Inside the shadow of the paranormal world, Sarah Rennelle tries to manage her life as much as she can. Between the hectic days of school and the long nights with her new friends, she finds herself strained to the point of breaking. Then there's the trouble with Adam and the way he keeps looking at her. The intensity in his eyes leaves her hot and flustered, and wondering if he won't try to sneak a midnight snack with her.
Adam can hardly control himself. The scent of Sarah's blood drives a newfound instinct to feed, a hunger more powerful than he's ever felt before. He has to force himself to remain focused on the mysteries surrounding the Saints and their purpose in destroying vampires.
Under all this pressure comes a new and ancient foe that threatens to infect the entire city with its terrible curse. Sarah, Adam and their group must join a new ally if they hope to stop the spread of evil, but they're not the only ones on the hunt. The Saints, too, want to capture their foe, and they won't abide by the old saying of 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend.'
The long freedom was only a few minutes away.
Sarah Rennelle sat at her desk and watched her tense class. Their heads were bowed, but every now and again they would raise their eyes to the object of their affection and hatred, the clock. The minute hand ticked away at a cruel but consistent pace. In a few minutes they would be freed from their imprisonment and set loose upon the world in a mixture of blessings and plagues.
Sarah swept her eyes over the room. Some of her students were diligent and hardworking. Then there was Miles. Her eyes fell on the aforementioned burly young man. He wasn’t too bright, but he was bright enough to know how big he was and what he could do with that power. That combination of strength and stupidity meant he abused both.
At that moment he leaned back in his chair and had his feet up on the back of the chair in front of him.
The paper with the test lay untouched in front of him as he twirled his long, unsharpened pencil in one hand. His head was tilted back and he stared at the ceiling with a wide, stupid grin on his face.
Sarah sighed and plucked a piece of paper off her desk before she stood. The sound of her chair moving made more than a few heads whip up. Eyes full of hope at an early release fell with despair as she began a slow meander through the desks. She stopped beside Miles’s desk and looked down at the paper. He hadn’t even bothered to put his name at the top.
“You might want to start on the test,” she advised him.
He shrugged. “I’m good.”
A sly smile slipped onto Sarah’s lips. “You know, I could give you some more time to do it.” The other students looked up from their tests and the tension was replacing by hesitant hope.
Miles’s eyes widened. “Really?”
She nodded. “Sure. How would another hour work for you?”
Miles dropped his pencil on his desk and grinned. “Works good for me. I could skip science tomorrow-”
“Not tomorrow,” Sarah interrupted him as she held out the piece of paper, “-you have detention tonight.”
Miles’s good humor fled so fast his face twitched. “What the hell for?”
She nodded at his feet as she dropped the detention slip on his desk. “Vandalism of public property. Besides, you wanted more time. Now you’ve got it.” She looked over the room at the half-hidden grins and sniggering. “Does anybody else want another hour?” The students paled and dove back into their work.
Miles sat up and dropped his feet to the floor before he picked up the slip and sneered at it. “I can’t do this tonight. I’ve got a date.”
Sarah arched an eyebrow as she looked over the plain young man with his mousy hair and blocky face. “You’ll have to give her a rain check.”
He looked out the window at the sunny afternoon and frowned. “It ain’t raining.”
Sarah had to order her eyes not to roll out of her head. “It means you can postpone your date.” He stared blankly at her. She sighed. “You can have your date at another time.” The bell rang, signifying the end to the conversation and another long day. She turned away from Miles and walked to the front of the room. “All right, everybody, turn your tests in to me and you can leave.”
It was like being in the middle of a stampede of gazelles as the kids leapt from their chairs and raced to her. The papers were thrown, tossed, slapped, and slipped into her outstretched, open hands like so many high-fives.
Miles jostled upstream through his classmates eager to leave and reached Sarah with his blank test and detention slip in one hand and his other wrapped around the strap of his bag. “Just gimme a break this once, Teach. I seriously can’t do this detention stuff tonight.”
“And I seriously don’t have time to argue with you,” Sarah quipped as she shuffled the papers into a neat pile in her hands.
One of his passing classmates leaned toward him with a grin. “Wrecked”
Miles spun around and glared at the smaller boy as he drew back his paper-clenched fist. “You wanna say that again?”
Sarah frowned. “Do anything with that fist and you’ll have another hour to work on your test. And you-” she looked to her other student, “-out.”
The other classmate scuttled off. Miles looked over his shoulder and glared at Sarah. “Fuck you,” he growled.
She held up the papers and smiled. “You’ll have to get in line, now get out of here.”
