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|Blood Ties(Blood Coven Vampire,book 6) by Mari Mancusi|
At last we reach an equally impressive two-story inner gate, which, according to the signs, is known as the Hozo-mon. More lanterns hang from its rafters as well as an inexplicable pair of giant-sized sandals. To the right is a five-story pagoda, rising high into the sky.
I give a low whistle. “This place is incredible,” I murmur to Jareth and Magnus. “I can’t believe the Alphas picked this as their HQ.”
“It’s because it’s holy ground,” Magnus explains and I suddenly realize he’s sweating profusely. “Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just the Christian religion—crosses and Holy Water—that affect us. In fact, any religious icons or land deemed sacred by mortals can weaken a vampire.”
I look at him, concerned. “Is that going to be a problem?”
“It is if you were counting on us using vampire powers to rescue your sister,” Jareth interjects, also looking as if he’s suddenly come down with the flu. “We’re about at mortal strength now. The farther we go into the temple, the weaker we’ll be.”
“Well, I guess it’s good you brought along a fairy,” I reply smugly. But inside, I’m worried. How are we ever going to get Rayne out if my two superheroes are as weak as little lambs?
We had to leave Jayden behind at the ryokan, of course, seeing what a liability he’d be if Corbin decided to go and rescan his brain. But we untied him first and Jareth even hooked him up with some fake memories through hypnosis, once he woke up from his faint. If Corbin does decide to go spying, he’s going to be pretty bored watching Jayden playing pachinko down at the local arcade.
“How do we get in?” Jareth wonders aloud, studying the second gate with a critical eye. “This place is huge.”
I nod, taking it all in. The Alphas could be holed up in any one of the structures. Or all of them, for that matter. How do we find out where they’re keeping my sister?
Suddenly, as if in answer, I catch a flash of red out of the corner of my eye. I whirl around. “Look!” I cry, pointing to a red-cloaked individual sprinting across the yard. “Either Little Red Riding Hood’s come to Japan on vacation or that’s an Alpha we can follow.”
The vampires nod and we creep down the street, keeping the red cloak in our sights. The figure ducks behind a prayer tree and around the gate until he stops in front of a large blank wall. He knocks twice and to my surprise, the wall creaks open, revealing a passageway into the darkness. Score! The man steps inside and the wall slides closed again.
“I knew there had to be some kind of secret entrance,” I exclaim excitedly. “Come on, let’s go!”
“You can’t just waltz in there,” Magnus reminds me. “Especially if you’re a vampire.”
“He’s right,” Jareth agrees. “We’ll stick out like a sore fang if we walk in there like this. And without our vampire powers, we’re screwed.”
I open my mouth to speak, but snap it shut as I hear someone else approaching. The three of us dive behind a nearby fence and watch as two more red-cloaked individuals stroll toward the doorway. Jareth looks at Magnus and nods, and before I even realize what’s going on, they step out and face the two men. They may not have vampire strength, but they do have the element of surprise and a thousand years of practice. Knocking the two men out cold before they can scream, they drag them back behind the fence and strip them of their cloaks.
“Nice trick,” I say, stepping out of my hiding place. “But I can do one better.” I close my eyes and try to visualize the face of one of the Alphas. A moment later, I smile at Jareth and Magnus, a full-on Leanna imitator if there ever was one, right down to her Victorian skirt and leather corset. “Now, boys,” I say with a grin, “step right this way.” I walk boldly up to the secret door and knock as I saw the first guy do.
A moment later a pair of eyes peeks out of the peephole. I smile widely. “It’s me, Leanna,” I say in an impatient voice. “Hurry up.”
The gate slides open and the guard ushers us inside. He bows low to me, then turns to the two vampires with a suspicious gaze. “Who are you?” he demands. “Do you have ID?”
“What?” I cry, butting in and stepping between him and the two vampires. “Are you new or something? You don’t recognize an Alpha when you see one?”
The guard blushes. “Sorry, Miss Leanna,” he apologizes. “I mean no disrespect.”
“I should hope not,” I scold. “Or next time I shall be forced to speak to Roberta about your... memory problems.” I cross my fingers that the old headmistress from back at Riverdale is still leading this motley crew.
Evidently so, from the way the guard stammers and shakes. “Please don’t,” he begs. “She’ll take away my Alpha status. And I won’t get to take the sacrament tonight with everyone else.”
The sacrament? Does that have something to do with the theft of the Holy Grail? “Don’t worry,” I assure him in my most benevolent voice. “I’ll say nothing. If, of course, you do me a favor and let me know where Corbin is. I have a message for him.”
The guard’s face betrays his ultimate relief. If he weren’t a bad guy, I’d feel sorry for him right about now. “Of course,” he agrees eagerly, swiping the sweat from his brow. “He’s down in the basement lab with Dr. Franken. They’re preparing the sacrament.”