Home > How to Kiss an Undead Bride (The Beginner's Guide to Necromancy #7)(13)

How to Kiss an Undead Bride (The Beginner's Guide to Necromancy #7)(13)
Author: Hailey Edwards

Working together, they lowered the back two rows of leather seats, each heavily embroidered with sigils. Once they shut the rear door, everything past the front row of seats got sealed in a magical cage. With the prep work done, they loaded the vampires, locked them in, then drove to the Lyceum.

“I’ll call Boaz.” She sent the text, and minutes later sentinels arrived to escort their bound guests down to the Lyceum. She let the sentinels past the wards by unlocking the doors. “Are we going too?”

The lingering stare she bestowed on her cooling churros wasn’t lost on him. “Boaz can question them.”

“Are you sure?” She threw Moby in drive but kept her foot on the brake. “I can reheat them when I get home.”

“I’m sure.”

With an adorable pout, she always swore they never tasted the same the second time around.

“Okay, I’ll let him know.” She sent the text and merged into traffic. “Let’s go home.”

Grier beat him into the house by a mile, the phone already at her ear as she taunted Lethe with goodies. He almost reminded Grier of her excuse for buying the extras, but had the churros truly been meant as a get-well present instead of a guilt-free snack, it was too late. Half of them had vanished into her cheeks as she stuffed her share where Lethe couldn’t get them.

Lethe arrived within minutes, panting and wild-eyed until she spotted the churros awaiting her.

Sadly, that was also when she noticed Grier hoarding the caramel dip and licking it off her finger.

Excusing himself, not that either of them heard him over the ruckus, he exited Woolly through the rear door and approached the carriage house. The official story was that he had been living there since their engagement, but these days only its office was in use, as he was a fulltime resident of Woolworth House.

The office was small but perfect for his needs, helped by the large monitor he had mounted on the wall across from his desk to make video conferencing easier on his team in Atlanta when he was out of town. Certain Bishop would be around, he sat on the edge of his desk and dialed his former command center.

“We got good news, and we got bad news.” Bishop took a long draw from the steaming mug in his hand that left his upper lip smudged red until he licked it clean. “Which do you want first?”

“The bad news.”

“Your hunch was right on the money, as usual. Volkov was released thanks to a stack of forged amnesty papers. I checked them myself. No way they’re authentic.” He reached over his shoulder and patted himself on the back. “They were good, but I’m better.”

“No argument here.” That was what made replacing him so difficult. “Do you have a bead on him yet?”

“There are a couple of bounty hunters searching for him, but he’s fallen off the face of the Earth.”

With his money and resources, he could be secreted away in Savannah without them knowing. Or, if he worried about proximity to the Lyceum and the Grande Dame, he might be orchestrating this from afar.

“I forwarded a copy of the forgeries and everything else I have so far to your mother.”

With the wedding close, and Volkov potentially closer, she would dispatch sentinels to begin sweeping the city for him. The more he was hunted, the less threat he posed Grier. “What about the card?”

“No known reference in our database, meaning it’s not Volkov’s handwriting.”

The handwriting must belong to whoever placed the articles for Volkov. A plausible excuse, and yet the inconsistencies kept piling up, preying on his conscience. “What’s the good news?”

“We can’t identify the blood used in the bangle.”

Linus sat up straighter as that sense of wrongness pricked his conscience. “It’s not Volkov’s.”

“Thanks to your prior agreement with him, we have plenty of samples for comparison. Whoever donated for the avowal, it wasn’t him.”

The one decent thing Volkov had done was donate enough blood for Linus to tattoo the sentinels during the Siege in order to protect them from vampiric influence, but the gesture had hardly been altruistic. He had demanded a visit from Grier in trade, and though it made Linus taste bile to accept those terms, she had felt it worth her sacrifice to save lives.

“He might have used a donor.” Linus shuffled a stack of papers on his desk, pausing when he spotted a sticky note from Grier that warned him against working too hard. He peeled it up and, leaning over, secured it in a locked drawer where he kept all of his treasures. “It would cast blame away from him.”

“Under different circumstances, sure. I could buy that. The thing is—he gave Grier the real deal back when he was attempting to court her. That carries weight with vampires. He wouldn’t offer up a fake one after that. Not even to mock her. He’s a traditionalist, and the insult would be to him, not her.”

