Tempting Raven, Page 1Jessica Sorensen
(Curse of the Vampire Queen, #1)
About the Author
Also by Jessica Sorensen
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Copyright © 2017 by Jessica Sorensen
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While sitting in a room, surrounded by powerful vampires, do you ever get the feeling that you’re completely out of place? That at any moment one of them would drink your blood? That at any moment one of them will drink your blood? And there’s not a damn thing you can do about it because you’re not a powerful vampire. You’re just a plain, old—well, maybe not old since I’m only eighteen—average vampire, which basically means I’m an eighteen-year-old girl with slightly above average pale skin, super pointy teeth, and a thirst for blood.
That’s never happened to you before? Huh, strange. Then again, maybe you don’t live in Mystic Willow Bay, a town that’s resident to practically every paranormal creature, from vampires to demons to werewolves.
If you don’t, consider yourself lucky. Not that you don’t live in a weird-ass magical town, but because you’re not just an average vampire born into a family of very powerful, very successful vampires.
Take my father for instance. He’s head of the Mystic Willow Bay Vampire Council, and helps run and keep order in the vampire kingdom. He’s also more powerful and more ancient than most of the vampires in town—a few hundred years old, at least—but looks about thirty due to vampires’ sluggish aging process that starts when we reach our twenties. Until then, we age normally. At least, we do if we’re born a vampire. If we’re changed into one, that’s another story altogether. But those species of vampires are a rare occurrence.
My mom isn’t as old as my father, but she has more power zipping through her veins. She also owns one of the snazziest blood clubs in the entire town. Any vampire who’s any vampire goes there to let loose, feasting on blood and partying. Or, if you’re wealthy enough, you get the luxury of drinking Vampire Emperor or Empresses’ blood straight from the vein. And their blood not only carries a lot of power, but gives the taster a drop of their power temporarily.
My mom’s club is the only place in town that offers such a luxury, since most emperors and empresses don’t let average vampires taste their precious blood. How does she manage to get them to do it? She’s an empress herself and has all sorts of connections. So is my older sister, Nadine. Or, she will be in a few short weeks, on her twentieth birthday. At least, according to the Eternal Reading she got on her nineteenth birthday, something every vampire is required to get.
An Eternal Reading is basically a fortune telling to see if you’re going to be a badass emperor or empress vampire who harbors a lot of power and fights to keep order amongst the vampires. Nadine was stoked when her reading revealed there was a good chance she’d become an empress. I, however, didn’t share her squealing enthusiasm. Not out of jealousy, but because the last thing Nadine needs is an extra ego boost, something she proves every time she opens her mouth.
“I wasn’t planning on going out tonight,” she announces as she checks her reflection in a compact mirror. “But I look too amazing for the whole town not to get the privilege of seeing me. Imagine how pretty I’ll look when I become an empress. Or, if I end up being the queen.”
Me, my mom, my dad, and her are sitting at the table, eating our dinner and sipping on blood, listening to Nadine ramble on about how amazing she is, which is basically an every night occurrence. Nadine has this belief that she’ll become the next vampire queen, not just an empress, even though her reading didn’t reveal she would. But, I guess she has a dreamer side and hopes she’ll somehow get chosen, anyway.
Becoming queen means she’d be the most powerful vampire in all the world. Same goes for the vampire king. Although, from what I’ve heard, the queen is supposed to be more powerful than the king. Her main job is to rule over all the vampires and help keep order amongst our kind, which we desperately need right now with all the riots, rebellions, and chaos consuming our town.
The problem is, a king and queen aren’t voted into office. They’re chosen by Fate through an Eternal Reading. Apparently, Fate has been a bit lazy because we haven’t had a queen or king in over a century. Because of that, the vampire population has gone way, way down due to the growing number of murders.
Yes, we definitely need a queen. But not Nadine.
I cringe at the idea of how awful life would be if she did become queen. Talk about mad chaos in the streets.
Stop thinking about it. There’s no way it will happen. She didn’t get told that in her reading.
Shoving my worried thoughts aside, I cut into my bland chicken and take a bite. The blandness means my mom has been dabbling in blood tasting recently and her taste buds have gotten a little wonky.
“God, I’m so gorgeous,” Nadine continues to prattle on as she smacks her lips, making a stupid duck face. “Imagine how gorgeous I’m going to be after I turn into an empress. I’ll probably blind the entire town with my beauty.”
“Which means you’d probably have to move.” I pop a piece of chicken into my mouth and smile when she stares at me in confusion. “Since no one in the town would want to go blind, they’d more than likely kick you out. I guess that’s the price you pay for being so gorgeous.”
I’m all jokes and sarcasm. The truth is, my sister is pretty with her long, blonde hair, curves, and day sky-blue eyes. She’s what most vampires consider the ideal vampire in terms of looks. Her vanity, however, taints her beauty. Well, I think so. Not everyone shares my feeling, and Nadine is very popular.
