The Black Book

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Chapter V

The drive back up to Blackwood was peaceful, although Lorcan drove like a nut. I attributed this to him being unused to the different road system, and tried to pay attention to the red and orange trees passing by in blurs outside of the passenger window, because it kept my mind off of the fact that someone had tried to kill my dad at work again.

“I can see why you two’re friends,” Lee said out of nowhere. I glanced over at him as he was driving, but his attention was firmly on the road in front of him. His voice was light, despite his tense posture. “You and Vanessa - I mean, you pick the same decor schemes.”

“I only collect shrunken heads because I can,” I defended, unnecessarily, because he hadn’t seen the ones hanging from a chime on a bookshelf in my room yet, and why did I just say that to him? He didn’t need to know! “Granted some of them were monkey skulls,” I mumbled, but then I remembered that a few were real human ones I’d gotten Scott to steal. They were already shrunken when he stole them, okay? I cleared my throat. “And she was the one who got me into those, anyway. I just think they look neat.”

“Right,” Lorcan agreed with an amused, infuriating smile. “And that’s why you’re friends. I mean, just lookit the stuff you both keep lyin’ around. You’re exactly alike.”

I could understand a bit where he was coming from. We had two suits of armor lining the entrance to our dining room, and two more guarding the inside of the main doors of the house. (I honestly think we kept them to punish the maid, because it couldn’t have been easy to keep them rust free with all the moisture in the air.) My bedroom doubled as a library for occult literature, and both the den and the living rooms were all filled with original art and statuary. My Dad’s office contained a few magical artifacts that pre-dated Vlad. “Fair point. Her mom really does use her home as a workspace, though,” I pointed out. “We just… we, we just like it that way. ” I realized that sounded kind of lame, but I literally had no better excuse prepared, because I hadn’t expected him to be that observant. Vanessa’s home was basically a collection of altars and offerings - a sacred sanctuary, of a kind. By comparison, my home was a haunted museum. “It makes it feel more homey,” I defended.

“Which is why we’re friends,” he added with a grin. His smile must have infected me, because I was smiling back before I realized what I was doing.

I wasn’t looking at the road, because I was smiling like an idiot - luckily Lorcan was paying attention, or we might have died right then. He slammed on the breaks, and the car spun out to avoid hitting something in the road. I didn’t scream, and covered my head with one arm while I grabbed the handle above my head. I tensed, and braced myself - it felt like it was happening a little slower than I knew it was. We veered left, and spun with a rubber-burning screech. Lee let out a long, colorful stream of curses, most of which I’d never even heard of they were so Irish.

When we finally stopped spinning in the road, my whole body lurched forward. I braced my arms on the dashboard to avoid slamming into it, and let myself go limp. The airbags hadn’t been released, so we hadn’t crashed, but my neck and nerves were feeling it. I looked over at him - his hands were clenched on the wheel, and he was staring out of the window - or I thought he was, it was hard to tell, because most of his hair had fallen forward into his eyes, from where the shaggy length of it had been kept behind his ears. I followed his gaze out of the windshield and was somehow unsurprised to see two idiots standing in the road, all in black.

I was about to step out of the car to yell at the two men who had almost made me crash, when Lee grabbed my shoulder in a grip so tight it was almost bruising. “Don’t move,” he told me. Slowly, his head tilted toward mine, until I could see his eyes, and what I saw sent a shiver up my spine. His eyes were clear and blue, but there was a shadow lurking in the whites of them - a blackness, like a translucent void, that pulsed with some inner darkness.

I didn’t question him, and decided not to move, because I had no idea what the fuck was going on. I looked out the windshield and the two humanoid figures hadn’t moved at all. They’d stood still and unflinching, staring at us, while we’d come to a screeching, spinning halt. When they started taking steps toward Lorcan’s car, his hand went to the stick-shift, ready to throw it. I was only wondering why he hadn’t high-tailed it out of there already. “They’re after something,” he whispered, in answer to my unasked question.

“How the fuck do you know that?” I shot back, not bothering to whisper. “Can you tell that at a glance? And why haven’t we left yet?!”

Lorcan narrowed his eyes at me in a weird glare because of the creepy thing his eyes were doing at that moment. I refused to be creeped out, though. I folded my arms petulantly. “You said ‘don’t move,’ not, ‘don’t question me.’”

FRIDAY GIZA COLVILLE,” One of the dark figures called out, which, I admit, put me on edge. How did they know I was in the car? And my full name? Most people didn’t know my full name.

A realization washed over me that these men had likely been hired to find and/or kill me, while Lee started to snort back laughter. “Wait, your middle name is Giza? Like, the pyramids?”

I glared at him, unlocked the door, and stepped out - ignoring his protests. I slammed the door shut and examined the humanoids that Lee had nearly run over with his reckless driving. Clearly he hadn’t gotten used to driving on this side of the pond. Also, I had to know how they’d known to find me on that road. It wasn’t as if I had told anyone where I was going, beyond my friends. Dead leaves crunched under their feet as they approached, and that’s when I realized both were abnormally pale. Too pale to spend time out in the sun. Like, Scott-pale. A smell wafted to my noise from them that the wind blew by that reeked of rain, must, and copper.

They were vampires. And once they got a little closer, I could see the lines in their faces and the bright orange-redness of their irises . . . and the fangs that they were bearing through clenched teeth, like snarling animals. They were vampires, probably muscle-men, and they were walking towards me, in broad daylight.

From my periphery, Lorcan had stepped out of the vehicle. He was poised with the door open, and a glance in his direction earned him the mental description of a coiled spring. It looked like he was about to lose his shit, and the swirling darkness had now completely overtaken his sclera. This was a kind of magic I’d never seen before, but still, he didn’t know what was going on - I had to warn him, or get him away somehow. This wasn’t random, this was an organized attack - first on my dad, and then on me. It was starting again.

“You will come quietly,” Ugly Daywalking Vampire Number One said. His thick accent made me wonder if he’d seen too many vampire movies, or if he really was from the old world. “You make noise, you will be hurt.” Scott would never let me live it down if I was kidnapped. From the other side of the car, Lorcan shut his car door and started to walk towards me, coming up from behind. For a moment, it felt like all of us were in a Mexican standoff, except we were all unarmed. I wondered when it would click for the two that I had no intention of coming with them, quietly or otherwise.

For a moment, it felt like everything was quiet, except for my heart. Yet, as my pulse sped up, my awareness increased, and I realized I only had a second to take action before they attacked. Vampires were too fast for me to hope at fighting off off - I’d seen Scott, and I wouldn’t stand a chance. I had only once ace. I did the first thing that I could think of. I capitalized on the focus my adrenaline had given me and pulled from the memory of Sandra’s book, clapped my hands, and shouted: “DORMI!”

