Home > How to Wake an Undead City (The Beginner's Guide to Necromancy #6)

How to Wake an Undead City (The Beginner's Guide to Necromancy #6)
Author: Hailey Edwards

Prologue

Dearest M,

I’m pregnant! I wrote you the second I received the news. I know how you feel about children. You don’t have to fake excitement on my account. I’m thrilled enough for us both. G is beside himself. This child is a miracle, in so many ways. I hope to see you soon.

All my love,

E

Darling E,

Babies are messy, loud, and far too much work. Plus, they smell. Strongly. But you’ve always suffered from an excess of maternal instincts. I’m not surprised you find yourself with child. Goddess knows you’ve tried hard enough. Every time I visit, I wait on G to find his pants or for you to pull on a fresh outfit. The true miracle here is that you’re not on your fourth or fifth offspring.

I’m the guest of honor at this year’s symposium yet again. Honestly, they ought to rename the award after me and be done with it. They act like I’m the only scientific mind worth honoring when genius abounds. You’ll visit once it’s behind me.

Yours always,

M

Dear M,

G fought with his father again last night. I’m no better. I had another spat with one of the drones Mother has sent to try to lure me back home. What kind of family are we bringing this child into? What kind of parents can we ever hope to be if we can’t reconcile with our own?

I’m unsurprised the Society wishes to honor your genius. Yet again. You’re brilliant, my friend. Your mind is a wonder. I’m not shocked you can’t see it, but we all do. Bask in your accolades. You’ve earned every kind word and every awed expression.

Best,

E

Dear E,

Your mother is a vapid twat. I’m sorry, but facts remain facts. The Society brings out the best and worst in us all. She embodies the ugliness of spirit that excessive wealth, mediocre talent, and a lifetime of privilege so often produces. Ignore her. Failing that, I will ignore her for you. Or pay someone to do it for us. Honestly, who has the time to nurture a decent grudge these days?

As for G, I don’t know his people. You’ve kept me blissfully in the dark. But if you love him, which you obviously do, and if he loves you, which any fool would, then you two have as solid a foundation to build a family upon as anyone.

I do worry, given G’s nature and your mother’s sudden interest, just how special this child of yours might be.

Always,

M

M,

The mood on the estate has changed since I started to show, and I don’t think we’ll be staying much longer. G says I fret too much, but his heart is cast in solid gold. He always sees the best in people. He’s willing to take a hit in order to give those he believes in a second or third chance to find the mark. But I’m not.

Perhaps my heart isn’t as big, but I tend to believe the face people show me. Maybe my hormones are making me crazy, but I can’t settle. It’s more than wanting our own place, which I do. Or nesting, which I am. I’m not thrilled at the prospect of house-hunting while I’m waddling, but I fear we’re no longer safe in his father’s home, and I don’t want to overstay our welcome.

I’m worried, M. For my daughter—did I tell you it’s a girl?—and for my husband.

Tell me good news. Brighten my day however you can.

E

E,

I have more empty rooms than your mother has mirrors in her boudoir. You’ll both stay with me until you find a suitable home. Pack your things, then make your excuses. I arrive in two days, and I won’t take no for an answer. G should learn to accept that about me if he’s going to remain a fixture in our lives.

M

How can I ever repay you, M? You’re the best friend anyone has ever had. That’s why you’ll accept when I ask you to be my daughter’s goddessmother. You’re the only one, aside from G, I can trust with her best interests. I don’t expect you to be happy about it, but I do expect you to say yes. For me.

Fine, fine. For you, I will accept. Though you’re right. I’m not happy about taking on the obligation. I have no use for a daughter, goddess-given or otherwise, but then I had no use for a best friend until you claimed me as yours.

Your rooms are ready, and so am I. See you tomorrow.

One

The aged paper crinkled, but I forced my fingers to still before the last message crumpled in my fist. I set aside the stack of notes two best friends had exchanged when I was just a bulge on my mother’s waistline and let the ache of revisiting their friendship wash over me in waves that lodged a knot in my throat and left Woolworth House in a tizzy over the spike in my emotions.

“Here.” Linus patted the nearest wall, comforting the old girl, then crossed the bedroom that used to be his before my things started migrating down the hall. “Drink this.”

“I didn’t know Linus’s Shake Shack delivered,” I teased. “Do I tip the delivery boy or…?”

Leaning down, he brushed his lips over mine. “That will suffice.”

