So here's the thing. I live in an unremarkable small town. I go to a typical school. I even have ordinary parents. Right now I'm at the library doing homework, and what could be more normal than that?
I guess if you ask my ex best friend, Megan, she'd say "practically anything." Megan would also tell you that my life isn't "normal," it's "boring." I mean, why else would she walk past me in the halls like she doesn't even know me?
Megan and I were inseparable since first grade. We did practically everything together. Then, she got a job at the mall over the summer and our friendship slowly started to die. First, Megan got contacts and began wearing makeup. Yeah, she tried giving me a makeover, but I couldn't figure out those little plastic things and poked myself in the eye with the mascara. After that, Megan started ignoring my texts and avoiding my calls. When I ran into her at the mall a month later, I almost didn't recognize her. She had hair extensions and a new, sluttier wardrobe. She'd also ditched me for some new friends—a group of girls everyone calls Populars—thus driving the final stake into our friendship. By the time school started, she might as well have said 'Des who' for all the attention she paid me.
The only good thing about losing my best friend has been the improvement in my grades. They haven't gone up by much—I still get mostly B's—but at least my parents seem happy. On the rare occasion they're home, that is. Usually, they're at the office or away on business trips.
I guess that's why I miss Megan so much; without her, I don't have anyone to talk to. I'd try making new friends, but I've gone to school with these same kids all my life. If we haven't become friends by now, it just isn't happening.
So that's why I spend all my free time at the public library. It's either that or hanging around the empty house, feeling sorry for myself. At least if I go out, I can pretend to have a life... at the library, on a Friday night, having an average time being my boring, unexceptional self.
I look around, and predictably, I'm the only person left on the second floor. It's after eight, so the library's closing soon, and here I am, studying. Meanwhile, everyone else is out partying, or having sleepovers, or doing whatever it is they do on Friday nights.
I pick up my pencil, and then promptly drop it when a crash reverberates from downstairs. It sounds like the library's front door being thrown open, followed by pounding footsteps as someone rushes into the building. Probably some kid with an overdue library book.
"No running in the library!" The librarian's half whisper, half shout carries easily from downstairs.
Whoever it is doesn't listen. The footsteps continue across the floor and then up the stairs that lead to where I'm sitting. I wait to see who it is, but then get distracted by another crash from downstairs. The library's front door is thrown open again, and someone else runs in.
"Stop!" The librarian cries, her shrill voice pleading.
This is followed by a third crash and more footsteps, but I hardly pay attention. I don't even notice that the librarian is no longer shouting, and all because the first of the three runners has reached the top of the stairs.
He's a boy—a tall, gorgeous boy a few years older than me—dressed in jeans and a plain black T-shirt. He has messy blonde hair, piercing blue eyes and the sort of looks you'd only ever see in a magazine. He's also frozen in place and staring directly at me.
I must be losing it. Hot boys don't run into the library, especially not on Friday nights. They get dragged there against their will by overzealous English teachers, usually during class time.
Maybe I'm dreaming? It wouldn't be the first time I'd fallen asleep in the middle of doing math homework. I consider pinching myself to see if I'm awake but I suddenly can't move. Not like in a bad dream, when you find yourself frozen in place and open your mouth to scream, but no sound comes out. No, it's like when a hot guy notices you, but you're too nervous to do, or say, anything.
The boy continues to stare, and I finally realize that he's probably looking at someone else. I quickly turn in my seat, expecting to see one of the Populars. Not that those girls go to the library any more than hot boys do, but maybe one got lost and wandered in. That's way more likely than a hot boy actually noticing me. Except that when I turn, there's no one behind me. I even check the floor and ceiling, in case the hot boy lost his dog, or bird, or something, but there's nothing there. I'm definitely the only living, breathing thing up here.
"I found her," the hot boy yells, his words ringing through the nearly empty building.
Found who? I wonder, staring at him in confusion. And who yells in a library?
