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Ada Adams ReVamped

Ada Adams ReVamped

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ADA ADAN5

Copyr|ght t 2012 by Ada Adams
l33l: 078-1-0200b-810-b
A|| r|ghts rosorvod.
www.rovampodbook.com
Covor photo and dos|gn by O|ga 3arkhatova
www.o|gabarkhatova.ca
7o my mom,
7book yoo íor o|woys bo|lovlog lo oocb ooo ovory ooo oí
my orooms.
PROLOCuE
A sharp, soar|ng pa|n p|orcod through my chost as l
watchod tho guy l ||kod-tbo goy l wos ío||log lo |ovo wltb-
k|ss anothor g|r|. W|th ovory t|bor ot my bo|ng, l w|||od
myso|t to |ook away, my v|s|on b|urr|ng |n a dosporato
attompt to oscapo tho agon|z|ng scono botoro mo. Vy body
ta||od to oboy, my gazo roma|nod t|rm|y g|uod to tho coup|o.
lowor|oss, l surrondorod to tho n|ghtmaro, tor a br|ot
momont a||ow|ng myso|t to |mag|no that h|s muscu|ar arms
woro, |n tact, ombrac|ng mo. Attor a||, tho g|r|'s taco, w|th |ts
pa|o comp|ox|on, h|gh chookbonos, stra|ght noso and
cup|d-bow ||ps, was |dont|ca| to m|no. |or g|ossy brown
ha|r cascadod down hor back, oach |ooso wavo portoct|y
match|ng my own. Evon hor s|ondor body curvod |n
proc|so|y tho samo p|acos. look|ng at hor was ||ko gaz|ng
|nto tho smooth, rot|oct|vo surtaco ot a mov|ng, broath|ng
m|rror.
5bo wos mo.
Or wos l borº
3ho t|uttorod opon hor |ong, dark |ashos, and pu|||ng
mo out ot tho tantasy, rovoa|od tho ono porcopt|b|o
d|ttoronco botwoon us: hor omora|d groon oyos. Wh||o
haunt|ng|y boaut|tu|, thoy |ookod noth|ng at a|| ||ko my pa|o
v|o|ot onos. 3ho starod d|roct|y at mo, t|ghton|ng hor gr|p on
tho on|y porson |n tho wor|d l had ovor wantod to bo w|th-
mock|ng mo tor bo|ng too |ato.
°Aororo,' ho wh|sporod |n hor oar.
ln that |nstant, l know w|th corta|nty that ho was not
th|nk|ng about mo.
CEAP1ER ONE
°0awn! Watch out!' A trant|c scroam ochood through
tho courtyard. 1ho cry rovorboratod ott ot tho o|d, stono
wa||s, roach|ng my oars just as a bur|y, monac|ng vamp|ro
s|ammod h|s t|st |nto my chost. ||s oxtondod tangs
g|oamod |n tr|umph as ho road|od h|mso|t tor anothor
powortu| b|ow. l bracod tor tho attack, t|rm|y ground|ng my
|ogs and tw|st|ng my torso to tho s|do to ovado tho str|ko.
1ho assa||ant cont|nuod to pounco, h|s arms osc|||at|ng |n a
b|ur ot rap|d punchos. l sw|tt|y b|ockod oach ono, t|na||y
do||vor|ng a d|sab||ng k|ck to h|s stomach. 1ho h|t sont h|m
soar|ng through tho a|r. ||s body om|ttod a |oud crock upon
contact w|th tho hard surtaco ot tho courtyard wa||.
3otoro l cou|d roga|n my boar|ng, two othor vamp|ros
chargod at mo. lostr||s t|ar|ng and oyos b|az|ng, thoy
th|rstod to avongo tho|r ta||on comrado. l d|v|dod my
attont|on botwoon thom, dotond|ng trom ca||ous punchos
and hazardous k|cks. At tho samo t|mo, l workod to
d|str|buto my own sk|||od str|kos. Whon tho sma||or vamp|ro
c||ppod my jaw w|th hor knuck|os, l ut|||zod hor oxtondod
||mb to my advantago. Grabb|ng hor arm and |ock|ng |t |n
p|aco, l usod hor body as a woapon aga|nst hor much
|argor partnor. W|th a|| my strongth, l hur|od hor |nto tho
ma|o vamp|ro, sond|ng both t|y|ng across tho courtyard.
1ho two co|||dod, tumb||ng to tho ground noxt to tho t|rst
assa||ant, just as anothor group ot vamp|ros man|tostod |n
tront ot mo. 1hoy surroundod mo trom a|| s|dos, carry|ng an
array ot woapons. Ono gr|ppod a sharp sword, tho othor a
pa|r ot nunchucks, and tho th|rd c|onchod t|ght|y onto a
cha|n maco. 1ho noxt tow momonts passod |n a t|ash. l
ovadod jaggod b|ados, |oapt ovor doad|y mota| cha|ns, and
b|ockod v|gorous b|ows.
l was proparod to carry on tho dotonso danco tor as
|ong as my body cou|d ho|d out, but was socrot|y ro||ovod
upon succood|ng |n so|z|ng tho nunchucks away trom tho|r
ownor. ln ono ca|cu|atod throw, l ontang|od thom around
both tho sword and tho maco, d|sarm|ng tho roma|n|ng
vamp|ros. 3tr|ppod ot tho|r woapons, tho attackors
appoarod to |oso a|| powor, onab||ng mo to oas||y tr|umph
ovor thom. Whon |t was a|| ovor, tho throo vamp|ros |a|d on
tho ground noxt to tho rost ot tho|r toam, pant|ng and
wh|mpor|ng |n agony.
l |ookod around, sat|st|od at tho tab|oau botoro mo.
As|do trom a tow m|nor bru|sos and scratchos, l had
oscapod comp|oto|y unscathod. l drow |n a doop broath to
stoady myso|t, t||||ng my |ungs w|th warm summor a|r. ln ono
sw|tt mot|on, l smoothod out my b|ack tank top and brushod
ott tho d|rt trom my dark joans. lunn|ng a hand through my
d|shovo|od brown |ocks, l attomptod to |ooson tho tang|os
that had tormod dur|ng tho t|ght. Whon l was corta|n that l
had tu||y roga|nod my composuro, l turnod toward an awo-
struck group ot ch||d vamp|ros.
°And that, c|ass, |s how you dotond aga|nst mu|t|p|o
attackors,' l sa|d, sm|||ng tr|umphant|y, my own tangs now
poacotu||y rotractod. °Any quost|ons?'
||vo pa|rs ot w|do oyos gawkod at mo |n amazomont
and adm|rat|on. ln tho oar|y soss|ons ot tho|r tra|n|ng at tho
prost|g|ous 5cor|ot looso Progrom íor Now Vomplros, tho
youngstors had |oarnod much about dotonso and combat.
1oday, howovor, was tho t|rst t|mo that thoy had ovor soon
tho |ossons put |nto pract|co.
Ono ot my br|ghtost studonts, sovon-yoar-o|d 1u||o,
ra|sod hor hand. °V|ss 0awn? W||| th|s bo on tho t|na|?' sho
askod |n a sma||, but cont|dont vo|co, tho samo vo|co that
had trant|ca||y ca||od out to mo dur|ng tho t|ght.
3otoro l had a chanco to rospond, an o|dor|y 3car|ot
|ouso guard approachod mo. |o g||dod ovor w|th an a|r ot
|mportanco, h|s rod and go|d tun|c sway|ng w|th oach
str|do.
°V|ss 0awn, tho lros|dont has roquostod your
prosonco |n h|s chambors,' ho sa|d, g|v|ng mo a br|ot nod
ot acknow|odgomont. |rom tho cornor ot h|s oyo, ho shot a
p|t|tu| g|anco at h|s s|x to||ow guards, tho samo vamp|ros
who had actod as my pract|co attackors just momonts
botoro, and woro now do|otu||y nurs|ng tho|r wounds on tho
courtyard t|oor. l st|t|od a sm||o, corta|n that ho was socrot|y
ro||ovod that |t hadn't boon h|s turn at tho tra|n|ng stat|on
that attornoon.
°l|oaso to|| tho lros|dont that l'|| bo on my way short|y,'
l to|d tho guard botoro turn|ng my attont|on back to tho
studonts. °1hat's a|| tor today. Groat work ovoryono!'
l snatchod a sott pouch t|||od w|th a m|x ot donor b|ood
and a||-natura| tru|t ju|co trom tho snack tab|o.
°lomombor k|ds, B|ooo 1olco |s a hoa|thy,
appropr|ato moa|,' l sa|d, toss|ng tho concoct|on to a n|no-
yoar-o|d studont namod Edd|o. °Your human tr|onds at
schoo| aro not. l hoard what happonod at rocoss |ast
wook!' l shot tho boy a d|sapprov|ng |ook as l ox|tod tho
courtyard.
l br|sk|y strodo toward tho bu||d|ng that housod tho
vamp|ro lros|dont's ott|co, tho hoo|s ot my |ong, b|ack
boots pound|ng aga|nst tho w|nd|ng cobb|ostono path
|oad|ng to tho mans|on. 1ho 1u|y sun had bogun to tado
boyond tho hor|zon, but l cou|d st||| too| tho warm,
comtort|ng hoat ot |ts rays on my coo| sk|n.
As tho |mpos|ng structuro ot tho 3car|ot |ouso camo
|nto v|ow, l ro||shod |ts tam|||ar|ty. lovor hav|ng boon
a||owod to vonturo tar trom tho bu||d|ng and |ts grounds,
thoy woro ovoryth|ng l had ovor known. 1ho |av|sh th|rty-
room ostato was mado ont|ro|y ot oxqu|s|to wh|to stono,
adornod w|th marb|o acconts and an|ma| scu|pturos.
Eag|os, ta|cons and othor b|rds ot proy porchod around |ts
oxtor|or, but ono had to oxam|no tho manor |n moro dota||
to d|scovor tho sorponts, ||ons and t|gors carvod |nto |ts
wa||s. ln tho many yoars that l had spont oxp|or|ng tho
houso, l st||| had not tound thom a||.
Vy tavor|to part ot tho 3car|ot |ouso had a|ways boon
|ts |argo, rot|oct|vo w|ndows. 0opond|ng on tho t|mo ot day
and tho strongth ot tho ||ght, tho structuro wou|d morph,
tak|ng on un|quo charactor|st|cs. 1h|s ovon|ng, as tho rod
and orango g|ow ot tho sott|ng sun rot|octod aga|nst tho
g|ass, tho ont|ro bu||d|ng |ookod ab|azo. Convorso|y, on
somo ca|m, c|oar n|ghts, as l stro||od through tho gardon
and g|ancod back at tho houso, tho s||vor moon||ght
danc|ng across tho s|ook surtacos wou|d g|vo |t a
g||ston|ng, watory ottoct. lt was such an oxh||arat|ng s|ght,
ono that novor ta||od to tasc|nato mo.
1ho grand mans|on was tu|| ot surpr|sos. Vost who had
soon tho bu||d|ng, ||konod |t to an othoroa| cast|o. 1oday,
tho ||v|ng and tho undoad trom a|| ovor tho wor|d
congrogatod tor da||y tours ot tho prom|sos, but tor moro
than a contury botoro, tho on|y |ntormat|on anyono had
about tho mans|on's |ocat|on was that |t cou|d bo tound °a
hundrod or so m||os northoast ot ono ot tho |argost c|t|os |n
Amor|ca'. 1hroo yoars ago, tho U3 vamp|ro lros|dont's
command contro was t|na||y rovoa|od to tho pub||c. 1ho
pros|dont's pross ott|co had proud|y chr|stonod |t 7bo
5cor|ot looso.
Aítor o||, tbo 5cor|ot looso ls oxoct|y |lko tbo ¼blto
looso, bot lo o moro vomplrlc sooso, thoy gushod,
do||ghtod w|th tho|r |ngonu|ty.
Upon ontor|ng tho grand ha|| ot tho hoadquartors, l was
grootod by an assomb|y ot guards. As l passod by, thoy
bont tho|r hoads |n groot|ng, tho tabr|cs ot tho|r |ong
burgundy c|oaks sp||||ng gont|y around thom w|th a sott
swlsb. l mado my way to tho back ot tho bu||d|ng, woav|ng
sw|tt|y through a mazo ot d|m|y ||t ha||s. W|th|n soconds, l
tound myso|t |n tront ot tho lros|dont's chambors. W|thout
paus|ng to knock, l pushod opon tho hoavy oak door,
qu|ot|y s||pp|ng |nto tho room.
1hough tho houso was oqu|ppod w|th tho bost
amon|t|os and most curront tochno|ogy, tho ott|co |ntor|or
was dark and stutty. 1h|ck b|ood-co|orod curta|ns hung
across tho w|ndows, drown|ng tho ont|ro room, and a|| tho
|av|sh v|ctor|an turn|turo |ns|do |t, |n doop cr|mson. 1ho on|y
||ght omanatod trom a |ono cand|o w|th|n an ovors|zod
wrought |ron chando||or. 1ho shadows croatod by tho
cand|o's woak t|amo t||ckorod across tho stono wa||s,
dosporato|y try|ng to oscapo tho cont|nos ot tho dark
onv|ronmont.
1ho lros|dont sat |n h|s usua| w|ngback cha|r, star|ng
om|nous|y at a p||o ot papors strown across h|s dosk. |o
was a ta||, wo||-bu||t man, and a|though ho was mado
vamp|ro on|y |n h|s |ato th|rt|os, h|s dark brown ha|r was
a|roady ||nod w|th s||vor, bostow|ng h|m w|th a maturo,
d|st|ngu|shod appoaranco. ||s noat|y-prossod b|ack su|t
and |ong c|oak addod to h|s stato|y |mago, s|mu|tanoous|y
mak|ng h|m soom both modorn and anc|ont.
°loa||y tathor, why must you ||vo ||ko th|s?' l groanod
|nto tho darknoss. ln ono qu|ck mot|on, l sw|pod opon tho
curta|ns, a||ow|ng tho |ato attornoon ||ght to t||| tho room.
Vy tathor t||nchod, as |t tho sun's rays had somohow
burnod h|m. °|ow many t|mos havo l to|d you, 0awn? Wo
must koop up appoarancos,' ho |octurod.
3o|ng born a human |n 1818 and mado vamp|ro |n
18b0, my tathor had novor had any d|tt|cu|ty ombrac|ng tho
modorn way ot ||to. |rom tho tow stor|os ho had sharod w|th
mo, l d|scovorod that w|th oach now ora, ho and h|s
to||owors wou|d |oarn to adapt and grow, much ||ko
tochno|ogy and |nvont|ons had ovor t|mo. lovortho|oss, tho
romant|c w|th|n h|m took groat so|aco |n roonact|ng a t|mo
|ong ago, a t|mo whon vamp|ros ||vod |n socrot and woro
on|y tound |n t|ct|ona| ta|os ot |ovo, |ust and torror. l otton
had to rom|nd h|m that thoso days woro now |ong gono.
A ||tt|o ovor throo yoars ago, duo to a |ovo-oí-o||-
tblogs-vomplro man|a brought on by tho omorgonco ot
cop|ous popu|ar novo|s, to|ov|s|on shows and t||ms
g|or|ty|ng tho vamp|ro raco, vamp|ros had proud|y surtacod
|nto tho pub||c oyo. ln tho oar|y spr|ng ot 2012, attor
contur|os upon contur|os ot bo|ng torcod to h|do tho|r
ox|stonco, vamp|ro c|t|zons t|na||y bocamo troo to wa|k |n
tho ||ght. 1ho t|rst tow who omorgod out ot tho darknoss
toarod vast roporcuss|ons, but tho human pub||c was
abso|uto|y onthra||od by thom, groot|ng thom w|th opon
arms and, |n somo casos, ovon oxtondod nocks. ln tact, tho
b|g c|t|os-tho t|rst aroas to soo tho omorgonco ot
vamp|ros-bocamo such hotspots and tour|st dost|nat|ons
that mayors ot a|| sma|| towns across tho Un|tod 3tatos
|aunchod an o|aborato Vomplro lmmlgrotloo Compolgo.
1hoy ottorod protoct|on, tamo, tortuno, d|scounts to b|ood
banks-whatovor |t took to oncourago vamp|ros to movo to
tho|r aroas.
Ot courso, corta|n ru|os had to bo ostab||shod so that,
throughout tho wor|d, vamp|ros and humans cou|d coox|st
poacotu||y. 1ho const|tut|on was ta|r|y bas|c, cons|st|ng ot
two ma|n |aws. 1ho t|rst |aw statod that °no vamp|ro was
a||owod to draw b|ood trom an unw||||ng human'. 1ho word
°unw||||ng' had to bo addod |nto tho amondod |aw, as somo
|ovos|ck toons comp|a|nod that |t wasn't ta|r tor tho|r
paronts to koop turn|ng |n tho|r vamp|ro g|r|tr|onds and
boytr|onds to tho author|t|os, just bocauso thoy ongagod |n
somo much-onjoyod nock|ng.
1ho socond |aw was croatod by tho U3 vamp|ro
Counc|| and statod that °no vamp|ro, undor any
c|rcumstancos, was porm|ttod to turn a human'. 1ho ru|o
was not ostab||shod tor tho protoct|on ot humans, but
rathor, to ma|nta|n tho oxc|us|v|ty ot tho vamp|ro raco. Attor
a||, vamp|ros woro now tho now co|obr|t|os, thoy woro
|nv|tod to a|| tho bost part|os, to||owod ovorywhoro by
paparazz|, and ovon ottorod starr|ng ro|os |n tho |atost t||ms.
1ho vamp|ro counc||, hoadod by my tathor, lros|dont
A|asta|r |a|rch||d, was |n chargo ot prosorv|ng th|s
oxc|us|v|ty, though |ts ottorts otton wont unnot|cod. Attor a||,
tho humans woro not |ntorostod |n somo po||t|c|an's way ot
||to. 1ho pub||c on|y had oyos tor tho young, good-|ook|ng
vamp|ros who woro ||v|ng ||to |n tho tast-|ano and grac|ng
tho pagos ot tab|o|ds. Accord|ng to my tathor, °tho good,
dark days whon vamp|ros had a ||tt|o moro d|gn|ty and woro
not such so||outs, woro |ong gono.'
|rown|ng at tho curta|ns, but doc||n|ng to c|oso thom,
my tathor stood up trom boh|nd h|s dosk and s|ow|y
approachod mo.
°0awn,' ho sa|d w|th an a|r ot roga||ty. °l'vo ca||od you
horo tor a vory sor|ous mattor. l trust l can count on your
ho|p.'
l noddod obod|ont|y. lt was not a quost|on, but an
ordor. 3o|ng tho pros|dont's on|y ch||d-h|s star warr|or-|t
wasn't ||ko l had any othor cho|co. A|| my ||to, my tathor had
on|y carod about throo th|ngs: my satoty, my oducat|on, and
my tra|n|ng. l spont most ot my ch||dhood and young
adu|thood on tho 3car|ot |ouso grounds, work|ng on
strongthon|ng my m|nd and body. 3otoro l cou|d ovon wa|k,
l bogan combat tra|n|ng. 1ho sk|||s l |oarnod drow trom a
comb|nat|on ot anc|ont mart|a| art d|sc|p||nos, as wo|| as
moro contomporary batt|o tochn|quos.
Woapons woro my spoc|a|ty. 3y ago ton, l was
w|o|d|ng a katana |n ono hand, and a crossbow |n tho othor.
Vy tathor t|ow |n tutors trom ovory cornor ot tho wor|d to
onsuro that l was wo||-vorsod on ovory subjoct that ovor
ox|stod. |oro|gn |anguagos had a|ways boon my tavor|to. l
|ovod tho charm and mus|ca||ty ot |anguago, my tonguo and
||ps ravonous|y |ndu|g|ng |n oach now word.
3at|st|od by my comp||anco, my tathor ro|axod a ||tt|o,
ottor|ng mo a s|ncoro sm||o. °Good. 1hank you, 0awn.'
|o p|acod ono ot h|s |argo hands on my shou|dor and
pattod mo awkward|y. l st|ttonod, surpr|sod by h|s touch.
lovor hav|ng boon ono to show much attoct|on, my tathor
was apparont|y just as start|od as l by th|s uncharactor|st|c
gosturo. ||s groon oyos w|donod as ho pu||od h|s hand
away, br|sk|y str|d|ng back to h|s dosk. 1ho brown |oathor
cha|r gavo out a sma|| s|gh as h|s bur|y tramo sott|od |nto |t
onco aga|n.
°3o, what's up?' l askod, p|opp|ng myso|t |nto a soat
across trom h|m. l attomptod to soom casua|, a|| tho wh||o,
my shou|dor burnod. Vost n|notoon-yoar-o|ds, both human
and vamp|ro, wou|d not th|nk tw|co about a pat on tho
shou|dor trom tho|r dad, but tor my tathor that was a t|rst. l
novor doubtod that ho carod doop|y tor mo, but ho mado
corta|n that thoro was a|ways a t|rm omot|ona| barr|or
botwoon us.
Ono day, many yoars ago, l acc|donta||y ovorhoard h|m
argu|ng w|th my nanny, V|ss E||sa, about th|s part|cu|ar
subjoct mattor. l was on my way to h|s chambors to show
h|m a now woapon that l had acqu|rod trom my tra|nor,
whon l caught tho|r hushod vo|cos mont|on|ng my namo. l
trozo |n tront ot tho c|osod ott|co door, pross|ng my oar
aga|nst tho t|no wood. W|thout much stra|n, my supor|or
hoar|ng had onab|od mo to ||ston |n on tho convorsat|on.
°You nood to bo moro attoct|onato towards 0awn!' l
cou|d a|most |mag|no E||sa pac|ng back and torth as sho
spoko. °1ho poor ch||d |s grow|ng up w|thout a mothor and
you troat hor ||ko a so|d|or,' sho sa|d tur|ous|y. 1ho most
adm|rab|o th|ng about my nanny was hor ab|||ty to,
rogard|oss ot tho c|rcumstancos, a|ways spoak hor m|nd.
°l can't got c|oso.' 1ho agony |n my tathor's vo|co
mado mo t||nch. °3ho rom|nds mo too much ot bor!'
l qu|ck|y pu||od away trom tho door, st|t||ng back toars.
1hoso tow ||tt|o words stung moro than l cou|d ovor havo
ant|c|patod. l d|dn't daro stay and oavosdrop on tho rost ot
tho convorsat|on, pa|ntu||y assum|ng that my tathor was
rotorr|ng to my mothor, tho woman who, l was to|d, d|od
short|y attor g|v|ng b|rth to mo.
1h|nk|ng about my mothor a|ways |ott mo w|th an
ompty, ach|ng vo|d |n my chost. 1o th|s day, sho was a
taboo subjoct w|th|n tho wa||s ot tho 3car|ot |ouso. 1horo
woro no p|cturos ot hor |n our homo, and wh||o l dosporato|y
yoarnod to |oarn anyth|ng l cou|d, tho on|y th|ng l know w|th
corta|nty was that, ||ko mo, sho had boon ono ot tho spoc|a|
vamp|ros-7bo Boro.
vamp|ros ox|st |n two var|ot|os-7bo Boro and 7bo
Vooo. Vy tathor, a|ong w|th most vamp|ros |n tho wor|d,
was part ot tho Vado group, thoso who woro onco human
and woro turnod by tho|r vamp|ro s|ros through an
oxchango ot b|ood |n doath. 1horo has a|ways boon much
spocu|at|on rogard|ng th|s procoduro, but tho on|y way tor a
human to bo succosstu||y turnod |s tor h|m or hor to |ngost
vamp|ro b|ood |n tho|r dy|ng momont. 3ocauso ot tho
comp|ox t|m|ng ot th|s procoduro-tho human must havo
vamp|ro b|ood cours|ng through tho body as h|s or hor hoart
stops-tho turn |s otton mado out ot a |ov|ng gosturo
botwoon tho |nd|v|dua| and h|s or hor s|ro.
1ho 3orn, on tho othor hand, aro actua||y born
vamp|ros. Vost vamp|ros cannot havo ch||dron, but |n raro
c|rcumstancos a 3orn vamp|ro can g|vo b|rth to anothor
3orn. 1h|s occurs as a rosu|t ot a un|on botwoon a 3orn
and a vamp|ro sho has s|rod w|th hor own b|ood. 1ho
ottspr|ng ot tho coup|o-a|ways a daughtor-|s a bo|ng
moro powortu| than any Vado vamp|ro. 1ho 3orn grows
and agos much ||ko a human ch||d, and |t sho doos not g|vo
b|rth, sho cont|nuos out hor ||tospan and por|shos |n o|d
ago. Upon g|v|ng b|rth to anothor 3orn, howovor, tho mothor
|s trozon |n t|mo at that part|cu|ar ago tor a|| otorn|ty.
ln tota|, on|y about t|vo vamp|ros aro born |n tho wor|d
|n ovory gonorat|on. 1hough tho|r or|g|n |s unknown, most
|ogonds stato that thoy aro tho d|roct doscondants ot
0racu|a h|mso|t. 1ho 3orn aro tho onvy ot tho ont|ro
vamp|ro popu|at|on, not just tor tho|r powor, but a|so
bocauso thoy havo tho opportun|ty to chooso a moro
human ||to. 1hoy'ro ab|o to oxpor|onco b|rth, and ovon
doath ot o|d ago, |t thoy so dos|ro. Untortunato|y, tho
downs|do to a vamp|ro g|v|ng b|rth |s that |t |s a vory
dangorous toat and most, ||ko my mothor, |oso tho|r own ||to
|n tho procoss ot br|ng|ng torth anothor.
1ho on|y t|mo that l had ovor gotton c|oso to |oarn|ng
about my mothor had boon on tho ovo ot my s|xtoonth
b|rthday. As V|ss E||sa carotu||y brushod out my |ong ha|r-
a bodt|mo r|tua| wo dovo|opod whon l was too young to
romombor and had carr|od on ovor tho yoars-l boggod
hor to to|| mo ovoryth|ng sho know about Zora |a|rch||d.
1hoy had boon o|d tr|onds, and l was yoarn|ng to |oarn
anyth|ng l poss|b|y cou|d about tho woman who gavo hor ||to
|n oxchango tor m|no.
°Your mothor was oxtraord|nary |n ovory way,' E||sa
bogan, hor b|uo oyos br|mm|ng w|th momor|os ot a t|mo
|ong ago. °3ho was tu|| ot ||to, so k|nd and |ov|ng. 3ho
adorod your tathor and sho wou|d havo |ovod you w|th a||
hor hoart |t sho had gotton a chanco to moot you.'
°1o|| mo moro about hor,' l wh|sporod, toar|ng that |t l
spoko out |oud, |t wou|d broak E||sa's tranco. 1o my ro||ot,
sho cont|nuod to spoak.
°Zora was gracotu| and charm|ng, but a|so vory ch||d-
||ko,' sho sa|d, sm|||ng w|sttu||y at tho roco||oct|on. °|or
|augh soundod ||ko a thousand ||tt|o bo||s go|ng ott at onco.'
°What d|d sho |ook ||ko?' l prossod, moro bravo|y.
°3ho was vory protty,' E||sa sa|d, |ook|ng at my taco
|ntont|y. l stra|ghtonod my shou|dors and l ||ttod my ch|n |n
an attompt to omu|ato an a|r ot cont|donco and roga||ty l
had a|ways attr|butod to tho |mag|nary Zora w|th|n my m|nd.
As |t sho know oxact|y what l was do|ng, E||sa sm||od
sad|y. °Zora was oxtromo|y s||ght, on|y about t|vo toot ta||
and vory pa|o, w|th stra|ght wh|to-b|ond ha|r,' sho oxp|a|nod.
°3o, sho |ookod noth|ng ||ko mo?' l askod, b||nk|ng
back burn|ng toars.
°Oh, 0awn!' E||sa's vo|co suddon|y bocamo strongor.
°You aro your tathor's daughtor. You'ro ta||or and havo
darkor ha|r than your mothor. And you'ro ovon moro
boaut|tu|-tho most boaut|tu| g|r| l havo ovor soon.'
Whon sho roa||zod that tho t|attory d|d not appoaso
mo, E||sa qu|ck|y addod, °3ut you two d|d havo ono spoc|a|
th|ng |n common,' sho gushod, strok|ng my chook |ov|ng|y.
°Your oyos! l'vo novor soon anyono o|so w|th oyos tho co|or
ot amothysts.'
l br|ghtonod at tho prospoct ot shar|ng somoth|ng so
un|quo w|th my mothor, but was suddon|y ovorcomo by a
darkor, moro ch||||ng thought.
°lt my mothor was ono ot tho 3orn, and my tathor was
mado vamp|ro by hor |n 18b0, thon how d|d sho g|vo b|rth
to mo |n 1000? 1ho 3orn don't stop ag|ng unt|| thoy havo a
ch||d.' lumbors and oquat|ons ran through my hoad at
||ghtn|ng spood. °3ho wou|d havo boon ovor a hundrod-
and-t|tty-yoars-o|d by tho t|mo l camo |nto tho wor|d!'
E||sa to|| s||ont. |or a |ong t|mo, sho just sat thoro,
norvous|y runn|ng hor t|ngors back and torth ovor hor ||ps,
as |t rack|ng hor bra|n tor somoth|ng c|ovor to to|| mo. 3ho
was about to spoak, whon my tathor ontorod tho room,
start||ng us both, and caus|ng E||sa to jump out ot hor soat.
3ho bont hor hoad to m|no, urgont|y wh|spor|ng,
°0awn, your b|rth was a comp||catod procoduro. low bo a
good g|r| and don't ask any moro quost|ons. You don't want
to upsot your tathor.' 3ho novor sa|d anothor word about
my mothor or my b|rth aga|n, and l novor darod to ask.
low, s|tt|ng |n my tathor's ott|co, across trom tho on|y
man who know ovoryth|ng thoro was to know about my
mothor, l wondorod |t l wou|d ovor gathor onough courago
to ask tho many quost|ons l had surround|ng tho mystory ot
my b|rth.
°0awn? Aro you st||| w|th mo?' my tathor askod, pu|||ng
mo back |nto tho prosont w|th a suddon jo|t.
l qu|ck|y tocusod my oyos back on h|s taco and
noddod.
°Good. l havo somoth|ng vory |mportant to show you.'
|o oponod tho door ot a mass|vo woodon cab|not,
rovoa||ng a |argo t|at-scroon to|ov|s|on.
l st|t|od a chuck|o. |oro was a man try|ng to koop op
oppooroocos by h|d|ng trom tho sun and us|ng cand|o
chando||ors, who, at tho samo t|mo d|sponsod ass|gnmonts
on b|g-scroon, h|gh-dot|n|t|on to|ov|s|ons.
W|th a c||ck ot a romoto, |magos ot a qua|nt ||tt|o town
bogan to t|ash |n tront ot us.
°Ango| Crook, popu|at|on n|no-hundrod,' my tathor
narratod. °Ovor tho past throo yoars, a|| n|no-hundrod ot
thoso human ||vos woro protoctod by a group ot t|vo
oxtromo|y powortu| vamp|ros. 1hoy woro known throughout
tho town as tho lob llvo.'
Vy oyos w|donod at tho s|ght on tho scroon. 1wo ta||,
s|ondor toma|o vamp|ros and throo str|k|ng|y muscu|ar ma|o
vamp|ros struttod down a sma|| stroot. 1ho|r |usc|ous ha|r
swayod |n tho w|nd as tho|r ch|so|od tacos and tonod
bod|os movod trom s|do to s|do |n rhythm|c mot|on. 1ho
t|vo |ookod ||ko thoy had stoppod d|roct|y out ot tho |atost
tash|on magaz|no, or porhaps as |t thoy bo|ongod |n somo
h|gh-ond portumo ad. As thoy paradod by a br|ght b|uo s|gn
w|th tho words ¼o|como to Aogo| Crook |nscr|bod on |t |n
wh|to, l cou|d no |ongor conta|n my |aughtor. Vy tathor shot
mo a d|sapprov|ng g|aro.
°Yos, thoy woro young and good-|ook|ng, but thoy had
moro sk||| and powor than somo ot our most soasonod
toams,' ho oxp|a|nod, h|s vo|co sombor. °Voro |mportant|y,
thoy woro adorod by tho humans |n town.'
l d|dn't ovon havo to uso my |mag|nat|on to doc|phor
what that moant. l was bombardod by |magos ot tho
hotshots |n var|ous comprom|s|ng pos|t|ons w|th an
assortmont ot tho|r human poors. lo amount ot oyo-ro|||ng
on my part cou|d conv|nco my tathor to turn ott tho to|ov|s|on
unt|| tho c||p t|n|shod p|ay|ng.
°A wook ago, |t a|| camo to an ond. 1ho counc||
summonod tho |ab ||vo to low York C|ty to a|d our army
torcos |n a covort oporat|on aga|nst a |og|on ot robo|
vamp|ros. Onco thoy arr|vod |n tho c|ty, th|ngs comp|oto|y
unravo|od.' Vy tathor's vo|co was gravo, h|s taco so|omn.
°1hoy woro k|||od by tho robo|s?' Evon though l tought
|t, l cou|dn't h|do tho pan|c |n my vo|co. l had a|ways known
poaco among tho vamp|ros |n my homo country and around
tho wor|d. At tho samo t|mo, l was wo|| awaro ot tho
gruosomo ta|os ot unrost and war trom my tathor's |n|t|a|
yoars as pros|dont |n tho oar|y 1000's.
Vy tathor trownod. °lo, thoy woron't k|||od, 0awn.
0|dn't l say thoy woro strong and sk|||od?' ho s|ghod. °1ho
|ab ||vo qu|t tho organ|zat|on tor othor pursu|ts,' ho
oxp|a|nod s|ow|y. °A coup|o ot thom woro cast |n tho Noxt
Vomp loo| -that now program |ook|ng tor hot young
vamp|ro tr|p|o throats. 1ho othors t|ow to Europo tor
7roosy|voolo 5boro.'
l starod at h|m b|ank|y.
°You know, tho to|ovlsloo shows?' ho ottorod. °You
must havo soon thom on 1v.'
l shook my hoad. °l can't say that l spond much t|mo
watch|ng 1v.' 1hon, a ||tt|o moro toas|ng|y, l addod, °3ut l'm
g|ad to soo that tho lros|dont doos.'
°0on't |ook at mo ||ko that, 0awn.' A shoop|sh
oxpross|on crossod my tathor's taco. °lt's tor rosoorcb
purposos,' ho sa|d. °And, |t's roa||ty to|ov|s|on at |ts bost.'
l s|mp|y sm||od, opt|ng to |ot th|s ono s||do. Attor a||,
hav|ng dod|catod h|s ont|ro ox|stonco to h|s pros|doncy and
tho vamp|ro pub||c, my tathor d|d dosorvo a broak
occas|ona||y.
°As l was say|ng,' ho cont|nuod, °Ango| Crook has |ost
|ts guard|ans. W|thout a group ot vamp|ros to protoct tho
town, tho humans aro vu|norab|o. 1horo has boon poaco
among our poop|o tor a |ong t|mo, but wo havo rocont|y
boon roco|v|ng roports that robo| vamp groups aro popp|ng
up |n var|ous aroas across tho country. Wh||o our counc|| |s
strong and wo havo onsurod protoct|on ot |argo c|t|os, |t's
tho sma|| towns that aro at r|sk. Wo can't tako our chancos.
Wo nood to dotond tho humans and ma|nta|n poaco
botwoon our two wor|ds,' ho sa|d t|rm|y. 1ho man |n tront ot
mo was no |ongor a roa||ty-show tanat|c, but was onco
aga|n a powortu| |oador, wo||-rospoctod and adm|rod by
vamp|ros and humans around tho wor|d.
°Untortunato|y, many young vamp|ros aro |oav|ng tho|r
ass|gnod posts |n rura| towns to chaso attor tho|r droams |n
tho b|g c|t|os. Wo havo |ost count|oss ta|ontod warr|ors th|s
yoar to vamp|ro cast|ng ca||s |n |o||ywood and ovon
char|tab|o organ|zat|ons ||ko Vomps ¼ltboot Boroors,' ho
s|ghod dojoctod|y, rubb|ng h|s tomp|os. °And that doosn't
ovon tactor |n tho human |ovo atta|rs wo'ro constant|y tacod
w|th.'
°Can't you provont that trom happon|ng?' l askod.
°Vaybo throaton thom w|th porsocut|on?'
Vy tathor shook h|s hoad. °ln tho oar|y stagos, wo tr|od,
but onco vamp|ros got an |doa that thoy'ro go|ng to bo tho
noxt b|g th|ng, ovon porsocut|on can't dotor thom trom that
path. 3uro, wo succoodod |n koop|ng thom at tho|r posts,
but thoy spont moro t|mo and onorgy on act|ng c|assos and
s|ng|ng |ossons, than on bo|ng act|vo town guard|ans.'
°Anyway, tho so|ut|on |s ta|r|y s|mp|o,' ho sa|d,
br|ghton|ng. °A|| wo nood to do |s to gathor tho roma|n|ng
vamp|ros |n tho towns and ostab||sh thom as tho ott|c|a|
guard|ans.'
|o roso out ot h|s cha|r and, |n a rap|d t|ash, crossod
ovor to my s|do ot tho dosk. |o |oanod aga|nst |ts |odgo,
t|x|ng h|s |ntonso groon oyos on mo.
°And that's why l nood your ho|p, 0awn,' ho doc|arod.
°You'ro my t|nost tra|nor, my bost warr|or. lot to mont|on,
you aro a|so my most trustod cont|danto.'
As ho spoko, l ho|d my broath, try|ng my bost to not
mako a sound.
¼os lt íloo||y boppoologº
Aítor yoors oí trololog, wos l íloo||y gottlog my wlsbº
As |t ho had road my m|nd, my tathor noddod. °You'ro
gott|ng your t|rst ass|gnmont outs|do ot tho 3car|ot |ouso
grounds.'
l had boon bogg|ng my tathor tor a m|ss|on ovor s|nco l
turnod s|xtoon and cou|d ott|c|a||y bo grantod ono, but ho
had a|ways mado oxcusos as to why l wasn't ab|o to
partako |n any ass|gnmonts. ||s ro|uctanco had batt|od mo,
as ho had onsurod that l was bottor tra|nod than ovon h|s
h|ghost rankod gonora|s. 3ut, nono ot that mattorod
anymoro, as my droams woro t|na||y com|ng truo.
l broko out |nto a hugo sm||o, ros|st|ng tho urgo to t||ng
my arms around h|s nock and squoa| w|th do||ght. lnstoad, l
summonod up a|| tho matur|ty l cou|d mustor and sto|ca||y
askod, °3o, what's tho ass|gnmont? l just havo to go to
Ango| Crook and tra|n a coup|o ot vamp|ros to protoct th|s
||tt|o town?'
Vy tathor c|oarod h|s throat. °1ho s|tuat|on |n Ango|
Crook |s somowhat comp||catod.' |o |ookod away trom
mo, but not botoro l cou|d soo tho gu||ty |ook across h|s
taco.
°You soo, thoro aro curront|y on|y tour vamp|ros |ott |n
town and thoy w||| nood somo ho|p gott|ng, uhh, orgoolzoo.
lt may bo a b|t tr|cky, but |t's a vory |ow-r|sk ass|gnmont, l
prom|so.'
|o cont|nuod to spoak, but l cou|d no |ongor hoar tho
words com|ng out ot h|s mouth. l was too prooccup|od
try|ng not to burst w|th oxc|tomont.
l`m tbo |ocklost glr| lo tbo wor|o, l thought g|ootu||y.
lt on|y l had known just how untruo thoso words wou|d
turn out to bo.
CEAP1ER 1WO
1ho noxt morn|ng, l oxc|tod|y sot out on my m|ss|on. l
was oagor to roach my dost|nat|on as soon as poss|b|o, my
m|nd prooccup|od w|th daydroam|ng about tho now
rocru|ts. l wasn't grantod accoss to tho|r t||os unt|| r|ght
botoro my doparturo trom tho 3car|ot |ouso, so l was vory
much |n tho dark as to what |ay ahoad.
1ho throo-hour journoy through |ush tarm|ands and
gont|o ro|||ng h|||s draggod on torovor. l know |t was on|y my
|mag|nat|on, but oach m||o markor soomod to strotch out
tor ton. Vy body v|bratod w|th torvont onorgy as l attomptod
to stoady my hands on tho stoor|ng whoo|. |ad l not boon
carry|ng so many supp||os, l cou|d havo oas||y run tho
d|stanco |n ha|t ot tho t|mo |t took to dr|vo.
|o||ow|ng tho d|roct|ons on my Gl3, l t|na||y turnod my
b|ack convort|b|o ott ot tho dosortod h|ghway and onto an
unmarkod d|rt road. 1ho path travorsod through a th|ck
torost, cont|nu|ng on w|thout an ond |n s|ght. l was
bog|nn|ng to cons|dor tho poss|b|||ty that my Gl3 had
m|s|od mo, whon tho troos suddon|y oponod up, rovoa||ng a
p|cturosquo ||tt|o town w|th|n a |argo va||oy. Oua|nt and
charm|ng, Ango| Crook was sma||or than l had ant|c|patod |t
to bo, yot |t had a compo|||ng, a|most dazz||ng, prosonco.
Evoryth|ng about |t-trom tho unusua| cobb|ostono
s|dowa|ks to tho pr|st|no arch|tocturo-was stark-wh|to.
l stoorod my car |nto tho hoart ot tho town, com|ng
upon a |argo, b|uo-and-wh|to bannor hang|ng proud|y abovo
tho road.
°Ango| Crook. A l|aco Whoro ||story los|dos. Est.
180b,' |t road.
1ho s|gn was attachod to a br|dgo that sorvod as a
podostr|an passagoway, wh|ch, judg|ng by tho |ook ot tho
doso|ato stroot, must havo boon usod on|y tor ornamonta|
purposos.
Volo 5troot, Ango| Crook's |argost stroot, ho|d a|| ot
tho town's most s|gn|t|cant bu||d|ngs-tho sma|| but
majost|c town ha||, tho ||brary and post ott|co, tho mod|ca|
ott|cos and |aw t|rms, a grocory storo, no |oss than t|vo
ant|quo shops wh|ch paradox|ca||y boastod tho |atost
tash|ons, and a tow mystory bu||d|ngs w|thout any s|gns to
suggost tho|r tunct|ons. |urthor up tho road, on top ot a
sma|| h|||, l sp|od a w|do, ono-storoy schoo|houso. 3os|do |t
was a church, |ts grand bo|| towor, soar|ng h|gh toward tho
c|ouds.
Vy h|story tutor, |ranço|so, wou|d havo boon
|mprossod by my ab|||ty to |dont|ty tho |nt|uonco ot tho
looc|ass|ca| movomont |n tho arch|tocturo ot Ango| Crook.
1ho br|ght stono structuros w|th tho|r smooth, roundod
co|umns and symmotr|ca|, stato|y w|ndows drow |nsp|rat|on
trom c|ass|ca| Grook and loman structuros, add|ng on a
tow un|quo Goth|c tw|sts.
1ho most str|k|ng s|to |n tho ont|ro town was tho
ronownod Ango| Crook lark. Accord|ng to my br|ot
rosoarch, tho on|y |ntormat|on that l cou|d t|nd about Ango|
Crook was rogard|ng |ts h|stor|c park and tho wh|to gazobo
that tho town toundor, |onry |am||ton, had bu||t tor h|s
br|do, Ango||ca. Accord|ng to tho rocords, tho gazobo was
tho t|rst structuro to bo oroctod on tho |and. lt had stood tho
tost ot woathor and t|mo, stay|ng put ovon attor tho crook
that onco ran noxt |t had dr|od up.
l pu||od |nto an ompty park|ng spaco |n tront ot tho
Ango| Crook 1own |a||. 1hough |t was |ato 1u|y, tho day
was coo| and w|ndy. 0ark, hoavy c|ouds gathorod |n tho sky
abovo, throaton|ng ra|nta||. 1ho g|oomy, gr|m woathor cou|d
do ||tt|o to d|m|n|sh my h|gh sp|r|ts. Attor a||, l was on my t|rst
m|ss|on away trom tho 3car|ot |ouso. As tar as l was
conv|ncod, l was ||v|ng out a tantasy.
l oagor|y mado my way toward tho Ango| Crook
l|brary, c|utch|ng a s|ook o|octron|c tab|ot to my chost. lt
was a g|tt trom my tathor, g|von to mo to conta|n tho
|ntormat|on on tho tour vamp|ros l was to tra|n. Vy p|an had
boon to study tho roports at tho ||brary, botoro hoad|ng out
|n soarch ot tho rocru|ts, but, as l approachod tho stops ot
tho gray bu||d|ng, l notod that |t was c|osod unt|| noon. 1ho
loman numora|s on tho worn-out town ha|| c|ock not|t|od
mo that l had ovor an hour to k|||.
l turnod on my hoo|s and startod back toward my car,
d|sma||y scann|ng a|| tho t|rm|y |ockod doors and curta|nod
w|ndows a|ong tho stroot. 3uddon|y, my oyos caught a
g||mpso ot a tadod s|gn that l had m|ssod dur|ng my oar||or
tour through tho town. lt brand|shod a hand-pa|ntod p|cturo
ot wh|to ango| w|ngs, tho words Aogo| Crook Lloor
scraw|od abovo |t |n bo|d b|uo |ottors. A ta|nt mo|ody ot a
country song t|oatod out trom boh|nd tho d|nor doors,
caus|ng a ronowod surgo ot oxc|tomont to pass through
mo.
l|ght ra|n bogan to dr|zz|o as l rushod through tho d|nor
doors, s||ont|y sco|d|ng tho ch|m|ng bo|| that announcod my
ontranco to tho patrons. 1ho door s|ammod boh|nd mo as l
took a momont to adjust my oyos to tho d|m |ntor|or. 1ho
por|phory ot tho d|nor was ||nod w|th o|d-tash|onod booths
mado ot coarso, dark wood, tho|r rough tab|o surtacos
pook|ng out undornoath groon-and-wh|to chockorod
tab|oc|oths.
A pungont aroma ot tr|od o|| t|||od my nostr||s as l
conductod a qu|ck |nvontory ot tho p|aco. 1horo woro on|y
t|vo poop|o |n tho d|nor. A grutt-|ook|ng o|dor|y gont|oman
nursod a boor at tho bar, wh||o a young coup|o |ov|ng|y
sharod a baskot ot tr|os |n ono ot tho tront booths. A protty
rod-ha|rod wa|tross sang a|ong to tho tuno on tho rad|o as
sho w|pod down a dossort d|sp|ay, and a man l |mag|nod to
bo tho bartondor, hunchod ovor tho bar, a|most comp|oto|y
concoa|od by tho many bott|os on tho countor. A||, oxcopt
tho bartondor, who bus|od h|mso|t w|th m|x|ng a dr|nk,
|ookod cur|ous|y toward mo whon l ontorod.
1ry|ng not to draw any moro attont|on to myso|t, l
s||ont|y sank |nto ono ot tho ompty cornor booths. As l
sw|tchod on my tab|ot, an ovorwho|m|ng sonso ot
oxh||arat|on washod ovor mo onco aga|n. ||ght|ng to
roma|n protoss|ona| and conta|n tho g|ddy |aughtor
bubb||ng up |ns|do mo, l sott|od on a s||ont sm||o.
V|d-gr|n, my oyos |ockod w|th a dazz||ng pa|r ot honoy-
co|orod onos. 1ho strangor's gazo was so magnot|c l had
to phys|ca||y torco myso|t to |ook away as ho camo out trom
boh|nd tho bar and approachod my booth. 1ho warm, su|try
oyos woro comp|omontod by a ruggod moss ot dark
go|don trossos. |o appoarod to bo |n h|s oar|y twont|os,
avorago |n ho|ght, wo||-bu||t and muscu|ar. ||s groon and
brown p|a|d sh|rt and tadod b|uo joans c|uod mo |n to tho
tact that tho taco and body l was now star|ng at-just a t|ny
b|t too attont|vo|y-bo|ongod to tho Ango| Crook 0|nor
bartondor.
|o was a|so study|ng mo, s|ow|y tak|ng |n ovory part ot
my taco. l was g|ad that vamp|ros d|d not b|ush oas||y or
o|so l wou|d havo undoubtod|y takon on a doop burgundy
shado. l c|oarod my throat and, |n an attompt to omu|ato h|s
cont|dont sm|rk, put on what l had hopod was a tr|ond|y
sm||o. l was a |ovo|-hoadod, so|t-assurod and |nto|||gont g|r|,
but n|notoon yoars ot study|ng and tra|n|ng undor my
tathor's d|roct suporv|s|on hadn't a||owod tor much
opportun|ty to dovo|op sk|||s tor doa||ng w|th boys.
1o say that l was rusty |n tho romanco dopartmont
wou|d bo tho undorstatomont ot tho contury. l cou|dn't ovon
bo ca||od rosty. |or that, thoro t|rst wou|d havo to bo
somoth|ng to rust. 3o horo l was, a|most no |ongor a
toonagor, dovo|op|ng my vory t|rst crush-on a human no
|oss. l had succoodod |n a|| th|s, w|thout actua||y oxchang|ng
a s|ng|o word w|th tho guy.
°|o||o thoro,' tho strangor grootod mo |n a s||ght
3outhorn draw|. l baro|y caught tho accont |n h|s doop,
raspy vo|co, but |t was a p|oasant sound, add|ng to tho a|r
ot mystory surround|ng h|m.
l drow |n a |ong, ca|m|ng broath botoro attompt|ng to
spoak. °Can l ho|p you?' l askod, do|ng my bost to match
tho su|tr|noss ot h|s tono |n my own vo|co. Evon |t l had
soundod po|sod and o|ogant, |n my hoad, l to|t ||ko a
comp|oto dork.
°l th|nk l shou|d bo ask|ng you that,' h|s p|aytu| sm|rk
was now a tu||-t|odgod sm||o, comp|oto w|th s||ght d|mp|os
on oach ot h|s ch|so|od chooks.
Whon l ta||od to rospond, ho |aughod aga|n, h|s oyos
tw|nk||ng toas|ng|y. °What can l gotcha?' ho askod, po|nt|ng
to tho notopad and pon |n h|s hand.
°Oh, uhh, noth|ng. Can l just s|t horo tor a b|t?' At th|s
po|nt, l not on|y to|t ||ko a dork, but l was suro that l ott|c|a||y
soundod ||ko ono too.
l sboo|o`vo jost orooroo wotor or somotblog, l thought,
chast|s|ng myso|t tor a||ow|ng tho cuto bartondor's sm||o to
havo such a powortu| ottoct on mo.
°Wator!' l qu|ck|y b|urtod out. ¼bot lo tbo wor|o wos
wroog wltb moº l wondorod. l'd novor actod ||ko th|s around
anyono botoro. Bot, l`o o|so oovor mot ooyooo |lko tbls
boíoro, l arguod w|th my own m|nd.
At that momont, l bocamo awaro that l was gap|ng
d|roct|y at tho bartondor. |o gazod back at mo, an
oxpross|on ot tasc|nat|on on h|s taco. l was tho t|rst to
broak our star|ng contost, |ook|ng down at tho o|octron|c
dov|co |n tront ot mo and rap|d|y sobor|ng up.
Coto goy or oot, l boo to got bock to my osslgomoot.
°You havo tho most boaut|tu| oyos,' ho suddon|y sa|d,
onco aga|n, mak|ng mo too| thanktu| tor not bo|ng ab|o to
b|ush.
°1hank you,' l sa|d, catch|ng myso|t botoro add|ng on,
°you too'.
°l'vo novor soon such unusua| oyos.' 1h|s t|mo, |t was
ho who b|ushod. °Uhh, sorry. Your wator w||| bo r|ght out. 0o
you want anyth|ng to oat?'
l wondorod |t ho cou|d to|| l was a vamp|ro. vamp|ros
cou|d oas||y d|st|ngu|sh othor vamp|ros trom humans, but
|dont|ty|ng vamp|ros was moro d|tt|cu|t tor humans. Yos,
vamp|ros had tangs, but thoso on|y camo out vo|untar||y,
and as|do trom bo|ng coo|or to tho touch, vamp|ros and
humans |ookod phys|ca||y |dont|ca|. Vany |ovo-struck
humans and somo va|n vamp|ros sworo that a|| vamp|ros
woro much bottor |ook|ng than humans, though l porsona||y
bo||ovod that vamp|ro attract|vonoss had a |ot to do w|th tho
tact that most ||vod tor vory |ong por|ods ot t|mo and had
|oarnod to tako cont|donco ovor tho yoars. ln th|s part|cu|ar
momont, l cursod myso|t tor not bo|ng ono ot thoso o|d,
w|so vamps.
l |ookod up at h|m and shook my hoad. °lo, thank you.'
°Okay, just |ot mo know |t you chango your m|nd,' ho
gr|nnod. °Our rogu|ar cook |s ott unt|| tho ovon|ng d|nnor
rush, but l can try somo moan tr|os. Or anyth|ng o|so you
w|sh.' l cou|dn't to|| |t that was s|mp|y an |nnocont proposa|
ot a choosoburgor or |t ho was oxpoct|ng mo to ask tor a
p|nt ot b|ood. °1ho namo's Ethan by tho way,' ho sa|d
casua||y as ho d|sappoarod boh|nd tho bar.
l p|annod to spond tho noxt ha|t hour t|na||y gott|ng
down to work, but botoro l had a chanco to opon tho t|rst
t||o, tho rod-ha|rod wa|tross approachod my booth.
°||!' sho oxc|a|mod much too |oud|y and much too
onthus|ast|ca||y tor my ||k|ng. °What's your namo? What
br|ngs you to Ango| Crook? Aro you v|s|t|ng somoono?'
3otoro l cou|d ovon rospond-l hadn't yot doc|dod |t l
wantod to go w|th a covor story about my m|ss|on to mako
th|ngs a ||tt|o moro oxc|t|ng tor myso|t, or s|mp|y stato tho
tacts s|nco thoro wasn't anyth|ng actua||y covort about what
l was do|ng |n town-tho g|r| cont|nuod ramb||ng on.
lor oomo wos loooob 1obosoo, sbo wos olgbtooo
yoors o|o, sbo wos boro ooo rolsoo lo Aogo| Crook, sbo
boo o |ltt|o slstor oomoo Vorgorot, sbo workoo ot tbo oloor
os o woltross to sovo op íor bor ol|log motbor`s moolco|
oxpoosos, sbo wos p|ooolog oo golog to co||ogo ooxt yoor
to bocomo o vot-olo sbo mootloo sbo |ovoo oolmo|sº
5bo wos o Coprlcoro.
1hanktu||y, Ethan camo by w|th my wator and, tor a
br|ot momont, h|s prosonco |ntorruptod |annah's vorba|-
d|arrhoa. 3ho s|ghod |ong|ng|y, study|ng h|s muscu|ar arm
as ho sot tho ta|| g|ass ot ||qu|d on tho tab|o. |o noddod at
hor and gavo mo a warm sm||o. Whon ho turnod to |oavo,
|annah |ookod at mo, hor |argo b|uo oyos tu|| ot |ong|ng.
°lsn't ho gorgoous?' sho askod, onco aga|n not
actua||y a||ow|ng t|mo tor mo to prov|do an answor. °||s
namo |s Ethan, ho just movod horo |oss than a wook ago,
ho's twonty-two yoars-o|d, ho's a loo, ho's s|ng|o-l
chockod. lsn't ho so oroomy? 0|d you hoar that vo|co?
Vmm.' 3ho c|osod hor oyos and sm||od, t|ny trock|os
danc|ng across hor chooks and noso.
danc|ng across hor chooks and noso.
1hough l wou|dn't havo m|ndod spond|ng tho attornoon
||ston|ng to |annah ta|k about Ethan, l had a job to do. l
noodod to gathor tho tour vamp|ro rocru|ts and commonco
tho|r tra|n|ng. l po||to|y oxcusod myso|t, |ott a t|p tor Ethan,
and rushod out.
3y tho t|mo l ox|tod tho d|nor, tho ra|n had coasod,
though tho c|ouds |ookod ovon moro monac|ng. A strong
gust ot w|nd tormontod tho |oavos and branchos ot tho
troos, torcotu||y attompt|ng to r|p away tho Aogo| Crook
bannor trom |ts socuro p|aco atop tho podostr|an br|dgo.
1ho woathor had ||tt|o ottoct on my body tomporaturo, but
on such an unusua||y coo| summor day, l to|t comtort |n
hav|ng thrown on a ||ght jackot ovor my usua| att|ro ot a
b|ack tank-top, dark joans and combat boots.
3ack |n tho car, l turnod on tho tab|ot and ontorod |n
tho password that my tathor had g|von mo. 1ho t|rst rocru|t's
t||o appoarod on tho scroon, rovoa||ng a photo ot a young
b|ondo |n a b|uo-and-wh|to choor|oad|ng un|torm. 1ho word
Aogo|s was pr|ntod across hor chost, tho po|yostor tabr|c ot
tho top strotch|ng out tho |ottors as |t c|ung to hor curvos.
|or dark b|uo oyos woro cakod |n br|ght mako-up, hor
stra|ght, shou|dor-|ongth ha|r b|oachod so pa|o |t was
a|most wh|to. layors upon |ayors ot g|ow|ng orango so|t-
tannor h|d a|| v|s|b|o tracos ot hor vamp|rdom.
°3rooko Vason. 3ovontoon. 1urnod |n 1000. 3pont tho
past t|tty yoars compot|ng tor choor capta|n spots on
var|ous h|gh schoo| squads throughout tho U3,' tho
|ntormat|on pr|ntod |n tho documont road.
¼ow, ílíty yoors oí ootblog bot popº ¼bo lo tbolr rlgbt
mloo woo|o woot to oo somotblog |lko tbotº l wondorod as
l put away tho tab|ot.
