Never go sock-skating on a night that a vampire hottie might be visiting you. Just a word of advice. Maybe I should back up a bit.
It was a dark and stormy night. No, seriously. It was dark. And stormy. And my mom and I were watching Sixteen Candles on the couch. Oh, how I love 80s' movies. What a good way to torment my mother.
Anyway, we were at the part where Molly Ringwald is writing notes about Jake Ryan when the TV fuzzed out. Like any teenage girl, I began screaming in irritation. Of course, like any mother of a teenage girl, Mom walked out of the room and upstairs, very irritated with me.
Well, I suppose I've been a little cryptic lately. But I have a good reason. Really. But we'll get to him-I mean, them-later. Right now, I was hyped up on chocolate syrup and wearing brand new socks. In fact, my whole ensemble was new. Baby blue boxers and a tank top that matched. Not the most dignified outfit in the world, but hey. It was ten am, and one of the last nights before my Senior year in High School began. I needed something that would drain me.
So what did I do?
You remember that Tom Cruise movie? The name escapes me... Anyway, he goes sock-skating across the floor. The point is, that always looked totally fun to me. And Dad was at work, so no one was around to see me...
I found myself in mid-sock skate down the front hallway when I saw Zane standing at the door. Looking like he wanted to laugh and run away at the same time. Also, he was looking at my legs. Which were basically pretty bare.
"HOLY COW!" I shouted. At least, that's what I meant to shout. It came out more like "Hooooly Co-ack!"
The 'ack' was because I crashed into Zane. Who seemed petrified by my sock skating. And not because it was sexy. Not at all.
Except, unlike me, Zane didn't go crashing on his back. He just stood there, staring at me. I stared right back, waiting for that bump to start forming on the back of my head.
"Alex?" He sounded dubious, like he wasn't sure if he was looking at me or not.
"No, it's the Queen of England," I replied sarcastically, rolling my eyes and blushing. "Help me up, you idiot!"
"All right, all right," Zane said, reaching down to pull me to my feet. "It's your own fault for... what was that?"
Since he was born sometime in the 1500s-he's not even sure when-Zane doesn't get some of my sense of humor. That, combined that the fact that he thinks that a guy watching Tom Cruise movies is fairly gay. Hey, it's his opinion. He has no problem with me watching Tom movies.
"Sock skating," I replied weakly. "I'm pushing to make it an Olympic sport." OK, down to business. "How the heck did you get into my house? And please, don't say 'window' or I think my head will explode."
Zane blinked his beautiful turquoise eyes. "Front door was unlocked. You and your parents need to be more safety-conscious."
"Says the guy who drinks blood," I muttered.
"That was a low blow."
"You shouldn't be invading my house." I perched my hands on my hips, wishing I was wearing more. "What if my parents installed a security system?"
"But they didn't," Zane reminded me, striding past me and walking into the living room. As if he was my boyfriend or something-which he isn't-he laid down on my couch. He was beautiful right then, even more than usual. Calm, relaxed, his black hair brushing into his face a bit...
"Do you have a legitimate reason for being here?" I asked once I was able to speak. "My mother's upstairs, you know. It's a Saturday. I'm not taking any Supernatural dilemmas tonight."
"You came with me to get some herbs for Flora last Saturday," Zane pointed out, rolling his eyes. "Besides, I'm not here for a 'Supernatural dilemma'. I wanted to meet your mother."
I had to sit down at that one. "What? Zane, it's not like we're... anything. Why would you want to meet my mom?"
"I get the sense that parents worry about me," Zane informed me, sitting up halfway. He gave me his Glare. "Do I scare you, Alex."
This was answered by laughter from me.
"So I... don't... scare you?" He looked utterly confused, and that didn't happen often.
"Actually, Zane," I said between laughs. "You scare the heck out of me. In fact, you're possibly one of the scariest people I've ever met. You're also one of the hottest, but that's probably why my mom is worried about you. Not because of your general aura of darkness, but because you're hot. And I'm a teenage girl."