I hear the expected shush from the librarian downstairs, followed by two more sets of footsteps. After several heartbeats, a second boy jogs up the stairs, and one glance at him makes me instantly forget the first. This new boy's also dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, but that's where the resemblance ends. He has dark brown hair with natural golden highlights and matching golden specs in his gorgeous brown eyes. Plus, he's definitely been to the library before, since he's holding a library book. He's perfect; the type of guy any girl would die to go out with. Not just because of his looks though, even if he is a god. There's something else about him. Something special.
Like his friend, the boy god is frozen in place and staring at me, his eyes boring down to my very soul. My heart races and I begin to sweat. I want to look away, but at the same time, I can't seem to stop.
Vaguely, I notice a third set of footsteps reach the top of the stairs and I somehow know that the newcomer is also staring at me. I gulp nervously, and sneak a peek at him. He's a slightly less attractive version of the boy god.
"Good to know." He smirks, and my cheeks burn. Did I just say that out loud?
The three boys exchange a look that makes me feel distinctly uncomfortable, then turn back to stare at me. My palms start to sweat. What are they looking at? Do I have a booger or drool on my face? I quickly wipe my mouth and nose with the sleeve of my hoodie, but they keep staring.
"Is that her?" the boy god whispers reverently. His voice sends shivers down my spine and I suddenly can't breathe. When he takes a hesitant step toward me, I gulp.
Her who? And why does he have to say it like that? Not like a question, really, but like he's filled with wonder and awe. Kind of like he's looking at the Queen of Populars, her body on full display in a skimpy outfit, her makeup flawless as always, and her blonde hair curled to perfection. Instead, it's just plain, boring old me, Des, 20 pounds overweight, dressed in sweats, a hoodie, no makeup, with messy brown hair pulled back in a ponytail. For a second, I feel so gross I wish I could just close my eyes and disappear.
I know these boys shouldn't be staring at me, or paying me any attention, really. Somehow, my normal, boring Friday night has turned into a fantasy only my own crazy mind could conjure... me and three hot boys at the public library.
Then the fantasy turns into a nightmare. Not the kind where the three boys suddenly grow fangs and drain me of blood. In some ways, it's even worse.
"She's beautiful. Perfect," the boy god mocks me, his words piercing my heart.
I don't even bother checking behind me this time in case he's talking about someone else. Everything's starting to make sense. I mean, why would three hot boys run into the library on a Friday night, acting like I'm the Queen of Populars? It's obvious! Megan put them up to it. Maybe she wants to score points with the Populars or maybe she actually hates me now. Best case scenario, the boys are here on a dare. They'll do something embarrassing and then they'll leave. Worst case scenario, they're here to play a prank, like pour something gross on my head or make me cry and post the picture all over the Internet.
"I'm Cars," the boy god says, all innocent like, "short for Carson."
Even though I know it's a trap, I can't help but react to his voice. My heart races and I barely hold back a sigh as I repeat his name in my head over, and over. Cars. Carson.
"What's your name?" he asks me.
"Like you don't know!" I blurt out the accusation and then realize he probably doesn't. Megan could have texted him my picture, and if she gave him my name, too, he probably just forgot. Figures.
"Who's Megan?" the blonde boy asks. "I'm Jase, by the way, and that's Gare." He gestures at Carson's look alike.
"Megan's my—was my—best friend," I whisper.
"What's going on?" Carson demands, looking from me to Jase and then back again.
"Why do you think Megan hates you?" Carson's look alike, Gare, asks me. He seems genuinely curious. Maybe he expects a tearful confession, that I stole my best friend's boyfriend or killed her puppy or something equally terrible. I wish it was that simple. At least that would explain why things turned out this way. Instead, one minute we were best friends, and the next she'd convinced these boys to play some awful prank on me.
"This isn't a prank," Jase tells me.
"Megan didn't send us," Gare adds.
