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The Coffin Club

By:Ellen Schreiber

The Coffin Club Vampire Kisses Book 5 Ellen Schreiber

To my grandmothers-Sylvia Schreiber and Ida Landsbaum With all my love "Membership to our club comes at a very high price.»

-Phoenix Slater

1 Bat Out of Hell I flew from class like a bat out of hell.

Dullsville High's bell rang its final year-end ring and I was the first student to arrive at my locker. Normally the sound of the bell grated on my nerves like a woodpecker hammering on a sycamore, but this time the buzzing was as melodious as the sound of a harpsichord. It signaled one thing: summer vacation.

The two words rolled off my tongue like the sweet-tasting nectar of the blossoming honeysuckles. Aren't all vacations sweet? Given. However, summer vacation beats out its sister vacations-spring and winter break. Summer vacation surpasses them all with its incomparable advantages-two and a half months of freedom from textbooks, teachers, and torment. No detentions, lectures, or pop quizzes. No more spending an eight-hour day in the confines of Dullsville High, being the only goth in the preppy-filled school, or trying to lift an overslept pre-caffeinated head off my wooden desk. And most important, I could sleep in late. Just like a vampire.

My red and white school-colored handcuffs had been slipped off my wrists.

I was so pumped I even beat model student and my best friend, Becky, to her locker. It was the last time I'd have to remember, or forget, as I often did, the lock's random coordinates. Unreturned textbooks, notebooks, candy wrappers, and CDs filled the tiny metal closet. Forever the procrastinator, I waited until the final moment to clean it out. Unlike other lockers that had actual photographs of couples, staring back at me were oil-based pictures of me and Alexander that he'd painted and surprised me with, by hanging them in my locker. I gazed at them adoringly and carefully untacked one when I became distracted by the huge mess in front of me. I figured I needed a wheelbarrow to haul the load to Becky's truck but instead dragged out a dented garbage can and tossed out anything that I hadn't paid for.

"Summer's here! Can you believe it?"Becky said, catching up to me. We clasped hands and shrieked like we had just won tickets to a sold-out concert.

"It's finally here!"I exclaimed. "No more tardy slips or calls to my parents about dress codes.»

Becky opened her locker, which had already been cleaned out. Photos of her and Matt presumably had been placed in a scrapbook with colorful captions, beautiful borders, and funky heart-shaped stickers. She examined the empty locker for anything else she might have forgotten.

"It looks like you even dusted it,"I teased.

"This is going to be the best summer ever, Raven. This is the first summer we both will have boyfriends. To think, we'll be lying poolside with the hottest guys in Dullsville.»

I spotted a painting of Alexander and me in front of Hatsy's Diner that still hung on the inside of my locker door. The stars twinkled above us and we were lit by the glow of the moon.

"Well, one of us will be,"I said. And I wasn't referring to the fact that my boyfriend wouldn't be able to worship the sun.

I had a bigger problem-he wasn't even in Dullsville.

Becky must have read my wistful expression. "I bet Alexander will be back anytime now to have graveside picnics with you,"Becky offered with a bright smile.

Alexander and his creepy-but-kind butler, Jameson, had driven the ailing tween vampire, Valentine Maxwell, to Hipsterville in hopes of reuniting him with his nefariously Draculine siblings, Jagger and Luna. After Valentine tried to sink his tiny fangs into my little brother, Billy Boy, my sibling and his best friend, Henry, began questioning his possible nocturnal identity. While Alexander was upstairs in his attic room saving the sickly boy with Jameson's Romanian concoctions, I figured out and confirmed Jagger's and Luna's location-the Coffin Club. And with that, Alexander was forced to leave me behind in Dullsville as he reunited Valentine with his older siblings. Alexander had promised me that he would return to Dullsville shortly. However, what we thought would be an overnight visit to Hipsterville turned into two, then three days. Then longer.

The sultry homeschooled Romanian vampire Alexander had brought life into my already darkened one. As the lonely old Mansion remained empty of its unearthly inhabitants, I began to miss specific things about him-the way he softly brushed my hair away from my face or traced the lace of my skirt with his ghost white fingers. I missed his dreamy chocolate brown eyes, his bright, sexy smile, his tender lips pressed to mine.

I managed to remove myself as the third wheel from Matt and Becky's go-cart of fun. In the moonlit evenings, instead of reluctantly cheering on the school's soccer team, I often visited the empty Mansion, sitting beneath its skeletal trees, by its wrought-iron gates, or on its uneven weed-filled cracked cement front steps. Other times, I'd hang out in the gazebo where Alexander and I'd shared romantic desserts and stolen kisses.

