A/N: Guys xD I made such a stupid mistake last night. I went to replace last chapter due to a typo I found and accidentally uploaded the wrong document! LOL. I only realized after I received a very upset, very confused guest review. I'm so sorry! But all is well now, I've corrected my error, and I'll definitely be more careful from now on… Haha. (And by the way, Guest, that chapter does have a story all its own, thanks ;) )
"Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" by John Legend inspired this epilogue.
The long day away from Beau was entirely worth the expression on his face when we were finally reunited.
"Wow," he breathed as I descended the wide staircase to the first level of my parents' house.
"Hmm," I murmured, appraising the fine cut of his tailored tuxedo, the way it streamlined the shape of his shoulders and chest. The dark blue color made the shade in his eyes extraordinarily vivid. He looked absolutely dashing. "I was just going to say the same thing."
I smiled up into his face as my feet touched the wooden floor. Archie had special ordered my champagne-colored gown from New York. It had cost extra to expedite, but money was no obstacle for Archie—not when it came to realizing his visions.
Now, he applauded slowly from the dining room archway.
"Yep," he said, stepping forward. He was already dressed in his own tuxedo—it hinted at the fashion trends from the fifties, the era of his change, but it was also modern enough to pass for fashionable in this era—a requirement, in Archie's case. "Perfect. Just perfect. Give her a little spin there for me, Beau."
Beau looked away from my face at Archie, our hands interlocked between us. "What?"
Archie folded his arms and rolled his eyes. He tapped his foot impatiently. "Oh, come on. Just do it."
I giggled softly, humoring him, and lifted our interlocked hands. I ducked underneath Beau's arm and twirled. The gauzy tulle skirt fanned out daintily as I spun, revealing the embellished, crystal studded heels underneath. I had never had reason before to dress up for such an occasion—weddings, yes, but this was different—and it was surprisingly fun.
Jessamine came up behind Archie then, in her own lilac prom gown.
"Hmm," she said, appraising the two of us, "I wondered how the champagne and navy blue would work together—but they fit perfectly." She leaned up to peck Archie on the cheek. "Wonderful job, my love."
Archie grinned. "Do I ever accomplish anything less than perfect?" he joked.
I laughed, but Beau was silent and stock-still. I heard his heartbeat accelerate for several paces, and when I looked back up into his face, it was flushed with blood. His eyes were wide and fixed.
"No," he said. "No way."
I fluttered my lashes at him, feigning innocence. "What is it, Beau?"
His mouth opened and shut a few times, and then he barely croaked, "Prom?"
"Honestly, dude? Where did you think she was taking you?"
Beau stuttered a few indiscernible sentences. Archie and Jessamine took their leave, and measuredly, I slid my fingers back into his. He was staring at the spot my brother and sister had just vacated—I was worried he might be having some sort of aneurysm or stroke.
His eyes flickered back to my face. "What?"
"Humor me?" I cued up the dimples, knowing it would help to assuage his panic—grounded in whatever foundationless reasoning as it was.
He sighed in resignation. "Fine."
I smirked at him. "Well, let's go then. We don't want to be late."
"Yeah," he muttered as I took his hand and helped him out the door. "What a shame that would be…" He stopped on the porch, taking in the car parked in front of the house.
"How many cars do you own?"
I grinned at him, exhilarated now. It was a wonderful night—pleasantly warm for late May—but cloudy enough that the fading light of the sun would not trigger any reaction in my skin. It was not raining, and it had stayed relatively dry the entire day, so it was just a perfect night as any to take her out.
"Do you like her?" I asked as I aided him down the steps. I rarely found a chance to drive my '59 Jaguar FX—because it was both ostentatious, and delicate as far as cars went. Adding its color—white—into the equation did not help matters. But she sparkled as brightly as the moon now. The white hub cabs shone dimly, the chrome fixings glossy and bright.
"She's… Something," Beau said as I guided him toward the passenger door and helped him inside. Of course, his leg was still casted, as was his arm, but his other injuries had healed sufficiently, and the bones would mend in a matter of weeks.
Once he was situated and buckled, I headed for the school.
Most of the drive was spent in silence, and each time I risked a quick glance over at his face, his expression was sullen and drawn. He stared out the passenger window with his good arm crossed over the one slung to his chest for most of the journey.
"Nervous?" I asked him when we pulled into the lot.
His eyes lingered on the elaborate entrance, strung through with fairy lights and tulle, a photographer stationed near the front door.
"No," he said immediately, but his heart was pounding a furious, tympanic rhythm, and his knee was bouncing.
