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       Fate, p.1

         Part #2 of My Blood Approves series by Amanda Hocking
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  - 1 -

  The summer air slid in through the windows, filling the car with the green scent of the park, and the frightening sound of highway traffic. I bit my lip and stared out the window, where children played in the grass. The car was only idling in the parking lot, but I kept imagining Milo losing control and running them over.

  My younger brother Milo had just turned sixteen, and he talked constantly about getting his license. His new obsession with cars I blamed entirely on Jack, who drove at excessive speeds in luxury vehicles. Milo changed the instant he laid eyes on his Lamborghini. Things that beautiful captivated people, even gay teenage boys, apparently.

  Even though I was a year and a half older than Milo, I still didn’t have my license, so Jack was the one giving the driving lessons, and it scared me.

  Wearing gigantic sunglasses, Jack sat shotgun, but he didn’t really explain things to Milo. He pointed to a pedal and said, “That one makes it go. So push on it and let’s go. ” That’s it.

  Fortunately, Milo’s pretty cautious, so he pressed Jack for more information, but that didn’t make his answers any less vague. That might be because Jack’s tired. The mid-afternoon August sun shined brightly above us. Ordinarily, that sounds like the best time to drive, but sunlight made Jack groggy. He’d already started to yawn.

  Jack is not exactly like everyone else. I really like him, more than I should. He’s attractive in his own right, with dancing blue eyes, perpetually disheveled sandy hair, and flawless tanned skin, but he’s not what I would call drop-dead gorgeous.

  Everything about Jack and his family is complicated, thanks to one major fact: they just happen to be vampires.

  They aren’t really dangerous to people, or I wouldn’t let any of them around my brother. I guess technically they are, since they could easily kill us if they wanted to, but I don’t think they want to. They do live off human blood, but they use either blood banks or human donors.

  Vampires don’t have to drink a person to death, although they can and sometimes do. Jack has never killed anyone, but he’s still a relatively young vampire. He was twenty-four when he turned, and that was only sixteen years ago, in comparison with his brother Ezra who has been around for over three-hundred years and Peter’s nearly two-hundred.

  They’re not really brothers, but brothers in the way vampires are. In order to turn, the human’s blood fuses with the vampire’s blood. Ezra turned Peter, and Peter turned Jack. This makes them close in unusual ways. Peter is attracted to me, or rather his blood is. But because of his attraction, both Jack and Ezra are very fond of me, and Jack much more than he should be.

  I know that Jack won’t do anything to put me in danger, not intentionally. His ability to monitor danger in relation to human’s fragile bodies, like my brother’s, is lacking. If we got in a crash, Jack would protect me over Milo, and that makes me nervous.

  “Are you sure you really wanna do this today?” I asked, and in the rearview mirror, I saw Milo roll his eyes.

  “We can just take you home if you’re gonna be this way,” Milo glared at me.

  Despite his age, Milo had one of those distinct baby faces. His cheeks were chubby, and his brown eyes were innocently large. When he threatened me, he looked more like an angry child then the teenager he was.

  “Alice, everything will be fine,” Jack promised, suppressing a yawn.

  “I’m the sensible one. So if I think something is okay, it probably is,” Milo reminded me.

  We’d been sitting in the parking lot for twenty minutes while Milo made Jack explain every part of the car to him. Since it was Jack explaining, a disproportionate amount of the time had been spent on the stereo and the seat warmers (which seemed logical for August), but Milo was getting antsy.

  When he finally put the car in drive, my heart locked up. Milo drove across the parking lot, jerking on the brake unnecessarily several times.

  “Just ease into it,” Jack said, and Milo responded.

  “Maybe he’s not ready. ” I leaned forward between the seats.

  “Alice!” Milo snapped.

  Jack lowered his sunglasses enough so he could peer at me over them. “Alice, you’ve got to lighten up, or we’ll really take you home. And I’ll let him drive all the way back. ”

  “Fine!” I threw my hands up in the air and fell back in the seat.

  Milo drove around the parking lot with more starts and stops than a circle should require. His driving eventually became smoother, and I allowed myself to settle into it.

  This was precisely the reason I stuck around. Jack offered me a chance at immortality, but I temporarily declined. I wasn’t quite ready to ditch out on my brother yet.

