Blood Kiss

Blood Kiss by J.R. Ward Read Free Book Online

Book: Blood Kiss by J.R. Ward Read Free Book Online
Authors: J.R. Ward
shoes.”
    â€œFor you or her?”
    Nalla took off at a dead run, but across the way, her father was on her, striding tight on those little heels. Even though he looked like a looming monster with his scarred face, skull-trimmed hair and slave tattoos, Nalla giggled in delight, glancing back and smiling up at her daddy as she ran, ran, ran around the table and dodged in and out of the
doggen
who were clearing.
    â€œI need Nikes for the both of us.” Bella smiled. “Listen, I wanted to ask you. I heard a rumor you’re going to be chairing the Twelfth Month Festival Ball—”
    â€œWhat?”
    Bella frowned. “Wait, I thought . . . did I get this wrong?”
    â€œNo, it’s okay.” Great. “What were you going to say?”
    â€œI just wanted to tell you that I’d like to help in any way I can. I was surprised to hear that you took it on, butI get why you would. We need . . . I don’t know, I think it’s time for the race to reestablish the traditions that worked. There was a lot that didn’t, but the festivals are important—”
    An unhappy wail lit off in the now-empty room as Nalla lurched and was caught by her father just in time.
    â€œCrap, I gotta go,” Bella said. “She’s having growing pains. It’s been a long couple of days, I’ll tell you. Just remember I’m here for you, okay?”
    Bella hightailed off for her family, reaching out for Nalla, who in turn put out one arm for her
mahmen
. The other stayed with Dad . . . so that the three of them were united.
    Yes, Marissa, thought. Growing pains were a hard time, at least from what she had heard. For some reason, vampire young struggled with spurts of intense growth, as opposed to the long, slow, steady route to adult height that humans enjoyed.
    Just one more fun part to the species.
    Like their festivals.
    Marissa rubbed her temples as she went back over to Butch. “God, my head is pounding.”
    â€œIs it?” he said. “Let’s get you into bed.”
    â€œGood idea. I think I need some sleep.”
    â€œYeah. Yeah, you look tired.”
    â€œI am.”
    Annnnnnd that was pretty much the end of her night: Ten minutes later she was in bed, eyes closing, images of the last few hours flashing like strobe lights through her head.
    While Butch headed back out to sit in the Pit’s living room.
    Alone.

Chapter Four
    T he following evening, Paradise took the bus to school.
    So to speak.
    There were actually two “buses,” each holding about thirty people, and any similarities between the ubiquitous yellow mini-human transporters ended with the shared name. The vehicles the Brotherhood used to pick up the training center candidates were like something out of
White House Down
, all black inside and out, with thick, darkened windows that had to be bulletproof, tires like snowplows, and grilles that reminded her of a T. rex.
    Like everyone else, she had dematerialized to a tract of vacant land out to the west of Caldwell’s suburbs. Her father had wanted to go with her, but it had seemed important to start as she meant to go on. This was her independent decision; she needed to do what everyone else did—and she was pretty certain no one else would bring a chaperone.
    Especially not a chaperone who happened to be the King’s First Adviser.
    To see nearly sixty people she didn’t recognize had been a surprise. Then again, the application had made it clear that anyone was allowed to join the program, so there were a lot of civilians. Actually, it looked as if it was all civilians and the male/female ratio was, like, ten to one.
    But at least her sex was allowed.
    Refocusing, Paradise shifted in her seat and made sure her elbow didn’t disturb the male who was sitting next to her. Other than exchanging names—his was Axe—they hadn’t said anything, and his brooding silence fit his image

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