Ugly Daywalking Vampire Number One collapsed to the ground, unconscious. He started snoring. Ugly Number Two stared down at his sleeping compadre with a bewildered expression on his face. I was going to tell him that he shouldn’t worry, because I had that affect on people, but I was actually a little dumbfounded by it myself. I had operated on instinct and still wasn’t sure if my great-grandma’s spell would work or not. I’d been too afraid to try any of the Commands on Scott. The snoozing vampire hitting the ground startled all three of us.

Then, Ugly Number Two snarled, and crouched like a cat ready to pounce. It was the most ridiculous noise I’d ever heard a sentient creature emit, except for maybe Anne Creedy’s voice. As I mentally compared my enemy to a Canadian newscaster with a bad haircut, Lee had moved faster than I’d ever seen any human move to position himself between the other vampire and I.

I had no time to process this action, because Ugly Two ran at me like I was the finish line of his Olympic biathalon. The hunger in the vampire’s eyes startled me with its vehemence, and I found myself rooted as Lorcan - the rich, Irish millionaire kid who laughed at his own puns and called my zombie bunny cute - clothes-lined the vampire right out of the air with his left arm, sending the creature choking onto the asphalt and sprawled out in pain.

There Lee stood, the whites of his eyes black, sneering down at his opponent. Or was it Lee? Was this who he really was? What was hiding beneath? “Oh, bet you thought you were real clever with that there amulet, didn’tcha’,” he crowed as the vampire got back up onto its knees. What was he doing? Taunting the guy that had just tried to kill us while he was down? This was no time for dramatic speeches! Annoyed, I ran around to grab the keys from his ignition and rooted around the back seat for a weapon of some kind. Lee had his sneaker-clad foot on the vampire, pinning the creature down - a creature who should have possessed over time times his physical strength. It didn’t look like a young vampire, either, which short-circuited my logic. The older they were, the stronger they were. From behind the windshield I could see him lean down to say something to the vampire, who tried - feebly - to push the rubber shoe off of his chest. The light glinted off of something that looked like a coin on the creature’s chest, attached to a chain. Lorcan leaned down to touch it with a sneer - and yet, I couldn’t even find a damn tire iron in that car.

Figuring, screw it, I ran back out and racked my brain for anything that might help in this situation. Whatever this situation even is. Before I could think of something to help, or shout the sleep-Command again, a solution presented itself when Lorcan’s hand abruptly snaked down into the vampire’s chest, clenched around (presumably) the vampire’s unbeating heart, and crushed it into dust. It didn’t even burn - that coin was probably insanely enchanted to protect the monster from ultraviolent radiation. Instead, in full daylight, the other Ugly crumbled into nothing around Lorcan’s clenched fist, and blew away on the breeze, leaving behind a pile of clothes. Lee picked up the coin from the pile and stood up after it happened, turning to look at me.

I blinked. And then blinked again.

I couldn’t help but stare. Only the blue of his irises remained unchanged - the rest was black. I remembered, now, when I’d heard that voice in my head that told me it had me. I’d felt it before, and this was it, that same cold presence. Only, now when I looked at him, the voice was silent. Inside of him was a deafening void, and that emptiness was reflected in his eyes, turning his sclera into dark mirrors.

I grinned. “That was pretty cool,” I told him.

Black-eyed Lorcan grinned. “You think?”

“Needlessly dramatic,” I noted, “but you dusted a vampire with one hand. That’s easily one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.” The image of Lorcan in jeans, kicks, and a plaid button up dusting a vampire with one hand in the middle of Blackwood’s winding main road would stay with me me entire life. I perked up when a sudden up-side to the situation occurred to me. “Man, Scott’s going to be so jealous he wasn’t here when I tell him this story later.”

Suddenly, the shadows in his eyes faded and they were back to the same, regular old blue-on-white that they’d always been. He was any other normal, Irish teen, judging only by appearance. “Who’s Scott?” Wait, how had they not met yet? “Wh-wait, no, we, uh, you-you definitely, you can’t tell anyone I did that. Please.” I didn’t trust how panicked he looked in that moment. My gut couldn’t decide if he sounded genuine or not. Though, come to think of it, what had changed? I’d known something was off about him from day one. All this incident did was add more proof to the batch of I-was-right cookies.

Feeling victorious that my weird-ar had now proven itself to be in tip-top shape, I shrugged and turned back to the car, noting absently that the other vampire that I’d spelled into sleep had woken up and run away. It had likely only lasted a few seconds. Maybe if I concentrated harder, it would last longer? Maybe he saw what happened to his friend, and ran away? Why hadn’t I thought to pay attention to him? Stupid! Now there was a vampire who knew! The necromantic Command had entered my mind reflexively. Vampires possessed souls, or so I’d read, so I wasn’t sure that Sandra’s spell would work on someone that “un-dead” rather than just dead-dead. The Command Words written in the book were different from the one-liners - they only worked on the dead. I suppose that solved that theory. It had worked in a pinch, and I was relieved, as much as I was annoyed at myself for how I’d handled the situation.

“We were almost tomato juice back there,” I said lightly, and perched myself on the hood of Lee’s car to let myself rest for a few seconds. Lee followed me slowly, looking uneasy. “I guess the other one got away. Do you think you can hurry up and take me home?” I asked him, trying not to sound insistent while being insistent. “My house is safe, and since these guys can walk in daylight now, I don’t want to take any more chances.”

Lee approached the driver’s side with concern-face. Or was that constipated-face? “You just had two people try to kill you,” he pointed out. “And did you put one of them to sleep?” Oh, concern, not constipation. That was a relief.

“Wouldn’t be the first time,” I pointed out right back, “and yeah, as for the sleep thing, I’d love to learn all about that freaky super-strength thing you just did just now, when your eyes looked like they bled black, but I don’t think this is a good time for this discussion, Lorcan. We’re in the middle of the road, and I know traffic is sparse here especially on the weekend, but anyone could see us out here right now if they drove by.” Who’d have thought I’d end up being the voice of reason, here?

Lee apparently found this acceptable and nodded, quickly hopping back into the driver’s seat. I slid off of the hood, opened the other door, buckled myself back in, and took a deep breath of nice, air-conditioned air. Lee paused before starting the vehicle again to fish the coin on the chain out of its pocket. “Here,” he offered. “They were after you, so—”

I took out from his hands and gently examined it in the light. I didn’t recognize any of the symbols on it. It just looked like an old Spanish coin. I thanked him and put it in my sweater’s pocket.

“Are you alright?” Lee asked as he pulled us back onto the road and headed further into Blackwood. He kept a more sedate pace than the reckless one he’d been at before. The further we got into the neighborhood, the darker the sky became, putting me at ease.

“I’m groovy,” I confirmed, more for his benefit than mine, because I was absolutely not groovy. I’d just outed myself while defending myself from two vampires trying to kidnap or kill me. One of them got away, and knew that I could put him to sleep. I was trying really hard not to think about that and only focus on the trees that went by, but my lingering excitement from the scuffle was making me jittery. I had to bounce my knee to calm down the whole ride back.

