Saturday, July 09, 2011

Bloodlines sneak peak: First chapter!

So a friend of mine bought the Vampire Academy mass-market paperback the other day, and I asked her to take pics of the pages with the Bloodlines first chapter... only the crazy lunatic (whom I love to death) actually went one step further: she typed the whole thing down for me.
So, ladies and gents, with huge thanks to Heather, behold the first chapter of Bloodlines, available at the back of Vampire Academy mass-market paperback (or pocket book :P)

Please note that at the author’s discretion,

aspects of this first chapter may change between now

and the final version of BLOODLINES.

Chapter One


There was a hand covering my mouth and another shak-

ing my shoulder, startling me out of a heavy sleep. A thousand

frantic thoughts dashed through my mind in the space of a

single heartbeat. It was happening. My worst nightmare was

coming true.

They’re here! They’ve come for me!

My eyes blinked, staring wildly around the dark room until

my father’s face came into focus. I stilled my thrashing, tho-

roughly confused. He let go and stepped back to regard me

coldly. I sat up in the bed, my heart still pounding.


“Sydney. You wouldn’t wake up.”

Naturally, that was his only apology for scaring me to death.

“You need to get dressed and make yourself presentable,”

he continued. “Quickly and quietly. Meet me downstairs in the


I felt my eyes widen but didn’t hesitate with a response.

There was only one acceptable answer. “Yes, sir. Of course.”

“I’ll go and wake your sister.” He turned for the door, and I

leapt out of bed.

“Zoe?” I exclaimed. “What do you need her for?”

“Shh,” he chastised. “Hurry up and get ready. And remem-

Ber--be quiet. Don’t wake your mother.”

He shut the door without another word, leaving me staring.

The panic that had only just subsided began to surge within

me again. What did he need Zoe for? She had nothing to do

with Alchemist business. Technically, neither did I anymore,

not since I’d been put on indefinite suspension for bad behave-

ior this summer. What if that was what this was about? What if

I was finally being taken to the Reeducation Center and Zoe was

replacing me?

For a moment, the world swam around me, and I caught

hold of my bed to steady myself. Reeducation Centers. They

were the stuff of nightmares for young Alchemist like me,

mysterious places where those who grew too close to vampires

were dragged off to learn the errors of their ways. What exactly

went on there was a secret, one I never wanted to find out. I

was pretty sure “reeducation” was a nice way of saying “brain-

washing.” I’d never known anyone who came back to give a


My father’s urging to hurry up echoed back through my

mind, and I shook off my fears. Remembering his other warn-

ing, I also made sure I moved silently. My mother was a light

sleeper. Normally, it wouldn’t matter is she caught us going

off on Alchemist errands, but lately, she hadn’t been feeling

so kindly toward her husband’s (and daughter’s) employers.

Ever since angry Alchemist had deposited me on my parents’

doorstep last month, the household had held all the warmth

of a prison camp. Terrible arguments had gone down between

my parents, and my sister Zoe and I often found ourselves tip-

toeing around.


Why does he need Zoe?

The question burned through me as I scurried to get ready.

Presentable. I knew what that meant. Throwing on jeans and a

T-shirt was out of the question. Instead, I tugged on gray slacks

and a crisp, white button- down shirt. A darker, charcoal gray

cardigan went over it, which I cinched neatly at my waist with

a black belt. A small gold cross – one I always wore around my

neck—was the only ornamentation I bothered with.

My hair was a slightly bigger problem. Even after only

two hours of sleep, it was already going in every direction.

I smoothed it down as best I could and then coated it with

a thick layer of hairspray in the hopes that it would get me

through whatever was to come. A light dusting of powder was

the only makeup I put on.

The entire process took me all of six minutes, which might

have been a new record. I sprinted down the stairs in the perfect

silence. The living room was dark, but from my father’s study,

light spilled out past the not- quite shut door. Taking that as an

invitation, I pushed the door open and slipped inside. Hushed

conversation stopped at my entrance. My father eyes me from

head to toe and showed his approval at my appearance in the

way he knew best: by simply withholding criticism.

“Sydney,” he said brusquely. “I believe you know Donna


The formidable Alchemist stood near the window, arms

crossed, looking as tough and lean as I remembered. I’d spent

a lot of time with Stanton recently, though I would hardly say

we were friends—especially since certain actions of mine had

ended up putting the two of us under a sort of “vampire house

arrest.” If she harbored any resentment toward me, she didn’t

show it, though. She nodded to me in polite greeting, her face

all business.

