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
The sun’s first rays brighten the sky when Maggie walks out of the two-story girls’ shelter and down the walkway toward where I’m parked. Her entire body droops, as if she carries the weight of the world and is exhausted by it.
She looks up, seems surprised to see me.
I push off the truck where I’ve been leaning—I got too antsy sitting in the cab—and take a couple steps toward her.
“My—Chloe’s asleep,” I explain, jerking my head toward the truck. Maggie’s got a scrape on her left cheek, I notice for the first time. It’s partially healed already—thank you vampire abilities—but it bothers me.
She nods. Her eyes slide behind me and then back to my face. “Thanks for your help last night. It was… nice.” She doesn’t sound too sure about that. “So did you… follow me?”
“Um. Yeah, I guess so. That makes me creepy, but I’m glad I was there.” I am? “To help. How did you know that girl was in trouble?” I rush on before I can examine my previous thought too closely.
“I met her in the hospital and she called me, so I went.”
did you follow me?”
We seem to be dancing in circles here, but I kinda like the challenge.
“I saw you leave your school and I didn’t think the rules allowed that. I guess I wanted to… make sure you were okay.” Okay, so that’s a lie. I followed her with the intention of killing her, but something changed between then and now.
“Are you heading back to your school? You want a ride?”
“In the back?” A slight quirk of her lips tells me she’s teasing, but her question reminds me why I put her in the back in the first place. Chloe.
It would be too weird to ask her to sit in the truck bed now that there are only three of us, but I can’t risk her being able to grab my kid sister. Think, Shane, think.
“Hop in,” I say, and open my door for her. Chloe stirs, starting to wake up.
Blondie peeks into the truck, probably taking note of the single bench seat. Yep, that’s right, vampire girl: you get the middle. If you cause trouble, I’ll filet your heart.
She clears her throat nervously. Do I make her uncomfortable? What a laugh. She’s a vampire, and if I didn’t know any better, I make her nervous.
Her shoulder brushes against my arm as she takes a little hop into the truck, sliding into the middle seat. I catch a whiff of her lavender scent again. How does she still smell that good after the events of the evening?
“Hi,” Chloe says on a yawn.
“Hey, Chloe. You can go back to sleep if you want.”
My sister looks at Blondie with wide eyes, then back at me as I get in. She leans a little more on the passenger door. Good girl.
I turn the truck towards E.W. House. Hopefully we’ll beat most of the morning traffic, so I’ll only be stuck sitting next to a vampire for twenty minutes instead of forty.
Blondie’s cell phone rings. “Hello? Hey, Hannah. I’m on my way back. No, I’m fine. Rachel’s brother is driving me.” A long pause. “I can’t talk right now. I can’t talk right now. Okay, see you.”
Well, there goes my chance of killing Blondie and ditching her body. If someone is expecting her at the school and they know that I’m with her, I won’t have a good alibi for the cops. Guess I’ll have to play nice again.
I reach to flip the radio on and my hand brushes Blondie’s knee. She flinches away, which makes Chloe jump, which makes me go for my knife and my hand hits the volume knob instead, filling the cab with loud static. I punch the “off” button. Okay, so no music.
“Sorry,” I mutter.
The silence stretches and is getting really awkward—all I can focus on is the heat of Blondie’s thigh pressed against mine—when Chloe bends over and reaches under her seat. She comes up with a handful of granola bars.
“Breakfast,” she says cheerfully. How that girl can survive on a couple hours sleep I’ll never know. “Want one?” She extends one of the bars to Blondie, who waves it away.
“Um, no thanks.”
Yeah, it’s not blood-flavored, Chloe.
“Shane?” Chloe asks.
“Not right now.”
“No wonder you had that gauze in your truck last night,” Blondie comments.
We’re at a stoplight, so I look around the interior of my truck and pretend it’s the first time I’m seeing it. I can’t help but flush with embarrassment. Not only are the floorboards covered in fast food trash, but there are also clothes—Chloe’s—and shoes—mine—plus a couple books, a Boston street map, even some cash.
It looks like I live out of my truck. Maybe because I do, for the most part. Still, how humiliating to have her see all this.
