Isabelle’s stomach twisted and attempted to crawl up her throat. A thick, nasty fluid flooded her mouth and she raced to the bathroom. She got there just in time. Her head hung over the toilet, her long dark hair spreading around the bowl, as she heaved and puked up her dinner from the night before.
Oh God, she’d never be able to look at spaghetti the same way again. It tasted so good going down and so bad coming back up. Plus, the noodles were remarkably whole. Isa shuddered and spit the last bit out. Her nose and throat burned. A horrible taste coated her tongue and she tried not to swallow. She coughed and hacked up a few more noodles then sat back.
Gross. At least now that she puked, she felt a bit better. Her stomach churned less and though a film of sweat covered her, she was otherwise intact.
She staggered up and grabbed a paper cup from the sink. She filled it with cool water and placed it against her head before taking a small sip. Aww. She gargled and spat a few times then leaned back against the wall.
Being sick sucked. Especially today. She had an assignment to turn in at school. She'd been working on it for weeks. The presentation was ready and waiting to go. Her first major project in school and she wanted to shine just like her parents. If the new application she designed didn't impress her computer science teacher, she would eat her shorts.
Maybe it was just nerves? She sat back on the floor across from the toilet relaxing. The scent of bleach drifted to her and her belly churned. Nope, not nerves. Her stomach emptied itself again. Once, twice. Dang it. How much could one person vomit? This blew. Literally blew.
She moaned as she leaned back against the wall. The bathroom tiles gleamed at her. Too bright and white in the early morning hours. Her dad might not have left for work yet. She could call him, or she could go back to bed. Both of those options would take too much effort. She remained sitting on the floor.
A door slammed somewhere in the house. That caught her attention. She stood up and staggered toward the noise. Mistake. Her stomach twisted again and she ended up bent over the bowl just as her mother walked in.
Rosa's black hair—a match for her own tresses—fell from her ponytail and limp strands framed her face. Her eyes were bright, hands shaking. Isa thought she saw dark stains smeared across the dark blue scrub shirt near the pocket.
“You okay there, Isa boo?” Rosa asked.
“Yeah.” Isa sighed and flopped back against the wall. “My stomach hurts and I puked.” Tears filled her eyes.
“Aww, poor baby, give me a second to change, and we will make you something. You want to stay home?”
“I want to go to school because I have that project to turn in, remember? But when I move, it hurts. I don’t think I can go.”
Rosa nodded and helped her stand. They took baby steps toward Isabelle's room. Her shell pink walls and frilly canopy embarrassed her a bit now that she was older. She was twelve, she wasn't a kid anymore. Sometime soon, she had to talk to them about remodeling her room. Not today though. Today, she had to sleep. Get over whatever she had caught.
She crawled into bed.
Her mom tugged the blanket up to her chin and tucked her in. “Okay baby, sleep, we can talk to your teacher about your project tomorrow. He’ll understand.”
Her mother had not met her instructor if she thought that was true. Something niggled at Isa. “You okay, Mom?”
“Yes, why do you ask?” she said as she tucked the blankets around Isa's sides.
“Your hands are trembling.”
Rosa kept her eyes down and tittered; the fake sound filled the room and confused Isa. “I'm fine, baby. You need to go to sleep. Things will be better when you wake up. You'll see.”
But things were definitely not better.
When Isabelle woke, noon had come and gone and her stomach growled. That was a good thing. She toddled to the kitchen to get some food. Toast maybe, something bland.
As she passed the living room, an alert flashed across the screen. The volume was down on the TV but she slowed to watch it, the words catching her eye.
Unknown contagion: stay in your homes.
“Mom. Mom, get up!” Isabelle bolted for her mother’s room. She bounced onto her mattress and shook her awake.
Rosa groaned and rolled over with a yawn. “What is it, baby Belle? I was sleeping. You know Momma needs to rest after work.”
“Emergency Broadcast thing, Mom. Some contagion. Do you think I have it?”
Rosa sat straight up. “What? Don’t be silly. Let me see.”
They both scrambled off the bed and ran to the living room. Isa grabbed the remote and turned up the volume so they heard the blaring meep meep meep of the message followed by a shrill tone.
This is not a test.
There has been a national emergency declared. Contagion causing mass casualties are being reported worldwide. FEMA has been activated but response times are slow. Recommendations are for citizens to stay in their homes and await further instructions.
