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           Shalini Boland


  Book One

  Marchwood Vampire Series


  Shalini Boland


  Copyright © Shalini Boland 2011


  This novel is entirely a work of fiction.

  The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of

  the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons,

  living or dead, events, locales or organisations is entirely coincidental.


  Smashwords Edition License Notes

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not

  be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book

  with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you

  share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author's work.



  For Pete, Dan and Billy xxx




  He felt the drumming of the earth, the heartbeat of all humankind in his bones and blood, in his skin and soul. It sang a song that he had known forever and in that instant everything became clear. He knew the reason for it all; the key to life and it was so obvious. How could he not have known this simple truth before now?

  And then as suddenly as it had come, it left. His beating heart slowed, the song faded and the knowledge slipped away like an elusive memory refusing to come to mind. He felt a devastating loss, worse than if his dearest love had died.

  A heavy melancholy descended, so profound he felt as though he should like to sleep for a thousand years. In the cold darkness, tears rolled down his face and stung his cheeks like acid. He closed his eyes and tried not to think. It hurt to think.

  It hurt.

  God, it hurt.

  Like the skin being stripped from his body. He could not breathe and his eyes burned white hot with a searing pain.

  He tried to speak but his throat constricted, closed shut. Was he in hell? Was this the fate he deserved? Please, God, no! Help me! he silently screamed. Save me! I promise … I promise anything. I will do anything. Just please … make … it … STOP.

  Chapter One


  ‘... and black denim micro skirts are certainly not part of our school uniform. Nor are those boots or that trashy black eyeliner ...’

  Madison let the Deputy Head’s sharp Scottish tones fade out as she gazed through the window onto the school playing fields. Some of the boys were out there playing a brutal game of rounders, taking it pathetically seriously. She wrinkled her nose at the stink of disinfectant and perfume in Haggis’ room. It made the already stifling air barely breathable.

  ‘Madison, are you listening to me?’ Haggis rapped her saggy knuckles on the table. ‘Or am I talking to the wall? You know, you would do well to listen, girl. You need to change your ways. I’ve seen your type a hundred times before and you never amount to anything. You have all the back-chat and think you’re the queen of the world, but you’re nothing. You look a mess and you’ve absolutely no respect for tradition.’

  Something in Maddy snapped - something separate and distant from her brain. Anger spiked.

  ‘You’re talking crap. All you want is a school full of uniform-wearing Nazis, like you.’

  ‘I beg your pardon!’ Haggis’ mouth hung open for a couple of seconds and her face flushed purple. ‘How dare you talk to me like that.’

  Maddy ignored her. She knew she’d gone too far, but she was sick of people talking down to her like she was nothing, like she had no feelings. All her unsaid frustrations spewed out with no thought for any consequences.

  ‘Don’t you want us to think for ourselves? I mean, I’m not telling you how to do your job, just making a few suggestions.’ She paused. ‘Or maybe you‘re just jealous, cos you‘re an ancient old hag.’

  ‘You little …’

  Maddy suddenly felt a stinging blow on her cheek and put her hand to her face. She couldn’t believe it. Haggis had slapped her. The old cow had actually hit her. She felt anger, followed by a strange realisation that this could possibly work out in her favour.

  Haggis stared down at her trembling hand and then looked back at Maddy in fear.

  ‘You hit me,’ said Maddy.

  There was a moment’s silence.

  ‘You deserved it.’ Haggis’ fear was morphing into something else. Something harder.

  ‘You’ll get the sack for that,’ Maddy said. ‘You might even get put away.’

  ‘Don’t be ridiculous. Who’d believe a jumped up little trollop like you?’

  ‘I’m gonna go and see Gordon. Tell him what you’ve done.’

  ‘You tell anyone anything and I’ll make sure you and your brother are split up for good,’ Haggis said, cold flint in her voice. ‘I’ll make sure he gets sent back to that care home you hated so much.’