I had to bite the inside of my cheek to hold back my amused grin at his blatant lie. "When someone wants to kill you, you're brave as a lion—dancing on the other hand…" I rolled my eyes.
Beau gulped loudly, anxiety flashing across his face. "You never said anything about dancing," he very nearly wheezed.
I got out of the car and went around to his side. I pulled open the door and took his face in my hands, leaning in close.
"Beau," I breathed, purposefully exhaling my breath into his face, knowing my scent would distract him, if not calm him. In response, his lips parted and his eyes unfocused, just slightly.
"I won't let anything hurt you—not even yourself. I won't leave your side even once, I promise." I made my eyes wide and soft and vulnerable, and my voice low and soothing.
He mulled this over, seeming placated, if not swayed in the right direction. I heard his thrumming heart slow into a calmer pace.
"There, now," I said, pleased, "it won't be so bad."
I propped my hand underneath his elbow, and he did not resist when I pulled him from his seat. I wound my arm through his and let him lean heavily on me as we made our way toward the door. We stopped for the photographer to snap a picture, and then eased our way inside.
A burst of incredulous laughter escaped Beau's lips as he took in the gym—balloon garlands and crepe paper galore, as well as the long refreshment table at the end. Over the dance floor, fairy lights were strung in an elaborate pattern. Copious couples, including my brothers and sisters, danced to the pulsing music.
"This looks like a horror movie waiting to happen," he muttered under his breath.
My siblings, across the room, heard him clearly, and Archie guffawed.
"Well," I responded lowly as we shuffled forward in line—I supported most of his weight, leaving him with just enough gravity to shuffle his feet forward so it looked like he was walking on the one tasteful designer leather shoe and air boot. "There are more than enough vampires present for that."
Beau's eyes slid over my head, lingering on the dance floor. I knew without looking what he was seeing—not because I could read his mind, but because I could read the minds of every child in the room around us. The dancers had made a wide semi-circle around my siblings, who whirled and twirled together gracefully in the middle of the dance floor. I suppressed the urge to roll my eyes at their theatrics.
Beau turned back to me, clear intimidation and anxiety rolling across his features. He bowed toward me.
"Want me to lock the doors so you can massacre everybody?"
I sighed through my nose, narrowing my eyes at him. I didn't appreciate the joke, but at the same time, I found myself muffling a smile. "And where do you belong in that scheme?"
"I'm with the vampires—no doubt about it." He grinned at me.
This time, I couldn't fight the smile that carved its way across my lips. "Anything to get out of dancing."
"You know it."
We were at the front of the line now, and I purchased our tickets, and then pivoted Beau toward the dance floor. He flinched, as if the prospect caused him physical pain.
I sighed and crossed my arms. "You're really going to deny your girlfriend a dance at the prom?"
He appraised me out of the corners of his eyes, the corners of his lips turning down. "Not fair."
I grinned and leaned up to brush my lips underneath the edge of his jaw, inhaling fire. "I never said I played fair," I breathed into his ear.
Beau groaned quietly. "Fine," he relented, letting me take his hand and guide him out onto the dance floor. "But if I break my other leg, I'm blaming it on you."
I laughed blithely, as we reached the place where my siblings were waltzing gracefully, and revolved to face him.
"You might not be able to dance," I murmured, pulling his unbroken arm around me and planting his hand on my lower back, "But I can." I snaked one arm around his shoulders, and rested the other over his beating heart. Smoothly, I led him into a slow, easy waltz.
"I don't think that helps me," he replied, his voice shaking just slightly.
"Don't worry," I encouraged him, "It's all in the leading."
I kept my dancing simple and rhythmic, so that he could keep up. He was far better at this than he gave himself credit for, I realized, as I led him smoothly around the dance floor—even in a booted cast and with one arm pinned to his chest.
It didn't take long for me to be able to sink into the moment. Beau kept his eyes fixed mostly on our feet, which gave me full liberty to stare at his face. There was a slight 'v' shaped crease between his brows, which I had noticed tended to happen when he was concentrating on something with particular vigor. It had happened as he'd learned to walk with the new cast, and as we'd sat at his father's kitchen table together many evenings, as I helped him catch up on the homework he'd missed while in the hospital.
Beau had been released from the hospital less than a week after he'd woke from the sedation, and Charlie had been exceedingly grateful for both Archie's presence and mine. It caused me physical pain to be away from my love, so for the past few weeks, the only times I'd left him had been to hunt. While I wasn't there, Archie usually was—and Charlie was appreciative of the help. Archie had been there to help Beau dress and shower and maneuver his way up and down the stairs—doing all the things Charlie would have otherwise had to help Beau with.
