Bloodspell (The Cruentus Curse, #1)

Bloodspell (The Cruentus Curse, #1) by Amalie Howard

for Connor, Noah, and Olivia

the lights of my life


for Cam

who has my heart

Never shall a Vampyre consort, befriend, or choose for a mate any Witch, Wizard, Warlock, or any creature harboring sorcerous abilities or knowledge of magicks, save if such relations have been warranted and sanctioned as crucial by the Vampyre Council, and only in the combined and unanimous interest of the Seven Vampyre Houses.

Henceforth under the Peace Treaties of the Great War, never shall a Vampyre attack, kill, or consume the blood of any such persons or creatures under penalty of immediate conviction and sentencing by the Vampyre High Council.

To break this Covenant shall be punishable by exile or execution in accordance with Vampyre Law.

— Vampyre Covenant XVI, The Book of Reii

"HEY FREAK, YOU lost? The hobo section is on the other side of the cafeteria!"

Victoria shuffled past a crowded table keeping her eyes on the scuffed toes of her sneakers as the table's occupants burst into laughter.

"By the way, the Salvation Army called, they're having a sale!" A foot blocked her path and her stomach tensed.

No, no, no. Not now. Keep it together, Tori!

Her fingers hovered over the volume dial on her iPod as she stepped over the foot without looking up and moved faster, away from the table. The rush of music in her ears did nothing to dissipate the jeers. She tucked her hands deeper into the pockets of her black hoodie and swallowed the knot in her throat. Just a few more steps and she'd be out of their reach. Junior year was almost over, and the last thing she needed was a scene in the crowded school cafeteria.

She could usually handle the Stepfords, but she wasn't herself today. Since earlier that morning, everything had seemed off, unpredictable. Volatile. After another mostly sleepless night, she'd woken up soaked in sweat and with such achy muscles that it'd taken almost a half hour just to get out of bed. A cold shower had done nothing to calm the heat inside her. If she hadn't had her Calculus final, she'd have stayed home.

A large hand crossed her peripheral vision and before she could guess its owner's intent, her headphones were ripped from her ears.

"So what's with all the black? Somebody die?" Victoria raised blank eyes to the boy who'd spoken. Brett Halloway. Captain of the football team and king of the popular crowd at St. Xavier's, he had a ruthless reputation. He was flanked by two cheerleaders, both blond, blue-eyed, and leggy. They eyed her with identical expressions of undisguised disdain. Victoria felt anger flood to the tips of her toenails.

Stay calm. Stay calm. Stay calm.

"I'm sorry, I didn't realize where I was," she said in a careful monotone.

"You bet you didn't. Otherwise we might think you wanted to try out for cheerleading." Brett laughed and turned to his friends. "What do you think, boys? She could do it. She's got a nice pair ... of legs." His eyes settled on her chest. Victoria felt a flush steal up her cheeks.

"Very funny, Brett," she said. "Can I have my headphones, please? Then you can go back to figuring out whether you're going to repeat yet another year of high school on daddy's dime." The group at the table erupted in smothered laughter. For a second, something ugly rippled in Brett's eyes before he masked his anger with a smile.

"Sure. Just give me one cheer. Come on, give me a V! Give me an I! Give me an ... R!" Brett taunted. "How do you spell virgin again?"

Victoria scanned the room for help. No teachers or monitors in sight, and everybody else seemed suddenly preoccupied with other things, even though she could still feel their furtive glances. Humiliation scorched her ears.

"Or should we be spelling something else? Give me an S! Give me an L ..."

Brett's voice faded into nothingness as pain exploded behind her eyes. A violent surge rushed from her stomach up into her throat, and Victoria knew instantly that if she didn't leave that minute, something terrible was going to happen.

"Give me a U ..."

She snatched the ear buds back and rushed past Brett, not bothering to breathe until she reached the wide entry doors. Outside, she felt wetness on her upper lip. A nosebleed. She sank to the ground, pinching the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger to stop the flow. Sweat dripped down her back, her skin impossibly hot, as she shuddered from the terrifying feelings in the pit of her stomach—the ones that had started appearing the minute she'd awakened, the ones that made her feel like she was being gutted from the inside out.

Victoria glanced at her watch. It was almost one o'clock. She still had two hours left before she could go home.

"Screw it," she muttered, running to her car parked behind the west building. She didn't see the two people waiting in the parking lot until she almost crashed into one of them. Her heart sank.

"What do you want, Brett?"

"You think you can talk to me like that and get away with it?"

"What are we, five? Did I hurt your feelings? You stopped me, remember?" Victoria glanced around quickly. Other than the three of them, the parking lot was deserted, dotted with a handful of empty, silent cars. She tried to move toward her car, but the other boy blocked her way. Victoria recognized him as a burly linebacker named Ryan.

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