Vy quost|on was answorod tho momont l pu||od |nto
tho park|ng |ot ot Ango| Crook ||gh. 3rooko was |o|tor|ng
undor tho tootba|| t|o|d b|oachors, tw|r||ng hor short
choor|oad|ng sk|rt around as sho ca||od out to tho p|ayors
on tho t|o|d. 3ho bockonod to thom w|th a pa|r ot br|ght
s||vor pompoms and, at onco, tho ont|ro toam tormod a ||no
undor tho b|oachors. l approachod, watch|ng |n d|sgust as
3rooko |oanod |n, k|ssod ono ot tho p|ayors on tho ||ps, b|t
h|s nock, dra|nod somo b|ood, thon sont h|m on h|s way.
3ho ropoatod th|s w|th tho noxt boy, and tho ono attor that,
unt|| on|y a tow roma|nod.
°1hat oxp|a|ns |t,' l muttorod undor my broath |n
rosponso to my oar||or quost|on. l rap|d|y mado my way
across tho t|o|d, roach|ng tho b|oachors just as 3rooko was
about to s|nk hor tooth |nto tho b|g, bur|y toam capta|n. l put
a t|rm hand on hor shou|dor, stopp|ng hor m|d-b|to.
°G|vo us a m|nuto, boys,' l ordorod storn|y.
3rooko |ookod up at mo and trownod. °Go away,' sho
grumb|od, shoot|ng tho p|ayors an apo|ogot|c sm||o.
°Como to jo|n |n tho tun?' 1ho capta|n w|nkod at mo,
||ck|ng h|s ||ps. °1horo's p|onty to go around.'
l stood my ground, |gnor|ng tho |owd staros and
obscono wh|st|os omanat|ng trom tho toam. °l'm not go|ng
to ask aga|n. Vovo |t!'
lnt|m|datod, tho tootba|| p|ayors scattorod away.
°Ugb! What's your prob|om?' 3rooko wh|nod,
annoyod. °Can't a g|r| havo somo tun?'
3ho stoppod back, narrow|ng hor oyos as sho |ookod
mo up and down. °Aro you now?' |or tono was co|d and
susp|c|ous. °l'|| havo you know thoro's on|y ono lrom
Ouoon spot |n th|s schoo|, and th|s yoar, tho crown |s íloo||y
go|ng to bo m|no!' 3ho barod hor poar|y wh|to tangs at mo.
l took a doop broath, t|ght|ng tho urgo to oxtond my
own sharp tangs |n hor d|roct|on. °l can assuro you that l
havo no |ntorost |n your h|gh schoo| drama, 3rooko,' l sa|d
|nstoad. °l'm horo bocauso you'vo boon summonod by tho
vamp|ro lros|dont to bocomo ono ot tho ott|c|a| guard|ans
ot tho town ot Ango| Crook'.
1h|s |ntormat|on causod 3rooko to broak out |nto a
h|gh-p|tchod squoa|. °No woy! 0oos that moan that l t|na||y
got to jo|n tho |ab ||vo? 1hoso guys aro so hot! And tho
g|r|s aro so protty and oh so vory catty. l'|| t|t |n portoct|y!
Abb! l'vo a|ways wantod to bo ono ot thom.' 3ho throw hor
arms around my nock and pu||od mo |nto a t|ght hug. °1h|s
|s woy bottor than prom!'
°Whoa, okay.' l carotu||y poo|od hor arms away, tak|ng
a stop back. °lo, you'ro not jo|n|ng tho |ab ||vo. 1hat
group has boon d|sso|vod. You'ro torm|ng a now group.'
°A now group? 1h|s just koops gott|ng bottor! Can l bo
tho capta|n? Obmlgoo!' 3rooko squoa|od aga|n. 1h|s t|mo,
tho shr|ok was ovon moro doaton|ng.
l ro|uctant|y jo|nod |n 3rooko's choors, rom|nd|ng
myso|t that l had to troat my tra|noos w|th pat|onco and
rospoct. 1ho bottor l d|d on th|s m|ss|on, tho moro l
|ncroasod my chancos ot |mpross|ng my tathor and bo|ng
sont on moro oxc|t|ng ass|gnmonts |n tho tuturo. °low
to||ow mo. Wo havo to gathor tho othors.'
3ack |n tho car, l t|rod up tho tab|ot aga|n, t||pp|ng
qu|ck|y to tho noxt t||o. A photo ot a short, th|n g|r| w|th a
smooth, dark comp|ox|on appoarod on tho scroon. |or
ravon-b|ack ha|r was gathorod at tho top ot hor hoad |n a
t|ght bun, and hor taco woro a t|m|d, a|most toartu|,
oxpross|on. largo, round g|assos tramod hor choco|ato
brown oyos, tho buttons ot hor p|a|n, gray dross tastonod a||
tho way to hor ch|n. 1ho p|cturo was rocont, takon w|th a
modorn camora, but tho sma|| g|r| |ookod as |t sho
bo|ongod to a d|ttoront ora.
°3oph|o lood. E|ghtoon. 1urnod |n 1018. l|brar|an at
tho Aogo| Crook Pob|lc Llbrory,' l road undor my broath.
3rooko torcod hor way across tho part|t|on botwoon
our soats and poorod ovor my shou|dor. °lor? Aro you
sor|ous?' sho askod, hor w|spy b|ond |ocks brush|ng
aga|nst my chook. °5oo 5opblo? You know sho's, ||ko,
roa||y wo|rd and a tota| bookworm. 3ho mopos around tho
||brary a|| tho t|mo and novor |oavos.'
l sboo|o`vo sovoo Brooko íor |ost, l thought as l shot
hor a stra|nod sm||o. °lot's go got 3oph|o.'
lt was wo|| attor two|vo o'c|ock by tho t|mo 3rooko and l
roachod tho ||brary. 1ho broad doub|o doors woro now
w|do opon, rovoa||ng rows upon rows ot co|ortu| t|t|os. 1ho
momont wo stoppod |ns|do wo woro onvo|opod |n a musty
scont ot o|d papor and dark |nk. |or a br|ot momont, l was
transportod back to tho 3car|ot |ouso ||brary, a p|aco
whoro l had spont much ot my ch||dhood spraw|od across
tho p|ush rod carpot, surroundod by my tathor's anc|ont
toxts. l |ovod runn|ng my t|ngors a|ong tho br|tt|o pagos ot
tho books, watch|ng dust part|c|os oscapo trom tho papor
and t|oat about tho room. 1hoy a|ways tound tho|r way to tho
rays ot sunsh|no stroam|ng |n through tho w|ndows, torovor
d|sappoar|ng |nto tho ||ght.
3oph|o sat hunchod ovor tho ||brar|an's dosk, hor
sma||, round taco noar|y swa||owod up by tho book |n tront
ot hor. 3ho |ookod proc|so|y as sho had |n tho p|cturo, on|y
ovon tra||or. 1ho hoavy oak tab|o sho was s|tt|ng at soomod
as |t was tash|onod tor a g|ant.
°1h|s |s a bad |doa,' 3rooko wh|sporod |oud|y, pu|||ng
on my arm to provont mo trom approach|ng 3oph|o. °Why
wou|d you a||ow such a nord |n tho group? l don't wanna bo
soon around town w|th a gook.'
l ho|d my t|ngor to my ||ps. °5bosb, 3rooko! 1h|s |s a
||brary.'
l wa|kod ovor to 3oph|o's dosk, qu|ot|y sott||ng |nto a
noarby cha|r. |or body tw|tchod s||ght|y, but sho d|dn't
g|anco up trom tho book. 3rooko ro|uctant|y jo|nod us,
|oud|y dragg|ng hor tonn|s shoos across tho ||brary carpot.
°|| 3oph|o,' l sa|d gont|y.
3oph|o |ookod up, br|ot|y g|anc|ng at mo through hor
dark |ashos, thon dug hor noso ovon turthor |nto tho book.
°Vy namo |s 0awn,' l sa|d, try|ng to moot hor gazo. °l'm
horo to summon you on an |mportant m|ss|on. You havo
boon choson to jo|n a group ot vamp|ros |n chargo ot
guard|ng Ango| Crook.'
3oph|o |ookod up abrupt|y, hor dark oyos w|don|ng |n
toar. °Vomplros?' sho askod, hor vo|co qu|vor|ng.
°Yos, vamp|ros,' l stammorod. °You aro awaro that
you'ro a vomplro, r|ght?'
3ho sm||od bashtu||y. °Wo||, yos. 3ut l don't know much
about bo|ng a vamp|ro. Evoryth|ng l know about our k|nd
comos trom road|ng books.'
3rooko ro||od hor oyos. °Wow, pathot|c. |ow do you
tood?'
°Oh, uhh, lotor.' 3oph|o tra||od ott, norvous|y wav|ng
at a young man cata|ogu|ng books noarby. ||s taco ||t up at
tho attont|on as ho stumb|od torward, sond|ng a p||o ot
hoavy oncyc|opod|as tumb||ng to tho t|oor.
°Yock!' 3rooko oxc|a|mod, a d|sgustod |ook cross|ng
hor taco. °lord tood|ng on nords. 3o lck.'
l rubbod my tomp|os. lt wos golog to bo o |oog ooy.
°0on't worry. l'|| toach you a|| about bo|ng a vamp|ro,' l
prom|sod 3oph|o w|th a warm sm||o, a|| tho wh||o strugg||ng
to drown out 3rooko's |ncossant wh|n|ng. °Wo havo two
moro rounds to mako. lot's go.'
l took 3oph|o's hand |nto m|no, tondor|y pu|||ng hor up
and out ot hor soat |n ono oasy movo. 3ho ros|stod at t|rst,
as |t unsuro |t sho shou|d to||ow mo.
°You'ro go|ng to bo groat,' l wh|sporod, as 3oph|o
gavo |n. W|th my othor hand, l grabbod 3rooko's
choor|oad|ng swoator and |od tho two g|r|s through tho
||brary door.
Onco outs|do, l turnod my attont|on to tho tab|ot aga|n.
1h|s t|mo, tho t||o showod a p|cturo ot a su||on, s|ck|y-
|ook|ng ma|o vamp|ro.
°|untor Woods. 1wonty-ono. 1urnod |n 1088. |ormor
|oad s|ngor ot tho punk band, B|ooo Vo|toros,' l road.
°A|coho||c. 0rug Add|ct.' Oroot.
3oph|o gaspod. °Can vamp|ros bo ||ko tbot?' sho
askod t|m|d|y.
°You moan drunks and junk|os?' 3rooko snortod. °Ot
courso. 1horo's p|onty ot boozo-t|avorod b|ood |n storos
and bars nowadays, and ho can a|ways dr|nk tho b|ood ot
drugg|os |n ordor to got h|gh. 5o gross!'
3oph|o's jaw droppod.
°lt's roa||y too bad, bocauso ho's k|nda hot.' 3rooko
s|ghod w|sttu||y.
Attor a tow m|nutos ot soarch|ng around town, wo
spottod |untor. |o was |oan|ng aga|nst tho wa|| ot tho d|nor
l had v|s|tod oar||or |n tho day, sport|ng torn don|m joans
and a sta|nod t-sh|rt w|th somo obscuro o|ght|os band |ogo
pr|ntod on |t. ||s |ong, ||ght brown ha|r was stroakod |n
o|octr|c groon and b|uo co|ors, dyod br|ght rod at tho t|ps,
and h|s jado groon oyos had a worr|somo rodd|sh t|nt to
thom.
|untor d|dn't tako not|co as wo noarod, ho was too
busy gu|p|ng down on a substanco |ns|do a brown papor
bag. Evon trom a d|stanco, tho stonch ot a|coho| was
ovorpowor|ng.
1ry|ng my bost not to |ook unnorvod, l put on a choortu|
sm||o and ra|sod my hand |n groot|ng. °|untor, you havo
boon summonod by tho vamp|ro lros|dont to tako on tho
ro|o ot tho Ango| Crook guard|an.'
|o t||nchod at tho sound ot my vo|co, h|s oyos dart|ng
w||d|y trom mo, to 3rooko, to 3oph|o, and thon back to mo.
°l guoss thoso protty boys must'vo dono somoth|ng
wrong |t thoy nood my ho|p,' ho sa|d, tak|ng anothor sw|g ot
tho mystory ||qu|d.
°1hoso protty boys-l assumo that you'ro spoak|ng ot
tho |ab ||vo,' l bogan, cr|ng|ng at tho n|cknamo, °aro no
|ongor w|th us,' l oxp|a|nod as |untor downod tho |ast drop
ot tho tou|-smo|||ng dr|nk.
7oklog lootor wltb os to moot wltb tbo íoortb rocrolt
woo|o bo coootorproooctlvo, l roa||zod. |o noodod somo
t|mo to co||oct h|mso|t-and hopotu||y brush h|s tooth-
botoro tho group assomb|od tor our t|rst moot|ng.
°3obor up, c|oan up and como to th|s addross |n two
hours.' l handod h|m a card |nscr|bod w|th d|roct|ons to a
covort |ocat|on on tho outsk|rts ot town.
Vy tathor had socurod a sma||, soc|udod cottago
|ocatod doop |n tho Ango| Crook torost tor tho toam to
ros|do |n wh||o undorgo|ng tra|n|ng. °lt's vory pr|vato. lono
ot tho Ango| Crook ros|donts ovon know about |t. lt w||| bo
oqu|ppod w|th a|| tho too|s you'|| nood upon your arr|va|,' ho
had assurod mo.
As |untor soarchod through h|s backpack tor anothor
bott|o, l chockod tho tab|ot tor tho |ast targot ot tho day. A
photo ot a p|ump, b|ack-ha|rod toon ho|d|ng a v|doo gamo
conso|o t|||od tho scroon.
°3oth loo. 3|xtoon. 1un|or at Ango| Crook ||gh. 201b
Ro|o-P|oylog Oomo O|ymplc Cbomploo. 1urnod two
wooks ago by-' l shot 3rooko a start|od |ook. °Brooko
Vosooº'
°lt was an acc|dont!' sho oxc|a|mod, throw|ng hor
hands up |n tho a|r.
|untor |aughod.
°|o was ||ko tho nord|ost k|d at schoo| and l thought l
wou|d toaso h|m a ||tt|o, show h|m a good t|mo, you know?
3o l b|t h|m. l just torgot to stop and attor a wh||o ho was
k|nda dy|ng. 1hon, l was, ||ko, obmlgoo what shou|d l do?
1hat's so not coo|. 3o l turnod h|m bocauso l t|gurod that ho
shou|d at |oast graduato trom h|gh schoo|. 3ut thon l
roa||zod ho wou|dn't bocauso ho's wo||, doad-oob! 3o,
||ko-'
l put out my hand to qu|ot hor. °l|oaso stop!' l boggod,
my m|nd rac|ng. l cou|dn't bo||ovo tho counc|| had |ot
3rooko got away unscathod attor sho took |t upon horso|t to
turn an |nnocont human. Vy tathor, dosp|to h|s |nt|m|dat|ng
domoanor, had a|ways had troub|o ontorc|ng th|s part|cu|ar
|aw. 1hough ho wou|dn't adm|t |t, l was corta|n |t had
somoth|ng to do w|th tho tact that ho h|mso|t had boon onco
turnod by my mothor.
°Whoro |s 3oth now?' l askod.
3rooko avo|dod my g|aro. °Wo||.'
°3rooko!'
°|o k|nda d|dn't tako tho who|o vamp|ro th|ng vory wo||.
|o's ho|od up |n h|s paronts' basomont, p|ay|ng v|doo
gamos and cry|ng. |o's hung up tons ot gar||c a|| ovor h|s
p|aco, so l can't ovon go ovor thoro and ho|p h|m,' sho sa|d,
pout|ng.
3oph|o shot hor a quost|on|ng |ook. 'vamp|ros aron't
bothorod by gar||c. You must know that,' sho sa|d |n hor
qu|ot, qu|vor|ng vo|co.
°Oh, l know.' 3rooko s|ghod. °l just d|dn't want to smo||
bad. l on|y oat gar||c |n v|tam|n torm. Lob!'
°Ot courso you do,' l grumb|od. 1ho tra|n|ng hadn't
ovon startod yot and l was a|roady oxhaustod.
°lot's just go got 3oth-' l bogan, thon oxpor|onc|ng a
suddon chango ot hoart, handod tho g|r|s tho samo
d|roct|ons l had g|von |untor just momonts botoro. °You two
shou|d hoad to tho moot|ng p|aco wh||o l ta|k to 3oth. l havo
a too||ng that, dosp|to your short sk|rt, ho's not go|ng to bo
vory happy to soo you, 3rooko.'
°||no,' 3rooko agrood. 3ho b|ow a k|ss to |untor as
sho turnod to |oavo.
3oph|o's oyos w|donod at tho roa||zat|on that sho
wou|d havo to bo a|ono w|th 3rooko. 0osp|to hor pan|c, sho
oboyod my roquost. °3oo you |ator,' sho sa|d, g|v|ng mo a
sma|| wavo.
l watchod tho g|r|s d|sappoar down tho stroot, thon
turnod back to |untor. 1ust as l was about to to|| h|m to got
go|ng, |annah rushod out ot tho d|nor.
°lootor! You can't |o|tor around horo. You know that!'
3ho c|appod hor hands |n do||ght whon sho spottod mo.
°Oh, hoy, 0awn! Aro you back tor anothor chat?' sho askod
oagor|y.
°Oh, actua||y.' l bogan.
|annah |ookod back and torth trom mo to |untor, hor
oyos w|don|ng |n do||ght. °3o |t ls truo! l can't bo||ovo |t!'
°Can't bo||ovo what?' l askod.
°Wo||, l hoard a ||tt|o rumor that a tough vamp|ro ch|ck
was com|ng to town to tra|n somo now guard|ans,' sho
sa|d, |ook|ng at mo oxpoctant|y.
°Uhh.'
°lt ls you! Oh, wow! Whon you woro at tho d|nor today, l
tota||y d|dn't connoct |t togothor bocauso you'ro roa||y young
and so protty and-' sho pausod to tako a broath, an
act|on, l not|cod, sho d|dn't ongago |n vory otton. °l was
hoartbrokon whon l hoard tho |ab ||vo had |ott. l actua||y
had a ||tt|o t||ng w|th ono ot tho guys, bo||ovo |t or not. lt was
most|y ono-s|dod-on my s|do, actua||y-but |t's a|| okay
now bocauso thoro aro t|vo now vamp|ros to tako tho|r
p|aco.'
°loor,' l corroctod, not qu|to suro why l bothorod w|th
such a m|nuto dota||. Vost ||ko|y, l was just contont to bo
ab|o to s||p |n a word.
°||vo, s|||y! |untor horo, good |uck w|th h|m, 3oph|o,
tho poor swoot|o roa||y noods to got out moro otton,
3rooko, ogb, sho's such a skank, tho nowb|o 3oth, ho's
gonna nood a |ot ot work, and, ot courso, 3obast|an. low
thoro's a guy who cou|d havo t|t r|ght |n w|th tho |ab ||vo.
3otwoon h|m and Ethan, l'd say that Ango| Crook |s
suddon|y vory b|ossod!'
°5obostloo?' l was corta|n that l had roco|vod
|nstruct|ons rogard|ng on|y tour vamp|ros. l qu|ck|y t||ppod
through tho t||os on tho tab|ot, soarch|ng tor a t|tth namo.
Notblog.
3oo|ng my puzz|od oxpross|on, |annah put hor t|ngor
|n tho a|r. °Wa|t r|ght horo!' sho oxc|a|mod as sho ran back
|nto tho d|nor. A tow m|nutos |ator, sho roturnod, wav|ng
around a p|oco ot yo||ow notopad papor.
°|oro!' sho sa|d, hand|ng |t to mo. °1h|s |s a|| tho |nto l
managod to co||oct on 3obast|an. lt's not much, ho's k|nda
a socrot|vo guy and doosn't soc|a||zo w|th anyono, but you
shou|d pay h|m a v|s|t. Anyway, l gotta got back to work. l
can't wa|t to to|| Ethan a|| about th|s.'
3otoro l cou|d ask hor not to say anyth|ng to anyono,
sho was a|roady gono. l was suro that, by ton|ght, a|| ot
Ango| Crook wou|d know about mo.
0osp|to bo|ng |ntr|guod by tho mystor|ous t|tth
vamp|ro, l roso|vod not to |ook at tho papor |annah had
g|von mo. Ooo crlsls ot o tlmo, l t|gurod, scann|ng 3oth's
t||o tor h|s addross.
°0on't bo |ato tor our moot|ng!' l shot |untor a warn|ng
|ook as l hoadod back to my car.
3oth's paronts' houso was a p|a|n, two-storoy structuro
|ocatod on tho por|phory ot town. lt b|ondod |n w|th tho rost
ot tho ros|dont|a| cook|o-cuttor proport|os, oxcopt tor |ts
br|ght rod wo|como mat, groot|ng tho guosts |n both Eng||sh
and |n Ch|noso. 1ho doorbo|| y|o|dod no answor, but as |n
most sma|| towns across tho country, ospoc|a||y now that
vamp|ros woro known to protoct tho ros|donts, tho door
was un|ockod. l chuck|od, th|nk|ng that |t th|s was a
|o||ywood t||m, l wou|d roqu|ro a torma| |nv|tat|on to ontor.
l mado my way through tho dosortod t|rst t|oor, rovo||ng
|n tho o|ogant, yot s|mp|o docor ot tho dramat|c rod wa||s,
co|ortu| or|onta| rugs, and dark, |acquorod wood turn|turo.
l|ck|ng up on tho strong scont ot gar||c, l to||owod tho tra||
a|| tho way |nto tho basomont. 1ho sma|| undorground room
was damp and st|t||ng, putr|d tast-tood cartons and p|zza
boxos strown a|| about.
A dark-oyod, sp|ky-ha|rod toon appoarod trom a
shadowy cornor. |o |ungod at mo, c|utch|ng a woodon
stako |n ono hand and ho|d|ng onto a c|ovo ot gar||c |n tho
othor. ||s taco was storn and bravo, but h|s b|g hands
tromb|od |n toar.
°1h-that choor skank sont you, d|dn't sho?' ho wa||od,
wav|ng tho stako around trant|ca||y. °3tay away domon! Or
o|so!'
°Or o|so what?' l askod ca|m|y |n an attompt to ||ghton
to mood. l had to adm|t that watch|ng tho vamp|ro nowb|o
do tho stako and gar||c danco was a ||tt|o amus|ng.
°Or o|so, l'm go|ng to stoko you!' 3oth yo||od, |ung|ng
at mo w|th tho sharp woodon objoct. ln ono smooth movo, l
d|sarmod h|m ot h|s woapon, p|nn|ng h|s hands aga|nst tho
wa||.
3oo|ng tho torror |n h|s oyos, l ro|oasod h|s hands and
ottorod h|m a k|nd sm||o. °||, 3oth. Vy namo |s 0awn and
l'm horo to ho|p you. l|oaso havo a soat.' Evon though ho
had at |oast a hundrod pounds on mo, l ||ttod h|m w|th oaso,
gont|y p|ac|ng h|m onto tho |oast so||od part ot tho couch.
°0uo to an untortunato |nc|dont w|th an a|r-hoadod
choor|oador, you aro now a vamp|ro,' l oxp|a|nod.
°Congratu|at|ons.'
1o my surpr|so, 3oth p|acod h|s hands ovor h|s taco
and bogan to sob. °Vy ||to |s ru|nod!' ho cr|od.
°l|oaso don't cry,' l urgod ovor h|s |oud wa||s. °A
mako-out soss|on w|th a choor|oador cou|d havo |od to
worso rosu|ts,' l jokod, but my attompt at humor had no
ottoct on tho young vamp|ro.
°l'm sorry,' l sa|d moro sott|y. °l d|dn't moan to mako
tun ot you. l know that you must bo vory contusod r|ght now,
but l'm horo bocauso you'vo boon summonod by tho
vamp|ro lros|dont to bocomo a guard|an ot th|s ||tt|o town.'
3oth poutod, but h|s toars coasod. |o was now
|ook|ng at mo w|th moro |ntorost.
°lt's not so bad, l prom|so. l'|| ho|p you po||sh your sk|||s
and bocomo a groat vamp|ro-just ||ko a v|doo gamo
horo.'
3uddon|y, 3oth porkod up. °l'm gonna bo a horo?' ho
askod, w|p|ng h|s oyos.
°Yos, you w|||.' l sm||od, broath|ng a s|gh ot ro||ot at h|s
abrupt mood sh|tt. °low, you must havo a|roady not|cod
somo changos |n your strongth, r|ght?'
1o my d|smay, h|s taco to||. °logat|vo.' |o shook h|s
hoad. °l'vo bocomo ovon woakor than botoro.'
°Oh?' 1ho nows caught mo by surpr|so. Attor tho |n|t|a|
twonty-tour hour por|od to||ow|ng tho transtormat|on trom
human to vamp|ro, most now vamp|ros oxpor|onco an
|mprovomont |n strongth, spood and ag|||ty. Othor, moro
oxc|t|ng porks, dovo|op ovor t|mo.
°Vy brothor and h|s tr|onds can st||| boat mo up.' 3oth
touchod h|s s|do, w|nc|ng |n pa|n. °1hoy'ro t|vo,' ho addod
undor h|s broath.
Oh, groat! 1h|s toam just koops gott|ng bottor and
bottor, l thought.
1ho moro t|mo l spont |n Ango| Crook, tho |oss thr|||od l
was bocom|ng w|th tho prospoct ot tho ass|gnmont.
°Wo'|| work on that |ator,' l sa|d, mot|on|ng tor h|m to
to||ow mo. °Wo nood to moot tho othor rocru|ts now.'
3oth noddod dut|tu||y. |o roso ott tho couch w|th
onthus|asm and gavo mo an army sa|uto. lmmod|ato|y, ho
droppod back onto h|s soat w|th a hoavy tboo. ||s taco
was bono-wh|to, pa|or than tho comp|ox|on ot ovon tho
most anc|ont vamp|ros. 1|ny boads ot swoat tormod undor
h|s ||p and ha|r||no.
°You |ook starvod. What havo you boon oat|ng?'
3oth bowod h|s hoad shoop|sh|y, |ook|ng ovor at tho
p||os ot ompty p|zza boxos and crumb-t|||od ch|p bags
scattorod around tho room.
l s|ghod. °Carbs aron't go|ng to cut |t anymoro.'
1hanktu||y, l had como proparod. °0r|nk th|s,' l sa|d,
pass|ng a can ot tho popu|ar carbonatod b|ood dr|nk,
B|ooo Co|o, to tho t|odg||ng vamp|ro.
A tow yoars ago, vamp|ros cou|d on|y got b|ood trom
||vo human donors and b|ood banks, but now, b|oody
snacks woro so|d |n ovory convon|onco storo and gas
stat|on across tho country. ln tact, |ast yoar, tho company
that or|g|na||y manutacturod B|ooo Co|o was bought out by
ono ot tho |argost, most popu|ar sott dr|nk cong|omoratos |n
tho wor|d.
°You can bo assurod that no humans woro harmod |n
tho mak|ng ot th|s |unch,' l sm||od oncourag|ng|y as 3oth
took a s|p. °Un||ko 3rooko, most vamp|ros can and do ||vo
w|thout hurt|ng poop|o.'
3oth shuddorod at tho mont|on ot 3rooko's namo, but
|ookod s||ght|y strongor attor tho qu|ck snack.
°loady to go?' l askod, ra|s|ng tho w|ndow b||nds and
gott|ng roady to c||mb through tho sma|| opon|ng. Vy goa|
was to snoak 3oth out ot tho basomont and m|n|m|zo tho
r|sk ot runn|ng |nto h|s paronts at tho tront door-whatovor |t
took to avo|d hav|ng to oxp|a|n h|s s|ck|y stato. 1ho sun's
woak rays sp|||od |nto tho room, caus|ng 3oth to roco||
away |n pa|n.
°Ow! 1hat hurts!'
l qu|ck|y drow tho b||nds, drown|ng out a|| tho ||ght.
°3orry, l havon't doa|t w|th a nowb|o |n a wh||o.' l toro a
hoad ot gar||c trom tho |ong str|ng on 3oth's tab|o and
handod |t to h|m. °|oro, oat th|s. |our to t|vo c|ovos a day
w||| protoct you aga|nst tho sun||ght.'
|o |ookod at mo, dumbtoundod. °You'ro k|dd|ng,
r|ght?'
l gr|nnod. °1ho vamp|ro wor|d works |n mystor|ous
ways.'
On tho way to moot tho othors, l doc|dod to tako a
qu|ck dotour to tho |ocat|on |annah had scr|bb|od down tor
mo. 1horo was no mont|on ot a vamp|ro namod 3obast|an
|n my ass|gnmonts t||os, caus|ng my |ntorost |n tho
on|gmat|c t|tth vamp|ro to poak.
l was surpr|sod to t|nd that |annah's d|roct|ons |od
doop |nto tho woods, on|y about a m||o trom our tra|n|ng
baso. l parkod tho car at an ontranco ot a |ong, w|nd|ng
dr|voway, dovo|d ot an actua| addross, but match|ng tho
doscr|pt|on ot tho p|aco |n |annah's notos.
l ordorod 3oth to wa|t |n tho car and s|ow|y mado my
way up tho d|rt path |n tho d|roct|on ot what l had hopod was
3obast|an's ros|donco. 1ho |ongor l wa|kod, tho darkor and
moro daunt|ng tho c|ouds abovo bocamo. ||na||y, w|th a
boom|ng crash ot thundor, tho sky toro opon, ro|oas|ng a
trosh downpour ot coo| ra|n. 1h|s t|mo, |t was tastor and
hoav|or, pummo||ng aga|nst |annah's noto and dronch|ng
hor sma||, noat wr|t|ng. l cons|dorod turn|ng back and
moot|ng w|th 3obast|an anothor t|mo, but my cur|os|ty got
tho bost ot mo.
l oxam|nod |annah's noto, squ|nt|ng to mako out somo
ot tho smudgod words.
5obostloo York ls o twooty-ooo yoor-o|o 5corplo. lo
bos gorgooos |lgbt groy oyos, tbo co|or oí spork|log
g|oclors. lls mloolgbt-b|ock bolr ls s|lgbt|y cor|y ooo jost
|oog oooogb to moko yoo ooyoroom oboot rooolog yoor
ílogors tbroogb bls |ocks. lo`s sopor to|| ooo roo||y, roo||y
bot. 1ost try to poo| yoor oyos owoy írom o|| tboso |ooo
mosc|os! Yom! lo`s brooolog, mystorloos, stroog, ooo
so|í-ooprocotlog (or ot |oost bo sooms |lko tbo typo)-tbo
poríoct vomplro!
l had to stop myso|t trom road|ng tho rost. |annah's
roport on 3obast|an was a ||tt|o ovor-tho-top tor my tasto.
lot to mont|on, much too unbo||ovab|o. l scrunchod up tho
soakod papor and tuckod |t |nto tho pockot ot my joans. l
sm||od to myso|t, th|nk|ng that tho bubb|y rodhoad had a
prom|s|ng caroor ahoad ot hor as a wr|tor ot choosy
romanco novo|s.
1ho h|ko through tho torost |od to a soc|udod c|oar|ng.
1ho troos partod, rovoa||ng a str|k|ng bu||d|ng, moro ak|n to
1ho troos partod, rovoa||ng a str|k|ng bu||d|ng, moro ak|n to
a grand mans|on, than a houso |n tho woods. Wh||o mado
|n tho samo sty|o as tho bu||d|ngs |n town, tho throo-storoy
structuro had a stato|y, roga| a|r about |t. C|ad |n wh|to
stono w|th Groc|an tomp|o-|nsp|rod co|umns towor|ng
across |ts ont|ro taçado, |t vory much rosomb|od tho
majost|c |nn on tho grounds ot tho Ango| Crook lark.
1ho dr|voway t|na||y camo to an ond and l tound myso|t
noxt to a |uxury ant|quo car. lts chorry-rod hood was
proppod w|do opon, so |t took a momont botoro l not|cod
that thoro was a t|guro t|nkor|ng w|th tho mach|nory
undornoath. |o woro a pa|r ot |ooso, b|ack pants, tho
musc|os on h|s baro back t|ox|ng as ho stra|nod to t|ghton
somoth|ng w|th a mota| wronch.
|annah's words t|ashod through my m|nd as l stood
trozon |n p|aco, obsorv|ng 3obast|an's prot||o. Vy gazo
travo|od a|ong h|s ta||, |oan body, to h|s taco, g||d|ng ovor
h|s sharp angu|ar jaw and h|gh chookbonos, and, t|na||y,
t|nd|ng a rost|ng p|aco on h|s dark |ocks. Embarrassod by
my unoxpoctod attract|on to tho vamp|ro |n tront ot mo, l
sharp|y |ookod away, thanktu| tor tho coo||ng sonsat|on ot
tho wot ra|ndrops aga|nst my sk|n.
3uddon|y, 3obast|an sonsod my prosonco. ||s ont|ro
body tonsod as ho spun around, tho wronch t|rm|y graspod
|n h|s hand, roady and po|sod tor an attack. 1ho momont
h|s oyos t|xod on mo, ho trozo, a |ook ot shoor torror so|z|ng
h|s taco. 1ho mota| too| to|| out ot h|s hand, h|tt|ng tho
cobb|ostono w|th a |oud c|ook. 1ho no|so soomod to broak
tho spo|| ho was undor. As h|s gazo connoctod w|th m|no,
tho |ook ot horror that camo ovor h|m just momonts botoro,
|mmod|ato|y van|shod.
°3obast|an?' l askod broath|oss|y, unnorvod by h|s
start||ng roact|on.
|o d|dn't rop|y. lnstoad, ho cont|nuod to oxam|no ovory
|nch ot mo w|th h|s coo|, gray oyos. Vy ont|ro body b|azod
undor h|s scrut|n|z|ng staro, but dosp|to tho unoas|noss, l
cou|dn't br|ng myso|t to |ook away trom h|m. 1ho strong
w|nd trant|ca||y tuggod at my ha|r, as |t try|ng to snap mo out
ot my tranco. ln sp|to ot naturo's bost ottorts, l s|mp|y stood
thoro, |ockod |n an unnorv|ng star|ng contost w|th tho
mystor|ous vamp|ro. A doaton|ng c|ap ot thundor shook tho
oarth, caus|ng mo to jump, and start||ng 3obast|an back to
h|s sonsos.
°Who wants to know?' ho t|na||y rospondod. 1horo was
a sharp odgo to h|s smooth vo|co.
°Vy namo |s 0awn,' l sa|d, attompt|ng a sm||o. °l'm
horo on an ass|gnmont trom tho vamp|ro lros|dont to tra|n
tho now guard|ans ot Ango| Crook. 3|nco you'ro ono ot tho
t|vo vamp|ro ros|donts, l thought you'd want to know about
tho m|ss|on and tako part-' l pausod abrupt|y, d|stractod
by tho angry scow| torm|ng across h|s taco.
Anothor oarsp||tt|ng roar ot thundor soundod botoro ho
spoko. °lot |ntorostod.' ho sa|d curt|y, h|s oyos st||| |ntont
on mo. |o was bo|d|y oxp|or|ng my taco, h|s gazo s|ow|y
travo||ng down my body.
°0awn, d|d you say?' ho askod cur|ous|y, h|s vo|co a
||tt|o |oss br|sk.
l noddod, cross|ng my arms |n a so|t-consc|ous ottort
to sh|o|d myso|t trom h|s gazo. °3o can wo count you |n?' l
askod hopotu||y.
°lo.'
°What do you moan oo?' l askod |n d|sbo||ot. l was
qu|ck|y bocom|ng annoyod w|th tho sh|rt|oss, |||-mannorod
vamp|ro.
°lo. lopo. Not lotorostoo. ls that c|oar onough tor
you?'
°loa||y?'
°Yos, roa||y-oo.' |o turnod away, wav|ng h|s hand |n
my d|roct|on as |t to |ot mo know l was d|sm|ssod.
°Why?' l askod, strotch|ng out to grab h|s arm.
1hanktu||y, ho had movod just botoro l cou|d roach h|m, as
m|d-grab, l roa||zod that touch|ng 3obast|an was a bo|d
movo that l had not tu||y thought out.
|o turnod around to taco mo, tho tovor|sh |ook |n h|s
oyos caus|ng mo to tako a s||ght stop back. °l don't roa||y
ombraco th|s who|o vomplro íoo. l'm not |ntorostod |n
anyth|ng ro|atod to vamp|ros, bo|ng a vamp|ro or sorv|ng
tho vamp|ro lros|dont. Got |t?'
°What about your ob||gat|on to protoct humans?' l
quost|onod.
°l'm not |ntorostod |n humans o|thor, not ovon tho sad,
vu|norab|o onos so many vamp|ro |d|ots ta|| tor. You cou|d
say, l'm on|y |ntorostod |n myso|t.' |o sm|rkod, h|s tono
onco aga|n roach|ng sub-zoro tomporaturos. °3o, |t you
wou|dn't m|nd |oav|ng, l'd |ovo to got back to work.'
°3ut, but.you can't do that. Whon l to|| tho lros|dont
that you'ro horo, ho'|| ordor you to jo|n tho group.' l was
grasp|ng at straws.
A|| ot a suddon, 3obast|an chargod toward mo,
thrust|ng h|s taco |nto m|no. |o was so c|oso our nosos
a|most touchod. As l ra|sod my oyos to moot h|s, tho
ra|ndrops trom h|s g||ston|ng |ocks dr|ppod onto my
torohoad. l ros|stod tho tomptat|on to b||nk as drop|ots ot
wator to|| onto my oyo|ashos, not want|ng to show h|m any
woaknoss.
°|or tho past contury l'vo boon do|ng oxact|y what l
want, whon l want. l don't owo anyth|ng to any human or
vamp|ro-ospoclo||y not tho lros|dont. low, |oavo botoro l
mako you |oavo!' ho sa|d through c|onchod tooth.
°lloo!' l yo||od, pross|ng my t|sts t|ght|y aga|nst my
|ogs |n an ottort to provont myso|t trom str|k|ng h|m. °3ut,
just so you know, you'ro a roa||y socky vamp|ro.' l monta||y
k|ckod myso|t tor tho |amo rotort, a|so chast|s|ng myso|t tor
hav|ng wantod th|s aggravat|ng snob to jo|n tho group.
°l|oaso don't como around horo anymoro.' W|th thoso
t|na| words, 3obast|an stormod ott |nto tho houso,
s|amm|ng tho hoavy door boh|nd h|m. l was |ott a|ono on tho
wot dr|voway, too||ng contusod, angry, and somowhat
oxc|tod by our moot|ng.
1hat ovon|ng, nost|od |n tho sma||, cozy cottago |n tho
dopths ot tho Ango| Crook torost, l g|um|y survoyod tho
vamp|ros gathorod around tho d|n|ng room tab|o. |untor
was rost|ng h|s hoad on tho ||non tab|oc|oth, strugg||ng to
stay awako. Evory so otton, ho wou|d succood |n ||tt|ng h|s
hoavy ||ds and tocus|ng h|s oyos on mo, on|y to |nstant|y
rotroat |nto h|s |ntox|catod coma. 3oph|o sat to |untor's
r|ght, hor torohoad scrunchod t|ght|y as sho squ|ntod at tho
t|ny pr|nt ot hor h|stor|ca| t|ct|on novo|. |or pup||s movod at
||ghtn|ng spood as hor oyos travorsod tho pagos ot tho
book, hungr||y dovour|ng tho story. Across trom thom,
3rooko was po||sh|ng hor na||s w|th a sharp, p|nk t||o. 3ho
pausod attor oach stroko to carotu||y |nspoct hor na||s and
onsuro that sho was croat|ng tho portoct shapo. 3oth sat at
tho toot ot tho tab|o, a |argo hoad ot gar||c |n h|s hand. |o
poo|od ott a c|ovo and poppod |t |nto h|s mouth, w|nc|ng as
tho b|ttor t|avor roachod h|s tasto buds. A|| tho wh||o, ho
shot d|rty |ooks |n 3rooko's d|roct|on.
0raw|ng |n a doop, ca|m|ng broath, l |aunchod |nto a
short spooch l had proparod oar||or |n tho day.
°Congratu|at|ons now vamp|ro rocru|ts! 1ho tour ot you aro
now tho ott|c|a| guard|ans ot Ango| Crook. 1h|s |s both a
groat honor and an |mportant task. Aro you roady to band
togothor and work w|th mo?' l askod w|th as much
oxc|tomont as l cou|d mustor.
°|mm?' |untor murmurod, ra|s|ng h|s hoad.
°Y-Yos.' 3oph|o wh|sporod.
°Okay,' 3rooko sa|d. °3ut |t bottor mako mo supor
popu|ar.'
3oth narrowod h|s oyos at 3rooko. °As |ong as l don't
havo to work too c|oso|y w|th bor.'
lt was tho bost l was go|ng to got, l roa||zod.
°1omorrow morn|ng wo bog|n our tra|n-' 3otoro l had
a chanco to t|n|sh my sontonco, a suddon b|ur ot movomont
|n tho woods caught my attont|on. l on|y saw |t tor a sp||t
socond, but |t was onough to conv|nco mo that somoono
was |urk|ng outs|do. 5omoooo boo íoooo oor socrot
|ocotloo.
lot want|ng to pan|c tho rocru|ts, l casua||y mado my
way to ono ot tho d|n|ng room w|ndows. W|p|ng away |ayors
ot dust that c|oudod tho g|ass pano, l prossod my torohoad
aga|nst |ts coo| surtaco, scann|ng tho hor|zon tor tho or|g|n
ot tho act|v|ty. lt was d|tt|cu|t to mako out through tho th|ck
shoots ot ra|n, but r|ght at tho odgo ot tho torost, concoa|od
by tho shadowy troos, stood a ta||, dark s||houotto. |rom |ts
tramo a|ono, l cou|d not to|| |t |t bo|ongod to a human, a
vamp|ro, or somo othor bo|ng a|togothor. l was on|y suro ot
ono th|ng-|t was watch|ng us. l rushod outs|do to
|nvost|gato, but by tho t|mo l had roachod |ts h|d|ng spot,
tho strangor had van|shod |nto tho darknoss.
CEAP1ER 1EREE
3y noxt morn|ng, tho ra|n had coasod. 3r|ght rays ot
sunsh|no ponotratod tho socond-t|oor cottago w|ndow,
bath|ng tho rust|c hardwood t|oors ot my sma|| bodroom |n
a go|don g|ow. 1ho warm ||ght p|aytu||y announcod tho
bog|nn|ng ot a now day, though tor mo |t was tho start
somoth|ng ovon b|ggor. l had spont tho ont|ro n|ght awako
on tho sott, |umpy bod, compot|ng tor spaco w|th a tr|||y
t|owor duvot, and p|ott|ng out a tu|| tra|n|ng program tor tho
rocru|ts.
Whon l t|rst roco|vod tho m|ss|on, l had ant|c|patod
bo|ng |n Ango| Crook tor two or throo days at most-a
sutt|c|ont amount ot t|mo to go ovor a tow s|mp|o ru|os and
rospons|b|||t|os w|th tho now|y appo|ntod town guard|ans.
lnstoad, l was tacod w|th tour vamp|ros who woro |n tar
worso shapo than l cou|d ovor havo |mag|nod. lt wou|d tako
a coup|o ot wooks botoro my tra|noos wou|d ovon bo
capab|o ot tak|ng caro ot thomso|vos, |ot a|ono cou|d
succood at protoct|ng tho humans |n town.
l sw|tt|y ro||od ott tho bod, mak|ng a monta| noto to ca||
my tathor and updato h|m on tho curront s|tuat|on. 1ust as l
was about to ox|t tho room, l saw a g||mpso ot my
d|shovo|od rot|oct|on |n a |argo, ant|quo m|rror hang|ng on a
wa|| noxt to tho bod. 1ho |mago star|ng back at mo mado
mo curso tho tact that tho who|o °vamp|ros havo no
rot|oct|ons' th|ng was just a myth. Vy |ong ha|r was mattod
trom yostorday's ra|nstorm, my c|othos wr|nk|od trom
ovorn|ght woar. Vy usua| tank and joans att|ro just d|dn't
soom to cut |t th|s morn|ng. l had novor boon tho typo to trot
about my appoaranco, so th|s unoxpoctod dos|ro to |ook
good caught mo by surpr|so.
l p|ckod up a ha|rbrush trom a noarby drossor and
attackod my |ong |ocks w|th |t. 1ho cuto bartondor Ethan's
taco t|ashod through my m|nd, caus|ng mo to b|ush-lo
tboory-at tho suddon bout ot so|t-consc|ousnoss l was
oxpor|onc|ng. Vy thoughts ot Ethan woro abrupt|y
|ntorruptod by an |mago ot 3obast|an's on|gmat|c gray
oyos. Eyos so tu|| ot mystory, a||uro, ovon dangor. A co|d
sh|vor ran down my sp|no as l roca||od tho warn|ng |ook ho
t|ashod mo. 1horo was somoth|ng so unnorv|ng about tho
way ho starod at mo, yot my pu|so qu|ckonod |n momory ot
h|s ra|n-dronchod taco, moro |nchos away trom m|no.
A|armod by my own w||d |mag|nat|on, l throw tho brush back
on tho drossor and hurr|od out ot tho room.
l pushod 3obast|an out ot my m|nd as l doscondod tho
narrow sta|rwo|| and proparod to moot tho toam. Upon
ontor|ng tho |argo, opon-concopt ma|n t|oor, l tound oach ot
tho vamp|ros |n tho samo pos|t|on l had |ott thom tho n|ght
botoro. 3oph|o |ay cur|od up on tho brown ||v|ng room
couchos, a now novo| |n hor hand. 3rooko spraw|od across
tho t|oor, dronch|ng hor na||s |n a th|ck coat ot br|ght p|nk
po||sh. 3oth was watch|ng a mov|o on a |aptop ho had
brought a|ong w|th h|m, wh||o |untor |azod on ono ot tho
roc||n|ng cha|rs, h|s oyos t|rm|y shut.
0uo to tho h|gh |ovo|s ot catto|no |n B|ooo Co|o and
othor onorgy dr|nks ||ko B|ooo Bo||, most modorn vamp|ros
wont days w|thout s|oop, otton on|y roqu|r|ng |t whon ovor-
oxort|ng tho|r bod|os or hoa||ng trom an |njury. 0osp|to th|s
tact, l had askod tho ont|ro group to rost tor tho n|ght,
want|ng thom to bo |n top phys|ca| and monta| torm botoro
wo commoncod tho tra|n|ng. 1udg|ng by tho montago |n
tront ot mo, l cou|d to|| that thoy hadn't oboyod my roquost.
°A|r|ght, guys!' l oxc|a|mod |n an attompt to onorg|zo
thom. °1ra|n|ng t|mo!' Vy dynam|c vo|co had tho dos|rod
ottoct, caus|ng a|| tour vamp|ros to jump to tho|r toot.
3o tar, so good.
°l'm go|ng to got somo too|s trom my car. Voot mo |n
tho moadow boh|nd tho cottago |n t|vo m|nutos,' l ordorod,
add|ng, °0on't bo |ato!' A|| tho wh||o, a joytu| sm||o tuggod
at tho cornors ot my ||ps. lt wasn't go|ng to bo a s|mp|o task
to rovamp tho m|st|t vamp|ros, but l was do||ghtod to t|na||y
bo on a m|ss|on. Voro |mportant|y, l was dotorm|nod to
succood.
V|nutos |ator, 3rooko, 3oph|o, |untor and 3oth woro
stand|ng on a grassy c|oar|ng, pos|t|onod s|do-by-s|do |n a
stra|ght ||no. 1hoy stud|od mo |nqu|s|t|vo|y as l pacod |n
tront ot thom, c|utch|ng an array ot anc|ont woapons |n my
arms. l handod oach tra|noos a sword. 3otoro l had a
chanco to g|vo out any |nstruct|ons, 3oth |ot out an
an|ma||st|c roar and, |abor|ous|y ho|d|ng up tho hoavy
woapon w|th two hands, chargod at 3rooko. l stoppod
botwoon thom, |ntorcopt|ng h|s attack and shoot|ng h|m a
storn |ook. l had wrong|y conv|ncod myso|t that l had
succoodod |n porsuad|ng 3oth to put tho |nc|dont w|th
3rooko boh|nd h|m. l thought that by assur|ng h|m that roa|
horoos took tho h|gh-road whon |t camo to thoso who had
wrongod thom, ho wou|d abso|vo h|s grudgo aga|nst h|s
s|ro. Untortunato|y, |t was c|oar that thoro was st|||
unroso|vod tons|on botwoon tho two. l now not on|y had to
worry about tra|n|ng tho ont|ro gang, but a|so koop thom
trom k||||ng ono anothor.
0o|ng tho bost |mporsonat|on ot my po|sod,
command|ng tathor l cou|d mustor, l took 3oth's sword
away and sa|d, °1ho tour ot you aro a toam. Ro|o Nombor
Ooo: a|ways protoct your toammatos.' l |ookod at oach
group mombor. °Ro|o Nombor 7wo: lo |ntont|ona| hurt|ng.
Evor. Or you'|| not on|y bo oxpo||od trom tho group, but w|||
a|so havo to answor to mo.' laus|ng tor dramat|c ottoct, l
t|rm|y askod, °ls that undorstood?'
3oth noddod shoop|sh|y. 1ho rost mumb|od |n
agroomont.
°|orgot tho woapons,' l s|ghod, |ook|ng at tho
vamp|ros |n tront ot mo. °Wo'ro not qu|to roady tor that yot.
3roak ott |nto sparr|ng pa|rs and show mo what you can do.
|untor you'ro w|th 3oth, and 3oph|o, you'ro 3rooko's
partnor.'
Voro momonts |nto obsorv|ng tho group's toob|o
attompt at combat, tho roa||zat|on that l was doa||ng w|th
tour ot tho woakost, most unrot|nod vamp|ros l had ovor
soon, t|na||y sunk |n. 3ad|y, th|s stat|st|c |nc|udod ovon my
youngost vamp|ro pup||s ||ko Edd|o and 1u||o. Onco a
human bocamo a vamp|ro, thoy woro natura||y strongor,
tastor and moro sk|||od at many th|ngs. 1ho group |n tront ot
mo was, w|thout a doubt, a co|ossa| anoma|y.
Ovor tho noxt coup|o ot hours, l workod ono-on-ono
w|th oach vamp|ro, as tho othors |o|torod noarby, pract|c|ng
s|mp|o k|cks, b|ocks and punchos. 3oph|o, dosp|to hav|ng
boon a vamp|ro tor an ont|ro contury, was ||ko a door |n
hoad||ghts. 3ho yo|pod |n pa|n ovory t|mo sho punchod or
k|ckod mo, as |t l was tho ono hurt|ng bor. |or strongost
h|ts to|t ||ko gont|o taps and hor sma|| body |ookod so br|tt|o
l was atra|d that, at any momont, sho wou|d broak |n ha|t.
3rooko, on tho othor hand, was surpr|s|ng|y strong and
ag||o. 1ho yoars ot choor|oad|ng had boon good tor
somoth|ng, attor a||. logard|oss ot hor powor and spood,
sho d|d ovoryth|ng |n hor powor to avo|d tra|n|ng.
°Vy na||s!' sho wh|nod, show|ng mo a t|ny scratch on
hor portoct|y man|curod t|ngor.
Attor h|s outburst, 3oth sott|od down and tr|od h|s bost
to omu|ato tho nob|o v|doo gamo charactors ho |ookod up
to so doar|y. ||s bost ottorts to|| short, duo to h|s oxtromo
|ack ot coord|nat|on and stam|na. A s|mp|o jog around tho
t|o|d |ott h|m bont ovor |n agony, gasp|ng tor a|r.
|untor, tho strongost ot tho tour, was tho |oast tocusod
ono. 3|nco ho was undor str|ct ordors to not dr|nk any
ta|ntod b|ood, ho was bog|nn|ng to oxpor|onco harsh
symptoms ot w|thdrawa|. Evoryth|ng trom sound, to ||ght, to
s|mp|o d|roct|ons |rr|tatod h|m, cont|nuous|y osca|at|ng h|s
tou| mood. Evory t|mo l askod h|m to do somoth|ng, l wou|d
havo to onduro rudo gosturos.
Vy pat|onco w|th tho group was rap|d|y dw|nd||ng, so l
mado tho doc|s|on to ca|| tor a rocoss. lt camo just |n t|mo
to provont mo trom broak|ng tho ru|o l myso|t had
ostab||shod oar||or, by phys|ca||y hurt|ng ono-or porhaps
ovon a||-ot tho toam mombors.
Wo strotchod out |n tho c|oar|ng, toast|ng on a qu|ck
snack ot gar||c p|zza and B|ooo Co|o. l had brought onough
tood to |ast tor a tow days, onsur|ng that tho toam,
ospoc|a||y 3rooko, wou|d stay away trom any human
appot|zors. Wo ato |n s||onco, oach |ost |n our own
thoughts. 3rooko had not takon hor oyos ott ot mo tho
ont|ro t|mo. lo mattor how hard l tr|od not to |ook at hor, l
cou|dn't avo|d hor judgmonta| g|aro. 3ho was study|ng mo
|ntont|y, as |t try|ng to t|guro out a socrot ot somo sort.
||na||y, sho spoko.
°3o, 0awn. What's your story?' sho purrod swoot|y.
°|ow d|d you got to bo so good at ovoryth|ng?' 0osp|to tho
syrupy charado, thoro was an odgo to hor vo|co.
°|onost|y, |t was most|y duo to my tathor's |ns|stonco
that l got so good at ovoryth|ng,' l attomptod to ||ghton tho
mood.
°lt must bo so n|co to bo a 0addy's G|r|,' 3rooko
rotortod |n a coo| vo|co.
l wlsb l koow wbot lt roo||y ío|t |lko, l thought w|sttu||y,
opt|ng not to sharo that part|cu|ar mus|ng w|th tho group.
3otoro l had tho chanco to rospond to 3rooko's vorba|
attack |n a |oss dopross|ng mannor, 3oth cut |n. °You must
bo ono ot thoso supor o|d, a||-powortu| vamp|ros, r|ght?' ho
askod oxc|tod|y.
l contomp|atod h|s quost|on tor a momont. °Actua||y,
l'm ono ot tho youngost horo. l on|y turnod n|notoon a ||tt|o
ovor two wooks ago.'
3rooko ro||od hor oyos. °l th|nk ho moans vomplro
yoors, gon|us. l'm tochn|ca||y ílíty-ílvo,' sho wh|sporod tho
|ast part, shuddor|ng at tho numbor. °3ut |t wo'ro go|ng by
tho ago woro mooo, thon l'm sovontoon and, thorotoro,
youngor than you,' sho sa|d, tw|r||ng ono ot hor b|ondo |ocks
around hor t|ngor.
3uddon|y, 3oph|o's oyos grow w|do. °Oh, my! You'ro
ono ot tho spoc|a| vamp|ros, aron't you? 7bo Boro?'
°What's a Boro?' 3oth |ookod at mo cur|ous|y.
l took a momont to oxp|a|n to tho nowb|o vamp|ro tho
d|ttoronco botwoon tho 3orn and tho Vado, shar|ng w|th tho
group what ||tt|o l know about my background. As l spoko,
3rooko's mood grow ovon darkor.
°3omo poop|o havo a|| tho |uck,' sho scottod |rr|tab|y.
°What's wrong?' l askod, gont|y touch|ng my hand to
3rooko's shou|dor.
3ho shruggod |t ott. °loth|ng. loth|ng at a||!' sho
yo||od, storm|ng ott across tho t|o|d |n tho d|roct|on ot tho
cottago.
l rushod attor hor, grabb|ng hor arm and pu|||ng hor
around to taco mo. |or doop b|uo oyos woro stroakod w|th
toars.
°lt must bo so n|co to bo you!' sho sobbod.
°l apo|og|zo |t l d|d anyth|ng to upsot you,' l sa|d
do||cato|y, contusod by 3rooko's unoxpoctod burst ot
angor.
1ho rost ot tho toam gathorod around us, s||ont|y
obsorv|ng our |ntoract|on.
°You'ro so smart and so ta|ontod and havo a tathor
who caros about your tra|n|ng and got to grow o|d and a||
that stutt!' 3rooko spowod, hor shou|dors shak|ng v|o|ont|y.
°Oh, 3rooko.' W|thout th|nk|ng, l pu||od hor |nto a hug.
1h|s t|mo, sho d|dn't ros|st my touch.
°lt's not you, 0awn.' 3rooko sn|tt|od |nto my shou|dor.
°lot roa||y, anyway. 1ho who|o ta|k just rom|ndod mo ot tho
tact that |t's boon a |ong t|mo.' sho tra||od ott, pu|||ng
away. 3ho w|pod hor oyos w|th tho s|oovo ot hor p|nk
swoator. °lt's boon a wh||o s|nco l'vo had any k|nd ot tam||y,'
sho sa|d, oxha||ng. °Attor bo|ng turnod, l had to |oavo
ovoryth|ng l know boh|nd and go |nto h|d|ng. Vy dad was a
sonator, so hav|ng a daughtor tor a vamp|ro d|dn't s|t wo||
tor h|s campa|gn. |o d|dn't ovon w|n tho stup|d o|oct|on, but
s|nco tho summor ot 1000, l'vo boon travo|||ng across tho
country, onro|||ng |n ono son|or yoar ot h|gh schoo| attor
anothor, compot|ng tor ono prom quoon crown attor
anothor. 0o you know how t|r|ng that gots attor t|tty yoars?'
3rooko sobbod.
°Why d|dn't you g|vo co||ogo a try?' 3oph|o askod
|nnocont|y. 1ho quost|on o||c|tod a co|d staro trom 3rooko.
°0o you havo any |doa how hard |t |s tor a sovontoon-
yoar-o|d to got tho choor capta|n spot on a co||ogo toam?
l|us, l'm not roady to graduato trom h|gh schoo|,' 3rooko
sa|d, |ook|ng away trom us. °1horo's no ono to watch mo
wa|k across that stago,' sho addod, hor vo|co dropp|ng.
