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       Wisdom, p.4

         Part #4 of My Blood Approves series by Amanda Hocking
 
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A few of Jane’s other friends were there, but once she got involved in the whole vampire scene, most of her other friends had fallen to the wayside. The ones that did show up stood out horribly.

  A girl Jane used to party with showed up in a bright red miniskirt and an entourage in tow, and she texted on her phone as she walked into the church. One of Jane’s former hookups looked like he was taking it pretty hard, but that could’ve just been because he was incredibly high.

  “Are we going in?” Milo asked from the backseat. I watched all the men in prim business suits and tweaker kids. “Alice?” I didn’t say anything, so he sighed in frustration. “It’s going to start soon. ”

  “If you want to go inside, nobody’s stopping you,” Jack looked sharply at him.

  “I’m not trying to be mean, but I don’t want to disrupt the service. ” Milo leaned forward between the seats and touched my shoulder. “Alice, I think that you need to go and do this. ”

  “Milo,” Jack said.

  “No, he’s right. Let’s go. ” I opened the door before I lost my nerve and stepped out of the car.

  Jack came around and took my hand, and Milo went to my other side. As we walked to the church, I noticed a weather-battered flyer tacked onto a pole. I’d seen thousands of others all over the Twin Cities the past few months. A black and white photo of Daisy took up most of it, with a number to call with any information regarding her disappearance.

  Page 10

  Her abduction had been quite the news story. An adorable five-year-old with a terminal illness taken from an affluent neighborhood tended to get a lot of attention. By now, everybody had started assuming she was dead, so it had lost some fanfare.

  The church was packed, and it was hot in the way all crowded places were. The heat and the sadness were stifling. The sounds of crying and heavy heartbeats filled my head.

  The mahogany coffin sat at the end of the long center aisle, the lid flipped open. Looking at it from the back of the church had the same dizzying effect as looking down from a great height. From where we stood, I couldn’t see Jane, only the white lining of her coffin.

  My knees felt weak. The moment felt so completely surreal. Jack squeezed my hand, and Milo moved in closer to me.

  We slid into a pew in the back because it was the closest, and I felt unsteady. I had expected that strange numbness to come back over me, but it didn’t. I was nauseated, and all my emotions felt amplified.

  Milo cried softly through most of the service. He had never been a huge fan of Jane, mostly because he thought she was a bad influence, but he’d liked her. She could be very funny and kind, and sometimes she was that way with Milo.

  After her cousin delivered the eulogy, the pastor opened it up for anybody to speak, but I couldn’t do it. Anything I had to say about Jane felt sacrilegious. I’d let our friendship fall apart, and if I hadn’t, maybe we wouldn’t be here.

  At the end, they called everybody up to say their final respects to her. Jack waited behind in the pew while Milo and I went up. I couldn’t have made it by myself, and I was thankful to have Milo next to me, holding my hand. He was the only one that knew her the way I did.

  The worst part about seeing her in the coffin was that she didn’t look dead. It’d been almost exactly one month since I’d seen her, and she looked much better now. She had put on some weight, in a good way, and her skin had color again. Maybe that was just the makeup, but it didn’t matter.

  Jane looked more alive than she had in months, and she was dead.

  I reached out and touched her hand, her skin cold and stiff. Tears slid down my cheeks, and I wanted to apologize, to say goodbye, just say anything to her, but I couldn’t form the words. My mouth wouldn’t work. Milo’s choked sob was the closest I came to saying anything.

  We were the last people at her coffin, and the pallbearers watched us. I’d already taken too much time not saying anything, so I gently steered Milo away from the coffin. I looked away from Jane, knowing that was the last time I’d ever see her.

  Milo and I had almost made it to our seats at the back of the church, and I saw something that made my heart stop. Milo had his head bowed, but I looked up to make sure we wouldn’t pass our pew.

  Our mother stood in the middle of the aisle a few feet in front of us.

  I stopped short, and Milo lifted his head. Her mouth fell open when she got a good look at Milo.

  We had both changed since we’d become vampires, but his was far more drastic. He’d been sixteen when he turned, but thanks to his pudgy cheeks and large brown eyes, he’d always appeared younger. With the transformation, he’d grown taller, broader, and gleaned off his baby fat.