Miles sneered at her before he shuffled out of the room. Sarah sighed before she settled down in her chair. Test papers had yet to learn to grade themselves, so she sloshed through them for a half hour before the last one was placed atop the finished pile.
“At least he saved me some work. . .” she murmured as she checked the clock. The chore had taken her an hour, double the time she hoped. That meant she was late. “Shit!” she yelped as she leapt to her feet and grabbed her bag.
Sarah hurried to the door and stuck her head out. The hallways were long abandoned. Only the far-off sound of a floor cleaner echoed down the lonely tiled passages. She slipped out of her classroom and speed-walked down the hall. The door that led to her parked car was far down the passage. Too far.
Sarah broke into a slow sprint that lasted until she reached an intersection. A large figure stepped into her path and she crashed into a rock-solid figure who’s thick hands grabbed her shoulders. For one brief, heart-quickening moment Sarah wondered if Miles had come to teach her a lesson about undeserved respect. A quick look up, however, told her that the situation was far worse for she looked into the disapproving face of Principal Grendel, her boss.
His bushy eyebrows crashed down and he pursed his lips. “Do you need a remedial course in hall etiquette, Miss Rennelle?”
She gave him a sheepish grin. “I’m sorry, Mr. Grendel. It won’t happen again.”
He released her, but his stern expression didn’t change. It never did. “I expect not, and I expect better of you, Miss Rennelle. Your recent early releases, uninvited guests, and short-notice absences are troubling enough without you blatantly breaking school hall rules.”
Sarah grasped the strap of her bag and side-stepped around him. “I’ve got that covered. You won’t be seeing him again.”
“I would hope you do the same, Miss Rennelle. A man such as that would be only trouble,” Grendel advised her.
She backed up and gave him a small wave. “I’ll be sure to keep that in mind. Bye!”
Sarah spun around and speed-walked away from him. Grendel watched her until she disappeared through the side doors before he shook his head and continued on his rounds.
She stepped out into the employee parking lot, an unfamiliar area for a walker. An ancient vehicle awaited her beside the curb. At the wheel was her friend, Jenny. She leaned over and opened the door so Sarah could slip into the passenger seat.
“About time,” Jenny scolded her as she started the engine. It growled to life like a kitten and puttered away from the curb.
“I got busted by the principle for running in the hall,” I explained as I strapped myself in via looping the seat belt around the broken clicker.
“He’s such an ogre,” Jenny mused as they drove down the road. “I’m surprised he hasn’t eat half the kids.”
Sarah winced as they rumbled down the street. “Could you drive a little slower? If you keep going at this speed this car’s going to fall apart.”
“Are you kidding me? This thing’s such a classic that she’ll outlast all of us. I really thought somebody was going to come by while I was waiting for you and steal my old beauty.”
Sarah snorted. The rustic exterior and interior of the vehicle would have kept vandals away for years. “I don’t think anyone would dare even look at this thing without a tetanus shot.”
Jenny frowned and stroked the dashboard. “She may not be the prettiest girl at the ball-” she cringed when her hand collected a thick layer of dust and wiped her digits on her pants, “-but she gets us everywhere.”
Sarah cringed as she used her toes to gingerly make room on the junk-filled foot board for her own feet. “And the trash, too.”
“I’ve been meaning to clean up.”
“For a couple of years?”
“Time flies,” Jenny argued as she drove them through the streets to the Muzzle District.
The name was apt. The district had been tough for decades, so there wasn’t a house in the area that wasn’t packing, for good or ill. Faces peeked through the grimy windows as they passed and glared at her before they ducked behind the holey curtains. A few groups of men watched her from the darkness that lurked between the houses like a nightmare lying in wait.
Jenny’s eyes flickered to her friend as Sarah glanced out the window. Her gaze traveled down to Sarah’s hand that was wrapped around the door handle so tight that her knuckles were white. She pursed her lips, but looked away without speaking. “Speaking of flying things, you sure you should be playing around with these supernatural folks?”
Sarah shook her head. “No, but somebody needs to help her.”
A sly smile slipped onto Jenny’s lips as her eyes flickered to her friend. “She needs the help, or he?”
Jenny didn’t slow down to find out why boys like that weren’t at after-school sports. Sarah doubted they’d stepped foot in a classroom in years. The battered road took them to the old Victorian tenement where some of the occupants were older than the house. Random room lights gave the building an eccentric appearance as Jenny parked the car on the dirt curb, and put the car into park.
She glanced over at her friend who stared up at the old house with apprehension. “If you really don’t want to go through with this then I could tell them you’re busy.”
“I told them I wasn’t.”
“Or something came up.”
Sarah snorted. “In my life?”
“Maybe you died?”