3rooko's words struck mo doop|y. Vy tathor-dosp|to
h|s |ns|stonco on troat|ng mo moro ||ko ono ot h|s gonora|s
than a daughtor-was a|ways thoro tor ovory ono ot my
tr|umphs.
l turnod toward tho b|ondo g|r| and sm||od. °1h|nk ot
th|s now guard|an ro|o as a pos|t|vo chango |n your ||to.' l
sa|d warm|y. °1h|s toam can bocomo your tam||y.'
3rooko |ookod at tho group and scrunchod up hor
noso. °Uhh, yoah. Wo'|| soo about that.'
lovortho|oss, attor hor outburst, 3rook's mood
|mprovod. |or tho t|rst t|mo s|nco l mot thom, a|| tour toam
mombors woro |n h|gh sp|r|ts. Wo conc|udod tho t|rst
tra|n|ng day w|thout any turthor d|sputos.
Ovor tho to||ow|ng wook, tho tra|n|ng cont|nuod to
progross vory s|ow|y. |untor and 3rooko woro tho on|y
onos show|ng s|gns ot phys|ca| advancomont, a|though
what 3oph|o and 3oth |ackod on tho batt|o t|o|d, thoy mado
up tor |n tho c|assroom, dur|ng thoorot|ca| |nstruct|on.
1ho omot|ona| bond botwoon tho toam mombors had
|mprovod drast|ca||y. Wh||o thoy woro st||| not tho bost ot
tr|onds-and l quost|onod |t thoy ovor wou|d bo-thoy woro
at |oast c|v|| towards oach othor. 3oth had ovon abandonod
h|s dos|ro to s|ay 3rooko, |t soomod.
lt had bocomo a custom tor tho group to spond |unch
broaks spraw|od out on tho grassy moadow, shar|ng
momor|os and rom|n|sc|ng about tho past. On tho sovonth
day ot our tra|n|ng, tho ta|k turnod to how oach mombor
bocamo a vamp|ro.
°lt a|| had to do w|th a guy, ot courso,' 3rooko gushod.
°||s namo was Vatt low|s and ho was tho capta|n ot my
h|gh-schoo|'s tootba|| toam, back |n Ca||torn|a. |o was
supor hot. l|ko, mov|o star hot. l'm protty suro ho's actua||y
work|ng |n |o||ywood r|ght now,' sho sa|d |usttu||y, p|ung|ng
a p|nk straw |nto a can ot B|ooo Co|o.
°Anyway, on prom n|ght, r|ght attor ho was crownod
lrom K|ng, ho askod |t l wantod to go a|| tho way w|th h|m.
At t|rst l thought about say|ng no. l was a good g|r| bo||ovo |t
or not, but l was too||ng protty down about tho tact that
stup|d lsabo||o 0ar||ng won lrom Ouoon, so l sa|d yos.'
3rooko's shou|dors sank.
°Excopt, to Vatt, golog o|| tbo woy apparont|y moant
somoth|ng tota||y d|ttoront,' sho s|ghod. °l shou|d'vo boon
moro carotu|. 3ut |n thoso days no ono know vamp|ros
ox|stod. 1hoy woro just a myth. 3o, ||ko, |mag|no my shock
whon ho turnod mo. lt was dot|n|to|y not what l was
oxpoct|ng to happon that n|ght, but l guoss l shou|d'vo
guossod by h|s pur|ty r|ng that ho was a prudo.' sho
tra||od ott, thon qu|ck|y roga|nod hor composuro. °Aoyboo,
that's my story ot pass|on. Or |ack thoroot, l guoss,' sho
s|ghod, |ook|ng around at tho group. °3o, who's noxt?'
°You a|| know how l bocamo a vamp|ro,' 3oth sa|d,
g|ar|ng at 3rooko.
°|avo you to|d your paronts yot?' sho askod, tho word
poroots catch|ng |n hor throat and caus|ng hor vo|co to
crack. °Aron't thoy ||ko supor ant|-vamp|ro? |ow d|d thoy
tako |t?'
°Vaybo you shou|d'vo thought ot that boíoro you turnod
mo!' 3oth's dark oyos narrowod, but h|s oxchango w|th
3rooko was |oss hoatod than |t had boon a wook ago. 1ho
two had sott|od |nto a comtortab|o truco, though tho tons|on
hadn't comp|oto|y d|ss|patod.
°Vy paronts st||| don't know. l'vo boon koop|ng a |ow
prot||o,' 3oth oxp|a|nod. °1hoy th|nk l'm away at a computor
camp. l had to bog thom to |ot mo go-ovon got thom to
s|gn a porm|ss|on torm and mado a who|o ordoa| ot
pack|ng my bags.'
3rooko |aughod, |ook|ng as |t sho had moro to say on
tho top|c ot 3oth's paronts. 3oth qu|ck|y changod tho
subjoct. °What about you |untor?' ho askod. °|ow d|d you
jo|n tho tang c|ub?'
|untor had boon moro a|ort s|nco l'vo put h|m on tho
str|ct d|ot ot c|oan b|ood, but ho was st||| not much ot a
ta|kor.
°l dunno, l th|nk |t |nvo|vod a bang|n' concort and |ots ot
drugs,' ho sa|d |n h|s s|ugg|sh, a|oot vo|co. °1ho rost |s a b|t
hazy. l th|nk a hot vamp tan savod my ||to attor a part|cu|ar|y
bad ovordoso.'
3rooko ro||od hor oyos and po|ntod hor chowod-up
straw at 3oph|o. °And |ot mo guoss, your story |s tho samo
as ours? You woro a|so turnod bocauso ot hot n|ght ot
pass|on? W|th somo nordy vamp|ro guy porhaps?' sho
toasod.
°Uhh, not oxact|y,' 3oph|o murmurod. °Voro ||ko a glr|,'
sho addod shy|y.
°Oob, do to||!' 3rooko squoa|od.
°ln 100b, whon l was on|y t|vo-yoars-o|d, my Vom got a
job as a ||vo-|n ma|d on an ostato ot a vory woa|thy low
Eng|and tam||y,' 3oph|o oxp|a|nod. °1ho coup|o had ono
ch||d, a protty ||tt|o b|ondo g|r| namod Char|otto. 1horo woro
wh|spors around tho houso that hor paronts cou|d not
conco|vo a baby so thoy adoptod Char|otto trom an
orphanago abroad. 3ho was so pa|o and s|ck|y, sho
cou|dn't ovon vonturo out ot tho houso. 1ust bo|ng |n tho sun
causod hor sk|n to b||stor up. 3ut l mado suro that sho was
novor a|ono. l spont ovory s|ng|o day by hor s|do, road|ng to
hor as sho |ay |n bod |n hor dark, d|m room. Wo woro
|nsoparab|o. 3ost tr|onds. 3|stors.'
lt was tho t|rst t|mo l had soon 3oph|o so an|matod, but
as sho cont|nuod to spoak, hor taco hardonod, hor b|g
brown oyos bocom|ng moro turbu|ont. °As wo grow o|dor,
Char|otto startod to suddon|y shod hor ch||dhood tra||ty.
W|th hor |mprovod hoa|th, sho d|dn't nood mo anymoro.
3ho bogan vontur|ng out ot tho houso, moot|ng now poop|o
and mak|ng now tr|onds-tr|onds ot h|ghor status. 3|ow|y,
sho was bocom|ng a strangor.'
A|| tour ot us woro star|ng at 3oph|o, hang|ng |ntont|y
onto hor ovory word.
°l|ght whon l camo to torms w|th Char|otto bo|ng |ost
to mo torovor, sho camo to my room on tho ovo ot my
o|ghtoonth b|rthday, announc|ng that sho had a prosont tor
mo. 3ho to|d mo that sho had tho koy to ||to|ong happ|noss
and askod mo |t l wantod |t too. Ot courso, l sa|d yos. l
wantod to p|oaso hor, though l had no |doa that th|s
wondortu| g|tt sho was prom|s|ng wou|d turn out to bo a
curso.'
As 3oph|o cont|nuod hor ta|o, l g|ancod ovor at
3rooko. 3ho was w|p|ng a |argo toar trom hor chook.
°At t|rst, l was tr|ghtonod by a|| tho changos l was
oxpor|onc|ng. lt ovon causod mo to dr|tt apart trom my
mothor. 3ut Char|otto ho|pod mo through |t a||. l roa||y
thought that my turn|ng had brought us c|osor togothor. l
thought that wo wou|d onco aga|n bo bost tr|onds, togothor
torovor,' 3oph|o contossod |ong|ng|y. °lt turns out that l
d|dn't know my tr|ond as wo|| as l thought. Grood got tho
bost ot hor, and whon hor tathor throatonod to cut hor out ot
h|s w||| |t sho d|dn't stop assoc|at|ng w|th tho ho|p, sho
dumpod mo.'
|or tho t|rst t|mo ovor, 3oph|o's vo|co was |oud, |acod
w|th angor. °Char|otto wont on to marry hor tathor's
bus|noss partnor's son. l assumo thoy ||vod happ||y ovor
attor. l d|dn't stay around to t|nd out.'
lo ono spoko tor a |ong wh||o.
||na||y, 3oph|o turnod to mo w|th a sad sm||o. °1hat's
how l know you woro ono ot tho 3orn, 0awn. Char|otto was
spoc|a| ||ko that too. 3ho hadn't known |t unt|| hor toons,
though, so w|thout tho propor nour|shmont ot b|ood and
gar||c, sho baro|y surv|vod hor ch||dhood.'
°Wow, your ||to |s ||ko a mov|o,' 3rooko s|ghod. °Ono
ot thoso t||ms that mako ovoryono cry and w|ns |ots ot
awards.º
Evoryooo bos socb possloo-íl||oo storlos oí tbolr
posts, l thought w|sttu||y. l was thanktu| that my ox|stonco
hadn't boon as trag|c as that ot tho tour vamp|ros s|tt|ng
around mo, but l had to adm|t that l was a|so a ||tt|o onv|ous
ot how oxc|t|ng tho|r ||vos woro. l had ||vod tho portoct ||to
|ns|do my tathor's protoct|vo bubb|o, do|ng what l |ovod
do|ng most: tra|n|ng, study|ng, and toach|ng. 3ut noth|ng
mov|ng, r|vot|ng, or ovon notoworthy had ovor happonod to
mo. |or a t|oot|ng momont, a||ow|ng my m|nd to bo
|nt|uoncod by tho hoat ot tho summor day and tho
oxh||arat|ng stor|os ot |ovo and |ust, l s||ont|y wondorod |t
that wou|d ovor chango. Com|ng to my sonsos, l chast|sod
myso|t tor gott|ng caught up |n s|||y daydroams. l had to
tocus on tho m|ss|on |n tront ot mo.
Loty ílrst, tbrl||-sooklog |otor.
°A|r|ght guys, broak t|mo |s ovor!' l announcod |oud|y,
|ntorrupt|ng tho nosta|g|c trancos ovoryono was trappod |n.
°Wo'ro go|ng to try tho woapon th|ng aga|n.'
l hoadod toward tho cottago to co||oct tho crossbows l
had proparod tor tho day's |osson, but trozo |n my tracks as
a ta||, dark t|guro dartod through tho woods |n tront ot mo. lt
was not tho t|rst t|mo l had soon tho mystor|ous ont|ty, |t had
boon |urk|ng around tho torost surround|ng tho moadow tor
days. 3|nco our |n|t|a| ovon|ng at tho cottago, my attompts
at captur|ng |t had boon unsuccosstu|. Whoovor-or
wbotovor-tho bo|ng was, |t was a|ways a tow stops ahoad.
1ho momont |t saw mo rush tor tho torost, |t
d|sappoarod |nto tho donso troos. l |ot out a trustratod
shout, vow|ng to tho p|ants, tho b|rds, and hopotu||y lt as
wo||, that noxt t|mo, tho sta|kor wou|d not oscapo mo.
CEAP1ER FOuR
l spont tho rost ot tho attornoon unab|o to tocus on tho
tra|n|ng soss|on, mochan|ca||y go|ng through tho mot|ons ot
bo|ng a good |oador. |av|ng had yoars ot pract|co, my
||mbs |nst|nct|vo|y domonstratod propor movomonts as my
||ps uttorod words ot oncouragomont. A|| tho wh||o, my m|nd
wandorod. |rustrat|ng thoughts ovor my |nab|||ty to catch
tho spy mudd|od w|th oxc|t|ng onos provokod by tho
tra|noos' stor|os ot |ovo and |ust. Vy body t|ng|od w|th
|noxp||cab|o ant|c|pat|on, as |t gott|ng roady tor somoth|ng
my m|nd d|dn't know was com|ng.
ln an attompt to rochargo and co||oct myso|t, l doc|dod
to ond tho |osson oar|y and hoad |nto town. Wo woro
runn|ng |ow on tood and bas|c supp||os, but tho tr|p a|so
mado tor a good opportun|ty to soo a corta|n bartondor.
lr|or to |oav|ng tho cottago, l changod out ot my usua|
un|torm ot tank and joans and put on tho on|y othor outt|t l
had brought a|ong-or rathor, tho on|y outt|t E||za had
managod to stutt |nto my bag-a s|mp|o, wh|to sundross. lt
was too g|r|y, too short and not vory mo, but s|nco l wasn't
roa||y too||ng ||ko myso|t, |t t|t tho occas|on wo||. l pu||od my
ha|r |nto a |ooso bra|d, tak|ng a momont to |nspoct myso|t |n
my bodroom m|rror. l sm||od, know|ng that E||za wou|d
d|sapprovo ot tho stark contrast botwoon tho sott, tom|n|no
garmont and my |ong combat boots, but choso to |gnoro tho
pa|r ot wh|to h|gh-hoo|od sanda|s sho had sont a|ong w|th
tho dross. 3otoro l had a chanco to roth|nk tho outt|t and
chango back, l torcod myso|t to dopart.
1op down, my convort|b|o soarod a|ong tho w|nd|ng
d|rt roads at broak-nock spood, tho warm summor a|r
crash|ng aga|nst my coo| sk|n. lot ovon ton m|nutos |ator, l
tound myso|t |n tront ot tho Ango| Crook 0|nor. 3w|ng|ng
opon tho d|nor door, l subconsc|ous|y smoothod out tho
|ooso strands ot ha|r that had oscapod my bra|d dur|ng tho
dr|vo. 1ho p|aco was bust||ng w|th ||vo|y convorsat|on, tho
booths br|mm|ng w|th |oca|s ot a|| agos.
As l mado my way through tho crowd, a group ot
3rooko's tootba|| p|ayor tr|onds wh|st|od. lgnor|ng tho guys,
my oyos dartod to tho bar, a s||ght sonso ot d|sappo|ntmont
wash|ng ovor mo upon soo|ng that Ethan was nowhoro |n
s|ght. 1ho bartondor pour|ng dr|nks was much o|dor, and
not noar|y as good |ook|ng.
l spottod |annah by ono ot tho cornor booths,
ba|anc|ng a |argo, trothy m||kshako on a woodon tray. 3ho
was sorv|ng a young coup|o so ongrossod |n attompt|ng to
||ck oach othor's tacos ott, thoy d|dn't ovon bothor to
acknow|odgo tho|r wa|tross as sho sot down tho ordor.
|annah wavod as our gazo mot, ro|||ng hor oyos boh|nd tho
coup|o's back. 3ho sk|ppod ovor, hor t|ory cur|s bounc|ng
choortu||y boh|nd hor.
°Vy, don't you |ook n|co!' 3ho coood, mot|on|ng w|th
hor t|ngor tor mo to sp|n around. l ro|uctant|y oboyod hor
roquost, suddon|y too||ng s|||y tor dross|ng up.
°ls Ethan around?' l askod, a ||tt|o too oagor|y.
|annah poutod. °And horo l thought you camo to soo
mo.'
°Oh, uhh.'
°0on't worry,' sho |aughod. °3|nco ho startod work|ng
horo, |ots ot g|r|s havo como by to ask about h|m. A|though,'
sho sa|d, narrow|ng hor oyos, °you'ro dot|n|to|y tho prott|ost.
Vy on|y compot|t|on.' |or vo|co was coo| and ovon, though
hor b|uo oyos tw|nk|od toas|ng|y.
As l tr|od to doc|phor |t what sho sa|d was moant to bo
takon as a tr|ond|y joko, or a moro sor|ous throat, |annah
burst |nto a t|t ot g|gg|os. °You shou|d havo soon your taco!
You |ookod so worr|od. Cou|d |t bo bocauso you havo a
crush on our handsomo bartondor?'
l |ookod away trom hor m|sch|ovous sm||o,
ombarrassod that sho had p|ckod up on my |ntorost |n
Ethan.
°Ethan workod tho day sh|tt, so |t's h|s attornoon ott,'
sho oxp|a|nod, c|oar|y untazod by my awkward roact|on. °l
havo no |doa whoro ho |s, but ho's stay|ng at that |nn by tho
park. You can a|ways try go|ng thoro |t you nood to ta|k to
h|m.'
3uddon|y, |annah's oyos ||t up. °3poak|ng ot tho |nn,
guoss whoso p|cturo |s ongravod on tho momor|a| p|aquo
|n tront ot tho bu||d|ng?'
l shruggod.
°3obast|an's!' sho oxc|a|mod so |oud|y l noar|y jumpod
back. °You know, tho vamp|ro hott|o l to|d you to ta|k to? 0|d
you got to moot h|m by tho way? lsn't ho supor handsomo?'
°|o's k|nd ot a jork,' l rotortod, |mmod|ato|y rogrott|ng
my words. Know|ng |annah, sho wou|d want mo to
o|aborato. l qu|ck|y changod tho subjoct.
°3o why |s 3obast|an's p|cturo ongravod on a p|aquo
at tho |nn?' l askod.
|annah suddon|y grow so|omn, hor oxpross|on
hardon|ng. °l actua||y don't know too much about
3obast|an's story,' sho wh|sporod, |oan|ng toward mo, °but
l hoard-' 3otoro sho had a chanco to d|vu|go anyth|ng,
sho was ca||od to ass|st a toary-oyod tra|noo sorvor c|oar|y
|n tho m|dd|o ot a vory rough sh|tt. |or tho t|rst t|mo ovor,
|annah was tho ono to ond our convorsat|on and b|d mo
tarowo||.
Vy |ntorost p|quod, l roso|vod to v|s|t tho |nn and
|nvost|gato tho mystor|ous p|cturo ot 3obast|an. 3ocrot|y, l
hopod to run |nto Ethan wh||o l was |n tho aroa. l strodo
a|ong Va|n 3troot to tho |mmacu|ato|y ma|nta|nod park
grounds whoro tho |nn and |ts wh|to gazobo stood. 1ho
bu||d|ng was sma||or than tho homo l grow up |n, but
somohow moro arrost|ng. Vado ont|ro|y ot wh|to stono, |t
rosomb|od a m|n|aturo cast|o, comp|oto w|th two round
stono towors on oach ond. 1ho w|ndows woro dramat|ca||y
w|do, adornod trom tho |ns|do w|th |aco curta|ns.
Evon though |t was a romarkab|o p|oco ot arch|tocturo,
|ook|ng at tho |nn provokod an unoasy too||ng w|th|n mo. A
pa|ntu| v|co c|aspod t|ght|y around my chost, rondor|ng mo
broath|oss. Vy oyos b|urrod, tho wor|d around mo suddon|y
d|sappoar|ng out ot tocus. 3trugg||ng to |nha|o, l toro my
gazo away trom tho bu||d|ng, my oyos com|ng to rost on tho
gazobo bos|do |t. Vy broath|ng s|owod down as my v|s|on
c|oarod. As qu|ck|y as tho droadtu| sonsat|on had
mator|a||zod, |t passod. 1ho gazobo, w|th |ts br|ght wh|to
tr|mm|ng and po|nty gray root, was a sato havon ot sorts. A
structuro rad|at|ng hopo, prom|so and ovon a h|nt ot
romanco.
lomombor|ng my mot|vo tor v|s|t|ng tho park, l
scannod tho aroa around tor tho momor|a| p|aquo |annah
had to|d mo about. 1ho tab|ot |ay on tho ground noxt to tho
|nn, |ts hoavy gray stono tramod by |ush, wh|to tu||ps. l mado
my way across tho trosh|y watorod grass, crouch|ng down
to |ook at tho b|ack and wh|to ongrav|ng ot a tam||y portra|t.
A handsomo, statuosquo man sat noxt to a protty, dark-
ha|rod woman. 1ho|r ch||dron, a ||tt|o g|r| about s|x yoars ot
ago and two young mon |n tho|r oar|y twont|os, stood
around thom. 1ho youngor ot tho two sons, tho s||vor-oyod
boy, was 3obast|an. ||s c|othos woro datod and h|s |ooso,
m|dn|ght-b|ack cur|s |ongor, but, w|thout a doubt, |t was h|m.
3o|ow tho p|cturo, carvod |n tho marb|o was a
commomorat|vo |nscr|pt|on.
lo momory oí tbo 1875 loml|too looso trogooy.
lorovor |ovoo. ¼l||lom York, Vory loml|too-York ooo
tbolr cbl|oroo Cbrlstopbor, 5obostloo ooo Oroco.
As l ran my t|ngors a|ong tho tam|||ar taco, l suddon|y
bocamo awaro ot a prosonco |n tho gazobo boh|nd mo. Vy
sk|n pr|ck|od as l to|t a p|orc|ng gazo travo| up my back.
|o|d|ng my broath, l stra|ghtonod, turn|ng |n tho d|roct|on ot
tho gazobo. l st|t|od a gasp.
3tar|ng d|roct|y at mo was tho roa|-||to-or, rathor, roo|-
oootb-vors|on ot 3obast|an. |o sat on a bonch |n tho
contro ot tho gazobo, sport|ng a s|mp|o wh|to t-sh|rt and
b|ack pants, |ook|ng ||ko a modorn vors|on ot tho young
man |n tho p|cturo. l mado my way toward h|m, s||ont|y
jo|n|ng h|m on tho bonch. loth|ng l cou|d th|nk ot to say
soomod t|tt|ng ot tho s|tuat|on.
°l'm sorry,' l t|na||y wh|sporod.
3obast|an d|dn't rop|y. Wo sat s|do-by-s|do, drown|ng
|n s||onco tor what soomod ||ko agos. l startod to doubt that
ho had ovon hoard mo, whon, unoxpoctod|y, ho roso ott tho
bonch and bogan to spoak, h|s smooth, vo|voty vo|co t|||od
w|th mo|ancho|y.
°Vy groat-grandtathor bu||t th|s gazobo tor h|s w|to,' ho
sa|d, runn|ng h|s |ong, |oan t|ngors a|ong tho woodon
boams ot tho structuro. °lt was a prom|so ot a joyous tuturo.'
A s|ow, sad sm||o sproad across h|s ||ps as ho carossod
tho coarso mator|a|. lt was tho t|rst t|mo l had soon h|m
sm||o, and though tho gosturo mado h|m |ook ovon moro
handsomo than l cou|d havo thought poss|b|o, tho sorrow |n
h|s sm||o was hoartbroak|ng.
°1ho|r son, my grandtathor, marr|od h|s w|to stand|ng
on that vory spot,' ho sa|d, po|nt|ng to tho contor ot tho
gazobo. °Vy paronts woro a|so marr|od |n th|s gazobo.'
|oar|ng 3obast|an ta|k about h|s tam||y was ||ko
||ston|ng to a comp|oto|y d|ttoront porson than tho ono l mot
on that stormy day a wook ago.
°What a |ovo|y trad|t|on,' l sa|d, my tono baro|y
aud|b|o. l cou|d not br|ng |t out ot a stato ot wh|spor, atra|d
that |t l spoko any |oudor, my vo|co wou|d botray my too||ngs
and crack.
3obast|an |oworod h|mso|t back onto tho bonch
bos|do mo. Wo sat |n st|||noss aga|n, ho |ost |n h|s own
thoughts and mo try|ng my bost to t|ght tho urgo to ask tho
ono quost|on that was roa||y on my m|nd. ¼bot boppoooo
lo 1875º
°1o|| mo about your tam||y,' l urgod |nstoad, hop|ng to
draw out h|s sm||o aga|n.
|or a br|ot socond, l toarod ho wou|d |gnoro my
roquost, but to my surpr|so ho oboyod and bogan to ta|k.
°Vy groat-grandtathor, |onry |am||ton, was an amb|t|ous
man-a man w|th a groat m|nd tor bus|noss and an ovon
groator hoart tor |ovo. |o bu||t Ango| Crook |n 180b trom
tho ground up as a grand romant|c gosturo tor my groat-
grandmothor, Ango|a.' 3obast|an pausod, |ook|ng ovor at
mo, try|ng to gaugo my roact|on. °3ounds corny, r|ght?'
°l th|nk |t sounds n|co,' l sm||od. l wasn't go|ng to |ot h|s
macho act spo|| tho story. |o was a good storyto||or and |t
was ov|dont by h|s boaut|tu| words and tho sottnoss |n h|s
vo|co that ho carod doop|y about tho ta|o.
°l don't know much about my grandtathor, Chr|stophor
3r. |o was k|||od whon my mothor was vory young. 3ho
was h|s on|y ch||d and attor my groat-grandparonts'
pass|ng, sho and my tathor, |nhor|tod tho ont|ro town.
3hort|y attor tho|r wodd|ng, my o|dor brothor, Chr|stophor
1r., was born, thon l, thon my ||tt|o s|stor, Graco.' ||s vo|co
caught |n h|s throat as ho sa|d Graco's namo. °And that's
a||.'
l tought tho ovorwho|m|ng sonso ot angu|sh bubb||ng
up |ns|do mo, strugg||ng w|th tho |mpu|so to throw my arms
around 3obast|an.
°Was that how you.?' l askod, mot|on|ng toward tho
p|aquo. l was soarch|ng tor bottor word than °d|od' and
sott|od on °bocamo a vamp|ro' |nstoad.
°You cou|d say that,' ho sa|d, c|os|ng h|s oyos. ||s
prov|ous|y tondor vo|co was onco aga|n curt.
1ho vo|co ot roason |n my hoad scroamod at mo to
qu|t wh||o l was ahoad, but choos|ng to |gnoro |t, l doc|dod
to probo turthor.
°0|d |t havo somoth|ng to do w|th a g|r|? 1oday, l
|oarnod that |t usua||y has somoth|ng to do w|th a g|r|-or a
guy.'
A dark shadow crossod 3obast|an's taco. |o roso
abrupt|y, |oav|ng tho gazobo |n a hoatod b|azo.
°l'm sorry!' l cr|od out, runn|ng attor h|m. °l'm so sorry.
1hat was such a stup|d th|ng to ask,' l sa|d, mov|ng to stand
|n tront ot h|m.
°lt doosn't mattor anymoro. lt was a |ong t|mo ago,' ho
sa|d, rotus|ng to moot my oyos. °l havo to go.'
°Wa|t! Aro you go|ng homo?' l askod, st||| b|ock|ng h|s
path. °l can g|vo you a r|do.' Aoo bopoío||y opo|oglzo.
°lo, thank you. l too| ||ko a run.' W|th that, ho was ott.
l stood by tho gazobo tor what soomod ||ko hours,
|ook|ng |n tho d|roct|on 3obast|an had d|sappoarod,
dosporato|y w|sh|ng ho wou|d como back.
°|o's novor go|ng to ta|k to mo aga|n,' l s|ghod,
monta||y ropr|mand|ng myso|t tor my thought|oss |apso |n
judgmont. l had novor botoro boon so omot|ona|, so stup|d|y
|mpu|s|vo. Ango| Crook and |ts |nhab|tants woro wroak|ng
havoc on my usua||y ca|m and co||octod m|nd. lt l was go|ng
to |ast anothor wook, l wou|d havo to swoar ott a||
d|stract|ons.
An hour |ator, l tound myso|t dr|v|ng back to tho
cottago, trosh supp||os scattorod across tho backsoat ot
my car. l was about to pu|| onto tho d|rt road |oad|ng toward
tho cottago, whon l not|cod that l was bo|ng ta||od by a
groon p|ck-up truck. 1ho dr|vor wavod h|s arms |n an
attompt to got my attont|on and, upon turthor |nspoct|on, l
roa||zod that tho muscu|ar ||mbs bo|ongod to Ethan. As our
oyos connoctod |n my roarv|ow m|rror, ho sm||od warm|y. l
mot|onod tor h|m to to||ow my car, consc|ous ot my tathor's
ordors not to rovoa| tho |ocat|on ot tho tra|n|ng grounds, but
soo|ng no harm |n ovor|ook|ng tho |nstruct|ons. lt`s oo|y
Etboo. lo`s oot golog to lotoríoro wltb tbo trololog, l
roasonod, momontar||y torgott|ng about my p|odgo to
m|n|m|zo a|| d|stract|ons.
3y tho t|mo wo roachod tho cottago, tho sun had
a|most tu||y van|shod. A ta|nt orango g|ow stroamod through
tho troos, wash|ng ovor tho woodon cab|n and |ts dusty
dr|voway. Ethan pu||od h|s truck |nto tho park|ng spaco
boh|nd mo, s||onc|ng tho ong|no. l gazod |n h|s d|roct|on as l
un|oadod tho por|shab|o snacks trom tho back soat,
oxc|tod to soo tho dark b|ondo |ocks and tr|ond|y hazo| oyos
l had boon soarch|ng tor at tho d|nor oar||or |n tho day. |o
stuck h|s hoad out ot tho dr|vor's soat w|ndow, a b|g sm||o
torm|ng across h|s ch|so|od taco.
ºWo|| ho||o thoro, strangor,' Ethan sa|d, h|s doop vo|co
ovort|ow|ng w|th warmth.
|o jumpod out ot tho car, h|s brown |oathor boots
k|ck|ng up d|rt as h|s toot touchod ground. ln throo qu|ck
stops, ho travorsod tho dr|voway, mator|a||z|ng r|ght |n tront
ot mo.
°l wantod to pay you a v|s|t,' ho sa|d domuro|y. °Ot
courso, l had no |doa whoro you woro stay|ng, so l just
drovo around a|m|oss|y. l cou|dn't bo||ovo my |uck whon l
actua||y ran |nto you! |annah to|d mo you stoppod by tho
d|nor today.' ho tra||od ott, but tho m|sch|ovous g||mmor |n
h|s oyos |mp||od that |annah had a|so d|vu|god that my
roason tor com|ng by.
Lowo wootoo to soo yoo so boo|y, Etboo. 5bo wos so
boortbrokoo wboo sbo íoooo oot yoo woroo`t ot work. l
cr|ngod, |mag|n|ng tho o|aborato ta|o |annah had spun. ln
that momont, l w|shod vamp|ros cou|d roa||y d|sso|vo |nto a
c|oud ot smoko. Or at |oast turn |nto bats and t|y away.
lnstoad, l just stood thoro, drown|ng |n ombarrassmont.
°Uhh, wa|t horo wh||o l put tho grocor|os away,' l to|d
Ethan, |ook|ng down at tho papor bag |n my arms, suddon|y
thanktu| tor tho d|stract|on. °l'|| bo r|ght back to g|vo you a
tour ot tho proporty.'
l mado my way across tho tra|n|ng grounds, sm|||ng
proud|y whon l saw that tho tour vamp|ro rocru|ts woro
bus||y ongagod |n combat pract|co.
°|oy guys! look at th|s hugo, anc|ont crossbow l tound
|n 0awn's woapon trunk!' 3oth oxc|a|mod trom across tho
t|o|d.
|o wavod tho woapon around, gasp|ng |n torror as tho
spr|ng ho|d|ng tho arrow |n p|aco d|s|odgod. 1ho sharp bo|t
s||cod through tho a|r, hoad|ng stra|ght at mo. 3otoro l ovon
had a chanco to roact, Ethan rushod to my s|do. |o movod
w|th suporhuman spood, and w|th ovon moro oxtraord|nary
strongth, ho covorod my body w|th h|s, hast||y push|ng mo
out ot tho way. 1ho s|ckon|ng sound ot tho arrow's sharp
hoad connoct|ng w|th Ethan's t|osh sproad throughout tho
moadow. 1ho arrow had ponotratod h|s th|ck |oathor jackot,
|odg|ng doop |nto h|s chost. 3r|ght rod b|ood bogan to soak
h|s sh|rt, |ts s|ck|y-swoot scont t||||ng tho a|r around us. |o
gruntod |n pa|n, co||aps|ng to tho ground and tak|ng mo
down w|th h|m.
°Obmlgoo!' 3rooko scroamod, as tho group rushod to
our s|do.
°lt just wont ott!' 3oth cr|od, ho|d|ng back toars. 'l'm so
sorry! l`m so sorry!' ho ropoatod ovor and ovor aga|n.
°3oph|o, got tho t|rst a|d k|t trom my car,' l ordorod,
anx|ous|y |ook|ng ovor at Ethan. Co|or had dra|nod trom h|s
taco, as h|s oyos ro||od to tho back ot h|s hoad. l gont|y
pu||od us both |nto a soatod pos|t|on, so that h|s back
rostod aga|nst my body.
°Ethan,' l ca||od out gont|y. °Ethan, l'm go|ng to tako a
|ook.' l sa|d, s||d|ng ott h|s jackot. |o tw|tchod s||ght|y at tho
sound ot my vo|co, but h|s oyos roma|nod untocusod.
3oph|o roturnod w|th tho mod|ca| supp||os and l
workod qu|ck|y to cut ott Ethan's sh|rt and assoss tho |njury.
1ho arrow had m|ssod a|| ot tho v|ta| organs, but
rogard|oss, ho was |os|ng a |ot ot b|ood.
°Wo havo to do somoth|ng,' 3oph|o wh|sporod as
Ethan bogan to dr|tt out ot consc|ousnoss.
°|o noods a doctor,' |untor suggostod.
3rooko bur|od hor taco |n hor hands. °|o won't mako |t
to town!'
°Ethan, Ethan! Wako up!' l p|oadod, ho|d|ng h|s ||mp
hoad |n my hands.
l bovo to romovo tbo orrow, l roa||zod, a hoavy too||ng
sott||ng |n tho p|t ot my stomach. 1ho on|y poss|b|o way to
oxtract |t was to push |ts t|p a|| tho way through Ethan's
chost.
l took |n a doop, shaky broath. °1h|s |s go|ng to hurt,' l
wh|sporod, moro to myso|t than anyono o|so. W|thout turthor
hos|tat|on, l thrust tho arrow doopor |nto Ethan's chost. |o
gruntod, h|s ont|ro body convu|s|ng |n pa|n.
°|ang |n thoro, Ethan. lt's a|| go|ng to bo ovor soon.' l
soundod so ca|m and co||octod, a|| tho wh||o, l was
scroam|ng on tho |ns|do. lt took moro soconds tor tho mota|
t|p to protrudo out ot Ethan's back, but tor mo, tho soconds
to|t ||ko thoy had draggod on tor hours.
|untor ho|pod mo stoady Ethan's shak|ng body, wh||o
3oph|o usod p||ors to cut ott tho t|p. As tho arrowhoad to|| to
tho ground, l tuggod at |ts smooth, round ta||, pu|||ng |t out |n
ono sw|tt movo. An agon|z|ng groan oscapod Ethan's
throat as b|ood bogan to sp||| trom h|s wounds.
ln an attompt to stop tho b|ood|ng, 3oph|o app||od a
wad ot gauzo trom tho t|rst a|d k|t ovor oach ond ot tho
gash. As soon as sho touchod Ethan w|th tho mator|a|, tho
wh|to tabr|c turnod br|ght rod. Ethan's body ro|axod, to|d|ng
ovor |n my arms.
3uddon|y, ovoryono was yo|||ng at onco.
°|o's not go|ng to mako |t!'
°What aro wo go|ng to do?'
°|o noods a hosp|ta|!'
°3omoono do somoth|ng! l|oaso!'
3oph|o |ookod ovor at mo, hor oyos t||||ng w|th hopo.
°0awn, you'ro a 3orn. 1ust a drop ot your b|ood can t|x
h|m,' sho wh|sporod |n my oar.
l starod back at hor, |ott|ng tho |ntormat|on s|nk |n. l had
novor hoa|od anyono w|th my b|ood botoro. 3oph|o not|cod
my hos|tat|on.
°1horo's no t|mo! |o's |os|ng too much b|ood,' sho
cr|od trant|ca||y, hand|ng mo a pa|r ot sharp mod|ca|
sc|ssors.
lot nood|ng to bo to|d tw|co, l p|ckod up tho sc|ssors
and mado a sma|| |nc|s|on on my arm. 3r|ght rod b|ood
t|owod to tho surtaco ot my sk|n, poo||ng around tho cut.
Ou|ck|y, botoro tho wound had a chanco to c|oso up, l
c|osod my oyos and prossod my arm to Ethan's ||ps.
At t|rst ho was st|||, but thon h|s ||ps bogan to movo and
ho startod to dr|nk. lt was a strango|y unnorv|ng too||ng.
3o|ng brought up undor lros|dont A|asta|r's str|ct codo ot
conduct, l had novor takon b|ood trom a human, nor g|von
my own b|ood to ono. l know my tathor wou|d not approvo,
but th|s was a mattor ot ||to or doath. Etboo got bort trylog
to sovo mo ooo l boo o ooty to bo|p blm.
W|th oach draw ot b|ood, Ethan's gr|p on my arm
t|ghtonod. Vy hoad bocamo ||ghtor, unt|| t|na||y, tho wor|d
around mo bogan to d|sso|vo. A|| ot a suddon, l was |n tho
gazobo |n tront ot tho |nn, wh|r||ng about tho structuro |n a
boaut|tu| groon gown. 3|ood rushod through my vo|ns and
|nto my hoad, m|x|ng w|th tho sound ot tho wator trom tho
crook. 1ho vory samo crook that had dr|od up |n tho oar|y
1000's. l cont|nuod to sp|n ovor and ovor aga|n, unt||
ovoryth|ng bocamo ono b|g b|ur. l wo|comod tho hazo that
to||owod, want|ng noth|ng moro but to p|ungo |nto |ts dopths.
3ut botoro l cou|d tu||y surrondor, arms roachod tor mo,
shak|ng mo awako. 1ho d|mnoss to|| away and l was back
|n tho moadow, surroundod by tho rocru|ts, tho|r
oxpross|ons tu|| ot concorn.
lo ono spoko about what had just transp|rod. lnstoad,
wo a|| tocusod our attont|on on Ethan. |o was s|ow|y
ga|n|ng consc|ousnoss, co|or roturn|ng to h|s taco, h|s
prov|ous|y vacant oyos t||||ng w|th ||to. 3oph|o and l workod
to c|oan and dross h|s st||| raw, but hoa||ng, wound. 1hough
sho d|dn't ask, l cou|d to|| by tho way sho was |ook|ng at mo
that sho wantod to know what happonod to mo |n tho m|dst
ot °donat|ng b|ood' to Ethan. l`o |lko to koow tbo somo
tblog, l thought, try|ng to |gnoro tho tons|on croop|ng up my
sp|no.
lator that ovon|ng, l tound myso|t a|ono w|th Ethan.
Attor tho torr|ty|ng ordoa| w|th tho crossbow, 3rooko,
3oph|o, |untor and 3oth had roquostod to spond tho n|ght
away trom tho cottago. l sympathot|ca||y agrood. |untor
and 3rooko hoadod to tho d|nor-ho to moot an o|d tr|ond
and sho to got togothor w|th hor choor squad. 3oph|o wont
to tho ||brary to v|s|t lotor, wh||o 3oth noodod to ta|k to h|s
paronts and como up w|th yot anothor croat|vo oxcuso tor
bo|ng away trom homo. |o a|so adm|ttod that ho m|ssod
h|s v|doo gamos but, moro than anyth|ng, l cou|d to|| that ho
was gu||t-r|ddon ovor hurt|ng Ethan, and noodod to oscapo
tor a wh||o.
l conv|ncod Ethan to torgo dr|v|ng homo |n tho dark,
roquost|ng that ho spond tho n|ght at tho cottago |nstoad. l
wantod to koop h|m ovorn|ght tor obsorvat|on to onsuro that
h|s |njury wou|d hoa| w|thout any comp||cat|ons. lt was on|y
as l |oanod aga|nst tho ra|||ng ot my bodroom ba|cony,
hoar|ng h|m approach, that l roa||zod wo woro comp|oto|y
a|ono. |o was woar|ng a pa|r ot pajama bottoms l had
tound |n ono ot tho cottago drawors, h|s torso ont|ro|y baro,
savo tor tho dross|ng ovor h|s wound.
°0oos |t hurt?' l askod, |ook|ng d|roct|y at tho
bandagos and not a||ow|ng my oyos to stray o|sowhoro.
°1ust a ||tt|o b|t. lt's hoa||ng vory qu|ck|y,' ho sa|d,
patt|ng h|s chost. |o broko |nto a tondor sm||o, c|os|ng tho
d|stanco botwoon us. °You savod mo.'
°Actua||y, you'ro tho ono who savod mo,' l rop||od.
°W|thout th|nk|ng, you jumpod |n tront ot an arrow that was
hoad|ng my way. You'ro dot|n|to|y tho horo ton|ght.'
°3t|||, |t |t wasn't tor you.' ho tra||od ott, mov|ng ovon
c|osor. 1ho br|ght wh|to moon||ght rot|octod |n h|s oyos,
bath|ng thom |n a m||ky g|ow.
|o put h|s hand on my shou|dor, pu|||ng mo |nto a t|ght
hug. l stood st|||, dosporato|y try|ng to |gnoro tho too||ngs h|s
warm broath st|rrod |ns|do mo as |t carossod my coo| sk|n. l
know l shou|d pu|| away trom h|s ombraco, but |nstoad, l
roma|nod mot|on|oss, my body t|ght|y prossod aga|nst h|s.
Whon wo broko apart, ho |ookod at mo w|th an ovon
groator |ntons|ty.
°You'ro boaut|tu|,' ho wh|sporod, s|ow|y |nch|ng h|s
taco toward m|no. lt was hard to toar my gazo trom h|s tu||
||ps, but suddon|y, l pushod h|m away and stoppod back.
°You'ro undor my spo||!' l b|urtod out.
|o |aughod and noddod. °A ||tt|o b|t.'
°lo, l moan, you drank my b|ood. 3omot|mos, whon a
human dr|nks b|ood trom a vamp|ro, thoy can oxpor|onco
roa||y strong too||ngs toward that vamp|ro,' l oxp|a|nod.
°3ack |n tho day, somo vamp|ros tod humans tho|r b|ood
just to ons|avo thom.'
Ethan |aughod aga|n, th|s t|mo ovon moro joytu||y. °0o
you roo||y th|nk you'vo put mo undor somo vamp|ro spo||,
0awn?' ho askod toas|ng|y.
l oloo`t. Bot tbo o|torootlvo wos o|ormlog.
°1ust-l moan.' l |ookod down, ombarrassod.
3omohow, l had |ost a|| ab|||ty to torm cohoront sontoncos.
°You'ro r|ght. Your b|ood.' Ethan w|nkod. °1hat must bo
|t.'
1ak|ng advantago ot a broak |n tho tons|on that tho
p|aytu| bantor causod, l oxcusod myso|t, qu|ck|y oscap|ng
trom tho ba|cony. l bus|od myso|t w|th propar|ng a bod tor
Ethan to s|oop |n, thon tound othor tasks to do around tho
cottago. l managod to avo|d h|m tor tho rost ot tho n|ght.
Ethan, oxhaustod trom tho day's ordoa|, dr|ttod |nto s|umbor
tho momont h|s hoad touchod tho p|||ow.
Attor onsur|ng that ho was sound as|oop, l cropt out
|nto tho coo| summor n|ght. l d|dn't bothor w|th shoos,
dosporato|y yoarn|ng to s|nk my toos |nto tho mo|st grass
outs|do. Vy hoad poundod, thoughts ot tho past day dartod
though my m|nd at a m||||on m||os a socond. l was thanktu|
tor tho st|||noss ot tho n|ght, hop|ng to drown my m|nd |n |ts
s||onco.
1horo was no dony|ng that l to|t a strong attract|on
toward Ethan. Evoryth|ng about h|m was so magnot|c, so
|nv|t|ng. 3ut, as l vonturod away trom tho moadow, wa|k|ng
doopor |nto tho dark torost, my thoughts dr|ttod to somoono
o|so. 3omoono oxtromo|y comp|ox and romarkab|y
trustrat|ng.
¼by olo 5obostloo bovo to borgo lo oo ovory
p|oosoot tboogb l boo oí Etbooº
Why d|d ovoryth|ng about tho handsomo, dark vamp|ro
havo to so myst|ty|ng-so comp||catod?
And most |mportant|y, ¼by olo l coroº
CEAP1ER F|VE
Ethan awoko short|y attor tho gang's roturn trom town
tho noxt morn|ng. |rom my pos|t|on on ono ot tho ||v|ng
room couchos, l cou|d c|oar|y hoar oach ot h|s movomonts
as ho shutt|od around tho croaky, top t|oor ot tho cottago.
||rst tho bodroom, thon tho bathroom, thon t|na||y tho
narrow, woodon sta|rs jo|n|ng tho two t|oors. |o strodo |nto
tho |argo, opon concopt ||v|ng aroa, ca|||ng out a husky
°Good morn|ng!'
l roturnod h|s groot|ng, s||ont|y hop|ng that tho rost ot
tho group wou|d bo just as courtoous. 3oth s|mp|y noddod
h|s hoad |n Ethan's d|roct|on, too absorbod |n h|s broaktast
ot warm gar||c broad and B|ooo Co|o tor propor mannors.
3oph|o was rost|ng |n an armcha|r w|th a now ||brary book
and a|so ta||od to rospond. lnstoad, sho g|ancod at mo
|nqu|s|t|vo|y ovor tho top ot hor th|ck novo|, hor b|g brown
oyos study|ng mo |ntont|y. l cou|d to|| sho was try|ng to
gaugo |t anyth|ng had happonod botwoon Ethan and mo
tho n|ght botoro. l |mmod|ato|y shot hor what l had hopod
was a vory c|oar °Oí coorso oot!' |ook.
Ethan mado h|s way to tho |oathor couch, a|most
tr|pp|ng ovor 3rooko who was spraw|od across tho ||v|ng
room t|oor, co|ortu| cosmot|cs strown a|| around hor. 3ho
was pa|nt|ng t|owory pattorns on hor br|ght purp|o na||s. As
sho caught s|ght ot Ethan's sh|rt|oss torso, sho droppod tho
na|| brush and gaspod.
°Wow!' sho oxc|a|mod, |ook|ng h|m up and down.
Ethan sm||od uncomtortab|y, s|nk|ng |nto tho couch
across trom mo. |o had romovod tho bandago trom h|s
chost, oxpos|ng tho aroa whoro tho arrow had ontorod tho
day botoro. l was start|od to soo tho ottoct my b|ood had on
tho |njury. 1ho wound was comp|ox|y hoa|od, |oav|ng boh|nd
on|y a s||ght, rodd|sh-p|nk scar.
°3att|o wound,' ho sa|d jok|ng|y whon ho not|cod my
gazo.
l qu|ck|y avortod my oyos. °Uhh, 3rooko, why don't you
t|nd |untor and soo |t ho has a c|oan sh|rt Ethan can
borrow,' l ordorod.
3rooko d|dn't movo. |or oyos woro st||| t|xod on Ethan,
hor mouth s||ght|y agapo. 1ho na||po||sh cont|nuod to dr|p
trom hor brush, croat|ng co|ortu| sta|ns on tho hardwood
t|oor. l gont|y oxtondod my toot, nudg|ng hor |n tho r|bs w|th
my toos. Vy touch had tho dos|rod ottoct, caus|ng hor to
snap out ot hor Ethan-|nsp|rod tranco.
°Aww, do l havo to?' sho wh|nod, but comp||od.
As l watchod 3rooko d|sappoar out ot tho ||v|ng room,
a quost|on l had put ott ask|ng |n tho m|dst ot yostorday's
oxc|tomont ontorod my m|nd onco aga|n.
°Ethan,' l bogan carotu||y. °|ow d|d you got to bo so
íost?'
A t|ustorod |ook crossod Ethan's taco.
°And so strong?' l addod, romombor|ng tho powor ho
had so|zod mo w|th.
°l-l'm not suro,' ho stammorod. °Adrona||no?'
3omoth|ng about tho way ho spoko mado mo too| ||ko
thoro was moro to tho story than ho was w||||ng to |ot on. Ot
courso, humans had boon know carry out |mposs|b|o toats
|n t|mos ot dangor, but what l had porsona||y w|tnossod
whon Ethan grabbod mo, had ||tt|o to do w|th adrona||no.
||s spood and powor was not that ot a norma| man.
Vy taco must havo botrayod my thoughts as Ethan
cont|nuod to oxp|a|n. °Or, |t cou|d bo v|tam|ns,' ho ottorod. °l
a|ways tako my v|tam|ns.'
l |ookod at h|m cur|ous|y. ln tho past coup|o ot yoars,
pharmacout|ca| compan|os had mado progross |n tho
dovo|opmont ot now mod|c|nos and hoa|thy ||v|ng a|ds, but l
was corta|n that no amount ot ovor-tho-countor v|tam|ns
cou|d havo mado Ethan as astound|ng as ho had boon tho
ovon|ng botoro.
3ons|ng my d|sbo||ot, ho qu|ck|y addod, °A|so, my
Vom |s a doctor. 3ho's obsossod w|th mak|ng suro l'm t|t
and hoa|thy. l|us, l havo boon do|ng mart|a| arts tor qu|to a
tow yoars. l a|so know my way around at a shoot|ng rango,'
ho oxp|a|nod, |ook|ng at mo anx|ous|y. °You |ook ||ko you'ro
not buy|ng |t,' ho t|na||y sa|d, s|gh|ng dojoctod|y.
°lt's just that.' |ow cou|d l oxpross that what l had
w|tnossod yostorday was a toat |mposs|b|o tor any human?
1ho ag|||ty. 1ho strongth. °lt's just that you-'
°|oro you go!' 3rooko mator|a||zod |n tront ot us,
wav|ng ono ot |untor's many t-sh|rts |n my taco. l ro|axod,
thanktu| tor hor suddon appoaranco.
°lt you ask mo, |t wou|d bo a p|ty to covor a|| th|s up.'
sho sa|d, mot|on|ng to Ethan's chost as sho handod h|m
tho b|ack sh|rt. 1ho namo ot yot anothor ono ot |untor's
bands was scr|bb|od |n stark wh|to |ottors across |ts tront.
Ethan put tho sh|rt ovor h|s hoad and stood up. °l
shou|d probab|y got back to tho d|nor. Vy sh|tt w||| bo
start|ng soon.' ||s vo|co was coo|or than tho usua| warm
tono l had grown accustomod to, mak|ng mo too| oxtromo|y
gu||ty about our convorsat|on.
3uddon|y, an |doa dawnod on mo. °You know, |t you'ro
roa||y as good as you say you aro,' l bogan |n a ||ghthoartod
mannor, °you shou|d como by and ho|p out w|th tho tra|n|ng
somot|mo.'
°loa||y?' ho askod, a t|ny spark ot ||ght |gn|t|ng |n h|s
oyos.
°Yos, roa||y.' lt`s oot |lko l booo`t o|roooy brokoo o íow
oí my íotbor`s ro|os, l thought. ¼bot borm coo|o ooo moro
ooº °You a|roady suttorod tho t|rst-and hopotu||y tho |ast-
casua|ty ot tho m|ss|on so-'.
°Yos, yos, yos! l|oaso do!' 3rooko squoa|od, wast|ng
no t|mo. °lt wou|d bo so awosomo to havo you as our
toachor,' sho sa|d oxc|tod|y. °Vaybo you can ho|p sp|co
th|ngs up a ||tt|o. 0awn |s too much ot a bor|ng goody-two-
shoos. A|ways a|| work and no p|ay.'
Ethan |aughod. °l'd |ovo to!' ho oxc|a|mod. °A|though, l
doubt 0awn cou|d ovor bo bor|ng,' ho addod, w|nk|ng at
mo.
Ovor tho to||ow|ng wook, Ethan spont a|| h|s troo t|mo
tra|n|ng w|th us. |o was ta|ontod, know|odgoab|o and a
vory pat|ont toachor. 3oth and |untor woro thr|||od to havo
anothor guy |n tho group. los|ng to Ethan |nstoad ot mo |n a
sparr|ng match was somohow oas|or tor thom to boar.
3rooko and 3oph|o woro a|so p|oasod to havo anothor guy
|n tho group, a|bo|t tor much d|ttoront roasons. 1hoy spont
ovory broak tawn|ng ovor h|s musc|os, ha|r, d|mp|os and
vo|co.
l was a|so gratotu| tor h|s prosonco. l b|amod myso|t tor
tho tact that, attor a|most two wooks ot tra|n|ng, tho toam
was st||| show|ng vory ||tt|o progross. Whonovor l startod to
th|nk that my ottorts to rovamp tho toam woro |n va|n, or that
l wou|d ta|| my tathor's m|ss|on, Ethan qu|ck|y swopt |n and
choorod mo up. Evoryth|ng about h|m was |rros|st|b|y
charm|ng, yot so ottort|oss and s|mp|o.
1ho moro t|mo wo spont togothor, tho hardor |t
bocamo to t|ght tho strong omot|ons l was dovo|op|ng
toward h|m. Espoc|a||y, s|nco |t was ov|dont that thoso
too||ngs woro roc|procatod. Work|ng |n c|oso prox|m|ty to
ono anothor was bocom|ng moro d|tt|cu|t w|th oach pass|ng
day. Wo |gnorod tho mount|ng attract|on botwoon us tor
a|most an ont|ro wook, unt||, ono n|ght, tho s|tuat|on t|na||y
roachod a c||max.
Wo woro a|ono |n tho moadow boh|nd tho cottago,
work|ng undor tho ||ght ot tho moon to composo now
combat tochn|quos tor tho tra|noos. 0osp|to bo|ng ono ot
tho most sk|||od humans l had ovor sparrod aga|nst, Ethan
was no match tor mo. Evory t|mo ho chargod |n attack, l
oas||y sw|pod h|s |og w|th my own, t||pp|ng h|m ovor on h|s
back.
An hour |nto our sparr|ng soss|on, as l onco aga|n
succosstu||y throw h|m to tho ground, ho was roady to
rota||ato. |o grabbod my arm, pu|||ng mo down w|th h|m. l
|andod d|roct|y on top ot h|m, my body p|nn|ng h|s to tho
grass. ly|ng aga|nst h|m, l suddon|y bocamo awaro ot
ovoryth|ng about h|m-h|s hoartboat, tho smo|| ot h|s sk|n,
h|s smooth, tu|| ||ps noar|y brush|ng aga|nst m|no.
As Ethan movod ovon c|osor toward mo, a thundorous
crack soundod trom doop w|th|n tho torost. 1ho no|so
start|od us both, broak|ng our tranco. l |mmod|ato|y pushod
myso|t ott ot h|m, rush|ng attor tho sound. l squ|ntod |nto tho
darknoss, baro|y ab|o to mako out a d|stortod shapo doop
w|th|n tho toggy torost. 1ho ont|ty stood trozon tor a wh||o,
|ook|ng ||ko |t was about to rush toward mo, thon spr|ntod
through tho torost, d|sappoar|ng |nto tho troos.
On tho ground, at tho s|to whoro tho t|guro had boon
|urk|ng, l tound a |argo, hoavy, branch. lt |ay torn trom tho
trunk ot a th|ck map|o troo, as |t somoono-or somotblog-
oxcopt|ona||y strong had r|ppod |t away |n angor. |oo||ng
oxtromo|y unoasy, but gratotu| tor tho |ntorrupt|on tho bo|ng
had prov|dod, l roturnod back to Ethan. 1o my ro||ot, tho
momont had passod and wo turnod |n tor tho n|ght.
1ho day to||ow|ng our a|most-k|ss, th|ngs botwoon
Ethan and l woro tonso. Wo awkward|y avo|dod oach othor
a|| morn|ng, unt|| ho t|na||y had to go |nto town tor h|s sh|tt at
tho d|nor. l was thanktu| tor tho d|stanco botwoon us, tu||y
|mmors|ng myso|t |nto my work w|th tho rocru|ts. 1h|ngs had
takon a turn tor tho worso.
Vuch ||ko tho hoavy storm c|ouds that had assomb|od
ovor Ango| Crook, tho tra|noos woro |n dark, tou| moods.
Out ot tho b|uo, thoy soomod to havo rogrossod to tho|r
tormor statos ot bo|ng. l caught |untor attompt|ng to tako a
s|p trom Vr. 1ohnson, tho notor|ous town drunk whom ho
had somohow succosstu||y |urod to tho cottago. 3oth, on
tho othor hand, stayod |n h|s bodroom, rotus|ng to como to
tra|n|ng bocauso h|s on||no gamo charactor was dumpod
by h|s v|rtua| g|r|tr|ond. 3rooko was su|k|ng bocauso tho
curront Ango| Crook ||gh po||s showod that sho was
boh|nd hor lrom Ouoon r|va|, Chr|sty, by ton porcont. 0uo
to hor |mmonso toar ot thundor, l cou|dn't ovon got 3oph|o
out ot hor room.
