4.6 stars – 20 reviews!
“…I loved this book!…romance, strong characters, and a great storyline!… A great paranormal read! Can’t wait til the next one!”Amelia Lamont never asked to unleash her inner vampire…
In fact, she didn’t even know it was there — until a new, insatiable thirst for blood leads her to drain the school quarterback…
and that’s only the beginning.
What Lies Inside (A Blood Bound Novel Book 1)
by J.L. Myers
4.6 stars – 20 Reviews
Kindle Price: $2.99
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
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Here’s the set-up:
Amelia’s normal teen world is shattered when a terrifying nightmare awakens the monster inside her. A newfound, insatiable thirst for blood that leads her to drain the school quarterback is only the beginning; she’s horrified to discover that her family and best friend Kendrick have been harboring the secret all along. And is the strangely alluring boy who seems hell-bent on curbing her murderous, blood-filled desires a friend, or foe?
To escape detection Amelia and her twin brother Dorian are forced to move to a new town, and the challenge of a new, exclusive high school where nearly every classmate smells like prey. Including the irresistible Ty, who seems hauntingly familiar, yet darkly menacing…
Amelia’s disturbing dreams and entanglement in a web of forbidden romance render her increasingly powerless against the chilling lies and secrets of vampire power struggles. And, as she soon discovers, vampire politics mixed with outlawed love can be a lethal cocktail.
Falling in love may just cost Amelia everything — her friends, her family…even her life.
Please note: This book contains sexual situations and some strong language.
5-star praise for What Lies Inside:
An awesome read!!
“…this book hooked me. I read it in one sitting and anticipate the next book! It has strong characters, an intriguing and compelling story, passion, suspense…”
Amazing!!! Absolutely loved it!!!
“…Amelia is awesome and I loved her from the start. Ty, the main love interest, is great too…There is a ton of action in this story and plenty of intrigue. …I can’t wait for the next one in the series.”
an excerpt from
What Lies Inside
by J. L. Myers
Copyright © 2014 by J. L. Myers and published here with her permission
My mind screamed for me to move. To fight the monster who trapped me with its arms. But my body remained paralyzed, a prisoner of flesh and bone. It wasn’t fear. I knew that much. Inside I was striking out with limbs, nails, and teeth. But any connection to actual movement was lost. My whole body felt like it was filled with cement.
Parted lips closed in on my neck. My eyes darted around, desperate to find a way out of this. Darkness stretched beyond the waning light of a naked bulb. There was a single door, then nothing but damp stone and shadow. The stink of death and decay hung thick in the air. Horror seeped through my veins.
There was nothing I could do. No way to stop this. No way to save my life.
The sound of labored breath rasped. Not my own. Not this monster’s. In the shadows it was impossible to see where it came from. Was someone watching? Fear snaked through my soul. The fear wasn’t for my own life, not really. I was afraid for someone else. But who?
Any thoughts vanished as fangs punctured my flesh. A gasp escaped my lips.
Flames bloomed from the punctures, swarming across my skin. The monster clutched my body tighter and tighter with every sickening gulp.
As the flames began to dull, my internal screams and my drive to fight faded. Without the current of blood filling my veins, violent shivers took hold of my entire body.
My body was giving up.
With shallow contractions, my heart slowed. My mind wavered as my body began to fail. The crushing pain of imminent death faded. As my eyes fluttered shut, a memory of the boy I loved floated across the backs of my eyelids. I saw his dejected expression. I felt the moment he had crushed me against his body, covering my lips with his. Then I heard the words he had spoken for the very first time. “Amelia, I love you.”
An icy tear escaped my eye. Now he would never know the truth. Never know that my feelings for him were still as irrefutable and irrevocable as ever. Never know that I would give anything just to be in his arms and feel the warmth of his kiss one last time. The realization was more agonizing than knowing my fate now, more agonizing than any lingering pain.
I love you too. The memory faded, dissipating like a cloud of smoke.
The room began to blur and spin. Unable to blink, my eyes stared up at the dusty light bulb. Blood loss pressed in on me. I was so deathly cold. The edge of my vision turned black, light being eaten away by a stain like blotted ink. Then empty darkness took hold.
This is it, I thought. I’m dying.
My head rocked upright, and my neck cried out in pain. Sweat beaded down my face and stuck my hair to the back of my neck. Panic tightened my chest, making it difficult to breathe. Had I been asleep?
I blinked against the glare of my laptop. I was in my bedroom, sitting in the dark at my desk. The website tour dates for my favorite band, Three Days Grace, were still coloring the screen. Dreaming? For the life of me, I couldn’t remember. Now a new sensation was unfurling in my stomach, an unyielding hunger that tugged at me from the inside.
The time on the laptop screen was 9:33PM. I ate dinner two hours ago; I shouldn’t be hungry. Yet I couldn’t ignore the pain, the yearning that grew stronger by the second.
Pulling away from my desk, I tiptoed from my bedroom down the blacked-out hallway. Mom and Uncle Caius were sitting on the couch in the dark living room. The glow of the TV cast blue light across their serious faces. I snuck past the doorway just in time to hear…
Authorities are stumped over what appears to be the third vicious animal attack this month, leaving the most recent victim—a young man—dead, his body almost entirely drained of blood…
The television announcement faded as I entered the kitchen. The unlit space was just as it had been left, with the marble counter tops spotlessly clean—no doubt thanks to Mom. I rummaged through the pantry, ripping into boxes of cookies, cake mix, and anything I deemed even remotely edible, which included a large bite of a raw onion. Still, nothing sated my wrenching hunger. In fact, everything I had unthinkingly shoved into my mouth, even the mint biscuits that were usually my favorites, seemed as tasteless as cardboard. Still, I couldn’t ignore the grinding in my gut, the need to feed, so I backtracked to the fridge. The sight of vegetables, juice, milk, and cheese swelled a creeping nausea inside. Then I noticed a tray of raw and bloody steaks.
