Juliette Rose is a sixteen-year-old girl who's lived in London, England for as long as she can remember. Anything but submissive, when she learns about her aunt's unhappy decision to send her and her three sisters to San Francisco to live with their wonky old uncle, she feels utterly betrayed and angry. Nothing like what she feels later when she's Turned into a too-pale too-pretty bloodsucker and sent on a mission to spy on a gang of renegade vampires...
I pulled a book from its shelf, thumped it down on my lap, and sneezed. Dust motes swirled in the air in front of me. I firmly stifled the childish urge to wipe my nose on my sleeve as I leafed through the pages, skimming boldly typed paragraphs that no way in heck was I going to read. Phrases such as San Francisco currency and famous museums and Golden Gate Bridge jumped out at me as I flipped pages haphazardly. “Aha!” I jabbed a finger at page 302. “Someone spilled their coffee right there and never told the bookkeeper.”
“Juliette? Shut up. People are staring.” My sister glanced around the bookshop as if one of the scholars was about to leap up and start taking pictures.
“Because you’re so pretty,” I said. “They want snapshots for Vanity Fair.”
“Haha.” Her eyes flicked from side to side as she sucked up all the details on San Francisco, California that her encyclopedia could provide her with.
Pretty. My sister was a good shot above plain Jane pretty. And she knew it, too – sometimes didn’t shut up about it – but she wasn’t about to flaunt her vanity in a musty old bookshop on a shabby London street corner. Flipping her wavy chestnut hair over one shoulder, she turned her head slightly to check the time on the mammoth-sized grandfather clock. I didn’t even know those were manufactured anymore, let alone showcased, but gee, that’s what you get if you find yourself in a scruffy second-hand teeny tiny bookstore on the outskirts of London. England’s capitol has it’s highlights, but this ratty tatty hot spot isn’t one of them.
“My brain feels like, like…” groaned my other sister, searching for words.
“Like it’s been soaked, squeezed, wrung out, dried, and shrunk?” I suggested.
“Yeah,” she agreed, sagging into Guide to San Francisco Tourism! Part 2 by Benjamin Brokaline.
I slammed my book shut with a healthy amount of gusto. “I’m out of here. Dog-ear the page you’re on and let’s scram, Poppy.”
“Sure. Coming, Skyra?” Poppy neatly bookmarked her place and slid it into the shelf between Guide to San Francisco Tourism! Part 1 and Guide to San Francisco Tourism! Part 3. Mr. Brokaline sure had a lot to say to San Francisco tourists.
Skyra frowned. “You guys are ditchers.”
“Coolest ditchers around, then.” I pocketed a fancy bookmark on display.
Poppy’s jaw dropped. “Julie!”
Julie. Ugh. Poppy was the only one I knew who could get away with using my Kindergarten-years nickname without getting her butt whipped. Not that I would steal such a useless piece of junk like a bookmark anytime in my life, though, so I stuck it obediently back on the countertop. “Okay, okay. I won’t be a teenage criminal.” I sighed.
“You’re too good of a person to be a thief,” Poppy said seriously.
“You little angel, you,” I said affectionately, giving her a huggy squeeze around her shoulders. Upon remembering we were still in the bookstore, I prodded Skyra on the arm. “You joining the coolest ditchers in town, then, or what?”
At top-speed, Skyra replaced her encyclopedia to the shelf and, before either Poppy or I could say a word, she was fishing a minute notepad-sized book from an entirely different shelf. I groaned. “More reading material for the brainiac?” I asked.
Skyra ignored me, bought the book, and joined us at the doorway. “I did ace English,” she informed me as we all traipsed outside.
“And I aced trig,” I said. “Doesn’t mean I walk around calculating the cosine of every right-angle triangle I see, though.”
Skyra vaguely looked up from her book. “You did not. You barely scraped a pass.”
“So?” I asked. “You’re one to talk. You flunked it.”
“I never claimed otherwise.”
I snorted at her superior tone of voice. Only my sister could sound high and mighty while announcing she’d failed a subject.
“Why the sudden newfound interest in literature, Sky?” Poppy asked, evidently following her own train of thought. That was the million-dollar question, actually, because she’d been dragging us to bookstores all around the country for days. I came with her for the incredible prospect of seeing Skyra open a book, and Poppy tagged along in the hope that she could persuade us into buying her more fantasies to add to her overflowing collection. And both of us were thoroughly bedraggled company after the eighth bookshop visit.
Apparently deciding that we wouldn’t provide her with peace and quiet enough to read, Skyra snapped her book shut and put it in her jeans pocket. A sad expression came over her face, so woebegone that it seriously alarmed me. “I’ve wondered why Aunt Holly hasn’t told you two yet.”
“Told us what?” I asked suspiciously.
She sighed. “Never mind.”
I ground my teeth. “If you like the way your nose looks right now, then I’d suggest you spill the beans.” Poppy, forever startled by pronouncements of violence, for once seemed in agreement. She must be as exasperated with Skyra’s enigma as I was by now.
Skyra studied me. “No. It would be better coming from her.”
“What would be better coming from her?” I demanded.
“You’re missing my point, Juliette.”
“No, I’m not. You’re missing mine. Do you like being kept in the dark?”
Poppy interrupted us. “Girls, girls. Don’t argue.”
I blew out my breath in a huff. Strange, how the youngest one of us three sisters happens to be the peacemaker, the one who makes the calls. Poppy frequently compels me to feel hopelessly immature – ironic age difference aside.
“I… the… you… tell me… insane!” I spluttered. I took a looong breath. “Skyra. You have, what, two measly years on me? Does Aunt Holly think I’m too naive to handle the info, or does she just like keeping us uninformed In other words… what in the world is happening that I can’t know about?”
“Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies, Juliette,” Skyra sang.
Poppy sniffed dolefully.
“Fine.” I stalked away, determined to force some answers out of Aunt Holly if I had to strangle her to do it. Eventually, after I had stormed halfway to the nearest tube station, I began to feel the beginnings of sheepishness at my melodramatic exit. By the time I had reached the tube station and was climbing the stairs up to the ticket entrance, I felt like an idiot. I didn’t usually react like an atom bomb after a bout of arguing, but, well, if there was one thing I hated more than anything else, it was being in total ignorance. Answers dangling in front of me, too close to be ignored, too far to snatch.