Passing (Crusade)

    ~ A Crusade Series Story ~
    Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié
    New York Times Bestselling Authors of the Wicked series
    Smashwords Edition
    Copyright 2011 Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié
    "Passing" (short story), 2009 - first appeared in The Eternal Kiss , edited by Trisha Telep.
    Crusade , 2010
    Damned , 2011

    It was almost time--a few minutes before midnight on New Year’s Eve. New Year, new vampire hunter. Would I be the one?
    I sat down shakily in the ancient stone chapel of the former Universidad de Salamanca, the most ancient university in Spain. When the war broke out, most of the universities in Europe shut down. The Americans figured the vampires would never attack us on our native soil. We paid dearly for our arrogance.
    For the last twelve years, Salamanca had been the home of the Academia Sagrada Familia Contra los Vampiros . It was the school for vampire hunters--my school. There were foreign students from all over the world, because the Academia was the best. Academia graduates took out the most vamps, and they had the highest survival rate. There were six living Academicians; Juan Maldonaldo had been a hunter for nine years. Unbelievable.
    Not that the survival rate was very good--out of the original ninety-six of us in our class, we were down to eighteen. We shuffled into the chapel in our ceremonial black robes, our hoods concealing our faces. We were about to take our final exam. Only one of us would pass.
    I had dreaded this moment for two long years--the moment my foot crossed the threshold of the Academy--and feared it for two months. Diego, our Master, had warned us that as the time grew near, we would experience high anxiety. About a dozen of my classmates woke screaming from nightmares. There was a lot of jogging in the middle of the night. Even though drugs and alcohol were forbidden, I knew that people were swigging wine and taking Xanax so they could get some rest.
    None of them carried the extra burdens--or the accompanying terror and guilt --that I did.
    I should say something, tell someone , I thought. But I would sooner cut out my own heart than tell them what I’d done. What I might do.
    At the thought, my heart skipped beats, and I clung to the back of the carved mahogany pew.
    In the last two months, I had broken a lot of rules. For some of the things I had done, they didn’t even have rules. No one would have dreamed of crossing the line I had leaped across last Halloween.
    Exactly two months ago, on October 31, everything had changed. The Vampire War had taken a brutal turn when the vamps had murdered the daughter of the President of the United States. The Cursed Ones didn’t put it that way, of course. They claimed they had “liberated” her--changed her into one of them--and that our side had murdered her when we drove a stake through her heart and cut off her head.
    Like everyone else, I demanded payback. I couldn’t wait to take revenge. Although we were pledged to run together, I wanted a vampire to die by my own hand. I ran with my grupo across the ancient medieval bridge as the dying sun turned the stone city a golden color. We scoured the hills for blood drinkers, Spaniards and Americans, Koreans and Swedes. In our body armor, we sang our song, which had always sounded so corny to me before. Translated into English, it went like this:
    We are the vampire hunters.
    Our cause is holy.
    From Spain we come to save the world.
    Race from us into the sunlight, demons of hell!
    Better that you die in flames than by our hands!
    That night, Antonio de la Cruz was by my side. Sometimes he held my gloved hand in his as we charged through the darkness. My crossbow smacked the bruises I had gotten in Advanced Streetfighting the day before.
    Fog rose around us like smoke from a wildfire. I heard shouts and Antonio’s hand left mine. I called for him; he answered, very far away. I saw a face floating in the fog

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