Keeping Secret (Secret McQueen) - By Sierra Dean

Chapter One

Vampires can’t fly, but a grown man can if you throw him hard enough.

That was the hard truth vampire hunter Shane Hewitt learned when I chucked him off the top of the bleachers of the empty high school gym we were in. He bounced when he landed and slid with a squeal. I couldn’t tell if the sound was from him yowling in pain or from his face grinding on the polished hardwood.

I winced. Not very fitting of a deadly former assassin, but I felt a little bad. Shane had put up a good fight, but he was outmatched. I should have gone easier on him, but the fact of the matter was I wasn’t here to coddle him, I was here to help keep him alive. He clambered to his feet with all the grace of a geriatric elephant, moaning and groaning the whole time. When he was standing tallish again, I leapt from the top of the bleachers to the bottom row, landing steadily in my knee-high black-heeled boots.

“Do you know how I was able to do that?”

Next to me on the bleachers my human ward, Nolan Tate, timidly raised his hand. Nolan was about six feet tall and built like a college linebacker. Seeing him ask for permission to speak as though I were really a teacher was so endearing my heart swelled. Too bad my question was meant for Shane. I touched Nolan’s shoulder, and he put his hand down.

“Because you’re a freak of nature?” Shane growled.

I had to laugh because he was more spot-on than he realized. Shane thought I was a freak because it was unheard of for a Tribunal leader, one of the three most powerful members of the vampire council, to be personally helping a disrespected, no-rank, human bounty hunter. In reality, my freakishness ran much deeper. I was a vampire, sure, but that was only half the story. The other half was werewolf, making me one hell of an unnatural disaster.

Seeing as a mere handful of people knew about what I was—and Shane wasn’t one of them—I replied with, “Close, but not the answer I was looking for.”

Once upon a time I had been in Shane’s place. Lowest on the totem pole, getting zero respect from the council while they expected me to kill their rogues and obey their every whim. Since then I had become one of them, and now my own whims were those to be obeyed. It was sort of surreal what could come from beheading one bitchy blonde vampire.

Shane wiped a dribble of blood off his chin. If he wanted to live to see his thirty-third birthday, he was going to have to start listening to me more and sass-talking me less. I had a whole new appreciation of what a hardship it had been for my mentor, Francis Keats, to put up with me when I was a rash sixteen-year-old.

When Shane didn’t reply right away, Nolan shifted nervously beside me. He knew I had a notoriously short fuse and was even shorter on patience. Nolan seemed to appreciate my lessons, whereas Shane often acted as if he felt they were beneath him.

I cleared my throat and kept my voice calm like I had to in Tribunal sessions. “Shane. Tell me why I was able to throw you.”

“Because you’re stronger than me,” he admitted, staring at his scuffed motorcycle boots.

While it took cojones for him to say it, I had been hoping for a different response. “No, that’s not the reason. Why was I able to throw you?”

Nolan went to raise his hand again but appeared to think better of it and scratched his head as a halfhearted cover-up. My less-obliging student tromped over and sat beside me on the bleachers, rubbing his tender jaw.

“I didn’t see the second swing coming.”

“That’s the first part of it, yes. What else?” I sat down between Shane and Nolan, waiting for the former’s reply while the latter watched us in rapt silence. Nolan had been an incredible find in a bar full of would-be vampire hunters. He wasn’t much with the killer edge, but he had a survival instinct that was more finely tuned than anyone I’d ever met. I also loved him like a younger brother, and it made me especially protective of him.

“I don’t know.”

“Then you’re dead. Think, Shane. I’m not doing this to be cruel, trust me. If I wanted to be cruel, you wouldn’t have gotten up at all.”

He stopped touching his face and took off