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Tate Hallaway




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Chapter One


You’d think one of the perks of being half-vampire would be a resistance to weather. No such luck.

Minnesota summers are surprisingly hot and humid. I kind of forget how awful it can be until the first ninety-degree day with eighty percent humidity hits St. Paul.

The oppressive stickiness in our un-air-conditioned house sent me out to the porch swing. At least here, with the brutal July sun finally sinking into brilliant orange and lavender streaks, there was a slight breeze.

It was even too warm to read. I pressed the sweating glass of lemonade into the hollow between my breasts and pushed a string hair from my eyes. Other girls complained about how the weather made their hair frizzy and unmanageable, but, for me the problem was sticky flatness. This morning I’d tried to pull my past¬-the-shoulders deep black hair into one of those fancy French braids, but by this point in the day bits kept slipping out and clinging to my neck and face.

A few gawker pedestrians strolled down the broad streets of my Cathedral Hill neighborhood, trying to act casual as they surreptitiously peered through the lighted windows into the Victorian era mansions that lined our block. I hoped no one I knew came by, since I was sprawled limply in my shortest shorts and last year’s “Hello Kitty” tank top that had half the sequins missing.

A bicyclist whizzed by, the tires clicking, and I wondered what kind of health crazed nut could work up the enthusiasm to exercise on a day like today. I would have given him the finger out of spite, but I couldn’t muster the ambition to lift my hand. Even the flowers in the garden drooped. Tall stalks of lupine bent low, depressed by the humidity. Cicadas buzzed angrily in the trees as I used my tiptoe to push the swing using as little energy as possible.

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the cicadas that were pissed off. I frowned darkly at the sunset.

Mom was inside, setting a table for “tea” in the sitting room. I could hear the good china clattering through the open window and the noise set my teeth on edge. In about an hour, maybe less now that the sun was setting, Elias would rouse himself from a dead sleep, and the farce -- I mean, the festivities would begin.

When I offered to let my ex-betrothed vampire boyfriend crash in the basement, I kind of expected it would be short-term. I really thought my mom would object, first of all. Mom is the Queen of Witches and, even though I’m half-vampire, witches and vampires don’t get along. In fact, they usually hate each other.

A lot.

I shifted the glass to let the cool droplets of condensation run onto my skin. It was pale, like my vampire father’s people’s. Even in the middle of summer, my legs stayed milky white. I didn’t even get freckles. I was envious of the girls I saw at Lake Josephine with their golden-bronze skin and Norwegian-natural-blond hair. The only benefit I derived from inheriting my dad’s complexion seemed to be that I also rarely had to deal with acne.

Even before I realized my dad was a vampire, I knew I didn’t look much like my mom. She was all hips and mouse-blond curls and glasses. Despite my bookish bent, I’d never needed correction.

Dishes clanked through the open window and I heard the sound of a mixer grinding. I shook my head. I would never have imagined it would be like this. Not only was Mom putting up with Elias, she was cooking for him.

For the past two months, I’d had to endure this increasingly bizarre evening ritual. I mean, Mom never used to cook for me. I mean, sure she might open a can of this and mix in a can of that. On special occasions, like my birthday, she might pull out all the stops and make the one from-scratch meal she did well and burn me a cake, but lately it’s been like Rachel Ray around here with food processors and clarifying butter. For instance, tonight she made some kind of freezer cheesecake that took her an hour and a half to prepare. And the result actually might be edible.

And did I mention Elias is a vampire? He doesn’t even need to eat. All this effort for a guy who doesn’t even eat! How weird is that?

Wait, it gets stranger.

After Elias gets up every night, we all sit around and… chat --in the nice room, with the good dishes, and the straight-back chairs --

It’s awful.

I guess I hadn’t anticipated how much my mother needed the company of someone who could remember Kennedy’s assassination and other ridiculously old and antiquated stuff.

