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       Wisdom, p.22

         Part #4 of My Blood Approves series by Amanda Hocking
 
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My father was a vampire. I’d been born with part of that virus inside me, mutating my blood, so I was drawn to vampires. I’d been made to seek them out, and they sought after me, too.

  What if that’s all my connection with Jack had ever been? Or Peter? Some byproduct of a virus I’d gotten before I was born. Maybe I’d never really been bonded to either of them, to anyone.

  Mae had told me something once, and I hadn’t thought much of it at the time, but now it played over and over in my head. It’d been when one night when I was still mortal, and Mae had taken me out to cheer me up.

  “I’m trying to understand your ancestry, because you and Milo are both so unique. I’m wondering if we’ve been looking at this all wrong. Maybe you weren’t meant for Peter. Maybe you were just meant to be a vampire,” Mae said, looking faraway. “We’re just a means to an end for you. ”

  “Alice?” Leif asked, leaning forward. “Are you alright?”

  “Yeah,” I said numbly, and my mouth didn’t want to work. Nothing did.

  “Are you sure?” Milo asked. “All the color drained from your face. ”

  “No, I’m fine. I just… I had a really long night. ” I tried to force a smile, but I knew it fell completely flat. I stood up, relieved that my legs didn’t give out under me. “I need to… I need to get some sleep. ”

  “Do you need help?” Ezra asked, his brow furrowed with concern.

  “Nope. ” I shook my head. “No. I’m absolutely…” I trailed off. I didn’t know what I was.

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  Milo got up and tried to help me, but I refused to let him. He needed to stay and talk to Leif and sort things out. I couldn’t sort anything out anymore. My brain barely worked.

  It was after one in the afternoon, and I had yet to sleep. Last night had been the longest night of my life. I remembered feeling my best friend dying, we’d been attacked by vampire hunters, my boyfriend broke up with me, and I found out my dad was a vampire. It was all a bit much.

  I staggered upstairs to the bedroom I shared with Jack, but I couldn’t let myself think about him, or wonder where I’d sleep tomorrow. I couldn’t even change out of my clothes. I just collapsed on the bed. As I drifted off, I just kept hearing Mae’s words playing in my head over and over again.

  “We’re just a means to an end for you. ”

  22

  Wiping the steam from the mirror, I was surprised by how normal my reflection looked. I felt like I’d been in a train wreck, even after a night’s sleep and a hot shower, but I looked just like I always did.

  The breakup hurt even worse. I’d expected it to dull, the way the shock about Leif had, but it didn’t. It throbbed painfully inside me, like a festering wound. I hadn’t cried yet today, but I suspected that last night had completely dried me out of tears for a while.

  I couldn’t get Mae out of my head. What if she had been right? What if I’d just been meant to be a vampire? If I’d never been meant for Jack or Peter, had I ever really loved either of them?

  I felt like throwing up every time I even thought about the fight with Jack last night, and my life looked like a giant vortex without him. That desperation for him, because of him, that had to happen because I loved him. I really and truly loved him. That couldn’t just be a biological response ingrained in me so I’d become a vampire. Could it?

  Not that it mattered anymore how much I loved Jack or not. He’d broken up with me.

  “Alice,” Jack opened the bathroom door without knocking.

  “Jack!” I yelled. I had a towel wrapped around me, but I hadn’t gotten dressed yet. When he walked in, I jumped and pulled the towel tighter.

  “What?” Jack asked, surprised by my attempts at modesty. “It’s not like I haven’t seen you naked before. ”

  “Yeah, well, you dumped me,” I reminded him. “You don’t get to see me naked anymore. ”

  “You’re in my bathroom,” he countered.

  “You still don’t get to see me naked. Now will you get out so I can get dressed?”

  He left the bathroom without further protests, and as soon as he shut the door behind him, I leaned against the bathroom sink and tried to catch my breath. I swallowed hard and told myself I could do this.

  “So, Alice, I just…” Jack said from the other side of the bathroom door. “I wanted to talk. ”

  I got dressed in a hurry because I wasn’t sure how long he would wait. He tended to get impatient, and maybe what he wanted to talk about was something good. Like he realized how unfair he was being last night. Sure, I had lied to him, but it wasn’t that big of a thing.

  With my hair still damp, I stepped out of the bathroom. Jack stood by the end of his bed with his arms crossed over his chest, and he didn’t really look at me when I came out.

