Vampires kiss, p.1
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       Vampires Kiss, p.1

         Part #2 of The Watchers series by Veronica Wolff
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Vampires Kiss
Page 1

  CHAPTER ONE

  As my friend Yasuo the vampire Trainee would say…Headlines. As in, here they are:

  1. Girl Genius Flees Crappy Home Life; Discovers Vampires over the Rainbow

  2. Army of Females Vows to Beat Mold Girl into Vampire Operative

  3. Girl Finds Success and Friendship and blah blah blah

  4. Girl Pledges to Escape at All Costs

  5. Girl Accidentally Kills Classmates to Survive

  6. Girl Wins Massive Competition; Will Participate in Mission Off-Island (repeat #4)

  I sat with Emma on the sand, contemplating my situation, but my uncharacteristically optimistic outlook was squashed as I realized my butt was getting wet. I shifted, peeling the cotton shorts away from my skin. “Dammit. Are you sure he said the beach?”

  Today’s gym class was to be held outside, and my friend and I had shown up early—partly because we took every chance we could to hang out, and partly because the new gym teacher totally freaked us out.

  Ronan had been our instructor last term. Sigh…Ronan. Talk about hot for teacher. But file that under Never Gonna Happen. He was a Tracer—meaning one of the guys responsible for tracking and retrieving girls like us to this sorry island—and that chilling detail kept my all-out schoolgirl crush at bay. Okay, that and the fact that he has some crazy hypno-voodoo-mojo where he can affect what I think just by touching me. Not exactly the foundation for a trusting relationship.

  But Ronan was currently away to God knew where—just as well for my generally overwrought teenaged faculties—and some guy named Otto was his replacement for the summer semester. He was a Tracer like Ronan, only this particular guy didn’t strike us as someone to mess around with. Definitely not crush material.

  “He said beach. ” Emma gave me one of her signature flat stares, and I rolled my eyes. I knew the saying went Still waters run deep, but did she have to be so damned still all the time? Sometimes a little expression was called for.

  Sadly, I often had expression enough for the both of us. Like, just the thought of which bizarre oceanfront punishments might await us that morning had me getting surlier by the minute. Not to mention I was hyperaware of the damp sand now—it stank like dead sea creatures and it was lumpy with pebbles and jagged bits of shells that were digging into my skin.

  “I hate beach days,” I grumbled, not ashamed that I probably sounded like a four-year-old. But Tracer Otto had a thing for doing sit-ups while thrashing in the freezing surf, and I wasn’t the biggest fan of swimming. I’d recently learned how, and I doubted I’d ever get used to the sensation of water whooshing into my nose and ears.

  I thought of our new teacher’s sharp, austere features and well-combed blond hair. “Or maybe it’s just that I hate Otto. Him and that German accent. It’s like he’s auditioning for the role of Evil Nazi Number One in a remake of The Sound of Music. ”

  Emma looked nervously over her shoulder. “You should hush. ”

  “Yeah, yeah, farm girl. I’m hushing. ” I straightened my legs in the sand—even with the vampire blood to speed my healing, they were looking ugly, my knees mottled yellow and pale green with fading bruises. I scraped a shell from where it’d stuck to my calf and began snapping it into tiny shards.

  Other girls began to drift in, wandering along the sand while waiting for class to start. Our numbers were fewer now—fighting your peers to the death had a way of trimming the student body—and I noted some were doing their best to conceal limps and other injuries, some fresh, some still lingering from the recent Directorate Challenge. It may have been summer term, but the vampires weren’t about to let up on our physical trials to give us a chance to heal. Only the strongest and the fiercest survived.

  Emma sidled closer in the sand, reading my thoughts. She pitched her voice low, knowing as well as I that none of the other girls could be trusted. “Not many of us left. ”

  “And we’ll lose more this summer. ” My words were a harsh whisper, but they were true. Our numbers would dwindle each semester, until only a handful of our original group remained. I thought of the girls who’d died so far, and I tried not to consider what it might mean that I’d already forgotten so many of their names.

  “I imagine more will arrive in the fall. ”

  I gave Emma a sour look. “More of these people?”

  “Well, now that Lilac’s gone, they’ll need to give you a new roommate. ”

  I shuddered. “Is that your way of putting a bright spin on things?”

  It chilled me, but Emma was right, and I studied the other Acari, which was the creepy name they had for us girls. It was clear the vampires had a penchant for good-looking teenagers—everyone here was pretty in some way, if not outright gorgeous. It was annoying and sexist and gross. The vampires weren’t exactly enlightened—they were a bunch of guys in power, some of whom had been around for hundreds of years—and I guessed it was no surprise that, in training an army of agent/assassin/guardian Watchers, they’d select girls who were easy on the eyes.