I assured myself that at any moment I'd see the headlights of Jameson's Mercedes beaming up the winding driveway, but every night I went home alone, the driveway devoid of any hearse-like vehicles.

I crossed each passing day off my Emily the Strange calendar with a giant black X. It was starting to look like a one-sided tic-tac-toe game. Occasionally the doorbell rang, and when it did, I'd race to the front door in wild expectation of Alexander wrapping his pale arms around me, scooping me up, and planting me with a passionate kiss. Instead of being greeted by my boyfriend, I was met by the Flower Power delivery woman holding a bouquet of roses. My already darkened bedroom was beginning to resemble Dullsville's funeral home.

With each passing day, I wondered what could be taking him so long. Was he once again protecting me from something dangerous and underworldly? My boyfriend, always shrouded in a bit of mystery, only made me love him more.

I had secured the painting of us in my backpack and then untacked a special item next to it-my Coffin Club barbed-wire bracelet.

The Coffin Club. The most gothically haunting nightspot in Hipsterville. I'd stumbled upon the hangout when I visited the funky town a few months ago. Unlike any other club I'd ever been to, the Coffin Club was the antithesis of Dullsville High. It was the first place where I really fit in, surrounded by similar taste, style, and attitude. I dreamed of returning there with Alexander on my arm. Only now I was miles away from my favorite nightclub and my favorite guy.

I untacked the painting of Alexander and me dancing at Dullsville's golf course.

I'd give anything to be rockin' with Alexander again. I imagined a painting that I could only fathom adding to my collection: one of Alexander and me dancing underneath the suspended deathly pale mannequins of the Coffin Club.

Just then Matt interrupted my daydream and gave Becky a peck on the neck-something I was desperately missing from Alexander.

Becky was right. I knew I'd see Alexander again-it was just a matter of when. But I was growing restless.

"I'd have thought you would have had that cleaned out days ago,"Matt said. "Do you need help?»

"Thanks, but I want to savor this moment. I'll meet you guys out front.»

As my favorite couple headed outside, a group of girls clutching designer purses and shoes passed by me like they were strutting down a catwalk, talking about European trips and boarding-school-style camps they'd be attending.

I just looked forward to the one place I wouldn't have to go-Dullsville High.

The warm summer air breezed through the open classroom doors and windows. I felt a few inches taller. I slung my backpack over my shoulder and briskly walked past the open classrooms.

I was just a few feet away from freedom. I reached out to push the main door open when someone jumped in front of me.

Nothing could spoil my mood today-not on my favorite day of the year. Well, almost nothing. Trevor Mitchell, lifelong nemesis and khaki-wearing thorn in my side, was staring down at me. "You didn't think I'd let you leave without saying good-bye?»

"Step aside before my boots make contact with your shins,"I warned him.

"I haven't seen Monster Boy for weeks. Are you keeping him buried somewhere special?»

"Out of my way before I call the morgue. I think they have a vacancy.»

"I'm really going to miss not seeing you every day."Trevor held his gaze a tad too long, like it had just hit him what he'd said. I could tell he was serious and it surprised him as much as it did me.

"I'm sure you'll get over it. You'll have your pick of uber-tanned Baywatch beauties to keep you busy.»

"But what will you do? I heard Monster Boy left town. Forever. That will leave you in town all summer alone.»

I hated that a rumor had started about Alexander being gone.

"He hasn't left…forever,"I defended. "He's coming back. But it really doesn't matter because I'm going to see him. We're spending the summer together out of town and away from you.»

I knew I was fibbing, but the thought of Trevor hanging out with lifeguards on each arm and mocking me while I waited alone at the Mansion made my mortal blood boil.

Trevor wasn't thwarted by my challenge. It only spurred him on.

"Then how about one kiss?"he said with a sexy grin. "Something to remember me by?"Though I had hints from Valentine of Trevor's inner desire for me, I was still suspect. I never knew what was going on in Trevor's head, much less his heart. I wasn't even sure he had one. Trevor was gorgeous-there was no doubt about it. His green melt-worthy eyes and his chiseled face could easily make him the next Sports Illustrated cover boy. But I was never sure if Trevor really liked me or just liked bullying me. Either way, he didn't move out of my way and instead leaned into me. There was only one guy I was going to kiss and that was Alexander.