Home > Wild Hunger (Heirs of Chicagoland #1)(10)

Wild Hunger (Heirs of Chicagoland #1)(10)
Author: Chloe Neill

The green land was the fairies’ ancestral home.

“Yeah,” I said, and crossed my arms, still feeling the chill from the fairies’ magic. And not sad they’d moved away.

* * *

• • •

My grandparents were wealthy socialites. My parents were diplomatic and well connected. Because of that, I’d been to plenty of parties over the years, and I usually enjoyed them. I liked the food, the chatting, the people-watching. But it had been a long night. Jet lag was giving me a headache, and my brain was getting logy. I watched Seri and Marion for some sign that they were slowing down, and hoped the party wouldn’t go until dawn.

One more glass of golden champagne and I’d slump a little too far toward relaxed, so I switched to caffeine. There was a lonely silver tureen on a buffet table along the wall, so I flipped the spout and let coffee spill into a paper cup, added a splash of milk and sugar.

And I turned to find Claudia’s companion standing beside me. I barely managed not to jerk and spill scalding liquid across my hand.

He stood, tall and lean, in a puddle of magic that spilled around our feet like fog, invisible but tangible.

“I am Ruadan.”

“Elisa,” I said.

“You are interesting,” he said. “Unique among vampires.”

“Not so interesting.”

“Oh, I would disagree. You are the first bloodletter born of blood, not merely transformed by it. The first bloodletter who was never human.”

Calling us bloodletters was derogatory, but not a surprise. It was the term that fairies used to describe vampires. And if a human had said I’d never been human, they’d likely have meant it as an insult. But his voice held curiosity and interest.

“I’m a vampire,” I confirmed.

He looked me over again, and again I didn’t care for the feeling.

“And you’re Claudia’s companion?” I asked, voice flat.

“We do not subscribe to human notions of romantic companionship. I am her consort, if she wills it.”

I had the sense he didn’t want to discuss it. Nevertheless, I persisted. “And does she will it?”

“I am honored to have been chosen for several cycles.” His eyes flashed. “But that does not concern you, bloodletter.”

“And what does concern me? You sought me out.”

“I am curious about your biology. About how you managed to cling to this plane when all others before you failed.”

I presumed he meant the fact that I’d been born, which hadn’t been up to me. But most people didn’t know the entire story—how my mother’s biology had been enhanced by a binding spell created by Lulu’s mother, Mallory.

My parents had explained it to me when I’d been old enough to wonder why I didn’t have any other vampire children to play with. For everyone else, there was speculation—that I was an adopted human, or played by a very well-paid actress, or part of a vampire-medical conspiracy to create a new race of superbeings. A fang in every bassinet. Which would have been nice, because I’d have had more kids to play with.

“It wasn’t up to me,” I said, not interested in sharing the details with a stranger.

Ruadan didn’t look convinced by the answer. “We were both of us born in an Age of Magic.”

“Were we?”

“We made ourselves.”

Now I was just lost.

“Ruadan.”

The word was sharp, a warning delivered by someone behind me.

I glanced back and found Riley, arms crossed and brows lifted, a flat expression on his face for the fairy.

“What do you want?” Ruadan asked through clenched teeth, disgust plain in his eyes. He did not like shifters.

“I need to speak with Ms. Sullivan,” Riley said.

Ruadan’s mouth thinned into a line, but he maintained control, inclined his head, then looked at me. “Bloodletter,” he said, the word like a vicious promise, then strode away.

“That guy is creepy as fuck,” Riley said quietly when he was gone.

“He’s a weird one,” I agreed.

“What’s his deal?”

“He asked me about being born. As a vampire, I mean.”

“He looking to date a vampire? I thought he was with Claudia.”

“So did I. Which made it weirder.” I smiled up at him. “Thanks for the interruption.”

“You’re welcome. I’d never say you needed rescuing, but figured I could do you a solid. I owe you one since I never made it to Paris to visit.”

“You owe me a big one,” I said with a grin. “I accept Leo’s gift cards and Auto credits.”

He patted down his suit. “I don’t have either of those.” He reached into his pocket, pulled out an old-fashioned butterscotch candy, offered it. “I don’t know how long this has been in there, but you can have it.”

“I’m not even a little bit tempted.”

“Yeah, that’s probably a good call.” He grinned. “This is a borrowed suit.”

I narrowed my gaze at him. “Were you going to tell me that before or after I ate it?”

His smile was slow and lazy. “Probably after.” After a careful glance around, he dropped the candy into potted plant.

“Typical Riley.”

“I play to type. You gonna be in town long enough to get in a game night?”

I grinned. “I don’t know about my schedule, but I wouldn’t mind taking a little of your money.”

He winked. “Then it’s done. And it’ll irritate Connor, so that’s a bonus.”

I patted his arm. “Find your joy, Riley. Find your joy.”

* * *

• • •

“It was a beautiful party,” Seri said, strappy sandals dangling from a finger, a champagne flute in her other hand, as we rode the elevator back to the top of the Portman Grand.

I’d seen Marion up to her room an hour ago, after asking Theo to keep an eye on Seri, and was glad for the break. There’d been a lot of supernaturals crammed into the ballroom, a lot of magic swimming around, and the effect was dizzying. It was like a crowded party with too much perfume—except the perfumes were all deadly. And then there was Ruadan, who hadn’t confronted me again, but whom I’d stayed uncomfortably aware of.

But considering the excellent champagne, meeting a new friend in Theo, and catching up with my family, all in all it had been a pretty good party.

“Chicago cleans up well,” I agreed. “And nobody punched anyone.”

Seri snorted, then covered her mouth delicately. “I believe I may be a little too relaxed.”

“Jet lag and champagne,” I said as the elevator came to a smooth stop, “are a powerful combination.”

“Oui,” she said, and we stepped onto her floor. She hummed “La Vie en Rose” as we walked toward her door, then made a grand bow.

“Breakfast,” she said, unlocking the door with her thumbprint. “Marion would like to speak to us at dusk, before the session begins.”

Tomorrow was only a partial night of talks—a three-hour session to allow for opening statements and the beginning of discussions. Long enough to get people talking, but not so long that the frustrations they’d brought with them would boil over. They’d get to business in the second session, working with the host vampires and others from around the world to come up with a plan forward. Hopefully.

My parents were hosting an event at Cadogan House after the first session, another party intended to keep the atmosphere social and productive. And there’d almost certainly be great food and more champagne. I was going to have to pace myself.

“Sure,” I said. “I’ll be here at dusk.”

“Bonne nuit,” she said, and closed the door again.

I walked back to my room, sending Lulu another message as I traversed the wide hallway: DAY 1 COMPLETE. TIME TO TALK TOMORROW?

Her answer was nearly instantaneous: GIRL YES. COME TO LITTLE RED!!!

I promised I would, then fell into bed without another thought.

FIVE

When the sun set again, I dressed in a black suit, added heeled boots and my katana, and headed down to Marion’s room for breakfast.

Her suite was practically a palace. The living room was enormous and faced the river, with boxy leather couches that didn’t interrupt the view. One wall was a window over Chicago, the city’s lights piercing through the darkness like pinpricks. It looked magical. But darkness covered a lot of flaws. That is, I thought, one of the reasons why vampires tend to be overly focused on politics and strategy. It was easy to ignore the problems of the communities humans had built when we literally didn’t see them.

   
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