Pollepel Island, Hudson River, New York

(Present Day)

"Caitlin?" came the soft voice. "Caitlin?"

Caitlin Paine heard the voice, and struggled to open her eyes. They were so heavy, though; no matter how much she tried, she could barely lift them. Finally, she managed to pry them open, just for a brief second, to see where the voice was coming from.


He was kneeling by her side, holding her hand in both of his, concern etched across his face.

"Caitlin?" he asked again.

She tried to get her bearings, to lift the immense cobwebs from her head. Where was she? She could see enough to see that this room was bare, made of stone. It was nighttime, and a large window let in the light of a full moon. Stone floors, stone walls, an arched, stone ceiling. The stone looked smooth and ancient. Was she in a medieval cloister?

Aside from the moonlight, the room was lit only by a small torch, fixed to the far wall, and not giving off much light. It was too dark to see more.

She tried to focus on Caleb's face, so close, only a foot away, staring at her hopefully. His eyes seemed to light up, as he squeezed her hand tighter. His hands felt warm. Hers were so cold. She couldn't feel the life in them.

Despite her efforts, Caitlin couldn't hold her eyes open a second longer. They were just too heavy. She felt sick was not the word. She felt heavy. She felt free-floating, as if she were in limbo, stuck between two worlds. She didn't feel connected to her body, didn't feel like a part of the earth anymore. But she didn't feel dead, either. She felt as if she were trying to awaken from a very, very deep sleep.

She struggled to remember. Bostonthe King's Chapelthe sword. And thengetting stabbed. Lying there, dying. And Caleb at her side. And thenhis fangs. Approaching her.

Caitlin felt a dull, throbbing pain on the side of her throat. It must have been from where she'd been bit. She had asked for it-had pleaded for it.

But the way she felt now, she was not sure she should have. She didn't feel right. She felt an icy, cold blood racing through her veins. She felt as if she had died, but had not taken the next step. As if she were stuck.

More than anything, she felt pain. A dull, throbbing pain in her lower right side, and in her stomach. It must be from where she'd been stabbed.

"What you are going through is normal," Caleb said softly. "Don't be afraid. We all go through it when we are first turned. It will get better. I promise you. The pain will go away."

She wanted to smile, to reach up and caress his face. The sound of his voice made everything perfect in the world. It made all of this worth it. She would be with him forever, now, and that gave her hope.

But she was too tired. Her body was not responding to what her brain wanted. She couldn't get her lips to smile, and she couldn't summon the strength to lift her hand. She felt herself drifting back into sleep

Suddenly, her thoughts shifted again, jolting her awake. The Swordit was lying there, and thenstolen. Who had it now?

And then she remembered her brother, Sam. Unconscious. Then, taken away by that vampire.

What had happened to him? Was he safe?

And Caleb. Why was he here? He should be pursuing the Sword. Stopping them. Was he here only for her sake? Was he sacrificing it all to stay at her side?

Question after question raced through her mind.

She summoned every ounce of strength she had, and opened her lips just the slightest bit.

"The Sword," she managed to say, her throat so dry it hurt to speak. "You must go" she added. "You must save"

"Shhh," Caleb said. "Just rest."

She wanted to say more. So much more. She wanted to tell him how much she loved him. How grateful she was. How she hoped that he would never leave her side.

But it would have to wait. A new wave of fuzziness washed over her, and her lips simply would not open again. Despite herself, she found herself sinking, sinking, reeling back into the blackness, back into her state of immortal sleep.