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Flesh and Blood (The Vampires of Shadow Hills Book 1), Page 2

Willow Rose

  "Your daughter is bea-u-ti-ful," Camille said and turned to make room for her own daughter. Camille pushed her forward. The young girl blushed, visibly embarrassed.

  "This is my Robyn. You'll have to excuse her lazy appearance, but it is, after all, Saturday, ha-ha. I can't seem to get her to get dressed on weekends lately. You know how teenagers are. Momentary insanity, they call it, ha-ha." Camille let out a long, dissatisfied sigh.

  Everything about Robyn screamed that she was highly uncomfortable. Jazmine gave her an awkward smile, trying to make her feel better, and it seemed to work. At least she smiled back.

  "Robyn can show you everything you need to know around here," Camille said. "You stick with her and she'll make sure you don't get in with the wrong crowd. I take it you'll also be going to Shadow Hills High?"

  "Yes," Briana said. "She's starting Monday."

  "Excellent. Now, Robyn will fill you in, but just a quick heads up. Make sure she stays away from the Smiths in number eighteen. They have two boys there and they are nothing but trouble, I tell ya'. You stay away from those two, Jazmine, and you'll be ju-ust fine."

  Chapter Four

  "Do you need any help with your bags or anything?"

  I forced half a smile as I asked the question. Jazmine nodded.

  "Sure. You can grab my blanket and pillow from inside the car if you like?"

  I nodded, then reached in and grabbed them from the back seat. As I stood with my head inside of their car, I heard more voices approach.

  "New neighbors, huh?"

  My blood froze. It was Claire. Claire Smith, Jayden's mother. I pulled my head out of the car, holding the blanket and pillow, then turned and sensed my mother's icy stare behind the sunglasses. Claire didn't seem to notice—or maybe she just pretended not to—as she walked up to Briana, reached out her hand, and shook hers.

  "Wow, quite the firm handshake," Briana said. "I like that."

  Next to Claire stood Jayden, looking every bit as uncomfortable as Jazmine and I felt. He was wearing his favorite UnderArmour sweatshirt that I loved him in. His long hair was unruly, and he put it behind his ear with his hand. He mouthed a Hi as his eyes locked with mine. I felt the blood rush to my cheeks as I mouthed Hi back. Meanwhile, our mothers continued without noticing us.

  "Well, Claire is kind of brusque." Camille spoke without looking in Claire's direction, but still addressed to her. "We have already welcomed the Jeffersons. AND given them a gift basket."

  "Well, I thought I might as well give them a warm welcome too," Claire said. "We were just going out for a run." She pointed at Jayden. "Me and my son. He gets so restless being cooped up inside on gorgeous days like this. Gotta give him some exercise, right?"

  "Sure," Briana said, seeming quite overwhelmed by the big welcome committee. Her husband had disappeared inside, carrying suitcases and boxes. The movers were working hard on emptying the truck.

  "So…I guess we'll see each other around," Claire said. "Maybe we can have you all over for a cookout one of the coming days. Throw some meat on the old grill. Maybe play some ball."

  "Sounds spectacular," Briana said.

  "Yeah, we don't eat meat," My mom said. "It's not healthy with all those hormones they pop in them and, besides, I absolutely hate eating anything with eyes."

  "Potatoes have eyes too," Claire said with a grin.

  Mom made a grimace. "You know what I mean."

  "I sure do," Claire said and started to walk away, jumping up and down like a racehorse waiting for the start signal. "Let me know what day will suit you best," she said as she turned around and called for Jayden to follow her.

  "Nice to meet you," Jayden said and waved at Jazmine.

  And that was when I noticed it. The look in Jayden's eyes as he said goodbye, just before he turned away and started to jog. There was something in the way he stared at her that made me uncomfortable. A sparkle that I had never seen in him before. They kept staring at each other. His mom was already yards ahead of him as she sprinted toward the park and the lake behind their neighborhood where they always ran on Saturdays.

  "I should…" he said and pointed at her while walking backward, his eyes still locked with Jazmine's.

  "See you later," Jazmine said.

  My eyes followed Jayden as he disappeared across the pavement and around the corner at the end of the road.

