“Yeah, I do know,” she said. “You think I’m such a bitch that I’d hurt her on purpose.” She left Derek and walked over to Jenny, trying not to let others’ opinions annoy her. She recalled again that old saying her mom taught her? “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

Her mom was wrong. Words did hurt. And you couldn’t take words back.

“Did Derek rig this?” Jenny asked as Della approached her.

“Rig what?” Della asked.

“Us being together?”

“No,” Della said. “You just got unlucky.” She started walking away from the crowd, Derek’s comment still stinging.

Jenny just arched a brow and followed.

“You okay?” Jenny asked when Della didn’t speak.

“Fine. You want to just go to my cabin?” Della asked.

“Sure.” Jenny looked back at Derek. “What did he say to you?”

Della frowned. “For me to be nice.”


Jenny made a face. “I don’t get why he thinks it’s his job to take care of me.”

“He likes you,” Della said. And he thinks I’m a rude bitch.

They got to the trail, away from the crowd. The morning air felt fresh and crisp. Jenny kicked a rock and watched it bounce into the brush. “Steve likes you and I don’t see him going around making people be nice to you,” Jenny said.

“I’m not here because Derek made me.” All of a sudden, Della caught what else Jenny had said. She stopped walking. “How do you know Steve likes me?”

Jenny shrugged. “Everyone knows Steve likes you. It’s super obvious by the way he looks at you. Like everything about you is the most fascinating, amazing thing he’s ever witnessed. I’ve seen him just hear your voice across the room and he completely tunes everything else out and looks for you. It’s so sweet.”

Della exhaled and wished she didn’t think it was sweet.

“Don’t you like him?” Jenny asked.

“Don’t you like Derek?” Della countered, thinking the girl would get the message that some things were too personal to ask.

“I do, but I’m sort of scared. And you?”

Della hadn’t expected her to answer, and now to be nice she had to reciprocate. “Ditto.”

“Wow, I didn’t think you were scared of anything.”

Della wanted to take the confession back. But it was too late. She arrived at her cabin and dropped down on the porch. “I guess I’m not a tough as you think.”

“No, you’re just human. Oh, well, not human, but just … normal.”

Della cut her eyes at Jenny. “Normal is boring. I want to be successful. Accomplished.” I want to show Burnett that I’m good enough to be in the FRU.

“I’d love to be normal.” Jenny sat beside Della. “Then everyone wouldn’t stare at me all the time.”

“You’ll get used to it. Kylie did.” Della reclined back on the porch. “But I agree, it totally sucks, but we don’t get to choose what we are or what we look like.”

“What is it you don’t want to be?” Jenny asked.

“I wasn’t talking about me.” But the word “vampire” popped into Della’s mind. And how many times had she wished she looked more like her dad—just thinking it would have made him happier? But that was only part of it.

“Right,” Jenny said in disbelief.

Della huffed. Then for unknown reasons she decided to let her guard down a little. “I don’t want to be weak, and I don’t want to depend on people. I want to be able to take care of myself, and to be totally fine on my own.” A slight wind blew and a few leaves from a silver maple fluttered to the ground. “But it’s not all that easy. Sometimes it’s really hard to be so distant from my parents, and I’m not talking about physical distance either.”

Another wind stirred a few more leaves free. “Derek told me that he’s helping you look for an uncle and maybe an aunt. Is that the reason you’re looking for them?”

Della frowned at the thought of Derek talking about that, but she supposed she couldn’t complain. “Part of it, but don’t mention it to anyone else.”

“Oh, don’t worry.” Jenny paused. “What are you going to do if you find them? Will you leave here and live with them?”

“No,” Della said. “It would just be nice to have family who understands me.”

“I know what you mean,” Jenny said, and it had Della remembering there were still issues between Jenny and her real parents. She supposed she and Jenny had a lot in common.

Silence hung in the air.

“Derek kissed me,” Jenny blurted out.

Della looked at her, happy to move her thoughts away from Steve, and her parents. “And?”

“And what?”

“A kiss always comes with a story. A kiss is never just a kiss. Did you like it? Did you slap the crap out of him? Did it come with tongue? Did it make your toes curl? Did it stop at just a kiss?”

Jenny grinned. “Isn’t there a rule about not kissing and telling?”

“That only counts with guys,” Della said. “Girls can tell things.” She grinned back. “And don’t worry, I wouldn’t tell anyone.”

Jenny paused. “I told him he shouldn’t have done it, but then I didn’t stop him while he was doing it. So I guess I liked it.” She sighed. “And when he kissed me, it was as if … everything looked different. Beautiful.”

Della had heard that before, from Kylie, but she didn’t think Jenny would like hearing that.

“If you liked it, why did you tell him he shouldn’t have done it?”

“I don’t know … it feels weird. I wonder if he liked kissing Kylie more. I wonder if he just likes me because I remind him of Kylie because I’m a chameleon. But I’m not special like she is.”

“Why don’t you just ask him?”

“If I start asking questions, he’ll think I’m jealous.”

Now, that was something Della could relate to. And it was the exact reason she didn’t ask Steve about his little nurse assistant. “Are you jealous?”

“No. Maybe. But it’s wrong.”

Ditto, Della thought. It was wrong of her to be jealous, too. Especially when she had no ties to Steve.

Jenny pushed her brown hair from her eyes. “I think she’s over him, but is he really over her?”

“You should talk to him. And Kylie, too. I think she could help you deal with this.”

Jenny made a face. “It would feel weird.”

Della rolled over on her belly on the porch, kicked her legs up behind her, and looked at Jenny. “Sometimes you gotta pull your big-girl panties up and just do it.” But when Della considered asking Steve about Jessie, it didn’t seem so easy. She had a feeling she’d be walking around with her panties around her ankles for a while.

