The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown's gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

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4. CHAPTER 4

Tana’s secret, the secret she never told anyone, was that she had a recurring dream. Sometimes months passed without her having it; sometimes she had it night after night for a week. In the dream, she and her mother were together, undead, dressed in billowy white gowns with ruffles at their collars and at the hems of their skirts. They ran through the night together in a darkling fairy tale of blood and forests and snow, of girls with raven’s wing hair and rose‐red lips and sharp teeth as white as milk.

The way they became infected was slightly different each time, but usually it went like this: Tana was the one who went Cold first. The details of that part were always elided, the hows and whos of the attack never asked or answered. The dream usually began with her father dragging her to the basement door and telling her he would never let her out again, never, ever, ever. Tana might howl and weep and plead in an orgy of grief, she might shower him with tears, but his heart was hard as stone. Eventually, he got tired of her weeping and pushed her down the stairs.

She hit her head against the wood slats and grabbed for the railing to break her fall. But although her nails scrabbled at it, she couldn’t catch hold. She wound up at the bottom with her breath knocked out of her.

There she sat, on the cold floor of the basement, as spiders crept over her hands and beetles clacked, as mice padded from shadows to squeak and steal strands of her hair for their nests, as she listened to her mother argue for her release and her sister cry. But every time her mother called her father cruel, he put another lock on the door, until there were thirty brass locks with thirty brass keys. Day after day, he had to open each lock to leave Tana a bowl of water and a bowl of porridge on the very top step. Then he had to lock her up all over again.

Finally, Tana learned the music of the locks and crept up the stairs just as the keys began to turn. There, she waited for him. He had been careful, but not careful enough. When the door opened, she sprang up and bit him. They would tumble down the stairs together in a blur. And when she woke, she was a vampire and her father was unconscious beside her.

Then her mother came down and hugged Tana in her soft arms and told her that everything would be okay. They were going to leave very soon, but first Tana had to bite her mother. Her mother would be very insistent, saying that she couldn’t bear to worry about Tana out in the world alone and that she wanted to be with her always. Sometimes Tana’s mother would even beg.

Please, Tana, please.

Tana always bit her. When Tana was younger, in her dreams, blood tasted like fizzy strawberry soda or sherbet. If you drank it too fast, you got brain freeze. When she was older, after she’d licked a cut on her finger, the taste of that became the taste in her dreams: copper and tears.

After Tana’s mother was infected, she bit Tana’s father while he was unconscious, because she needed human blood to complete her own transformation, and biting him was fine because you couldn’t go Cold from being bitten by infected people. After that, they would put him to bed; he was probably tired.

He slept peacefully while Tana and her mother told Pearl that they would be back for her when she was older. Then they put on long gowns and went out into the night, mother vampire and child vampire, to hunt and haunt the streets together.

They’d be the good kind, like the devoted scientists who’d infected themselves to study the disease better; like the vampire bounty hunters who hunted other vampires; like the vampire woman in Greece who still lived with her husband, making all his meals at night and leaving them for him to reheat while she slept the day away in a grave of freshly turned earth under the root cellar. Tana and her mother would be like that, and they would never kill anybody, not even by accident.

In the dream, everything was convenient, everything was perfect, everything would be fine forever.

In the dream, Tana’s mother loved her more than anyone or anything. More than death.

I don’t want to be a vampire, she told herself over and over again. But in her dreams, she kind of did.

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