CHAPTER FIFTEEN

"T-tell you what?" I stutter, barely noticing that Carrie has scooted herself backwards on the bed to sit beside me. The laptop is closed too, and she has a grip on it that's so tight, her knuckles are turning white.

Barnabas scowls fiercely. "Am I not good enough for you, Tyler? Is it too weird for you to have a vampire as your boyfriend? Do you need a real man to fill the void?"

I sit and stare at him in shock, both stunned and hurt. Yet what really stings is the pained look on Barnabas' face. He doesn't think he's good enough for me.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," I whisper.

The silence in the room is overwhelming, and I can't help but wonder if either of the other two can hear the pounding of my heart.

Finally, after a long and tense silence, Barnabas lets out a sigh and shrugs. "Have it your way." Then, to my utter shock, he turns and walks wearily out of the room.

I watch him leave with my mouth hanging open. I feel a nudge on my arm, and look over to see Carrie pointing to the door.

"Go after him."

My eyebrows shoot up. "Excuse me?"

My sister scowls at me. "You heard me, Tyler Ellen Stoddard. Go after him." She gives me a little shove. "He's your man, go get him."

I manage a grin and give her a salute. "Yes, Ma'am."

Carrie shoves me again. "Go on, get out of here!"

I jump off the bed like it's on fire and race out of the room, slipping and sliding in my sock-clad feet. Once in the hallway, I look in both directions before deciding To heck with it and begin sliding down the corridor to my left.

I accidentally go past the stairs, then backtrack and hop up onto the banister. Letting out a whoop, I slide down to the bottom, barely managing to keep my balance.

At the end, I jump off and run for the den. I pass my mom, who's just a blur in my rush to find Barnabas, but I see her eyes roll and hear her say, "We have stairs."

Too late, I think to myself, snickering as I enter the den and look around desperately for Barnabas. I finally spot him sitting on the sofa, staring glumly into the flames flickering in the fireplace.

I immediately start walking towards him, but stop about ten feet away. Shuffling my feet nervously, I mumble, "Barnabas?"

He doesn't even turn, and for a minute, I'm unsure as to whether or not he's even heard me. Then: "Tyler."

I start to move forward again, but then pause. The silence is overwhelming. Say something! I command myself. "Um... Barnabas?"

He sighs. "Yes, Tyler?"

I take a deep breath, and then walk around the sofa and carefully sit down beside him. Barnabas doesn't even look away from the fire, not even when I lay my head on his shoulder. I sigh. "Look... About what you said upstairs... You're the only man for me, Barnabas."

He finally looks down at me, and I see the uncertainty in his eyes again. I lay my hand on his cheek. "I love you, Barnabas Collins," I say honestly, searching those coal-black eyes for the response I so desperately need to hear.

Barnabas smiles, fangs and all. "And I love you, Tyler Stoddard."

Our lips meet, and this kiss is one that surpasses all the others. It is the kiss that seals the two of us together, in a bond that no one can ever break.

The bond of love.