MY BEST FRIEND—I hoped I could still call her that—
Mindy Stankowicz, looked completely baffled as crowds of
Romanians who knew where they were going pushed past her
to get to the baggage carousels at Bucharest’s busy Aeroportul
Internaţional Henri Coandă.
I knew that I should rush over and help Min, but I held
back, just watching as she searched the crowd for me, her eyes
now and then darting to signs in a language that my brief
time in Romania hadn’t prepared me to understand, either.
Mindy took a hesitant step forward, then stopped again,
obviously not sure where to go, and I still didn’t move, either.
My feet seemed bolted down as I tried to sort out all of the
emotions that rushed through me just to see a friend from my
recent past, someone who’d witnessed everything that had
happened in high school, from the day Lucius Vladescu had
walked into my life to the night I’d feared he’d been taken
away from me forever.
Looking back on our last months of school, I still wasn’t
sure if Mindy had deserted me or if I’d abandoned her as
things with Lucius had gotten more intense. Mindy had
wanted to help me deal with all that I’d been going through
with Lucius and Faith Crosse and Jake Zinn, but I’d pushed
her away, scared to confide the truth about my feelings for
Lucius—and the truth about what he was. Not to mention
what I was becoming. Still, the day that Mindy had yanked
her arm away from me in gym class, sort of renouncing our
friendship, I’d been hurt...
Who had been the worse friend?
Standing in the middle of the crowded airport, surrounded
by Romanian travelers who were all hauling their luggage off
spinning baggage carousels as announcements were made in
numerous languages, Mindy suddenly looked scared, and I
remembered one crucial detail from our shared history.
My eighteenth birthday, on the night that Lucius had
almost been destroyed, when nearly everybody else, even my
parents, in a way, had turned their backs on me and him,
Mindy had called to warn me that he was in deep trouble.
She’d had her doubts about Lucius, feared that he might
even be hurting me, but in the end she’d come through and
tried to save his life, because she’d already known that I loved
Maybe if I hadn’t shown up in the barn that night and
tried to intervene, things would have gone a little differently.
Maybe Ethan Strausser would have grabbed the stake instead
of Jake, and Lucius would be gone...
All at once my feet were freed and I wasn’t just walking
toward Mindy—I was running. And without even thinking
about how things might be awkward between us—I was a
vampire, for crying out loud, and we hadn’t seen each other
since my transformation—I shoved through the crowds and
held open my arms just as Mindy saw me, too, and threw her
own arms wide, so we both crashed into each other and
started crying so hard that we didn’t even have the time or the
composure to say hello.
We hung on to each other for a long time, ignoring the
people who pushed past us, some cursing mildly in Romanian.
And when we finally calmed down, I blurted out the question
I’d been wanting to pose but had been too scared to voice,
thinking maybe it was enough just to ask Mindy to fly to
Romania for the wedding of a friend she might not even like
“Will you be my maid of honor? Please?”
Mindy pulled away from me and dragged her fingers
under her eyes, which were dripping mascara all over her
cheeks, then said, with a shaky, still half-teary smile, “Jeez,
Jess, I thought you’d never ask!”
I wiped at my own face, trying to clear away some of my
tears, too. “I was afraid—”
That you’d say no. That you couldn’t in good conscience
support my marriage to a vampire. That we weren’t friends like
that anymore . . .
But before I could find the right words, Mindy squeezed
my arm, stopping me from saying more. “Who else is gonna
do your hair on the most important day of your life, Jess?” she
For some reason I almost started to cry again—but I was
laughing, too. “Nobody but you,” I promised, knowing that
everything that had happened between us, all of the weirdness,
had been fixed.
Or maybe there was one more thing to say, because
suddenly Mindy got serious. “You’re really a—” She glanced
around, probably checking to see if there were any English
speakers who might overhear. Then she leaned close and
whispered, “. . . vampire?”
I straightened a little, not wanting to hide what I was or
act ashamed. “Yes. I am.”
Mindy studied my face for a long time, like she needed to
see that I was still really, truly me and not just some
bloodsucking creature beyond her understanding. Gradually,
I saw her smile not only return but get steadier and warmer,
as if she was setting aside her last reservations about me.
About us. “That’s cool,” she finally said with a nod. “That’s
I hadn’t known that I needed anybody’s endorsement, but
I guessed I needed Mindy’s, because it felt good to hear
somebody say that out loud.
What I was now . . . It really was okay.
“Thanks,” I said, as my own smile got even bigger.
I’d been ecstatic about marrying Lucius, but having my
best friend back . . . It filled some empty place in my heart,
and although we were pretty much adults, and I was about to
be married, I reached out and held her hand, just like we used
to do when we were little kids on the playground.
“Let’s get your bags,” I suggested, pulling her toward the
correct carousel, where most of the luggage had already been
claimed. As we stepped up, though, I saw three big, new looking,
faux Louis Vuitton suitcases conspicuously taking
the ride around for probably the tenth time. When they
reached us, Mindy let go of my hand and hauled one, then
another, off the belt, and I hurried to grab the remaining bag
before it could spin by again.
As the heavy suitcase thudded to my feet, I looked at
Mindy, confused. “Three pieces of luggage? But I thought you
can only stay for three days, tops?”
Mindy looked at me as if I were the one who was out of
my mind. “This is the biggest event of your life,” she reminded
me. “It’s gonna take a lot of hair product!”
I started grinning like crazy then, feeling completely
happy. I was about to marry Lucius, and Mindy really was
“Come on,” I said, starting to wheel the suitcase I’d
claimed toward the exit. “Lucius has a driver waiting for us,
and we have lots to do.”
“I’m right behind you,” Mindy promised, hurrying along
with her two bags wobbling in tow. “Can’t wait!”
I looked over at her and we shared a smile that summed
up about fifteen years of friendship and all the hopes and
dreams we’d had as girls about falling in love and getting
married and living happily ever after.
Then I faced forward and led us both toward the waiting
The wedding was officially under way.
Continue to Chapter 2.....