Sarah rolled her eyes. “I think I can handle this job.”
“You could at least tell me when I need to pick you up,” Jenny persisted.
Sarah shook her head. “I don’t know. I doubt even they know.”
“Well, call me when you’re ready to be picked up.”
“I’ll just stay overnight. This might get pretty late.”
“You could just wake me up.”
Sarah snorted as she opened her door and and stepped out. She ducked her head back in and smiled at her friend. “I would, but you sleep like the dead.”
Jenny leaned over and raised her voice as Sarah stepped back. “Maybe it becomes me!”
Sarah slammed the car door and walked around the front. She walked up to the front door and rang the bell before she half-turned to the street. Jenny still sat there. She frowned and waved her hand at her friend.
Jenny rolled down her manual window and shook her head. “Not until you get your butt in there!”
Sarah was in the middle of rolling her eyes when the door swung open. The light from the small hall cast a heavy shadow over the greeter, but the pale face revealed the smiling Ruthven. “Good evening,” he greeted her.
She smiled and gave him a small wave. “Hi. I hope I’m not too late.”
Ruthven stepped aside and glanced past her at the darkening sky. “On the contrary, we have a few minutes.”
“Oh, right. I forgot,” she returned as she slipped inside. She waved to Jenny who’s frown deepened.
“Your friend would be welcome to come inside,” Ruthven invited her.
“Don’t do anything weird to her!” Jenny shouted across the yard.
Sarah sighed. “Please don’t let her in.”
Ruthven chuckled as he shut the door behind them. “Very well.”
The lights didn’t illuminate the corners of the dank interior, but a bright face appeared at the top of the second-floor landing. “Sarah!” Cate gleefully yelled before she threw herself down the stairs and wrapped Sarah in a tight hug.
A puff of air escaped her lungs before Sarah returned the gesture. “Hey. Ready for a girl’s night in?”
Cate leaned back and nodded. “Yep!”
Sarah craned her neck to look into the parlor to her right. “Where’s Adam?”
“Just waking,” Ruthven spoke up as he moved to lean against the door frame of the parlor entrance. His mischievous eyes danced over to Cate. “His sister’s yell has the unique ability to wake even the dead.”
Cate frowned at him. “He shouldn’t sleep in this late, anyway. It always makes him cranky.”
Ruthven sighed. “Yes. That will make this expedition all the more tedious.”
Cate crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him. “Then why can’t I come with you two?”
“Because the Saints might also know where Simon lived,” a voice from the top of the stairs spoke up. Everyone glanced up to see the handsome Adam standing on the landing.
Sarah gaped at his beautiful features as he ascended the stairs. Cate’s eyes flickered to her and a sly smile slipped onto her lips. She leaned toward her older companion and lowered her voice to a whisper. “He’s cute, isn’t he? He doesn’t even have to comb his hair after he gets up.”
Sarah shook herself as Adam reached them and she cleared her throat. “Hi.”
His face was pale and tense as he gave her a curt nod before he looked to Ruthven. “Can we leave?”
Cate wrapped her arms around one of those belonging to her brother and frowned up at him. “You’re being rude. You can at least say hello to Sarah.”
Sarah smiled and shook her head. “It’s fine. How long do you think it’ll take to search the apartment again?”
“It will take almost an hour to reach the apartment, and if Simon was as ‘clean’ as his usual habits than the exploration will take quite some time,” Ruthven told her.
Cate tugged on Adam’s arm. “Sarah and I could help you look faster.”
He shook his head. “We can’t take that risk.”
Ruthven glanced at the front windows that flanked the sides of the door. “The sun has set.”
Adam drew himself free from his little sister’s grasp and slipped past them to join Ruthven at the front door. The vampire stepped outside, but Adam paused and glanced over his shoulder at the pair. His red eyes settled on Sarah before he pursed his lips and, without a word, joined Ruthven outside and shut the door behind him.
Cate put her hands on her hips and glared at him. “Now what the heck is wrong with him? He’s not usually that rude.”
“Well, now that they’re gone-” Sarah slipped her purse off and set it on a small table. The surface reminded her of one important matter: food. She rushed to the door and opened it with a flourish. “What are we-” She froze as she looked out on the lawn. The empty lawn. She blinked before she leaned out and looked up and down the street. Nobody was there. Her brain reminded her she wasn’t dealing with normal people, and she rolled her eyes before she ducked back inside and closed the door. “Vampires. . .gotta remember they’re vampires. . .” She turned to Cate and smiled at the young girl. “So what do you want to do?”
A wide grin stretched across Cate’s lips. “I have just the thing.” She grabbed Sarah’s hand and pulled her upstairs.