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|Bad Blood(Blood Coven Vampire,book 4) by Mari Mancusi|
“Sunny, I’m so sorry I put you through all of this. And I plan to spend the rest of my life making this up to you.” He reaches out and strokes my cheek with cool fingers. “And vampires,” he adds, “live a very long time.”
I smile ruefully. “Let’s not even get into that whole thing. I mean, in a few years when I’m old and gray, people are going to think you’re hooking up with your grandmother.”
He chuckles, his fingers trailing to my hair, threading through the strands. “And they’ll still be jealous that I have you and they don’t,” he says.
“Mmm-hmm. Sure they will.”
We look at each other for a moment, neither saying anything. Magnus is the first to speak.
“That guy in the hospital bed,” he starts, his voice hesitant.
“Jayden.” The name is suddenly painful to speak.
“Do you . . . have feelings for him?”
I consider lying, but realize it won’t do any good. I nod slowly. “I kind of do. Not the same as I feel for you . . . but he’s . . . I don’t know . . . special, I guess. And he almost died trying to save me.”
“Right. He protected you while I was busy playing big, bad vampire leader.”
Magnus sighs deeply. “I suppose I owe him my eternal gratitude. As long as he doesn’t start kissing you again.”
“I think we’re done kissing,” I say, feeling my face heat with embarrassment.
“But I do want to be his friend, if that’s okay.”
“Sunny, I trust you with my very life. I would never forbid you from being with the people you love,” Magnus replies. “But I plan to keep you very, very busy, from now on,” he adds, a teasing look in his eyes. “Worshipping you, waiting on you hand and foot, doing whatever it takes to make you smile. So there might not be much time left for such . . . friends.”
“That’s fine by me,” I say, grinning from ear to ear. “I look forward to you being my vampire love slave.”
It’s five minutes ’til curtain and I’m backstage at the Hotel Sun theater, shaking like a leaf. This is no high school play—this is a real Vegas revue. People have paid actual money to see my performance onstage. Okay, I don’t have the hugest role in the world—I don’t even have to speak—but still!
“You ready?” Jayden asks, coming up behind me, a big fanged smile on his face. For tonight only, he’s playing Cornelius’s part of Dracula, until they can recast the part. At least now we know no one in the audience will be bitten for real.
I went back to his hospital room after talking to Magnus the night before—to apologize for the kiss and let him know that Magnus and I were going to try to make things work between us. He looked a little sad, but said he was happy for me, and wished me luck, once again making me promise we’d always stay friends. An easy request to agree to.
His only other stipulation? That I play Mina against his Dracula one time. How could I refuse?
“My costume’s a bit skimpy,” I say, pulling out my wedgie for the thousandth time. “But I think I’ll live.”
Jayden laughs. “I think you look hot,” he tells me, making me blush furiously.
“You know, in a friend way,” he adds, a teasing sparkle in his green eyes.
“Of course!” I agree. “Well, you look pretty good . . . in a friend way . . . yourself.”
He grins. “Okay, I’m going to tell the lighting director we’re ready to start. Break a leg!”
“You, too! But not, you know, like literally. You’ve done enough damage to yourself this weekend.” The doctors hadn’t wanted to release Jayden this morning, saying he was still weak from his transfusion. But the guy insisted, saying the show must go on.
And so it does. The dancing girls whirl and twirl as Jayden takes center stage, singing about his long-lost love. I watch, impressed, as he embraces his new role. He’s so talented—he really should move to Hollywood and try to start an acting career. Or maybe Broadway, he’s such a good singer and dancer. Of course, then he’d miss his animals—the dogs and cats who need him. Maybe he’s exactly where he should be, after all.
Lost in thought, I barely notice that act one has ended and act two has begun. The stage manager pokes me, telling me to get into position. Forcing myself to concentrate, I slip out onstage, heading toward Jayden. The audience roars its approval and for a second, I’m confused at all the attention. Then I look out and realize the whole place is packed with vampires from the consortium, come to cheer on my performance. (Let’s not forget, I’m their new hero!) Magnus waves to me from the front row and I smile back at him. So far he’s lived up to his promise of being hopelessly devoted and I’m enjoying every minute of it, even if I have decided to put the whole sex thing on hold—at least for the time being. Once we work on our issues, and are able to completely trust each other again, then, and only then, will we be ready to take our relationship to that next level. Right now, it’s just something to look forward to. Like a thousand other things we’ll be able to share in the future. Neither of us are going anywhere, after all. And, as Magnus pointed out, vampires live a very long time. As I walk forward, I scan the rest of the auditorium. Next to Magnus sits Rayne, followed by Heather, Stormy, and . . . Oh my God . . . is that Mom and Dad? I almost trip over my platform shoes. What are they doing here? And sitting next to one another, nonetheless?