For a second, I get this eerie feeling that they're reading my mind. Just me being an idiot, obviously. Of course they'd bring up Megan and say those things. She's the one who sent them here, and she'd expect me to be suspicious. Despite everything, Megan knows me better than anyone. I bet she knew what I'd be thinking right now and told the boys exactly what to say.
"We are reading your mind, at least Gare and I are." Jase deadpans. "Cars can't read you."
"Yeah, right." I laugh hesitantly and try to sound confident, but can't help the tremor in my voice. They're not reading my mind, I tell myself. That's impossible.
"We are," Gare replies, "and it isn't."
"Think of any word, and we'll repeat it," Jase suggests.
I glance down at my math homework, spread out on the table in front of me, and think 'algebra.'
"Algebra," Jase and Gare say simultaneously.
How did they do that? I glance at Cars, seeking answers, and spot him looking down at my open textbook. Well, that explains it. I roll my eyes. They saw me looking at my homework and took a not so wild guess. Well, let's see them guess this one. Geography.
"Geography," Jase tells me, shrugging. Gare nods.
I gape. Did I accidently say it aloud? Did I mouth it?
"You didn't," Gare responds to my thoughts, but it could still be a coincidence. Couldn't it?
I make sure to keep my lips firmly shut this time, and mentally shout the word kitten three times in quick succession.
"Kitten," Jase and Gare say at the same time.
That did not just happen. I must be dreaming, or maybe I've gone mental.
"You're not crazy," Gare tells me gently.
"We're here because you're 'The One'," Cars adds, taking a step toward me. His voice, and the way he says those words, like in a fantasy, makes my heart leap. It's like a dream come true, like love at first sight. Except it's all fake. Just a stupid prank.
Suddenly, I'm flooded with shame. I'm the victim of a Populars prank, in the same ranks as Sally and Jill, two girls even I won't talk to. I'm the lowest of the low. All thanks to Megan.
Jase and Gare exchange a look, and I feel even more ashamed that they might know all the things I'm thinking. The shame is quickly replaced by pain. Searing, heartbreaking pain. The pain of a best friend's betrayal coupled with the realization that a boy like Cars could never find me attractive. I want to cry. I feel tears prickling my eyes, and stumble out of my chair. There's a second staircase at the back of the library, and I head towards it. I don't even think about grabbing my stuff. I just have to get away.
"Wait," Cars cries. "Please. Don't go," he pleads, sounding wounded, like he's hurting as much as I am. That, more than anything, convinces me to stay.
"What do you want?" I whisper, trying to hold back tears.
Cars opens his mouth to speak, but Jase interrupts. "Give her the book," he orders, and I glance at the book Cars is still holding. It's a large, hard cover volume, made of darkened brown leather. The pages are trimmed in gold and glitter even in the library's fluorescent light.
"Here," Cars says, holding it out to me.
My fingers briefly graze his as I take the volume, and I feel a zap of electricity, followed by a tingling that travels through my fingertips, down my spine, all the way to my toes. They curl in my running shoes, and I draw in a sharp breath. Then, my attention shifts to the most beautiful library book I've ever seen.
"It's not a library book," Gare tells me with amusement, exchanging a glance with Jase, who looks almost offended.
"Open it," Cars and the book whisper as one. The boy god speaks the words, while the book silently beckons me, using a language as old as time. Its cover is soft against my palms and thick enough to cushion the pages. I trace my fingers along the front and then turn the book over. I discover that both sides are blank, and there's nothing written along the spine.
I hold my breath and open the book almost reverently, as is befitting of such a volume. The pages are a light shade of cream and rough to the touch. The first one is blank, and I turn it lightly. It's thicker than in most books, more durable, almost as if it's made to withstand the test of time. I don't know where that thought comes from and quickly turn to the next page, only to find that it, too, is blank. I flip through a few more pages, with the same result.
