Home > The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1)(2)

The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1)(2)
Julie Kagawa

"Hear what?" I asked as we ducked through the gap in the rusty fence, striding through weeds and grass and broken bottles to where home beckoned invitingly.

"Gracie was Taken last night. Into the city. They say some vampire was looking to expand his harem, so he took her." I looked at him sharply. "What? Who told you that?"

"Kyle and Travis."

I rolled my eyes in disgust. Kyle and Travis belonged to a rival gang of Unregistereds. We didn't bother each other, usually, but this sounded like something our competitors would concoct just to scare us off the streets. "You believe anything those two say? They're screwing with you, Stick. They want to scare you."

He trailed me across the lot like a shadow, watery blue gaze darting about. Stick's real name was Stephen, but no one called him that anymore. He was taller than me by several inches, but my five-foot nothing didn't make this feat all that impressive. Stick was built like a scarecrow, with straw-colored hair and timid eyes. He managed to survive on the streets, but just barely. "They're not the only ones talking about it," he insisted. "Cooper said he heard her scream a few blocks away. What does that tell you?"

"If it's true? That she was stupid enough to go wandering around the city at night and probably got herself eaten."

"Allie!"

"What?" We ducked through the broken door frame into the dank halls of the school. Rusty metal lockers were scattered along one wall, a few still standing, most dented and broken. I headed toward an upright one and yanked the door open with a squeak. "The vamps don't stay in their precious towers all the time. Sometimes they go hunting for live bodies. Everyone knows that." I grabbed the brush that I kept here to go with the mirror that was stuck to the back, the only useable one in the building. My ref lection stared at me, a dirty-faced girl with straight black hair and "squinty eyes," as Rat put it. At least I didn't have teeth like a rodent.

I ran the brush through my hair, wincing at the snags.

Stick was still watching me, disapproving and horrified, and I rolled my eyes. "Don't give me that look, Stephen," I said, frowning. "If you're out past sundown and get tagged by a bloodsucker, that's your fault for not staying put or not pay-ing attention." I replaced the brush and shut the locker with a bang. "Gracie thought that just because she's Registered and her brother guards the Wall, she was safe from vampires.

They always come for you when you think you're safe."

"Marc is pretty torn up about it," Stick said almost sullenly.

"Gracie was his only family since their parents died."

"Not our problem." I felt bad for saying it, but it was true.

In the Fringe, you looked out for yourself and your immediate family, no one else. My concern didn't extend beyond myself, Stick and the rest of our small gang. This was my family, screwed up as it was. I couldn't worry about the trials of everyone in the Fringe. I had plenty of my own, thanks.

"Maybe..." Stick began, and hesitated. "Maybe she's...happier now," he continued. "Maybe being Taken into the Inner City is a good thing. The vampires will take better care of her, don't you think?"

I resisted the urge to snort. Stick, they're vampires, I wanted to say. Monsters. They only see us as two things: slaves and food.

Nothing good comes from a bloodsucker, you know that.

But telling Stick that would only upset him more, so I pretended not to hear. "Where are the others?" I asked as we walked down the hall, picking our way over rubble and broken glass. Stick trailed morosely, dragging his feet, kicking bits of rock and plaster with every step. I resisted the urge to smack him. Marc was a decent guy; even though he was Registered, he didn't treat us Unregistereds like vermin, and even spoke to us on occasion when he was making his rounds at the Wall. I also knew Stick had feelings for Gracie, though he would never act on them. But I was the one who shared most of my food with him, since he was usually too scared to go scavenging by himself. Ungrateful little snot. I couldn't watch out for everyone; he knew that.

"Lucas isn't back yet," Stick finally mumbled as we came to my room, one of the many empty spaces along the hall.

In the years I had been here, I'd fixed it up the best I could.

Plastic bags covered the shattered windows, keeping out the rain and damp. An old mattress lay in one corner with my blanket and pillow. I'd even managed to find a folding table, a couple chairs and a plastic shelf for various clutter, little things I wanted to keep. I'd built a nice little lair for myself, and the best part was my door still locked from the inside, so I could get some privacy if I wanted.

"What about Rat?" I asked, pushing on my door.

As the door squeaked open, a wiry boy with lank brown hair jerked around, beady eyes widening. He was older than me and Stick, with sharp features and a front tooth that stuck out like a fang, giving him a permanent sneer.

Rat swore when he saw me, and my blood boiled. This was my space, my territory. He had no right to be here. "Rat," I snarled, bursting through the doorway. "Why are you snooping around my room? Looking for things to steal?" Rat held up his arm, and my stomach went cold. In one grubby hand, he held an old, faded book, the cover falling off, the pages crumpled. I recognized it instantly. It was a made-up story, a fantasy, the tale of four kids who went through a magic wardrobe and found themselves in a strange new world.

I'd read it more times than I could remember, and although I sneered at the thought of a magical land with friendly, talking animals, there were times when I wished, in my most secret moments, that I could find a hidden door that would take us all out of this place.

"What the hell is this?" Rat said, holding up the book.

Having been caught red-handed, he quickly switched to the offensive. "Books? Why are you collecting garbage like that?

As if you even know how to read." He snorted and tossed the book to the f loor. "Do you know what the vamps would do, if they found out? Does Lucas know about your little trash collection?"

"That's none of your business," I snapped, stepping farther into the room. "This is my room, and I'll keep what I want.

Now get lost, before I tell Lucas to throw you out on your skinny white ass."

Rat snickered. He hadn't been with the group long, a few months at most. He claimed he'd come from another sector and that his old gang had kicked him out, but he'd never said why. I suspected it was because he was a lying, thieving bastard. Lucas wouldn't even have considered letting him stay if we hadn't lost two members the previous winter. Patrick and Geoffrey, two Unregistered brothers who were daring to the point of stupidity, who bragged the vampires would never catch them. They were too quick, they claimed. They knew all the best escape tunnels. And then one night they went out looking for food as usual...and never came back.

Kicking the book aside, Rat took a threatening step forward and straightened so that he loomed over me. "You got a big mouth, Allie," he snarled, his breath hot and foul. "Better watch out. Lucas can't be around to protect you all the time. Think about that." He leaned in, crowding me. "Now get out of my face, before I bitch slap you across the room.

I'd hate for you to start crying in front of your boyfriend." He tried pushing me back. I dodged, stepped close and slammed my fist into his nose as hard as I could.

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