Thankfully, we encountered no more Ugly Daywalking Vampires in the road.

I had to endure the most uncomfortable silence of my entire goddamn life when we finally made it home. After we made it through the gate and he pulled us in behind my car, the air went silent, and became leaden with tension. I waited for something horrible to happen, or for me to be struck dead by a merciful deity who chose to answer my silent prayer. Lee just stared out of the windshield into the gray daylight. I wanted to leap out of the car and run back into my ancestral home and pretend that nothing had happened at all, because it was easier than admitting I’d been lying about being able to do magic all along. Hell, I even recused myself from conversations that Lorcan and Vanessa had about spellcraft, if and when the subject came up. I’d told Lorcan, to his face, that I couldn’t do magic, and Vanessa had agreed with me because I’d told her the same thing years ago. Not even Scott knew, and now, now the equivalent of a stranger had just walked into my life, taken my box of secrets, and upended it all over himself.

“This is honestly a conversation I never wanted to have,” I told him truthfully, deciding that I may as well start, since it was clear that he wasn’t going to. “That spell, that put . . . L-look, can we not talk about this right now? I feel like I have to go inside, my parents are probably waiting for me.”

Lorcan stared out of the window. I stared at him. His eyes were still back to normal, human-looking blue. Whatever had happened in the road, it was over with. “We can talk tomorrow,” he offered quietly, dropping his gaze to his clenched hands on the steering wheel.

This was a good idea. I nodded, feeling relieved. “Yes. Can you come early? Around four or five, since dinner is at seven sharp. I’ll, uh, I’ll have an explanation that makes sense prepared by then. I think this is too much for us both to properly deal with right now.” My words came out stilted and robotic, against my will. Yeah, I was definitely not processing any of this very well. It was getting hard to remember how people should sound or act. I was slipping.

He looked at me, and became unreadable. That wasn’t rare, for me - I only knew Vanessa’s emotional-facial expressions because she was always so honest and up-front about them. I only knew my family’s responses because I’d studied their faces all my life (though, Mom’s emotions sometimes still threw me). Lorcan was still a bit of a mystery to me, which only proved my point - he and I still didn’t know each other well, in spite of weeks of hanging out. Neither one of us were the sharing type. Every time something came up about one of our backgrounds, we created a conversational tangent to distract everyone. He did it with humor, I did it with frankness.

I didn’t know who he was beneath the humor. I didn’t even know what his favorite color was, and yet somehow we’d both stumbled across each other’s biggest, darkest secrets. It occurred to me, in the car, sitting there in perpetual gray gloom - that he didn’t know me either, and yet, at times, it felt like we did. We joked together, he even made me laugh and smile - but neither of us knew a thing about the other’s internal lives. And now, something deeply personal from both of our lives had been uncomfortably forced to the surface in a life-or-death situation.

I couldn’t help but feel like it shouldn’t have happened like that. I realized then that, deep down, I actually had wanted him to know about this, but not like this. I had wanted to tell him, one day, if and when I felt like he could be trusted. He had been nice, and friendly, and seemed to like the fact that I was so unusual. He wasn’t put off by eye contact with me despite the fact that mine were two different colors, and he only poked fun at me if I poked first. I could have seen myself telling him about all of this, one day. Maybe. Then again, with my trust issues, that day would have likely never arrived.

“Thank you for killing that vampire,” I said, just as I realized I had yet to thank him. I forced myself to look him in the eyes when I expressed my gratitude. “They might have taken me if it weren’t for you. And, it helps that you, all black-eyed, reaching into that vampire’s chest and dusting him was probably the most metal thing I’ve ever seen, or will probably ever see, in my life.”

He grinned. “Ya think so?” His tone was hopeful.

I returned his smile, before saying goodbye and heading out the door. Something about that exchange with him had left me flushed and heated, and I’d started getting uncomfortable. I walked up the gray, polygonal scalloped steps and suppressed a groan when one of the double-doors groaned open, and Erik stuck his ginger head out. “Fry!” He hissed, pale green eyes wide. “Hurry up! There’s a wasp’s nest out here!”

That actually made me stop for a second. I ducked and looked around, a little spooked, before Erik started laughing at me. “You sucker! Lookit you!”

“You little brat!” I hissed and ran for the door, prying it open. Erik leapt back and ran inside, still in his jumper from earlier, blowing raspberries as he ran away. Part of me was really annoyed, while another part of me felt I deserved it, and was even a little bit proud. “You realize there are vampires out there who are trying to kill us, right? There better not seriously be any real wasps! I’m going to burn you alive if there are!!” I shouted after him. He didn’t stop and kept cackling all the way into the conservatory, probably to hide behind Mom’s skirts. It certainly sounded like her lilting tones were coming from that direction.

I trailed after Erik at a more sedate pace, passing under the dark archways and dark valances. Directly parallel to the main entrance lie the hall that led to the dining room, kitchen, and the glass door that led to the mudroom, and conservatory. I passed through the kitchen and stepped through the already-open glass door that led to our massive greenhouse. It was organized by indigenity, then alphabetical, though we kept most pollen-producing, flowering plants out - except for the herbs and carnivorous plants, which had their own section. In the herb section, and nestled past two hawthorn trees growing past their sapling stage, I caught a glimpse of Mom’s shiny, coiffed, cherry-blond hair.

I crouched down behind a planter and listened for a moment to see if I could scare Erik. Then, I heard, “You don’t need to skulk back there, Friday. I can hear you breathing.” I cursed under my breath and stood up to face my mother.

She was dressed in old overalls and a brown shirt, digging in the dirt between some heath and hemlock. Neither were in bloom yet. Mom’s hair was pulled back into a bun, though a few wispy, rebellious strands were framing her dirt-smudged face. I don’t know how Mom managed to look stunning while covered in dirt and grime. I could never pull it off; she was just that classy. She paused in her digging and pulled her gloved hands away from the moist loam. My mother looked up at me, and smiled, her chocolate-colored eyes that I so envied warm with mirth. I heard a giggle from somewhere nearby, and felt frustrated. “He’s lurking around here somewhere, but I’m sworn to silence,” she told me in a sly tone.

“I’ll get ’im,” I assured her, holding up a clenched fist and shaking it. “But seriously, there aren’t any wasps outside, right?” Mother shook her head. I let out a sigh of relief. “Is Dad home yet?”

“Not yet, dear,” she said, and turned back to her dirt. “We talked, and he seems to be fine. You know your father.”

“Well, if Dad isn’t home yet, that means I still have a little time to string Erik up by his entrails and cackle while I watch him bleed out,” I told Mom. I heard a telling gasp from behind one of the raised planters, and made a mental note of the location.

