My blood approves, p.11
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       My Blood Approves, p.11

         Part #1 of My Blood Approves series by Amanda Hocking
 
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“What’s that supposed to mean?” By now, I was getting frightened and confused, and I just wished he could be straight with me, for once.

  “‘When you dance with the devil, the devil doesn’t change. The devil changes you. ’” The way Jack said it, it didn’t sound like it came directly from him. He was quoting someone, so I took a stab in the dark.

  “What? Is that like Dylan Thomas you’re using to confuse me?”

  “No, it’s Joaquin Phoenix, and I’m not trying to confuse you. I’m just trying to prepare you. ” For some reason, that sent chills down my spine, and I really wondered what he had in store for me.

  “You didn’t answer my question,” I told him when I finally found the will to speak. We’d already pulled up in front of my building, and I knew he wouldn’t answer anyway.

  “We don’t want anything with you. ” He bit his lip and looked over at me. “We just want you to be one of us. ”

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  “What does that mean?” I know I looked terrified despite my best efforts, but he just smiled at me.

  “I answered your question. ” He nodded at my building. “Get some sleep. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. ”

  “Yeah, right, like I can sleep after that,” I muttered opening the door. “When did you get so damn ominous? Were you watching Vincent Price last night or something?”

  Jack just laughed, and I got out of the Jeep. When he drove off, I stayed outside for a minute, letting the cold air seep into my skin. My whole life was changing. I could feel it. Everything about me was going to be different, and I had no idea what I was going to become.

  For the first time ever, I woke up before Milo but not by choice. I had been dreaming something about Peter’s emerald eyes and gnashing teeth, but by the time I woke up in a cold sweat, I couldn’t really put it together.

  My heart pounded horribly and my head was swimming. It had taken forever for me to fall asleep last night, and I couldn’t shake the feeling of impending doom.

  They wanted me to be one of them? What kind of horror movie crap was that? Did they expect me to marry into the family (and if so, was I supposed to marry Jack… or Peter?)

  Or was it something more horrific, like they were in a cult or something? Was I expected to be some kind of virgin sacrifice?

  While taking a shower, I tried to wash away my trepidation. Despite all the unusual and sometimes frightening occurrences, I couldn’t imagine that Jack would ever hurt me. Mae and Ezra seemed sincere in their unexplained affection for me, and even Peter had shown a reluctance to hurt me.

  All of it reminded me of a story I had read once. A young rather unattractive girl climbed a mountain and accidentally stumbled into a village of the most beautiful people she’d ever seen.

  Everyone in the entire town was absolutely perfect and amazing, but since everyone looked that way, they had grown bored with it. Being perfect was ordinary, but all the things about her that made her ugly in her old life made her stand out as beautiful and revered. Everyone fell in love with her and had sex with her, and eventually she died of exhaustion and depression.

  The story had some kind of moral about how everyone used her for the way she looked, and being liked for the way you looked is worse than not being liked at all.

  That wasn’t what stood out to me about it now. Jack and his family were flawless, and I was just ordinary and boring. Maybe they spent too much time keeping to themselves, and my general homeliness was new and refreshing for them. It was the only explanation I had for why they’d want me around.

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  But then, how exactly would I go about becoming one of them? And why would they even want me to? Just what the hell did he even mean by “one of them?” One of them what?

  By the time I got out of the shower, I had used up all the hot water. I muttered an apology to Milo, but he shrugged and said he didn’t mind cold showers.

  Going to school had never seemed so much like a chore, but at least it was Friday. I could stay out as late as I wanted tonight, and I would spend every second of the night interrogating Jack if that’s what it took. I wouldn’t stop until he told me everything.

  The day went by surprisingly fast, but that was in a large part because I slept my first three hours. Over my lunch break, I text messaged Jack and asked him when we were going to hang out.

  Even though he usually responded to me within seconds, he didn’t this time, but that’s what I had mostly expected since he stayed up all hours of the night. Still, I couldn’t help but check my phone every ten minutes and feel a twinge of disappointment that he hadn’t answered.

  When I got home, I turned the TV onto old Speed Racer cartoon reruns, but I didn’t even really pay attention to it. My phone was on my lap with the volume turned up full blast, and I kept bouncing my foot anxiously up and down. I crossed my arms tightly over my chest to keep from biting my nails, but it was a very hard battle.

