The night is full of mystery. Even when the moon is brightest,
secrets hide everywhere. Then the sun rises and its rays cast so
many shadows that the day creates more illusion than all the veiled
truth of the night.
I have lived in this illusion for much of my life, but I have never
belonged to it. Before my birth, I existed for too long in the realm
between nothingness and life, and even now, the night still whispers
to me. A strong cord binds me to the dark side of the world, and
shields me from the light.
After school Jessica took the bus to the center of town. She walked
to the bookstore, hoping to find Tiger, Tiger on the shelves. The
book was supposed to have come out more than a week before, but
this was the first chance Jessica had had to look for it. The advance
copies she had at home didn't hold quite the same allure as the
sight of her work in a bookstore display.
Jessica sighed when she saw Caryn browsing the shelves, but she
wasn't about to let the annoying teen chase her away.
"Oh...hi, Jessica," Caryn said, sounding surprised. "You
looking for anything? "
"A book. What else would I be in a bookstore for? " Jessica
It took her only a second to spot Tiger, Tiger on the shelf next
to Caryn, and she reached past the girl to grab a copy. As the book
was written under Jessica's pseudonym, Ash Night, Caryn wouldn't
be able to connect Jessica with it. Even so, Caryn's eyes widened
when she saw the book.
"I've read that one," she said in a voice that sounded
"So have I," Jessica answered, turning away from Caryn
and toward the counter.
"I wonder what the author is like," Caryn commented.
"Where do you suppose her ideas come from?"
Jessica ignored Caryn effortlessly until she added, "What
if it was all real? If Ash Night's vampires actually existed? If
Ather and Risika and Aubrey--"
Jessica spun on Caryn as she spoke that last name. "Vampires
don't exist," she snapped. "Get over it." After having
had this conversation with herself all day long, she was glad to
finally have an excuse to say the words aloud.
"Caryn, I've been subtle, rude, and even offensive,"
Jessica interrupted. "Now it's time for direct." She met
Caryn's delicate blue eyes with a glacier-cold glare. "I don't
care if you think vampires exist. I don't want to talk about it,
just like I don't want to chat about combination locks or anything
else. I don't want to talk to you at all. Do you understand? "
With a bit of a sigh, Caryn nodded, deflated.
That had been rather satisfying. Next Jessica just had to convince
herself that Alex Remington wasn't the Antichrist, and she could
return to the regularly scheduled tedium of her daily life.
"Cold," she heard behind her. "Very cold. I approve
Jessica turned and saw Alex leaning against a shelf. His gaze as
he watched Caryn hurry away reminded Jessica of a wolf watching
a rabbit run to cover.
"Maybe I'm paranoid, but I could swear you've been following
me." The words were out of Jessica's mouth before she had a
chance to consider them. Hearing her own tone, she almost choked.
If she caught herself flirting, she was likely to become ill.
"On and off," he answered vaguely, and didn't add anything
more. He turned to wander down the aisle, glancing from shelf to
shelf as if looking for something. After a few yards he looked over
his left shoulder to see if she was still behind him, and it occurred
to her that she was following him. Embarrassed, she stopped doing
"Anything good in here?" he asked, returning to the shelf
where Jessica had found Tiger, Tiger.
"What's your definition of good?" she asked, making a
point not to move toward him.
He pulled a book from the shelf: Renegade, by Elizabeth Charcoal.
Showing it to Jessica, he said, "You'll love it. Trust me."
"You've read this?" Jessica had seen a magazine article
about the author, though she hadn't had a chance to read the book.
Elizabeth Charcoal claimed that she was a vampire, and that Renegade
was actually her autobiography.
"I know the author," Alex answered matter-of-factly.
"She gave me an autographed copy of the manuscript. Right after
she tried to slit my throat, but why sweat the details? "
"Oh, really?" Jessica said skeptically.
He was either teasing her or trying to impress her.
He shrugged. "We got into an argument."
"Does this happen to you often? "
"Fairly frequently," he answered, his tone nonchalant.
"Elizabeth and I don't like each other very much, but her book
is...interesting. It's the kind of thing you'd like."
"How do you know what I like to read? "
"I can tell," he answered cryptically, and then he turned
to the checkout. He paused so that she could catch up and walk beside
him, not behind.
The woman at the counter looked at Alex with contempt and whispered
something under her breath.
"Hasana, what a surprise." Alex greeted her coolly. He
smiled malevolently. The woman glared at him, but he ignored it.
"You two know each other?" Jessica asked foolishly, seeing
the angry sparks fly between them.
"Hasana is Caryn's mother," Alex offered, as if that
explained everything. Jessica remembered Caryn's reaction that morning
when she had first seen Alex, and wondered what had happened between
him and this family.
"Watch out for this guy," Hasana warned, nodding toward
Alex. "He probably knows more about you then your taste in
"And how could that be?" Jessica asked dryly.
"I can read your mind, and learn your secret fears and darkest
desires," Alex answered.
Jessica paused, examining his expression. She had written those
exact words, Aubrey's words, in Dark Flame, the novel that was presently
waiting on her editor's desk. She couldn't remember whether she
had used them in Tiger, Tiger.
"Do you always talk like that?" she asked, unnerved.
He looked at her challengingly as he said, "Don't you know?"
She just shook her head, alarmed but unwilling to show it.
As Alex paid for his book, Jessica realized that she was still
holding Tiger, Tiger. She placed it on the counter, not intending
to buy it; she had plenty of copies at home.
Alex's gaze drifted to the cover, and his expression leapt immediately
from amusement to anger. He spun away and, without another word,
stalked out of the store. Jessica was left staring after him, too
shocked to react.
"If I were you, I'd just avoid him," Hasana advised.
"Why? Is he going to hurt me?" Jessica's sarcasm was
sharpened by her confusion regarding Alex.
"Unless you keep away from him, he most likely will,"
Hasana answered seriously. "He has a temper."
Jessica was out of sharp remarks. To hide her discomfort, she picked
up the copy of Tiger, Tiger and said, "I guess I'll put this
away before it makes anyone else freak out."
"If you want it, just keep it," Hasana answered softly.
"You are the author."
Jessica froze, dumbfounded.
"I'm sorry," Hasana said quickly. "I just--"
"How did you know? " Jessica interrupted, annoyed to
learn that this woman had connected her to Ash Night. She had used
a pen name to avoid recognition.
"I've read it, and I...recognized you as the author,"
Hasana fumbled. "You just have a look about you...
"Never mind," Hasana said, shaking her head. "Take
the book and the advice, and ignore me."
She turned away, suddenly very busy with some papers, and Jessica
left in a daze.