How far would you go to save your sister?
Life as a college senior is stressful enough. Between mid-terms, stupid boys, and a rare blood condition, Eliza Landry is just trying to figure out what normal is—whatever that means—when she discovers that vampires aren’t just a thing of legend.
In a matter of moments, her life changes forever when she and her older sister Kate suffer a vampire attack which leaves Eliza with two puncture wounds on her neck and an allergy to sunlight. But she’s still human, or at least she thinks she is. It doesn’t really matter—her main concern is that her sister is missing.
Sorrow turns to obsession, leading Eliza to piece together the puzzle of that terrifying night. Even stumbling upon a millennia-old vampire assassin named Luke Conrad who either wants to kill her or kiss her (she can’t decide) cannot deter her.
When bodies start piling up and one of them is supposedly Kate, Eliza and Luke set out to discover who is behind the attacks. Soon, Eliza is drawn into the dark and dangerous world of the undead, with no guarantee she’ll make it out alive, and no doubt that she won’t like what she finds.
HIGH HEELS ARE the devil’s shoe, I’m sure of it. I never used to wear them—still don’t, really—but that night I had decided to give them a chance. What a bad idea. The balls of my feet ached in protest, but my legs looked longer and leaner than they were. I made a mental note to thank my older sister, Kate, for letting me borrow the designer deathtraps.
That evening was all about getting out of the house and trying new things. New things meant anything other than sitting at home, remote in hand, watching Animal Planet with my pet bunny, Lapin, by my side—which is how I ended up here, at a frat party.
If I could brave the frat party—in heels and a dress no less!—then surely I could bring myself to dance a little like I used to. At least, that’s what I had convinced myself after two beers. I took a deep breath, letting the loud, rhythmic thumping of the music fill my ears and wake up my senses. Despite the screaming protests in the back of my head, I started to move. I let everything that was stressing about melt away. The dress was far skimpier than I normally would have been comfortable in, but Kate thought it was just what I needed to get my confidence back. Between mid-terms and breaking up with Jason, the last couple of weeks had been rough.
The Alpha Phi Sigma frat house was crowded with drunk, giggling co-eds, their male counterparts plying them with enough alcohol to knock them out. It was unremarkable how predictable the whole thing was, which is why I had stopped going to these things to begin with. At least the beer was tasty—Abita’s Jockamo IPA, my favorite brew. Not that I was supposed to be drinking.
I stepped out of the corner—affectionately dubbed the “creeper corner” by my best friend, Brigid—and walked through the packed living room, looking for a decent spot. I’d planted myself in the corner shortly after grabbing myself a beer from the kitchen. I was kind of digging the corner until a few misfits who were even more obviously out of place than I was had decided to join me and enlighten me on the origin of the term “wallflower.” That’s when I realized that, as bitter and awkward as I was, I still wasn’t awkward enough for the creeper corner.
I peered through the crowd, trying to find someone I knew. Even with the heels on, I wasn’t nearly tall enough to see over the mass of people. But then I spotted him—Jeff. All-around good guy, tall enough to secure his spot on the university’s basketball team as star center, Jeff was humble about his skills on the court, but that was about it. Off the court, he could talk himself up with the best of them. I knew of his charms better than anyone. He was also gorgeous. His light brown, sun-kissed skin was the perfect match to his dark green eyes. A true Creole, my grandmother had said. Why he hung around me, I’d never know. I was truly average, unless you factored in my annoyingly perfect big sister, Kate.
Squeezing through a gaggle of loud girls, grinding to the music, I gave a soft tug on Jeff’s basketball jersey.
“Half-pint!” he called over the noise and pulled me into his side. Jeff’s smile was infectious, and his positive nature naturally drew people to him. Like me. I wasn’t the social butterfly my sister was, and I wasn’t the sexy vixen my best friend was. I was just awkward and sick half of the time—neither of which was particularly appealing to the male species. Though, I was appealing enough to Jeff as a teenager, for a short while. That was back before his body discovered muscles.
“Congrats on the win,” I said. The Wolf Pack had just won a game against big-time rival, and neighboring school, Tulane University. In fact, it had been Loyola’s first win against Tulane in years. Jeff was, understandably, over the moon about the win, especially since he’d made the game-winning shot. His body rumbled with a happy chuckle and he gave my side a squeeze.
I made a quick survey of the room. From my vantage point I could see queen-bee sorority legend (and elder sister of yours truly), Kate, off in a corner with her lame-o boyfriend, Bryce. Sure, he seemed decent from a distance, but I knew him well enough to not trust him. And of course, Brigid was missing in action. I never could keep track of her at these things. Thank God. I might have been a tad bit tipsy, and I really didn’t want an audience for what I was about to do. Feeling brave, I bumped Jeff’s leg with my hip and batted my eyes.
“Dance with me?” I said. Jeff’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. It was true, I wasn’t much for dancing and certainly had never asked him before. In the past, it had always been Jeff who asked me to dance, not the other way around. I brought the beer bottle up to my lips and tilted my head back, finishing it off.