  “Are you going over to Jack’s tonight?” Milo sat on the couch, absently watching the cartoon. He glanced over at me, and even in my distracted frame of mind, I noticed the pained expression on his face.

  “Probably. ” Then I looked down at my phone and sighed. “Maybe not. ”

  “I could make us supper if you stayed in,” Milo offered hopefully.

  Even though his voice had already changed, his face still carried all that baby fat that made him look like a little boy, and I couldn’t wait for him to grow out of that. Then it wouldn’t hurt so much when I broke his heart.

  I really had been neglecting him a lot lately, and it had to be horrible sitting in this tiny apartment all by himself night after night. But I had to get to the bottom of things with Jack.

  “That’s a nice idea, but not tonight. ” I let him down as gently as I could, but his face crumbled anyway, and he looked away. “Maybe we can another day this weekend. ”

  “You’re gonna be out all night with Jack. ” Milo tried to keep it matter-of-fact, but there was a bitter edge. “It’s the weekend, and you’re seventeen. I really shouldn’t expect any different. And pretty soon, you’ll be out on your own and have your own life and all that. I should just get used to it now. ”

  “Come on, Milo. You know you’ll always be a part of my life. ” Before I had met Jack, I would’ve said that with a 100% certainty. Milo was my brother and a huge part of my life, and nothing that could change that.

  At least that’s what I thought until Jack had half-warned/half-promised me that my life was going to change, that I was going to change. There might be somewhere that I went that Milo couldn’t follow. As much as it would kill me to leave him behind, the thought of life without Jack and Peter sounded worse.

  “Whatever you say,” Milo replied, and he was completely unconvinced. Maybe it was starting to show on my face, that I already had one foot out the door.

  I considered arguing with him more about it, but what was the point? Things were changing, and we both felt it. I didn’t want to lie to Milo, so we sat in silence, watching the TV. I expected him to get up and go in another room, or at least somewhere else to mourn my impending absence, but he stayed out there with me.

  When my phone finally jingled Jack’s ring tone, my heart skipped a beat and I jumped at it, but Milo just rolled his eyes.

  When do you wanna hang out? Jack texted me.

  As soon as possible.

  You know what I think would be fun? Why don’t you bring Milo with? Jack messaged back, and I felt a wave of conflicting emotions run over me.

  Bringing him along would definitely satiate my guilt, but it would also mean even less alone time with Jack where I could drill him for answers. Plus, I still hadn’t figured out what they wanted with me, let alone what they could possibly want with Milo. But he would like them, especially Mae.

  Finally, I decided that there was only one way to make a decision.

  “Milo, do you wanna come with me to Jack’s tonight?” I tried ha
rd not to sound reluctant about asking him, and I even smiled when I turned to look at him, trying to make the offer sound somewhat enticing.

  “What do you mean?” His eyes lit up and his voice raised an octave, but he wanted to make sure he understood what was transpiring before he agreed to it.

  “Just go over to Jack’s house and hang out. He has Guitar Hero and stuff . ” That would be an added bonus for Jack. He’d have someone to play video games with him that didn’t get irritated by it or totally suck at it.

  “Do you really want me to?” Milo hesitated, and I smiled reassuringly at him.

  “Yeah, of course I do. ” I wanted to be around him, but I wasn’t sure that this was the best idea.

  But it was the best idea I could come up with, and nothing bad had happened to me when I’d been with Jack. In fact, he’d saved my life twice. There shouldn’t be anything to worry about. So why was I worried?

  “Then okay. Yeah. That’d be great. ” Milo jumped up and ran into his room to change his clothes. He still had that crush on Jack to contend with, and I’m sure he’d forget all about it once he met Peter and Ezra.

  He’s in. When are you picking us up? I replied to Jack.

  Five minutes. I’m already on my way. That was Jack for you, not being psychic.

  “You better hurry!” I shouted at Milo and went into the bathroom to fix my makeup. The clothes I was wearing would have to do, but at least I wouldn’t go there with smudged eyeliner. “He’s gonna be here in five minutes!”

