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       Wisdom, p.3

         Part #4 of My Blood Approves series by Amanda Hocking
 
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I was staring up at the sky, watching the snow fall down. The clouds seemed to glow from the city lights, and the skyscrapers towered above us. For one brief moment, the whole world fell silent, and I felt like I was living inside a snow globe.

  The silence was broken by the sound of an erratic heartbeat, reminding me of a scared rabbit. My throat felt parched, a dull reminder that it had been almost a week since I’d eaten. But I didn’t go to the clubs looking for food. I didn’t even feed off humans. Bobby had been the only person I’d bitten, and I had no choice when I did that.

  “Oh my god,” Milo said. He stood a few feet in front of me, holding Bobby’s hand, and he leaned forward to get a closer look. “Is that Jane?”

  “What are you talking about?” I brushed past him to see what he was talking about. Jack followed behind me, in case trouble should arise, the way it always seemed to when Jane was around.

  Page 7

  When I saw her, I stopped cold. She stood at the corner, waiting around the entrance of V. Her legs were spindle thin, jutting out from her short skirt. Her hair was longer than it had been before, but it hung limply around her gaunt face. Shivering like mad, her skin had a bluish tone to it, and her eyes darted all over.

  “Jane?” I took a few uncertain steps over to her. Her eyes locked on mine for a split second, then quickly looked away. “Jane, what are you doing here?”

  “Nothing. ” She shook her head and turned around the corner to get away from me.

  “Jane!” I repeated and ran after her. Jack, Milo, and Bobby lagged behind, giving us some space.

  “What do you want?” Jane stopped but wouldn’t make eye contact. A streetlight glowed nearby, and she hid in the shadows of it.

  “Aren’t you supposed to be in the hospital?” I asked.

  When she moved, I tried to see if there were any bite marks on her neck. I didn’t see any, but that didn’t mean anything. They healed quickly, and she could have fresh ones on her arms and thighs out of sight.

  “I came home yesterday,” Jane replied flatly, and she twitched. Once, she had been the most beautiful girl I had ever known. Now she looked like she had leukemia.

  “What are you doing here?” I whispered.

  Another vampire rounded the corner. He didn’t acknowledge us at all, but Jane stared after him with a hungry expression on her face. Humans craved vampires just as much as we craved humans.

  “I thought you were done with this,” I said, pulling Jane from her vampire lust.

  “Don’t give me that shit, Alice. ” Her eyes were frantic and nervous, making it hard for her to keep them steady on me. “You left me for dead on the steps of a church. Don’t pretend like you care about what’s best for me. ”

  “I did not leave you for dead. You were alive, and we thought it would be better if you got professional help instead of living around vampires!” I shouted, and she looked away. “I was almost killed trying to save you! I risked my brother’s life because I wouldn’t hurt you! So don’t tell me that I don’t care!”

  “Alice,” Jack said from behind me, and I realized that my words echoed off the buildings. I was loud, especially considering I was yelling about vampires.

  “Fine, whatever, you care. ” Jane shrugged, but tears stood in her eyes. “It doesn’t change anything. ”

  “What are you talking about?” I softened and took another step closer to her.

  “Look at me,” she laughed darkly. “Look at me, Alice!” A tear spilled down her cheek and she brushed it away. “I’m a junkie!”

  “Jane,” I said.

  “What am I supposed to do?” she asked. “I spent the last month in the hospital, and they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. They know I’m an addict, but they can’t treat it. I mean, what twelve-step program is there for getting bit?”

  “I’m sure any twelve-step would work,” I said, and she laughed again.

  “I hope so. ” She sniffled and rubbed at her nose. “My dad is sending me to rehab tomorrow. I want it to work. I hope it does. But I just needed one more fix. I know everyone says that. One last time and all that. ” She smiled thinly at me. “I don’t care if it’s cliché. I want to feel good one last time, and then I can try and make it through this. ”

  “The last time someone bit you, they almost killed you!”

  I know what a hypocrite I sounded like, especially since Milo had almost killed Bobby before, and Peter had almost killed me. Vampires were really dangerous, and I would warn off any human involved with them. Spend enough time with them, and you’re gonna end up dead.

