“Just a minute, Amelia,” Mom’s voice jarred me to a standstill on the porch.
Sheltered by the roofline’s shadow she produced a small cylindrical tube from the pocket of her designer sweats. After waiting up all night so she could see us off on our first day of school, she was ready to sleep through her first day. It was preparation for her new position at the Portsmouth Vampire Council, which began each weekday after twilight.
I snatched the tube from between her fingers and lifted it to eye level. “Nasal decongestant?” I questioned incredulously. “I just want to be invisible. But everyone is already going to be looking at the weird new girl. Now you want them to think I’m a dweeb too?”
“It’s menthol.” Mom shrugged. “I thought it might help distract your sense of smell.”
With a groan, I let Mom hug me. Then I retreated to the car, shoving the nasal tube into the glove box. There was no way in hell anyone was going to see me using that thing. Dorian was already in the driver’s seat, warming up the engine, as he always did.
“We’re not ready.” I glared at the opulent French mansion—our new home—shrinking in the rear-view mirror. Apparently Uncle Caius had a lot more money than I’d realized.
It was a double-story, with a mixture of stone and beige-rendered walls, soaring windows, and high ceilings inside. Acres of green land surround its walls, back-bordered by a thick shelter of oaks. There was a stone-bordered gate that fronted the property, offering a scenic view of the rolling swells of Rye Beach. Just watching the mansion shrink as we drove away made me long for the cabin. There I had felt safe, from myself. This mansion was too big, too cold. It could never feel like home. It could never feel safe.
The move had been inevitable. Kendrick had brainwashed Joel into believing he’d been attacked by a rabid dog. Being a Pure Blood, his ability to compel was stronger than any turned vamp’s. Still, Mom and Uncle Caius were worried that me being anywhere near Joel would break the compulsion and endanger our secret lives. So they weren’t about to take any chances. Our destination had been decided with a job offer. Uncle Caius wanted Mom on the Vampire Council in Portsmouth. With a little encouragement, she’d agreed. It was one of many sub councils that operated around the world in service to The Armaya, the epicenter of vampire legislation and politics. As the only surviving Pure Blood of his lineage, our uncle held a seat there on The Armaya’s Royal Vampire Council. After that our move had been arranged to the small, sleepy town of Rye, bordering Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
More than six months had passed at the cabin. It was hundreds of miles from our old home in Anchorage, and hidden amongst the wilderness of the Alaska Range. As Caius had predicted, Dorian began the transformation soon after our retreat. I couldn’t hide my relief at his fading fear of me. We were one and the same, cut from the same cloth, and now we shared a secret. The thing we had become.
“We are ready,” Dorian countered. “And you heard Mom. We passed all the tests successfully.”
With an irritated breath, I turned and stared out the window as manicured trees fronting oversized, gated properties passed by. Yesterday Mom admitted to the tests she had planned to assess our self-control. I had been beyond pissed. Still, no amount of arguing could change her mind. Now Dorian’s laid-back attitude was beginning to grate on my nerves. I clenched and unclenched my hands. “So we didn’t attack and kill a few delivery men. So what? How does that compare to a classroom full of blood-pumping human bodies?”
“Amelia,” Dorian said, glancing in the vanity mirror backing the sun visor. He ran a hand through his thick, dark hair to re-shape it. “We’ll be fine.” He looked at me sideways and smiled. “You know, you’re stronger than you give yourself credit for.”
I crossed my arms over my chest, doubting Dorian’s faith in me. How could he truly believe that after everything that happened?
When we first relocated to the cabin, Mom and had taught us to hunt. We started with herds of Caribou, graduating to more challenging prey like packs of wolves, and even the elusive mountain lion. Kendrick, between frequent snowboarding breaks, had come hunting too. But I had detested the whole process. How could honing our predatory instincts make us safer around humans? But as my natural desires took over, I became thrilled by the chase, my muscles snapping into action and my fangs ready and waiting. After each hunt, each kill, the thrill would dissipate, replaced by a body-shaking guilt. My speed, strength, and lust for blood proved beyond any and all doubt that I truly was a monster, and I always would be.
I took reprieve from one fact alone. Vampires weren’t immortal. Our lifespans were extended, but I wouldn’t forever be this bloodthirsty creature, a killer. One day I would die.
I pulled my New Student packet out of my bag and began memorizing my three-week class rotation and the school map. The last thing I wanted was to have to ask for directions.
A moment later Dorian turned off Ocean Boulevard onto the private, gated entrance of our new school, St. Volaras. It was the best private school in the area, holding over five hundred students. The size of the student body alone only unnerved me further. Today would be an assault of temptation from unknowing victims. And, if I did lose it, there would be countless witnesses that no amount of compulsion could cover up.
Dorian revved the engine of our turbo-charged Audi Cabriolet. He dropped back to second gear, following the line of high-end cars through the student parking lot. The A5 was a joint birthday present from our uncle Caius. It was a reward for coming so far in our ability to restrain.