  “Ready!” Milo responded a second later. I peeked out the bathroom door to see him wearing almost the exact same outfit he was before – a long sleeved white shirt with a green polo over it and a pair of jeans.

  “You’re sure you want to come with?” I asked him, once I had finished getting ready.

  We walked out of the apartment, and Milo doubled check to make sure the door was locked and that he had his house keys in his pocket, something that I never did.

  “Yeah, why wouldn’t I?” Then Milo shot a nervous look at me. “Do you not want me to?”

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  “No, that’s not what I meant!” I said quickly and smiled at him. “Of course I want you to come with. ” I pushed the call button for the elevator and turned back to him. “There’s just a few things you have to know before we go. ”

  “Okay?” Milo raised an eyebrow at me, but I thought it’d be best if he were prepared. The elevator doors sprung open and we stepped inside. Thankfully, we were alone, because I would feel silly saying this stuff in front of complete strangers.

  “First, his brothers are really hot. I mean, like movie star hot, except even hotter. I know that you think Jack is amazing, but his brothers blow him out of the water. ” I looked over to gauge his response, but for the most part, he just looked skeptical.

  “Second, his family is super rich. One of their cars easily costs twice as much as Mom makes in a year, and they have five of them and this super fancy house. It’s really intimidating. ”

  “Like how rich?” Milo started to look nervous, so my point was getting through. “Like Bill Gates rich?”

  “I don’t know. I didn’t ask. ” I hadn’t asked Jack about that one thing. Their wealth was inconsequential to me.

  “Well what do they do for money then?” Naturally, Milo wanted to know all the practical reasons for everything. I had always meant to ask Jack what they did, but something else always sidetracked me.

  “I didn’t ask that either,” I sighed, and the elevators opened to the lobby.

  “Is there anything else I should know about them?” Milo asked as we walked out.

  “Um, Jack drives super fast, but he’s perfectly safe. ” I pushed open the glass doors that led outside.

  “Really?” Milo wrinkled his nose. “Like how fast?”

  “You’ll probably see,” I told him offhandedly, and then hurried over to Jack’s Jeep and jumped inside before Milo could ask anything more about it.

  As soon as I realized what I’d done, it dawned on me why Jack had invited Milo along; he knew I wouldn’t say anything in front of Milo. Jack was trying to get off the hook about last night.

  Someday, I’d probably have to tell Milo everything, but that day definitely wasn’t today. Maybe when I had the answers myself, and I could actually explain everything. Until then, I didn’t feel like letting that much out in the open.

  “Hey,” Jack smiled at me, then turned back to Milo. “Hey, Milo. It’s good seeing you again. ”

  “Yeah, you too,” Milo replied. He stared at Jack for a moment, but he was much better at controlling his crush on Jack than most people. I wondered if it had to do with the fact that he was gay. Or maybe he just had really amazing self control.

  “So what did you have planned for tonight?” I asked as Jack sped off down the highway towards his house.

  “I don’t know,” Jack shrugged. “I just thought it was time that your family met my family. ”

  “Why?”

  “Why not?” Jack countered.

  “I don’t know. We haven’t known each other that long, and it’s not like we’re getting married or something. ” That would be the logical time for families to mingle, not when two people have known each other for a couple weeks and are just friends.

  “No, it’s definitely not like that. ” Jack breathed deeply, and then turned up the stereo, blasting out the Violent Femmes.

  We were silent on the short car ride, but when we pulled up in front of his house, I heard Milo gasp in the back seat and whisper, “Its like a castle. ”

  I’d already been there a couple times, and it still felt breathtaking. The turret really set it off, but it completely suited them. After meeting Ezra and knowing that he built, it all seemed even more perfect.

  “Is Mae gone?” I asked.

  We had pulled into the garage, and I noticed her black Jetta gone. Every other time I’d come here, the garage had been full, and her empty spot stood out.

  “Yeah, but I thought she would be back by now. ” Jack’s face flashed confused and concerned, but he instantly smoothed it out with a broad smile for Milo and me. “She’ll be back soon. And Ezra and Peter are still here. ” He got out, and we followed suit.

  “Hey, wait. ” I lowered my voice then grabbed onto Jack’s arm to stop him. Milo was a little bit behind us, admiring the Lamborghini. He’d never been much of a car person before, but the Lamborghini had that power over anyone. “Is Peter going to be nice to Milo?”

