“I released the cure too soon. Jillian, you’re fine, but there was one variable we didn’t consider when we were developing this thing.”
“And what the hell would that be?”
“A vampire’s age. We experimented on vampires that had been as such for a few years, but no more than twenty-five. Some were born vampires, and some were turned. But the outcome was always the same – until we brought in a few vampires that were older. Some of them are slightly younger than Isaiah, or have been vampires for a slightly shorter time, and the results of the cure were fatal to most of them.”
Jillian held the phone away from her ear so she could scream into it.
“Why the hell didn’t you tell us this before?! Do you realize what you’ve done?! Do you have any idea what this means?!”
“Jill, calm down,” Isaiah tried to console her as he came toward her with his hands raised, but she slapped them away, furious. It was a good thing she was no longer a vampire, or her brute strength would have shaken the house apart from her wrath alone.
“You have every right to be mad at me,” Austin replied, irritatingly calm despite Jillian’s tirade, “but I did tell you that a cure for vampirism was never even mentioned before, so the end result was the primary focus.”
“I thought you were supposed to be a genius! What kind of genius forgets a major factor like that in an experiment?!”
“The kind who’s doing his best, trying his hardest, to get something for one of his best friends for her birthday that’s a few months away, not giving a damn about anyone else. So yeah, I’m sorry. I’m only human. Sue me.”
Jillian put her hand to her face. She was tempted to sue Austin as he’d sarcastically suggested, but he had plenty of money now – he’d easily be able to buy his way out of it. And that would drive an even bigger wedge between her and Cheyenne. But more importantly, she knew Austin was right. If she hadn’t been so damn stubborn and kept pressuring him for results, he wouldn’t have rushed and overlooked any details.
What had she done?
Isaiah took the phone from Jillian, who was no longer angry but almost hysterical.
“Austin,” he said into the phone, “why would this kill me, exactly?”
Jillian’s ears could no longer pick up on the other side of the conversation, which just made her cry harder. Talk about karma.
“I see,” Isaiah said at last. Something long was being said, and intense based on Isaiah’s facial expression. “I understand. Thank you.”
He hung up and made his way to Jillian, picking her up with no effort and carrying her into the living room, where he held her consolingly on the couch.
“It’s not your fault,” he told her.
“Why?” she whimpered.
“According to Austin, depending on how long a person has been a vampire, the cure can backfire and kill that person. It doesn’t always happen, but it seems to be the most common result for people who have been vampires for more than eighty or ninety years. Essentially, their bodies have adapted to vampirism, and turning them back into humans sped up their aging process to catch up with all the years their bodies had been frozen in time, and the effects are fatal. He apologized, and said that he got over confident after so many successful results, so he mistakenly assumed that all vampires, regardless of their age, would be fine. It wasn’t until after we left that he got some results back from the older vampires.”
Isaiah kissed the top of Jillian’s head. She sniffled, then perked up.
“Wait,” she said as she sat up, “I have an idea. Just turn me back into a vampire. Then it’ll be okay.”
Isaiah frowned. “Austin thought you might suggest that. And he told me that they did test for that as well. Jillian, your body has been through a major transition. Actually, it’s been through two – first, becoming a vampire, and then reverting back into a human. Your body can’t take another shot of that. Everyone who turned back into vampires after being cured of vampirism once had the same likelihood of death as older vampires becoming human again. It’s just how our bodies have adjusted and adapted, and how much they’re programmed to take. So no, I won’t turn you into a vampire again.”
Jillian felt her eyes brimming with tears once more. Now she’d done it. She was stuck. She would never be able to be a vampire again, and Isaiah would most likely die if he tried to become human. They were right back where they’d started. Back where they’d been before. It hadn’t been that bad, but still, it had been nice to know that they both at least had the same amount of time to live together. What would become of them now?
“However,” Isaiah added, “Austin said there was only a chance of vampires of a certain age dying from the cure. There’s a chance that it wouldn’t hurt me at all.”
As hopeful as that sounded, Jillian shook her head fiercely. “No. I won’t let you even try it. I won’t risk losing you.”
“Jillian,” he stated, “I’d rather turn human again and have a short time with you before dying than live for the rest of eternity as a vampire without you.”
“I can’t let you do that. I’m not worth it.”
