Kayci held Adrian’s hand as he led her up a metal stairwell that wound its way up to the rooftop. As they reached the top, she immediately noticed the plethora of bright shining stars scattered amid the black sky. It was gorgeous, and it had been a while since she had seen a sky this decorated. She looked at Adrian inquisitively.
“I’m sure you’re wondering what we’re doing up here.”
“I brought you up here for what we vampires call the Dawning. We’re early, so we’ll have time to talk before other vampires arrive.”
Adrian unraveled the small throw blanket he had carried tucked in his right arm and set it down on the rooftop. They laid on it and cuddled closely against one another as they stared up at the sky.
“What is the Dawning?”
Adrian ran his fingers along her arm, enjoying the warmth of her skin. He smiled to himself when she asked about the Dawning.
“Unfortunately, our vampirism keeps us living in the dark, unable to enjoy the sun, but we can still get close. Vampires come here just before the sunrise. We stay as long as we can before we feel the temperature change in the air. Before the sunrise breaks the horizon, we leave. Not all of us though. Some stay.”
“They stay for the sunrise?” Kayci asked.
“Yes. The sun destroys the demon curse within us. Our bodies turn to ash.”
“Why would they want to stay and be killed?”
“Vampires that want to end the curse and see the sun again embrace the Dawning.”
“What’s after?” Kayci asked softly.
Adrian continued to watch the sky.
“No one knows.”
Adrian felt Kayci stir in his arms. He sensed her antsiness.
“Why’d you bring me here?”
“I wanted you to know we have a choice.”
“You wanted me to know the choice you’ve made. To live as a vampire.”
“Yes. I’ve chosen to be in this world as a vampire for 149 years. To be honest, I’m fond of being a vampire. I promise you not everything about vampirism is as you’ve experienced. There’s so much more.”
Kayci pushed herself more closely into his arms as he caressed her side. She really wanted to believe him.
“Adrian, what makes a vampire want to embrace the Dawning?”
“Being a vampire means living with the demon’s curse. The demon’s curse keeps us alive. Part of the curse is to be immortal. When you become a vampire, you stay the age that you were when you died as a human. We don’t age. We never get to feel the sun on our faces. We can’t have children, and being a vampire means having to feed on blood to survive. It can be a lonely life for some.
“We aren’t easy to kill, either, because we heal so quickly. The only way a vampire can die is to either embrace the Dawning, be forced into the sun, burned, beheaded, starved, or drained of blood. Not all humans can handle the transformation, and not all vampires want to live forever. Some want to know what is beyond this world.”
“It sounds like the curse is punishment. To be banished to the night for eternity, stuck at the age you died as a human, having to feed on blood to survive.”
“Some vampires do feel that way. They think it was part of the demon’s plan to punish the man that broke their arrangement, but the demon didn’t realize his blood would cause others to turn into vampires.”
“How is it that I came to exist if vampires can’t have children?”
“I have heard of a myth that vampires have tried working with witches to bind the demon’s curse, temporarily giving them the opportunity to have children. I’ve never heard of it actually working though, until I met you.”
“I’m worried that the Covenant will find out about me and want to kill me.”
Adrian stopped rubbing Kayci’s arm. He kissed her forehead before looking down at her and receiving her full attention. “It’s important for you to know this, and it’s important for you to know I only found out today.”
Kayci’s chest immediately tightened. She sat up on her elbow and stared at Adrian intently.
“The Covenant knows you exist.”
A knot developed in her throat. It felt like her chest was swollen with a soccer-size ball inside. Her throat became dry.
“Danika saw your eyes when you fought one another and told the Covenant that I have been hiding a half-breed vampire. Tomorrow I’ll be questioned by the Covenant and will also have the chance to explain to them that you’re not a threat.”
Kayci reached up and touched the moldavite stone to her fingers, hoping it would protect her, as Rosemary said it would. She stared outward in a daze.
“What if they don’t see things from your point of view?”
Adrian took her hand away from the stone and kissed it. Kayci returned her gaze to Adrian.
“I will do everything I can to protect you. I promise you.”
“What if they want to kill you?”
Adrian smiled at her. “They won’t. I’m too much of an asset to them.”
Kayci heard the others coming. She was surprised she could hear them over her deafening heartbeat.
Adrian glanced in their direction and then back at Kayci. He brought his hand up to her cheek and caressed it before pulling her in for a kiss. He felt her body melt under his lips. He pulled away from her and then leaned back in for another quick, gentle kiss.
Adrian took her hand in his. They both stood up, facing the direction the sun would rise. Kayci watched as a large group of vampires spread out on the rooftop, some standing alone, others in pairs. They all looked toward the east, where the sunrise was soon to come. All had their heads raised into the breeze, quietly watching the sky. The sounds had gone from chatter to complete silence.
Kayci watched as the stars above disappeared one by one, followed by the lightening of the sky from a charcoal gray to a light gray. Slowly, strips of faint blue started to peek through the clouds. A yellowish-white tint highlighted the horizon. She noticed the tiny variation in the air. It had become warmer and dryer. The cool moist breeze was fading. Adrian gently tugged at her hand, letting her know it was time to go. She turned to follow.
Kayci stopped in her tracks, frozen by the sight in front of her. She had become so mesmerized by the changing sky she hadn’t noticed the vampires had made their way across the rooftop. The sight in front of her mesmerized her. The vampires leapt off the rooftop, coasting into the shadow cast by the building. Their dark silhouettes drifted into the wind like a condor soaring through the sky. The buildings with their gray glass windows, still empty of employees, were a silent witness to the scene. She laughed to herself at how humans were so oblivious to the world around them.
Moments later all the dark figures in the sky were gone. Kayci could feel the heat of the sunrise on her back. It brought her attention back to her surroundings. She looked around her. Adrian was gone too, but there was still one vampire on the rooftop. As the sun rose and the horizon turned from a yellow-white tint to bursts of yellow orange, Kayci continued to stare as the vampire spread out his arms and embraced the sun before him. Within seconds of the sun appearing above the horizon, the vampire burst into flames. Kayci’s chest tightened as she heard the vampire let out one shrill scream. She couldn’t bring herself to look away. She would be a part of his passing, since no one else could.
In front of her near the edge of the rooftop was now a pile of ash. The breeze swept through and gently lifted the ashes into the air. Some flecks flew in her direction. She raised her arm to block the ashes from getting into her eyes. She sunk down onto the rooftop, overwhelmed. She sat there alone, silent and still, while the sun continued to rise.