Stunned from the tender kiss, Helena found her mind to be a complete blank until he withdrew.
“Did you feel anything?” he asked, hope reflecting in his forest-green eyes.
A pang of guilt stung her chest as she lowered her gaze. There was no spark, no fireworks flying, and no excitement coursing through her.
“I get it, Helena,” he said, causing her to look up. “I am sorry I did that. I thought we could try to get back the time we’ve lost.”
“Andrew, we can’t turn the clock back. Too many things have happened. Right now, I’m not sure if I want a relationship.”
He took her hand and headed to the lift. The silence was comforting as they descended and soon arrived in the car park. Andrew opened the door of his black Lexus for her, and she struggled to keep her mouth from hanging open at the cream leather interior.
How much money did Alexander give him? She must have voiced her thought because once he got in the driver’s seat, he smirked.
“Alexander didn’t give me anything. Oddly enough, he teaches business better than my dad and, after my first three deals in New York went well, I got myself an RC F.” He lovingly stroked the steering wheel. “It was the only car that looked exceedingly happy to see me.”
“You mean the giant grill on the front?”
“Yeah, it looks like it’s desperately trying to suppress a grin,” he said, reversing out of the parking space.
Ten minutes into the drive, Helena realised they weren’t heading for Alexander’s place. She turned to Andrew. “Where are we going?”
“It’s a surprise.”
Helena rolled her eyes. She was beginning to dislike surprises. Since this was Andrew, there was no need to press him further. He would never hurt her, and he wasn’t after her soul.
Instead of staring out the window, she turned on the radio. The radio host talked about some protest that took place in Dublin earlier that day. She didn’t care for the details. Changing the stations, she found one that played some music she identified as alternative rock.
“Oh, I love that song,” Andrew said before she could change to another station. He started singing in an oddly mellifluous voice. “…if I only could, make a deal with God and get him to swap our places. Be running up that road, be running up that hill, be running up that building…”
Helena listened to him and got used to the lyrics. By the end of the first chorus, she managed to grasp it and joined in on the second one.
Once the song finished, Andrew shot her a beatific smile that warmed her heart. In that brief moment, he was the old Andrew—the same guy who made fun of her baggy attire and unladylike behaviour on a daily basis. She even missed the annoying nickname he and Laura used; maybe only a little.
Andrew’s smile fell, and he focused on the road. “For a second there, I though you turned into an actual girl, Thorn.”
She swatted his shoulder and let out a soft giggle. He knew her too well, and she was glad for it. “You know, if I was to take away your fancy suits and the expensive car, you’d be just a guy with a bad sense of humour.”
He snorted. “I would be a good-looking guy with a bad sense of humour.”
They both burst out laughing.
Once their mirth died, Andrew increased the volume on the stereo, so they were shouting the lyrics to the next songs the rest of the way to their mysterious destination.
Helena arched a brow at their secondary school’s front entrance. Her head snapped back and forth between it and Andrew’s pleased smirk.
“We’re going back to school, Thorn. How about it?” Andrew undid his seatbelt.
“What if we get caught?”
Andrew shook his head and climbed out of the car. “Try living a little, Helena. When was the last time you’ve let loose and did something other than worry?”
She considered his words and couldn’t refute the blatant truth. The day that came to mind was when they were moving into their apartment together. With the demon, the vampires, hunters, saints, and angels, she had forgotten what the word ‘fun’ meant.
“Alright, but we’re not staying for long,” she mumbled, getting out of the car.
Warm and humid air clung to her as she studied the maroon brick walls of the two-storey school. It seemed almost black in the shroud of the night. If it wasn’t for the street lamps dotted around the place, nothing but the white window frames would be visible.
Her stomach gave a nervous jolt and, as if noticing her apprehension, Andrew took hold of her hand.
They slowly crept to the metal gates that prevented outsiders from entering the school grounds at night. With a devilish smile, Andrew grasped her by the waist and hoisted her with ease.
Panicked, she clung to the metal railing. She swung her legs over and hopped down. When she checked on Andrew’s progress, she found him already landing next to her and gasped. It was strange seeing him use his vampire speed and strength. During their drive, he seemed so normal. She almost forgot he was a creature of the night.
“Are you alright?” Andrew asked.
