Title: By Blood
Author: Tracy E. Banghart
Released: February 18th 2013
Pages: 368 (Kindle)
Buy: Amazon UK / Amazon US
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For 17-year-old Emma Wong, spending a summer in England should be a dream come true. Gorgeous scenery? Check. Lots of hot guys with accents? Yes, please.
Throw in an estranged mom, annoying new stepdad, and drooling baby half-brother, and it’s a disaster even her favorite cherry red leather jacket can’t fix. Even worse, there’s (hot) live-in research assistant Josh to contend with. The only thing more embarrassing than drunk-kissing him hours after they meet? Knowing he’ll be witness to her family’s dysfunction all. summer. long.
But when Emma meets a mysterious girl who happens to be a Druid, her vacation suddenly promises to be far more intriguing than she anticipated. Powerful rituals, new friends, an intoxicating sense of freedom...and Simon, the sexy foreign stranger she was hoping for. It’s all a perfect distraction from dirty diapers and awkward family dinners.
Trouble is, intriguing doesn’t often mean simple. And Emma is about to discover just how not simple her life really is.
By Blood is a novel about the ways that blood can bind us to others – or tear us apart.
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We reached a main street with a pink-washed pub on the corner. I paused, but Ash kept walking.
When she turned again, I had a flashback to lunch and the dim stairs leading to the Wisteria Café. Here we were at another dark passageway. Excitement shivered through me. We walked down a narrow alley between two buildings; my shoes wobbled on the cobblestones and Josh put a polite hand on my back to steady me. The path was lit by old-fashioned sconces built into the walls. Faintly, I heard voices, an occasional burst of laughter. We ducked through a low archway and the space opened before us.
A cobblestone courtyard hid among the tall shadowy buildings. Hunched in the center of the clearing, among the noise and light, was a squat green-roofed structure. People milled in front and around the sides of the small tavern. It even had outbuildings of a sort – the whole assemblage resembled historic horse stables more than a bar. Ash waved a hand and said proudly, “This is The Turf.”
It was perfect. Just the kind of place I’d expect a group of Druids to hang out. I looked around, wondering if I’d recognize them just by their auras or something.
Josh stepped forward. “Let me buy you ladies a drink. What can I get you?” Ash asked for a Pimm’s and lemonade so I said I’d have the same, though I had no idea what it was.
She gestured toward the back of the building, where an ivy-covered trellis framed a doorway to another outdoor area. “They’ll be over there,” she said, dragging me away.
As soon as we walked through the archway, I saw Simon. He was dressed in black, his dark hair spiked up and a sardonic grin on his face. Shadows and people crowded close. A man played a guitar in the opposite corner, but the rumble of the crowd drowned out whatever music he was trying to make.
Ash led me by the hand until we were standing before Simon, in the center of a group of people I could only assume was his “Grove”. I kept my head up, aiming for confident and relaxed, even though my stomach fluttered. When Simon took my hand and kissed my palm, I had to bite back a goofy smile.
“Good evening, Emma. So nice to see you again.”
I nodded, not trusting my voice. His stormy gray eyes met mine and I couldn’t look away. There was something intense in the way he stared. He gave me a slight smile and released my hand.
Ash pulled me away. “Emma, this is Molly Walker. She’s in school with me.” Molly was also wearing white, a short girlish dress with a lacy neckline that made her pale face look stark beneath a truly impressive cascade of wavy dark hair. With her pink lips and wide brown eyes, she could have been as easily a wood nymph as a girl. She giggled and stumbled towards me when I said hi. Her eyes didn’t quite focus on mine. Okay, a drunk wood nymph.
“This is George Williams,” Ash continued. If Molly was a nymph, George was the Druid equivalent of a satyr. He was dressed in black, like Simon, but was much taller and thinner, with shaggy sandy hair, a hawkish nose, and eyes that danced mischievously. When I shook his hand, he squeezed my fingers a little too tightly and smiled. I grinned back; the cocky ones were always fun.
“Harrison Lewis.” I’m not sure who he resembled, except maybe a shorter, greasier version of George. His face was narrow, almost weasely, and if I had gray, crooked teeth like his, I’d smile with my mouth closed. He stood too close and his hand was damp.
“Wait,” I said, resisting the urge to take a step back. “George and Harrison? Really?”
Harrison smiled a little wider. Ick. “Our mums had it in for us.” George wasn’t paying attention; Molly giggled as he nuzzled her neck and snaked an arm around her waist, pulling her closer.
“And this is Bryna Kelly,” Ash said. Even in the dim light, Bryna’s flame-red hair glowed. Her white Grecian dress flowed along her ample curves and pooled with a luminous gleam at her feet. Between the dress and hair, her considerable cleavage, and the haughty expression on her round, freckled face, she had the earth mother goddess vibe down. Her accent was heavy and lilting when she said she was happy to meet me. I tried not to gape.
When a hand pressed firmly into my back, I turned, expecting Josh. Simon smiled. “Can I get you a drink?”
“Thanks but my friend—” I looked around for Josh, but I didn’t see him. “Well, my friend’s around here somewhere. He’s getting me one.”
“Next round, then.”
“Sure. Thanks.” His hand was still warm on my back, and I was pretty sure at that moment I’d let him lead me anywhere.
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