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|Blood Ties(Blood Coven Vampire,book 6) by Mari Mancusi|
“She’s lying!” shrieks Roberta, her eyes bulging from her head. “We are on a noble crusade. Don’t let this vampire sympathizer destroy you with her lies!”
“Please. If I wanted to destroy you, I would have let you drink that poisoned blood,” I remind them. “Hell, it would have been a lot easier in the end. But you guys don’t deserve to die. You’re innocent victims being used in an otherworld power struggle. And now that you know the truth—what your fearless leaders are capable of—I hope you will step forward and take control of your own destinies.”
“This is insane!” Roberta hisses. “Guards, someone, get her down from there.”
“Shut up!” cries Gwen, at the back of the room. “You’ve had your turn to speak.”
“Thank you,” I say, throwing her a smile. “Look, you all have a choice here. You can allow Roberta the opportunity to steal your humanity and use you as mindless pawns for her quest for power. Or you can swap your allegiance to the real organization you signed up for. The real Slayer Inc.”
The Slayers in Training cheer. Roberta reaches into her pocket and pulls out a gun. “You bitch!” she cries. “I’ve worked too hard on this. I’ll be damned if you’ll waltz in here and take it away from me now!” She aims the gun at me. But before she can pull the trigger, two of her own guards jump on her, tackling her to the ground.
It’s all the slayers need. With a deafening shout, they rush forward, attacking the woman who lied to them and tried to turn them into monsters. They’re so loud in their fury you can barely hear the headmistress’s screams of pain as they take her down.
I grin. Once again, Sunny McDonald saves the day.
Out of the corner of my eye, I notice Jareth and Magnus have reached the altar. Jareth is scooping my sister into his arms, guiding her mouth to his wrist so she can drink his lifesaving blood. Thank God.
But we’re not out of the woods yet. I glance at my watch. We’re T minus ten minutes to temple bombing. “Okay, guys!” I cry. “As much as I can see you’re enjoying your revenge, it’s about time we get out of here.” I fly over to the doorway and settle back down to the ground. “Single line and follow me. No panicking. No pushing. Pretend it’s a fire drill.”
As the crowd reluctantly shuffles to obey, Magnus reaches my side. He squeezes my hand in his and looks at me with smiling eyes. “You’re a pretty good leader,” he remarks, his voice filled with pride. “I’m going to have to bring you along more often.”
I grin. “It’s about freaking time you figured that out.”
Las Vegas, Nevada
The sound of excited barking greets me as I slip backstage at the Comedy Pet Theater and push open the door that leads into the backroom. There, my heart dances with joy to find Jayden, surrounded by a happy chaos of flying fur and lolling tongues. Of course he got his job back once he returned to Vegas. After all, no one loves the animals more than he does.
“Hey,” I say, sitting down beside him and pulling a big fat black cat onto my lap, stroking its sleek, shiny fur. So much better than any cat café.
“Hey, yourself,” he says, then laughs as Rex tries to poke his big black nose into his pocket. “Okay, fine, fine,” he says to the dog, reaching in and pulling out a biscuit. Rex barks excitedly, doing a little dance on his hind legs. Jayden throws him the treat and he catches it midair. I guess when there’s this much competition from the pack you have to hone your doggie athleticism if you want to score the treats. Though from Rex’s current weight, I’m guessing he’s pretty successful at that.
“So how are you feeling?” I ask. “I mean, are you completely back to normal now?”
Jayden nods. “One hundred percent,” he says, looking slightly bashful. “Except for the fact that somehow in the transition my hemophilia went away.”
“Oh, that’s amazing!” I cry.
“Yup. I can finally live a normal life without worrying about bleeding to death on a moment’s notice,” he says. “Which is fine by me. I’ve seen enough blood to last a lifetime, thank you very much.”
My heart lurches. “Look, Jayden, I’m sorry...”
He waves me off. “You were right,” he says. “I’m not cut out to be a vampire. All that action, adventure...” He shrugs sheepishly. “I thought I wanted all of that. That kind of glamorous lifestyle you lead. But to be honest, I’m happiest here. Just working with the dogs and cats.” He smiles at me. “I’m actually thinking of opening my own shelter. Find a little farm outside the city. Take in homeless dogs and cats. Rehabilitate them. Help them become good pets for people someday.”
I smile, my heart aching in my chest. “That sounds wonderful,” I tell him honestly. And it does. I can’t imagine ever having that. A simple life that makes me happy. Doing good for the world. Normalcy at its finest.
He studies me carefully. “Does it?” he asks. “’Cause it’s not too late. You could do it with me.” His eyes shine with the idea. “Just the two of us. I’d train the dogs. You could work on placing them into good homes. And you could still finish high school,” he adds quickly. “I mean, whatever you want. I’ve got a little money put away. I could support you until you were out.”
Tears well up in my eyes. “Oh, Jayden,” I say. “That sounds perfect. And in another lifetime...” I trail off, knowing there’s nothing else to say.