“So did you come all the way from Transylvania to join this totally awesome band, Chris?”
“Er,” said Christian. “I’m from Birmingham.”
The lights in the studio hurt Christian’s eyes, and their interviewer was blowing a pink, bobbing balloon of bubblegum while she interviewed them. Every time she blew up the bubble a vein in her neck jumped under her makeup.
She’d introduced herself as Tracy. Christian didn’t like to think such filthy things about a girl he’d just met, but he couldn’t help suspecting she spelled it with an “i.”
“So tell me, boys,” said Traci, swallowing the bubble, which collapsed and folded neatly into her mouth. “Any of you found that special girl yet?”
Bradley, who Christian might well have hated the most of all, gave her his best smile.
“Still searching, Traci,” he said, and looked bashful. “It’s hard to find someone really real in the music biz, you know? I just want a normal girl. Someone who gets me.”
Christian knew for a fact Bradley had been sneaking off with Faye, which was a bad idea both because she was their manager and because she was possibly Satan’s emissary on this earth.
“How about you, Chris?” Traci chirped, turning her eyes on Christian like two blue helicopter beams. “Do you have a girlfriend?”
“Christian,” said Christian. “And, um, of course I don’t.”
“Of course you don’t?” Traci asked with sudden, terrifying intentness. In the shadows Christian could see Faye uncoil like a viper about to strike. Traci leaned toward him, her smile inviting honesty and her breath smelling of Bubblicious watermelon. “And why is that, Chris?”
“Uh,” said Christian. “Because I’m undead?”
“Do the girls not get the real you, Chris?” Traci drawled, leaning back and looking a little disappointed.
“I think they probably do, to be honest,” Christian said. “I think that’s sort of the problem. I mean, they’re aware of the fact that I drink blood, so I can’t take them out for dinner, plus understandably they worry about getting all the blood drained from their bodies. And if they asked me on a date to a barbecue, I might wind up on the end of a chargrilled stake. The prospect isn’t exactly appealing.”
Faye was pacing like a caged leopard, which alarmed Christian extremely. She’d said “just be yourself,” before the interview, and this was the only self Christian knew how to be, even though Faye seemed intent on redesigning him.
Bradley laughed far too loudly in Christian’s ear. Christian jumped.
“Good thing you’re cute, am I right, Traci?”
Traci winked back at Bradley. “How right you are, Bradders. So, Josh and Pez,” she said, turning to the rest of the band. “Do you two have girlfriends?”
Josh looked terrified. Pez looked distracted by Traci’s shiny earrings.
Christian wondered what having girlfriends had to do with music. They’d just come in from recording the last song for their first album—why hadn’t Traci opened the interview by asking about that?
It wasn’t like Christian had enjoyed much success with girls when he’d been alive anyhow. He’d been shy, and he’d had all that acne. Whenever he liked a girl she’d claim she valued their friendship too much, and in the name of said friendship she’d be forced to make out with rugby players while Christian held her purse. His mum had always said that there was plenty of time, that soon he’d be in college and there would be a thousand different paths for him to choose.
There had only been one path, though—the alley Christian had used as a shortcut home from school. It had been dark and cold, Christian stumbling along with his hands in the pockets of his thin school-uniform trousers and being glum that he’d forgotten his gloves. There was the huddled form of someone he had thought was homeless, who he’d stopped to help, and then there was the bloody attack that Christian didn’t remember clearly. It had been so fast, the brutal snarling creature leaping on top of him. He’d managed to open the blade on his Swiss Army knife and score a long line up the vampire’s face. The wound had opened, dark and dripping blood into Christian’s mouth.
And then there were no more choices.
Christian was roused from the memory of that dark alley by Bradley’s loud laugh and the terribly bright television lights.
Why they had made the vampire with the super-hearing sit next to the man with the laugh of a hyena on speed, Christian didn’t know.
“I’m sweet seventeen,” said Bradley, who was a liar and a fiend and at least twenty. “And never been—”
He waggled his eyebrows without finishing his sentence and Traci laughed uproariously.
“Oh Bradders, you are so bad! How about you, Chris?”
Christian blinked. “Me?”
“How old are you?” Traci asked. “Two hundred? Three hundred?”
“Er,” said Christian. “I’m nineteen.”
At that point Traci leaned in again, covering his hand with hers and not drawing back at the chill. She looked deep into his eyes and said, in a warm, understanding voice:
“Would that be nineteen in … vampire years?”
“You didn’t have to get so narky with her, Chris,” Faye said as she shepherded them back to the limo which was meant to take them to their concert.
“Vampire years!” Christian repeated.
“Like dog years, but in reverse,” Bradley explained helpfully.
Christian did not hit him because the pamphlet they had given him at the re-education clinic after his attack—The Responsible Citizen’s Guide to Vampirism—was very clear about the fact that he had the strength to knock Bradley’s head clean off his shoulders and into the bucket of champagne set in front of them. Bradley was the stupidest person Christian had ever met, but he didn’t deserve that.
Besides, Faye would have given him hell.
“Yes, I understood her horribly speciesist and insensitive point, actually. Thanks,” he said instead, and rubbed at his temples. When he was annoyed his fangs tingled, and it always ended up giving him a migraine.
“I can’t believe we’re going to do our first concert right now,” Josh said, avoiding Christian’s eyes as usual and bouncing nervously in his seat. The roof of the limo was making his fuzzy brown curls a little static.
“Nor can I, since we don’t even have fans yet. What with only finishing up recording our first album today and everything.”
Josh carefully pretended he hadn’t heard Christian. Vampire in the limo? his body language screamed. What vampire in the limo? I have no idea what you mean!
“We released the single and the photo-shoot pictures to all the best mags a month ago,” Faye pointed out cheerfully. “You guys already have five message boards dedicated to you. And the fan mail’s been pouring in, mostly for Bradley and Chris.”
“Oh ha ha ha,” said Christian, staring out of the darkened limo windows.