Home > Cryptic Cravings (Vampire Kisses #8)(7)

Cryptic Cravings (Vampire Kisses #8)(7)
Author: Ellen Schreiber

I decided I had a chance to find out more of Jagger's intentions that afternoonsince Iwould be protected by the sun--Iused it to myadvantage.

As soon as Becky dropped me at my house after school, I hopped on my bike and pedaled toward the Sinclair Mill. The ride was exhausting, with its curving hills and narrow, winding roads.

The rockygravel of the mill's drivewaymade it too unwieldyto ride over evenwithmythick tires, and Ididn't want to stir any sleeping vampires with the noise, so I walked my bike over the gravel and leaned it against one of the brick walls. I found a few rusted and locked gates with boarded-up windows.

I went around to the back of the building. This empty factory was historical to Dullsville, and I remembered learning about it in school. The mill prospered manufacturing uniforms for the war in the 1940s. After the war ended, a linen company bought it but it eventually went bankrupt. I imagined the noises of the running machinery cranking out uniforms for the war and the voices of the workers. The hours must have been long and laborious. I sweltered at school; Icouldn't imagine what it must have beenlike to wear a floor-lengthheavydress while sewing all daylong.

I thought it was hard to have worked at Armstrong Travel filing and making copies in a blouse, pencil skirt, and hose. Iwas happyI'd beenborninthe time of air-conditioning.

The red-tiled smokestack, once full of thick smoke, was now barely standing. What was once home to machines and laborers was now home to modern-day vampires.

I found the entrance that I had watched Onyx and Scarlet pass through. The door was unstable, looking like it might come off its hinges at any moment. I held it steady and gently opened it.

Iquietlystepped over discarded materials and around garbage left byothers' sneak-ins as Imade mywayto the mainpart of the factory. So far Ididn't see anysigns of the makeover Iwas hoping this emptymill would take on.

Instead of neon signs adorning the walls and a tiled dance floor, spray-painted graffiti was the only decoration,and brokenchairs were cast aside inthe corners like litter. Iknew the vampire crew wasn't inthis room--the light was too bright for them to hide. They'd need a place dark and big enoughto shelter five coffins.

As much as Jagger had been a pain to both Alexander and me, he did make the Coffin Club in Hipsterville a thriving place for both mortals and vampires to hang out. Jagger had a great imagination and was successful in seeing his visioncome to life.And now Iimagined how this factorycould be transformed, too. IwishI'd thought of it first. But had it been my idea and my venture, the only thing that was sure was that no one would come. With Jagger, he alreadyhad vampires inhabiting it and hadn't done a thing to it.

The sunlight streamed in through cracked, broken, and vacant windows. This would be a hard place for a sleeping vampire to get anyshut-eye. Last time we'd discovered Jagger's hideawayhe was holed up ina freight elevator.

But with so many vampires now in his company, that would be too small for all their coffins.

I found the two-flight staircase we'd once takenwhenAlexander and Ihad originally found Jagger here months ago. As I ventured down the rickety staircase, less light streamed in and I dug into my backpack and grabbed my flashlight. My free hand got tangled in several spider-webs.

"Sorry," Isaid to a grizzly-looking spider who stared back up at me.

I walked down a darkened hallway. It was straight out of a horror movie. There were no windows here in the sublevel hallway, and I only had a flashlight to show my way. My imagination transformed it into a mental institution,with screaming inmates. Not sure who or what might jump out at me, I had to fight my own will just to open a door.

I opened a few doors that led nowhere--emptyrooms withno signof life . . . or the undead.At the end of the hallway, Icame to the last two doors--one across from the other.At this point Iwasn't sure how muchdaylight I had to keep me safe. I decided to try the one on the right.

The door was secured, but not with a lock. It felt like something was wedged in front of it from the other side. To me that meant there was something behind it worth securing. I pushed against the door with all my might, and the wedge shifted just enough for me to slip through the opening. I stepped inside and cast my light around the room.

There theywere--one right next to the other. Five coffins ina row. The first one, black withband stickers, was Jagger's. The second, babypink, was no doubt Luna's. The third one was embellished withstickers from countries and cities across the globe, and Irecognized it as Sebastian's. The fourthwas black onyxstone outlined inwhite, and the fifthwas adorned withshinybeads. Those were certainlyOnyxand Scarlet's. Eachhad dirt around it in a circle. Five sleeping vampires, only a few feet away from me.

I imagined creating a custom coffinforAlexander and me--perhaps a double-wide coffinthat looked like a huge heart. I wondered if the vampires were lonely in there,isolated from the rest of the world. I felt they must miss seeing each other during the daylight hours. Did they dream like we did or did they always have nightmares? I had to reallycontemplate this issue--think about if it was something Iultimatelywanted, to be so closed away from another vampire or the outside world.

I knew Ishould back out immediately, returnto the hallway, and close the door. I knew Ishouldn't remain in the room or step anycloser to the coffins, but Icouldn't resist the temptation. Itiptoed up to Jagger's coffin. I paused briefly, then leaned my ear to the coffin lid. I heard the faint sounds of breathing.

Suddenly a thud came from the other side. I was so startled I jumped up and let out an audible gasp. My heart was racing so hard I was sure I'd have to call a doctor.

I paused, covering my mouth with my hand. I wondered if they had heard me.

Now I knew it was time to retreat. I tiptoed out and did my best to wrestle the wedge back underneath the door from the other side with my flash light.

I checked the time on my cell phone and, with sunset approaching, realized I had only a few minutes to investigate further. I'd found the coffins and discovered that no plans had beencarried out yet. But what was Jagger's next move, and were there any clues that could help me figure that out?

There was one more door left uninvestigated--the one across the hall from the sleeping vampires. I'd be smart to head to the Mansionand returnanother time withAlexander. Ididn't have muchtime to decide, and I was desperate to know what lay on the other side.

I stared at the doorknob. Ianxiouslyturned the handle, but it wouldn't open. Ipushed and pulled so hard, the knob came off in my hand. As I wrangled it back on, I could feel it catching the latch. I did my best to be patient and opened the door slowly.

The room was dark except for a paper-thin beam of light streaming in through a broken window at least twenty feet from the floor. The smell of dust and mold filled the room. Old filing cabinets lined a few walls and there was an antique wooden desk. A green wine bottle with a Romanian label sat on it. In the corner was an aquarium containing not water but rocks and one veryfrightening tarantula. Gravestone etchings, including the veryones I'd seenat Jagger's place inHipsterville, hung from the walls. This must be Jagger's new quarters. Byappearances,he wasn't readyto returnto Hipsterville inthe near future.

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