Table of Contents
DUTTON CHILDREN’S BOOKS
A division of Penguin Young Readers Group
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. ▼ Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) ▼ Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England ▼ Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2. Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) ▼ Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) ▼ Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India ▼ Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) ▼ Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa ▼ Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either 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.
Copyright © 2010 by Heather Brewer
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review written for inclusion in a magazine, newspaper, or broadcast.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
CIP Data is available.
Published in the United States by Dutton Children’s Books.
a division of Penguin Young Readers Group
345 Hudson Street, New York. New York 10014www.penguin.com/youngreaders
eISBN : 978-1-101-44345-3
To my agent, Michael Bourret, for believing in Vlad—and me—from the very beginning, and for continuing to believe.
And to the Minion Horde, for being the most fangtastic bunch of outcasts on the planet. Without you, Vlad would not be.
An enormous amount of thanks should go to my incredible editors, Liz Waniewski and Maureen Sullivan, for their brilliance and immeasurable amount of patience. Big, well-deserved thanks to Team Vlad at Penguin Young Readers: Don Weisberg, Lauri Hornik, Felicia Frazier, Scottie Bow-ditch, Erin Dempsey, Jennifer Haller, Andrew Harwell, Shanta Newlin, Christian Fuenfhausen, Emily Romero, Courtney Wood, Allison Verost, Rosanne Lauer, Jason Henry, and many more I’m sure I’m forgetting to name here.
Thanks to my sister, Dawn Vanniman, for keeping my sanity (relatively) intact and for being there whenever I need her. And a big shout-out to MTB, who truly get it.
Paul, Jacob, and Alexandria, I could not have written and published an entire series without your unfailing support. Nor could I continue to write, and continue to feel happy, safe, and loved without the Brewer Clan behind me every step of the way. You’ve helped me reach “The End.” And this is only the beginning.
A BRIEF DETOUR
’ABLO’S FLESH had almost completely healed from his blistering battle with the sun a year and a half before, but his hand ... his hand was gone for good. He was eternally scarred and the honor of his name forever stained, all because of a teenage boy by the name of Vladimir Tod.
Now D’Ablo dropped to his knees and shook his head, his wide eyes locked on the man before him, his voice trembling slightly. “But . . . why? I’ve done nothing wrong!”
The man standing before D’Ablo remained silent. His features were draped with shadows, as if even the lights cast by the office lamps were afraid to touch him.
The air was thick, full of a warning that D’Ablo could not deny. And even though the office window was open and a slight breeze was ruffling the curtains, the air felt heavy, stale, stagnant, old. It was difficult to breathe in.
“I’ve . . .” D’Ablo began his thought, but then closed his mouth again, fearing the repercussions his words might bring.
He looked at the man—the familiar face, features he knew all too well—and held his hands up in a pleading gesture. Or more exactly, his only hand ... and the stump that had been left behind after Vlad had taken that hand with the Lucis.
But his pleading would not be enough to stop what was coming.
Suddenly, the Shadow Man leaped across the room, knocking D’Ablo onto the floor. With his fangs bared, the Shadow Man thrust his hand forward. The tips of his fingers pierced D’Ablo’s flesh. D’Ablo howled and thrashed in torment, gnashing his teeth, struggling to get free. The man pushed hard, forcing his hand deeper inside D’Ablo’s chest. With a bitter purse of his lips, he whispered into D’Ablo’s ear, “I have put this off for far too long. You have served your purpose.”
He gripped D’Ablo’s still beating heart and pulled, freeing the organ from his chest. Standing, the man squeezed until what he had held was no more than a mushy pulp. The light left D’Ablo’s eyes.
He was dead.
The door opened and a second man entered. The man in shadows stood and shook D’Ablo’s blood from his hand. “Remove the head and burn the body. I want to make sure he stays dead.”
AN UNEXPECTED REUNION
The word trembled, perhaps even more than Vlad’s lips were trembling as he spoke it aloud. He searched the man’s eyes, scrutinized his laugh lines, dared to seek out some flaw that would show him that the man standing in front of him was anyone but his father.
But there was no flaw to be found. It was Tomas. Or maybe his twin. Not that he had had a twin. Even if he did, the odds of him and his twin brother both becoming vampires were astronomical. And the man standing before him was definitely a vampire. Vlad could smell it on him.
It smelled like blood. And wisdom. And youth. All rolled together.
There was nothing else like it in the world.
Vlad’s vision blurred with tears, his heart filling with impossible doubt. This couldn’t be his father. His father was dead. He knew. He’d seen the charred corpse, smelled death in the room. Tomas Tod was dead.
And standing right in front of him.
Doubtfully, almost angrily, he croaked, “Dad?”
Tomas nodded, his mouth shrugging, sorrow and pain and loss lurking in his eyes. When he spoke, it removed only a portion of Vlad’s doubt. “Yes, son.”
Vlad turned at the shuffling noise behind him. Joss, bleeding, broken, was scrambling for the stake, struggling to stand.
For a moment, Vlad had all but forgotten him, had all but forgotten that he was about to kill Joss. His friend. His betrayer.
Joss stumbled, collapsing on the ground. Vlad flicked his eyes between Joss and his father, but remained motionless, in complete, captured awe of the man before him.
“Are you ...” Vlad gulped, the taste of Dorian’s blood still on his tongue, the memory of Dorian’s madness still racing through his thoughts. Dorian had been brilliant, but insane. Had Vlad inherited some of that insanity by drinking his blood? Had his worst fears been realized? He’d known that doing as Dorian had asked and drinking from him would be a terrible risk, but he’d done it anyway. Otis had drank from Dorian’s son, Adrian, and now had telekinetic powers, so it’s not like the warning of bizarre consequences hadn’t been there in front of him the entire time. And yet, he went through with it. Just before Dorian died, Vlad had drank his blood. And maybe now he was crazy. Maybe now there was no going back at all.
He took a deep breath and forced the words from his lips, already knowing that the answer to his question was no. It had to be. Because he
like Dorian now. He was crazy. Completely, utterly insane. Not to mention hallucinating. “Are you real?”
The vision of his father merely smiled. Tomas stood in silence—a memory, something looming over Vlad’s every thought, every nightmare, every action. His father. His dead father.