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Replica

By´╝ÜShannon Mayer

CHAPTER 1

LEA



“Get out of my way, you nincompoops.” I angled my shoulder to push through the group of gawking, laughing humans. Airports—even I needed a cattle prod to get through the crowds.

Using the points of my elbows, I forced them to make room for me until I was under the large-screen TV that had caught my attention. I looked up at Rachel’s face, her mouth moving silently. Her hair was pulled back into a high ponytail, every strand in place. Makeup made her blue eyes look big, innocent and soft. I snorted to myself. That was a crock of shit—the girl was anything but soft, but I understood why they’d done it. To make what she was saying believable. Because the report would be anything but.

Someone cranked the volume as Rachel said the biggest, baddest, most unbelievable word of all.

“Vampires. They are real, they are dangerous, and our government has been using them for bioterrorism.” Rachel’s baby blues stared into the crowd, begging them to understand.

To believe.

She spoke of her friend Derrick, how he’d died finding the evidence she was now sharing with the world. Then she described the hidden bunker we had destroyed in New York City. Her voice dipped into husky tones as she described the monsters we’d found in the bunker and the terrible experiments that had taken place there. She was telling the truth; I’d been there with her. The explosion of the bunker, which had been front page news everywhere, was only more backing for the words she spoke with such passion.

I dropped my eyes to see how the humans around me were responding to Rachel’s report. Their reactions were varied. Disbelief, shock, anger...laughter. The laughter caught on. At first only nervous titters, but it turned into full-on donkey braying. They laughed, but I saw the truth in their eyes.

They believed her.

“My friend, you are damn good,” I whispered to myself. There were not too many reporters who could out the existence of a supernatural mythical being without convincing the masses she was handing out bullshit. But, typical of humans, the truth was too scary to deal with. It was easier to laugh it off. Even if they laughed marching to their own gallows.

I sensed the guy before his hand cupped my right ass cheek, making it look like he stopped me in my tracks. “What do you think, beautiful? You think vampires are real?” He squeezed harder; I turned slowly as I extended my fangs. Batting my eyes, I leaned into him, my dark hair sweeping forward to curtain my face.

I flashed him a toothy smile. “What do you think?”

He stumbled back as if I’d shoved him. I wished I had.

The groper was the least of my concerns; I was worried about the human world’s reaction to Rachel’s announcement.

The laughter continued and people drifted away from the TV. I walked through the terminal as my flight and ID were called again.

“FINAL BOARDING. LEA SMITH. PLEASE REPORT TO GATE 235 IF YOU ARE IN THE BUILDING.”

Two weeks ago, I would have boarded this plane to go after Stravinsky. As the vampire who’d masterminded the inhumane experiments, the madman behind the terrorism, he needed to be staked. But two weeks ago, I wouldn’t have been boarding this plane alone; Calvin would have been with me. Now I was bonded to Rachel—whether she realized it or not. Boarding this plane was a ruse to throw anyone watching off my trail so I could track who went after her, but part of me wanted to board anyway. The desire to kill Stravinsky was almost as strong as the bond I had with Rachel. Even if she didn’t know it yet.

However, my allegiance had changed, as hard as that was to accept. I tugged the long gloves further up my arms, pulled my cowl over my head and stepped out of the airport and onto the street. I raised my hand and flagged down a cab.

Madre de Dios, Stravinsky should be my top priority. But seeing Rachel on the screen only confirmed I couldn’t leave her alone to face the fallout from her report, which—judging from the reactions of the airport passengers—would be of the nuclear variety. Worse, I felt a tug toward her...like she needed me. I couldn’t turn away from that gut instinct.

“Where you off to?” the cabbie asked.

“The Warner News station,” I said, keeping my voice low and soothing. He nodded, a smile on his generous lips.

“You see the report on vampires?”

I blinked several times as I tugged the cowl closer around my head. That was fast. If word was already out on the street... “How did you hear about it?”

“Twitter is a wonderful thing. You know, I check everything that’s hashtag vampire. I’ve been hoping something like this would come up.” His green eyes swept up to the rearview mirror. “What do you think? You believe in the boogeyman?” He spoke flippantly as he steered the cab into traffic. I sat up so I could see his name badge on the dash.

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