  “I know!” Jane fidgeted and shook more than she had been before. “God, I know, Alice! You think I am such an idiot! I know how dangerous this is, way better than you! I’m the one that let them feed on me for months! I’m the one that lost all the blood and nearly died, twice. Okay?”

  “Then why are you doing this?” I asked.

  “Because I have to!” She looked at me with this insistent need. It was a hunger I shared, except in reverse. She wanted to be bitten, I wanted to bite. The idea seemed to occur to her as well, and her expression changed from one of panic to pleading. “Alice, if you’re really worried about my safety, then you could just do it. ”

  “What?” I scrunched my face up and took a step back. “No. Don’t be disgusting. ”

  “No, Alice, listen,” Jane moved towards me. “I need just one more bite, really just one more. And you know you wouldn’t hurt me. Jack is right here!” She gestured to him, and I glanced back to see the uneasy look he gave her. “He wouldn’t let you hurt me. Just do this one time, and then I’m going to rehab first thing in the morning. ”

  “No, Jane, no way. ” I waved my hands and took another step back.

  “Fine. ” She crossed her arms over her chest and looked at me defiantly. “If you won’t do it, then I’ll find somebody else who will. And they might be dangerous. They might kill me. Who knows?”

  “That’s emotional blackmail!” I yelled, and I heard Milo mutter something about her playing dirty.

  “No, it’s a fact! I am getting bit tonight. And if it’s not you, then it’s somebody else. ” Jane shrugged and stared at me, as if it didn’t matter to her one way or another.

  The vampire part of me became aware that we were talking about eating and not just eating anything, but fresh, warm, human blood. My stomach twisted happily, and my mouth salivated. When hunger took over, logic went out the window.

  I turned to Jack, knowing that he would be the voice of reason, but he looked at me dismally and shrugged. He wouldn’t be mad at me, and my thirst became more dominant.

  “You promise you’re going to rehab in the morning?” I looked back at Jane.

  “Alice, don’t be stupid!” Milo shouted. He stood at the corner a ways behind us, and Bobby had to rein him in.

  “I promise,” Jane nodded, and for the first time in a long time, I saw a glint of happiness in her eyes. The only thing that gave her any pleasure was being bitten.

  “I’m never doing this again,” I warned her, and Jack sighed loudly.

  Jane nodded again, and with that, I swooped in to bite her. I pushed her back against the silver windows of the building, slamming her body harder than I needed to. She gasped, and I sunk my teeth into her neck. It was the first time I had ever consciously bitten anyone, and I was surprised by how natural it came to me.

  Page 8

  The instant her blood started coursing through my veins, wonderful heat burned through me. It was an insatiable pleasure that flowed right from her blood and all over me. Her heartbeat echoed in my ears, pounding along with mine.

  All her emotions ran over me, and she felt scared and small and helpless. She was out of control and terrified of what she would become. More than anything, she felt alone and unloved.

  I snapped back from the bite, which is harder than it sounds. I hadn’t drunk from her for very long, and I had a maniacal
urge to latch back on. Wiping her blood from my mouth, I took a step back, and Jack’s arms went around me to steady me.

  Eating always made me woozy. Fresh blood hit me harder, and Jane’s sadness and depression weighed down on me.

  “Why’d you stop?” Jane slumped against the wall, sliding down onto the snow. Blood seeped from her neck, and the air smelled deliciously of her. If Jack hadn’t had his arms around me, I would’ve gone in for more.

  Milo and Bobby rushed over to take care of Jane before she passed out in the snow. I wasn’t that far from losing consciousness myself, so Jack suggested everybody get home. Milo knew where Jane lived, so he and Bobby were in charge of getting her there safely.

  Jack half-carried me back to the car, and the whole time, I mumbled about how sad she was and that I’d only made everything worse.

  Jane called me two days later from rehab. She claimed heroin addiction, because she said that sounded the closest to what she was going through.

  On my end, the conversation was awkward. I’d taken advantage of her, like she had been some drunken one night stand, and that made me feel dirty in all the wrong ways. Towards the end, she thanked me for biting her.

  “As strange as it sounds, that’s the closest I’ve felt to anyone in a really long time,” Jane said. Her voice was tinny from the bad connection with the landline at the rehab center. “I don’t mean in a perverse way, but… Everything I did, I was just looking to feel like someone cared about me, I think. And you were the first person that ever did. I could feel it.