Again, this is not a test.
The message repeated twice then the screen went to fuzz.
Rosa grabbed her arm and tugged her back toward her room. “Get your stuff, Isa baby. We have to go.”
“Go where, Mom? The alert said to stay in our houses.”
“We need to get out of the city. Somewhere. I don't like this.”
“What about Dad?”
“I will call him on the way. Come on Isa, hurry.”
They changed into jeans. Isa picked a bright pink t-shirt, while Rosa grabbed a tank top. Rosa picked up her purse as they headed for the car.
It seemed unnaturally dark outside when they stepped out into their cul-de sac. No cars on the road. A light breeze blew. Our neighbor Mr. Jones lay in the yard nearby in his pajamas. Given it was August, that seemed odd. Puke decorated the grass next to his prone form. He looked like he’d been clawing along the ground. Dirt caked his fingers.
“Mom?” She pointed at the body. Her fingers shook.
“Stay here, baby.” Rosa ran and crouched next to him. She rolled him over and checked his pulse.
His eyes were wide open. Isa didn’t see his chest moving. Oh God, what did that mean? He was such a sweet man. He always watched out for her after school when she walked home from school.
Her mom looked at her with wide eyes. “Go. Get in the car. Now, Isa.”
“What’s wrong with Mr. Jones?” Isa fell to her knees.
“I said get in the car, Isa.” Rosa ran over and yanked her upward. She shoved her toward the car.
“Enough.” Rosa’s voice broke.
Isa scrambled into the passenger side and buckled in while her mother did the same, but before Rosa managed to start the car, three identical black SUVs pulled up behind them and blocked the driveway.
Rosa stepped out to meet the man that exited the closest vehicle. He looked official with a dark suit and slicked back hair.
Isa rolled down her window and stuck her head out to listen.
“Dr. Mendes. There has been some sort of disaster. We need your help at the labs.”
“I can’t leave my daughter alone.”
Rosa looked back at Isa. “How bad is it?”
The man didn’t answer her question and continued, “This is important. Did either of you eat or drink anything this morning?”
“Um no, not that I am aware of. Isa was sick and I just got off work. We both went to bed and got up to see the warnings. What is going on?”
The man waved toward the vehicles. “Good. Follow us.”
“Where are we going?”
“All right, is this an official summons?”
“Yes, get in your car Dr. Mendes and follow us.” He slid back into the lead SUV.
Rosa hurried back. She buckle in with a click and then gripped the wheel.
“What is going on, Mom?”
Rosa turned to her and patted her hand. “I am not sure, but we are going somewhere safe.”
But nowhere was safe, not anymore.
Six years later
Isabelle ran as if the hounds of hell were after her, which in a way they were. She didn't know how they found out about her plans, but when three strange sinister-looking vampires came into her workplace and started asking for her, well, it was time to go.
A good thing she hadn't been at her desk. She'd just gotten back from her physical—why did she need a monthly pelvic anyway?—and saw them. They were hard to miss. All three men dressed in store-bought suits, wearing dark shades, and a bad attitude like a cloak around them. Definitely vamps. Her boss escorted them to her area as she ducked into the stairwell and out the rear of the building.
That had been at four-thirty and it was nearly midnight now. She'd been running ever since, slowly making her way to the rendezvous point. Each step she took, she expected the vampires to tackle her and take her down. They were so much faster than humans. But so far, she managed to evade them, Lord knew how.
Her breath shuddered out as she approached The Point. Once a beautiful landmark of Pittsburgh, now the water barely bubbled with thick rust-colored liquid. Some light filtered from the road nearby along with the occasional noise of a rare passing car. Otherwise, it was still and lifeless, the area desecrated. She’d come here as a child with her parents a long time ago, before they formed the cities, before the Madness.
The docks— her destination—were only a few hundred meters away. They appeared abandoned as she approached, dark and bare. On any other day, the docks were a hotbed of activity. Not today. Today all citizens were “encouraged” to attend the feasts. Slang for mandatory awkward gathering with the vampires presiding over their “flock.” After assuming control in the few weeks after the Madness, the council eliminated all other holidays but this one, and stole an old name. Today was Memorial Day, August 26th. Making the holiday the perfect time to escape.