  Jack yawned loudly again, and his fatigue washed over me. To wake himself up, he fiddled with the radio, causing the Cure to come blasting out. I opened my mouth to say something about that being too distracting, but Milo slapped his hand away and turned it off.

  “I can’t concentrate with that,” Milo said when Jack looked offended.

  “See?” Jack thudded his head tiredly on the headrest of the car. “You’ve got nothing to worry about with this kid. ”

  “No thanks to you,” I muttered. Jack turned towards me, grinning his mischievous, crooked smile. “What?”

  “You know, someday you’re going to have to learn to drive. ” Jack’s delight only deepened when I grimaced in response. “What? You didn’t really expect me to drive you around forever, did you?”

  “No. But not today,” I said.

  “It’s all on your time anyway. ” Jack went back to watching Milo drive.

  He’d been trying to hide his ever growing impatience, but he could hide very little from me. For some reason, I felt everything he felt, and sometimes, it made things awkward. He was definitely ready for me to turn. Jack understood what I wanted and tried not to pressure me into turning into a vampire, but it was hard for him.

  “Should I take it out on the road?” Milo had paused by the exit of the parking lot and looked at Jack.

  “Sorry, kid. ” Jack shook his head, and Milo looked disappointed. “You did really well today, but I’m pretty beat, and I think your sister’s had all that she can take. ”

  Jack got out of the car to switch places with Milo and grumbled something about the sunlight. It didn’t help that he wore a tee shirt and shorts, exposing even more of his skin to the sun, but that was his standard uniform, even in winter.

  Today he’d gone for a white tee shirt with neon cassette tapes on it and black Dickies with pink Converse. He wasn’t exactly the image I’d had in mind when I thought of vampire, but very little about him was stereotypical.

  Page 2

  As soon as he hopped in the driver’s seat, he fumbled with the stereo until “Mexican Radio” came on. Milo wrinkled his nose, but he hadn’t grown up in the eighties the way Jack had.

  When we pulled up in front of the brownstone where Milo and I lived, Milo thanked Jack again before getting out. I stayed behind, wanting a minute alone to talk to him. I reached between the seats and turned down the radio.

  “Thanks for taking him out like that. I know he really appreciated it. ”

  “Anytime. ” Jack smiled at me, but there was something droopy about it. Vampires didn’t burst into flames, but they were nocturnal. The sun tired them out.

  “You should probably get going. ” I unbuckled my seatbelt and started sliding to get out of the car. “So, I’ll see you tomorrow?”

  “Nah, I can’t. I’m going on that business trip with Ezra,” he reminded me. “But I should be back in two days. We aren’t doing much more than signing some papers. ”

  In the past few months, Jack had stepped up and
started helping Ezra with the family business. They owned a few companies overseas and had lots of stock holdings. Every now and then, Ezra left for a few days to work on something, and Jack finally decided that he should do it. Also, he’d rolled his car, and Ezra demanded that he work for his money to pay for the next one.

  “Oh. Right. Well… call me when you get back. ”

  “I always do,” Jack grinned, and I got out of the car.

  - 2 -

  Summer nights were too short. Vampires spent more time indoors in the summer, but heat didn’t agree with them anyway.

  Jack lived in beautiful house on the lake. It’d be a rather conventional square house if not for the balconies and the turret that connected the house to the garage. As many times as I had been here, it never really stopped being intimidating.

  We spent a great deal of the summer in the backyard, either lounging on the stone patio or swimming in the lake or taking out the Jet-Ski’s. Milo and I spent so much time on the water that Mae bought us several swimsuits to keep at the house.

  I changed into my suit, keeping the towel wrapped around me when I came out of the bathroom, and Milo had already changed into his swim trunks. He sat at island in the kitchen, munching on some grapes, and helping Mae.

  Mae had been the eldest when she turned, at twenty-eight. Her skin was flawless white porcelain, and her caramel waves of hair had been pulled into a loose bun. Wearing only her bathing suit and an apron, her warm eyes danced as Milo talked to her.