“I’m not! Please, don’t argue.”
“Jill, I’m a vampire. You’re a human. It’s what we are, and what we’re fated to be.”
“I don’t believe in that fate bullshit. Ever since Kenzie was bitten by that werewolf, I don’t believe in it. I believe in coincidences, and I believe in bad luck and karma, but I don’t believe that things are meant to happen in a certain way.”
Isaiah pulled Jillian down and held her tightly. “Be that as it may,” he said, “we can’t change what we are now.”
“Austin also said there was only a chance of me dying if you turned me back into a vampire. We could try that just as easily as trying to turn you back into a human.”
“No way. After all the turmoil you went through just to get this cure created, and after telling me how much you wanted to be human again, I’m not turning you back into a vampire, especially with such a high risk of death. And you know you don’t want to be a vampire again.”
“I want to be with you in whatever way I can.”
They were at a stalemate. Neither one of them was willing to let the other even attempt to sacrifice themselves so they could be together. For now, no one would win. But they’d still have each other.
Another week passed, and as Jillian busied herself with her work once again, she found that her heart wasn’t in it. She remembered when she and Isaiah had talked about moving to Sunlit Tides, but after being a vampire, she knew how hard that would be. But that had also been before vampiric sunscreen. Things could be different now.
She’d received an offer not long ago to have an interview done in a magazine based in Sunlit Tides, and she’d be provided with seamstresses, models, and everything she’d need to make her fashion career a bigger success. And that offer was still in her email inbox, with a follow-up inquisition even after all this time.
She stared at her laptop screen from her makeshift seat on the floor, not even bothering to use a chair or couch. A melancholy expression was etched onto her face. She’d thought that being human again would make her happy. And while it did, something was holding her back.
Was she being selfish? Was she even considering Isaiah’s feelings at all, really? Should she at least consult him before making a decision like this? Now that she was human again, she didn’t have to stay cooped up in the dreary town of Midnight Hollow, where the sun was somehow always behind a thick cover of clouds. But Isaiah was willing to go with her, right? It was something she’d just have to risk, something worth a shot.
She loved Isaiah, but she was worried about growing old by his side while he stayed impossibly young and handsome. It would be so hard for two vastly different species to be together, especially since one would live until the end of the world. But it was said that nothing worthwhile was easy. Jillian was willing to try.
She’d thought for a while if her relationship with Isaiah was the best thing. It certainly wasn’t the easiest, but that didn’t make her love him any less. But she felt compelled to stay with him, to be by his side. It felt like that was where she belonged. She’d heard old legends of vampires being sired to their creators, but she was a human again now. If she were sired, would the effect still be present?
But it didn’t matter. She loved Isaiah and wanted to be with him. They’d been through so much together and he’d saved her countless times. Leaving him would feel more wrong than expecting him to live with her in a sunny environment.
So finally, with a heavy heart, Jillian replied to the magazine company in Sunlit Tides and accepted their offer. She’d have to move there, but it was what she’d wanted to do before she’d been turned into a vampire. It was time to pick up the pieces of the past several months and get on with her life. She had to go forward, especially now that she could no longer defeat time.
She didn’t realize she’d been sniffling until Isaiah walked into the room.
“What’s wrong?” he asked gently, caring, just as gentlemanly as always.
She looked up at him as he took a seat next to her on the floor. She closed the laptop lid and slid the device away.
“I…I accepted that offer in Sunlit Tides.”
Isaiah held Jillian in his arms. “The offer that would require you to move there?”
Jillian nodded wordlessly.
“I see. Well, it’s a good opportunity for you.”
“But not for you. And not for us.”
“We managed before, when you lived in Sunset Valley.”
“I know, and I want it to work between us. But I can’t ask you to move there with me.”
“You’re not asking me. I’m saying I’ll go. I’ll follow you anywhere. Thanks to vampiric sunscreen, it’s possible.”
“But it’s not as easy as being a human would be where the sun is concerned.”
“It’s a risk I’m willing to take. I love you, Jillian, and unless you turn me away, I’m not going anywhere.”
As their lips touched, Isaiah remembered the promise he’d made to Kenzie. When Jillian had been kidnapped, he’d promised her that he’d leave Jillian to keep her safe. She now had a second chance. She could start over with the life she truly desired. He didn’t even have to be in the picture. She’d be sad for a while, but she’d heal.