“Isn’t that kind of a bad idea?” Jeff asked, waving his finger at the bottle of beer. “You know, with the meds and all?” A smile tugged at his lips, but beneath that was worry.
“You get on me for not coming out and having a good time,” I said, putting a hand on my hip. “And now you’re getting on me for doing just that.” I narrowed my eyes in frustration.
“Let’s just make that your last one, okay?” Jeff reached out and took the empty bottle from me, placing it on the mantle above the nearby fireplace. I waved his concern away. His concern was genuine, it just wasn’t something I wanted to go over. Not here, not now.
“Offer’s about to expire,” I smiled flirtatiously, my body warming from the beer I’d just finished, and moved away from him.
“Oh no you don’t.” He grinned and pulled me back against him. I swayed my hips from side to side, not knowing what to do with my arms. Sure, I could waltz, but this was a different ball game. Jeff placed his hands on my sides, just above my hips, and guided me in a fluid motion. Our bodies moved together with ease. He moved in close. With anyone else, even Jason, I would have felt crowded. I reveled in Jeff’s nearness. I knew better than to go back to crushing on him, but I couldn’t help it. He was Jeff, and that still meant something to me.
The song changed from a heavy bumping techno beat to something with much less bass, and squeaky vocals. We kept dancing, his hands never leaving my sides. The songs continued to change, and we danced through each of them. Jeff’s hands moved down and gripped my hips, our legs intertwined. I looked up at him, hoping to find that mischievous glint that I knew so well. Instead, his eyes were elsewhere, over my head, looking across the room.
The room had grown damp with a crushing humidity. Or maybe it was me. My body was slick with sweat, and my chest was heavy, making it difficult to breathe. The red cotton mini dress I wore clung to my skin like wet tissue. My body slowed down, unable to keep up the fast pace, and the room started spinning.
“Liz,” Jeff shouted. In a split second, I had fallen into his arms. My ears were pounding. The heat of the room clogged my lungs, weighing down on me. There were too many people in here. Not enough oxygen. Not enough space. A panic attack stirred within me. Not here, not now, I thought. Please, no. Panic attacks were supposed to be a thing of the past. Dr. Brenda and I had worked on this. I was supposed to be fixed.
With Jeff’s arm around my waist, he led me, disoriented, into the kitchen and sat me in a chair. Gone for a moment, he returned with a wet cloth and pressed it to my forehead. The relief was instant. I felt like I was melting. Maybe I should have taken a breather sooner. There were still too many people. I could practically feel them touching me, crawling on my skin. Deep breaths, I told myself. Deep breaths.
“How’re you doing there, Sport?” My eyes shifted over to my dancing partner. Sport? What kind of name is that? First Half Pint and now Sport. I was in a mini dress and heels for God’s sake!
“You suck,” I muttered and leaned my head back, closing my eyes and praying for the room to stop spinning and all of the people to evaporate. I shouldn’t have come here.
“Don’t blame me because you just can’t handle all of this.” I couldn’t see him, but I’d bet a twenty that he was gesturing to his lanky form.
“What happened?” My eyes flew open at the sound of my sister’s voice. A mixture of concern and agitation echoed in her tone. It was what I imagined a mother to sound like as she nursed her fallen cub. I squeezed my eyes shut again, willing her and the encroaching headache to go away. She was always hovering, and, in this moment, it was getting on my nerves. The twirling feeling finally slowed—thank God—but Kate’s temper was just getting started. She leaned down and gave me a quick sniff. I peeked out at her. She was in a cotton mini dress, similar to the one I wore, only in a light blue, and her naturally curly, light brown hair was blown out. She looked as pristine as always.
“Jeff.” She glared at him “Did you give her beer?” He protested the accusation in an instant, but she wouldn’t let up—once the sick girl, forever the sick girl. She was just looking out for me, but it felt like she’d rest easier if I lived in a bubble. And in fact, I kind of did. I rarely went out, almost never to parties. I didn’t play any sports or engage in any reckless behavior. Unless wearing three-inch heels counted. And I was twenty-one! What the hell? Who cared if I had a little beer? My sister, that’s who.
“Kate,” I said, trying to keep the whine out of my voice. “I gave myself the beer. Okay?” God, this was humiliating. She wasn’t going to budge. And apparently so did Bryce Hebert. He was right behind her, whispering into her ear. He was always doing little things like that. He kept the worst of his comments quiet so that others couldn’t hear him. What an asshat.
“No, I will not calm down.” Her tone was cutting, and so was the look she gave him. I couldn’t hear what Bryce was saying, but he looked as annoyed as ever. It was just as well; his very presence was annoying me. “You know you can’t drink with your medication!” Her voice had risen above the music, and everyone in the kitchen turned around to stare at us.
“I’m fine.” I tried to reason with her, but that had about as much chance of working as my attempt at seducing Jeff. Pulling back, she studied my face and lowered her voice.
“I worry about you, Lizzie.” Instantly, I felt bad. She’d had every reason to worry. Time and time again I fell ill. And time and time again, she was by my side, trying to cheer me up. Always watching over me, ever present.
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