The smell of the stagnant water added a splash more joy to her night as she snuck forward onto the planks. Her belly cramped, her stomach still hurting from the exam she underwent earlier. The doctor hadn't been gentle. As a matter of fact, he seemed to take pleasure in her pain. Shuddering, she forced her mind away from that gruesome thought. The vamps cared for their livestock.
Humans in the cities paid a monthly tithe of blood to the city keeper's in exchange for food, continuing power, and life. The food was barely edible, but nutritious. Every citizen took vitamins, heavy in iron for obvious reasons. They put in ten-hour days. Ate as directed. Exercise was a mandatory requirement, two hours every day rain or shine. Monthly physicals maintained their health, if not their well-being.
Isabelle tired of the harvests of the mindless surviving. She was kept in a pretty box, her life laid out before her, unchanging. All citizens worked trivial meaningless jobs meant to keep their minds busy. Idle hands led to idle bodies. They wanted us fresh. So stupid.
She was sick of all of it and soon she would have her freedom.
Her and Jack had worked out a plan. They were going to escape the city. Find a place to hide and hole up. Live their life as they saw fit. But where was he damn it? Isabelle paced down to the end of the deserted pier.
A faint odor of mold, fish and wet wafted toward her as she got closer. Her hair blew in the wind, boats drifted in their moors, and a few abandoned barrels stood at the end of the way. Countless piers stretched out into the dank water.
Jack had arranged for them to get away on one of those ships. Which one, she didn't know. He hadn't shared that information with her. Lately, he hadn't shared much of anything with her. He was her husband, but they'd never been close. Not now. She didn't know what price he'd paid to arrange this and to be honest she didn't care. He owed her.
She'd grown up with Jack. When the world ended and the cities were made, her mother and she were forced into one of the tenements. Jack lived next door. He'd always been so carefree. She never understood how he could be so joyful under the circumstances. They hit it off and eventually married. All women were expected to marry by age sixteen. She never knew him though, that became clear over time.
She arrived at the docks and stood a second looking around. Nobody nearby. This close to the water, the smell was overwhelming—rotting fish and decay—but it was also cooler with the breeze off the water. A small comfort on a muggy summer day. Nose wrinkling, she walked down to the end of the pier to lean against one of the barrels.
From here, the water looked so clean and peaceful, dark and reflective. The pollution evident during the day hid in the dark of night. Waves lapped at the pier as the water flowed by. The sound of the rushing water hypnotized her a little. So much so, she didn't hear the steps until they were almost upon her.
She whirled. A guard turned the corner and she caught a glimpse of him approaching the end of the dock. She darted behind the barrel closest to her.
While technically standing on the docks wasn't a crime, nor would she be punished for not attending the feast, she didn't want to face any questions about what brought her to the docks at night. They would detain her and she doubted she would enjoy the experience.
The guard’s footsteps neared and she curled up even tighter into herself. She could see his silhouette through a sliver of space between the barrels and ducked back farther.
All of the guards in the city were vamps. Low level, of course. The older, more powerful vamps wouldn't risk themselves with security. That was what the walls and the lowers were for.
After a minute of silence, she dared to peek her head out. Her breath caught when she got her first real glimpse of him in a stray bit of moonlight. Being a vampire did have its benefits, but beauty and innate grace, were not among them. This vampire though, he was gorgeous. He had long shaggy blond hair, a smooth square jaw, and green eyes of some sort. A scar ran across his left eyebrow. There was a faint air of menace about him. Not a man anybody wanted to piss off. He couldn't have looked more out of place on the dock in his clean black slacks and crisp silky white shirt if he’d tried. He scanned the docks obviously looking for something.
She tilted her head and contemplated him. She'd seen him before, earlier today. Not one of the guards sent to pick her up. No, she’d seen him when she'd left work on the way to her mandatory physical, he'd stood outside, arms folded, watching the door. His was not a face one forgot. He'd looked familiar then, too. His being here couldn't be a coincidence. His sheer presence radiated power, too much power to be a simple lower. Had Jack somehow given their plan away? He'd wanted to get out of the city almost as much as she did. She still found that surprising given his proclivities, but he seemed sincere. At least as sincere as he ever was.
Knowing that it wouldn't help, she still held her breath, while his eyes traced her current resting place. She didn’t think she’d cut herself anywhere. Vampires tracked blood, the copper in the scent, but not normal smells. She’d be fine. She inched back so her movement didn't attract any attention and hid her face.
Cramped and hyperaware of any noise, she waited.
