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       Wisdom, p.16

         Part #4 of My Blood Approves series by Amanda Hocking
 
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“This is just the entryway. I’ve got much more to show you. ” Leif turned and walked forward.

  Peter had barely made it inside, but I followed Leif. Jack stayed right behind me, muttering things about rats and the smell, as we let Leif lead us through the twists and turns of the tunnel.

  The brick walls eventually gave way to sandstone halls with arched ceilings. I ran my fingers along the walls, surprised to find that they’d been carved right from the earth. We climbed up a makeshift set of stairs carved into the stone, and we made it to an area that seemed much more habitable.

  The floors were smooth concrete, with a small stream running down the center. From the smell of it, I’d guess it was a sewage line. The ceilings were rounded brick, but the halls were much wider than the narrow ones we’d walked through to get here. Dim yellow lights were spaced out along the ceiling, the only lights we’d encountered since we got here.

  “I feel like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle,” I said, stepping over the sewage stream to follow Leif down the tunnel.

  “Cowabunga,” Jack said, and I smiled at him. He stepped after me and took my hand in his.

  “And here we are. ” Leif gestured to an entrance off the side of the tunnel.

  Jack squeezed my hand as we walked through the entrance. I think part of him still expected this to be some kind of trap, although I’m not sure why. Leif had been nothing but kind to us, and just because he couldn’t explain it, it didn’t mean Leif was bad.

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  The ceilings were shockingly high, at least twenty feet above us. Three of the walls were the same brick as the tunnel, lined with a few dim lights and a couple electrical boxes. The cement floor ended in a cliff, but I could see the smooth concrete wall thirty feet across from it.

  I walked to the edge and stared up and down, but the wall across from it seemed to have no beginning and no end. A few pipes jutted out from it, letting water flow from it, pouring like never ending waterfalls into the bottom. The water smelled fresh and chlorinated, so I guessed it was clean water here, not the sewage from the tunnel.

  “Wow. That’s an impressive drop,” Jack whistled, looking over the edge with me. He leaned farther forward than even I did, and his foot slipped on the moss that grew over the edge. I yanked him back from certain death, and he smiled sheepishly at me. “Sorry. ”

  “I’m not sure how Mae would feel about that,” Peter said, nodding towards the cliff. He turned and admired the cavern. “But the rest of this is good. ”

  In one corner, a few blankets were piled up, next to a stack of books and a few items of clothing. Peter stepped closer to inspect it, but before he even got to it, he realized what it was. He looked back at Leif.

  “You stay here?” Peter asked him.

  “Yes. ” Leif shrugged. “It’s quiet and dry here. Nobody bothers me. ”

  “So, you’re inviting us into your home?” Peter asked.

  “You can say that, I guess. ” Leif turned away from Peter’s apologetic expression and his bare feet padded on the concrete as he went over to the edge of the cliff. “It’s a nice place to hide out. ”

  “It is nice,” Peter agreed. “But there are no showers or bathrooms. ”

  “The sewer is in the tunnel,” Leif nodded to the door. “The river is right outside for a quick wash up, but it’s not that hard to leave if you need to do laundry or shower. ”

  “But there aren’t any people around,” I said. “It’d be impossible for Daisy to get into trouble here. ”

  “I don’t know. ” Peter chewed the inside of his cheek mulling it over. “But we can’t stay at home. Ezra won’t let us even if it wasn’t dangerous. This would work better than your place until we find a house that suits our needs. ”

  “You think you can sell Mae on this?” Jack asked.

  “I don’t have much of a choice. I need time to find somewhere even more out of the way and uninhabited than where we lived before,” Peter said. “That’ll take some time. This will keep Daisy under wraps until then. ”

  Peter and Jack started talking about what they could do to it make it more homey down here. Peter was good with home improvements, and Jack liked to pretend he was, so he joined in the discussion with unfounded enthusiasm.

  I walked around, admiring the surprising detail in the architecture of the cavern. It was strange to think that a hundred years ago, people put more detail in building their sewers than they do in building most homes anymore.

  Leif’s pile of belongings looked sad in the corner. It consisted almost entirely of things we had given him. The comforters he had spread out were actually a Christmas gift from Milo to him. I’d thought they were a horrible gift since we didn’t know if Leif even had anywhere to live, but Milo said that was all the more reason he’d need blankets.