  "We should get back," my mom said and grabbed my hand in hers.

  I pulled out of her firm grip, my mother's long nails scratching my skin slightly. "I think I'll stay here and help Jazmine get settled in if you don't mind."

  "Of course not," my mom said. "I would stay too if I didn't have a conference call in a few minutes. Never a dull moment when running your own company, huh?"

  Chapter Five

  "So, what's your story?"

  Jazmine threw a soda can at me and I caught it. I had helped carry in most of Jazmine's stuff and now we were sitting on the carpet of what was going to be her room.

  "What do you mean my story?"

  I opened my Dr. Pepper can and sipped it. I was never allowed to have sodas at my house and it was the first time I ever had a Dr. Pepper. I didn't tell Jazmine, though, and pretended like Dr. Pepper was my favorite. Jazmine seemed like a very cool girl, and what few of her clothes I had seen were very expensive and looked like they came straight out of a fashion magazine.

  Jazmine shrugged. "I don't know. Like…where are you from?"

  "I was born here and raised here on this street."

  Jazmine chuckled. "What do you mean born here?"

  "My mom gave birth to both me and my brother in our living room in a tub. No anesthesia or anything. Only natural birthing. She's very proud of that. She'll tell you everything—in detail—if you ask her about it."

  "Yeek," Jazmine said.

  "I know," I said and touched the top of the can. "It's kind of gross, I guess."

  "And what about Jayden?"

  I looked up. "What do you mean?"

  "You must know each other, right? Living on the same street and all."

  "I guess."

  I sighed and looked away.

  "Uh-oh," Jazmine said and tried to look into my eyes.


  "You're into him, aren't you? Is he your one true love?"

  I shook my head. "I am not into him. Not at all. I’ve known him since we were in diapers, there’s no way…"

  Jazmine gave me a look. I sipped my soda again and looked away. "Okay. If you must know, I’m hopelessly in love with him."

  "Why hopelessly?"

  "Because our parents hate each other. I’m not even allowed to talk to him. At all."

  Jazmine whistled. "That's tough. But why?"

  I shrugged. "I don't know. It didn't used to be that way, but suddenly one day, my mom had some argument with Claire and, after that, I wasn't allowed to see him anymore."

  "Was that recently?"

  I nodded.

  "Well, you don't have to worry about me," Jazmine said. "I’m not into boys like Jayden. At all. Plus, my parents would never let me date a white guy. At least, I don't think so. Besides, he's way too hairy for me," Jazmine laughed, then sipped her soda. "Guess neither of us will have him then, huh?"

  I exhaled, a little relieved that Jazmine wasn't interested in him, and looked out the window of Jazmine's room. I spotted Jayden as he returned from his run with his mother and entered the driveway of his house. He had taken his shirt off and was showing off his abs.

  "I guess not."

  Chapter Six

  Jazmine asked me if I could show her around the neighborhood after we had finished our sodas, so I did. I started by showing off my own house, only from the outside because I hated taking people inside where my mother might—no, make that definitely would—embarrass me, then pointed across the street.

  "And that over there is Jayden's house."

  "Whose is the bike?" Jazmine asked and pointed at the motorcycle in the driveway.

  "That wou
ld be Jayden's dad's. He's a police officer. He’s well-known out there as the Speeding Nazi. If you speed, he will find you and hunt you down. He will even ticket his own neighbors. Tell your folks to keep an eye out, especially on the highway. He hides behind a sign or in the bushes."

  Jazmine chuckled. "I'll let them know. And his mom? What does she do?"

  "She's a fitness trainer down at the local gym."

  "Ah, that explains her muscles. They are all quite hairy, aren't they? Is his dad too?"

  I nodded. I had never thought about it, but now that I did, Jazmine was right. They all had very long, thick hair. Even the dad, who kept it shorter than Jayden, had always very unruly hair and a lot of it on his chest and back too. I remembered from when I had hung out at the pool at their house, back when I was allowed to still go there. Jayden’s dad would yell something, then run toward the pool, jump into the air, make a flip in the air, and fall in the water with a loud splash. I had seen him in his swim shorts many a time and his chest, back, arms and legs were quite hairy.

  "Jayden is only hairy on his head," I said.

