1 Chapter 1

VOLUME ONE: SO YOU THINK YOUR SISTER'S A VAMPIRE?

You think you know someone, and then they go and turn into a creature of the night, a bloodsucker, a vampire, right before your very eyes, and then you realize, you don't really know anyone at all, perhaps not even yourself.

My name's Cassidy Findley, and up until a couple of weeks ago, I was living a pretty mundane existence. I live in a small town in rural Iowa where the most exciting thing that ever happens is someone shoots a deer or a friend's hog has piglets. No, really, those are the kinds of stories I've come to expect to hear in the hallways of Shenandoah High School on a Monday morning. Okay, I might be exaggerating a little bit; sometimes there are stories about who is going out with who or who met a hot stranger at the mallwhich happens to be about an hour away from here in Council Bluffs, so no one can ever verify those sorts of storiesbut for the most part, nothing exciting ever happens in Shenandoah, that is until the night before Thanksgiving. Nothing would ever be the same after that night.

Actually, things started to head in the direction of a downward spiral a couple of nights before that. My older sister, Cadence, is nineteen and attends college at the University of Iowa in Iowa Citywell, she did go to college there, anyway. I'll get to that soon enough. She was back in town for the week because of the holiday, and I was so happy to see her. My sister and I have always been very closeuntil recently.

Her whole life, my sister has talked about wanting to be an elementary school teacher, so the fact that she dropped out and took a job with some sort of security company would've been shocking if I hadn't already figured out by then what was happening. Again, I'm getting ahead of myself. I guess it would make more sense if I just start at the beginning.

Cadence was super popular when she was in school. She was a cheerleader, in the choir, and in a half-dozen other clubs. I do some of those things, too, but I definitely don't get the same sort of attention that Cadence did, which is fine. I don't need that sort of spotlight. Not that she ever seemed to want it either, but that was just part of who she was. My sister is beautiful, with long brown hair and big brown eyes. I've seen guys literally crumple when she flashes them her dazzling smile. She's totally oblivious, though. Still, being so well-liked garnered her a group of friends that went practically everywhere with her when they were in high school and a boyfriend that was the envy of all the other girls. Even after she and Jack broke up, he still continued to follow her around like a puppy dog every time she came home. So, it was no surprise that one of the voices I heard through our adjoining bedroom wall that night was his.

I try not to eavesdrop as a rule. I think it's underhanded and sneaky. But my sister's friends are loud, so I can often hear most of their conversations just by not listening to any music or watching anything on my laptop when they're chatting. Like I said, none of what I overheard was on purpose. And sometimes I wish I hadn't heard anything at all. But I did.

I was sitting on my bed, trying to decide whether to watch a movie or catch up on some TV when the whole group of them came up the stairs. I closed my laptop and went into "not eavesdropping" mode. I heard Cadence's friend Drew Peterson's voice first. She's still in high school and on the Varsity cheerleading squad. Since I'm on the JV squad, sometimes we practice together, and she's usually nice to me. She has short, curly blonde hair and big blue eyes. She's really pretty, but unlike my sister, she knows it. Drew's the kind of girl who will use her looks to get whatever she wants, and I always wondered why my sister hung out with her when Cadence usually likes people who are more down to earth.

I remembered that she used to date my sister's friend Kash Donetello as soon as I heard his voice. "That's why," I reminded myself. Drew started hanging out with my sister when she was dating Kash, and even though they broke up a while ago, Drew has stuck to my sister like bubble gum on her Converse. She just won't go away.

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Drew's laughter rang through the wall, and I heard my sister mention she had a paper that she needed to work on. Why her friends were here while she was doing homework is beyond me, but I figured it is back to the sticky factor. Once someone has latched on to Cadence, she has a hard time shaking them.

I heard her two other guy friendsthe aforementioned Jack Cook, ex-boyfriend and star baseball player who now attends college in Nebraska, and Jon Chancellor, who decided not to go to college. Jon is one of those guys who is always joking around about everything, and although I've personally never thought he was particularly funny, I guess Cadence does. She has always had a strange sense of humor.

