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My Sister the Vampire Book 2: Fangtastic! (Chapter 1)

For Jenny Meyer, who totally sucks

Ivy Vega trudged sleepily into the breakfast room, slid into her chair, and rested her cheek on the cool stone table. She wished she was still in her coffin. Monday mornings were the worst.

"Good morning, sleepybones," her father said, placing a bowl next to her head.

"Shh," Ivy murmured, her eyes closed. "I'm still sleeping."

"It's your favorite," her dad coaxed. "Marsh- mallow Platelets."

Ivy peered at the little white marshmallows and maroon bits bobbing in their milky sea. "Thanks," she mumbled.

Her father, already dressed for work in black chinos and a black pin-striped shirt with French cuffs, sipped his tea and picked up the remote control. "There is nothing better for a young per- son's dull morning mind," he said, "than dull morning television."

He flipped through the weather and some talk shows before settling on The Morning Star.

"Please no," Ivy said. "Just looking at Serena Star's smile gives me sunburn."

Serena Star, WowTV's best celebrity reporter, had impossibly bright, bleached blond hair and eyes that looked as if they'd been surgically enhanced to be permanently wide open in either adoration or shock. Lately she'd been trying to cast herself as a serious journalist on her own morning news show, The Morning Star. Just the other day, Ivy had turned the TV off in exaspera- tion after Serena had said, "Tell me, Mr. Senator, how does it feel to have a law named after you?"

This morning, Serena Star was standing with her back to a small crowd of people, talking into her microphone. She was wearing a tiny blue suede miniskirt under a knee-length trench coat, and the look in her wide eyes said "shock!" She was in a park or maybe a graveyard. A scruffy, black-clad teenager stood beside her–

Ivy's dad flipped the channel.

"Turn back!" Ivy blurted.

"But you said–"

"I know. Turn back!" she repeated.

Ivy could not believe her eyes. The boy stand- ing next to Serena Star was none other than Garrick Stephens, one of the lamest vampires at her school. He and his bonehead friends–every- one called them the Beasts–were always pulling dumb stunts, like seeing which one of them could eat the most garlic croutons without getting seri- ously ill. They weren't nearly as scary as they smelled, but they'd been annoying since forever.

What is he doing on national TV? Ivy wondered.

"I think that's the local cemetery," her dad said.

Ivy realized he was right–this was being filmed less than five blocks from their house.

The camera panned over to an empty grave, and Ivy's dad turned up the volume.

". . . yesterday's small-town funeral went hor- ribly wrong," Serena Star was saying off screen.

"Local deceased man, Mr. Alan Koontz, was scheduled for burial here at the Franklin Grove Memorial Cemetery. As Mr. Koontz was being lowered into the ground, eyewitnesses say that his casket creaked open." The camera zoomed in on a shiny midnight-blue coffin lying open next to the grave. "In a bizarre turn of events, out climbed an allegedly live person!" Serena contin- ued. "Mr. Koontz's widow immediately fainted and was rushed to Franklin Grove General Hospital for treatment."

Serena Star's frowning face reappeared on the screen. "Friends of the family say that the person who emerged bore no resemblance to Mr. Koontz and was, in fact, a teenage boy." The camera pulled back to reveal Garrick, who was licking his palm and then using it to slick back his hair.

Ivy was frowning now, too; Garrick and his friends didn't know the meaning of the word "discreet." They probably couldn't even spell it. Ever since they were little kids, Ivy had always been amazed at how close the Beasts routinely came to breaking the First Law of the Night: vampires are never supposed to reveal their true selves to an outsider.

Thinking about that made Ivy feel uncomfort- able. After all, she'd recently broken the First Law herself. She'd had no choice, though: she couldn't possibly keep the fact that she was a vampire secret from her identical twin, Olivia, even if Olivia was human.

She and Olivia had only discovered each other at the beginning of the school year. They'd been separated at birth and adopted by different par- ents, so Ivy hadn't known that she had a twin until Olivia turned up at Franklin Grove Middle School. And it had been just as great a shock to Olivia.

