Wisdom, p.12
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       Wisdom, p.12

         Part #4 of My Blood Approves series by Amanda Hocking
 
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“You knew she was staying here?” Milo asked.

  “Yeah, and it’s no big deal,” I reiterated. I failed to mention it had actually been my idea, but it was probably better if he didn’t know that.

  “Take it easy, cowboy,” Olivia smirked at him. “I don’t allow fighting in the penthouse. ”

  “You take it easy,” Milo muttered, but he sat back down on the couch.

  “Now I’m really awake,” Violet sighed and turned to walk back to the kitchen. “If I have to be up, I’m getting something to eat. ”

  “Is there anything at all you can tell us to help us?” I asked Olivia, ignoring the outburst. Milo tried to glare after Violet, but I moved to block his view.

  “Stay away from the children. ” Olivia cocked her head. “Why the sudden interest? Hasn’t Mae had the child for a while?”

  “Yeah but…” I shook my head. I didn’t want to tell her that they’d be in town. “I just wanted to help. ”

  “Sometimes you can’t help people,” Olivia said, sounding uncharacteristically sad. “That’s probably the hardest lesson in life. ”

  Violet came back over to us, sipping blood out of a Big Gulp cup with a straw. The blood perfumed the air, and it smelled like it was pretty fresh. For once, I didn’t feel hungry. I was still too full from Jack to even consider eating yet, and that felt nice.

  “Oh hey, it’s a good thing you’re here actually,” Violet said. She climbed over the arm of the chair and sat down, curling her knees up to her chest. She pulled the long tee shirt down over her legs and took a long sip from the cup.

  “Who? Me?” I pointed to myself.

  “Yeah. ” She took another long drink and quickly swallowed down. “I was working the club last night, trying to keep the riffraff under control, and I saw this bloodwhore with a weird mark on her arm. ”

  “What kind of mark?” I asked.

  “At first I thought it was a big ‘U,’ like the letter ‘u,’ but I really don’t know what it’s supposed to be,” Violet said. “When I asked the bloodwhore about it, she told me a vampire branded her. It turns out this vampire has been branding a lot of the bloodwhores. ”

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  “Branding them? You mean like cattle?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.

  “Oh he can’t do that,” Olivia said disdainfully. “You can’t brand girls unless they’re in your harem. ”

  “I don’t know if they’re in his harem or not,” Violet shrugged. “I just thought it seemed like suspicious behavior. ”

  “What do you mean?” I asked.

  “I don’t know. ” She took another drink, but this time it was to buy herself some time to think about what she meant. “I asked the bloodwhore why the vampire did it, and he’d told her, ‘I want everyone to know that you belong to a vampire. ’ Something about that just sounded off to me. Like everyone would know she belongs to a vampire. ”

  “Huh,” I said, but a chill shot down my spine.

  “Anyway, I just thought I’d let you know since you were asking about that girl’s murder,” Violet said off-handedly and went back to finishing her beverage.

  I felt Milo’s eyes on me as soon as she said it, and I decided that we better get out of there before Violet or Olivia let it slip exactly how interested I was in looking for Jane’s killer.

  I thanked both Olivia and Violet for their help as nonchalantly as possible, but Milo noticed my hasty exit. He waited until we were the elevator, trapped in the long ride to the basement, before bringing it up.

  “What exactly did Violet mean that you were asking about that girl’s murder?” Milo asked, his eyes locked on me. Bobby hid next to him, hoping Milo wouldn’t realize that he’d been helping me too.

  “She was my best friend, Milo. ” I stared up at the ceiling. “You think I’m not gonna ask at all?”

  “No, but you better not be really looking into this,” Milo warned me. “The police have it under control. ”

  “I’m not looking into it, but if the police have it under control, what would it matter if I did? If they can handle it, I definitely can,” I countered.

  “Alice, you don’t have the tools or equipment to really solve this,” Milo said wearily. “You’d just end up getting yourself in trouble. And what would you do if you did find the killer? You couldn’t prove that it was him, and you would never know for sure so you wouldn’t want to kill him. What good would it do to track him down?”

  “It wouldn’t,” I said. “That’s why I’m not. I just asked a few questions. It’s not like I launched an investigation or something. ”

  “Good. That’s all it better be. ”

  “Why?” I looked over at him. “What happens if it’s not?”