  Being close to him normally filled me with a warm, fluttery feeling. Not like butterflies, either. It happened after I’d turned into a vampire, after we had a blood bond. I could feel him, like a tether attached my heart to his. Without any effort on my part, my body always naturally tilted to his. My blood had become magnetized to him.

  But not now. I only felt an ache, a dark cloud growing inside me, overshadowing our bond. A vice gripped my heart, clenching it too tightly for me to feel the invisible tether that held us together.

  “What do you wanna talk about?” I asked, biting my lip.

  “Um…” Rubbing the back of his neck, he shifted his weight. “I just wanted to make sure you were alright. After last night. ”

  “You mean because you broke up with me over something really, really stupid?” I asked.

  “It’s not stupid, Alice. ” He sighed and shook his head. “And no, I didn’t mean that. I meant, you know… about Leif and everything too. ”

  “Well…” I wrapped my arms around myself, and my mouth felt dry. My stomach dropped, and I didn’t even know how to answer his question. “Why?”

  “Why what?” Jack looked up at me, but I wouldn’t meet his eyes. I could feel him appraising me, making sure I was alright, and that hurt all the more.

  “You don’t get to do this, Jack. ” I ran a hand through my tangles of damp hair, and I put my hand on my side, pressing hard, as if I could hold the sadness in that way. “You don’t get to break my heart and pick up the pieces. ”

  “Alice. ” His entire face fell and his shoulders slumped as he stared helplessly at me. “I didn’t… I don’t want to hurt you. ”

  “You’re an even bigger liar than I am. ” I rolled my eyes to keep back the tears.

  I hated being the in same room with him, feeling the way he felt. His own confused pain permeated through the air, like a thick fog, and I couldn’t stand to feel it along with my own.

  “How am I a liar?” Jack asked, his hurt expression growing defensive. “I don’t want to hurt you. ”

  “I know that!” I yelled, and I didn’t mean to yell. I shook my head, and when I spoke again, I tried to lower my voice. “But you said you’d love me forever, and then I did something really dumb and relatively minor, and … I mean, let’s be honest, kissing Peter was way worse than this. ”

  “No, it wasn’t. ” He chewed the inside of his cheek and furrowed his brow. “That was bad. But this… I asked you what you were doing. I told you I felt a distance between us. I was so honest with you, and you didn’t correct me. You didn’t… You couldn’t trust me with this part of you. ”

  “I just didn’t want you to worry,” I told him emphatically. “I didn’t want to fight about this because we’ve been fighting about so much other stuff lately. I wanted to have one less argument. ”

  “But that is the problem, Alice. ” He looked at me seriously. “We’ve been arguing, and there’s been something going on with you. You’re restless and distracted, and this whole thing is just a symptom of that. Something is going on with you that I can’t fix. ”

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  “Jack, you don’t need to fix me,” I shook my
head. “And yes, I know I’m going through some stuff. But that doesn’t mean we should end this. We should work through it. ”

  He smiled, one of his pained smiles that broke my heart even more. He lowered his head and ran his hand through his hair, and for a while, he didn’t say anything.

  “I’ve been trying so hard to be everything you wanted. To give you everything you could ever want. And you’re not happy. ” He took a deep breath, and let his words hang in the air. “So now I’m going to be what you need. ”

  My phone rang in my pocket, but I ignored it.

  “What does that even mean?” I asked, and he shook his head.

  “Answer your phone. ” He nodded at me and turned to walk away. I said his name, but he left the bedroom without looking back.  

  “Hello?” I answered my phone with a heavy sigh.  

  “Alice?” Olivia said.

  “Olivia? Are you back? I’ve been looking for you. ”

  “I need to talk to you,” Olivia said, forgoing her usually rambled greetings. She sounded clear and clipped, and that made me nervous. “When can you get to my place?”

  “When do you need me?”

  “As soon as you can. ” Without waiting for my answer, she hung up.

  I checked my phone to be sure it wasn’t a dropped call, and it wasn’t. I thought about calling her back, but if Olivia said she wanted me over there now, it was probably important. I didn’t need to waste time making unnecessary phone calls.

  “Hey, Alice, how are-” Milo was saying as he walked into my room, but then he saw me pulling on my shoes and stopped. “Where are you going?”