  ‘You can’t do that …’

  ‘Breathe a word of this and your life will be worth even less than it is now. I mean it. You don’t say anything to anybody, or that little brother of yours will be back wetting the bed for the next four years.’

  Madison wanted to punch her.

  ‘Wait here,’ Haggis said. She reappeared a few minutes later with Mr Gordon, the headmaster.

  ‘Madison Greene has just threatened to ‘smack me in the face’,’ she announced and pursed her lips, waiting.

  ‘Lying bitch. You can’t …’ But she realised she couldn’t say anything without jeopardising her life further.

  ‘Quiet, Madison,’ Mr Gordon said, a weary frown embedded in his grey forehead.

  ‘What are you going to do about it, Mr Gordon?’ Haggis put her hands on her hips. ‘I will not be spoken to like that or threatened in such a way, especially not by the likes of her.’

  ‘I’ll deal with it, Miss McKinley.’ He sighed. ‘Madison, you better come into my office.’

  Maddy shook her head slowly in disbelief whilst Haggis caught her eye and twisted her lips in a half smile. Mr Gordon opened the door and gestured to Madison to lead the way.

  Once in his office, he pointed to a chair and she dropped herself into it. A loud whump of air rushed out of the seat pad. Madison re-crossed her arms and began chewing her fingernails. Mr Gordon sat behind his desk.

  ‘She’s lying,’ Madison began. ‘I never said …’

  Mr Gordon held up his hand to silence her.

  ‘Madison, I’m sorry but you’ve been warned about this type of thing twice already this term. I’m seeing persistent disruptive behaviour from you.’ He slowly shook his head. ‘I’ve got no other option … I’m going to have to exclude you from school for one week.’

  ‘What?’ She couldn’t believe it. How had this happened? How had it gone from one of Haggis’ boring lectures, to her getting slapped and then suspended? She daren’t risk telling the truth; her brother couldn’t take going back to that place. Trevor was going to freak.

  ‘I’ll also be speaking to your foster parents.’

  ‘But I never threatened her. I just …’

  ‘Stop, Madison. You’ve been in my office too many times and I’m not putting up with it anymore. You’re lucky I don’t get the police involved. Threatening a teacher with violence is a serious offence.’

  ‘I didn’t threaten her though. She’s such a liar ... Oh what’s the point.’ She clenched her fist in frustration. ‘No one ever believes me anyway.’ Her cheek stung.

  ‘Right.’ Mr Gordon picked up a blue folder and flipped through its pages.
You can stay in classroom 4B until the end of school. You needn’t return until your week’s suspension is up.’

  ‘Great,’ she replied, standing up, raising her middle finger and slamming out of his office.

  Madison didn’t bother going into classroom 4B and she couldn‘t face going home yet. Leaving the school grounds, she strode across to the nearby park and sat on the only non-vandalised swing. Over by the hedge, a small cluster of Year Nines were bunking off and sharing a bottle of cider.

  She swung her bare legs backwards and forwards on the swing, its rusty chain, thirsty for a few squirts of oil. As she swung higher and higher, anger took hold. She gritted her teeth at the injustice of it all, thoughts flying through her head, things she should have said, should’ve done, an acidic feeling rising.

  Not a breath of wind stirred, only the stale breeze she generated on the swing. After a while, her thoughts blurred and she tried to shake off a feeling of dread. Putting her feet down on the concrete to slow herself, she pulled out her mobile phone to check the time. Ten past three, school would be finishing soon.

  She’d been at Collingstone Comprehensive for the past three years and had settled in pretty well, managing to hover somewhere between the cool kids and the troublemakers. Now, as she headed back to the school, she glared at its green iron gates and faded red bricks, as if it was somehow the building’s fault she was in trouble.

  The bell shrilled, making her jump, and there was a minute of silence before doors banged open and hundreds of pupils spilled out in a mess of movement and noise. As she waited, Maddy felt distanced from it all, cut off, adrift.


  ‘Ugghhh! I could scream.’ It was a relief to finally talk to Keisha and Lois. ‘Haggis lied to Mr Gordon’s face. She actually lied.’

