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posted by Luv_Rob_4ever
RELEASE DATE: APRIL 2010


ADDITIONAL SAMPLE CHAPTERS for KISS OF DEATH, book 8 of the Morganville Vampires series
If you haven’t read the first section, click here!


Jason didn't say much at dinner. In fact, he was almost completely silent, though he ate four tacos like he'd been starving for a month, and when Eve brought out ice cream for dessert he ate a double helping of that too.

Shane was right. The brisket was delicious in the tacos.

Eve, compensating for her brother, chattered like a magpie on crack the whole time -- about dumbasses at the coffee shop where she worked, Common Grounds; about her boss Oliver -- vampire and full-time jerk, as far as Claire was concerned, although apparently he was a surprisingly fair boss; gossip about people in town. Michael contributed some juicy stuff about the vampire side of town (Claire, for one, had never considered that vampires could fall in and out of love just like regular people -- well, vampires other than Michael. And maybe Amelie.) Shane finally loosened up on his glares and brought up some embarrassing stories from Michael's and Eve's pasts. If there were embarrassing stories he knew about Jason, he didn't tell get into it.

It started out deeply uncomfortable, but by the time the ice cream bowls were empty, it felt kind of -- normal. Not great -- there was still a cautious tension around the table -- but guarded acceptance.

Jason finally said, "Thanks for the food." They all stopped talking and looked at him, and he kept his own gaze down on the empty dessert bowl. "Shane's right. I got no right to think I can just show up here and expect you not to hate my guts. You should."

"Damn straight," Shane muttered. Claire and Eve both glared at him. "What? Just sayin'."

Jason didn't seem to mind. "I needed to come and tell you that I'm sorry. It's been -- things got weird, man. Real weird. And I got real screwed up, in all kinds of ways. Until that thing happened with Claire -- look, I never meant -- she wasn't part of it. That was all on him." Him meaning the other guy, the one none of them mentioned, ever. Claire felt her palms sweating, and wiped them against her jeans. Her mouth felt dry. "But I'm guilty of other stuff, and I confessed to all of it to the cops, and I did time for it. I never killed anybody, though. I just -- wanted to be somebody who got respect."

Michael said, "That's how you think you get respect around here? As a killer?"

Jason looked up, and it was eerie, seeing eyes exactly like Eve's in such a different face, simmering with anger. "Yeah," he said. "I did. I still do. And I don't need a frigging vampire to set me straight about that, either. In Morganville, when you're not one of the sheep, and you're not one of the wolves, you'd better be one mean-ass junkyard dog."

Claire glanced over at Shane, and was surprised to see that he wasn't hopping on the angry train. In fact, he was looking at Jason like he understood what he was saying. Maybe he did. Maybe it was a guy thing.

Nobody spoke, and finally Jason said, "So anyway. I just wanted to say thanks for helping get me out of jail. I'd be dead by now if you hadn't. I won't forget." He scraped his chair back and stood up. "Thanks for the tacos. Dinner was real good. I haven't -- I haven't sat at a table with people for a really long time."

Then, without making eye contact with any of them, he walked away, down the hall. Eve jumped up and ran after him, but before she got to him, he was out the front door and slamming it behind him. She opened it and looked out, but didn't follow. "Jason!" she called, but without any real hope he'd come back. Then, finally, hopelessly, "Be careful!"

She slowly closed the door again, locked it, and came back to flop in her chair at the dinner table, staring at the remains of their taco feast.

"Hey," Shane said. "Eve."

She looked up.

"It took guts for him to come here and try to apologize. I respect that."

She looked surprised, and for a second she smiled. "Thanks. I know Jason's never going to be -- well, a good guy in any kind of way, but he's -- I can't just turn my back on him. He needs somebody to keep him from going off the rails."

Michael took a drink from his sports bottle. "He's the train," he said. "You're on the tracks. Think about what's going to happen, Eve."

Her smile faded. "What are you saying?"

"I'm saying that your brother is a junkie, and one sick dude even if he's feeling sentimental right now. That's probably not really his fault, but he's trouble, and now we sat down with him and he apologized and it's all done, okay? He's not coming back. He's not family. Not in this house."

"But -- "

When Claire had first met Michael Glass, he'd been cold and kind of harsh to her, and now that Michael came out again.

At Eve.

"Eve, we’re not going to argue about it," Michael said flatly, and he looked like an angry, angry angel, the smiting kind. "House rules. You don't bring that kind of trouble in the door."

"Oh, please, Michael, don't even think about pulling that crap. If that’s the rule, are you throwing Claire out now? Because I'm betting she is the most trouble that ever walked in here on two feet. You and Shane drag your own hassles in all the time. But I don't get to have my own brother over for dinner?" Eve's voice was shaking, she was so angry now, and she was trying not to cry, but Claire could see the tears welling up in her dark eyes. “Come on! You’re not my dad!”

"No, I'm your landlord," he said. "Bringing Jason in here puts everybody at risk. He's going to go back to the dark side on us, if he ever left in the first place. I'm just trying to keep things sane around here."

“Then try talking to me instead of just ordering me around!” Eve shoved dishes off onto the floor, spilling the remains of tacos everywhere, and dashed for the stairs.

Michael got there first, easily; he moved in a blur, vampire-speed, and blocked her access. Eve came to a skidding halt, pale even underneath her rice-powder makeup. "So you're proving your point by going all vamp on me?" she said. "Even if Jason was still here, you'd be the most dangerous thing in the room and you know it!"

“I know,” Michael said. “Eve. What do you want? I’m trying, okay? I sat down with Jason. I’m just saying once was enough. Why am I the bad guy?”

Shane muttered, loud enough for only Claire to hear, “Good question, bro.” She hissed at him to be quiet. This was private, and she was feeling bad for both Eve and Michael, having witnesses to all this.

Bad enough to be fighting. Worse to have Shane make snarky comments from the sidelines.

“I don’t know, Michael, why are you the bad guy?” Eve shot back. “Maybe because you’re acting like you own the world!”

“You’re being a brat.”

“A what?”

“You’re going to dump crap all over the floor and walk away? What else do you call it?”

