Authors: Amanda Marrone
Also by Amanda Marrone
If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
First Simon Pulse paperback edition October 2010
Copyright © 2010 by Amanda Marrone
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
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Designed by Mike Rosamilia
The text of this book was set in Cochin.
Manufactured in the United States of America
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
Library of Congress Control Number 2010928251
ISBN 978-1-4169-9488-6 (eBook)
For Joe—you’ve been slaying me for years. Here’s to many more!
Great big thanks to Jen Klonsky, Wendy Schmaltz, and everyone at Pulse for finding me. I’d never stake any of you—unless you were recruited by a vampire army and it was absolutely necessary—still not sure if I’d stake or behead you. Thanks to Nina and Pam for reading early on—you ladies rock. Much thanks to Joe for telling me about Ley Lines so the pieces could all fall together—couldn’t have finished this without you.
A storm-driven wave crashes
up over the road and Dad swerves. Salt water hits the windshield of our ancient VW van, obliterating the view. My heart skips a beat as the van hydroplanes toward the rock-strewn edge bordering the ocean.
Mom gasps and her hand darts out to clutch Dad’s arm. He turns the wipers on and the tires rumble as they make contact with the pavement again. He gives a nervous laugh. “That was a close one, eh?”
Mom drops her hand back to the folder in her lap. “Too close. I’d like to get to South Bristol in one piece.”
Dad briefly turns his head toward me in the back. “Hope I didn’t scare you, Doodlebug. We should be
turning off the coast road in about five miles and the station isn’t much past that.”
“Mm,” I grunt, not bothering to ask him to drop the “doodlebug” thing for the millionth time. But seriously, how hard is it to say “Daphne”?
He nods and I watch him push his glasses up the bridge of his nose in the rearview mirror. My eyes briefly linger on the ragged scar on his neck before I turn away, glad he’s not going to try and engage me in meaningless banter. My stomach is wound too tight anticipating the horrors of our next job. I lean forward and rifle through my duffel bag for the container of multicolored antacids. I force myself to swallow the chalky bits and wait for my stomach to settle.
Mom pushes her reddish-brown hair behind her ears. She opens the folder and continues skimming through the papers the police faxed us last night at the hotel in Buffalo. “Huh,” she says absentmindedly. “Strange. Very strange.” She makes ticking noises with her tongue on the roof of her mouth. “I wish I’d had more time to go through this before we said we’d come. From what I’m reading, I think we should have given them a higher quote.”
Bureaucracy being what it is, the dossier is a bazillion pages longer than it needs to be. All they really need to write is
“Come quickly. Here’s who to call for body-bag pickup….”
they send page after page of insurance clauses, twisted lawyer-lingo and other indecipherable nonsense before they even get to the part detailing the actual problem—
vampires, and useless details about the town’s liability clauses won’t change how we stake them.
I wait for Mom to say more but she just turns to the next page. I have to admit I’m a bit curious; this is the first time she’s used the word “strange” on what I assumed was a standard stake-’em-and-bag-’em job.
I’m tempted to ask her what’s up, but instead look out at the ocean. The last thing I want to do is give the impression I’m actually interested in this or any of our jobs. Steel gray waves capped with frost-white foam churn and thunder against the shore, violent in the wake of a late spring nor’easter that’s made its way up the coast. I hope it isn’t a sign that things will go down badly like the Oak Hill gig.
I shake my head. Oak Hill was a major game-changer for me.
Nothing like hicks getting suckered by vampires—literally and figuratively—to give a kid a major reality check.
Squeezing my eyes shut tight, I try to banish the images that are seared into my brain as if it all just happened. Five years ago we blew into Oak Hill on the tail of a tornado—eerie yellow sky—gale-force winds throwing debris in the path of our van. That town—population
twenty-eight—is where my twelve-year-old self finally realized my parents weren’t invincible and that when dealing with vampires, you can go from hunter to hunted in a blink of an eye.
You could say Oak Hill was the end of my childhood—twisted as it was. But when I saw a vampire actually rip a flap of skin from my father’s neck, saw the blood pour from the wound and stain his white shirt, I finally realized any hunt could be our last.
