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|Blood Ties(Blood Coven Vampire,book 6) by Mari Mancusi|
“My name is Amaya,” the girl adds, tossing her long black braid over her shoulder. “It means ‘night rain.’” She winks at my sister. “We have much in common, you and I.”
The look on Rayne’s face tells me she finds it hard to believe that she and some little vampire kid have anything in common besides evidently sharing a name, but she recovers quickly and bows to Amaya. “Nice to meet you. I’m Rayne. But I guess you already know that.”
Amaya giggles in that way that only Japanese schoolgirls can giggle. “Follow me,” she instructs. “The others are dying to meet you—” She catches herself and giggles again. “Well, I suppose, to be fair, they are all already dead.”
I can’t help but giggle back. Vampire humor still cracks me up.
Our little hostess turns and leads us through the small but tastefully decorated home, done up in minimalist style with low couches and tables, soft lighting, and bamboo screens covering floor-to- ceiling windows. Everything is clean and dainty with no clutter whatsoever. I could never live in a place like this—I feel like I would trash it just by breathing.
We enter a tiny bedroom containing nothing more than a low platform bed, covered in a crimson bedspread. The floor is made up of the same kind of tatami mats the ryokan had, and two red lanterns hang from the ceiling. Amaya walks to the far side of the room and yanks on a string extending from one of the lanterns. A moment later, the bed slides up, into the wall. She pulls aside a mat, revealing a secret trap door, embedded in the floor.
I glance over at Jayden and my sister, who both look equally impressed. Secret passages are so cool.
“Most Japanese homes are built with no basements,” Amaya explains as she pulls open the trapdoor, revealing a dark passage below. “But underneath the streets there is an intricate tunnel system, dug out thousands of years ago. Some of them have collapsed, due to earthquakes. And others were incorporated into the subway system. But many have survived and we use them to get around the city during daylight hours.” She gestures to the trapdoor. “After you,” she says.
I look down into the darkness, not loving what she just said about earthquakes. I’ve never been a big fan of dark, closed-in spaces, to be honest. It’s one of the reasons I’d have made a lousy vampire. The coffin thing would just never fly.
“It’s okay,” she adds. “It’s perfectly safe.”
Oh, what the hell. I gingerly take a step down the ladder and into the tunnel below. Once on the ground, my eyes adjust to the dim lighting, made up of a set of little Japanese lanterns strung along the concrete walls. Behind me, Jayden and Rayne follow suit, with Amaya coming in last, pulling the trapdoor shut behind her and pressing a button on the wall, which, I assume, replaces the bed over the trapdoor. Pretty cool, I must admit, though losing the light from above is making the claustrophobia kick in big-time. I shudder and try to get a grip.
“Follow me,” Amaya instructs, taking the lead down the underground corridor. My sister falls in line behind her, not a care in the world. I take a furtive glance at the ceiling to judge its stability before taking a few hesitant steps. This is going to be a long, scary trip. I squeeze my eyes shut, then force them open, trying to rouse some courage.
A moment later, I feel a fluttering at my fingers and realize Jayden has reached out to take my hand in his, squeezing it tightly. I look over and catch his sympathetic eyes shining in the darkness. He can tell I’m freaked-out without me even saying so. I squeeze his hand thankfully in return and offer him a small smile, feeling a little better from the camaraderie. Of course, Rayne picks that moment to turn around to locate us and I can see her suspicious glance at our hands. But I shrug her off. After all, there’s nothing that says friends can’t hold hands, right?
Though, truth be told, friends probably shouldn’t intertwine their thumbs together as they weave through the darkness...
Finally, after what seems an eternity of dark walking, we reach a metal ladder climbing up into the darkness. Amaya presses another magical button and a trapdoor in the ceiling slides open, letting in very welcome rays of light.
Relieved beyond belief, I rush up the ladder and into what appears to be some kind of dressing room. Dozens of young Japanese vampires are milling about, checking their makeup in mirrors, brushing their long black hair, or straightening their very Gothed-out clothing.
“Now, this is more like it!” Rayne exclaims as she pokes her head up. “Finally a vampire coven with a sense of style.” She pops out of the hole and nods her head as she takes in all of the outfits. “I so need to know where you guys shop.”
Amaya giggles as she climbs through the trap door and helps Jayden up behind her. “Sorry to disappoint you, Rayne, but those are just their costumes. In real life, they dress much differently.” She points to a girl in jean shorts and high heels walking out of the bathroom. “That is more like what they normally wear.”
Rayne sighs. She will never find her true Gothy coven, will she? “Why costumes?” I repeat questioningly.
“The patrons at Bite Club like their vampires to look like vampires,” Suki, the girl from the night before, steps up to us and explains with a small smile. “Or at least what they assume vampires should look like. And since they pay good money, we don’t like to disappoint them.”
“Oh,” I realize. “So these are the biters?” I look around at the scurrying teenagers, suddenly feeling like I’m backstage at a strip club or something. I try to remember what Rayne has told me about Blood Bars. “People hire them to suck their blood?”