Three other Alchemists were there as well, all men. They were

introduced to me as Barnes, Michaelson, and Horowtz. Barnes

and Michaelson were my father and Stanton’s age. Horow-

itz was younger, mid-twenties, and was setting up a tattoo-

ist’s tools. All of them were dressed like me, wearing business

casual clothing in nondescript colors. Our goal was always to

look nice but not attract notice. The Alchemist had been play-

ing Men-in-Black for centuries, long before humans dreamed

of life on other worlds. When the light hit their faces the right

way, each Alchemist displayed a lily tattoo identical to mine.

Again, my unease grew. Was this some kind of interroga-

tion? An assessment to see if my decision to help a renegade

half-vampire girl meant my loyalties had changed? I crossed

my arms over my chest and schooled my face to neutrality,

hoping I looked cool and confident. If I still had a chance to

plead my case, I intended to present a solid one.

Before anyone could utter another word, Zoe entered. She

shut the door behind her and peered around in terror, her eyes

wide. Our father’s study was huge—he’s built an addition

onto our house for it—and it easily held all the occupants. But

as I watched my sister take in the scene, I knew she felt stifled

and trapped. I met her eyes and tried to send a silent message

of sympathy. It must have worked because she scurried to my

side, looking only fractionally less afraid.

“Zoe,” said my father. He let her name hang in the air in this

way he had, making it clear to both of us that he was disap-

pointed. I could immediately guess why. She wore jeans and an

old sweatshirt and had her brown hair in two cute but sloppy

braids. By any other persons’ standards, she would have been

“presentable”—but not by his. If felt her cower against me, and

I tried to make myself taller and more protective. After mak-

ing sure his condemnation was felt, our father introduced Zoe

to the others. Stanton gave her the same polite nod she’d given

me and turned toward my father.

“I don’t understand, Jared,” said Stanton. “Which one of

them are you going to use?”

“Well, that’s the problem,” my father said. “Zoe was

requested . . . but I’m not sure she’s ready. In fact, I know she

isn’t. She’s only had most basic of training. But in the light of

Sydney’s recent . . . experiences . . .”

My mind immediately began to pull the pieces together.

First, and most importantly, it seemed I wasn’t going to be sent

to a Reeducation Center. Not yet, at least. This was about some-

thing else. There was some mission of task afoot, and someone

wanted to sub in Zoe because she, unlike certain other mem-

bers of her family, had no history of betraying the Alchemists.

My father was right that she’s only received basic instruction.

Our jobs were hereditary, and I had been chosen years ago as

the next Alchemist in the Sage family. My older sister Carly

had been passed over was now away at college and too

old. He’s taught Zoe as backup instead, in the event something

happened to me, like a car accident or mauling by vampire.

I stepped forward, not knowing what I was going to say

until I spoke. The only thing I knew for sure was that I could

not let Zoe get sucked into the Alchemist’s schemes. “I spoke to

a committee about my actions after they happened,” I said. “I

was under the impression that they understood why I did the

things I did. I’m fully qualified to serve in whatever way you

need—much more so than my sister. I have real-world experi-

ence. I knew this job inside and out.”

“A little too much real-world experience, if memory

serves,” said Stanton dryly.

“I for one would like to hear these ‘reasons’ again, “said

Barnes, using his fingers to make air quotes. “I’m not thrilled

about tossing a half-trained girl out there, but I also find it hard

to believe someone who aided a vampire criminal is ‘fully

qualified to serve.”’ More pretentious air quotes.

I smiled back pleasantly. “I understand, sir. But Rose Hath-

away was eventually proven innocent of the crime she’d been

accused of. So, I wasn’t technically aiding a criminal. My

actions eventually helped find the real murder.”

“Be that as it may, we—and you – didn’t know she was

‘innocent’ at the time,” he said.

“I know,” I said. “But I believed she was.”

Barnes snorted. “And there’s the problem. You should’ve

believed what the Alchemists told you, not run off with your

own far-fetched theories. At the very least, you should’ve taken

what evidence you’d gathered to your superiors.”