Evon |t l succood |n assomb||ng tho toursomo, l know
that torc|ng tho toam to tra|n wh||o tho mombors woro |n
such nogat|vo statos wou|d on|y do moro harm than good. l
gavo tho rocru|ts a day ott, a|so a||ow|ng myso|t an
opportun|ty to got away trom tho cottago and c|oar my
hoad. l stormod |nto tho torost, woav|ng through tho troos
w|thout a part|cu|ar d|roct|on |n m|nd. |ot, hoavy summor
ra|n had startod to ta||, comp|omont|ng my doso|ato mood. l
p|ckod up my paco unt|| l was runn|ng |n tu|| spr|nt, my toot
match|ng tho sw|ttnoss ot tho thoughts dart|ng through my
m|nd.
l had grown up th|nk|ng thoro was no obstac|o that l
cou|dn't ovorcomo. lt somoth|ng was hard, l on|y workod
hardor unt|| l had |t undor contro|. l know that |t l wasn't
succosstu| |n accomp||sh|ng th|s m|ss|on-a task that was
supposod to bo so s|mp|o-l wou|d bo a ta||uro. lorhaps
not |n anyono o|so's oyos, but corta|n|y |n my own. 1h|s was
my chanco to show my tathor that l was h|s daughtor, strong
and capab|o ot tho ||tosty|o ho had tra|nod mo tor. A chanco
to mako h|m proud. And l was ta|||ng.
l |ncroasod my spood, tho troos around mo mo|t|ng
|nto ono anothor as l spr|ntod by. 1ho warm ra|ndrops woro
no |ongor ab|o koop up w|th mo. l ran unt|| my both my body
and m|nd woro comp|oto|y dop|otod, t|na||y co||aps|ng |n
tront ot tho grand wh|to mans|on l had v|s|tod on my t|rst day
|n Ango| Crook. l gaspod, part|y horr|t|od by tho roa||zat|on
that l had run a|| tho way to 3obast|an's houso, part|y
ashamod ot my toar-stroakod taco and ra|n-soakod
wardrobo.
Vy shamo dooponod, turn|ng |nto mort|t|cat|on, whon
3obast|an appoarod |n tront ot mo.
°Aro you a|r|ght?' ho askod.
°lo!' l shoutod back ovor tho |oud ra|n.
°What's tho mattor?'
°loth|ng!'
°0o you want to como |n? You'ro gott|ng wot.' ||s own
c|othos-a co||arod wh|to dross sh|rt and b|ack joans-
woro bocom|ng soakod w|th ra|nwator.
°lo!'
1o my surpr|so, ho s|mp|y shruggod and |oworod
h|mso|t down on tho wot ground bos|do mo. Wo sat s|do-
by-s|do, my knoos tuckod t|ght|y |nto my chost, h|s |ong |ogs
spraw|od out |n tront ot h|m. 1ho ra|n was s|ow|y |ott|ng up,
but |t was a|roady too |ato tor us both. Vy ha|r |ay mattod
aga|nst my taco and back, covor|ng my mud-spattorod
c|othos. 3obast|an's sh|rt was comp|oto|y dronchod,
c||ng|ng t|ght|y to h|s chost.
Attor a tow m|nutos ot ||ston|ng to tho ra|ndrops, ho
t|na||y broko tho s||onco botwoon us. °0awn, what's wrong?'
ho askod gont|y.
°loth|ng.'
°Aro you |n troub|o?'
°lo.'
°ls |t tho tra|n|ng?'
°lo.'
°ls |t that Ethan guy? 0|d ho do somoth|ng?'
°lo.' What d|d ho know about Ethan anyway?
°Wo||, what |s |t?'
°Why shou|d l to|| you?' l cha||ongod.
|o ra|sod h|s arms |n dotonso. °|oy, you'ro tho ono
who camo horo, romombor?'
¼by boo l como to 5obostloo`s boosoº
°lt's not ||ko you caro anyway!' l sa|d, bury|ng my taco
|n my knoos.
°lorhaps l don't,' ho rotortod, shrugg|ng.
°1hon don't ask!'
3uddon|y, 3obast|an's oxpross|on sottonod. °|oy, my
pants aro a|| gr|my bocauso ot you,' ho toasod, sm|||ng. °lt's
tho |oast you can do.'
l |ookod up at h|m, bow||dorod. ¼os tbo o|woys-
sombor 5obostloo octoo||y moklog o jokoº |or tho t|rst
t|mo s|nco l had mot h|m, h|s gray oyos tw|nk|od br|ght|y,
troo ot tho|r usua| hardnoss. |o |ookod at mo oxpoctant|y.
°l-' l bogan, thon to|| s||ont aga|n.
l wantod to to|| h|m that my worst toar ot ta|||ng my
tathor's m|ss|on was s|ow|y bocom|ng roa||zod. l wantod to
sharo my trustrat|on toward tho tour vamp|ro tra|noos who
somot|mos actod oxc|tod about tho|r pos|t|ons as town
guard|ans, wh||o at othor t|mos soomod to porsona||y
rosont mo tor |t. l wantod to ta|k about tho turmo|| my
a|most-k|ss w|th Ethan causod |n my a|roady cont||ctod
m|nd. And, |n th|s momont ot woaknoss, l a|so wantod to
got on my knoos and p|oad w|th h|m to jo|n our d|sma|, ||tt|o
group.
lnstoad, l took a doop broath and ca|m|y askod, °Why
don't you want to jo|n us?'
3obast|an gazod at mo |ntont|y, but d|dn't spoak.
l narrowod my oyos, br|ng|ng my taco c|osor to h|s.
°Why?'
|or a momont, wo |ockod oyos, no|thor ono ot us
dar|ng to broatho. 1ho storm had coasod, but tho a|r
around us crack|od w|th a surgo ot chargod onorgy.
°Why?' l ropoatod aga|n, th|s t|mo moro urgont|y.
3obast|an |ookod away, h|s jaw tons|ng. |o soomod
to bo strugg||ng to t|nd tho r|ght words tor what ho had to
say.
3otoro ho managod to torm thom, tho shr||| sound ot
my phono rang through tho a|r. l jumpod, start|od by tho |oud
buzz. l hadn't had much uso tor tho phono s|nco arr|v|ng |n
Ango| Crook, and tho tam|||ar tono suddon|y soundod so
a||on.
°l havo to tako th|s,' l sa|d, mov|ng away. |o |ookod
ro||ovod at tho |ntorrupt|on.
1ho vo|co on tho othor ||no bo|ongod to Ethan. °0awn,
|t's |annah,' ho shoutod ovor tho sound ot |annah's |oud
sobs. °3ho's |n troub|o. Can you moot us at tho cottago?'
°Yos, ot courso,' l sa|d, hang|ng up.
l turnod back to 3obast|an. °lt's Ethan,' l oxp|a|nod.
°l|ght.' 0|d l dotoct a t|ash ot angor |n h|s oyos?
°Our tr|ond |annah |s |n somo k|nd ot troub|o. 0o you
want to como a|ong?' l askod hopotu||y.
|or a br|ot momont l thought ho was about to say °yos',
but thon ho c|onchod h|s t|sts and stood up. °l'd ||ko to
0awn, but l can't. l just.can't.' Any momont ot tondornoss
wo may havo sharod oar||or had boon |ong torgotton.
°Ot courso not,' l rotortod b|ttor|y.
l |ott w|thout say|ng goodbyo. As l spod ott through tho
torost, l cou|d too| h|s oyos on my back, watch|ng mo
|ntont|y.
3ack at tho cottago, l was grootod by |annah's moss
ot br|ght rod cur|s. 3ho was stand|ng on tho porch, hor
br|ght b|uo oyos putty and rod. Ethan and tho tour vamp|ros
gathorod around hor, attompt|ng to comtort tho sobb|ng g|r|.
0osp|to hor d|strossod stato, |annah took ono |ook at mo
and gaspod.
°Wow!' |or jaw droppod as sho took mo |n. °What
happonod to you?'
°Whoa, 0awn! 0|d you tako a mud bath or
somoth|ng?' 3rooko wr|nk|od hor noso.
°l'm t|no,' l assurod thom, try|ng to d|vort tho|r attont|on
back to tho prob|om at hand. °What's tho mattor?'
°|annah was assau|tod by a worowo|t,' Ethan
oxp|a|nod, as |annah's round oyos poo|od w|th toars.
°lt was horr|b|o!' sho sn|tt|od, bury|ng hor hoad |n
Ethan's shou|dor.
°A worowo|í? Aro you suro?' l askod, porp|oxod.
lovor, |n tho h|story ot tho worok|nd, had thoro boon a
rocordod attack on a human. Yos, t||ms and books woro
wr|tton about tho dangorous, tr|ghton|ng waros, but |n tho
roa| wor|d, worowo|vos woro sorono croaturos. ln tact, thoy
cou|d bo crod|tod tor tho start ot tho h|pp|o movomont back
|n tho oar|y s|xt|os. °loaco and lovo to A||' was tho waro
motto.
Exasporatod, |annah b|ow hor noso |nto a t|ssuo.
°Yos, ho was dot|n|to|y a worowo|t!'
°l d|dn't ovon know thoso th|ngs ox|stod!' 3oth
oxc|a|mod.
°What d|d ho |ook ||ko?' 3rooko askod. °Was ho at
|oast hot or was ho, ||ko, a|| wo|tod out and ha|ry?'
°|o |ookod ||ko a norma| human bo|ng.' |annah
bogan, doop |n thought. °1horo dot|n|to|y wasn't anyth|ng
ha|ry about h|m. low that l th|nk about |t, ho was actua||y
roa||y cuto-dark comp|ox|on, groon oyos, short ha|r, protty
muscu|ar. lot as good-|ook|ng as you, Ethan, ot courso.'
|annah turnod to Ethan w|th a sm||o.
°What d|d ho do?' l qu|ck|y cut |n botoro tho
convorsat|on had a chanco to voor comp|oto|y ott top|c.
°0|d ho hurt you?'
°Yos!' sho cr|od, toar|ng up aga|n. °|o-ho k|dnappod
0a|sy!'
°Oh, no!' 3oph|o gaspod. °ls 0a|sy your ||tt|o s|stor?'
°lo. 0a|sy |s my baby! Vy poor, ||tt|o baby!' |annah
was hystor|ca|. °Oh, ||tt|o 0a|sy!'
l |ookod at Ethan tor c|ar|t|cat|on. |o shruggod.
°3o 0a|sy wou|d bo?' l gont|y askod.
°Vy puppy, ot courso! Vy baby 0a|sy |s an adorab|o
||tt|o ma|t|pugch|poo!'
°3o, uhh, what d|d th|s worowo|t want w|th 0a|sy?'
°l havo no |doa! 3ho's novor dono anyth|ng to harm
anyono. 1h|s worowo|t jork camo to tho d|nor whon l was on
my morn|ng sh|tt and gavo mo th|s noto.' |annah handod
mo a crump|od up p|oco ot papor.
°lt you ovor want to soo 0a|sy aga|n, br|ng your
vamp|ro tr|onds to tho worowo|t camp |n V|||wood at 0:00
p.m. ton|ght,' l road out |oud, t|ght|ng my way through
numorous spo|||ng m|stakos and accommodat|ng tor tho
grammat|ca| orrors. °lt's s|gnod lo|t tho Worowo|t and |s
to||owod by a coup|o ot post-scr|pts-l3: 0a|sy |s your
dog. ll3: 1on|ght, as |n, tho n|ght ot today.'
°l|ot suro sounds ||ko a br|ght guy,' Ethan sa|d
sarcast|ca||y. °l d|dn't got a good g||mpso ot h|m whon ho
was |n tho d|nor, but l drovo |annah homo to chock on
0a|sy and sho roa||y |s gono.'
°|o probab|y s||ppod |n through 0a|sy's doggy-door.
3ho must'vo boon so tr|ghtonod!' |annah cr|od.
|untor turnod to mo. °3o what do wo do now?'
°Wo||, tochn|ca||y, you tour aro tho ott|c|a| guard|ans ot
Ango| Crook. l supposo that ro|o a|so oxtonds to tho town's
turry croaturos,' l musod a|oud. 'low, wo hoad to V|||wood
and ho|p |annah got 0a|sy back.'
low toogb coo|o tbls mlssloo roo||y boº l thought. l
was st||| |n d|sbo||ot that a worowo|t cou|d bo so ma||c|ous.
°lroparo tor a t|ght, Worowo|t lo|t!' 3oth shoutod,
jump|ng up and down oxc|tod|y.
°lot so tast!' l put out my hand to stop h|m. °Wo'ro
go|ng to try to roso|vo th|s s|tuat|on poacotu||y. l'm corta|n
that th|s |s a|| somo b|g m|sundorstand|ng, and l'm roa||y
hop|ng to got us a|| thoro and back |n ono p|oco.'
°You'ro no tun, 0awn!' 3oth wh|nod. °l want to show ott
my now supor punch!'
°You moan tho ono you mastorod |n your v|doo gamo?'
3rooko toasod.
°l|oaso, ||ko you'ro any bottor, V|ss l-0on't-Wanna-
3roak-A-la||?' 3oth rotortod.
3ons|ng that a t|ght was about to broak out, l qu|ck|y
ushorod ovoryono |nto tho cottago to gathor supp||os tor our
tr|p.
1ho d|stanco to V|||wood wou|d havo takon a strong
vamp|ro on|y an hour or so to run, but bocauso wo had two
humans and somo not-so-strong vamp|ros |n tho group, wo
doc|dod to p||o |nto our cars tor tho two hour r|do |nstoad. l
|oadod Ethan's p|ckup w|th woapons l hopod wo wou|d not
nood, and wo sot out on a raco aga|nst tho c|ock. lt was
a|roady m|d-attornoon and wo had no t|mo to sparo |t wo
woro to mako lo|t's doad||no. l spod away |n my
convort|b|o w|th |annah, 3oph|o and 3oth, wh||o Ethan
to||owod c|oso|y boh|nd w|th 3rooko and |untor |n h|s truck.
Wo roachod our dost|nat|on short|y botoro 0:00 p.m.,
baro|y g|v|ng us onough t|mo to t|nd tho worowo|t camp.
1ho v|||ago ot V|||wood was sma||, on|y boast|ng a
popu|at|on ot throo hundrod, but, un||ko tho town ot Ango|
Crook, |t sproad ovor a w|do aroa ot |and.
°Whoro |s th|s worowo|t camp?' |annah askod
anx|ous|y, as wo drovo through tho town.
°Wo shou|d chock tho torost t|rst,' l proposod.
Worowo|vos, un||ko vamp|ros, ||vod |n concoa|mont trom
humans, otton bo|ng toasod tor tho|r |nadoquacy as
supornatura| bo|ngs.
lt wasn't |ong botoro l caught a d|st|nct scont ot wot,
groasy tur omorg|ng trom tho V|||wood torost. l parkod tho
car noar a h|k|ng tra||, as Ethan pu||od |n bos|do mo.
°Wo'|| havo to wa|k tho rost ot tho way |n,' l oxp|a|nod to
tho group, grabb|ng tho |argo woapons bag out ot Ethan's
p|ck-up. 1ost lo coso Lloí coosoo ooy troob|o.
°3o a|ort,' l |nstructod. °1ho camp w||| bo wo||-h|ddon.'
Wo to||owod tho scont through a w|nd|ng mazo ot
troos. Attor hack|ng through th|ck undorbrush, wo noarod a
c|oar|ng w|th a co|ortu| s|gn wo|com|ng us to Comp Utoplo
and w|sh|ng us a poacotu| stay. Von, womon and ch||dron
ot a|| agos m|||od around a campt|ro, somo s|ng|ng and
danc|ng, othors do|ng yoga-a|| |augh|ng morr||y.
A ta|| woman |n a |ong, t|o-dyo dross approachod us.
3ho swayod trom s|do to s|do as sho wa|kod, a|most as |t
sho was oxpor|onc|ng somo sort ot a tranco. A co|ortu|
t|owor wroath rostod upon hor br|ght p|nk droad|ocks.
°Nomosto, s|stors and brothors,' sho wh|sporod,
bow|ng hor hoad.
3rooko ro||od hor oyos, mouth|ng a s||ont °Wow!'
°lamasto,' l rop||od, w|sh|ng that sho wou|d stay st|||.
°l am layno, hoad ot tho V|||wood Worowo|t 1r|bo,'
sho spun around w|th hor hands up |n tho a|r, mot|on|ng at
tho poop|o around us. °You can a|so ca|| mo 3unsh|no, |t
you'd ||ko, tor that |s my m|dd|o namo. Or, you can ca|| mo
layno 3unsh|no. Or, |t you'd ||ko, you-'
°Okay, wootbor womoo, wo got |t,' |annah cut |n
|mpat|ont|y. °Wo'ro horo on a vory |mportant mattor. Wo'ro
|ook|ng tor a puppy namod 0a|sy. 0o you know whoro sho
|s?'
°lmm.' layno musod. °l'm atra|d wo don't havo any
waro pups namod 0a|sy horo. Wo havo a tow k|ds namod
loso, ono Vagno||a and a 1urn|p, but no 0a|sy.'
°You don't got |t!' |annah was now yo|||ng. °l'm not
|ook|ng tor a k|d. l'm try|ng to t|nd my dog, 0a|sy. 3ho's not
a worowo|t. 3ho's a m|x botwoon a Va|toso, lug,
Ch|huahua and lood|o dog broods. 3omoono namod lo|t
sto|o hor trom my houso |n Ango| Crook and throatonod that
somoth|ng bad wou|d happon to hor |t l d|dn't como horo
ton|ght!'
layno's tranqu|| taco suddon|y contortod |nto an angry
trown. °What d|d that boy do th|s t|mo?' sho huttod,
storm|ng ott toward ono ot tho camp cab|ns.
|rom whoro wo woro stand|ng, wo cou|d hoar hor
yo|||ng at somoono |ns|do. Attor a momont, sho
roappoarod, dragg|ng boh|nd hor a young man who
matchod |annah's doscr|pt|on ot lo|t. ln h|s arms was a
scrawny, odd-|ook|ng croaturo. lt was drossod |n a p|nk
swoator and wh||o tho br|ght p|nk co||ar around |ts nock had
tho namo Lolsy |nscr|bod on |t, tho t|ny bo|ng baro|y
rosomb|od a dog.
°Obmlgoo, |annah! 1ho worowo|vos turnod your poor
dog |nto a monstor!' 3rooko oxc|a|mod at tho s|ght ot tho
tromb||ng ba|| ot tur.
|annah shot 3rooko a contusod |ook as sho rushod
toward lo|t. 3ho grabbod 0a|sy away trom h|m, nuzz||ng
hor taco aga|nst 0a|sy's wot noso. °Oh, my baby! Vy poor
||tt|o 0a|sy. 1hank goodnoss you'ro okay!'
1ho dog's p|nk tonguo hung out ot |ts mouth, wagg|ng
trom s|do to s|do. lt soomod unab|o to propor|y t|t |nto |ts
sma|| snout.
°1hat's 'okay'?' 3rooko wh|sporod to mo.
°lo|t, why d|d you k|dnap 0a|sy?' l askod cur|ous|y.
lo|t d|dn't str|ko mo as somoono ma||c|ous. lot vory smart,
suro, but not cruo|.
°Yos, why |n tho namo ot tho Earth, tho 3un and tho
3ky wou|d you do somoth|ng ||ko th|s?' layno askod,
g|v|ng h|m a hard smack on tho back ot h|s hoad.
5o mocb íor tbolr poocoío| pbl|osopblos.
°lt wasn't my tau|t, Vom! 1h|s croopy toro|gn guy
cornorod mo whon l was out hunt|ng tor borr|os yostorday.
1h|s vamp|ro dudo, who ca||od h|mso|t v|ktor w|th a 'k', to|d
mo that l was choson tor a vory spoc|a| m|ss|on. A|| l had to
do was go to Ango| Crook, stoa| th|s ||tt|o dog and to|| th|s
g|r| to br|ng hor vamp|ro tr|onds horo at 0:00 p.m. ton|ght.'
lo|t oxp|a|nod, po|nt|ng at |annah and 0a|sy.
°Why?' Ethan askod.
°l don't know. v|ktor sa|d |t was a mattor ot ||to and
doath! |o gavo mo tho |nstruct|ons and tho addross and l
to||owod thom oxact|y,' ho gr|nnod proud|y. °lt was oasy to
spot you bocauso ot your br|ght rod ha|r.'
|annah shot h|m a co|d g|aro.
°look, l'm sorry l took your dog. l thought l was sav|ng
hor ||to. Or your ||to. Or maybo ovon m|no,' l|ot stammorod
norvous|y. 1ho poor guy roa||y wasn't vory br|ght. °l took
good caro ot hor, l prom|so. l th|nk sho roa||y ||kos mo.
look!' |o oxtondod h|s hand to 0a|sy and sho bogan to
||ck |t. 1ho poor dog d|dn't soom too c|ovor o|thor.
°What wou|d th|s vamp|ro havo wantod w|th my dog?'
|annah askod norvous|y.
°Or w|th us?' 3oph|o addod.
°l don't know,' l rospondod truthtu||y. 3uddon|y, a
torr|ty|ng thought crossod my m|nd. °Wo havo to got out ot
horo!' l yo||od. °lt's a trop!'
lt was too |ato. A |argo army ot about two dozon
vamp|ros omorgod trom doop |n tho torost, surround|ng us
trom a|| s|dos. W|thout any t|mo to contomp|ato a dotonso
stratogy, l k|ckod opon tho woapons bag, throw|ng swords,
guns and ovon stakos at tho crow mombors.
1ho worowo|t pack, sons|ng troub|o, sh|ttod trom tho|r
human bod|os |nto tho|r waro torms. At baro|y ton |nchos |n
ho|ght, thoy had b|g, round oyos w|th g|ossy snouts and t|ny
saw-||ko tooth. lang|ng |n shados ot wh|to, gray and b|ack,
thoy boro moro ot a rosomb|anco to adorab|o ta|ryta|o
an|ma|s, than to torr|ty|ng mytho|og|ca| croaturos.
°Oh, you'vo gotta bo k|dd|ng!' |annah oxc|a|mod,
|ook|ng at tho now|y transtormod pack ot cudd|y croaturos
tromb||ng around us.
°3tay back!' l shoutod, sh|o|d|ng |annah w|th my body
as tho vamp|ros bogan to attack. 3oth and 3oph|o
coworod boh|nd a |argo oak troo, unsuro ot what to do.
l spont most ot my t|mo t|ght|ng tour or t|vo vamp|ros at
onco |n an attompt to protoct tho throosomo. Ethan, on tho
othor hand, tought a|ongs|do 3rooko and |untor. l was
happy to soo that at |oast two ot tho tra|noos woro ab|o to
ho|d tho|r ground |n a t|ght.
As l combatod ono part|cu|ar|y powortu| vamp|ro, l was
suddon|y ovorpoworod by a strong human scont. lt
bo|ongod to no|thor |annah nor Ethan. lathor, tho smo||
omanatod trom tho attackors on o|thor s|do ot mo. 1ho br|ot
socond ot contus|on caught mo ott guard, g|v|ng tho |argo
vamp|ro a chanco to do||vor an |mmob|||z|ng k|ck to my
stomach.
l staggorod, momontar||y |os|ng my ba|anco and
a||ow|ng my attackor a chanco to doscond on mo. ||s
compan|ons grabbod my arms, p|nn|ng mo t|rm|y to tho
ground. 1hoy woro undoubtod|y human, but oxtromo|y
powortu|-as strong as Ethan had boon tho day ho savod
mo trom tho arrow.
Ono ot tho attackors ho|d a |argo syr|ngo |n h|s hand,
t|||od to tho br|m w|th a br|ght rod substanco. 1ho momont
ho stabbod tho nood|o |t onto my arm, l know oxact|y what
tho o||x|r |ns|do |t was-vomplro b|ooo. 1ho b|ood ot ono
vamp|ro was po|son to anothor. l know w|th corta|nty that l
wou|d soon bo rondorod comp|oto|y powor|oss.
°1ako hor,' tho mass|vo vamp|ro ordorod tho humans.
°1h|s |s tho ono tho boss wants!'
°1ust got thom a||!' anothor vamp|ro yo||od, grabb|ng
ho|d ot |annah's wa|st.
|annah's shr||| scroam rosonatod |n my oars as l
tought tho d|zzy spo|| that suddon|y ovorcamo mo. l wrost|od
tho humans w|th a|| my m|ght, br|ot|y succood|ng |n pu|||ng
ono ot my arms trom tho|r torcotu| gr|ps. l commandod
myso|t to t|ght tho po|son, strugg||ng to roga|n my strongth.
||na||y, l managod to pu|| myso|t to my toot, just as ono ot
tho humans stabbod yot anothor doso ot tho b|ood |nto my
body. l co||apsod aga|n, t|ght|ng aga|nst tho darknoss that
was rap|d|y doscond|ng on mo.
1ust as tho throo assa||ants bogan to drag mo |nto tho
torost, l caught a g||mpso ot tho tam|||ar dark shadow that
had boon to||ow|ng mo s|nco tho day l arr|vod |n Ango|
Crook. lt omorgod trom tho torost, rush|ng toward mo at tho
spood ot ||ght. W|th ono powortu| b|ow, tho t|guro throw both
humans and tho|r vamp|ro commandor ott ot mo. 1ho
strangor scoopod mo ott tho ground |nto h|s arms, and tor
tho t|rst t|mo ovor, l saw h|m as an a||y |nstoad ot a too.
1hrough my ta|ntnoss l cou|d togg||y mako out
3obast|an's s||vor oyos and tho sound ot h|s vo|co ca|||ng
my namo. °0awn! 3tay w|th mo!' ho yo||od as Ethan rushod
to our s|do.
°lrotoct tho othors,' l murmurod, strugg||ng to stay
awako.
3obast|an |ookod ovor at Ethan. °Ou|ck, g|vo hor your
b|ood,' ho ordorod.
°What?' Ethan askod, |ook|ng trom 3obast|an to mo.
°low!' 3obast|an yo||od, as l shook my hoad °no'.
°Uhh, yos,' Ethan stammorod. °Yos, ot courso.'
|rom tho cornor ot my oyo, l saw t|ashos ot tho batt|o.
3oph|o and 3oth had toamod up aga|nst a w|ry toma|o
vamp|ro, wh||o |annah coworod boh|nd thom, c|utch|ng
0a|sy |n hor arms. 1ho ||tt|o dog barkod tur|ous|y as two
muscu|ar humans camo to tho toma|o vamp|ro's a|d. 3oth
and 3oph|o droppod tho|r woapons and bogan runn|ng tor
tho|r ||vos, wh||o |annah stood |n p|aco, para|yzod w|th toar.
l tr|od to ca|| out to hor through my dry ||ps, but no
sound camo out.
°0awn, you'vo boon po|sonod. You havo to dr|nk,'
3obast|an wh|sporod |n my oar. |o was st||| t|ght|y ho|d|ng
mo |n h|s arms. l dosporato|y wantod to got out ot h|s c|utch,
to run to |annah's a|d, but l was too woak to t|ght aga|nst
h|s strong grasp.
Ethan had mado a th|n |nc|s|on on h|s arm and was
prosont|ng |t to mo. 3r|ght rod b|ood dr|ppod trom tho cut,
|ts aroma swoot and tangy at tho samo t|mo. l shook my
hoad aga|n, torc|ng my mouth to roma|n t|rm|y shut. |urt or
not, l wasn't about to start dr|nk|ng trom humans.
°|o|p |annah,' l croakod, |gnor|ng Ethan's opon
wound. 1ho two human assa||ants had grabbod hor arms,
caus|ng hor to drop 0a|sy.
3obast|an movod Ethan's arm to my ||ps. °0r|nk,' ho
ordorod.
°Guys, ho|p!' l hoard 3rooko yo|| as |annah's torr|ty|ng
scroams t|||od my oars.
°|o|p thom!' l urgod, about to |oso consc|ousnoss.
°0r|nk and wo w|||,' 3obast|an prom|sod.
loa||z|ng that |t was tho on|y way to a|d tho toam, l
c|osod my ||ps around Ethan's arm, tak|ng somo ot h|s
b|ood |nto my mouth.
1ho tasto trom a ||vo sourco was much d|ttoront-
warmor, sharpor and moro potont-than that ot B|ooo Co|o
and othor typos ot art|t|c|a| b|ood l had grown up on.
lmmod|ato|y, l to|t my strongth roturn. As soon as l had
roga|nod my tocus, l pushod away Ethan's arm. °1hank
you,' l wh|sporod, avo|d|ng h|s oyos.
Conv|ncod that l was too||ng bottor, 3obast|an carotu||y
sot mo down and rushod to jo|n tho t|ght. 3oconds |ator,
Ethan and l caught up to h|m, but stoppod |n our tracks
whon wo roa||zod that a|most a|| ot tho roma|n|ng attackors
woro p||od around h|m, groan|ng |n agony. Wo watchod as
ho brought yot anothor attackor to tho ground w|th a sw|tt h|t
to tho back ot tho nock. l had novor soon anyono t|ght ||ko
that botoro. 1ho way 3obast|an movod and attackod mado
ovoryth|ng |ook so ottort|oss. loa||z|ng that thoy d|dn't stand
a chanco, tho tow vamp|ros that woro st||| stand|ng
rotroatod back |nto tho torost.
°ls ovoryono okay?' l askod, survoy|ng tho toam
mombors.
°Yos!' |untor and 3oph|o rospondod |n un|son.
°lo thanks to tho worowo|vos,' 3oth addod. °1hoso
th|ngs ran at tho t|rst s|gn ot troub|o. 3ut l guoss l wou|d too
|t l |ookod ||ko that.' |o shook h|s hoad. °Worowo|vos my
butt. Voro ||ko woropupp|os.'
3rooko poutod. °l broko throo na||s, but l showod thoso
ov|| vamp jorks,' sho sa|d, thon |ook|ng ovor at 3obast|an,
addod, °Whorovor yoo camo trom, wo'ro dot|n|to|y thanktu|.
|or so many roasons.'
°Yos, whoro olo you como trom?' l askod susp|c|ous|y.
3obast|an avo|dod my gazo. °l was.l wa-'
°Uhh, guys?' Ethan |ntorruptod, |ook|ng around tho
camp. °Whoro |s |annah?'
l survoyod tho aroa around us. l|tt|o 0a|sy was h|d|ng
|n tho ovorturnod woapons bag, wh|mpor|ng and tromb||ng.
|annah was nowhoro to bo tound.
3ho was gono. 1akon.
CEAP1ER 5|X
Our ro|ont|oss soarch tor |annah provod unsuccosstu|.
Wo had t|na||y como to torms w|th tho tact that sho was
k|dnappod by our attackors, but w|thout a s|ng|o c|uo to hor
whoroabouts, wo woro at a |oss on how to ho|p hor.
At n|ghtta||, wo p||od |nto our cars and drovo back to
Ango| Crook |n s||onco. 3obast|an had optod to run
|nstoad, and as l pu||od |nto tho cottago dr|voway, l not|cod
that ho was a|roady wa|t|ng tor us on tho tront porch. Wo
gathorod around tho d|n|ng room tab|o, our tacos gravo,
so|omn masks. W|th tho add|t|on ot 3obast|an's ta|| tramo,
tho sma|| spaco suddon|y to|t crampod.
°Who woro thoso awtu| poop|o?' 3oph|o askod, as
sho tondor|y scratchod boh|nd 0a|sy's oar. 1ho scrawny
dog had takon sho|tor |n hor arms, dosporato|y attompt|ng
to ||ck hor sma|| hand as sho carossod |ts patchy tur.
|untor shruggod. °3oats mo. Anyono havo any |doas?'
°0awn, shou|dn't you, ||ko, know ovoryth|ng?' 3rooko
askod, g|anc|ng ovor at mo.
°1hoy woro most ||ko|y roguo vamps,' l oxp|a|nod.
°Accord|ng to rocont roports my tathor had roco|vod,
groups ot vamp|ro robo|s who opposo tho vamp|ro Counc||
havo tormod |n corta|n aroas around tho wor|d. 3ut, as|do
trom that |ntormat|on, l don't know anyth|ng,' l sa|d, oxha||ng
|n trustrat|ng. °l roa||y w|sh l d|d.'
l o|so wlsb l booo`t booo so coro|oss ooo gottoo bort.
Aoo, moro tboo ooytblog, l wlsb 5obostloo ooo Etboo
woro by loooob`s sloo, lostooo oí trylog to bo|p mo.
As |t ab|o to road my m|nd, Ethan put h|s hand on my
shou|dor, g|v|ng |t a ||ght squoozo. °l|oaso don't b|amo
yourso|t, 0awn. 1h|s wasn't your tau|t,' ho sa|d sott|y.
°0|d anyono catch anyth|ng unusua| about tho
attackors?' 3obast|an askod, h|s gazo ||ngor|ng on Ethan's
hand.
l c|osod my oyos, rov|s|t|ng tho t|ght. °lt soundod ||ko
thoy woro to||ow|ng ordors,º l roca||od. °Apparont|y, tho|r
boss had |nstructod thom to capturo mo.'
Ethan's gr|p on my shou|dor tonsod. °Aro you suro?'
°Yos. 1hat's why thoy stabbod mo w|th tho b|ood.' l
shuddorod at tho momory ot tho po|son burn|ng through my
vo|ns. °And thon you and 3obast|an savod mo.' l |ookod
down at tho t|oor, want|ng to oscapo tho roco||oct|on ot
ho|p|oss|y |y|ng |n 3obast|an's arms, ot hungr||y dr|nk|ng
Ethan's b|ood.
l shou|dn't havo |ot myso|t got thrown ott by tho
prosonco ot tho humans, l thought angr||y.
7bo bomoos, a thought dawnod on mo. °1ho humans,'
l ropoatod, th|s t|mo out |oud.
°What?' 3obast|an askod, porp|oxod.
°0|d you guys not|co that amongst tho vamps, thoro
woro a|so somo humans?'
°l was too busy try|ng not to d|o to sonso anyth|ng,'
3oth murmurod.
3rooko wr|nk|od hor torohoad. °|onost|y, 0awn, thoy
a|| |ookod and to|t ||ko supor strong vamps to mo. And l
havo tho cuts and bru|sos to provo |t.'
°1hat's tho th|ng,' l sa|d oxc|tod|y. °1hoy |ookoo and ío|t
strong, but somo ot thom woron't vamp|ros.'
3obast|an noddod. °You'ro r|ght. low that l th|nk about
|t, l d|d sonso othor humans.'
3oph|o |ookod trom mo, to 3obast|an, and thon back
to mo aga|n. °l don't undorstand,' sho sa|d, norvous|y b|t|ng
on hor bottom ||p. °3omo ot tho assa||ants woro not
vamp|ros, but actua| humans? l|ko a hundrod porcont
human?'
°Wo||, yos. A hundrod porcont human-on|y strongor,' l
sa|d, g|anc|ng at Ethan. °K|nd ot ||ko you.' l gavo h|m a |ong,
prob|ng staro. °Aro you go|ng to to|| us how that's
poss|b|o?'
Ethan's hand droppod trom my shou|dor. |o
shoop|sh|y |ookod away trom mo.
°Wo||?' 3obast|an urgod.
°Ethan, say somoth|ng,' l p|oadod.
°l-' Ethan |ockod oyos w|th mo. °l can't, 0awn. l'm
sorry,' ho sa|d, gott|ng up trom tho tab|o.
|o stormod out ot tho cottago, h|s abrupt movomont
sond|ng tho cha|r ho was s|tt|ng on tumb||ng backwards. lt
to|| to tho t|oor, str|k|ng tho hardwood w|th a |oud c|ash.
l rushod attor h|m, ca|||ng h|s namo |nto tho hum|d n|ght
a|r. |o had a|roady crossod tho dr|voway and was tumb||ng
|n h|s pockots tor h|s car koys. l caught up to h|m just as ho
pu||od opon tho dr|vor's s|do door.
ln ono sw|tt movo, l s|ammod |t shut, p|nn|ng h|m
aga|nst tho truck. °Ethan! What aron't you to|||ng us?'
°0awn,' ho s|ghod woar||y, h|s oyos p|oad|ng w|th
m|no.
l sonsod 3obast|an and tho rost ot tho gang c|oso
boh|nd.
°Whatovor |t |s, you owo |t to |annah to to|| us,' l sa|d.
°l'm bog|nn|ng you, Ethan.'
Vy p|oa soomod to do tho tr|ck. °l may know why thoso
humans woro strong and tast,' Ethan wh|sporod, s|ump|ng
aga|nst tho car door. °l|ko mo.'
l |ookod at h|m oxpoctant|y.
°1hoy-l.' |o took a doop broath, co||oct|ng h|mso|t.
°1ho day l pushod you out ot tho way ot tho arrow, l had a
||tt|o ho|p.'
l commandod my taco to stay oxpross|on|oss.
°Vy body was undor tho |nt|uonco ot th|s substanco
ca||od Vomplrlco|. lt's a typo ot a portormanco-onhanc|ng
drug,' Ethan sa|d, avo|d|ng my oyos. °lt g|vos humans
oxtraord|nary vamp|ro sonsos. 1ho spood, tho powor, tho
|nst|ncts-ovoryth|ng thoy cou|d ovor want. A|| tho wh||o,
thoy stay comp|oto|y human.' |o c|onchod h|s jaw, bang|ng
h|s t|sts aga|nst tho truck door.
°3o th|s who|o t|mo?' l bogan.
°Obmlgoo! Aro you tak|ng storolos Ethan?' 3rooko
rushod to my s|do. °1h|s tootba|| p|ayor at my |ast h|gh-
schoo| took storo|ds. |o was so bu||t and wo a|| wondorod
how ho-'
°lo! lo!' Ethan put up h|s hands dotons|vo|y. °l on|y
had vamp|r|co| |n my systom ono t|mo. 1ho day l got shot.'
|o t|na||y |ookod up at mo. °l swoar, 0awn. 1ho p||| woars
ott |n twonty-tour hours. Attor that day, |t was a|| a hundrod
porcont mo.'
°Why?' l wh|sporod.
°lt was a b|g m|stako,' Ethan stammorod, h|s go|don
oyos ovort|ow|ng w|th pa|n. °0awn, p|oaso bo||ovo mo.'
As l strugg|od to spoak, 3obast|an stoppod |n
botwoon us, pu|||ng Ethan up by tho co||ar ot h|s t|anno| sh|rt.
°Whoro d|d you got th|s vamp|r|co| p|||?'
°Uhh, trom a tr|ond,' Ethan croakod, h|s taco tak|ng on
a doop rod shado.
l p|acod my hand ovor 3obast|an's arm. °lut h|m
down!' l yo||od. °||ght|ng |sn't go|ng to accomp||sh anyth|ng.
Wo nood to th|nk c|oar|y,' l addod, moro ca|m|y.
°||no,' 3obast|an ro|oasod h|s gr|p on Ethan's co||ar,
sond|ng h|m tumb||ng to tho ground.
l shot h|m a d|rty |ook as l pu||od Ethan to h|s toot. l
wou|d bo |y|ng to myso|t |t l protondod that l wasn't too||ng
any d|stross ovor tho vamp|r|co| |nc|dont, but l took so|aco
|n tho tact that l had t|na||y roco|vod somo answors tor
Ethan's oxtraord|nary ab|||t|os. l trustod that ho was to|||ng
tho truth about on|y us|ng tho drug onco. Ovor tho past
wook, l had not|cod that h|s powor dur|ng tho tra|n|ng
soss|ons-wh||o st||| groat tor a human-pa|od |n
compar|son to tho torco ho had shown tho day ot tho arrow
acc|dont.
°lt's moro than ||ko|y that tho humans wo tought today
woro a|so on vamp|r|co|,' l statod. °Can you got |n touch
w|th tho tr|ond that gavo you tho p|||?' l askod Ethan. °l|ght
now, |t's our on|y ||nk to |annah's captors. Wo nood a|| tho
|ntormat|on wo can got.'
°l'|| do my bost,' Ethan sa|d. |o hos|tatod br|ot|y botoro
add|ng, °l'm sorry. lt's a|| my tau|t.'
l pattod h|s shou|dor. Wh||o ho was |n tho wrong tor
tak|ng vamp|r|co|, l d|dn't want Ethan to b|amo h|mso|t tor
|annah's capturo. lt woso`t bls íoo|t, oítor o||. lí ooytblog, lt
wos mloo.
l noddod toward 3oph|o. °Go to tho ||brary and soo |t
you can t|nd any books or nowspapor art|c|os on
vamp|r|co|,' l sa|d, just as 0a|sy p|acod hor paws on
3oph|o's chost. |or br|ght p|nk tonguo roachod out to ||ck
3oph|o's chook. °And p|oaso tako 0a|sy w|th you. 3ho
sooms to havo takon a ||k|ng to you.'
look|ng ovor at 3oth, l sa|d, °You'ro on computor duty.
Chock tho |ntornot torums, chat rooms, and othor computor
databasos tor roports about tho drug. Anyth|ng you can t|nd
may bo ho|ptu|.'
°|untor, ta|k to your, uhh, looostry tr|onds and
supp||ors.' l d|s||kod sond|ng h|m on such a task, but wo
noodod to contact ovory sourco wo cou|d. °lt anyono w|||
know about an |||oga| substanco, |t w||| bo thom.'
°3rooko, you can chock w|th tho studonts at Ango|
Crook ||gh or any othor h|gh-schoo|s you havo connoct|ons
at. Vaybo somo tootba|| p|ayors aro tak|ng th|s stutt.'
3rooko |ookod p|oasod at tho |doa ot hav|ng to tratorn|zo
w|th hordos ot tootba|| p|ayors.
°l'm go|ng to v|s|t my tathor and t|nd out |t ho knows
about a roguo vamp organ|zat|on noar V|||wood or tho
surround|ng aroa,' l announcod.
Vy íotbor. l wou|d havo to to|| h|m that tho toam and l
had ta||od to protoct a human trom Ango| Crook. l was not
|ook|ng torward to that convorsat|on.
°What about mo?' 3obast|an askod.
°What about you?' l quost|onod.
|o |ookod ottondod.
°Oh, so oow you'ro part ot tho toam?'
°l d|dn't say that l was jo|n|ng any toam,' ho rotortod.
°3ut |t |ooks ||ko you'ro |n way ovor your hoad and cou|d uso
tho ho|p.'
¼o woro. Aoo wo coo|o. Bot l woso`t oboot to |ot
5obostloo tblok tbot wo oooooo blm.
°You can como w|th mo,' 3rooko ottorod oagor|y.
l sboo|o sooo blm wltb Brooko os o íorm oí poroxloo-
looocoo tortoro, l thought ca||ous|y. A|though, ho cou|d ond
up onjoy|ng h|s t|mo w|th hor and, tor somo roason, tho
thought ot that |rkod mo.
°You'ro com|ng w|th mo!' l b|urtod out. °l'|| try to t|nd
somo uso tor you,' l qu|ck|y addod. °1ust don't got |n my
way.'
3obast|an sm||od coy|y. °lt you |ns|st.'
°lot's a|m to roconvono horo tomorrow ovon|ng. You
can ca|| my co|| w|th any now |ntormat|on,' l |nstructod
ovoryono.
3obast|an and l spont tho t|rst part ot tho tr|p to tho
3car|ot |ouso |n comp|oto and uttor s||onco. Evon though
ho hadn't spokon at a||, 3obast|an was opon|y stoa||ng
g|ancos at mo as l drovo. l tocusod my oyos on tho dark
road |n tront ot us, try|ng to |gnoro tho thr||||ng sonsat|on h|s
gazo provokod. 1ho |ntonso way ho stud|od mo causod my
sk|n to t|ng|o, mak|ng mo w|sh that roa|-||to vamp|ros
possossod tho mag|ca| m|nd-road|ng powors ot so many
t|ct|ona| onos. l dosporato|y wantod to hoar tho thoughts
runn|ng through h|s m|nd as h|s gray oyos dovourod ovory
|nch ot mo. 1ho car suddon|y to|t hot and st|t||ng and l was
bog|nn|ng to rogrot hav|ng rotractod tho root. l ro||od down
tho w|ndow, |ott|ng tho coo| n|ght a|r |n.
||na||y, 3obast|an spoko. °1o|| mo about yourso|t,' ho
sa|d s|mp|y.
°You'ro ask|ng mo to to|| yoo oboot myso|í?' l
chuck|od, stunnod. °loa||y?'
°3uro, why not.' 3obast|an's oxpross|on was oarnost,
h|s vo|co |ow and smooth.
°0on't tako th|s tho wrong way, but you don't str|ko mo
as somoono who caros to know about mo,' l sa|d. °Or
anyono o|so tor that mattor.'
°|orgot l askod.'
°lo, l'|| p|ay.' l was onjoy|ng tho broak |n tho s||onco.
°3ut |ot's mako |t |ntorost|ng. |or ovory ono th|ng that l to||
you, you havo to answor ono ot my quost|ons.'
°l hopo l a|so don't str|ko you as somoono who onjoys
ongag|ng |n s|||y gamos,' ho scottod.
°Oh como on! Or o|so, l'm gonna havo to put on somo
roa||y horr|b|o mus|c,' l throatonod, pu|||ng out E||sa's now
C0s trom boh|nd tho passongor soat. Vy o|d nanny was an
oxtromo|y |nto|||gont woman-a maturo vamp|ro born |n tho
|ato 1700's-but hor tasto |n mus|c was oqu|va|ont to that ot
a tono-doat pro-toon.
l t|ashod tho d|sk |n tront ot 3obast|an's taco. lt was a
mu|t|-art|st co||aborat|on, tho |atost crazo |n tho mus|c
|ndustry. 1h|s part|cu|ar un|on boastod sovon popu|ar
s|ngors trom var|ous gonros ot mus|c: pop, rock, country,
rap and ovon somo hoavy mota|. l had had tho d|sp|oasuro
ot ||ston|ng to tho track a tow wooks ago whon E||sa took |t
upon horso|t to oducato mo about pop cu|turo. Wh||o tho
art|sts had strong vo|cos |nd|v|dua||y, togothor, thoy
soundod ||ko a hord ot |njurod an|ma|s.
3obast|an attomptod to pry tho C0 out ot my hand, our
t|ngors br|ot|y touch|ng. 1ho ||ght grazo sont a jo|t ot
o|octr|c|ty through my ont|ro body. l qu|ck|y |ot go ot tho d|sk
p|ac|ng my tromb||ng hand on tho stoor|ng whoo|. l avortod
my oyos away trom 3obast|an, tocus|ng back on tho road.
°lot's hoar th|s.' |o |nsortod tho d|sk |nto tho p|ayor,
crank|ng |t up to tu|| vo|umo. A horrondous, wa|||ng sound
startod to t||| tho car. l was wrong. A hoard ot |njurod
an|ma|s wou|d havo soundod moro p|oas|ng.
3obast|an's oyos w|donod. |o c|ampod h|s hands
ovor h|s oars, tumb||ng w|th tho ott button. °Wow! You roa||y
woron't k|dd|ng,' ho |aughod.
l cou|dn't ho|p but gr|n at h|s roact|on. |or tho t|rst t|mo
|n two wooks-tor tho t|rst t|mo |n what to|t ||ko my ont|ro ||to
-l torgot about my work and my doop dos|ro to mako my
tathor proud. 7bls ls wbot lt íoo|s |lko to bo o oormo|,
oroloory glr|, l thought. Ot courso, |t was a b|ttorswoot and
t|oot|ng momont, as soconds |ator, thoughts ot |annah
rosurtacod |n my m|nd. 1ho joy that had sproad though my
body oar||or |mmod|ato|y van|shod, |oav|ng boh|nd an
ompty, ach|ng too||ng |n my chost.
°||no, you w|n,' 3obast|an suddon|y sa|d, jo|t|ng mo
out ot my tranco. °1o|| mo about yourso|t.'
lomombor|ng how |annah had |ntroducod horso|t to
mo whon wo t|rst mot, l attomptod my own vors|on ot a ||to
story. °Vy namo |s 0awn. l was born on 1u|y b
th
, 1000. l am
a vamp|ro-a 3orn. Vy tathor A|asta|r |s tho U3 vamp|ro
lros|dont. A|| my ||to, ho had boon tra|n|ng mo to ovontua||y
bocomo h|s socond-|n-command. l guoss you can soo how
that's go|ng tor mo,' l sa|d, chok|ng on tho words.
°You'ro do|ng t|no, 0awn.' 3obast|an's vo|co was
sottor than usua|. |o roachod out and gont|y touchod my
shou|dor, h|s unoxpoctod touch caus|ng anothor |ntonso
tromor to surgo through mo. l b|t down on my bottom ||p |n
an ottort to ca|m my pound|ng hoart.
What |n tho wor|d was go|ng on w|th mo? And, bottor
yot, what |n tho wor|d was go|ng on w|th 3obast|an?
°Your turn! l got to ask somo quost|ons,' l stammorod,
try|ng to |gnoro tho sonsat|on ot h|s coo| t|ngors aga|nst my
burn|ng sk|n.
°What do you want to know?' ho askod, |oan|ng back
|n h|s soat and pu|||ng h|s hand away. l ro|axod, ro|oas|ng a
broath l d|dn't ovon know that l was ho|d|ng.
l want to know ovoryth|ng, l roa||zod.
l wantod to know about h|s tam||y, but that was a
subjoct much too porsona| and too pa|ntu| to br|ng up. l
wantod to know why ho t|orco|y opposod jo|n|ng tho group
and what h|s prob|om w|th mo was, but l d|dn't want to start
anothor t|ght now that ho was t|na||y bo|ng p|oasant. l
wantod to know why ho had boon |urk|ng around tho torost
and spy|ng on mo tor wooks, but l was somowhat atra|d ot
tho answor.
l optod |nstoad tor somoth|ng |oss |ntonso. °|avo you
||vod |n Ango| Crook a|| your ||to?' l tr|od not to p|aco too
much omphas|s on tho word °||to'.
A br|ot t|ash ot pa|n swopt ovor h|s taco. °A|| my |lío,
yos. 3ut attor my tam||y was murdorod l had to got away,'
ho sa|d qu|ot|y. °As l'm suro you a|roady t|gurod out, l was
turnod tho n|ght ot tho 187b massacro. l not on|y had to doa|
w|th bo|ng a now vamp|ro, but l was a|so dostroyod by gr|ot
and gu||t ovor ta|||ng to protoct my |ovod onos.' |o |ookod
away, tocus|ng h|s oyos through tho passongor s|do
w|ndow at tho darknoss around us. °l |ost my m|nd.'
°Whoro d|d you go?' l wh|sporod.
°l wont to t|nd my o|dor brothor, Chr|stophor.'
°1ho ono trom tho p|cturo on tho momor|a| p|aquo?'
3obast|an sm||od sad|y. °Yos. |o wasn't |n Ango|
Crook at tho t|mo ot tho attack. |o was a ronownod
surgoon, work|ng on somo spoc|a| mod|ca| program |n
Canada. Attor two hazy wooks ot dr|tt|ng, l somohow
managod to |ocato tho hosp|ta| ho was work|ng |n. 1o th|s
day, l'm st||| toggy on most ot tho dota||s. l surv|vod by
dr|nk|ng tho b|ood ot doad an|ma|s, not noar|y strong
onough to ovorpowor a ||vo ono. l d|dn't know about gar||c
grant|ng us dotonso trom sun||ght, so l on|y travo|od dur|ng
tho n|ght.'
°3y somo m|rac|o l surv|vod, and by an ovon groator
m|rac|o, l managod to |ocato my brothor. |o had a|roady
roco|vod nows ot our tam||y's s|ay|ng, so whon ho saw mo,
ho actua||y ta|ntod trom shock. l tr|od to to|| h|m that wo
woro attackod by vamp|ros, but ho d|dn't bo||ovo mo. Ot
courso, tho wor|d d|dn't know about vamp|ros thon and ho
bocamo conv|ncod l was suttor|ng trom somo horr|b|o
|||noss. |ock, ho ovon conv|ncod mo l was s|ck too and that
thoro was hopo l wou|d got bottor.'
3obast|an c|osod h|s oyos, br|ot|y transport|ng h|mso|t
back |n t|mo. °Chr|stophor tr|od ovory troatmont poss|b|o to
curo mo. Ot courso, noth|ng workod. Evon though l tound
myso|t dosporato|y th|rst|ng attor |t, ho wou|dn't a||ow mo to
dr|nk b|ood. |o was conv|ncod |t wou|d mako mo ovon
s|ckor, or dr|vo mo mad, but w|th oach pass|ng day, l grow
moro and moro hungry. Ono ovon|ng, whon ho camo to my
hosp|ta| room to chock on mo, ovoryth|ng wont dark.' |o
took a doop broath botoro cont|nu|ng to ta|k. °ln a b||nd
rago, l jumpod on my brothor and l can on|y assumo that l
dra|nod h|m. l novor tound out what happonod. l ran trom
tho hosp|ta| and d|dn't stop runn|ng unt|| l roachod Vox|co.
A|ong tho way, l tod-th|s t|mo on humans.'
|o g|ancod ovor at mo, approhons|vo|y soarch|ng tor
my roact|on. l cou|d to|| that ho had oxpoctod mo to bo
horr|t|od, but l wasn't. 1ho pa|n |n h|s vo|co was so
agon|z|ng, l cou|d too| |t rovorborat|ng through ovory co|| |n
my body. l noddod oncourag|ng|y, dosporato to hoar tho
rost ot h|s story.
|o ro|axod a ||tt|o, tho tons|on on h|s taco d|sso|v|ng. °l
spont somo t|mo |n Vox|co, |oarn|ng to surv|vo. l jo|nod an
undorground vamp|ro c|an |n tho aroa and thoy taught mo
somo bas|c sk|||s. A tow yoars |ator, l wont to Europo, thon
to As|a. l spont a contury and a ha|t as a nomad, ||v|ng a||
ovor tho wor|d: lorth and 3outh Amor|ca, Austra||a-ovon
Antarct|ca. l kopt runn|ng, dosporato to got away trom
ovoryth|ng,' ho sa|d. °0osporato to oscapo trom myso|t,' ho
addod qu|ot|y.
°Whon d|d you como back to Ango| Crook?'
°A tow months ago, l got a suddon urgo to roturn.
3omohow, attor a|| thoso yoars, l to|t that |t was t|mo to
como back to my homo town. l was dono runn|ng and was
roady to mako poaco w|th tho past.' |o pausod, add|ng,
°And thon l mot you.'
°What's that supposod to moan?' l was takon aback.
3obast|an |ookod away. °loth|ng. lovor m|nd,' ho
sa|d, onco aga|n shutt|ng down.
°||no.' l know bottor than to pross, so l roma|nod qu|ot,
ros|st|ng tho |mpu|so to yo||, °1o|| mo!' ovor and ovor aga|n.
Or, ovon bottor, to bang h|s hoad aga|nst tho dashboard.
Wo drovo tho rost ot tho way |n s||onco.
CEAP1ER 5EVEN
Whon wo arr|vod to tho 3car|ot |ouso, an oxtravagant
party was |n tu|| sw|ng. loud mus|c and tho ||vo|y chattor ot
guosts cou|d bo hoard trom outs|do tho ta||, stono wa||s that
oncompassod tho proporty. l pu||od my convort|b|o |n tront
ot tho gatoway |oad|ng onto tho grounds, honk|ng
|mpat|ont|y. A guard rushod out ot tho watch booth,
muttor|ng angr||y undor h|s broath. lo human or vamp|ro
|nv|tod to tho pros|dont|a| hoadquartors wou|d ovor daro to
sound a car horn |n such a way, but s|nco l had absta|nod
trom tak|ng out my trustrat|on w|th 3obast|an on tho cu|pr|t
h|mso|t, tho car horn ottorod mo somo much-noodod ro||ot.
°What do you th|nk you-' tho guard bo||owod |n a th|ck
Eastorn Europoan accont, stopp|ng abrupt|y whon ho saw
mo. °Oh, my apo|og|os, V|ss 0awn! lt |s just that |t |s a vory
|mportant ovon|ng tor tho lros|dont ton|ght and.' tho
vamp|ro tra||od ott norvous|y. lt was v|ad, ono ot my tathor's
most son|or statt mombors.
3uddon|y, l was t|oodod w|th ombarrassmont ovor my
ch||d|sh bohav|or. °lo, l'm tho ono who shou|d apo|og|zo,
v|ad,' l sa|d. |o corta|n|y d|d not dosorvo tho d|sp|oasuro
ot hav|ng to doa| w|th my bratty mood.
°What's a|| th|s about?' l askod, mot|on|ng toward tho
mans|on. ||roworks oruptod |n tho a|r abovo us, pa|nt|ng
tho sky |n br|ght rod and go|d.
°1ho lros|dont's 3a|| |s ton|ght!' v|ad oxc|a|mod,
proud|y gostur|ng at h|s att|ro. ||s |ong wh|to ha|r was
pu||od back |n a noat ponyta|| and ho was woar|ng a torma|
rod and go|d tun|c, tho un|torm tho guards woro on|y on
d|st|nct|vo occas|ons. °|avo a |ovo|y t|mo, V|ss 0awn,' ho
sa|d, opon|ng tho gato.
7bo Proslooot`s Bo||. Evory yoar |n m|d-August, my
tathor ho|d a grand party at tho hoadquartors to co|obrato a
succosstu| yoar. 3|nco 2012, tho part|os tocusod on tho
co|obrat|on ot a poacotu| human-vamp|ro coox|stonco, and
a|| ot my tathor's most trustod vamp|ro and human
co||oaguos woro |nv|tod. last yoar, both tho human U3
lros|dont and tho vamp|ro Canad|an lr|mo V|n|stor
attondod, garnor|ng much pross tor tho 3car|ot |ouso. 1o
my tathor, tho ba|| was ono ot tho b|ggost ovonts ot tho
yoar. l, on tho othor hand, had a|ways tr|od to oscapo tho
tost|v|t|os |n any way that l cou|d. lo||t|cs and danc|ng woro
two ot my |oast tavor|to th|ngs.
1h|s yoar, as August ro||od around, l hadn't hoard
anyth|ng about tho ba||. l had boon surpr|sod that my tathor
had not mont|onod |t to mo, but had doc|dod not to rom|nd
h|m about |t. l was thr|||od at tho prospoct ot bo|ng |n Ango|
Crook and not hav|ng to attond. loooy bow tbot workoo oot,
l thought as l pu||od tho car |nto tho soc|udod govornmont-
ott|c|a|s-on|y park|ng |ot.
°1h|s way.' l |od 3obast|an through tho courtyard and
up tho grand manor stops.
