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The Van Alen Legacy

By:Melissa De La Cruz

Blue Bloods, Book 4. The Van Alen Legacy - Melissa De La Cruz

CHAPTER 1



Schuyler

There had been little time to mourn. Upon returning to New York after Lawrence's murder in Rio (covered up by the Committee with a proper obituary in the Times), Schuyler Van Alen had been on the run. No rest. No respite. A year of constant motion, barely one step ahead of the Venators hunting her. A flight to Buenos Aires followed by one to Dubai. A sleepless night in a youth hostel in Amsterdam followed by another in a bunk bed in an auditorium in Bruges.

She had marked her sixteenth birthday aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway, celebrating with a cup of watery Nescafe coffee and several crumbly Russian tea cookies. Somehow, her best friend, Oliver Hazard-Perry, had found a candle to light in one of the suharkies. He took his job as human Conduit pretty seriously. It was thanks to Oliver's careful accounting that they had been able to stretch their money so far. The Conclave had frozen his access to the well-funded Hazard-Perry accounts as soon as they had left New York.

Now it was August in Paris, and hot. They had arrived to find most of the city a ghost town: bakeries, boutiques, and bistros shuttered while their proprietors absconded to three-week vacations in the beaches up north. The only people around were American and Japanese tourists, who mobbed every museum gallery, every garden in every public square, inescapable and ubiquitous in their white sneakers and baseball caps. But Schuyler welcomed their presence. She hoped the slow-moving crowds would make it easier for her and Oliver to spot their Venator pursuers. Schuyler had been able to disguise herself by changing her physical features, but performing the mutatio was taking a toll on her. She didn't say anything to Oliver, but lately she couldn't even do so much as change the color of her eyes.

And now, after almost a year of hiding, they were coming out into the open. It was a gamble, but they were desperate. Living without the protection and wisdom of the secret society of vampires and their select group of trusted humans had taken its toll. And while neither of them would ever admit it, they were both tired of running.

So for now Schuyler was seated in the back of a bus, wearing a pressed white shirt buttoned to the neck over slim black pants and flat black shoes with rubber soles. Her dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and except for a hint of lip gloss, she wore no makeup. She meant to blend in with the rest of the catering staff who had been hired for the evening. But surely someone would notice. Surely someone would hear how hard her heart was beating, would remark on how her breathing was shallow and quick. She had to calm down. She had to clear her mind and become the blase contract caterer she was pretending to be. For so many years Schuyler had excelled at being invisible. This time, her life depended on it. The bus was taking them over a bridge to the H'tel Lambert on the isle Saint-Louis, a small island on the Seine River. The Lambert was the most beautiful house in the most beautiful city in the world. At least, she had always thought so. Although «house» was putting it mildly. «Castle» was more like it, something out of a fairy tale, its massive river walls and gray mansard roofs rising from the surrounding mist. As a child she had played hide-and-seek in the formal gardens, where the conical sculpted trees reminded her of figures on a chessboard. She remembered staging imaginary productions inside the grand courtyard and throwing bread crumbs to the geese from the terrace overlooking the Seine. How she had taken that life for granted! Tonight she would not enter the hotel's exclusive, exalted domain as an invited guest, but rather as a humble servant. Like a mouse creeping into a hole. Schuyler was anxious by nature, and she needed almost all her self-control to keep it together. At any moment she feared she might scream, she was already so nervous she couldn't stop her hands from trembling. They vibrated, fluttering in her lap like trapped birds.

Next to her, Oliver was handsome in a bartender's uniform, a tuxedo with a black silk bow tie and silver shirt studs. But he was pale beneath his butterfly collar, his shoulders tense under a jacket that was a little too big. His clear hazel eyes were clouded, looking more gray than green. Oliver's face did not display the same blank, bored look as the others. He was alert, ready for a fight or flight. Anyone who looked at him long enough could see it.

We shouldn't be here, Schuyler thought. What were we thinking? The risk is too great. They're going to find us and separate us . . . and then . . . well, the rest was too horrible to contemplate.

She was sweating under her starched shirt. The air-conditioning wasn't working, and the bus was packed. She leaned her head against the windowpane. Lawrence had been dead for over a year now. Four hundred forty-five days. Schuyler kept count, thinking that maybe once she hit a magical number, it would stop hurting.