“So how did you know those girls?” Chloe asks around a mouthful of granola.
“I met them at the hospital the same day I met you.”
“You didn’t know them before that?”
Blondie shakes her head, sending the scent of her shampoo towards me. It’s different than the lavender. Apple, I think.
“Why’d you help them?”
This is nice. With Chloe awake, she’ll do the inquisition for me. Thank you, eight-year-old’s curiosity.
“Why wouldn’t I? I mean, if I were in that kind of trouble I’d like to know someone willing to help me out.”
I hold my breath waiting for Chloe to pop off and say she expected Blondie wouldn’t help them because she’s a leech and blow our cover, but my kid sister surprises me by ignoring the question.
“How old are you?”
Blondie’s hand twitches in her lap. “Seventeen. How old are you?”
Seventeen human years plus how many immortal? A hundred? More?
I haven’t been paying enough attention to the road—more interested in what’s going on inside the truck. I’m too close to the car in front of me, and when it slams on its brakes I have to swerve into the other lane to avoid rear-ending the guy. Blondie’s shoulder crashes into my chest and her cheek brushes my jaw before she rights herself in her seat. Her hand creeps across her lap and I reach for the knife under my left thigh, but she just tightens the lap belt.
“Sorry,” I mutter again.
Maggie smiles and her eyes flicker to my face and away. “So, eight is what… third grade?”
“Yep,” Chloe answers.
“Well, I hope I’m not going to make you late for school since you’re taking me back.”
“Oh, I’m home-schooled.”
Great. Thanks, Chloe, way to make her suspicious. It’s obvious Blondie has more connections with the state and social services than I first thought. I don’t need her asking questions about Chloe.
“Yep. Shane and—uh, my—uh, mom,” the lie sounds like just what it is coming from Chloe’s mouth but she soldiers on, “teach me. I like math and history best, but geography is really fun too. Last year I learned how to read maps. I got to plan the route when we came from Indiana to Boston and we didn’t get lost once.”
Chloe, that’s TMI! I try to broadcast the thought to her telepathically except of course there’s no such thing. Thankfully, Blondie doesn’t seem to know what to say to Chloe’s rambling monologue. This gives Chloe a chance to ask another question.
“Where’s your family at?”
This time Blondie hand balls into a fist, and when she speaks her voice has an edge. “They’re dead.”
Did she have something to do with their deaths?
“Did you have any siblings?” Chloe plows on, completely oblivious to how uncomfortable she’s making Blondie.
“A twin brother and a younger sister.”
“How did they die?”
“Chloe,” I warn.
Blondie’s knuckles are white now, but the rest of her is motionless. I’m curious about how her family died, but I know she can’t answer that question truthfully.
“Sorry,” Chloe mumbles.
“It’s okay. I just don’t like talking about it. It was a long time ago.”
Blondie visibly relaxes and her arm rubs lightly against mine. I expect her skin to be cool—she’s technically dead after all—so I’m surprised when a jolt of heat passes through me. She tucks her arm tighter against her side and farther away from me.
“I like your accent, where are you from?” Chloe continues her interrogation.
Blondie’s shoulders tense up again at the change in subject. “England, originally. I haven’t been back there in forever so the accent tends to come and go.”
“Why haven’t you been back?”
“Bad memories I guess. It’s easier to forget things with distance.”
“So you don’t have any family here?”
“Well, I have my best friend Hannah, and she’s practically my sister. And I have a twin brother that lives in San Francisco.”
A twin vampire?
“Why does he live so far away?”
She shrugs, bumping her shoulder against mine. Whose brilliant idea was it to put her in the middle? This is dumb, I don’t need to be all touchy-feely with a vampire.
“Doesn’t he miss you?” Chloe prods.
Blondie laughs once without humor. “I doubt it. We have different views, so we don’t get along very well.”
“What different views?” I chime in. Being a vampire seems pretty standard: sleep all day, prowl at night, and kill humans by sucking them dry of blood. How can she have a different view?
She considers this for a minute. “About everything—life in general. He’s sort of a snob who thinks he’s better than most people, and I don’t like that kind of mentality. He thinks I’m crazy for considering all people equal.”
“So there’s no discrimination in your book at all?”
