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       Wisdom, p.20

         Part #4 of My Blood Approves series by Amanda Hocking
 
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Looking into Peter’s eyes, I wondered if I’d feel the same way if I chose him instead, if our bond would’ve given my life the meaning I was so desperate for.

  “Peter!” Daisy shouted, breaking my thoughts.

  She dashed into the room, her skirt flying around her, and ran towards Peter. At first, I thought something had happened, but when she jumped at Peter, she screamed with glee and giggled as he caught her in her arms.

  “What are you doing, kiddo?” Peter asked, holding her to his side.

  “I finished my picture!” Daisy said.

  Rainbow colored chalk smudges covered her pudgy cheeks and arms. One of her hands was balled into a fist. I thought she held a piece of chalk, but she pulled it away from Peter, like she was trying to hide it.

  “What have you got there?” Peter asked, and she put her fist behind her back. “Let me see. ”

  She shook her head fiercely, making her ponytail bounce. Peter reached around and pried open her hand, revealing a rather squashed cockroach. He wrinkled his nose and tossed the bug corpse away.

  “Daisy, what did we say about bugs?” Peter reached for one of the towels I’d brought.

  “That they’re yucky,” Daisy said, dutifully letting him wipe the bug guts from her hands.

  “That’s right,” he said. “We need to leave them alone so you don’t get sick anymore. Right?”

  “Right,” Daisy said, adding an overly dramatic sigh. “Do you wanna come see my picture now?”

  Peter exchanged a look with me, checking to see if I was alright. I wasn’t, not yet, but I could pass for it.

  Page 58

  “I should be going anyway,” I forced a smile.

  “You have to look at my picture first!” Daisy shouted.

  “Sure, of course,” I nodded.

  Peter carried Daisy out into the tunnel with me. Her floor mural had gotten much more extravagant while we’d been talking. The flying purple hippo had some sort of deformed frog companion, and there were random letters and stars and hearts all over.

  Next to all that, she’d drawn a stick figure drawing of a guy, a woman with curly hair, and a little girl with curly hair. I assumed it was Peter, Mae, and Daisy, but I couldn’t be completely sure.

  “That’s really lovely,” Peter told her.

  Daisy immediately launched into a story explaining exactly what happened in the picture, and she had him put her down so she could run all over pointing things out. As she talked, Peter watched her with a smile on his face.

  I left as soon as I could, with Daisy waving and yelling goodbye long after I was out of eyesight.

  Walking back to the car, it all hit me again. The distance between Jack and me that I couldn’t fix. The way Jane had felt when she died. The fact that I had to live forever with the regrets from the choices I made.

  I drove home and all I could look forward to was curling up next to Jack and falling asleep. I didn’t care what problems we might be having, sleeping next to him was the only thing that would make me feel even remotely better right now.

  Everyone was asleep when I get home, except for Matilda. She should’ve been in bed, but she was pacing the kitchen, whining. I gave her food, but she wanted nothing to do with it. I went over to the French doors, and as soon as I opened them, she darted outside, growling and barking.

  “Matilda!” I yelled and stepped out after her. She ran around the lawn, sniffing in the snow with the fur on her back standing up. “Matilda, what’s going on?”

  But I heard it before she did. In the house behind me, something crashed, and Milo began to scream.

  19

  I ran so fast, my feet barely touched the ground, but I only made it as far as the bottom of the steps. Samantha stood in front of me, her hair smoothed back in a painful looking bun. Her eyes still looked deceptively innocent, but she’d traded in her pencil skirt for a black leather outfit that looked as if it’d been stolen from Olivia’s closet.

  Milo had stopped screaming, but he yelled at someone to get off him. I looked past Samantha at the top of the stairs, and I couldn’t see Milo. I could only hear him struggling and the sound of his heart pounding, and worst of all, I could smell blood – heady and sweet.

  “Hey!” Jack shouted. He’d just come out of his room, dressed only in his boxers, and his hair was messy from sleep.

  “Take another step closer and we’ll kill your human,” Dane said, and Bobby whimpered. Jack didn’t move, but I heard Milo grunting and fighting more. “Do you want me to kill him?”

  “Just let him go!” Milo yelled, but I think he’d finally relented.

  “What the fuck are you doing here?” I asked Samantha.

