Flutter, p.1
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       Flutter, p.1

         Part #3 of My Blood Approves series by Amanda Hocking

  - 1 -

  Jack smiled at me from across the glass chessboard, and any thoughts I had about the game were completely lost. Since I made the transformation from seventeen-year-old girl to full-fledged vampire three weeks ago, the ability to focus on anything had become much harder.

  My new senses made Jack even more amazing. When he moved his hand to touch a pawn, the light, tangy scent of him and his blood makes my mouth water. He’s even more attractive than I’d ever known, and I’ve spent far too many hours just gaping at him.

  “Ahem,” Milo cleared his throat more loudly than necessary, considering he could grab my attention by just changing the way he breathed.

  Every sound is so much more magnified than it was before. While I couldn’t hear a butterfly flapping its wings, my hearing had greatly improved. When it comes to heart beats and blood, I’m particularly sensitive.

  “I thought you wanted to learn to play chess,” Milo said.

  He sat behind us, perched in an over stuffed chair with one of his legs hanging over the arm. In human years, he was a year and a half younger than me, but he’d been a vampire longer than I had. With dark, wide eyes, he managed to look deep and mysterious, while as a human, he had just looked innocent and naive. The change sat with him immensely.

  “I know, I know,” I said, and my embarrassment amused Jack. “Just go over what a rook is one more time. ”

  “You’re not even trying at all, Alice,” Milo sighed.

  “Be serious,” Jack chimed in, his tone very dutiful.

  Our relationship currently bordered on unhealthy obsession, but that had to do with me turning and our recent bonding. Everyone assured us that it would eventually lessen to an acceptable level.

  Without any effort on my part, my body would automatically tilt towards him. Under the glass chess table, he had started brushing his foot against my leg, trying to get me to pay attention to him. His touch, even through a sock against my calf, did insane things to me. My heart fluttered unabashedly, but at least I could hear his for a change.

  “Okay, I totally know what you’re doing. ” Milo sounded disgusted.

  “Sorry!” I pulled my leg back.

  “You’re no fun,” Jack grumbled but made no attempt to touch me again.

  Jack’s brother Ezra insisted we keep some distance for awhile. My emotions tended to get the best of me. Anything passionate, like hunger or lust, overpowered everything, and I could actually kill Jack if we got frisky. So, we almost constantly had baby-sitters, in the form of Milo, Ezra, or Ezra’s wife Mae.

  Jack decided that he wasn’t the best one to teach me chess, so he bowed out and let Milo take his place. Milo explained the rules to me again while Jack made himself comfortable on the couch.

  His giant white Great Pyrenees, Matilda, brought her rope over to him so he would play with her. Even though he had moved away from us, my attention remained fixed on him.

  “Alice!” Milo snapped his fingers in front of my face, trying to draw my eyes away from Jack. “I’m going to send him out of the room if you don’t knock it off. ”

  “Sorry!” I repeated.

  Jack laughed, and that did nothing to help the situation. With sandy, disheveled hair, dancing blue eyes, and flawless, tan skin, Jack was attractive in his own right, but it was his amazing laughter that always got me. It was the clearest, most perfect sound I had ever heard.

  Milo stood up, preparing to make good on his threat, but Ezra walked into the living room.

  Ezra’s presence was like no other. Handsome in a way that only a vampire could be, his blond hair fell across his forehead, and his warm, russet eyes were unnaturally anxious.

  Mae followed close behind, and her usual happy demeanor vanished. She wrung her hands as they walked into the living room.

  “There’s been some trouble,” Ezra said in his deep voice, edged with his faded British accent. “I’ve got to go take care of some things. ”

  “What trouble? What are you talking about?” Milo asked, and his voice raised an octave, the way it did when he was nervous. When he had first turned, I’d been afraid he would lose some of his human traits, but for the most part, they seemed intact.

  Ezra exchanged a look with Mae, but she shook her head. Jack had dropped the rope, and Matilda kept pushing it against his hand to get him to play with her again, but he ignored her.

  “Peter,” Ezra answered finally.

  At the mention of his brother’s name, Jack’s entire body tensed so much he frightened Matilda away.

  I was still surprised at how little I felt when the topic of Peter was brought up. . The painful bond I had with him no longer existed, but I doubted that I could ever entirely sever my feelings for him.