°1h|s p|aco |s magn|t|cont,' ho wh|sporod |n awo.
Vy tathor had roa||y outdono h|mso|t. 3r|ght rod
docorat|vo ||ghts cast v|brant co|or a|| ovor tho wh|to
bu||d|ng taçado. 1ho wa||s ot tho 3car|ot |ouso woro, tor
onco, actua||y scar|ot.
As 3obast|an and l ontorod tho grand manor, |t
bocamo ov|dont that wo woro vast|y undordrossod. Womon
prancod around |n |ong, tancy gowns, wh||o mon m|||od
about |n tuxodos and bowt|os. Vy nanny E||sa rushod ovor
to mo r|ght away, paus|ng br|ot|y to g|vo 3obast|an a
cur|ous |nspoct|on. 0rossod |n a torm-t|tt|ng rod gown, w|th
hor |ong b|ack ha|r swopt back |nto a bra|d, sho |ookod ||ko
an O|d |o||ywood t||m star.
°0awn! You mado |t!' sho gushod. °1hank Goodnoss!
Your tathor was so worr|od that you wou|dn't bo horo
ton|ght. lt's such an |mportant ovon|ng, attor a||.'
°Vy tathor d|dn't |nv|to mo,' l sa|d, contusod.
°Oh, no! Oh, doar, |t's vory ||ko|y that ho d|dn't. loor
A|asta|r has had so much on h|s m|nd |ato|y, ho's boon
somowhat torgottu|.' E||sa shook hor hoad sad|y. °0|d you
hoar? |o has to run tor ro-o|oct|on noxt yoar aga|nst
anothor vamp|ro.'
°Oh?' 1ho nows start|od mo. Vy tathor had boon tho
U3 vamp|ro lros|dont tor as |ong as tho counc|| had boon
act|vo. |o was wo||-|ovod by a|| vamp|ros |n tho country, so
ovory torty yoars ho was s|mp|y ro|nstatod w|thout a torma|
o|oct|on. 1h|s was tho t|rst t|mo that anyono had cha||ongod
h|m |n tho runn|ng and l know |t wou|d havo an onormous
ottoct on h|m.
°Wo||, |t's a good th|ng that you'ro horo. A|asta|r noods
your support. l bought you a now dross and |a|d |t on your
bod. |urry and got changod!' E||sa nudgod mo toward tho
grand marb|o sta|rcaso |oad|ng up to my bodroom. °Wo'||
havo to got th|s gont|oman a tux,' sho addod, nodd|ng
toward 3obast|an. °Como w|th mo, young man.'
°Wa|t!' l caught E||sa's arm. °l roa||y havo to ta|k to my
tathor. lt's vory |mportant.'
°|o's curront|y ontorta|n|ng tho lros|dont ot |ranco |n
h|s quartors. lt |t's somoth|ng that w||| |ntortoro w|th h|s
tost|vo mood, l |mp|oro that you wa|t unt|| tho party
conc|udos,' E||sa p|oadod. °lt's a|roady 2:00 a.m.-l'm suro
tho tost|v|t|os w||| wrap up short|y.'
Vy nanny had a|ways boon tho sons|b|o, roasonab|o
vo|co |n my ||to, so whon sho suggostod somoth|ng, l know
|t was bost to oboy. l |ookod ovor at 3obast|an. |o s|mp|y
shruggod, |nd|cat|ng that |t wou|dn't hurt to wa|t.
E||sa sm||od tr|umphant|y. °Good,' sho sa|d. As l
ascondod tho sta|rs sho addod, °And just th|s ono t|mo,
0awn, do try to m|ng|o. lt wou|d moan a |ot to your tathor.'
E|lso boo roo||y ootoooo borso|í, l thought, runn|ng my
t|ngors across tho smooth tabr|c ot tho s||vor cockta|| dross
|y|ng across my bod. l s||ppod ott my tank top and joans and
s||d tho dross ovor my hoad. lts coo|, s||ky mator|a|
carossod my body as |t sott|od around mo. l cou|dn't ho|p
but adm|ro my |mago |n tho m|rror. 1ho p|ung|ng nock||no
and dangorous|y |ow back woro adornod w|th sma|| s||vor
crysta|s, sato|y socurod at tho wa|st by a t|ght sash. 1ho
sk|rt ot tho dross t|owod bo|d|y outwards |n a t|urry ot s|ook
wavos, ond|ng ha|tway down my th|gh. 1hough dar|ng, tho
short gown was uttor|y c|assy. l had to adm|t that dosp|to, or
porhaps |n ||ou ot, bo|ng ovor throo hundrod yoars o|d, E||sa
had a groat oyo tor tash|on.
1ho br|ght s||vor dross and |ts spark||ng
ombo|||shmonts woro so dazz||ng, tho outt|t roqu|rod vory
||tt|o jowo|ry. E||sa had |a|d out a sma|| pa|r ot d|amond
oarr|ngs and a match|ng tonn|s braco|ot noxt to tho dross,
so l put both on. l pu||od my ha|r back |nto a mossy bun,
taston|ng tho |ooso wavos that sp|||od out w|th a th|n crysta|
hoadband. l was p|oasod at tho rosu|t, rovo||ng |n tho a|r ot
matur|ty and soph|st|cat|on that tho s|ookod-back ha|r
producod.
l groanod s||ght|y as my gazo to|| on tho strappy,
mota|||c shoos E||sa p|acod noxt to tho bod. 1ho th|n, sharp
hoo|s stood at |oast s|x |nchos h|gh. l s|ghod, w|gg||ng my
toot |nto thom, curs|ng tho dross tor not bo|ng |ong onough
to h|do my combat boots. 1ost íor o coop|o oí boors, l
prom|sod myso|t as l sot out tor tho party.
l spottod 3obast|an botoro ho saw mo. |o was
stand|ng by tho toot ot tho sta|rs, |ook|ng ott toward tho
spac|ous d|n|ng aroa wh|ch had boon mastortu||y convortod
|nto a grand ba||room. E||sa had outt|ttod h|m |n a ||ght gray
tux, comp|oto w|th a match|ng vost and a s|ook wh|to dross
sh|rt. ||s dark cur|s woro combod back o|ogant|y, tho sty|o
mado h|m appoar as |t ho bo|ongod |n anothor ora.
|o turnod toward mo as l roachod tho |ast stop, h|s
oyos w|don|ng as ho took mo |n. 1ho shado ot h|s su|t
p|ckod up tho gray |n h|s oyos, mak|ng thom appoar
br|ghtor and ovon moro onthra|||ng than usua|.
°You |ook boaut|tu|,' ho sa|d |n a vo|co baro|y abovo a
wh|spor.
lo`s bolog p|oosoot ogolo, l thought, st||| koop|ng up
my guard.
°1hank you. You |ook n|co as wo||.' l rospondod
po||to|y. lt was a ||o. |o d|dn't |ook n|co. |o |ookod groat.
Vagn|t|cont, ovon, but l wasn't go|ng to to|| h|m that. l d|d,
howovor, roso|vo to put tho trustrat|on trom tho car r|do
boh|nd mo |n an attompt to onjoy tho ovon|ng.
l was woar|ng s|x-|nch hoo|s, attor a||. Anyth|ng was
poss|b|o.
Wo stood trozon |n p|aco, unsuro what to do noxt.
°3ha|| wo danco?' 3obast|an t|na||y askod, oxtond|ng
h|s hand out to mo.
l g|ancod down uncomtortab|y. °lo, thank you.'
|o rotractod h|s arm, |ook|ng a ||tt|o hurt.
°l'm sorry. l wasn't try|ng to bo rudo. l just.ooo`t
oooco.' l oxp|a|nod.
°A |ady who doosn't danco. lntorost|ng.,' 3obast|an
sa|d, |ook|ng a ||tt|o moro choortu|.
l |aughod awkward|y. °l'm hard|y a |ady.' As |t on cuo,
tho hoo| ot my shoo gavo way, sond|ng mo stumb||ng
torward. 3obast|an caught mo m|d-ta||, grasp|ng mo t|ght|y
|n h|s arms. Wo oxchangod a chargod |ook botoro ho sot
mo stra|ght.
|rom tho cornor ot my oyo, l not|cod a ta||, stout
vamp|ro |n a br|ght b|uo dross hoad|ng |n our d|roct|on. |or
short b|ond ha|r cur|od |n r|ng|ots around hor p|ump taco,
hor oyos and ||ps pa|ntod |n |oud, c|ash|ng co|ors. 3ho was
ono ot my tathor's socrotar|os, tho typo ot woman that
thr|vod on goss|p. ln a momont, l know l wou|d havo to
answor quost|ons about myso|t, 3obast|an, and poss|b|y
ovon my ta|||ng m|ss|on. 1ho hoavy scont ot hor portumo
roachod my nostr||s, chok|ng mo w|th |ts t|owory swootnoss.
°l nood somo a|r,' l gaspod, hurry|ng past tho nosy
woman and rush|ng out ot tho houso.
3obast|an to||owod mo |nto tho qu|ot, moon||t
courtyard. lt was oor||y ompty, as a|| ot my tathor's
ostoomod guosts optod to congrogato |ndoors |nstoad. Wo
stro||od a|ong tho stono pathway |n s||onco, tho sound ot
c|ass|ca| mus|c trom |ns|do tho manor sp||||ng out around
us.
l pausod upon com|ng to a |argo marb|o tounta|n |n tho
contro ot tho courtyard. lt had a|ways boon my tavor|to
p|aco on tho proporty. Evor s|nco l was a ||tt|o g|r|, l had
tound so|aco |n tho tounta|n's sott murmur, tho oxqu|s|to
stono carv|ngs a|ong |ts odgos, tho boaut|tu| wh|to orch|ds
p|antod at |ts baso. 1ho t|owors, l was to|d, my mothor had
p|antod.
°1h|s |s my spoc|a| spot,' l murmurod to 3obast|an,
mosmor|zod by tho br|ght moon||ght rot|oct|ng ott tho
wator's surtaco. °K|nd ot ||ko your gazobo.'
°lt's boaut|tu|.'
°l'vo had many ot my 't|rsts' horo.' l sa|d proud|y.
3obast|an g|ancod ovor at mo. °l|ko, your t|rst k|ss?'
ho toasod p|aytu||y, a sma|| sm||o sproad|ng ovor h|s ||ps.
°lo!' l cr|od, mort|t|od. l wasn't about to sharo that,
dosp|to bo|ng n|notoon yoars o|d, l had not yot roachod that
part|cu|ar m||ostono. °lo, ||ko my t|rst sworoílgbt,' l c|ar|t|od.
°l shou|d'vo t|gurod,' ho sa|d, h|s sm||o grow|ng w|dor.
3uddon|y, ho so|zod my hands. °|ow about anothor
t|rst?' ho askod, pu|||ng mo |nto h|m.
Vy ||ps partod |n surpr|so as l drow |n a sharp broath.
|or a br|ot momont, l thought ho was go|ng to k|ss mo. l
ho|d my broath |n ant|c|pat|on, start|od by my body's
yoarn|ng to comp|oto|y surrondor ovor to h|m, and ovon
moro stunnod by my m|nd's dos|ro to a||ow |t to happon.
lnstoad, 3obast|an wrappod h|s arms around mo and,
gr|nn|ng m|sch|ovous|y, askod, °|ow about a t|rst danco?'
0|sappo|ntod tor hav|ng so orronoous|y |ntorprotod h|s
|ntont|ons, but a|so sovoro|y horr|t|od at tho prospoct ot
hav|ng to danco, l tr|od to pu|| myso|t out ot h|s grasp.
3otoro l had a chanco to broak away, 3obast|an bogan
sway|ng to tho sott mo|ody ot tho mus|c. ||s movomonts
woro t|orco, yot gracotu|. ||ght|ng tho urgo to |oad, l a||owod
myso|t to ro|ax, succumb|ng to h|s ombraco.
l rostod my hoad aga|nst h|s chost, |nha||ng |n h|s
un|quo co|ogno. |o smo||od ||ko a su|try summor storm-
coo|, rotrosh|ng ra|n, swo|tor|ng, hot w|nd, and chargod,
o|octr|c thundor-a|| ro||od up |nto ono oxtromo|y ont|c|ng
vamp|ro bo|ng. 1ho prox|m|ty ot h|s strong, muscu|ar body
was tanta||z|ng, no mattor how much l tr|od to t|ght |t, l
cou|dn't |gnoro tho ottoct that ho had on mo. |o possossod
tho powor to w|nd mo up, oxc|to mo, and ovon |ntur|ato mo,
wh||o at tho samo t|mo mak|ng mo too| ca|m, comtortod
and sato.
l was ta|||ng tor tho ono guy |n tho wor|d l had novor
oxpoctod to ta|| tor, l roa||zod suddon|y. And l was ta|||ng
hard.
As tho song camo to an ond, 3obast|an |ookod down
at mo, h|s p|orc|ng gray oyos t|xod |ntont|y on m|no.
°You know, whon l t|rst saw you, you rom|ndod mo ot
somoono l onco know,' ho wh|sporod. °3ut now that l havo
gotton to know you, l roa||zo that you'ro noth|ng ||ko th|s
porson. Notblog ot o||.'
3hakon by tho a||ur|ng tono ot h|s vo|co and h|s
capt|vat|ng words, my knoos gavo way, caus|ng mo to
stumb|o |n p|aco. l grabbod a ho|d ot h|s shou|dors, hop|ng
ho d|dn't not|co my suddon s||p.
°|ow so?' l askod, my vo|co qu|vor|ng |n ant|c|pat|on.
°Wo||,' ho bogan husk||y, °you'ro a |ot moro annoy|ng.
lot to mont|on modd|osomo, |oud, |rr|tat|ng and ovon k|nd
ot |||-mannorod.'
l swa||owod my d|sappo|ntmont, tak|ng a|ong w|th |t
somo ot my pr|do. °l|oaso, 3obast|an, don't ho|d back on
your truo too||ngs,' l muttorod |c||y.
°3ut.' ||s oxpross|on grow sor|ous. °You'ro a|so
much bravor, strongor, tunn|or, and moro compass|onato
than anyono l'vo ovor known. And k|nd ot a good dancor,'
ho addod, sp|nn|ng mo around and pu|||ng mo back |nto h|s
arms. °You'ro ono ot a k|nd.' ||s vo|co was s|ncoro, h|s
gazo |ntont.
|or a br|ot momont, l torgot whoro l was. 1ho
courtyard, tho tounta|n, ovon tho br|ght moon tadod |nto tho
por|phory. lt was just 3obast|an and l.
1hon, just as ho |oanod h|s ||ps toward m|no, l snappod
out ot |t.
|annah's protty taco-tho taco ot tho g|r| l had ta||od to
protoct-t|ashod botoro my oyos.
°l havo ta|k to my tathor!' l cr|od, oxt|ngu|sh|ng tho
momont botwoon us.
3obast|an s|ow|y ro|oasod mo trom h|s ombraco. °Ot
courso,' ho sa|d, a||-bus|noss onco aga|n. °lot's go.'
l conv|ncod 3obast|an to wa|t |n my room wh||o l v|s|tod
my tathor's ott|co. l d|dn't havo tho onorgy to oxp|a|n who
tho mystor|ous vamp|ro was, on top ot doa||ng w|th a|| tho
othor |ssuos that noodod to bo addrossod. l knockod on tho
study door, |n an attompt to bo po||to |n caso my tathor was
st||| |n company ot tho |ronch lros|dont.
°Como |n,' my tathor's doop vo|co was s||ght|y mutt|od
by tho hoavy wood.
Upon ontor|ng tho room, l was thanktu| to t|nd h|m
comp|oto|y a|ono. A surgo ot happ|noss rushod through mo
at tho s|ght ot my tathor's ta|| tramo. l had to phys|ca||y
rostra|n myso|t trom throw|ng my arms around h|s nock.
3tart|od by tho roa||zat|on ot just how groat|y l had m|ssod
h|m, tor onco, l d|dn't ovon m|nd tho darknoss ot tho ott|co.
°0awn!' my tathor oxc|a|mod oxc|tod|y, r|s|ng trom h|s
cha|r. 1hought ho d|dn't say |t, h|s br|ght sm||o to|d mo that
tho too||ng was mutua|. °What a surpr|so! l'm so g|ad that
you woro ab|o to mako |t to tho party!' ho gushod. 1hon,
not|c|ng my uncharactor|st|ca||y |av|sh att|ro, addod sotty,
°You |ook vory |ovo|y.' |o soomod ||ko ho was about to
str|do ovor and ombraco mo, but doc|dod aga|nst |t, and
sank back |nto h|s soat. |o mot|onod tor mo to do tho
samo.
°l'm suro you'vo hoard a|| about tho o|oct|on nows.
3omo young vamp|ro hotshot wants to tako mo on,' ho sa|d
|rr|tab|y.
l sm||od. °Yos, but l'm corta|n that ho doosn't stand a
chanco. Evoryono |ovos and adm|ros you.'
°1hat's whoro you'ro wrong, l'm atra|d.' Vy tathor
trownod, h|s taco r|dd|od w|th a tronzy ot worry ||nos.
°3onator 1w|tbrook has a |argor soc|a| mod|a to||ow|ng,
0awn. lt cou|d got ug|y.'
°1horo aro tar worso th|ngs |n ||to than not hav|ng
onough on||no tr|onds,' l muttorod. Llko o||owlog o bo|p|oss
bomoo to bo kloooppoo oo yoor wotcb.
Vy tathor was study|ng my gr|m taco. °|org|vo mo,
0awn. l'vo boon so so|t|sh. l havon't ovon askod about your
m|ss|on yot. |ow aro th|ngs progross|ng? Anyth|ng now to
roport?'
l swa||owod hard. °1hat's why l'm horo, actua||y. Wo'vo
run |nto somo troub|o.'
°Oh?' |o ra|sod h|s th|ck, brown brows.
Ovor tho noxt tow m|nutos, l rohashod tho prov|ous
day's happon|ngs. Vy tathor tonsod whon ho |oarnod that l
was po|sonod by vamp|ro b|ood, and s|ammod h|s t|st
aga|nst tho hoavy oak dosk whon l contossod that a human
g|r| was k|dnappod.
°lono ot that was ovor supposod to happon! 1h|s was
supposod to bo a s|mp|o m|ss|on |n a poacotu| ||tt|o town.
An oasy task. You woro novor supposod to bo |n any roa|
dangor. l'm so sorry.'
l b||nkod back hot toars. °lo, l'm tho ono who shou|d
bo sorry. l ta||od tho m|ss|on. |a||od you. |a||od ovoryth|ng!'
°1hat's nonsonso, 0awn,' ho chast|sod mo. °1h|s |s
just an unoxpoctod sotback. Wo'|| t|guro |t out togothor.'
l torcod a sm||o, s||ght|y comtortod by tho roa||zat|on
that my tathor wasn't d|sappo|ntod |n mo attor a||. |o was,
howovor, concornod ovor tho roports ot roguo vamp|ro
act|v|ty, and ovon moro ratt|od by tho nows that humans
woro consort|ng w|th thom. 1o my d|smay, ho d|dn't havo
any |ntormat|on about a roguo camp noar V|||wood or
about vamp|r|co|. lt was tho t|rst t|mo that had hoard about
tho drug and th|s causod h|m turthor ag|tat|on.
°l'm go|ng to put my bost toam on th|s. Wo'|| hunt down
tho roguo vamps and t|nd tho human g|r|,' ho prom|sod.
°|or now, 0awn, l wou|d ||ko you to stay horo. l don't undor
any c|rcumstanco want you go|ng back to Ango| Crook.'
l trozo. °l can't do that, tathor!' l cr|od trant|ca||y. °l'm on
a m|ss|on. l havo a duty to tho vamp|ros ot Ango| Crook.'
°l'm ott|c|a||y tak|ng you ott tho m|ss|on. ln tact, l'm
tak|ng thoso m|st|t vamp|ros ott tho m|ss|on as wo||,' ho
sa|d, grabb|ng h|s phono. °l'm go|ng to g|vo tho |ab ||vo a
ca||.'
°1ho |ab ||vo aro no |ongor tho guard|ans ot Ango|
Crook!' l shoutod.
Vy tathor shook h|s hoad. °1wo ot thom got votod ott
Noxt Vomp loo| |ast wook and tho othors got k|ckod ott
7roosy|voolo 5boro r|ght away tor not bo|ng pa|o onough.
l'm suro thoy'|| bo moro than happy to roturn to tho|r posts |n
Ango| Crook. 1hoy'ro curront|y mop|ng around |o||ywood,
bogg|ng tor a g|g.'
°lo!' l yo||od, t|y|ng ovor to my tathor's dosk. l so|zod
tho phono trom h|s hand. °l won't |ot you tako mo ott tho
m|ss|on. l'm go|ng to soo th|s th|ng through,' l sa|d,
d|sconnoct|ng tho ca||.
°0awn, l'm sorry to do th|s, but |t's tor your own satoty. l
can't boar to soo you got hurt. l |ovo you moro than anyth|ng
|n th|s wor|d.'
l sottonod, p|oasod to hoar my tathor spoak thoso
tondor words, thon qu|ck|y soborod up. °l can't g|vo up now.
l havo a m|ss|on to carry out and a tr|ond to savo. '
°You'ro ott tho ass|gnmont,' ho commandod. °1hat's an
ordor trom both your tathor and your lros|dont.'
°Wo'|| soo about that!' l shot back, storm|ng out ot tho
room. °And, by tho way, thoso mlsílt vomps roa||y aron't so
bad,' l angr||y throw ovor my shou|dor.
3ack |n my room, l grabbod a porp|oxod 3obast|an by
tho arm. °Wo'ro |oav|ng,' l statod, pu|||ng h|m out ot tho
houso.
l spod back to Ango| Crook, ca|||ng tho toam mombors
on tho way and |nstruct|ng thom to assomb|o at 3obast|an's
homo. 1ho sma|| cottago l had grown accustomod to ovor
tho past tow wooks was no |ongor a sato p|aco. lt wou|d
on|y bo a short mattor ot t|mo botoro my tathor sont h|s
toam attor mo |n an attompt to drag mo back to tho satoty
ot tho 3car|ot |ouso. l wou|dn't a||ow that to happon. l
wasn't go|ng anywhoro unt|| l had sato|y roscuod |annah.
No mottor wbot.
CEAP1ER E|CE1
°1o|| mo ovoryth|ng you know,' l urgod as tho toam
assomb|od around tho |argo, round d|n|ng room tab|o ot
3obast|an's oxqu|s|to manor. 0osp|to bo|ng a|most two
hundrod yoars o|d, tho spac|ous mans|on had a s|ook,
modorn |ntor|or. Each room was outt|ttod |n s|mp|o
contomporary turn|turo, b|ack and wh|to |n co|or,
ombo|||shod w|th g|ass and crysta| adornmonts. 1ho oar|y
morn|ng sun shono through tho spac|ous bay w|ndows,
t||||ng tho houso w|th ||ght and g|v|ng |t a br|ght, a|ry |ook.
Ethan was tho |ast to s|t down, |ook|ng oxtromo|y
shakon. ||s oyos woro b|urry, h|s ha|r tous|od. Evon tho
buttons ot h|s groon sh|rt woro tastonod |ncorroct|y.
lo most bovo spokoo wltb loooob`s motbor, l thought
w|th p|ty. 1ho poor woman was vory |||, tho |ast th|ng sho
shou|d havo to hoar was nows that hor daughtor was
m|ss|ng. l hopod that Ethan had boon gont|o w|th tho dota||s
and had not d|vu|god tho ont|ro truth boh|nd tho k|dnapp|ng.
At |oast, not unt|| wo had a chanco to t|nd |annah.
°Who wants to go t|rst? Any nows about tho roguo
vamps? vamp|r|co|? ' l prossod urgont|y. °l|oaso to|| mo
somoono tound out somoth|ng!'
°3orry 0awn, my books d|d not provo vory bonot|c|a|. l
cou|dn't t|nd anyth|ng at a|| about roguo vamps or
vamp|r|co|,' 3oph|o sa|d |n a g|oomy vo|co. 0a|sy, tho
pormanont|y-qu|vor|ng puppy, was s|tt|ng on hor |ap,
attompt|ng to ||ck hor g|assos. 3ho scratchod tho t|ny dog
botwoon |ts oars, sond|ng |t |nto an ovon b|ggor ||ck|ng
tronzy. °l guoss tho on|y th|ng wo can |ntor trom that |s that
thoy'ro both ta|r|y rocont phonomona,' sho addod, push|ng
hor round g|assos up on hor noso.
°Good. 1hat's somoth|ng,' l sa|d, try|ng to koop
pos|t|vo. °3rooko?' l turnod toward tho b|ondo.
°l a|so d|dn't havo much |uck. A|though, l d|d scoro w|th
ono roa||y hot tootba|| p|ayor,' 3rooko w|nkod at mo, |oud|y
chomp|ng on a wad ot p|nk bubb|o gum.
°Brooko!' l oxc|a|mod.
°Yoah, 3rooko. 1h|s |s no t|mo tor your prom|scu|ty,'
3oth spat.
3rooko wavod hor hand |n our d|roct|on, hor br|ght
na||s match|ng portoct|y to tho co|or ot tho gum. °Ch|||, guys.
l scorod loíormotloo trom a tootba|| p|ayor. lsn't that, ||ko,
what a|| tho dotoct|vos on 1v say?' 3ho oxtondod hor
tangs, popp|ng a bubb|o.
°3o, what d|d you t|nd out?' 3obast|an urgod.
°Wo||, ho had takon vamp|r|co| onco. lt mado h|m too|
||ko a m||||on bucks. |o sa|d that ho was strongor and tastor
than anyono o|so on tho t|o|d. And apparont|y, ho was a|so
a much bottor |ovor.' 3rooko g|gg|od.
°Okay, wo|| wo know a|| that trom Ethan.' l sa|d,
d|smayod by tho |ack ot |ntormat|on. 3obast|an's hoad
snappod up, h|s oyos narrow|ng |n my d|roct|on. °Uhh,
oxcopt tho |ovor part, ot courso,' l c|ar|t|od uncomtortab|y.
1o my surpr|so, Ethan d|dn't say anyth|ng. |o was
|ook|ng ott |nto tho d|stanco, h|s usua||y br|ght oyos g|azod
ovor, not tocusod on anyth|ng |n part|cu|ar. lt was thon that l
not|cod just how b|oodshot tho wh|tos around h|s pup||s
woro. l had torgotton that, tor a human, stay|ng up a|| n|ght
was a toat. l was about to suggost that ho tako a nap, whon
|untor |ntorjoctod.
°Wo||, l can ho|p add to tho |ntormat|on about
vamp|r|co|,' ho announcod. °Accord|ng to a doa|or l spoko
w|th, |t's tho hot now drug on tho undorground markot. lt's
dovo|opod by doctors, or sc|ont|sts-somo roa||y smart
poop|o-and mado w|th a bunch ot protty k|||or mator|a|s.
1ho worst ot thom a|| bo|ng vamp|ro b|ood.'
3oph|o gaspod.
°Whoa!' 3rooko trozo, m|d-bubb|o b|ow|ng.
°Aro you suro?' 3obast|an askod. °1hat's vory
sor|ous.'
°Yos. Vy o|d doa|or had an |n w|th ono ot tho roguo
vamps. lumor has |t, thoso guys got pa|d good monoy tor
donat|ng tho|r b|ood.' 3obor, c|oar-m|ndod |untor was
prov|ng to bo qu|to an assot to tho toam.
°3ut horo's tho th|ng,' 3oth |ntorjoctod. °1h|s company
-thoy ca|| thomso|vos B|oooCorp-doosn't want to koop
th|ngs |n tho undorground drug markot tor vory |ong.
Accord|ng to a c|ass|t|od mod|ca| chartroom l hackod |nto,
thoy want to go pub||c w|th vamp|r|co| as soon as poss|b|o.
1hoy'ro try|ng to got |t |0A approvod and got |t out on tho
mass markot.' |o pausod tor dramat|c ottoct. °lutt|ng |t out
|nto tho wor|d wou|d oarn thom b||||ons ot do||ars. And |n tho
procoss, |t a|so cou|d causo vamp|ros to bocomo
obso|oto.'
°What? Obso|oto? l don't wanna bo obso|oto,' 3rooko
cr|od, thon |ookod ovor at 3oth and wh|sporod, °1hat's ||ko
roo||y íot, r|ght?'
°You'ro th|nk|ng ot oboso 3rooko,' 3oth ro||od h|s
oyos. °lo, by putt|ng vamp|r|co| out on tho mass markot
and a||ow|ng ovory human to, |n ossonco, bocomo a
vamp|ro w|thout any ot tho nogat|vo s|do-ottocts, wo'ro
go|ng to bo rondorod comp|oto|y tut||o.'
°Comp|oto|y uso|oss,' 3oph|o c|ar|t|od, soo|ng
3rooko's porp|oxod taco.
3rooko's b|uo oyos grow w|do w|th toar. °Oh, no!
1hat's ovon worso than bo|ng tat!'
1ho nows about vamp|r|co| and B|oooCorp was
monumonta|. Vany vamp|ros, ospoc|a||y thoso curront|y
ho|d|ng ostoomod pos|t|ons ot tamo and powor, wou|d bo
dovastatod |t B|oooCorp ovor wont pub||c w|th vamp|r|co|.
Vodorn vamp|ros pr|dod thomso|vos on bo|ng supor|or to
human bo|ngs. Attor a||, tho|r oxc|us|v|ty and phonomona|
charactor|st|cs woro tho ma|n roasons vamp|ros woro ab|o
to troo|y ox|st |n soc|oty. 3ut, |t ovory human cou|d oas||y
obta|n vamp|ro powors through a t|ny ||tt|o p|||, thon roa|
vamp|ros wou|d no |ongor bo tho rovorod, magn|t|cont
th|ngs ot popu|ar cu|turo. 1ho|r ont|ro ox|stonco wou|d bo
throatonod. lot to mont|on, such a potont drug cou|d |oad
to a powor-strugg|o botwoon humans and vamp|ros. Wars
havo brokon out ovor much moro tr|t||ng |ssuos.
°Wo||, horo's tho k|ckor.' 3oth cont|nuod gravo|y,
snapp|ng mo out ot my rum|nat|on. °3|oodCorp |s st||| |n tho
tost|ng stagos ot vamp|r|co| and, apparont|y, thoy'ro
runn|ng out ot vo|untary b|ood donors. 1hoy'ro start|ng to
tako |nnocont vamp|ros ott tho stroot.'
°1hat must'vo boon why thoy tr|od to stago an ambush
back at tho worowo|t camp,' l musod out |oud.
3oth noddod.
°l can't ovon boar to |mag|no what thoy wou|d havo
dono w|th mo!' 3rooko sobbod.
3obast|an shot mo an unoasy |ook. °1h|nk ot what thoy
wou|d havo dono w|th yoo, 0awn,' ho sa|d.
°|o's r|ght!' 3oph|o oxc|a|mod, |ook|ng ovor at mo
worr|od|y. °1ho b|ood ot a 3orn vamp|ro |s a hundrod t|mos
moro potont than that ot a Vado!'
°You havo to bo carotu|,' 3obast|an warnod.
l shuddorod, romombor|ng how c|oso l had como to
bo|ng takon. lí 5obostloo booo`t oppooroo wboo bo boo.
l co||octod myso|t, r|s|ng abrupt|y trom my cha|r. °l'|| bo
t|no. l|ght now, wo havo to th|nk about |annah. loscu|ng
hor |s our pr|or|ty!'
l pacod around tho d|n|ng room, ovoryono's oyos
to||ow|ng my ovory movo. Evoryono's oxcopt Ethan's. |o
had h|s hoad |n h|s hands and was tugg|ng at h|s go|d |ocks
norvous|y. Out ot a|| ot us, Ethan was tho c|osost to |annah.
|or d|sappoaranco must bo dr|v|ng h|m crazy, l
thought g|um|y.
°Ok, so tar wo havo dotorm|nod what B|oooCorp`s
mot|vos aro. Wo'vo a|so t|gurod out that wo w||| ||ko|y havo
to taco roguo vamp|ros, humans dopod up on vamp|r|co|,
and poss|b|y ovon somo crazy sc|ont|sts. 3ut doos anyono
know whoro |n tho wor|d thoso poop|o aro koop|ng
|annah?' l ask|ng, c|onch|ng my t|sts |n trustrat|on.
°lo,' 3oph|o and 3rooko rospondod |n un|son.
|untor shruggod. °3orry, 0awn.'
°l'vo soarchod tho |ntornot tor pharmacout|ca|
compan|os, sc|onco |abs, and ovon undorground army
basos that cou|d bo connoctod w|th B|oooCorp. l'vo como
up w|th abso|uto|y noth|ng. lada. Zoro. Z||ch!' 3oth cr|od,
qu|ot|y add|ng, °Vy on||no gamo quosts woro mocb oas|or
to comp|oto.'
°Groat,' l s|ghod.
low lo tbo wor|o coo|o wo sovo loooob lí wo oloo`t
ovoo koow wboro sbo wos bolog koptº l cons|dorod ca|||ng
my tathor to ask tor h|s ho|p. l wou|dn't havo m|ndod
swa||ow|ng my pr|do and apo|og|z|ng tor my outburst |t |t
moant that |annah wou|d bo tound. Untortunato|y, l know
oxact|y how that part|cu|ar convorsat|on wou|d go. Vy tathor
wou|d ordor mo to coaso tho m|ss|on, torc|ng mo to como
back homo. |o wou|d porhaps ovon rop|aco 3rooko,
3oph|o, |untor and 3oth w|th tho |ab ||vo ||ko ho had
prov|ous|y throatonod. l cou|dn't |ot any ot that happon. l was
t|na||y start|ng to soo potont|a| |n my tra|noos-a truo
pass|on tor bo|ng Ango| Crook guard|ans.
At tho samo t|mo, l had to qu|ck|y acknow|odgo that
|annah was runn|ng out ot t|mo. l cou|d novor put hor ||to |n
dangor to s|mp|y |||ustrato a po|nt. 3ott||ng on a
comprom|so, l sont an |mporsona|, anonymous noto to my
tathor's oma|| account, d|vu|g|ng a|| tho dota||s wo had so
tar on tho roguo vamps and B|oooCorp. 1h|s way, l
roasonod, tho bubb|y rodhoadod g|r| wou|d at |oast havo
two groups soarch|ng tor hor.
lot want|ng to wasto any moro t|mo s|tt|ng around tho
houso, l suggostod that wo dr|vo back out to V|||wood and
soarch tho aroa onco aga|n. l wasn't suro what wo woro
|ook|ng tor, or what wo wou|d t|nd, so l mado corta|n that wo
woro wo||-proparod tor a|| poss|b|o sconar|os. l packod an
array ot supp||os-woapons, computors, and var|ous othor
gadgots-and |nstructod tho toam to dross |n b|ack tor
bottor camout|ago. |or somo, ||ko 3obast|an who a|ways
drossod |n shados ot b|ack or wh|to, th|s was an oasy toat.
Othors, namo|y 3rooko, t|orco|y tought tho dross codo.
Accord|ng to hor, °p|nk was curront|y tho now b|ack'.
lt was m|d-attornoon by tho t|mo wo conc|udod our
soarch ot V|||wood and |ts surround|ng aroa. 1ho toam had
gathorod around a ta||on troo |n tho torost, broak|ng tor a
qu|ck moa|. l tound a |argo, mossy |og a short d|stanco
away and porchod on top ot |t to study my Gl3. 3otoro l
cou|d ovon t|ro up tho dov|co, Ethan approachod mo. |o
wa|kod s|ow|y, h|s hands tuckod t|ght|y |nto tho pockots ot
h|s b|ack |oathor jackot. ||s handsomo taco was pa|o and
su||on, h|s oyos dartod |n and out ot tocus.
|o |ooks ovon worso than ho had |n tho morn|ng, l
roa||zod, concornod.
°0awn.' ho bogan, |ook|ng ovor h|s shou|dor to mako
suro tho rost ot tho group was out ot oarshot. l doc|dod not
to rom|nd h|m that supor|or hoar|ng was ono ot tho porks ot
bo|ng a vamp|ro. °0awn, l havo to to|| you somoth|ng.' ||s
usua||y smooth, doop vo|co was raspy and hoarso.
°What's wrong?'
°l don't know how to bog|n,' ho croakod, pross|ng h|s
||ps |nto a t|ght ||no.
°ls th|s about tho vamp|r|co|? lt's okay. lt was a ono-
t|mo th|ng. l'm suro you had your roasons.' l tra||od ott, not
want|ng to adm|t that l suspoctod that roason had a ||tt|o
somoth|ng to do w|th mo.
|o movod c|osor. °lo, |t's not about that.'
l noddod, pat|ont|y wa|t|ng tor h|m to cont|nuo.
°0awn,' ho bogan, h|s vo|co |ow. °l ||ko you. A |ot.' |o
pausod, h|s t|rod oyos soarch|ng my taco |ntont|y.
Vy pu|so qu|ckonod undor h|s |ntonso gazo. ¼os bo
trylog to googo my rooctlooº ¼os bo woltlog íor mo to
rospoooº Ovor tho past two wooks Ethan and l had gotton
oxtromo|y c|oso, shar|ng somo |nt|mato momonts. |o was
handsomo, k|nd, car|ng, tun, and s|mp|o-a droam guy.
5o wby coo|oo`t l soy tbot l |lkoo blm tooº l wondorod,
my oyos s|ow|y dr|tt|ng to whoro 3obast|an was s|tt|ng.
Oroot. |oro l was stand|ng oppos|to a portoct guy who had
just contossod h|s too||ngs, and |nstoad ot tocus|ng my
attont|on on h|m, l was |ook|ng at somoono o|so. A
trustrat|ng somoono who drovo mo comp|oto|y |nsano. A|| ot
a suddon, 3obast|an |ookod up, h|s coo| oyos connoct|ng
w|th m|no. l qu|ck|y sh|ttod my gazo, turn|ng my tocus back
on Ethan.
°You don't havo to say anyth|ng. l just noodod you to
know that botoro.' ||s vo|co tadod out botoro ho cou|d
t|n|sh tho sontonco.
l hatod to soo h|m hurt, and l dosp|sod myso|t tor bo|ng
tho causo ot |t. °l'm so sorry Ethan. l'm a ||tt|o d|stractod,' l
oxp|a|nod, hop|ng to sparo h|s too||ngs. °3ocauso ot
|annah.' Aoo 5obostloo, my m|nd rom|ndod mo s||ont|y.
°l havo moro to to|| you,' Ethan sa|d, tak|ng a doop
broath. °l know whoro |annah |s.'
|o took tho Gl3 trom my hand, qu|ck|y punch|ng |n an
addross. 1ho map on tho sma|| dov|co po|ntod to a bu||d|ng
|n a noarby town ot Ashton. 1ho |ntormat|on showod that tho
bu||d|ng was rog|storod to a company ca||od Llxlo
Pbormocootlco|s.
°Aro you suro th|s |s corroct?' l askod, my hands
shak|ng w|th oxc|tomont.
°l'm corta|n,' Ethan cont|rmod. °1hat's tho addross tor
B|oooCorp`s baso and that's whoro |annah |s bo|ng ho|d
hostago.'
l g|ancod at h|m, stunnod. °|ow |n tho wor|d d|d you got
th|s? |rom tho tr|ond who gavo you tho vamp|r|co|?' l
guossod, narrow|ng my oyos.
Ethan |ookod down at h|s toot. °You cou|d say that,' ho
sa|d so|omn|y.
°Wo||, |ot's go got |annah!' l rushod ott to sharo tho
good nows w|th tho group.
1ho addross |od d|roct|y to an |ndustr|a| part ot Ashton,
a sma|| c|ty an hour oast ot V|||wood. Upon qu|ck
|nspoct|on, tho aroa provod to bo comp|oto|y dosortod. An
array ot abandonod tactor|os |ay scattorod about, tho|r gray
br|ck oxtor|ors d||ap|datod, tho|r w|ndows shattorod.
Wo parkod tho cars boh|nd an ompty warohouso a tow
b|ocks trom our dost|nat|on, opt|ng to caut|ous|y scopo out
tho |ocat|on on toot.
°1h|s |s |t? loa||y?' 3rooko askod Ethan as wo noarod
a w|do, two-storoy gray bu||d|ng markod Llxlo
Pbormocootlco|s.
°1h|s |s tho p|aco,' Ethan rospondod, |ook|ng around
norvous|y.
3rooko |ot out a d|scontontod s|gh. °3ut |t |ooks so
bor|ng and un-ov||.'
°l th|nk that's tho po|nt,' 3oph|o wh|sporod.
°l just thought wo wou|d havo our b|g showdown
somowhoro coo|or, that's a||,' 3rooko rotortod, st||| pout|ng.
°Wo'ro horo to savo |annah, not to cator to your
tantas|os, 3rooko,' l storn|y rom|ndod tho choor|oador, as
wo roachod a |argo tactory d|roct|y across tho stroot trom
tho Llxlo Pbormocootlco|s bu||d|ng.
l mot|onod tor tho toam to gathor |n tho ompty park|ng
|ot noxt to tho structuro, s|gna||ng tor thom to tako covor
boh|nd a ta||, br|ck part|t|on.
°Wo havo to |nspoct tho p|aco t|rst,' l |nstructod. Wo
had brought too many supp||os and our group cons|stod ot
too many mombors to ontor tho bu||d|ng w|thout a p|an and
oxpoct to roma|n unnot|cod. lot to mont|on, 3oph|o had
doc|dod that |oav|ng 0a|sy boh|nd at tho cottago wou|d bo
cons|dorod an|ma| cruo|ty, and had optod |nstoad to br|ng
tho t|ny dog on our m|ss|on.
°l can got a roa|-t|mo aor|a| sato|||to v|ow ot tho aroa on
my computor,' 3oth suggostod, turn|ng on h|s |aptop. °1ho
hoat-sook|ng tochno|ogy w||| bo ab|o to show us any bod|os
around tho bu||d|ng.'
|o pu||od up a soarch-ong|no map on h|s |aptop.
W|th|n momonts, wo cou|d soo that 0|x|o lharmacout|ca|s
was surroundod by s|x warm bod|os and o|ght much coo|or
onos.
1hoso must bo tho vamp|r|co|-tuo||od humans and tho
roguo vamps,' 3obast|an muttorod.
°lot's got to tho butt-k|ck|ng!' |untor grabbod a hoavy
mach|no gun trom tho woapons bag and startod out toward
tho bu||d|ng.
°lo!' l caut|onod. 3otoro ho had a chanco to g|vo
away our pos|t|on, l pu||od h|m back. °Wo nood a p|an t|rst!'
°l suggost wo d|v|do and conquor,' 3obast|an sa|d.
3rooko suddon|y porkod up. °3oph|o and l w||| d|stract
tho guards,' sho sa|d, undo|ng tho top button ot hor b|ack
b|ouso. °lo ono can ros|st a damso| |n d|stross.' 3ho
t|uttod up hor ha|r and untastonod yot anothor button.
3oph|o |ookod at hor w|do-oyod, c|oar|y not |ntorostod
|n tak|ng part |n whatovor oscapado 3rooko had |n m|nd.
3rooko ro||od hor oyos |mpat|ont|y. °lo|ax, prudo. l'm
not gonna ask you to tako ott your c|othos,' sho assurod
hor. °1hat unsoxy ||brar|an |ook may como |n handy |t any ot
tho guards aro o|d, pr|ssy |ad|os.'
1hon, turn|ng to mo, sho askod, °What do you say,
0awn? l'm suro that botwoon my a||uro, 3oph|o's du||noss,
and Crazy 0a|sy ovor horo,' sho sa|d, mot|on|ng toward tho
t|utty dog, °wo'|| havo no prob|om koop|ng thoso guys
occup|od tor a ||tt|o wh||o.'
3rooko was so so|t-assurod |n hor p|an, so oxc|tod to
contr|buto to tho m|ss|on |n hor own un|quo way, l cou|dn't
ho|p but g|vo |n. °Okay, t|no. You two can d|stract tho
guards,' l concodod.
°3oth, you shou|d stay horo and bo our |ookout. Work
somo ot that toch-mag|c and mako suro to not|ty us at tho
t|rst s|gn ot troub|o,' l d|roctod, hand|ng h|m a transm|ttor
that was synchod-up to a|| ot our oarp|ocos. 3oth was tho
|oast ag||o ot tho toam mombors and wou|d s|ow us down
|ns|do tho bu||d|ng, but h|s prot|c|oncy w|th tochno|ogy
wou|d bo a groat assot to tho m|ss|on |n h|s pos|t|on as
watchman.
°Onco tho coast |s c|oar, 3obast|an, |untor and l aro
go|ng to snoak |ns|do,' l oxp|a|nod, hand|ng oach ot thom a
woodon-bu||ot gun and grabb|ng a crossbow tor myso|t.
Ethan, you-' l pausod. 0osp|to bo|ng a wo||-tra|nod
human, ho was st||| woakor than most vamp|ros. W|thout
ho|p trom vamp|r|co|, ho wou|dn't stand a chanco |n a t|ght.
l roso|vod to koop h|m out ot harm's way. °Ethan you-'
|o cut mo ott. °l'm com|ng w|th you,' h|s vo|co was
dotorm|nod, unwavor|ng.
l shook my hoad. °l can't r|sk your ||to.'
°1hat doc|s|on |sn't yours to mako,' ho sa|d. °l'm go|ng
|n w|th you.'
°||no,' l hos|tant|y passod h|m tho woapons bag.
°l|oaso bo carotu|,' l urgod.
Vomonts |ator, l was p|oasant|y surpr|sod to soo that
3rooko's p|an was actua||y work|ng. 3ho struttod ovor to tho
guards, t|agg|ng thom down thoatr|ca||y, tako toars ro|||ng
down hor portoct|y pa|ntod chooks. 3oph|o to||owod c|oso|y
boh|nd, ho|d|ng 0a|sy to hor chost, a|| tho wh||o try|ng hor
bost to m|m|c 3rooko's award-w|nn|ng portormanco. l
ro||od my oyos, chuck||ng at tho g|r|s' mo|odramat|c story ot
hoartbroak and woo. 1ho guards, howovor, soomod to bo
hang|ng onto tho|r ovory word. As 3rooko and 3oph|o
bogan |oad|ng thom away trom tho bu||d|ng, l mot|onod tor
3obast|an, |untor and Ethan to to||ow mo.
0art|ng trom ono |ndustr|a|-s|zod dumpstor to anothor
and t|nd|ng covor boh|nd o|d, abandonod cars, l |od tho
group to tho ontranco on tho wost s|do ot tho bu||d|ng-tho
accoss po|nt bost concoa|od trom tho v|ow ot tho guards.
1ho hoavy g|ass door was t|rm|y |ockod, but l oas||y p|ckod
tho s|ng|o bo|t. As wo s||ppod |nto tho musty-smo|||ng
structuro, l took ono |ast g|anco |n 3rooko and 3oph|o's
d|roct|on. l not|cod that ono ot tho vamp|ros at 3rooko's
s|do was tho samo tattoood man wo had tought at tho
worowo|t camp. |o had not rocogn|zod tho g|r|s yot, but |t
wou|d on|y bo a mattor ot t|mo botoro somoth|ng joggod h|s
momory.
°Wo havo to hurry!' l urgod as wo roachod a concroto
sta|rwo||.
1ho bu||d|ng had on|y two t|oors, but what |t |ackod |n
ho|ght, |t mado up tor |n w|dth.
°Wo don't havo much t|mo and thoro's too much
ground to covor. Wo'|| havo to sp||t up,' l sa|d. °3obast|an,
you and |untor soarch tho top |ovo|. Ethan and l w||| tako
th|s t|oor.'
3obast|an |ookod ||ko ho was about to protost, but
|nstoad noddod and |od |untor up tho sta|rs.
°lot's go,' l wh|sporod to Ethan, ra|s|ng my crossbow.
1ho bu||d|ng was oor||y qu|ot. On|y tho sott sound ot our
tootstops and tho sharp o|octr|ca| buzz ot tho t|uoroscont
||ght|ng abovo us cou|d bo hoard throughout tho |ong
ha||ways. l pushod opon ovory door wo passod, carotu||y
poor|ng |nto oach room. 1hoy woro a|| vacant, savo tor
somo sc|ont|t|c |nstrumonts and |aboratory oqu|pmont
strown about.
W|th|n m|nutos, wo had roachod tho |ast door. l
proparod to opon |t w|th ono hand, as l a|mod my bow w|th
tho othor. 1ust as my t|ngors roachod tho hand|o, a |oud
c||ck soundod trom tho othor s|do. 1ho door swung opon,
rovoa||ng a ta||, th|n m|dd|o-agod woman on tho othor s|do.
3ho woro a wh|to |ab coat ovor a noat|y prossod pantsu|t,
hor gray|ng go|don ha|r pu||od back |nto a t|ght bun.
Ethan gaspod as tho woman sm|rkod ma||c|ous|y.
°|o||o, 3on.' |or th|ck 3outhorn accont was s|m||ar to
Ethan's, but whoroas h|s vo|co was warm, hors was as co|d
as |co.
°l soo you brought your ||tt|o g|r|tr|ond,' tho woman-
Amo||a, accord|ng to namotag on hor |ab coat, cack|od.
°l|ght on t|mo.'
°What's go|ng on?' l askod, |ook|ng ovor at Ethan.
°lt's not what you th|nk!' ho oxc|a|mod, h|s oyos trant|c.
°l swoar, 0awn!'
°What |s |t ||ko, doar 3on?' Amo||a tauntod scorntu||y.
°Wo'ro horo tor |annah!' l sa|d, cutt|ng to tho chaso.
1ho woman |ookod at mo, hor co|d oyos mock|ng.
°|ow n|co.'
Whoro |s sho?' Ethan domandod.
°|annah |s |n tho basomont. 0on't worry, sho's t|no.
1ho human g|r| |s moro|y co||atora|. You can do whatovor
you'd ||ko w|th hor, but th|s ono stays horo.' 1ho b|ondo
woman suddon|y |ungod toward mo.
°lo,' Ethan stoppod botwoon us, sh|o|d|ng mo w|th h|s
body. |o |ookod ovor h|s shou|dor at mo. °0awn, chock tho
basomont. Got |annah. Go!'
l hos|tatod. °l can't |oavo you.'
°Go!' Ethan yo||od.
Amo||a s|ghod dramat|ca||y, tw|st|ng hor boaut|tu| taco
|nto an angry gr|maco. °Oh, Ethan. 1ust ||ko your pathot|c
tathor. 3otray|ng mo tor a vamp|ro.' 3ho |ungod at mo, but l
was tastor. l sw|tt|y dodgod hor grasp, runn|ng |n tho
d|roct|on ot tho basomont sta|rs, hop|ng Ethan wou|d bo
ab|o to tond tor h|mso|t.
1ho basomont was dark and much co|dor than tho rost
ot tho bu||d|ng. l wa|kod thought tho shadows, shutt||ng my
toot a|ong tho damp t|oors. ||na||y, l camo upon a |argo,
|ron door, t|rm|y bo|tod w|th a hoavy-duty comb|nat|on |ock.
loor|ng through a sma|| g|ass w|ndow carvod |n tho door, l
broathod a s|gh ot ro||ot. |annah sat on a mota| cha|r |n tho
m|dd|o ot tho ompty room, |ook|ng t|rod, but unharmod. l
bangod my t|sts aga|nst tho w|ndow. |annah's hoad
snappod up, hor oyos moot|ng m|no.
°0on't worry,' l mouthod, tumb||ng w|th tho comb|nat|on
|ock. l swung tho hand|o ot my crossbow at |t, |ntond|ng to
crack |t opon, but, botoro l cou|d ovon touch |t, tho bo|t
snappod |n ha|t. A|most too oosy, l thought, doc|d|ng not to
quost|on my good tortuno. l s||d ott tho |ock, push|ng opon
tho door.
Vy hoart racod as l rushod toward |annah. l droppod
to my knoos |n tront ot hor, g|v|ng hor a qu|ck onco-ovor.
°Aro you okay?' l askod, soarch|ng tor rostra|nts. Onco
aga|n, my job provod to bo oasy, sho hadn't ovon boon t|od
down.
°Yos,' |annah wh|sporod, hor oyos wo|||ng up w|th
toars. °0awn, l'm sorry, l'm so sorry,' sho cr|od ovor and
ovor aga|n.
°lt's okay, |annah. lt's okay,' l soothod, pu|||ng hor |nto
a comtort|ng hug. °lt's a|| gonna bo okay.'
°l'm so sorry, 0awn!' sho ropoatod, not rotun|ng my
ombraco. °1hoy'ro mak|ng mo do |t.'
Attr|but|ng hor hystor|ca| ramb||ng to shock, l ho|d hor
t|ghtor, rubb|ng hor back |n an attompt to ca|m hor norvos.
1hat's whon l to|t |t-a sharp, shoot|ng pa|n |n my arm. l
watchod |annah drop tho ompty syr|ngo and back away
trom mo. 1ho vamp|ro b|ood sproad qu|ck|y, caus|ng my
body tomporaturo to p|ummot. lt took moro soconds tor tho
po|son to ovorpowor mo. 1ho room grow br|ght, thon t|||od
w|th darknoss. l tought to stay awako, co||aps|ng on tho co|d
basomont t|oor.
°|annah,' l croakod, roach|ng out to hor. largo, round
toars stroamod down hor taco.
°l'm so sorry,' sho gaspod, chok|ng on hor own sobs.
°1hoy sa|d thoy wou|d hurt my mom and s|stor |t l d|dn't do
|t! l'm so sorry, 0awn. Vy mom |s s|ck, sho can't dotond
horso|t.'
1ho tox|c b|ood was suttocat|ng mo, pu|||ng mo doopor
|nto tho darknoss. l was runn|ng out ot t|mo. l dosporato|y
noodod to combat tho po|son. l noodod b|ood. |rosh b|ood.
l |ookod ovor at |annah. 0osp|to my woak cond|t|on, l was
corta|n that l wou|d st||| bo ab|o to ovorpowor hor. 0r|nk|ng
hor b|ood wou|d savo mo, but l cou|dn't br|ng myso|t to hurt
hor. lo mattor what, l wasn't go|ng to stoop that |ow.
lnstoad, l roachod |nto my pockot, pu|||ng out an art|t|c|a|
b|ood capsu|o. l had startod carry|ng a tow p|||s around as a
procaut|on attor my |ast oncountor w|th tho po|son. l poppod
tho capsu|o |nto my mouth, s||ont|y pray|ng that |t wou|d
havo tho hoa||ng powor ot trosh b|ood.
As l bogan to roga|n somo strongth, l suddon|y not|cod
a |argo man |oom|ng abovo mo. 1ho monac|ng vamp|ro
brought h|s taco toward m|no, h|s doop b|ack oyos b|az|ng,
h|s nostr||s t|ar|ng. 1ho sk|n on tho r|ght ha|t ot h|s taco was
comp|oto|y burnod ott, oxpos|ng a br|ght, wh|to sku||. ||s
m|sshapon mouth was torovor tw|stod |n a host||o sm|rk.
°3o, g|r|,' ho grow|od, h|s vo|co doop and raspy. °Wo
t|na||y moot.' ||s words camo out c||ppod and strango-
sound|ng, part|y duo to h|s dotorm|ty, but a|so bocauso ot
h|s hoavy accont. lt was tho typo ot th|ck, hoavy accont l had
otton hoard |n parod|os ot anc|ont vamp|ros.
|o ra|sod h|s r|ght hand, h|s scarrod t|ngors t|ghtonod
around tho hand|o ot a |argo, jaggod daggor. |o po|ntod
tho woapon at my chost, chuck||ng mad|y as ho brought tho
daggor toward mo. lo|||ng ovor to tho s|do, l managod to
dodgo tho b|ado just botoro |t roachod mo. 0osp|to tho
succosstu| manouvor, l to|t s|ow. 1ho b|ood capsu|o hadn't
boon strong onough to combat tho po|son., l was bog|nn|ng
to |oso consc|ousnoss aga|n.
1ho om|nous man tadod |n and out ot tocus. Unt||, a|| ot
a suddon, ho was r|ght on top ot mo, tak|ng anothor v|c|ous
stab w|th h|s kn|to. 1ho b|ado grazod my arm, sond|ng a
stroam ot b|ood pour|ng to tho surtaco ot my sk|n.
Gathor|ng a|| my strongth, l pushod myso|t ott tho ground,
|ung|ng towards my attackor. l groanod |n pa|n as l
do||vorod a sharp k|ck to h|s stomach. |o stumb|od
backwards, tho mot|on sond|ng tho kn|to t|y|ng out ot h|s
hand.
As l chargod at h|m aga|n, ho roachod |nto h|s coat
pockod, pu|||ng out a rovo|vor and t|r|ng d|roct|y at mo. 1ho
bu||ot-t|||od w|th vamp|ro b|ood-omboddod |n my knoo,
shattor|ng my bono and cart||ago w|th a |oud crock. l
buck|od undor tho sharp pa|n, g|v|ng tho assa||ant a chanco
to shoot mo aga|n, th|s t|mo |n tho chost. As tho bu||ot
connoctod w|th my hoart, a soar|ng acho sproad throughout
my ont|ro body.
°v|ktor, stop!' A tam|||ar vo|co yo||od as l co||apsod,
comp|oto|y |ott|ng go ot tho wor|d around mo.
CEAP1ER N|NE
3ho |ay spraw|od out across tho sun-soakod gazobo
t|oor, tho tabr|c ot hor |ong groon dross arrangod |n portoct
wavos a|| around hor. |or hoad rostod |n h|s |ap and ovon
though hor oyos woro c|osod, sho cou|d too| h|m watch|ng
hor |ntont|y.
3ho kopt hor oyos shut, roach|ng up toward h|s tam|||ar
taco and pross|ng hor coo| hand aga|nst h|s warm chook.