  “Out,” I said, then sighed and shook my head. After what happened with Jack, it would probably be better if I didn’t keep anyone in the dark anymore. “Olivia called. She wants me to come over. ”

  “What for?” Milo asked, narrowing his eyes.

  “I don’t know, but it sounded important. ”

  “I’m going with,” he said, and he’d been starting to master Ezra’s tone when something wasn’t open for debate.

  “Don’t you have school or something?” I didn’t want him to go with me, not if Olivia’d gotten herself in trouble, but I couldn’t very well tell him that. He’d only insist on coming with more.

  “It’s ten o’clock at night, on a Friday. ”

  “Oh. Right. ” I nodded. “Well, then. Come on. ”

  Since Milo came with, that meant Bobby had to tag along, not that I minded. For reasons I couldn’t explain, I felt better about bringing Bobby along on dangerous excursions, even though he was more fragile. I cared about Bobby almost as much as I did Milo, so that wasn’t it.

  In a weird way, Bobby felt more like an equal to me. Milo would always be my kid brother who’d gotten shoved into lockers and needed me to look out for him. Bobby was more like… a sidekick.

  Milo didn’t see it that way. They’d apparently had some major fight about Bobby sneaking out with me, but thankfully, I’d slept through it. On the car ride to Olivia’s, Milo made a point of telling me exactly how unhappy he was with me for putting Bobby in danger, even though they’d already forgiven each other and made up.

  I hated how easily they always seemed to make up. I blamed Milo and his never-ending patience for that, and Bobby’s unadulterated worship of Milo. Their relationship should’ve been almost as complicated as mine and Jack’s, but it wasn’t.

  It was a Friday night, so the vampire club was even more packed than it had been the last few times. We went through V to get to the elevator up to Olivia’s penthouse because it was usually quicker, and on nights like tonight, it could be rather tedious.

  La Roux’s song “Bulletproof” blasted over the dance floor, and even though I liked it, the decibel hurt. I hadn’t gotten enough sleep or eaten lately, and a migraine loomed behind my eyes. The music only it made it worse.

  I plunged into the sweaty bodies filling the dance floor and pushed my way through. I used to be delicate and careful, but now I’d shove anybody that got in my way. The crowd kept trying to swallow up Bobby, so I grabbed his arm and yanked him forward. Milo trailed behind him, fighting off anyone that might go after Bobby.

  “Watch where you’re going!” someone yelled at me, and I wouldn’t even have stopped to look if he hadn’t laughed. “You’re following me, aren’t you?”

  “Hey, it’s that douche!” Bobby said, almost cheerfully.

  I turned back to see Jonathan with his shit-eating grin. He wore a leather jacket hanging open without a shirt underneath, and even if he did have perfect abs, it still looked tacky. He even had a silver cross hanging down around his neck, and I wanted to punch him just for wearing that.

  “Do I have a reason to follow you?” I asked him.

  Jonathan stood a foot or two in front of me, and the other people had stopped crowding around us. We were on the edges of a small circle where nobody danced, like we were about to dance off or throw down. Bobby and Milo stood behind me, adding to the feel that we were about to rumble.

  “Only the same reason as everyone else. ” Jonathan’s smile widened, revealing more teeth than he needed to.

  “And why’s that?” I asked.

  “Cause you can’t resist me, baby!” He spread his arms wide in a grand gesture, and Bobby scoffed. Jonathan’s smile faltered, only for a moment, but it was enough where I knew he was pissed off.

  He’d always given me the creeps, but it’d only gotten worse. The blood in my veins burned around him, like I physically couldn’t stand to be near him. My stomach churned, and I just wanted to get away.

  “We don’t have time for this. ” I rolled my eyes and turned to walk away.

  Bobby made a smart remark about resisting him, and he’d barely gotten it out of his mouth before Jonathan reacted. He flew forward, striking out at Bobby. I didn’t move fast enough to stop him from hitting Bobby, but he only got in one punch.

  I whirled on Jonathan, kicking him in the back of the legs so they buckled, and Jonathan leaned back and fell on his knees. With my left hand, I gripped his neck, closing my hand so tight on his throat that I felt his Adam’s apple crack, and I punched him in the face as hard as I could with my right hand. His jaw felt like concrete against my fist, but it gave away, shattering underneath my knuckles.