Eve looked so shocked, it was as if he’d hit her. Claire winced in sympathy. "It’s okay, we'll do it," Claire said, and started picking up plates and piling them up. “It’s not a big deal.” Shane was still staring at their friends like they were some kind of sideshow exhibit; she kicked him in the shin and shoved plates at him. “Kitchen,” she said. “Go.”

He grinned, but he went. She began cleaning up the mess on the floor. In Shane’s absence, it felt like things changed, like the balance shifted again. Claire kept herself small, quiet, and invisible as she worked at scraping up the spilled food into a pile with napkins.

“Eve,” Michael said. He wasn’t angry anymore, Claire realized. His voice had gone soft and quiet. She glanced up, and saw that Eve was silently crying now, tears dragging dirty trails of mascara down her cheeks, but she didn't look away from him. “Eve, what is it? This isn’t about Jason. What?”

She threw herself into him, wrapping her arms around him. Even with vampire reflexes, Michael was surprised enough to rock backwards, but he recovered in just a second, holding her, stroking her back with one hand. Eve put her head down on his shoulder and cried like a lost little girl. “I don’t want to lose you,” she finally snuffled. “God, I really don’t. Please. Please don’t go.”

“Go?” Michael sounded honestly baffled. “What? Where would I go?”

“Anywhere. With anyone. Don’t – I love you, Michael. I really do.”

He sighed and held her even more tightly. “I’m not going anywhere with anyone else,” he said. “I swear. And I love you too. Okay?”

“You mean it?”

“Yeah, I mean it.” He seemed almost surprised, and let out a slow breath as he hugged her tighter. “I do, Eve.”

Eve dabbed at her running mascara, hiccuping little breaths, and then looked past Michael to Claire, who was getting all the mess put into one plate for disposal. Eve looked stricken. “Oh God,” she said.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean – here, let me. I’ll get it.”

And she pulled free of Michael, and got down on her hands and knees to clean up the rest.

And Michael got down there with her. Claire backed through the kitchen door with a load of stuff, and as it swung closed, she saw Michael lean over and kiss Eve. It looked sweet and hot and absolutely real.

“Well?” Shane asked. “World War Fifteen over out there, or what?”

“I think so,” she said, and hip-bumped him out of the way at the sink to dump her armload of plates. “You’re washing, right?”

“I’ll play you for it.”

“What?”

“Best high score wins?”

That was the same basic thing as doing it herself now and saving herself the humiliation, Claire thought. “No bet,” she said. “Wash, dish boy.”

He flicked suds at her. She shrieked and laughed and flipped more at him. They splashed water. It felt ... breathlessly good, when Shane finally captured her in his soapy hands, pulled her close to his wet tee shirt, and kissed her.

“World War Sixteen,” he said. “Officially over.”

“I’m still not playing Dead Rising with you.”

“You’re no fun.”

She kissed him, long and sweet and slow, and whispered, “You sure?”

“Well, I’m certainly changing my mind,” Shane said, straight-faced, at least until he licked his lips. His pupils were large and dark and completely fixed on hers, and she felt like gravity had reversed, like she could fall up into his eyes and just keep on going.

“Dishes,” he reminded her. “Me dish boy. And I can’t believe I just said that because that was lame.”

She kissed him again, lightly this time. “That’s for later,” she said. “By the way? You look really hot with suds all over you.”

The kitchen door opened, and Eve walked in, dumped a plate full of trash in the can, and practically danced her way over to the sink. She still had smeared mascara, and her tears weren’t even dry, but she was smiling, and there was a dreamy, distant look in her eyes.

“Hey,” Shane said. “How about you? Want to play Dead Rising?”

“Sure,” Eve said. “Fine. Absolutely.”

She wandered out. Shane blinked. “That was not what I expected.”

“She’s floating,” Claire said. “What’s wrong with that.”

“Nothing. But she didn’t even insult me. That’s just wrong. It disturbs me.”

“I’m taking advantage of all this calm,” Claire said. “Study time.”

“Bring it downstairs,” Shane said. “I need a cheering section, because she is going to suck at zombie killing tonight. Just way too happy.”

Claire laughed, but she dashed upstairs and grabbed her book bag, which promptly ripped right down the seam, spilling about twenty pounds worth of texts, supplies and junk all over the wooden floor.

"Great," she sighed. "Just great." She gathered up what she needed in an untidy armload and headed back downstairs.

She was halfway down the stairs when someone knocked at the front door. They all stopped what they were doing -- Michael, in the act of picking up his guitar; Shane and Eve, taking seats on the couch with game controllers. "Expecting anybody else?" Shane asked Eve. "Your distant cousin Jack the Ripper dropping by too?"

"Screw you, Collins."

"Finally, the world is back to normal. Still not up to the usual Rosser Olympic-level insult standards, there, sunshine. Never mind. I'll get it."

Michael didn't say anything, but he put down the guitar and followed Shane to the end of the hall, watching. Claire descended the rest of the steps quickly, trying to keep her pile of stuff from tottering over, and dumped it on the dining table before hurrying over to Michael's side.

Shane checked the peephole, stepped back, and said, "Uh oh."

"What?"

"Trouble?"

Michael crossed the distance in a flash, looked out, and bared his teeth. All his teeth, including the vampire-y ones, which didn't exactly bode well. Claire sucked in a deep breath. Damn stupid book bag, picking a bad time to break; usually, she'd have brought all the stuff down, but she'd left her anti-vamp supplies upstairs in the ruined bag's pocket.

"It's Morley," Michael said. "I'd better go out and talk to him. Shane, stay here with them."

"Word of advice, stop telling me to stay with the girls," Shane said. "Or I will seriously bust you in the mouth one of these days. Seriously. I could break one of those shiny fangs."

"Today?"

"Ah ... probably not."

"Then shut up." Michael opened the door just wide enough to slide out, looked back, and said, "Lock it."

Shane nodded, and as soon as the wood thumped closed, he shot all the bolts and glued his eye to the peephole.

Claire and Eve, by common silent decision, dashed to the living room window, which gave them an angled view of the porch. Not perfect, but better than nothing.

"Oh no," Eve whispered.