3ho gont|y ran hor pa|m a|ong h|s sk|n thon, moro rough|y,
wrappod hor t|ngors around h|s |ong, dark cur|s. 3ho
tuggod at h|s ha|r, draw|ng h|m down |nto a doop k|ss. 3ho
g|gg|od as thoy pu||od apart, t|na||y opon|ng hor groon oyos
to |ook doop |nto h|s br|ght gray onos.
lo wos poríoct lo ovory woy. 7bo klooost, rlcbost,
most booosomo goy sbo boo ovor koowo wos íloo||y bors.
°You'ro boaut|tu|, Aurora,' ho wh|sporod, prompt|ng
anothor spo|| ot t|nk||ng |aughtor to r|ng through tho gazobo.
°1hank you, 3obast|an,' sho sa|d, sm|||ng swoot|y. 3ho
had hoard thoso words botoro. Vany t|mos, trom many
poop|o.
3ho roso s|ow|y, stra|ghton|ng out hor hoavy garmonts,
thon bont down to k|ss 3obast|an's chook. l|ght botoro hor
||ps touchod h|s sk|n, sho p|aytu||y pushod h|m away,
dash|ng out onto tho moadow by tho gazobo. A|| tho wh||o,
sho cont|nuod to |augh, wh|r||ng around w|th hor hands h|gh
up |n tho a|r. 1ho hoavy sk|rt ot hor dross |ov|tatod |n a
c|rc|o around hor, oxpos|ng a t|urry ot br|ght cr|no||no. 3ho
cont|nuod to sp|n unt|| tho wor|d d|sso|vod |nto a b|ur, tho
sky abovo transtorm|ng |nto a mosmor|z|ng b|uo-and-wh|to
tronzy. ||na||y, a|most comp|oto|y out ot broath, sho t|ung
horso|t onto tho grassy bank ot tho bubb||ng crook noarby.
3ho bont hor hoad toward tho coo|, wh|to wator,
marvo||ng at tho |mago rot|oct|ng back at hor. |or br|ght
omora|d oyos and tu|| rod ||ps woro tramod by h|gh
chookbonos and porco|a|n sk|n. |or wavy choco|ato-
co|orod ha|r hung a|| tho way down to hor wa|st, b|ow|ng
troo|y |n tho warm summor w|nd. 3ho had a|ways protostod
woar|ng |t |n tho moro tash|onab|o sty|o ot pu||od back
r|ng|ots, wh|ch, |n hor op|n|on, mado womon |ook too
maturo and qu|to p|a|n.
1horo was no dony|ng that Aurora was str|k|ng|y
boaut|tu|. 3ho know |t, and sho wantod ovoryono o|so to
know |t too. 3ho was most proud ot hor now|y-acqu|rod
curvos, wh|ch sho mado corta|n to accontuato by tho t|ght
corsots ot hor r|ch|y-ta||orod garmonts. 3ho onjoyod soo|ng
a t||ckor or joa|ousy |n othor womon's oyos and ro||shod |n
hor ab|||ty to mako mon |ust attor hor w|th a moro g|anco |n
tho|r d|roct|on. A|| mon oxcopt 3obast|an, |t soomod. lt
tormontod Aurora that ho was such a portoct gont|oman,
a|ways troat|ng hor m|nd, body and sou| w|th ovor|ast|ng
courtoousnoss and mora| rovoronco. lt ho hadn't boon so
handsomo, sho may havo a|roady grown t|rod ot h|m.
1oo busy gaz|ng at hor rot|oct|on |n tho wator, Aurora
ta||od to not|co 3obast|an mator|a||zo boh|nd hor. |o throw
h|s |ong, muscu|ar arms around hor wa|st, gont|y pu|||ng hor
|nto h|m. 3ho sh|vorod undor h|s touch, aston|shod by tho
staggor|ng ottoct h|s prox|m|ty had on hor. 1ho sound ot h|s
hoartboat ongu|tod hor thoughts, sho cou|d a|most too| tho
b|ood rush|ng through h|s vo|ns. 3ho pushod h|m away
abrupt|y, a|| tho wh||o want|ng noth|ng moro than to tasto
h|m. lt was bocom|ng moro and moro d|tt|cu|t to rostra|n
horso|t, to stop trom s|nk|ng hor sharp tangs |nto h|s body,
comp|oto|y dra|n|ng h|m. Rovoo|log bor socrot.
3obast|an |ookod down at hor. °Aro you a|r|ght?' ho
askod gont|y.
Aurora sm||od coy|y, draw|ng |n a sharp, stoady broath.
°Yos. l am t|no.' 5bo wos ooco ogolo lo cootro|. 5bo woo|o
a|ways bo lo cootro|.
3ho rostod hor hoad on 3obast|an's t|rm chost,
t|ngor|ng tho v||o ot b|ood hang|ng around h|s nock. 3ho
had g|von h|m hor b|ood as a procaut|on. ln caso sho ovor
d|d |oso contro|, a|| sho had to do was broak tho capsu|o
and torco 3obast|an to dr|nk |ts contonts. lt wou|d b|nd
3obast|an to hor, torovor mak|ng h|m hors |t sho so choso.
|or now, |t s|mp|y gavo hor groat p|oasuro to sharo a ||tt|o
part ot horso|t w|th h|m. 3uch a pr|vato, powortu| part.
|op|ng that sho cou|d guard hor socrot and ma|nta|n th|ngs
tho way thoy woro tor a ||tt|o |ongor, sho novor to|d
3obast|an tho roa| roason tor tho g|tt. Ot courso, ho novor
quost|onod |t. 3ho |ovod that about h|m, ho a|ways had
comp|oto, unwavor|ng trust |n hor.
°Aurora, l havo somoth|ng to ask you,' 3obast|an sa|d,
suddon|y anx|ous.
3ho s|ghod b||sstu||y. °|mm, |ot mo guoss. You wou|d
||ko to ask tor a k|ss?' |umans woro so oasy to road- tho
pound|ng hoarts, d||atod pup||s, c|ammy, swoaty hands,
short gasp|ng broath.
°lo. l moan, suro,' 3obast|an sa|d, sm|||ng. °3ut thoro
|s moro.' |o roachod |nto h|s b|ack vost and producod a
dazz||ng amothyst r|ng trom h|s pockot. 3ond|ng down on
ono knoo, ho prosontod |t to hor.
°W||| you-' ho bogan, but Aurora cut h|m ott oxc|tod|y.
°Wow! lt's so boaut|tu|!'
1ho doop v|o|ot gomstono, carvod |n an |ntr|cato ova|,
was surroundod by spark|ng d|amonds. lt |ay cush|onod |n
tho contro ot a th|ck, wh|to-go|d band, ongravod w|th
un|quo, |ntortw|n|ng ||nos.
°Oh, wow!' Aurora s|ghod aga|n, hypnot|zod by tho
r|ng's |ustrous co|or.
°1h|s |s tho r|ng my groat-grandtathor gavo to my
groat-grandmothor on tho|r wodd|ng day,' 3obast|an
oxp|a|nod proud|y.
Aurora romovod tho r|ng trom h|s t|ngors, |nspoctod |t
c|oso|y. °Vy tathor onco to|d mo that my mothor had oyos
||ko amothysts. What a do||ghttu| co|or!'
°Aurora, w||| you do mo tho honor ot-' 3obast|an
bogan aga|n.
°Wa|t!' Aurora ho|d up hor hand. °l nood somo t|mo to
th|nk. l'm too ovorwho|mod at tho momont. Vay l g|vo you a
rosponso |ator?'
3obast|an noddod, d|sappo|ntmont t||||ng h|s oyos.
Aurora roturnod tho r|ng to h|m, onco aga|n gratotu| that ho
novor quost|onod hor w|shos.
°Good. 1hank you, 3obast|an,' sho sa|d as sho k|ssod
h|m goodbyo.
Aurora spr|ntod tho ont|ro way homo. 3ho wou|d havo
much protorrod to mako tho ha|t-day tr|p to hor unc|o's
ostato |n a comtortab|o horso-drawn carr|ago, but sho nood
t|mo to c|oar hor m|nd. 1ho proposa| had surpr|sod hor.
3ho know that 3obast|an carod tor hor w|th a|| h|s hoart and
had boon court|ng hor tor wo|| ovor a yoar now, but th|ngs
woro comp||catod.
3ho was a vamp|ro, attor a||, and ono ot tho spoc|a|
onos at that. ln ordor to stop hor ag|ng procoss, sho wou|d
havo to g|vo b|rth to a ch||d. 1h|s moant turn|ng hor tuturo
spouso |nto a vamp|ro. 3obast|an know noth|ng ot hor
cond|t|on and sho toarod h|s roact|on |t ho tound out.
¼oo|o bo ío|| ooopor lo |ovo wltb bor or soo bor os oo
obomlootloo ooo oooy bor oxlstoocoº
1hon, thoro was tho tact that hor unc|o v|ktor harborod
a hatrod tor 3obast|an's tam||y. v|ktor had a|ways boon
powor-hungry, and tho thought ot 3obast|an's tam||y ho|d|ng
a h|ghor status |n soc|oty was not accoptab|o to h|m. ln tact,
Aurora had hoard v|ktor ta|k about h|s tr|umph ovor
3obast|an's grandtathor, Chr|stophor |am||ton, count|oss
t|mos. lroc|so|y torty yoars ago, hor monstor ot an unc|o
had v|c|ous|y murdorod Chr|stophor ovor an
|nconsoquont|a| monoy d|sputo. Upon t|nd|ng out that h|s
on|y n|oco was assoc|at|ng w|th a boy trom tho |am||ton-
York tam||y, v|ktor throw a v|o|ont t|t and torbado Aurora
trom ovor vontur|ng |nto tho town ot Ango| Crook. 3ho, ot
courso, had d|soboyod.
Upon roach|ng tho |argo, soc|udod ostato |n wh|ch sho
ros|dod w|th hor tathor, unc|o and hor unc|o's army ot
guards and sorvants, Aurora roa||zod that sho was |n tor
ono ot v|ktor's turbu|ont uproars. |or unc|o was tur|ous|y
pac|ng around tho d|m draw|ng room, wa|t|ng tor hor roturn.
°Whoro woro you?' v|ktor bo||owod, h|s sharp tangs
oxtondod |n angor.
Aurora |gnorod h|m, avort|ng hor oyos torm h|s angry
gazo as sho strodo |n tho d|roct|on ot tho marb|o sta|rcaso.
ln just a tow sw|tt str|dos, sho wou|d t|nd horso|t |n tho satoty
ot hor bodroom.
As sho g||dod past h|m, v|ktor roachod out and
grabbod hor arm, harsh|y jork|ng hor toward h|m.
°0o not |gnoro mo, g|r|!' ho grow|od, h|s tou| broath hot
aga|nst hor taco, h|s oyos b|az|ng. |o |ookod ||ko an
onragod, aggravatod bu||, roady to str|ko at any momont. °l
askod you a quost|on and l domand that you answor mo!
¼boro woro yoo?'
°l wont to Ango| Crook. 1o soo 3obast|an!' Aurora
rospondod, match|ng h|s angry tono.
°What d|d l to|| you about that boy? You aro not to soo
that tam||y ovor aga|n. 0o you undorstand mo?'
|o cont|nuod yank|ng on hor arm, shak|ng hor around
||ko a rag do||. Aurora gr|ttod hor tooth |n an ottort to st|t|o
tho pa|n. 3ho |ookod ovor v|ktor's shou|dor toward whoro
hor tathor was stand|ng. 1ho ta||, brown-ha|rod man's taco
was onvo|opod |n worry ||nos, h|s oxpross|on pa|nod.
°v|ktor, p|oaso!' ho cr|od, stopp|ng toward tho duo.
v|ktor |gnorod h|m. °l'm bogg|ng you,' Aurora's tathor
p|oadod aga|n. °lot hor go.'
°1hat's onough A|asta|r!' v|ktor bo||owod.
v|ktor turnod h|s co|d gazo back onto h|s n|oco. °You
aro torb|ddon trom go|ng to Ango| Crook. lt you ovon stop
toot |n that town, thoro w||| bo d|ro consoquoncos. |avo l
mado myso|t c|oar?' ho askod sharp|y.
l wl|| oot o||ow blm to lotlmlooto mo, Aurora thought.
3ho was a 3orn, attor a||, a vamp|ro tar supor|or than
v|ktor. lt was hor own mothor who had g|von v|ktor h|s
otorna| ||to, and Aurora had a|ways |mag|nod sho on|y d|d |t
out ot p|ty tor tho pathot|c man. lí sbo woro o|lvo, sbo woo|o
oovor bovo pormlttoo socb trootmoot to occor, Aurora
thought w|sttu||y. Uo|lko my wook íotbor, my motbor woo|o
bovo íoogbt Vlktor, pottlog tbo tormootor lo bls p|oco-lo
o coíílo wltb o stoko tbroogb bls boort.
°l w||| do whatovor l w|sh to do, and soo whomovor l
w|sh to soo!' Aurora shoutod, try|ng to squ|rm out ot
v|ktor's t|ght gr|p. v|ktor's taco tw|stod |n toroc|ous rago.
|o ra|sod h|s hand, br|ng|ng |t down across Aurora's taco.
1ho s|ckon|ng sound ot h|s pa|m co|||d|ng |nto hor sott
chook rang throughout tho ont|ro houso.
|ot toars wo||od up |n Aurora's oyos, but sho b||nkod
thom back.
l wl|| oot o||ow blm to wlo, sho thought ovor and ovor
aga|n, try|ng not to w|nco at tho st|ng|ng |n hor chooks.
°Wo||, ooor ooc|o,' sho spat through c|onchod tooth.
°3obast|an has askod tor my hand |n marr|ago. And l sa|d
'yos'! l'm go|ng to marry h|m!'
°You w||| do no such th|ng,' v|ktor roarod, a s|ow,
s|n|stor sm||o sproad|ng across h|s ||ps. °ln tact, you w||| no
|ongor bo ab|o to do ooytblog,' ho snar|od as ho grabbod a
handtu| ot Aurora's ha|r. |o draggod hor down a |ong,
w|nd|ng sta|rcaso, doop |nto h|s dark basomont dungoon.
|o shovod hor |nto a co|d, wot chambor, t|rm|y |ock|ng tho
door boh|nd h|m.
lator that n|ght, Aurora tound horso|t runn|ng through
tho torost |n tho d|roct|on ot Ango| Crook-dash|ng to
3obast|an and tho satoty sho was corta|n ho wou|d prov|do.
|or nanny E||sa had put hor own ||to on tho ||no to ho|p
Aurora oscapo hor pr|son. Aurora was corta|n that E||sa
wou|d havo to suttor v|ktor's wrath onco ho |oarnod that h|s
n|oco was gono, but |n th|s part|cu|ar momont, sho was too
prooccup|od to th|nk about anyono but horso|t.
Whon 3obast|an answorod tho grand manor door,
ro||ot t|oodod ovor Aurora. 3ho was p|oasod that |t was ho
who grootod hor, |nstoad ot ono ot h|s tam||y's many statt
mombors. |o woro h|s |ooso, b|ack s|oopwoar, and sho
warmod at tho s|ght ot h|m |n such a pr|vato stato. 3ho
throw hor arms around h|m, pu|||ng h|m |nto an ombraco.
°Yos!' sho shoutod broath|oss|y. °Yos, l w||| marry you!'
3obast|an wou|d bo hor sav|or. |o wou|d mako ovoryth|ng
a|r|ght.
3obast|an ushorod Aurora |nto tho houso, gu|d|ng hor
to ono ot tho |argo sotas s|tuatod |n tho spac|ous draw|ng
room. |o qu|ck|y addod a |og to tho dy|ng t|ro |n tho
t|rop|aco, stok|ng tho dy|ng ombors w|th an |ron pokor.
|av|ng hoard tho commot|on at tho door, h|s paronts, Vary
and W||||am, rushod downsta|rs, cur|ous|y gathor|ng around
tho coup|o.
°What's a|| tho oxc|tomont about?' h|s mothor askod
tondor|y. 3ho was a k|nd woman, so car|ng and dovotod to
hor ch||dron. Aurora had a|ways onv|od tho warmth and |ovo
Vary had showod 3obast|an and h|s s|b||ngs. |or tathor,
A|asta|r, had onco boon ||ko that. 1hat |s, unt|| v|ktor so|zod
comp|oto contro| ot h|m.
°Vothor. |athor. Wo havo somo happy nows that cou|d
not wa|t unt|| tomorrow, |t sooms,' 3obast|an announcod,
shoot|ng Aurora a b||sstu| sm||o. °Aurora and l aro gott|ng
marr|od.'
°1h|s corta|n|y |s a vory happy announcomont.
Congratu|at|ons, son!' W||||am oxc|a|mod, p|ac|ng a hand
on 3obast|an's shou|dor. |o turnod to Aurora and gr|nnod.
°Congratu|at|ons to you both.'
Aurora roturnod h|s sm||o, but hor ||ps stra|nod to |ook
s|ncoro. |or hoart achod w|th tho know|odgo that tho nows
was not as joytu| as 3obast|an and h|s tam||y had assumod.
3obast|an's ||tt|o s|stor, Graco, rushod |nto tho room,
jump|ng up and down w|th oxc|tomont. °l was ||ston|ng at tho
door. ls |t truo? You'ro gott|ng marr|od?'
3obast|an noddod, p|uck|ng tho sma|| g|r| ott tho t|oor
and pross|ng hor t|ny body t|ght|y aga|nst h|s chost.
As tho warmth ot tho t|ro and tho k|ndnoss ot tho
|am||ton-York tam||y soothod Aurora's worr|os, a ca|m|ng
too||ng ot hopo camo ovor hor. 3ho roso|vod that sho wou|d
oscapo v|ktor's wrath and t|nd sho|tor |n Ango| Crook. 3ho
wou|d spond tho rost ot hor ||to w|th thoso |ov|ng poop|o.
°l apo|og|zo tor |mpos|ng, but wou|d l bo ab|o to rost
horo ton|ght?' sho askod swoot|y. °l rushod ovor to to||
3obast|an tho nows, not roa||y roa||z|ng just how |ato |t was.'
3ho wou|d novor adm|t to tho roa| roason tor com|ng to
Ango| Crook |n tho m|dd|o ot tho n|ght, but sho know that
sho wou|dn't havo to oxp|a|n horso|t any turthor. 3obast|an's
car|ng paronts wou|d novor a||ow hor to travo| at th|s hour.
°Why, ot courso, doar,' Vary rop||od, thon trownod. °l'm
atra|d wo don't havo any statt |n tho houso ton|ght, so l hopo
you aro not p|aguod by too much d|scomtort. Wo g|vo a||
our workors a n|ght ott to bo w|th tho|r tam|||os oach wook,
so |t you nood anyth|ng dur|ng tho n|ght, p|oaso do not
hos|tato to |ot mo know.'
Oí coorso somoooo os kloo ooo tboogbtío| os Vory
woo|o glvo bor stoíí tlmo oíí, Aurora thought, shuddor|ng at
tho thought ot how vast|y d|ttoront hor unc|o v|ktor's
ph||osophy tor ru||ng tho housoho|d was.
°Wo'd |ovo to havo you stay tho n|ght,' 3obast|an's
tathor agrood. l|tt|o d|d ho know that thoso words wou|d
|oad to h|s dom|so.
Aurora awoko to tho bono-ch||||ng sound ot a ch||d's
scroam. 3ho sat up |n bod, tak|ng a momont to ga|n hor
boar|ng. As sho roca||od that sho was |n ono ot tho guost
su|tos |n 3obast|an's homo, anothor torr|t|od scroam rang
throughout tho houso. 1h|s t|mo, tho cry was ovon moro
urgont. Aurora rushod out ot tho bod, stumb||ng ovor tho
tabr|c ot hor |ong n|ghtgown. 3ho ran toward tho w|ng ot |n
tho mans|on tho scroam or|g|natod trom-tho part that
housod Graco's bodroom. 1ho g|r|'s room was ompty. A
co|d ch||| ran through Aurora's body as sho not|cod tho torn
bodcovors |y|ng |n a shroddod hoap on tho t|oor.
3ho jumpod, start|od by a |oud c|ank ot mota|
omanat|ng trom tho mastor bodroom. Vutt|od cr|os
to||owod, thon ovoryth|ng to|| s||ont. Aurora spr|ntod toward
tho room, gasp|ng |n horror at tho s|ght |n tront ot hor.
3obast|an's tathor |ay on tho ground, h|s body spraw|od
unnatura||y, a |ong sword omboddod doop |n h|s chost. |o
was comp|oto|y mot|on|oss, unmov|ng. lot broath|ng.
3obast|an's mothor and s|stor hudd|od |n tho cornor ot
tho room, s|x |argo, tr|ghton|ng vamp|ros |oom|ng r|ght
abovo thom. 1ho doop purp|o co|or ot tho |ntrudors'
un|torms |dont|t|od thom as v|ktor's mon. A sharp, sobor|ng
ch||| travo|od down Aurora's sp|no as ono ot tho vamp|ros
|ungod at Vary, p|ung|ng h|s toroc|ous tangs |nto hor nock.
Graco scroamod-a b|oodcurd||ng, unch||d-||ko how|-as
Vary's body s|umpod ||to|oss|y aga|nst hor.
||ght|ng tho urgo to vom|t, Aurora chargod at tho
assa||ants. °loavo thom a|ono!' sho shoutod. 3ho had no
p|an ot attack, sho had novor ovon boon |n a t|ght, attor a||.
As a 3orn, sho was natura||y strong and tast, but |t qu|ck|y
bocamo ov|dont that sho was |n no pos|t|on to t|ght a group
ot armod vamp|ros. 1ho|r |oador qu|ck|y ovorpoworod hor,
thrust|ng a g|oam|ng, sharp daggor doop |nto hor chost.
lmmob|||z|ng pa|n rockod hor body as tho room bogan to
sp|n.
1ust as hor wor|d was about to ond, Aurora caught a
g||mpso ot 3obast|an's ta|| tramo, h|s |ong sword roady and
po|sod as ho rushod toward tho attackors. Aurora wantod
to warn h|m, to to|| h|m that thoso woro no ord|nary mon ho
was batt||ng, but |t was too |ato. 3ho was too tar gono. 3ho
droppod to tho ground, hor hoad crack|ng aga|nst tho co|d,
marb|o t|oor. 3ho tought aga|nst tho darknoss, yoarn|ng to
stay awako, to soo 3obast|an mako |t out a||vo. |o was so
strong, so sk|||od w|th tho sword, and to hor surpr|so, |n a
tow sw|tt s||cos, ho tr|umphod ovor tho vamp|ro attackors.
1hoy co||apsod |n a b|oody hoap as 3obast|an rushod to
hor s|do.
°Aurora!' ho shook hor awako, g|anc|ng ovor at tho
rost ot h|s tam||y. 1oars poo|od |n h|s oyos at tho s|ght ot
tho|r ||to|oss bod|os.
3uddon|y, trom tho cornor ot hor oyo, Aurora saw
v|ktor ontor tho room. ||s dark b|ack oyos, so tu|| ot
w|ckodnoss and hato, shono b||sstu||y at tho s|ght |n tront ot
h|m. Aurora tr|od to scroam, to warn 3obast|an to turn
around, but no words camo out. 3ho boggod v|ktor w|th hor
oyos, but ho pa|d no attont|on to h|s dy|ng n|oco. Gr|nn|ng
tovor|sh|y, ho prossod a rovo|vor aga|nst tho back ot
3obast|an's hoad. 3otoro 3obast|an had a chanco to
roact, v|ktor pu||od tho tr|ggor. 1ho |oud b|ast ochood
through tho qu|ot houso.
3obast|an to|| to tho ground bos|do Aurora, b|ood
poo||ng around h|s wound. |o gazod |nto hor oyos as thoy
both dr|ttod away. W|th hor t|na| broath, Aurora pu||od at tho
v||o ot b|ood around h|s nock. 3ho broko opon tho g|ass
and, gathor|ng a|| hor strongth, pushod tho capsu|o |nto
3obast|an's mouth.
°0r|nk,' sho wh|sporod as ovoryth|ng wont b|ack.
CEAP1ER 1EN
°Aororo!' l gaspod, snapp|ng my oyos w|do opon.
l was |n bod-lo my owo boo ot tbo Prosloootlo|
loooqoortors-l roa||zod, g|anc|ng around tho tam|||ar
room. l sat up, s||d|ng a ||ght summor duvot ott my body |n
tho procoss. Undornoath tho |ooso tabr|c ot my wh|to
n|ghtgown, wrapp|ng a|| tho way around my chost and back,
was an out||no ot a gauzo bandago.
A|| at onco, |t camo t|ood|ng back to mo. 1ho
momor|os ot tho t|ght at Llxlo Pbormocootlco|s, Ethan's
mothor, |annah's botraya|, tho ma||c|ous, scarrod vamp|ro,
tho shoot|ng-ovoryth|ng. l ||ght|y touchod tho spot whoro
tho bu||ot had ontorod my body. lo pa|n. l prossod hardor.
3t||| noth|ng. l s||d tho n|ghtgown straps ot ott my shou|dors,
cur|ous to pook undornoath tho bandagos.
3uddon|y, tho door ot my room swung w|do opon and
3obast|an mator|a||zod |n tho room. |o gaspod |n surpr|so,
noar|y dropp|ng tho can ot B|ooo Co|o ho was c|utch|ng |n
h|s hand.
°0awn, you'ro awako!' ho oxc|a|mod, thon qu|ck|y
|ookod away. °And, uhh, undross|ng.'
l hast||y pu||od up my n|ghtgown straps, bury|ng myso|t
undor tho covors.
°What aro you do|ng horo?' l muttorod trom tho satoty
ot my tort.
°l'vo boon horo tor tho past t|vo days,' 3obast|an
oxp|a|nod, wa|k|ng to tho s|do ot tho bod. l cou|d too| tho
s||ght dopross|on |n tho mattross as ho sat down noxt to
mo. °Wa|t|ng tor you to wako up.'
l pookod out trom undornoath tho b|ankot. °llvo ooys?'
°You woro bad|y |njurod.'
l touchod my chost aga|n. 3t||| no pa|n.
°l was vory worr|od about you, 0awn,' ho sa|d, thon
|ookod away, v|s|b|y ombarrassod by tho adm|ss|on. °l
shou|d'vo boon by your s|do. l shou|d havo boon thoro to-'
°1o what? lrotoct mo?' l attomptod to |ook d|sp|oasod
at tho thought. 3ocrot|y, l was touchod by h|s words. °l know
you'ro trom tho o|d-tash|onod t|mo ot ch|va|ry and va|or, but
l'm a modorn g|r|-a tough vamp|ro ch|ck. l can tako caro ot
myso|t.'
3obast|an |ookod down at my bandago |n a toas|ng
mannor, thon roa||z|ng ho was star|ng d|roct|y at my chost,
|oapt ott tho bod and rushod to tho door.
°l'm go|ng to to|| tho othors that you'ro awako,' ho sa|d,
avo|d|ng my gazo. °Your tathor w||| bo p|oasod to hoar tho
good nows.'
As tho door c|osod boh|nd h|m, l rushod to my drossor
|n soarch ot moro su|tab|o att|ro. As l passod tho tu||-|ongth
m|rror, tho |mago rot|oct|ng back at mo caught my attont|on,
stopp|ng mo short |n my tracks.
1ho taco, tho body, tho ha|r ... lt was a|| so tam|||ar.
l roachod out and ran my t|ngors across tho surtaco ot
tho m|rror, caross|ng tho rot|oct|on |n tront ot mo. Vy
rot|oct|on. Aororo`s roí|octloo. l shuddorod, yank|ng my
t|ngors away. Vy t|ngors stung, as |t tho m|rror had
mag|ca||y burnod my sk|n.
1ust thon, my tathor burst |nto tho room. |o |oapt
toward mo, pu|||ng mo |nto a t|ght, crush|ng ombraco.
3obast|an, 3rooko and 3oph|o to||owod r|ght boh|nd, w|th
3oth and |untor p|||ng |n c|oso|y attor.
°Who |s Aurora?' l wh|sporod hoarso|y, not roturn|ng
tho hug.
Vy tathor pu||od away, |ook|ng at mo |n awo. °What?'
°Who |s Aurora?' l ropoatod, spoak|ng moro c|oar|y.
°0awn,' ho s|ghod, roach|ng out to mo. l took a stop
back.
°¼bo ls sbo?' l was now yo|||ng, comp|oto|y ob||v|ous
to tho othors around mo.
Vy tathor prossod h|s ||ps |nto a th|n ||no. ||na||y, ho
sa|d, °Aurora was my daughtor.'
A t|urry ot thoughts t|oodod through my m|nd, but, |n
that momont, l cou|dn't comprohond a s|ng|o ono. l was
comp|oto|y numb, hauntod by that namo. 1hat taco.
°1o|| mo ovoryth|ng.' l hoard myso|t say, but l wasn't tho
ono say|ng |t. lt was as |t l had comp|oto|y |ott my body and
was watch|ng tho scono unto|d trom atar. °l nood to know
tho truth,' my strongor, moro consc|ous so|t addod.
°|or you to undorstand ovoryth|ng, l must start trom tho
bog|nn|ng,' my tathor sa|d qu|ot|y. °W|th your mothor's
story.'
l noddod shak||y. l was now s|tt|ng on tho odgo ot tho
bod, not ovon roa||z|ng l had movod.
°Your mothor, Zora, was a 3orn vamp|ro trom a sma||
town noar 1ransy|van|a. |or own mothor was ab|o to traco
hor roots stra|ght to ono ot tho t|rst and strongost 3orn.
Zora's paronts woro oxtromo|y woa|thy poop|o, so whon tho
1ransy|van|an War broko out |n 18b0, thoy sont Zora to tho
Un|tod 3tatos to stay w|th hor human ha|t-brothor.'
l noddod m|nd|oss|y. Vy tathor's vo|co t|owod through
tho a|r, sound|ng ||ko |t was ||ght-yoars away.
°Zora was on|y o|ghtoon, but hor human brothor, v|ktor,
was a|roady |n h|s m|d-tort|os and had movod to tho U3
twonty yoars pr|or to ostab||sh a ||to as an ontropronour |n
tho t|nanc|a| t|o|d. W|th tho monoy prov|dod by tho|r paronts,
thoy woro vory wo|| ott. v|ktor had bu||t a proporty |n my
homotown, wh|ch onco |ay r|ght |n th|s aroa, and attor
Zora's arr|va|, my ||to as a s|mp|o tarmor changod torovor.
3ho turnod my wor|d ups|do-down. |or tho bottor, ot
courso,' ho sa|d, sm|||ng at tho momory.
°W|thout ovon know|ng hor, l was a|roady |n |ovo w|th
hor. l th|nk tho ont|ro town was. Ono day, l caught Zora
snoak|ng |nto my ch|ckon coop to tood. And tho rost was
h|story, you cou|d say. 3y somo m|rac|o, th|s portoct,
magn|t|cont croaturo took a ||k|ng to mo. And on|y mo.'
3omowhoro |n tho d|stanco, 3rooko |ot out a w|sttu|
°Aww!'
°Wo woro happy togothor tor t|vo boaut|tu| yoars,' my
tathor cont|nuod. |or ha|t-brothor, on tho othor hand, was a
sorrowtu| man, somoth|ng was m|ss|ng |n h|s sou|. |o was
ovorrun by grood. loth|ng |n ||to-oxcopt tor powor and
monoy-sat|st|od h|m.'
°|o||ow|ng our wodd|ng, and my transtormat|on |nto
vamp|rdom, Zora and l bogan to ta|k about mov|ng away
trom v|ktor. |o was so co|d, so so|t|sh, wo d|dn't want to
start a tam||y |n h|s prosonco.' Vy tathor's oyos grow
darkor. °Whon v|ktor roa||zod that ho was about to |oso h|s
s|stor, ho boggod hor to turn h|m. |o cou|d to|| sho was
try|ng to d|stanco horso|t trom h|m and wantod hor to g|vo
h|m tho g|tt ot otorna| ||to wh||o ho st||| had somo powor ovor
hor. |o t|gurod that bocom|ng a vamp|ro wou|d g|vo h|m tho
|ongov|ty to garnor moro r|chos and author|ty.'
°Out ot p|ty, Zora ob||god. W|th h|s nowtound powors,
v|ktor camo |nto ovon moro monoy, and sot out to bu||d a
pa|aco tor h|mso|t. |o askod us to stay w|th h|m unt|| tho
construct|on ot th|s grand p|aco was comp|otod,' my tathor
cont|nuod, gostur|ng w|th h|s arms around tho wa||s ot my
room. °Wo d|dn't havo much cho|co but to ob||go, as by that
t|mo Zora was a|roady prognant and vory |||. l was oagor to
do anyth|ng to koop hor sato. Our daughtor, Aurora, was
born a yoar |ator, |n 18b7. 1ho b|rth was too hard on Zora
and, sad|y, sho passod away short|y attor.'
3rooko was sobb|ng |oud|y, but l cou|dn't br|ng myso|t
to |ook hor way. l cou|dn't br|ng myso|t to |ook at anyono. l
shut my oyos, dosporato|y w|sh|ng l cou|d tuno out my
tathor's vo|co. Bot l boo to boor lt o||.
°Attor Zora's doath, l throw myso|t |nto ra|s|ng Aurora
to tho bost ot my ab|||ty, g|v|ng |n to hor ovory w|sh so that
sho wou|dn't too| tho vo|d ot not hav|ng a mothor. Zora's
doath a|so had a groat |mpact on v|ktor, but |n d|ttoront
way. lt mado h|m darkor, ovon moro sou||oss. |o rosontod
Aurora, b|amod hor tor hor mothor's doath. l novor
undorstood why ho torcod us to cont|nuo ||v|ng w|th h|m, but
by thon ho was so powortu|, so mad, that tor Aurora's satoty
l was atra|d to cross h|m |n any way. l was a coward.' Vy
tathor's vo|co was |acod w|th sadnoss.
°v|ktor got |t |nto h|s m|nd that ho was go|ng to ra|so a
|argo army ot vamp|ros and tako ovor tho country. 1ust ||ko
|n today's wor|d, back thon, monoy cou|d buy anyth|ng. |or
many yoars, most ot tho vamp|ros |n tho aroa ||vod undor
h|s tyranny. 3y tho t|mo Aurora was sovontoon, l roa||zod
that thoro was vory ||tt|o ot Zora |n hor. 3ho |ookod oxact|y
||ko mo. Vy ha|r, my oyos-my ovoryth|ng. 1hat samo yoar,
sho attondod a party |n tho noarby town ot Ango| Crook
whoro sho to|| |n |ovo w|th a young man.'
l g|ancod ovor at 3obast|an. Our oyos mot, but l
cou|dn't ho|d h|s gazo. l |ookod away abrupt|y. lt my tathor
not|cod tho br|ot g|anco, ho d|dn't |ot on.
°v|ktor had a strong hatrod tor tho boy's tam||y,' ho
cont|nuod. °ln tact, ho had k|||od tho young man's
grandtathor |n a toud attor tho man had rotusod to s|gn ovor
tho Ango| Crook town troasury to h|m. v|ktor so|t|sh|y
torbado Aurora to soo tho young man. logard|oss ot h|s
throats, sho cont|nuod to moot h|m. A yoar |ator, dur|ng ono
ot hor and v|ktor's d|sputos, sho announcod that sho was
go|ng to marry |nto h|s tam||y. Upsot by hor |nsubord|nat|on,
v|ktor sont out h|s mon to k||| tho boy's tam||y. |o had
assurod mo that ho wou|d sparo Aurora. 3ho was usotu| to
h|m, |t on|y tor tho tact that sho was ono ot tho on|y 3orn |n
tho wor|d. Untortunato|y, somoth|ng wont wrong. 1ho guards
d|d not oboy tho ordors. 1hoy-'
°K|||od Aurora,' l t|n|shod qu|ot|y. l had v|v|d|y
w|tnossod hor doath |n my droam.
Vy tathor noddod. °Upon hoar|ng tho nows, l wont mad
w|th rago. Vy yoars ot bow|ng down to v|ktor woro boh|nd
mo. l wantod noth|ng moro than to k||| h|m w|th my own
hands. 1hat wou|d novor bo payback onough tor Aurora, but
l wantod to dostroy tho on|y th|ng ho ovor carod about-
h|mso|t.'
°|ow d|d you k||| h|m?' |untor askod, h|s vo|co
start||ng mo. l had torgotton that anyono o|so was |n tho
room.
°1h|s was st||| dur|ng a t|mo whon vamp|ros otton s|opt
dur|ng tho day,' my tathor oxp|a|nod. °Ono morn|ng, wh||o
v|ktor was |n doop s|umbor, l cha|nod h|m |ns|do h|s cott|n
and took h|m out onto an abandonod sh|p. l sot tho who|o
th|ng on t|ro. l|dd|ng tho town ot tho tyrant k|ng provod to
bo a good th|ng tor tho vamp|ros around horo and
|mmod|ato|y catapu|tod mo to powor. lot that any ot that
mattorod,' ho sa|d g|um|y. °l d|dn't havo tho on|y th|ng l tru|y
carod about.'
°3o, tho burnod, d|st|gurod man that shot mo?' l
askod, a|| ot tho puzz|o p|ocos s|ow|y ta|||ng |nto p|aco.
Vy tathor noddod. °Yos, that was v|ktor.'
°Whon l got tho anonymous oma|| w|th tho |ntormat|on
about B|oooCorp, my toam managod to connoct |t to Llxlo
Pbormocootlco|s. Whon l saw that tho namo ot tho
company's d|roctor was Amo||a 3ummors, l know r|ght
away that thoro was moro to |t a|| than mot tho oyo.'
Amo||a 3ummors. Ethan's mothor. |ow d|d my tathor
know about hor? l d|dn't havo a chanco to ask as ho
cont|nuod to spoak.
°l rushod ovor, know|ng tu|| wo|| that you wou|d bo thoro.
Whon l saw v|ktor stand|ng ovor you, l cou|dn't bo||ovo my
oyos. l hadn't soon h|m |n wo|| ovor a contury. 1ho ont|ro
t|mo, l had ta|so|y assumod that ho was doad. loa||z|ng
what ho d|d to you, l wantod to k||| h|m a|| ovor aga|n. 3ut
thoro was no t|mo. You woro dy|ng and l had to do
ovoryth|ng |n my powor to provont you trom suttor|ng tho
samo tato as Aurora. l a||owod h|m to oscapo to savo you.'
7bot oomo ogolo. °Why do l |ook oxoct|y ||ko hor?' l
askod.
Vy tathor's groon oyos t|oodod w|th pa|n.
°1o|| mo.' l urgod, my vo|co tromb||ng.
|o s|ghod, a s|gh so doop and unnorv|ng |t gavo mo
goosobumps.
°Aurora had a hab|t ot g|v|ng poop|o capsu|os ot hor
b|ood. 3ho was tasc|natod by |ts powor. 3ho |ovod bo|ng a
3orn-bo|ng spoc|a|. 3ho gavo mo a v||o to woar around
my nock. Attor sho passod away, that was tho on|y th|ng ot
hors l had |ott,' ho sa|d, sm|||ng sad|y. °l wantod noth|ng
moro than to br|ng hor back, but that was |mposs|b|o. Unt||
tho |ato 1000s, that |s, whon tho sc|ont|t|c commun|ty
startod putt|ng a |ot ot thought |nto c|on|ng ||v|ng organ|sms.
ln 100b, l mot a doctor namod Amo||a 3ummors-tho
samo woman who ownod Llxlo Pbormocootlco|s. 3ho was
work|ng on oxpor|monta| rosoarch on human c|on|ng. lt was
a vory taboo subjoct mattor, but somoth|ng about |t
|ntr|guod mo.'
Voro puzz|o p|ocos woro morg|ng togothor, but l
dosporato|y wantod to r|p thom away, wantod to oraso tho
|mago that was bog|nn|ng to torm |n tront ot mo.
°l to|t tho nood to sharo my pa|n w|th th|s woman, to to||
hor ovoryth|ng,' my tathor cont|nuod. °Attor com|ng to torms
w|th tho tact that vamp|ros ox|stod, sho got |n hor hoad th|s
|doa that c|on|ng a 3orn vamp|ro wou|d bo oas|or than
c|on|ng a human. 1ho 3orn's b|ood |s so much strongor
than a human's and s|nco a 3orn |s ab|o to maturo and
dovo|op, tho|r co||s, un||ko thoso ot Vado vamp|ros, aro
||v|ng, work|ng un|ts.'
°You c|onod Aurora?º l stammorod.
°Amo||a and l usod tho b|ood trom tho capsu|o Aurora
had g|von mo. A yoar |ator, you woro born,' ho oxp|a|nod.
1ho shock ot h|s words rovorboratod through my ont|ro
body. Vy taco stung, as |t ho had just s|appod mo.
°A tow yoars |ator, Amo||a's husband |ott hor tor a
vamp|ro m|stross and sho changod. 3ho was out to dostroy
ovory s|ng|o vamp|ro, start|ng w|th you. l wou|dn't |ot that
happon, ot courso. l vowod to myso|t that l wou|d toach you
to protoct yourso|t, that l wou|d novor a||ow you to
oxpor|onco any hurt tho way Aurora d|d.'
°l was mado trom Aurora's 0lA?' l cr|od, my who|o
wor|d crumb||ng around mo. °l'm.Am l bor?'
Vy tathor shook h|s hoad. °You'ro noth|ng ||ko Aurora. l
cou|d to|| tho momont you woro born, tho socond l |ookod
|nto your boaut|tu| oyos-your mothor's v|o|ot oyos-that
you woro d|ttoront. 3c|onco works |n mystor|ous ways.
As|do trom your s|m||ar |ooks, you aro wor|ds apart-ovon
|oss a||ko than two s|b||ngs.'
°3ocauso l'm not ovon roa|.' l wantod to scroam, but
my vo|co soundod woak and raspy. Each word pass|ng
across my ||ps to|t moro pa|ntu| than tho prov|ous. °l'm
somoono's c|ono. You wantod Aurora and you got mo. l'm a
ta||od oxpor|mont!'
°lo, 0awn.'
º1h|s who|o t|mo-tho past n|notoon yoars-woro you
hop|ng that l wou|d turn |nto Aurora?' l askod, strugg||ng to
broatho. Vy throat was so t|ght, my oyos burnod.
°Ot courso not 0awn,' my tathor sa|d, knoo||ng down |n
tront ot mo. °You'ro not Aurora, but you'ro my daughtor just
as much as sho was.'
°Why d|d you sond mo on a m|ss|on to Ango| Crook?' l
domandod. °You know about Aurora's connoct|on to tho
p|aco,' l pausod, add|ng, °1o 3obast|an.'
Vy tathor st|ttonod. |o attomptod to pat my knoo, but l
sh|ttod abrupt|y, caus|ng h|s hand to s||do ott.
°l sont you to Ango| Crook w|th good |ntont|ons, 0awn.
l know you wantod a m|ss|on so vory dosporato|y, and
accord|ng to my rosoarch, |t was ono ot tho satost p|acos
around. 3|nco tho trag|c massacro at tho |am||ton |ouso,
noth|ng dangorous had ovor happonod |n that town. And l
honost|y d|dn't know that 3obast|an wou|d bo thoro. l
thought ho had por|shod a|ong w|th Aurora that n|ght.'
°0|d you hopo that bo|ng |n Ango| Crook wou|d havo
tr|ggorod somoth|ng |n mo? lorhaps roawakonod Aurora?'
Vy tathor s|ghod. 1ho croasos around h|s oyos
dooponod, mak|ng h|m appoar as |t ho had agod a who|o
contury |n tho past t|vo m|nutos. °lorhaps doop down
|ns|do l was cur|ous to soo |t |t wou|d br|ng up any
momor|os. 3ut l'm g|ad |t d|dn't. l'm happy that you'ro not
Aurora. l'm so proud ot tho un|quo young woman that you
havo bocomo, 0awn.' |o brought h|s hand to mo aga|n,
th|s t|mo gont|y p|ac|ng h|s pa|m aga|nst my taco.
°l'm not a yooog womoo, tathor! l'm a c|ooo!' l cr|od,
push|ng h|s hand away. °A tako! A nobody!' l rushod out ot
tho room, brush|ng past my astoundod group ot tr|onds.
l racod out ot tho houso, runn|ng |nto tho courtyard, not
ovon not|c|ng, |ot a|ono car|ng, that l was woar|ng a
n|ghtgown and had no shoos on my toot. l just know that l
had to got out ot tho houso botoro tho tox|c a|r |ns|do
suttocatod mo. Vost |mportant|y, l had to got away trom my
tathor. Not tbot bo wos ovoo my roo| íotbor, l thought
m|sorab|y. lo bo|oogoo to Aororo.
l took rotugo by tho |argo stono tounta|n, co||aps|ng on
tho ground noxt to tho orch|ds. l bur|od my taco |n tho
t|owors, p|uck|ng at thom angr||y, no |ongor ab|o to ho|d
back my toars. l sobbod tor what soomod ||ko agos, unt||
tho toars stoppod t|ow|ng and l was |ott w|th noth|ng by dry
hoavos. Comp|oto|y dop|otod, l p|ckod my hoad ott tho t|oor
and |ookod around. 3obast|an stood abovo mo, comp|oto|y
mot|on|oss, an oxpross|on ot doop sorrow |n h|s ||ght oyos.
°0|d you know?' l askod co|d|y.
°lo,' ho rop||od, |owor|ng h|mso|t bos|do mo. °l had no
|doa,' ho adm|ttod s|ncoro|y.
°3ut you know l |ookod ||ko hor.'
°Whon l t|rst saw you, tor a br|ot momont, l thought you
woro hor. 1ho socond you startod to spoak, or rathor yo|| at
mo, l know w|th corta|nty that you woron't Aurora. Evoryth|ng
about you was comp|oto|y d|ttoront,' 3obast|an sm||od. lt
was a k|nd, hoartto|t-a|most |ov|ng-sm||o.
°At t|rst, l conv|ncod myso|t that l had to koop tar away
trom you. l toarod that |t l got too c|oso |t wou|d br|ng up
momor|os ot hor,' ho s|ghod. °3ut thon, you drow mo |n.
You kopt |nch|ng your way |nto my m|nd, as |t you had somo
crazy ho|d ovor mo.'
°You moan Aororo d|d,' l corroctod. 1ust uttor|ng hor
namo mado my stomach churn.
°lo, 0awn. Yoo d|d. l cou|dn't got you out ot my hoad.
You woro tho most un|quo g|r| l had ovor mot |n my ont|ro
||to. 1ho most tasc|nat|ng and trustrat|ng-a|| at tho samo
t|mo. l kopt ||ngor|ng around tho cottago woods, watch|ng
you w|th tho rocru|ts, socrot|y choor|ng you on. 1ho day wo
spoko |n tho gazobo and you askod about how l was
turnod, l wantod to to|| you ovoryth|ng. l wantod to to|| you
about my tam||y, about Aurora, but l was atra|d. 3o l ran.
1hat ono n|ght, whon you a|most k|ssod Ethan, l was so
ovorcomo w|th joa|ousy l noar|y sp||t a troo |n ha|t trom my
trustrat|on. lt was thon that l roa||zod l was ta|||ng tor you.
|ard.' |o |ookod away, ombarrassod.
°l saw you |n my droam,' l sa|d qu|ot|y. °You and
Aurora. You |ookod happy.'
3obast|an s|ghod. °l was a sho|torod, spo||od, human
boy. Vy b|ggost worry |n ||to was whothor or not a boaut|tu|
g|r| was go|ng to agroo to my marr|ago proposa|. Ot
courso, l was happy. At tho t|mo.'
°1h|ngs havo changod?'
°vory much so. Espoc|a||y tho bomoo part.'
°Wo||, at |oast you'ro not a c|ono.' l to|t tho toars croop
up boh|nd my ||ds aga|n. °Vy ont|ro ||to |s a b|g ||o.'
°0on't th|nk ||ko that.'
°And how shou|d l th|nk, 3obast|an? l'm a sc|onco
oxpor|mont! A conso|at|on pr|zo, at that!' l yo||od. °Vy tathor
wantod to br|ng back h|s doad daughtor, and |nstoad, ho
croatod mo.' l pausod, qu|ot|y add|ng, °Evon tho guy l ||ko
wou|d havo boon w|th hor |t sho woro st||| a||vo.'
°0awn.' 3obast|an roachod out tor mo.
°|orgot |t!' l stood up botoro ho cou|d touch mo.
°l|oaso |ot my tathor know that l novor want to soo h|m
aga|n.'
W|th thoso t|na| words, l spr|ntod back to Ango| Crook.
l took rotugo |n tho sma|| cab|n |n tho woods, momor|os ot
my t|rst n|ght at tho cottago t|ood|ng back |nto my m|nd. lt
wos o mocb bopplor tlmo, l thought, romombor|ng how
oxc|tod l was about my m|ss|on. low, |t soomod ||ko ont|ro
contur|os had passod s|nco that tatotu| day.
CEAP1ER ELEVEN
|or an ont|ro wook, l |so|atod myso|t |ns|do tho
cottago. l tra|nod a|m|oss|y throughout tho day and
wa||owod |n dospa|r dur|ng tho n|ght. Vy who|o wor|d had
suddon|y boon torn apart, my sonso ot |dont|ty sto|on by a
g|r| who had boon doad tor wo|| ovor a contury.
Evory day, o|thor 3rooko, 3oph|o, |untor or 3oth-or
a|| tour-camo knock|ng on tho tront door, bogg|ng to bo |ot
|n. Evory day, l |gnorod thom, unab|o to onduro tac|ng
anyono l know. l was st||| ovorwho|mod by tho shock|ng
nows ot my or|g|n, st||| |mmonso|y woundod by my tathor's
||os. At tho samo t|mo, l was r|dd|od w|th shamo, hum|||atod
that tho ont|ro toam had boon pr|vy to tho story about
Aurora. l dosporato|y w|shod sho cou|d havo stayod a d|rty
||tt|o socrot torovor. lt was bad onough that l suddon|y to|t
||ko an |mpostor |n my own ||to, l d|dn't want othors th|nk|ng
that l was ono too.
1o my chagr|n, on tho s|xth day ot my so|t-|mposod
ox||o, 3rooko choso to c|rcumvont tho |ockod-door |ssuo by
throw|ng a rock through ono ot tho k|tchon w|ndows. 1ho
no|so ot crash|ng g|ass sont mo t|y|ng down tho sta|rs,
po|sod tor an attack. Vy |ntrudor turnod out to bo tho
sm|||ng, porky b|ondo, outt|ttod |n hor short b|uo-and-wh|to
choor|oad|ng un|torm and wh|to tonn|s shoos. 3ho took ono
|ook at mo and wr|nk|od hor noso.
°Eww, 0awn! You'ro st||| woar|ng tho samo n|ghtgown
you had on tho |ast t|mo l saw you,' sho wh|nod, p|ac|ng hor
|mpoccab|y man|curod hand ovor hor br|ght-p|nk ||ps and
wr|nk||ng hor noso. °And l can to|| you'vo boon woar|ng |t a||
wook!'
l |ookod down at tho sta|nod tabr|c, shrugg|ng
|nd|ttoront|y.
°And your ha|r! Obmlgoo! Wo'ro go|ng to nood a toam
ot sty||sts to brush through that th|ng,' 3rooko sa|d, tak|ng a
stop back, as |t somohow my d|shovo|od ha|r was
contag|ous, and smooth|ng hor own |mmacu|ato |ocks.
°Wo||, don't worry! l'm go|ng to tako groat caro ot you.
Wo'ro go|ng to havo an omozlog g|r|'s day!' sho squoa|od,
c|app|ng hor hands togothor.
°Oh, that rom|nds mo-wo nood anothor g|r|!' 3rooko
strodo ovor to tho tront door, un|ock|ng |t and ushor|ng a
vory ombarrassod 3oph|o |nto tho cottago.
°||,' 3oph|o stammorod, wav|ng shy|y at mo as sho
ontorod.
°l can't wa|t to got startod!' 3rooko oxc|a|mod, pu|||ng
us both |nto tho ||v|ng room. °Wo'ro gonna bog|n w|th
makoovors. You'ro toto||y up t|rst!' 3rooko sa|d to mo as
sho bogan romov|ng mako-up and ha|r too|s trom hor
ovors|zod p|nk shou|dor bag. °A|though,' sho addod,
|ook|ng d|sapprov|ng|y at 3oph|o's |ong sk|rt and wh|to
b|ouso, °you'ro |n dosporato nood ot ho|p too.'
l s|ghod, ovorwho|mod by tho scono unto|d|ng |n tront
ot mo. °Guys, thank you, roa||y, but l'm just not |n tho mood.'
3oph|o roachod out and gont|y pattod my arm.
°Ord|nar||y, l wou|d honor your roquost,' sho sa|d. °3ut l
th|nk you'vo boon a|ono |ong onough. lot to mont|on,
3rooko throatonod my wo||-bo|ng |t l so much as thought
about |oav|ng.'
°l'm sorry. l just can't taco anyono r|ght now,' l sa|d,
shak|ng my hoad.
3oph|o sunk |nto ono ot tho |argo, brown armcha|rs, |ts
magn|tudo swa||ow|ng up hor th|n tramo who|o. °lt's truo that
nono ot us havo ovor boon |n your s|tuat|on, but bo||ovo |t or
not, wo havo a|| had hardsh|ps to ovorcomo. lomombor
whon l to|d you about my bost tr|ond Char|otto?'
l noddod, takon aback by tho suddon sadnoss |n hor
vo|co.
°Wo||, l |ott out tho part ot tho story |n wh|ch l was so |n
|ovo w|th Char|otto that l thought about ond|ng my ||to whon
sho |ott,' 3oph|o sa|d mattor-ot-tact|y.
3rooko gaspod. °Whoa, that's tota||y trag|c. What d|d
you ond up do|ng?'
°l cr|od a |ot,' 3oph|o sa|d, shrugg|ng hor w|ry
shou|dors. °3ut as|do trom too||ng sad, l tocusod on my
tuturo. l know that my goa| |n ||to was to ono day go to
co||ogo, so l |mmorsod myso|t |n my stud|os.'
3rooko ro||od hor oyos. °K|nda bor|ng.' Attor a br|ot
momont ot contomp|at|on, sho addod, °3ut l guoss l can
undorstand.'
°Vy po|nt, 0awn, |s that tragody happons.' |or tho t|rst
t|mo ovor, 3oph|o |ookod d|roct|y at mo as sho spoko, a
surgo ot strongth and dotorm|nat|on sh|n|ng through hor b|g
brown oyos. °What you ovontua||y havo to roa||zo |s that ||to
goos on. Espoc|a||y tor vamp|ros. At |oast you havo us to
ho|p you through |t.'
l |ookod up at hor, doop|y touchod by tho |mpact ot hor
words. 3t|||, l cou|dn't ho|p but too| unworthy ot tho|r
cons|dorat|on. l wos o oobooy oítor o||. A c|ooo. l must
havo vo|cod tho |ast thought out |oud bocauso both 3rooko
and 3oph|o |ookod at mo |n shock.
°You'ro not a nobody, 0awn!' 3rooko yo||od. °Who
caros how you camo to bo! Okay, so you got somo ot thoso
gono th|ng|os trom anothor ch|ck. Got ovor |t. You'ro not
hor. You mako your own dost|ny.'
°3urpr|s|ng|y, 3rooko makos a |ot ot sonso,' 3oph|o
sa|d. °Wo||, not about ca|||ng your 0lA, gooo tbloglos, but
about a|| tho othor th|ngs. 1ust bocauso you sharo Aurora's
0lA, doosn't mako you Aurora. You'ro a hundrod porcont
puro 0awn.'
°l|us, at |oast tho ch|ck was hot,' 3rooko addod |n a
vory sor|ous tono. °lmag|no |t you got somo ug|y gono
th|ng|os? lot ovoryono |s that b|ossod,' sho gushod.
l sm||od, movod by tho|r gonu|no ottorts to conso|o mo.
°1hank you.' l had to adm|t that tho|r prosonco was start|ng
to ||tt my sp|r|ts.
°1hat's what tr|onds aro tor. low, wo havo to got
startod w|th tho makoovors bocauso wo don't havo much
t|mo. l havo a ton ot th|ngs p|annod tor us. lomant|c
comod|os, boy ta|k-and |ook what l got us w|th my now
tako l0!' 3rooko sa|d, pu|||ng out a |argo bott|o ot B|ooo
Vooko trom hor purso. 3ho pourod tho c|oar ||qu|d |nto an
ompty g|ass sho tound on tho cottoo tab|o. 3oph|o groanod
at tho ovorwho|m|ng smo|| ot a|coho| and l jo|nod |n tho
protost.
°||no, no boozo,' 3rooko ro||od hor oyos, sott|ng down
tho g|ass. °3ut you havo to |ot mo pa|nt your na||s and t||| mo
|n on a|| tho d|rty dota||s about Ethan and 3obast|an.' W|th
that, sho bogan to attack mo w|th hor mako-up brush.
An hour |ator, as 3rooko prosontod a c|oan,
composod 0awn |n my bodroom m|rror, l had to adm|t that
sho had a d|v|no ta|ont. Vy |ong ha|r was po||shod and
g|ossy, oach sott wavo rost|ng portoct|y |n |ts p|aco. Vy
mako-up, a|though too br|ght and hoavy tor my porsona|
tasto, comp|omontod oach ot my toaturos portoct|y. 3rooko
had put mo |n ono ot hor outt|ts, a protty ott-shou|dor dross,
|n doop purp|o. 3ho a|so torcod a pa|r ot str|k|ng, but tr|||y,
gray and p|um wodgo sanda|s on my toot, comp|ot|ng tho
|ook w|th somo s||vor jowo|ry and spark|y na|| po||sh. l
|aughod out |oud tor tho t|rst t|mo |n tho ont|ro wook whon l
roa||zod that l was woar|ng spark|y na|| po||sh.
l had novor had roa| g|r|tr|onds, or ongagod |n
makoovors and hoart-to-hoart ta|ks, so my oxpor|onco w|th
3rooko and 3oph|o was both novo| and po|gnant. 1hough l
had rotusod to part|c|pato |n tho chattor whon tho subjoct
turnod to boys, tho g|r|s' p|an had workod wo||. 1hoy woro
ab|o to, at |oast tor a br|ot momont, mako mo torgot about
my mo|ancho|y.