Helena nodded. It was the high time she accepted he was no longer human.
“Good, let’s go.” He walked to the security guard’s office.
She opened her mouth to call him back and froze. They could end up in a Garda station for trespassing. Adding that to the list of things she was going through, she may as well become a hunter next year, since she had already killed two vampires.
Helena ran after him to stop him, but she was too late.
Alert registered on the guard’s wrinkled face. He stood from his seat and narrowed his eyes. “You’re not supposed to be in here, kids.”
She arrived at Andrew’s side, and he approached the guard. Andrew’s eyes lit with a green glow, and the guard’s attention was drawn to it. Multiple times she had witnessed vampires controlling others and, this time, ants crawled beneath her skin.
Andrew spoke in a calm, levelled tone. “Let us in.”
The guard’s head bobbed as he grabbed the set of keys next to his half-empty bottle of beer.
She pressed her lips together, hating the sight of Andrew doing this, but she knew that any distraction could lead to a worse outcome.
The security guard unlocked the front door and let them pass.
“Thank you. Now go back to your post and enjoy your beer,” Andrew added, and the man did as he was told without as much as a blink of an eye.
Once they were inside of the dark hallway, she grasped Andrew’s arm, tugging on it. “What the hell was that? Is that how you see people now, as puppets to be manipulated?”
The glow in his eyes dissipated, and they were both engulfed by the void. She couldn’t tell what he was thinking or what expression he wore. That nagging fear made her hand fall away.
“Are you scared of me, Helena?”
She looked at her feet, barely finding their outlines. “I don’t know.”
He sighed. “Let’s get going.”
Helena followed him. In the darkest corners of the familiar halls, he would gently take hold of her hand and guide her. Five minutes later, they arrived at the library—the core of their old school. Memories of the awful uniform she was forced to wear came back as well as the days she spent sitting by the window, reading a new book.
Andrew flicked on the light switch. The fluorescent bulbs blinked before they came on and cast out the night.
To her surprise, the library remained the same. The smell of worn books hung in the air along with the dust. She made a beeline for her favourite desk and sat in the plastic chair. Running her hands over the tabletop, the pads of her fingers brushed the pen indents made by other students who sat there before and after her. It was as if life itself was embedded in the surface of the table, displaying the time that passed and the people who existed.
“I knew this would make you feel better,” he said softly. “When I first saw you, after my return from America, your eyes were almost hollow. I couldn’t stand to see the girl I like having such a haunted expression.”
Her heart swelled and her emotions overflowed in the form of tears. “Thank you.”
He sat in the seat two rows away with his chin on his palm.
Helena swiped at the waterworks. He used to sit there during their free classes and would sometimes make the person in the middle pass notes to her. The bitter-sweet memories of her normal life were enough to make her miss the past more. No demons, no vampires, and no magic.
“I used to watch you read your book from here for forty minutes. I sound like a creep, I know, but to me, you were more interesting than Jane Austen’s romances.”
“So, you’re saying Jane Austen doesn’t measure up to me?”
Andrew let out a chuckle. “Is that a sense of humour I detect? Have you been replaced by an alien while I was away?”
Helena pinched her cheek and pulled at the skin, making a weird face. “Feels real enough to me.”
In a blink of an eye, he squatted next to her chair. His gem-like eyes gazed at her as he cupped her cheek. His long fingers caressed her smooth skin. “You’re right, it does.”
Helena swallowed hard. Uncertain as to what she should do, she pushed his hand away, spotting her bracelets. The amber stones had almost reached their limit.
“We should go back.” She stood, knocking his hand away.
Andrew’s expression betrayed his disappointment, but he smiled nonetheless. “I’ll take you back to Alexander’s.”
She was about to agree when her stomach chose to announce how empty it had become. She eyed the offending area, and a blush inched up her cheeks.
“Hungry?” Andrew asked, attempting to stifle a smile.
Thinking it would be more embarrassing to hide under the desk next to her, she said, “Very.”
“Let’s get some dinner first,” he said and sauntered towards the door.
Helena, once again, fought the urge to call out to him and tell him it was best to return sooner. At her stomach’s unpleasant growl, the thoughts of Alexander’s refrigerated bananas and a possible demon possession over a proper meal weren’t enough to make her hasten their trip back.