Every part of me hated the car and everything it represented, everything it reminded me of. I glared at Dorian, knowing he’d revved the engine to draw attention. I hated that he was so confident and self-assured, when all I wanted to do was remain invisible.
Dorian ignored my glare and pulled into a spot rearing the lot, before jumping out of the car.
I sat without moving, wishing I could just disappear. Then Dorian poked his head back through the driver’s side door. “You can’t stay here all day.”
I bit the inside of my cheek. “Wanna bet?”
“C’mon,” Dorian said, rolling his eyes. “Don’t make me drag you to class kicking and screaming.”
Although his tone was joking, I didn’t doubt his threat. He was set on the idea of a normal life, and wasn’t about to let me mess that up for him. Cursing him under my breath, I snatched my bag from the back seat. Outside I yanked my hoodie over my head. It was my favorite jacket, black cotton with a detachable hood. If it had been made of leather it would have been perfect for riding a motorbike.
I got out of the car and froze. Students littered the parking lot. To me they resembled herding bovine, blissfully unaware and ripe for the picking. I groaned, picking up a scent that was all too familiar these days. Human blood. In the cool morning air it was faint, but still distinct.
“If I were you, I’d wipe that look off your face.” Dorian stepped in front of me, blocking my view of a group of preppy-looking girls. “People are beginning to stare.”
I looked away from the clustering students, refocusing on Dorian’s piercing silver-blue irises. They were now the same color as mine, and from what we’d been told, a consistent vampire trait. “What look?”
Dorian smiled, lips parting to reveal the points of his fangs. “That crazed, I’m so starving I could eat you, look.”
My jaw dropped then quickly clamped shut. I couldn’t even control my expression? There was no way I could do this!
“Yes you can.” Dorian clearly knew me too well. “Look, Amelia,” he said more seriously. “We can have a normal life. You can. This is just the first step. Will you just try, for me? You know I can’t do this without you.”
With a deep breath, I planted my hands on my hips. I knew Dorian was using emotional blackmail, but I caved anyway. “Okay. But if I kill anyone, I’m blaming you.”
Dorian roped his arm through mine and yanked me forward to walk alongside him. “Your murder is my condemnation. Got it.”
As we headed to the main building, I held my breath. My sight rose above the heads of surrounding students. The building was three levels of brick, with rectangular windows and tall glass doors. Dorian was already checking out the surrounding female members of the student body. I wasn’t beyond counting bricks for a distraction. Before I could begin, someone darted in front of us.
The boy’s scent—if you could call him a boy, with his over-developed muscle mass—reached my nostrils instantly. It was fiery and sweet, and somehow different from any human’s I had ever picked up on. The urge to extend my fangs pulled at me from within. I swallowed, struggling to push the sensation back.
The boy edged forward. His tan face was frozen with a threatening scowl, and his hands curled into fists. “Go back to where you came from,” he snarled through tight lips. “You’re not welcome here.”
Dorian instinctively tensed and released my arm, ready to take action. But before he could even utter a word, the boy turned and stalked away.
Dorian shrugged his shoulders “What was that about?”
A startling realization struck me. “He could tell. He knows what we are.”
Dorian laughed, pulling me aside to let passing students through the main doors. “You take paranoia to a whole new level, sis.”
Certain belting him would draw attention I held back the urge. Instead I settled for a piercing look that I wished could kill, or at least inflict torturous pain. “I’m paranoid?”
Dorian waved his hands in a half-assed surrender. “C’mon, you know I didn’t mean it like that. That jerk is probably just a dumb jock, pumped up on steroids.”
I wasn’t convinced, but Dorian was already past the incident and busy catching the eye of a pretty girl. He glanced down at his watch. “Classes start in five. So go, get settled. I’ll see you at lunch.” He pushed me through the glass doors winking, before backing away in the opposite direction. “You’ll be fine. I promise.”
I sucked in a quick, deep breath and held it. My lungs ached in protest. Students swarmed the foyer. I pushed past them, bounding up the stairs to the second floor. Psychology was first up. I shot through the door to room 2.6, taking a vacant desk. It was by one of a handful of windows that lined the far wall. With my lungs contracting and on the verge of forcing me to breathe, I dumped my bag on the desk and threw open the glass barrier. Poking my head out into the cool autumn air, I sucked in a much needed ragged breath.
Whispers about the ‘new girl’, were hot on every student’s lips. Vampire hearing, lucky me! This day just kept getting better. They thought I was strange, a total weirdo. And who could blame them? I was acting like a freak!
Shrinking back into my seat, I kept my head down with my hoodie sheltering my face. My long hair hung as a solid barrier between me and them. The scent of fresh blood intensified as more and more students filled the classroom. There was nothing I could do in this setting to dull it. But I could drown out their chatter.