Saliva flooded my mouth as sharp pain prickled my gums. Entranced, I snatched the tray from the glass shelf and tore back the plastic film. The meat was cold and squishy in my hand, but that didn’t put me off. I ripped into the cold flesh and my tongue cheered at the taste. It was better than anything I’d ever eaten, even better than chocolate. Its sweet, metallic flavor was hypnotizing. The world around me began to fade. I tore off another chunk as a moving shadow caught my eye.
“Amelia Athobry-Lamont,” my mom’s voice cut through the haze like an arrow. She was the only one who ever used my full name, and only when I was in deep trouble. It was a mash-up of hers and my dead father’s last names. The lights beamed on. “What in the world are you doing?”
My limbs retracted, muscles tightening and shoulders hunching. The hunger that had come on so quickly and forcefully, dissipated. Startled confusion spun through my mind. The pounding of my heart was so fast, so persistent. I glanced down at the shredded steak hanging limp in my hands. What the hell was I doing?
“Amelia.” Uncle Caius’s strong voice approached from behind. His hand found my shoulder, forcing me to turn.
My eyes darted down to my feet, cocooned within my purple-laced black Vans. I couldn’t look at him, the man who was so close to being the father I’d never had. He’d think I was crazy.
Uncle Caius lifted my chin, tilting my face upward as Mom stepped behind him. The age lines of his face deepened with worry.
Mom gasped and her pale complexion whitened. “You said this wouldn’t happen,” she directed at my uncle with a surprising tone drenched in accusation.
Uncle Caius shook his head, eyes saddened. “You knew there was a chance. Even after all we did.” He released my chin and turned to Mom, his tone becoming sharp. “We should have told them sooner, prepared them for this.”
Prepared? Wouldn’t happen? Tremors caused my clenched hands to shake. “Should have told us what?”
“No, no, no!” Mom spun on the spot and paced toward the kitchen table, violently shaking her head. “It’s their birthday in a week. I will not ruin their lives now. This can wait.”
She was talking about my brother Dorian and me. She had to be. It was our 16th birthday in just over a week. But what could be so damning that it would ruin our lives?
Uncle Caius reached out and pried the bloody steak from my clenched fingers, then dropped it into the deep, round sink. He lifted his hand as if to ruffle his salt and pepper hair before lowering it, seeming to remember that it was sticky with animal blood. “Lamayli,” he exhaled, pointedly looking at Mom. “This will not ruin their lives, and you know it cannot wait. It is far too dangerous.”
Dangerous? My head swam and my mind screamed for me to run, to avoid whatever they were about to reveal. Would they tell me I was crazy? Say that this wasn’t the first incident? Explain in calm tones that I was losing my rational mind? I fought the need to bolt. My voice escaped in a choke. “T-tell me.”
Mom turned on her toes, somehow regaining her natural grace. Her head stopped shaking and tears were now falling from her electric-blue eyes. “Alright,” she breathed. The word was so soft I barely heard it. Her eyes rose to my uncle. “Go get Dorian. If we’re doing this, I only want to do it once.”
Uncle Caius left with a nod, his quiet footsteps remaining audible as he went to retrieve my brother. My wide eyes turned on Mom, needing answers and unable to wait, but she wouldn’t look at me. Instead her eyes were downcast with one hand clutching the edge of the table.
Moments later Uncle Caius re-emerged. Dorian tailed behind with chocolate colored bed head and bloodshot eyes, probably from online prowling for tail in the dark. Mom lowered herself into the seat heading the table and motioned for us all to follow. Dorian raised a questioning eyebrow at me. Guilt-ridden, I shrugged, not having any of the answers he needed just as much as I did. Blood roared through my ears as I glanced at Mom. She’d begun drumming her French-tipped nails against the hardwood of the dining table.
“So, what’s with the family meeting?” Dorian questioned, curious but clearly unconcerned.
Uncle Caius cleared his throat. “I can tell them, Lamayli.”
Mom’s face shot up, lightning fast, causing me to jump. “No! Please. Let me. I want them to hear it from me.”
Our uncle nodded and Mom sucked in a ragged breath. “I didn’t want to tell you this way,” she said glancing from Dorian to me. “But Caius is right. After what we’ve witnessed tonight, it is clear I cannot shelter this from either of you any longer.” Mom laid her head in her hands, rubbing slow circles over her temples.
“Have we done something wrong?” Dorian questioned.
I knew the answer would be no, of course we hadn’t. But I had. I’d done something sick, something crazy. Perhaps she thought Dorian would too. But why?
“No,” Mom replied. She lifted her head and looked at us through glazed eyes. “None of this is either of your faults. I need you both to remember that.” Her words died then with a spluttering sob.
“Your mother and I never wanted to hurt either of you,” Uncle Caius spoke for her. He placed a cold hand over mine. “We thought we could stave off the transformation, possibly forever. However we can see that it has already begun in you, Amelia. It is only a matter of time before Dorian develops the thirst, too.”
Dorian voiced the question I was too terrified to ask. “The thirst?”
“Yes sweetheart.” Mom lifted bloodshot eyes to my brother. “Your sister’s body is developing a need for blood, blood that must be consumed. Soon yours will, too.”
I felt my stomach turn at the word consumed, remembering the taste of the bloody steak. In the same instant, my mouth watered and a familiar sensation danced across my gums. Praying for a rational explanation, I went to talk, to ask if what we had was some form of rare blood disorder.
But my words choked back when Dorian’s eyes widened in a look of sheer horror. He shot to his feet. “What the hell!”
Uncle Caius’s hand tightened over mine. “Sit down, Dorian. Amelia would never harm you.”
Harm him? The words caused my mind to boggle.
“But her teeth!” Dorian exclaimed, pointing while bouncing on the balls of his feet. I’d never even seen him look worried before, but right now he looked seriously scared, ready to bolt.
With all eyes on me, I fearfully raised a hand to my mouth. My fingers grazed over sharpened canines that protruded from my gums.
Oh my god, I was a freak! Hyperventilating, I freed my other hand from Caius’s grip and jumped to my feet, kicking back my chair. “What’s wrong with me?”
Dorian froze, still as a statue, his terrified eyes locked on me. Mom spluttered in desolation.
