It is a rare moment when I don't fear for my life. Lovely, wonderful, but rare.

My name is Jane. I'm a human. I guess. Being a part of humanity requires being part of the human cosmos, doesn't it? I suppose I'm not human, then. I don't live with other humans. Just the vampires.

When I was twelve, my parents died in a violent car crash. I went to live with Rider, my mysterious appointed guardian. He was a vampire who had, when my parents were young and idiotic rather than merely foolish, made them a deal. Either they die, or they give him their first-born daughter. Which, whoopdidoo, happens to be me. My parents had, young and stupid as they were, agreed, not even thinking about children, merely wanting to survive. Then, three years later, I was born. My mother had made an effort to hide me, but my father just seemed to give up. I was told from an early age, inspiring a dogged enjoyment in death and darkness. I loved the elegant feel of black fingerless gloves, slinking up to my elbows. I loved the black, glossy polish on my nails. I adored how the servants at my parent's home called me Lady or Mistress. I loved the black Victorian ball gowns. In short, I loved the dark.

Until Rider came for me. That changed everything, made my life a hot commodity.

Rider was, and still is, cold and domineering and brutally attractive. He made me a pet, paraded me before his friends and made a laughingstock out of me. I can still remember the titters hid behind lacy fans, the distant, amused eyes boring into me as I slunk past them in my ragged cotton clothes. I remember going insane at one point, screaming and ranting and yanking my hair out in fistfuls, wailing about the cold, the burning cold. I remember Rider and Vanessa, his slinky mate, laughing and tossing plates at me. Then, when my mental imbalance stopped amusing them, Rider and Vanessa beat me back into sanity. I suppose that I'm greatful.

And when Rider was thirsty but too lazy to go out, he would hook his finger at me and beckon with his icy, diamond-toothed smile. Closer, child, or I'll chase you...

In case you were wondering, no, vampires do not have fangs. I wish they did. Then there would have been a quick pricking sensation before the frustrated kick and Be gone, you worthless wretch. Instead I got the burning, then the tearing, then the screaming. My skin is littered with mocking nips and angry bites. I am, as Vanessa put it, a masterpiece.

So when Vanessa skulked into my cupboard room and told me that Rider had lost a bet, my heart almost leapt out of my chest. By some stroke of intuition, I knew that I was being taken away, and that was all that mattered. Vanessa leaned forward instinctively, dragged by the pull of my thudding heart. As I recoiled into myself, Rider's cold hand appeared on Vanessa's chalky arm, restraining.

"No mas, querida," he said to her as he glared at me. No more, darling.


"Rider. Vanessa," a smooth voice inserted. And what a wonderful, dreamy voice it was.

The vampire was beautiful, even more so than Rider or any of his friends. His skin was snowy, not sallow or chalky. His voice was low and made me think of darkness. Not the unfathomable darkness I associated with Rider, but a comfortable darkness, found beneath a favorite quilt. His eyes were completely different, however. They were an unsettling shade of burgundy. They flickered quickly between my face and the faces of my keepers.

"This is Jane," he assumed.

"Yes. Take her if you want her." Rider's voice was surly, spiteful with defeat.

"She'll only cause you trouble, Benedikt," Vanessa said in a wheedling voice. "You'd save a lot of trouble by leaving her."

Benedikt stared at me with his edgy red eyes. "She's been with you for five years? Making her seventeen."

"Insufferable seventeen," Vanessa said, her voice still haggling. Benedikt knelt down to my level. I looked down at my hands, fiddling with a fingernail.

"I heard a human can make you a very fascinating object of conversation," he said idly. "Especially a relatively good-looking one." His hand reached out, invisible with speed, catching my chin and turning my face so he could see me from all angles. I complied, closing my eyes. His wintry touch was frightening. I immediately understood that whatever comfortable emotions I had harbored because of his voice were horribly wrong. He would parade me just as Rider and Vanessa had, maybe in front of many more people.

"Lovely," he breathed, so quietly that I couldn't tell if I heard it right. He stood abruptly. "Come, child. Quickly."

I stood and he eyed my cotton shorts, which weren't so much shorts as underwear on my long legs. Vanessa scowled at the wooden floor.

"Ah, yes. I see you've been taking wonderful care of her," Benedikt said dryly as I crept past them, shivering. Rider's fingers twitched, and I could tell he was trying not to grab me by my thick black hair.