“Nope. I don’t think that anybody can honestly say they’re better than someone else. There’s always too much background information that gets left out if you judge people before you really know them.”
A vampire is preaching to me about equality? Seriously? Vamps kill people all the time with no regard to who the person is or where they come from. So why does Blondie act like she’s an exception?
“How long have you known Hannah?” Chloe asks.
Evasive much? I make a mental note to check Hannah out. She’s definitely not a vamp, but she could be something else supernatural. It would make sense why she’s friends with Blondie.
We finally pull up to the school, and I bail out. I need some distance from the confusion and attraction rocketing through me. For a vampire. Am I
Maggie swivels and kicks her legs out before hopping down from the truck. She has to look up at me, she’s so short. “Thanks for the ride, I appreciate it.” She’s close enough I can see gold flecks in her green eyes. “And thanks for helping out last night, creep.”
I cough and look away. “Yeah, no problem.”
She turns back to Chloe. “Thanks for the chat, girly girl. Remember, you can call me anytime.”
Chloe smiles shyly and mumbles, “You’re welcome.”
Did the vamp seriously charm my sister? Chloe, the Chaser-in-training? You’ve got to be kidding me.
“Hey!” I have a sudden thought and I call out before I can stop myself. Blondie twirls on her heel on the steps to look back at me.
“Do you think I can see Rachel this morning? I really need to talk to her. Could you, you know, get me in?
She frowns, but then says, “I’ll see what I can do.”
“Well, this was another dumb idea,” I grumble under my breath.
There’s no way we’re getting Rachel out of here with the director-guy enjoying his breakfast two tables over from us in the cafeteria. Another lady standing by the double doors appears to be counting heads.
Rachel isn’t touching her waffles. “I can’t stay here, Shane,” she whispers. “Not with that vampire running free.”
“I know, okay? I’m working on some ideas.”
“Some ideas?” she hisses. “Ideas? Did you know that most of these kids are juvenile offenders? They’re messed up. And I have to go to counseling and
share my feelings
with them.” Her curled lip and emphasis on the words speaks volumes.
“Rach, it’s just for a little while, okay? But maybe while you’re here the counseling is a good thing.”
Her eyebrows hit her hairline. She probably doesn’t want to hear this, but I know she’s got a lot of unresolved issues about Cassidy’s death. Heck, we both do.
“A good thing? Do you even know me at all?”
Whoops, now she’s raising her voice, and my temper ignites too.
“Look, if you didn’t want to go through all this, maybe you should’ve thought about your actions before you got sent here in the first place.”
“Can you both stop,
?” Chloe scrunches her eyes closed and pressed her little hands to her forehead.
Rachel scowls but goes silent. We both know the last thing we need is Chloe having a seizure or worse.
Chasers are trained from birth to fight, and that requires being mentally tough. But Chloe has never been cut out for the training. She’s too innocent, and I refuse to destroy that. Even if my father would have, before his death. He wasn’t always right. Not even close.
“I can’t believe you didn’t kill that bloodsucker this morning when you had the chance,” Rachel says, and although her voice is soft, it still carries undertones of fury.
Chloe pinches her nose like she’s got an ice cream headache. “I don’t think you should kill her.”
Rachel’s face is a blank stare, and I’m sure mine looks the same. What did she just say? Not kill Blondie?
“What are you talking about, Chloe?” Rachel asks.
Chloe finally opens her eyes and looks between the two of us. “I don’t think you should kill her. Maggie. I think you’re wrong.”
So much for not hearing her correctly. “Why not?” I ask gently.
“She’s not bad.”
“What?!” Rachel shrieks.
I glare pointedly at her. “Keep your voice down.”
Chloe squares her shoulders. “She’s not a bad vampire. She doesn’t kill people. She saved me and she helped those girls last night. She’s one of us—a good guy.”
This isn’t the first time Chloe has insisted someone was or wasn’t evil. But she’s never had this opinion about a vampire before. I can’t help but argue, even though my own feelings about Maggie are conflicted, too. “Chloe, that’s crazy. She’s a vampire—it’s ingrained in her to kill humans. Maybe she doesn’t
to be bad, but she can’t help it.”