  “I’ll tell Jack about all those longing gazes you shared with Peter when we were in Australia. ” Milo said evenly and my jaw dropped.

  “We- I- ugh!” I groaned and looked away from him. “That’s not even fair!”

  “I’m sick of you almost getting yourself killed, Alice!” Milo yelled. “And if you won’t wise up on your own, then I’ll force you into it! Stay away from this, okay?”

  “Fine!” I hit the elevator button, hoping to make the ride speed up somehow.

  I didn’t need Milo narcing on me for something that didn’t even happen, or… barely happened. I mean, it was innocent, but I didn’t need another big fight. I promised Jack I wouldn’t do anything to hurt him anymore, and I meant it.

  At the same time, I wasn’t about to let Jane’s killer go free. Especially not when I had something new to go on. It may not be a big lead, but Violet’s tip had been more than I had yesterday.

  “Promise me you’ll leave this alone,” Milo insisted.

  “I promise,” I said, knowing I would break that promise as soon as I got the chance.

  12

  Every day when I woke up, I found more books added to the stack of my studies. When I saw how few books Milo brought home compared to my workload, I regretted letting Ezra homeschool me instead of going to actual school.

  I’d finished To Kill a Mockingbird and my chapters in the history book, but I skipped out on anatomy. Turns out, I didn’t have much of an interest in becoming a doctor.

  Even with all that, I managed to sneak in a moment alone with Bobby. We both thought something was going on with the vampire branding girls. I wanted to check into it more, but we definitely couldn’t do anything in front of Milo. He’d made it perfectly clear that he didn’t want us involved with this.

  Since I’d finished To Kill a Mockingbird, I woke up to find On the Road by Jack Kerouac and A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway along with a law book added to the growing stack of textbooks Ezra left for me by the couch. On the Road wasn’t as horrible as I’d envisioned it being, and I sprawled out on the couch to read it.

  “How are you finding the book?” Ezra asked when he came into the living room to check on my progress.

  “It’s okay. ” I shrugged and sat up more, setting the book aside so I could talk to him. “How do you decide which books you want me to read?”

  “I’m picking at random from the most critically acclaimed books of the last century. ” He picked up the worn copy of A Farewell to Arms, flipping through it absently. “This is one of my favorites. I was hoping you’d pick that one first. ”

  “I read Old Man and the Sea in high school and almost died of boredom. I’m holding off on Hemingway, if I can. ”

  “Well, you’re going to read it. ” He set the book back down on the couch and crossed the room to sit down on a chair.

  “What about the law book? How did you decide on that?” I asked, gesturing to the new textbook.

  “You didn’t seem that interested in anatomy. I thought law might suit you better. ”

  “So what’s your plan? Try everything until you find something that interests me?”

  “My plan is to educate you. ” He smiled. “It’s up to you to find
out what interests you and what you’re passionate about. ”

  “Law might interest me. ” I leaned forward, resting my elbows on my knees.

  “How so?” Ezra asked, sounding hesitant to know why it would interest me.

  “The thing is…” I shifted, trying to think how I wanted to phrase it. “There’s word going around the clubs that a vampire is branding girls, human girls. ”

  “What reputable source did you hear this from?”

  “You know I’ve been hanging around Olivia’s, and I hear things,” I said. “What does it matter where I hear it from?”

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  “It matters because I know you’re developing some kind of theory here, and it would be nice to know if that theory has any basis in reality. ” Ezra leaned back in the chair, looking at me evenly.

  “It does. Or at least I think it does. ” I glanced down at the floor, not wanting to admit to Ezra that I wasn’t really sure how much I could trust Violet. Maybe she was just messing with me for the fun of it. I shook my head, deciding that I had to go with the only lead I had. “Look, for the sake of argument, let’s just agree that everything I say is true. ”

  “No,” he shook his head.

  “Ezra!” I groaned. “Just hear me out, okay?”

  “I’m presuming this is all about Jane, and I already told you that I can’t help you with that,” Ezra said, his eyes looking sad. “Nothing can. ”

  “A vampire is branding girls, okay?” I ignored his refusal. “Something about that just feels wrong to me. ”

  “I would hope so. ”

  “No, not just because it is wrong, but like…” I shook my head. “It’s a gut feeling. I think it’s connected, but I might be wrong. Before I go on a hunt for the vampire branding people, I’d like to know for sure. ”

  “And how would you find that out?” Ezra asked.

