Caitlin Paine stood in the back room of Pete’s Bar, joined by Caleb, Sam, Polly, and a dozen police officers, and stared out through the smashed open window, into a night filled with flashing police lights. She wondered what on earth could have happened to her daughter. Scarlet, the love of her life, was out there somewhere, running into the night, alone, likely afraid, and the thought of it was tearing her apart. What pained Caitlin even more than the thought of Scarlet missing was the thought of what Scarlet had become, her memory of her, her last look at her before she’d leapt out through that window. That wasn’t her daughter.
That was something else.
Caitlin shuddered to think of it, and yet, try as she did to shake it, she knew it was true. She had been fighting with the idea all this time, fighting not to believe that Scarlet was no longer human, that Scarlet was really a vampire. Caitlin had been fighting with Aiden, with the priest, with Caleb, and most of all, with herself, hoping, wishing, it were anything else. But she had no fight left in her. She had no more explanations.
Caitlin’s heart pounded as she looked out into the night. She had seen it for herself this time, had witnessed it with her own eyes. Her girl had transformed, had fed on that man, had gained a super-human strength. She had smashed that huge man into a wall as if he had been a toothpick—and she had bounded off into the night so fast, within the blink of an eye, that there was no way she could be human. There was also no way, Caitlin knew, that they could catch her. She knew the police were wasting their time.
It was different this time, too, because she had not been the only one who had witnessed it. Caitlin had seen the expression on Caleb’s face, on Sam’s and Polly’s, and she could see it in their eyes: a look of shock, a fear of the supernatural. Scarlet, the person they had all loved most in the world, was no longer Scarlet.
It was the stuff of nightmares and fairy tales and legends, something Caitlin had never ever imagined to see in her lifetime. It shook not only her view of Scarlet, but her entire view of the world. How could such a thing actually exist? How could this planet have more than just humans on it?
Caitlin turned to see a police officer standing beside her, pen and paper in hand, staring back at her patiently.
“Did you hear my question?”
Caitlin, trembling, in a daze, shook her head slowly.
“I’m sorry,” she answered, her voice hoarse. “I did not.”
“I said: where do you think your daughter might have gone?”
Caitlin sighed as she thought of it. If it were the old Scarlet, she could tell them easily. A friend’s house; the gym; on a date; the soccer field….
But with the new Scarlet, she had no idea.
“I wish I knew,” she finally replied.
Another officer stepped forward.
“Are there any friends she might have gone to?” he prodded. “A boyfriend?”
At the word boyfriend, Caitlin turned and searched the room, examining it for any sign of that mysterious boy who had appeared in this bar. Sage, he had said. So simple, just one word, as if she should know who he was. Caitlin had to admit that she’d never met anyone like him. He exuded a power more compelling than anyone she had ever met, and he was more a grown man than a teenager. He had been dressed in all black, and his shining eyes and chiseled cheekbones made him look as if he had dropped down from another century.
Strangest of all, Caitlin recalled what he had done to those locals in this bar. She had known Caleb and Sam to be more than capable of taking care of themselves—yet this boy had achieved a quick victory where they could not, beating up all those men in a whirlwind. Who was he? Why had he been here?
And why had he been looking for Scarlet?
Yet as she looked all around, Caitlin saw no sign of him. Sage, too, had somehow disappeared. What was his connection to Scarlet? she wondered. Her mother’s instinct told her that somehow those two were together. But who was he? The mystery only deepened.
Caitlin didn’t feel ready to mention it to the police; it was all too weird.
“No,” Caitlin lied, her voice shaky. “Not that I know of.”
“You had said there was a boy, a boy who was here with you, involved in the altercation?” another police officer asked. “Do you know his name?”
Caitlin shook her head.
“Sage,” Polly chimed in, stepping forward. “He’d said his name was Sage.”
For some reason, Caitlin had not wanted to tell them; she felt protective of him. And she also felt, she could not explain how, that Sage was not human, ether—and she was not ready to say that to the police, to have everyone once again thinking she was crazy.
The police stood there, scribbling his name, and she wondered what they would do.
“What about all these creeps in here?” Polly pressed, looking around in dismay. “All these jerks who started the fight? Aren’t you going to arrest them?”
The police looked at each other uncomfortably.
One of them cleared his throat.
“We have already arrested Kyle, the man who attacked your daughter,” the officer said. “As for the others, well, to be frank, it is their word against yours—and they say you started the altercation.”
“We did not!” Caleb said, stepping forward angrily, nursing a lump on his head. “We came in here looking for my daughter—and they tried to stop us.”
“Like I said,” the officer said, “it’s your word against theirs. They said you threw the first punch—and frankly they’re in worse shape than you. If we arrest them, we’d have to arrest you, too.”
Caitlin stared at them, smoldering with anger.
“What about my daughter?” she asked. “How do you plan on finding her?”
“Ma’am, I can assure you, we have our entire force out there right now looking for her,” the officer said. “But it’s awfully hard to search for someone when we don’t know where she went—or why. We need a motive.”
“You said she ran,” said another officer, stepping forward. “We don’t understand. Why would she run? You had arrived. She was with you. She was safe. So why would she run?”
Caitlin looked at Caleb and the others, and they all looked back uncertainly.
“I don’t know,” she said honestly.
“Then why didn’t you try to stop her?” another officer asked. “Or run after her?”