She snaps the compact mirror shut and sneers at me. “You’re just jealous because you’re an ugly beast.”
“Nadine,” my father warns, looking up from his phone for the first time since we sat down for dinner as he prepares for tonight’s council meeting.
Nadine gives my dad an innocent look. “I’m sorry, Daddy, but she started it.”
My dad looks at me and sighs. “Raven, please be nice to your sister. Your witty sarcasm is a little too much for her.” He makes an over-the-head gesture.
I bite back a smile and nod. My sister may be the beauty of the family, but I’ve always been my dad’s favorite.
Nadine being Nadine doesn’t catch on to my dad’s underlying meaning and shoots me a smirk. “Ha! I won this one. Again.”
“If you say so,” I mumble then pop another pie
ce of chicken into my mouth, fighting back a gag.
I love my mom and love that she still cooks for us, even though we’re old enough to take care of ourselves, but this meat tastes like the chicken’s ass. Not wanting to hurt her feelings, I still continue choking down bites.
“What’s wrong?” my mom asks me. “You look like you’re about to throw up.”
“I’m fine,” I lie, stuffing another slice of chicken into my mouth.
My mom only scrutinizes me more. “You’re not fine. You look a little sick and pale, and your lips are redder than normal … You’ve looked this way for about a week now, but you seem worse tonight.”
Okay, that has nothing to do with the chicken.
“It’s not a big deal,” I tell her. “I’ve just been feeling a little tired lately, probably because I haven’t been sleeping well.”
She frowns. “Why haven’t you been sleeping well?”
I shrug. “Every time I close my eyes, I feel wired. Then I end up feeling tired all night. Yet, when sunrise comes, I can’t go to sleep. It’s a vicious, contradicting cycle. Plus, I feel cold all the time, like I have an ice fever.”
She places her palm to my forehead. “You do feel a little cold, but not enough to have ice fever.” She lowers her hand, a pucker forming at her brow. “How long has this been going on?”
I shrug. “I don’t know. Like, maybe a week or two.”
Her and my father exchange a concerned look that happens so quickly the human eye would never catch it.
“What’s going on?” My gaze dances back and forth between the two of them. “You’re acting squirrely. Did you overdo it on the top shelf blood or something?”
My mom shakes her head as she scoops up a spoonful of mashed potatoes. “We’re just thinking about how your nineteenth birthday is coming up in less than a week and how you’ll be getting your reading. We don’t want you sick for it.”
“Yeah, I know.” My lack of enthusiasm shows through my deflated tone.
Why the deflation? Well, for starters, I, in no way, shape, or vampire fang, believe I’m going to be told I possibly carry empress power in my veins, and for several reasons. One being that most empresses are blonde-haired beauties like my mom and Nadine. Also, future empresses typically show signs of above average power at a very early age, either with super speed, super hearing, or some other extraordinary rare gift. Since I’m a raven-haired vampire who couldn’t use her super speed until the age of twelve, I arrived at the conclusion a long time ago that my reading isn’t going to reveal anything miraculous hiding inside me. I’ll simply be told that I’ll carry out my life as a normal vampire. And that’s okay. At least I have a family who loves me. Well, my father and mother do. Nadine never has, something she’s proven time and time again.
For as long as I can remember, her and her two close friends, Rhyland and Kingsley Midnitegale—vampire twins who aren’t identical—have been torturing me. And they still do. Or, well, they did up until a little over a year ago, when they left to go to emperor’s training.
Yep, Ryland and Kingsley are almost officially emperors. They’ve also been my next-door neighbors for a very long time—my hot next-door neighbors. But that’s a completely different problem for another time.
The real problem is Rhyland and Kingsley are straight up cocky douchebags, something that’s been proven during many incidents. Take for instances the time they locked me in the attic so I wouldn’t, as Nadine put it, “ruin my glamorous party with your freaky pastiness.” They also once stole some of my underwear and hung them up all over the school, which double sucked because it was back when I was still clueless about sexy underwear and was sporting granny panties.
Around the age of seventeen, I started buying cute, boy-cut panties, though. Not that it matters, since only I have ever seen my underwear. Still, wearing them makes me feel like I have a cute butt, so yeah, there’s that …
Anyway, those are just two incidents on a very long list of times Rhyland, Kingsley, and Nadine tried to break me. There are many more, and I’m sure many more to come.
My mom sighs, drawing me out of my thoughts. “Raven, stop frowning. Getting your reading is supposed to be a good thing. Most vampires are excited to find out what they’re going to become.”
“But I already know what I’m going to become,” I point out. “It’s what I’ve been since the day I was born—plain and ordinary Raven.”
“At least you know you’re a loser.” Nadine smirks then lifts her goblet of blood to her lips.