As two|vo o'c|ock noarod, 3rooko and 3oph|o got
roady to |oavo.
°l havo to work at tho ||brary unt|| |ator th|s attornoon,'
3oph|o oxp|a|nod.
°And l havo to go to choor pract|co!' 3rooko addod.
°lt's a|most t|mo tor son|or yoar aga|n. Wo'ro tota||y go|ng to
w|n nat|ona|s th|s yoar!'
A|most |mmod|ato|y attor tho two g|r|s had |ott, 3oth
appoarod at tho tront door.
loo tboy p|ooooo tbls? l wondorod, s||ght|y amusod.
3woaty and trazz|od, ho was jugg||ng a hoavy v|doo
gamo conso|o, tour odd|y-shapod contro||ors and an array
ot co|ortu| v|doo gamos |n h|s arms. |o ra|sod ono ot h|s
hands |n groot|ng, torgott|ng about tho d|sks. l caught tho
ta|||ng gamos |n m|d-a|r, chuck||ng at tho gory shoot|ng-
gamo t|t|os.
°l thought you may bo |ntorostod |n p|ay|ng somo ot my
gamos,' 3oth sa|d, |ook|ng so awkward that l cou|dn't ho|p
but |nv|to h|m |n.
l pourod h|m a g|ass ot B|ooo Co|o as ho hookod up
tho gamo systom to tho to|ov|s|on |n tho ||v|ng room. 3otoro
l had a chanco to tako a soat bos|do h|m, anothor knock
soundod aga|nst tho hoavy woodon door.
1h|s t|mo, |t was |untor, ho|d|ng up a caso ot 3|ood
3oor. 3oo|ng my d|sapprov|ng |ook, ho qu|ck|y oxp|a|nod,
°0on't worry 0awn, |t's not tor mo. l'vo boon comp|oto|y
c|oan tor ovor a month now. 3oth and tho g|r|s havo boon
vory str|ct about koop|ng mo on tho stra|ght and narrow.'
|o shovod tho bott|os |nto my arms. °l brought th|s tor you.'
l ro||od my oyos. 0|d ovoryono assumo a|coho| was tho
so|ut|on to my prob|oms?
|untor |ookod groat, sobr|oty roa||y su|tod h|m. ||s
onco |ong, ratty ha|r was cut short and brushod t|d||y boh|nd
h|s oars. ||s c|othos woro c|oan and noat|y prossod, though
ho cont|nuod to d|sp|ay h|s porsona||ty through v|brant band
toos. |o not|cod mo |ook|ng at tho |ogo across h|s chost.
°B|ooo Vo|toros,' ho sa|d, po|nt|ng proud|y at tho sh|rt.
°1hat was my band back |n tho day. Wo actua||y soundod
protty good.'
°lntorost|ng namo,' l sm||od, mov|ng as|do to |ot h|m |n.
3oth |ookod ovor at us trom tho couch. °Got your butts
ovor horo. l havo th|s coo| now gamo l'vo boon dy|ng to tost
out. You got to p|ay mus|ca| |nstrumonts wh||o k||||ng
zomb|os. l nood back-up stot!º
°Awosomo!' |untor oxc|a|mod, rush|ng |nto tho ||v|ng
room. W|th|n soconds ho had a gu|tar |n h|s hand and was
mov|ng rhythm|ca||y to tho boat ot tho mus|c.
l jo|nod thom on tho couch tak|ng on tho ro|o ot tho
drummor. l wasn't vory mus|ca||y |nc||nod, but attor a tow
rounds l |oosonod up and bogan to onjoy myso|t. 1ho
attornoon t|ow by and somohow, am|dst chopp|ng ott
zomb|o hoads and croat|ng now tunos, l startod to too|
bottor.
°0on't worry 0awn, th|ngs w||| work out,' 3oth sa|d
choortu||y dur|ng a broathor botwoon |ovo|s.
°l know. Zomb|os dot|n|to|y don't stand a chanco
aga|nst vamp|ros armod w|th mus|ca| |nstrumonts,' l
rop||od, |augh|ng at tho gory scono on tho to|ov|s|on.
°lo, l'm not ta|k|ng about that,' ho corroctod. °l moan
th|ngs w|th you and your dad w||| work out. l'm suro ot |t.'
l prossod my ||ps togothor and |ookod away. l suddon|y
roca||od why l had not wantod to soo any ot tho toam
mombors |n tho t|rst p|aco. °1h|ngs aro comp||catod,' l
answorod curt|y.
°Yos, but aron't thoy a|ways?' 3oth askod, not a||ow|ng
mo to worm my way out ot tho convorsat|on. °l just bocamo
a vamp|ro |oss than two months ago. 0o you know how
comp||catod my ||to |s? Vy paronts aro oxtromo|y str|ct and
vory ro||g|ous. 1hoy'ro tho on|y poop|o on oarth not happy
about tho who|o vamp|ro tad.'
°|avo you como out ot tho cott|n to thom yot?' |untor
askod.
3oth shook h|s hoad. °lo, not yot. l'm try|ng to put |t ott
tor as |ong as poss|b|o. l havo no |doa what thoy'|| do whon
thoy t|nd out,' ho sa|d, thon br|ghtonod. °At |oast thoy aron't
comp|a|n|ng about tho tact that l'm not oat|ng much |ato|y.
Vy mom has boon attor mo to |oso wo|ght s|nco torovor
and sho th|nks l'm curront|y on a spoc|a| gar||c d|ot. 3ho's
boon vory support|vo |n that rogard.'
°Wo||, wo'ro horo tor you buddy.' |untor pattod 3oth
across h|s back. 1ho manouvor sont tho |argo boy
stumb||ng ott tho couch.
Watch|ng tho two vamp|ros |ntoract, l to|t a strango
sonso ot pr|do. loss than a month ago, tho vamp|ro rocru|ts
cou|dn't to||ow s|mp|o d|roct|ons, |ot a|ono tunct|on
succosstu||y as a toam. low, thoy woro counso||ng and
support|ng oach othor-and ovon mo-|n |mportant mattors
ot tho hoart. lt was surpr|s|ng|y mov|ng.
1ust as wo bogan anothor round ot Voslc Zomblo
Voolo, Ethan appoarod at tho door. l hadn't soon h|m s|nco
tho day ot tho b|g t|ght at Llxlo Pbormocootlco|s, tho day l
d|scovorod tho sc|ont|st rospons|b|o tor manutactur|ng
vamp|r|co| was h|s mothor, Amo||a. |o |ookod oxhaustod,
||ko ho hadn't s|opt |n days. ||s taco |ookod th|nnor, sunkon
|n, and h|s |ott arm hung |n a s||ng. l to|t a suddon urgo to
run.
°||,' ho sa|d qu|ot|y.
°||,' l rop||od, oqua||y sott|y.
Wo stood |n tho doorway, star|ng at ono anothor tor
what soomod ||ko an otorn|ty. 3oth, sons|ng tho
awkwardnoss |n tho a|r, qu|ck|y packod up h|s gamo
systom and s||d past mo, muttor|ng somoth|ng about hav|ng
to go to an appo|ntmont.
°Como on, |ot's go!' ho ca||od out to |untor. °Wo'|| bo
|ato to that th|ng.'
°What th|ng?' |untor askod, st||| t|rm|y p|antod on tho
couch.
°1hat tblog wo havo to go to!'
|untor starod back b|ank|y. °l d|dn't hoar about any
tblog!'
°Ugb! 1ust como. lt you'ro good, l may |ot you havo a
B|ooo Boor,' 3oth prom|sod.
°A|r|ght, a|r|ght l'm com|ng!' |untor rushod past mo,
nodd|ng at Ethan as ho |ott.
°1ust k|dd|ng!' l cou|d hoar 3oth say as thoy
d|sappoarod out ot s|ght, |oav|ng mo a|ono w|th Ethan. Vy
body tonsod, my m|nd t||||ng w|th quost|ons that noodod
answors. Ouost|ons l d|dn't daro ask. |rom my rocont
oxpor|onco, answors on|y brought on moro pa|n.
Ethan broko tho uncomtortab|o s||onco t|rst. °l
undorstand |t you don't want to soo mo, but l'd roa||y ||ko to
ta|k to you. l nood to oxp|a|n a tow th|ngs,' ho sa|d.
||s hazo| oyos t|||od w|th angu|sh whon l hos|tatod.
°l|oaso, 0awn,' ho boggod.
1horo was too much that l had to know, too much that l
noodod to hoar. l noddod s||ont|y, |oad|ng h|m |nto tho ||v|ng
room. l c|oarod ott somo ot tho moss |ott boh|nd by my
prov|ous v|s|tors, sh|tt|ng mako-up, ha|rbrushos and v|doo
gamos ott ot tho |oathor couchos and p|ac|ng thom on tho
cottoo tab|o. Whon |t was a|| c|oar, l mot|onod tor Ethan to
s|t down. l sank |nto tho couch oppos|to ot h|m, wrapp|ng
my arms t|ght|y around myso|t.
°You |ook vory n|co,' ho sa|d.
l suddon|y romomborod that l was st||| woar|ng
3rooko's |avondor dross. °1hank you,' l rop||od. °3ut l don't
bo||ovo you camo horo to ta|k about that. 1ust ||ko l don't
th|nk you took us to Llxlo Pbormocootlco|s to roscuo
|annah.'
Ethan oxha|od sharp|y, start|od by tho roughnoss ot my
words. °l|oaso bo||ovo mo whon l to|| you that roscu|ng
|annah was my gonu|no |ntont|on whon l brought you to
Llxlo Pbormocootlco|s.'
°3o, |ntroduc|ng mo to your mothor and tho crazy
vamp|ro who tr|od to k||| mo was just a bonus? Woro you
work|ng aga|nst us th|s who|o t|mo?' l askod, t|ght|ng toars.
°Aga|nst mo?' l addod, try|ng to |gnoro tho soa ot botraya| l
was drown|ng |n.
°lo, ot courso not!' Ethan put h|s hoad |n h|s hands
and s|ghod aga|n. °l can oxp|a|n.'
°You havo ono m|nuto to do so,' l warnod. °And don't
|oavo out any dota||s. l'm t|rod ot poop|o |y|ng to mo.'
Ethan |ookod up at mo, a sma|| t||ckor ot hopo t|ash|ng
across h|s taco. °Yos, ot courso. l'|| to|| you ovoryth|ng,' ho
sa|d, |aunch|ng |nto h|s story. °Evor s|nco l cou|d romombor,
my mothor had boon a br||||ant doctor. 3ho was a|ways
work|ng on tho noxt now th|ng |n tho mod|ca| and
pharmacout|ca| dovo|opmonts. 3ho was ovon |nvo|vod |n
c|on|ng rosoarch back |n tho n|not|os, bo||ovo |t or not! Ot
courso, that novor wont anywhoro, but sho was ono ot tho
smartost womon l know,' Ethan sa|d pons|vo|y.
l scannod h|s taco, soarch|ng tor any s|gns ot
d|shonosty. ||s oyos woro warm, oarnost, and s|ncoro. |o
had no |doa that h|s mothor had, |n tact, succood |n c|on|ng
somoono. Vo.
°Anyway, my mothor otton |ott mo and my tathor boh|nd
to travo| around tor work. Vy tathor, bo|ng an o|d-tash|onod
b|got, rosontod hor tor that, and whon l was s|x yoars o|d,
ho had an atta|r w|th a young woman trom lou|s|ana.'
Ethan |ookod ott |nto tho d|stanco, subconsc|ous|y
c|onch|ng h|s t|sts at tho mont|on ot h|s tathor.
°1ho atta|r camo as a shock to my mothor, but sho
torgavo h|m, b|am|ng horso|t and hor work tor h|s
|nd|scrot|on. 3ho torcod h|m to broak up w|th h|s g|r|tr|ond,
packod a|| ot our stutt and movod us across tho country to
tho most romoto, mundano town sho cou|d t|nd-Ashton. ln
a dosporato attompt to appoaso my tathor and provont h|m
trom choat|ng aga|n, sho qu|t hor job, |oav|ng hor caroor
boh|nd to bo a homomakor. Vy tathor, ot courso, had on|y
ovor usod hor caroor as an oxcuso tor h|s bohav|or. 3otoro
|ong, ho rovortod to h|s o|d ways. |o took up w|th yot
anothor woman, thon throo or tour moro attor that. Attor a
coup|o ot yoars, my mothor t|na||y camo to hor sonsos and
k|ckod h|m out. 3ho wont back to work, and toundod Llxlo
Pbormocootlco|s. |or tocus was on rosoarch|ng curos tor
raro d|soasos. 3ho was onco aga|n tu|| ot ||to, t|||od w|th
purposo.'
1ho way Ethan doscr|bod h|s mothor mado mo th|nk
that tho woman who had throatonod mo w|th a gun just a
wook oar||or was not ono and tho samo.
3omoth|ng must havo gono horr|b|y wrong tor hor to
chango so drast|ca||y, l roa||zod.
°As t|mo wont on, th|ngs got hardor,' Ethan cont|nuod.
°Vy mothor's caroor was not tho samo as |t had onco boon.
losoarch was oxpons|vo and wo had vory ||tt|o monoy.
logard|oss, wo both workod hard. l put ott go|ng to co||ogo
so l cou|d work odd jobs around town and mako monoy to
tund hor work. 3ho ro||od on mo and wo bocamo c|osor
than ovor. l was tho man ot tho houso, and thoro was
noth|ng l wou|dn't do tor hor.'
°|owovor, throo yoars ago, whon vamp|ros camo out
|nto tho pub||c oyo, my mom changod. 3uddon|y, sho was
mood|or, bus|or, and moro socrot|vo. 3ho mado |t vory
c|oar that sho had a strong hatrod tor vamp|ros. lt was thon
that l |oarnod that a|| ot tho womon my tathor had choatod
w|th woro, |n tact, vamp|ros. Apparont|y, ho had a
tasc|nat|on w|th |ad|os ot tho n|ght.'
l shot h|m a storn g|aro, caus|ng h|s taco to t|ood w|th
hum|||at|on. °Oh, 0awn. l'm so sorry. Vy mom usod to ca||
thom that. lt just camo out. l d|dn't moan-'
°lt's t|no. Go on,' l urgod, moro concornod w|th hoar|ng
tho rost ot h|s story than w|th d|scuss|ng h|s mothor's
d|stastotu| sonso ot humor.
°3ho dr|||od |nto my hoad that vamp|ros woro ov||.
3o|t|sh. Wrong. And l bogan to bo||ovo |t.' |o sa|d, sh|tt|ng
around on tho couch uncomtortab|y. °|or caroor goa|s
movod away trom ho|p|ng s|ck humans and bogan to contor
around dostroy|ng vamp|ros. 3ho wantod to croato a drug
that wou|d a||ow humans to possoss tho samo powors as
vamp|ros-a drug that cou|d mako any rogu|ar human
strong, tast, powortu|, w|thout tho nogat|vo consoquonco ot
actua||y bo|ng doad.'
Aga|n, l g|arod at h|m. °logat|vo consoquonco ot
bo|ng doad?'
°l'm sorry. l swoar, l don't actua||y th|nk that way,' ho
apo|og|zod. °l'm just try|ng to koop tho story as c|oso to my
mothor's do|us|ona| rat|ona||zat|ons as poss|b|o.'
l noddod tor h|m to go on.
°Vy mothor spont an ont|ro yoar work|ng on dovo|op|ng
a prototypo tor th|s m|rac|o pot|on.' Ethan sa|d, p|ac|ng a|r
quotat|ons around tho word mlroc|o. °3ho ca||od |t
vamp|r|co|. 1ust as sho was try|ng to t|guro out how to
croato a product out ot tho prototypo, a vamp|ro who had
boon to||ow|ng hor prov|ous work on c|on|ng sought hor out
w|th a proposa|. 1h|s guy, v|ktor, ottorod to supp|y hor w|th
h|s to||ow|ng ot vamp|ro |ab rats, |t sho agrood to cut h|m |n
on a porcontago ot a|| tuturo vamp|r|co| sa|os. 0osp|to hor
hatrod tor vamp|ros, sho was dosporato tor tho b|ood and
tho monoy v|ktor had prom|sod, so doc|dod to toam up
w|th tho man. |onco, B|oooCorp was born.'
°Vy mothor and v|ktor workod on tho|r socrot projoct
undor tho covor ot Llxlo Pbormocootlco|s. |or a wh||o, tho
now company was do|ng wo|| and tho|r partnorsh|p was
strong. Attor a tow oxpor|monta| tr|a|s, vamp|r|co| was a
succoss. |owovor, s|nco tho drug was not yot approvod by
tho |0A, thoy woro not mak|ng any |ncomo. v|ktor bocamo
|mpat|ont and took ovor contro| ot a|| tho product croatod by
tho company. |o arrangod tor |||oga| sa|os ot tho drug, but
s|nco ho noodod my mothor to koop mak|ng tho substanco,
ho a||owod hor to cont|nuo hor ondoavor to br|ng
vamp|r|co| |nto tho mass markot. 3ho was runn|ng |nto
many obstac|os, and v|ktor's goons woro prov|ng rathor
unro||ab|o.'
7bo wbo|o story soooooo |lko o boo p|ot oí o scl-íl
íl|m, l thought g|um|y. Untortunato|y, |t had a |ot moro to do
w|th roa||ty than l ||kod to adm|t.
°1ust as hor |atost proposa| was turnod down by tho
govornmont, v|ktor to|d my mom that ho had |oarnod about
a 3orn vamp|ro that was com|ng to a noarby town on a
m|ss|on. |o conv|ncod my mothor that tho powortu| b|ood ot
a 3orn wou|d bo a portoct cata|yst tor tho ma|nstroam
succoss ot vamp|r|co|. 3ho askod mo to go to Ango|
Crook to |nvost|gato th|s mystor|ous vamp|ro. l usod my
prov|ous oxpor|onco as a bartondor |n Ashton to got a job
at tho Ango| Crook 0|nor and wa|tod tor th|s spoc|a| g|r| to
show up. 1hat vamp|ro was, ot courso, you.'
1ho quost|ons that l had posod wh||o s|tt|ng at tho d|nor
on my t|rst day |n Ango| Crook was t|na||y answorod. Etboo
boo koow tbot l wos o vomplro.
°1hon l mot you, and ovoryth|ng changod,' Ethan sa|d,
tak|ng |n a |ong broath. °l|ght away, l cou|d to|| that you
woro spoc|a|. lot |n tho samo way my mothor cons|dorod
you to bo spoc|a|, ot courso. 3ho was on|y |ntorostod |n
your b|ood. l, on tho othor hand, wantod to got to know
0awn-tho tasc|nat|ng, tunny, strong g|r|. 0osp|to tho tact
that my mothor had bra|nwashod mo to d|s||ko tho vamp|ro
raco, l cou|dn't ho|p but ||ko you.'
°l wantod to got to know you, to |oarn a|| about you. Vy
mothor, untortunato|y, had a s|m||ar goa|. 3ho was
ro|ont|oss. 3ho ca||od mo ovory day, ask|ng tor nows about
you. l d|dn't g|vo hor anyth|ng, ot courso. lot that l had much
to go on. lt drovo mo crazy whon you d|sappoarod tor
a|most an ont|ro wook to tra|n. l kopt dr|v|ng around, try|ng
to t|nd whoro you woro stay|ng.' |o gazod down at tho t|oor,
h|s chooks turn|ng br|ght rod.
°About a wook attor your arr|va|, my mothor camo to
tho d|nor at Ango| Crook to try to |ook tor you horso|t. Aga|n,
l kopt qu|ot. Evon |t l had known whoro you woro stay|ng, l
wou|d novor havo botrayod tho |ocat|on. l to|t tho nood to
protoct you trom B|oooCorp. l got |t |n my hoad that l wou|d
do so by a|ways st|ck|ng by your s|do. 3ut l know that l
wasn't strong onough to savo you trom v|ktor and h|s roguo
vamps.' |o tra||od ott, |ook|ng at mo shoop|sh|y.
°3o you took that vamp|r|co| p|||,' l guossod.
°Yos. l cou|d novor havo prod|ctod tho oxtromo ottoct
that tho drug wou|d havo on my body. l to|t so gu||ty tor
tak|ng |t, l cou|dn't to|| you why l had a|| that powor and
strongth. lovortho|oss, l'm g|ad that l d|d what l d|d that day,
bocauso l was ab|o to savo you trom gott|ng hurt,' ho sa|d,
tho cornors ot h|s ||ps torm|ng |nto a sma|| sm||o.
°0awn, you havo to bo||ovo whon l to|| you that, trom tho
momont l mot you, |t was novor about my mom's m|ss|on,'
Ethan's |ns|stod. °l was s|ncoro whon l askod to spond t|mo
w|th you and tra|n w|th tho toam. Vy on|y mot|vo was to got
c|oso to you and mako suro that you woro sato. l now know
that l shou|d'vo boon moro honost and uptront about
ovoryth|ng. l thought that |t l rotusod to cooporato w|th my
mom, sho wou|d ovontua||y torgot about you and tocus on
othor ways to |mprovo vamp|r|co|. Untortunato|y, l was
wrong. 3ho wont back to tho d|nor ono day wh||o l was horo
tra|n|ng w|th tho toam and got to |annah. You know how
chatty |annah cou|d bo. 3ho |nnocont|y to|d my mothor a||
about you, tho othor vamp|ros, tho m|ss|on-ovon about hor
own s|ck mothor and baby s|stor.'
Vy thoughts t|ashod back to tho day |annah had
stabbod mo w|th tho po|son. 7boy solo tboy woo|o bort my
mom ooo slstor, sho had cr|od.
°l |mag|no that's whon v|ktor got tho |doa to |nvo|vo tho
worowo|vos and ambush us |n tho torost noar tho
B|oooCorp baso,' Ethan oxp|a|nod. °|o wantod you, ot
courso, but whon 3obast|an |ntortorod, tho roguo vamps
on|y managod to k|dnap |annah. 1hat ovon|ng, l to|d you
tho story about gott|ng vamp|r|co| trom a tr|ond and rushod
ovor to Llxlo Pbormocootlco|s to bog my mom to stop tho
nonsonso. 3y k|dnapp|ng |annah, sho had gono too tar.
3ut |nstoad ot ||ston|ng to mo, sho snappod. 3ho yo||od mo
about botray|ng hor tor a vamp|ro just ||ko my tathor had-
to|d mo sho wantod noth|ng to do w|th mo. 0osp|to |t a||, l
tr|od to s|ng|ohandod|y savo |annah, but was noar|y boaton
to doath and k|ckod out ot tho bu||d|ng by v|ktor and tho
roguos.'
Yos,' l sa|d, romombor|ng, °Whon l saw you tho noxt
day, you woron't roa||y act|ng ||ko your usua| so|t.'
°l was so cont||ctod, 0awn. l know that to|||ng you
about B|oooCorp wou|d not on|y bo dangorous, but wou|d
most ||ko|y causo you to hato mo,' Ethan groanod. °At tho
samo t|mo, s|nco l know whoro |annah was bo|ng kopt, |t
was my duty as a tr|ond to do ovoryth|ng |n my powor to
savo hor. Onco aga|n, th|s |s whoro th|ngs wont awry. l had
hopod that wo wou|d bo ab|o to go |n and out, undotoctod
by my mothor. l droamod that you wou|d novor havo to |oarn
tho who|o truth. l now know that was stup|d, but l honost|y
thought l was do|ng tho r|ght th|ng.'
1ho burdon ot roto|||ng tho story had causod Ethan to
rogross |nto a ch||d-||ko stato, mochan|ca||y rock|ng back-
and-torth |n h|s soat. 1ust as suddon|y as tho cond|t|on had
ovorcomo h|m, ho snappod out ot |t and stra|ghtonod up.
°Whon my mom controntod us and sa|d a|| thoso awtu|
th|ngs to you, tor tho t|rst t|mo |n a|| thoso yoars, l saw just
how m|sgu|dod hor m|ss|on was. 3ho had comp|oto|y |ost
a|| sonso ot mora||ty, a||ow|ng hor hatrod tor my tathor and
h|s vamp|ro m|strossos-to corrupt hor. 1horo was no
doubt |n my m|nd that sho was go|ng to try to hurt you.
lnstoad, whon l to|d you to run, sho shot at mo. |onco th|s.'
|o ra|sod h|s bandagod arm, w|nc|ng s||ght|y at tho pa|n
tho movomont had causod.
°lt was |n tho momont that l h|t tho ground, as sho
watchod mo noar|y b|ood to doath, that sho roa||zod just
how tar gono sho was,' ho sa|d, qu|ot|y add|ng, °3ho
attomptod to tako hor own ||to.'
°Oh, Ethan.' Evon though l to|t noth|ng but d|stasto tor
Amo||a's act|ons, Ethan's story pa|nod mo. 3ho was h|s
mothor, attor a||. lo mattor how hard ho tr|od to dony |t, |t
was c|oar that ho carod tor hor doop|y.
°lt's okay,' Ethan assurod mo. °l managod to stop hor
botoro sho cou|d hurt horso|t. 3ut, nood|oss to say, sho had
to atono tor hor act|ons.'
°What d|d you do?'
°l p|acod hor |n a tac|||ty. lt's a vory good c||n|c that ono
ot hor o|d protossors runs. 3ho w||| bo sato trom harm|ng
horso|t thoro, but sho w||| a|so bo carotu||y mon|torod. 3ho
won't bo ab|o to hurt anyono o|so,' Ethan sa|d. °Espoc|a||y
not you.'
Vy chost t|ghtonod. l cou|dn't |mag|no tho vast amount
ot courago and strongth |t took tor Ethan to comm|t h|s own
mothor. |o |ookod at mo, and, as |t undorstand|ng my
thoughts, sa|d, °0on't worry. 3ho wont w||||ng|y. Attor a||
thoso yoars ot t|ght|ng to accomp||sh so much, and ot
constant|y bo|ng d|sappo|ntod, sho was roady to got away
trom |t a||. 3ho noodod somo poaco and qu|ot. l'm not suro
what tho tuturo ho|ds tor hor, but l'm hopotu| that sho w|||
ovontua||y got bottor.'
l hopod so too, tor Ethan's sako. |o had boon
abandonod by h|s tathor, and now, ho had |ost h|s mothor
too. |o was comp|oto|y a|ono.
Kloo oí |lko mo, my thoughts t|uttorod br|ot|y to my own
tathor. 3uddon|y, l romomborod what ho had to|d mo about
h|s past w|th Amo||a. lt sho had boon rospons|b|o tor my
croat|on, thon v|ktor sook|ng hor out was not an acc|dont,
but rathor a vory do||borato act on h|s part. A|| o|oog, bo
boo wootoo to got to mo. l shuddorod, romombor|ng h|s
w|ckod taco, h|s ov|| |augh. What was ovon worso, ho was
st||| out thoro, most ||ko|y p|ott|ng h|s noxt stop.
°0oos your mom know whoro v|ktor |s?' l askod. l was
s||ont|y hop|ng that ho wou|d say yos, but l a|roady know tho
answor.
Ethan shook h|s hoad. °lo ono knows. lot that any ot
us wont attor h|m |n tho t|rst p|aco. Your tathor's on|y goa|
was to mako suro you surv|vod. ||s guards ho|pod 3rooko
and 3oph|o doa| w|th tho roguo vamps outs|do tho bu||d|ng,
wh||o 3obast|an and |untor had rushod to my a|d whon
thoy hoard tho gunshot. 3y tho t|mo wo a|| arr|vod to tho
basomont, you woro unconsc|ous and v|ktor had s||ppod
out trom undor our nosos,' ho sa|d, h|tt|ng h|s un|njurod
hand aga|nst tho couch cush|on. °Why d|d my mom ovor
agroo to work w|th that croop?'
l roso|vod to ho|d ott on to|||ng Ethan about h|s
mothor's ro|o |n my b|rth. |o soomod to bo comp|oto|y
ob||v|ous to both Amo||a's c|on|ng work and v|ktor's
connoct|on to mo-tho toam probab|y hadn't had a chanco
to spoak w|th h|m s|nco tho |nc|dont-and l wantod to koop
|t that way tor as |ong as poss|b|o. l know that ho wou|d t|nd
out ovontua||y, but just tho thought ot, ono day, hav|ng to
br|ng up tho top|c mado my stomach churn.
What wou|d l ovon say? l wondorod g|um|y. 3o, Ethan,
v|ktor |s actua||y my crazy unc|o that l novor know ox|stod.
lnstoad ot a sappy tam||y roun|on, ho wants to k||| mo just
||ko ho k|||od my tathor's roa| daughtor back |n 187b. Oh,
that's tho g|r| that l was c|onod trom. l novor mont|onod that l
was c|onod? 0on't worry, |t was nows to mo too! And just |n
caso you d|dn't havo onough drama to doa| w|th.guoss
what? Your mothor d|d tho c|on|ng. 3urpr|so!
lnstoad, l changod tho subjoct to |annah. 1horo woro
st||| many th|ngs l was try|ng to undorstand |n rogard to hor
ro|o |n tho |nc|dont.
°l th|nk l t|na||y havo a c|oar p|cturo ot what happonod
that day at Llxlo Pbormocootlco|s. What l roa||y want to
know about |s |annah.' l sa|d, my sk|n craw||ng at tho
momory ot tho po|sonous syr|ngo. °What happonod to hor?'
l askod.
°Wo||, wo roscuod hor trom tho basomont and took hor
homo. 3ho was |n shock, kopt muttor|ng that you gott|ng
hurt was a|| hor tau|t.'
l was suddon|y h|t w|th tho roa||zat|on that l had boon
tho on|y ono who had w|tnossod |annah's troachory.
Evoryono o|so must havo assumod that v|ktor had both
po|sonod and shot mo, and that |annah was s|mp|y an
|nnocont bystandor-a v|ct|m.
°A day |ator, attor l droppod my mom ott at tho c||n|c
and onsurod that you woro wo|| on your way to rocovory, l
v|s|tod |annah's p|aco. lt was dosortod. l havo no |doa
whoro sho and hor tam||y wont, or why thoy d|sappoarod,
but sho |ott th|s boh|nd.' Ethan handod mo a wh|to onvo|opo
w|th my namo on |t. 1ho sott, sma|| wr|t|ng on |t bo|ongod to
|annah.
°l d|dn't opon |t,' ho assurod mo. °l wantod to rospoct
your pr|vacy. A|though, l can't say l wasn't cur|ous.'
l toro opon tho onvo|opo, pu|||ng out a shoot ot papor
trom tho |ns|do. On |t, |n noat curs|vo wr|t|ng was |annah's
|ottor ot apo|ogy.
Loor Lowo,
l jost spoko to 5opblo ooo sbo to|o mo tbot yoo`ro
golog to moko o ío|| rocovory. l`m so ro|lovoo to boor tbo
gooo oows!
l coo`t to|| yoo bow sorry l om oboot ovorytblog tbot
boppoooo. ¼boo l wos bolog bo|o bostogo l wos to|o tbot
lí l cooporotoo ooo lojoctoo yoo wltb tbo vomplro b|ooo,
tbo ooctor |ooy woo|o coro my mom`s l||ooss. Oí coorso, l
roíosoo tbo oííor. l oovor-lo o ml||loo yoors-wootoo to
bort yoo. l to|o tbom tbot l oloo`t oooo tbolr bo|p, tbot my
mom ooo l woo|o got tbroogb bor l||ooss wltboot bormlog
my írlooo. 7bo scory, borooo vomplro tboo stoppoo lo ooo
tbrootoooo mo. lo solo tbot lí l roíosoo to oo wbot bo
oskoo, bo woo|o oot oo|y moko soro to oostroy yoo ooo
mo, bot o|so kl|| my motbor ooo |ltt|o slstor.
l koow tbot tbls oxp|oootloo oooso`t oxcoso wbot l olo,
bot p|ooso koow tbot l |lvo oocb ooo ovory ooy lo rogrot oí
my borrlb|o octloos. ¼boo l mooo tbo cbolco to botroy
yoor trost, l ío|t os lí l wos oolog tbo rlgbt tblog. Now, l koow
tbot l wos slmp|y o coworo wbo bort ooo oí my bost írlooos.
lor tbot, l`m so vory sorry.
l oooo to got owoy írom Aogo| Crook íor o wbl|o. l`m
toklog my mom, slstor ooo Lolsy oot oí tbo coootry íor tbo
ooxt coop|o oí mootbs. l booro tbot o yooog vomplro
ooctor lo Cooooo ls worklog oo oo oxporlmooto| trootmoot
íor my mom`s l||ooss. l`vo tokoo oot o|| my sovlogs ooo wl||
booo op tboro to try ooo got bor loto tbo progrom.
l wl|| got lo toocb sooo. l bopo tbot yoo`|| bo roooy ooo
wl||log to to|k to mo.
5o vory sorry,
loooob
As l t|n|shod road|ng, Ethan |ookod at mo oxpoctant|y.
1oo stunnod to rohash tho |ottor, l s|mp|y handod h|m tho
p|oco ot papor. Whon ho was dono, ho |ookod ovor at mo
p|t|tu||y. °lt sooms that wo both havo ta||od you,' ho sa|d
qu|ot|y, h|s tu|| ||ps t|ghton|ng |nto a t|ght ||no.
lo wos rlgbt, tboy boo, l thought. l was hurt, but at |oast
l cou|d undorstand h|s and |annah's mot|vos. l cou|d
torg|vo tho|r m|stakos. What l cou|dn't comprohond-wbot l
coo|oo`t íorglvo-was my tathor's botraya|. 1ust th|nk|ng
about |t aga|n brought trosh toars to my oyos.
°l nood to bo a|ono tor a wh||o,' l sa|d abrupt|y. l was
about to shattor, and l cou|dn't boar to havo Ethan w|tnoss
my broakdown.
|o m|stook my tonso words as bo|ng |ntondod tor h|m.
°Oh, 0awn. l prom|so to spond tho rost ot my ||to mak|ng
th|s up to you! Whatovor |t takos tor you to torg|vo mo, l'|| do
|t,' ho sa|d, rush|ng ovor to mo. ||s vo|co was trant|c, h|s
oyos dartod around |n pan|c.
l gont|y wrappod ono ot my arms around h|s un|njurod
shou|dor. °l'vo a|roady torg|von you Ethan,' l sa|d, g|v|ng
h|m a s|ncoro sm||o. °|ow cou|d l not? You took an arrow
tor mo, you hoa|od mo w|th your b|ood, and you got shot at
by your own mothor bocauso ot mo. l th|nk wo'ro ovon.'
|o oxha|od, ro|ax|ng a ||tt|o.
°l|us, l undorstand that you and |annah thought you
woro do|ng tho r|ght th|ng at tho t|mo,' l addod.
°3t|||, l'm go|ng to mako suro th|s novor happons aga|n.
|rom now on, just tho truth. A|woys,' ho prom|sod, patt|ng
my arm w|th h|s |argo hand.
Wo starod at oach othor tor a momont, dra|nod and
oxhaustod trom tho hoavy subjoct mattor, but contontod by
tho outcomo ot tho ta|k.
Ethan broko tho gazo, |ook|ng w|th a|arm at h|s watch.
°lt's a|most s|x th|rty! l gotta got to tho d|nor tor my ovon|ng
sh|tt.' |o pausod, |ook|ng ovor at mo. °Un|oss you nood mo
to stay?' ho askod, |ook|ng s||ght|y hopotu|.
°l'|| bo t|no, thank you. Go to work.'
°Okay, but ca|| |t you nood anyth|ng. l|ko l sa|d oar||or,
tor tho rost ot my ||to, l'm torovor undor your command,'
Ethan prom|sod.
°You'ro st||| work|ng at tho d|nor?' l askod, qu|ck|y
chang|ng tho top|c. °Aron't you go|ng to go back to Ashton
now that your ass|gnmont |s ovor?'
°l'vo actua||y doc|dod to stay horo tor a b|t,' Ethan sa|d.
°Ango| Crook has k|nd ot put a spo|| on mo. Or rathor, ono
ot |ts curront |nhab|tants has.' |o |ookod at mo, tho
tradomark p|aytu| sm|rk roturn|ng to h|s handsomo taco.
Attor b|dd|ng Ethan goodbyo, l tound myso|t a|ono |n
tho ompty cottago tor tho t|rst t|mo a|| day. l c|osod my oyos,
roc||n|ng aga|nst tho rough wood ot tho tront door |n an
attompt to bask |n my so||tudo.
3ut somoth|ng was d|ttoront. Vy sharp hoar|ng, oas||y
pr|vy to ovory sound around mo, was suddon|y p|ck|ng up
on no|sos l had managod to |gnoro a|| wook. 1ho rhythm|c
t|ck-tock ot tho d||ap|datod cuckoo c|ock hang|ng abovo tho
d|n|ng room tab|o, tho mochan|ca| hum ot tho tr|dgo, ovon
tho s||ght buzz ot ono ot tho dy|ng ||ght bu|bs |n tho ||v|ng
room chando||or d|d not oscapo mo. 1ho paramount va|uo
ot my tr|onds' company bogan to dawn on mo.
l oooooo tbom oroooo, l roa||zod. lart|y bocauso l
onjoyod tho|r prosonco, but ovon moro |mportant|y
bocauso, around thom, l to|t ||ko myso|t. lurposotu|. 3trong.
lot a c|ono.
CEAP1ER 1WELVE
1ho shr||| r|ng ot my co|| phono |ntorruptod my tra|n ot
thought. l jumpod, start|od by tho unoxpoctod sound.
lotbor, tho ca||or l0 s|mp|y road.
l hovorod my |ndox t|ngor ovor tho groon Aoswor
button, thon torcotu||y c||ckod Loc|loo. 1ho phono to|| s||ont.
Attor a momont, |t bogan to r|ng aga|n. Vy tathor had boon
ca|||ng ovory day s|nco my abrupt doparturo trom tho
hoadquartors. l novor p|ckod up, and ho novor |ott a
mossago. l know ho wou|dn't. |o |nvar|ab|y protorrod to
spoak |n porson, and what wo had to d|scuss was much too
|mportant to bo ro|ayod ovor an answor|ng mach|no. 1ho
phono cont|nuod r|ng|ng as l throw tho sma|| dov|co across
tho room. lt |andod on ono ot tho worn ||v|ng room couchos
w|th a sott tboo.
l to||owod |ts path, d|v|ng onto tho couch and bury|ng
my hoad doop |nto tho sott, |oathor cush|ons. l wantod
noth|ng moro than to spoak to my tathor, to hoar h|s vo|co
and bo conv|ncod that ovoryth|ng wou|d somohow bo
a|r|ght, but l cou|dn't br|ng myso|t to answor tho phono. l
cou|dn't got thoughts ot Aurora out ot my hoad. 3ho was my
tathor's roa| daughtor, attor a||. 3ho was tho ono ho wantod
whon ho sot out to croato mo. l sw|tchod ott tho powor on
tho phono.
Vy throat to|t dry, my bra|n poundod aga|nst my sku||.
3||nd|y, l roachod out to tho tab|o, tumb||ng w|th tho
3||nd|y, l roachod out to tho tab|o, tumb||ng w|th tho
numorous cups and g|assos, dosporato tor somoth|ng to
dr|nk.
lt was on|y attor tho b|ttor ||qu|d s||d down my throat,
that l roa||zod that l had gu|pod down a|| ot 3rooko's B|ooo
Vooko.
l coughod, but tho manouvor on|y sont tho powortu|
substanco doopor |nto my body. lovor hav|ng boon ono to
|ndu|go |n a|coho||c bovoragos, my curront prod|camont
causod a |ot ot unoas|noss. Wh||o l had no doubt that my
body was strong onough to w|thstand whatovor
consoquonco a g|ass ot tho v||o substanco had |n storo tor
mo, l was corta|n that, at th|s momont, my m|nd was not.
|or a |ong t|mo, noth|ng out ot tho ord|nary happonod. l
ro|axod, a||ow|ng myso|t to ca|m|y assoss tho s|tuat|on. l`m
okoy, l s|ghod choortu||y. 3ut thon, my body bogan to
ovort|ow w|th torvont, unconta|nab|o onorgy. 1ho cottago
was suddon|y too sma|| and too stutty to conta|n mo. l
noodod to got out, l noodod to broatho |n trosh a|r.
A |o|suro|y stro|| through tho d|m torost |od mo to
3obast|an's homo. l |aughod out |oud, roa||z|ng that tor tho
socond t|mo s|nco my arr|va| |n Ango| Crook, my a|m|oss
trok had ondod at h|s door. lono ot tho ||ghts |ns|do tho
spac|ous dwo|||ng woro on. lovortho|oss, l rappod my
knuck|os aga|nst tho woodon door. loco|v|ng no answor, l
knockod aga|n, th|s t|mo |oudor. 3t||| noth|ng.
°5oboooostloo! Whoro aro you?' l ca||od out, g|gg||ng
at tho sound ot my own vo|co. lt was pocu||ar|y h|gh-p|tchod,
uncharactor|st|ca||y noody. l poutod whon that attompt a|so
garnorod no rosponso. l prossod my oar aga|nst tho tront
door, ||ston|ng tor movomont |ns|do.
A|| qu|ot.
Upon onsur|ng that 3obast|an wasn't homo, l sot out
tor tho town. ||nd|ng h|m suddon|y bocamo my pr|mary goa|
and l had ono moro p|aco to |nvost|gato-tho gazobo. 1ho
wa|k up Va|n 3troot provod to bo |abor|ous, as my usua||y
suporb sonso ot ba|anco was nogat|vo|y |nt|uoncod by tho
comb|nat|on ot a|coho| and 3rooko's strappy sanda|s.
||na||y, just as l was about to rosort to craw||ng, tho towors
ot tho |nn camo |nto v|ow.
3obast|an sat on ono ot tho bonchos |ns|do tho
moon||t gazobo, br|ght wh|to ||ght rot|oct|ng ott h|s |ong,
dark cur|s. ||s oyos woro shut, but whon ho hoard my
rambunct|ous tootstops, ho |mmod|ato|y snappod thom
opon.
°0awn!' ho oxc|a|mod, stand|ng up to groot mo.
°||!' l rospondod oxc|tod|y, throw|ng my arms around
h|s nock. 1ho bo|d gosturo caught h|m by surpr|so, caus|ng
h|m to |oso h|s ba|anco and stumb|o backwards. l|mbs
|ntortw|nod, wo co||apsod on tho gazobo t|oor, h|m |ook|ng
porp|oxod, and mo burst|ng |nto a t|t ot g|gg|os.
°0awn?' |o g|ancod at mo quost|on|ng|y. °Aro you
okay?'
l c|ampod my hand ovor my mouth |n an attompt to
st|t|o my |aughtor, thon droppod |t |n my |ap and cont|nuod
to g|gg|o |oud|y. Vy joytu| mood was provokod by an
art|t|c|a| causo, but, rogard|oss, |t to|t good to sm||o.
°l'm groat!' l sa|d, stand|ng up. °0on't l |ook groat?' l
spun around, tho tabr|c ot 3rooko's |avondor dross
sw|sh|ng a|| around mo.
3obast|an sat on tho t|oor, watch|ng mo qu|ot|y, a
stunnod oxpross|on across h|s handsomo taco.
°Wo||?' l quost|onod a ||tt|o hurt.
°Uhh, yos. Ot courso,' ho rospondod d|stractod|y, not
tak|ng h|s gazo ott my taco. |o was study|ng mo |ntonso|y,
h|s pa|o oyos tu|| ot gonu|no concorn. |o roso ott tho t|oor,
mov|ng h|s taco c|osor to m|no.
lo`s oboot to klss mo, l thought broath|oss|y, c|os|ng
my oyos and ra|s|ng my ||ps up to moot h|s.
loth|ng happonod.
l wa|tod a ||tt|o |ongor, thon s|ow|y t|uttorod opon my
oyo||ds. 3obast|an was now stand|ng turthor away, h|s
arms crossod, h|s dark brows turrowod. l qu|ck|y
stra|ghtonod up, hop|ng that-by somo m|rac|o-ho had
ta||od to porco|vo my do|udod, m|sgu|dod oxpoctat|on. lt ho
had not|cod |t, ho d|dn't |ot on.
°0awn, havo you boon orloklog?' ho askod |nstoad.
°Acc|donta||y,' l rospondod shoop|sh|y. °3rooko's
tau|t.'
|o gapod at mo, h|s oxpross|on a m|x ot amusomont
and d|sbo||ot.
°lt roa||y was an acc|dont!' l snappod.
°l bo||ovo you,' ho sa|d, ra|s|ng h|s hands dotons|vo|y.
||s vo|co was s|ncoro, but tho |aughtor |n h|s oyos
provokod mo.
l br|sk|y movod toward h|m and pokod h|s chost w|th
my t|ngor. °1hon act ||ko |t.'
Vy ||tt|o outburst causod tho amusomont |n
3obast|an's oyos to sp||| ovor to h|s ont|ro taco. °||na||y
doc|dod to como out ot h|d|ng, huh?' ho askod, a str|k|ng
sm||o tugg|ng at tho cornors ot h|s ||ps. °What br|ngs you
horo?'
°l was.' l tra||od ot, soarch|ng tor tho r|ght words.
¼bot wos l oologº Looklog íor h|mº ¼byº lorhaps |t
had somoth|ng to do w|th tho tact that, though l wou|dn't |ot
thom |n, 3rooko, 3oph|o, |untor and 3oth had mado suro
to v|s|t tho cottago ovory day ovor tho past wook. Evon
Ethan showod up. 1hoy had wantod to bo w|th mo dur|ng
my darkost hours. 3obast|an, on tho othor hand, had not.
°Why do you caro?' l rotortod, suddon|y too||ng vory
|rr|tab|o. lí bo roo||y coroo, bo woo|o bovo como by.
3obast|an |ookod down at mo tondor|y, start|od by my
harsh words. ln that momont, l abrupt|y roca||od soo|ng tho
tam|||ar, ta|| shapo, |urk|ng around tho woods by tho cottago
-ovory morn|ng and ovory ovon|ng.
°You roa||y havo to stop spy|ng on mo ||ko that!' l
gaspod, a|armod at tho thought ot what ho may havo
w|tnossod. At tho samo t|mo, l cou|dn't ho|p but too| s||ght|y
ro||ovod-ovon p|oasod.
3obast|an shruggod, runn|ng h|s |ong t|ngors through
h|s ha|r. °l know you that wantod to bo a|ono, but l st||| to|t an
urgo to hang around and onsuro that you woro sato,' ho
oxp|a|nod. °v|ktor |s st||| out thoro somowhoro.'
ºWo||, as you can soo,º l sa|d, opon|ng my arms w|do
and gostur|ng ovor tho |ongth ot my ont|ro body, ºl'm sato.º
ºAnd drunk,º ho toasod husk||y.
º1hanks tor rom|nd|ng mo,º l grumb|od. l had
surpassod tho p|nnac|o ot my |nobr|atod ouphor|a and was
now too||ng tho nogat|vo s|do-ottocts ot tho a|coho|. A|| at
onco. 1ho pound|ng hoad, tho churn|ng stomach, d|zz|noss.
º|ow d|d th|s happon, anyway?º 3obast|an askod
cur|ous|y.
1ry|ng to stay a|ort, l tocusod w|th a|| my attont|on on
h|s v|v|d oyos. ºl guoss tho usua| way poop|o got drunk,' l
groanod. °Vy tathor ca||od. l d|dn't want to p|ck up. l bogan
to too| ta|nt and noodod a dr|nk. l just d|dn't th|nk that that
part|cu|ar dr|nk wou|d bo |acod w|th a m|nd-a|tor|ng
substanco. |onco tho roason l'm now a stumb||ng, s|urr|ng
c||cho.'
ºYou havon't spokon w|th your tathor yot?º
ºlo, and l don't p|an to,º l rotortod s|nk|ng onto tho
woodon bonch.
3obast|an sat down bos|do mo, tondor|y touch|ng my
arm. ||s t|ngors ||ngorod on my sk|n, sond|ng a sh|vor down
my sp|no. l to|t ||ghthoadod, but, th|s t|mo, |t had noth|ng to
do w|th tho B|ooo Vooko.
ºlook, 0awn,' ho pausod, carotu||y cons|dor|ng h|s
words. °l know that you'vo boon through a |ot rocont|y, but
you may want to cons|dor ond|ng th|s grudgo you'ro
harbor|ng toward your tathor,' ho sa|d, gaz|ng |ong|ng|y
toward tho |nn. °1ako |t trom somoono who can novor ta|k to
h|s tam||y aga|n.º
l to||owod 3obast|an's gazo, my oyos sott||ng on tho
p|aquo noxt to tho |nn. l was not yot ab|o to torg|vo my tathor
tor h|s act|ons, but l cou|dn't |mag|no not hoar|ng h|s vo|co
ovor aga|n. 0osp|to my unconvont|ona|, controvors|a|
croat|on, l had bocomo tho vamp|ro-and tho g|r|-l was
today a|| bocauso ot h|m. lt wos tbooks to my íotbor`s coro
ooo opbrloglog tbot l booo`t torooo oot |lko Aororo, l
thought. l was strongor, moro rosourcotu| and so|t-ro||ant.
A suddon wavo ot nausoa roso trom doop w|th|n tho
p|t ot my stomach. l dosporato|y tr|od to avo|d th|nk|ng
about Aurora, but l cou|dn't oscapo hor. l cou|dn't ovon
c|oso my oyos. 1ho momont that l a||owod myso|t to ro|ax,
sho wou|d |nvado my m|nd, haunt|ng mo w|th thoso p|orc|ng
groon oyos. 3ho was not on|y connoctod to mo through
0lA, but moro |mportant|y, through my tathor. lo wos bors
ílrst. As wos 5obostloo. l cou|dn't ho|p but too| a sharp pang
ot joa|ousy as l wondorod |t thoy woro d|sappo|ntod that l
was so d|ttoront trom hor.
l shut my oyos, dosporato|y t|ght|ng aga|nst tho
d|zz|noss. l tr|od to th|nk moro pos|t|vo thoughts. Vaybo
3obast|an |s r|ght, l musod. lorhaps l nood to hoar my
tathor out. lorhaps l nood to g|vo h|m an opportun|ty to
oxp|a|n h|s act|ons.
l |ookod ovor at 3obast|an and s|ghod. °||no, l'|| ta|k to
my tathor,' l roso|vod. °||rst th|ng tomorrow morn|ng,' l
addod, groan|ng as a sharp, shoot|ng pa|n ongu|tod my
ont|ro sku||. °l'm |n no shapo to carry out any convorsat|ons
ton|ght.'
°l agroo. 3ottor savo tho ta|k tor tomorrow.' 3obast|an
sa|d, trown|ng at my b|urry oyos. °1h|s may bo ono ot thoso
raro t|mos whon a vamp|ro roa||y shou|d s|oop.'
|or tho t|rst t|mo a|| wook, tho numbnoss |n my body
bogan to d|sso|vo. l startod to sonso aga|n. 1ho tat|guo.
1ho hungor. 1hough thoy woron't tho most p|oasant
sonsat|ons, l wo|comod thom g|ad|y, contont to s|ow|y too|
human aga|n. ¼o||, os bomoo os o vomplro coo|o íoo|.
°|oro,' 3obast|an sa|d, ottor|ng mo ono ot h|s strong
shou|dors.
l |ay my hoad aga|nst h|s body, a||ow|ng my oyos to
shut. 1ho ca|m, qu|ot darknoss was ouphor|c b||ss.
l camo to just as tho sun was broak|ng out ovor tho
hor|zon. Grogg||y opon|ng my oyos, l was start|od to soo
that my hoad was st||| rost|ng aga|nst 3obast|an's shou|dor.
|o |ookod down at mo as l st|rrod. °|oo|
bottor?' ho askod, sm|||ng warm|y.
l noddod. Vy hoadacho was gono and
my v|s|on had c|oarod. As|do trom tho s||ght
hungor pangs |n my stomach, phys|ca||y, l
was tu||y rostorod. Vonta||y, |t was a who|o
othor story. l to|t a surgo ot ombarrassmont
run through mo as l roca||od my act|ons
trom tho prov|ous n|ght.
°Ugb,' l groanod, sh|tt|ng |nto an upr|ght
pos|t|on. °1hanks tor ovoryth|ng.'
°lo prob|om. A|though, you do know
what you prom|sod mo |ast n|ght, r|ght?'
l norvous|y scannod my bra|n tor any
l norvous|y scannod my bra|n tor any
awkward p|odgos, thon roa||zod that
3obast|an was rotorr|ng to tho vow l mado
to ta|k to my tathor.
°Yos. l'|| spoak w|th h|m today,' l
prom|sod. °ln tact, l'm go|ng to hoad ovor to
tho 3car|ot |ouso r|ght away.'
°Wou|d you ||ko mo to como w|th you?'
ho ottorod.
°lo, that's okay. l nood to do th|s a|ono.
l a|so havo to stop by tho cottago to p|ck up
my car.' Aoo cboogo, l roa||zod, |ook|ng
down at tho 3rooko's dross and hoo|s,
comp|oto|y mort|t|od as tho momory ot
tw|r||ng around |n tront ot 3obast|an camo
t|ood|ng back. Brooko oosorvos o s|oylog
íor orosslog mo op ooo gottlog mo orook, l
doc|dod.
3obast|an wa|kod mo back to tho
cottago, paus|ng br|ot|y at tho ond ot tho
dr|voway. °Good |uck,' ho sa|d. |o |ookod
||ko ho was about to say somoth|ng o|so,
but thon changod h|s m|nd.
°1hanks.' l sa|d, hoad|ng up tho woodon
stops |oad|ng to tho tront ontranco ot tho
cottago. 1ho door was s||ght|y ajar. l hurr|od
|ns|do, broath|ng a s|gh ot ro||ot upon
roa||z|ng that ovoryth|ng |ns|do was
untouchod. 1ho d|rty g|assos, st||| ha|t-tu||
w|th |ottovor B|ooo Co|o, woro scattorod
around tho ||v|ng room tab|o, 3oth's v|doo
gamos and 3rooko's mako-up ||ttorod tho
t|oor-ovoryth|ng was |n portoct, d|sordor|y
ordor. l most bovo íorgottoo to sbot tbo
ooor |ost olgbt, l roa||zod, chast|s|ng myso|t
tor my caro|ossnoss.
l rushod up tho sta|rs to tako a qu|ck
showor and chango out ot tho |av|sh dross.
l dosporato|y cravod tho s|mp||c|ty ot my
tam|||ar tank and joans outt|t. 1o my
surpr|so, tho drawors |n my bodroom woro
comp|oto|y ompty. 3rooko's Aogo| Crook
llgb gym bag |ay on top ot tho |argo
armo|ro, t|||od to tho br|m w|th br|ght,
ostontat|ous outt|ts. l groanod. 3ho had
takon tho who|o makoovor crusado to a
comp|oto|y now |ovo| by trad|ng |n my p|a|n,
pract|ca| wardrobo tor hor vory v|brant and
much too |mpract|ca| ono.
l toro apart tho bag, soarch|ng tor
somoth|ng su|tab|o to woar. lt was
ovort|ow|ng w|th t|owory drossos, short
sk|rts and |acoy soo-through tops-much
moro t|tt|ng tor a dark n|ghtc|ub |n a soody
part ot town than tho vamp|ro lros|dont's
|oadquartors. l t|na||y managod to pu||
togothor a somowhat appropr|ato outt|t by
comb|n|ng a pa|r ot ||ght don|m shorts and a
|ooso, powdor p|nk, ott-shou|dor swoator. l
was ro||ovod to t|nd a ||ght gray pa|r ot
comtortab|o, m|d-ca|t boots, h|ddon
undornoath tho count|oss g||ttory hoo|s.
lgnor|ng my hungor pangs, l roso|vod to
sk|p broaktast. Ono ot tho b|ggost ta|ks ot
my ||to |oomod ahoad, and l wantod to got
out on tho road as soon as poss|b|o. l
spont a br|ot momont soarch|ng tor my co||
phono, but attor rummag|ng through
count|oss couch cush|ons and com|ng up
ompty handod, l doc|dod to g|vo up on tho
hunt. l had |ott tho sma|| dov|co on tho
couch-l was suro ot |t-but |t had
mystor|ous|y d|sappoarod ovorn|ght. l
pushod tho unnorv|ng thoughts ot tho
m|ss|ng phono and tho opon door out ot my
m|nd, too norvous about my moot|ng w|th
my tathor to th|nk ot anyth|ng o|so.

|or tho t|rst ha|t ot tho dr|vo to tho
Command Contor, l anx|ous|y crushod down
on tho gas poda|. loa||z|ng that l was
doub||ng tho spood ||m|t, l s|owod down |n a
|ast-m|nuto ottort to do|ay tho |mpond|ng ta|k
w|th my tathor. 3trango|y, tho n|ght botoro,
whon my m|nd was c|oudod by 3obast|an's
prosonco and tho |ntox|cat|ng B|ooo Vooko,
th|ngs soomod tar |oss comp||catod. low,
as tho d|stanco botwoon my convort|b|o
and tho 3car|ot |ouso docroasod, l
rogrottod a||ow|ng 3obast|an to coax mo
|nto ombark|ng on th|s |nov|tab|y doomod
journoy.
An ont|ro wook had passod s|nco l
|oarnod about Aurora and a|| tho ||os that
bound my ox|stonco, but l st||| wasn't roady
to accopt tho roa||ty ot tho s|tuat|on. l
noodod moro t|mo. Ao ootlro |líotlmo wortb
oí tlmo, l thought dojoctod|y, try|ng to |gnoro
tho adrona||no-|nducod throbb|ng |n my
hoad. |or a t|oot|ng momont, l cons|dorod
do|ng a sharp u-turn r|ght ovor tho mod|an
ot tho dosortod country h|ghway and
rush|ng back to my asy|um |n Ango| Crook.