I may have broken the First Law, but at least I didn't reveal myself to the whole world on national TV! Ivy thought.

Serena Star looked squarely at the camera. "I, Serena Star, now bring you an exclusive interview with the thirteen-year-old boy who was almost buried alive. I think you'll agree it's a story that's truly . . . INDEADIBLE!" A graphic with the word "INDEADIBLE!" materialized on the screen over Garrick's head, and Ivy rolled her eyes. Serena was always making up lame words for her on-screen headlines.

"Awesome!" Garrick Stephens grinned.

Ivy's head ached. How in the underworld, she thought, are we going to cover up a vampire popping out of a coffin in the middle of a funeral?

"Mr. Stephens." Serena Star turned to face her subject. "How do you feel?"

"I feel great!" Garrick said.

"Amazing!" Serena commented, with a slight frown. She had clearly been expecting Garrick to be upset. "How long were you in that coffin?"

"Like seven, eight hours."

"That must have been very unsettling," Serena Star prompted sympathetically.

"Only when those pallbearer guys carried it around and woke me up," Garrick said, shooting a peeved look off camera.

"Are you saying you were asleep in there?" asked Serena Star, her wide eyes widening even further.

"Yeah," Garrick answered. "I slept like I was dead."

Ivy winced as Serena Star shook her head in disbelief. "You almost sound like you enjoyed yourself."

Garrick shrugged.

"Mr. Stephens," Serena Star said, a hint of dis- approval in her voice, "what kind of person sleeps in a coffin?"

"It wasn't my idea." Garrick shrugged.

"Oh?" said Serena Star. "Whose idea was it?"

Garrick was about to answer, but then he seemed to think better of it. He crossed his arms. "I don't want to get them into trouble."

"Are you saying the people who did this to you are friends of yours?" Serena Star asked.

"Totally," Garrick replied, grinning.

"You mean–"

"We're the kings of Franklin Grove Middle School!" Garrick cried, mugging wildly. "Yo, Kyle, Ricky, Dylan! I'm on TV!"

What an utter dork! thought Ivy.

"What exactly did your friends have in mind?" Serena Star probed.

"They dared me to climb in," Garrick ex- plained, his eyes glinting mischievously. "That's why I did it."

Ivy could tell Garrick was lying from the smug look on his face. He was just pretending it was a dare to avoid revealing any vampire secrets–like the fact that they slept in coffins. Still, it was a pretty lame alibi, especially because he kept going on about how it was "the best sleep" of his life.

"The Interna 3 is the sweetest coffin ever," he gushed, grabbing the microphone. "When they say `rest in peace,' they mean it!"

"Mr. Stephens, please," Serena interrupted. "That still doesn't explain how you ended up at Mr. Koontz's funeral."

"Oh, right. My friends just sort of thought it would be funny to leave me in there–thanks a lot guys!" Garrick winked. "Then the funeral home got the coffins mixed up. Did you know the Interna 3 is the best-selling coffin in America?"

Serena Star yanked the microphone away. "Are we to believe that this was really just an innocent student prank?" she said to Garrick, who shrugged again.

"Or," she continued, turning slowly to the camera, "is there something more sinister at work?"

Uh-oh. Ivy thought. Serena Star smells blood.

"Clearly, a gruesome obsession with death," Serena went on as the camera zoomed in for a close-up of her shocked face, "nearly cost this misguided young misfit his life!"

"Who are you calling misguided?" Garrick's voice whined offscreen.

"And he isn't alone," Serena said, ignoring Garrick. "One look around this sleepy town reveals a dark obsession consuming the minds of its children."The live feed cut briefly to footage of the mall, showing a group of Goth sixth-graders.

"Are the youth of America next?" Serena asked ominously, as she reappeared on-screen. Then she frowned with determination. "I, Serena Star, will not rest until I find out the evil truth behind what's happening here."

Oh no, Ivy thought. She's going to say that line of hers.

"Because the Star of truth must shine!" Serena Star declared dramatically, pumping her micro- phone in the air. It really was the worst journalis- tic sign-off Ivy had ever heard. "This is Serena Star. Wake up, America!"