“Isa.” The guard pronounced her name with a slight Spanish accent, emphasizing the E sound of the first syllable like her father used to.
How did he know her name? She tensed and refused to answer his summons.
He tried again. “Isa. I know you're here. The guards are coming. It isn't safe for you here. Please...” Lapping waves were his only answer. A sigh drifted in the air. “I saw you walking here, Isa. I know you're close. This is important. You're in danger. Please.” A faint growl filled the air and he kicked the barrel by her head.
Isabelle jumped, but remained silent. Faint shouts of guards converging on the area reached her ears. She leaned forward to peek out again. Her eyes met his, the vampires.
He'd crouched and looked right at her. Well shit. She blinked. He blinked. She blinked again and the skin crinkled at the corner of his eyes.
“Isa.” Triumph laced his voice.
She stood up with arms crossed, defiant. “What?”
Light danced in his eyes as he looked at her. She knew what he saw. As a product, she was well aware of her value. Her looks were one of her greatest assets. Thick ebony hair framed light olive skin and dark chocolate brown eyes. She had an oval face with sharp cheekbones and ruby red lips. Her face edged toward playful with just a twitch of her lips, a curve of the perfect bow of her mouth. A look that she used often to get her way. She contemplated him while his eyes roved her lithe body.
When he finished his perusal, he held out his hand. “I am Roke. It isn't safe for you here. You need to come with me.” His hand hung in the air between them.
“Do you really expect me to trust you? I don't even know you.”
“But I know you, Isa, I know all about you, and it isn't safe here. Can't you hear the guards?”
“You're a guard, asshat.”
“I am not just a guard, Isa, and I promise to keep you safe.”
For some weird reason, she believed him. Something in his eyes drew her. Jack wasn't here and she had no clue which boat to get on. What would it hurt to go with him? The sounds of the other guards getting closer prompted her to reach out and take his hand.
Her hand twitched in his then settled.
It felt strange to hold a vampire’s hand. She'd expected his skin to be cold and clammy, lifeless, yet she felt the pulse of his blood beneath her fingertips. Isa knew vampires were made. They had a genetic predisposition and when exposed to the Inmortalus virus, they died and a vampire was born-faster, smarter, stronger, yet their heart beat.
She'd never been this close to one before, unlike Jack who got as close as possible as often as possible. As a rule, she kept to herself and did her job, attracting little attention like her mom always told her. Her job didn't require any interaction with the vampires, and until now, none had shown any interest in her for anything other than the obvious. She wondered exactly how different a vampire was than a human and why she hadn’t ever thought about it before. Their heart beat. How weird was that?
She didn't realize she'd been staring at him until he tugged on her hand and dragged her from behind the barrels.
“Come,” he said.
Isa tried to jerk her hand free and he responded by pulling her against his side. He started running with Isa hanging off his hip, her arms now twined around his neck, feet hanging a foot off the ground.
Lights flooded the docks behind them, but too late, for they were already gone. The city flashed by them in a blur.
He took the side roads, dodging guards along the way as he ran toward PPG place. Most of the lowers lived there with the higher-ranking vampires occupying the towers. He slowed and set her on her feet as they got closer. “Act natural.”
Roke rested his right hand on her waist. Isa couldn't suppress an unwelcome shiver. Roke laughed and trailed a finger down her cheek. “Act like you like it.”
Her brown eyes met his green. That she could do, she'd been doing it most of her life. She let her eyelids droop and looked up at him through her lashes, lips curving just so, her hand skimming under his shirt to rest along his lower back.
His quick indrawn breath was his only reaction.
“Like this?” Isabelle responded innocently.
He tightened his arm around her, reeling her in closer, his head dipped. Warm breath breezed across her lips. She tensed in sudden fear. She knew better than to tease a vampire. What was she doing?
A guard’s voice rang out, “Identify yourself.”
Roke jumped. She buried her face in his chest while he identified himself to the guard and escorted her up to his room on the tenth floor in silence, blocking her from the camera’s view in the elevator.
As soon as the apartment door shut, she backed away from him. None of this made any sense. Why would he help her? Where was Jack? “What am I doing here?”
“You were in danger. They knew of the ship offering passage to those wishing to get out of the city. It was a trap. You would have been scooped up as soon as you got on board. They aren't lenient to runners.”
“Why do you care? You don't know me.”
“I know your mother.”
