Authors: M. L. Brennan
Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Urban, #General
THE FAMILY THAT PREYS TOGETHER…
I opened the door and entered a room that was all things pink and frilly, with spindly-legged chairs and a preponderance of mother-of-pearl gilding any available surface. Madeline sat in the middle of it, a tiny woman with a Barbara Bush hairstyle, pink fluffy slippers and matching bathrobe over a standard little old lady dress, cornflower blue eyes, and a face so wrinkled that she makes the Dalai Lama look like a third grader. It was a perfect illusion of innocence until she set down her Sevres teacup and gave me a smile that showed off a perfect mouth of teeth and a set of fangs that a tiger would be jealous of.
“Darling,” Madeline said, taking off the large grandma-glasses that she doesn’t need, but likes to wear for effect. “What an unexpected pleasure.” Her voice is another giveaway. It’s low and sweet, with some age showing in her pauses, but it sets every instinct in you on edge. I’ve known Madeline my entire life, yet listening to her still makes all the hair on the back of my neck stand up, and I hate turning my back on her.
“It’s not a surprise if you send people to get me, Mother,” I said. Sometimes I wonder what a psychiatrist would make of my relationship with my mother. If I could go to a psychiatrist, of course, and tell them everything about my life without them immediately throwing me into an insane asylum. Or, worse, believing me.
She just gave me a grandmotherly smile, completely ruined by the fangs that rested against her bright coral lipstick. “But it is still a surprise. After all, you could’ve refused to visit. And yet here you are, my darling baby. Youngest of my little sparrows, hopping home into the nest. Isn’t that lovely?”
I hate coming home.
M. L. BRENNAN
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, USA
USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
For more information about the Penguin Group visit penguin.com.
First published by Roc, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, May 2013
Copyright © R. L. Murphy, 2013
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
For my husband.
With deepest thanks to my agent, Colleen Mohyde. I also am exceedingly grateful for my amazing editor, Anne Sowards, for not only deciding to roll the dice on me, but for making every part of the editing process a delight. Everywhere you touched the manuscript, it got better. Thanks also go to my copy editor, Dan Larsen.
Enormous thanks go to Sarah Riley and Karen Pelaez, great friends and incredible readers. I am deeply indebted to the many writing instructors I’ve had over the years, most particularly Chuck, who was able to show me my mistakes and make me laugh at the same time. To my family—thank you for rooting for me, despite all available evidence. Finally, again, this book could not have been written without the support of my husband, Adam, who sees up close what my writing process looks like, yet still believes in me.
I am indebted to the following books, which I relied on heavily while I was constructing the kitsune:
by Martin Wallen,
The Fox’s Craft in Japanese Religion and Folklore
by Michael Bathgate,
The Moon Maiden and Other Japanese Fairy Tales
by Grace James, and
Kwaidan: Ghost Stories and Strange Tales of Old Japan
by Lafcadio Hearn.
I knew the moment
that my brother, Chivalry, walked into the coffee shop. I always know whenever a member of my family is around. I’m not sure whether it’s because we’re family or because we’re vampires, because I’ve never met a vampire I’m not related to.
But even if I hadn’t been able to sense Chivalry with a bone-deep certainty, I would’ve known by the way that Tamara at the register and my boss, Jeanine, suddenly snapped to attention. Two of the buttons on Jeanine’s blouse came undone with a speed that I’ve never seen her demonstrate in any of her administrative duties. Tamara’s top was already pretty low, but she leaned down over the counter in a way that now had her very ample breasts spilling out in a manner that I was certain the Health Department would find concerning. I was able to observe all of this from my crouched position behind the counter, where I’d been retrieving more stacks of paper cups. I occupy the low end of the totem pole of power at the unfortunately named Busy Beans coffee shop, which managed to remain marginally profitable despite grimy floors, hard scones, and truly terrible coffee owing entirely to the free wireless connection and the high level
of chain-store-eschewing college dissidents in Providence. It was the latest in the series of crappy jobs I’d held since graduating from college with a degree in the shockingly unemployable field of film theory.
I stood up, paper cups in hand, and watched my brother move through the crowd of ironic cardigans, horn-rimmed glasses, and vintage dresses. Heads were turning, and the hum of conversations dimmed as everyone looked him over. Even with all eyes on him, though, Chivalry seemed completely unaffected, letting the adulation of women and envy of men roll off him with complete aplomb. Just over six feet tall, with perfectly tousled chestnut hair and chiseled good looks that would’ve made a casting agent weep, Chivalry wore black slacks, a white collared shirt, and a perfectly tailored dark car-length jacket, all designer. He had just enough of a tan to suggest a life lived outdoors, but not so much that he looked like he spent all day lazing on the beach. He looked expensive, restrained, and capable of seducing every woman in the coffee shop.
I, on the other hand, was cringingly aware of my ratty jeans from Walmart, the tomato sauce stain on my T-shirt, and the duct tape that I’d used to reattach the sole of my left sneaker this morning, all topped off with a green Busy Beans apron that did not do wonders for my ego. My hair is a bit darker than Chivalry’s, and prone to sticking up in weird little tufts no matter how much hair gel I use in the mornings. Height that is imposing and impressive on Chivalry is gawky and awkward on me, and my face is forgettable at best. I’d once been with my girlfriend, Beth, when we were looking for some friends of hers we were supposed to meet up with,
and had reached the level of cell phone calls along the lines of “Do you see the blue sign? We’re standing right under it,” and Beth had finally said, “Look for the tall, average-looking guy.” That had been about a month before she’d suggested that it would be good for our relationship if she had sex with other people.
If Chivalry looked like someone who could put on pancake makeup and play a vampire in a movie, I looked like the guy who’d be fetching that guy coffee. Of course, Chivalry actually
a vampire—I’m still just
a vampire. As my family is always reminding me, I have a lot of human left.