Evidence? How could I explain that it wasn’t evidence that

had driven me to help Rose, so much as a feeling in my gut that

she telling the truth? That was something I knew they’d

never understand, however. All of us were trained to believe

the worst of her kind. Telling them that I had seen truth and

honestly in her wouldn’t my cause here. Neither would

mentioning the blackmail that had also pushed me into help-

ing her. There was only one argument that they might possibly

be able to comprehend.

“I . . . I didn’t tell anyone because I wanted to get all the

credit for it. I was hoping that if I uncovered it, I could get a

promotion and a better assignment.”

It took every ounce of self-control I had to say those words

straight-faced. I felt humiliated at making such an admission. As

though ambition would really drive me to such extreme behave-

iors! It made me feel slimy and shallow. But, as I’d suspected,

this was something the other Alchemists could understand.

Michaelson snorted. “Misguided, but not entirely unex-

pected for her age.”

The other men shared equally condescending looks, even

my father. Only Stanton looked doubtful but then, she’d wit-

nessed more of the fiasco than they had.

My father glanced at the others, waiting for further com-

ment. When none came, he shrugged, “If no one has any object-

tions, then, I’d rather we use Sydney. Not that I even entirely

understand what you need her for.” There was a slightly accus-

ing tone in his voice over not having been filled in yet. Jared

Sage didn’t like to be left out of the loop.

“I have no problem with using the older girl, “said Barnes.

“But keep the younger one around until the others get here,

in case they have any objections.” I wondered how many

“others” would be joining us. My father’s study was huge, but

it was no stadium.

Horowitz spoke up for the first time. “What do you want

me to do?”

“Re-ink Sydney,” said Stanton decisively. “Even if she

doesn’t go, it won’t hurt to have the spells reinforced. No point

in inking Zoe until we know what we’re doing with her.”

My eyes flicked to my sister’s noticeable bare—and pale—

cheeks. Yes. As long as there was no lily there, she was free.

Once the tattoo was emblazoned on your skin, there was no

going back. You belonged to the Alchemists.

Horowitz had set up a folding table on the far side of my

father’s study. He patted it and gave me a friendly smile.

“Step right up,” he told me. “Get you ticket.”

Barnes shot him a disapproving look. “Please. You could

show a little respect for the ritual, David.”

Horowitz merely shrugged. He helped me lie down, and

though I was too afraid of the others to openly smile back., I

hoped my gratitude showed in my eyes. Another smile from

him told me he understood. Turning my head, I watched as

Barnes reverently set a black briefcase on a side table. The other

Alchemists gathered around and clasped their hands together

in front of them. He must be the hierophant, I realized. Most

of what the Alchemist did was rooted in science, but a few

tasks required divine assistance. That’s what hierophants—

our priests—were for.

“Oh Lord,” he intoned, closing his eyes. “Bless these elixirs.

Remove the taint of evil they carry so that their life-giving

power shines through purely to us, your servants.”

He opened the briefcase and removed four small vials, each

filled with dark red liquid. Labels that I couldn’t read marked

each one. With steady hand and practiced eye, Barnes poured

precise amounts from each vial into a larger bottle. When he’d

used all four, he produced a tiny packet of powder that he

emptied into the rest of the mix. I felt a tingle in the air, and

the bottles contents turned to gold. He handed the bottle to

Horowitz who stood ready with a needle. Everyone relaxed,

the ceremonial part complete.

I obediently turned away, exposing my cheek. A

moment later, Horowitz ‘s shadow fell over me. “This will

sting a little, but nothing like when you originally got it.

It’s just a touch- up,” He explained kindly.

“I know,” I said. I’d been re-inked before. “Thanks.”

The needle pricked my skin, and I tried to not wince. It did

sting, but like he’s said, Horowitz wasn’t creating a new tattoo.

He was simply injecting small amounts of the “ink” into my

existing tattoo, recharging its power. I took this as a good sign.

Zoe might not be out of danger yet, but surely thy wouldn’t

go to the trouble of re-inking me if they were just going to send

me to a Reeducation Center.

“Can you brief us on what’s happening while we’re wait-

ing?” asked my father. “All I was told was that you needed a

teen girl.” The way he said it made it sound like a disposable

role, making me more adamant than ever about protecting Zoe.

“We have a situation,” I heard Stanton say. Here it was. “A

situation with the Moroi.”