Mom frowned and paused in her digging. I heard a little scuffling from behind the same planter and followed Mom’s gaze. She gave a smirking nod at Erik’s hiding place, but her disapproving tone didn’t change: “Entrails are messy, and you know the maid won’t be back til Monday. May I suggest tickle-torture, instead? I have some hemp rope in the mudroom if you want to restrain him.” There was a quiet, betrayed gasp from Erik’s spot.

“Nah, I’ll grab a sickle and use the shed. I’m out for blood this time. Wasps are a serious matter, Mother.” I hunched down and silently started creeping around the raised platform, feeling my Mother’s amused gaze following me as I prepared to tackle Erik and give him the noogiest noogie of his dumb short life so far.

I surprised Erik from his hiding place causing him to let out such a startled gasp that I found myself surprised that Vlad didn’t pop out. He seized the moment and ran for it, causing me to scramble after him while Mom laughed. He ran in a circle and almost dove back into the kitchen, where we managed to achieve a stand-off on either side of the island. We would have continued like that forever, both inching left and right while the other twitched the opposite direction in response, if we hadn’t heard Dad enter through the front door.

We both let out an automatic greeting when our father called to us from the entryway, signalling our location. I didn’t break eye contact with the chief turd as I shouted for Mom in the greenhouse. We silently agreed to a truce when Dad entered the kitchen and adopted relaxed postures, but both Erik and I knew that the war wasn’t over. As soon as his guard was down, I was getting him so good.

“Children,” Dad greeted with a smile. “Where’s your mother?”

“Here, darling,” Mom crooned from behind my head and walked around me and the island to greet our father with a kiss. He didn’t seem to care that she was covered in dirt and he was in a crisp suit. I thought it was nice, but Erik stick his tongue out and made a gagging noise. “Quiet from the peanut gallery,” Mom commanded, and Erik stopped making noises. My parents continued while Erik and I made faces at each other from across the island.

“We should adjourn to the living room,” Dad announced after resurfacing from Mom. “There are a few changes we need to discuss.”

“I’ll get changed and join you in a moment,” Mom said, leaving us two to follow our father to the living room’s more comfortable, plushier seats.

“Are you guys having another kid?” Erik wondered as soon as we sat down. I stared at my little brother like he was the Angelican Satan incarnate. Why would he mention such a horrible thing?

Dad laughed. “Anything is possible, but no, I think we’re done having children. You two are more than plenty.”

Erik nodded approvingly. I felt like I had dodged a train and let out a sigh of relief. Another child would have ruined everything. “Good,” my little brother said, not realizing he was speaking for both of us. “I don’t want to share. Friday is bad enough.”

“You little—” I growled. Oh, if it was legal to strangle him. “You and Vlad both steal my snacks! You’re not even hungry when you do it! And I’m bad?”

“Let me stop you two,” Dad interjected quickly, “before you finish whatever ongoing fight you have.”

I had an objection. Erik spluttered too. “But—”

“Erik, stop provoking your sister,” Marcus Colville commanded. “Friday, stop antagonizing your brother. This is important. The two of you are going to start having drivers take you to and from school.”

We both groaned at the same time, in the same tone, and our heads rolled around in the same direction. Erik and I were definitely siblings, there was no denying it. Erik was used to having drivers, so I wasn’t sure what his deal was, but I was perfectly capable of having a friend take me. Or driving myself, if need be. Or just . . . Not going to school period. I could understand the policy, but I reserved the right to complain about it, especially when Dad’s attacker had failed quite spectacularly. Or, so I imagined it had. There was also my experience in the road to discuss, though I wasn’t certain how much of it was okay for me to talk about, given that it was such a clusterfuck of secrets and . . .

“ . . . be more,” my Dad was saying. I had zoned out, and not realized it. “If Scott hadn’t warned me in time, it might have been a different story. So I need you both to be on the same page about this - your safety always comes first. Are we clear?” He was looking us both in the eye, switching back and forth.

“Scott?” I questioned. “Wait. I thought he hadn’t risen yet?” It was daytime. Then again, Daywalking Vampires . . . I fingered the coin on its thin chain in my pocket. My heart began to pound as I considered this new avenue of thought. Was Scott somehow connected to this? No, wait, that would be too dumb. Scott was a walking sack of haggis, he wasn’t capable of being diabolical.

“He received an ominous note at home,” my father explained, like he was discussing the weather, “which he interpreted as a threat against me. He was right. I would’ve been taken completely by surprise otherwise - the assassin came at me with this lovely enchanted knife, truly a work of metallurgic art. I kept it and thought I might ask your mother to scry with it, or at the very least mount it over my door.” He nodded in the general direction of his office.

Erik’s legs bounced up and down with glee. “Oooh, can we see it?” I didn’t want to act like a five-year-old about it, but I was interested in seeing Dad’s trophy as well, and stared pointedly at Dad.

Marcus Colville smiled. “I knew you would ask.” With a flourish that on any one else would be totally unnecessary, he pulled a literal dirk out of his sleeve in a spatial manipulation. Erik and I approached while he held it in his hands in front of us, as we ooh’d and ah’d at the weapon. Most people used guns over the classic weapons - it was rare to see any new, enchanted ones made since it was a specialist craft that only a few souls in all of history were ever experts in. Merlin, supposedly, was one, but history doesn’t look too kindly on him and it is generally accepted that he took credit for Arthur’s ascendancy and Excalibur’s creation, when it was actually a chick named Niamh who used to hang around this lake that did all the real work. Excalibur was the last great weapon ever made, and it sat collecting dust in the British Museum of Magical Artifacts, in London. Other than the fire-enchanted, showy arrows that they use for the Olympics during opening ceremonies, there weren’t any practical uses for enchanted medieval weaponry, which really made me wonder why an assassin had come after Dad with an enchanted dagger, of all things. You’d think someone would have figured out how to enchant bullets by now.

“It’s so pretty!” Erik gushed at the shiny dirk in our father’s hands. Pretty was a word for it - the weapon gleamed in the low light, and even almost seemed to emit a light glow that might have been my 0veractive imagination. My eye was definitely drawn to it, glow or not.

“What are these symbols?” I asked, pointing to the tiny, carved runes etched along the metal of the blade. They looked like chicken scratch. The blade was longer than the average dagger, and tapered to a thin, needle-like end. Towards the base, at its thickest, is where the runes were carved into the metal that was so shiny it looked like chrome and reflected like a mirror. The handle of it in Dad’s hand looked like old, woven brown leather, which was at odds with the clean, new appearance of the blade and hilt. The chicken scratch arrested my attention most, since it was the most unusual thing about the blade. “They don’t look like Futhark runes but, what else would you carve into a blade?”

Dad grinned brightly at my question. “What do you think they are?” He asked.

