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|Blood Ties(Blood Coven Vampire,book 6) by Mari Mancusi|
“Who cares about him?” I demand. “My sister could be in trouble!”
“Ah, yes, once again, this is all about you,” Magnus notes. “Who cares that Rayne put herself in trouble by not following orders? And who cares that I’m going to be the one to pay if the Alphas have really taken her.” He squeezes his hands into fists. “Rayne knew full well she was supposed to stay here, under the protection of the Blood Coven. She knew the Alphas would stop at nothing to kidnap her and harvest her blood. And yet, she—just like her sister—decided to defy those orders and sneak out on some crazy mission she felt was more important. Putting all of vampire kind in danger.”
He turns to me, his eyes bloodshot and wild. “You think I’m the one who’s not trustworthy?” he demands. “You think my loyalties are divided? You don’t care one bit about what I go through on a daily basis. Or how much trouble I’m constantly in for siding with you instead of my bosses. And if I even hint that I have a duty to perform that doesn’t directly benefit you, you automatically start questioning my loyalty or making up crazy things in your head that I’m somehow lying to you and working behind your back to murder your friends.”
I stare at him, unable to speak. Oh God, have I really been so selfish?
“I’m not saying the Consortium is perfect,” he continues. “But it’s the only government we’ve got. And when I took command as Master of the Blood Coven, I made a vow to uphold their laws, no matter what. In exchange, my vampires get protection and peace,” he explains. “I’ve seen what happens to covens tossed out of the Consortium for not obeying their rules. They lose everything. They live in squalor—in fear for their lives. There’s never enough blood...” He frowns. “I can’t let that happen to my people.” He rises from the bed and walks over to the window, crossing his arms over his chest and staring out into the night sky. I let out a frustrated breath, feeling the tears well up into my eyes as my mind races over the events of the last few days. Here I’ve been thinking I’m the noble heroine, on a mission to save a life. But am I really the selfish villainess, putting everyone in danger, just as Jayden did?
I glance over at my boyfriend’s rigid back. You can practically see the anger coming off him in waves. My heart lurches in my chest and I feel like I’m going to throw up. How am I ever going to get him to forgive me?
I rise slowly to my feet and walk over to him, wrapping myself around him and laying my head on his back. At first I wonder if he’s going to shrug me off, push me away. But he just stands there, staring out the window. Not submitting, but not rejecting either. I guess that’s something.
“I don’t even know what to say,” I whisper. “Sorry seems so useless.”
At first he doesn’t respond. Then he turns slowly, pulling me into an embrace. I collapse against him in relief, feeling the sobs choke my throat at this suggestion of forgiveness. Maybe there’s still hope. Maybe I haven’t ruined everything...
“I’m sorry, too,” he whispers. “I know I’m not always forthcoming about the big picture. I try to keep you out of things in an attempt to protect you. But that only makes you worry and doubt me.” He pauses, then adds, “And you’re not selfish. You’re just all heart. You can’t stand to see the people you love suffer.” He strokes my head with a gentle hand. “We’re a lot alike in that way. I’m protective of my vampires just as you’re protective of your sister and friends.” He sighs. “It’s heartbreaking to see those two good things constantly at odds.”
“We need to start working together,” I murmur against his chest. “We’re stronger together than apart.”
He pulls away to look down at me with loving eyes. “I agree,” he says with a small smile. “So let’s go talk to the Consortium about what’s going on here. Together.”
I cock my head in question. “What? But I thought mortals weren’t allowed in their sessions.”
“They’re not.” He shrugs. “But I don’t care anymore. You’re my partner. My equal. And it’s time I start treating you as such.”
“Thank you,” I say sincerely. “That means a lot.”
“You mean a lot,” he replies, leaning down to kiss me softly on the head. “Now let’s go save your sister.”
And that’s how, an hour later, I find myself the only living girl in a room full of undead. All the premiere voting members of the Vampire Consortium— masters from all over the world—assembled together in a large arena, which, during normal business hours, houses sumo wrestling matches. (And has the stench of sweaty fat guys to prove it.) When the infamous House Speaker, Pyrus, a tuxedoed, bleach-blond vampire who bears a striking resemblance to Gerard from My Chemical Romance, calls on us, Magnus leads me up to the podium at the center of the arena.
“This is Sunshine McDonald,” he announces to the crowd. “Royal daughter of Queen Shrinking Violet of the Light Court of Tír na nÓg.”
The crowd quiets and I can feel a hundred pairs of eyes focus on me expectantly, and I’m suddenly glad of my fae heritage. At least that gives me a tiny dash of otherworld street cred here. I wonder if I should mention I was actually a vampire for about six days last spring. Would that help or hurt my case?
I step up to the podium with legs that feel like Jell- O. “Um, hello,” I try to say into the microphone. But in my nervousness I’ve leaned in too far, spoken too loud, or just got my iPhone too close to the speaker, and high-pitched feedback screeches across the room. I leap back in surprise, my face heating in embarrassment. Way to make a professional first impression, Sun.