  “So, thank you. ” She laughed nervously. “God, that sounds so stupid to say. But whatever. I’m really gonna work this shit, and I’ll be out in a few weeks. And then we totally need to go shopping. ”

  After that, we managed to fall into something that felt like what our friendship had been, before Jane went crazy partying and I went crazy with vampires. She called me a few more times when she was in rehab, and she wrote me a few letters.

  She was getting better. She was going to be the Jane that I had missed for the past three or four years. She was going to be my best friend again.

  4

  We got the first flight out of Australia, and the twenty hours of flying didn’t help anything. I felt like some kind of stiff zombie the whole way.

  Even Milo had shed a few tears when he found out, but I couldn’t muster any. I couldn’t seem to feel anything.

  The flight had given me plenty of time to try to sort through my feelings of denial. Milo tried to talk about it. When that failed, he tried to talk about anything at all, but I couldn’t make myself talk. I felt blank inside.

  It just didn’t seem possible that Jane could be dead. With all the stuff she had been into lately, I always half-expected her death, but I never really believed it would be real. I talked to her last week, and she was doing so much better. She was finally getting her life on track.

  Jack waited for us at the airport. He stood at the bottom of the escalator, looking uncertain.

  When he saw me, his whole face lit up, but there was still an unusual sadness in his blue eyes. I jogged down the escalator, pushing past people that swore at me, and I dove into his arms. I wrapped my arms and legs around him and let him lift me off the ground.

  “I’m so glad you’re home,” he said into my hair, holding me to him. It wasn’t until that moment that I was able to cry.

  Milo drove the car back to the house so I could curl up in the backseat with Jack. Jack and I had made plans to move out a few months ago, but once everyone took off, we didn’t have any reason. We decided to stay in the house for as long as we lived in Minneapolis, but it was looking like it wouldn’t be for that much longer. Probably just until Milo finished the school year.

  It was unbelievable how much I had missed home. I would’ve cried out of relief if I wasn’t already crying. Jack helped me carry my things up to our room. I curled up in his arms on the bed, and he stroked my hair.

  “What happened?” I asked when I had myself under control. I’d talked to him once on the phone before we left, but the connection was sketchy, so he hadn’t been able to say much about Jane.

  “I don’t know all the details,” Jack said. I had my head on his chest, so his voice rumbled in my ear. “I only read about it in the paper. ”

  “It was in the paper?” I tilted my head up at him.

  “Yeah. ” He hesitated, and his worried eyes met mine. “I heard about it on the news, but I didn’t know it was Jane until Olivia called to tell me about it. Then I read about it in the paper. ”

  “Oh my god!” I sat up, and he kept his hand on my back. “What the hell happened where it was in the paper and the news and Olivia called?”

  “You remember that girl they found in December?” Jack sat up a little more, but he did his best to remain as calm possible. This bothered him more than he’d openly admit, but I could feel what he felt, so I knew.

  “That wasn’t Jane. I’ve talked to her since then,” I said quickly. Hope surfaced, but he shook his head.

  “No, that wasn’t Jane,” he said. “But since that girl died, they’ve found two more just like that. I guess it’d been on the news, but I hadn’t been paying that much attention. ”

  “What does that have to do with Jane?” I asked.

  “These girls were killed in a certain way, left in a certain way. ” He rubbed my back, preemptively comforting me. “The police won’t give out specific details, but they’ve all been teenage girls, around your age. And they’ve all been left out in the open in downtown Minneapolis. ”

  “What do you mean?”

  “Usually, killers hide their victims, I guess, but these ones have been laid out on the sidewalks,” Jack explained. “Jane was left on the sidewalk on Hennepin Avenue. Olivia saw the police when they found her. ” V, the vampire club that Olivia owned, was right off of Hennepin.

  Page 9

  “You mean…” I swallowed hard. The room started to sway, and Jack put his arm around me. “A serial killer murdered Jane?”

  “Yeah, that’s what they think. ”

  “It wasn’t a vampire?” I looked up at him.