  “Is he coming back?” Milo moved closer to me, as if I still needed protection.

  Jack dropped his eyes to the floor, and he battled to keep his anger under control. He’d never forgive Peter for nearly killing me when I’d been mortal. Somehow, I had never really faulted Peter for that.

  “No, he’s not coming back. ” Ezra shook his head but kept his eyes on Jack, gauging his reaction to the news. “I don’t think he’ll ever come back. ”

  “He won’t if he knows what’s good for him,” Jack growled in a voice so low it barely sounded like his own.

  “Jack, he’s still your brother,” Mae reminded him, her gentle accent trying to calm him.

  “He was never my brother!” Jack rolled his eyes and leaned back in the chair.

  Peter was 150 years older than Jack, so they weren’t related in the  human sense of the word. Peter had been the one to turn Jack, so his blood had fused to Jack’s, creating a bond between them that was much stronger than any normal familial relation. Before that, Ezra had turned Peter, making a steadfast bond between the three of them. Until I came along.

  “It doesn’t matter how you feel about him,” Ezra told Jack, but there was an underlying hurt. “He’s in very real danger, and I’ve got to go help him. ”

  “What kind of danger?” I asked, and I felt Jack’s eyes flit over to me but I refused to look back at him.

  “He’s…” Ezra furrowed his brow. “He’s killing vampires. ”

  “Yeah, that sounds like Peter,” Jack muttered.

  “I thought he’d gone off the grid,” I said, and Jack scoffed at me.

  Three weeks ago, Jack turned me into a vampire, and Peter took off. Peter did that frequently, but usually Ezra had a way of getting in touch with him. This time, Peter disappeared, and despite his best attempts, Ezra had been unable to reach him.

  Page 2

  “He has. Word travelled down about Peter,” Ezra elaborated. “I just got a phone call that vampires are seeking revenge on him. So I’m going to try and find him and see if I can’t reason with him. ”

  “He can handle himself,” Jack sneered at everyone’s concern. “Peter has killed vampires before, and he’s fought in wars. If there’s one thing Peter knows, it’s how to fight. ”

  “This is different. ” Ezra’s eyes grew sad. “There’s reason to believe he’s on a suicide mission. ”

  “Good,” Jack grunted under his breath.

  “I’ll go with you. ” I stood up abruptly and knocked over the chess board. My mind hadn’t caught up to what my body could do.

  “You’ll what?” Jack raised an eyebrow but looked at me evenly. We hadn’t talked about Peter at all since I had turned, but he incorrectly assumed that my feelings for Peter mirrored his own.

  “I’ll go with,” I repeated.

  - 2 -

  I bent down to pick up the chess pieces, but Milo swatted my hands away.

  “I’ll do it,” Mi
lo said, pulling glass pawns out of my hand. “You get busy letting them talk sense into you. ”

  “Alice. ” Jack’s expression remained mostly quizzical, but his breathing got heavier.

  Part of me did still care for Peter, and not because it was ingrained in me. Peter hadn’t done anything wrong in all of this, but he’d been ostracized by his family and gone through a terrible heartbreak because of it - because of me.

  “Alice, you don’t need to go with,” Mae shook her head.

  “I know I wouldn’t be any good in a fight, but maybe I could reason with him. Maybe I could convince him that it didn’t need to get to that point,” I said.

  Mae turned to Ezra, waiting for him to shoot me down, and I think that’s the only reason that Jack hadn’t freaked out yet. They all expected Ezra to thank me for my sentiments but tell me that it was better if I stayed home.

  “She has a point,” Ezra said carefully, and that’s when everybody decided to get upset.

  Mae touched his arm and tried to plead with him that I was far too young to go anywhere, let alone on a crusade to save Peter from a suicide mission. Jack jumped to his feet, but he couldn’t seem to decide whether he was angrier with me or Ezra, or maybe Peter. Milo finished setting up the chess set and smacked me on the arm.

  “Ow!” I scowled, rubbing my arm. “What’d you do that for?”

  “Because you’re an idiot and I can!” He’d always been a rather over-protective younger brother, but he was the mature one, the sensible one.