A commercial came on, and Ivy's dad shut off the TV. "You must promise me," he said, "that if you are ever on television, you will make a better impression than that boy Garrick Stephens."

"It's not funny, Dad," Ivy said. "If Serena Star starts seriously investigating Goths in Franklin Grove, you know what she might find.What if she scoops the existence of vampires? None of us will ever be safe again!"

Her father put down his tea. "Ivy," he said, "we are talking about a woman best known for her special expos� on the footwear of the rich and famous! I very much doubt she's capable of find- ing any real proof. Besides, the moment there's a new bit of Hollywood gossip, Serena Star will for- get all about Franklin Grove."

Ivy sighed. "I hope you're right," she said, standing up to take her empty bowl into the kitchen, "because if not, it's going to be really hard to get Marshmallow Platelets around here."

As they pulled up in front of Franklin Grove Middle School on Monday morning, Olivia Abbott was applying her pink lipstick in the visor mirror when she heard her mother gasp. Olivia flipped up the visor to see the front steps of the school packed with people and a string of TV news vans lining the curb.

"Wow!" said Olivia.

Her mother double-parked and started to get out of the car.

Olivia grabbed her mom's arm. "Where are you going?"

"I want to see what all the commotion's about," her mother replied.

Olivia shook her head. "You can't come with me into school."

"Why not?" her mother asked.

"Because I'm in eighth grade," Olivia ex- plained.

Olivia's mom smiled and shook her head. "Well, okay," she said with a sigh.

"It's not you," Olivia assured her. "It's all mothers. It's like a rule. I'll call you." And, with that, Olivia pecked her mom on the cheek, climbed out of the car, and squeezed between two news vans.

She started up the steps, trying not to trip on any of the TV crews' electrical cords as she weaved through the people. Scanning the reporter-studded crowd, she spotted a flash of soft blond curls up ahead. "Camilla!" she called.

Camilla Edmunson turned and waved. When Olivia joined her, Camilla said, "Can you believe this?"

"What's going on?" asked Olivia.

"Everyone's trying to get on TV," Camilla answered. Nearby, Olivia saw Kyle Glass, one of the group of boys everyone called the Beasts, holding up two fingers to look like bunny ears behind an unsuspecting reporter's head. The cameraman was waving frantically in an attempt to shoo him away.

Olivia frowned. "Uh, did I miss a memo?"

"You mean you haven't heard?" Camilla asked incredulously. "Garrick Stephens popped out of a coffin in the middle of someone's funeral yester- day. It was like when the villain Zolten escaped by hiding in a cryopod."

Olivia assumed her friend was referring to one of the sci-fi books she loved. Olivia herself had always been more into vampire fiction. In fact, when she'd moved to Franklin Grove, she'd thought that vampires were only fiction.

Boy, had she been wrong. She still got dizzy when she stopped to think about the fact that Franklin Grove was teeming with living, breath- ing, blood-sipping vampires. Most of them, Garrick and his friends excluded, were really nice.

None of the other humans in Franklin Grove had any inkling that their town was like Vamp Central, because that was the Number One Biggest Rule of Vampiredom: no telling. So pop- ping out of a coffin during a funeral was probably off-limits.

The only reason Olivia knew about the vam- pires was because of Ivy Vega, who she'd met on her first day at Franklin Grove Middle School. Olivia was pure cheerleader and Ivy was �ber- Goth, so at first they had seemed as different as black licorice and cotton candy. But it hadn't taken long for Olivia and Ivy to realize that they looked exactly alike.

In fact–and this is where, Olivia thought, it gets really mind-blowing–they were identical twins.

Identical that is, except for one thing: Ivy was a vampire!

"Anyway," Camilla was saying, "the whole of America is now fascinated by Franklin Grove, and the media–especially Serena Star–is trying to turn Garrick into this huge story about the decline of America's youth."

"No way." Olivia's jaw dropped. "Serena Star from WowTV? She's totally famous!"