  “I don’t know. Olivia couldn’t get close enough to find out but nobody really knows much of anything. The paper had a lot of rhetoric, but not a lot of fact. ”

  “Well what did they say?”

  “They were profiling the victims, and the police talked about all the efforts they’re making to stop this. ” He studied me, and I stared down at the bed. “It’s not your fault, Alice. Whatever happened with Jane. You didn’t do anything. ”

  I had introduced Jane to vampires and brought her down the path with me. It’d be impossible for me not to take some of the blame about what had become of her.

  “Did the paper say when the funeral is?” I asked, ignoring him.

  “Tomorrow, at four. Did you want me to go with you?”

  “I don’t know. ” I shook my head. “I don’t even know if I want to go. ”

  “Why wouldn’t you go?” Jack asked.

  “Because I’m a vampire!”

  Just sitting didn’t feel right anymore, so I stood up, and Jack watched me. I paced the room and pulled at the sleeves of my sweater. My hair felt greasy and sweaty, and I needed to shower and sleep.

  But I wanted to run and move. I wanted to do something that mattered, that could fix what happened to Jane.

  “Alice. ” Jack didn’t get off the bed, but he moved to the edge so he could reach out and touch me. He held out his hand towards me, and for a minute, I didn’t want to take it. I felt like crawling out of my skin.

  “I don’t know what to do,” I said. “I don’t even know what to feel. I mean… Jane pissed me off, a lot. She could be so vapid and willfully stupid that I’d want to smack her. But she was so loyal. And all the shit she’s been going through the past few months, that’s my fault. I brought her into this!”

&n
bsp; “Alice, no,” he shook his head. He took my hand and tried to pull me to him, but I refused. “Jane already had problems. Before this, it was drinking and sex. ”

  “But drinking and sex aren’t what got her killed!” I yelled.

  “You don’t know what got her killed,” he said gently. When I tried to turn away from, he took my other hand and forced me to look at him. “I’m not saying that you and Jane were the greatest friends, but you cared about her and did the best you could by her. And she knew that, and she cared about you too. ”

  That only made me cry harder, and I let him pull me onto his lap. Normally, his love overpowered my emotions, but I could only feel my own guilt and confusion. Jack held me in his arms for a long time. The exhaustion of the trip wore me down, and I fell asleep.

  Milo woke us up at two the next day, convinced that we should go the funeral. He managed to win me over by crying and talking about the time that Jane had dressed him up and put makeup on him when he was six. She had been the bitchy older sister that I had never been, and he wanted to go pay his respects and refused to go without me.

  After I showered, I went into the closet to pick out something to wear. Jane had spent so much of her life dressing me properly, and for her funeral, I couldn’t find anything. She’d be so disappointed if I showed up in the wrong outfit.

  I sat on the floor amongst a slew of dresses, crying, when Jack came in. He’d just gotten out of the shower, and he looked down at me.

  “Alice, what are you doing?”

  “I don’t have anything to wear!” I sobbed, holding up an ugly pink dress. “I can’t wear this to her funeral!”

  Without saying a word, Jack walked over and sat down behind me. He wrapped one arm around my waist and pulled me close to him, and with the other arm, he sorted through the dresses. He tossed aside the obvious rejects while I worked on calming myself down. By the time he needed my input, I had myself mostly under control.

  We narrowed it down to two dresses; a skimpy black one that would make me look too hot for a funeral but Jane would love, and a simple black dress that was suitable.

  “So, what are you gonna do?” Jack asked, resting his chin my shoulder. Both his arms were wrapped around me as I held up both the dresses in front of me.

  “There was only one Jane,” I said finally and dropped the skimpy dress. “And she would be so pissed if I upstaged her at her own funeral. ”

  I got ready fast, since Milo repeatedly told me we were running late, but both Milo and Jack beat me. They waited outside the bedroom for me, and we rode together to the church in silence.

  The sky was overcast, which was the one good thing about the day. I wore gigantic sunglasses anyway, but I figured they were appropriate for mourning.

  When we got to the church, Jack pulled into the parking lot, but I wasn’t ready to go any further. The lot was already filled with nice cars, similar to or more luxurious than the Lexus. Jane’s father was a very wealthy business man, and Jane had been his only child. Most of the people filing into the church appeared to his clientele and friends.

 
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