Sarah Vida shivered. The aura of vampires seeping from the house
in front of her was nearly overwhelming. She drove around the block
once, then stopped her car a couple of yards away from the white
Volvo she had been following. Her sapphire Jaguar was flashy, and
she hadn’t had time to change the plates.
She was lucky she had been planning on crashing a different party,
or she would never have been ready for this one. She had come across
the white Volvo’s owner at a gas station and had tailed her
She cut the motor and ran her fingers through her long blond hair,
which was windblown by the drive in the convertible. Flashing a
killer smile at no one, she checked her appearance in the rearview
mirror. The girl in the glass appeared attractive, wild and carefree.
The core of stone was not visible in her reflection.
As she stood, Sarah smoothed down her blue tank top and cream jeans
and automatically checked to make sure her knives were in place—one
in a spine sheath on her back and one tucked into each calf-high
boot. Only then did she approach the house.
With blinds and shades pulled, the house appeared empty from the
outside, but the illusion was quickly shattered. Before she even
had a chance to knock, someone pulled open the door.
Leech, Sarah thought, disgusted, as she flashed a smile as practiced
as the one she had given her rearview mirror at the vampire who
had opened the door.
Whoa. Her smile did not waver, even though the vampiric aura in
the house hit her like a sledgehammer to her gut. Her skin tingled
at the sense of power, the feeling as unpleasant as sandpaper scraping
across raw skin.
Unpleasant feeling or no, she began to mingle, looking always for
the prey she was risking her neck to find—Nikolas.
Nikolas was one of the most infamous of his kind, a vampire who
had hunted blatantly since the 1800s. His first known prey had been
a young mother named Elisabeth Vida. Elisabeth had been a witch,
a vampire hunter, and incidentally, Sarah’s ancestor. Her
family had been hunting Nikolas ever since—without success.
Nikolas was clever—he had to be to have eluded hunters from
the most powerful family of witches for so long. But he was also
vain, and that would be his downfall. Every one of his victims wore
his marks, decorations cut into their arms with the blade of his
knife. Nikolas allowed some of his victims to live, but he twisted
their minds to make them sickeningly loyal to him. Hunters had caught
more than one of those warped humans, but they each professed to
choose death before they would betray the vampire.
One of them, however, had made a mistake. A flat tire on the way
to this bash had left her fuming at a gas station off Route 95,
and she had been too preoccupied to cover the scars on her arms.
The attendant, a member of the hunters’ complex system of
informants, had called Sarah; she had followed the girl’s
white Volvo here.
Taking a breath to focus her senses, Sarah searched the room with
all six of them. Human scents mingled with the overpowering aura
of vampires. Sarah felt pity and a slight disgust for the living
who flitted among the vampires like flies clinging to dead flesh.
Though Sarah did see one human boy leaving just after she came in,
most of these humans would stay, out of either ignorance or perverted
She didn’t like being inside this group without backup, but
the short drive between the gas station and this house had only
allowed for a few cell-phone calls, which had reached only busy
signals and answering machines. She couldn’t risk making a
serious kill, outnumbered as she was, but if she played nice tonight,
she had a good chance of wangling an invitation to the next bash
this group hosted. She could bring in the big guns then.
The trick was to avoid being killed—or munched on. She was
posing as free food, human and helpless, but letting a vampire feed
on her was further than she was willing to go. Besides, even the
weakest vampire would be able to taste the difference between the
bland vintage of human blood and the power in her own witch blood.
It was past ten o’clock at night, and the back of Sarah’s
neck tingled with apprehension. Any hunter worth her blade generally
knew better than to stay at a bash after midnight. Called the Devil’s
Hour, midnight was when the killing was done.
Yet if Sarah wanted an invitation, she needed to stay and convince
these creatures she was one of the idiotic humans who bared their
throats willingly. Any hunter, from the most amateur to the most
respected, would give his right eye and his life for a chance to
take down a group of vampires this strong.
Sarah befriended the girl she had followed, and within fifteen
minutes she had charmed her way into receiving one of the slick
white cards that stated the time and location of the next bash this
group was hosting.
Now all she had to do was follow the two simplest rules any hunter
ever learned: Don’t get caught, and clean up after yourself.
As the Devil’s Hour drew near, Sarah found the weakest of
the vampires and made sure she was alone with him when the clock
“I don’t think Kaleo meant this room to be open to
the public,” her companion pointed out, referring to their
vampire host. Sarah recognized the name with revulsion. Nikolas
was not the only creature in this group the hunters would love to
Hiding her thoughts, she smiled and put a hand on her companion’s
shoulder, forcing herself to ignore the unpleasant thickness of
his aura. “Maybe I just wanted you all to myself,” she
teased, meeting his black vampiric eyes.
The fiend got the message and leaned closer to her. Sarah ran her
fingers through his ash blond hair, and he wrapped a slender hand
around the back of her neck, gently urging her forward.
She leaned her head back, knowing where his gaze would travel.
He fell for it, as they always did, and as she felt his lips touch
her throat, she reacted.