Michael was standing in a wash of moonlight, facing not just one vampire, but three. Morley -- a ragged, rough vampire who rocked the homeless look, although Claire knew he actually did have a home -- was standing there, with two of his crew. He had quite a number of them, disaffected vampire youth, although youth was a relative term when you talked about vampires. It was mostly a matter of status, not just age. The have-nots, or the ones feeling squeezed by those who had power over them.

They also had a human with them.

Jason.

And he wasn't there voluntarily, as far as Claire could tell. One of the vampires had a hand around his arm in what looked like a friendly grip but was probably bone-crushing hard.

"Jase," Eve whispered. "Oh God. I told you to be careful!"

Shane left the door, came into the living room and dragged a black canvas bag out from under a chair. He unzipped it and took out a small crossbow, cranked it back and loaded it with an arrow. He tossed silver-coated stakes to Claire and Eve, then joined them at the window. "So," he said. "Your brother's already said he was a vampire wannabe. Does he need rescuing, or is this his idea of a really great date?"

"Don't be an asshole," Eve said, and gripped the stake so hard her whole hand turned paler than normal. "They wouldn't turn him, anyway. They'll just drain him." It was a lot of work for a vampire to turn a human, and from what Claire had seen, they didn't seem all that eager to go through it themselves. It hurt. And it took something out of them. The only one she'd ever seen take any real pleasure out if had been Mr. Bishop, Amelie's vile, old vampire father. She'd seen him turn Shane's father, and that had been -- horrible. Really horrible.

Which was why Shane, however he felt about Jason Rosser, was loading up a crossbow, and was more than prepared to use it.

"What's Michael doing?"

"Talking sense," Shane said. "It's always his A game. For him, it usually works. Me, I'm usually Plan B, all the time."

"B for brute force?" Eve said. "Yep, that's you."

Shane slotted the arrow in place and raised the window sash. He kicked out the screen on the other side and aimed the crossbow right at Morley.

Morley, who was dressed in clothes that seemed pieced together out of rags, except for one brand-new Hawaiian shirt in disgustingly bright shades of neon, looked straight at the window, smiled, and tipped his head just a little in acknowledgment.

"Just so we're clear, bloodsucker," Shane said.

"Can he hear you?"

"He hears every word. Hey, Morley? I will put this right between your ribs, you got me?"

Once again, Morley nodded, and the smile stayed in place.

"You sure that's a good idea?" Eve whispered. "Threatening him, I mean?"

"Why not? Morley speaks fluent threat."

It went on for a while, all the talking; Shane never took his eyes off of Morley. Claire kept her hand on him, somehow feeling like that was helping, helping them both, and finally Morley made some polite little bow to Michael, and waved at the other vampire who was holding Jason.

The vampire let go. Jason stumbled backward, then took off at top speed, running flat out down the street. The vampires watched him. Nobody followed.

Eve breathed a slow sigh of relief and leaned against the wall.

Shane didn't move. He still had the crossbow aimed at Morley's chest.

"Emergency's over," Eve said. "Stand down, soldier."

"Go open the door. I stand down when Michael's back inside." Shane smiled, all teeth. Not quite as menacing as a vampire smile, but it got the point across. Eve nodded and ran the door. Once it was open, Michael -- still looking cool and calm -- backed in, said goodnight, and shut the door. Claire heard him shooting the locks, and still Shane kept his aim steady until Morley, touching a finger to his brow, turned and walked off into the dark with his two followers.

Claire slammed down the window, locked it, and Shane let out his breath in a slow sigh, removing the arrow from the bow. "Nothing like a little after-dinner terrification," he said, and gave Claire a quick kiss. "Mmmm, you still taste like brisket tacos."

She would have called him a jerk, but she was shaking, and she was too short of breath anyway. He was already down the hall by the time she pulled in enough air, and she used it to follow him. Michael was standing beside Eve, an arm tight around her waist.

"So?" Shane asked. "What's Morley hanging around for, waiting for us to get ripe?"

"You know what he was here for," Michael said. "We haven't gotten his people passes to leave town yet, which is what you promised him in return for not killing you three when he had the chance. He's getting impatient, and since you three are on the hook as his own personal blood donors, I think we need to get serious about making that happen."

"He wouldn't dare."

"No? Can't say that I agree with you. Morley isn't afraid of much that I can tell, including Amelie, Oliver, or a wooden arrow in the heart." Michael nodded at Shane. "Still. Thanks. Nice."

"It's what I do."

"Just keep it aimed the right way."

Shane looked as innocent as Shane ever could, and put his hand over his heart. "I would never. Unless you flash fang at me again, or ever tell me to stay with the girls. Except for that."

"Cool. Let's go shoot some undead things on the TV, then."

"Loser."

"Not if I win."

“Like that ever happens.”





CHAPTER 2


The next day, Claire had classes at Texas Prairie University, which was always a mixture of fascinating and annoying. Fascinating, because she'd managed to finagle her way into a lot of advanced classes she really didn't have the prerequisites for, and annoying because those not in the know about Morganville in general -- which was most of the students at the school -- treated her like a kid.

Those who didn't, and knew the score about the vampires and the town of Morganville itself, mostly avoided her. It occurred to her, the second time somebody tried to buy her coffee for her but not make eye contact, that some people in town still looked at her as important. Like, Monica Morrell-level important.

This seriously pissed off Monica, Queen Bee of the Morganville Under Thirty set. Still, Claire had come a long way from the clueless early-admission freshman she'd been last year. When Monica tried to bully her -- which was virtually certain to happen at least a couple of times every week -- the outcome wasn't usually in Monica's favor. Or always Claire's, either. But still, a draw was better than a beat-down, in Claire's view. Everybody was left standing.

Claire's first stop was at the campus student store, where she bought a new backpack -- sturdy, not too flashy, with lots of pockets inside and out. She ducked into the next bathroom she found to transfer the contents of her taped-together book bag to the new one, and almost threw the old one away ... but it had a lot of sentimental value, somehow. Ripped, scuffed, stained with all kinds of things she didn't want to remember, but it had come with her to Morganville, and somehow she felt like throwing it away was throwing away her chance of ever getting out of here.

Crazy, but she couldn't help it.

In the end, she stuffed the rolled-up old backpack into a pocket of the new one, hefted the weight, and jogged across campus to make her first class of the day.

