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32 Thirty-Two

    Keats didn't come home for days.

    After two days had passed with no word, I called Will, thinking that Keats was surely sleeping on his couch.

    "He's not here, Annie," Will said, and I must have made some kind of humiliating mewling sound, because he added, "Don't go anywhere."

    The sun was rising when Will came in, hugged me, whispered comforting words, then sat with me on the couch, his arm around my shoulders.

    "He'll come back, Annie," he said into my hair.

    "No. He won't. I wouldn't."

    "Well, you're stubborn and, frankly, mean. But Keats isn't. He'll come back and continue to argue with you for years to come."

    I closed my eyes and relaxed into him, begging God and the universe, even the judges, to bring Keats back and give me a chance to learn not to be such a bitch.

    Will snuggled me closer and spoke close to my ear. "Tell me more about Inez," he said, trying to tease me.

    I elbowed him in the stomach.

    Will and I both fell asleep with the early sun shining dimly through the miniblinds.

    Darkness pervaded the room again when I woke up. Had I slept the whole day on the couch? Most vampires could do that without a problem, but I never could keep a regular sleeping schedule.

    Then I realized that something had happened-something had slammed me into consciousness, but several moments passed before I noticed that the front door stood wide open.

    And there was Keats.

    I jolted to my feet, and Will, who had leaned against me as we slept, fell to one side and woke up as suddenly as I had.

    But I hardly noticed. My arms flung themselves around Keats, and if I'd been able to, I would've sobbed into his shirt. As it was, I thanked all the powers in existence for bringing him home. I took time to appreciate everything: the feel of his cotton shirt against my cheek, the way he seemed thinner than he was with my arms around him, the incredible security of being wrapped up in him.

    I found it impossible that he had come home, that he had decided I was worth coming home to. Surely the second he was away from me every woman in the city would rush to stand in line for a chance at doing this, at hugging him, forgetting all the rest.

    Keats hugged me back, but said nothing, and after a minute, I began to feel like he was no longer paying attention to me. Nothing in his body changed, but I could almost taste the absence in his hug.

    I pulled away.

    Keats and Will were staring at each other, but in my emotional swamp, I couldn't tell what it meant. Were they apologizing? Were they challenging each other? Were they communicating telepathically? I had no idea.

    But Keats didn't try to pull me close again, and neither of them looked at me.

    Then Will found the smile he'd been looking for, pasted it on, and said, "Welcome home."
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