They'd spent the entire afternoon together today while I prepared myself for tonight's festivities alongside my sisters. It had been a very different experience for me, to be able to ready myself for prom—to do my hair and nails and makeup, to put on a pretty dress and high heels. I was showing more skin than I was used to in the pretty strapless silk and tulle gown, but I was surprised to feel that I felt very comfortable, especially underneath Beau's appreciative gaze.
I drank in his apparel myself. He most likely did not know the lengths Archie had gone to custom-fit the designer tux he'd ordered for Beau—and truly, it fit him perfectly. Every inseam, every curve, it accentuated his figure perfectly. There was something undeniably delicious about Beau in a tuxedo—and it had nothing to do with the scent of his blood.
A very familiar, heady sensation welled up inside me as we swayed together, faces close, bodies closer. The scent of his skin and his blood and his hair wound in a perfumed cloud around me, and my throat was not the only thing on fire.
And then a very familiar mind broke through my blissful reverie…
Ugh. I'm so embarrassed to be here. This dress is way too small, and everyone's looking at me… Ugh. But there he is—ohmigod, he looks amazing… A girlish sigh sounded in Julie Black's head, and possessive anger overwhelmed me. Not only was she here to see Beau, but she was here in attempts to separate him from me.
I hate to do this, but Mom promised… And I really need that cylinder…
"Okay," Beau admitted, warm breath washing deliciously over my jaw and throat, "This isn't half bad."
But I didn't answer him. I had my eyes fixed on the object of my disdain. Julie Black stood in the open gym doors, dark silky hair swirling around her shoulders, wearing a simple black dress that was much too short. Her eyes fixed on mine for a short second, and her chin jutted out stubbornly.
Abruptly, her thoughts were stubborn and arrogant and competitive. She began making her way toward us, the soles of her black Converse slapping against the shiny parquet floor.
"What are you looking at?" Beau said now, following my gaze. "Oh."
Ugh, here goes… Maybe I can steal a dance…?
I hissed, very quietly, and Beau glanced down at me, surprise on his face.
"Hey," he muttered chidingly.
"She wants to talk with you," I told him scathingly, my eyes fixed on the young, russet-skinned girl slipping her way through the crowds of dancers toward us. Her nervous eyes were fixed on Beau, but every once in a while they flickered to my own face.
I don't know about this… I really don't… But Mom seemed pretty serious… Is it really superstitions? Now that I look at her, that little redhead really gives me the creeps…
She suppressed a shudder.
"Hey, Jules," Beau greeted her, immediately amicable. His grip on me loosened slightly. I hooked my pinky into the material of his jacket, not willing to let him go. "What are you doing here?"
Jules offered him a shy smile, and then looked at me again. She hesitated, not sure how to ask.
Reluctantly, I released my hold on him, making sure he was balanced, and then took a step back. "I'll give you a minute," I told him, and left the two to chat.
I took up a position on the back wall, hidden in the shadows just past the strobe lights and disco balls, and watched as they made their way slowly toward a free table. Beau hobbled along, and Julie Black's hands fluttered uselessly. I rolled my eyes and made a small sound of disgust in the back of my throat.
She shifted back and forth between the desire to help and the giddy nervousness of a teenage girl infatuated.
Beau dropped into the closest seat, and some of the muscles in my shoulders relaxed when I saw that he was out of harms' way—for now. Julie took the seat beside him, and tugged at the hem of her dress self-consciously.
A long, quiet moment passed between them.
"So," Beau finally urged, "You never told me how you ended up here. Gate crashing or something?"
Julie laughed humorlessly. I wish. "Nah… My mom, um, kind of asked me to come… Said she'd get me that master cylinder I've been looking for if I delivered a message…" Her face was bright red, and her eyes shifted nervously. She was looking anywhere but at Beau.
"A message?" There was a tinge of humorous disbelief in Beau's voice.
Julie shook her head, unimpressed and infuriated with her mother. "She said it was a 'safe' place to talk to you… I swear, that old bat has lost her mind."
They laughed together, though Beau sounded a little weak. I stared at the back of his head anxiously.
"Anyway—" Julie went on, "Um, don't be mad, okay?" She met his eyes now, thoughts repentive and mortified.
"Hey," Beau told her soothingly, reaching across the table to touch her shoulder. Her heart reacted to this, as well as her thoughts, and I snarled quietly. "I won't be mad at you. Just say what you need to say."
She sighed. "This is so stupid, I'm sorry, Beau, but—she wants you to break up with your girlfriend…" Her nose wrinkled. "She asked me to tell you 'please'." She shook her head, disgusted, remembering her mother's imploring expression and emphatic words.