Camilla nodded, but she clearly wasn't as impressed. "She thinks we're all hiding some ter- rible secret."

Olivia's heart skipped a beat. "Like what?"

"Who knows?" said Camilla. "It's not like she's going to find anything. Franklin Grove is proba- bly the most normal town in America."

Olivia smiled uncomfortably. Camilla didn't have a clue.

I'd better find Ivy, Olivia thought, and see what she has to say about all this! "Wanna go in?" she asked.

She and Camilla skirted the crowd on their way to the front doors of the school. Suddenly, Olivia heard a familiar high-pitched voice call out her name. She tried to ignore it and keep walking, but the voice shrieked even louder: "OLIVIA!"

Olivia winced and told Camilla to go on with- out her. Then she reluctantly turned to see Charlotte Brown, her cheerleading captain, ges- turing for Olivia to join her in a circle of cameras.

Ever since Olivia had made the squad a few weeks ago, it was as if Charlotte had forgotten that she'd tried to sabotage Olivia at tryouts. In fact, Charlotte and her friends Katie and Allison all treated Olivia like she was their BFF. At least it keeps the squad cheering as a team, Olivia thought as she made her way over.

"Tell them, Olivia!" Charlotte said, grabbing her arm and pulling her in front of the cameras. "You know–what it's like as a new student here. How frightening it is with all the bad influences."

Olivia scrunched her nose. A camera flashed. "I, uh, don't really–"

A reporter in a rumpled suit stuck a micro- phone in front of Olivia's face. "Have you ever slept in a coffin?"

"No," Olivia said incredulously.

A woman holding a tape recorder asked, "Are you familiar with a street gang known as the Beasts?"

Olivia shook her head. "I wouldn't exactly call them–"

A short, determined-looking woman in a tight, bright-orange suit muscled in between the others, her blond hair shining in the sun. Olivia gasped; it was Serena Star herself! She looked much shorter than she did on TV.

"Have you ever," Serena Star said, thrusting her microphone under Olivia's chin, "felt threat- ened by everyone around you wearing black?"

What a silly question! thought Olivia. "Since when is there anything wrong with wearing black?" she asked.

Charlotte leaped in front of her. "Yes, Ms. Star, I totally have!" she cried, clearly overexcited to be talking to a celebrity reporter like Serena. "Once," she said, flipping her hair dramatically, "I was in the girls' bathroom, re-applying gloss, when two Goth girls came in. They were dressed from head to toe in black rags, and their nails were covered in black nail polish. And guess what they did. They growled at me!"

"Growled at you?" Serena Star repeated.

"Uh-huh." Charlotte nodded seriously. "I was so scared I ran out without even doing my mas- cara!"

"So you think it's a problem," Serena Star pressed, "that so many Franklin Grove students are obsessed with darkness?"

"Totally!" Charlotte agreed. "Black is so last season." She gestured toward Serena Star's turquoise stiletto heels. "I absolutely love your shoes, by the way. Are they from Hollywood?"

Olivia seized the opportunity to slip away, rac- ing up the steps and through the school's front doors. She had to talk to her twin about what was going on outside.

From down the hall, she spotted Ivy standing by her locker with her new boyfriend, Brendan Daniels. Even Brendan had yet to notice that she and Ivy looked alike. "See you later, okay?" Olivia heard Brendan say.

Ivy twirled the emerald ring on the chain around her neck. "Okay," she cooed. Her sister was so smitten. Olivia thought it was supercute.

As she waited for Ivy and Brendan to finish their good-byes, Olivia played with the ring on her finger. It was actually their matching emerald rings that had helped Ivy and Olivia recognize each other. The rings were all either of them had from their birth parents.

Brendan walked by with a friendly "Hey, Olivia!" and Olivia scooted up to her sister.

"Let me guess," Olivia began. "You still haven't told him about us."

"I swear I've tried," Ivy answered, pulling off a sheer black sweater to reveal a gray baby T-shirt with an illustration of Edgar Allan Poe's face on it. "But it never seems like the right moment to say, `Hey, by the way, I have a twin sister I never knew about'."