Yet Uncle Caius remained calm. He rose from his seat, turning slowly to face me. “Amelia, sit back down. We will explain everything.”
I shook my head, taking a step back. “No. Tell me now!”
Mom wiped away her tears and sniffed. “You’re both…” She paused, looking like she might be physically sick. “We’re…”
“Vampires,” Uncle Caius spoke gently. “We are all vampires.”
Dorian let out a nervous laugh. “You’re joking, right? This is a pre-birthday prank. And those,” he said pointing at my fangs, “are fake. Good one, you seriously had me going for a second there.”
I stared across the table with vacant eyes. “This can’t be. It’s…impossible.”
“C’mon Amelia,” Dorian went on, the confidence in his voice waning. “The charade is up.”
Tears stung my eyes as anger began to boil inside of me. “This isn’t a charade!” The callousness in my hissed words startled us both.
Dorian’s wavering smile finally vanished, replaced by an expression of total fear.
The way he, Mom, and Uncle Caius were staring enraged me further. Watching them I knew the truth; I was a monster. In blinding fury I launched myself across the kitchen and onto the counter, crouching like a wild animal. I ripped the bloody steak from the sink and tore into it with my fangs. “See!” I screamed, raising the shredded meat above my head. “Does this look like a joke?”
Dorian gagged and backed up, hitting the bay window. Mom simply stared, wide-eyed.
“Amelia, let us explain.” Uncle Caius stepped toward me. “Just take a deep breath and try to calm down.”
“Calm down? Calm down!” My breathing was fast and ragged. The room was beginning to spin. Whatever was happening to me was their fault. It had to be. My lungs began to ache. I couldn’t breathe. I needed air. Even more than that, I needed to get out of here. I needed to be far away from them with their expressions of pitying fear. “You made me a monster. I hate you for this!”
I launched from the marble counter, shot through the hallway and escaped out the front door. The cool night air hit me as my feet pounded the gravel driveway. A spray of white snow kicked up behind me. I could feel my muscles lengthening and retracting like tightly coiled springs, pushing me forward at an inhuman speed. Houses flew past in a monochrome blur. My eyes focused only in front of me. Freezing wind whipped passed my face and into my eyes. In the t-shirt and jeans I was wearing, the wind chill should have bit into my skin. Should have, but didn’t. I wasn’t even cold. These changes inside me further confirmed my fears. They were telling the truth. I was a…vampire.
I shook the ridiculous word from my mind and focused on the pavement as the balls of my feet hit harder and faster. I knew my intended destination. The night club my best friend, Kendrick, visited every Friday when he wasn’t off snowboarding. Right now I needed his support, and hoped for his undying loyalty. Seething fear surged adrenaline through my body and gripped me from within. What if he thought I was a monster too? Imagining his reaction terrified me. How could he accept this…this living nightmare I was becoming?
The passing houses fell behind me, replaced by commercial strips. I pushed myself faster still, keeping to the shadows and somehow passing with ease the moving cars on the streets. I pulled to an abrupt halt after taking a shortcut through an unlit alley. To the right was the club’s entrance, with a bright flashing neon sign above the doorway. Pulse.
A solid-built bouncer manning the door caught sight of me as I neared. “ID?” It was clear from his smirking expression that he knew I was underage.
I gulped, shrugging my shoulders. “Please, I just need to find my friend.”
The bouncer’s smirk thinned into a humorless line. “No ID, no entry.”
Like an irritating itch you can’t quite reach, his radiating aura of authority angered me. I squared my shoulders and clenched my jaw, staring him down. “Let me in.”
The bouncer’s superior expression faltered. He blinked once, then slowly pulled back the velvet robe and stood aside. I darted through the entry, so relieved to be inside that I didn’t stop to question his split-second change in attitude.
The pulsing music hit me first, sending shock wave vibrations through my body and painfully though my ears. The smell, like walking straight into a brick wall, hit me second. Salt, body odor, alcohol, and a scent I’d never experienced before tonight: blood. My mouth watered while the other scents made me want to gag. Trying to ignore the draw of that new scent, I pushed myself away from the gyrating bodies on the strobe-lit dance floor and over to the bar. The scents dulled as my distance grew.
With a ragged breath, I slid onto one of the bar stools, scanning the busy crowd for Kendrick. Please be here.
A guy’s strong cologne hit me even before he spoke. But it wasn’t Kendrick. It was Joel Nickel, a senior and, as star quarterback, the king of our school. “Hey, hot stuff,” he began with slurred speech then paused. “Hey, I know you. You’re a sophomore, Amily or something?” He smiled and winked. “Fake ID huh? Planning to get messy and have some fun tonight?”
Part of me was thrilled that the superstar of our school was even acknowledging my existence. The other part just wanted him to leave so I could scope out Kendrick. “Amelia,” I said, and turned to the bar, hoping he’d get a clue and leave me the hell alone. He didn’t.
Instead, he took a step closer. “Come on babe, how’s about a drink?”
He was too close, standing only an inch from me. I could smell his blood under the astringent cologne, and worse than that, I could hear his quickening pulse.
“No!” I snapped, muscles twitching, aching with thirst. “Go away.”
Joel chuckled, amused. “Playing hard to get?” He inclined his lips to graze my ear. “I like a challenge.”
His alcohol-drenched breath beat against my neck, sending a ripple down my spine. I could hear the blood pumping faster and louder through his body. Too close. Too freaking close!
That already too-familiar tingle danced across my gums. My mouth salivated. I went to move, to force myself away from him before I became the monster from my favorite Skillet song. His hand caught my shoulder, and it was more than I could take. His scent was now stronger, moving with arousal through his veins.
No longer in control—no longer even myself—I spun on the spot and whispered, “Dark and secluded…”
A victorious smile tugged at Joel’s lips. He curled an arm around my waist, pulling me from the bar. We passed the partygoers and slipped out the back door and into the dark alley. Urine and wafting smells of garbage from a nearby dumpster coupled the scent of his blood.
Joel turned to face me. But I was faster. My hands shot up to his shoulders, nails digging in as I drove him back against the brick wall.
He chuckled, amused. “A fiery one… I knew it.”