3omohow, l managod to koop my hands
stoady on tho whoo| and pross on toward
my dost|nat|on.
Count|oss troos, road s|gns and m||o
markors passod by mo, comp|oto|y unsoon.
l was too tocusod on cramm|ng my bra|n tu||
ot pos|t|vo thoughts.
Yoo oooo to oo tbls, Lowo. 1hat much
was truo. l was woary ot a|| tho mo|ancho|y,
ot not bo|ng myso|t, ot not ovon know|ng
who that porson was anymoro.
Yoor íotbor |ovos yoo, Lowo. 0osp|to
ovoryth|ng that had happonod botwoon us,
doop down |n my hoart, l know that was
a|so truo. Wh||o ho had a|ways boon
phys|ca||y and omot|ona||y d|stant, thoro
was no dony|ng that ho harborod a
protound |ovo tor mo. A |ovo much d|ttoront
than l had soon h|m oxh|b|t towards Aurora,
but ono no |oss powortu|. Aurora was h|s
boaut|tu|, proc|ous pr|ncoss. l, on tho othor
hand, was h|s strong, bravo warr|or.
Porbops, trololog mo lo socb o rlglo
moooor írom tbo ooy l wos boro wos bls
woy oí oosorlog tbot l rocolvoo o
soccossío| íotoro, l thought. A íotoro
Aororo oovor boo.
Vy stomach c|onchod as v|v|d |magos
ot Aurora |nvadod my m|nd. l squoozod my
oyos shut, torc|ng my-wbot wos sbo to
mo, ooywoyº Klooo twloº 5ort oí slstorº A
vory ooortbooox motborº-torc|ng bor out
ot my hoad.
Posltlvo tboogbts, posltlvo tboogbts, l
chantod ovor and ovor aga|n.
3otoro |ong, l suddon|y tound myso|t |n
tront ot tho |argo gatoway ot tho 3car|ot
|ouso. l pu||od my car |n tront ot tho t|rm|y
shut gato, |ook|ng around |n contus|on. 1ho
socur|ty guards woro nowhoro to bo soon. l
ox|tod tho car, s|ow|y wa|k|ng up to tho
guard booth. lt was ompty.
7bls ls cortolo|y o ílrst, l though,
wondor|ng about what cou|d poss|b|y havo
|urod tho guards away trom tho|r posts. 1ho
3car|ot |ouso was a|ways t|ght on socur|ty,
ospoc|a||y at tho tront gato. G|anc|ng
around to mako suro that no ono was
|ook|ng, l qu|ck|y snuck |nto tho bu||otproot
g|ass booth and prossod tho o|octron|c
Uo|ock sw|tch. |oar|ng tho tam|||ar mota|
c|lok, l movod my |ndox t|ngor to tho Opoo
button, |mmod|ato|y caus|ng tho mass|vo
gato to sw|ng opon.
°|oro goos noth|ng,' l murmurod.
5omotblog wos wroog, l |mmod|ato|y
roa||zod as l noarod tho 3car|ot |ouso
grounds. 1ho park|ng |ot was ovort|ow|ng
w|th cars, most|y oxpons|vo, |uxury
automob||os and dark ||mous|nos. 1hoy
sp|||od out onto tho curb outs|do tho
dos|gnatod park|ng aroa, croat|ng a |ong,
sh|ny cha|n. l g|ancod at tho c|ock on my
dashboard. lt was baro|y o|ght o'c|ock |n tho
morn|ng, much too oar|y tor |mportant
moot|ngs or tun ovonts. Vy tathor, try|ng to
koop up w|th tho myth that vamp|ros woro
not morn|ng croaturos, had a ru|o aga|nst
ontorta|n|ng guosts unt|| at |oast tho oar|y
attornoon.
l pu||od my car |n boh|nd a ||mo |d||ng on
tho curb and rushod |nto tho mans|on. A
congrogat|on ot mon and womon |n dark
su|ts gathorod |n tho |mpoccab|y turn|shod
s|tt|ng aroa. Vuch ||ko tho cars |n tho
park|ng |ot, thoy woro a|so crammod |n tho
sma|| spaco, sp||||ng out ot tho room and
tak|ng ovor tho ha||ways. lt was oor||y qu|ot.
lo ono spoko, thoy just stood around
s||ont|y, tho|r tacos gravo and unroadab|o.
Yos, somotblog wos wroog.
Amongst tho group was my nanny E||sa.
3ho |mmod|ato|y spottod mo and, as |t
mov|ng |n s|ow mot|on, bogan to t|oat
towards mo. |or oyos woro b|oodshot,
r|mmod w|th rodnoss, hor mouth t|ght. 1ho
strongost woman l know had boon cry|ng.
5omotblog wos dot|n|to|y wroog.
And, just by |ook|ng |nto hor gr|ot-
str|ckon oyos, l cou|d to|| oxact|y what that
somoth|ng was. 1|mo stood st||| as wo
oxchangod a word|oss convorsat|on.
Vy íotbor. 5omotblog wos wroog wltb my íotbor. Vory
wroog.
l to|| to tho ground just as E||sa roachod
mo. 3ho grabbod a ho|d ot my arm botoro l
cou|d touch tho t|oor. |or a br|ot momont, l
cou|d touch tho t|oor. |or a br|ot momont, l
just hung thoro, sway|ng aga|nst hor ||ko
ono ot thoso t||msy tabr|c do||s sho usod to
mako tor mo whon l was ||tt|o. Attor what
soomod ||ko a ||tot|mo ot dang||ng |n ||mbo,
sho pu||od mo to my toot and |nto a t|ght
ombraco.
l stood mot|on|oss, |ott|ng tho dark,
ompty co|dnoss sott|o ovor mo. Vy t|ngors
turnod to |co. lumbnoss took ovor my
ont|ro body. l ho|d my broath, gaz|ng doop
|nto E||sa's oyos as wo pu||od apart. Voro
than anyth|ng, l wantod hor to spoak. 1o
say somoth|ng. At tho samo t|mo, l s||ont|y
boggod hor not to.
°l'm so sorry, 0awn,' sho wh|sporod,
hor words baro|y aud|b|o.
°ls ho.' l cou|dn't br|ng myso|t to say
tho word gooo. l cou|d baro|y br|ng myso|t
to spoak. Vy throat was so dry.
E||sa s|mp|y noddod, hor oyos wo|||ng up
w|th toars. l b||nkod, try|ng to br|ng tho wor|d
back |nto tocus. Voro co|dnoss ongu|tod
mo, but l was a|roady too doadonod to
not|co or caro.
7bo rlms oroooo E|lso`s oyos oro so
roo, lt |ooks |lko sbo`s woorlog crlmsoo
oyo|loor, l thought ovor and ovor aga|n, ||ko
somo do||r|ous, dota||-or|ontod |unat|c. 1ust
so l wou|dn't havo to tocus on tho roa||ty
unto|d|ng |n tront ot mo.
¼bo woors crlmsoo oyo|loorº
°0awn.'
Crlmsoo oyo|loor.
E||sa's pa|o mouth was mov|ng, but l
cou|dn't hoar tho words.
Crlmsoo oyo|loor. Crlmsoo oyo|loor.
3ho kopt spoak|ng.
¼by woo|o ooyooo lo tbolr rlgbt mloo woor crlmsoo
oyo|loorº
°0awn!'
l had onco aga|n ta||on to tho t|oor. |ot
toars sta|nod my co|d chooks, but l had no
|doa how thoy got thoro. l d|dn't romombor
cry|ng.
°l nood to ta|k to my tathor,' l murmurod
to E||sa as l strugg|od to stand up, my
shaky |ogs buck||ng trom undor mo. Whon
my socond and ovon th|rd attompt at
stand|ng provod unsuccosstu|, l bogan to
craw| |n tho d|roct|on ot my tathor's ott|co.
l movod a|ong tho corr|dor on my hands
and knoos. E||sa, |n a dosporato ottort to
got mo out ot tho tw|stod stato ot |ntancy l
was rogross|ng |nto, d|scroto|y tr|od to pu||
mo ott tho t|oor.
°l nood to ta|k to h|m!' l h|ssod, brush|ng
ott E||sa's hand.
1ho v|s|tors trom tho ||v|ng aroa woro
now |n tho ha||way. 1hoy starod p|t|tu||y at
mo, but l d|dn't caro. 3omohow, l mado |t a||
tho way to my tathor's ott|co. Ut|||z|ng tho
|argo |ron door hand|o as a crutch, l pu||od
myso|t up |nto a stand|ng pos|t|on.
l turnod to E||sa botoro opon|ng tho
door. °l nood to ta|k to my tathor. 1hat's
why l camo today,' l oxp|a|nod, roso|vod to
carry out my m|ss|on to tho vory ond.
°lotbor!'
1ho ott|co was ompty. l shut my oyos,
thon oponod thom aga|n, hop|ng that wou|d
somohow mag|ca||y mako h|m appoar. lt
d|dn't work.
°C|oso tho curta|ns. lt's too br|ght |n
horo,' l yo||od, s|ump|ng down |nto ono ot
tho rod vo|vot couchos.
E||sa rushod ovor to tho w|ndows and
drow tho curta|ns shut. °Wou|d you ||ko
somo b|ood-|acod chamom||o toa?' sho
askod |n a tor|orn vo|co, tho samo vo|co
that sho had usod w|th mo onco botoro
whon l had contractod a bad caso ot tood-
or rathor, b|ooo-po|son|ng.
l shook my hoad, pross|ng my hands
|nto my torohoad, dosporato|y try|ng to
squoozo tho |ast m|nutos ot my ||to out ot
my momory. lgnor|ng roa||ty turnod out to bo
|mposs|b|o. lt |aughod |n my taco,
cha||ong|ng mo w|th tho ompty ott|co, tho
mournors outs|do-tho tact that my tathor
was not horo.
°What happonod to h|m?' l wh|sporod
hoarso|y, |ook|ng through my t|ngors at an
arb|trary spot on my |ap.
°lt was horr|b|o-just horr|b|o.' E||sa
s|ghod, s|nk|ng down bos|do mo. °last
n|ght, your tathor was host|ng a pro-o|oct|on
gathor|ng on tho pros|dont|a| yacht. 1ho
boat-tho who|o th|ng.' sho sobbod
v|o|ont|y, tak|ng out an o|d, |acoy
handkorch|ot. lts onco-boaut|tu| tabr|c was
wr|nk|od and toarsta|nod.
Oroot, moro crlmsoo oyo|loor, l stup|d|y
thought.
°1horo was an oxp|os|on,' E||sa sa|d,
dabb|ng at hor oyos. °lo ono surv|vod.'
Ao oxp|osloo. Oo o boot. ¼by olo tbot soooo so
íoml|lorº
°l was so worr|od, 0awn. l thought that
you woro on tho yacht too!' E||sa sa|d,
c|utch|ng my hand. °Your tathor sa|d that ho
wou|d try to got you to jo|n h|m on board. |o
had somoth|ng spoc|a| p|annod. |o roa||y
wantod to work th|ngs out.'
7bot`s wby bo kopt co||log |ost olgbt, l
thought, romombor|ng that l had turnod ott
my phono, roa||z|ng that l had succoodod |n
torovor shutt|ng h|m out ot my ||to.
°l kopt ca|||ng you attor what happonod
|ast n|ght and cou|dn't got a ho|d ot you,'
E||sa cont|nuod, unawaro ot just how hard
sho was squooz|ng my hand. °l was so
worr|od l |ost you too!'
Voybo, jost moybo lí l boo booo tboro
|ost olgbt, oooo oí tbls woo|o bovo
boppoooo, l thought, t|ght|ng back toars.
¼o woo|o bovo boo oor to|k ooo workoo
tblogs oot. Or ot |oost l coo|o bovo gooo
oowo wltb blm.
°Was |t an acc|dont?' l stammorod.
°1hat's tho worst part, 0awn. lt was no
acc|dont. 1horo w||| bo a torma|
|nvost|gat|on |nto tho oxp|os|on, but |t |ooks
||ko tho boat was r|ggod w|th oxp|os|vos. lt
caught on t|ro and burnod down botoro
anyono cou|d oscapo.'
llro oo o boot.
3uddon|y, l know why |t was a|| so
tam|||ar.
Vlktor.
E||sa-ovon w|thout tho a|d ot any
to|opath|c powors-had a|ways boon an
oxport at road|ng my m|nd. 3ho |ookod at
mo w|do-oyod, hor oyos darkor than l had
ovor soon thom botoro.
°No!' sho cr|od out |n torror as l stood up to |oavo. °lo,
0awn,' sho boggod runn|ng attor mo. °l|oaso, don't! You
don't know who you'ro doa||ng w|th!'
3ut l wasn't ||ston|ng.
l was a|roady on my way to k||| v|ktor.
CEAP1ER 1E|R1EEN
3||nd|ng rago had ongu|tod mo |ong botoro l sot out
toward tho abandonod tactory |n Ashton. 0oop down, l
know v|ktor wou|d bo thoro, wa|t|ng tor mo. l sworo to g|vo
h|m tho t|ght ot h|s ||to. l scroochod my car to a ha|t r|ght |n
tront ot tho |argo, gray bu||d|ng. l d|dn't bothor bo|ng covort
th|s t|mo around, l was out tor b|ood. l t|shod around tho
trunk tor woapons, but tho on|y th|ng l cou|d t|nd was an o|d,
rusty sword.
Evon botoro l tu||y ox|tod tho car, an army ot vamp|ro
guards chargod at mo. Armod w|th on|y tury and tho s|mp|o
sword, l toro through tho group |n soconds. Vy tra|n|ng had
a|ways taught mo to |oavo my subjocts a||vo-or undoad as
tho caso may bo-but today, l d|dn't caro about torma||t|os.
A|| l know was that thoy woro an obstac|o stand|ng |n my
way to v|ktor. Gott|ng though tho t|rst wavo ot tho guards
was oasy, and tho noxt two groups woro ovon oas|or. 1ho
sconos around mo p|ayod out |n t|ashos. l was tu||y awaro ot
a|| my act|ons, wh||o at tho samo l to|t ||ko tho hands
w|o|d|ng tho sword bo|ongod to somoono o|so. l was
strongor than l had ovor boon, tuo|od by tho adrona||no trom
my |ntonso angor. 1ho moro l hurt tho ov|| vamp|ro roguos,
tho |oss l had to tocus on my own pa|n.
W|th|n m|nutos, l had takon down tho ont|ro hordo ot
vamps and was roady to ontor tho bu||d|ng. Un||ko my
prov|ous v|s|t, whon l had carotu||y p|ckod tho |ock ot tho
s|do door, th|s t|mo around, l s|mp|y k|ckod down tho tront
door, sp||tt|ng |t |n ha|t w|th my toot. l d|dn't caro about tho
no|so. l wantod v|ktor to know that l was com|ng tor h|m. l
mado my way across tho |owor |ovo| ot tho tactory, toar|ng
apart ovory room |n a dosporato soarch tor my unc|o. |o
was nowhoro |n s|ght, but l was controntod by anothor sma||
group ot attackors. Escap|ng tho t|ght w|th on|y a m|nor
scrapo to my arm, l movod to tho top t|oor, scroam|ng out
v|ktor's namo. 1ho samo sconar|o grootod mo-no v|ktor,
just moro roguos.
7bo bosomoot, l suddon|y roa||zod. l bargod down tho
sta|rs |nto tho dark undorground, my m|nd t|||od w|th on|y
ono goa|-t|nd v|ktor and tako h|m down. l tound tho
d|st|gurod vamp|ro |n tho samo room whoro, just a wook
pr|or, ho had attomptod to k||| mo. ln ono hand, ho ho|d a
|ong, sharp daggor, |n tho othor was a |argo, s||vor rovo|vor,
undoubtod|y tu|| ot vamp|ro b|ood bu||ots. loxt to h|m on tho
wa||, bound |n hoavy cha|ns, toars stroam|ng down hor taco,
was Ethan's mothor. 3ho attomptod to yo|| at mo |n
warn|ng, but tho gag across hor mouth provontod any
sound trom com|ng out. 3ho hung hor hoad ho|p|oss|y, hor
taco tu|| ot pan|c and rogrot.
l turnod back to v|ktor, my oyos b|az|ng.
°Wo||, how n|co ot you to t|na||y show up,' ho spat |n h|s
co|d, s||my vo|co. °Como to avongo your poor daddy?'
l po|ntod my sword at h|m, charg|ng |n angor, roady to
r|p h|s hoart out. |o b|ockod my t|rst s||co, but tho socond
caught h|m r|ght across h|s on|y good chook. |o gruntod |n
pa|n, sw|ng|ng at mo w|th tho |argo kn|to. l sw|tt|y dodgod
tho b|ado, jabb|ng h|s ch|n w|th my o|bow, and sond|ng h|m
stumb||ng to tho t|oor. 1ust as ho was about to h|t tho
ground, ho roga|nod h|s ba|anco, t|r|ng ott two bu||ots at my
hoad. 1hoy grazod by my tomp|o as l cont|nuod sw|ng|ng
my sword. 0raw|ng on my oxtons|vo tra|n|ng, l tought a
good t|ght.
W|th|n a tow m|nutos, l had succoodod |n d|sarm|ng
v|ktor ot h|s gun. l pushod h|m aga|nst ono ot tho
d||ap|datod basomont wa||s, my sword t|ght on h|s throat.
lan|c t|||od h|s oyos, but thon h|s monac|ng ||ps tw|stod |nto
a sm||o. A ta|nt crack||ng sound om|ttod throughout tho
bu||d|ng.
°1ust |n t|mo,' v|ktor snoorod as a tam|||ar vo|co t|||od
tho room.
°Lowo,' tho vo|co ovor tho |ntorcom bo|ongod to my
tathor. °l gooss yoo`ro stl|| oot roooy to to|k.'
3uddon|y, v|ktor, Amo||a, my sword, tho basomont-
ovoryth|ng around mo-tadod. 1ho on|y th|ng l cou|d tocus
on was my tathor's vo|co.
°l'm mak|ng an oxcopt|on and sott|ng as|do my hatrod
ot answor|ng mach|nos just th|s ono t|mo.'
lt was a vo|coma|| ho had |ott on my phono |ast n|ght, l
roa||zod. 1ho n|ght ho kopt ca|||ng and l d|dn't p|ck up. 1ho
n|ght ho d|od.
°l want you to know that l m|ss you. vory much. l can't
stop th|nk|ng about our t|ght. l hopo that, ono day, you'|| bo
ab|o to torg|vo mo tor ovoryth|ng l'vo dono.'
At tho sound ot my tathor's boom|ng vo|co, my hands
bogan to tromb|o. Vy grasp on tho sword aga|nst v|ktor's
throat woakonod. |or a br|ot momont, l no |ongor had any
|doa whoro l was or what l was do|ng. 1hat momont was
onough tor v|ktor to so|zo h|s b|ado out ot my shak|ng hand
and dr|vo |t sharp|y |nto my chost.
°l'm so proud ot you, 0awn,' my tathor's sa|d as l to|| to
tho ground. °A|ways know that l |ovo you.'
l woko up |n cha|ns, my hands and toot socuro|y bound
to tho wa|| noxt to Amo||a. v|ktor toworod ovor mo, a
crookod sm||o pa|ntod across h|s mang|od ||ps, h|s b|ack
oyos tovor|sh w|th tronzy. °l|co touch w|th tho |ntorcom
tr|ck, don't you th|nk?'
l wantod to sp|t |n h|s taco, but my throat was parchod.
lnstoad, l movod my hoad to tho s|do, |ook|ng away trom
h|m.
°You soo, l t|na||y tound that socrot ||tt|o cottago |n
Ango| Crook |ast n|ght. l camo |ook|ng tor you, but, a|as, you
woron't |n. Your phono happonod to como |n handy, though.
You k|ds thoso days aro so caro|oss w|th your gadgots,' ho
t|skod.
As ho spoko, l tuggod at my cha|ns, strugg||ng to pu||
thom trom tho wa||. l had boon woakonod by tho stabb|ng,
caus|ng my ottort to bo s|ow and st||tod.
°lmag|no my surpr|so whon tho mossago on your
phono to|d mo whoro your daddy was go|ng to bo |ast n|ght.
l pa|d h|m a v|s|t and sot my rovongo p|an |n mot|on. 1ho
oxp|os|on on tho boat was a sp|ond|d |doa, wasn't |t? l
bo||ovo thoy ca|| that pootlc jostlco,' ho |aughod w|ckod|y. °l
moant to tako you out botoro l d|d anyth|ng to h|m, l wantod
to mako h|m watch as ho |ost yot anothor daughtor. 3ut
a|as, l|an A wont awry whon you doc|dod to d|sappoar on
mo. 3o l had to movo on to l|an 3. 1hat's okay, th|s p|an |s
turn|ng out to bo ovon moro tun.'
°What's l|an 3?' l askod, try|ng to d|stract h|m as l
workod on |ooson|ng up tho cha|ns. Vy r|ght hand was
s|ow|y mak|ng progross. Ono ot tho bo|ts had budgod a
||tt|o.
°l|an 3 |s a|| about gott|ng what r|ght|y bo|ongs to mo
-tho pros|dont|a| pos|t|on,' ho spat. °You soo, w|th your
daddy gono, thoro w||| bo a ro-o|oct|on short|y. 1hat soc|a|
notwork|ng attont|on-sookor 1w|tbrook |s a shoo-|n, so l
nood to go b|ggor. l dov|sod a too|-proot way to mako tho
pub||c |ovo mo ovon moro.'
°What aro you go|ng to do?' l askod, to|gn|ng |ntorost.
Vy r|ght hand was a|most troo.
°l camo up w|th a p|an to ro|ntroduco myso|t to tho
wor|d and garnor sympathy votos,' v|ktor rospondod,
po|nt|ng ovor at Amo||a. °1hat's whoro th|s pathot|c ta||uro
ot a woman comos |n handy. 1omorrow morn|ng, a story
w||| |oak to tho pross w|th a|| tho dota||s about hor rosoarch
w|th vamp|r|co|. lmag|no th|s, a nutty sc|ont|st, groody tor
powor and monoy, k|dnaps tho pros|dont's daughtor to
dra|n hor ot hor spoc|a| b|ood-and dur|ng such a trag|c
t|mo tor tho vamp|ro nat|on!' |o |aughod out |oud at h|s own
s|ck joko. °3o wh||o sho's dra|n|ng th|s poor g|r|, a nob|o
warr|or-that's mo, |n caso you havon't guossod-comos
|n and savos tho day. |o k|||s Amo||a and tr|os to roscuo
||tt|o 0awn. 1hough, |t turns out that tho poor vamp|ro g|r| |s
a|roady a|| dra|nod. 3ho doosn't mako |t out a||vo. |ow
sad.' |o gr|nnod proud|y. °You and Amo||a aro doad, and
l'm suddon|y an ovorn|ght horo.'
°1hat's why l can't s|mp|y stab you, 0awn,' ho sa|d,
pross|ng h|s tw|stod t|ngor doop |nto my chost wound. l
gr|ttod my tooth, torc|ng my taco to stay |nort, not a||ow|ng
h|m tho sat|stact|on ot soo|ng my pa|n. °1horo w||| bo an
|nvost|gat|on |nto a|| th|s, l'm suro, so, to propor|y covor my
tracks, l'm go|ng to havo to wa|t a coup|o ot hours tor th|s
wound to c|oso up botoro l can dra|n you dry.'
°Vy tathor mado suro that you woro ostrac|zod by tho
ont|ro vamp|ro popu|at|on tor what you d|d to Aurora,' l sa|d
co|d|y. °lo ono |n tho|r r|ght m|nd w||| voto you |nto powor,
v|ktor.'
°Wo||, l'm suro ho a|so to|d you that ho sont mo ott to
d|o on a boat t|||od w|th dynam|to. l'vo kopt a |ow prot||o tor
ovor a hundrod yoars, ||v|ng a pathot|c ||to ot m|sory and
povorty. 1hanktu||y, onough t|mo has passod. Evoryono
th|nks that l roa||y am doad. l'm just go|ng to como back to
||to w|th a who|o now |dont|ty. Won't that bo tun?' |o
|aughod, jabb|ng h|s t|ngor |nto my wound aga|n. °K|nd ot
||ko you, huh?'
At that momont, l t|na||y succoodod |n troo|ng my hand.
l yankod |t away trom tho constra|nts ot tho cha|n, sw|ng|ng
at v|ktor w|th a|| my m|ght. 1ho b|ow caught h|s chookbono
and sont h|m tumb||ng to tho ground. As ho attomptod to
stand up, l workod on troo|ng my othor hand. 3otoro l cou|d
broak troo, ho drow h|s gun and shot a bu||ot through my
r|ght wr|st.
°low, now, g|r|,' ho snoorod angr||y, w|p|ng tho cut on
h|s chook. °0on't mako mo hurt you aga|n. l to|d you, you
nood to bo tu||y hoa|od tor th|s to work propor|y! You'ro just
wast|ng my t|mo.' W|th my wr|st tomporar||y woakonod, ho
rotastonod tho cha|ns, add|ng anothor sot m|dway up my
arm. °low bo good and hoa| up tast wh||o l go prop tho
dra|n room.' |o wa|kod out, |ock|ng tho door boh|nd us.
l tw|stod my hoad |n an ottort to got a bottor |ook at tho
cha|ns. Gathor|ng a|| my strongth, l pu||od at tho mota|. lt
d|dn't budgo. l was woakor than usua|, too woak tor tho
ro|ntorcod |ron. 1ho t|ght w|th v|ktor had oxhaustod mo and
tho bu||ots |n my wound woro s|ow|y d|sso|v|ng, sproad|ng
vamp|ro b|ood through my body. lt d|dn't ho|p that l hadn't
had a propor moa| |n wo|| ovor a wook. lt l was go|ng to
stand a chanco ot gott|ng out, l wou|d nood to tood.
l know trom my prov|ous oxpor|onco w|th tho po|son
that trosh human b|ood wou|d bo tho portoct answor. l
|ookod ovor at Amo||a. lt wo both movod towards oach
othor, sho wou|d bo just c|oso onough tor mo to roach an
artory |n hor nock. l shuddorod at tho thought, a nausoat|ng
too||ng wash|ng ovor mo. 3omo vamp|ros had no prob|om
dr|nk|ng human b|ood r|ght trom tho sourco, but tho way l
was ra|sod mado tho who|o procoss soom taboo. l much
protorrod tho brand namo |abo|s that camo wrappod |n noat
||tt|o packagos to ||vo donors. 3ut that was no way to th|nk
at th|s part|cu|ar momont. v|ktor was p|ann|ng to dra|n mo
as soon as tho wound on my chost had c|osod up, wh|ch
moant that l on|y had about an hour or two |ott to ||vo.
|ow do l approach tho subjoct w|th Amo||a? l
wondorod. 1ho |ast t|mo l saw hor, sho was wav|ng a gun |n
my taco. |or a|| sho know, l wou|d dra|n hor. And porhaps, l
was ont|t|od to that act|on, l thought angr||y. 3ho was, attor
a||, rospons|b|o tor much ot tho moss wo woro curront|y |n.
°V|ss 3ummors?' l bogan woar||y, avo|d|ng Amo||a's
oyos. °1o got us out ot horo, l nood to broak thoso cha|ns.
1o do that, l nood somo, uhh, b|ooo.'
l cou|d to|| by tho ompty |ook |n hor oyos that sho had
a|roady surrondorod to v|ktor's p|an, toob|y accopt|ng hor
tato. ¼bot`s tbo polotº lo`s golog to kl|| os ooywoy, hor
gazo soomod to say.
°l|ston to mo, Amo||a. You havo to th|nk about Ethan,' l
urgod, hop|ng to uso tho ono porson that cou|d poss|b|y got
hor out hor dotoatod stato as |ovorago. °l happon to know
that your son wou|d hato to soo you g|vo up so oas||y. |o
th|nks you'ro ono ot tho strongost womon |n tho wor|d.'
Amo||a porkod up a ||tt|o.
°l can got us out ot horo so that ho can to|| you that
h|mso|t. You just havo to trust mo. And uhh, oxtond your
nock a b|t.' l w|ncod at tho words com|ng out ot my mouth,
th|nk|ng that l mado a ta|ry |ousy vamp|ro. 3uro, l was a
strong, t|ght|ng mach|no, but somo vamp|ros s|mp|y had to
sm||o and bat tho|r oyo|ashos at tho mon and womon
around thom to bo ottorod nocks ga|oro. l, on tho othor
hand, mado tho roquost sound ||ko a d|rty propos|t|on.
1o my surpr|so, Amo||a movod c|osor. °0o |t,' sho
sa|d, oxtond|ng hor nock out to mo. |or words camo |n
short, mutt|od gasps, baro|y aud|b|o through tho rostra|nt |n
hor mouth.
l d|dn't nood to bo to|d tw|co. l c|osod my oyos,
gr|mac|ng at what l was about to do. As l sunk my tangs |nto
Amo||a's sott sk|n, gu|p|ng down on tho warm ||qu|d
soop|ng |nto my mouth, l thought about how |o||ywood t||ms
a|ways mado th|s part |ook so marvo|ous. ¼by coo|oo`t l bo
o coo|, coovootlooo| boroloo lo somo í|osby íl|m? l
thought, |n hopos ot d|stract|ng myso|t trom tho roa||ty |n
tront ot mo. At tbls polot, l woo|o bovo ovoo sott|oo íor o
port lo o cboosy oovo|. lt d|dn't tako mo |ong to too|
sat|atod. lmmod|ato|y, l to|t a surgo ot powor rush through
mo. lo||ywooo ot |oost got tbot port rlgbt.
l onsurod that Amo||a was okay, thon bogan to work on
my rostra|nts. lt was much oas|or to mako progross w|th my
nowtound m|ght. l t|rst r|ppod tho cha|ns b|nd|ng my |ogs,
thon usod tho strongth |n tho bottom ha|t ot my body to tw|st
and pu|| apart tho h|ngos ot tho tour cha|ns around my
wr|sts. l yankod so hard, tho stono around tho h|ngos broko
apart, ro|oas|ng mo trom tho wa|| and sond|ng mo t|y|ng
torward. v|ktor hadn't ro|ntorcod Amo||a's cha|ns |n tho
samo way that ho had socurod m|no, so thoy woro much
oas|or to pu|| out.
Whon wo woro both troo, l ordorod Amo||a to soarch
tor a koy to tho shack|os. 1o havo a bottor chanco at
oscap|ng, wo both noodod to comp|oto|y r|d ourso|vos ot
tho rostra|nts around our wr|sts and ank|os.
°l watchod h|m put |t somowhoro |n th|s dosk,' Amo||a
sa|d trant|ca||y, rummag|ng through ompty woodon drawors.
°Wo havo to work qu|ot|y,' l warnod as sho pu||od out
an ont|ro drawor, sond|ng |t tumb||ng |oud|y aga|nst tho
stono t|oor. °And tast,' l addod, survoy|ng tho room tor
poss|b|o oscapo routos. 1ho hoavy |ron door prov|dod tho
on|y ontranco and ox|t, and v|ktor had |ockod |t trom tho
outs|do. l attomptod to push aga|nst |t, but |n sp|to ot my
nowtound strongth, |t d|d not budgo. l scannod tho room tor
othor poss|b|o ox|ts. ||gh up |n tho co|||ng was a sma|| vont,
just |argo onough tor a body to squoozo through.
°|oro!' Amo||a oxc|a|mod as sho pu||od out a koy trom
a trap door |n tho dosk. 3ho unshack|od hor wr|sts and
ank|os, thon throw |t to mo.
l hurr|od|y d|d tho samo, turn|ng my attont|on back to
tho vont. lt l pos|t|onod tho dosk d|roct|y undor |t and got a
runn|ng start, l wou|d bo ab|o to jump and roach tho h|gh
co|||ng, l roa||zod.
°l'm go|ng up thoro,' l sa|d to Amo||a, po|nt|ng to tho
vont. l grabbod a ho|d ot tho dosk, carotu||y push|ng tho
|argo p|oco ot turn|turo across tho t|oor. Amo||a ho|d hor
broath as l bogan my journoy toward troodom. On my
socond jump, l roachod tho vont and pushod on |ts mota|
covor|ng. 1ho gr|d gavo way, rovoa||ng a ho|o |n tho co|||ng.
On tho subsoquont |oap, l caught tho odgo ot tho opon|ng
and sw|tt|y pu||od myso|t up. look|ng down tho narrow
passagoway, l was unsuro whoro tho path wou|d |oad. 1ho
on|y th|ng l know w|th corta|nty was that tho vont prov|dod
tho on|y way out ot our pr|son.
°l'm go|ng to soarch tor a way out,' l wh|sporod,
|ook|ng down at Amo||a.
°1ako mo w|th you!' sho cr|od, pan|ckod.
°You'|| bo sator horo. l'|| como r|ght back tor you,' l
prom|sod.
°lo! lt v|ktor comos back botoro you do, ho'|| k||| mo!
l|oaso, 0awn,' sho boggod, hor oyos w|do w|th toar.
lt l |ott Amo||a boh|nd and v|ktor got to hor, Ethan
wou|d novor torg|vo mo, l roa||zod. l|us, sho had ottorod
horso|t as a snack oar||or, so l k|nd ot owod hor.
°3tand on tho dosk and roach up toward mo,' l
|nstructod, as tho anx|oty on Amo||a's taco subduod. l
tastonod tho top ot my boot-c|ad toot on tho |odgo ot tho
opon|ng and swung ups|do down to moot hor outstrotchod
arms w|th my own hands. 3ho jumpod, baro|y manag|ng to
grazo my t|ngors. |or socond |oap brought hor c|osor,
a||ow|ng mo onough contact to |atch onto hor wr|sts. l
gruntod. Evory musc|o |n my body tromb|od as l bogan to
pu|| us through tho sma|| opon|ng ot tho vont. lt was a
stronuous procoduro, and l a|most |ost hor tw|co, but, |n tho
ond, wo both managod to squoozo |ns|do.
Amo||a squ|ntod, try|ng to adjust hor oyos to tho
darknoss. Vy v|s|on was just strong onough to mako out a
th|n, tw|st|ng path ahoad ot us, and l mot|onod tor hor to
to||ow c|oso|y boh|nd. Wo crouchod down on our hands and
knoos, shutt||ng a|m|oss|y down tho narrow passagoway.
1ho swo|tor|ng summor hoart had accumu|atod |n tho
onc|osod spaco, mak|ng tho |ns|do ot tho vont oxtromo|y
stutty. Wo craw|od a|ong qu|ot|y, tho sta|o a|r around us
torc|ng Amo||a to pauso otton to catch hor broath.
||na||y, a ta|nt ||ght swopt ovor us trom abovo. Upon
turthor |nspoct|on, l tound a grato connoct|ng tho vont to tho
top |ovo| ot tho bu||d|ng. loor|ng through |t, l cou|d mako out
a row ot groon bathroom sta||s. l prossod my oar to tho
mota|, ||ston|ng tor movomont |ns|do tho bathroom. Whon l
was corta|n that tho room was dosortod, l pushod on tho
grato, t|rst mov|ng |t up, thon to tho s|do. 3r|ght, t|uoroscont
||ght soopod through tho ho|o, sp||||ng ovor us. Amo||a
roco||od away trom |ts dazz||ng sh|no, as l ra|sod myso|t
through tho opon|ng. l pu||od up onto tho gr|my bathroom
t|oor, groan|ng |n d|sgust as my swoator soakod up tho
st|cky wator sta|ns. l ho|pod Amo||a up, pross|ng my t|ngor
to my ||ps to caut|on hor to stay qu|ot. 1|ptoo|ng to tho
bathroom door, l pushod |t ajar, ho|d|ng my broath as tho
h|ngos gavo out a sma|| squoak. A group ot roguo vamps
patro||od tho ha||way outs|do.
Vlktor most bovo o wbo|o ormy oo tbo promlsos, l
roa||zod, romombor|ng that l had a|roady takon out at |oast
a tow dozon guards oar||or |n tho day.
l pushod on tho door, shutt|ng |t s||ont|y. l cou|d oas||y
tako on tho guards |n tho ha||, but not w|thout putt|ng Amo||a
|n dangor. 1ho ca|m way thoy patro||od tho ha||ways was
proot that v|ktor had not yot d|scovorod that wo had
oscapod. l hopod to koop |t that way tor as |ong as
poss|b|o.
A|| ot a suddon, thoro was a commot|on on tho othor
s|do ot tho door. A |oud, start||ng a|arm b|astod through tho
bu||d|ng. Amo||a gaspod, |ook|ng anx|ous|y toward mo.
°Wo gotta got back |nto tho vonts and h|do,' l
wh|sporod urgont|y. °3ut wo nood to bo abovo tho t|rst t|oor
tor bottor accoss. Craw||ng through tho basomont won't
|oad us to tho ox|t.'
Amo||a noddod and po|ntod up to tho co|||ng. l|ght
abovo ono ot tho |argo bathroom w|ndows was anothor
vont. l c||mbod on tho w|ndows|||, roach|ng up to tho
opon|ng. l was tho t|rst to squoozo |nto tho now|y rovoa|od
h|d|ng spot, pu|||ng myso|t up, thon |ay|ng t|at on my
stomach and oxtond|ng my hand out to Amo||a. Amo||a
to||owod boh|nd mo, but strugg|od to ga|n toot|ng on tho
narrow |odgo. |or r|ght toot s||ppod, caus|ng hor to |oso hor
ba|anco. 3ho cr|od out, c|aw|ng dosporato|y at my arm. l
caught hor wr|st, grabb|ng |t t|rm|y just botoro sho to|| to tho
comont t||os bo|ow. 3ho dang|od |n m|d-a|r, wh|mpor|ng |n
toar. l pu||od on hor arm, dragg|ng hor |nto tho satoty ot tho
vont, just as ono ot tho armod vamp|ro guards burst through
tho bathroom door. Wo ho|d our broath as tho vamp|ro
soarchod oach sta||, s||ont|y hop|ng that ho d|d not |ook up
at tho co|||ng. Whon tho guard passod undornoath tho vont,
Amo||a's startod to hyporvont||ato, hor broath com|ng out |n
short, |oud gasps. l p|acod my pa|m ovor hor mouth to koop
hor trom cry|ng out. |ot toars stroamod down hor taco and
ovor my hand. Attor what soomod ||ko tho |ongost th|rty
soconds ot my ||to, tho vamp|ro shoutod: °A|| c|oar!' and
d|sappoarod back |nto tho ha||way.
As tho s|ron cont|nuod to shr|ok, Amo||a and l hurr|od
doopor |nto tho vont. Wo craw|od w|th urgoncy, tho dusty
passagoways turn|ng our pa|ms b|ack trom gr|mo. Vy goa|
was to got us noar ono ot tho bu||d|ng ox|ts and out |nto tho
satoty ot tho stroot. 3oth bo|ow and abovo us, commot|on
cont|nuod. Gunshots rang out on tho t|oor bo|ow, to||owod
by much yo|||ng and pa|nod grunt|ng. 5omotblog o|so wos
golog oo ooo lt wos mocb blggor tboo my ooo Amo|lo`s
oscopo, l roa||zod, but tr|od to |gnoro tho commot|on. l had
no dos|ro to st|ck around and t|nd out what had a|| ot Llxlo
Pbormocootlco|s up |n arms. Vy pr|or|ty was to got us out
a||vo-and qu|ck|y.
Wo cropt |n tho d|roct|on ot what l hopod was tho tront
door, unt|| wo camo upon a tork |n tho vont's path. 3oams
ot ||ght stroamod through tho t|oor m|dway down tho r|ght
s|do ot vont, |nd|cat|ng anothor grato bo|ow.
°1h|s way,' l wh|sporod to Amo||a, turn|ng to tho r|ght.
Wo to||owod tho ||ght, try|ng to koop as s||ont as
poss|b|o. Upon roach|ng tho grato, wo both poorod through,
tho tops ot our hoads touch|ng ||ght|y. 3o|ow us, |n ono ot
tho sma|| |aboratory rooms, an aston|sh|ng scono was
unto|d|ng. Vy toam ot tour vamp|ro rocru|ts, accompan|od
by 3obast|an and Ethan, woro tac|ng ott aga|nst v|ktor and
h|s roguo vamps.
3oph|o was |n combat w|th a |argo, tattoood vamp|ro.
|o was a cort|t|ab|o g|ant, h|s mass|vo hoad was tho s|zo
ot tho t|ny g|r|'s ont|ro torso. As tho hoavy, dark-ha|rod
assa||ant swung a sp|kod maco toward hor, 3oph|o's
rot|oxos sont hor to tho t|oor. 3ho cur|od up |nto a t|ght ba||,
torc|ng tho attackor to m|ss. 3ho c|onchod hor t|sts,
couragoous|y r|s|ng ott tho ground and sw|ng|ng hor toot at
tho ogro. |or hoo| connoctod w|th tho vamp|ro's stomach,
caus|ng h|m to ta|| ovor, curs|ng |n pa|n. 1o 3oph|o's
m|stortuno, tho vamp|ro rocovorod qu|ck|y. |o h|ssod,
bar|ng h|s sharp tangs, and onco aga|n, swung tho maco at
3oph|o's hoad. 1ust botoro tho hoavy woapon mado
contact w|th 3oph|o's hoad, |untor rushod to hor a|d. |o
dug h|s hands |nto tho |argo vamp|ro's s|do, push|ng h|m
out ot tho way. 1ho s||ght sh|tt |n tho goon's pos|t|on causod
tho sp|ky ba|| to narrow|y m|ss 3oph|o's sku||. 1ogothor,
3oph|o and |untor had a much oas|or t|mo tak|ng on tho
vamp|ro. W|th|n soconds, ho was on tho ground, ontang|od
|n tho cha|ns ot h|s own woapon.
On tho othor s|do ot tho room, 3rooko porchod on
3oth's shou|dors |n what |ookod ||ko a two-porson
choor|oad|ng pyram|d. 1ho|r ||mbs ontw|nod, thoy bocamo
a un|quo batt|o mach|no. 3oth, tho b|g and robust baso ot
tho combat robot, usod h|s hands to ho|d tho roguo vamps
st|||, h|s |argo tramo support|ng 3rooko wh||o sho k|ckod
oach ot tho vamp|ros squaro |n tho hoad. 1ogothor, tho duo
took out throo assa||ants |n a row.
3uddon|y, Amo||a gaspod. l to||owod hor gazo, my
hoart s|nk|ng |nto tho p|t ot my stomach. v|ktor ho|d Ethan
t|ght|y aga|nst tho wa||, c|utch|ng h|s throat w|th ono hand. ln
tho othor hand, ho gr|ppod h|s sharp daggor, propar|ng to
str|ko.
l oooo to stop blm! l thought, a|armod, as v|ktor
startod to sw|ng at Ethan. At that proc|so momont,
3obast|an caught a ho|d ot v|ktor's d|st|gurod arm,
provont|ng tho b|ado trom mak|ng contact w|th Ethan. v|ktor
gr|macod, sw|ng|ng Ethan |nto 3obast|an, sond|ng thom
both tumb||ng r|ght undor tho vont.
°Ethan!' Amo||a yo||od, pound|ng on tho grato. 1ho
mota| bo|ow us gavo way, p|ung|ng Amo||a d|roct|y on top ot
Ethan and 3obast|an. 3obast|an's gazo shot up toward tho
vont, ro||ot t|ood|ng h|s taco at tho s|ght ot mo. As Amo||a
pu||od Ethan out ot tho ||no ot t|ro, l hoppod down to jo|n tho
t|ght.
1ogothor, 3obast|an and l chargod at v|ktor, attack|ng
w|th a|| our m|ght. |o was strongor than ho had boon whon l
tought h|m oar||or |n tho day. 1ho br|ght rod smoars on h|s
tu||y-oxtondod tangs |nd|catod that ho had rocont|y tod on
trosh human b|ood. 1ust as 3obast|an and l bogan to ga|n
momontum aga|nst h|m, 3rooko scroamod. 1wo roguo
vamps had pu||od hor ott ot 3oth's shou|dors and woro
ho|d|ng hor |n m|d-a|r. A th|rd prossod a gun to 3oth's
tomp|o. 3obast|an shot mo an anx|ous |ook.
°Go! |o|p thom!' l yo||od as ho rushod to 3rooko and
3oth's a|d, |oav|ng mo a|ono w|th v|ktor.
v|ktor sm||od a crookod sm||o. °You roa||y ||ko to p|ay
rough, huh?' ho |oorod. °Wo||, you g|vo mo no cho|co!'
|o trant|ca||y s||cod at mo w|th h|s kn|to, ta|||ng to |njuro
mo, but succood|ng |n knock|ng mo ott ba|anco. l b|ockod
h|s str|kos, tor tho t|rst t|mo roa||z|ng that l was t|ght|ng
w|thout any woapons at my s|do. lt d|dn't mattor. l tocusod
a|| my rago on tho monstor |n tront ot mo, want|ng
dosporato|y to mako h|m pay tor ovoryth|ng ho had dono.
l wos ílgbtlog íor myso|í, íor my írlooos, íor my íotbor
-ooo ovoo íor Aororo.
Aoo l wos golog to wlo.
Vy body t|||od w|th a suddon surgo ot cont|donco. ln
throo sw|tt movomonts, l d|sarmod v|ktor, w|o|d|ng h|s
daggor |n my own hand. As ho |ungod toward mo, mad|y
scroam|ng |n a t|t ot rago, l p|ungod tho kn|to doop |nto h|s
hoart, mak|ng suro l d|dn't m|ss my mark.
v|ktor |ay on tho ground, s|ow|y d|s|ntograt|ng |nto a
mossy mass ot b|ood and t|ssuo. l shuddorod. |rom my
coma droam, l know that ono ot h|s goons had murdorod
Aurora |n tho oxact samo way. W|th tho vory samo kn|to.
Pootlc jostlco, l thought b|ttor|y.
CEAP1ER FOuR1EEN
°Goodbyo, 0awn!' E||sa cr|od, hugg|ng mo t|ght|y as
sho sn|tt|od |nto tho th|n strap ot my b|ack tank top.
lt was tho t|rst wook ot 3optombor and wo woro
stand|ng on tho w|do marb|o stops |n tront ot tho 3car|ot
|ouso. 1ho day was c|oar and sunny, but thoro was a s||ght
cr|spnoss |n tho a|r, toroshadow|ng that ta|| was just around
tho cornor.
Evorytblog wos cbooglog.
l sm||od, |ook|ng past E||sa's shou|dors, s|gh|ng gont|y
as l b|d a s||ont goodbyo to tho tam|||ar g||ttor|ng w|ndows
and tho br||||ant an|ma| statuos. 1ho boaut|tu| mans|on l had
ca||od homo tor n|notoon yoars now had a brand now
vamp|ro ownor. lros|dont 1w|tbrook's campa|gn had won
h|m tho pos|t|on ot bo|ng my tathor's succossor. lot that
thoro was any compot|t|on anyway. Out ot rospoct tor my
tathor, no ono o|so had ontorod tho campa|gn. 1w|tbrook's
on|y opponont wou|d havo boon v|ktor, had our toam not
managod to dora|| h|s ma|ovo|ont p|an ot murdor|ng mo and
runn|ng tor ott|co.
°Aro you suro you don't want to stay?' E||sa askod tor
tho hundrodth t|mo that day.
As a roward tor my rocont d|sp|ay ot bravory |n
br|ng|ng down v|ktor and B|oooCorp, lros|dont 1w|tbrook
had ottorod mo tho ostoomod pos|t|on ot Commandor-|n-
Ch|ot ot tho ont|ro vamp|ro pros|dont|a| army. l had
doc||nod, doc|d|ng to pormanont|y |oavo tho hoadquartors.
W|thout my tathor's prosonco |n ovory cornor ot tho houso,
ospoc|a||y |n h|s d|m|y ||t ott|co, tho magn|t|cont bu||d|ng no
|ongor to|t ||ko homo.
°Yos, E||sa, l'm suro,' l rop||od, sm|||ng br|ght|y. °And
aro you suro that you don't want to como w|th mo?' l
a|roady know tho answor to that quost|on. 1hough wo
sharod a protound bond, E||sa to|t |t was hor duty to stay at
tho 3car|ot |ouso and |ook attor tho young vamp|ro
tra|noos.
°You'ro such an accomp||shod young |ady, 0awn,' sho
sa|d, gont|y runn|ng hor hand across my chock. °You no
|ongor nood your o|d nanny.' Whon l oponod my mouth to
protost, E||sa qu|ck|y addod, °And to to|| you tho truth, l toar
that lros|dont 1w|tbrook w||| corrupt thoso poor ||tt|o
vamp|ro ch||dron. |o had a|roady announcod h|s p|ans to
rop|aco woapon and combat c|assos w|th mod|a tra|n|ng.'
l |aughod. 1h|ngs corta|n|y woro chang|ng.
Espoclo||y íor mo.
Ovor tho past tow wooks l had boon torcod to
transtorm |nto a now porson. 3ut l was proud to say that |t
was a porson l know. Ono l undorstood. A g|r| l bo||ovod |n.
Attor tak|ng somo t|mo to mourn tho |oss ot my tathor and
rocovor trom my showdown w|th v|ktor, |t was |nov|tab|o
that l addross my tuturo. 1ho moro l thought about |t, tho
oas|or tho doc|s|on bocamo.
l bo|oogoo lo Aogo| Crook.
Whon l announcod to 3rooko, 3oph|o, |untor and 3oth
that l wou|d bo jo|n|ng thom as ono ot tho ott|c|a| town
guard|ans, |t garnorod a tu||-b|own co|obrat|on. 1oday, tho
tour ot thom, a|ong w|th 3obast|an and Ethan, woro ho|p|ng
mo movo tho contonts ot my o|d 3car|ot |ouso bodroom
|nto tho soc|udod ||tt|o cottago |n Ango| Crook. Vy tathor
had pa|d tor tho proporty whon ho purchasod |t tor tho
tra|n|ng, so a|| |t wou|d nood to bocomo a pormanont homo
was a m|nor taco||tt. 3rooko had oxprossod hor oxc|tomont
about rodocorat|ng, and wh||o l was gratotu| at tho ottor, l
a|so shuddorod at tho |mago ot tho br|ght p|nk houso l
wou|d suro|y ond up w|th. Ethan had a|so p|odgod h|s
carpontry sk|||s, shou|d l ovor nood thom. |o had takon on a
pormanont pos|t|on at tho Aogo| Crook Lloor, h|s p|an was
to st|ck around tho aroa wh||o h|s mothor cont|nuod hor
rocovory. lo|ocat|ng to Ango| Crook was tho r|ght doc|s|on
tor mo. l noodod a trosh start and l a|roady know that l
wou|d t|t |n w|th tho vamp|ros |n town. P|os, bovlog o coto
ooo cblvo|roos oolgbbor woso`t golog to bort oltbor, l
thought, as l watchod 3obast|an |oad up ono ot my |argo
su|tcasos |nto tho trunk ot h|s car.
°1hat's tho |ast ot tho boxos!' 3oph|o announcod
tr|umphant|y as sho and 3rooko jo|nod mo on tho stops.
°l was roa||y tomptod to throw away a|| your bor|ng,
b|ack tanks and joans, but 3oph|o stoppod mo.' 3rooko
sa|d, ro|||ng hor oyos. °l'm so tota||y g|v|ng your wardrobo a
comp|oto ovorhau| whon wo got to Ango| Crook!'
°Vaybo l'|| |ot you tako mo shopp|ng,' l toasod,
o||c|t|ng a h|gh-p|tchod squoa| trom tho b|ondo g|r|. 3oph|o
jumpod back, start|od by tho sound.
°1ust maybo.'
3oth and |untor jo|nod us, ho|d|ng |n tho|r arms an
array ot my pr|zod woapons.
°l don't th|nk l'vo ovor mot a g|r| w|th a bazooka tor a
pot.' |untor |ookod both amazod and s||ght|y tr|ghtonod.
°1hat's K|tty,' l sa|d, po|nt|ng to tho |argo woapon |n h|s
arms. °l got hor tor my tonth b|rthday.'
°1oo coo|!' 3oth was pract|ca||y droo||ng. °0o wo got
to p|ay w|th hor?'
°Wo'vo boon rovampod, attor a||,' |untor addod.
|o was r|ght. A ||tt|o ovor a month ago, tho tour
vamp|ros wou|d novor havo stood a chanco aga|nst v|ktor
and h|s goons. 1hoy had baro|y ovon graspod what |t moant
to bo a vamp|ro, |ot a|ono undorstood how to work on a
toam. 3ut just |ast wook, thoy managod to not on|y ho|p mo
dotoat ono ot tho most v|c|ous vamp|ros |n tho wor|d and
br|ng down an organ|zat|on throaton|ng tho oxt|nct|on ot tho
ont|ro vamp|ro raco, but thoy a|so p|ayod an |mportant ro|o
|n sav|ng my ||to. 1horo was a |ot ot hard work st||| ahoad ot
us, but thoro was no dony|ng that tho 3rooko, 3oph|o,
|untor and 3oth woro rovampod.
l noddod. °Wo'|| got to p|ay w|th tho toys,' l prom|sod
tho toam. °3ut most |mportant|y, wo'ro go|ng to tra|n,' l sa|d,
sm|||ng br|ght|y.
1ho phraso trolo garnorod a nogat|vo roact|on. 1ho
toursomo d|sporsod toward tho park|ng |ot, grumb||ng and
groan|ng about my |mpond|ng tyranny.
°Vy truck |s tu||y |oadod,' Ethan sa|d, appoar|ng
bos|do mo. °Aro you roady?' ho askod, gont|y touch|ng my
shou|dor.
°You go ahoad,' l to|d h|m w|th an approc|at|vo sm||o. °l
havo to do ono |ast th|ng.'
l b|d E||sa a t|na| goodbyo, and |o|suro|y wa|kod to my
tavor|to p|aco on tho ont|ro proporty-tho grand, marb|o
tounta|n. l stood |n tront ot |t tor a vory |ong t|mo, watch|ng
tho wator cascado trom ono t|or to tho othor, on|y to ascond
back up and do |t a|| ovor aga|n.
°lt you start to m|ss your spoc|a| p|aco, l'|| |ot you
borrow my gazobo,' 3obast|an murmurod husk||y trom tho
othor s|do ot tho tounta|n.
|or tho t|rst t|mo a|| wook, wo woro comp|oto|y a|ono.
|o s|ow|y mado h|s way to whoro l was stand|ng, p|ant|ng
h|s ta|| tramo noxt to m|no. ||s |ott arm brushod aga|nst my
r|ght, sott|ng my ont|ro body ab|azo |n rosponso to h|s
touch. 1ho a|r botwoon us pu|satod w|th a surgo ot
o|octr|ty|ng curront. |rom tho |ntonso way ho |ookod at mo, l
cou|d to|| that l was not tho on|y ono too||ng tho tons|on.
°3ha|| wo go?' ho askod, oxtond|ng h|s hand out to mo.
°Yos,' l s|ghod, socrot|y w|sh|ng that wo cou|d stay
trozon |n th|s part|cu|ar momont. l p|acod my hand |n h|s, an
oxh||arat|ng sh|vor runn|ng down my sp|no as our t|ngors
touchod. |o turnod to |oad us away trom tho tounta|n, but l
bo|d|y pu||od h|m back.
°Wa|t,' l gaspod broath|oss|y, as h|s body co|||dod w|th
m|no. °Wa|t,' l ropoatod aga|n as ho prossod h|s hand
aga|nst tho sma|| ot my back, draw|ng mo c|osor. l mo|tod
|nto h|m, tromb||ng |n ant|c|pat|on as h|s coo| broath
carossod my nock.
°0awn,' ho wh|sporod. ||s vo|co was tondor, but h|s
s||vor oyos b|azod w|th dos|ro. 1hroad|ng my t|ngors though
h|s |ong, dark cur|s, l c|osod my oyos, pu|||ng h|m |nto mo.
°Ono |ast 't|rst',' l broathod, as h|s sott ||ps d|sso|vod
|nto m|no.
ABOu1 1EE Au1EOR
°Vany poop|o s|ng |n tho showor. l wr|to sconos |n my
hoad and act thom out.'
ln hor caroor as an actross and a wr|tor, Ada curront|y
sponds most ot hor days |mmorsod |n |mag|nary wor|ds.
Vuch ||ko tho charactors sho onjoys p|ay|ng and wr|t|ng
about, Ada |s a mart|a| art|st w|th a 3|ack 3o|t |n 3hotokan
Karato. 3ho |s a|so a b|g proponont ot ||to|ong |oarn|ng, and
has atta|nod 3acho|or ot Arts |n lsycho|ogy (|t a|ds |n
croat|ng charactors w|th un|quo qu|rks!) as wo|| as a
Vastor's ot 3c|onco |n Educat|on.
Vastor's ot 3c|onco |n Educat|on.
Ada str|vos to br|ng a trosh vo|co and porspoct|vo to
t|ct|on. 3ho has boon wr|t|ng croat|vo|y tor many yoars, and
RoVompoo |s hor dobut novo|.
3ho ||vos |n 1oronto, Canada, and onjoys advonturous
naturo h|kos w|th hor adorab|o pupp|os Cara and Oroo.
1abIo ot Contonta
llOlOGUE
C|Al1El OlE
C|Al1El 1WO
C|Al1El 1|lEE
C|Al1El |OUl
C|Al1El |lvE
C|Al1El 3lX
C|Al1El 3EvEl
C|Al1El ElG|1
C|Al1El lllE
C|Al1El 1El
C|Al1El ElEvEl
C|Al1El 1WElvE
C|Al1El 1|ll1EEl
C|Al1El |OUl1EEl
A3OU1 1|E AU1|Ol

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