How he always started his day looking so refreshed when I was the one who slept for eight hours never ceased to amaze me. The dark wash jeans molding to his butt I suspected had been tailor-made for him. The fitted navy button-down highlighted his lean musculature and brought out the blue in his eyes. The cuffs, as usual, were rolled up, exposing his corded forearms. But there was nary a loafer in sight. He wore sneakers that matched the exact shade of denim in his pants, a feat I would have claimed impossible.

He had gathered his dark-auburn hair at his nape with an elastic, and my fingers itched to set it free, to comb through the silky length. Those same fingers twitched with ardent longing to trace the smattering of freckles sprinkled across the bridge of his nose and cheeks, particularly the daisy beneath his left eye.

Fingers.

You just can’t trust them.

Not around Linus anyway.

“Thanks.” I sipped the breakfast smoothie, but not even the rich flavor of my favorite berries spiked with a shot of Vitamin L could soothe away this persistent hurt. “Maud knew.” That was the lump I couldn’t swallow, the most recent lie stuck in my craw. “All that time, she knew George Lacroix was my father, and she didn’t tell me.”

“Maud says in the letter she didn’t know his people.” He raised his hands to ward off my temper. “That could mean she didn’t know his family name, or his clan name. She never called him George outright, but she must have known that much since your mother visited her.” His arms fell to his sides. “It’s hard to say without more letters, and this was the last one from that period. There’s no other mention of a George or a G in any of their later correspondence.”

“Their next exchange is from years later, long after I was born.” I patted the mattress, and he sank beside me into a ray of sunlight. Unable to resist the rare treat of touching his sun-warmed hair, I toyed with the gilded tassel at his nape. “He would have been dead by then. That must be why his name doesn’t come up again.”

“I wish I had brought you answers instead of more questions, but I thought you would want to read them.”

“How did they get back here?” I leaned my head on his shoulder, breathed in the familiar scents of fresh-cut mint rubbed between a thumb and finger and the tang of old pennies, and relaxed against him. “Maud made good on her threat. She picked up my parents and brought them here. Mom must have had her half of the letters on her. Maybe she forgot them when she left? Then Maud found them, filed them away with hers?”

How many times had Maud relived these old conversations? How often had she wondered if she might have altered her best friend’s fate—my fate—by acting sooner or not at all?

Regret. Grief. Sorrow.

Holding on to these faded letters spoke of soul-searching that failed to reveal any new answers for Maud, or for me.

“Hey.” Amelie bounded into the room. “Oh. Sorry.” She hooked a thumb over her shoulder. “The door was open…”

The invitation into his space, into his arms, was pure Linus, and I wouldn’t change how the gesture filled my heart from corner to corner with simple welcome, even if it meant others got drawn in too.

“We’re just skimming old letters.” I gestured toward the yellowed pile. “What’s up?”

The clock read four o’clock, as in p.m., early—or late, depending on your perspective—for necromancers to be awake.

“Your escorts have arrived.” She chewed on her ragged bottom lip. “Boaz is downstairs.”

Ah. That explained it. She must have stayed up late or woke early to visit with her brother.

“Great,” I said, proud when I didn’t wince upon hearing his name.

Two days ago, Gaspard Lacroix, my paternal grandfather, marched on my city. That is to say, Savannah.

Gah.

Falling for the Potentate of Atlanta had turned me downright territorial.

Savannah was my home, my refuge, but she wasn’t just mine. She belonged to all of us. And we wanted her back.

“There’s not much time,” Amelie prompted. “They’re cutting it close. Two hours until dark.”

Vampires emerged after the moon rose and began hunting the streets for dinner. There were too few Elite as it was, and not many more sentinels. The reinforcements Linus had requested were slow to arrive, a steady trickle unable to staunch the wounds of a city under siege.

After sunset, every man and woman in uniform pounded the pavement to keep the casualties to a minimum. But the vampires had started targeting humans in other ways. Cutting power supplies, poisoning water sources, siphoning gasoline.

They were, quite literally, draining the city dry in every sense of the word.

If we lost the light, we lost our armed transportation until tomorrow, and Savannah couldn’t afford many more lawless nights.

Already the Society’s official cover story had been debunked. Humans might be willing to buy that a hurricane necessitated an emergency evacuation. After all, this was coastal Georgia. But while tornadoes popped out of thin air, hurricanes…not so much.

Only the barricade manned by sentinels was keeping the curious and the furious from their homes. Too bad that didn’t help with the humans trapped in Savannah, who had been unable to evacuate thanks to poor health, lack of funds, or sheer stubbornness.

   
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