  "For now," Jazmine said with a grin. "Once he grows up, he's gonna look just like them."

  I shrugged. "I don't care."

  "At some point, we’re all heading that way," Jazmine continued. "Becoming like our parents."

  The thought made me shiver, but I tried to hide it.

  "So, who lives over there?" Jazmine asked and pointed at the house at the end of the road.

  My eyes grew wide.

  "No one," I said. I wanted to stop Jazmine from approaching the old house, but it was too late. She walked up to the fence and looked in between the bars.

  "Is it abandoned?" she said.

  I walked closer, cautiously. This house had always given me the creeps. Its yard was overgrown with huge plants unlike any I had ever seen before. It was old and dark and so…so scary.


  "It looks like it’s been empty for a long time?"

  I nodded, feeling the chills run down my spine. "As long as I can remember."

  "Wow. Maybe it's haunted?" Jazmine asked. "Have you ever tried to go in there?"

  "No!" I shivered. "No one goes in there."

  As I stared at the old house, I felt it again. Whenever I got close to it, it was like it started to thud inside of me. Whether it was my heartbeat caused by anxiety or something else, I didn't know. It sounded almost like drums. Drums calling for me.

  "Why not?" Jazmine asked.

  I grabbed Jazmine's arm and pulled her away, putting the thumping sound behind me, getting away from it before it drove me crazy.

  "Come. There’s one more person you need to meet. Her name is Amy."

  Chapter Seven

  "Is this Amy character rich?"

  Jazmine looked at the house as they walked up the driveway. The pompous French Baroque-style door of house number ten was made of hand-carved wood and had golden leaves and what looked like flying mythological creatures on it. It reminded me of something out of Las Vegas. Not that I had ever been there.

  I shrugged. "They like stuff. Especially golden stuff. Like statues and vases and expensive rugs. Stuff like that."

  She rang the doorbell. The door opened fast. A small, chubby redhead peeked out.

  "Finally, you got here. I’ve been watching you from the window," she said. She gave Jazmine a look. "Who's the new girl?"

  "This is Jazmine," I said.

  "Well, don't just stand there. Get in here," Amy said and stepped aside so we could walk in.

  A wonderful smell hit our nostrils.

  "I’m baking cookies," Amy said. "I do that a lot. My parents work constantly and are never home, so I get bored," she continued, walking into the kitchen with a shrug. "And when I’m bored, I bake."

  "And when she’s stressed, she cooks," I said. "Like before exams, this is the place we all come to get good food to eat."

  The oven made a sound and Amy smiled. "Ah, they're done. Right on time."

  She walked to the oven and had to stand on her tippy toes to reach the oven mitts and put them on. She pulled the oven open and pulled the cookies out. "Ah, they're perfect."

  She placed them on the breakfast counter in front of Jazmine and me.

  "Dig in."

  I reached over and grabbed one, then blew on it before I took a bite. Jazmine did the same. Amy was watching us closely, and as we took our first bites, she nodded slowly with a smile.

  "Good, huh?"

  Jazmine nodded. "Yes, very."

  "It's my grandmother's recipe. Works like a charm every time. Coffee anyone?"

  "I don't drink coffee," I said.

  Amy sighed. "You mean your mother doesn't let you drink coffee." She looked at Jazmine with a shrug.

  "It stunts my growth," I said.

  Amy burst into laughter. "Nonsense. I drink coffee all the time and…" she stopped herself, then laughed again. "Oh, well, what can you do? We’re all hobbits in my family."

  Amy grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and threw it at me. "Here. Be boring."

  It didn't take Jazmine many seconds in Amy's company for them to become friends. It was easy with Amy. She was funny and always so cheerful. It took a lot to bring her down.

  "By the way…I am so sorry," she said after she had poured Jazmine a cup of coffee with milk.

  "Sorry? For what?" Jazmine asked.

  "For not giving you a proper welcome."

  "I think I got a pretty warm welcome," she said and looked at me. "I didn't even expect to meet anyone here on my first day."

  "Yeah, but you met them first."

  "What do you mean?"

