Cecily played with her pancakes at breakfast.
"You should eat," Connor said.
"Not really hungry."
"I know, but it's going to be a long day."
She ate two bites. "Better?"
"It's a start. Skinny's not a good look on you."
She made a face at him.
"I have something to tell you," he said, "but I'm afraid you'll freak out."
"Lay it on me," she said with a sigh. "Not like this day can get any worse."
"I'm pretty sure the vampire who bit you was Jack."
Her eyes slid sideways.
"You seem less than surprised," he said, eyes narrowing. "Cecily, goddamit, if you've been protecting that--"
"I haven't been protecting him," she said to her pancakes. "But, yes, I knew."
"Why the hell didn't you say?"
"We made a deal. I promised I wouldn't."
"You made a deal with Jack?" Connor was incredulous. "Because I can promise you, he won't keep his end of it."
She didn't answer.
"Cecily, I thought you had more sense," Connor said. "I thought you were over him."
"I am!" she said. "OK?"
She still wouldn't look at him.
"You're protecting someone else, aren't you," he said. "Who'd you make the deal with?"
She sighed, moving her bangs with the upgust, like she had when she was twelve.
"Before you go all big brother on me, listen, all right?" she said. "OK, yes, I made the deal with another vampire," she said, quietly, looking around the restaurant to make sure they weren't overheard. "A reasonable, smart vampire who listened to sense."
"Let me guess, you think he's cute."
"That has nothing to do with it," she said, fiercely, leaning across the table. "He saved my life, OK? He's the reason I'm having pancakes with you instead of lying dead in a ditch somewhere. So I owe him, and so do you. And part of the deal is, we leave him alone."
"I don't like this."
"Connor, I think we of all people are not in a position to paint all vampires with the same brush," she said, her voice a hiss. "He's a decent guy, as vampires go--" she forestalled his next comment by saying, "--and no, I don't want to date him. I do have some sense."
"Well, that's something."
"He returned my cell phone," Cecily said. "Does that seem like the action of a stalker to you?"
"No, I guess not," he said. "Unless of course he starts calling you. He hasn't, has he?"
"No!" she said, then more quietly, "No. I haven't heard a word from him since he let me go."
"But still, Cec, he turned Jack into a vampire. He's not to be trusted."
"No, actually, that was the blonde, I'm pretty sure."
"Blonde?" Images of a sneering face and a large piece of glass came into Connor's mind. "Was she, by any chance, a bit on the trashy side?"
"Um, past it and way over," Cecily said.
Connor's blood ran cold at the thought of his sister in that woman's clutches, but all he said was, "So maybe you'd better tell me this story from the beginning."
"There's not much to tell," she said, leaning close so they wouldn't be overheard. "I went out into the alley because I needed some air."
"That was dumb--"
"I was upset, OK?" she said. "How would you react if you saw your girlfriend kissing another girl?"
Connor grinned, and Cecily rolled her eyes.
"Forget I asked."
"Hold it, Sparrow?"
"Johnny," she said. "Apparently he likes me, and George."
"No. Anyway, I was upset, I went out for air, Jack grabbed me and bit me. When I woke up the three vampires were arguing over me. The one guy, the one who let me go, was calling Jack an idiot, saying he shouldn't grab someone with family, and when he pummeled just how much family I had out of Jack--"
"Hey, I'm liking this guy more and more," Connor said.
"--He got really pissed off. So I told them that if they didn't let me go my grandfather the former governor and half the town would be after them, but if that guy blindfolded me and led me away I wouldn't tell anyone anything. Unless they figured it out. Which you have."
"You let him blindfold you?"
"Don't start, Connor," she said. "If I knew where their hideout was--"
Connor leaned across the table and kissed his sister's forehead, fiercely, holding her face in his hands. "You are amazing."
Her jaw nearly hit the plate. "Um, thanks? You're not mad at me?"
"Mad? You just proved that you can look after yourself." he released her and went back to his breakfast. "You have no idea how relieved that makes me. Just, do me a favor, OK?"
"Don't go looking for him."
"No worries. You won't try to hurt him?"
"No reason to, as long as he doesn't give me one. Jack, on the other hand--"
"Jack, you can have," she said, eating her own pancakes with a lot more relish than before.
"That's my girl."Next Chapter