Three uneventful (and mostly boring) hours later, she ran into Monica Morrell, who was sitting on the steps of the Language Arts building, sunglasses on, leaning back on her elbows and watching people go by. One of her lipstick mafia girls was with her -- Jennifer -- but there was no sign of the other one, Gina. As always, Monica looked expensive and perfect -- Daddy's estate must be holding up well no matter what the economy dudes were saying on TV -- and Jennifer looked like she shopped the cheap knockoffs of what Monica bought for full price. But they both looked good, and about every thirty seconds some college boy stopped to talk to them, and almost always get shot down in flames. Some of them took it okay. Some of them looked like they were one more rejection from ending up on that reality TV channel.

Claire was heading up the steps, ignoring them, when Jennifer called out brightly, "Hey, Claire! Good morning!"

That was creepy enough to stop Claire right in her tracks. She looked over, and Jennifer was waving.

So was Monica.

This, from the two girls who'd punched and kicked her, thrown her down a flight of stairs, abducted her at least twice, threatened her with knives, tried to set her house on fire ... yeah. Claire didn't really feel like redefining the relationship on their new buddy-buddy terms.

She just gave the two of them a long look, and kept on up the stairs, trying to focus on what it was she was supposed to remember today about early American literature. Nathaniel Hawthorne? So last week ...

"Hey!" Monica grabbed her two steps from the top, yanking on the strap of her new book bag to drag her to a halt. "Talking to you, bitch!"

That was more like it. Claire glanced down at Monica's hand, and raised her eyebrows. Monica let go.

"I figured it couldn't be me," she said. "Since you were acting so nice and all. Had to be some other Claire."

"I just thought since the two of us are more or less stuck with each other, we might as well try to be friendly, that's all. You didn't have to act like I stole your boyfriend or something." Monica smiled slowly and pulled her sunglasses down to stare over the top. Her big, lovely blue eyes were full of shallow glee. "Speaking of that, how is Shane? Getting bored with the afterschool special yet?"

"Wow, that's one of your better insults. You're almost up to junior high level, keep working on it," Claire said. "Ask Shane yourself if you want to know how he's doing. I'm sure he'd be glad to tell you."

Colorfully. "What do you want?"

"Who says I want something?"

"Because you're like a lion. You don't bother to get up unless you're getting something out of it."

Monica smiled even wider. "Hmmm, harsh, but accurate. Why work harder than you have to? Anyway. I hear you and your friends made a deal that's getting you into trouble. Something with that skanky homeless Brit vamp, what's his name, Mordred?"

"Mordred is from the King Arthur stories. It's Morley."

"Whatever. I just wanted to tell you that I can take care of it for you." Her smile revealed teeth, even and white. "For a price."

"Yeah, I didn't see that coming," Claire sighed. "How are you going to take care of it, exactly?"

"I can get him the passes out of town he wants. From my brother."

Claire rolled her eyes and adjusted her book bag and little more comfortably on her shoulder. "Meaning what, you're going to forge his signature on a bunch of photocopies that will get everybody thrown in jail except you? No, thanks. Not interested." Claire had no doubt that whatever Monica was offering, it wasn't real; she'd already talked to Monica's brother, Mayor Richard Morrell, several times about this, and gotten nowhere. But Monica liked to pretend she had "access." With full air quotes. "If that's all, I've got class."

"Not quite," Monica said, and the smile vanished. "I want the answers to the final exam in Lit 220. Get them."

"You're kidding."

"Do I look like I'm kidding? Get them, or -- well, you know what kind of or there is, right?" Monica pushed the sunglasses back up. "Get them to me by Friday or you're fried, special needs."

Claire shook her head and took the last two steps, walked to her class, dumped her bag at her lecture hall seat and sat down to think things over.

By the time class began, she had a plan. A warm, fuzzy plan.

Some days, it was absolutely worth getting out of bed.

###

By the time Claire got home, the sun was slipping fast toward the horizon. Too early for most vampires to be out -- not that they burst into flames that easily, most of the older ones were sort of flame-retardant -- but she kept a sharp lookout anyway. Instead of going straight to the Glass House, she turned at the cross street and went a few more blocks. It was like deja vu, because her parents' house looked almost exactly like the Glass House. A little less faded, maybe. The trim had been painted a nice dark green, and there were fewer bushes around the windows. Different porch furniture, and a couple of wind chimes; Claire's mom loved wind chimes, especially the big, long ones that sounded those deep bell sounds.

As Claire climbed the steps to the porch, a gust blew by her, sounding the bells in a ringing chorus. She glanced up at the sky, and saw clouds scudding by fast. The weather was changing. Rain, maybe. It already felt cooler.

She didn't knock, just used her key and went right in, dumping her backpack in the entry hall. "Hey, I'm home!" she yelled, and locked the door behind her. "Mom?"

"Kitchen," came the faint yell back. Claire went down the hall -- same as in the Glass House, but Mom had covered this version with photos, framed photos of their family. Claire winced at her junior high and high school photos; they were unbearably geeky, but she couldn't convince Mom to take them down. Someday, you'll be glad I have them, Mom always said. Claire couldn't imagine that would ever be true.

The living room was, again, disorientingly familiar; instead of the mismatched, comfortable furniture of the Glass House, the stuff from Claire's childhood occupied the same space, from the old sofa to her dad's favorite leather chair. The smells coming from the kitchen were familiar, too: Mom was making stuffed bell peppers. Claire fortified herself, because she couldn't stand stuffed bell peppers, but she almost always ate the filling out of them, just to be nice.

"Why couldn't it be tacos?" she sighed, just to herself, and then pushed open the door to the kitchen. "Hi, Mom, I'm -- "

She stopped dead in her tracks, eyes wide, because Myrnin was sitting at her mother's kitchen table. Myrnin the vampire. Myrnin her boss. Crazy mad scientist Myrnin. He had a mug of something that had better not be blood in front of him, and he was almost dressed like a sane person -- he had on frayed blue jeans, a blue silk shirt, and some kind of elaborate tapestry vest over it. Flip flops for shoes, of course, because he seemed to really love those. His hair was long around his shoulders, black and glossy and full of waves, and his big, dark eyes followed Claire's mother as she busied herself at the stove.