Beau laughed shortly. "Still superstitious, hey?"
"It's completely ridiculous," Julie blurted, "As if it's any of her business, but…" She shrugged, "I don't know… She was really upset when you got hurt down in Phoenix. She didn't believe the whole…"
"I fell," Beau interrupted quickly. I could read the lie in the tone of his voice. Could she?
"Yeah, that's what Charlie said…" She trailed off again, wishing she hadn't had to have done this, wishing she could have seen Beau under more casual circumstances. "I don't know… She thinks—"
"What? That Edythe had something to do with it?" His voice was shorter now, clipped. This pleased me, just slightly.
"I told her," Julie mumbled, "She's crazy—doesn't know what she's talking about."
Beau sighed. "Tell your mom something for me, would you?"
"Sure." She met his gaze again, relieved that he didn't seem angry with her.
"Tell her that if it wasn't for Edythe and her mom, I probably wouldn't be here right now."
I flinched. It was true—I had helped to save his life, but if it had been up to me, he never would have found himself in such a predicament in the first place.
"Yeah…" Julie said now, "I'll tell her… Um…"
"What is it, Jules?" he asked, mirth in his voice, "Spit it out." He didn't sound bothered by the Blacks' warning in the least.
Julie exhaled heavily. "Don't take this personally—seriously don't—but…" She groaned. "She told me to tell you 'We'll be watching'." She turned the quotation into a raspy intonation, resembling that of a witch, and Beau laughed again. She joined in uneasily.
"Sorry you had to do this, Jules—really, I am."
"Thanks," she mumbled.
"And tell your mom thanks, for me, too. I know she's just looking out for me or whatever. So… Tell her that."
I hurried around the edge of the dance floor as their conversation came to a close.
"So, uh, can I get you a drink or something?" Julie offered.
"That's quite all right," I interrupted, coming up behind her chair. "I'll take it from here."
Julie jumped and whipped her head toward me, watching me with wary eyes as I moved to stand beside Beau's chair, clutching the back with a possessive hand.
"Jeez—you're quiet," she said to me, eyes still wide. Her heart thrummed a little faster than was usual—instinct. "Um, I guess I'll see you around, Beau." She got to her feet, knocking a knee against the underside of the table. She scrambled to steady it before the centerpiece could careen off the end and crash to the floor. "Oops!" Her face went red with embarrassment.
I watched her silently, waiting for her to leave.
Julie's eyes flickered back and forth between us.
Beau smiled at her, pretending he hadn't witnessed her clumsiness. For some reason, this irked me—their odd camaraderie, their odd shared struggles. It made me jealous.
"Yeah," he said to her now, "See you later."
"Sorry again," she said, and then turned and headed toward the door, relief and humiliation coursing through her thoughts.
I slid into Beau's lap and twined my arms around his neck. Another song was starting, but I didn't move to pull him out onto the dance floor again. Instead, I tucked my head under his chin, pressing my ear to his thumping, steady heart.
"Still mad?" he murmured into my hair.
"Yes," I confessed, "Julie Black is… Irritating."
Beau pulled back, and I leaned up to look at him. "Why?"
"First of all, she made me break my promise to you."
His brows creased together in confusion.
"I promised I wouldn't leave your side tonight," I elaborated with a smirk.
Beau rolled his eyes. "Oh, that. Don't worry about it."
I smiled at him. "Thank you."
And then I leaned down and rested my head on his shoulder again.
We sat together in the cloth-draped chair for a long moment, watching the elaborately dressed couples whirl together on the dance floor, swaying to the soft, romantic music underneath the fairy lights.
"So," he finally said, his voice quiet and contemplative, "Are you going to tell me why you dragged me here?"
I laughed and pressed my lips chastely to the edge of his jaw. "I don't think so. It's a secret," I teased.
"We don't keep secrets from each other," he said pointedly.
I pulled back to look at him for a long moment. "Tell me, then," I finally requested, knowing I was sure to meet some resistance from him regarding this particular topic, "What did you think we were getting so dressed up for, tonight?"
He blinked, cheeks going scarlet. I arced an eyebrow at him.
"It's a secret," he muttered.
I stared at his averted eyes for a very long moment. Finally, he relented, and brought his gaze to mine once more.
"Is there any chance at all you'll divulge that sacred information to me?" I asked him.
His lips tightened into a thin white line. "Not a chance."
"Not even if I tell you mine?"
Reluctantly, it looked like, he looked into my face once more. I could see the leeway I'd gained, and I smiled triumphantly, and then got to my feet.
"Come with me," I said, holding out my hand.