On all those points, Linus agreed, but Volkov was cunning. “He could be counting on that.”

“I wish I had better news for you, but this kicked up more questions than it brought answers.”

“There’s one more thing.” Linus removed the diamond ring from his pocket. “Someone threw this at the ballroom window where the gwyllgi children are schooled. Eva found it and brought it to us.”

“Destroying any fingerprints in the process.”

As much as it was an innocent mistake, he couldn’t disagree. “Yes.”

“Could the gwyllgi get a scent off it?”

“No.”

“Then chances are good the kid didn’t ruin the evidence. It sounds like our unsub is the careful kind. God, I hate those. They’re the worst. It’s like they don’t want us to catch them or something.”

“We captured two vampires on River Street.” Linus pocketed the ring. “They were attempting to abduct Grier.”

“Then they deserve what’s coming to them. Grier’s a nice girl. I still don’t know what she’s doing with you.”

The darkness in his core snickered and writhed, but he didn’t counter it. “That makes two of us.”

Grier ought to be ready to hit the street. Perhaps after their patrol, they could drop by for an update from Boaz. Maybe Bishop would have news for them by then too. Ending the transmission on that note, Linus crossed the yard back to Woolly, her warm welcome chasing away the chill. For now.

Six

I licked my fingers clean as Linus entered the kitchen, and yeah, it was a tad staged, but it did the job. His eyes darkened, and his focus lingered on my mouth. He might not have a sweet tooth, but he enjoyed tasting my favorite treats on me. “Where did you go?”

“I checked in with Bishop.”

Noticing he remained frozen in the doorway, I crooked my finger, determined to thaw him. The polite kiss he dropped on my mouth left me hungry for more. Angling his head, I deepened the kiss, pressing inside with a sweep of my tongue over his. The sound rising up the back of his throat gave me chills, and I linked my arms behind his neck, hauling him closer.

“Keep going.” Lethe leaned in, absorbed in the show. “It’s like watching a documentary on how necromancers mate.”

That doused us with a frosty dose of reality, and he withdrew.

Once I got my id under control, I glared at my bestie. “You can’t help yourself, can you?”

“Oh, no. I totally can. I just don’t want to.” She rested her head against Linus’s shoulder. “Can you make me some popcorn before you pick up where you left off?”

“Rumor has it you and Hood are back in the baby-making business,” I said, annoyed. “How’s that going?”

I meant to shock her into an admission, not to hurt her, but my snark flipped the switch on her mood.

“Lethe?” I put my hand on her leg. “Did I say something wrong?”

Straightening, she shook her head and let me off the hook. “Who told you?”

“I overheard the pack talking,” Linus confessed. “I told Grier. I apologize if I overstepped.”

“It’s not that.” Lethe pushed sugar granules around on her plate. “I should have told you guys.”

“You would have when you were ready. I’m sorry we jumped the gun. It’s just exciting to think of Eva having a little brother or sister.”

Shoulders hunching, she blew out a sigh that scattered her artwork. “You heard the rest, didn’t you?”

“There was talk of Eva being an unfit heir,” Linus admitted. “I didn’t expect that.”

“Neither did we, but we should have.” She put on a brave face. “I’m not worried.”

I flicked cinnamon at her. “Liar.”

“Okay, I’m mildly terrified she’ll get challenged before she’s old enough to come into her full power. Once she’s an adult? No one will be able to take her on and live to tell the tale unless she shows them mercy. You can bank on that.”

“Are you sure you’re not already pregnant?” I squinted at her, teasing her. “You arranged for a lot of tastings. Maybe you’re having twins this time.”

A smile trembled on her lips before it wobbled off her mouth.

“The thing is…” Lethe shuttered her expression. “We’ve been trying. Pretty much since Eva was born. We wanted her to have a playmate, and we knew with her accelerated growth rate we had to act fast.”

I twisted in my seat to face her. “What are you saying?”

“It’s been fifteen months and change since we got serious about it, and we’ve got nothing to show for it but some very rewarding practice sessions.” Her mouth quirked to one side. “The truth is, I’m not sure I can get pregnant again.”

The solid bedrock of our friendship crumbled underneath me. “I never meant for—”

“This is why I didn’t tell you.” She threw up her hands, shoved off her stool, and began pacing. “I didn’t want you to blame yourself.”

   
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