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The Society of S

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The Society of S

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Alternate Title: The Sanguinist's Daughter
Author: Susan Hubbard
Publisher: Walker Books, 2008
Simon & Schuster, 2007
Series: Ethical Vampire: Book 1
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-Genre Tags: Urban Fantasy
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What if everything you knew about your family was a lie? What if, when the lies began to crack, beneath them lay a truth so dark and deep, yet so compelling, that it pulled you inside?

Ariella Montero is seeking the true identities of her mother and father-and of herself. She's been taught literature, philosophy, science, and history, but she knows almost nothing about the real world and its complexities.

Her world is one wherein ghosts and vampires commune with humans; where Edgar Allan Poe and Jack Kerouac are role models; where every time a puzzle seems solved, its last piece changes the entire picture. When the last piece is murder, Ari goes on the road in search of her mother, who disappeared at the time of her birth. The hunt nearly costs Ari her life, and, in finding her mother, she loses her father. But gradually she uncovers the secrets that have kept the family apart, and she begins to come to terms with her own unique nature and her chances for survival.



On a cool spring night in Savannah, my mother is walking. Her clogs make sounds like horses' hooves against the cobblestone street. She passes among banks of azaleas in full bloom and live oak trees shrouded in Spanish moss, and she enters a green square bordered by a café.

My father is seated on a stool at a wrought-iron table. Two chessboards spread across the table, and my father has castled on one when he looks up, sees my mother, and drops a pawn, which falls against the tabletop and rolls onto the sidewalk.

My mother dips to pick up the chess piece and hands it back to him. She looks from him to the two other men sitting at the table. Their faces are expressionless. They're tall and thin, all three, but my father has dark green eyes that somehow seem familiar.

My father stretches out a hand and cups her chin. He looks into her pale blue eyes. "I know you," he says.

With his other hand he traces the shape of her face, passing twice over the widow's peak. Her hair is long and thick, russet brown, with small wisps that he tries to smooth away from her forehead.

The other men at the table fold their arms, waiting. My father has been playing both of them simultaneously.

My mother stares at my father's face -- dark hair falling away from his forehead, straight dark eyebrows over those green eyes, lips thin but shaped in a cupid's bow. Her smile is shy, frightened.

He drops his hands, slides off the stool. They walk away together. The men at the table sigh, and clear the chessboards. Now they'll have to play each other.

"I'm going to see Professor Morton," my mother says.

"Where's his office?"

My mother waves her hand in the direction of the art college. He puts his hand on her shoulder, lightly, letting her lead.

"What's this? A bug in your hair?" he says suddenly, pulling at what seems to be an insect.

"A barrette." She takes the copper dragonfly from her hair and hands it to him. "It's a dragonfly. Not a bug."

He shakes his head, then smiles. He says, "Hold still," and carefully slides a lock of her hair through the dragonfly, then pins it behind her left ear.

They turn away from the college. They're holding hands now, walking down a steep cobblestone street. It's growing dark and chilly, yet they pause to sit on a cement wall.

My mother says, "This afternoon I sat at my window, watching the trees grow dark as the sun went down. I thought, I'm growing older. I have only so many days left to watch the trees darken. Someone could count them."

He kisses her. It's a brief kiss, a rough touching of lips. The second kiss lasts longer.

She shivers.

He bends to cover her face -- forehead, cheeks, nose, chin -- with small, quick brushes of his eyelashes. "Butterfly kisses," he says, "to keep you warm."

My mother looks away, amazed at herself. In a matter of minutes she has let so much happen, without hesitation or protest. And she isn't stopping it now. She wonders how old he thinks she is. She's sure she's older -- he looks about twenty-five, and she has recently turned thirty. She wonders when she should tell him that she's married to Professor Morton.

They stand up and walk on, down concrete steps leading toward the river. At the bottom of the steps is a closed cast-iron gate.

"I hate moments like this," my mother says. Her shoes can't climb gates.

My father climbs over the gate and opens it. "It wasn't locked," he says.

As she passes through, she has a sense of inevitability. She is moving toward something entirely new, yet predetermined. Without any effort at all, she feels years of unhappiness being erased.

They walk along the strand beside the river. Ahead they see the lights of the tourist shops, and as they reach them, he says, "Wait." She watches him go inside a shop that sells Irish imports, then loses sight of him through the door's wavy glass. He comes out carrying a soft wool shawl. He wraps it around her, and for the first time in years, she feels beautiful.

Will we marry? she wonders. But she doesn't need to ask it. They walk on, a couple already.

My father tells me this story, twice. I have questions. But I save them until he's finished for the second time.

"How did you know what she was thinking?" is my first question.

"Later she told me her thoughts," he says.

"What happened to Professor Morton?" I ask next. "Didn't he try to stop her from leaving him?"

I'm thirteen, but my father says I'm going on thirty. I have long dark hair and blue eyes. Except for the eyes, I take after my father.

"Professor Morton tried to keep your mother," my father says. "He tried threats. He tried force. He'd done it before, when she talked about leaving him. But this time she was in love, and she wasn't afraid. She packed up her things and moved out."

"Did she move in with you?"

"Not at first. No, she took an apartment downtown near Colonial Cemetery, an apartment that some people still say is haunted."

I look hard at him, but I'm not going to be distracted by the haunted apartment.

"Who won the chess game?" I ask.

His eyes open wider. "That's a very good question, Ariella," he says. "I wish I knew the answer."

My father usually knows the answer to everything.

"Could you tell she was older than you?" I ask.

He shrugs. "I didn't think about it. Age has never mattered much to me." He stands up, goes to the living room window, draws the heavy velvet curtains. "Time for you to sleep," he says.

I have a hundred more questions. But I nod, I don't object. Tonight he's told me more than ever before about my mother, whom I've never seen, and even more about himself.

Except for one thing -- the truth he doesn't want to tell, the truth I'll spend years trying to understand. The truth about who we really are.

Copyright © 2007 by Susan Hubbard


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