  I wanted to push past her, but I didn’t think I’d help the situation any. Milo was strong, probably stronger than me, and they had him. So far, Jack had been left out of the mess, and I didn’t want to antagonize them into going after him. After Bobby, Jack was the weakest here.

  “Looking for you. ” Samantha smiled, her lips a thin line of red. She stepped forward, off the bottom step, and I had to back up so she wouldn’t run into me. “We’ve been following you. It’s not that hard to track down a cherry red Lamborghini. ”

  “You know them?” Jack asked, looking warily down at me.

  “And you took the Lamborghini?” Ezra asked, his voice resonating behind me. I glanced back to see him standing in the dining room, holding back Matilda. She growled and gnashed her teeth, and if he let her go, she’d get herself killed up against Samantha.

  “Why are you following me?” I asked, ignoring Ezra and Jack.

  “If I let go of you, do you promise to be good?” Thomas asked Milo. Milo mumbled something in response, and I heard the sound of cracking bone, making Milo yell out in pain. “Answer me, or I’ll do that to the human. ”

  “Whatever you want, you guys can have it,” Jack said. He took a step towards them, and Milo cried out again. “Stop it! Leave him alone!”

  “What do you want?!”I yelled.

  My mouth tasted like battery acid, and my veins surged with hot adrenaline. Every time Milo cried out, I felt a jolt through me so intense, it reminded me of bloodlust. Like an animal instinct, and I had to clench my fists to keep from ripping off Samantha’s head.

  “There’s no need to yell. ” Thomas walked past Jack and descended the steps with a casual grace. He pushed the black hair from his forehead and noticed a bit of my brother’s blood on his hands. With some disdain, he licked it from his hand, and I gritted my teeth to stop from tearing out his throat.

  Dane followed a few steps behind Thomas, dragging Bobby with him. Dane held him by his throat, and he had him so far off the ground, Bobby’s feet couldn’t reach the steps. Bobby clawed and struggled to release his grip, but he couldn’t.

  Jack looked down at me, then turned back to tend to Milo. I could hear Milo’s bones cracking as Jack tried to set them, and he let out a few more painful groans.

  Ezra shoved Matilda in a nearby room, and she instantly began scratching and barking at the door. He walked towards me until Samantha cast him a glare, and he stopped a few feet back from us.

  “What is this all about?” Ezra asked.

  “We need to know what you’re involvement is,” Thomas said, resting his black eyes on me. “And why you have a human helping you. ”

  “He’s my brother’s boyfriend!” I gestured to Bobby. Dane had lowered him enough where Bobby’s feet could touch the ground and he gasped for air. “He doesn’t know anything about anything! He’s a moron!”

  “She’s right,” Bobby croaked, and Dane tightened his grip around his throat, making Bobby’s face turn purple.

  “I will tell you anything you want! Just let him go!” I reached my arm out for him, but I didn’t dare move forward. Dane was far enough away where he could snap Bobby’s neck before I got to him.

  “We will kill you if you lie to us,” Thomas said. “You know
that, right?”

  “Yes!” I shouted, watching Bobby struggle to stay alive.

  Page 59

  “Fine. ” Thomas shrugged, and Dane released Bobby. He collapsed onto the floor, breathing hard.

  Even though they hadn’t given me permission, I ran towards Bobby. I grabbed him by the arm and dragged him a few steps back from them. I couldn’t really check on him because I didn’t want to let my guard down, but I stood in front of him.

  “Are you a part of a movement?” Thomas asked.

  “A movement?” I shook my head. “Like a dance movement? What?”

  “Don’t get smart with us,” Samantha narrowed her eyes. “We have no problem killing any of you. It’s all part of our job. ”

  “Look, I want to answer your questions. I just have no idea what you’re talking about!” I told them as emphatically as I could. “You only speak in riddles. I don’t know what you want from me!”

  “We know you and the human are involved with the serial killer, and we have reason to believe that you have a child vampire as well,” Samantha said. “Are you part of the movement to expose vampires?”

  “What?” I raised my eyebrow and looked over to Ezra. His expression remained blank, not wanting to give anything away to them, but he had to know something. “I already told you. I’m not involved with the serial killer. I’m looking for him, but I’m starting to think you guys are the killers. ”

  “Don’t be absurd. ” Samantha rolled her eyes.