"Why do you want her anyway?" Vanessa whined. Benedikt just followed me into the parlor, then out the front door. A black limousine was waiting. A tall, brooding vampire opened the door for us. I crawled in, tears blocking my vision. Benedikt slid in after me, and the other vampire closed the door. I trembled against the other door, letting the tears roll down my face. I was hit with a sudden blast of warm air as the other vampire turned the heat on in the car.

"Thank you, James," Benedikt said absently. James nodded, navigating through the crowded streets. I peered out the windows. I hadn't been outside to touch the sunshine in five years. But the windows were tinted, and the sunlight just bounced away from me.

"Why are you crying?"

I looked back at the mildly curious Benedikt. His crimson eyes watched me strangely. Like he was asking a new puppy what it saw out there.

"I'm leaving," I explained simply, my heart glowing at the knowledge. And never coming back, I promised myself.

It took about an hour to reach Benedikt's estate. It was huge, almost a castle. I imagined myself dancing in my inky black ballgowns, like when I was younger. I smiled forlornly.

"We'll have to find her something to wear," Benedikt murmured to James. "I had figured that they at least had some proper clothes for her."

"Rider and Vanessa aren't very good people," James pointed out in a deep, thoughtful voice. "Look at her arms, Master Benedikt."

"Her arms I can understand," Benedikt said stubbornly. "Can't you smell her?"

James was silent as he parked and got out to open the door for us. Benedikt's arrogant face was set in a smirk as he pulled me out after him. My eyes were locked on the ground.

I was recieved by an older woman and a small boy, who took a whiff of me and laughed a pealing, child's giggle.

"I can see why Master Benedikt wanted her. And he only smelled her on Rider and Vanessa's clothes," he said to the woman, eyeing me. "I don't see how anyone could stop at one taste."

If you didn't understand any of that, it's because I'm pure-blood Irish. If you had pure blood, untainted by another race, your blood was so much more appealing. I had once seen Rider tear into a pure-blooded Mexican man, and I was glad that it wasn't me. I let my hair fall in front of my face, hoping the little boy wasn't thirsty. All of these vampires, James and the woman and the boy, had milky skin, not an unhealthy pallor like the other vampires I had seen. It was beautiful. My skin was alabaster, but not in a healthy way. There was no color in my cheeks.

"Nathan, take her to her room," the woman said. Her voice was as sharp as James's voice was smooth. "I'll bring her some more suitable clothes."

I was given a room offset from Benedikt's. I was grateful I hadn't been forced to sleep in his room, because I only felt safe when I was unconcious and unknowing, and a vampire that wanted me purely for my blood was not exactly calming.

"He won't kill you," Nathan said in a conversational tone, as if we were talking about wages rather than blood. "You smell nice and you're pretty. Master Benedikt wouldn't give something like that up."

He looked up and gave me a brilliant angel's smile. I smiled hesitantly back. This wasn't as strange for me as it would have been for a normal human. I was used to having people blithely chat about my demise.

"The lady was Millecent. She's the housekeeper. She's nice," Nathan continued. "She's going to get you a dress for tonight."

I nodded, sitting on my huge new bed. Nathan watched me from the doorway, a bemused smile on his childish face.

"You didn't even ask what's happening tonight," he laughed. I looked up at him.

"Should I know?" I asked. He pushed some of his sandy blonde hair out of his eyes.

"Master Benedikt called for a party. A get together for all his friends. He just wants to show off that he got you," he whispered conspiratorialy. I nodded and looked down at my knobbly knees.

"Will there be dancing?" I asked when Nathan waited for me to say something.

"Not for you," he said haughtily. "Humans can't dance with vampires."

"Why?" I asked, wondering how long I could keep up a conversation. I had never tested my vocal chords in this way.

"Have you ever seen a vampire dance?" he asked in an ominous voice. "They move so fast the eye can barely grasp them. A human would die in their arms."

"Oh," I said with total lack of understanding.

"Nathan, leave us so Jane can choose her clothes." Millecent appeared behind the boy, grasping his shoulder in her bony hand and pulling him away. She brought in a huge rack of dresses, all different colors.

I felt faint looking at them. There were too many of them. I was too tired. I looked at Millecent with defeated blue eyes. She sighed.

"Are you tired?" she demanded. I shrugged, looking at my feet. She let out a huff of frustration, and I looked up at her from under my eyelashes. She had turned and was striding briskly out of the room.

"Sleep if you must," she said crossly. "You won't be able to try all the dresses."

I flinched as she slammed the door closed. I turned and crawled back onto the bed, snuggling up under the covers. They were ebony with forest green edges. Everything seemed to be those colors. I stared up at the poofy green netting of the canopy bed, letting it drift me into a deep, dreamless sleep.