ALEXANDRIA WAS NOT SUICIDAL ENOUGH to enter a vampire's home by herself. She had her blades in place, concealed by her carefully chosen apparel; nonetheless it was a basic rule, a natural instinct, to never enter a vampire's home without back up. That was why she called up the Vylettes, and no one had answered the phone.

When a vampire hunter didn't answer the phone, it either meant one of two things: she was preoccupied with a fight at hand, or she was on some mission elsewhere.

But this was not just any vampire's home; it belonged to Ethan, or so she was informed.

Ethan decided to stop by in town and Alexandria was immediately notified of it. It took her less than a week to track down his address listing and now, here she was.

It would have taken her a less amount of time had she not been busy exterminating a nest of vampires in Ares, a town not far from Sundry, California.

Alexandria studied the two-story building, with a porch and swing, a flowerbed of daffodils and poppy seeds, and a massive oak tree standing out in the front lawn.

It amused her to think that a vampire would have a green thumb. After years of experience and training, Alexandria deeply doubted that.

The vampiric aura that Alexandria was certain had once surrounded the house had now gradually dissolved.

The sun had already taken his final bow over the horizon by the time that Alexandria had arrived.

The house should have been swarming with vampire activity, but Alexandria could sense that it was almost abandoned.

Sizing up the building from outside, she could sense a few scattered vampires—weak and sickly—and a few of the handful of humans that still continued to mingle with the undead, like it was some sort of social affair that would determine their place in the hierarchy of society.

Alexandria laughed at that thought. The only rank that they were securing was among the hierarchy of which the vampires would devour first.

There usually was no certain order—whatever human was convenient was convenient—but some vampires, like Ethan, were choosy. Ethan, from what Alexandria had learned of him, saw no need to be reckless in any decision he made. That was the only thing that Alexandria and Ethan had in common; they did not make rash choices. There was no need for it.

The only heedless decision Ethan had made was one committed three hundred years ago.

Ethan attacked a vampire hunter in her own home.

It was a sacred rule, one of the many recognized Hallowed Laws, between a vampire and a hunter.

For whatever reason, Ethan chose to ignore this rule when he entered the home of well-respected vampire hunter, Leighanna Aden, and killed her.

It was not an easy battle won, of that Alexandria was certain. Leighanna, her ancestor, was one of the greatest in her time. She made a distinguished impression as an Aden witch. Leighanna had died a noble death when she was twenty-eight, but at the age of twenty-one, Leighanna had fought a Fallen, and ended up annihilating him.

The Fallen was a secret society of immortals, and easily confused with vampires. Nevertheless, the Fallen was, by far, more powerful than the average vampire.

It was now up to the Adens, as well as all the other witch vampire-hunters, to avenge Leighanna's death by obliterating the elfish vampire Ethan.

Alexandria checked her digital watch. Eight, twelve it read. Alexandria removed her watch and stuffed it inside her back pocket. Any jewelry or needless accessory would only hinder a hunter's ability to perform her duty. Alexandria had learned that lesson early on.

She had also styled her luminescent white hair into one long and thick braid that almost reached her waist. She chose her outfit with discreet deliberation: dark blue jeans that would stretch with her movements and a mauve short-sleeved shirt that would easily cooperate with her thunder-fast reflexes.

She surveyed the house again, and took a deep breath to steel herself for whatever she would find in the house—even though she could sense no strong vampire inside, a vampire was capable of shielding his aura from hunters.

Alexandria walked up to the house and did not bother with knocking on the door. She turned the doorknob and it freely opened to allow her entrance. She stepped through the threshold, quietly, making no sound on the floor. She touched the hilt of her dagger blade behind her back as she observed the interior.

It was dim, without light save for the tiny candle flames on the chimney mantel.

Alexandria could see humans—mostly young women, but there were men as well—huddled up in the corner. Most of the strong vampires had already gone, leaving the weak, defenseless ones to Alexandria's mercy.

But some of the vampires were not vampires at all; some of them were blood-bonded humans. It was a common practice among vampires that were picky of their fledglings.

Blood-bonded humans were the midpoint between life and death, living and dying, vampire and human.

Instead of turning a human and bringing them across to become a vampire, the vampire drank little blood from them—not to the point of death, as is custom when making a vampire, and they drank little blood from the vampire, thus establishing a blood-bond.

