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IGNATIUS STARED UP AT THE SKY in blissful contentment. Not only was it a new moon, but the sky was overcast with thick black clouds, ensuring that his hypersensitive allergy to the suns rays would not emerge tonight. It would make for a luxuriously long ending to his hunt for the boy, and he would take his time with every stroke of his blade. The boy would bleed quickly, but the cuts would be oh so slow.

Nothing could stop the hunter tonight. No glinting of the suns light off the surface of the moon. No concerns about the boys human ward witnessing his actions. Ignatius had listened to her thoughts as she left the house an hour before-a double shift at the hospital would keep her away all night.

Now there would only be the boy, and the delicious slicing of his pretty skin.

But he had to be careful. He was famished, which always made for a better hunt, but it also increased the temptation to feed off the hunted during his cutting sessions. And hed be damned if he was going to taint his palate with the bitter crimson of an arrogant half-breed. Better that he should complete his hunt on a full stomach than run the risk of draining his flawed captor.

As if in answer to his needs, a girl passed him on the sidewalk, her skin pale, purple streaks through her dark hair. Ignatius recognized her at once as one of the human children who frequented the front steps of the local high school each evening. Her name stuck on his tongue. It was a time, not a name, and had reminded him instantly of the smell of autumn and cool breezes. October.

He turned, following her quietly, daydreaming about the moments following his meal. Hed steal into the boys home stealthily and make his way up the stairs to his bedroom. Then, with a turn of the knob, enter the boys resting place.

October turned the corner, oblivious to the vampire following her.

Once he was in the boys room, Ignatius would unsheathe his favorite blade and, with its tip, draw the covers down, away from the sleeping boys form. And then

What are you doing? A voice from the shadows. Ignatius hung back, lost in his fantasy, but not so lost that he would expose his presence and lose his meal.

October slowed her steps, but by her posture it was clear shed been expecting the intruder. Im going home. Whats it look like?

Another human, a boy with silver hair, stepped from the shadows, his lips pursed. It looks like youve been inviting a dork like Vladimir Tod to hang with us without even asking my opinion.

She shrugged coldly. I dont need your permission, Kristoff. If you dont like him, you can find other people to hang out with. Besides, hes not a dork. I think hes interesting.

Kristoff snarled. Interesting? Hes boring. And about as far from being goth as you can get.

I dont choose my friends because of labels. I choose them because they intrigue me. She raised a stark eyebrow, her posture suddenly very defensive. You used to be so open-minded, Kristoff. What happened to you?

After a long, silent moment, the boy shrugged, sighing. Theres just something about him. I dont know what it is. But I dont like it.

So dont like it. But give him a chance. The way I gave you a chance, David.

Kristoff winced at the mention of his non-goth name and walked away without another word.

In waiting, Ignatiuss thirst had become dire. He had to feed, quickly, and get to his task. The sun would be up in five hours. He would need at least a quarter of that for the journey back to Stokerton. It wasnt as much time as hed hoped for, but his recent fast had weakened him, making waking from rest a drawn-out chore. But that was about to end.

He closed the gap between himself and the girl, and with a quick glance around them at the darkened windows of the houses that lined the street, he closed his hand around her arm. To his surprise, the girl threw her arm up, slamming her elbow into his Adams apple. Ignatius stumbled back for a moment, recoiling from the shock of pain. As he recovered, she spat out, Dont even think about it, pervert. Ive been in self-defense classes since I was five.

Ignatius considered engaging her in conversation, toying with her until the moment of her demise, but there was no time. He needed her blood far more than he needed her fear. With vampiric speed, he moved close to her, knocking her off her feet. He could smell her blood rushing through her veins in excited fear, and his hunger raged through him. He leaned closer, opening his mouth, exposing his fangs. The girls eyes were squeezed tightly closed. She kicked and thrashed uselessly, completely unaware that her life was about to be stolen away by a creature shed only seen in her dreams. Ignatius brushed his lips against her throat, ready to bite down, savoring the moment for all its worth.

A bright light blinded Ignatiuss too-sensitive eyes. It was false light, but too bright for his vision to handle. He stumbled, then ran blindly into the darkness, hoping he was heading in the direction of the Tod boys home. Let it be finished then, hungry or not. Behind him he heard what sounded like a human police officer comforting the girl.

By the time he reached the boys home, his vision had cleared. He stood across the street, watching for a moment, hoping to savor his duties at least a little. He stepped forward, beginning to cross, but that same light that had assaulted him flickered in the corner of his eye. Down the street, a police car shined its searchlight between houses, seeking him out.

Begrudgingly, Ignatius turned from the boys home and fled. It would be safer to wait, and give the boy who would be Pravus one more night of peaceful rest. Or at least, a few more hours.

As he whipped through the town, it occurred to Ignatius that a more direct approach would be called for. And that the next time he encountered Vladimir Tod, his violent tactics wouldnt just be fueled by a sense of duty and justice but by revenge for having made him wait this long.