The funeral was SRO - Standing Room Only. It was amazing how many people knew Cordelia Van Alen. St. Bartholemew's was packed, and on the seventh night of viewing, there were still hundreds of people who showed up to pay their respects. The governor, the mayor, the two senators from New York, and many other people came to pay homage. It was almost as crowded as Jackie O's funeral, Mimi thought.
Unlike at Aggie Carondolet's funeral, almost every person attending had worn white to Cordelia Van Alen's. Even her father had insisted that the family dress in ivory raiment for the occasion. Mimi had chosen a cloud-colored Behnaz Sarafpour dress. She noticed Schuyler Van Alen at the front of the receiving line, greeting everyone in a slim white dress, her hair held back by two white gardenias.
"Thank you for coming," she told the Forces, shaking their hands.
"We share your sorrow. She shall return," Charles Force said solemnly. He was wearing a suit the color of cream. Schuyler had kept the circumstances of her grandmother's death to herself. If there was really a Silver Blood in the Conclave, she felt it best not to reveal what had truly happened. Instead, she had told everyone that Cordelia had tired of the Expression and was looking forward to resting before the next cycle.
"We await for glad tidings," Schuyler said the traditional reply back. She had learned a lot in the past two months.
"Vos Vadum Reverto," Jack whispered, bowing to the coffin. You Shall Return.
Mimi gave Schuyler a quick nod. She found Bliss arriving through the side door with her family. Bliss was wearing a Sarafpour shift dress identical to Mimi's. The girl from Texas was learning, too.
"Hey, Bliss, maybe after the funeral we can go to a spa. I'm so sore from power yoga," Mimi said to her friend.
"Sure," Bliss said. "I'll wait for you after the service." She walked up to Schuyler, who was standing by herself by the magnificent platinum coffin.
"Sorry about your grandmother," Bliss said.
"Thank you," Schuyler said, her eyes downcast.
"What are you going to do now?"
Schuyler shrugged. In her will, Cordelia had declared Schuyler an emancipated minor, with Hattie and Julius as her guardians for now.
"I'll be okay."
Schuyler watched Bliss walk away, huddled closely to Mimi. The day before, Bliss had told her about the other night, what had happened when she'd returned from the Carlyle. How she'd found Dylan in her room, how he'd confessed. How she'd blacked out, and when she awoke, had discovered the broken glass, the bloodstained jacket.
"He was a vampire and now he's dead, Schuyler," Bliss said, tears in her eyes.
No - not dead. Worse than dead, Schuyler thought. Cordelia had told her that when the Silver Bloods drained the Blue Bloods, they took their souls, their memories, made them prisoner to their immortal consciousness forever.
"They took him, but they wanted me too," Bliss sobbed. "He only came back to warn me. They'd turned him into one of them, but he was fighting it. Now he's gone, and I'll never see him again."
Schuyler had hugged her close. "At least you're safe."
She felt heartsick for Bliss. She wanted her to know that she would always be there for her. But the next day, it seemed the Texan girl had completely reverted to her old self. She refused to talk to Schuyler or Oliver about everything that happened, and gravitated back to her old circle - that is, next to Mimi Force.
Schuyler hoped that they would get a chance to become friends again. In her heart, she understood that Bliss was weak, but someday she would help her become strong. Valiturus. Fortis.
Oliver came over and placed a spray of white calla lilies on the coffin. He was wearing a dazzling three-piece white suit. His dark chestnut hair curled above the collar.
"We will miss her," he said, blessing himself.
"Thank you," she said, accepting a kiss on the cheek.
The service began, and the choir sang Cordelia's favorite hymn, "On Eagle's Wings." Schuyler sat in the front pew, her arms folded in her lap. Cordelia was gone. The only family she had ever truly known. She was alone in the world. Her mother, trapped in a sleeping death, and her grandfather lost, hiding somewhere.
Oliver, seated next to her, squeezed her hand in sympathy.
After the funeral, Jack Force walked over to Schuyler. He, too, was wearing a white suit, and it gleamed in the sun. They walked out of the church to busy Park Avenue, where it was just another Sunday in New York. Mothers and nannies pushing eight-hundred-dollar strollers toward the park, well-dressed residents out for a brisk fall stroll or an afternoon at a museum.
"Schuyler, could I have a sec?"
"Sure." She shrugged.
With his light hair and green eyes, Jack Force looked princely in his shining garb. He had the face of an angel. A face not unlike his father's.
"Speak," she told him.
"I'm sorry things went so weird between us..." he said. "I... my life is not my own... I have responsibilities to my family that... that preclude the kind of relationship that - "
"Jack, you don't need to explain," Schuyler said, cutting him off. She could guess about him and Mimi. Blood-bound to each other since the day of their creation.
"You need to do what you need to do, and I need to do what I need to do."
He looked troubled. "What do you need to do?"
She thought about Dylan, about the sad-faced boy with the wicked sense of humor and the tarnished reputation. Her friend. He had been transformed into a monster. Used and then killed. She thought about what her grandmother had said about the Silver Bloods - they were wily, cunning, and duplicitous, and how Cordelia believed the most powerful of them all was hiding among them, disguised as a Blue Blood. But no one wanted to believe in their existence, that there was a chance they had returned. Even if Aggie's death was real enough. And now Dylan's as well. Charles Force was determined to watch, wait, and do nothing. But Schuyler would not wait. There was nothing she could have done for Aggie, but she had to find out who had taken Dylan. She would hunt down the Silver Bloods. Avenge her friend.
"Don't make things any harder for yourself, Schuyler," Jack warned.
Schuyler only smiled. "Good-bye, Jack."
Oliver materialized suddenly. It was amazing how he always showed up right when Schuyler needed him the most. "Schuyler? The car's waiting," he said.
She linked her arm in his and let him walk her to the car. She had Oliver. She would never be alone.
The Stitched for Civilization billboard went up in Times Square, the biggest billboard the city had ever seen. The photograph was an unusual one: there was a tangle of two female bodies wearing only the jeans, but only one face was visible and looked toward the camera. Schuyler. Bliss's face was obscured by all her red hair.
Schuyler looked up at herself and laughed.
Oliver took a photo with his cell phone of Schuyler pointing to her billboard and giggling.
"You look good eighty feet high," he said.
Schuyler looked at the face on the billboard. Her mother's face. No, the face was her own. She looked like her mother but she had her father's eyes. She was a vampire, but part of her was human as well. She was proud of the photograph. Then she saw the billboard across from it.
It was an advertisement for Force News Network, FNN, and the photograph was of Mimi Force wearing the channel's logo on a tight white T-shirt. FORCE NEWS. FAIR, JUST, AND FAST.
"Look," she said, pointing.
So Mimi had heard about the Stitched for Civilization campaign after all. And had tried to eclipse it by making herself a billboard too. No one was going to rule Times Square but her.
They walked past a newsstand and Oliver paid for the Post.
PREPPIE FOUND DEAD AT A PARTY. The headline blared.
Schuyler scrutinized the article. She knew the kid from The Committee. Landon Schlessinger was a Blue Blood. She was running out of time. The Silver Bloods had returned. They were back. They were here, in New York, hiding under false Blue Blood identities, infringing on their community, preying on the young, during the time when the Blue Bloods were the weakest. And the Blue Bloods would just let it happen.
But not anymore. She folded the newspaper and tucked it under her arm.
"Ollie, how do you feel about a weekend in Venice?" she asked.
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