  “If it is the same guy, he probably marked the girls he killed. ” I took a deep breath. “He probably marked Jane. ”

  “That’s a hell of a leap. ” He pursed his lips and looked down. “A lot of vampires are not nice. They do bad things to humans all the time simply because they can. Just because a vampire is branding humans doesn’t mean he’s a serial killer. And even if it does, it doesn’t mean he left a mark on Jane. ”

  “You’re right. I know you’re right,” I said, but I hated to admit it. “But something about this feels like a vampire. I went out looking at the crime scenes-”

  “You what?” Jack asked, startling me so much I nearly jumped.

  I’d been too focused on my arguments to convince Ezra that I hadn’t been paying attention, and Jack had snuck up on me. He stood off to the side of the living room, his blue eyes wide and disapproving. I swallowed hard and smiled sheepishly at him.

  “I didn’t see you standing there,” I said.

  “You went to the crime scenes? Why?” Jack asked.

  “What do you mean why?” I looked up at him. “I wanna know what happened to Jane. ”

  “And what did you find out?” Jack asked.

  “Nothing. I don’t know anything. ” I lowered my eyes for a minute, then looked up, pleading with Ezra. “But you can help. I know you at least know somebody on the police force. You can ask them. I know they withhold some information. If she has any marks, anything at all-”

  “You’re gonna hunt down the killer? That’s your plan?” Jack raised an eyebrow.

  “I don’t really have a plan,” I admitted.

  “Yeah, I figured that, since you think it’s a good idea to hunt a serial killer on your own. ”

  “I can handle myself, Jack. ” I stood up. “Milo and I are stronger than you. ”

  “Maybe,” Jack shrugged, but he momentarily looked hurt. Physically, Milo had definitely become a lot stronger than Jack, but it wasn’t something he liked hearing. “But you don’t see me doing stupid stunts like you. ”

  “You would if you liked Jane,” I shot back, but he rolled his eyes.

  “You know that’s not true. I stood up for and helped her every chance I had,” Jack said. “I don’t want you to get yourself killed or to do something you regret. ”

  The French doors off the patio slammed shut, and Matilda barked a greeting as people walked inside. Jack didn’t say anything for a minute, and I knew he was holding something back.

  “What’s going on here?” Milo asked, noticing the tension between us.

  “What is going on here?” Leif repeated. He moved towards Milo and me but kept his eyes locked on Jack. Jack shifted uneasily under Leif’s stony glare.

  “Your sister thinks it’s a good idea to handle Jane’s killer herself,” Jack said, and both Leif and Milo instantly turned back at me.

  “You just promised me you wouldn’t!” Milo yelled.

  “Yeah but…” I sighed and crossed my arms over my chest.

  “Alice, I can’t believe you would do that! You lied to me!” Milo sounded genuinely hurt, and I groaned and flopped back on the couch. Any fight I had in me had completely gone out.

  “It’s not that dangerous. I don’t know why you guys keep acting like it is. It’s not like I’m human or something,” I said, and Milo looked over at Bobby.

  “I had nothing to do with it!” Bobby offered up quickly, and I didn’t blame him. If I could lie about my own involvement, I totally would.

  “You lied about it, so you knew it was wrong. ” Milo turned back to me. “You knew it!”

  “I knew you would be mad, but you’ve got no reason to be mad! I can handle myself!” I looked up at him.

  “Alice, you’re just a child,” Leif shook his head.

  “Whatever. I don’t wanna talk about this anymore. ” I brushed past them, preparing to storm out.

  “Alice!” Jack ran after me, out onto the patio. The icy night wind whipped over us, nearly taking my breath away. “Alice!” When I didn’t stop, Jack grabbed my arm, forcing me to look at him. “What is going on with you?”

  “You already know what’s going on with me. ”

  “No, I don’t. ” He furrowed his brow, confused and hurt. “You’ve been so distant lately, and I know you’re hurting over Jane but… this feels like something different. And now you’re sneaking around and hiding things from me. ”

  “I’m not hiding things from you!” I snapped.

  “Then what do you call a secret murder investigation?”

