Authors: Lacy Williams as Lacy Yager,Haley Yager
Tags: #Romance, #Paranormal, #Vampires, #Teen & Young Adult, #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Paranormal & Urban, #Teen fiction, #YA fiction
Haley Yager and Lacy Yager
Copyright © 2011 Haley Yager and Lacy Williams
All rights reserved.
Prologue - Maggie
More than one hundred and fifty years on this planet and this is the strangest night I’ve spent yet.
, because I’ve never been this happy before. Normally I worry too much about getting involved with humans, male or female, to let go and enjoy myself. But tonight I can’t seem to find that usual wariness.
, because someone else’s pain got me here, and my mission for the last eighty years or so has been to improve the lives of the kids passing through E.W. House. I can’t help feeling a niggle of guilt that I’m benefiting from one of the teens’ situations.
“Wells! Yo, Maggie!” A voice calls out my nom de plume above the pounding bass and chattering couples surrounding me. Even after five years as Maggie, and ten as Peg before that—I always choose variations of my given name—I still listen for the name I was born with. Margaret.
In the patterned light from the disco ball—one of the dorm moms’ additions to the gym-turned-dance-club décor—I spot Candy Brown rushing toward me. The fourteen-year-old is one of my protégés, one of my favorites out of this crop of girls. She’s cute and sweet and despite her past she has a real chance at giving herself a normal life if she can keep on path she doesn’t know I’ve mapped out for her. So far, she has.
“What’s up?” I ask. In the back of my mind I can’t forget
is coming back to claim the next slow dance.
“There’s something wrong with Janet,” the younger girl gasps, clearly having run straight to me with this problem. “She’s in the bathroom throwing up and crying.”
“I’ll handle it,” says a familiar voice from behind us. My best friend and the resident witch at E.W. House, Hannah Morgan, joins Candy and me and gives the kid a reassuring smile, and it’s impossible to doubt the peace in her soft brown eyes. She
“It’s my turn anyway.”
And You-know-who is looking for you, Mags. Can’t keep his eyes off you tonight, hmm?
Her light touch on my forearm fades and so does her voice in my head. Telepathy is just one of Hannah’s talents.
I mouth a “thank you” to her as she follows Candy away. And then I can’t help myself—I turn to look for him.
The heat and pulsing blood of this many bodies should be making me crazy. Bloodlust can be a tricky enemy, after all. But I’ve never been a normal vampire. Through all the rapid heartbeats on the dance floor I zero in on the one I can’t seem to ignore, no matter how hard I try.
My eyes track to the guy-who’s-not-my-date-but-I-really-wish-he-was, and I glimpse his stylishly-mussed chestnut hair across the dance floor. Our eyes connect, his sparkling blue to my green.
Every time. Every time he looks at me I feel something. Like alive. How does he do that?
I raise my glass to him. But he doesn’t smile or wave, like I expect. He freezes and a look of horror crosses his face, but before I can tell what’s happening, someone dances between us and I lose sight of him.
At that same instant, a strong hand grips my throat from behind and something pierces my side just beneath my ribcage. Warm, sticky blood seeps down the side of my new, flirty dress.
“Hiya,” growls a deep voice.
I don’t recognize it, but I know the scent, and it means trouble.
I struggle against the massive arms pinning me in place, but I can’t move. My only thought is getting my E.W. kids out of here before they get hurt.
Across the room, gunshots erupt and another voice yells above the pulsing music for everyone to exit the building. Relief speeds my heart while everything around me slows. They aren’t here for my kids.
Only able to move my eyes, I scan the room and count six other vamps with weapons around the dance floor. Knives, guns, baseball bats.
All of this for me? Why?
Amazingly, the kids clear out. Someone shuts off the music and the silence is eerie in contrast to the noise from just moments ago.
My eyes fly to a familiar form standing in front of the outer doors, as if to keep the vamps away from the kids who have just left. My heart stutters.
Shane. What is he
? As I watch, he pulls a wicked-looking silver blade from his boot.
Now is not the time to play hero! Not for a
. He doesn’t stand a chance.
I glare at him, trying to tell him with my eyes to get the heck out of here, but he stays.
Sizing up the vamps in Shane’s vicinity, I try to gauge how much time there is before I absolutely have to be over there. The vamps are large and muscled, but don’t look particularly intelligent. That’s an advantage, but seven-to-one isn’t going to be easy.
I don’t even want to think about what Shane will think when he sees the real me. But the other choice is letting him die and I can’t do that.
The knife in my side twists. Apparently the goon behind me wants a show. I play along, yelping, pretending to be in pain. It hurts, but it’s a flesh wound, and I’m still trying to figure a way out of this without getting Shane killed.
To my horror, it seems Shane intends to play along too. He steps in our direction, but he’s immediately intercepted by two of the meatheads, although they don’t touch him. Interesting.
“Did you really think you could gallivant around with someone like
, and the rest of us wouldn’t notice?” the voice behind me screams.
“What’re you talking about?”
The hand tightens around my throat, cutting off my oxygen. “Don’t play dumb with me, cutie. You’re already making me late for dinner.”
I don’t have to fake the confusion I feel. I stay out of the way of other vampires, and in exchange they let me live my peaceful life. That’s how it’s worked for two-and-a-half years, so why am I being attacked tonight?