  I knew it was stupid, but as soon as Ezra had said that Peter was in danger, my heart flipped. If anything bad happened to him, it was my fault. If I left his family alone, the way he repeatedly begged me to, then he wouldn’t have run off into the mess that he’s in.

  “Ezra, you can’t seriously be thinking of taking her with you,” Jack said.

  His fists clenched at his sides, and his eyes were frightened. It killed him that I cared anything for Peter, and it would literally kill him if anything happened to me.

  “I won’t let anything happen to her, but she might be the best chance I have for talking Peter down. ” Ezra held his hands palm out towards Jack, trying to calm him. “I have to try anything. ”

  “I am so sick of this!” Jack shouted. “I should’ve just killed him when I had the chance!”

  “Jack!” Mae yelled. “You don’t mean that! Don’t say things like that!”

  “I would love to stay and have this argument with you, but we really need to get on a flight out of here,” Ezra boomed over us all. “Alice, if you’re coming with, you need to pack for the cold. I’ll go book the flight and get our passports ready. ” He turned to walk down the hall to his den, ending the conversation.

  “Ezra!” Jack made a step after him, but Mae stopped him.

  “I’ll talk to him. You take care of her. ” Mae nodded towards me.

  She hurried after Ezra, and Jack turned to me. He looked at me for a moment, trying to think of precisely what he wanted to say to me, and I took a deep breath before he could mount his argument.

  “You’re not going to talk me out of this, Jack. ”

  I brushed past him so I could run upstairs to my room, to our room, but both he and Milo followed right on my trail. With my quick, clumsy steps, it was amazing that I didn’t fall down the stairs, and if I had, that would’ve done very little for my case.

  Jack had been sleeping in Ezra’s den downstairs since I had turned, but all his things were still in here. The closet was full of both our clothes, and my wardrobe had expanded since I had moved in. Ezra and Mae had set me up with an expense account and credit cards a few weeks ago, and my new, trimmer vampire body required all new clothes.

  I went into the massive walk-in closet, rummaging around for bags. Jack had hot pink luggage, but I didn’t have time to question it and pulled them out. Jack stood in the doorway, and Milo was behind him, both of them glaring at me.

  “You’re actually packing?” Milo asked. “You can’t really be considering going with Ezra. ”

  “He’s right. This is stupid,” Jack agreed. “It’s ridiculous and dangerous, and you don’t even know where you’re going. How can you even pack for that?”

  “Ezra said to pack for the cold,” I reminded them.

  I loaded my bag with sweaters and jeans and socks. Vampires didn’t really feel cold, and in fact, we preferred it to heat. But if we were to walk around in a blizzard wearing a tee shirt and shorts, humans would question it, so we dressed to fit in.

  “Jack, just forbid her from going or something!” Milo said.

  “I can’t forbid her from doing anything,” Jack replied tiredly, but he definitely wished he could. “And if I tried, it would just make her want to do it more. ”

  I threw a pair of boots in the bag and then struggled to zip it up. Obviously, I was much stronger than the stupid metal zipper, but I hadn’t figured out how to use my strength at all.

  “Here. ” Jack knelt on the floor next to me so he could zip up my bag for me.

  “Thank you. ”

  “Alice, why do you even wanna go?” Jack asked.

  “He didn’t do anything wrong,” I told him quietly, and he rolled his eyes.

  “He tried to kill you, Alice!” Jack shouted.

  Page 3

  “He didn’t mean to,” I insisted, and that was only half a lie.

  Peter never really wanted to hurt me, but he didn’t know what to do about anything. When I asked him to end my life, he refused, so I bit my lip hard enough to draw blood, and I knew that he wouldn’t be able to reject biting me then. I had forced him into it, and Jack rushed in to stop him from finishing the job.

  “But he did, Alice! All he ever did was push you away and treat you like crap and almost kill you! What about that is so endearing to you?”

  “He didn’t ask for any of this, Jack! He didn’t ask to feel the way he did about me, and he just wanted it to stop! And now he’s alone and suicidal somewhere because of me! I can’t just let him die!”

  My intensity only hurt and bewildered Jack more. He leaned back, resting against a row of shelves filled with his Converse. His face had gone lax, and I knew he had resigned himself to me going, but that didn’t mean he felt okay about it.

  “Jack, listen to me. ” I took his hand, and his sad, blue eyes met mine. “Ezra’s not going to let anything bad happen to me. And I love you, okay?”

