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Prom Nights from Hell (Chapter Six)

I'm too stunned to do anything to stop him, really. Well, okay, as the initial shock of it is wearing off, I find I don't want to stop him. I'm stunned to realize that… well, I like how it feels, being in Adam's arms. It feels good. It feels safe. It feels warm. It feels… well, almost as if I were a normal girl, for a change.

Not the new girl. Not the exterminator's daughter. Just… me. Mary.

It's a feeling I could get used to.

"Mary," Adam says. He's so much taller than me that his breath tickles the tendrils that have fallen from the updo that I've twisted my hair into. I don't mind, though, because his breath smells good.

I look up at him dreamily. I can't believe I never noticed-really noticed-how handsome he is before now. Well, last night, actually. Or maybe I noticed, but it never really registered, because what would a guy like him ever see in a girl like me? In a million years, I never thought I'd end up at the prom with Adam Blum…

And okay, sure, he only asked me because he obviously feels sorry for me, on account of my mother being a vampire and all. But still.

"Hmmm?" I say, smiling up at him.

"Uh." Adam seems uncomfortable, for some reason. "I was wondering if-you know, when this is all over, and you've dusted Drake, and Lila and Ted are back together-you'd want to, um…"

Oh God. What's happening? Is he… is he about to ask me out?. Like on a real date? One that doesn't include sharp, pointy objects?

No. This isn't happening. This is a dream or something. In a minute, I'm going to wake up, and it's all going to go away. Because how could such a thing even be possible? I can't breathe, I'm so sure I'll break whatever spell we're both under if I do…

"Yes, Adam?" I ask.

"Well." He can't seem to make eye contact anymore. "Just if you'd want to, you know, maybe hang out-"

"Excuse me." The deep voice that interrupts Adam then is all too familiar. "But may I have this dance?"

I close my eyes in frustration. I cannot believe this. I am never going to get a guy I actually like to ask me out at this rate. Never. Never. Never. I am going to stay a freak-the product of similar freaks-for the rest of my life. Why would a guy like Adam Blum ever want to go out with me in the first place? The child of a vampire and a mad scientist? Let's face it. Not going to happen.

And I've had it. I've had it up to here.

"Listen, you," I say, whirling around to face Sebastian Drake, whose blue eyes widen a little at the fire in mine. "How dare you come oozing around…"

But then my voice trails off. Because suddenly all I can see are those eyes…

… those hypnotically blue eyes, which suddenly make me feel like I could dive into them, letting their warmth wash over me in sweet, soft waves…

It's true he's no Adam Blum. But he's looking at me in a way that makes it clear he knows that, and that he's sorry for it, and that he's going to do everything he can to make it up to me… more than make it up to me, even…

And the next thing I know, Sebastian Drake is taking me into his arms-gently, so gently-and leading me from the dance floor toward a set of French doors through which I can see a night-darkened garden, bathed in twinkling fairy lights and moonlight… just the kind of place to which you'd expect to be led by the golden-haired descendant of a Transylvanian count.

"I'm so glad we finally have the chance to meet," Sebastian is saying to me in a voice that seems to caress me like a feather-soft touch. Everyone and everything we've left behind us-the other couples; Adam; a stunned Lila, staring after us jealously; Ted, staring jealously at her; even the streamers and rosettes-seems to melt away as if all that exists in the world is me, the garden that I find myself in, and Sebastian Drake.

Who is reaching up to smooth some loose tendrils away from my face.

In a dim, inner recess of my mind, I remember that I'm supposed to be afraid of him… to hate him, even. Only I can't think why. How could I possibly hate someone as handsome and sweet and gentle as he is? He wants to make me feel better. He wants to help me.

"You see?" Sebastian Drake is saying, as he lifts one of my hands and presses it, softly, against his lips. "I'm not so terrifying, am I? I'm just like you, actually. Just the child of-let's face it-a very formidable person, who's trying to figure out his own place in the world. We have our burdens, do we not, you and I, Mary? Your mother says hello, by the way."

"M-my mother?" My brain seems to be as filled with fog as this garden we're standing in. Because while I can picture my mother's face, I can't remember how Sebastian Drake could possibly know her.

"Yes," Sebastian says, his lips now moving from my hand and up toward the crook of my elbow. His mouth feels like liquid fire against my skin. "She misses you, you know. She doesn't understand why you won't join her. She's so happy now… she doesn't know the pain of illness… or the indignity of aging… or the heartbreak of loneliness." His lips are on my bare shoulder now. I'm having trouble breathing. But in a good way. "She is surrounded by beauty and love… just like you could be, Mary." His lips are by my throat. His breath, so warm, has seemed to cause my spine to go limp. But it's all right, because one of his strong arms has gone around my waist, and he's holding me up, even as my body, as if of its own volition, is arching backward, allowing him an unobstructed view of my bare throat.

"Mary," he whispers against my neck.

And I feel so peaceful, so serene-something I haven't felt in years, not since Mom left-that my eyelids drift closed…

And the next thing I know, something cold and wet hits me in the neck.