I mean, at first, I was really happy that Mom seemed willing to sit down with a vampire at all. Like I said, there’s only been a war going on between vampires and Witches since the beginning of time. But, then, Mom and Elias started getting all nostalgic and friendly. Pretty soon, I found myself pushing cranberry sauce around my plate listening to enthusiastic debates about the women’s movement and economic busts and bubbles and other completely incomprehensible things that happened before I was born.

Worse, when I tried to change the subject to something vaguely twenty-first century, I got shushed. Shushed!

My mother and my kind-of-boyfriend shushed me like I was some kind of annoying toddler.


Running my palm over my forehead, I wiped again at the sweat and that damned uncooperative hair. A car drove by, its open windows blaring snippets of “Prairie Home Companion.” I heard something about “Powdermilk Biscuits” as it turned the corner. Goddess, could this day get more irritating?

Especially given that two minutes ago while letting me taste test the cheesecake, Mom admitted something I already suspected: she had a crush on Elias.

Okay, what she actually said was, “I’m working on a way to keep Elias around permanently. It’s good having him here,” but for my mom, the I-never-got-over-the-seventies-bra-burning feminist, that’s pretty much a declaration of true love.

I so did not want to go back inside the sweltering house and pretend to enjoy cheesecake knowing that my mom was harboring googly-eyes toward my sort-of-boyfriend. Not that Elias had been particularly boyfriendly lately.

Now that we weren’t officially betrothed and he lived in the basement, we didn’t court. We used to have this wonderful weekly ritual where he’d come over and sit in the pine tree outside my window and we’d talk. Sometimes he’d bring flowers. Other times, we might go up onto the roof and stare at the stars in companionable silence. He wrote me poetry.

Now I’m lucky if he gives me a wave before he settles in to American History 101 with Mom.

Jealous much?

Yeah, totally. It’s not that I’m hurting for boy attention. I’ve got two other guys texting on a regular basis, trying to get me to commit to a date.

First is my other ex, Nikolai Kirov. He’s got those classically smoldering looks you get when you’re half-Russian, half-Romany and all rock star. Seriously, Nik’s band Ingress has been getting tons of local radio play. Yet, I went down that road before, and let me tell you, it’s not easy being the dorky, high-school-age girlfriend of the lead singer in a popular college band. Talk about feeling shushed; only it’s more like being shut out completely when the gaggle of groupies descend.

The ice in my glass clunked as it melted. The little air that stirred brought the sharp scent of lighter fuel burning on someone’s barbeque grille. I sighed. At lot of the problems with Nikolai’s fame were my fault; I never felt cool enough to hang around with him. I felt most comfortable with people who made obscure references to Star Wars movies or Lord of the Rings novels, and who got excited at the idea of extra work in pre-Calculus and new Dr. Who episodes. In other words: nerds.

Nik was also the junior vampire slayer of the region, which gets messy. Not only was I half-one myself, but also I was kind of the vampire princess of Saint Paul thanks to the fact that my dad is the local prince.

Yeah, me, a princess – laying here in my ragged, sweat soaked clothes – you can see it, right? Glamour, thy name is Anastasija Parker.

Anyway, trust me, me and Nik; it’s too complicated by far. Romeo and Juliet had it easier.

Speaking of theater, the other guy vying for my attention is Matthew Thompson, former hockey star turned lead actor. See, ever since we did the spring play together, Thompson has been trying to get me to date him. He’s nice enough, I guess, though we come from different cliques at school. He’s a popular jock. You know, the homecoming king-type and I’m... well, I’m a theater geek with two different colored eyes, a reputation as a spooky witch, and an Honor student.

Different worlds.

Especially since Thompson was a mundane. If I told him that I couldn’t bring him over to the house because a vampire lived in the basement and Mom practices True Magic, he’d think I was kidding. That made social situations kind of dicey. Oh, yeah, and when I was discovering I was the vampire princess, I kind of licked blood off his face after a floor hockey accident in gym. In front of everyone.


