Fall of Night The Morganville Vampires - By Rachel Caine

CHAPTER ONE

The billboard at the edge of the border of Morganville hadn’t changed since Claire had first driven past it on the way into town at the tender age of sixteen. It seemed a lifetime ago, but here was the same old sign, faded and creaking in the dry desert wind. It had a 1950s-era couple (white, of course) next to a finned car as big as a boat, looking into the sunset. WELCOME TO MORGANVILLE. YOU’LL NEVER WANT TO LEAVE.

Yet here she was. Leaving. Actually leaving.

The weight of it felt suddenly unbearable, and the billboard dissolved into impressionistic swirls as tears formed hot in her eyes. She was finding it hard to catch her breath. I don’t have to go, she thought. I can turn around, go home, go back where it’s safe … because as crazy and dangerous as Morganville was, at least she’d learnt how to live in it. How to adapt, and survive, and even thrive. It had become, well, home. Comfortable.

Out there … she wasn’t sure what she’d be any more, out there.

It’s time to find out, the more adult part of her said. You have to see the world before you can give it up to be here. She supposed that was right. Didn’t the Amish send their kids out on rumspringa, to find out what life was like outside and make a real decision on whether or not to stay in their community? So, maybe she was on a kind of vampire rumspringa.

Because that was what she was leaving, even though she definitely was not one of the plasma-challenged … a vampire community, with almost everything in some way related to them: to protecting them, making them money, giving them blood. In turn, at least theoretically, the vampires protected the town and the people in it. Didn’t always work, of course. But the surprising thing was that it did work, more often than not. And she thought, from the way things were settling down now, that it might work lots better this time around, now that the town’s founder Amelie was back in charge. And sane. Sane was a plus.

‘Troubled?’

The voice made her gasp and turn, blinking away tears, because she’d actually forgotten that he was standing there. Not Shane. She’d left early, before her boyfriend was awake; she’d actually sneaked away before dawn, so that she could be off without goodbyes that she knew would rip her heart in pieces. Here she stood with her suitcases and her stuffed backpack, and Myrnin.

Her vampire boss – if you could call being a mad scientist a profession – was standing next to the big black sedan he occasionally – very occasionally, thankfully – drove. (He was not a good driver. Understatement.) He wasn’t dressed crazily this morning, for a change. He’d left the Hawaiian shirts and floppy hats at home, and instead he looked as if he’d stepped out of an eighteenth-century drama – breeches that tucked into shiny black boots, a gold-coloured satin waistcoat, a coat over it that had tails. He’d even tied his normally wild shoulder-length hair back in a sleek black ponytail.

Vampires, unlike humans, could stand perfectly still, and just now he looked like a carved statue … alabaster and ebony and gold.

‘No, I’m not troubled,’ she said, aware she’d hesitated way too long to answer him. She shivered a little. Here in the desert, at night, it was icy cold, though it would warm up nicely by midday. I won’t be here then, she realised. But Morganville would go on without her. That seemed … weird.

‘I am surprised you did not bring your friends to say goodbye,’ Myrnin offered. He sounded cautious, as if he was far from sure what the etiquette of this situation might be. ‘Surely it’s customary that they see you off on such a journey?’

‘I don’t care if it is,’ she said. A tumbleweed – a thorny, skeletal ball of nasty scratching branches – rolled toward her, and she sidestepped it. It ploughed into a tangle of its fellows that had piled up against the base of the billboard. ‘I don’t want them to cry. I don’t want to cry, either. I just – look, it’s hard enough, okay? Please don’t.’

Myrnin’s shoulders lifted in a minute shrug. For the first time, as he turned his head away, she saw that he’d secured his ponytail with a big black bow. It fit what he was wearing, and it was weird that it didn’t look out of place