  Mom had last seen him over four months ago, but he’d aged several years, looking like he was eighteen or nineteen now.

  Since we’d turned, we’d done everything in our power to cut ties with our mother. Milo still called her on the phone sometimes, but she couldn’t see us. It would be much easier for her if she went on with her life without knowing what we were.

  For the funeral, Mom’s hair was still a frizzy mess, but she had draped herself in some kind of black garment. In an attempt to look nice, she’d put on bright red lipstick and heavy eyeliner.

  “Milo?” Mom leaned in towards us, like she didn’t believe what she was seeing.

  “Hi, Mom,” Milo swallowed hard. He squeezed my hand even tighter. His heart hammered in his chest, and so did mine.

  “Is that really you?” She reached out as if she meant touch him. When her hand got close, she let it fall to the side and just stared at him. “When you walked past, I thought… You look so much like your father. ” Mom never talked about our father, except occasionally to say that he had done nothing to help take us.

  “Thanks?” Milo replied uncertainly.

  Behind us, they had closed the casket and started wheeling it out to the hearse. The funeral had officially ended, so everyone filtered out around us, but we didn’t move.

  “That private school must be sitting well with you. ” Mom continued gaping at Milo.

  “Uh, yeah,” Milo fumbled. Mom believed that he was attending a private school in New York, but that was a lie to explain his sudden absence. She thought I had taken off to live with Jack, and that was true.

  “You’ve really grown. ” Her voice cracked. “You both have. You look really good, Alice. You’ve grown up into fine young adults. ” A thin smile spread out across her face. “You did blossom without me. ”

  “Mom, that’s not true,” Milo rushed to ease her guilt.

  “When did you get in?” Mom asked, thinking that he’d flown in from New York for the funeral.

  Her tissue was balled up in her hand, and I couldn’t believe that she had cried over Jane. I didn’t even know what she was doing here. She liked Jane well enough, I guess, but she’d hardly knew her.

  “Yesterday,” Milo said, continuing the lie. “I was gonna visit-”

  “No, I understand,” Mom shook her head. “Your sister needed you. ” She looked away for a moment, then turned to me. “I wanted to call you on your birthday last week, but I didn’t think you’d answer. ”

  “You should’ve called,” I said.

  “Would you have answered?” Mom asked pointedly, and I dropped my eyes. “I know you have a life of your own now. I didn’t mean to intrude on it by coming here-”

  “No, you didn’t intrude,” I said quickly. Tears welled in her eyes, and I had never seen her look so fragile before. Drunk, tired, irritated, those were her three basic moods.

  “Jane had been a very good friend to you over the years, and I thought I owed it to her to thank her for taking such good care of you. ” Mom discreetly dabbed at her eyes. “I am truly sorry for your loss, Alice. ”

  “Thank you,” I said, unsure of what else to say.

  “I don’t need to bother the two of you anymore, so I’ll be on my way,” Mom said rather abruptly and
turned to walk away from us.

  Page 11

  “Mom, wait. ” Milo let go of my hand and rushed over to her.

  Before she could respond, he threw his arms around her and hugged her. I was afraid he might accidentally hurt her, but she didn’t seem to be in pain when she hugged him back. Fresh tears streamed down his cheek.

  “I love you. ”

  “I know you do, sweetie. I love you too. ” Mom rubbed his back for minute, then pulled away from him.

  “I’ll come visit you before I leave,” Milo promised, sniffling. She put her hands on his cheeks, smiling at him.

  “You don’t need to do that. You just get back to school,” Mom said, her words thick with tears. “You need to get a good education so you can have a life of your own. That’s all I’ve ever wanted for you. ” She dropped her hands from his face, that sad smile hanging on her face. “Take care of your sister, okay?”

  “Okay,” Milo nodded.

  She pulled her black flowy dress around her and walked away from us. Milo wiped at his cheeks with the palms of his hands, clearing away all his tears, and I walked over to him.

  I chewed my lip and stared after our mother as she walked out of the church. I should’ve hugged her, but when she was standing there, I just didn’t feel it in me. I could hardly speak, let alone move.

  “Are you okay?” I asked.

  “Yeah. Are you?” He was still trying not to cry. “Sorry. I’m being such a baby. ”

  “No, you’re being Milo,” I forced a smile at him.