His complete lack of awareness to the threat before him angered and excited me. The option to stop, to walk away, was long gone. The thirst had taken over. His hands found my waist and traveled up, forcing their way beneath the fabric of my t-shirt.
Disgusted by his touch, I jerked his back off the wall then slammed him back against the bricks. “Don’t move!”
Joel’s hands dropped obediently and he smiled. “You’re the boss.”
His words evoked a broad smile across my face. Too broad, I realized, as his own smile fell. His eyes widened in shocked disbelief. “What the fuck?”
Moving at lightning speed, I clamped a hand over his mouth and forced his face to the side. I pressed my other hand against his chest, pinning him to the wall. His arms flailed, but it was no use. I was stronger. My eyes zeroed in on a fat vein pulsing along his neck. Then instinct took over. My teeth plunged into his flesh. The warm, metallic taste of his blood filled my mouth. It was an entrancing flavor coupled by the sound of his racing pulse.
A moan of pleasure escaped his lips and his muscles relaxed. His resistance had ceased. That’s when I noticed it. His heart was slowing. The blood loss… I’m killing him. Part of me cried to release him, to not be the monster my uncle and mom had claimed me to be. But I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to.
When his body slumped against me, my strength somehow kept him pinned. Death was close. Still, I couldn’t stop. Not now. Not yet. Not when something buried so deep within me was awakening.
The smells of the alley soared, muddling together in their intensity to become indiscernible. And I could hear…everything: stray drops of rain hitting puddles, rats gnawing on discarded rubbish. Then something else reached my ears, something quieter. Footsteps?
A blur shot from the shadows. Something as hard as concrete connected with my arm, ripping me from my victim. Then I was flying backwards through the air as Joel crumpled to the ground. I connected with a thud against the adjacent wall before falling in a heap on the uneven asphalt. Instantly, the spell of Joel’s blood was broken. The reality of what I had just done spun like a maelstrom through my mind. I’d killed him!
Tears plagued my eyes, spilling down my face and tinting my sight rose-colored. I swiped at them, but stalled. Blood was smeared across the back of my hands. Crying blood?
I barely had time to wonder how that was possible when the intruder’s towering shadow closed in on me. He clutched something in his hand that glinted silver with the escaping moonlight. A weapon? I blinked up through tear-filled eyes, knowing my life was about to end. With heavy clouds blocking the moonlight again, and through my distorted vision, I could barely make out his dark features. “Kill me,” I sniffed, letting my bloody tears stream down my face like a waterfall. “I’m a fucking monster!”
The boy with hair black as night faltered, pausing right before me. The hand holding the weapon stalled. “You want to die?”
The alley door to the club burst open and suddenly Kendrick was standing there, his face stricken, golden-brown hair damp with sweat and plastered to his forehead. I felt relieved and mortified all at the same time. He’d never accept me now.
My eyes shot back to the boy who had torn me from my victim, the boy who had faltered in killing me. The damp and stained asphalt in front of me was empty. The boy had vanished without a sound.
Kendrick’s eyes darted around. Yet he somehow missed poor dead Joel crumpled in the shadows. He knelt to cup my face with his hands. “Are you okay? Tell me what happened.”
Certain that blood stained my cheeks, lips, and chin, I struggled to force my tear-stung eyes up to meet his. Fear swooned beneath my ribs and my heart fluttered. My victim, the unknown attacker, and Kendrick seeing the disgusting creature I had become; it was all too much. Sobbing, I lifted a shaking hand in the direction of Joel. “I killed him!”
Kendrick’s eyes didn’t reveal the fear I so dreadfully expected. Instead they softened as he got to his feet. He crossed the alley and crouched before Joel, raising a finger to his throat. “He’s not dead.”
A wave of relief washed down my entire body, as cool as the water of a breaking wave. I began to stand. But before I could make my way to Kendrick, he raked tense fingers down Joel’s chest. His nails cut like knives through Joel’s shirt, leaving scarlet ribbons across his skin.
Joel stirred, his eyes darting past Kendrick to settle on me. Mortal fear contorted his face. “Keep that psycho bitch away from me!”
Kendrick shook the guy aggressively, forcing his attention from me. He spoke in a low and commanding voice. “You were attacked by a rabid dog. We saved your life.”
Joel’s face dropped before his eyes rolled back in his head. Then as quickly as he’d come to, his body slumped, unconscious.
“What happened?” I cried, panic threatening to drown me. “What’d you do to him?”
Ignoring me, Kendrick took Joel by the ankle and swung him over his shoulder, as if he weighed no more than a rag doll. “Amelia, I need you to stay here. I’ll be right back.”
Swaying with body-draining confusion, I stared after Kendrick as he walked up toward the street. Cars flashed by, and his footsteps were audible even as he rounded the corner. What the hell is going on? Kendrick was lean muscled, not a body builder. How did he lift Joel like that? With my eyes frozen on the street, I began pacing, needing to move to keep upright. Why isn’t he scared of me? How can he be so freaking calm? And what the hell did he do to Joel?
Kendrick bounded back down the alley, shoving his iPhone into the pocket of his checkered shirt. Remembering the blood staining my face, I frantically tried to wipe away the evidence.
Unmoved by my appearance, Kendrick collected my hand and pulled me in the opposite direction of the street. “Your mother is frantic. I need to get you home.”
“What? How do you…”
“Caius called,” Kendrick said, cutting me off. “They guessed you were coming to find me.”
I planted my feet, and almost tripped on a crack in the sidewalk before yanking Kendrick to an abrupt halt. “Wait,” I demanded. “What’s going on? What happened back there? And why aren’t you terrified of me? I attacked the freaking quarterback. I tried to kill him!”
Kendrick turned to face me, hand squeezing mine. “I could never be afraid of you, Amelia. None of this is your fault.”
A shocking revelation hit me like a cold hard slap to the face. “You knew?”
Kendrick smiled and pulled me into a hug. “Yes. I’ve always known.”
“But how?” I pulled away. “How can you know that I’m a…”
“A vampire?” He clasped my hand and pulled me forward, continuing to walk. “Because,” he said in a soft and gravelly voice. “I can pick my own.”
