There is no such thing as a dignified accidental vampire transformation.
—The Accidental Sire: How to Raise an Unplanned Vampire
I was dead. And then I wasn’t.
I liked dead better.
I catapulted from absolute dark, inky silence to being completely and unfortunately aware. I blinked into the soft light of the cool, windowless room where I’d slept. And while it was perfectly nice, it was not my dorm room. Where was I? Why did my head hurt so bad? Like I could feel every vein in my head, and each one was angry.
I rolled over on the strange bed, with its crisp white sheets and hospital rails. Had I been in an accident? I didn’t recognize the room, but it certainly wasn’t a dorm room. I would know if my dorm housed a medical wing, wouldn’t I?
I bolted upright and immediately regretted it. My head felt like it was being clamped between Tom Hardy’s muscular thighs . . .
“Argh, I should be so lucky,” I mumbled, flopping back onto the bed. I was wearing my favorite purple Adventure Time pajamas. Someone had taken the time to braid my hair into pigtails.
Other than the headache, I felt OK. I wasn’t nauseated. In fact, I was hungry . . . well, no, I was thirsty. My tongue was dry and gritty, begging for something, anything, to drink. I would wrestle Morgan to the ground for one of her disgustingly healthy “green machine” smoothies. Usually I was of the opinion that kale was God’s way of making CrossFitters suffer karmic payback for all those humblebrag selfies.
My gums felt raw, like I’d lost teeth. I smacked my dry lips together and ran my tongue over my teeth. They were all there, which was a relief. It was hard to get dates with meth mouth.
I could see too much. I wasn’t wearing my contact lenses, but I could see every inch of this sterile, cold room. I could see every wrinkle in the thin cotton blanket. I counted every hole in the ceiling tiles. Also, everything smelled like industrial-strength cleaner. I closed my eyes and pressed my head into the blessedly scent-free pillow.
I remembered the party. Ophelia Lambert, a nice vampire girl from my world literature class, had arranged a human-vampire mixer. It was hands down the best party I’d ever been to. Ophelia had spared no expense turning our silly student lounge into a swanky nightclub, complete with fancy mocktails that dutifully complied with the campus’s no-alcohol policy. And I’d been dancing with a sweet guy Ophelia introduced me to . . . Ben. Ben Overby, a boy she knew from her hometown. I remembered dancing with him and his cute little jerks and kicks. I remembered that he kept his hands on my hips but in a respectful, nongropey way.
Ben had been sweet, sincere in a way that I hadn’t seen in ninety-nine percent of the boys I’d met so far this year. I felt like I could trust him when he smiled. I didn’t spend the whole dance trying to look for hidden double entendres when he spoke. He asked for my number as I walked him to the lobby, and I programmed it into his contacts list as “The Most Interesting Girl You Will Ever Meet.”
Now I heard a strange thrumming noise through the hospital-room door. Thump-a-thump-a-thump. I rolled my eyes. Some douchebro must have turned his car’s bass speakers all the way up to get that kind of reverb in here.
In a slightly less head-cringey development, I heard a single set of footsteps making their way closer to me. I heard the click of the door being pushed open. I could smell flowers, waxy and sweet, as a weak top note over a much stronger scent of soap and . . . moss? My eyes opened, but I didn’t move a muscle.
Ben, the boy I’d danced with the night before, was standing beside my bed, setting a pretty little bouquet of yellow gerbera daisies on the nightstand. He was so much cuter than I remembered. It was like I was seeing his face for the first time. Everything was so clear, the smooth tan skin of his oval face, the straight lines of his nose, the hints of gold and auburn in his hair, the distinct wrinkle forming between his—frankly, luminous—jade-green eyes.
“I know you won’t wake up for a while,” he said softly. “But I hated the idea of you being in here in this cold white room with no color. And it will be something nice for you to see when you first rise. I didn’t know what kind of flowers you liked, but Keagan said you liked yellow.”
“They’re perfect, thanks,” I told him.
“What the—!” Ben yelped, head whipping toward me as he stumbled back in alarm. He tripped over his own feet and landed hard on the white tile of the floor. “Ow!”
Ben winced as he cradled his arm against his chest. He’d scraped his knuckles when he landed, and the tiny wounds were weeping little ruby droplets of blood. I could see each of them in sharp detail, like he was bleeding in high definition.
I opened my mouth to speak, but it immediately started to water. The whole room was filling with a scent that was better than fresh coffee or melting caramel or double-chocolate cheesecake brownies. I threw my legs out of the bed and stepped closer to Ben, inhaling that wonderful, beautiful scent as deeply as I could, as if I could drink it. That thump-a-thump-a-thump noise came back, faster now, and the sound was pleasing to some weird instinct deep within my brain.
That same raw sensation had me stretching my jaw as my teeth seemed to shift outward. My lip scraped across something sharp, and the taste of my own blood filled my mouth. I pressed my fingertip against the long, sharp canine poking out over my bottom lip and winced.
Suddenly, memories of what had happened the night before came flooding into my brain.
I’d enjoyed dancing with Ben so much I hadn’t wanted to walk away from him. Something about him made me feel like he saw me, not body parts that happened to have a personality attached or a chance to brag to his friends. But me, as a person. And for a female undergrad at a state college, that was a pretty rare thing.
After the party, I’d walked Ben downstairs to the lobby, and we’d sat on a little bench outside the dorm, far from the smokers, enjoying the cool evening air. To my surprise, some vampires in the courtyard in front of New Dawn were playing Ultimate Frisbee. I kind of thought the undead were beyond Ultimate Frisbee, but I suppose teenage vampire boys are the textbook definition of arrested development.