Bleeding Hearts Page 1



“The fact that we have to fetch our baby sister home because she’s out later than we are is just sad,” Quinn grumbled.

“Gives me a chance to check out these dishes though,” I said from halfway up an old-growth cedar. The trunk, mossy and glittering with gold-dust lichen, was big enough to support half a dozen tree houses. I was perched comfortably on one of its many massive branches, repositioning the angle of a hidden satellite dish. “What’s it say now?”

Quinn refreshed the screen on my laptop from down among the roots. They were like an old woman’s gnarled fingers from this perspective. “Looks good,” he called up.

I tweaked it anyway and double-checked it on my iPhone link before climbing down the branches as if they were steps. “That was the last one for this section,” I said, taking the last six feet in one leap. “I’ll have to disable the other ones. They might be in range of the camp.” I’d have to patrol nightly as well to block any new signals, even if the encampment was right up against the mountain and it was highly unlikely.

I knew that for a fact.

I’d already tried.

A lot.

The Blood Moon was a rare vampire gathering, and no Internet or cell phones were permitted for security’s sake. I wasn’t looking forward to that part. I mean, I don’t care about the diehards who run around in corsets or fifteenth-century plate armor to represent their lineages, but the lack of Internet access is just barbaric.

“I have a phone full of hot girls’ phone numbers, Connor,” Quinn remarked as I stashed my equipment in the pack on my motorcycle. “Before I delete them you should totally put the identical twin thing to good use.”

I rolled my eyes. “Twin or not, no one’s going to believe I’m you.”

“Well, not if you show up in a Star Trek T-shirt.”

Okay, yes, I have watched every episode of every Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and Stargate ever created, but I have never owned a Star Trek T-shirt.

Just saying.

“Forget it.”

“What about Hunter’s friend Chloe? You guys got your geek on until the late hours of the night a few weeks ago.” We’d been helping Chloe and Quinn’s girlfriend, Hunter, figure out what was making students sick at the Helios-Ra Academy.

I shrugged one shoulder. “We still e-mail, but it’s not like that.”

He shook his head sadly. “Who will carry on my fine legacy?”

“You’ve got a girlfriend, not a terminal disease.”

“Still, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: with great hotness comes great responsibility.”

Though Quinn wears his hair longer, we technically have the same face. But that’s not why he’s so popular with girls young and old—it’s something more indefinable. And he’s always been like that. He’s the one who likes girls, and I’m the one who likes comic books. Still, we get each other. We always have. I might have six brothers but I only have one twin.

I grinned at him. “Try Duncan.”

“Yeah, right.”

I might prefer computers to people, but Duncan was downright antisocial. Mind you, that doesn’t seem to stop the girls from following him around, either. Quinn likes that sort of thing, but it makes Duncan mental. Which is part of the fun.

“Guard, three o’clock,” I said with a sigh.

Quinn made a face and kicked his motorcycle into gear. We grinned at each other and took off.

The motorcycles growled as we sped around thick old trees and through giant ferns. We pulled into a narrow meadow, which was really more of a strip of wild grass and late-blooming goldenrod, and left our bikes in a row with the others. Between the oak trees was a path leading to numerous tents and vampires everywhere, talking, watching, unrolling family banners, and polishing swords. No cell phone signals—but swords were okay. I grumbled to myself.

There were more guards than I even knew existed, wearing various family insignias and stationed by every tent. The Drake crest currently outnumbered the others, but vampires were arriving nightly from all over the world. There was another secret guard, the Chandramaa, rumored to be roaming around, but no one had actually seen them. Chandramaa was a Sanskrit word for “moon,” and they were as old as the language itself.

Aware that we were probably being watched, we warily followed the path out of the woods, into the open field. It went against everything our mother had ever taught us. Luckily Solange was easy to find, loitering on the outskirts with a guy, well out of the torchlight. His back was to us, and he didn’t look familiar. It wasn’t Kieran—humans were allowed only when attached to a vampire family, and vampire hunters weren’t allowed at all. He was tall, with black hair, and he was standing entirely too close to her.

Quinn scowled. “Who the hell is that?”

I scowled too. “No idea.”

“Sol,” he called out to her. “Let’s go.”

She looked up at us, red-veined eyes narrowing warningly. “In a minute.” She clearly wanted us to stay where we were and butt out of her business.

Quinn and I exchanged a glance.

Not a chance.

We were crossing the field when it happened.

A vampire stepped out from between two sheltering dogwood trees. She looked Hel-Blar, except that her skin was a very light blue, not the usual mottled bruise color. Her smell was more like wet earth in spring than mushrooms, but it was close. Too close. She held a bow, nocked with an arrow.