A sickening shiver ran down the length of my body, chilling me to the bone. Kendrick was a vampire? My initial instinct was to pull away from him. To run screaming, back up the sidewalk to the busy street of partygoers and music-pumping cars. But this was Kendrick, a reasoning voice inside my head whispered. He would never hurt me. Trying to hide my fear, I asked, “You kill people?”
“No,” he replied, almost looking offended by my question. “And you don’t have to, either.”
With Kendrick forcing me along at a ridiculous speed, we covered most of the way home in silence. Betrayal clouded my emotions. Mom and Uncle Caius had lied to me all these years. Even worse than that was Kendrick’s betrayal. He was my best friend. The same boy I’d known since grade school, the only person to befriend me when we moved to Anchorage, Alaska. When he’d left for private school, our friendship had grown stronger, with every weekend spent together. He’d taken me hiking and snowboarding. He’d even taught me how ride a motorbike—because one day I would have my own. We’d ironically watched supernatural movies in my room until the break of dawn on countless frosty mornings. I’d always felt drawn to those types of movies and shows. I’d always felt different, like I didn’t really belong, except when I was around Kendrick. But I’d never fantasized about actually being any type of monster. Normal would have been just fine. And Kendrick had known this entire time that I would one day become what he already was…a vampire?
My mind spun with everything that had happened tonight, flooded by endless questions. How did this happen? Why did this happen? My thoughts shifted to the boy who had interrupted my kill. Who was he? And where did he disappear to? In the end, I settled for what I hoped would be the simplest question. “Kendrick,” I said, receiving a questioning look from him. “How did this all happen? How did we become…” It felt ridiculous to say the word out-loud, “vampires?”
Kendrick’s silvery-blue eyes stared ahead as we passed under draping maples, their leaves littering the sidewalk. “I was born this way, a Pure Blood like your uncle, as was my mother and grandfather and so on. We’re considered royalty, the only ones among vampires able to procreate. The truth was never hidden from me. I knew what to expect.”
After a long nervous pause, I dared to ask, “So, I was born this way, too?”
Kendrick shook his head and slowed his pace. We had just rounded a familiar corner lined with parked cars, and were closing in on my house. “No. Well, not exactly. I think I should let your mother explain. She’s waiting inside with your uncle and Dorian.” We crunched over the snow-littered driveway and mounted the front steps. “Are you ready?”
Instinct dared me to bolt. But I couldn’t. It was time to learn the truth of how this all began. “I think so.” I paused and pleaded with my eyes. Kendrick had always taken my over-reactions with a light heart. He could diffuse my volatile temper, usually with just a single word or look. Right now I needed him, his support and undying loyalty. “Will you stay, please?”
Kendrick slung his arm around my shoulder and pulled me close. “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”
Once inside and within the comforting curve of Kendrick’s arm, we entered the living room. A few glowing lamps and a crackling open fire spread a warm hue over the space. Any other time, the setting would have been inviting. But the brooding tension of everyone inside was palpable. I sucked in a nervous breath and followed Kendrick to the couch.
Mom sat across the room in her usual spot, a green armchair. Her back was straight and her shoulders were drawn back. Uncle Caius was at her side with one hand resting atop her shoulder. She had been crying, even more than before. Her eyes were puffy and bloodshot, the delicate skin of her face blotchy.
Dorian was perched on the arm of a matching couch. It bordered the wall closest to the entry and sat squared before a black-painted coffee table. The muscles along his bare arms and neck were taut, and his hands were curled into fists. His wary blue eyes shifted to me. They were rimmed with dark lashes, matching his hair. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I shouldn’t have reacted that way. Your fangs, they ugh, just…surprised me.”
I forced a smile and dropped down beside him, reaching over to squeeze his knee. His muscles twitched. I pulled my hand away, as fast as if I’d reached into the naked flames of the open fire. No matter what he said, it was clear he still feared me. “It’s okay,” I said, trying without success not to feel wounded by his reaction. “I would have flipped out, too.”
Uncle Caius cleared his throat from across the room. “It’s time, Lamayli,” he directed to our mom. The shadows of the room emphasized his grave expression, while darkening his salt and pepper hair.
Mom took a deep, chest-raising breath then exhaled, clutching her hands together. “What I am about to say isn’t easy. Nevertheless the time for sheltering you both has come and gone. Do you remember the story I told you of how your father died?”
I nodded, and beside me Dorian did too. From a young age Mom had explained our father’s death as a break-in that went horribly wrong. She had described him as a heroic man who had challenged the intruder to protect his family. The tragic result was his death.
“Well,” she went on. Her hands were clutched so tight that her French tip nails dug into the backs of her hands. “The details of that story are not entirely correct.”
Kendrick’s hand found mine. Dorian slid off the arm of the couch to sit beside me. Apparently he was more consumed by Mom’s words than his need to keep at a safe distance.
“There was an intruder,” Uncle Caius spoke firmly while squeezing Mom’s shoulder. “Though he was not a man committing a break-in. He was not even human.”
Gaining visible strength from Uncle Caius’s touch, Mom sat up even straighter. “I was pregnant with you both at the time. Your father fought heroically, but the creature’s strength was too great.”
Hearing our mom talk about our father and seeing the sparkle of tears in the corner of her eyes tugged at my heart. She never mentioned him. Over the years she’d always refused to answer any of our questions. We had never even seen a photograph. The only sliver of information we had was that his surname was Athobry. Now I knew why. The memory of the man she had loved so deeply, and lost so horrifically, was just too agonizing to relive.
“He died protecting us?” Dorian’s strained voice emerged beside me.
“Yes sweetheart,” Mom nodded. “But it wasn’t enough to save us. The creature was a rogue vampire consumed by bloodlust. Not unlike the thirst you experienced tonight,” she said, eyes shifting to me in a way that turned my stomach. “He turned on me next. I was left for dead and bleeding out. If not for Caius, we would have all died there.” She glanced up at our uncle with a look of adoration. “He gave us new life when the only alternative was death.”