He sighed and took it, allowing me to pull him to his feet. We made our way through the crowd and out the gym doors. I walked him across campus until we were back at the car, and settled him onto the glistening hood. It was dark now, the moon piercing through the gauzy clouds above us. I could even make out some of the constellations.
I eased myself onto the hood next to him and stared up at the sky for a long moment. Beau reached up to twist a tendril of hair that had escaped from my up-do behind my ear.
His fingers lingered on my shoulder, and I could feel his probing eyes on my face.
Finally, I turned to look at him. I could feel the intense vulnerability in my eyes as I stared into his sweet, youthful face.
"I brought you to prom," I began slowly, "because I don't want you to miss anything. I don't want my presence to take anything away from you, if I can help it. I want you to be human. I want your life to continue as it would have if I'd died in nineteen-eighteen like I should have."
Again, the familiar battle raged inside of me. With everything I had, I wanted him to live a life worthy of being human—I wanted him to experience all the best parts of it. But with all of my being, I wanted him, I wanted to stay by his side forever, to steal his attention and time and affections. It was something I didn't deserve, but I did desire it, with equal force. The two sides raged inside me, neither backing down, neither coming to any sort of supposition.
Surprisingly, Beau laughed. "In what strange twilight zone would I ever have gone to prom by my own choice?"
I smiled briefly at him. "It wasn't so bad, you said so yourself."
"Because I was with you."
The next few moments passed in silence, and I lifted my eyes to the dimly glittering stars again.
"I don't want that part to end," he murmured lowly after a long moment.
I turned my face toward him, and found him staring at me intently, eyes blazing with some ferocious emotion I couldn't decipher. "What part?"
"The part where I'm with you," he said, and twined his fingers between mine, where they were folded loosely in my lap. "Forever."
His words elicited an acute ache, deep in my stomach. They caused me physical pain and angst.
How could he be willing to make such a large sacrifice, for the sake of being with me? I was equally touched and pained by his admission, wishing that it could be true, and at the very same time, knowing it could never be. I understood his willingness, because if I were the human, I would be willing to make the same sacrifice for him. Yes, I could understand it; but I could not accept it.
He was willing to give up his life for me—every single vestige of it—how could I not be touched by his willingness to make that gesture? Touched I could be, certainly, but it was another matter altogether to see the matter to its fruition.
"Beau," I breathed, leaning over to rest my forehead against his. "I will stay with you—for the rest of your forever. Isn't that enough?"
He brought his hand up to cradle the side of my face, and I closed my eyes at the pleasant warmth it brought, feeling each pulse of his heart against my cheek. I listened to the wonderful pounding of his lifeblood through his veins, wishing it would never need to end. But it would, one day—even if everything went according to plan, even if I was able to see him through to his final, aged breath without endangering him with my life any further… Why was that possibility becoming more and more difficult to fathom?
"Yeah," he finally murmured, and I opened my eyes so I could see his face. He looked paler in the moonlight, his skin smooth and almost incandescent. "I guess it is enough… For now."
I growled very softly at the strength of his tenacity, remembering the words his mother had spoken to me in the hospital… If he believes in something strongly enough, he finds a way to see it through… So he was decided, then.
But I was decided, too, and I would not surrender my post—tonight, or any other night.
I leaned in to wrap my arms around his waist, and tilted my head until it rested against his warm, soft chest. His free arm wound around my shoulders, giving me warmth I'd never known I'd missed until I felt it.
"I love you," he murmured into my hair.
"As I love you," I responded quietly, "And that'll just have to be enough for the both of us—enough for forever."
I tilted my face up until my nose was level with his throat, and I breathed in the succulent fragrance of his blood. As close as I was to his skin, I could both see and hear the rhythmic pulse of blood flowing through his carotid artery. I knew exactly what would happen if I gave into the animal inside me.
The ghost of his taste lingered on the back of my tongue, and flared in my throat.
I appreciated the temptation for what it was, and then I beat the monster inside me back.
I love you… And I will never hurt you again, I promised him silently, and to seal the oath, I pressed my lips very softly to the side of his lovely throat.
A/N: Whoa… I've done it… I can hardly believe how fast I pounded this out, guys. Like… It's unbelievable.
Now let me go listen to 'Slow Dancing In A Burning Room' and cry to myself at what's to come… That song is great foreshadowing for 'Darkest Hour', by the way ;)
Let me know what you thought of the finale, and make sure you have me on author alert so that you'll be notified when New Moon through Edythe's eyes comes out!
I love you all so much, and I appreciate your unfailing support to the ends of the earth—truly I do! Thank you so much, and I'll see you all very soon… This isn't the end! xoxo