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  I pulled my fist back to hit him again, but Milo’s hand on my arm stopped me.

  “Alice!” Milo yelled.

  The bottom half of Jonathan’s face looked like hamburger, and his blood streamed down over my hand. He gasped for breath, making the blood gurgle through his smashed mouth, but he didn’t even try to fight me. His arms hung limp at his sides, and his head lolled back. His eyes were wide open, staring at me with that same dead shark-eye look always he had.

  Even with that, knowing I’d be beating up someone that couldn’t even fight back, and with Milo pulling on me to leave, I didn’t lower my arm. My blood burned, searing my muscles, and my whole body felt electrified. I wanted to destroy Jonathan.

  “Alice! Bobby needs to get upstairs!” Milo shouted. Based on his painful grip on my arm, he was using almost all his strength to drag me away, but I stayed cemented in place.

  The crowd still circled around us, watching as I held Jonathan captive. If he’d been human, he’d probably be dead, and that sent a new chill down my spine. Without even trying, I’d almost killed him.

  I let go of him, and Jonathan stayed kneeling. He leaned back, hanging in midair as if suspended by a string. His swollen bloody mouth curled, making some poor attempt at a smile, and I looked away. I couldn’t stand the sight of him anymore.

  Once Milo was sure I would follow him willingly, he let go of me. He looped an arm around Bobby, half-carrying him to the elevator. People gave us a wide berth as we walked, but nobody said anything to me, not even Milo.

  “What the hell was that?” Milo hissed once we were in the privacy o
f the elevator.

  “I’ll be okay,” Bobby had his hand over his eye, but some blood dripped down from it on his cheek.

  His scent filled the small space so much, it was almost suffocating, especially since I hadn’t eaten in so long. I paced the elevator and wiped my hand on my jeans, getting Jonathan’s blood off of me.

  “I know,” Milo said. “But I wasn’t talking to you, even though that was really stupid. I meant Alice. What the hell was that back there?”

  “He hit Bobby,” I mumbled.

  But I knew that wasn’t it exactly. I had been pissed that he hit Bobby, the same way I would be if anybody hurt him or anyone else I cared about. But it was something else. A rage I couldn’t control had taken over me.

  “Yeah, I know, but I thought you were going to kill him. ” Milo had his arm around Bobby, almost cradling him to his chest, and he kept his voice even.

  It wasn’t until I looked back at him that I realized that Milo was afraid. He’d seen something in me that had scared him.

  “I told you I can take care of myself,” I said.

  “Don’t be mad at her,” Bobby told Milo. “She was just defending me. It’s a good thing. ”

  Milo sighed but didn’t say anything. Bobby tried to convince him that his injury wasn’t so bad and that I hadn’t done anything wrong, so Milo just kept shushing him.

  When the elevator doors opened, Olivia was standing in the middle of her penthouse. Her hair hung down her back, blending in with the long black dress she wore. In her hand, she had held a wine glass of fresh, cold blood, and my mouth watered a little.

  “Alice, darling, is something the matter?” Olivia asked, stepping forward.

  “I need to get him cleaned up,” Milo said, helping Bobby off the elevator. “Do you have a bathroom I can use?”

  “Yes, right around the corner, past the kitchen. ” Olivia pointed in the direction, and Milo led Bobby away. “What happened to your human?”

  “What’d you need me for so urgently?” I asked, hedging her question.

  I shoved my hands in my jacket pockets and walked around her penthouse. Nobody else appeared to be here, except for us, and I didn’t sense any sign of danger. I still felt jumpy and anxious from the run-in with Jonathan, but my blood had started to cool, returning to its normal icy temperature.

  “Do you want me get you something to drink?” Olivia asked. I stopped at the windows, looking down at the city lights, and I glanced back at her. “You look like you do. ”

  “Yes, please,” I nodded.

  Olivia went into the kitchen and poured me a bag of blood into a wine glass. Milo came out of the bathroom, and she got him an icepack from her freezer, and he ducked back in the bathroom. She didn’t eat, but she kept her place stocked for her human visitors, the same we kept ours stocked for Bobby.

  “Here you are,” Olivia smiled, handing me the glass.

  “Thank you. ” I’d never drank blood from a glass. It looked elegant, and I took a sip of it, instead of guzzling it down the way I normally did.

  “Something happened to you,” Olivia said, studying me.

 
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