Better than the Strigoi, I thought. Any “situation” the

Alchemists faced always involved one of the vampire races,

and I’d take the living, non-killing ones any day. They almost

seemed human at times (though I’d never tell anyone here

that) and lived and died like we did. Stigoi, however, were

twisted freaks of nature. They were undead, murderous vam-

pire created either when a Strigoi forcibly made a victim drink

its blood or when a Moroi purposely took a life of another

through blood drinking.

All sorts of possible scenarios played through my mind as

I considered what issue had prompted action from the Alche-

mists tonight: a human who had noticed someone with fangs,

a feeder who had escaped and gone public, a Moroi treated

by humans doctors . . . those were the kinds of problems we

Alchemists faced the most, ones I had been trained to handle

and cover up with ease. Why they would need “a teenage girl”

for any of those was a still a mystery.

“You know that they elected their girl-queen last month,”

said Barnes. I could practically see him rolling eyes.

Everyone in the room murmured affirmatively. Of course

knew about that. The Alchemists paid careful attention to

the political goings-on of the Moroi. Knowing what vampires

were doing was crucial to keeping them secret from the rest of

humanity. That was our purpose, to protect our brethren. Know

thy enemy was taken very seriously with us. The girl the Moroi

had elected queen, Vasilisa Dragonmir, was eighteen, just like me.

“Don’t tense,” said Horowitz gently.

I hadn’t realized I had been. I tried to relax, but thinking of

Vasilisa Dragonmir made me think of Rose Hathaway. Uneasily,

I wondered if maybe I shouldn’t have been so quick to assume

I was out of trouble here. Mercifully, Barnes simply kept going

with the story, not mentioning my indirect connection to the

girl-queen and her associates.

“Well, as shocking as that is to us, it’s been just as shocking

to some of their own people. There have been a lot of protests

and dissidence. No one’s tried to attack the Dragomir girl, but

that’s probably because she’s so well guarded. Her enemies, it

seems, have therefore found a workaround: her sister.”

“Jill,” I said, speaking before I could stop myself. Horowitz

tsked me for moving, and I immediately regretted drawing

attention to myself and my knowledge of the Moroi. Never-

theless, an image of Jillian Mastrano flashed into my mind, tall

and annoying slim like all Moroi, with big, pale green eyes

that always seemed nervous. And she had good reason to be.

At fifteen, Jill discovered she was Vasilisa’s illegitimate

sister, making her the only other member of their royal fam-

ily’s line. She too was tied to the mess I’d gotten myself into.

“You know their laws,” continued Stanton, after a moment

of awkward silence. His tone conveyed with what we all thought of

Moroi laws. An elected monarch? It made no sense, but what

else could one expect from unnatural beings like vampires?

“And Vasilisa must have one family member in order to hold

her throne. Therefore, her enemies have decided if they can’t

directly remove her, they’ll remove her family.

A chill ran down my spine at the unspoken meaning, and I

again commented without thinking. “Did something happen

to Jill?” This time, I’d at least chosen a moment when Horowitz

was refilling his needle, so there was a no danger messing up

the tattoo.

I bit my lip on any other words, imagining the chas-

tisement in my father’s eyes. Showing concern for Moroi

was the last thing I wanted to do, considering my uncertain

status. I didn’t have any strong attachment to Jill, but the

thought of someone trying to kill a fifteen-year-old—the

same age as Zoe – was appealing, no matter what race she

belonged to.

“That’s what unclear,” Stanton mused. “She was attacked,

we know that much, but we can’t tell if she received any real

injury. Regardless, she’s fine now, but the attempt happened at

their own Court, indicating they have traitors at high levels.”

Barnes snorted in disgust. “What can you expect, though?

How their race has managed to survive as long as they have

without turning on each other is beyond me.”

There were mutters of agreement.

“Ridiculous or not, though, we cannot have them in civil

war,” said Stanton. “Some Moroi have acted in protest,

enough that they’ve caught the attention of human media. We

can’t allow that. We need their government stable, and that

means ensuring the girl’s safety. Maybe they can’t trust them-

selves, but they can trust us.”

There was no use in my pointing out that the Moroi didn’t

really trust the Alchemists. But, since we had no interest in kill-

ing off the Moroi monarch of her family, I supposed that made

us more trustworthy than some.