This was no game, although sometimes it felt like a horrid, surreal version of cat and mouse. Oliver put a hand on top of hers to try and stop her hands from shaking. The tremors had begun a few months ago, just a slight twitching, but soon she realized she had to concentrate whenever she did something as simple as pick up a fork or open an envelope. She knew what it was, and there was nothing she could do about it. Dr. Pat had told her the first time she visited her office: she was the only one of her kind, Dimidium Cognato, the first half-blood, and there was no telling how her human body would react to the transformation into immortal; there would be side effects, obstacles particular to her case. Still, she felt better once Oliver held her hand in his. He always knew what to do. She depended on him for so much, and her love for him had only deepened in the year they had spent together. She squeezed his hand, intertwined her fingers around his. It was his blood that ran through her veins, his quick thinking that had secured her freedom.

As for everyone and everything they had left behind in New York, Schuyler did not dwell on it anymore. All of that was in the past. She had made her choice and was at peace with it. She had accepted her life for what it was. Once in a while she missed her friend Bliss very keenly, and more than once wanted to get in touch with her, but that was out of the question. No one could know where they were. No one. Not even Bliss.

Maybe they would be lucky tonight. Their luck had held so far. Oh, there had been a few close calls here and there, that one evening in Cologne when she'd abruptly run from a woman who had asked for directions to the cathedral. Illuminata had given the agent away. Schuyler had caught that soft imperceptible glow in the twilight before booking as fast as she could. Disguises only went so far. At some point, your true nature revealed itself.

Wasn't that what the Inquisitor had argued during the official investigation into the events in Rio? That maybe Schuyler wasn't who she was supposed to be?

Outlaw. Fugitive. That's what she was now. Certainly not Lawrence Van Alen's grieving granddaughter.

No.

According to the Conclave, she was his killer.




CHAPTER 2



Mimi

Oh, gross! She'd stepped in something icky. Beyond icky. It squished beneath her foot, a wet, gasping sound. Whatever it was, it was sure to ruin her pony-hair boots. What was she doing wearing pony-hair boots to a reconnaissance mission anyway? Mimi Force lifted her heel and assessed the damage. The zebra pattern was stained with something brown and leaky.

Beer? Whiskey? A combination of all the bottom-shelf alcohol they served in this place? Who knew? For the umpteenth time this year, she wondered why on earth she'd ever signed up for this assignment. It was the last week of August. By all rights she should be on a beach in Capri, working on her tan and her fifth limoncello. Not creeping around some honky-tonk bar in the middle of the country. Somewhere between the dust bowl and the rust belt, or was it the rust bowl and the dust belt? Wherever they were, it was a sleepy, sad little place, and Mimi couldn't wait to leave it.

«What's wrong?» Kingsley Martin nudged her. 'shoes too tight again?»

«Will you leave me alone?» she sighed, moving away from him, making it clear she found the alcove they were hiding in too close quarters. She was tired of his teasing. Especially since, to her complete and utter horror, she discovered she was starting to like it. That was simply unacceptable. She hated Kingsley Martin. After everything that he'd done to her, she couldn't see how she could feel otherwise.

«But where's the fun in that?» He winked. The most infuriating thing about Kingsley, other than the fact that he had once tried to bring about her demise, was that somewhere between chasing down leads on the beaches of Punta del Este or through the skyscrapers of Hong Kong, Mimi had started to find him . . . attractive. It was enough to make her stomach turn.

«C'mon, Force, lighten up. You know you want me,» he said with a smug smile.

«Oh my god!» she huffed, turning around so that her long blond hair whipped over her shoulder and hit him square in the face. «As if!»

He might be faster and stronger than she was, the big man on the Venator team, and for all intents and purposes her boss, but really she should be the one leading them, as she outranked him in the Conclave hierarchy. If you could call that sorry group of cowards a Conclave.

Kingsley Martin had another think coming if he thought he had any chance with her. He might be too cute for words (damn those rock-star looks), but it didn't matter one iota. She was not interested, no matter how much her pulse quickened whenever he was near. She was bound to another.

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