  “We’re here to catch him. It’s what we do,” Thomas gestured to Samantha and Dane. “We keep order in an order-less society. ”

  Bobby coughed and got to his feet. He stood next to me. I glared at him, hoping he would take the hint and fall back, but he didn’t.

  “You guys are vampire hunters, right?” Bobby asked, rubbing his throat. In one synchronized movement, Samantha, Thomas, and Dane looked at him, and I stepped in front of him a bit more so my shoulder shielded part of him.

  “They’re more bounty hunters, actually,” Ezra said.

  “Bounty hunter is such a loaded term,” Thomas said with exaggerated disdain. “Besides, we hardly ever work on commission anymore. ”

  “So no one’s paying you to be here?” Ezra took a step closer to us, his arms crossed over his chest.

  “We’re doing a service for the community,” Samantha smiled thinly.

  “Who called you?” Ezra asked.

  “We’re not at liberty to divulge that,” Samantha replied, her tone getting icier.

  “But you know several people that have our number,” Thomas grinned. “The Commissioner has always been a big fan of our work. ” 

  “Oh!” Bobby gasped, and then lowered his voice to a whisper. “I told you the police were in on this. ”

  “Bobby,” I said through gritted teeth.

  “Can we just get this over with?” Dane sounded exasperated, and he checked the neon green and pink watch on his wrist.

  “Oh my god!” Bobby pointed at him. “That dude is supposed to be a vampire hunter, and he’s got on a fricking swatch! There is no way these guys are for real!”

  “Bobby!” I snapped.

  “Whatever. I’m just saying this whole thing is messed up,” Bobby insisted.

  “If you don’t shut up, I will kill you,” I glared back at him, and he rolled his eyes, but he fell silent. I turned back to the supposed-vampire hunters. “I’ve already told you everything I know. ”

  “What about the child vampire?” Thomas asked, and I fought to keep my expression neutral.

  “The only child vampire we have here is Milo upstairs, and you just kicked his ass,” I said.

  I wanted to look over at Ezra to see how he reacted, but I knew that’d give something away. Milo had stopped groaning upstairs, and his bones weren’t cracking, but I couldn’t see him or Jack.

  “I don’t know if I should believe you. ” Thomas crossed his arms over his chest, staring at me with false contemplation. “I want to, but something about you just screams ‘liar’ to me. ”

  “I don’t know what I can say to make you believe me,” I told them honestly.

  “I tend to think that people are most honest under pressure,” Thomas said, and Dane stepped forward.

  “I have already told you everything!” I shouted and put my hands up. I’m not sure if Dane meant to hurt me or kill Bobby or what, but I didn’t want to find out.

  “Really?” Thomas asked. “Are you sure?”

  “This serial killer, he killed my best friend Jane, and I’ve been hunting all over for him,” I said hurriedly, thinking if I said it quickly it would make it more believable. “I know that the killer is a vampire, that he’s branding the girls, and he wants to get caught. He wants people to know that it was a vampire, but I don’t know why. He knew Jane, but I don’t even know if it is a him. It could be a girl. Or it could be a group. Or it could be… anybody. ”

  “You don’t know why he wants to get caught?” Samantha looked at me seriously.

  “No. I have no idea why,” I said.

  Samantha stared at me a moment longer, but my answer seemed to satisfy her. She looked over at Thomas, and finally, he nodded. Dane rolled his eyes and groaned, so I assumed it was good news for us.

  “We won’t be wasting any more of your time,” Samantha said shortly.

  “Sorry to bother you,” Thomas added.

  The three of them turned to leave. Dane hissed at Bobby as he walked past, and Bobby jumped in surprise, then scoffed at himself. As soon as they left out the front door, I ran upstairs to see Milo with Bobby hot on my heels.

  Milo was shirtless, slumped against the wall. His eyelids were half-open, and one of his sides was swollen and red, looking strangely lumpy. His left arm hung at an odd angle, and his skin had turned almost purplish around it. The cheek below his eye was puffy and covered in drying blood.

  “He’s okay,” Jack said when I fell on my knees next to Milo. Jack was crouched down next to him, watching him.

  “Are you sure?” I asked, confused by how horrible a vampire could look after a fight. “What happened to him?”

  Wisdom

  “Milo? Can you hear me?” Bobby asked. He sat on the other side of Milo, afraid to touch him, and tears filled his eyes.