“We need to make the girl disappear,” said Michaelson. “At

least until the Moroi can undo that law that makes Vasilisa’s

throne so precarious. Hiding Mastrano with her own people

isn’t safe at the moment, so we need to conceal her among

humans.” Disdain dripped from his words. “But it’s impera-

tive she also remains concealed from humans. Our race cannot

know theirs exist.”

“After consultation with the guardians, we’ve chosen a

location we all believe will be safer for her—both from Moroi

and Strigoi,” said Stanton. “However, to make sure she—

and those with her – remain undetected, we’re going to need

Alchemists on-hand, dedicated solely on her needs.”

My father scoffed. “That’s a waste of our resources. Not to

mention unbearable for whoever has to stay with her.”

I had a bad feeling about what was coming.

“This is where Sydney comes in,” said Stanton. “We’d like

her to be one of the Alchemists that accompanies Jillian into


“What?” exclaimed my father. “You can’t be serious.”

“Why not?” Stanton’s tone calm and level. “They’re

close in age, so being together won’t raise suspicion. And

Sydney, if I’m not mistaken, already knows the girl. Surely

spending time with her won’t be as ‘unbearable’ as it might be

for other Alchemists.”

The subtext was loud and clear. I wasn’t free of my past, not

yet. Horowitz paused and lifted the needle, allowing me the

chance to speak. My mind raced. Some response was expected.
I didn’t want to sound too upset by the plan. I needed to

restore my good name among the Alchemists and show my

willingness to follow orders. That being said, I also didn’t want

to sound as though I were too comfortable with vampires or

their half-human counterparts, the dhampirs.

“Spending time with any of them is never fun,” I finally

said, keeping my voice cool and haughty. “Doesn’t matter how

much you do it. But I’ll do whatever ‘s necessary to keep us—

and everyone else—safe.” I didn’t need to explain that “every-

one” meant humans.

“There you see, Jared?” Barnes sounded pleased with the

answer. “The girl knows her duty. We’ve made a number of

arrangements already that should make things run smoothly,

and we certainly wouldn’t send her there alone—especially

since the Moroi girl won’t be alone either.”

‘What do you mean?” My father still didn’t sound happy

about any of this, and I wondered what was upsetting him the

most. Did he truly think I might be in danger? Or was he simp-

ly worried spending more time with the Moroi would turn

my loyalties even more? “How many of them are coming?”

“They’re sending a dhampir,” said Michaelson. “One of

their guardians, which I really don’t have a problem with. The

location we’ve chosen should be Strigoi-free, but if it’s not, bet-

ter they fight those monsters than us.”

“There you are,” Horowitz told me, stepping back. “You

can sit up.”

I obeyed and resisted the urge to touch my cheek. The only

thing I felt from his work was the needle’s ting, but I knew

powerful magic was working its way through me, magic that

would give me a superhuman immune system and prevent

me from speaking about vampire affairs to ordinary humans. I

tried not to think about other part, about where that magic

came from.

The others were still standing, not paying attention to me—

well except for Zoe. She still looked confused and afraid and

kept glancing anxiously my way.

“There also may be another Moroi along,” continued

Stanton. “Honestly, I’m not sure why but they were very insis-

tent. We told them the fewer of them we had to hide, the better,

but . . . well. They seemed to think it was necessary and said

they’d make arrangements for him there. He’s some Ivashkov.


“Where is there?” asked my father. “Where do you want to

send her?”

Excellent question. I’d been wondering the same thing. My

first full-time job with the Alchemists had sent me halfway

around the world to Russia. If the Alchemist were intent on

hiding Jill, there was no telling what remote location they’d

send her to.

“Palm Springs,” said Barnes.

“Palm Springs?” I echoed. That was not what I’d been

expecting. When I thought of Palm Springs, I thought of the movie

stars and gold courses.

A small, wry smile tugged at Stanton’s lips. “It’s in the desert

and receives a lot of sunlight. Completely undesirable for Stri-

goi. And Moroi too, for that matter—but it’ll keep her safe. And

our Moroi contact was very adamant about the location—

The sound of a car door opening and slamming outside the

window caught everyone’s attention. “Ahh,” said Michaelson.

“There are the others. I’ll let them in.”

He slipped out of the study and presumably headed toward

the front door to let in whoever had arrived. Moments later, I

heard a new voice speaking as Michaelson returned to us.

“Well, Dad couldn’t make it, so he just sent me,” the new

voice was saying.

The study door opened, and my heart stopped.

No, I thought. Anyone but him."

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