Dread Nemesis of Mine - By John Corwin

Chapter 1

I was at Jack Borathen's funeral when I saw the young blonde girl watching me as she leaned against a towering gravestone. I noticed the family name etched into the dark marble and shuddered. Conroy. My mother's maiden name. The last name of the grandparents who'd stolen my little sister Ivy from us—wrenched her from our lives when I was just a kid. Mom had blurred the memories of my sister from my mind. In fact, I'd never seen her face in real life.

Until now.

Elyssa's hand gripped mine painfully tight as they lowered the casket bearing her brother, Jack’s, remains into the ground. Her other brother, Michael, towered in dark silence across from us. My sister—or a girl who looked just like I'd always imagined my sister would look—stood some fifty yards behind him.

I stood frozen with indecision. A funeral was a bad time to dash away without a word. Silent tears streamed down Elyssa's face leaving dark trails of eyeliner against her alabaster skin. I looked back to the other girl. Her bright blonde hair was tied back in a ponytail and she wore a blue dress patterned with flowers. It seemed awfully out of place for winter. She smirked. Her blue eyes glinted. I couldn't tell if they sparked with malice or happiness.

"May his soul rest in the forever, which awaits us all," the Templar priest intoned as he sprinkled the casket with holy water.

I hoped desperately for the ceremony to end so I could excuse myself. But the priest seemed determined to drag things out as long as possible, droning on about the afterlife, God's goodness, and the better place awaiting us all.

I had to call BS. I'd met angels—two of them, in fact. If they were heavenly messengers, the only thing waiting in the afterlife was a world of hurt, and God had hopped on a unicorn and ridden into the sunset a long time ago.

The girl, apparently tired of the long-winded priest, formed an imaginary mouth with her hand, pressing the thumb and fingers together in a talking motion, and gave an exaggerated yawn. She rolled her eyes, and stepped behind the Conroy family headstone. I couldn't let her go. I had to know for sure if she was really my sister, or just some kid who'd wandered off from the funeral. I kissed Elyssa on the cheek and whispered, "I'll be right back."

Her violet eyes widened with confusion as I released her hand and backed away through the crowd. I tried to look casual. And failed. Thankfully, Elyssa's parents were sitting to her right and didn't seem to notice me slip into the crowd right away. The second I cleared the fringe, I sped in a wide arc around the sprawling graveyard and toward the headstone behind which I hoped my sister still waited.

Instead, I found only a note taped to the stone.

It fluttered in a gentle, chilly breeze, taunting me for not coming sooner. I cursed and jerked it free. Unfolded the sheet and looked at the words scrawled on it: Look behind you.

I spun, suddenly quite aware I may have walked straight into a trap set by Maximus—a real douche of a vampire who'd once kidnapped my father—or any other number of bad guys. Instead of a group of angry vampires ready to beat me and take me to their rogue leader, Ivy stood there, arms crossed, and a blonde eyebrow arched imperiously.

"Justin?" she asked, her voice still that of a teeny-bopper—cute, but with the sauciness of a fledgling tween. Her big blue eyes and golden hair looked exactly like our mom's, and the resemblance in her face almost took my breath away.

"Ivy," I said, taking a step toward her, arms outstretched for the brother-sister hug I longed for.

She backed away, waggling a finger at me. "Nuh uh, big bro." She stopped and crossed her arms, raking me with a critical eye. "I'm disappointed."

My mouth dropped open and I froze in my tracks. "Not exactly the greeting I was expecting."

"I expected you to look more dangerous. Maybe have a scar or an evil scowl on your face."

I wrinkled my nose. "Why in the world would I look evil?"

She snorted and gave me a yeah right! look. "Because you are evil."

I staggered back a step, my gut feeling like she'd just landed a physical blow with a sledgehammer. "But—but why?" I sputtered.

"You can act innocent if you want, Justin Slade, but I know all about you. Grandma and Grandpa told me how your

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