Jenny looked at Della. “What are you doing about you and Chase?”

Della’s mouth dropped. “What?”

“He offered blood to spend an hour with you and he looks at you when you aren’t looking. Not as sweet as Steve does, but you can tell he has something for you.”

“He offered blood just to get people to donate more. And he’s not looking at me like that.”

“Has he tried to kiss you?” Jenny asked.

“No.” But Della recalled him telling her she was hot and touching her lips. He’d probably just been trying to annoy her. And it had worked. “I don’t like him like that.”

“Because you like Steve?”

“I just don’t like him.” She didn’t want to go into how his scent felt familiar. Didn’t want to admit that she found him … attractive. Or that she’d thought about how his finger had felt against her lips. Nope, she didn’t want to go there, because it didn’t mean anything.

“I think you’re right to be leery of him.”

It was how Jenny said it that had Della sitting up. “Why? What do you know?”

Jenny’s pause told Della the girl knew something.

“What is it, Jenny? Spill it! Before I have to choke it out of you.” And there went Della’s playing-nice promise.

Chapter Fourteen

“Please,” Della said.

Jenny frowned. “If you promise not to tell anyone.”

“My lips are sealed.”

“I take walks. I don’t leave the property, but I still have to sneak out because my brother doesn’t think I should go out alone. But I’m not doing anything, I just walk around the woods. To think.”

“I go out most nights,” Della said. “I’ve never seen you.”

“You wouldn’t. I turn invisible. I just feel better knowing no one is staring at me. But I saw you once. I was going to show myself, but you were gone too fast.”

Della pulled one leg up to her chest to fight an unnatural chill. She cut her eyes around, praying she wouldn’t see a duck feather, then focused back on Jenny. “What does this have to do with Chase?”

“A couple of times I’ve seen him out at night, too. It’s always late. And one time I heard him talking to someone. A person who was on the other side of the gate. They were talking really low. I don’t know why, but it just felt … secretive.”

Della remembered seeing Chan outside the gate last night. Could Chan know Chase? Was that where she’d met Chase before? Why Della remembered his scent? “Was the guy he was speaking to Asian?” Della asked.

“I never really saw him. Chase was in front of him.”

Della tried to wrap her head around this. “Was this last night?”

“No. Tuesday night.”

So it wasn’t the same night, but wasn’t it too big of a coincidence not to be connected? Della’s mind raced. What in the world would Chase have to do with Chan? And if Chase did know Chan, why wouldn’t he tell Della?

“Wait,” Della said. “You couldn’t see him, but you heard them. What were Chase and this guy talking about?”

“I don’t know, I forced myself not to listen. That would have been eavesdropping, and Burnett has warned me, several times, that it would be wrong for me to use my invisibility powers for that. So I left. But as I was walking away, Chase kept looking around as if he was afraid someone would see him. I think he was doing something he shouldn’t. He acted as if he was afraid he’d get caught.”

After school Della lay in her bed, fighting a mild headache and feeling as if she was getting nowhere fast on any of her quests. She was coming up empty-handed on her search for her uncle. She still didn’t have a clue who had knocked her out. Burnett still hadn’t agreed to let her work the murder case. Her cousin was still unreachable, and now she had the mystery about Chase and his visitor to figure out.

Not that she’d confronted the panty perv.


She wanted to talk to Chan first. The next time she accused Chase of something, she didn’t want him to have an easy out. She wanted proof. If only Chan would call her back.

Her frustration over Chase turned on a dime to frustration over her cousin. Or maybe not just frustration, but concern. If Chan was already entrenched in a gang, they might not let him return calls. She’d heard that some gangs forced you to give up everyone from your old life. Was that what was happening with Chan? She hoped like hell he hadn’t completely gone rogue. Rogues did bad things. A lot of rogue gangs fed off humans. Could Chan do that?

Closing her eyes, she recalled Chan helping her through the toughest part of the change. The only time he’d left her side was when her mom or someone would come in. Or when they took her to the hospital. And even then he’d come to the hospital to check on her. He could have just abandoned her. Left her. Let her fend for herself. She could have ended up killing someone. Supposedly a lot of fresh turns did.

But Chan hadn’t left her. He wasn’t bad. He might join a gang, but surely it wasn’t one that condoned killing humans.

Once again she regretted not calling him back. Regretted not trying harder to be a bigger part of his life. God, not only was she a bitch, she was a bad cousin.

But not so bad that she believed Chan could kill innocent people. The image of the dead girl popped in her head again. She pushed it out of her head, and went back to her cousin.

“Call me, Chan, please,” she muttered, as if he might magically hear her.

Her phone rang. Della popped up and snagged the phone, and stared at the number. Again, not Chan. But it was her mom.

“Hey mom,” Della said, trying to sound cheery.

“I spoke with Ms. Galen. I think it’s okay you go, but … don’t mention it to your dad.”

Why? Della wanted to ask, but then she knew: Her father would have objected. Just on the principle of not making Della happy, because he probably still thought she was stealing from him.

“Thanks,” Della said, and then, because the conversation felt awkward, she asked, “How was your day?”


All of a sudden Della’s curiosity got the best of her. “Mom, can I ask you something?”

“I guess,” her mom said.

“Why doesn’t Dad ever talk about his past? His childhood?” His dead brother and missing sister?

“That’s a strange question,” her mom said.

“I know,” Della admitted. “But it’s just odd that he doesn’t talk about his life like you do. You talk about being in high school.” Feeling brave, she added, “And you even talk about your brother who died of cancer. But Dad says nothing about … anything.”

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