Isabelle's heart skipped at beat as her world tumbled off its axis. How dare he? “My mother’s dead.”
She pushed him against the door and stalked into his living room. Her hands curled into fists.
“No, she’s not,” he said as he followed her.
“That's impossible. I know she is dead. I saw her die.”
“No, she's not,” he repeated.
“Where is she, then?” Isa faced him, chin raised. “Tell me where she is. She wouldn't have left me.” She wouldn't.
“She didn't have a choice, Isa, not then.” He reached out a hand to brush his fingers down her face.
She flinched backward and slapped his hand away. “What do you mean no choice and stay away. Over there.” She motioned him to the other side of the apartment.
Distracted, she focused on the room. The vampires really did live better than the rest of the peons. Her whole apartment could fit in his living area. Thick, soft gray carpet on the floor. Cream walls and expensive abstract art in swirls of blue and green matching the dark green sofa. A small kitchen loomed off to the left and a hallway led off to the right
While she'd been looking around, Roke moved closer and leaned into her personal space. “No.”
Isabelle froze, refusing to look up at him.
His finger touched her chin, nudging.
“Don't be afraid, Isa boo,” he said; his words deliberate, his tone light and loving.
That was her mother's nickname for her and the way he said it...Just like her father, it jolted her.
She remembered the last time she saw her mother. Right after she got her period. The vampires smelled the blood. The guards came to round her up the next day. Only a few weeks earlier, the council had decreed all reproductive age women have mandatory mates, thus her marriage to Jack.
Rosa Mendes thought the edict was barbaric and abusive. She wouldn't give her daughter up without a fight.
Isabelle could still hear the smack as the baton hit her mother’s head. She saw the blood as it arced across the wall and felt the thud when her mother’s body hit the floor.
The guards laughed. That laughter, so happy and so out of place, made her so angry. She screamed and fought to no avail. She’d been thirteen and they were bigger and stronger. They wouldn't let her go to her mother.
The captain went over and kicked Rosa when she was down. She didn't groan, she didn't move, but Isa saw her mother’s hand twitching, almost grasping. Isa knew she was still trying to get to her, to help her. Soon, it became clear her mother wouldn’t get up again.
The room went silent for a second, a precious second and grief filled her. Then the guard laughed again and took turns draining Rosa dry.
Isabelle gulped. The sound of their lips smacking, the greedy sucks and her mother’s last moan before her hand stopped moving, still filled her with horror. No, she could never be a banger.
Her voice husky, she asked, “Where did you hear that?”
“I told you. She's alive. Rosa's alive.”
“Where is she?” Her gaze remained focused on his Adam’s apple.
“Outside the walls where we need to go.”
“You just kept me from going outside.”
“I just kept you out of jail!” he growled, his breath huffing out.
“How do I know what you say is true? How do I know this isn't the trap?”
“You don't, Isa. You will just have to trust me.” This time he managed to angle her face up to his. Their eyes met. Soft green eyes flickered down to her lips.
Goosebumps spread across her skin. “Why would I trust you?”
“Because you have to. I’m the only thing that can keep you safe and get you out of this city.”
Something about him tugged at her. She knew she shouldn't trust him. He was a vampire after all. While there had been no choice earlier when the guards approached, she had a choice now, but...he knew her mom. Could she be alive? Isa smacked his hand away again and stepped back, moving toward the couch. “Not just me, me and Jack. I have to find Jack.”
Roke snorted. “Jack's occupied elsewhere. You're going to want to avoid that.”
“I don't care how he occupies himself, he is my husband and there’s no such thing as divorce anymore.”
“That they make you marry so young is a travesty.” Her mother used to say the exact same thing.
“How old are you?” she asked. He didn't look that old, but they said one could never tell a vampire's age until they saw the scars. Wounds happened and the older the vamp, the more they showed the marks. She let her eyes track down his body as his smile grew.
“Older than you,” he said with a twist to his mouth. His eyes reciprocated her appraisal.
She felt her face flush under his regard. What was wrong with her? She hated vamps.
“Tonight,” he stated.
Wait what? “Tonight what?”
“We leave tonight.”
“I'm missing something vital in this conversation.”
“We will head to see your mother tonight.”
“We will,” he said.
Suddenly nervous, she walked to the balcony off the living room and looked outside toward the river. She had a perfect view of the walls. Pure steel, they rose over a hundred feet over the city sealing everyone in. Only gates at the bridges and to the north broke the seamless boundaries. Those gates were well guarded. “How?”