Ah, a challenge! Gleefully, I accepted, and peered closer at the weapon in my Dad’s hands, pushing a mildly protesting Erik out of the way. I kept myself from touching the weapon. “Could be kanji,” I guessed, “but its got a European-style hilt . . . And they’re not very elaborate. They kind of remind me of Arabic numbers, but I don’t recognize any of them.”

Dad flipped the dagger in his hands, to display the same type of etchings on the back of the blade. “Very good, Friday. They’re hieratic numerals. Specifically, Egyptian.”

We oohed and ah’d. “That is so cool,” Erik complimented. “Does it do anything?”

“It’s a dagger,” I informed my dumb little brother. “It’s capable of stabbing. Maybe cutting veggies.”

“It certainly has special properties,” Dad explained like I hadn’t totally scorched my little bro, “but without knowing what the numerals are for, I can’t be certain. I believe the numbers are an equation, but there’s so many different types of numerology to consider that it could take time to decipher—”

“I can look into it!” I blurted without thinking.

Both Dad and Erik stared at me. “I mean,” I went on, now babbling, “if you were too busy, and I like word and number puzzles and languages and stuff, and so if you were already set on hiring somebody to figure it out that’s cool, but I could always, you know, study it and get it back to you, like—”

Dad put his hand on my shoulder which, thankfully, stopped me from talking. The next thing I knew, the weapon was being handed to me hilt-first by my father. It was cold in my hands, and heavier than I expected. I looked up to see Dad still smiling at me. “Let me know when you find something,” is all he said. I clutched the hilt and sat back down, keeping the weapon carefully in my lap and pointed away from my body. As I touched the cold metal of the blade, I couldn’t suppress the warm, bubbly feeling in my gut that my Dad’s trust always gave me.

“No fair, I wanna look at it too,” Erik grumbled and tried to pester me into letting him fiddle with Dad’s assassin’s dagger. Dad only raised an eyebrow as he watched me half-heartedly fend off Erik’s pestering.

Mom glided into the room shortly after, paying Erik and I smiles as she went over to kiss Dad’s cheek. Somehow, she had fixed her hair in a few minutes, and she had changed out of all the dirt and grime, managing to look fresh while barefoot in an elegant cream blouse and slacks. It never ceased to baffle and awe me, how she always did it. Just . . . How? Was this a secret, womanly thing that I wasn’t in on? “Sorry to keep you three waiting,” she greeted. She sat down on the couch opposite Erik and I, and Dad placed himself beside her, absently grabbing her hand and lacing their fingers together. Sometimes my parents were so cute they made me physically ill.

Then, both of their razor-sharp attentions were on the two of us, and all levity vanished out of the air. “I can’t risk that this attack was isolated,” Dad explained. In moments like this, it seemed like he shed his Dad-skin and became Marcus Colville, warlock-lawyer. I felt like his eyes even grew darker and the air became more charged, the more serious his mood. I literally had to bite my tongue to avoid spilling out what had happened on the way here. I still didn’t know how to segue that into conversation, especially because it felt like Lorcan had trusted me with his secret, and I with his. And I wasn’t ready to tell my family about the Book. “If this is anything like last time, there will be more - and judging from Scott’s note, Antonio Martel is in it for blood.”

“Was that pun on purpose?” My mom turned to look at my dad, who was grinning, and the mood in the room shifted on a dime. “You know, people who tell bad puns deserve to be drawn and quoted,” she told him, somehow keeping a straight face.

“Oh, did I tell you I interviewed a young vampire today?” my father went on. “I don’t think I’ll be hiring him. Not only was he a pain in the neck, but he admitted he slept in a glass coffin. Who does that?”

My mom raised an eyebrow. “Are glass coffins a thing?”

“Well, it remains to be seen,” dad finished, not missing a beat.

I needed to interrupt because I was afraid that my parents might never stop punning, and the mention of Scott threw me for a loop. “Wait, what does Scott have to do with this?” I wondered. “I mean, aside from the note.”

“A great deal, actually,” Dad revealed, “you can always ask him about it, if you’re curious.”

Now I was worried. Scott? A story? “I don’t know,” I said dubiously, fingering the edge of the dagger in my lap absently. “Asking him sounds exhausting.” Scott had this great way of answering simple questions by never actually answering them, or going off on an endless tangent. He deflected everything personal with humor and bullshit, which is probably where I got that tendency from. I was sure that Scott stumbling across something that saved my Dad’s life was an accident, but the mention of a mysterious note aroused my curiosity.

Dad rolled his eyes at me and didn’t respond, which I deserved. Mom was nodding along, like she’d heard this spiel before. “Fry, I know you were old enough to remember what happened last time-” and boy, was I, “-but Erik, I think you were still too young. I don’t want you to be scared, sweetie, but this is a very serious matter. Some serious safety precautions are going to have to take place. And, if this escalates, you both may have to be taken out of school again.”

Erik nodded. “Okay.” He didn’t seem too uneasy, so maybe he remembered what it was like years ago. Part of me doubted it, because I still saw him as just a baby, but he occasionally startled me with little insights.

I didn’t mind the idea of being taken out of school, since I was due to graduate that year anyway. Vanessa could always visit me at home, if necessary. As for Lorcan . . .

I stared down at the dagger in my hands, so shiny I could see my face in it. I wasn’t really seeing it, though. I was still seeing Lee’s eyes, peeled over black, kneeling on the asphalt, with his hand impossibly clenched around that vampire’s heart, smiling. I saw the form of the vampire’s body, disintegrating around his hand and leaving behind an ashen puddle.

A couple of things settled into my mind, as our parents discussed the safety precautions we’d have to taken, now that there was a target on our back again. To be fair, though, the target had never left us in the first place. While people have generally always disliked the Colvilles, and they think we’re a bunch of evil creepy bastards, they never held anything special against us. After the Sandra incident, it was only the GOU and witch community who took a special hatred towards us. Realizing this, I guess my Dad figured that he had to do something especially douchebaggy to make everybody else hate us, if everyone else is all of the vampires that aren’t my godfather Scott.

Back when I was maybe nine or ten, Dad took on a case that was just too crazy for anybody else to take. It was the case that made him. He’d been sought out by billionaire Wayne Reynolds who had a personal vendetta against a vampire clan leader by the name of Scipio. Scipio was a very wealthy businessman, was hundreds if not possibly thousands of years old (oldest vampire on the East Coast at the time) and had “family ties” back to his native Sicily.

What wasn’t public but was kind of common, improvable knowledge was that Scipio was a mafia don. He was a clan leader, and his clan was the vampire mafia, which is like the regular old mafia except older and more moody and a lot more bloody and vengeful, and also much more pants-crappingly scary. Scipio had done some ass-arific business practices with Mr. Reynolds, i.e. stealing a lot of money he shouldn’t have stolen in a really asshole-like manner, which Wayne Reynolds wasn’t in the mood for. Despite the fact that picking a battle, legal or otherwise, with Scipio was somewhat like telling my little brother when he was in Vlad-mode that you think Ottomans are just misunderstood (do not do this unless you like heaps of embarrassing pain at the hands of a possessed nine-year-old boy), Wayne Reynolds apparently lost a fight with giving a damn and sought out the only lawyer that was crazy, badass, or suicidal enough to take the case. My dad proved he was a bad enough dude, threw down the glove, called up Scipio and said, ‘Mark this day on your calendar, my good sir, as the day that shit is officially on,’ hung up, and the court battles began.