Once again, Zane looked confused. "... Thank-you?"
"You're welcome." Hey, might as well be honest. After all, it wasn't like I had actual feelings for Zane. I DIDN'T.
"Before I say anything else," Zane began slowly. "Just so we're clear, nothing's changed for either of us, right?"
I took in a deep breath. "Right."
There was a long, awkward silence that happened to be broken by my mother.
"Alex! What the heck is going on?"
I spun around-nearly falling down again-to find my mother rushing towards us, a murderous look on her face. Instantly, Zane was at my side, debonair and smooth.
"Mom," I stammered, biting my lip. "This is Zane. I've told you about Zane, right? Yeah, I think I have, you see, I can explain-"
"I think I'd better do that, Alex," Zane told me, stepping in and holding out a hand for my mom. "Hey, Mrs. Blue. Alex has told me a lot about you—I was just coming since she wanted me to help her prep for the new school year."
Slowly, Mom shook his hand, but her eyes were narrowed. "Oh, really? Alex never told me about any of that."
"It was an emergency thing," I explained quickly. "You know, since school restarts on Monday... And Zane is a friend of Natalie's, so..."
That should make Zane look a bit better. After all, Natalie was the darling of my house. Mom simply loved her to death, as did Dad.
Still, Mom was buying it yet. "So, Zane, I've just been waiting to meet you." She sat down, giving him a suspicious look. "What age are you?"
"Twenty-one." Zane's eyes glinted. In actuality, he was close to five-hundred. He sat down across from Mom, and I took an obligatory seat next to him.
"Mom, Zane and I are just friends." How many times did I have to repeat that to get it through everyone's heads? "You know. We hang out."
"Really, Mrs. Blue," Zane added in his calm, soothing voice. "I wouldn't mean anything harmful to Alex. I respect her immensely."
The shocker was, my mom started nodding, her eyes glazing a bit. I glared at Zane, especially at his eyes. He was entrancing my mother. Gross.
Irritated, I elbowed Zane, and that snapped Mom out of it. "Oh, all right. I suppose I trust you. But be careful."
"Always." Zane suddenly stood, leaning down to kiss my forehead before he left. He winked. "See you, Alex." And he was out the door.
Ty Stone was my best friend. He also looks really good shirtless. Just saying. Anyway, though Zane is a vampire and also one of my closest friends, Ty is a Hunter. A Supernatural Hunter.
Though Ty is just about as dangerous as Zane, my mom doesn't realize that. After all, the guy in my back yard doesn't exactly look dangerous. Not physically, anyway. But emotionally—totally. He happens to be in love with me.
"How's work?" I asked him, running out my backdoor to sit down next to him on the grass. By 'work' I meant the SCA. It was this big Hunter thing that kept Supernaturals-vampires, werewolves, witches, whole nine yards-under control. Of course, being nineteen and newly initiated, he's still getting the hang of things.
"Roxanne's still suspicious," Ty told me. Roxanne's the head hancho of all Hunters. The suspicious thing is probably my fault. I'm not exactly supposed to know about Hunters. He raised his eyebrows at me. "But enough of that. Ready for Senior year?"
I feel kind of bad about being so buddy-buddy with Ty. Not because I dislike him—I definitely love him as a friend. But you see, I told him I wouldn't really decide on what turn our relationship would take next, so...
"No," I answered honestly, trying to calm myself down. "How was yours? Are the teachers meaner than the rest? The tests harder? The-"
"Yes, yes, and I'm sure that the next one will be a 'yes'," Ty interrupted, grinning at me. "Hey, look at it this way: I'll be your own personal cheerleader, ready to make sure that you don't screw up."
"Not cheerleader," I corrected, smiling back. "How about the thug who beats people up when they make fun of me? Huh, huh, huh?"
"Can do," Ty replied, giving a slight eye roll. "I'll make sure to stake every single one of them. Or better—slit their throats with a silver dagger."