The human would then become part-human, part-vampire, able to walk in the day—as any other vampire could—and not need blood like vampires did. The vampire and the human would also have a mind connection; the vampire could exchange thoughts with the human without ever needing to say a word. The human would also be gifted with some of the powers of the vampire. The human would still have some of the weaknesses of a mortal, but they could heal faster, move faster, thus making it harder for them to be killed, unlike the average human.

But if the human drank enough blood, the only weaknesses he would have were those of the vampires.

Another benefit of being a blood-bonded human, you would never age, so long as the vampire you were blood-bonded to was not killed.

Vampire hunters, like Alexandria, were allowed permission to kill blood-bonded humans, if they posed a threat.

Personally, Alexandria had never killed a blood-bonded human. No matter the connection to the vampire, Alexandria still considered humans to be humans, and it was not her place to take a mortal life, as vampires so often did.

There were several blood-bonded humans scattered throughout the house. Their auras were weak, tinged with vampiric blood, making them feel slightly stronger than the average, pureblood human.

Alexandria searched the house. She would waste no time on the blood-bonded humans, unless they had information that would prove useful to Alexandria.

But if not, Alexandria would not waste time. She came here only to kill Ethan, and that was what she was determined to do. As a child, Alexandria was trained to hate Ethan, as well as all of his kind, but him especially. He had broken a rule; disobeyed a sacred taboo that stood longer than he had. Alexandria's family would not easily forgive that.

Alexandria gazed at the murky staircase in front of her. There was no light at the top, making it impossible for her to see the rooms upstairs. She focused in, and she could sense Ethan's familiar aura. It was faint and difficult to detect, but it was there.

Alexandria's feet boomed up the stairs, but it was soundless, and made no noise in spite of her heavy footfalls.

Once upstairs, she could see the doors clearly.

She drew her blade from the back and held it at ready. She opened the first door on her left and it was an empty room, except for the mattress on the floor. She went on without pausing.

She opened a door on her right. It was a bathroom.

As she went deeper into the darkness, Ethan's aura became stronger until she almost wanted to run downstairs and flee from the intensity of his aura. But she would not allow herself to do so. That was not what she has taught to do.

The second to the last door, Alexandria saw, was locked.

She reached out for the knob and turned it with brute force until the lock broke and she broke into the room with ease.

The first thing she noticed was the large open window—wide enough to fit a person through—in front of her. A gentle breeze came in, fluttering the sheer window curtains.

The room looked like a smaller scale of a museum. There were vases on black cherry oak stands; statues mounted on individual tables underneath a veil of glass; paintings, some abstract and some portraits of vampires and hunters that Alexandria recognized: Satori, Ambrose, Kristoff, Velika, Leda Spiral, but the last painting was the most appalling of them all: Leighanna Aden.

That sickened Alexandria. She no longer had any doubts in her mind that this room belonged to Ethan.

Her eyes scanned the room and she found the lifeless—not to mention bloodless—corpse of a teenaged girl, no older than sixteen.

Pivoting at the vibration of a tremble that only a vampire could produce, Alexandria glanced behind the door she had opened.

There was a vampire, curled up behind the corner, looking paler because he was more petrified than he had ever been in his life.

At first, Alexandria suspected that this trembling vampire was the one who had killed the girl, but no, she didn't feel it.

Alexandria was capable of sensing "vibes" from people she met for the first time. It was kind of like her ability to sense auras, but the vibes came from her own innate intellect. She felt that he was no one to be feared. He was the one fearing her. She saw such tenderness in his eyes, and she felt humanity in his soul and heart.

He quivered like he had a severe chill. His trembling eyes reflected the Mediterranean waters Alexandria had always wanted to see. His wheat-yellow hair was short and appeared as if it had been chopped unevenly on the crown of his head.

Alexandria could sense, feel, his fear radiating from him like the waves from an earthquake. His fear was genuine; he was truly terrified.

Not yet ready to surrender her blade, Alexandria gripped it even tighter. Just because the vampire was afraid did not mean that he was not a threat to her.

Cautiously, Alexandria approached him, almost like he was a caged animal in the zoo and should not be petted without consent.

He stared into her eyes, making no attempt to shield his fears from her. I've had worse, he told her.

Alexandria absorbed his words, but paid no attention to them.

He was so helpless, so defenseless, like an infant child wrapped in a bundle of comfort, unable to defend himself.

She returned his meaningful and intense stare, his blue eyes burning into her soul like Greek fire.

These blue eyes she would never forget and she would always see every morning that she woke up beside him, for the next two years . . .