The Scipio Trials are famous in the public memory. They were five separate court battles, not a single of them double jeopardy, which proves how bad these people had it against Scipio. It ended up not even being Reynolds’ thing, winding up in a host of class-action suits, as Dad was prosecuting on behalf of more than nine parties. The whole thing lasted about a year and a half, due to the media frenzy pushing trial dates closer together, and I remember most of it. Basically at the end of it all, Scipio was exposed for the kind of guy that he was (namely the kind of guy that thinks it’s okay to abduct a lot of people and sell them as delicacies) and my father pulled out a gazillion witnesses out of his Armani-suited posterior to testify. The party he was representing included several other corporations beyond Reynolds’ and two former business partners of Scipio. The last trial in particular was a massive class-action suit against Scipio from everyone that had a rage-on for him. Scipio’s story came out and his family was sentenced all over the place. Most of his minions claimed they were only protecting the Family business, or were following orders, and got only 150 years in prison – because hey, you can’t exactly imprison a vampire for life, right? Scipio, however, wasn’t let off so nicely and met the dawn not weeks after his sentence.

Scipio may be gone, but the vampire community still hates us and wants us for our blood. What a lot of folks don’t realize is that the old vampire left behind a very angry and very vengeful bloodsucking Empire with no ruler to tyrannize from afar and stroke a white angora kitty and be evil while he cackles madly and feasts on the flesh of the innocent. (What do vampire businessmen do, anyway? Does anyone know?) His sole progeny, Antonio Martel, was not convicted and took up the legal portion of Scipio’s ‘business.’ Rumor knows better and claims Martel’s still running things underground.

So really, Dad didn’t accomplish anything beyond proving himself a badass and getting a lot of money that we didn’t really need, at the cost of pissing off every vampire not named Scott in the history of ever.

After Scipio’s demise, death threats came at us from all over – all over! Death calls, death texts, death emails, death tweets, death messaging, death graffiti, death candygrams (this one was actually funny), probably death telegrams, etc. Erik was fine because he went to this special private school in the daytime, and was super protected – not to mention that vampires just love Erik for his Vlad despite his icky Colville-ness - which is total bullshit – but I had to be taken out of school for several years and given a private tutor while all the noise died down. Not that I minded, since I hated private school. Mom couldn’t afford to leave for her own safety, which is how our conservatory ended up with a large section of tropical, carnivorous plants. Dad couldn’t get a moment’s peace at his law office anymore and had to take extended leave after two death threats and one death candygram were actually carried out – or attempted, at any rate. By humans, no less. It was kind of embarrassing how conveniently the attempters forgot that my dad has a black belt and Judo and can smite fools with lightning.

Tony Martel did at one point publicly vow revenge on us, but it wasn’t anything new at the time, since lots of people have vowed to make the Colville clan rue our name only to cow out or just say “hell with it” later. The vampires may hate our delicious guts, but we’ve learned to cope with it. And by “hate us” I mean they outright want to crucify us. I just want to make sure you’re getting the picture here, all right? Mostly they just want to crucify Dad, but they’ll happily settle for one of us others. Except for Erik, I mean. They have nothing but sunshine and superstitious rainbows to say about him, thanks to his Vlad problem. In literally no other circumstance but this one is it considered lucky to have been Count Dracula in a past life. Erik’s just lucky Bram Stoker fictionalized Vlad as a vamp and not something worse, like a leprechaun, or a bonnacon. Though I might have actually read Dracula if the titular monster turned into a goat that shat acidic diarrhea at its enemies.

Scott claimed once he had no fucks to give about vampire politics, but hearing that he had had been the canary in the coal mine to my Dad’s assassination attempt that morning made me wonder.

The family meeting went on for a bit while our parents outlined the changes in our schedule. We were supposed to have scheduled, vetted drivers to and from everywhere. I was to come straight home after school and not leave at any time, unless in the company of Scott, or our parents. No inviting people over unless they were approved (though they admitted that Vanessa, her mother, and Lee didn’t count - at least until after they had met him at dinner tomorrow and gotten a feel for him). It wasn’t as if mine or Erik’s new schedule was all that different, and I was pretty sure he didn’t have any friends at that school of his anyway. I listened attentively and inwardly mulled over how to tell my parents about my own simultaneous attack. It was impossible to lie to my dad, I knew that, but I couldn’t not lie. There was no winning there.

As the meeting wrapped up, I blurted out, “Dad, I have to talk to you. In your office. Uh. Please?”

Shit.

He seemed surprised, but not unpleasantly so. “Of course. Just a moment.” He stood, squeezed Mom’s hand, and stalked out of the living room, motioning for me to follow. I did so, feeling like I had just signed my own death warrant. Behind me, Mom had gotten up to distract Erik with something. I looked back and caught my little brother’s eyes staring after me with a worried expression. I stuck my tongue out at him and ran after my dad.

My father’s office was situated on the main floor, not too far from the living areas. It, too, faced the graveyard out back, and had a very large, very tall window with a lovely view of it. I supposed that Dad and I had similar tastes, in that respect. He went to his chair at his desk and sat down in a relaxed position. I sat opposite him, feeling a sense of deja vu. “What’s on your mind?” He asked me.

Shit. Ah, shit. How could I even begin? This whole thing had happened all in one day, and no one but Lorcan and I knew how much it had suddenly changed both of our lives, and I couldn’t tell my Dad. “I-I have to-to tell you, uh, something ab-b-about, about something that happened on the way over here,” I began slowly, stumbling and spluttering around the words.

“Breathe,” my father instructed, “and start from the beginning.”

The beginning? When had it begun? When I’d seen him across the quad? Oh right, I was supposed to be only telling him about the vampires. Shit. I took a deep breath, followed by another, and another, and kept breathing until I felt like I could organize my thoughts enough to form words around them. I told myself that I would only be telling my father the barest details. The bare minimum. That was all. I pulled the coin out of my pocket and passed the pendant to him over the desk. He picked it up and examined it in the light with interest as I explained. “Two vampires appeared in the middle of the road while Lorcan was driving me home. They called me out by my full name and asked me to come quietly, probably for a ransom. One of them is dead, the other got away. The dead one had this pedant-coin-thing on him.”

To my father’s credit, he didn’t waste time on worries or platitudes, like others might have, and always focused on the important parts. “In daylight?” He softly queried. Yep, he was my hero.

