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|Bad Blood(Blood Coven Vampire,book 4) by Mari Mancusi|
At the top of the stairs, I take off down the hallway, as fast as my legs will carry me, praying over and over and over in my head that it’s not too late. I glance at my watch—eleven fifty-nine. Oh please don’t let the powers-that-be have watches that run fast.
Finally, after what seems a marathon distance, but is probably only about twenty yards, I arrive at the ballroom where the ceremony is taking place. I ignore the ticket takers’ protests (I mean, tickets? To a biting?) and barge through the double doors, careening into the room and tripping over an electrical cable that must have been part of the lighting setup. I go flying forward down the aisle, slamming into the rug, my palms skidding in a way that’s sure to leave the most horrific rug burns. But I can’t even feel them now as I scramble to my feet.
The whole room is completely silent and every vampire’s eyes are on me . Way to make an entrance, Sun. I can hear their thoughts, as clearly as if they were thinking them out loud. Human. Outsider. Interloper. But like it or not, they need me more now than they could ever know.
At the front of the room, Magnus stands on the stage, dressed in a fitted Armani tuxedo. He looks so handsome, I find I can barely breathe. (Though this could partially be due to the fact I just got the wind knocked out of me from my fall.) Beside him stands Jane—or should I say Sasha—glaring at me with a look that could definitely kill. Between them is a small pedestal, with a golden box sitting atop it. I know what’s in there. Two vials of Magnus’s blood. Enough to turn Sasha into a vampire forever.
“Sunny?” Magnus cries, an unbelieving look on his face. “What are you doing here?”
“Magnus, don’t bite her!” I cry, barely able to form the words, I’m so out of breath. “She’s not Jane. She’s an imposter!”
The crowd erupts in murmurs as everyone tries to figure out what the heck is going on. Jane turns back to Magnus, panicked, but determined. “She’s just jealous,” she hisses at him. “She’s a child; she doesn’t understand. Let’s get on with this.”
Magnus looks at her, then back at me, then out into the audience—a confused, torn expression on his face. I hold my breath, praying with all my might that he’ll hear me out. The clock on the wall ticks off the seconds, one by one by one. Time moving slowly, painfully. Please, Magnus. Believe me, I beg him silently. Your girlfriend. The one who loves you. After all I’ve been through—
my investigation, Jayden’s sacrifice—I can’t lose now. I just can’t!
All vampire eyes are on Magnus, waiting for his decision. You could hear a pin drop in the room it’s so silent. Half of me wants to shout everything out from where I’m standing—to tell the whole auditorium who Sasha really is and what she and Cornelius have been up to. But I don’t. I need Magnus’s decision first. He needs to listen to me. To trust me. To take that first step off the stage and walk toward me, choosing me as the woman he loves and believes in. Without that, I could have all the proof in the world and it won’t make any difference. And for a terrifying moment I fear that he’s not going to do it. That he’s going to dismiss me as he’s done so many times in the last week and tell the powersthat-be to continue with the ceremony anyway. Ignore the dumb human girl he used to toy with—she doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But then, to my overwhelming relief, he slowly and deliberately turns away from Jane, steps off the stage, and starts down the aisle toward me. My heart skips a beat as he approaches and suddenly I’m nervous about what I’m going to say.
“Sunny, tell me what’s going on,” he says, stepping up to me and peering at me with concerned eyes. Eyes I’ve lost myself in so many times in the past, but now seem to belong to a stranger. “What have you found out about Jane?”
I look over at the imposter onstage, who’s scowling at me, probably wondering what I know and whether or not I can prove it. “Jane’s dead,” I say flatly. “The girl on the stage, the one you’re planning to make your blood mate—her name is Sasha. She’s Jane’s identical twin.”
The audience gasps, looking from me to Sasha and back again.
“That’s why she was able to fool the researchers with the DNA test,” I continue, forcing my voice to stay cool, calm, and collected. “After Jane took all the initial tests and got her certification, the High Stakes Coven had her killed and put Sasha in as a replacement, knowing only the DNA test was left. After all, twins have the same DNA.”
Magnus looks baffled. “But why?”
“Look,” I say. “I admit, the real Jane was all you said she was and more. Smart, talented, accomplished. But she refused to be controlled and manipulated by the High Stakes Coven to act out their revenge.” I look over at Sasha. “Her sister, on the other hand, would pretty much do anything for the cash.”
I shove my folder of proof into Magnus’s hands as I explain about Tabitha’s brother wanting to avenge his sister’s murder. Getting back at the Blood Coven for the wrongs he believed Lucifent committed on his family.
“Sasha’s just a puppet for Cornelius. He hoped to rot your coven from the inside, just as Tabitha did while she was Lucifent’s mate,” I explain. “If you turn her, she’ll usurp your power, turn your people against you, all the while looking for chances to kill you in your sleep.”
“She’s lying!” Sasha cries from the stage, now looking more scared than angry.