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Sierra stared out the window in her bedroom with a mixture of desolation and wariness. The feeling of being watched last night had had her rushing to the comfort and privacy of her home. But as she'd gotten out of her car, on the verge of opening her front door, the feeling had intensified. And that had led her to believe that whoever it was who'd watched from the school had also followed her home.
She had spent the weekend in familiar surroundings, taking comfort in the presence of her brother, Alex, when he was able to be at home. He worked the night shift at the local police precinct, and Sierra appreciated every second she could spend with her brother during the day.
Staying at home had been peaceful, but she couldn't hide there forever. She would have to step out into the real world again soon, and that meant possibly confronting whoever it was that had made her so terrified. But then again, it could've just been a one-time thing. She pushed that thought away. Thinking like that would be stupid. No one followed a person just once--or in her case, just twice--and she sure didn't believe in coincidences.
But whom could she trust? She had attempted to call Professor Carter at home, but Sierra had only gotten her answering machine, with a message indicating that she would be away for the weekend at Fantasy House. That meant that her instructor had been matched to a set of vampires. She sincerely hoped it all worked out for Professor Carter. Just because she had her own misgivings didn't mean her teacher didn't deserve to be happy.
Still, someone was stalking her for a reason. She needed to find out who and why she was suddenly their focus of attention, before theycaught her.
Her doorbell rang twice in close succession, snapping her out of her thoughts. She walked out of her bedroom, headed to the foyer, and peered through the peephole. "Who is it?"
"Special delivery for Ms. Sierra Rand."
She watched the delivery guy warily, assessing him to be in his early twenties. "Who's it from?"
"It doesn't say."
Sierra unlocked the deadbolt, but kept the chain on, and cracked the door open about three inches. The man slipped a thick padded mailer through the opening. She grabbed it, and was surprised to find him walking away. "You don't need my signature?" she called.
He turned and shrugged. "My instructions were to deliver this right to your hands. I've done that. There's nothing else required. Have a nice day," he called back.
Sierra closed the door and put the locks in place. She walked back to her bedroom and opened the mailer to find a small, elegant, mocha-colored velvet box. She opened it and stared at the envelope inside, then froze in shock as her body began to tremble. Welcome to Fantasy Island were the words scripted on the front.
Sierra put her hand on the dresser in an attempt to steady herself as her vision dimmed with angry tears. Her fingers tightened around the ivory invitation she'd just received. She inhaled deeply in an attempt to control her tremulous emotions, but the effort did no good. Reality came crashing down on her in waves, and she felt helpless knowing she could not stop the inevitable.
Memories of her past threatened to consume her. She closed her eyes as a recollection of her parents came to mind. She had left them, eager to run an errand for her high school newspaper office. And in that one hour, her life had irrevocably changed. She had found her parents drained of life, their bodies still warm.
With great effort, Sierra managed to push the memory back. She could not concentrate on that part of her past. Not now.
This couldn't be happening. Not when she had a stalker to deal with. Twice, she'd caught glimpses of the man who had followed her. Who knew if there were other times he'd tracked her and she hadn't noticed? He'd never made a move toward her yet, and he'd always kept to the shadows, as if he were content to just watch her. But she would have to worry about that later.
Her gaze dropped down to the invitation again. The scripted words hadn't changed. She opened the envelope with trembling hands and hitched a breath. A match had been found for her. Two vampires by the names of Van Merck and Roman Trance. And the thought of being face to face with the leader of the Vampirism Covenant sent shivers throughout her body. They were scheduled to meet with her in one night.
It didn't matter if she had any objections. Nor did it matter that she had never wanted to register her information in the database. All females over the age of eighteen were required to register, and she had done exactly that over three years ago. With each year that passed, Sierra had hoped it meant that she would never be selected as a mate. But the invitation now crumpled in her hand stated differently.
These vampires were supposedly her ideal mates in every way--physically, emotionally, and sexually. According to government and Covenant regulations, she had to at least meet with them. But Professor Carter had also reiterated the idea that the female did not have to submit to the vampires sexually. They could use the time at Fantasy House to get to know one another, without sex. But she wasn't going to take a chance.
Fuck the rules.
She wasn't going to give in that easily. She wouldn't provide them with a chance to destroy her. She dropped the wrinkled invitation heedlessly onto the beige-carpeted floor.
The urge to run was overwhelming. She forcefully tamped down the yearning. She had to write her brother a letter. Alex was at work, and she wouldn't dare call him with her decision. With his overprotective ways, he would suggest a confrontation between him and the two vampires. Sierra couldn't handle that. It could end up badly for her brother. He was only human.
But she wouldn't leave her only relative without telling him what was going to happen.
Sierra walked over to her writing desk and pulled out her chair. She opened the top drawer and dragged out a notepad and pencil. She sat down and tried to get a hold on her scattered thoughts.
I will be going away for a while. I do not know how long I will be gone. There are life-changing events that have recently occurred, and I must reevaluate the circumstances surrounding them. I apologize for being so vague, but the less you know, the better. I will contact you as soon as I'm able to.
She ripped the note from the pad and folded it. She would tape the letter to his bedroom door and leave before he got home.