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|Blood Ties(Blood Coven Vampire,book 6) by Mari Mancusi|
“It’s a dangerous gamble you’re asking for,” Jareth growls. “Do you really believe all these people here are innocent?”
“I lived with them at Riverdale, remember?” I ask. “They’re good kids. They’ve just been lied to and tricked. And once they find out what’s really going on, I don’t believe a single one of them will side with Headmistress Roberta.”
“That’s all well and good, but—”
I turn to Magnus. “Look, you’re always asking me to see the bigger picture,” I remind him. “And yes, I want to save my sister. More than anything in the world. But I can’t do it at the expense of having hundreds of other innocent people killed instead.”
Magnus sighs. “Did I ever mention you’re too good for your own good?”
I grin. “All the time.”
“Well, whatever we do, we need to make a decision fast,” Jareth says, glancing at his watch. “Because the bombs will start flying in less than an hour.”
I open my mouth to reply, but at that moment I’m cut off as the trumpets sound and the red silk curtain slowly slides open. The crowd erupts in excited cheers and whoops as none other than Headmistress Roberta herself steps up to the podium, illuminated by a single spotlight.
I watch as the headmistress’s lips curl into a self- satisfied smirk as the crowd continues to cheer her on. She’s wearing a dramatically low-cut red silk gown and boasts glittery jewelry at her fingers, ears, and throat. Gone are the bun and thick glasses; she’s now very Dame Helen Mirren at the Golden Globes and a far cry from her normal Riverdale schoolmarm chic. I guess if you’re a super-villain with a plot to take over the world, at some point you have to start dressing the part.
She raises her hands to the crowd and the cheering intensifies. Poor sheep. If only they knew what their mistress is really asking them to sign up for. But, of course, they don’t, and so they keep applauding, as if she’s going to give away free tickets to a Lady Gaga show to the loudest fan.
With a swish of her wrist, she cuts them off—and silence blankets the room. She clears her throat before speaking. The anticipation is so thick you could cut it with a stake.
“My dear slayers,” she says, purring into the microphone. “It’s so good to see all of you gathered here today, united as one front against the evil forces that threaten to batter down our doors. For far too long has Slayer Inc. been a puppet organization, content to do the dirty work for supernatural beings who harbor no appreciation for all that’s done for them. But those days are now over.” She pauses, for effect, and her audience mindlessly cheers.
“Are you sure they’re worth saving?” Magnus mutters at my side. I shush him.
The headmistress continues, “Once upon a time we were able to peacefully coexist with the various vampire covens around the world,” she says. “Enforcing their laws, protecting humanity from harm. But now the Consortium of vampires has grown in number—not to mention hunger for power. They are no longer interested in living under the rules of a nonpartisan police force. Mainly because they are no longer interested in playing by the rules to begin with. Rules, I think we can all agree, were created for the sole purpose of keeping the peace and bettering our society.”
“You know, she’s not entirely wrong,” I hear Magnus grudgingly whisper to Jareth. “There was a time when all Consortium members had a real vote. A chance to voice our opinion without fear of repercussions. Now, if you happen to have a differing opinion to Pyrus, you’re bound to be ostracized and punished as I have been.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Jareth relents. “But what can we possibly do about it? I mean, the Blood Coven is not strong enough to go out on its own without the protection of a larger entity.”
“I think the Blood Coven is stronger than you might think.”
“Guys! Can we please discuss politics later?” I hiss. “I need to hear this speech.”
I tune back in to the headmistress. “I know recently we had a major setback,” she admits. “The Night School program was infiltrated by a vampire, out to destroy all the work we’ve been doing to protect our society. As those of you from Riverdale know, we barely escaped with our lives. But now we’ve regrouped and, thanks to a few exceptional Alphas in our midst, we’re stronger than ever and ready to take this campaign to the next level.” She pauses, smiling widely as the crowd once again erupts into the requisite applause.
“And now I’d like to introduce you to one of them,” she continues. “He started at Riverdale like any other Slayer in Training, but rose quickly through the ranks, becoming the best pupil we had by far—both on the field and in the classroom.
“Of course his excellence made him a prime target for the vampire spy. She seduced him, captured him, even tried to kill him. But, students, the skills he learned at Riverdale Academy allowed him to escape and bring back valuable information we will use against the Consortium.” She turns offstage. “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Corbin Billingsworth the Third!”
Now the crowd is really freaking out as Corbin steps onto the stage, flashing the audience a cocky grin and swishing his crimson cape with an overly dramatic flair. He strolls over to Headmistress Roberta and hugs her tightly, as if she’s his mentor and best friend in the world. Ha! If only she knew! Her little protégé is more conniving than ten vampires put together. Not to mention a total traitor to her illustrious cause.