School Spirits - By Rachel Hawkins

CHAPTER 1

Killing a vampire is actually a lot easier than you’d think. I know movies and TV make it look really hard, like if you don’t hit the right spot, it won’t work. But the truth is, those are just rumors spread by vampire hunters to make themselves seem tougher. If everyone knew how easy it actually is to kill a vamp, there wouldn’t be so many movies and TV shows and stuff. All it takes is a wooden stake and enough pressure to send it through the chest cavity. Doesn’t really matter if you hit the heart or not.

See? So easy.

But capturing a vampire? Yeah, that’s a little bit tougher.

“Just. Hold. Still,” I mumbled around the tiny flashlight in my mouth. I was straddling the vamp’s chest, my right hand holding a stake poised over his heart, my left clutching the little piece of paper with the ritual on it.

“Release me, mortal!” the vampire cried, but his voice broke on the last word, kind of ruining the dramatic effect. “My brothers will be here soon, and we will bathe in your blood.”

I spit out the miniflashlight, and it landed on the hardwood floor with a clink. Pressing the stake closer, I leaned over him. “Nice try. We’ve been watching you for a week. You’re working this town solo. No nest in sight.”

“Nest” is what vampires call both their houses and the group of fellow vampires who are basically their roommates. I thought it was a pretty dorky name, but then, a lot about vampires is dorky.

This one was especially bad. Not only was he rocking the gelled hair, he’d moved into the one creepy, pseudo-Victorian mansion in town. He might as well have hung a neon sign blaring, HERE THERE BE VAMPIRE. All of his furniture was red velvet and heavy wood, and when I’d busted in earlier, he was in the middle of writing in a journal while a pretty blond girl sat near the fireplace.

She’d bolted when she saw me, and I was already cringing, thinking of how Mom would react to there being a witness.

The vampire, who was going by the name of Pascal, but was probably really a Brad or a Jason, twisted underneath me, but I was firmly seated. One of the perks of being a Brannick is that we’re stronger than your average person. It also didn’t hurt that this vamp was pretty small. When I’d wrestled him to the floor, I noticed that he was only a few inches taller than me, and most of that was his hair.

Sighing, I squinted at the piece of paper again. It was only a few words in Latin, but getting them right was important, and I’d never done this ritual by myself before.

That thought sent a bolt of pain through my chest, one I did my best to ignore.

Underneath me, “Pascal” stopped struggling. Tilting his head to the side, he watched me with his dark eyes. “Who is Finley?”

My grip tightened on the stake. “What?”

Pascal was still studying me, upper lip curling over his fangs. “Your head. It’s full of that name. Finley, Finley, Finley.”

Oh, freaking great. Vampires are a pain in the butt when they’re just your garden-variety bloodsucker, but a few of them have extra powers. Low-level mind reading, telekinesis, that kind of thing. Apparently Pascal was one of the special ones.

“Get out of my head,” I snarled at him, renewing my focus on the sheet of paper. “Vado—” I started, but then Pascal interrupted with, “She’s your sister. Finley.”

Hearing my sister’s name from this…this thing’s lips made the pain in my chest even worse, but at least no tears stung my eyes. I can’t think of anything more pathetic than crying in front of a vampire.

Besides, if it were Finley here, if I was the one who was missing, she wouldn’t have let a vamp, much less a vamp called Pascal, get to her. So I scowled down at him and pressed the stake hard enough to just break the skin.

Pascal drew in a hissing breath, but he never took his eyes off my face. “Nearly a year. That’s how long this Finley has been gone. How long you’ve been working alone. How long you’ve felt like it was all your fau—”

“Vado tergum,” I said, dropping the piece of paper and laying my free hand flat against his sternum.

Pascal’s gaze fell to my hand and he went even paler. “What is that?” he asked, his voice high with fear and pain. “What are

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