Theo was late. It had been almost a year since she’d seen him, and he couldn’t even be on time.
Moth growled, shifting her gaze to the moon so she could enjoy the cool rays as they bathed her pale skin. Moonlight was her favorite thing in the world—apart from brown eyes on a good-looking guy. She pulled her sunglasses down onto the tip of her nose and surveyed the alley, wondering what the hell had happened to Theo. She tapped her foot impatiently, enjoying the clicking sound the steel toe-caps of her boots made on the sidewalk.
Anything to avoid thinking about Mom’s memorial service tomorrow. Well, not so much the service itself—she was far more afraid of facing her father. Her lips tightened as she remembered the last time she’d seen him; fatherly love had been the last thing on his mind. Her mother had been gone for a year, and yet her dad couldn’t care less whether or not his middle daughter turned up to remember her.
Moth swallowed and pushed those thoughts away, instead admiring the pure white skin of her slender arms as she stretched them above her head. It wasn’t like she’d ever been much for tanning, even before she became a vampire. She could still walk in daylight, but not in full-summer and never without some cloud cover or buildings to shade her. As each year passed, she noticed how the sun bothered her a little more; even SPF fifty wasn’t always enough.
Pushing the cheap plastic sunglasses back into position, she leaned against the back door of Subterranean and wondered why they couldn’t have met inside the club. It was ten-thirty on Saturday night—the place would be crawling with vampires, and she might even see some familiar faces. Despite her desperation to get away from this place, she’d been lonely the past few months.
And then Theo was there, sliding out of the shadows and gliding toward her with the cat-like grace she was so familiar with. His beauty never failed to take her breath away, even though she hated the knowing gleam in his eye as he touched her cheek in greeting.
Moth glared from behind her shades. “You’re late.”
“And your manners haven’t improved.”
“I was in Boston, Theo. Not a finishing school for naughty girls.”
Theo raised his dark eyebrows and grinned his wicked pirate-smile. “Now there’s an idea …”
Moth pushed the sunglasses up onto her head, balancing them among the thick black waves of her long hair. She knew that her silver eyes would be glowing brightly in recognition of her sire, but she couldn’t bring herself to show him how happy she really was to see him. He hadn’t earned that right—not since the day, ten years ago, when he’d stolen her innocence and made her a monster.
He reached out for the shades and snatched them before she could stop him. “Why are you wearing these ridiculous things?”
“My eyes keep glowing and the contacts hurt.” She nodded up at the moon. “It’s almost full.”
“You haven’t been feeding.” Theo’s tone was filled with reproach. “If you had, you wouldn’t have this problem.” His own eyes were currently light gray, his vampire nature hidden behind centuries of rigid control.
Moth glared. “I’ve fed more than enough.”
He sniffed. “From blood banks. It’s hardly the same thing.”
“You said you wouldn’t push me on this.”
“I haven’t pushed you on your eating habits for almost a decade. Perhaps I should start.”
She scuffed her boot on the ground, deciding that a change of subject might be a good idea. “Why are we standing out here, anyway?”
Theo leaned against the wall and pushed his hands into the pockets of his custom-made jacket. His black hair was shorter than she remembered it, the curls resting neatly around his ears and stopping short of his collar. People often took them for family, which amused Theo. He liked to pretend she was his little sister—it gave him a sick charge.
Just as Moth began to wonder if he was going to answer, he met her eyes. “I don’t want anyone to know you’re back. Not yet.”
She frowned. What the hell was he cooking up now? Wasn’t it enough that he’d dragged her into the city for a meeting, just because he knew she’d be back for her mother’s service? “You promised me a year of freedom, Theo. My time’s not even up, yet. This isn’t fair.”
“Life isn’t fair, my lovely.” His eyes were like stone, his mouth unsmiling.
“But you promised,” she said, hating herself for showing weakness. She wrapped her arms around her body, as though she could hold back the pain that began to gnaw at her belly. Being around Theo always made her feel hungry—that was one of the reasons she’d wanted to get away from Ironbridge in the first place.
“I have a job for you,” Theo said, breaking into her thoughts. “It’s something very special. Only my little Moth would do for this one.”
Ten months into her … vacation, and he wanted her for this? To steal something? That’s all he ever wanted her for. “This is such crap. You don’t need me—it’s just an excuse.”
His eyes grew wide and mock-innocent. “An excuse? For what?”
“To get me back. You’re not happy unless you’re controlling everyone around you.”
Theo’s face hardened and Moth felt the familiar tug of power in her chest. He owned her, body and soul—if she still even had a soul—and she hated him almost as much as she loved him. Right now, maybe she hated him more.
“Be grateful that you had as long as you did, child. It’s hardly my fault you came back to cry over your mother’s grave. Now, listen to me. Here’s what I want you to do …”
All this trouble for a stupid funeral urn? And why was death such a feature on this trip? Moth shook her head as she stomped through Ironbridge Common and avoided a group of kids who were taking turns swigging out of a bottle. She pushed down the sharp stab of envy somewhere in the region of her heart; she would never do those human things again. She sighed, and tried to remember what it had been like to be a “normal” teenager. If she was being honest with herself, it wasn’t like she’d been all that happy back then, anyway.
It was a mild night and the sky was clear. Summer wasn’t far away—she could already smell it in the air and dreaded the longer days to come. Moth flopped onto a bench under one of the old-fashioned iron lamps that lined the pathways. She tried not to remember the distressed expression on Caitlín’s face when she’d left the city, ten months ago. They’d sat in this very spot and said their goodbyes. Moth had promised to call her younger sister as soon as she returned to Ironbridge, but instead here she was skulking around the Common and wondering if there was any way she could get out of doing this job for Theo.
“Hey, what freak show did you escape from?”
Two guys were standing in front of her, one of them posing with a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. She’d been so busy thinking about Theo, and the crazy scheme he’d dragged her into, that she hadn’t even smelled them coming.