"Ow," I say, opening my eyes and slapping a hand there… then pulling it away to find my fingers slick with some kind of clear moisture.

"Sorry," Adam calls from where he's standing a few feet away, his arms stretched out in front of him, the mouth of his Beretta 9mm water pistol aimed right at me. "I missed."

A second later, I am gasping for air as a thick cloud of acrid, burning smoke hits me in the face. Coughing, I stagger away from the man who, just seconds before, had been holding me so tenderly, but is now clutching at his smoldering chest.

"Wha-" Sebastian Drake gasps, pounding at the flames leaping from his chest. "What is this?"

"Just a little holy water, dude," Adam says, as he continues pumping away at Drake's chest. "Shouldn't bother you. Unless, of course, you're a member of the undead. Which, unfortunately for you, it appears you are."

And a second later, I've come back to my senses and am reaching beneath my skirt for my stake.

"Sebastian Drake," I hiss, as he sinks to his knees before me, howling in pain. And rage. "This is for my mother."

And I plunge the hand-carved piece of ash deep into the place where his heart would have been.

If he'd had one.

"Ted," Lila says, in a syrupy voice, as her boyfriend lies across the contoured plastic bench with his head in her lap.

"Yes?" Ted asks, looking up at her adoringly.

"No," Lila says. "That's what I'm getting for my tattoo next time I'm in Canc��n. Across the small of my back. The word Ted. So from now on, everyone will know I belong to you."

"Oh, honey," Ted says. And pulls her head down so he can stick his tongue in her mouth.

"Oh my God," I say, looking away.

"I know." Adam's returned from throwing a glow-in-the-dark twelve-pound bowling ball down the disco-lit lane. "I almost liked her better when she was under Drake's spell. But I guess it works out better this way. Ted'll hurt a lot less than Sebastian. That was a strike, by the way. In case you missed it." He slides onto the bench beside me and looks down at the scoring sheet in the glow of the lamp just above my head. "Well, what do you know? I'm winning."

"Don't get cocky," I say. Although I have to admit, he has a lot to brag about. Not just winning at Night Strike bowling, either.

"Just tell me," I say as he reaches up and finally pulls off his bow tie. Even in the weird disco lights of Bowlmor Lanes-the bowling alley where we'd retreated for our post-prom activities, a mere nine-dollar cab ride from the Waldorf-Adam still looks obscenely handsome. "Where'd you get the holy water?"

"You gave a bunch of it to Ted," Adam says, looking down at me in some surprise. "Remember?"

"But how'd you get the idea to put it in the water gun?" I demand. I'm still reeling from the evening's earlier activities. Midnight bowling is fun and all. But nothing can really compare with slaying a two-hundred-year-old vampire at the prom.

Too bad he'd fizzled into ash out in the garden, where no one but Adam and I could see it. We'd have been voted prom king and queen for sure, instead of Lila and Ted, who are both still wearing their crowns… although they've tilted a little rakishly, due to all the kissing.

"I don't know, Mare," Adam says, filling in his own score. "It just seemed like a good idea at the time."

Mare. No one has ever called me Mare before.

"But how did you know?" I ask. "I mean, that Drake had-well, whatever? I mean, how could you tell that I wasn't faking it? To lull him into a false sense of security?"

"You mean besides the fact that he was about to bite you on the neck?" Adam raises a single dark brow. "And that you weren't doing a damned thing to stop him? Yeah, I had a pretty good idea of what was going on."

"I'd have snapped out of it," I assure him, with a confidence I most definitely do not feel, "as soon as I felt his teeth."

"No," Adam says. Now he's grinning down at me, his face illuminated by the light from the scoring desk's single lamp. The rest of the bowling alley is in darkness, except for the balls and pins, which glow with an eerie fluorescence. "You wouldn't have. Admit it, Mary. You needed me back there."

His face is so close to mine-closer than Sebastian Drake's ever got.

Only instead of feeling as if I could dive into his gaze, I feel as if I'm about to melt under it. My heartbeat staggers.

"Yeah," I say, unable to keep my gaze from drifting toward his lips. "I guess I kinda did."

"We make a good team," Adam says. His own gaze, I can't help noticing, isn't straying far from my mouth, either. "Wouldn't you say? I mean, especially in light of the coming apocalyptic event? When Drake's dad finds out what we did tonight?"

I can't help gasping a little at that.

"That's right," I cry. "Oh, Adam! He's not just going to come after me. He's going to come after you, too!"

"You know," Adam says. And now his gaze has drifted from my mouth, and downward. "I really do like that dress. It goes great with bowling shoes."

"Adam," I say. "This is serious! Dracula could be getting ready to descend upon Manhattan at any moment, and we're wasting time bowling! We've got to start getting ready! We need to prepare a counterattack. We need to-"

"Mary," Adam says. "Dracula can wait."

"But-"

"Mary," Adam says. "Shut up." And I do. Because I'm too busy kissing him back to do anything else.

Besides, he's right. Dracula can wait.

true

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