But she wanted him with her. Isaiah valued his friendship with Kenzie, but he valued his love for Jillian more. He would leave the decision up to her. He’d endured a psychotic family that had tried to kill him, and a mother who’d turned him into a vampire (too long ago to reverse). He could endure this.
“Wow, you look just like you did before.” Kenzie gaped at Jillian, her eyes wide and her mouth open like she’d seen a ghost. If she didn’t watch it, she was going to run into something since she wasn’t looking where she was going. “I can’t get over it.”
“Uh…thanks,” Jillian replied. Kenzie laughed. Jillian hadn’t been this giddy in a long time. When she’d gotten the phone call from her friend telling her that she’d moved to Sunlit Tides and had taken a cure for vampirism, which she had asked Austin to concoct, she’d nearly fallen over. Of course, one of the first things Jillian had told her was not to blame herself.
As they exited the bistro where they’d just indulged in fine island dining, Jillian felt elated. For the first time in a long time, she felt alive. Of course, she hadn’t technically been “alive” as a vampire, but that was all behind her now. She still felt bad about Isaiah, but she knew he loved her. And she loved him. For a while, she’d contemplated if their relationship had been the best thing. After so many assholes, she’d finally found a good one, but she’d wondered if that made him the only one.
Now, she was convinced that he was. A vampire willing to move into a very sunny town just to be with his girlfriend? That was true love if she’d ever seen it.
“How have you been feeling?” Jillian asked her friend, referring to her random spouts of nausea.
“About the same,” Kenzie admitted, though she jokingly said, “and I’m the one that should be asking you that question.”
“Well, there’s not much else to tell, really. I just wish Isaiah and I could be the same species. If only Austin had called sooner, before I drank my cure. Or rather, if only I’d waited just a little longer until he called.”
“No one could have predicted that. I’m just glad you found out before Isaiah drank that stuff. He may be your boyfriend, but he’s a good friend to all of us. We’d all miss having him around.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I’d rather have him as a different species than not have him in my life at all.”
Jillian was already looking for a permanent residence, though for the time being, the magazine company would rent a house to her so she’d be able to work. She was eager to get started on new sketches and designs, and Kenzie had once again offered to be a plus-size model if she was ever needed.
“At least my chubbiness has two good things going for me,” she chortled, “Hayden likes it since, as part wolf, he loves meat, and I can model your awesome clothes that make me look sexy.”
Jillian laughed, too, as they circled back around to the house she was currently renting. Isaiah was still in Midnight Hollow, packing up some things and getting the manor appraised. He’d decided that he didn’t want to live in his father’s manor anymore, or even keep it in his possession. Even though his mother had been the one to give him the supernatural life he’d never wanted, it was his father that drove her to do it. He didn’t want his charity or his possessions, apart from whatever money he may get out of the manor to help finance their new life together. Jillian couldn’t say that she blamed him.
This whole situation had given her a lot of clarity. She realized that she was very fortunate. She’d been fortunate to have not died at the hands of the malicious vampire who’d kidnapped her, even if she’d been turned into a vampire to have that happen. And now, she was fortunate enough to have turned back into a human so she could live in the sun, she had amazing friends (Cheyenne had been ecstatic that Jillian was back to “normal,” and wasn’t nearly as hesitant as before where Mason was concerned), and fortunate enough to have a boyfriend – a vampire, no less – who was willing to move in with her in a very sunny town with no objections. Never again would she take what she had for granted. Plus, there was always the possibility of something else being invented that would work for older vampires like Isaiah. All was not lost.
Jillian and Kenzie spread out some beach towels and savored the moment by kicking off their shoes and sunbathing, welcoming the summer season with full vigor by feeling the sun beat down on their faces by the pool. Jillian’s birthday was two weeks away, and she had the best present she could ever wish for.
As she gazed up at the sky, Jillian was hit with a big bolt of serenity. For the first time in a very long time, she was happy. Her career was skyrocketing, she was human again, her boyfriend would be able to live with her in the sun thanks to an invention by one of her best friends, and her life was only beginning. It was a wonderful feeling. Though some might say that she was tied down by so many factors, in her heart, she only had one feeling – she was free.