  The books had most likely come from Milo or Ezra. A thick copy of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky was stacked on top of War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. A few other Russian books were in the stack, and that made the copy of To Kill a Mockingbird sitting next to it stand out.

  Before I’d even picked it up, I knew it was the same copy that I’d just finished reading. I flipped through the dog eared pages, and a makeshift bookmark slipped out. I snatched it before it fell to the ground, and my breath caught in my throat.

  Leif had been using a picture of Milo and me as his bookmark. It’d been taken on New Years of this past year, and we both had on too much silver glitter. Milo had stuck it on the fridge because he loved the way his cheekbones looked in it, but it had gone missing a few days ago. I’d assumed it had fallen off and slipped under the fridge or the stove, but here it was. Leif had taken it.

  “What do you think?” Leif asked from behind me, and I shoved the picture back in the book, afraid that Jack might see it. I had no idea what Leif would want the picture, and I tended to think his motives were more innocent than Jack did.

  “Um, of what?” I turned to face him, forcing a smile so I didn’t look as flummoxed by his picture thieving as I really felt.

  “The cave. ” Leif smiled faded from bemused to concerned. “Are you okay?”

  “Yeah. ” I smiled wider. “Yeah. I was just, um, admiring your books. ” I pointed to his pile of Russian literature with the copy of Mockingbird.

  “I’m going through a Russian phase,” Leif said, then gestured to the book in my hand. “I decided to take a break with some lighter reading after I saw you reading it. ”

  “Oh. Well… it’s a good book. ” I handed it to him. Part of me wanted to take the picture from it, but I really didn’t think he’d do anything bad with it. It just felt weird that he’d stolen it.

  “Ezra knows I have the books,” Leif explained, misreading my reaction. “He lent them all to me. ”

  “Ezra has a really big library,” I nodded my head more quickly than I needed to. “He has a lot of really good books, and he loves to share them. He’s really… good like that. ”

  “Yes, he is. ” Leif paused. “Are you sure alright?”

  Thankfully, I didn’t have to answer that question again. A bat flew over ahead, distracting us all momentarily, and after that, Peter decided we should go. He’d already made a lot of plans of what he wanted to do with the space so Mae wouldn’t freak out, and he had to get started on them.

  Leif stayed behind when we left, and I took Jack’s hand as soon as we stepped out into the tunnel. I’d never felt weird about anything Leif did before. As soon I’d met him in the forest of Finland, I had liked him, even though he was a member of the brutal lycan pack.

  But something about stealing a picture of me and Milo. It felt personal in a weird way. Maybe it was because Milo was in the picture, too.

  I understood a bit more the way Jack felt now. I knew that whatever connection I had with Leif, it was harmless. But when it came to my brother, I felt more protective. What exactly did Leif want with Milo?

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  16


  “The promise I made to my parents,” Bobby said, his voice low and gravelly, “the promise to rid this city of the evil that took their lives, may finally be within reach. ” He crouched low on the bars that surrounded the roof above Olivia’s penthouse, surveying the city lights of downtown Minneapolis.

  “What are you talking about?” I asked, pushing Violet off me. She’d nearly had me pinned to the ground, but I had put my hands flat on the ground and pushed up, almost doing a hand stand, and used my legs to kick her back.

  “Are we gonna do this or are you gonna goof off with that idiot?” Violet asked, pushing a strand of her blond hair behind her ears. She hadn’t even fallen back when I pushed her, and she stood in front of me, ready to pounce.

  “Can’t we do both?” I asked as I stood up.

  “Alice, you’re not even trying tonight,” Violet said and her stance relaxed. “You shouldn’t have brought him with you. He’s just a distraction. ”

  “No, he’s not the problem. ” I shook my head and brushed gravel from the roof off my jeans. “And even if he was, that’s good. I need to learn to fight with distractions. ”

  “I guess,” Violet muttered, kicking a stone with her foot.

  She hadn’t been happy that I’d brought Bobby with me tonight, but after we’d run into Jonathan the other night, I decided that Bobby needed to work on his defense training. Unfortunately, he wasn’t really feeling it either.

