"Dammit, Darcy!" He strode toward her. "You will tell me what's wrong!"
"It was beautiful." Her eyes blurred with tears. "But it can't happen again. I'm sorry." She rushed down the hallway.
"We have to talk," he yelled. "I'll be at your place in five minutes!"
"Hey!" Garrett's voice rang out. "What's going on?"
Darcy speeded up so the second CIA man wouldn't see that Austin's girlfriend was a vampire. It was bad enough that she was breaking Austin's heart. She didn't want him to lose his job, too. With her super-sensitive hearing, she could still detect their voices.
"Problem with the girlfriend?" Garrett asked.
"I'll fix it," Austin grumbled. "This is only temporary."
Tears welled in Darcy's eyes as she climbed the stairs to the roof. The problem wasn't temporary. She was stuck being a vampire forever.
Five minutes later, Austin knocked on the pool house door. No answer. "I know you're in there, Darcy." He'd watched her on the surveillance camera while he'd thrown on his clothes. She'd grabbed a bottle of Chocolood and a box of tissues and gone straight to her bedroom.
He knocked louder. "We need to talk."
The door cracked open. Her eyes were red from crying. Damn, he hated to see her suffering. He hated even worse not knowing why. "What the hell happened?"
"I'm really sorry," she whispered.
"We were talking about that experiment, then all of a sudden - wait, is that it? You're upset because the experiment failed?" He tried to pry the door open, but she was holding it steady with her super strength. "Don't shut me out, Darcy. You know I love you."
A tear rolled down her cheek. "I can't ask you to give up everything for me."
"You don't have to ask. It's my choice."
She shook her head. "No. I won't have anyone sacrificing themselves for me. I won't allow it."
"Why not? Don't you know you're worth it?"
She sniffed as another tear tumbled down. "I don't believe in sacrificing oneself."
"Of course you do. You did it yourself when you saved Taylor."
Her face crumbled. "And look what happened. I lost everything. I won't let that happen to you. You would grow to hate me. After you lost your job and your friends and your family, you would hate me."
"No!" He rested a hand on each side of the door and leaned forward. "Darcy, you were Taylor's hero. Let me be yours."
Her breath caught in a sob. "I'm sorry." She shoved the door shut.
He stared at it in disbelief. God damn it. He was willing to give up everything for her, and she'd slammed the door in his face? He curled his hands into fists. "No!" He punched a fist against the door, then stalked back to his room.
Damn, damn, damn! Each step increased his rage. How could she do this? He'd come such a long way, all the way from being a vampire hater to her lover. She couldn't just toss him aside.
She wouldn't, dammit. He'd show her. He wasn't that easy to dismiss.
Thirty minutes later, Darcy jerked to a sitting position at the sound of loud banging on her door. "Oh, go away," she moaned, falling back onto her tear-soaked pillow.
There was a silent pause, and she imagined Austin pacing outside with indignation. Or maybe he had left and accepted the inevitable. Fresh tears ran down her face. She was doing the right thing. She was probably saving his life, but there was still a secret hope deep in her heart that he would burst through the door and refuse to ever give her up.
The banging started again. Oh, please. Don't make me have to reject you again. She rolled over and pulled a pillow over her ears to muffle the noise. The banging continued. She tossed the pillow aside since the damp pillowslip chilled her ears.
"Darcy, if you don't come here, I'm breaking the door down!"
Vanda? Darcy stumbled from the bedroom to the front door of the pool house. "I'm coming." She didn't have to yell too loud since Vanda's hearing was as good as her own.
"Well, thank God. I was beginning to think you were sick or something," Vanda muttered.
Darcy opened the door. "I'm fine."
Vanda's eyes widened. "The hell you are. You look awful."
"Thanks." Darcy peered through her swollen eyes at the figure huddled behind Vanda. "Oh, no. Maggie, what happened?"
"Yeah, she looks awful, too." Vanda dragged Maggie into the pool house. "I thought you'd be able to cheer her up, but - "
Darcy took one look at Maggie's red-rimmed eyes and tear-stained face and burst into tears.
"Great," Vanda muttered. "This is going to be fun."
"Oh, Darcy. It was terrible," Maggie wailed with a fresh supply of tears.
Darcy wrapped her arms around her. "Poor Maggie."
With a sigh, Vanda shut the door. "Looks like I brought the right stuff." She lifted an unlabeled bottle. "Now, we can all get hammered."
Darcy sniffled. "What is it?"
Vanda strode into the kitchen. "Gregori gave it to me. It's Roman's latest venture into Vampire Fusion Cuisine. Still in the experimental stage, though. Not for sale yet."
Darcy and Maggie wandered toward the kitchen, their arms still looped around each other.
Vanda shook her head. "You two look pathetic." She slammed three glasses onto the counter and opened the bottle. "Wow!" Her eyes watered as the fumes from the bottle engulfed her face.
"What is that stuff?" Darcy asked.
"Blissky. Half synthetic blood, half pure Scots whisky." Vanda poured some into the three glasses. "Here you go."
Darcy added some ice to hers, then joined her friends in the sitting area. She settled into a wicker rocking chair.
"Bottoms up." Vanda raised her glass in salute.
After they'd finished gasping and coughing, Vanda refilled their glasses. She set the bottle down on the glass-topped wicker coffee table. "Okay. Who's first?"
Maggie tossed back her glass, then croaked, "Me." She leaned back against the floral printed cushions of the loveseat. "I went to DVN for my interview with Mr. Bacchus."
"Oh, no," Darcy groaned. "That was tonight?"
"Yes." Maggie wiped the moisture off her face.
"I'm so sorry, Maggie. I meant to warn you about him." But she'd gotten too immersed in her own problems with Austin.
Maggie's lips trembled. "You knew he was a lecherous creep?"
"What happened?" Vanda demanded. "Did he make a move on you?"
Maggie shuddered. "It was more like he wanted me to make moves on him. I was so shocked, I just stood there, gaping at him. Then he said, as long as my mouth was open, I might as well put it to good use."
"That Sly," Darcy muttered. "Always a smooth talker."
Vanda snorted. "I hope you told him to go to hell."
Maggie winced. "I should have. But I was so horrified, I just ran from the room." She slumped against the cushions. "Now, I'll never get an acting job. I'll never be with Don Orlando."
Darcy drank her shot of Blissky to bolster her courage. "About Don Orlando, you should know the rumors are true."
"No." Maggie's face crumbled. Vanda refilled her glass.
"He's had an affair with Corky Courrant and Tiffany," Darcy said. "And there could be others."
"Scumbag," Vanda growled.
New tears tumbled down Maggie's face. "I was so sure he was perfect for me." She grabbed her glass and drank.
Darcy sniffed. "I'm really sorry."
"Men." Vanda gulped down some Blissky. "Even dead, you can't live with them." She refilled their glasses. "Your turn, Darcy. Why are you upset?"
She sighed. "A man."
"Of course." Vanda lifted her glass and announced, "Men suck."
"Especially vampire men," Maggie grumbled, then looked stunned by the truth of her statement. The women burst into laughter and downed another shot of Blissky.
"Oh, my God." Maggie wiped her eyes. "I can't believe it. I'm actually getting drunk."
"You've never been drunk before?" Vanda asked.
"No, I was raised in a very strict Catholic family. Drinking was evil. Sweet Mary, everything was evil."
Maggie lounged back with a dreamy look. "I thought with enough love and religion, I could change the world. So, in 1884, I joined the Salvation Army. I had the smartest little uniform, and we marched around Manhattan with our brass band, preaching about the evils of rumdom, slumdom, and bumdom."