  “I don’t want you to go, Alice,” Jack said simply. “Please, if you love me, don’t go. ”

  Seeing him like that, so desperate for me to stay, broke my heart. I never wanted to hurt him. If Ezra shot me down, I wouldn’t have fought to go, but he agreed, so he thought that I could help. If causing Jack a few moments of misery would save Peter’s life, then so be it.

  “I’m sorry, Jack. ”

  Downstairs, Ezra called my name and said we had to get going. I pursed my lips, watching Jack. Part of me expected him to yell and demand that I stay, but that was never his style. He lowered his eyes and rubbed his thumb along the back of my hand, making my skin tremble.

  “I’ll drive you,” Jack whispered and got to his feet.

  “What?” Milo asked incredulously. “You’re just letting her go?”

  Jack still held my hand, so he helped me to my feet. He leaned over and picked up my bag so he could carry it downstairs.

  “What am I supposed to do?” Jack gave Milo a helpless shrug as we walked past him.

  “I told you! Forbid her from going!” Milo grew nervous and fidgety, traits that were increasingly uncommon with his new-found vampire confidence.

  “Yeah, you try forbidding her,” Jack muttered.

  He held my hand as we went downstairs where Mae and Ezra waited with his luggage. On the table, a small duffel bag was full of special containers.

  We survived mostly on blood donations, thanks to a set of clinics they ran similar to the Red
Cross. People donated blood thinking it was for blood transfusions in humans, but really, they were sustaining almost the entire species of vampires.

  When traveling with blood, we used special equipment. Airport security would find it suspect if Ezra boarded the plane with bags of blood. He used metal cans that looked like shaving cream, lined to make it impossible for dogs to sniff out. We could each only take one can with us, but it just had to be enough to last me the flight. We’d get more when we landed.

  Ezra stood next to Mae, sifting through the papers to make sure they were all in order. As soon as I had turned, he got all the documentation set up so I could live my life with them without any suspicion.

  That had been a source of contention since I had insisted on keeping my last name Bonham instead of changing it to Townsend, like the rest of them. Nobody had actually cared except for Jack, but he didn’t understand why I wouldn’t want his last name, especially since that was Milo’s last name too.

  Someday, I’m sure it would change, but for now, I wanted to hang onto every part of myself that I could, even if it was just my name.

  On the plus side, Ezra changed my age to eighteen, so it’d be easier for me to do things if I wasn’t a minor. They did the same thing with Milo, even though he was only sixteen, but he looked closer to nineteen.

  All of Ezra’s information said that he was twenty-nine, even though he had actually been twenty-six when he turned, but it was that way with all of them. Jack was really twenty-four, but his license said he was twenty-seven, and Mae’s said that she was thirty-one, even though she was three years younger than that when she turned.

  They’d lived this life, this name in this house, for four years already. They wouldn’t be able to pull off their ages for much longer, though, which meant that they were going to have to move very soon. As it was, Jack didn’t really pass for twenty-seven, and he would never make it as thirty.

  “When was the last time you ate?” Ezra asked me but didn’t look up from my passport. It was brand new, and he inspected it for any mistakes. As soon as I’d turned, Ezra had gotten me all the paperwork I might need, including a driver’s license, birth certificate, and passport.

  “Um, yesterday,” I said.

  There was a constant thirst with me, but it wasn’t the same as being thirsty when I was human. My mouth wasn’t parched, and my stomach didn’t feel empty like I was hungry, either. I just felt this need inside me, coming from everywhere and nowhere all at once.

  The closest feeling I could recall is when I ran too fast in gym, and my muscles would start to ache from the oxygen depilation. It would be this slow, swelling cramp that permeated through me. Except now the relief came from blood, accompanied by frantic lust.

  I managed to have reasonable control over my bloodlust. Both Milo and I had a stronger grasp of that than most vampires, something that bewildered Ezra and Mae. Our relationship to vampires constantly surprised them, and Ezra thought there was something deeper going on than merely my bond with Peter and Jack.

  “Hmm. ” Ezra eyed me over. “I don’t want you to get tired just yet. We’ll have to wait until you’re on the flight. Do you think you can handle being around people that much on an empty stomach?”

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