Mom was dressed the way Mom usually dressed, which was way more formal than people Claire's era would ever think was appropriate for lounging around the house. A nice pair of dress pants, a boring shirt, mid-heeled shoes. She was even wearing jewelry -- bracelet and earrings, at least.

"Good evening, Claire," Myrnin said, and transferred his attention over to her. "Your mother's been very kind to me while I waited for you to get home."

Mom turned, and there was a false brightness to her smile. Myrnin made her nervous, although Myrnin was obviously making a real effort to be normal. "Honey, how was school?" She kissed Claire on the cheek, and Claire tried not to squirm as her mom rubbed at the lipstick mark left on her skin. At least she didn't use spit.

"School was great," Claire said, which completed the obligatory school conversation. She got a Coke from the fridge, popped the top and settled in across the table from Myrnin, who calmly sipped from his coffee cup. "What are you doing here?"

"Claire!" her mother said, sounding a little scandalized. "He's a guest!"

"No, he's my boss, and bosses don't drop in on my parents without an invitation. What are you doing here?"

"Dropping in on your parents without an invitation," Myrnin said. "I thought it would be good to get to know them better. I've been telling them how satisfied I am with the work that you've been doing. Your research is some of the best I've ever seen."

He really was on his best behavior. That didn't even sound a little crazy. Overdone, maybe, but not crazy.

"I'm off today," Claire pointed out. Myrnin nodded and rested his chin on his hand. He had a nice smile, when he chose to use it, as he did now, mostly directed at Claire's mother, who brought over a coffee pot and refilled his cup.

Oh, good. Not anything red being served, then.

"Absolutely, I know you had a full class schedule today," he said. "This is a purely social call. I wanted to reassure your parents that all was going well for you." He looked down into his coffee. "And that what happened before would never happen again."

What happened before was code for the bite marks on her neck. The wounds were healed, but there was a scar, and as she thought about her, her hand went up and covered it, on its own. She forced it back down. Her parents didn't have any idea that Myrnin was responsible for that; they'd been told that it had been some other random vamp, and that Myrnin had helped save her. It was partly true, anyway. Myrnin had helped save her. He'd just also been the one to bite her.

Not that it had really been his fault. He’d been hurt, and desperate, and she’d just been there. At least he’d stopped himself in time.

She certainly hadn’t been able to stop him.

"Thanks," she said. She couldn't really be mad at him, not for any of it. It would have been easier if she could have. "Are you staying for dinner?"

"Me? Delicious as it smells, I fear I'm not one for bell peppers," he said, and stood up with one of those graceful moves vampires seemed so good at pulling off. They moved like humans, but better. "I'd better take my leave, Mrs. Danvers. Thank you so much for your hospitality, and the delicious coffee. Please tell your husband that I thank him as well."

"That's it?" Claire asked, mystified. "You came to talk to my parents, and now you're leaving?"

"Yes," he said, perfectly at ease. And perfectly weird. "And to drop this off for you, from Amelie." He patted his vest pockets, and came up with a cream-colored envelope, which he handed over to her. It was heavy, expensive paper, and it was stamped on the back with the Founder's Seal. Unopened. "I'll see you tomorrow, Claire. Don't forget the donuts."

"I won't," she said, all her attention on the envelope in her hands. Myrnin said something else to her mother, and then the kitchen door opened and closed, and he was gone.

"He has such beautiful manners," her mother said, locking the back door. "I'm glad you work for someone so -- civilized."

The scar on Claire's neck throbbed a little. She thought of all the times she'd seen Myrnin go off the rails -- the times he'd curled up weeping in a corner; the times he'd threatened her; the times he'd raved like a lunatic for hours on end. The times he'd begged her to put him out of his misery.

The time he'd actually given her samples of his own brain. In a Tupperware container.

"Civilized," she repeated softly. "Yeah. He's great." He was, that was the awful thing. He was great until he was horrible.

Kind of like the world in general.

Claire slit open the envelope with a kitchen knife, slipped out the heavy folded paper inside, and read the beautiful, looped handwriting. Amelie's, without a doubt.

In accordance with recent requests, I hereby am providing you with passes to exit and return to Morganville. You must present these to the checkpoints at the edge of town. Please provide them to your party and give them the same instructions. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Coordinate with Oliver to arrange your exit time.

Claire's breath left her in a rush. Morley's passes! Perfect timing, too; she didn't know how much longer any of them could keep Morley and his people from losing patience, and coming to take it out in blood. They wanted out of Morganville.

She could give it to them.

Only she realized immediately, as she took the passes out of the envelope, that there weren't nearly enough. Morley's people would need about thirty passes in total. Instead, there were only four in the envelope.

The names read Michael Glass, Eve Rosser, Shane Collins and Claire Danvers.

What the hell was going on?

Claire pulled out her cell phone and hit speed dial. It rang, and rang, but there was no answer. She hung up and tried another number.

"Oliver," said the voice on the other end.

"Um, hi, it's Claire? Is -- is Amelie there with you?"

"No."

"Wait, wait, don't hang up! You're on the town council -- I just got a letter that has some passes in it but it's not enough for -- "

"We turned down Morley's request for emigration out of Morganville," Oliver said. He had a low, even tone to his voice, but Claire felt herself go cold anyway. "He has a philosophy that is too dangerous to those of us who wish to remain ... what's the phrase? Under the radar."

"But -- we made a deal. Me, Shane, Eve and Michael. We said we'd get them passes."

"I'm aware of your deal. What is your question?"

"It's just -- Morley said he'd kill us. If we didn't get the passes for him. We told you that."

Oliver was silent for a long second, then said, "What part of I'm aware did you not comprehend, Claire? You and your friends have passes out of Morganville. As it happens, Michael requested leave to travel to Dallas for his recording and concert session. We've decided to allow that, under the condition that all of you travel together. With escort."

"Escort?" Claire asked. "You mean, like police?" She was thinking of Sherriff Hannah Moses, who would be good company in addition to a bad-ass bodyguard; she'd like Hannah from the moment she'd met her, and she thought Hannah liked her, too, as much as a tough ex-soldier could like a skinny, geeky girl half her age.

"No," Oliver said. "I don't mean police." And he hung up. Claire stared at the screen for a moment, then folded the phone closed and slipped it back in her pocket. She looked down at the passes, the envelope, the letter.