  ‘Oh, Mads, I’d have gone mental.’ Lois scowled.

  ‘What did you do?’ Keisha asked.

  ‘Nothing I could do. Just gave him the finger and walked out of his office.’

  ‘Good. That’s all they deserve. You should’ve texted us, we’d have bunked Geography.’

  ‘Thanks, but I was so wound up, I wasn’t thinking right.’

  ‘One whole week though, Mads,’ Lois said. ‘At least it’s summer, you can get yourself a good tan, girl.’

  ‘Yeah right, Lois. You know our Maddy girl don’t tan, she just gets a million freckles and burns up like a red hot chilli pepper.’

  ‘Thanks for that, Keisha. You’re supposed to be cheering me up, not taking the piss.’

  ‘Sorry, babe, just trying to take your mind off it, you know.’

  ‘Yeah, I know.’ Maddy smiled at her friends. She’d told her friends some of what happened, but hadn’t dared tell them about Haggis hitting her. If any gossip reached the staffroom, Haggis could make trouble for her and Ben. She couldn’t risk it. Then she spotted him up ahead. ‘Hey, Ben! Wait up!’

  She jogged down the road after a group of gangly Year Sevens. Ben was among them. She‘d missed him at the gates. Putting her arm around his neck, she pulled him into a bear hug, ruffling his dark brown hair and kissing the top of his head. His school uniform was about two sizes too big and swamped his narrow frame.

  ‘Get off,’ he grinned.

  ‘Hey, Ben, your sister’s well fit,’ said one of his friends. ‘Can you give me some of that good loving too, Madison?’

  ‘Yeah, Maddy, you know we want some.’

  Maddy smiled and pulled her brother to one side, letting them all walk on ahead, still shouting and catcalling back to her. She told him a watered-down version of what had happened.

  ‘Oh no, Mads. Trevor’s gonna go mad.’ Ben frowned and chewed on the corner of his thumb.

  ‘Don’t worry about him, Ben. I’m not.’

  Maddy wasn’t looking forward to telling their foster father about her suspension from school and realised she didn’t want Ben to be around when she broke the news in case there was a scene.

  ‘Here’s a couple of quid, why don’t you go to the park with your mates for a bit. Come back around half five.’ She shook out the meagre contents of her purse and gave it to her brother.

  ‘But I’ve got a project to finish for tomorrow ...’

  ‘I’ll help you with it after tea. We’ll get it done no problem. Go on, I’ll see you later.’

  ‘Okay then.’ He said and shouted after his mates, ‘Oi, wait a minute.’

  Madison watched as he ran after them, trailing his schoolbag along the pavement. Her friends finally caught her up.

  ‘Ben’s such a sweetheart,’ Keisha said. ‘I wish my brother was more like that.’

  Maddy tried to kid herself nothing bad would happen. Here she was walking normally with her friends. Things would be fine. She tried to banish her foster parents from her mind. Tried to stop worrying about the power they had over her and Ben’s lives.

  ‘I gotta tell Trevor about my suspension before Gordon calls him,’ Maddy said, her low, husky voice even quieter than normal. She kicked a Coke can and sent it reeling into the road.

  ‘Come to my house tonight, then you won’t have to tell him nothing,’ Lois offered.

  ‘Yeah, but then I’d still have to see him tomorrow.’ She sat on a wall and the others stopped walking.

  ‘Just tell him yeah? He’ll shout at you and then it’ll be fine.’

  ‘Yeah.’ Maddy wasn’t convinced. Why had she spoken back to Haggis? She should’ve just kept quiet and said sorry. But, as always, her mouth took over. She’d be leaving school soon anyway and thought the most she’d get would be a detention and a bit more kudos with her mates. How could she have known Haggis would be such a total bitch?

  Maddy was always on edge - terrified Trevor and Angie would get rid of her if she was too much trouble and then she’d be on her own, away from her brother. It always lay there – a cancerous worry in the pit of her stomach, a simmering fear of separation.