  “You should let him sleep,” Jack told him. “He had a lot of broken bones, and the more injuries he has, the longer it takes to heal. I gave him some of my blood to speed it up, and he should be alright soon. ”

  Page 60

  “Should I give him my blood too?” Bobby sniffled and wiped at his nose.

  “No, my blood is stronger,” Jack said. “He will be fine. I promise. ”

  “Oh my god. ” I let out a massive sigh of relief and ran my hand through my hair.

  Milo had just had the shit seriously beaten out of him because of me, because I wouldn’t let Jane’s death go. It made me want to throw up, but when I remembered how Jane had felt when she died, I knew I couldn’t stop.

  “So. ” Jack turned to look at me, his voice cool and even. “What the hell have you been doing?”

  20

  After I got Milo comfortable in his room, I left Bobby to care for him, and I went downstairs to where Jack and Ezra waited for me. Jack had gotten dressed and paced the living room. The patio door was still wide open, letting in a cold wind and the morning sunlight. Some snow had drifted into the house, but nobody seemed to notice or mind.

  I sat down on the couch, and Ezra sat on the chair across from me. Even though he knew what I’d been up to, the fact that I’d failed to mention the vampire hunters was a pretty big deal. Jack refused to sit down, and instead paced the room with his arms crossed over his chest.

  “What do you guys want to know?” I asked, swallowing hard.

  “Tell me everything,” Jack said simply.

  Taking a deep breath, I started from the beginning. I even told th
em about things they knew, like how I’d felt so helpless after the lycan attacked and I vowed to never feel that way again. I told them how it felt when I bit Jane, and how sad and lonely she was. How she called me from rehab and told me that was the only time she’d felt like someone cared about her.

  I even told them what I’d learned from Peter, and how I felt her die. And about how I had decided I would stop the monster that had killed her almost right away, and everything I had done to find him. How I’d taken Bobby along with me, and he was the only one who knew exactly what I’d been doing.

  Once I began talking, it all poured out of me, and I couldn’t stop. I’d hated keeping this all from Jack, and I wanted him to know.

  “And that’s everything,” I said at the end, staring up at them, and Jack stopped pacing.

  When I told him everything I’d learned about the killer, all the information I had to help me catch him, I had been hoping he would get excited too, he’d want to join in the hunt.

  But then I saw the way he looked at me. His blue eyes were like ice still, and he kept his emotions locked away from me, shoved down so deep, I could only feel him buzzing, like a livewire.

  “Why didn’t you tell me about the hunters?” Ezra asked, and I was relieved he spoke first.

  “I don’t know. I didn’t…” I shook my head. “I thought you’d try to stop me if you knew. ”

  “That’s exactly why you should’ve told me. ” He sighed and leaned back. “I never should’ve told you anything. You’re clearly not mature enough to handle any of this. ”

  “That’s not fair!” I shouted. “How was I supposed to know they’d track me down like that? Who the hell are they, anyway? And what did they mean when they asked if I was part of the ‘movement?’”

  “They’re vampire hunters. They keep order, by any means necessary. ” Ezra rubbed his hands together and looked down at the floor. “It’s my fault they’re here. ”

  “What? Did you call them?” I asked.

  “No, I talked to the Commissioner after you asked me about the branding,” Ezra sighed. “I told him I thought it might be a vampire. So he called in the hunters. They usually work for humans, dispatching of a problem people can’t. ”

  “So the police hired them?” I furrowed my brow. “But… I thought they weren’t getting paid. ”

  “I’m sure they are getting paid to catch the serial killer, but I think they’re freelancing, too. ” Ezra glanced up at Jack, who had yet to say anything, and he leaned forward. “There is a movement among vampires to stop hiding. It’s not a large movement. Most of us are content to live the way we do because it is much simpler. If people knew we existed, they’d hunt us, and even if they didn’t kill us, it would be irritating. ”

  “You mean like on True Blood?” I asked. “Where vampires ‘come out of the coffin’ and we all live as equals? Or try to, anyway?”

  “No. These vampires don’t want to be equal. They want to rule humans,” Ezra said. “Humans are our food, and some vampires think they should be treated as such. Branded and kept in pens like cattle. ” He lowered his eyes, shifting in the chair. “The hunters wouldn’t be out of a job, necessarily, but they would have less work. Most of what they do is keeping the peace for humans or keeping vampires a secret. ”

 
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