Amelie had decided to really piss off Morley, but at least she'd also decided to get Claire and her friends out of town.

With an escort.

Somehow, Claire just knew it wouldn't be as simple as just picking a responsible adult to go with them.

"Go get your father," her mom said, and began setting dishes on the table. "He's upstairs on the computer. Tell him dinner's ready."

Claire gathered up everything and put it in her backpack before heading upstairs. Another wave of same-but-not-quite washed over her; her mother and father had reserved the same room for her here that she had over in the Glass House, though the two were nothing alike. Home -- in name, anyway -- had her frilly white bed and furniture, stuff she'd gotten when she was ten. Pink curtains. Her room at the Glass House was completely different -- dark woods, dark fabrics. Adult.

Dad's computer room would have been Shane's bedroom, in the other house, which woke all kinds of thoughts and memories that really weren't appropriate right now, and caused her face to heat up as she poked her head in the room and quickly said, "Dad, dinner's ready! Help me eat the stuffed bell peppers before I gag and die?"

Her father looked up from the computer screen with a surprised, guilty jerk, and quickly shut down what he was doing. Claire blinked. Dad? Her dad was ... normal. Boringly normal. Not an activist, not a freak, not somebody who had to hide what he was doing on the computer from his own daughter. "Tell me you weren't looking at porn," she said.

"Claire!"

"Well, sorry, but you did the guilty dance. Most people I know, that means porn."

Her dad pulled in a deep breath, closed his eyes, and said, "I was playing a game."

Which made her feel oh, so much better. Until he said, "It's one of those online multiplayer games."

"Yeah? Which one? One of the fantasy ones?"

He looked mortally embarrassed now. "Not -- not really."

"Then what?"

For answer, he brought up the screen. On it was a night scene, a castle, a graveyard. Typical horror fare, at least if you were from the '50s.

A character appeared on the screen -- pale, tall, dressed in a Dracula cape and tuxedo.

With fangs.

Her mouth dropped open, and she stared at her father, her normal, boring father. "You're playing a vampire game?"

"It's called Castlemoor. I'm not just playing it. I get paid to be there, to watch what people are doing online."

"You -- get paid -- to play a vampire? By who?"

Her father sat back in his chair, and he slowly shook his head. "That's my business, Claire."

"Is it Amelie? Oliver?"

"Claire." This time, his voice had the parental ring of authority. "Enough. It's a job, and I get paid well enough to do it. We both know it's the best thing I can find, with all my restrictions. The doctors don't want me exerting myself too much."

Her dad wasn't well, and hadn't been for a while now. He was frail, fragile, and she worried about him more and more. About her mother, too. Mom looked frayed around the edges, with a kind of suppressed panic in her eyes.

"You'll be okay?" Claire said. Somehow, she made it a question, although she didn't mean to. "Did they find anything else?"

"No, honey, everything's fine. I just need time to get stronger."

He was lying to her, but she could tell that he didn't want her to pursue it. She wanted to; she wanted to yell and scream and demand to know what was going on.

But instead, she swallowed and said, "Playing a vampire online. That's a pretty wild career move, dad."

"Beats unemployment. So. Stuffed bell peppers, huh? I know how much you love those." Claire made a gagging sound. Her dad reached over and ruffled her dark hair. "Why don't you just tell her you don't like them?"

"I did. I do. It's a mom thing. She just keeps telling me I used to like them."

"Yeah," he agreed. "That's a mom thing."

###

Dinner passed the way it normally did, with Claire picking out edible parts of the bell pepper and her mother holding forth about whatever she was doing for the week. Claire contributed when direct questions came her way; otherwise, she just stayed out of it. She always knew what Mom was going to say, anyway. And she knew Dad wouldn't say much, if anything.

What he did say was, "Why don't you bring Shane over some night for dinner?"

It was like time stopped. Her mother froze, fork halfway to her mouth; Claire froze too, but unfortunately she was in the process of gulping down a mouthful of Coke at the time, which meant coughing and sputtering, watering eyes, the whole embarrassing bit.

"Honey, I'm sure Shane's very busy," her mother said, recovering. "Right, Claire?"

"I'd like to talk to him," her father said, and right now there wasn't any warm-and-fuzzy daddy vibe. It was more PARENT, in big, flashing red letters. "Soon."

"Uh -- okay, I'll see if -- okay." Claire frantically cut up a piece of stuffed bell pepper and ate it, bell pepper and all. She nearly choked again, but she managed to get it down. "Hey, I might be taking a trip."

"What kind of a trip?"

"To Dallas. With my friends."

"We'll see," Dad said, which meant no, of course. "I'd need to talk to Shane first."

Oh God, now they were bargaining. Or she was being blackmailed. Hard to tell the difference, sometimes. Claire mumbled that she'd try, or something like that, choked down another bite of food that no longer tasted even a little good, and jumped up to clear her plate. "Claire!" her mother called after her as she dashed into the kitchen. "You're not running off tonight, are you? I was hoping we could spend some time with you!"

"You just did," Claire muttered as she rinsed the plate and put it in the dishwasher. She raised her voice and yelled back, "Can't, Mom! I've got to study! All my books are over at the Glass House!"

"Well, you're not walking over there in the dark," Mom said. "Obviously."

"I told you, I've got a pin from Amelie! They're not going to bother me!"

Her dad opened the door of the kitchen. "And what about just garden-variety humans? You think that little pin protects you from everything that could hurt you?"

"Dad -- "

"I worry about you, Claire. You take these risks, and I don't know why. I don't know why you think it's okay."

She bit her lip. There was something in his voice, a kind of weary disappointment that cut her to the core and nearly brought tears to her eyes. She loved him, but he could be so clueless.

"I didn't say I'd walk, Dad," she said. "I make mistakes, sure, but I'm not stupid."

She took out her cell phone, dialed a number and turned her back on her father. When Eve answered with a bright, chirping "Hit me!", Claire said, "Can you come get me? At my house?"

"Claire," her father said.

She turned to look at him. "Dad, I really have to study."

"I know," he said. "I'll drive you home." He said it with a funny little smile, sad and resigned. And it wasn't until she smiled that she realized what he'd really said.

Home. The Glass House.

