Bite Club


Chapter One


Looking back on it later, Claire thought she should have known trouble was coming. But in Morganville,anything could be trouble. Your college professor doesn't show for class? Probably got fanged by vampires. Takeout forgets to put onions on your hamburger? The regular onion-delivery guy disappeared--again, probably due to vampires. And so on. For a college town, Morganville had a remarkable lot of vampires.

Claire was an authority on those subjects: Texas Prairie University and, of course, the vampires. And mysterious disappearances. She'd almost been one of those, more often than she wanted to admit.

But this problem wasn't a disappearance at all. It was an appearance--of something new, something different, and something cool, at least in her boyfriend, Shane's, opinion, because as Claire was sorting through the mail for their weird little fraternity of four into the "junk" and "keep" piles, Shane grabbed the flyer she'd put in "junk" and read it with the most elated expression she'd ever seen on his face. Scary. Shane didn't get excited about much; he was guarded about his feelings, mostly, except with her.

Now he looked as delighted as a little kid at Christmas.

"Mike!" he bellowed, and Claire winced and put her hands over her ears. When Shane yelled, he belted it out. "Yo, Dead Man, get your ass down here!"

Michael, their third housemate at the Glass House, must have assumed there was an emergency under way--not an unreasonable assumption, because, hey, Morganville. So he arrived at a run, pushing the door back and looking paler than usual, and more dangerous than usual, too. When he acted like a regular guy, he seemed quiet and sweet, maybe a littletoo practical sometimes, but vampire Michael was a whole different, spicy deal.

Yeah, she was living in a house with a vampire. And, strangely, that was not the weirdest part of her life.

Michael blinked the tinges of red away from his blue eyes, ran both hands through his wavy blond hair, and frowned at Shane. "What the hell is your problem?" He didn't wait to hear, though; he walked over to the counter and got down one of their mismatched, battered coffee mugs. This one was black with purple Gothic lettering that read poison. The cup belonged to their fourth housemate, Eve, but she still hadn't made an appearance this morning.

When you sleep later than a vampire,Claire thought,that's probably taking it a little too far.

As he filled the mug with coffee, Michael waited for Shane to make some sense. Which Shane finally did, holding up the cheaply printed white flyer. It curled at the edges from having been rolled up to fit in the mailbox. "What have I always wanted in this town?" he asked.

"A strip club that would let in fifteen-year-olds?" Michael said.

"When I wasfifteen . No, seriously. What?"

"Guns 'R' Us?"

Shane made a harsh buzzer sound. "Okay, to be fair, yeah, that's a good alternate answer. But no. I always wanted a place to seriously train to fight, right? Someplace that didn't think aerobics was a martial art. And look!"

Claire took the paper from Shane's hand and smoothed it out on the table. She'd only glanced at it when sorting mail; she'd thought it was some kind of gym. Which it was, in a way, but it wasn't teaching spin and yoga and all that stuff.

This one was a gym and martial arts studio, and it was teaching self-defense. Or at least that was what Claire took from the graphic of some guy in a white jacket and pants kicking the crap out of the air, and the words defend yourself in big, bold letters at the bottom.

Slurping coffee, Michael leaned over her shoulder. "Huh," he said. "Weird."

"Nothing weird about people wanting to learn a few life-preserving skills, man. Especially around here. Not like we're all looking forward to our peaceful old age," Shane said.

"I mean, it's weird who's teaching," Michael said. "Being that this guy"--he tapped the name at the bottom of the page--"is a vampire."

Vassily was the name, which Claire made out only when she squinted at it. Small type. "A vampire's teaching self-defense," she said. "To us. Humans."

Shane was thrown for just about a minute, and then he said, "Well, who better? Amelie put out a decree that humans were free to learn this stuff, right? Sooner or later, some vamp was bound to make some cash off it."

"You meanoff us ," Claire said. But she could see his point. A vampire martial arts instructor? That would have to be all kinds