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LOVED (CHAPTER 2)

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CHAPTER 2

Caitlin slid back the door to the barn and squinted at a world covered in snow. White sunlight bounced off of everything. She brought her hands to her eyes, feeling a pain she had never quite experienced: her eyes were absolutely killing her.

Caleb stepped out beside her, as he was finishing wrapping his arms and neck in a thin, clear material. It almost looked like Saran wrap, but it seemed to dissolve in his skin as he put it on. She couldn't even tell it was there.

"What's that?"

"Skin wrap," he said, looking down as he wrapped it carefully again and again over his arms and shoulders. "It's what allows us to go out in the sunlight. Otherwise, our skin would burn." He looked her over. "You don't need it—yet."

"How do you know?" she asked.

"Trust me," he said, grinning. "You'd know."

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small canister of eye drops, leaned back and put several drops in each eye. He turned and looked at her.

It must have been obvious that her eyes hurt, because he gently placed his hand on her forehead. "Lean back," he said.

She leaned back.

"Open your eyes," he said.

As she did, he reached over and put one drop in each eye.

It stung like crazy, and she closed her eyes and lowered her head.

"Ow," she said, rubbing her eyes. "If you're mad at me, just tell me."

He grinned. "Sorry. It burns at first, but you'll get used to it. Your sensitivity will go away within a few seconds."

She blinked and rubbed her eyes. Finally, she looked up, and her eyes felt great again. He was right: all the pain had gone away.

"Most of us still won't venture out during sunlight hours if we don't have to. We are all weaker during the daytime. But sometimes, we must."

He looked at her.

"This school of his," he said. "Is it far?"

"Just a short walk," she said, taking his arm and leading him across the snowy lawn. "Oakville high. It was my school, too, until a few weeks ago. One of my friends has to know where he is."

*

Oakville High looked exactly as Caitlin remembered. It was surreal to be back here. Looking up at it, she felt as if she had just taken a brief vacation, and was now back to normal life. She even let herself believe, for a brief second, that the events of the past few weeks had all just been a crazy dream. She let herself fantasize that all was completely normal again, just as it had been. It felt good.

But when she looked over and saw Caleb standing beside her, she knew that nothing was normal. If there was anything more surreal than coming back here, it was returning with Caleb by her side. She would be entering her old school with this gorgeous man by her side, well over six feet, with wide, broad shoulders, dressed in all black, the high collars of his black leather trench coat hugging his neck, slipping under his longish hair. He looked like he had just walked off the cover of one of those popular teenage girl magazines.

Caitlin imagined what the reaction would be when the other girls saw her with him. She smiled at the thought. She had never been especially popular, and certainly no guys had paid much attention to her. She wasn't unpopular—she had some good friends—but she was hardly in the center of the most popular clique, either. She guessed she was somewhere in the middle. Even so, she remembered feeling scorned by some of the more popular girls, who all seemed to stick together, to walk down the halls with their noses up, ignoring anyone they didn't consider to be as perfect as they were. Now, maybe, they would take notice.

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