Eventually I cried myself out and my tears ran dry. My eyes felt sore and puffy and my body was stiff from sitting on the floor for so long. I was braced against my bedroom door, curled in on myself at an awkward angle.

With a groan, I stretched out my legs, flexing my muscles. I tried desperately to focus only on the present, on my aching body, but my mind kept returning to my last moments in the hospital wing and what I'd overheard. It didn't take a genius to figure out what choice Jarred had made. And even though I held no claim over him, even though I'd rejected him at every turn, I felt betrayed; cheated.

Truth was, yeah I had feelings for Jarred, even if I wasn't sure what they were at the time. But I did feel for him. And I only turned him down to protect him. Bad things happened to the people I cared about, so it was best not to care at all.

Plus, if what Leoni said was true, and I was just a walking time bomb about to give out at any moment, maybe it was for the best if he did get with her, even if she was a hateful slut. It would distract him from me and that was in everyone's best interests, especially Jarred's. No point in loving a dying girl who wasn't going to be around to do anything about it.

I was surprised at how calm I felt about my own death. Maybe it was because I felt totally normal for the moment and couldn't really see it coming. Maybe it was because I knew I didn't have long left so I wouldn't suffer. Or perhaps, it was because I knew I'd be reunite with my family soon enough. With Char. With my mother and father. I wouldn't have to be alone anymore. I smiled at the thought.

I also didn't feel guilty about anticipating my death. It wasn't like I was leaving anyone behind, not really. Sure, I had a few friends here at the Order but the only one I felt any connection to, was Jarred. And he had Leoni now so he wouldn't be alone. Right? I just hoped that girl realised how lucky she was and took care of him when I wasn't around to offer support anymore.

A soft tap on the door behind me pulled me out of my internal musings and grounded me back on Earth.

"Shay? You there, babe?" that was Jarred's voice on the other side of the wood. Jesus, did he just materialise whenever I thought about him?

Unfortunately, I knew him well enough to know that if I didn't answer, he'd just let himself inside and wait. Before, that had never really been a problem. Now however, with my eyes all puffy and my mind reeling, I really didn't want to face him.

So instead, I slowly stood, careful not to make a sound and oh so quietly tiptoed over to my bed. In one quick movement, I lay down, threw the duvet over me, shut my eyes and pretended to be asleep. Not the most original plan, I realise, but an effective one.

I heard the door creak open and felt Jarred's presence as he entered the room. He shut the door quietly behind him and padded softly over to where I lay.

"Shayla?" he murmured my name without any real hope and for that single moment, I was grateful that he knew how I slept like the dead – no pun intended.

He sighed, breath washing over my face. "Dammit Shay, why are you always unconscious when I need to talk to you about…us."

Us? I didn't realise there was even an 'us' to talk about anymore. Not since Leoni, at any rate.

"Fine." He grumbled, mainly to himself. "I'll use this opportunity to rehearse what I'm gunna say to your face when you finally wake up."

Brilliant, I thought sullenly. I was going to have to listen to him twice about how he was seeing Leoni now and it was best if we 'just stayed friends' and kept our distance from each other from now on. Fantastic.

"I'm gunna go out on a limb here and guess that you overheard my…conversation with Leo earlier. I mean, why else would you take off?" he paused, as if he was expecting an actual answer. I stayed silent however, feigning sleep and waiting for him to go on. He grunted but continued. "I want you to know that me and Leoni…that's never going to happen. Sure, we're close…maybe closer than we should be…but I can't go for her. Not when I belong to someone else." I felt him brush my hair back, running his fingertips over my cheek. "I can't give my heart away to another girl, Shay, because it's not mine to give. I don't own it anymore. You do. You always have done, since our first mission together. I'll never forget that day…you were like some avenging angel, ready to watch the world burn for it's crimes and laugh as it did…" he trailed off for a moment, no doubt remembering that day, just as I was…

I had joined the Order six months before and, due to my experience in the field; I had been bunked up to junior level quickly and was free to take on assigned missions. Jarred was my partner – I wasn't yet familiar enough to demand solo missions – and before then, we hadn't said two words to each other; we sure as hell didn't know what to think of the other one. I was convinced he was up himself for being so strong and blessed with good looks and, as I later learned, he thought I was an unsociable nutcase who loved a good fight. He still thinks that today, but in a far more loving way.

We had crept through the warehouse we'd been sent to, tracking a sucker who was hiding here until the sun went down. Vulnerable and trapped, we had him cornered before he knew what was happening. But that's when we got cocky and things went wrong.

Jarred got too close, wanting to get a good shot at the leech's still heart; it was a novice mistake, one I'd seen Char make. Because, though Jarred had been with the Order longer than me, this was only his second mission and he wasn't familiar with the speed a Nosferat possessed. It got to him and sunk its teeth into his neck.

Then things happened very fast. Jarred cried out, the vampire moaned in the pleasure of fresh blood and I saw Char in Jarred's place. My sister, being fed on. A shot rang out and while my gun still smoked, the leech collapsed to the floor, dead. Jarred, clutching his throat to staunch the flow of blood, met my hard gaze in wonder.

"Why?" he whispered, voice hoarse.

I slowly lowered my gun and turned my face away. "Because no one deserves a death like that." …

I was pulled back into the present by Jarred's older voice, now experienced and sure. "I've been in your debt since that day…the day you saved my life and let me in. I saw you for what you really were. A broken girl who couldn't bear to have anyone look too close. And I wanted to help you, to save you as you saved me. And in doing so, I lost my heart to you. I'm yours, Shayla, forever and always. Don't you ever forget that."

He leant forward and pressed his lips against mine. It was all I could do to stay still and unresponsive, when what I really wanted was to throw my arms around him and pull him close. Would that really be so bad?

But then the kiss was over and Jarred had pulled back. "I'll see you soon, my girl." I heard his whispered words and then the door shut quietly as he left.

I allowed the new tears to trickle slowly down my face.