I pulled my iPod from my backpack, plugging the earbuds into my ears. It was jam-packed with music from all my favorite bands: Red, Skillet, Three Days Grace and Lifehouse, just to name a few. It used to have pop music too, but since discovering my darker side my taste in music had followed suit, and the urge to dance wildly in the privacy of my room no longer felt uplifting. In spite of that, I smiled. The cover was new, glossy purple—my favorite color, which in the right dark shade was nowhere near being girly pink, ick! It had been a parting gift from Kendrick who’d uploaded the new Three Days Grace album. My heart squeezed, wishing he were here.
Still able to scent the students, I stifled a groan. My arms coiled around my waist, nails pricking my sides and breaking the skin. The distraction helped, just enough to keep me cemented in my seat, until the classroom door opened again.
In an instant, the energy in the small room shifted. I removed my earbuds. The gossip on everyone’s lips had faltered.
Then it hit me. The same unique, fiery, sweet scent of blood I had encountered not five minutes earlier. No…not him again.
Against my better judgment, I brushed my hair behind my ears and dared to glance up. My world froze. Any remaining chatter became irrelevant as I stared on. Standing in the doorway was not the boy who had threatened Dorian and me. This boy had similarly colored satin-black hair, styled into messy, loose spikes. His charcoal V-neck shirt acted like a second skin, clinging to reveal a sculpted torso. The light from fluorescents bolted to the grated ceiling bounced off his bronzed arms, offering shadowed definition to his protruding biceps and numerous…scars? Nudging recognition tickled at the back of my subconscious. I couldn’t rip my eyes away. I’ve seen him before.
The boy caught sight of me as he entered the room, and stalled. His honey-glazed eyes, rimmed with iridescent green, widened.
Somehow able to move again, I averted my eyes. But it was already too late. I could hear the heavy steps of hunting boots closing in on me. A hard lump crawled up my throat and my heart-rate increased. The potency of his fiery scent soared. It invaded my lungs and made my mouth water. He was close, way too close. With a throat-constricting gulp, I tried and failed to force my lust for his blood back down. Then I blinked up to meet his curious gaze.
“Hi. You’re new.” His tone was steady, maybe even friendly. Yet there was visible conflict in his eyes.
“Uh huh,” I replied, as a telltale tingle ran along my gums. No, please. Not now. I could practically taste the hot sweetness of his blood on my tongue and hear the irregular beat of his strong pulse. A sequence of events flashed manically through my mind. I saw myself leaping over the desk in one swift move and sinking my now fully extended fangs into his neck. Control yourself! I pinned my lips together, concealing my fangs. My nails dug into the cushioned seat, acting as an anchor to stop me from acting out the deadly fantasy still reeling through my mind. For a second I longed for the nasal tube stashed back in the car.
“I’m Ty Malau,” he said, iridescent eyes narrowing at me.
Uncomfortable silence thickened the air as he watched me, waiting for a polite introduction. It was clear he had no plan to let me be until I spoke. So I looked away, covering my fanged mouth with one hand. Through my barricading fingers, I managed to croak out, “Amelia Athobry-Lamont.”
“It’s nice to finally meet you, Amelia,” Ty said.
My eyes shot back to his smiling face. Finally? There hadn’t been any kind of emphasis on the word, but something about it, or maybe even the sentence he’d used it in, bothered me. Was I reading too much into this? Something about him seemed so inexplicably familiar. But for the life of me, I couldn’t place him.
Ty motioned to the spare seat beside me with a scarred hand. “Mind if I sit?”
My tongue floated in a pool of expectant saliva and my hands began to tremble. They were still clutching the cushioned chair for dear life. The threat of release was growing. Please, just leave me alone. I knew if he didn’t walk away soon, I would lose all control. Ty shifted his weight from one leg to the other. I could almost feel the growth of anxiety rippling in waves off his body. Shit! I mentally slapped myself. I’m staring at him like he’s something to eat. Look away, dammit! With great strain, I forced my eyes away from his perfectly symmetrical features, and down onto my iPod, wishing again for Kendrick.
A quiet grunt emerged from Ty’s throat. “Never mind….”
His retreat to the other side of the classroom dulled the overwhelming punch of his blood. With his scent around me fading and my fangs retracting, I allowed my lungs to breathe again. The short, testing breaths relieved some of the involuntary reactions to his proximity. I could still smell his blood, as well as the other students. But I took a sliver of comfort from the fact that I had managed to control myself, just enough not to turn this room into a bloody massacre…yet.
The classroom chatter had resumed. It seemed almost everyone had been watching Ty and me with bated breath, and now it was all they could talk about.
I plugged my earbuds back in and dropped my head against my bag. My eyes squeezed shut. “You’ll be fine,” Dorian had promised. A silent laugh vibrated my chest. Yeah right!
Free until 30 September 2013
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Genre – YA Paranormal Romance
Rating – PG-13+