."
I barely noticed him kicking down Matt who was trying to get back up.
"I didn't exactly make things easier for you."
"I shouldn't have changed you," Darren murmured. He disappeared in a flash and returned a few seconds later with a length of rope. He tied Matt up, who struggled a lot but was no match for Darren who seemed to be strengthened by his anger and sadness.
Next, Darren leant down and began to drink my blood. He still looked sad as he stopped and steadied me as my body swayed. He silently bit his arm and offered it to me. I drank it, not really expecting to become his again.
"I love you," he whispered before gazing deep into my eyes. Caramel flecks swirled in his irises until the rest of the room became fuzzy and unfocused. "Sleep," he said, sounding dejected.