I shake my head in annoyance. I don't know why I expected the book to be special in some way, like it might hold answers. Frustrated, I have the urge to shove it back at Cars, but the feeling wars with a sudden need to beg him to let me keep it. I'm not worthy of writing in such a beautiful journal, yet I cannot bear to part with it. I've always had a soft spot for books, but this feeling is more powerful, almost overwhelming.
I tell myself to give the journal back, but my fingers refuse to listen. Instead, they flip the book open to the very middle, as if of their own accord. I gape. There, on the page, is a black and white line drawing of myself as I sat moments ago. I have my math book open in front of me, my pencil looks like it just slipped through my fingers, and I'm looking up in surprise. Just like when I first heard the library door being thrown open.
I glance at the three boys, hoping for an explanation. When I don't get one, I look back down at the page. How is this possible?
I slam the book shut and a cloud of dust flies up, making me sneeze. I look down at the book in surprise, but there isn't a fleck of dust on it. I throw it open to a random page, and there, again, is that same drawing of me.
"What's going on?" I demand and fearfully slam the book shut again. This time, I avert my gaze and avoid a face full of dust. I try to think of an explanation. Can you buy fake dust at a joke shop? And is there some new camera that lets you take pictures and instantly transfer them to paper?
"There's a prophecy," Jase says. "Open the book again."
When I do, I discover that the picture has been replaced by another. The girl still looks like me, only better. Like someone drew me as a superhero. I'm standing on a bridge, dressed in knee high boots, tight jeans, and a jacket that ends just below my waist. I'm at least twenty pounds lighter, I'm not wearing glasses, and my hair is much, much longer, almost reaching my waist. That and I'm holding a sword.
How did this drawing just appear on the same page where a picture of me at the library had been only seconds earlier? At least, I think it was on the same page. I quickly flip through the remainder of the book, but the other pages are blank.
Snap out of it, Des, I tell myself. It's just a dream.
"It's not a dream," Jase answers my thoughts.
"Her name is Des," Gare adds with a glance at Cars.
If I wasn't convinced they were reading my mind before, I definitely am now. That, and I'm holding a magic book, with pictures that appear and disappear, and clouds of dust that form seemingly out of nowhere.
"Des?" Cars whispers. My name forms a soft caress on his lips.
"Destiny." It comes out as more of a squeak and I blush. My full name is the only thing about me that isn't normal or boring, which just makes it worse, somehow.
"Destiny," Cars whispers, his eyes widening.
"Destiny!" Jase exclaims, his face transforming into the epitome of glee. Like he found out the Queen of Populars had a crush on him or he scored the game's winning touchdown. At least, those are the sorts of things I imagine would make boys this happy.
"What?" Cars asks him.
"I don't think your mate knows much about boys," Jase tells him.
"Good," Cars growls.
The possessive note in his voice makes my heart race, and it takes me a second to process the conversation. Mate? As in friend?
"Tell her," Jase orders, exchanging a brief look with Cars.
Cars nods and takes the open book from my hands. I stay frozen, staring at him as he sets it down next to my math textbook. Finally, Cars takes my hands gently in his and sparks fly.
"Des. Destiny. The prophecy has spoken of you for generations," Cars tells me, looking dead serious. "You will lead our people against the Rogues." He squeezes my hands. "Their defeat will mark a new beginning for our people."
I stare at Cars, wide eyed. Mate? Prophecy? Rogues? Me leading his people? The whole thing reminds me of something I'd read in a novel. Like I'd ever buy that the boys are werewolves.
"Vampires, actually," Gare tells me.
"You couldn't wait?" Cars growls at his friend.
"Brother," Gare announces, but I'm so focused on the word 'vampires' that it takes me several seconds to realize he's correcting me.
"Will you stop reading her mind?" Cars growls. "It's like you're having a silent conversation I'm not a part of."
"Sorry," Gare replies with a sheepish grin.
I guess Cars really can't read my mind like the other two. Wait, what am I saying? When did I go from 'Megan's prank' to 'mind reading vampires bearing a prophecy?'