Mom’s words spun through my head, painting bloody images of that night. I saw the fanged monster. His chin was covered in blood, his burning red eyes prowling for more. The thing nightmares were made of. I could see my mom with a ballooning belly. She was screaming over a lifeless body. The father I’d never known. I imagined him as an older replica of Dorian, with dark hair and chiseled features. Tacky, dark blood coated him. Yet something more than the visualization bothered me. How could Uncle Caius have saved us? A conflicting theory edged its way into my mind. It was the only explanation that could work in with everything Mom was claiming.
“You’re not really our uncle?” I searched Uncle Caius’s dull, silvery eyes for confirmation.
He shook his head, pursing his lips. “No, Amelia. I am not your biological uncle. Though I have always cared for and loved you both,” he said glancing from me to Dorian, “as I would my own flesh and blood.”
“But how could you save us?” Dorian questioned.
Uncle Caius clasped his hands in front of him. He walked forward, casting a long shadow as he perched on the edge of the coffee table. “In the vampire community, murder is against the law.”
Bile spiked my throat at the word murder. I had almost killed Joel to fulfill the thirst raging inside of me, the bloodlust.
Caius caught my worried expression and took my free hand in his. “Breaks in our laws are closely monitored. I had been hunting the assailant and caught up to his scent. I forced my way inside, but it was already too late. Your father was dead, and your mother was hanging between life and death. I had only moments to act, to make a decision.”
“A decision?” Disbelief colored my tone. “You considered letting us die?”
Uncle Caius’s expression rippled with guilt. But his voice wasn’t the one to offer insight.
“He went against The Council,” Kendrick explained. “Turning children into vampires has long been outlawed. They are much too difficult to control through the initial bloodlust.”
Kendrick’s knowledge and words shook me. I wanted to blame someone for the monster I was becoming, to seek vengeance for this curse. But I couldn’t. We were all still alive and breathing because of Caius. He had gone against their laws to give us new life. He was our savior and our creator. And he had been there since that first day, catering to our wants, doting on us like any wealthy and caring uncle would. He was family. The only living family we had.
“It was a risk to disrespect The Council,” Uncle Caius added. His eyes glazed with a look of distant memory. “But I couldn’t leave your mother to die like that. So with only moments to spare I tore you from her womb and infected you all with my blood. Even then, death could have claimed each of you. Only half of those infected live, while the others reject the change and die.” Pride stole the glaze from his eyes. “But you were both fighters, so strong, so determined to live.”
“But why is this bloodlust,” Dorian’s voice caught over the word, “only occurring now?”
I remembered Mom and Caius speaking cryptically, after discovering me gnawing into the bloody steak. You knew there was a chance even after all we did, Caius had said. “You did something to us,” I stated accusingly.
“I begged him to,” Mom cried, wrapping her arms tight around her waist. “I was eternally grateful for our second chance at life, of course I was. Still I would never have chosen this life for either of you.”
“Up until now,” Uncle Caius said, releasing my hand to move back to Mom’s side. He patted her shoulder in an effort to calm her down. “The ancient remedy I gave you and Dorian staved off the transformation, culled your thirst. We hoped it would halt the turning process completely. Though we have all witnessed it tonight. The effects are diminishing. You should expect your thirst to become stronger, and your strength and speed to increase.”
“You may also develop an allergy to the sun, like me,” Mom interrupted.
Caius cleared his throat and Mom looked up. There seemed to be a warning in his eyes. “We do not know that yet, Lamayli.” With a sigh he looked back to Dorian and me. “In the end, you will both become full-fledged vampires. It is only a matter of time.”
A wave of dread washed down my body. This is only the beginning? I had already lost control once. I thought of the disappearing boy again. If not for him, I would have killed Joel. It was only a matter of time before I did it again.
Kendrick cleared his throat and squeezed my hand. “Ms. Lamont, Lord Bathory,” he said looking at my mom and uncle, “there’s something we need to tell you.”
Instantly my stomach lurched. The metallic taste of Joel’s blood reared up my throat. I knew what Kendrick wanted to say. He was going to tell them. Tell them I’d attacked and almost killed a guy from school. Shallow breath caused my lungs to ache. I couldn’t bear for them to know. Couldn’t bear to see their staring expressions, seeing the monster I was fast becoming. “Kendrick, don’t!”
He squeezed my hand again, which did little to calm the nerves searing through my body. “It’s okay,” he whispered. “They’ll understand.”
Throwing Kendrick’s hand aside, I jumped to my feet. “Understand!” I shrieked. With a single bound I cleared the coffee table, smacking my knee before backing up to the wall. My body cast a menacing shadow. It grew so large that it covered Dorian and the framed, family portrait above his head. “How will they understand that I almost killed the freaking quarterback!”
Floored by my own lips’ betrayal, my hands shot up to cover my mouth. My eyes scoured the room. Dorian sat as still as a statue, eyes wide and face a sickly shade of green. Kendrick looked ready to step in and restrain me, with one arm braced against the coffee table.
Within my chest my heart was leaping. My hands curled into fists at my sides. The need to bolt was drowning me, but I couldn’t move. Fear kept me frozen stiff.
Mom rose to her feet and walked slowly toward me. With shaky arms outstretched, she looked like she was attempting to soothe a wild animal. Uncle Caius stood watching, not quite on edge, but in quiet preparation. It was clear nobody was about to let me flee.
The feel of being caged like an animal shattered my fear. Mobility flooded back to my limbs. I went to run, but Mom’s arms, so gentle and yet so strong, curled around me. “It’s alright, Amelia. It wasn’t your fault. All these things you’re feeling are normal. Being a vampire does that, everything’s heightened.”
Screaming and grunting, I thrashed against her. Mom’s grip held tight, never giving an inch. Long minutes passed and still I was trapped. With exhaustion smothering my need to escape, the weight and conviction of her words began to sink in. I suddenly stopped struggling and hung my head. “Mom, I’m sorry. I didn’t hear…”
“Shh,” Mom soothed, loosening her grip around me. She ran a hand down my back, smoothing my long, blond hair. “It’s alright.” When she released me, I saw her face. It wasn’t filled with the sorrow and fear of earlier, but the strength and resolution of a woman now in control. “Amelia, I promise you can learn to control this.” She turned to face the others. “You will experience this, too, Dorian. And we will all get through this, together. But not here.” Radiating control with her shoulders drawn back, Mom moved back to her seat beside Caius. “We need time and seclusion, and the removal of temptation until you are both in control. We leave for the cabin, tomorrow.”