"It's hard for us to let go," he said. "You know that, right?"

She did. She hesitated for a second, then said into the phone, "Never mind, Eve, sorry, Dad's bringing me."

Then she hugged her father, and he hugged her back, hard, and kissed her gently on the forehead. "I love you, sweetie."

"I know. I love you too."

"But not enough to eat more stuffed bell peppers and play Jenga with your folks."

"No more bell peppers, but I'd completely play Jenga," she said. "One game?"

He hugged her even harder. "I'll get the game."

Three games of Jenga later, Claire was tired, happy, and a little bit sad. She's seen her mom laugh, and her dad look happy, and that was good, but there'd been something odd about it, too. Like she was a visitor. Like she didn't fit here anymore, the way she once had. Her family from the outside. She had too many experiences now that didn't include them.

"Claire," her dad said as he drove her home through the darkened streets of Morganville. It was quiet out, only a few cars moving about. Two of them were white police cruisers. At least three other cars they passed had heavy tinting, too heavy for humans to see through. "Your mom had a talk with me, and I'm not going to insist you keep on living at home with us. If you want to live with your friends, you can."

"Really?" She sat up straight, looking at him. "You mean it?"

"I don't see how it makes much difference. You're seventeen, and a more independent seventeen than I ever was. You've got a job and responsibilities beyond anything I can really understand. It doesn't make much sense for us to keep trying to treat you like a sheltered little girl." He hesitated, then went on. "And I sound like the worst dad in the world, don't I?"

"No," she said. "No, you don't. You sound like -- like you understand."

He sighed. "Your mother thinks if we just put more restrictions on you, things would get back to normal. You'd go back to being the same little girl she knew. But they won't, and you won't. I know that."

He sounded a little sad about it, and she remembered how she'd felt at the house -- a little out of place, as if she was a visitor in their lives. Her life was splitting off on its own.

It was such a strange feeling.

"But about Shane -- " her father continued.

"Dad!"

"I know you don't want to hear it, but I'm going to say it anyway. I'm not saying Shane is a bad guy, I'm sure he's not, at heart, but you really need to think about your future. What you want to do with your life. Don't get in too deep, too fast. You understand what I'm saying?"

"You married Mom when you were nineteen."

He sighed. "I knew you'd bring that up."

"Well? It's okay for you to make decisions before twenty, but not me?"

"Short answer? Yes. And we both know that if I really wanted to, I could make Shane's life a living hell. Dads can do that."

"You wouldn't!"

"No, I won't, because I do think he really loves you, and he really wants to protect you. But what Shane may not get at that age is that he could be the worst thing in the world for you. He could completely derail your life. Just -- keep your head, okay? You're a smart girl. Don't let your hormones run your life."

He pulled the car to a stop at the Glass House, behind Eve's big monster of a car. There were lights blazing in the windows. Warmth and friendship and another life, her life. One her parents could only watch from the outside.

She turned to her father, and saw him watching her with that same sad, quiet expression. He moved a strand of hair back from her face. "My little girl," he said, and shook his head. "I expect you for dinner soon."

"Okay," she said, and kissed him quickly. "Bye, Daddy."

He smiled, and she quickly got out of the car and ran up the cracked walk, jumped up the steps to the porch, and waved at him from the front door as she got out her keys. Even so, he waited, watching until she'd actually opened the door, stepped in, and closed it. Only then did she hear the engine rev as his car pulled out.

Michael was playing in the living room. Loud. That wasn't normal at all for him, and as Claire came around the corner she found Eve and Shane sitting on the floor, watching the show. Michael had set up an amplifier, and he was playing his electric guitar, which he rarely did at home, and damn. That was impressive stuff. She sank down next to Shane and leaned against him, and he put his arm around her. The music was like a physical wall pushing over her, and after the first few seconds of fighting it, Claire finally let herself go, and was pulled away on the roaring tide of notes as Michael played. She had no idea what the song was, but it was fast, loud, and amazing.

When it was over, her ears were left ringing, but she didn't care. Along with Shane and Eve, she clapped and whooped and whistled, and Michael gravely took a bow as he shut down the amp and unplugged. Shane got up and high-fived, low-fived him. "Nothing but net, man. How do you do that?"

"No idea, really," Michael said. "Hey, Claire. How are the folks?"

"Okay," she said. "My dad says I can officially move back in." Not that she'd ever really moved out.

"I knew we'd wear them down," Eve said. "After all, we really are amazingly cool." And now it was Eve's turn for the high five with Shane. "For a bunch of misfit geeks, slackers and losers."

"Which one are you?" Shane asked. She flipped him off. "Oh, right. Loser. Thanks for reminding me."

Claire dug in her backpack and came out with the passes Myrnin had delivered. "Uh -- I got these today. Somebody want to fill me in?"

Michael, at vampire speed, crossed the distance and snatched the paper out of her hand. He spread out the individual passes and stared at them with a blank, shocked expression. "But -- I didn't think -- "

"Apparently, somebody agreed," Claire said. "Eve?"

Eve frowned. "What? What is it?"

"Passes," Michael said. "To leave town, to go to Dallas. To do the demo."

"For you?"

"For all of us." Michael looked up, and slowly smiled. "You know what this means?"

Shane threw back his head and let out a loud wolf howl. "Road trip!" he yelled! "Yes!"

Michael put his arms around Eve, and she melted against him, pale-painted face against his chest, hands around his waist. Claire saw her dark eyes flutter closed, and a kind of peaceful happiness came over Eve's face -- and then her eyes snapped open. "Wait," she said. "I've never -- I mean -- outside? Of Morganville? To Dallas? You can't be serious. Michael?"

He held up a pass with her name on it. "It's signed. Official."

"They're letting us leave town? Are they insane? Because once I hit the shops in Dallas I don't think I'm ever coming home." Eve made a face. "And I can't believe I just thought of Morganville as home. How much of a saddie am I?"

"Eight out of ten," Shane said. "But we do have to come back, right?"

"Right," Michael said. "Well, I have to come back. I've got nowhere else to go. You guys ..."

"Stop," Eve said, and put a hand over his mouth to enforce the order. "Just stop there. Please."