“Don’t. Know. What. You. Mean.” I gasp the words, unable to get enough air into my burning lungs.
“You’ve been hanging around with a
!” the vamp screeches. “Surely you didn’t think we would just let that go?”
A Chaser? No way. Chasers track and kill vampires. I am a vampire. Therefore, I don’t hang out with Chasers. Not since the mid-nineteenth century, anyway.
Movement across the dance floor pulls my attention up, although it’s getting hard to concentrate with my body begging me to change.
Shane’s in a scuffle with one of the vamps. He punches the monster in the face, breaking his nose, and disarms him. A human shouldn’t be able to fight with a vampire—humans don’t have the skills for something like that. Unless—
He’s a Chaser.
The moment I think it, I can’t deny it.
Shane Campton, the guy-who’s-not-my-date-but-I-really-wish-he-was, is a Chaser.
And I’m a vampire.
1 - Maggie
Two weeks earlier
There’s not much to see at eleven p.m. coming into Boston’s Logan International. I look out the small, scratched airplane window anyway and watch the runway lights blink closer and closer as the plane descends. And practice breathing through my mouth.
I hate flying. Really, I hate traveling in general. Airports, public transportation, delays, and emotion-filled interactions with damaged human teens aren’t my idea of fun. Not to mention the longer I’m away from home—and my supply of blood—my bloodlust seems to multiply.
But being stuck in a tin can with roughly a hundred beating hearts and the adrenaline and other hormones caused by flying and stress? It makes it that much harder to control my monster. I
I flick on my smartphone, hoping to distract myself with updates from some of the kids that have made it. There’s an email from Ian, a former addict who is now a psychologist and AA group leader. Ian’s met someone. I curb a flare of envy and tap out a congratulatory response.
The next message is from Penny and there’s no text, only a photo of her in a cap and gown, crossing the stage to receive her law degree. She wants to be a prosecutor and put away scumbags like the uncle she escaped from at age thirteen. I’m so proud of her.
The success stories are enough of a reminder to keep me calm through landing and luggage claim. I move to hail a cab and now all I can think about is my warm, comfortable bed. If traffic is light, it will only take forty-five minutes to get to E.W. House, the private group home where I’ve lived for the last three years. And Director Phillips is on curfew duty tonight, which means no interrogation and I can get right to bed. After the emotional exhaustion I’ve sustained on this trip, I need to catch up on some zees.
As soon as I exit the plane, my phone beeps a warning for new voicemail. Probably my roommate Hannah, catching me up on the gossip I’ve missed the last few days. But when I listen to the message, I learn she needs me at the hospital.
Guess my zees will have to wait.
The cab drops me off outside Mercy General’s ER and I absently wonder if I should’ve stopped off at the dorms to remove some of the travel grime I’m wearing. But Hannah’s message sounded urgent and the chance is too great that I’d get caught trying to sneak back out of E.W., so whoever this is will just have to deal with my stink.
I’ve barely stepped inside the sliding glass doors marked “EMERGENCY” when Hannah intercepts me, guiding me around the row of uncomfortable plastic chairs half-full of bodies.
“You okay?” she asks, her question loaded with double meaning. Is my emotional state okay, and am I okay to walk past the wounded waiting, some of whom reek of blood?
I nod, because I can’t go into details of my recent trip in a public setting. She knows me well enough after all the years we’ve been friends to understand that I’ll recover once I have a few days to regain my equilibrium. And the other meaning doesn’t even deserve a response. Hannah knows I’ve never slipped in that way. No killing for this vampire.
My quick once over reveals that, even though it’s early, Hannah’s scrubs have a smear of blood at her ankle and carry an odor of vomit, probably too faint for human noses to catch. She’s smiling, but the lines around her eyes tell the real story about her stress levels. The witch accepted a two-year internship with the hospital last year, and in all that time I’ve only seen her this upset one other time.
Maybe we both need a few days off. I smash down thoughts of taking a girls-only weekend shopping trip. It is way too easy to get distracted when I’m tired, and nothing good comes from a distracted vampire. I force myself to focus.
“So what’s up? The usual? Have you already called Dave?” Dave is our contact in Social Services; he’s learned that the two of us don’t cry wolf. When we call, there’s usually real trouble for the teen involved.
Hannah loops her arm through mine and pulls me into an alcove near the nurse’s station. “Not…exactly.” She bites her lip and I want to tell her to get to the point. “She has a four-year-old daughter.”
I close my eyes for a second, the only outlet I can risk allowing my emotions. A child having a child complicates things exponentially. “How long have they been here?”
“A couple hours.”
Sinking down in one of the awful hospital chairs, I rub my eyes. “I’m already out of time, huh? Have her parents shown up yet?”
“Not yet. The teen’s name is Samantha Howard, she’s seventeen, and the little girl’s name is Abby. I think Samantha is having some X-rays done right now, so Abby’s in the room by herself.”
I don’t need more prodding. I pass several nurses on my way to the exam room. All of them avert their eyes and pretend to focus on some chart or patient. This doesn’t bother me. All humans have a natural aversion to vampires. They don’t understand
I make them uncomfortable, and they don’t want to find out. I can’t blame them.