I took another breath and put the assassin’s mysterious, hieratic dagger on my father’s desk with a clunk. It was feeling heavy and cold in my hands. “I think that’s the charm they wore,” I went on and looked pointedly at the necklace, feeling more confident when Dad gave me an understanding nod. “It looks like an old Spanish coin, though. It didn’t feel really magical to me, but I don’t know. Lorcan is the one who pointed it out, and thought to grab it.”

Though my father hadn’t so much as twitched, I felt like there was a steadily growing tension in the room - static and heavy, like electricity. Have you ever felt the wet and heavy air of a storm, just before lightning strikes the sky? That was what my father’s magic felt like to me. Sometimes it filled the air around him, causing it to reek of scorched ozone. I’d felt it several times before, but only in moments of duress or upset. I suppose hearing that your child had been attacked while you weren’t around to defend them qualified as upsetting. I think for Dad, tensing his ‘power’ like this was a subconscious response, like clenching a fist, or tapping a foot. I’d read that the more powerful the warlock (which is the official term for those who have a cert to practice ley-magic) could become a danger to themselves or others, if they lost mental control of their abilities. I’d never seen my father lose control, not once, and perhaps that was what made him the best.

“And one got away?” He repeated.

“I, uh, I,” and there it was, the tied tongue again. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him what I’d done, because that would mean I’d have to tell him about the grmoire, and the spells, and then . . . he’d never look at me in that approving way again, like he had when he’d handed me the dagger, because he’d know I was bad. I didn’t want to lie, but I didn’t know what else to do. “Lorcan killed one,” I admitted, sticking to the basic truths. “We took off while the other one was distracted.”

My father nodded, and his eyes narrowed in thought. He tucked the pendant into his suit pocket. His expression didn’t change beyond that, though his posture became a little more tense. His chair let out a faint squeak. The charged feeling in the air didn’t completely abate, though it seemed less heavy, somehow. I breathed a little easier. “How did he accomplish this?” He asked me.

Again, I didn’t know what to tell him. Lorcan had pleaded with me to keep what I’d seen to myself, but my father deserved the truth. Lee would have to get over it. “I don’t know,” I honestly confessed. “It was . . . There was a change that came over him, and suddenly he was different. I’d think it was ley-craft if I hadn’t seen you and Erik practice - and his eyes looked different, too. Lorcan’s eyes got black and wonky. He was just as fast as those vampires, maybe even faster, and definitely stronger. He overpowered one, and punched it in the chest so hard that it died.” That was an exaggeration - I’d actually seen Lorcan carefully and deliberately snake his hand down into the vampire’s chest, pushing through the dead flesh like it was air. The creature had an agonized expression on its face before it died its second death. There wasn’t magic that let you do that to someone.

“I don’t know of any magic that allows someone to do that,” my father said, like he had read my mind. Or maybe he and I just thought along similar lines. “I could have easily killed one without touching them, but not when I was his age, and not like that.”

“You probably would’ve just flown a tree over and impaled them, or something,” I said wryly.

Dad smiled, and the last bits of his coiled magic bled out of the air and dispersed. “Or something. Now, it seems I owe your friend a debt of gratitude.”

I had been preparing myself, the entire time, for the lecture my father would give me on keeping important information from him. Or, at the very least, that he had seen through my white lie and was just biding time until he called me out on it. “Buh?” was the only response I could articulate.

“He saved your life.” I guess my dad had a point. “You invited him over for dinner, tomorrow?” He confirmed. I nodded. “Good. I’d be very interested to learn about that party trick of his . . . It should be an educational night.”

I laughed nervously, at that. Educational was one word for it. A thought from earlier hit me again. “Wait, again— seriously, what about Scott? Back-tracking, sorry, but this is bugging me. You said that he found a threatening note this morning. What note? What did it say?”

“It was a letter from a trusted friend, someone from his old family,” Dad summarized, breezing right past the part where I learned that Scott had once not been a clanless weirdo. Dad acted like this wasn’t the bombshell that it was, to me. “The letter mentioned Antonio Martel’s interest in getting back at his ‘brother’, which he took to mean me. I owe Yasmin a debt of gratitude as well, I suppose. I’ll have to ask him to pass along my thanks. Maybe in the form of a gift basket? . . . Hmm. I should ask your mother.”

I picked up the enchanted dirk again so I’d have something to fiddle with while I processed this information. Scott was my godfather, but he was more than that. Somehow it always escaped me that he and Dad had met when Dad was almost my age. I knew so little of Scott’s life before then, and had never asked him for details, because getting information from him was like having my teeth drilled into by a drunk Peter the Great. It wasn’t just because I didn’t care about his past, just that he didn’t seem to care about it either, so it never came up in conversation. It annoyed me that now I was suffering from that lack of knowledge. It felt like I was out of the loop on some big secret, which I didn’t like. Who was Yasmin to Scott? Did he even have friends? And why would Martel be interested in getting back at Scott’s relations? What did Scott do to him? I knew why Martel hated us, but Scott had been there way before the Scipio Trials, and I remember him always being with me during that year. He hadn’t been involved in that mess, that was all Dad’s doing. Sure, the two were both vampires, but not all vampires knew each other.

I didn’t want Dad to know that I had lived my entire life so far without once ever asking Scott anything about his background (or really learning anything about him on a personal level). I felt like that admission would have been exhausting and embarrassing, and I’d already had a really long day, so I just nodded and pretended that I understood what my father was talking about. “I’ll leave this here for now,” I finally said, and put the etched dagger down on his desk. “And get back to you on the chicken scratches.”

My father’s attention had wandered in my silence. His eyes light up and refocused on me when I spoke. “It’s a shame I don’t have the time to study it myself . . . Ah, it looks like winter has officially arrived,” he noted, and I looked outside the window where, sure enough, a few snowflakes had begun to fall. It was strange that I’d forgotten about the seasons - it had already been a month or two into my senior year when Lorcan had transferred, and with everything going on, I’d missed the changing of the leaves. Not that it mattered. Fall was overrated. Dad trailed off as the two of us stood up to walk out of his office, putting an arm around my shoulders. I led him lead me to the main hall, where I parted ways so that I could go and annoy Scott to cheer myself up.

As I walked down the dark stairs leading to Scott’s ‘lair’ in our basement, I thought about the long ass day that I’d had. It was half past noon, and I’d blown my biggest secret in front of a boy I barely knew and had a crush on, stumbled across a big secret of his too, survived a kidnapping attempt from angry daylight-immune vampires, lied to my father about the circumstances of the kidnapping, and discovered that Scott had a (gasp) life, pun intended. When I thought about it that way, it didn’t seem so bad. On the other hand, if I wasn’t more careful, my entire life was going to crash down around me.