Dad coughs and I turn and look at his reflection in the rearview mirror again. He lifts his chin slightly to look up at the stoplight and I follow the edges of the white scar on his neck with my eyes. Whenever Dad complains about the sloppy stitch-job Mom did, she jokes that he should have married a plastic surgeon.
They both think this is inexplicably hilarious—somehow forgetting that we could have lost him that day if I hadn’t been able to cut the head off the vampire trying to feed on him.
But I guess being a descendent of Dr. Abraham Van Helsing—aka vampire slayer extraordinaire—you have to laugh or go crazy. Since Dad is a direct descendent of Dr. Van Helsing it makes some sense that he’d keep up the family business—it’s all he knew growing up. I’m not sure what Mom’s deal is. She refuses to talk about her past
or her family. I figure something pretty bad must’ve gone down for her to have actually chosen this life.
Traveling the country slaying vamps might sound exciting in a video game sort of way, but after cutting off the heads of endless vamps it gets old. And knowing each job might be your last, well, either you can take it in stride or you can spend that traveling time imagining a different life.
I look down on the floor of the van at a crate filled with my meager belongings, and pull out the worn purple binder. I open it and sigh. I’ve landed on a picture I drew when I was seven—a yellow house with a white dog sitting in the yard. I used to imagine going into some town and finding that house. My parents would see it and, without knowing why, fall in love with it, and decide it was finally time to settle down and give me a normal upbringing. I imagined siblings with whom I’d argue over the TV remote or whose turn it was to walk that white dog. My best friend and I would sometimes fight over boys, but we’d always make up.
I turn the pages and look at the various drawings of “best friends” I’d made over the years—always side-by-side with a crayon or color-penciled “me”—my long, red hair loose and wavy around my shoulders instead of pulled back in its usual practical braid. It’s beyond pathetic, but
I still know each girl’s name and the imagined adventures we shared.
None of which involved anything with sharp teeth or blood.
I stare at the picture I drew of a girl with brown skin and tight, dark curls forming a halo around her face—Kayla. How many times had I looked for her in real life? I wanted her—or any of them—to be real so badly I ached, and I wished on countless stars hoping to bring them to life. And in every town we were in, I searched the streets hoping to see one of them in the flesh so I’d know I’d finally found
I flip through some more pages until I get to the more current pictures. Real girls—well as real as models can be—torn from the pages of
magazine. It’s the only magazine Mom will let me read because she says it isn’t all sexed-up like the other ones lining the supermarket racks.
I’m not sure what she’s so worried about. Unless you count vampires, policemen, and an assortment of fast-food cashiers, hotel clerks, and creepy gas-station attendants, my experience with boys is pure fantasy, and really I would give
to read those sexed-up magazines to find out what actual girls are doing with actual boys.
But former high-fashion model Jennifer-Kate pledges on the cover of each issue to “Keep it clean!” I saw her biography on TV last year. She started modeling at fourteen, hit rehab at sixteen, and started the magazine in her forties to give girls a taste of fashion without exposing them to the “Hollywood fast lane to hell.”
I happen to think Jennifer-Kate is a sanctimonious killjoy, and if I ever meet her I will laugh in her perfectly botoxed face, because articles singing the praises of “The ten best things about holding hands” or “What your favorite lip gloss says about you!” is beyond sad. Jennifer-Kate at least got to experience life—bumps and all. But I’m seventeen and utterly
for any lascivious information about the opposite sex I can get my hands on, and all I can get is her pathetic G-rated articles.
At least the clothes in the magazine are cool, but thank goodness for late-night cable TV in hotel rooms or I would be totally clueless about guys. Not that I believe everything I see, but some of it has to be true, right?
As I turn the pages in the binder, I trace my fingers over every impractical hairstyle and hot outfit I’ll never get to wear because my wardrobe is a sad combination of Wal-Mart rollbacks and thrift-store dregs. And as much as I covet designer shoes, high heels and hunting definitely don’t mix.
I take out a small pair of scissors and the latest issue of
from the crate to add some new pictures to my binder.
According to the cover, “
Prom season is coming
” and I can have “
a good time without going all the way.
Of course I have watched enough prom movies to know that this is total crap—even with psychotic serial killers on the loose, prom is all about hooking up.
I turn to the page I’ve folded over in the dress section and spread the magazine open on my lap. I’m filled with longing for things I’ll never have, but I tell myself to keep dreaming.