"She's ready for proof," Jase announces.
Cars shrugs, opens his mouth, and I scream.
"Is everything alright?" The librarian shouts from downstairs.
"Yes, Miss," I call down automatically. "Sorry, Miss."
Then, I just stand there staring at Cars's fangs and wondering if things would ever be alright again. I'm not stupid. I know you can get fake fangs at a costume shop. I've seen enough of them on Halloween to know better. Cars's fangs are nothing like that though. They look... real. Plus, they're moving, retracting and extending, in and out, over and over again. Perhaps it's an automatic gadget of some sort, stuck on a loop?
"Stop," Jase orders.
Cars stops, his fangs only half out, and looks to Jase for further instructions. Then he looks back at me, pulls out his fangs all the way, and smiles hesitantly. I want to reach out and touch them, but now that I'm starting to believe in vampires, I panic. What if Cars tries to bite me? I could scream bloody murder while they suck me dry, and I bet the librarian would just yell 'keep it down' and not even bother to come up here and check on me.
"We're not going to bite you," Jase tells me.
Cars glares at him and turns to me. "Not until you're ready."
"Ready?" I squeak.
"To turn," Cars explains.
"To become one of us," Jase adds, as if I needed the clarification. He shrugs.
"You want to make me into a vampire?" Definitely words I never thought I'd speak aloud in this lifetime.
"You're our fated queen," Cars says matter of factly.
"Queen?" I gape. They actually want me to rule over all vampires? Me?
"Cars is our king," Jase explains. "I'm his elder... his advisor," he clarifies at my confused expression, "and his brother is his most trusted ally."
I stare. If Cars is King, and they think I'm their Queen, does that mean Cars and I would be together? And on another note, who would make a teenage boy a king? And call another teenage boy an elder?
"Cars is almost two hundred now," Jase tells me. "I am, of course, much, much older. I was elder to his sire, and his sire before him."
I look at Gare, wondering how old he is.
"Only a year younger than Cars," Gare answers and I realize I'm no longer surprised about the mind reading, or the fangs, or the magic book. I do think the boys have the wrong girl though. There's no way I'm destined to lead the vampires.
"The book is never wrong." Jase shakes his head. "Never. And Cars cannot read you. That's a sure sign, if nothing else."
I process everything and then reach for the book. I flip it open to the middle, and find that the previous two sketches have been replaced with a new one. This time, it's me and Cars, holding hands and staring dreamily into each other's eyes. I look at it for several seconds, then gently close the book and place it back on the table.
"Do you believe me?" Cars whispers.
Slowly, I nod. It seems like a fantasy. That I—normal, boring Des, a girl the Populars wouldn't be caught dead with—am meant to fulfill an extraordinary prophecy. Destined to become the Queen of Vampires. Soon... once Cars bites me. I tremble at the thought.
"It won't hurt," Jase assures me.
I nod, take a deep breath, and tilt my head slightly to my left, baring my neck. I don't know why I do it without thinking things through. I'm not usually the impulsive type. Maybe it's instinct or maybe I'm just crazy, but whatever the reason, I'm all in.
Cars's eyes widen and he takes a step forward, only to freeze as a cough sounds through the library's PA system.
"The library will be closing in thirty minutes," the librarian's voice rings through the building.
We stay silent for several heartbeats once she finishes her announcement.
"Are you sure?" Cars finally whispers.
I nod, and Cars looks like the weight of the world has lifted off his shoulders. He stands taller, all hesitation gone, and takes one final step towards me. Closing the distance, he gently presses his lips against my neck.
My eyelids drift shut and I give myself to him, body, heart and soul.
"My Destiny," Cars whispers, his breath caressing my neck and sending shivers down my spine. "Mine." He groans, and I feel his teeth, two needles piercing skin.
For a brief second, I have the urge to struggle, but then magic fills my veins. It touches my teeth, turning them into fangs, and then keeps moving through the rest of my body. My senses heighten, but instead of pain, I only feel a tingling pleasure.