  As a vampire, she didn’t eat, and since Milo was an excellent cook, he became her sous chef, helping her prepare all the meals she made for our benefit. I would’ve protested all the extra work and expense Mae put into it, but it was obvious that she relished this sorta thing.

  “Where’s Ezra?” I asked, walking over to the island and stealing a grape. Mae was making some kind of fruit dip with cream cheese and yogurt, and slicing up apples, pears, and strawberries.

  “He’s taking a nap,” Mae informed me in her warm, British accent. “He’s a little jet lagged from the trip. ”

  Like the other two boys, Ezra was incredibly attractive. His eyes were deep mahogany and infinitely warm. His skin was the same tanned color as Jack and Peter’s, and his sandy hair had soft blond streaks through it. The most powerful thing about Ezra was his voice. It was low and resonated through everything. He had a faded accent that came from being born in England, but he hadn’t lived in Europe in over two-hundred years.

  Through the glass French doors off the dining room, I saw Jack rollicking about with his Great Pyrenees, Matilda. The deck lights revealed the taut muscles of his chest and back as he rolled around with her. The stones of the patio should’ve left him battered and bruised, but he’d have nothing to show from it.

  “Alice, do you wanna try it?” Mae asked, pulling my gaze away from Jack. She held out an apple slice covered in dip, but I shook my head.

  “I’m getting pretty chilly. I think I’m gonna head outside. ”

  “I’ll be out in a minute,” Milo said through the mouthful of the fruit he’d sampled.

  “Okay,” I nodded and headed out the French doors into the night.

  Jack ventured off the patio in his pursuit of Matilda, but I saw easily in the light of the full moon. It was much warmer outside than it had been in the house, but I kept the towel wrapped around me. I walked down the patio onto the small lawn that separated the house from the lake.

  Matilda caught sight of me and bounded towards me. She’d knock me over, since she was used to vampires who could handle her lunging at them, but Jack overtook her and playfully tackled her. Then he stood up, brushing the grass from his swim trunks, and grinned at me.

  “Are you gonna go swimming with the towel too?” Jack teased.

  “Maybe. ” I pulled the towel more tightly around me, and he laughed.

  Matilda sniffed me heartily before concluding that it was only me, and then sauntered off, wagging her tail slowly behind her.

  A mischievous glint caught Jack’s eye, and after spending a summer getting thrown in the lake, I knew exactly what it meant. Dropping my towel, I turned and ran towards the dock. He trailed a few steps behind me, even though he could easily sprint past me. The sport was in the chase for him.

  I almost made it to the edge of the dock when I felt his strong arms looping around my waist. I squealed and let him twirl me around once before he released me, sending me soaring into the air and landing in the lake with a loud splash.

  Jack took a running jump and leaped out, flying over me and splashing way out in the lake. He howled excitedly, as if he hadn’t made that same jump a million times.

  “Jack!” Mae leaned out the French doors and shouted out at him. “You’ve got to keep it down so the neighbors don’t call the police again. ” It was after midnight on a Wednesday, and the neighbors weren’t big fans of the noise.

  “Yeah, Alice,” Jack said.

  “Oh, whatever,” I rolled my eyes. “As if I’m even half as loud as you are. ”

  Jack laughed, taking long strokes out farther into the black water. He swam slow circles around me, but I was content to float on my back, staring up at the full moon and the stars shining.

  I had never really had the courage to swim too far from the shore when the water was so dark. I always had these horrible visions of being eaten by some unseen monster coming up from the depths of the lake.

  Milo joined us in the lake a bit later. Mae stayed inside to continue chopping fruit. She always went overboard trying to feed us. We were just two people, but she cooked like we were an army. It only made it more obvious when they didn’t eat anything, but Milo had only made a few comments about it.

  Page 3

  Surprisingly, he hadn’t really caught on that they weren’t human. Jack had been more discreet about his paranormal abilities, but Milo was a smart kid. I thought that he suspected something but let it go, because they didn’t seem dangerous and they made me happy.

  “It’s a really beautiful night out,” Milo said. He floated on his back, admiring the night like I was.

  “It’s been a fantastic summer. ”

  “I can’t believe it’s almost over,” Milo sighed.

  “Don’t remind me!” I cringed.