“I have a way out.”
“You're just full of questions, aren't you?”
“I don't trust. Not anymore.” Not after Jack. Not after everything. Not after the cities.
Roke moved up behind her. His arms on the railing caged her in as she looked outward. He was so close she felt his body heat when he pressed near, but stopped just short of touching her, his mouth at her ear. “Isa, you’ll have to trust I would never hurt you.”
A shiver wracked her as she turned her head, frowning. His lips a hair’s breadth away. The moment lingered. “I wish I could believe that.”
“I will make you believe.”
With a snort, she turned back to the view. The rivers looked glassy and perfect from here, in the dark, like they had at the dock. No hint of the turbulence that normally filled the water. Ever since the Madness, weird creatures turned up in the free lands, the wastes. How would they get out and through that? At least Jack had had a plan. They would escape in the boat all the way down to Louisville. There was a walled city there but it was small and the clan more lax. They could escape into the countryside.
She turned and put her back to the rail, addressing him. “How will we get out?”
Roke didn't move back and his arms boxed her in. “A boat.”
“That was how I planned to get out this time and you stopped me.”
He rolled his eyes. “That boat was a snare. This one is real, but the ride will not be comfortable.”
“What exactly do you mean by that?”
His laughter hung in the air. “We will ride in coffins.”
She paused a second. “That is just so damn cliché.” They grinned at each other. His gaze flicked down to her lips again. Isabelle looked away. “I still need to find Jack.”
“He is my husband.”
She snorted as he grinned. “I want to know what kept him. Make sure he's okay. He may not be much but...” He was hers. Kind of. Not really.
“Your loyalty is misplaced.” He walked down the hallway to the right. “But we can try to find him. Let me pack a bag, and grab some weapons. We need to be at the docks by three.”
Damn, only an hour way. Her shoulders sagged. They would not be able to get to her house that fast even with his speed.
He returned carrying a katana and short sword both in scabbards, a dagger tucked into his belt.
Despite the weaponry, she found herself trusting him, just a little. Maybe it was the memory of her mom. Maybe it was how he looked at her, or maybe she was too damn tired of everything to be afraid anymore. “Okay, let’s go to my place.”
“Yes, though I wish you said that under different circumstances and that you appeared happier about it.”
Isa groaned. “Do you ever stop?”
“Not really, us vampires, great endurance.”
“Awful. Just awful.”
He smiled at her eyes gleaming.
Roke ducked into the kitchen and opened the fridge. A dim light glowed overhead and blood bags lined the inside. Relief filled Isabelle when she saw the supply. She hadn't wanted to ask if he was hungry. How did one do that with a vampire without it seeming like an invitation? And she couldn’t offer. She just couldn't.
Roke took one of the bags out and heated it fifteen seconds in the microwave before he hung it up and started an IV. He looked up at her after he expertly hooked up the blood. “This will take about five minutes or so.”
The first drop dripped down and he leaned against the wall and groaned.
She hesitated as she watched. “How does it work?”
“Vampirism?” In the dark room, his eyes gleamed when he looked at her.
“You know the basics, right?”
“I think so.”
“All vampires have a single genetic mutation. They call it the marker.” He laughed at her eye roll. “I know original. It is an enzyme, responsible for many things. With this enzyme active, when we're exposed to the Inmortalus virus, our bodies die and our DNA is rewritten.”
“You die, as in die, die?”
“Parts of us do yes. We lose the function of our respiratory systems, no gut, no kidney, and no liver. We're a mass of muscle, nerves and blood.”
He winked “Yes, we keep those and the blood vessels needed to keep those in order.”
Hah! She felt her face flush again. Anyway. “So, you don't get sick?”
“No, viruses don't affect us, nor bacteria. We can still be hurt. We still bleed. It just takes a lot more to kill us, but we can die. Rip off our heads, and like anything else, we will not get up again. And none of that can't walk in the light of day, garlic, and mirror bullshit. I can dance a jig across a threshold in full daylight with no ill effects.”
She raised a brow at that. “You dance?”
“Like a dream. Would you care to take a spin with me?” He held out his hand and bowed at the waist, staring at her from beneath his lashes.
With a head shake, she turned away. “What is it like?”
At that, she turned back around. “Lonely?” Their gazes met.