“She’s not a loser.” Mom gives Nadine a harsh glare. “Don’t ever say that to your sister again.”
“Sorry, Mommy.” Nadine gives our mom a fake smile. “I really didn’t mean it. I was just messing around.”
Mom huffs out an exasperated breath—a breath that’s only taken instinctively and not necessary—like she’s so over this.
That makes two of us.
Fortunately, for the sake of mine and my mom’s sanity, Nadine gets up from the table and goes upstairs to her bedroom. Moments later, a pop song starts playing from her stereo.
“When is she moving out again?” my dad jokes. Well, mostly jokes. I think, deep down, a part of him is ready for Nadine to leave the lair.
“She’ll leave in a couple of months for her training,” Mom replies, filling up her goblet with more blood. “Well, that is, if the empress power does manifest on her birthday.”
“If? I thought her reading said she’d become one,” I say, then down the glass of blood in front of me. The wonderful metallic taste makes me feel sparkly inside, like I’m glowing.
That’s some good quality shit right there.
“No, her reading said she probably would.” My mom reclines in her chair. “But until her birthday, we won’t know for sure.” She dismisses the conversation with a flick of her wrist. “Enough talk about your sister. I want you to promise you won’t assume anything yet about your future, okay?”
“Why?” I dab the blood from my lips with a napkin. “It’s not like I don’t know what I am.” When her lips start to part in a protest, I hold up my hand. “I know you hope I’ll be read that I’m going to become an empress, but I really don’t believe that’s going to happen. I don’t show any of the signs. And I don’t want you to get your hopes up only for them to get staked.”
“Just because you don’t show any of the signs, doesn’t mean it won’t happen,” my dad intervenes, getting up to clear the table. “Your grandmother was one of the most powerful empresses there ever was, and she had the same black raven hair and eyes as you. And her powers developed slowly.” He gathers the dirty plates in his hand. “In fact, you’re pretty much the spitting image of her when she was around your age.”
“That’s not true,” I say. “I’ve seen photos of Grandma, and she’s gorgeous. Like, vampire star gorgeous.”
“Oh, Raven.” My mom tucks a strand of my hair behind my ear, something she’s done since I was a kid. “When are you going to start seeing yourself how everyone sees you?”
It takes every ounce of my vampire strength not to snort a laugh. I want to point out that I see myself exactly how everyone does—everyone except my parents—but I don’t want to sit at the table for the rest of the night, listening to them attempt to convince me otherwise. Not after all the work I put into accepting who I am and being okay with it. It took a while, but I’m getting there. And I’ve been happy lately. I want to hold on to that happiness. Savor it.
So, instead I say, “I’ll try.” Then I push up from the table and rise to my feet. “I’m going to go take a nap.”
My mom frowns as she glances at the clock. “It’s six o’clock on a Friday night.” Which is wake up time for vampires. Although, some can be quite the little day owls. My family definitely isn’t, though. “Aren’t you going out with Effie?”
“Not tonight,” I say through a yawn. “She’s going out on a date.”
My mom trades another indecipherable look with my dad that dri
ves me mad. Mad, I tell you! Before I can get drilled with any more questions, though, I move for the doorway.
“If you do go out, make sure to be careful,” my mom calls out. “And keep your phone on you.”
I pause in the doorway and glance over my shoulder. “You seem edgy. Are things really getting that bad around here?”
“Things are getting bad everywhere. Too many of our kind have decided that the law doesn’t apply to them. And the emperors and empresses are having a hard time keeping order anymore … There’s so many unnecessary deaths. And then there’s the rebellion going on.” She exchanges yet another secretive, worried look with my dad. “We need more structure and reign or else.” She dazes off for a moment. “What we need is a king and queen.”
“Yeah, probably,” I agree. Disorder has been taking over the land. Rebellion groups are growing, wreaking chaos everywhere, seeking God knows what end game. “If I go out, I’ll make sure to take my phone with me and be super careful,” I assure her.
She smiles stiffly. Then, for the fourth time, her and my father trade another secretive look. That’s when I realize what they’re doing—communicating with their eyes, a gift they discovered they both possessed after they married. My aunt told me the gift manifests between two vampires who are truly in love and meant to be together—who are soulmates. Not too many vampire couples possess the gift, which doesn’t bode well for the theory that every vampire has a soulmate. Still, I’d like to believe in the idea that there’s someone out there who’s perfect for me, who will bring out the best in me, who will push me to be better, who will be my shoulder to cry on and vice versa, and who will get into a bantering argument with me when I’m bored.
What? I’m a weirdo, okay? And I like to banter sometimes.
Leaving the kitchen, I drag my tired ass upstairs, but slam to a halt when I hear shrieking coming from Nadine’s room. At first, I think she’s done something stupid, like stab herself in the eye with her eyeliner again. Then she comes bouncing out of her room with a huge-ass smile on her face.