CHAPTER ONE

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CHAPTER ONE

 I blinked in dismay as I sat across from my parents in Mr. Cruor’s study. For the past thirty minutes, he and Mr. Cruor’s brother (otherwise known as Dr. V.), worked endlessly to convince my parents that I indeed had magical blood and could cure cancer.

Instead of getting it, they merely took turns staring at me or them with wide eyes. Only after the suggestion that my life was in jeopardy did things start to sink in. Maybe.

“I’m not sure I understand,” my mother stated again.

I sighed.

Dr. V. threw up his hands and stalked to the corner, angrily mumbling something under his breath in Ukrainian.

“Brother, why don’t you go get some air,” Mr. Cruor quickly said and shot him a look before he flashed his pearly whites at my parents.

Dr. V didn’t need another invitation. He stormed from the room and disappeared down the hall. I exhaled a little too loudly. It had been an incredibly long day, and I feared the Coke spilt on me from earlier had super-glued my jeans to my leg.

“You’ll have to excuse him. He’s spent the larger part of the last twenty years looking for this missing puzzle piece. He’s anxious to share it with the world.”

Puzzle piece? I wanted to jump up and ring his neck. I’m a living person who breathes the same stale air you do, not a freaking puzzle piece to be negotiated over! I thought, shooting him the meanest death glare ever.

 “In a nutshell,” he continued, “because of this finding and its rarity, I think it’s safest for Julia to stay here at my home until we can arrange a more secure location.”

“Hell, no,” I said vehemently.

“Julia!” Mom scolded.

I slumped backward into the couch and folded my arms. “I’m staying with you.”

Mr. Cruor ignored my pleas and leaned in toward Dad. “Once people find out, I can’t predict what they’ll do. Many will be desperate to get their hands on her. She will need 24-hour protection, which I can provide here. Of course I’ll be her private tutor. My lawyers can draft up papers to incorporate.”

A gust of air blew past my lips as I watched Dad work his jaw while his eyes slighted. Was he actually considering this?

My mom shook her head. “Incorporate? Like a business?”

Dad suddenly stood, and I gazed up at him in shock. “I appreciate the offer, but my wife and I will figure out how we’re going to handle things with our daughter.”

Frozen in place, he finally had to pull on Mom’s hand to signal her to stand. I jumped out of my seat to join them, and withheld my desire to smirk at Mr. Cruor. He wasn’t dazzling anyone today.

I wanted out of this place before my nightmares came true. Besides, I hadn’t talked to Nicholas all day, let alone told him the news. More important, though, was all the strange coincidences of the look-a-like vampires from my prior life lurking around every corner. I needed teamwork to figure it all out.

Mr. Cruor stood and flashed a disarming smile. “I wouldn’t suggest otherwise.” He pulled something from his pocket. “And I’d be remiss to take my first treatment for free.”

“What’s this?” Dad reached for the paper and unfolded the check. His eyes widened. “Uh…” He and Mom blinked dumbfounded. Curious, I leaned over. Dad quickly folded it closed, but not before I spotted more zeroes than I’d ever seen in my life.

“Well,” Mr. Cruor bowed his head slightly, keeping his eyes tight on Dad, “let me know if this is sufficient, or if more is needed.”

“More?” Mom squeaked out.

“Like I said, things have completely changed as you know it, and for Julia’s sake, I hope you’re prepared for all that it entails.”

“Uh, yes,” Dad said.

Mr. Cruor pitched his right brow. “People you can trust.”

I instantly thought of Nicholas, my secret protector in my other life. He’d kept the vampires from hunting me down and killing me. And now he was mortal with zero extra human strength. The thought made me shiver.

Mom slid closer to Dad, and pulled me into the tight circle when a hulking broad shouldered man with a black T-shirt stretched over his rippling biceps cleared the doorway. I gasped, recognizing him immediately, and my legs almost gave way. He’d been the vampire who’d almost killed me and my father in LA prior to when my alter universe splintered—Slide. I studied his eyes, looking for a hint of recognition. He glanced at me with a smirk. Did he remember, too? I was finding it harder and harder to believe all these ex-vamps were faking and that we weren’t being set up.

Mr. Cruor inclined his hand to Slide. “Before you go, I’d like to offer the services of my personal bodyguard to accompany you home.”

Mom’s fingers dug into my shoulder.

“Thank you, Horace,” Dad interjected, “but that isn’t necessary.”

Mr. Cruor moved into our path, blocking the front door, then he stopped and turned dramatically, eyes lit with crazy intensity. “This is the greatest discovery of the century and people would do anything—ANYTHING to get their hands on a cure. Don’t you understand? It’s not a request.”

My mother’s fingernails began to pinch my skin as another shudder convulsed through me.

“Just until you figure out your own security,” he finished as if it were an afterthought.

Dad leaned toward Mr. Cruor. “You will swear your staff to secrecy; that is what you’ll do.”

Mr. Cruor held up his hands. “But of course.”

“Good.” Dad nodded and the four of us filed outside.

I did an eye roll. The worst person to keep a secret already knew, so that wasn’t happening. Katie most likely had told the entire student body by now, but I wasn’t going to tell that to Dad. If I wasn’t careful, my life would be over as I knew it.

Crap.

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