Home > Wild Hunger (Heirs of Chicagoland #1)

Wild Hunger (Heirs of Chicagoland #1)
Author: Chloe Neill

PROLOGUE

“Noooooo!” A little girl’s voice echoed through the hallway. The cry was followed by footsteps, more yelling, and a petulant squeal.

“It’s mine! You give it back right now, Connor stupid Keene!”

The dark-haired boy stuck his tongue out at her—the tiny blonde he relished torturing—then tore down the hallway, holding aloft the plastic sword he’d taken from his enemy. “Victory!” he said.

She followed him, Mary Jane shoes padding down the carpeted hallway, but he was nearly a foot taller, and she knew she couldn’t catch him. Not by running. So she called in a reinforcement.

“Daddy! Connor stupid Keene won’t give me my sword!”

Connor stupid Keene stopped and spun around, then leveled his best glare at Elisa Sullivan.

“I’m a prince,” he said, sticking his thumb against his chest. “And I can take your sword if I want!” He was seven, and she only five and a half, so he was obviously the more mature of the two of them.

She jumped up to grab the sword but couldn’t reach it. “Give it back, you . . . you . . .”

“‘You’ what?” he asked with a wily grin, spinning around to keep the toy out of her hands. “What am I?”

“You’re . . . you’re . . . you’re a stupid boy—that’s what you are!”

“Children.”

They froze, then turned back toward the doorway to Elisa’s father’s office and looked warily at the vampire who filled it. “Is there a problem?” he asked.

“No, Mr. Sullivan,” said Connor, scowling at his companion.

Green-eyed Elisa, just as wily as he was, stuck out her tongue at Connor, then batted her eyelashes at her father. “He took my sword,” she said in a small, soft voice she knew was guaranteed to get her way. “And he won’t give it back.”

“Son, did you take her sword?”

They turned again, saw a tall man at the other end of the hallway.

“No, Dad,” Connor said as his father walked toward him. Connor held out the sword and let Elisa take it back, but scowled when she stuck her tongue out at him. Again. She is so spoiled, he thought.

Gabriel Keene grinned wolfishly, crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m glad we resolved this peacefully.”

Ethan Sullivan smiled, one hand braced against the doorframe as he watched his daughter and her nemesis do what they did best. “As am I. Do we need to talk about the House rules again?”

“No, Daddy.” Elisa tucked the sword behind her back.

“Son?” Gabriel asked.

“No, Dad.” Connor shifted from foot to foot.

“We talked about this.”

There was a moment of uncomfortable silence in the hallway.

“I know.”

As she bit her lip, Elisa looked up at Connor and saw the flush of embarrassment on his cheeks. She didn’t like being teased—or not that much, anyway—but she really didn’t like that look on his face.

She stepped forward, putting her small body between Connor and his father.

“It was my fault,” she said.

Arching an eyebrow, Gabriel crouched down, hands clasped in front of him. “Was it, now?”

Worriedly, she looked back at Connor, then at his dad, and nodded once.

Gabriel leaned in and whispered quietly, “Is it your fault, or do you just not want Connor to get in trouble?”

In the just-slightly-too-loud whisper of a child, she said, “I don’t want Connor to get in trouble.”

“Ah.” He nodded gravely, then stood again, Connor moving to stand beside him. “I think we’ve gotten things cleared up, then,” he said, then ruffled his son’s hair.

Connor grinned at him, leaned against his father.

And stuck his tongue out at Elisa.

ONE

Vampires were made, not born.

All except one.

All except me.

I was the daughter of vampires, born because magic and fate twisted together. I’d spent nineteen years in Chicago. Tonight, I stood nearly four hundred feet above Paris, several thousand miles away from the Windy City and the Houses in which most of its vampires lived.

Around me, visitors on the second level of the Eiffel Tower sipped champagne and snapped shots of the city. I closed my eyes against the warm, balmy breeze that carried the faint scent of flowers.

“Elisa, you cannot tell Paris goodbye with your eyes closed.”

“I’m not saying goodbye,” I said. “Because I’m coming back.”

I opened my eyes, smiled at the vampire who appeared at my side with two plastic cones of champagne. Seraphine had golden skin and dark hair, and her hazel eyes shone with amusement.

“To Paris,” I said, and tapped my cone against hers.

It had been four years since I’d last stepped foot in Chicago. Tomorrow, I’d go home again and visit the city and spend time with family and friends.

For twenty years, there’d been peace in Chicago among humans and sups, largely because of efforts by my parents—Ethan Sullivan and Merit, the Master and Sentinel, respectively, of Cadogan House. They’d worked to find a lasting peace, and had been so successful that Chicago had become a model for other communities around the world.

That’s why Seri and I were going back. The city’s four vampire Houses were hosting peace talks for vampires from Western Europe, where Houses had been warring since the governing council—the Greenwich Presidium—dissolved before I was born. And vampires’ relations with the other supernaturals in Europe weren’t any better. Chicago would serve as neutral territory where the Houses’ issues could be discussed and a new system of government could be hammered out.

“You look . . . What is the word? Wistful?” Seri smiled. “And you haven’t even left yet.”

“I’m building up my immunity,” I said, and sipped the champagne.

“You love Chicago.”

“It’s a great city. But I was . . . a different person in Chicago. I like who I am here.”

Paris wasn’t always peaceful. But it had given me the time and distance to develop the control I’d needed over the monster that lived inside me. Because I wasn’t just a vampire. . . .

Seri bumped her shoulder against mine supportively. “You will be the same person there as you are here. Miles change only location. They do not change a person’s heart. A person’s character.”

I hoped that was true. But Seri didn’t know the whole of it. She didn’t know about the half-formed power that lurked beneath my skin, reveled in its anger. She didn’t know about the magic that had grown stronger as I’d grown older, until it beat like a second heartbeat inside me.

Sunlight and aspen could kill me—but the monster could bury me in its rage.

I’d spent the past four years attending École Dumas, Europe’s only university for supernaturals. I was one of a handful of vampires in residence. Most humans weren’t changed into vampires until they were older; the change would give them immortality, but they’d be stuck at the age at which they’d been changed. No one wanted to be thirteen for eternity.

I hadn’t been changed at all, but born a vampire—the one and only vampire created that way. Immortal, or so we assumed, but still for the moment aging.

The university was affiliated with Paris’s Maison Dumas, one of Europe’s most prestigious vampire Houses, where I’d lived for the past four years. I’d had a little culture shock at first, but I’d come to love the House and appreciate its logical approach to problem solving. If Cadogan was Gryffindor, all bravery and guts, Dumas was Ravenclaw, all intellect and cleverness. I liked being clever, and I liked clever people, so we were a good fit.

I’d had four years of training to develop the three components of vampire strength: physical, psychic, and strategic. I graduated a few months ago with a sociology degree—emphasis in sup-human relations—and now I was repaying my training the same way French vampires did, with a year of mandatory armed service for the House. It was a chance to see what I was made of, and to spend another year in the city I’d come to love.

I was three months into my service. Escorting delegates from Maison Dumas to Chicago for the peace talks was part of my work.

“How many suitcases are you bringing?”

I glanced at Seri with amusement. “Why? How many are you bringing?”

“Four.” Seri did not travel lightly.

“We’ll only be in Chicago for four days.”

   
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