"That's my boy." I scooted closer to him, noticing angry red welts on his arms. I winced, skimming a finger over one. "Been combat training?"
"Yeah." Surprisingly, Ty didn't even flinch at my touch. He just stared at me. Which was disconcerting. But nice. "Roxanne's worried that there might be an uprising... Vampires and werewolves joined together, mainly. Witches are pretty neutral."
"Let me guess," I sighed, pausing. "My vamp friends are in the middle of it." Actually, it was usually Zane who was under suspicion. Natalie and Madison just went along with the program. Not like sheep, but they were just... loyal.
"Not in the middle of it," Ty assured me. "Which is really an accomplishment for them. Roxanne just wants to keep an eye on all of them."
"Why are you telling me this?" I asked, raising my eyebrows. "You know I feel obligated to tell them. This is an invasion of their privacy." I gave him a disapproving glance. "Your boss is like a dictator."
"Alex, you barely know her," Ty groaned, running a hand through his light brown hair. "Besides, she's kind of become my mentor now. That's usually a place one of my parents would take."
Ty's dad had been killed by werewolves recently, while his mom died of brain cancer when he was little. Still, I was dubious about this 'mentor' thing. "Either that, or she's trying to get info out of you."
"She's one of-if not the-best Hunters in the world," Ty reminded me, brushing his palm against mine, trying to calm me down. "I can learn a lot from her. Besides, she didn't get to where she is now by being an obnoxious idiot. She's got brains, and her battle skills are excellent."
Trying to lighten the mood I'd created, I teased, "Sounds like someone has a little crush on his mentor-slash-boss."
I then found myself gently pushed onto my back, Ty leaning over me. He gave a small smile. "All of my romantic feelings are reserved for someone else."
I wasn't going to be new to school this year, but someone else was. You see, Ty and Zane did agree on one thing: I was in constant danger now, and needed protection. For that reason, Natalie was going to join me in school this year, trying to pass as a human. Madison already looked too old to be seventeen-she was turned at nineteen-so she'd have to pass.
For this reason, I was 'instructing' Natalie on how to be a normal high school girl. Since she usually skimped on an education, considering how many times she'd actually had it. My lesson at Zane's house had basically turned into me hanging out with my girlfriends in. Who were vampiresses. You wouldn't tell from being in Natalie's room. It looked pretty normal, if a bit bare.
It almost hurt for me to be in the same room as Natalie and Madison. Madison was perky, as usual. Blond, vibrant, confident. And Natalie was... well, Natalie. Striking, quiet, sad. Sad over unrequited love, as I well knew. Love for Zane, who'd Sired both of them.
"Hey Nat," Madison said with a wide, joking wink. "You know what? I bet some of those jocks are really, really-"
I gave her a suspicious glance, and she gave me her most innocent smile.
Natalie, however, seemed preoccupied. She was studying a newspaper, then shaking her head, dark hair flying into her pale face.
"Something interesting in the paper, Natalie?" I asked curiously. None of the vampires paid too much attention to the news—they knew the reporters usually had it wrong. Besides, they heard anything valuable from the Supernatural grapevine. "Interesting enough for you to buy it?"
"Zane got it," she blurted out, then looked like she regretted her own words. She bit her lip-so quickly that I almost didn't see it-then finished what she was saying in a small voice. "I didn't."
Madison gave her friend a sideways glance. Natalie never was completely happy. How could she be? A part of her belonged to Zane, and he didn't want her that way. But this time, she seemed irritated. By him. That wasn't normal. I wanted that newspaper.
"Do you think you'll be able to handle the scent of everyones' blood?" I questioned her, my eyes on the paper.
Discarding the paper onto the floor and coming to sit next to me on her bed, Natalie gave a solemn nod. "Yes, I think so. I'm fairly old, so my thirst is controlled. Besides, I've got a regular who'll give me blood anytime I want." Her mouth twisted a bit on 'regular'.
Seizing the opportunity, I dove over the bed for the newspaper, grabbing it and shoving my nose at what Natalie had been looking at. It was very... weird.
