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A Brush with Blood: A Haunted Masquerade Ball

written by Betsy Flak on 2019-06-12

We're less than a week out from the big launch of A Brush with Blood (The Clan-Vampire Clash: Book Three).

The manuscript's final.

The launch bonuses are ready to download (well, mostly).

And your bonus excerpt is here! This one's all about a haunted Masquerade Ball at good old Eversfield Preparatory Academy.

I will admit: there is a teensy-tiny spoiler or two in this excerpt. Nothing that you wouldn't expect, but for those of you who haaaaaaate spoilers, do not keep reading. You can pre-order A Brush with Blood here, and it'll arrive on your e-reader early, on *this* Friday, perfect for your summer weekend reading.

But if you're like me and don't mind an itty-bitty spoiler here and there (so small that you'd barely see it if it took on a physical form), keep reading.

A Brush with Blood: A Haunted Masquerade Ball

Lila

Just another person in the throng, Lila entered the gym without Marina. Alone, she waited in the line full of her excited, chattering classmates. After dropping off her coat with one of the parent volunteers—three of them dressed as pigs and the last as the Big Bad Wolf—she pushed her way through layers of gauzy curtains and into the gym.

Or more accurately, into the haunted jungle. Cocktail tables and chairs from Snack Station dotted the area around her. Plastic vines and synthetic spiderwebs wound around and over and through them. In each table’s center, tropical flowers bloomed. Fist-sized fake spiders with eight glowing eyes peeked out of their leaves.

With every step into the transformed gym, the dimmed light grew darker and greener. Fog crawled up Lila’s ankles, making them tingle. The air smelled damp, almost fresh. Out past the tables loomed a hedge of potted plants and artificial evergreens, the shortest one taller than Lila. What existed past them, she couldn’t tell, not even now, standing at the edge of the cocktail tables. Although, she had a good guess based on the dance music booming out of that enclosure.

In the corner of Lila’s eye, something moved. Fast.

Something—no, several things—raced toward her, all of them hissing.

Flinging her arms out over her head, Lila ducked.

Air whooshed over her forearms. Rabid bats zipped by, following a thin wire over the heads of her fellow students.

Someone chuckled from behind her. “Are you scared, Lila Lee?”

Lila’s heart sped away from her like a runaway freight train. How was he here again? And why? Why did he acknowledge her existence after all these weeks of silence?

Dusting her hands off on her short skirt—and ordering her heart to stop freaking out already—Lila stood up. “No, I just… They surprised me, that’s all.”

“If it helps, you aren’t the first to be surprised tonight. That, I know for a fact.” Gabe leaned down, his cheek grazing hers. Into her ear, he whispered, “Don’t tell anyone, but Emilia screamed when those things came at her.” He straightened back up, now half an arm’s length away. “So at least you only ducked. Plus, I don’t think anyone but me noticed. And I won’t tell.” Gabe winked.

It resurrected her wit. Lila arched an eyebrow. “Just like you didn’t tell about Emilia?”

Gabe raised his hands in concession. “Okay, guilty as charged. But for you, I would keep a secret.” He shot her that crooked smile.

Heat blossomed over Lila’s cheeks and curled down her neck.

What was going on with him? After two months of not speaking to each other—which, to be fair, was mutual—he’d shown up out of nowhere three times in two days. It made no sense. He made no sense. Shouldn’t he be out with his girlfriend? How would Emilia feel about him maybe kinda-sorta flirting with her?

“Watch out!” Gabe wrapped a steely arm around Lila’s shoulders, crushing her into his side.

Those snarling bats and their blood-tipped fangs rocketed by them backward.

Not-unpleasant shivers sprinted down Lila’s spine. Whether they were due to the bats or Gabe or both, she had no idea.

Not that it mattered. Gabe had a girlfriend, one who wouldn’t like them hanging out like this. Shaking her head, Lila nudged Gabe away. “I can’t decide if those things are creepier barreling toward me or flying backward.”

“Backward. Definitely.” Gabe released her at last. Shoving his hands into his pockets, he stared off into the distance.

So. Weird. He’s being so weird. Ugh, I wish I could run away from him and forget this whole thing.

But that wasn’t what adults did. No, adults made small talk in a situation like this. Lila gestured to the decorations surrounding them. “Um, so this is pretty impressive. I can’t believe it was all done in a few hours.”

“Never underestimate the power of devoted parents with devoted pocketbooks.” As if they were the most interesting thing in the world, Gabe scanned the refreshment tables lined up on the opposite wall. He didn’t peek at Lila.

Lila’s nails bit into her palms. She could do this. She could talk to him, at least long enough to find a not-super-awkward escape. She forced her hands to relax. “You mean people’s parents hired others to do this?”

“More or less. Don’t get me wrong, it’s mostly parents. But there are always a few who bring in an entire team and supervise them and the other parents.” Gabe’s gaze roamed from wall to wall, examining everything but Lila.

Which maybe wasn’t the worst thing. When Gabe had first appeared, that same mind-muddling, tongue-tying crush from all those months ago had returned with a vengeance, probably spurred on by this too-romantic setting. As long as he didn’t focus on her, Lila could keep those hated butterflies in check.

But Gabe obviously wanted to be somewhere else, with someone else. In which case, he should go. She didn’t need him protecting her from being alone. She had friends around here somewhere. If she gave him an out, maybe Gabe would leave on his own, something he clearly wanted to do.

That, she could do, even if it required a little white lie. “Either way, I’m determined to have fun tonight.”

Gabe’s hawklike eyes snapped to Lila’s.

Her mind muddied. Her traitorous heart trembled. Lila couldn’t look away.


Read the rest in A Brush with Blood (The Clan-Vampire Clash: Book Three)!