  The church was completely deserted now. Jack had been hiding in the back, giving us a private moment. Once Mom was gone, he walked over to us.

  “That was your mom, wasn’t it?” Jack asked.

  “It sure was. ” I took a deep breath to keep from crying again.

  “Are you holding up alright?” Jack shoved his hands in the pockets of his suit.

  “I’m as good as I can be,” I said.

  “That was kind of intense, wasn’t it?” Milo asked me. “I really didn’t think I’d ever see her again. ”

  “Are you glad you did?” Jack asked.

  “Yeah. ” Milo chewed his lip. “Yeah, definitely. I needed some closure. I think we both did. ”

  I’m not sure if he was talking about him and Mom, or him and me, but either way, I didn’t feel like I’d gotten any closure. I just felt even more shaken up than I had before.

  Milo was in a much better mood on the car ride home, almost to the point of being giddy. All the crying had some kind of cleansing effect on him. I wish it did the same for me.

  When we got home, Bobby sat cross-legged on the kitchen island, dipping celery into peanut butter.

  “How was it?” Bobby asked.

  “Good, in a really weird way,” Milo told him.

  “Where’s my dog?” Jack noticed her absence instantly. He loosened his tie and looked around for Matilda. Every time he walked into the house, she was a giant white ball of fur that attacked him.

  “She’s outside with Leif,” Bobby said.

  “Leif’s over again?” Jack muttered as he walked to the French doors that lead out to the backyard.

  Leif had been a part of the bloodthirsty vampire pack that had come here to kill Peter, and the rest of us in the process. But Leif had disbanded, and he’d almost died helping us.

  Since then, he’d become a vagabond. I’m not really sure where he lived or what he ate (although he assured me he didn’t kill anyone), but every now and then, he would stop by to shower and crash here.

  I could never get a real read on how Jack felt about Leif. Jack didn’t seem to trust him, but I think that was only because he couldn’t figure out what Leif’s deal was with me.

  If I were him, I wouldn’t get it either. Leif and I had some kinda connection that I couldn’t explain. As soon as I had met him, I had felt it. But it wasn’t sexual or inappropriate. It was just a bond.

  Jack went outside in his suit, and by the time I followed him, he was already rolling around in the snow in it. Matilda barked happily at him, her thick fur packed with dirty snow. As soon he’d come out, she’d lost all interest in Leif, I’m sure. She might be the only thing on earth that loved Jack more than I did.

  “You’re dressed up,” Leif said, looking me over. He stood off to the side of the house, barefoot on the stone patio.

  His brown hair was damp from melting snow, so he slicked it back a bit, as opposed to its normal wild look. His eyes were large and deep brown, reminding me of Milo’s, and I think that’s why I’d always liked him. I couldn’t help but trust anybody that looked like my brother.

  “Um, yeah, we were at a funeral. ” I rubbed at my bare arms, not because I was cold, but because talking about it made me uncomfortable.

  “I’m sorry,” Leif said sincerely. “I hope everything is alright with you. ”

  “I don’t know if it is,” I shrugged. “But it will be. ” He smiled at me, and Jack stopped playing with Matilda so he could stare at us.

  “Would you mind if I used your shower?” Leif asked Jack, and he nodded. Ezra had already okayed it for Leif to shower here as often as he wished, but Leif always asked Jack anyway.

  “You should wash your clothes too,” I said as Leif walked towards the house. His jeans and sweater were little more than rags at this point. “Or borrow some of Ezra’s. Yeah, do that. Just throw those and take Ezra’s. ”

  “Thank you,” Leif smiled again.

  As soon as he walked into the house, Jack brushed the snow off his clothes and walked over to me. Matilda ran circles around him, not realizing that he had finished playing with her.

  “You didn’t really wanna play with Matilda did you?” I asked, looking up at Jack.

  “What do you mean?” Jack tried to pretend like he didn’t understand what I was getting at.

  “You just wanted to come out here and take Matilda away from Leif. You’re always marking your territory around him. ” I raised an eyebrow at him. “I should probably be happy that you don’t pee on me. ” Jack laughed, and it sent warm shivers through me. He had the greatest laugh of all time, and it still got to me.