VIOLIN PRODIGY PERFORMS THIS TUESDAY
Under the title was a black and white photo of a girl on stage, busily playing her violin. I couldn't see her face really well, but she had a blunt, chin-length haircut with long, straight bangs. And her name was Claudia Ackerman.
Claudia... It was familiar, but in a way that suggested that I hadn't heard it for a long time. I'd have to look into that.
"Why are you worried about a nineteen-year-old violinist?" I pondered, turning to look at Natalie. She exchanged a discreet glance with Madison. A 'just-us-vampires' glance. "You won't tell me, will you?"
"I guess you'll have to find out for yourself," Madison told me, earning herself a sharp jab in the ribs from Natalie.
"OK, then." I wrapped my arms around my legs, giving both of them my most competent look. "I'm up for it."
This school year was going to be really complicated, I could just feel it. Especially considering that I blew up the queen bee. Well, I didn't blow her up. It's just, if Casey hadn't been a maniac who wanted me dead, she'd never be in the storage building-which her cousin blew up-at all.
So I could just sense that this year was going to start awkwardly. Especially considering the looks of Tiffany, Casey's old best friend. She was standing in the front of the hallway, tears in her eyes, talking to a group of gaping girls. As I walked into the school, I could feel all eyes turn in my general direction. At first, I was worried. Come on—surely the police couldn't release the fact that I was near the building when it exploded?
A minute later, I realized that they weren't looking at me at all, but Natalie. She strode at my side, long hair flowing out behind her. In her arms were her textbooks, all carried easily. Despite the fact that there were about seven of them.
"You know how to operate a locker, right?" I checked as we arrived at our lockers, trying to look inconspicuous.
"I've only done it one million times," Natalie assured me, turning the lock with one hand and holding her books in the other. Surprisingly, she dumped them all in there. Very messily.
The familiar voice made me spin around with a little bit of guilt. It was my old friend, Lulu, who I hadn't seen lately—since she was human.
"Hi!" she squealed, hugging me. "It feels like it's been forever!"
Probably because it's been longer than it should have been. "Yeah, I've been really busy," I said weakly, hugging her back.
"Nearly getting yourself killed?" Lulu raised her eyebrows. "We need to talk about that." For the first time, she noticed Natalie standing behind me. Awkwardly, I began an introduction.
"Lulu, you might have met Natalie earlier," I said, gesturing to my pale friend. "Natalie, Lulu, Lulu, Natalie. Natalie's decided to join school with us this year."
Lulu didn't exactly approve of my new friends, so she gave Natalie a suspicious look. "I thought you were out of school."
"No," Natalie replied smoothly. "I was just homeschooled. But Alex suggested that I just finish up High School in a normal place, so I got really excited. Nice to meet you." She held out a hand.
Slowly, Lulu shook the vampire's hand, her eyes widening a bit. I knew what surprised her; the icy coldness she was feeling. Nobody ever expected that, of course.
"Well, I have to start preparing for class," Lulu said, though it was probably about forty-five minutes before our classes began. "See ya, Alex... Natalie." With that, she bustled off.
I turned to look at Natalie. "Sorry."
She shrugged. "She's known you longer; it's natural for her to be worried about this weird, cold person."
"Yeah," I allowed. "I guess. But still, she could at least be polite to you." Natalie gave a shrug in response.
I was about to say something else, when I heard a loud banging sound. Turning, I saw a girl with her back turned to me, trying to kick her locker open. Natalie and I exchanged a glance, and then walked over to her side.
Her black hair shielded her face a bit, so I didn't see it at first. Gently, I tapped her shoulder. "Need some help?"
"Yeah." She looked over at me with a grateful smile. "I'm new here."
It was Natalie's gasp that made me look from the locker to the girl. Turning my head, I froze. Those eyes—Zane's eyes.
"Something wrong?" the girl, around my age, asked.
