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|Bad Blood(Blood Coven Vampire,book 4) by Mari Mancusi|
“Hey, Cornelius, I want you to meet our newest Mina,” Jayden says. I hadn’t heard him come up behind me and his presence makes me feel more at ease.
“This is Sunny. She’s really great. And she looks perfect for the part, don’t you think?”
Cornelius gives me a critical once-over and for a moment I think he’s going to disagree with Jayden. Say I’m completely wrong for the role and need to leave immediately. But instead, after a moment, he nods. “Indeed,” he says in a deep, rich voice. He bows low to me. “Thank you, milady, for agreeing to join our little troupe. We are most honored to count you as one of our own.”
“Sure, no problem. I’m excited about the role,” I reply, realizing my voice sounds shaky and squeaky as it always seems to when I’m nervous. (My kingdom for Rayne’s sexy, throaty smoker’s voice.) Why am I freaking out here? The guy’s just an actor. A wannabe vampire in some cheesy little show. Nothing to be scared of. Right?
Except that he knows Jane. And Jane knows vampires. Meaning there’s more to Cornelius than the other actors here probably know.
“Is everyone ready to begin tonight’s rehearsal?” Cornelius asks the group. Eric salutes. “Ready when you are, boss.”
“Excellent. Then let us begin.”
And with that, everyone takes his place and the dress rehearsal begins. I’m not in the first act so, after changing into my crazy costume (which is even tinier on me than I thought it’d be), I wait in the wings, watching the performance. It’s not really your typical play, I soon realize, but more of a string of themed dances, strung together by a bit of bad dialogue. Jayden’s playing, as he said, the Jonathan Harker character, lawyer and boyfriend to my character, Mina. In act one, Jonathan goes to Transylvania to consult with his client, Dracula, about some land the vampire is trying to purchase. It’s not much of a role, but Jayden plays it in style. He delivers even the cheesiest lines with just the right inflection. And he looks positively conflicted when Dracula sends three scantily dressed female vampires—played by some very attractive young blond dancers—to seduce him. He’s a great dancer himself, I soon realize: lithe and limber as he crosses the stage with breathtaking grace. I just love a guy who can dance and dance well. Magnus, well, he tries when I insist, but his coordination leaves a bit to be desired.
Act two takes place back in London and that’s where I come in. I’m lying in a makeshift stage bed (basically a board covered with a sheet, so not all that comfortable) when Dracula comes to my window. I rise sleepily, stretching once, before gliding over to the window as gracefully as I can, to greet him. I pull open the window and Dracula climbs in, dancing around me with fluid grace. According to the script, next he will sweep me into his arms, brushing aside my hair, exposing my neck. All around him the chorus dancers whirl and twirl and sing.
Cornelius grabs me and I suddenly realize he’s not only tall, but pretty damn strong, too. In fact, I wouldn’t doubt if his fingers leave bruises on my arms. I swoon, as I’m supposed to do, looking up into his eyes. He sweeps aside my hair, peering down at me and then . . .
. . . starts sniffing me.
I cock my head in confusion as he takes another whiff. What the heck is he doing? This is so not in the script. At first I wonder if perhaps I forgot to use deodorant this morning, but his expression seems more puzzled than repulsed. A moment later I find myself unceremoniously crashing to the stage floor, slamming my butt against the wood.
“Ow!” I cry as a sharp pain jabs through me. “What did you do that for?”
“Sunny, are you okay?” Jayden’s at my side a moment later. He looks up at Cornelius. “Dude, what are you doing?”
But Cornelius ignores him, his piercing eyes seeing only me. “How dare you?”
he demands in a low growl that can only be described as feral and frightening.
“How dare you infiltrate my play?”
I see a flash of teeth. Fangs. My heart stops beating. Oh my God, please tell me those are implants. The music dies. The chorus stops swirling. Everyone’s eyes are on me.
“Wh-what?” I ask, my mind racing. “What do you mean?” I realize, suddenly, unequivocally, that he knows. I’m not sure how or how much, but he knows something. He smelled something on me. Some lingering trace of Magnus, dusting my skin, perhaps?
He’s a real vampire, probably evil, and he knows who I am and probably what I’m doing here. Oh God, this is not good. Where’s Rayne and her stake when I need her?
“Do you think I’m stupid?” he hisses. “You’re marked. Do you think I wouldn’t have noticed?”
It’s then I remember. I have a small scar on my neck from where Magnus bit me that first night at Club Fang. It’s never completely healed and it’s definitely visible for someone who knows what they’re looking for. Someone like another vampire.
I glance around the room, my heart beating wildly in my chest. Am I in danger here?
Cornelius stares down at me, his face twisted with rage. Jayden tightens his grip on me, a sweet, protective move, but stupid, under the circumstances. What’s he going to do against a vampire?
Then it strikes me. He has no idea. None of them do. They all think their boss is a little weird. A little crazy. But they have no idea what lurks beneath his dark tuxedo and pale flesh.
Cornelius’s eyes dart around the room; he realizes he’s being watched. He lets out a reluctant sigh and then shakes his head at me. “Pack up your things and leave,” he says, sounding like it’s killing him to let me go. “You’re not welcome here.” He looks up at the other actors—the voyeurs who very likely just saved my life. “I’m sorry,” he says. “But she isn’t right for the part. We must continue our search for Mina.”