“Just a minute, Amelia,” Mom’s voice jarred me to a standstill on the porch.
Sheltered by the roofline’s shadow she produced a small cylindrical tube from the pocket of her designer sweats. After waiting up all night so she could see us off on our first day of school, she was ready to sleep through her first day. It was preparation for her new position at the Portsmouth Vampire Council, which began each weekday after twilight.
I snatched the tube from between her fingers and lifted it to eye level. “Nasal decongestant?” I questioned incredulously. “I just want to be invisible. But everyone is already going to be looking at the weird new girl. Now you want them to think I’m a dweeb too?”
“It’s menthol.” Mom shrugged. “I thought it might help distract your sense of smell.”
With a groan, I let Mom hug me. Then I retreated to the car, shoving the nasal tube into the glove box. There was no way in hell anyone was going to see me using that thing. Dorian was already in the driver’s seat, warming up the engine, as he always did.
“We’re not ready.” I glared at the opulent French mansion—our new home—shrinking in the rear-view mirror. Apparently Uncle Caius had a lot more money than I’d realized.
It was a double-story, with a mixture of stone and beige-rendered walls, soaring windows, and high ceilings inside. Acres of green land surround its walls, back-bordered by a thick shelter of oaks. There was a stone-bordered gate that fronted the property, offering a scenic view of the rolling swells of Rye Beach. Just watching the mansion shrink as we drove away made me long for the cabin. There I had felt safe, from myself. This mansion was too big, too cold. It could never feel like home. It could never feel safe.
The move had been inevitable. Kendrick had brainwashed Joel into believing he’d been attacked by a rabid dog. Being a Pure Blood, his ability to compel was stronger than any turned vamp’s. Still, Mom and Uncle Caius were worried that me being anywhere near Joel would break the compulsion and endanger our secret lives. So they weren’t about to take any chances. Our destination had been decided with a job offer. Uncle Caius wanted Mom on the Vampire Council in Portsmouth. With a little encouragement, she’d agreed. It was one of many sub councils that operated around the world in service to The Armaya, the epicenter of vampire legislation and politics. As the only surviving Pure Blood of his lineage, our uncle held a seat there on The Armaya’s Royal Vampire Council. After that our move had been arranged to the small, sleepy town of Rye, bordering Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
More than six months had passed at the cabin. It was hundreds of miles from our old home in Anchorage, and hidden amongst the wilderness of the Alaska Range. As Caius had predicted, Dorian began the transformation soon after our retreat. I couldn’t hide my relief at his fading fear of me. We were one and the same, cut from the same cloth, and now we shared a secret. The thing we had become.
“We are ready,” Dorian countered. “And you heard Mom. We passed all the tests successfully.”
With an irritated breath, I turned and stared out the window as manicured trees fronting oversized, gated properties passed by. Yesterday Mom admitted to the tests she had planned to assess our self-control. I had been beyond pissed. Still, no amount of arguing could change her mind. Now Dorian’s laid-back attitude was beginning to grate on my nerves. I clenched and unclenched my hands. “So we didn’t attack and kill a few delivery men. So what? How does that compare to a classroom full of blood-pumping human bodies?”
“Amelia,” Dorian said, glancing in the vanity mirror backing the sun visor. He ran a hand through his thick, dark hair to re-shape it. “We’ll be fine.” He looked at me sideways and smiled. “You know, you’re stronger than you give yourself credit for.”
I crossed my arms over my chest, doubting Dorian’s faith in me. How could he truly believe that after everything that happened?
When we first relocated to the cabin, Mom and Kendrick had taught us to hunt. We started with herds of Caribou, graduating to more challenging prey like packs of wolves, and even the elusive mountain lion. Kendrick, between frequent snowboarding breaks, had come hunting too. But I had detested the whole process. How could honing our predatory instincts make us safer around humans? But as my natural desires took over, I became thrilled by the chase, my muscles snapping into action and my fangs ready and waiting. After each hunt, each kill, the thrill would dissipate, replaced by a body-shaking guilt. My speed, strength, and lust for blood proved beyond any and all doubt that I truly was a monster, and I always would be.
I took reprieve from one fact alone. Vampires weren’t immortal. Our lifespans were extended, but I wouldn’t forever be this bloodthirsty creature, a killer. One day I would die.
I pulled my New Student packet out of my bag and began memorizing my three-week class rotation and the school map. The last thing I wanted was to have to ask for directions.
A moment later Dorian turned off Ocean Boulevard onto the private, gated entrance of our new school, St. Volaras. It was the best private school in the area, holding over five hundred students. The size of the student body alone only unnerved me further. Today would be an assault of temptation from unknowing victims. And, if I did lose it, there would be countless witnesses that no amount of compulsion could cover up.
Dorian revved the engine of our turbo-charged Audi Cabriolet. He dropped back to second gear, following the line of high-end cars through the student parking lot. The A5 was a joint birthday present from our uncle Caius. It was a reward for coming so far in our ability to restrain.
Every part of me hated the car and everything it represented, everything it reminded me of. I glared at Dorian, knowing he’d revved the engine to draw attention. I hated that he was so confident and self-assured, when all I wanted to do was remain invisible.
Dorian ignored my glare and pulled into a spot rearing the lot, before jumping out of the car.
I sat without moving, wishing I could just disappear. Then Dorian poked his head back through the driver’s side door. “You can’t stay here all day.”
I bit the inside of my cheek. “Wanna bet?”
“C’mon,” Dorian said, rolling his eyes. “Don’t make me drag you to class kicking and screaming.”