He looked down at her, and their eyes locked. He took her hand away from his mouth, and then lifted the backs of her fingers to his lips for a long, slow kiss. It was just about the sexiest thing Claire had ever seen, full of sweetness and love and longing. From the expression on Eve's face, it was just about the sexiest thing she'd ever seen, too. "We'll talk about it on the road," Michael said. "The passes are good for a week. I'll make some calls and see when they need me in the studio there."

Eve nodded. Claire doubted she could put any words together, right at that moment.

"Hey," Shane said, and tapped Claire on the nose. "Snap out of it."

"What? What!"

"Seriously. You've got this chick flick hit-by-the-romance-hammer look. Stop it."

"Ass."

He shrugged. "I'm not one of those romantic guys," he said. "Hey, date Michael if you want that."

"No, don't," Eve said dreamily. "Mine."

"And there goes my blood sugar level," Shane said. "It's getting late, Claire has school tomorrow, I've got a long day of chopping fine barbecue -- "

"I think we'll stay down here," Michael said. He and Eve still hadn't blinked or looked away from each other.

"I am really not sticking around for that." Shane took Claire's hand in his. "Upstairs?"

She nodded, hitched her bag on her other shoulder, and followed him up. Shane opened the door of his room, turned, and lifted her hand up to his lips. He didn't quite kiss it. His dark eyes were wicked with laughter.

"Ass," she said again, more severely. "You couldn't be romantic if your life depended on it."

"You know what's lucky? Most bad guys don't ask you to be romantic on command, so that probably won’t matter."

"Only girlfriends do that."

"Well, they can qualify as supervillains. But only if they have a secret underground base. Wait -- you've got a mad scientist for a boss, and a lab -- "

"Park it," she said, and smacked his arm. "Are you going to kiss me goodnight, or what?"

"Romantic on command. See?"

"Fine," Claire said, and this time she actually did feel a little annoyed. "Then don't. Good night."

She pulled away from him and walked away the few steps to her own room, opened the door, slammed it, and flopped on her bed without bothering to turn on the lights. After a few seconds she remembered that in Morganville that was never a smart choice, and switched on the bedside Tiffany lamp. Rich colored light threw patterns on the wood, the walls, her skin.

No monsters hiding in the shadows. She was too tired to check under the bed or in the closet.

"Ass," she said again, and put her pillow over her face to scream her frustration into it. “Shane Collins is an ass!”

She stopped at the sound of a soft knock on the door. She put the pillow aside and waited, listening.

The knock came again.

"You're an ass," she yelled.

"I know," came Shane's voice through the door. "Let me make it up to you?"

"As if you can."

"Try me."

She sighed, slid off the bed, and went to open up.

Shane was standing there, of course. He came inside, closed the door behind him, and said, "Sit down."

"What are you doing?"

"Just sit down."

She did, perched on the edge of the bed, already frowning. There was something really different in the way he was acting now -- the flip side of how he'd been just a few moments ago, teasing and teen-boy.

This seemed much more ... adult.

"When you were in the hospital, after Dean ... well, you know." He shrugged. "You were kind of drugged up. I'm not sure what you remember."

She didn't remember all that much, really. A boy named Dean had abducted her, and hurt her pretty badly. She'd lost a lot of blood, and they'd given her something for the nightmares. She remembered everybody coming to see her -- Mom, Dad, Eve, Michael, Shane. Even Myrnin. Even Amelie and Oliver.

Shane ... he'd stayed with her. He'd said ...

She couldn't really remember what he'd said.

"Anyway," Shane said, "I told you this was for later. I guess it's kind of later, so, anyway."

He took out a small velvet box from his pocket, and Claire's heart just ... stopped. She thought she might faint. The top of her head felt very hot, and the rest of her felt very cold, and all she could look at was the box in his hand.

He wasn't. He couldn't.

Was he?

Shane was looking at the box, too. He turned it in his fingers restlessly. "It's not what you think," he said. "It's not -- look, it's a ring but I don't want you to think -- " He opened the box and showed her what was inside.

It was a beautiful little ring, silver, with a red stone in the shape of a heart, and hands holding it on either side. "It's a claddagh ring," he said. "It belonged to my sister, Alyssa. My mom gave it to her. It was

in Alyssa's locker at school when she -- when the house burned." When Alyssa died. When Shane’s life completed collapsed around him.

Tears burned in Claire's eyes. The ring glittered, silver and red, and she couldn't look at Shane's face. She thought that might destroy her. "It's beautiful," she whispered. "But you're not asking -- "

"No, Claire." He suddenly sank to his knees, like the strength had just gone out of him. "I suck, I know, but I can't do something like that, not yet. I'm -- look, family doesn't mean to me what it means to you. Mine fell apart. My sister, my mom -- and I can't even think about my dad. But I love you, Claire. That's what this means. That I love you. Okay?"

She looked up at him then, and felt tears break free to run hot down her cheeks. "I love you too," she said. "I can't take the ring. It means -- it means too much to you. It's all you have left of them."

"That's why it's better if you have it," he said, and held out the box, cupped in one hand. "Because you can make it a better memory. I can barely look at this thing without seeing the past. I don't want to see the past anymore. I want to see the future." He didn't blink, and she felt the breath leave her body. "You're the future, Claire."

Her head felt light and empty, her whole body hot and cold, shaking and strong.

She reached out and took the velvet box. She pulled the ring out and looked at it. "It's beautiful," she said. "Are you sure -- "

"Yes. I'm sure."

He took the ring from her and tried it on her right hand. It fit perfectly on the third finger.

Then he lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it, and it was definitely better than Michael had done it, definitely sexier, and Claire dropped to her knees with him and then he was kissing her, mouth hot and hungry, and they fell back together to the throw rug next to the bed, and stayed there, locked in each others arms, until the chill finally drove them up to the bed.
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Source: Just Jared
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Source: Garett Maggart as Sam Glass
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Source: Frank Langella as Bishop
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CALLING ALL MV FANS ! :D Heres my cast list. Btw, WE SOMEHOW HAVE TO BEG FOR MV TO BE A MOVIE/TV SHOW. (preferably TV show)
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morganville vampires
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Source: Russell Brand as Myrnin
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Eve
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Source: Kat Dennings as Eve Rosser
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hi hope you all like it
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