When it's done, I know I'm a vampire, as surely as I know I'm Des. Destiny. Queen of Vampires.
I hear the slight whoosh of Cars's fangs sliding back in, and a myriad of noises assail me. My eyes remain closed, but I can sense the exact spot where Jase and Gare are standing, can hear them inhaling and exhaling. Then, there's more. The librarian shuffling papers one floor below, followed by the light clicking of her computer mouse; the flipping of a page by a reader I hadn't realized was still downstairs in the library; and then footsteps, outside, across the street.
"Breathe," Jase orders, and I realize that I have Cars's arm in a death grip. I relax, inhale, and all the noises blend into a soft hum.
That's when my sweatpants suddenly start to slide down my hips. Thankfully, I manage to let go of Cars's arm and grab them at the last second. It's bizarre, like they've suddenly grown... or I've shrunk.
"It's part of the turn," Jase tells me.
I open my eyes to look at him and everything starts to spin.
"What's wrong?" Cars panics as I grip his arm and sway on my feet. "Does she need blood?" I feel more than see him turn toward Jase.
"It's her glasses," Jase replies. "Take them off."
I do, and realize I can see perfectly without them! I wish I had a mirror so I could see what I look like and suddenly realize I've got the next best thing. I grab my backpack off the floor and rummage inside for my cell phone. When I find it, I swipe across the screen and launch the front camera.
I look at myself, taking stock of the differences. My face is less chubby and I actually look... good. Now, fangs! I grin, but while my teeth look a lot whiter, they're still human.
"You'll need to learn to use them," Jase explains.
I nod and scan the rest of my face. My lashes look longer, thicker. Like I'm wearing mascara, only better. My lips are rosier, cheeks too, and oh! My hair seems so much softer! I undo my ponytail and notice it's fuller, with a slight curl to it. I wonder if Megan will like me now that I'm pretty.
"This Megan isn't good enough for you," Jase tells me.
I want to believe him, but I've spent so long thinking I wasn't good enough for her... wasn't good enough for anyone.
"You must forget about Megan and focus on the prophecy," Jase tells me. "Hundreds of your kind have spent years waiting for their queen... for you. This Megan is nothing to you, to our people."
And yet she's my only friend.
"You have us now," Gare tells me, and I realize that I do. I have him, and Jase, and Cars. Still, I can't help it if a part of me wishes I had Megan too.
Maybe if I just went to see her, or, wait, would I be able to read mind her mind?
"With some practice," Gare tells me.
"Humans are always easier to read," Jase adds, "but it's possible to read others of our kind, too."
I turn to Cars. "I won't be able to read your mind, right?"
"Nope," he grins.
I smile back, but my thoughts drift back to Megan. Once I can read minds, I'll go see her. At least I'll know where we went wrong, and maybe we can even be friends again, now that I look like one of the Populars.
"Our kind looks like the best version of ourselves," Jase lectures, "but the turn can't fix your soul. You create your own inner beauty."
"You were beautiful from the moment I laid eyes on you," Cars whispers, turning me to face him, and I forget all about Megan. "Now you're just the best version of you. There is no one else I'd rather have as my queen."
"Are you sure?" I whisper.
"Yes." He says it as if it's the simplest thing in the world, and my insecurities slowly drift away.
It warms my heart that he wants me. That he thinks I can do this.
"I was sure," Cars continues, "since the moment our eyes met. I felt the connection, feel it now every time I look at you."
I know his words are true, down to my very soul.
"Me too," I whisper.
Cars takes a step toward me, stopping when we're toe to toe. He looks down at me lovingly and caresses my cheek. His fingers are both hard and soft against my skin, and my heart races as he leans closer, until our lips almost touch.
"You're so beautiful," Cars breathes the words against my lips. "Inside and out."
As our lips touch in a searing kiss, I finally start to believe.