  “What are you going on about?” I asked Bobby as I walked over to him. He had one leg resting on the bar as he leaned over, and if Milo caught him doing that, he’d probably freak out and kill us both, but I didn’t say anything.

  “I’m Batman,” Bobby repeated in that same gravelly voice.

  “Oh, you’re an idiot,” I rolled my eyes and leaned on the bar next to him.

  “Don’t you ever feel like a superhero up here?” Bobby asked, his voice back to normal.

  “Nope. ”

  “Not even a little bit?” Bobby stepped down off the bar, probably tired of crouching, and pulled his Member’s Only Jacket tighter to him. “Or how about a superhero with hypothermia?”

  “I like the cold,” I reminded him.

  “So neither of you are gonna practice at all?” Violet put her hands on her hips and glared at us. She wore a tank top and yoga pants to train, and her pale arms had a bluish tint from the cold.

  “Guess not. ” I turned to face her, leaning my back on the bar. “Where did you say Olivia was again?”

  “I don’t know. ” Violet shrugged. “She just left and said she’d be back in a few days. But she doesn’t tell me much. I don’t think she likes me. ”

  “She left you alone in her penthouse and her club,” I said. “I’m pretty sure she likes you. ”

  From the way Olivia had been looking at Violet, I’d say she liked her a whole hell of a lot, but I didn’t want to be the one to say that. I wasn’t sure if Violet reciprocated those kinds of feelings, and I didn’t want to screw up the arrangement they had if Violet felt weird about her benefactor having a crush on her.

  “Since we’re not training, do you think it’d be okay if we went inside?” Bobby asked through chattering teeth. He wore a knit cap, which kept his hair pinned back out of his eyes for his change, but the narrow scarf around his neck didn’t do anything for him.

  “Yeah, come on,” Violet said and went over to the door that led downstairs to Olivia’s place. She trudged down the steps, and Bobby scampered ahead of me, eager to get out of the cold.

  “You still need to do combat training eventually,” I told him as he pushed past Violet to get into the warmth of the apartment.

  “I know. And next time I’ll wear a cape!” Bobby declared. He ran into the apartment, rubbing his hands together. Olivia kept the place at about sixty degrees year round, but after the roof, it had to feel pretty good for him.

  “You’re gonna wear a cape?” Violet laughed, raising an eyebrow. “Oh yeah. Combat training is so gonna work for you. ”

  “I’ll take it off to fight,” Bobby said defensively. “I just wanna survey Gotham with my cape flapping in the wind. ”

  “Okay, I’m ignoring you, because you’re just too stupid,” Violet said and turned to me. “Hey, you have a car, right?”

  “Oh, it’s more than a car. ” I grinned broadly.

  Peter was back and using his Audi to run around, Milo had the Jetta for school, Ezra was using the Lexus to do lord only knows what, and Jack wouldn’t let me drive the Delorean. Which meant I finally got to take the bright red Lamborghini out on my own.

  “Excellent. I don’t have a car, and we’re low on blood. ” Violet walked towards her bedroom. “Just let me change real quick, and we can run to the blood bank. ”

  “It’s only a two-seater,” Bobby said, but Violet ignored him as she went into her room and shut the door behind her. “There’s only room for two. ”

  “You can make it work, or you can stay here,” I shrugged.

  “I don’t wanna stay here,” he scoffed. “I’ve never been to the blood bank. ”

  “It’s not that exciting. ”

  “I don’t care. I’ve never been, and Milo won’t let me go. ” He looked at me severely. “I’m going. ”

  When Violet came out, she informed Bobby that he would be sitting bitch. He tried to argue it, but she glared at him, and then he shut up. In the car, he sat in the middle over the hump, which proved to be quite problematic with the low ceiling. He had to crunch up, almost in the fetal position to manage it, and his feet were on Violet’s lap, which did not make her happy.

  Luckily for him, the blood bank wasn’t that far away from Olivia’s. It was a small, white box of building with an even smaller parking lot next to it. I had to park half a block down in front of a meter, but Bobby didn’t mind the walk because he got to stretch out his legs.

  Inside the building was white and sterile. Plastic chairs filled the waiting room, with battered magazines lying on a few. The posters on the wall of red crosses were purposely misleading. The vampire blood bank did everything it could to associate itself with the real blood banks.

