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|Blood Ties(Blood Coven Vampire,book 6) by Mari Mancusi|
So I put my earbuds in my ears and turn up my iPod, silently rocking out to a little Lady Gaga as I stare out the tinted window, remembering the last time I journeyed to Glastonbury with Magnus. It’s hard to believe it was only last May—it seems a lifetime ago. Back when I thought I was a normal girl living a normal life and my only desire was to get a cute boy to ask me to prom. In just six short months, my simple life has turned upside down and I will never be considered normal again.
Magnus moans softly and cuddles closer to me. I smile down at him. Oh well, normal is kind of overrated anyway.
The last time we arrived in Glastonbury, it was during their annual music festival, and the streets and fields were teeming with raver types. This time, luckily, it’s a lot quieter. A charming town with quaint shops and pubs and brick row houses lining the streets. It’s a bit of tourist trap—catering to all the King Arthur fans out there—but mostly in a cute, non- tacky kind of way. A far cry from the Vegas strip, in any case.
I get out and do a little exploring while I’m waiting for my team to wake up for the night, buying a few books for Rayne at the independent book publisher Gothic Image on High Street, checking out the castle-like St. Benedict’s church, and visiting the famous Chalice Well, which supposedly offers healing waters due to its close proximity to the Holy Grail. (Some people are actually drinking the “healing water,” but the fountain looks a little unhygienic to me, so I pass. Besides, I’ve already gotten healed by the real thing anyway.)
Outside of town you can hike up the Tor, which is this huge hill, topped by St. Michael’s Tower. Legend has it this was once an island called Avalon where the druids of Arthurian legend lived. What few people know is underneath this popular tourist destination lies the Holy Grail itself—brought here by Joseph of Arimathea after Jesus died. What we’ve come all this way to find.
Before I know it, the sun sets and the mist rolls in and the vampires awaken from their slumber as all good mortals head to bed. After receiving Magnus’s text, I meet up with the gang at a small, dark pub on Market Street and slide into one of the wellworn wooden booths to discuss our plan. Jayden is no longer chained, but is still flanked by his two vampire jailers, leaving him little chance to succumb to any possible bloodlust.
“The druids are a bit... suspicious... of strangers, especially vampires,” Magnus is explaining. “So I think it’s best if just I go alone to their home and you lot wait here.”
I frown. “How about I go instead?” I ask. “Seeing as I’m neither stranger nor vampire. In fact, druids and fairies have had a long, intertwined history together.” (See? I’ve been doing my fairy homework!) “Surely they’ll be more excited to see me than some undead guy.”
“Some undead guy who once gave them a million pounds,” Magnus reminds me. “I think they’ll remember me... favorably... despite my fangs.”
“Fine. Then let’s go together,” I determine. “Jayden, are you okay waiting here?”
Jayden nods, though he doesn’t look psyched about being left alone with Francis and Tanner, to be honest. Not that I blame him—the two bodyguards are already ordering up pints and tuning in to the local football (soccer) update on the telly. They barely nod good-bye as Magnus and I walk out of the pub and onto the streets. Jayden, on the other hand, doesn’t take his sad eyes off of me until we turn the corner out of sight. Which makes me feel more than a little guilty.
“I wonder if it’ll be the same guys as last time,” I remark, trying to push thoughts of Jayden from my mind as we head down the road. “Or if they totally ditched the whole sacred druid gig once they got ahold of that million you gave them.”
Magnus chuckles. “I do wonder how much of that... donation... ever made it into the goddess’s coffers.”
“Please. The goddess completely got screwed out of the deal, let me tell you. I’m betting the entire balance went to pints of Stella and front-row seats to the local football matches.” I shake my head in disgust. “Druid hooligans.”
“Well, I hope you’re right,” Magnus says. “We need their coffers to be running low to tempt them into considering a second deal.”
“Do you think it’ll cost another million this time?” I ask. “Or is there some sort of discount for repeat customers?”
“What, like buy one Grail, get one free?” Magnus asks with a laugh.
“Sure. That’d work. At the very least, they should let us put it on plastic so we can score some frequent flyer miles out of the deal.”
“Sadly, Sunny, I’m pretty certain the ancient druid sect guarding the Holy Grail does not take American Express.”
I huff. “Well, the ancient druid sect needs to get with the new millennium then. Or at least be willing to throw in a set of Ginsu knives with every Holy Grail purchase. I mean, they do know we’re in a recession, right?”
Magnus shakes his head, laughing. We turn another corner and I recognize the narrow, cobblestone street the druids call home. Lined with cheerily painted row houses and little curio shops filled with rusty antiques, you’d never know the street was the resting place for one of the most clandestine groups in the world.
Except, you know, for the fact that their front door seems to have been ripped from its hinges and tossed into the street in a pile of shattered glass. Which, let’s face it, is not the best way to keep a low profile.
Horrified, I reach down and gingerly pluck the druid’s brass knocker from the dirt. The secret symbol of their ancient non–American-Express- taking sect. I hold it up to Magnus questioningly. He takes one look, then dashes toward the house in question, shouting, “Stay here!” as he vanishes through the open doorway.