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|Blood Ties(Blood Coven Vampire,book 6) by Mari Mancusi|
“Rayne, Rayne! Guess what, guess what? I got to level eighty!”
I groggily pull the covers from over my head and squint in the early-morning (afternoon?) sunshine. Above me, my eleven-year-old half-sister, Stormy, bounces in play, an excited expression on her freckled face. Normally I don’t like being woken up so abruptly, but the simple fact that I’m still alive to do it makes it a little easier to bear.
When Corbin captured me and gleefully told me of his plan to poison me and feed me to the masses like a sacrificial lamb, I figured that was just about the end of me. After all, there was no way the Consortium was going to care about one troublemaking vampire when they had the whole vampire race at stake. But I underestimated the determination of my dear, dear twin sister—who seriously is a lot more amazing than people give her credit for—single-handedly dissolving the mastermind plot without killing a single innocent. Truly genius, Sunny.
Sunny. Her name brings a blood tear to my eye. I wonder how she is. What she and Magnus are doing. They couldn’t tell me where they were going, of course, in case the Consortium resorted to hypnosis or mind-control tricks to make me spill.
“Come see!” Stormy commands, grabbing my arm and trying to drag me out of bed. She, of course, doesn’t know the danger Sunny’s in. Her mother, Heather, told her my sister simply had to go away on a trip.
“Okay, okay!” I cry, giving in with a laugh. I crawl out of bed and allow myself to be dragged over to the computer where she’s logged into World of Warcraft. It used to be my favorite video game, but lately with all that’s been going on I’ve had little time to play it. And now my eleven-year-old stepsister has managed to out-level me.
She proudly displays her tricked-out level-eighty mage. “And look, this robe I made myself,” she boasts. “It’s totally leet.”
I ruffle her hair. “That’s awesome,” I tell her. “I’m jealous.”
“Do you want to play with me for a bit?” she asks, looking up at me with pleading eyes. “None of my friends are online.”
I glance at my watch. Ugh. I slept later than I thought. “Sorry,” I say. “I’ve got a training session at one. And Teifert hates when I’m late.”
Stormy looks at me with admiration. “So cool.” She whistles low. “I wish someday I could become a slayer like you and Mom.”
“Well, study hard and maybe you will,” I tease.
“And play lots of WoW. I’m sure that helped me.”
“Ooh, good idea!”
I say my good-byes and head through the condo and out the door. I’m meeting Mr. Teifert at the gym in a half hour. The vice president of Slayer Inc. temporarily relocated to Las Vegas so he could continue my training. Since I’m between missions, I’ve actually been working on getting my slayer instructor certification so I can teach other slayers or maybe even open up my own academy someday. After all, as much as I like being a vampire, after this whole experience I believe, more than ever, that our laws must be strictly enforced to avoid any potential power grabs—whether by human, vampire, or anything else.
I greet Teifert at the back room of the LA Sports Club. To my surprise he’s not wearing workout gear, but a stiff three-piece suit. “Dude, what’s with the outfit?” I ask. “Doesn’t look like something you’ll want to get blood on when I kick your butt.”
But he doesn’t smile at my joke. Instead he motions to a nearby set of chairs. “Sit,” he instructs.
A worried feeling worms through me as I follow his instructions and take a seat. “What’s going on?” I ask.
He pulls out a manila envelope from his briefcase. “The Consortium has sent out a request to Slayer Inc. An official commission.”
A new assignment? “Oh-kay...”
“They’ve got a rogue vampire on the loose—one who’s wanted for treason. They’re asking that Slayer Inc. track him and his mate down and deliver them, undead or alive,” he says. “And they’re offering a large sum of money in exchange for the service.”
“And you want me to carry it out?” I ask. “How much money? Are you saying I’ll actually get paid this time?” I’ve been doing Slayer Inc.’s dirty work for so long now under the guise of “destiny.” This time, I need a paycheck. Especially if I’m going to open up my little slayer school.
Mr. Teifert frowns. “Yes, there is a payment for services rendered,” he says. “You’ll get ten percent. One million dollars.”
My eyes widen in excitement. “One million dollars? Dude! I’ll take it!” I try to reach for the envelope. But Teifert locks on with a killer grip. “What?” I ask.
“Maybe you should take a look before you start cashing any checks.”
“Sure, fine. Whatever. Let’s see.” I manage to wrestle the envelope from his hands and rip it open. Two black-and-white photos fall onto my lap.
“So let’s see what naughty vampires need—” But the words die in my throat as my eyes fall on the first photo. I look up at Teifert in horror. He nods grimly.
“But... there’s got to be some mistake!”
“No.” He purses his lips. “No mistake.”
“But... but...” I pick up the other photo and a mirror image of my own face stares back at me. “They want me to slay my own sister?”