  "The Smiths and the Joneses. They were the welcoming committee. You should have met some more normal people first." Amy bit into a cookie and chewed. Then she spoke again, pointing the cookie at Jazmine, crumbs falling off and landing on the counter. I stared at them. I wanted to sweep the crumbs away, to clean up after her, just like I desperately wanted to clean up the kitchen where Amy had left quite a mess—as usual—but I fought the desire.

  "Have you ever heard the expression keeping up with the Joneses?"

  "Why, yes, of course," Jazmine said.

  Amy dipped her cookie in the coffee and took another bite. "I’m pretty sure that expression was created for Robyn's family."

  "Come on," I said.

  "Oh, no, I won't," Amy said. "They are this picture-perfect family, just look at Robyn. She will eat one cookie today, but only because she doesn't want to offend me because she wants to be polite. She will never eat sweets or drink anything stronger than a sugarless gluten-free smoothie. She is a perfect straight-A girl, never had a B in her life, her long blonde hair is always immaculate, and her clothes are…well, boring, but always perfect. She takes after her mother, who is tall and skinny and runs her own company from her house, where she can keep a close eye on her children, so they won't get themselves into any trouble, and will bake a cake for any bake sale or charity event in the area. From scratch, naturally. And gluten-free. Nothing out of a bag or a carton. Her dad works for her mom and is also always home, ready to tend to his wife's every need. They work out every day and stay out of the sun to make sure their skin is perfectly protected, and you won't see a wrinkle on any of them; as a matter of fact, it's like they don’t even age at all. I’m guessing they're too perfect for that as well, right, Robyn?"

  "That's not true."

  Amy laughed. "Really?"

  I sighed and rolled my eyes. I looked at Jazmine with a grin. "All right, okay, stay clear of my family. Now you know."

  "And don't get caught in a fight between the Joneses and the Smiths,” Amy said. "They’ve been at it for eight months now and it is not getting better."

  "What are they fighting about anyway?" Jazmine asked.

  Amy shrugged and grabbed another cookie, which she dunked in her coffee. "Who knows?" Amy ate her cookie and looked distant. "Say, I saw you walk down to the old house. Did you tell her the stor

  I gave Amy a look. "No, Amy. I didn't. I didn't want to scare her on her first day here."

  "Well, I do," Amy said and grabbed a third cookie. Jazmine took another as well. I didn't. Amy looked up at Jazmine, her blue eyes sparkling.

  Chapter Eight

  "So, the story goes that Timmy Reynolds was a boy who lived in the old house down the street. We're talking like twenty-five years ago or something like that. It was before my parents moved here, so I only know because someone told them, and I accidentally overheard it. But anyway, Timmy was seven years old when he started to hear noises coming from the living room downstairs at night. At such a young age, he was naturally too scared to go downstairs and check on it at night, so he would just lie in his bed with eyes wide open and listen to the strange noises from the living room, his small hands shaking while holding the covers up above his head. Next morning, he told his parents about the weird sounds he had heard and asked them if they had heard them too, but they said they hadn't. They told him he was just dreaming, that his imagination was running away with him and to forget about it. But the following night, he heard the noises again as he lay in his bed, shaking, while listening to it for hours until the noise finally went away. Next morning, he told his parents once again about the noises, telling them it sounded like a big animal of some sort because he could hear growling and what sounded like big claws walking across the wooden floors. He was so scared, he begged his parents to let him sleep with them the following night, but naturally, his folks thought he was just making the stories up because he wanted to sleep in their bed again like he had when he was a baby. His mother told him it was probably just the cat, but Timmy didn't know any house cats that would make a noise like that. Meanwhile, his father was afraid that his son was turning into a wimp, so he told him to get his act together and if he heard the noise again, he should go down there and face it. Face your fears, son.

  "So, he did. The following night, Timmy went to bed, putting his baseball bat leaning against the headboard, and went to sleep. Right after midnight, when he woke up to the sounds coming from downstairs once again, he got up, grabbed his bat, and walked to the door, his hands shaking as they clenched around the bat. He walked into the hallway and out on the stairs. The noises grew louder and louder and, as he walked out onto the stairs, repeating what his dad had told him, Face your Fears, Face your Fears, over and over again, he suddenly saw his cat on one of the steps."