  “You don’t understand. ” I shook my head. “I knew you wouldn’t understand. ”

  “What don’t I understand?”

  “Why I need to have something for myself!” I tried to pull my arm away from him, but he wouldn’t let go.

  “This isn’t the kind of thing you have yourself. It’s not ‘alone time’ or a ‘hobby. This is dangerous, Alice, and stupid. ”

  “Let her go,” Leif said, his voice startlingly firm. He stood just inside the open French door, watching me and Jack argue.

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  “She’s fine,” Jack said, but he let go of my arm. I didn’t move away, though. I kinda wanted to leave, to spite him, but I didn’t want Leif to think that Jack was actually hurting me.

  “I think you should give her some space. ” Leif walked out onto the patio, his bare feet leaving footprints in the snow.

  “Why are you even here?” Jack asked, apparently growing weary of him.

  “Give it a rest, Jack,” I said. “He doesn’t mean anything by it. ”

  Jack looked back at me, assessing me for something I didn’t understand. After a moment, he sighed and shook his head.

  “Fine. I’m going in the house. Have all the space you want. ” Jack went back into the house without even glancing back at me.

  “Are you okay?” Leif asked, stepping closer to me.

  “Yeah, I’m fine. ” I forced a smile at him. “Jack wasn’t hurting me. ”

  “You don’t need to make excuses for him. ” Lei
f put his hands in his pockets and looked intently at me.

  “I’m not. He’s… We’re just going through something. ” I shook my head. “I’m going through something, so that means he is too. I just wish I knew what it was. ”

  “Maybe you should talk to him about it. Or Milo,” Leif suggested.

  “I can’t talk to Milo. ” I wrapped my arms around myself and stared at the black lake behind us.

  “He’s your brother and he cares about you, a lot. ”

  “I know. This is just… complicated,” I sighed. “Forever is a really long time, you know? What do you do with forever?”

  “The same thing you do when you don’t have forever. ” He smiled wanly. “Live. ”

  “That’s a bit simplistic. ”

  “But at least you have Milo. You know you’ll have somebody that will always care about you and always have your back. That’s important. ”

  I looked past Leif into the house. In the warm glow of the dining room, I could see Milo and Bobby talking. The wind almost drowned out their voices, but I could barely make Bobby out, denying he knew anything that I was up to. Milo’s face was etched with worry, thinking of what kind of trouble Bobby and I could get ourselves into.

  “Yeah, I suppose you’re right,” I said.

  “Do you regret becoming a vampire?” Leif asked, pulling me from my thoughts.

  “I don’t know. ” I hadn’t wanted to think about it. “I love Jack. I love a lot of things about my life. But…” I shook my head. “I can’t change it now, anyway. ”

  “It’s not something I would’ve chosen for you,” Leif said.

  “What do you mean by that?” I cocked my head.

  “It’s not something I would’ve chosen for anybody,” Leif amended quickly and looked away.

  “Why are you here?” I asked, remembering that Leif hadn’t answered that question when Jack asked.

  “I was with Milo, helping him with his French homework. ” He took a step back, as if wanting to put distance between us. “He’s having problems with the dialect, and I’m fluent. ”

  “You’re French?” I asked.

  “Canadian,” he said. “I lived in Quebec for awhile. ”  He took another step back. “But the two of you seem busy now. I should be going. ”

  “Alright?” I asked, feeling a little confused.

  “Tell Milo I’ll see him later. ”

  With that, Leif turned and disappeared into the darkness. I looked back in the house. Bobby had apparently convinced Milo nothing was going on, and they were hugging and kissing. I wasn’t sure where Jack was, but I was positive our reunion wouldn’t be quite so sweet.

  13

  “So what did Jack say?” Bobby asked, and I pushed the pedal down harder in the Audi as we whizzed through traffic.

  Bobby didn’t look nervous about it all, the same way I hadn’t been nervous when Jack used to drive me around. He lived under the same fallacy as I had – that because we were immortal, we were infallible. But we weren’t.

  “I don’t wanna talk about it,” I brushed Bobby off.

  The long, long talk Jack and I had after our fight last night was not something I wanted to repeat. We’d hashed out so much stuff, about Jane, Peter, even me being a vampire, and it had been exhausting. The worst part was that in the end, I’m not sure if I felt any better about anything.

 
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