  To the casual observer, the only thing really strange about the place was that it was open 24-hours. Of course, it actually helped draw in donors, and the location helped too. The blood bank paid their donors, so a lot of them were junkies and drunks who needed fast cash.

  Page 48

  A nurse sat at the reception desk in the center. She had bulletproof glass around her to protect her in case people tried to rob her, and from the scratches on the glass, I’d guess that people had tried.

  “Hello. ” I smiled at her and leaned up against the desk.

  “It’s nice to see you again, Miss Bonham,” the nurse smiled brightly at me, making me feel guilty for forgetting her name. I think it might be Janice or Francine.

  “It’s nice to see you,” I nodded. Her skin looked too white under the fluorescent lights, and her blond hair was hidden under one of those nurse’s hats that always come with Halloween costumes but nurses never wear in real life.

  “How many bags will you be needing tonight?” Nurse Janice or possibly Francine asked.

  “Um…” I tried to think. We weren’t completely out at home, but we could use some. “Like… ten bags?”

  “Very good. ” She punched something in on the computer. “And for you, Miss Williams?”

  “Like twenty,” Violet said.

  “Very good. ” The nurse punched in a few more things, still smiling so wide. She reminded me of a Stepford Wife sometimes. “Will you be paying together?”

  “Nope,” I shook my head.

  “Will you be charging to the Townsend account, then?” she asked, and I nodded. “Miss Williams, will you be charging to Olivia Smith’s account?”

  “Yes,” Violet nodded.

  “I just wanted to remind you that I sent an invoice out to Miss Smith las
t week,” the nurse informed Violet, and then looked to me. “The Townsend account has been settled as of the fifteenth of January. ”

  “Alright,” I shrugged. “Good to hear. ”

  “I’ll be right back with your orders. ” Nurse Janice or maybe Francine got up and went through a door in the back to get our blood.

  “How much does the blood cost anyway?” Bobby asked. He leaned on one of the plastic chairs behind us, and I turned back to him.

  “I really have no idea. Ezra pays for it,” I shrugged.

  “I think it’s kinda expensive,” Violet said. “I know, before, I could never afford it. But I couldn’t afford much of anything. ”

  “This place isn’t as exciting as I thought it’d be,” Bobby said, looking around. “It’s all kind of… ordinary. It reminds me of the Planned Parenthood where I get tested at. ”

  “I told you. ” I leaned against the desk with my back resting on the glass, so I faced the front of the blood bank. “Was it worth sitting bitch for?”

  “Maybe. ” Bobby picked up a nearby magazine. “Ooo, one of the Olsen twins might be pregnant!”

  “I don’t think they like being called the Olsen twins anymore,” Violet said. Using her long fingernails, she carved a heart in the glass next to where she stood.

  A bell chimed as a vampire pushed through the front door, and I smacked Violet’s arm so she would stop making graffiti. I wasn’t sure that anybody would care, but I didn’t want to start trouble. The vampire was followed by two more, so I straightened up. Vampires in groups always scared me.

  The first one that came through was tall with black hair and black eyes. He wore a leather jacket with a black shirt underneath. He might’ve been attractive, but all that black made him look like he was trying too hard to be a vampire.

  The vampire that followed right behind looked like a young James Spader, like when he was being a dick in Pretty in Pink before he got all bloated like on Boston Public. He dressed like 1980’s James Spader too, with the popped collar on his blazer.

  The only female vampire in the trio looked oddly proper next to the two of them. Her hair was shoulder length and smoothed back, and she wore sensible flats with a pencil skirt. If she had a day job, I would peg it as a court stenographer.

  “Hello,” the black haired one said, and I decided that he was probably their leader.

  Then I wondered if they even had a leader. Just because the three of them were together didn’t mean they were a gang. Violet, Bobby, and I weren’t a gang, but they didn’t know that either. Maybe he thought I was our leader, or maybe Violet looked tougher.

  “Hi,” I said, because I wanted to establish myself as the leader, in case they thought they we had one.

  “What you got there?” Young James Spader asked and stole the magazine out of Bobby’s hands.

  “Hey!” Bobby stood up to defend his magazine’s honor, and I stepped forward.

  “It’s a rag mag. Like I care. ” Young James Spader tossed the magazine back at him. Bobby caught it, but he crumpled it up in the process.

 
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