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The Year of Disappearances

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The Year of Disappearances

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Author: Susan Hubbard
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2008
Series: Ethical Vampire: Book 2

1. The Society of S
2. The Year of Disappearances
3. The Season of Risks

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-Genre Tags: Urban Fantasy
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Synopsis

Ariella Montero in the midst of the ongoing presidential campaign, discovers that a leading contender for America's top political office just happens to be a vampire surrounded by the demons of lying, cheating, and murder.

The Year of Disappearances traces Ariella Montero's fourteenth year, during which she is accused of lying, cheating, and murder (twice). Her education continues, but instead of literature, science, and math, she learns folklore, the art and craft of journalism, and most important, the nature of personal demons.

As Ari comes to question her own authenticity, listeners may begin to question her. Could the accusations against her be justified? Is she a reliable narrator? Or is someone else at work, telling us her story?


Excerpt

Preface

Someone is standing in my bedroom doorway, watching me sleep, then watching my eyes open. In the dim light I can't see who stands there, looking at me.

But a moment later I am with the watcher, closing the door and moving down the corridor, toward my father's room. We don't open the door, but we know he's sleeping inside.

We smell the smoke. As we move toward the kitchen, the smoke becomes a presence, a gray mass spiraling down the corridor. Wan light spills from the kitchen, and now we see the fire -- white flames shooting through gray whorls -- and the shadowy forms of two men. At first they look as if they're embracing, but their embrace is really a struggle. They're fighting for something we can't see.

Then I am myself again.

The watcher leaves, followed by one of the men. They pause outside to lock the front door. I hear the click of the lock and lurch away, trying not to breathe. I'm on my hands and knees, crawling from the fire. I keep my mouth shut, but the smoke is already in me, burning my lungs. Then come words: Help me, trapped and strangled in my throat before they can be spoken.

As I wake from the dream, I hear guttural keening -- a primordial noise that predates language -- rising within me.

My mother's voice comes out of the dark. "Ariella? What's wrong?"

She sits on the edge of my bed, lifts and cradles me in her arms. "Tell me."

Why do we tell our dreams to those we love? Dreams are unintelligible even to the dreamer. The act of telling is a vain attempt to decode the indecipherable, to instill significance where likely there's none.

I tell my mother the dream.

"You were back in Sarasota," she says. Her voice is measured and calm. "On the night of the fire."

"Who were they?" I ask.

She knows I mean the shadow figures. "I don't know."

"Who locked the door?"

"I don't know." My mother holds me closer. "You had a bad dream, Ariella. It's over now."

Was it a dream? I wonder. Is it over?

A few days before my fourteenth birthday, I awoke in a glass coffin, a chamber used for oxygen therapy to treat smoke inhalation. On another floor of the hospital, my father recovered inside a similar device.

The third person rescued by the Sarasota firefighters was Malcolm Lynch, an old friend of my father's. The emergency medical technicians reported finding a driver's license in his wallet. But when their van reached the hospital, the stretcher was empty.

The investigators said the fire had been caused by ethyl ether, a highly flammable liquid. They found an empty canister in the kitchen, but they weren't able to trace its source.

Those are facts that others have told me. When I think about the fire, my recollections come out of order. I remember waking up in the hospital. Then I recall the day before the fire -- Malcolm, a tall blond man in a tailored suit, stood in the living room, telling my father without apology that he'd killed my best friend.

The experience of the fire itself? I don't know if what I recall is a memory, or only a bad dream.

Copyright © 2008 by Susan Hubbard


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