As far as I was concerned, my options were limited. And the least complicated one would rather talk ancient history with my mom.

Sucks to be me.

“Elias! Good to see you. Come sit,” I heard Mom’s sing-song greeting through the window. Then, she shouted to me: “Anastasija Ramses Parker, stop sulking! Time for tea!”

The full name treatment, eh? Just for that, I’d sit here for a few extra minutes.

I crossed my arms in front of my chest and stared down the street. Three people were out walking, heading in my direction. I probably wouldn’t have given them any notice except that one of them was wearing a cloak.

Did I mention it was ninety degrees in the shade?

I sat up and watched the approaching trio with new interest. Was there a vampiric jaunt to their step? Who else would be so impervious to the weather? Because, even though I wasn’t, full vamps were.

Draining the watery lemonade in a gulp, I set the empty glass underneath the porch swing. With the sun setting behind them, they presented only a shadowy silhouette. The cloak-wearing figure was shorter, and I thought there was something protective and praetorian guard-like about the way the other two flanked him. Yes, they definitely trailed one precise step behind, their heads swiveling every so often to scan the area for threats.

The streetlamps lining the boulevard flickered on.

They were less than half a block away now, and I could make out more details. Dark, unruly curls framed the shockingly pale face of the leader. Despite the whiteness of his skin, his features read to me as though he might be Latino. The guard on the left was black, though his flesh had that strangely drained hue of a vampire. A gold earring flashed in one ear, and he had thick, puffy hair and mutton chop sideburns that reminded me of Samuel L. Jackson in that Quentin Tarantino movie, “Pulp Fiction.” His partner was the palest of all three. His long, straight hair was tied back neatly at the nape of his neck, but otherwise he bore no resemblance to John Travolta’s character in the same movie. In the artificial light, his auburn hair glowed almost blood red and his sharp, cruel expression reminded me of a gentleman pirate... or something much worse. I found myself the most wary of him. I stood up.

“Ana, I’m about to cut the cake!” My mom shouted through the open window. I jumped. I’d been completely absorbed watching the strangers, who were now standing at the gate looking directly at me. “Are you coming in?”

“In a minute,” I answered distractedly. I heard my mother clucking her tongue and making excuses for “moody teenagers” to Elias.

I moved to the edge of the porch steps and peered nervously around a column at the men at the end of our sidewalk. The leader had his hands on the gate, but he didn’t push it open. I could see now that he looked to be close to my age or younger. There was the hint of stubble on his chin, but his cheeks still retained a lot of baby fat -- in a cute way. In fact, when he smiled at me, he looked down right charming. “Anastasija Ramses Parker?”

Wow, my full name twice in ten minutes.

But why did I get the feeling that hearing it now meant I was in a whole lot of trouble?

“Yes, that’s me,” I agreed cautiously. “Who are you?”

It was the mean-looking guard who answered. Even his silken, Cajun-accented voice gave me the creeping chills, “I present His Royal Highness, Luis David Montezuma, prince of the Southern Region.”

A vampire prince? Oh. Crap.

“Ana?” The screen door squeaked, and Elias stepped out on to the porch. “Your mother wants...” He stopped the moment he saw Prince Luis and his entourage at the end of the walk. I felt a breeze and, in a blink, Elias stood protectively in front of me.

His movement made the red-head snicker.

The prince shot his guard a dark look. To me, he put on that smile I’d found so charming a moment ago. However, now it seemed more like a politician’s – a bit oily and forced. “We have traveled some distance, princess.”

I got the hint, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to invite Luis and his goons in. Besides, why was he here with me and not in the underground cave courts of my father? I tried to catch Elias’ eye so I could ask him what to do, but he was busy staring at his counterparts menacingly.

“For Goddess’s sake, what is going on out there?” my mother shouted. “Come in and have tea!”

I knew that the stalemate had been broken with Elias’ soft curse, and the chuckle of the goons, who reached around the gate to let themselves in.

“Don’t mind if we do,” said Luis with a grin.