It was official. Jillian Swansen, Kenzie’s best friend since first grade, had been reborn. She was now a vampire. Her sun-loving, beach-going best friend forever was a creature of the night.
“Jillian,” Isaiah said softly. Jillian whirled her head around to stare at her mate. Then, she held her hands out at arm’s length, studying them. Then, she dashed to the mirror.
She seemed to be as surprised by how fast she’d made it to the mirror as what she actually saw in it.
“It’s all right,” Isaiah said reassuringly. “You’re okay now.”
Jillian spun around. “Okay? You call this okay?! I’m a freaking vampire!”
Kenzie bit her lip. Great. More guilt was forthcoming.
“You were dying, love,” Isaiah stated. “It was the only way. I explained it to you. I had to give you some of my blood to heal you. There was no time to take you to a hospital. And human blood wouldn’t have been enough.”
“But why did that turn me into a vampire? Why didn’t it just heal me?”
“Because it takes three vampire bites and drinking a vampire’s blood twenty-four hours after the third bite to transform into one. You were held hostage, and fed on…”
“That psycho bitch that took me! Yeah, she said she was one of my models, and next thing I know, I’m waking up in a shitty old house, and she’s biting my damn neck! And now this! Now I’m a damn vampire! What am I going to do? I can’t live like this! I don’t know how to do anything, I don’t want to drink blood, I don’t even know my own strength…”
“I’ll teach you. You aren’t alone like I was. You’ll never be alone. And right now, you need to feed.”
“No! I won’t eat people!”
“You won’t. You can feed from other vampires as well, and there’s plasma juice...”
“Feed from me,” Kenzie interjected from the door. Everyone focused their eyes on her and inhaled sharply.
“What?” Jillian inquired.
“This is all my fault,” Kenzie elaborated. “You were kidnapped because of something I did years ago. That crazy vampire thought it was you. I should be in your place right now.”
“No,” Hayden growled.
Isaiah held up his hand. “Kenzie, I already told you, I don’t blame you. Besides, Jillian should be started on plasma juice and plasma fruit. That way she won’t require human blood for sustenance. I brought some with me, since that’s what I eat and drink anyway.”
Isaiah walked over to the dresser and extracted a bottle that Kenzie hadn’t known was inside. He walked back over to Jillian and handed it to her. “Drink this.”
“What’s that smell?” Jillian asked instead.
“You’re smelling human blood. Hayden, get Kenzie out of here. Now.”
Hayden grabbed Kenzie and hauled her out, and this time she didn’t object. She didn’t have the strength to. All she had the strength to do was, after returning to her and Hayden’s hotel room, sit on the floor and break down into hysterics.
Their stay in Midnight Hollow was extended and the photo shoot postponed. Jillian was in no condition to travel. Isaiah was keeping her nourished with plasma juice and fruit, which made Kenzie cringe.
Had she truly done the right thing? Yes, Jillian was alive. Sort of. But was she really going to be able to truly live? The life she wanted, the one she’d always dreamed of…would she be able to have it?
No, not if it involved the sun and the beach. But she’d still be with Isaiah, and she wanted that too, right?
Though she was a vampire, Jillian still required sleep. And after learning some of the basic skills of vampires from Isaiah, she’d worn herself out.
While she slept the next day, Kenzie approached Jillian’s mate in a concealed corner in the hopes of keeping Jillian from hearing them.
“What about the promise you made to me?” she probed. “You promised that you’d do the right thing after we got Jill back.”
“I did,” Isaiah replied. “But I never clarified what that entailed. And right now, I don’t think the right thing to do would be to leave her. You said it was too dangerous for us to be together if I’m a vampire and she’s a human. That’s no longer the case. Besides, she needs me. I won’t let her go through this alone. Not like I had to.”
“How’s she taking it?”
“Very well, surprisingly. She’s over the initial shock, and seems to be quite taken with the idea of us living together for eternity.”
“And…what about Sunlit Tides? She was going to move there. And what about her career?”
“She can still have her career. Supernatural creatures are no longer hidden, remember? As for Sunlit Tides, she hasn’t mentioned that, but obviously she can’t go there or back to Sunset Valley in this condition. Besides, I’d rather keep her with me so that I can take proper care of her. I already checked into town records. Flossie was right; that manor truly was my father’s, and as his only heir, it now belongs to me. I’m going to take up residence here, and I’m going to bring Jillian with me.”
“Are you getting married?”
“Perhaps someday. But one thing at a time.”
Kenzie just nodded. At least Jillian would be taken care of, and hopefully safer now that she and Isaiah would be living together. And in Midnight Hollow, where the sun never shined. The perfect place for vampires.
Still, it would take some getting used to. Kenzie wasn’t a big fan of change, and now her best friend had gone through one of the biggest changes either of them had ever seen.
But at least there were no grudges held. Jillian didn’t hold Kenzie responsible for being reborn as a different species. In fact, she told her that she’d even talked with Isaiah about becoming a vampire one day. And she did thank her for saving her life, or allowing Isaiah to do so in whatever way he could.
The photo shoot happened the following day. Kenzie felt like her cheeks were going to split in two because of the fake smile that was plastered on her face. But it was a relief that Jillian herself was happy, and that was good enough for her.
Once the photo shoot was over, everyone departed but the two vampire mates. On the drive back to Riverview, Kenzie suddenly realized something. Jillian and Isaiah were now living together, and Austin and Cheyenne were married with a baby due any time. Hayden had asked her to move in with him and she’d been reluctant to do so due to her low tolerance for change.
But if Jillian had been living with Isaiah, if they hadn’t had to meet in Midnight Hollow, she would have been safe. Or at least safer than when she’d been alone.
A mate could only do so much for the one he promised to protect when they lived towns away from each other. And now, it was time to make a big change.
“Hayden,” she said, “I’ve made a decision.”
“Yes. I will move in with you.”
Hayden looked at her with wide eyes. “Really?”
“Yes. Seeing this with Jill and Isaiah…it made me realize that I don’t want to be away from you, the person I love more than anyone. I don’t want to have to be alone. I’m usually not big for change, but I think now is the time to make one. So, if the offer still stands, I’d like to take you up on it. Of course, Sage would have to come, too.”
Hayden reached over and held Kenzie’s hand in his. “Of course the offer’s still there, for both you and Sage. We’ll start making plans. And maybe we’ll get a bigger place for ourselves. A PI needs her own office.”
“We’ll worry about that later. Right now, I’m the happiest man, and beast, in the world.”
Kenzie smiled and squeezed Hayden’s hand. Her heart pounded in nervousness and excitement, but one thing was for sure. Nothing was definite, nothing was permanent, and life was unpredictable. No one lived forever, but the cautious never truly lived at all. And she was through being so cautious all the time.
The ties that bound Kenzie to Riverview were severed. Much as she loved her parents and enjoyed having them just down the street, she loved Hayden more. And she had to live her own life.
The ties that bound her and Hayden were stronger, just like those that bound Jillian and Isaiah together. Their blood ties had allowed Jillian to be found before worse harm could come to her. She could have been lost forever had he not had her blood in his system to use for Paige’s ritual. Maybe it was fate.
But regardless of what it was, it was time for a change. And Kenzie was ready to make that change.