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|Bad Blood(Blood Coven Vampire,book 4) by Mari Mancusi|
From the other actors’ groans, I realize this probably isn’t the first time they’ve gone back to the drawing board when it comes to assigning Mina’s part. But they obediently slink offstage, accepting without question that the rehearsal is over. I get the feeling not many people ever stand up to Cornelius. Except for Jayden, that is. He rises to his feet and stares up at Cornelius, arms crossed over his chest. The guy has to be at least a foot taller than my friend, but Jayden doesn’t seem the least bit scared. If only he knew there was so much to be frightened of. “What’s wrong with her?” he demands. “She’s perfect for the part. I chose her myself.”
Cornelius shakes his head. “She won’t work. I’m sorry.”
“We have a show in two days,” Jayden argues. “One that people have bought tickets for. We don’t have time to keep looking for another girl. Either get Sasha back here or let Sunny do her thing. At least for Saturday. Then we can hold more auditions next week.”
But the vampire just shakes his head. “No,” he says. “I’m sorry, but no.” And with that, he turns and walks offstage. I scramble to my feet, realizing my legs are still more than a bit wobbly from my scare. And my wrist hurts from trying to break my fall.
Jayden gives me an apologetic look. “Sorry,” he says. “I don’t know what goes through that guy’s mind sometimes. I think you’re perfect. For the role that is,”
he adds, looking a little sheepish. “But he’s the one funding the show, so we’re really just stuck doing what he says.”
“It’s okay,” I assure him. As much as I want to uncover the Sasha/Jane mystery, I don’t want to wind up dead from doing so. It’s probably better to try another tack. One that preferably doesn’t piss off an evil vampire. Though what that will consist of, I have no idea. I’m running out of time and don’t have very many leads.
“Let me make it up to you,” Jayden says, looking honestly upset. “Let me buy you dinner, at least.”
I force a shaky smile and nod my head. Maybe all is not yet lost. “Sounds like a plan.”
Jayden takes me to a small taqueria, very off-Strip. The type of place that sells three tacos for a dollar. Of course I have to break it to him that I’m actually a vegetarian, which, I’ve found, is usually a major disappointment for guys. But Jayden takes it all in stride, ordering me a plate of refried beans, grilled peppers and onions, homemade guacamole, and corn tortillas. It turns out to be one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had and I’m stuffed before I can even finish half of it.
The tables are all outside, giving us a chance to enjoy the milder Vegas temperature, now that the sun’s gone down. Covered with checkered tablecloths and illuminated by stubby candlelight, the place has a quiet, quaint feel that’s so different from what you find on the Strip. I’m really enjoying learning about the backstreets of Vegas, I realize, as I take another bite of beans. Getting the insider’s tour.
As we eat, Jayden entertains me with silly pet stories from the Popovich Theater and soon I’m laughing so much I can hardly swallow my food. It’s also nice, I realize, this simple pleasure of sitting down to a meal with another person. Magnus can’t eat human food, so we usually skip the whole dining out thing that’s a staple of most dates. Not that he wouldn’t go if I asked him to; I just find it too disconcerting to chow down while he just sits there, watching with food lust in his eyes. (Most vampires, I’ve learned, find the fact they can’t eat anymore the most troublesome of all the changes of becoming creatures of the night. My sister, I believe, would gladly exchange her ability to go out during the daytime if she could just eat one more Kimball’s Dairy extra massive ice cream sundae without puking it all up.)
I glance over at Jayden, who’s stopped talking to concentrate on cutting his carne asada with a plastic fork. Laughing, I hand him my knife.
“Need help?” I ask.
He shakes his head and waves off the knife. “I try to stay away from knives,”
he says, going back to his totally gimped version of cutting.
“But why?” I ask, puzzled. “Don’t you think it would be easier?”
He looks up, his face flushed with embarrassment. “I’m a hemophiliac,” he explains, his voice sounding a little unsteady. “Do you know what that is?”
I think back to eighth-grade science class. “That means you can’t stop bleeding, right?”
He nods. “If you got a cut, your blood would clot after a few minutes and seal the wound. My blood doesn’t do that. So if I cut myself—with a knife or whatever—I would bleed myself dry. Even a tiny scratch could be life threatening.”
“Wow,” I say, not sure how to respond. “That must be risky then to be working with animals.” Not to mention vampires.
“Yeah,” he says. “It’s not the best profession to choose with my condition. But I love animals so I take the necessary precautions.”
It suddenly makes a lot more sense why he was wearing those thick gloves backstage at the show. And here I had thought he was afraid of germs.
“It’s no big deal!” he adds brightly, as if he’s afraid he’s scared me off. “I’m still normal in every other way. It’s just a nuisance really. And hey, if something were to happen, I have this.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small device. “It’s hooked up to a satellite and will automatically call nine-one-one for me if I press a button. If I’m bleeding, I can get an ambulance at my door in less than ten minutes. They’ll be able to inject me with clotting replacement plasma and then, unless the bleeding’s super massive, all will be well.”