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|Blood Ties(Blood Coven Vampire,book 6) by Mari Mancusi|
Once upon a time, I, too, had been tempted to give up my humanity for love. Not because I wanted to become a vampire. But because I wanted to be with Magnus. But Magnus realized this—and saved me from myself.
And now I have to do the same for Jayden. Or I’ll never be able to live with myself.
“Can you listen to Corbin now?” I ask him. “Figure out which way he went?”
Jayden nods, closing his eyes to concentrate. I take the opportunity to swig a big gulp of the Grail. (Which, um, is completely nasty, by the way.)
Jayden opens his eyes, oblivious. “He’s in some kind of big temple,” he says. “Where they’re holding the biting ceremony—”
I don’t let him finish. Instead, I throw my arms around him and kiss him hard on the lips. His mouth opens in surprise, allowing me to let the liquid flow through.
He gags and jerks away, spitting it out. I hope he managed to swallow some...
“What the hell was that?” he demands.
“Jayden,” I say softly, wiping the liquid from my own mouth. “I don’t think you really want to be a vampire.”
His eyes widen in realization. He stares at me. “You didn’t...” he whispers. “Oh God, Sunny, you didn’t!”
“I’m sorry,” I say, my heart aching in my chest. “I know it was a low move. But I had no choice.”
“Why would you do that?” he whispers. “I could have helped.”
“You’ve helped enough,” I assure him, tears falling from my eyes. “Now it’s my turn to help you. Some of us are cursed with the darkness. But you still have a chance. A chance at a normal life, surrounded by the people and animals you love so much. They need you, Jayden. Your friends. The dogs and cats of the theater. And I think, deep down, if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll find you need them, too.” I pause, then add, “And I refuse to be the selfish person who robs you of your life and everything you love.”
“But I don’t mind—”
“Maybe not now,” I agree. “But someday you would. Someday you’d start to regret the sacrifice you made for me. And you’d start to resent me for that. Maybe even hate me a little. And I couldn’t live with that.”
Jayden says nothing at first, tears streaming down his cheeks, matching my own. Then, finally, he nods. “Oh, Sunny,” he murmurs. “I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me.”
I reach out to pull him into a rough hug, my tears splashing down onto his shoulder. “That makes two of us.”
After saying good-bye to Jayden and promising to call him the second this is all over, I conjure up another red robe, then sneak down the now-empty halls once again, this time following signs to the temple, where evidently everyone’s gathering for the main event.
I step into the large chamber, a cavernous underground arena that would astound those who worship at the now-paltry-looking temple aboveground. The whole place seems as if it’s been dipped in gold and draped with crimson curtains. Statues of Buddha are everywhere and smoke streams from incense being burned on several altars. I feel like I’ve snuck into the devil worshiper’s place in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Except these initiates are wearing red cloaks and they’re all facing a large, curtained stage at the front of the room in anticipation of the upcoming sacrament.
I scan the place, desperately seeking Magnus and Jareth—who texted to let me know they made it to the temple—but with everyone in matching outfits, it’s harder to pick anyone out than in a Where’s Waldo? book.
“Oh my God! Sunny McDonald? Is that you?” squeals a voice beside me.
Shocked at the sound of my name, I whirl around, my eyes widening as they fall on none other than my old friend Evelyn from back at Riverdale Academy, flanked by her Slay School friends Amber, Ember, Gwen, and Mackenzie. They’re all wearing the requisite red robes and all excitedly clamor around me—hugging and squealing in excitement. While I greatly appreciate the sentiment and yes, I missed them, too, I’m wondering how I can politely let them know I need to keep a low profile here.
“I can’t believe you got here!” Evelyn cries. “I thought somehow you got lost in the big move.” “Move?” I repeat, wondering what the Alpha group’s cover story was to their students. After all, these girls signed up to be slayers to fight evil—not become it. There’s no way they’d be down with the headmistress’s plan for world domination if they knew what it entailed.
“Didn’t you hear? That’s why we’re in Japan!” adds Amber, who appears to be wearing a Batman logo shirt under her robes. Jareth would be so pleased. “Remember that vampire who bit Corbin back at school? Well, she escaped and brought all her evil vampire friends back with her.”
“It was awful!” cries Gwen. “We barely got out alive.”
“Yeah, we had to take off in the middle of the night and leave all our stuff behind,” Kenzie adds with a scowl.
I cringe. So that’s what Headmistress Roberta told them? That the group moved them across the world for their own protection against vampires set to drain them dry? I guess that explains all the willing victims here.
“So what’s all this about now?” I ask, wondering if they even know why they’re here tonight. I mean, I can’t imagine these innocent girls would willingly give their lives to the cause and become vampiric fae.