  “Maybe. ” Jack’s smile faded a bit, remembering that I was sad. “Sorry. I shouldn’t have worried about that as soon as we got back. I’m kind of a jackass. ”

  “No, it’s fine. I’m fine, mostly. ” I forced a smile to prove it. “Will you spend the day with me anyway?”

  Page 12

  “I wanna spend every day with you. ” He looked down at me, his blues eyes soft and adoring, and kissed me gently. His lips were cold from the snow, but I loved the way they felt on mine.

  When he stopped kissing me, I rested my head against his chest, and he wrapped his arms around me. If anything could make me feel better again, this was it.

  5

  The icy wind whipped through my hair, and at this altitude, it was much colder than it was on the ground. The windowed walls of the nearby buildings were like mirrors, reflecting the city lights around us. The skyscraper jutted over fifty stories in the air, and we towered over most of the other ones in Minneapolis.

  The iron bar running around the edge felt like ice in my hands, and I gripped it tighter and leaned over the edge of the building. Olivia hated it when I did this, because if I landed wrong, I might not survive a fall of this magnitude.

  For me, this was just an extension of my training. I wasn’t afraid of heights exactly, but I had to overcome something. My stomach twisted, and I hated how disoriented they made me feel. Headlights dazzled the roads, and people looked like tiny dots walking below us.

  “Alice, will you stop that?” Olivia said tiredly.

  “In a minute!”

  Olivia was a stunningly attractive vampire aged well over six-hundred years, but she didn’t look a day over forty, and a very beautiful forty at that. She owned the vampire club V located below the buil
ding we were in, and she lived in the penthouse suite on the top floor.

  Before she retired and bought the club, Olivia used to be a fantastic vampire hunter. A handful of vampire hunters work to keep rogue vampires in order. Some vampires can be particularly dangerous, both to humans and other vampires, and a hunter is necessary to contain them.

  When I’d been attacked by a lycan vampire pack a few months ago, Olivia had come to my aide because she’d taken to me. I couldn’t be sure how deep that liking really ran, but she knew I was with Jack, so I didn’t worry about it.

  That attack had left me reeling with how helpless I had been. Even as a vampire, I had nearly been killed and did little to help in the fight. Milo almost died, and I was powerless to save him. Just turning wouldn’t be enough. I had to be strong enough to protect myself and the people I cared about, so Olivia had agreed to start training me.

  “Alice, if you don’t get down from there, I won’t work with you anymore,” Olivia warned me, not for the first time. “Although, I don’t suppose that’s as much of a threat as it used to be. ”

  We had been going over our usual exercises, which weren’t that different from training for karate or kick boxing. It did involve some minor strength training, but most of it was about learning to use the strength I already had and mastering my own grace and stamina.

  Tonight I had gotten her pinned with relative ease, and Olivia started complaining about being out of practice. She hadn’t hunted a vampire in over fifty years.

  “I was working off some anger tonight. That’s all,” I said. I didn’t look back at her, but I felt her come up to my side. I had just gone to Jane’s funeral yesterday, and this was my first time with Olivia since before my birthday.

  “How are you doing with all of that?” Olivia leaned on the rail next to me.

  I stood on the ledge with my entire upper body hanging over the edge, but she didn’t say anything more about me getting down. A gust of wind came up, whipping her long black hair around us. I kept my hair pulled back in a ponytail when I trained, but Olivia insisted that I’d have to learn to work with the length of my hair.

  “Where was she?” I asked, and Olivia didn’t immediately answer, so I looked over at her. “Where was Jane when you saw her?”

  “On Hennepin. ” She nodded down to the street below us. “A block or so that way. ”

  “Did you see her?” I squinted, staring at the sidewalk. I was too far away to see much, but even if I was right up close, I doubt that there would be much to offer.

  “Just enough to notice it was her. ” Olivia stepped back from the ledge and walked towards the door. She had found a new tactic to entice me off the ledge - information.

  “How did you even know she was there?” I jumped down and hurried after her.

  “Someone died a block away from my club,” Olivia looked at me seriously. “It’s my job to know when anybody dies, and take care of it. ”

  “Did you take care of Jane?” I asked.

  “The police were already there when I found out about it. There was nothing for me to see, nothing for me to do. ” She opened the door to the stairwell and started down them. “From what I’ve heard, she didn’t have any bite marks on her. So I don’t think it was a vampire. ”

 
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