I could hear two other female voices, too, though not well enough to make out what they were saying. Still, I knew that they were my sister's real best friends, the ones she'd choose to keep if she had to whittle down this group. Taylor Christianson and Sidney Cox are to Cadence what my two best friends, Lucy Burk and Emma O'Sullivan, are to me. I have other friends, too, like Milo Parker and Wes Standford, and then there's Liam White who is super cute, but I think is just using me to pass Algebra II. If I had to pick my two BFFs, though, there's no question it would be Luce and Em, hands down. I know that's a lot of names, and for right now, you probably don't have to worry about most of these people. The only ones that are super important are my sister, of course, and Drew. If I had known then what I know now about the fate of Drew Peterson, I would've burst into my sister's bedroom and ordered everyone to go home immediately.

But I didn't do that because I had no idea that the conversation my sister was having through that paper-thin wall would be so significant.

I adjusted my position on top of the floral print bedspread my mother had purchased for me a few years earlier when I'd decided I was too old for Disney Princesses and tried not to not listen to my sister's conversation. You'd think the walls would be thicker considering that was supposed to be the master suite. Despite the fact that Cadence had an en suite bathroom and a closet big enough to hide all of her friends should my parents ever care that she was practically throwing a party in her bedroom, I was never jealous. My parents' bedroom was downstairs in what was meant to be a mother-in-law suite, but my Grandma Janette lives in Des Moines and my other grandparents still have each other. So, everyone else has spacious bedrooms with attached bathrooms, and I have to walk down the hall a little way to take a shower. Really not a big dealnot even a first world problem. Still, I could practically hear my sister and her friends breathing, which is why I can say I definitely wasn't trying to hear what they were talking about.

But I heard nonetheless. Drew was talking about an Eidolon Festival. I'd never heard that word before and thought at first that I just wasn't hearing it correctly through the drywall, but I did what I always do when I hear a word I don't knowI looked it up. Even before she stopped talking, I had it on Wikipedia. Since I was pretty sure she wasn't talking about idolizing anyone, that only left one alternative. "A specter or phantom," I read aloud, my forehead crinkling. Why would anyone want to go to a festival for that? I wondered. It definitely didn't sound like something my sister would like. She wasn't even a fan of Halloween. Not that she was scared; she just thought it was pointless to walk around dressed like someone you're not, trying to scare people or collecting candy. I tended to agree with her and waited to hear her tell Drew to forget about it.

The discussion went on for a few minutes, and I could hear Cadence saying she didn't want to go. It sounded like Taylor was actually afraid, like she was about to cry, so I thought for sure this would be the end of the discussion. But then Drew started whining, and I know that's my sister's weakness. "You all went away to college and left me here," she was saying.

Like kryptonite, the tears of Drew Peterson melted my sister's iron resolve, and the next thing I heard was Cadence agreeing to go. I could hardly believe my ears. Whatever this thing was, it sounded dangerous, and it wasn't even in town. They'd have to drive to Villisca. A festival of ghosts in a town made famous for an axe murder? I was pretty sure this was a bad idea.

I know what you're thinking, and you're right. You're asking yourself, "If Cassidy Findley is such a good girl, why didn't she get up and go tell her sister not to go?" Or, "Why didn't she head straight downstairs and interrupt her parents' viewing of CSI Miami to let them know her older sister was planning to lie to them and use a cover story of spending the night at Drew's house to sneak out?" And you're rightyou're absolutely right. I should've done one or both of those things. And now, here we are, a few weeks later, and everything in the world is completely different. This is a guilt I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I no longer feel like the good girl who always makes the right decisions. What I overheard that night has led me down a dark hole, one where I not only eavesdrop on every other member of my family, but I've also become a master of deception. As a matter-of-fact, I'm pretty sure someone is dead because I didn't stand up and say something. What's even worse (yes, worse than death) is that, because I chose not to burst through my sister's door and tell her not to go to that stupid festival, my sister is now a vampire; I'm almost sure of it.

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