Although his tone was joking, I didn’t doubt his threat. He was set on the idea of a normal life, and wasn’t about to let me mess that up for him. Cursing him under my breath, I snatched my bag from the back seat. Outside I yanked my hoodie over my head. It was my favorite jacket, black cotton with a detachable hood. If it had been made of leather it would have been perfect for riding a motorbike.
I got out of the car and froze. Students littered the parking lot. To me they resembled herding bovine, blissfully unaware and ripe for the picking. I groaned, picking up a scent that was all too familiar these days. Human blood. In the cool morning air it was faint, but still distinct.
“If I were you, I’d wipe that look off your face.” Dorian stepped in front of me, blocking my view of a group of preppy-looking girls. “People are beginning to stare.”
I looked away from the clustering students, refocusing on Dorian’s piercing silver-blue irises. They were now the same color as mine, and from what we’d been told, a consistent vampire trait. “What look?”
Dorian smiled, lips parting to reveal the points of his fangs. “That crazed, I’m so starving I could eat you, look.”
My jaw dropped then quickly clamped shut. I couldn’t even control my expression? There was no way I could do this!
“Yes you can.” Dorian clearly knew me too well. “Look, Amelia,” he said more seriously. “We can have a normal life. You can. This is just the first step. Will you just try, for me? You know I can’t do this without you.”
With a deep breath, I planted my hands on my hips. I knew Dorian was using emotional blackmail, but I caved anyway. “Okay. But if I kill anyone, I’m blaming you.”
Dorian roped his arm through mine and yanked me forward to walk alongside him. “Your murder is my condemnation. Got it.”
As we headed to the main building, I held my breath. My sight rose above the heads of surrounding students. The building was three levels of brick, with rectangular windows and tall glass doors. Dorian was already checking out the surrounding female members of the student body. I wasn’t beyond counting bricks for a distraction. Before I could begin, someone darted in front of us.
The boy’s scent—if you could call him a boy, with his over-developed muscle mass—reached my nostrils instantly. It was fiery and sweet, and somehow different from any human’s I had ever picked up on. The urge to extend my fangs pulled at me from within. I swallowed, struggling to push the sensation back.
The boy edged forward. His tan face was frozen with a threatening scowl, and his hands curled into fists. “Go back to where you came from,” he snarled through tight lips. “You’re not welcome here.”
Dorian instinctively tensed and released my arm, ready to take action. But before he could even utter a word, the boy turned and stalked away.
Dorian shrugged his shoulders “What was that about?”
A startling realization struck me. “He could tell. He knows what we are.”
Dorian laughed, pulling me aside to let passing students through the main doors. “You take paranoia to a whole new level, sis.”
Certain belting him would draw attention I held back the urge. Instead I settled for a piercing look that I wished could kill, or at least inflict torturous pain. “I’m paranoid?”
Dorian waved his hands in a half-assed surrender. “C’mon, you know I didn’t mean it like that. That jerk is probably just a dumb jock, pumped up on steroids.”
I wasn’t convinced, but Dorian was already past the incident and busy catching the eye of a pretty girl. He glanced down at his watch. “Classes start in five. So go, get settled. I’ll see you at lunch.” He pushed me through the glass doors winking, before backing away in the opposite direction. “You’ll be fine. I promise.”
I sucked in a quick, deep breath and held it. My lungs ached in protest. Students swarmed the foyer. I pushed past them, bounding up the stairs to the second floor. Psychology was first up. I shot through the door to room 2.6, taking a vacant desk. It was by one of a handful of windows that lined the far wall. With my lungs contracting and on the verge of forcing me to breathe, I dumped my bag on the desk and threw open the glass barrier. Poking my head out into the cool autumn air, I sucked in a much needed ragged breath.
Whispers about the ‘new girl’, were hot on every student’s lips. Vampire hearing, lucky me! This day just kept getting better. They thought I was strange, a total weirdo. And who could blame them? I was acting like a freak!
Shrinking back into my seat, I kept my head down with my hoodie sheltering my face. My long hair hung as a solid barrier between me and them. The scent of fresh blood intensified as more and more students filled the classroom. There was nothing I could do in this setting to dull it. But I could drown out their chatter.
I pulled my iPod from my backpack, plugging the earbuds into my ears. It was jam-packed with music from all my favorite bands: Red, Skillet, Three Days Grace and Lifehouse, just to name a few. It used to have pop music too, but since discovering my darker side my taste in music had followed suit, and the urge to dance wildly in the privacy of my room no longer felt uplifting. In spite of that, I smiled. The cover was new, glossy purple—my favorite color, which in the right dark shade was nowhere near being girly pink, ick! It had been a parting gift from Kendrick who’d uploaded the new Three Days Grace album. My heart squeezed, wishing he were here.
Still able to scent the students, I stifled a groan. My arms coiled around my waist, nails pricking my sides and breaking the skin. The distraction helped, just enough to keep me cemented in my seat, until the classroom door opened again.
In an instant, the energy in the small room shifted. I removed my earbuds. The gossip on everyone’s lips had faltered.
Then it hit me. The same unique, fiery, sweet scent of blood I had encountered not five minutes earlier. No…not him again.
Against my better judgment, I brushed my hair behind my ears and dared to glance up. My world froze. Any remaining chatter became irrelevant as I stared on. Standing in the doorway was not the boy who had threatened Dorian and me. This boy had similarly colored satin-black hair, styled into messy, loose spikes. His charcoal V-neck shirt acted like a second skin, clinging to reveal a sculpted torso. The light from fluorescents bolted to the grated ceiling bounced off his bronzed arms, offering shadowed definition to his protruding biceps and numerous…scars? Nudging recognition tickled at the back of my subconscious. I couldn’t rip my eyes away. I’ve seen him before.
The boy caught sight of me as he entered the room, and stalled. His honey-glazed eyes, rimmed with iridescent green, widened.
Somehow able to move again, I averted my eyes. But it was already too late. I could hear the heavy steps of hunting boots closing in on me. A hard lump crawled up my throat and my heart-rate increased. The potency of his fiery scent soared. It invaded my lungs and made my mouth water. He was close, way too close. With a throat-constricting gulp, I tried and failed to force my lust for his blood back down. Then I blinked up to meet his curious gaze.