"Eventually," said Olivia, "we're going to have to tell everyone, including our parents."

Suddenly there was a commotion down the hall, and Olivia looked up to see Garrick Stephens strolling along in sunglasses and a black T-shirt that said INTERNA 3–REST IN PEACE! The other Beasts were trailing behind him. People were part- ing to let them through, like Garrick was a star quarterback who had just won a big game–or else a quarterback who had just lost the big game by running into the wrong end zone. "Autographs?" Garrick called nonchalantly. "Auto- graphs?"

Ivy shook her head angrily. "I'm going to strangle him," she said. "Can you believe I had to come in the side door this morning? Brendan did, too. Otherwise we never would have made it up the front steps alive."

"That's what I wanted to talk to you about," Olivia replied. "I saw Charlotte being interviewed by Serena Star. She said two Goths once growled at her in the bathroom."

"That wasn't a growl," Ivy protested, "that was a bark. For night's sake, she got a perm last year that made her look like a poodle."

Olivia laughed, but her sister turned serious.

"This is really grave, Olivia," Ivy said anx- iously. "I thought maybe the story would just go away quietly, but that's not going to happen with all these reporters hanging around and people like Charlotte and Garrick jockeying for the spot- light."

Sophia Hewitt, Ivy's oldest friend, appeared, her big digital camera hanging around her neck. "Code black," she whispered cryptically. "I repeat, code black." And with that, she disappeared down the hall.

Ivy rushed to pull her black leather bag onto her shoulder and slammed her locker shut.

"What's code black?" Olivia asked in a low voice.

"Science hall bathroom," Ivy said, taking off down the hall. Olivia hurried to keep up.

The two of them pushed through the bath- room door to find Sophia checking the stalls to make sure the bathroom was deserted.

Then she spun around to face Ivy and Olivia with her hands on her hips. "Garrick Stephens wasn't on a dare. He was window-shopping!"

"Are you serious?" Ivy asked.

"Dead serious," replied Sophia.

Olivia said, "I don't get it."

"Vamps upgrade their coffins like most people upgrade cell phones," Ivy explained.

"And the Interna 3 is the latest, greatest dream box of all," Sophia added. "It's not like Garrick could afford it. He just thought it would be fun to try it."

Ivy frowned. "Funeral homes are often run by vampires. Their showrooms are multipurpose. But this time they must have gotten the show- room coffin mixed up with the dead guy's."

Sophia bit one black fingernail. "I'm really worried, Ivy. Serena Star seems desperate for a big story. Even if she can't find one, she'll proba- bly make one up!"

Just how much was at stake started to dawn on Olivia.This wasn't just some TV tabloid news story. This could mean the greatest witch hunt since, well, witch hunts. What would people do if they found out that vampires were living among them?

"We really need to get Serena Star off our trail," Sophia said.

Ivy and Olivia both nodded.

"What do you have in mind?" Ivy asked.

"I don't know!" Sophia said exasperatedly. "That's why I dragged you two in here."

Ivy sighed, and all three girls fell silent for a moment.

"We need a distraction," Olivia mused eventu- ally.

"Exactly," Ivy agreed. "My father thinks that Serena Star will forget about Franklin Grove the moment there's some fresh Hollywood gossip."

"Great!" Sophia responded sarcastically. "All one of us needs to do is start dating Celebrity magazine's Hottest Man of the Year."

"Can I volunteer?" Olivia put in, trying to break the tension.

"I'm just saying," Ivy snapped at Sophia, "that we need to find a story that's more interesting to Serena than vampires."

"Okay," Olivia said, "everyone calm down. Maybe we can try to convince Serena that there are werewolves in Franklin Grove instead–or something stupid like that."

Ivy and Sophia exchanged nervous glances.

Olivia blinked. "Don't tell me there are were- wolves in Franklin Grove?"

Ivy raised her eyebrows just as the bell for first period rang.

"Saved by the bell!" Sophia blurted. She and Ivy flew out of the bathroom, leaving Olivia with her mouth hanging open.

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