The sunless den in the basement was Scott’s exclusive lair. I went down there every so often to skulk around and bug him. I didn’t know if Scott ever went out, but I always assumed he never did. He had everything he could need here - he even a whole kitchenette down there with a fridge that always seemed to be filled with artificial or donated blood (it had actually never occurred to me to ask where he got his food, either. I really needed to stop making assumptions). He had an entertainment center, a gaming setup - he had everything he could possibly want or need. The only thing I was sure he didn’t have was a life. Then again, I didn’t really have one either - nor did I want one. My two friends were enough, or maybe even too much, considering recent events.

When I poked my head into the basement, I heard what sounded like violin music, and sword-fighting. In Scott’s entertainment room, I saw the back of his head without his trademark cap on, slouched into his couch while an old movie in black and white played on the big screen. Currently, there was a loud fight scene going on between two masters of fencing in silly costumes, over what, I wasn’t going to guess. Probably a woman. Isn’t that how all movie romances play out? People fall in love, they fight about it, the less popular one gets punched or stabbed and the other one runs away with the pretty girl?

More to the point, he had the volume turned up so loudly that there was no possible way he could have heard me. Feeling a spark of mischief returning to me, I concentrated and whispered, “tacere.” As I crept up behind Scott, my footsteps, my words, my breathing, even the rustling of my clothes, was muted. I positioned myself right behind his head, crouched behind the couch, within ideal ear-range. I spoke the word of release, though no sound came out, but I felt the magic ‘pop’ in a way when the spell dropped.

I shrieked as loudly as I could, causing Scott to squeal like a girl and leap out of his seat. He moved so quickly that he actually moved the couch as he did, causing both it and him to fall backwards, where he rolled to his feet and gave me the chief of all glares. I was so amused with myself that I was literally on the ground, rolling with laughter while Scott cursed his heart out at me and adjusted his cap.

“God damn it!” He growled, and turned the couch back upright. He paused the movie and sat back down in his previous position, now leaning over the back so he could glare at me some more. I laughed harder. My stomach was beginning to hurt. “How the fuck did you sneak up on me like that?!” He demanded.

I couldn’t have answered him, even if I wanted to, because I was almost in tears. “Y-y-you-you sc-scr-scream like a s-s-s-schoolgirl!” I managed to splutter out.

“Laugh it up,” he mumbled darkly, cracking me up impossibly more. He unpaused the movie and turned the volume down, all while giving me the evil eye in his periphery.

I calmed myself down after a few seconds and had to wipe at my eyes. “Ah,” I sighed contentedly, and plopped myself down on the end of the couch. “So, what are you watching?”

He paused it again to look at me. “Only you would try something like that while we’ve got other vampires out there tryna kill us.”

“Like any of them could take you,” I dismissed. “Besides, they aren’t after you, they’re after the rest of us.” Scott looked a little pleased by my unintentional compliment, but he didn’t comment on it, and unpaused the movie.

After a few seconds of watching the fencing match between the black-and-white people in silly outfits, I remembered why I’d gone down there in the first place. “Hey, what was up with that note?”

Scott let out a loud, long groan and paused it again. “Am I ever going to get to finish this shit? Are you gonna be interrupting me every five seconds with more bullshit? Either watch the movie with me, or get out.”

“I don’t want to watch the movie, I want to know about that note.”

Scott stared up at the dark ceiling, his expression growing pinched. I folded my arms and waited for him to respond. Worst case scenario, he blew me off and kicked me out of his den. “What note?” He finally deigned to ask.

I rolled my eyes. “The one Dad told me you found. He said it was a letter from an old friend of yours, but I was like, no way. He doesn’t have any friends. Do you?”

Scott glared at me. “Why would you assume that?”

I bit my lip. “It’s . . . Is that serious question?”

He made a disgusted noise at the back of his throat. “Yes, I have old friends. Try not to faint on me. I’ve been around for a while, alright? I get around. I know a lot of people.”

“But, do you really?” I wondered.

Scott turned to face me in his seat with an expression I’d never seen on his face before. In many ways, my godfather was paradoxical. He was old, but young. He was apathetic, but he cared. Sometimes I wondered if he had ever been ‘normal,’ years ago, maybe as a human. Had he always been the way he was? I had always assumed so. “Maybe you should stop making assumptions about me,” he finally said, after a few seconds of silence. I continued to look at him expectantly. “Look, the letter was from my ex girlfriend, alright?”

That was totally unexpected. “You had a girlfriend?” I was blown away. And this girlfriend somehow knew that Tony Martel was trying to kill my Dad? What the fuck, Scott? “What the actual fuck?”

“Ugh. Yes.”

“Gross,” I muttered. “I can’t believe you.”

He snorted and turned to face the television. Before he could un-pause it again and end our conversation, I asked, “So why’d she send you a letter if she’s your ex?”

Scott threw the remote at a pillow that had fallen on the ground, where it thumped unimpressively. “I’m never going to finish this movie, am I?”

“Her name is Yasmin, right?” I guessed, remembering Dad mentioning that name.

My godfather glared at me. “Where’d you hear that name?”

“Dad said he had something to thank Yasmin for,” I went on like he hadn’t said anything. “He was considering sending her a gift basket. How would your ex girlfriend know what Tony Martel was up to? And would you say she’s more a fruits-basket type, or cookie bouqet? I’m asking for Dad.”

Another groan. “And you know what else is interesting?” I didn’t like the sudden gleam in Scott’s eyes. “I’ve been hearing about this new guy, Lorcan, that you’ve been hanging with . . .” His grin was full of fang and not at all pleasant.

I flushed and immediately stood up to ran out of the basement, shouting, “NOPE, NOPE, NOPE,” at the top of my lungs all the way up the steps. I ran through the kitchen, past my mom and Erik in the kitchen, whom I half-heartedly waved at on my way out, and sprinted all the way up to my room, where I closed the door behind me and leaned against it with a sigh. Slowly, I slid down until my butt hit the cold hard wood floor.

Trying to distract myself from my thoughts, I pulled out my phone and sent something vaguely reassuring to Vanessa. I was surprised (somehow) to see a message from Lorcan, asking if I was alright. It felt like a dumb question for him to ask, given everything that had happened and all the unanswered questions that lay between us, so I just said that shit was fine and that I’d see him tomorrow. Even thinking about the conversation I was going to have to have with him gave me a headache.

I hurled my phone towards my bed where it thumped softly against my pillow. Annoyed, I looked up at the ceiling. “I’m just going to and commend this plea to anyone within earshot,” I said to the air, “and ask for a timely smiting. Smote? Smitten? Whatever the fucking word for it is, just do it! Explode my head! Blow up my brain, drop a faulty plane engine on my head, anything, I don’t care how you do it, just kill me already!” I roared. Neither the ceiling or the air gave any intelligible response. I rationalized that I could always ask Vanessa’s mom to smite me. There had to be at least one bad Loa out there who was willing to do the dirt. I’d pay her for it and everything - anything to avoid having to be alive for dinner tomorrow night.

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