Twilight Prophecy - By Maggie Shayne

1

James dressed in white. White lab coat, white scrubs, white cross-trainers. Sometimes he broke it up with a colored shirt, but for these visits, he mostly stuck with white. Made him fit in.

That was important to him. Fitting in. Though deep down, he knew he didn’t. Not anywhere. He was one of a kind. One of a pair, really, but even his twin was his opposite.

Fitting in here, though—or at least, projecting the appearance of doing so—was necessary. A matter of life and death, and maybe part of the elusive thing he’d been seeking his entire life: a reason for his existence.

He nodded in a friendly, confident way to the people he passed in the antiseptic, cluttered corridors of New York Hospital for Children. It was a busy place, even after visiting hours. As soon as he saw his chance, James ducked into one of the patient rooms.

And then he paused and went silent as he turned to look.

There, asleep in the bed, lay a little girl who slept with a knit hat pulled down over her head to cover the fact that she had no hair. No eyebrows, though that was harder to hide, despite the dimness of the room. There was a sickly sweet scent clinging to her, the scent of cancer. And while most human beings wouldn’t have been able to detect it, he could. He wasn’t entirely human, after all, much as he hated to admit that. Vampiric blood ran in his veins, heightening his senses well beyond the norm. So he smelled the cancer mingling with the stronger scents of antibiotics and the iodine concoction that stained her skin near every puncture wound. The little girl’s arms looked as if they’d been used for pincushions. It was barely 9:00 p.m. but she was asleep, her body exhausted. Her spirit worn down. Her name was Melinda. She was ten years old.

And she was terminal.

His eyes on the sleeping child, he moved closer to the bed. Watching her, keeping his steps silent, he reached out his open hands and laid them gently on the center of her chest, palms down, thumbs touching. He closed his eyes, and opened his heart.

“Doctor?” a woman asked.

James opened his eyes but didn’t move his hands. He hadn’t noticed the woman sitting beside the bed. Hadn’t even checked to be sure the room was empty. This little girl had been his entire focus. And he thought that for as long as he’d been sneaking in and out of hospital rooms by night, he really ought to know better.

He just got so caught up in his work….

“What are you doing?” the woman asked.

He smiled and met her eyes, willing the unnatural glow in his own to bank itself, to hide from her. “Just feeling her heartbeat.”

The woman—the little girl’s mother, if physical resemblance was anything to go by—lifted her brows. He saw her clearly, despite the darkness of the room. “Isn’t that what your stethoscope is for?”

“Do you mind if I finish?” He inserted authority into his tone this time. That was what a real doctor would do, after all. “You’re welcome to stay, but I do need silence.”

Frowning, Melinda’s mother rose from her chair to watch him. He kept his hands on the girl and felt them growing warmer, knew that soon he would give himself away. He had to distract her. “Would you mind getting me her chart? It’s over on her nightstand, I believe.”

Nodding, though still obviously suspicious of him, she moved to the nightstand. And James let the power he’d felt rising up in him continue to move through him, into his hands and into the child. A soft golden-yellow glow emanated from his palms for a long moment, and he let it, not stopping even when he knew the mother was turning back toward him. Even when he knew from her sharp gasp, that she’d seen.

The power would flow as long as it needed to. Sometimes it took a second, sometimes a minute. But only it knew when it was finished.

“What is that?” the woman asked. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Shh,” he whispered. “Just a moment, please.”

“A moment my ass. Who are you? Why haven’t I seen you before? What’s your name?”

The light beamed brighter.

“God, what is that?” And then she was striding to the door, flinging it open. “Help! Someone help me, there’s a stranger in here and he’s—”

He lost her words in the softness of the hum that filled his head. It was a vibration, a

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