My name is Bianka, and I live in a world a lot like yours. Or at least, I used to.
Then I got harvested.
Taken into eerie darkness underneath the surface of my world, I’ve learned that cities like mine – Hidden Oaks – are just places that the vampires keep humans until it’s time to drink their blood. Now it’s my turn. They’re harvesting me.
But I’m fighting hard, and the vampires have noticed. A sponsor is buying me. A handsome, mysterious vampire with piercing eyes, who wants me to fight other humans in The Vampire Games. If I lose, I’ll be harvested. If I win, I’ll join my sponsor, Phillip, as one of them.
I’ll be turned into a vampire.
All I must do to spend an eternity with Phillip is sell my soul.
The scary part? I’d do a lot worse for him than that.
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If I had realized that my whole life would change when the men showed up at school, I would have run as I could. I never would have stopped.
Not that it would have mattered. There was no such thing as running fast enough or far enough to escape from destiny, and it was definitely destiny’s cold bite that I felt that day.
But I would have tried. Maybe that would be one less regret for me to suffer on the dark nights that followed.
It was a beautiful June day. The sun was getting hotter with the advent of afternoon, and my fellow graduating seniors were sitting on the lawn eating lunch.
I don’t remember now what we were talking about, but I bet the conversations had filled with pleasant end-of-year kinds of things. What our graduation parties were going to be like. What we were planning to wear. How glad we were that our tests were finished. How done we were with school. College stuff. Those blissfully mundane subjects that seem so important when your world is tiny.
That’s my best guess, anyway. Like I said, I don’t really remember what we talked about.
What I do remember was this: The sun was so hot on my shoulders that I feared sunburn, so I moved under the shade of a tree beside Marc. He was my best friend, a guy so gorgeous that he looked like he’d been designed by the Greek gods. He had no idea what the sight of him did to the girls at school, but I did. It was impossible not to notice their constant giggling and blushing.
Somehow, product-of-the-gods Marc liked to hang out with me. Me, of all people, all boring and brown-haired and ordinary. He saw me coming and he smiled.
I sat beside Marc. When the shadows slid over me, heat’s stinging kiss subsided.
More than anything else, I wish I’d appreciated the blazing heat.
Marc brushed his hand over my shoulder. “You’re getting freckles, Bianka.”
I remember those words clearly because they had made me blush furiously. My freckles were an embarrassment. One of my biggest sources of self-consciousness, at the time. As long as I wasn’t looking in a mirror, and as long as my best friend wasn’t remarking on them, I could pretend that they were invisible.
The conversation after that is hazier. A lot of the time I spent with Marc was blissfully inane. We used to get in trouble for flicking potato chips at each other in class, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we’d done some of that.
Mostly we sat, we talked, and it was boring.
That was probably one of the last boring moments of my life.
Then they showed up.
A group of men emerged from a black car. None of the other students seemed to notice them, even though they were all dressed in suits and sunglasses—hardly normal attire for a public school like ours, where even the teachers wore jeans.
The men didn’t look at me when they were passing by even though I stared. It was as though they lived in a totally different dimension. They seemed to glide inches above the surface of the pavement and were left untouched by the gazes of the other students—invisible, despite the fact that they almost glowed in the sunlight.
They went inside and turned straight into the dean’s office.
I was curious to know where they had come from. I’d been reading a lot of books lately, so I halfway expected them to have emerged from some kind of creepy black helicopter.
There was no helicopter in the parking lot.
There was a black car, though. And someone was looking at me from the back seat.
Someone with intense blue eyes I would be able to remember the rest of my life.
He was seated in the backseat of the black car that the other men had come in. I couldn’t see the rest of him because his windows were tinted, but the intensity of his gaze filled me with a strange sensation.
When I think about it now, I wonder if I was feeling the shift of destiny.
“Bianka,” Marc said. “What are you looking at?”
I shook myself free of the mysterious man’s gaze and tried to focus on my friends again.
But I could still feel his eyes on me, even after he left.