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|Bad Blood(Blood Coven Vampire,book 4) by Mari Mancusi|
The Hotel Sun is like the anti-Mandalay Bay. Whereas Mandalay Bay has a lush, youthful vibe, complete with waterfalls, tropical foliage, and exotic architecture, the Sun is more the type of casino you go to right before you die. Its décor certainly hasn’t been updated since the seventies—orange and green carpet, old-fashioned crank slot machines that actually spit out real quarters. (It was a shock to me when I first got to Vegas to find out they did away with those at the regular casinos and that now all you get when you win is a slip of paper you have to go cash in, rather than a cup full of cash. Kind of sad if you ask me.) A handful of dumpy-looking, poorly dressed old people sit listlessly in front of the machines, coins in hand, feeding the beast and praying to hit those lucky sevens so they can go back downtown and gamble in style. Judging from the number of junk-filled shopping carts parked outside, I’m guessing more than a few of them are homeless.
But Cowboy doesn’t stop to gamble; he heads straight to the back of the casino, his long strides hard for me to keep up with. As I get closer, I realize there’s actually a theater in the back of the hotel, though who the heck would come all the way up here to see a show, I have no idea. But sure enough, the faded marquee advertises a play—a vampire revue, nonetheless. The kind of songand-dance number where actors dress up as creatures of the night to entertain any tourists who might need a break from the craps table. I approach the theater cautiously. At this point I’ve lost sight of Cowboy. Did he go inside? I guess he must have, seeing as there’s nothing else back here. Now what? Did I come all this way just to meet with a dead end?
“Looking to try out? You’re early. Auditions aren’t until tomorrow.”
My heart leaps to my throat at the voice behind me. I whirl around, then let out a sigh of relief as I realize it’s not Cowboy Man, snuck up behind me, ready to kill me and dismember me and feed my bones to the vultures. Rather the voice belongs to a boy who couldn’t be much older than me, leaning casually against the wall, giving me a curious once-over. He’s super cute—though a bit on the emo side—with black razor-cut hair falling into intense green eyes, rimmed with guy-liner. He’s wearing a Straylight Run black hoodie, a pair of skin-tight black jeans plastered to his skinny legs. On his feet are the requisite black Converse and a pair of small silver hoops are threaded through his ears.
“Huh?” I say, then remember what I’m currently wearing. He probably thinks I’m some wannabe showgirl, down on her luck, hoping for a gig. I can feel my face heat, wishing I’d had time to change back into my normal clothes and pull the ridiculous wig off my head. “Oh, no, I’m just thinking about . . . um . . . going to the show. It looks cool.”
He chuckles. “It’s not, actually. Trust me. And even if you were some kind of masochist who still wanted to see it anyway, you can’t. At least not until we replace our leading lady.” I realize, suddenly, that he must be one of the actors. He sighs “We are currently Mina-less here at the Sun Theater ‘Dracula Revue.’”
He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a playbill and hands it to me. I thumb through it, checking out the photos and bios of the actors in the play. Sure enough, Emo Boy is featured as one of the actors, and there’s Dracula, played by Cowboy Man, a few random actors, then Mina, Dracula’s girlfriend . . .
. . . played by a girl who looks a hell of a lot like our Jane. I do a double take and it’s almost enough to make me trip over my platform shoes all over again. The photo is unmistakably her. But the name listed below the photo is not Jane. It’s a girl named Sasha.
I look up. “Sasha?” I say, realizing my voice is trembling. The boy nods. “Yup. Girl just up and left the show a few days ago without so much as a good-bye text and we haven’t seen her since. The next show’s supposed to be on Saturday night and we still don’t have a replacement. Kind of getting desperate, let me tell you. In fact, I bet Cornelius would hire just about anyone who was to apply, if you catch my drift.” He winks at me, then adds, “And please do. Because we get paid by the show here and I’m completely broke. If we don’t do Saturday’s performance I have no idea how I’ll come up with my rent money.”
I nod vacantly, my head positively spinning. Jane was here a few days ago, working as an actor for a cheesy, off-Strip Vegas vampire revue? Oxfordeducated, Rhodes scholar Jane? It didn’t make any sense. But what other explanation was there? She’d been talking to Cowboy Man and he’d led me here. And the photo in the playbill is unmistakably her. Something is definitely rotten in Vegas.
“I’m Sunny,” I introduce myself to Emo Boy. I pull off my wig and hold out my hand. He shakes it with a firm grip. I notice his fingernails are painted black. Rayne would like that. Actually I don’t mind it either. For some reason it works on him.
“I’m Jayden,” he says. “One of the vampires here.”
I drop his hand like a hot potato.
He laughs. “An actor playing a vampire, that is.” He smiles at me, a friendly, infectious grin. “Don’t worry, there are no such things as vampires outside of popular teen girl books and silly Vegas revues.”
If only he knew. “I suppose not.” I smile back. “Which is probably for the best. Don’t want you to be all trying to suck my blood or something.”
Jayden starts to reply, but at that moment his pocket starts beeping. He pulls his cell out and scans the screen. “Sorry,” he says, looking back up at me. “Looks like Cornelius just arrived and wants to start rehearsal. I’ve got to get inside.”