  Other than that, we were a mixed bunch. Farm girl Emma, accustomed to hard work and solitude, was fairly unique on the island. Lilac had also been a rare breed—of the rich-bitches-gone-bad variety. We all had our individual talents, too. Mine was being a girl genius who knew how to take a punch (thank you, drunken, no-good dad). And Lilac had been a pyro—witness, for example, my shaggy, burnt-off hair.

  But there was one distinctive characteristic each of us shared: We were all outcasts. Gang girls, runaways, you name it—we’d all fled our homes, and not one of us was missed.

  Emma eyed the other Acari along with me. “I noticed some of the Tracers are gone. They must be out gathering new girls. ”

  Her comment got me thinking. Was that where Ronan had gone? He was rounding up new candidates for the next incoming class?

  As was the case for all good Tracers, his job was to identify, track, and retrieve fresh batches of Acari, doing whatever it took to convince girls that leaving life as they knew it for some distant rock in the middle of the North Sea, where they were either good enough to become Watchers for a bunch of vampires or they died, was a good idea. I didn’t know how other Tracers did it, but Ronan had special powers of persuasion at his disposal.

  So was he out there right now, looking at some other girl with those mysterious green eyes and touching her with that melting, hypnotic touch? I scowled.

  Emma guessed where my mind was. “That’s probably why you haven’t seen Ronan,” she said in a gentle, understanding tone that annoyed me.

  “I wasn’t thinking of Ronan. ” I frowned, because I was totally thinking of Ronan. His complete hotness aside, he was one of the few people on the island—hell, he was one of the few people in my life—who’d ever shown concern for me. He’d managed to weasel his way into my consciousness, the dream of having a guy to look out for me like a thorn in my heart that wouldn’t leave me be.

  And, of course, I was also remembering how he’d duped me. When he’d approached me in a Florida parking lot, I’d thought he was just a hot college guy giving me some deeply soulful looks, but it turned out he’d been trying to hypnotize me. Hypnotize, for God’s sake.

  But my mind wasn’t that easily swayed—being a kid genius had to be good for something, I guess—and he’d had to use both eyes and touch to persuade me to follow him onto the plane bound for this rock. Eyja næturinnar, they called it. The Isle of Night. Which at the moment was a laugh, because summertime, or the Dimming, as the vampires so annoyingly referred to it, meant zero hours of dark per day—just unending gray, gray, gray sky pressing down on us.

  Once, I’d been afraid of the dark, but Ronan had warned me I’d miss the black of night. He’d known, just as h
e seemed to know and understand so many other things about me. Really, if I’d thought about it, I could’ve said he was one of my first friends.

  So I tried not to think about it.

  Instead, I stared out across the roiling gray sea, pretending I didn’t have any use for hot guys and soulful looks. And who was I kidding? I missed Ronan. Like, really missed him. Not just as a teacher, though I’d have traded just about any other Tracer for Otto. But something was—I don’t know—missing without him around.

  Like Ronan’s steady forest-colored eyes, always so focused on me.

  “Okay, so you’re not thinking about Ronan,” Emma said, and I heard the skepticism in her voice. She shifted, considering. Long speeches weren’t her way, and she spoke slowly, choosing her words with care. “It just seems like you’ve been…distracted since the Directorate Challenge. I used to see you and Ronan talking a lot. But then there was the competition, and you won, and then I didn’t see you two together anymore, and I thought maybe…”

  Emotion stabbed me—so sharp and sudden, I had to scrunch my face against it.

  She thought maybe I might miss him? She thought I’d taken him for granted? She’d guessed I was planning to make a break for it, but the prospect of never seeing him again made my chest feel as if my internal organs had somehow drifted out of place?

  She’d be right on all counts.

  I cut her off, saying, “I just have some questions for him, is all. ”

  Like, a bunch of questions. Questions I’d never ask, of course. I’d won the competition, beating Lilac and winning a trip off-island and a shot at escape. But afterward, I’d caught him watching me, and something about the look in his eyes—regret? grief? longing?—haunted me.

  What had the look meant? Did he know I planned to escape?

  “Do you think he’s jealous of Alcántara?” Emma’s voice was barely a whisper, which was the wisest course when discussing a vampire—particularly Hugo de Rosas Alcántara, of the fourteenth-century Spanish royal court.

  “Jealous?” It would imply there was something between Alcántara and me. Though I did suspect he’d had something to do with my winning. And then there was the way the vampire had scooped up my broken body to hold me close after my victory. But if Ronan was jealous, it’d mean he was interested in me. My belly churned. “No way. Ronan’s not jealous. ”

 

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