  “Oh, yeah, he’ll be fine,” Jack nodded.

  “So it’s just me that he has a problem with?” My heart tightened.

  I had been hoping that Peter’s icy demeanor had something to do with the fact that I was an outsider, but if he had no problems with Milo, then it had to be me personally.

  “You are far more complicated,” Jack whispered.

  “Is ‘complicated’ like you’re go-to word or something?” I muttered, making him laugh.

  “Why are we just standing in the middle of the garage?” Milo piped in. He wasn’t that into cars, so it hadn’t held his attention for long, and he stood behind us looking confused.

  “We’re not. ” With that, Jack quickened his pace towards the house, and Milo and I followed more slowly.

  Jack threw open the door, and he was instantly greeted by Matilda jumping into him. Without Mae there to stop her or dampen her enthusiasm, she was free to jump and slobber all over Jack as much as she wanted.

  “Oh, and they have a dog too,” I told Milo and gestured to the giant white ball of fur in Jack’s arms. Jack remembered that Milo was there, and he put her on the ground much sooner than he normally did.

  “Yeah, I figured that out,” Milo said dryly.

  “This is Mattie!” Jack scratched her head roughly. “She’s a good girl. She’s just a big baby. ”

  “I can tell. ” Milo stood off to the side, watching Jack
wrestle with his dog.

  Ezra magically appeared in the doorway, and after taking a moment for myself to admire him, I looked back to see Milo’s reaction. His eyes had widened and his jaw had even gone a little lax. I wondered if I looked that awestruck when I met Ezra.

  “Oh, it’s just you,” Ezra said.

  “Thanks,” Jack replied sarcastically and stood up, temporarily ending his roughhousing with Matilda.

  “No, sorry, I didn’t mean it like that,” Ezra’s face broke into a smile that made it hard for me to breathe. “I thought that you might be Mae. ” At the mention of her, his lips got tighter, and he and Jack exchanged a pained look. “But she’s not back yet. ”

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  “I don’t know what could be taking her so long,” Jack added, growing irritated. Ezra dismissed him and turned to Milo.

  “You must be Alice’s brother. ” Ezra’s smile returned and he walked over to Milo to shake his hand. I watched to see if Milo noticed how weird (but good) their skin felt. If he did, it didn’t register on his face. He just smiled dumbly at Ezra. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Ezra. ”

  “I’m Milo. ” It was difficult for him to form the words, and he sounded out of breath. For once, I wasn’t the only one gawking at everyone.

  “So, Jack,” I said, interrupting Milo’s awkward starting, “Milo really loves video games. ”

  “Really?” Jack’s face lit up, and I half expected him to throw Milo under his arm and dash off into the next room. “Come on. I’ve got like everything, and I mean everything. From Grand Theft Auto to Pong, I’ve got you covered. ” He started to hurry into the living room, and Milo gave Ezra one last longing look before following him.

  “Really? You have Pong? Why?”

  “Cause its awesome!” Jack sounded mildly offended at being questioned.

  “Finally, someone for him to play with. ” Ezra smiled gratefully at me, and I looked away so I wouldn’t blush. “You wouldn’t believe how much time he spends on those damn things. Mae’s always trying to get him to go out and do something, anything, but it’s near impossible. She was so relieved when he met you and actually left the house. ”

  “Well, I’m glad that I could help,” I replied timidly. I “Where is Mae?”

  “Um, she’s out. ” Ezra’s normally open face closed up a bit, and it was a familiar expression that I’d seen written on Jack’s face every time he didn’t want to tell me something. “She really ought to be home soon. ”

  “I just wanted to make sure Milo meets her. ” I rubbed my arm, afraid that I had encroached on territory they’d rather I didn’t. “I know he’d really like her. ”

  “Everyone really likes Mae,” Ezra grinned, and then I felt stupid. Obviously everyone really liked her, so it was a silly thing to point it.

  “Oh, yeah, of course,” I fumbled. He laughed, and it was a tremendous laugh, but it wasn’t as spectacular as Jack’s. I doubted that anyone could ever match his, though, not even someone as perfect as Ezra.

 
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