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|Blood Ties(Blood Coven Vampire,book 6) by Mari Mancusi|
“All right, so if you can all form a line, we will begin the sacrament,” Headmistress Roberta instructs. Evidently the time for debate is through. The Slayers in Training shuffle to obey, not looking all too pleased. But what choice do they have? The doors are locked. The guards have swords. They’re in a foreign country and they have no place else to go.
Corbin smirks, then walks over to my sister, still prostrate on the altar, and pulls out a large silver knife. He slashes her leg and places a jeweled cup underneath. Blood gushes from the wound and into the cup. It’s all I can do to keep from throwing up.
“Wait!” I cry, leaping onto the stage, just as the first victim steps toward Corbin and his cup.
The audience gasps, probably thinking they’re seeing double. The guards lunge at me, but I leap into the air, using my wings to gain altitude. Once I’m above grabbing distance, I turn to the crowd, beating my wings to stay afloat. “Don’t drink!” I cry. “She’s been poisoned. You won’t turn into vamshees. You’ll just die!”
Corbin’s face twists in rage. “She’s lying!” he cries. “She’s one of them. Look at her wings.” He turns to the guards. “What are you standing around for? Get her!”
I turn to Headmistress Roberta, who’s staring at me with confusion clear on her face. “Look,” I say. “I don’t agree with your methods, believe me. But there’s more going on here than you know. Corbin’s betrayed you. He’s poisoned my sister’s blood, and anyone who takes a sip will die before ever becoming some supernatural vamshee-warrior type.”
Corbin shoots me a death look. “That’s ridiculous,” he entreats the headmistress. “Why would I want to poison my own people?”
“Because you feel they betrayed you first,” I reply smugly. “They experimented on your friends. Turned them into vegetables before they perfected their formula. And they would have done the same thing to you, if you hadn’t escaped with Rayne.”
“Rayne,” Corbin spits out. “Rayne nearly killed me. Because of her I’m a blasted creature of the night.”
“Exactly,” I say. “And there’s nothing you hate more than vampires. After all, your parents were killed by one. There’s no way you’d just let the Alphas create hundreds more vampire hybrids when your life’s mission is to wipe all supernatural beings off the face of the Earth.”
Headmistress Roberta gives Corbin a hard stare. “Is this true?” she demands.
“No! Of course not!” “Prove it.”
Corbin rolls his eyes. “Fine. I’ll drink it myself.” He puts the cup to his lips.
“No.” Roberta yanks it from his grasp. “You think I was born yesterday?” she sniffs. “Being a vampire grants you immunity from the poison.” She scans the group of frightened initiates, her eyes alighting on Leanna. “Come up here, child,” she urges.
Leanna looks at her, face white as a ghost. “What?” she cries. “I mean... no!”
“Oh, yes,” Roberta says with a small smile. “Guards?” The guards grab her by both arms and drag her, kicking and screaming, to the front of the stage. Roberta strolls over and puts the cup to Leanna’s trembling lips. Then she turns to Corbin.
“Tell me the truth, now,” she says with tight lips. “Or your little girlfriend here will have to prove your innocence the hard way.”
Corbin glowers at her for a moment. Then his face twists into an angry mask of hate. “Fine,” he spits out. “She’s right. I did poison the bitch. No vampire deserves to live.”
The crowd gasps in horror. Roberta simply nods, then tips the cup back, forcing Leanna to choke down the blood it contains. Her screams turn to gurgles as the tainted blood drains down her throat.
Corbin lunges forward. “But I admitted it!” he cries. “You said—”
Roberta shrugs. “I lied. Just like you did.” She turns to the guards. “Take him away. We will deal with him later.” She releases Leanna, who collapses to floor, still choking. The guards try to grab Corbin, but he fights them off, baring his fangs.
“You haven’t seen the last of me,” he growls, before turning tail and running backstage. The guards charge after him.
Headmistress Roberta watches them go, shaking her head in dismay. Then she turns back to the audience, who’s watching the scene with frightened eyes. “I’m sorry,” she says, sounding tired. “Obviously there has been a change in plans. But we will regroup and meet—”
“Wait!” I interrupt. The audience looks up at me in surprise, as if to say, There’s more? I nod my head grimly. “Corbin’s not the only one who’s been lying to you here.”
The initiates break out into excited chatter, their eyes turning questioningly to the only other authority figure onstage: Roberta. The headmistress’s face turns white.
“What do you mean, Sunny?” calls out Amber from the back.
Here goes nothing. “Look, all this time you think you’ve been training under the guidance of Slayer Inc.,” I explain. “But what you don’t know is the Alphas secretly broke off from the parent company some years ago and started their own organization. Headmistress Roberta’s goal is to take over the world... by any means possible. You think you’re defending mankind from evil vampires. But really you’re just being asked to sacrifice your humanity for one person’s mad lust for power.”