She wasn't at the Halloween block party. Neither were any of her friends
since their parents had grounded them all. None of the teenagers living
in the neighborhood of Shadow Hills were present when it happened, but
they all heard the screams in the night. At first, Jazmine thought it
was just the grown-ups partying, yelling, and maybe finally having too
much to drink, maybe even fighting as usual. But as the screams didn't
die down, she realized this was a lot more serious.
"Oh, dear God!" someone exclaimed.
Jazmine looked up from her computer screen, walked to her window, and
pulled the curtains aside. She looked into the cul-de-sac where they had
put up the pavilion. They were all wearing costumes, so she couldn't see
who was who as they all seemed to run toward something—a body—lying
on the ground in a pool of blood.
She could hear people shouting. A cat punched a dragon. Wonder Woman was
crying. Hillary Clinton was screaming, while five of the moms all
dressed like Crayola Crayons in different colors ran around each other
like fearful chickens. Some were rushing toward the body while others
spread out and stood like statues, staring at the body in the middle of
Jazmine felt the hand holding the curtain begin to shake. Tears pressed
behind her eyes and she couldn't hold them back.
"Robyn," she mumbled and let go of the curtain. She grabbed her phone
and looked at it, just as three texts appeared on the screen. All saying
the same thing.
Ten Months Before the Halloween Block Party.
I loved my goldfish. I had won it at the fair two months ago and cared
for it deeply. My mom never let me have any pets other than our stupid
dog, Renata, whom I didn't care for much, not since the day she ate my
favorite sneakers ten minutes before I had to head out the door to catch
the school bus.
The dog wasn't even mine; it belonged to my brother, Adrian, who
naturally had laughed loudly when Renata had eaten my sneakers.
"You should have seen your face, sis," he giggled, holding his stomach.
"It was priceless."
My brother - like most brothers - could be the most annoying person in
the world, and was, most of the time; still, I couldn't imagine a life
without him. But I knew I would have to. Soon. Adrian was turning
eighteen in a few days and only had six months left at the high school
before he left for college. Only six months left here to annoy me. That
part I was happy about, but I was going to miss him.
Secretly, of course.
I touched the glass of my fish's tank. It was only a small tank, one
that I had bought for ten dollars at the fair after winning the fish, to
make sure it had a place to live. I had begged my mom for a real tank,
one of the big ones with a pump and everything, but my mother didn't
want to waste money on a small goldfish that would be dead soon anyway.
I sighed, grabbed the tank between my hands, and walked to the kitchen
where I poured the fish into a cup with water in order to clean the
tank. I did this three times a week and, so far, it had kept the fish
I exhaled deeply when looking out of the kitchen window into the street.
Across from my house lived Jayden. I had known Jayden since…well,
since forever, since always. My mother had recordings of us playing
together in a baby pool when we could barely sit up straight. Only two
months apart, we had always played together. But lately, things had been
different between us. For some reason, our mothers had gotten into a
fight. Neither Jayden nor I knew what the fight was about, and our
mothers had forbidden us to see one another without giving any reason.
"That boy is nothing but trouble," my mother would say when she caught
me gazing toward his house. "You stay away from him, Robyn."
My crazy overprotective mother.
I had tried to get out of her what the entire ordeal was about, but she
refused to speak about it. Meanwhile, I missed Jayden like crazy. And it
was getting harder and harder for us to talk. Even though I had changed
his name in my phone to Chloe, my mom found out we were texting each
other and blocked his number. Every now and then, we would talk at
school, but my mother had spies even there. Her brother, Jeff, my uncle,
was a math teacher there and if he saw us together, he would tell his
So, instead of meeting at the school, we had found a secret spot by the
lake behind our neighborhood where we would meet every afternoon after
school at four. For about half an hour, we would talk and listen to
music on our phones. But I knew even those secret meetings were on
borrowed time. Once my dear mother somehow found out, it would be over;
I wouldn't get to see Jayden anymore except through my window or
accidentally in the hallways at school.
I sighed and cleaned the tank, while Renata stared at me with big eyes.
Then, as I was about to put the fish back, Adrian entered the kitchen,
"Staring at your boyfriend, huh?"
Startled, I jumped and dropped the fish onto the floor. Renata didn't
think twice before she leaped forward and gulped it down without even
I looked up at my brother, who shrugged, then said with a grin:
"You idiot! Look what happened!"
"That wasn't my fault!" Adrian said. "You're the one who dropped it."
"I hate you! Mooom?"
Our mom entered from the living room, wearing a towel around her neck
and her tight gym gear, a smoothie in one hand, her phone in the other.
Her phone cover read: CAREFUL, I BITE. We had a gym at the house and
that was usually where our mother spent most of the day when she wasn't
busy running her jewelry company from her office upstairs. She and my
dad each had an office and barely ever left the house during the day.
She was looking at her screen, her eyes fixed on the display like it
held the secret to life itself.
"Adrian killed my fish," I said.
"He did what?"
"It wasn't me. It was Renata. She ate it."
"Renata," Mom exclaimed. She looked at me. "Well, it wasn't like it was
going to live forever anyway. It was just a fish. There are plenty of
them in the sea, I have heard."
"But it was my fish. And I loved him," I said. "I won him at the fair.
He was mine. The only thing that was mine. "
My mother looked at me like I was speaking Russian, then shook her head.
"I…I really don't…"
"Why do you always take his side?"
"I don't…not always," she said.
"Yes, you do. It's so unfair."
Our conversation was interrupted abruptly by the sound of a big hissing
truck driving up the road. Mom sprang for the window.
"A moving truck," she exclaimed excitedly. "That must be the new owners
at number twenty, you know the Williamsons’ old house."
Mom's eyes sparkled. She reached into a cabinet and pulled out a gift
basket. "I’ve had this ready for a week, expecting these newcomers.
I'll make sure to be the first on the street to welcome them."
"Before the Smiths, you mean," I said.
My mother stopped short and gave me a cold look, her right eye twitching
as she spoke.
"Well, yes…that too."
Excerpted from "Flesh and Blood (The Vampires of Shadow Hills Book 1)" by Willow Rose. Copyright © 2018 by Willow Rose. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.