  School was only three short weeks away. Milo tried to convince me that it had little effect on my life, but it changed everything. There’d be no more all-nighters with Jack, and soon everything would get cold and snowy, and Milo would make me do homework.

  Something grabbed me and pulled me under. I tried to scream but water buried me. I pictured some evil sea creature coming to eat my soul. Clawing my way to the surface, I grabbed onto something strong and soft and pulled myself up.

  As soon as I reached for him, Jack pulled me up out of the water and let me cling on to him. Over my own frightened gasps, I heard him laughing softly, and I realized he’d been the one that grabbed my ankle. After a summer of similar antics, I should’ve caught on that Jack thought it was funny scaring the crap out of me.

  I should’ve slapped him or told him he was a jerk, but the feel of his arms distracted me. His chest pressed up against mine, and he had to feel the frantic beating of my heart that drove him crazy.

  I looked up in his soft blue eyes, and I felt breathless for a whole new reason. His laughter died down, and his smile faltered as his body temperature started to rise, smoldering against my skin.

  Ordinarily, he would’ve pushed me away by now, but he let me linger in his arms. I tilted in towards him, hoping he’d let go just long enough for one innocent kiss.

  “Hey! Look! A shooting star!” Milo shouted.

  It was just enough for Jack to realize what was happening, so he pushed me back and swam away. Jack did everything he could to keep from letting things get out of hand, and sometimes that meant that he’d physically push me away. It was getting harder to shrug off, though.

nbsp; Although I hadn’t asked about it, his temperature only seemed to rise when things between us got physical. During our one crazy passionate kiss, his skin had felt like it was on fire.

  “Did you see it?” Milo asked.

  I meant to shoot him an angry glare for disrupting my rare moment with Jack, but then I saw Milo just staring blissfully at the sky. He hadn’t been paying attention to anything but the stars, so he hadn’t known that he’d interrupted.

  “Nah, sorry, I missed it,” I said.

  “There’ll probably be another one,” Milo assured me, and I probably sounded very heavy with regret. Sure, I do love a good shooting star, but kisses with Jack were even a rarer commodity.

  “I hope so. ”

  I treaded water, and Jack moved on to harassing Matilda. He’d gotten very good at finding ways to ignore me. Poor Matilda stood at the end of the dock, barking her refusal to jump in. Milo tired of his stargazing so he went over to join Jack in cajoling the dog in the water.

  Being in the water suddenly didn’t feel like much fun. The adrenaline from the near sea monster death, followed by the near kiss, left my body feeling achy and tired. I knew Jack would do his best to steer clear of me for awhile, and even if I understood the routine, it didn’t feel good.

  “I think I’m gonna head back inside and see if Mae needs a hand,” I said to no one in particular, which was just as well. Matilda was far more captivating than I was.

  By the time I made it to the shore, I heard the loud splash and their shouts of triumph. Matilda finally jumped in the water. If only my resolution with Jack could be that simple.

  Wrapping the towel around me, I stepped in through the French doors. My skin froze instantly, thanks to the arctic draft from the air conditioner. Amy Winehouse blasted out of the stereo, Mae’s one new guilty pleasure. Jack was always trying to get her to listen to new music, and so far the only things that took were Winehouse and Norah Jones.

  Mae danced around the kitchen, singing into a spatula, and despite my aggravation over the Jack situation, I couldn’t help but laugh.

  “Oh my gosh!” Mae put her hand over her heart and her golden eyes flashed with embarrassment. “You scared me!”

  “Couldn’t you hear me come in?” I asked as she turned down the stereo. “Aren’t you guys supposed to have super hearing or something?”

  “Well, yes, when we’re paying attention,” Mae smiled sheepishly at me. The fruit snack looked complete and nicely arranged on the island, and she was just cleaning up when I interrupted.

  “Do you need a hand?” I offered.

  “No, and you need to go put some clothes on first. ” She nodded at me, and I had begun to shiver. “Unless you’re not done for the night. ”

  “Oh, no, I’m definitely done,” I replied grimly. The thrill completely wore off the instant Jack pushed me away.

  “I should probably go change too. ” She started untying her apron.

  “You don’t need to stay in on my account. ” I held up my hand to stop her. “You can go out there and swim while I clean up. ”

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