  ‘Right, I’m just gonna go home and tell him. Maybe Angie’ll be there and it won’t be as bad.’

  ‘If it all kicks off, come round mine okay?’ Lois repeated her offer.

  ‘Thanks.’ Maddy hugged her friends goodbye and turned left down the High Street.

  Bangra music blared out of a cut-price clothes shop, a young couple swore at each other outside the ABC taxi firm and Dixons had another sale on, advertising cheap laptops and £100 off 32’ plasma screens. A few kids from school sat at a table outside Ali’s Caf, their bags strewn over the narrow, dusty pavement.

  ‘Oi, Greene!’ one of them called out. ‘Heard you flipped Gordon the finger. Nice one!’

  She looked up as she walked past and vaguely recognised some lads in the year below. She raised her eyebrows in acknowledgement and walked on. Maddy waited at the lights next to a harassed woman trying to keep hold of a squirming toddler’s hand. When the green man appeared, the woman dragged her stumbling child across the road. The heavy, humid air pulsed like peppery treacle and Maddy was aware of a throbbing pain in her temples. She hoped it wouldn’t turn into a migraine.

  Please let Angie be home, please let Angie be home, please let Angie be home. She chanted in her head as she headed up the weed-filled path to the small terraced house she called home. She held her breath and turned the key.

  ‘That you, Ben?’ Trevor’s voice came from the small kitchen at the back of the house.

  ‘No, it’s me. Ben’s gone to the park.’ Maddy pushed open the kitchen door. Trevor was making a cup of tea. It didn’t look like he’d been drinking, which was a relief at least.

  ‘Want one?’ He gestured to the kettle.

  ‘Yeah, go on then.’

  Trevor used to work as a black cab driver, but there had been an incident involving drinking and driving. Nothing had been proved, but he’d lost his job all the same and he hadn’t managed to find another one.

  ‘Good day?’

  ‘Mmm.’ Maddy’s heart beat fast.

  ‘Very informative, Maddy.’

  She took a breath. ‘Tre-vor.


  ‘I’ve got some news, but it wasn’t my fault.’

  ‘It never is, Maddy. Spill.’

  ‘Well, I’ve been suspended, but Haggis, I mean Miss McKinley lied to Mr Gordon. She said I threatened to smack her in the face, but I …’

  ‘Jesus Christ, Maddy! Can’t we have one sodding term where there isn’t some drama or another?’

  ‘But, it wasn’t my f ...’

  ‘It wasn’t your fault, it wasn’t your fault. You’re like a broken record. I do not know why me and Angie put up with this crap.’

  He towered over Maddy, who scowled back at him. A familiar bitterness settled somewhere between her throat and her chest. The reminder she was on her own, that nothing was secure. If it had been just her it would be okay, she could have just told them all to piss off and been able do her own thing. But Ben needed her and she couldn’t let him down. Trevor’s face darkened and globs of spit shot out of his mouth, landing on her cheeks.

  ‘Why can’t you be like your brother? He hasn’t ever given us one second of trouble, but you! You’re just a disaster area, you’re a nightmare. Angie’s gonna be destroyed over this. We’ll have the social services cross-examining us again. It’s just hassle, hassle, hassle, all the time.’ He pushed back his thinning hair. ‘Madison, this is just about the last straw.’

  Maddy dropped her defiant stance. ‘I’m sorry, Trevor. Don’t split us up, please. Ben’ll be no good without me. You know what he was like when he first came ...’

  ‘All I know is you’re trouble and you’re too smart for your own good. You never know when to button your lip. If it’s not school, it’s boys, or fights or some bloody thing or other. I’m getting too old for it and you should’ve thought of Ben before you started threatening to smack a teacher in the face.’

  ‘But I didn’t …’

  ‘I’m home!’ Trevor and Madison both looked up to see Angie walk through the kitchen door, sunlight shining on a halo of dyed auburn frizzy hair.

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