Preparations are under way for the ball of the century. But as any true Blue Blood knows, it’s the after-party that counts. And the cunning Mimi Force is getting ready to make sure her masquerade ball is the place to be for the Young, Fabulous and Fanged.
But Schuyler Van Alen has more on her mind than fancy dresses, even if her crush Jack Force, is sure to make an appearance. She’s getting closer to finding out what’s been preying on the young vamps – and discovering the deadly secrets hiding under the masks. . .
Rich with glamour, attitude and vampire lore, this second instalment in the Blue Bloods saga will leave readers thirsting for more.
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A Sneak Peek on Masquerade by Melissa de la Cruz ebook,
Blue Bloods Series Book # 2
The pigeons had taken over St. Mark’s Square.
Hundreds of them: fat, gray, squat, and silent, pecking at the pieces of sfogliatelle and pane uva bread crumbs that careless tourists had left behind. It was noon, but the sun was hidden behind clouds, and a gloomy pall had fallen over the city. The gondolas were lined up on the docks, empty, their striped-shirted gondoliers leaning on their oars, waiting for customers who had not arrived. The waters were in low tide, the dark stain of the higher levels visible on the building facades.
Schuyler Van Alen rested her elbows on the rickety café table and put her head in her hands, so that the bottom of her chin was hidden underneath her oversize turtleneck. She was a Blue Blood vampire, the last of the Van Alens—a formerly prominent New York family whose influence and largesse had been instrumental in the founding of modern-day Manhattan. Once upon a time, the Van Alen name had been synonymous with power, privilege, and patronage. But that was a long time ago, and the family fortune had been dwindling for many years: Schuyler was more familiar with penny-pinching than shopping sprees. Her clothes—the black turtleneck that hung past her hips, cutoff leggings, an army flak jacket, and beaten-up motorcycle boots—were thrift-store castoffs.
On any other girl, the ragged ensemble might look as though it had been thrown together by a homeless vagrant, but on Schuyler it became raiment equal to royalty, and made her delicate, heart-shaped features even more striking. With her pale, ivory complexion, deep-set blue eyes, and mass of dark, blue-black hair, she was a stunning, impossibly lovely creature. Her beauty was made even more benevolent when she smiled, although there was little chance of that this morning.
“Cheer up,” Oliver Hazard-Perry said, lifting a small cup of espresso to his lips. “Whatever happens, or doesn’t happen, at least we had a bit of a break. And doesn’t the city look gorgeous? C’mon, you’ve got to admit being in Venice is so much better than being stuck in Chem lab.”
Oliver had been Schuyler’s best friend since childhood a gangly, floppy-haired, handsome youth, with a quick grin and kind, hazel, eyes. He was her confidant and partner in crime and, as she had learned not too long ago, her human Conduit—traditionally a vampire’s assistant and left-hand man, a position of exalted servitude. Oliver had been instrumental in getting them from New York to Venice in a short period of time. He had been able to convince his father to let them accompany him on a business trip to Europe.
Despite Oliver’s cheerful words, Schuyler was glum. It was their last day in Venice and they had found nothing. Tomorrow they would fly back to New York empty-handed, their trip a complete failure.
She began ripping apart the label on her Pellegrino bottle, tearing it carefully so it unwound into a long thin strip of green paper. She just didn’t want to give up so soon.
Almost two months before, Schuyler’s grandmother, Cordelia Van Alen, had been attacked by a Silver Blood, the mortal enemies of the Blue Blood vampires. Schuyler had learned from Cordelia that, like the Blue Bloods, Silver Bloods were fallen angels, doomed to live their eternal lives on earth. However, unlike the Blue Bloods, Silver Blood vampires had sworn allegiance to the exiled Prince of Heaven, Lucifer himself, and had refused to comply with the Code of the Vampires, a stringent rule of ethics that the Blue Bloods hoped would help bring about their eventual return to Paradise.
Cordelia had been Schuyler’s legal guardian. Schuyler had never known her parents: her father died before she was born, and her mother had fallen into a coma soon after giving birth to her. For most of Schuyler’s childhood, Cordelia had been aloof and distant, but she was the only family Schuyler had had in the world, and for better or worse, she had loved her grandmother.
“She was sure he would be here,” Schuyler said, disconsolately tossing bread crumbs at the pigeons that had gathered underneath their table. It was something she had been saying ever since they’d arrived in Venice. The Silver Blood attack had left Cordelia weakened, but before her grandmother had succumbed to the passive state (Blue Blood vampires are continually reincarnated immortal beings), she had pressed on Schuyler the need to find her missing grandfather, Lawrence Van Alen, whom she believed held the key to defeating the Silver Bloods. With her last breath, Schuyler’s grandmother had instructed her to travel to Venice, to comb the city’s crooked streets and winding canals for any sign of him.
“But we’ve looked everywhere. No one has ever even heard of a Lawrence Van Alen, or a Dr. John Carver,” Oliver sighed, pointing out that they had made dozens of inquiries at the university, at Harry’s Bar at the Cipriani, and at every hotel, villa, and pensione in between. John Carver had been a name Lawrence had taken during the Plymouth settlement.
“I know. I’m beginning to think he never even existed,” Schuyler replied.
“Maybe she was wrong—too weak and disoriented and confused about where to send you,” Oliver suggested. “This could end up being just a wild-goose chase.”
Schuyler mulled the possibility. Perhaps Cordelia had been wrong, and maybe Charles Force, the leader of the Blue Bloods, was right after all. But the loss of her grandmother had affected her terribly, and Schuyler was nursing a fevered determination to carry out the old woman’s final wish.
“I can’t think like that, Ollie. If I do, then I’ve given up. I have to find him. I have to find my grandfather. It hurts too much to think about what Charles Force said….”
“What did he say?” Oliver asked. Schuyler had mentioned a conversation she’d had with Charles before they had left, but had kept the details vague.
“He said…” Schuyler closed her eyes and remembered the tension-filled encounter.