"No, nothing," I said quickly, opening her locker. She must be one of Zane's descendants. I knew he had some in town, including a librarian. I held out a hand. "Alex Blue. This is Natalie."
Natalie, still stunned, shook the girl's hand, just as I did. Her voice was numb when she spoke. "Hi."
The girl gave a confused smile. "Hi. I'm Jenna Cook."
Jenna Cook—Ellen Cook's daughter. Definitely Zane's descendant. Well. This was only slightly confusing.
"Yeah, I used to go to Easton High," Jenna began, loading her books into the locker. "But my mom wanted me to go here. Not so cliquey."
"Your eyes are amazing," Natalie blurted out, still looking startled. She shot me a warning glance. Oh, yeah. She knew that I knew something.
Jenna blinked, not really surprised. "Thanks... They run in the family. Kind of weird. Mom says I got them from my great-great-great-great-so many great grandfather. Some guy who was born before we were even in America."
"Really?" Natalie's voice was polite, but the look she was giving me wasn't. I shrank away from her.
"I don't know the whole story," Jenna shrugged. "My mom's obsessed with his history. Died young, or whatever." She glanced at her locker. "Thanks for opening this. I'm not used to lockers."
I opened my mouth to say something else, but was once again interrupted, this time by the intercom.
"Will Jenna Cook please come to the principal's office?"
Jenna grimaced, shrugging again. "Well, thanks. You two are Seniors, right?"
"Yeah," I answered.
"I guess I'll see you in class, then. Bye!" And just like that, she was gone.
Natalie turned to me. "I think you have some explaining to do."
This year, my mom had agreed to buy me a whole new wardrobe, on the grounds that I would take a self-defense class. You know, since I kept on 'getting into trouble' as she put it. Of course, I had two personal strong guys to take care of me, but I couldn't tell her that.
So there I was, after school, in sweats. On a mat. Stretching. Needless to say, I sucked at this. Tim, our instructor, had me stretching in a corner, after a certain incident in which I nearly knocked one girl out. And not because I was good at the class. Because I tripped. Long story short, I was waiting for Tim's late co-instructor to come and give me a personal class.
"Hey Tim," I called as I touched my toes. "Why's this co-instructor so late?"
He grit his teeth, glancing at me. "Because, Alex. She's a busy girl. We're lucky that she came back this year, she's been working on her career so much."
"Oh, really?" I raised my eyebrows, trying not to break my arm. "So she's a career woman? Your girlfriend?"
"No," Tim replied. "And it's none of your bus-" Relief washed over his face as he noticed something at the door of the room. "Claudia! Thank God. Can you instruct"-he gestured to me'- "her?"
I turned, standing up, to find Claudia Ackerman standing at the door. There was no mistaking that haircut. Still, she was actually pretty, with striking, pale blue eyes. She narrowed them at me, gesturing for me to join her at a corner.
So I stood, walking over to her side. "Hi, I'm Al-"
Before I could finish my sentence, Claudia had grabbed my wrist and flipped me onto my back. For a moment, I laid there, stunned. Why was I always getting beaten up?
"What the heck was that for?"
"Kidnappers and rappists don't wait for introductions," Claudia informed me, rolling her eyes. "They also don't care if it takes you forever to get up. In fact, they want that. Up."
Gritting my teeth, I stood. OK, this wasn't going well. Why did I always have to get myself into these kinds of things? I'd barely stood up when Claudia flipped me again. Man, why was she not instructing me?
By the fourth flip, I was kind of PO'd. Apparently, she didn't like it when her pupils actually learned her name.
Maybe it was because of my anger that I felt that cold charge rush through my veins. Maybe that was why I stood up, flicking some hair behind my ears. Maybe that was how I was able to kick Claudia in her stomach, landing her on her back.
Sometimes, I really love vampire-power channelling. Too bad it hardly ever happens.
What I didn't love was the fact that when Claudia gaped at me, I noticed that the collar of her shirt had slid down. And was revealing two pinprick bite marks.
Suddenly, I remembered why her name was so familiar.